Schumer: "Democrats Must Embrace Government"

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called on fellow Democrats to "embrace government; not run away from it" today at a press conference at The National Press Club in Washington, DC.

"As 2014 began," Schumer explained, "the parties were in stalemate. But, when government failed to deliver on a string of non-economic issues– the rollout of the Obamacare exchanges, the mishandling of the surge in border crossers, ineptitude at the VA and the government’s initial handling of the Ebola threat – people lost faith in the government’s ability to work, and then blamed the incumbent governing party, the Democrats, creating a Republican wave."

"In order to win in 2016," Schumer continued, "Democrats must embrace government; not run away from it."

Why is Schumer so sure that more government programs are the best message for Democrats in 2016?

"Ultimately, the public knows in its gut that a strong and active government is the only way to reverse the middle class decline and help revive the American Dream," Schumer claimed.

Unfortunately for Schumer, the exit polls from the last three elections show that a majority of Americans, even the majority of Americans that reelected President Obama in 2012, do not believe that more government is the way to get America back on track.

Yes, in 2008, the electorate that elected Obama in a landslide also said that the federal government should "do more" (51%-43%). But in 2010, 56% of voters said government was "doing too much" and just 38% said it should do more. Voters in 2014 also said government was doing too much by a 54% to 41% margin. Even in 2012, when voters gave Obama a 51% to 47% margin, those very same voters also said government was doing too much 51% to 43%.

There simply is no evidence that the American people's "gut" wants more government.

Instead, after more than six years of relentless government growth under Obama, a full 75% of Americans are "dissatisfied" with "the way things are going in the nation today."

Schumer did get one thing right. 

"One simple fact illustrates how stark this division is today," Schumer said. "The most conservative Senate Democrat, probably Joe Manchin, still believes more in government than the most liberal Senate Republican, Susan Collins. The belief in government – its size, its role, and its possibilities – is really what undergirds our politics and fundamentally divides our parties."

Schumer is right: Democrats want to expand the size and scope of the federal government at every turn, while conservatives want to shrink it.

Schumer believes that there is no agenda capable of both shrinking government and helping average Americans.

He is wrong

Rand Paul on Ferguson: "Politicians Are To Blame"

Sen. Rand Paul is perhaps the Republican politician most attempting to create positive change out of the tragedy that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. He has consistently made the case that it is government dysfunction and mismanagement that created the backdrop for the sense of injustice in the St. Louis suburb.

In an op-ed in Time today, Sen. Paul writes:

In the search for culpability for the tragedy in Ferguson, I mostly blame politicians. Michael Brown’s death and the suffocation of Eric Garner in New York for selling untaxed cigarettes indicate something is wrong with criminal justice in America. The War on Drugs has created a culture of violence and put police in a nearly impossible situation.

In Ferguson, the precipitating crime was not drugs, but theft. But the War on Drugs has created a tension in some communities that too often results in tragedy. One need only witness the baby in Georgia, who had a concussive grenade explode in her face during a late-night, no-knock drug raid (in which no drugs were found) to understand the feelings of many minorities — the feeling that they are being unfairly targeted.

Three out of four people in jail for drugs are people of color. In the African American community, folks rightly ask why are our sons disproportionately incarcerated, killed, and maimed?

African Americans perceive as true that their kids are more likely to be killed. ProPublica examined 33 years of FBI data on police shootings, accounted for the racial make-up of the country, and determined that: “Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater.”

Sen. Paul expanded upon this in an interview with Politico:

The Kentucky Republican did say the situation reflects an “undercurrent of unease out there related to poverty, related to drugs.” He added, “I think part of the answer is trying to reform our criminal justice system.”

“If you don’t like your local government … you need to replace them,” he said. And Paul reflected that he exited his October meeting in Ferguson with the feeling that participants had the “sense it was a good idea.”

FDA Finalizes Menu Labeling Rules

Thanks to the FDA’s calorie labeling regulations announced Tuesday, major changes will soon be coming to the food and restaurant industries.

The regulation itself is nothing new; it became law in 2010 as a provision attached to the Affordable Care Act, but final rules were delayed for the past few years, thanks in large part to heavy opposition from grocery stores, pizza chains, vending machines, convenience stores, and movie theaters. Although some concessions were made, none of these industries were fully spared. By November 2015, these establishments will be forced to post calorie information on menus and menu boards, which opponents have argued is costly (representatives from the grocery store industry, for example, have said it will exceed $1 billion) and will have job-killing effects.

The FDA’s press release has the details:

The menu labeling final rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. Covered food establishments will be required to clearly and conspicuously display calorie information for standard items on menus and menu boards, next to the name or price of the item. […]

The FDA considered more than 1,100 comments from stakeholders and consumers in developing these rules. In response to comments, the FDA narrowed the scope of foods covered by the rule to more clearly focus on restaurant-type food, made other adjustments such as ensuring the flexibility for multi-serving dishes like pizza to be labeled by the slice rather than as a whole pie, and provided establishments additional time to comply with the rule.

In addition, the menu labeling final rule now includes certain alcoholic beverages served in covered food establishments and listed on the menu, but still provides flexibility in how establishments meet this provision. The majority of comments supported including alcohol because of the impact on public health. The menu labeling rule also includes food facilities in entertainment venue chains such as movie theaters and amusement parks.

The nanny state rules were designed to “aid consumers in selecting more healthful diets” and rein in the obesity epidemic in America. But what does the data say?

“The evidence that menu labeling has any significant impact on public health is scant,” Food Marketing Institute’s Erik Lieberman wrote in 2012. “Indeed, of the studies FDA cites in the rule, most demonstrate that menu labeling has little to no effect on purchasing habits. Furthermore, no study shows any link to reduction of obesity rates, the purported benefit which FDA used to justify the menu labeling regulation.”

And there you have it.

The food police are here.

Update: Lynn Liddle, chairperson of the American Pizza Community, said the following in a statement provided to Townhall: 

“The APC has worked for nearly five years to provide FDA with a sensible approach to menu labeling. However, FDA’s final rules only provided small concessions that don’t solve many of the regulation’s problems, while making the rules even more onerous for small business.

“The APC will now enlist the help of allies to right this wrong. We encourage Congress to pass the bipartisan Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 1249/S. 1756) that permits flexibility for small business, as well logical solutions for consumers.”

Gov. Nixon Deploys More National Guard Units To Ferguson

In the aftermath of the chaos that erupted last night in Ferguson, Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon is ordering more National Guard units to be present in the area tonight. In all, 2,200 Guardsmen will be working, along with local and state police, to prevent further violence (via AP):

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says more than 2,200 National Guardsmen will be in place in the region near Ferguson on Tuesday night in the event of more violence.

He said Tuesday that hundreds more will be deployed to Ferguson, where fires and looting erupted Monday night after word that a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The rest will be in a position to respond rapidly, if needed.

Nixon says 700 guardsmen were in the area on Monday night, when more than a dozen buildings were set on fire and otherwise vandalized.

Ferguson's mayor said earlier in the day that the National Guard wasn't deployed quickly enough as violent protests broke out.

More protests are expected.

Yellow Peril: Does Harvard Have An Asian Problem?

OK, maybe it’s not that ominous, but lawsuits filed by Students for Fair Admission against Harvard and the University of North Carolina allege that “the schools use race preferences to reach a specific racial balance on campus and have failed to abide by the strict scrutiny of racial preferences required by the Supreme Court,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

It may not be like the concerted anti-Semitic efforts Harvard employed to reduce the number of Jewish applicants in the early 20th century, but the suit notes that while other minorities are growing in their rates of acceptance at the elite school, Asian enrollment has remained flat:

Over the last eight years Asian students have comprised between 17.6% and 20.7% of students admitted to Harvard. Though the number of Asians applying for admission has increased, the percentage of offers has barely budged. In 1992, 19.1% of Harvard’s admissions offers went to Asian applicants, compared to 25.2% who were admitted to the California Institute of Technology, a school that doesn’t use racial preferences. In 2013 Harvard made 18% of its offers to Asians, while CalTech admitted 42.5% Asian students.

Similar admissions percentages at Harvard have held steady for other racial groups with remarkably little variance. In other words, while schools like Harvard say the goal of racial preferences is to achieve a “critical mass” of minority students, the admissions evidence suggests that the school is reserving pre-rationed pie slices for racial groups.

Yascha Mounk wrote in the New York Times that admission numbers for Asians at Harvard have actually been stagnant for nearly two decades–and that Asian applicants must score at least 140 points higher than whites on their SATs:

A similar injustice is at work today, against Asian-Americans. To get into the top schools, they need SAT scores that are about 140 points higher than those of their white peers. In 2008, over half of all applicants to Harvard with exceptionally high SAT scores were Asian, yet they made up only 17 percent of the entering class (now 20 percent). Asians are the fastest-growing racial group in America, but their proportion of Harvard undergraduates has been flat for two decades.

These challenges are the result of the Supreme Court refusing rule if affirmative action policies constituted racial discrimination in the college admission process in their 2013 Fisher v. University of Texas decision.

Affirmative action is another complicated–and racially charged–subject–and it appears to be impacting Asian Americans negatively. It adds another layer to the debate.

Confirmed: Jeb Bush Casually Stopping by South Carolina in December

You know what that means: It’s time for another round of endless speculation about whether or not Jeb Bush will run for president in 2016.

As it happens, he’s slated to speak at the University of South Carolina’s winter commencement. The Hill has the details:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.), a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, will visit the critical early primary state of South Carolina next month. The University of South Carolina announced on Monday that Bush will give the Dec. 15 commencement speech and receive an honorary degree for public service. Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, and brother, former President George W. Bush, both spoke at the same commencement and received honorary degrees from the school.

While Bush’s participation at the school’s events aren’t political, potential candidates often use their time in early primary and caucus states to meet with supporters and party leaders, laying the groundwork for a potential run. South Carolina voters have a history of voting in the primary for the party’s eventual nominee. But their perfect streak was broken in 2012, when former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) triumphed in the state over the eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Gingrich’s South Carolina victory ended up being the high point of his campaign, which fell apart shortly after.

A crucial factor in any potential candidate’s decision to run for president is how his or her family members feel about such a prospect. Last month, for example, former President George W. Bush was asked by Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade whether or not his brother should take the plunge, and his answer was unmistakably 'yes' (via WaPo):

Potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush seems to making fresh inroads with at least one key GOP constituency: members of his immediate family.

George W. Bush said he thought his brother should launch a White House bid. “[H]e and I had a conversation. I, of course, was pushing him to run for president,” the former President told Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade in an on-air interview Thursday morning. “He of course was saying, ‘I haven’t made up my mind.’ And I truly don’t think he has.”

But he added: “I think he wants to be president.”

Bush 41 also reportedly feels the exact same way. So we’ll see if some friendly, familial pressure over the holidays has its intended effect.

By the way, one way or the other, Bush’s announcement should be coming any day now.

White House Kicks Hagel on His Way Out the Door


The White House announced the effective firing of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Monday, pulling the plug on the former Senator's relatively brief stint at the Pentagon. Hagel's journey at DOD began with an embarrassingly poor performance during his tumultuous confirmation hearings, and has ended in a fairly ignominious farewell.  Fox News' Howard Kurtz notes that the spin and leak war is very much underway, with 'senior administration officials' telling reporters that President Obama had lost confidence in his Defense Secretary.  But Sen. John McCain is hearing different things:


“Sen. John McCain,R-Ariz., who is slated to take over as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in January, said that Hagel ‘was frustrated with aspects of the administration’s national security policy and decision-making process,’ citing ‘excessive micro-management’ on the part of the White House. “McCain noted that Hagel’s predecessors as defense secretary — Robert M. Gates and Leon E. Panetta — had both likewise complained in their memoirs about excessive political interference from White House aides.”

A Politico story quotes officials calling Hagel's departure "superficial," and a political attempt to convince dissatisfied Americans that the White House is engaging in a post-election, national security-focused shake up. "This is not a shake-up because Hagel never really had a voice in policy discussions anyway," one said.  The same Politico piece suggests that Hagel's foot-dragging on Gitmo detainees -- which reportedly fed his ongoing internal conflict with National Security Adviser Susan Rice -- may have contributed to his exit from the West Wing's good graces:

In the eyes of Obama aides, Hagel could be maddeningly slow to respond to policy directives from the White House. When Obama began pushing last year to reinvigorate the process of closing the Guantanamo detention camp, White House aides repeatedly urged Hagel to sign off on transfers of detainees who had long been cleared for release. Yet for months, the defense secretary refused to sign certifications that the future threat posed by the prisoners could be adequately mitigated, according to a U.S. official. “This was not an insignificant source of friction,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “I can say definitively on this one it has been utterly public and unmistakeable in terms of the disconnect.” White House irritation with Hagel grew so intense that last May, Rice sent Hagel an extraordinary memo directing him to report every two weeks on progress toward transferring or releasing Guantanamo prisoners, the source said, discussing a directive first reported earlier this year by the New York Times. “He was the bottleneck,” said one advocate closely tracking the process. “He wasn’t signing off."


As others have rightly pointed out, Hagel did sign off on the most controversial Guantanamo relocations: Namely, the (illegal) release of five high-ranking Taliban commanders in exchange for captured US soldier and alleged deserter Bowe Bergdahl.  When Obama endured a blitzkrieg of criticism over the deal, the White House tried to pawn the blame off onto Hagel.  Hagel was apparently uncomfortable blindly green-lighting the release of untold numbers of jihadists, then he contradicted the White House's messaging on ISIS by calling the terrorist fighting force an "imminent threat" to US interests.  Remember, Hagel was brought in to be the Republican face of Obama's unwinding of wars and defense cuts; perhaps he got the axe because he proved to be, in some respects, too hawkish.  At the very least, according to the McCain quote above, Hagel grew disillusioned with excessive interference from the hyper-political White House.  Now that administration officials are referring to Hagel as "low-hanging fruit" to be plucked (again, not as part of any meaningful shake-up), it seems as though the White House is guaranteeing negative reviews from Obama's third consecutive Defense Secretary.  Robert Gates and Leon Panetta have each issued stark criticisms of the administration in which they served.  Which brings us back to this weeks-old question from Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank:


Perhaps it's some combination of Obama's out-of-his-depth weakness, his relentlessly political mentality, his team's micromanagement, his propensity for blame, and his apparent inability to earn personal respect from some of his key principals.

Wow: Gruber Once Argued Abortion is an Economic, Social Benefit

In case we needed another reason to be frustrated with Jonathan Gruber, America's most infamous architect who insulted our intelligence, he also once argued that abortion has helped improve our nation's economy and social environment. In a paper he helped write in May 1997 for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Gruber and two fellow writers suggested that abortion has helped save the nation money and social woes. Here is one of their must infuriating excerpts:

We find evidence of sizeable positive selection: the average living circumstances of cohorts of children born immediately after abortion became legalized improved substantially relative to preceding cohorts, and relative to places where the legal status of abortion was not changing. Our results suggest that the marginal children who were not born as a result of abortion legalization would have systematically been born into worse circumstances had the pregnancies not been terminated: they would have been 70% more likely to live in a single parent household, 40% more likely to live in poverty, 35% more likely to die during the first year of life, and 50% more likely to be in a household collecting welfare. The last of these finding implies that the selection effects operating through the legalization of abortion saved the government over $14 billion in welfare payments through the year 1994.

It is upsetting, to say the least, that someone who thought so highly of Roe V. Wade was helping to craft our national health care law. Perhaps it explains why Obamacare is filled with abortion subsidies and plans that indirectly fund the procedure.

Gruber isn't the only one with influence on Obamacare who once promoted abortion rights. Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held a close political relationship with abortionist George Tiller, who faced criminal charges for performing illegal late-term abortions. Tiller was murdered in 2009 by an anti-abortion activist. 

How many other government workers have hidden abortion agendas? 

At least we can be comforted to know that a record number of pro-lifers are heading for Congress this January.

Hotel Hillary Clinton Posited Employs Illegal Immigrants Denies Claim

Last week, Hillary Clinton gave a speech at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at the gala for the New York Historical Society. During the Q&A following her speech, Clinton took the time to praise President Obama's executive order that shielded five million illegal immigrants from being deported. Clinton claimed that the executive order was about protecting livelihoods, including, "people, I would venture to guess, who served us tonight," referring to the employees of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Here's where it gets awkward: according to a letter emailed to The Weekly Standard, the hotel specifically goes out of their way to ensure that their employees are in fact legal residents of the United States:

“Mandarin Oriental, New York does not knowingly employ illegal and/or undocumented immigrants. We require all employees to provide proof of their eligibility to legally work in the U.S.,” said Tammy Peters, a spokesperson for the hotel, in an email to THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “All wait staff and catering staff are employed through our hotel and we do not use outside contractors for such services.”

Employing someone who is illegally in the United States is a crime.

It's quite odd that Clinton would take a look at her (presumably Hispanic) waiter at the gala and assume that they must be in the country illegally. It's a slap in the face to hardworking people who waited and worked hard to move here legally. While Obama referred to illegal immigrants as fruit pickers and maids during his speech, it's important to note that people of all legal statuses are employed at these positions.

Jobs, Economy Get Huge Boost from National Gas Production

Over the last eight years, natural gas and oil production has been one area which has provided consistent employment and economic growth. The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council released a report this month showing that while total U.S. employment declined by 0.3 percent between 2005 and 2013, natural gas production expanded by 35 percent.

“Jobs grew by 46.1 percent in the oil and gas extraction sector; by 61.0 percent in the drilling oil and gas wells sector; by 100.2 percent in the support sector for oil and gas operations; by 66.1 percent in the oil and gas pipeline and related structures construction sector; and by 67.1 percent in the oil and gas field machinery and equipment manufacturing sector.”

Last year I wrote of how North Dakota's Bakken oil fields helped draw an additional 22,000 residents to the state and fostered the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Theirs was not the only success story. Tapping into America’s natural resources has boosted businesses and jobs nationwide.

Here are a few condensed statistics showing the growth which occurred between from 2005 to 2012:

Arkansas: Natural gas production expanded by 501.7 percent; added 6,500 new jobs.

Colorado: Natural gas production expanded by 139.1 percent. On the energy front, jobs grew between 42 percent and 153 percent in energy sectors.

Louisiana: Natural gas production expanded by 83.0 percent. Overall employment increased in Louisiana, with jobs growing by 40.8 percent in the support sector for oil and gas operations.

Oklahoma: Natural gas production expanded by 30.8 percent; added 28,609 jobs.

Pennsylvania: Natural gas production expanded by 1,239.3 percent; jobs grew by 512.3 percent in the support sector for oil and gas operations.

Texas: Natural gas production expanded by 39.8 percent; added 131,867 jobs.

Utah: Natural gas production expanded by 62.8 percent; jobs in energy industries grew in the range of 35 percent to 122 percent.

Virginia: Natural gas production expanded by 65.2 percent. Jobs in Virginia grew by 102.4 percent in the oil and gas pipeline and related structures construction sector.

West Virginia: Natural gas production expanded by 144.2 percent. The growth in jobs in each of the energy sectors for which there is data ranged between 44 percent and 310 percent.

Wyoming: Natural gas production expanded by 15.2 percent. Overall jobs grew most notably in oil and gas pipeline and related structures construction sector – by 268.4 percent.

With the struggling economy being consistently ranked one of the most important problems in the U.S., the 114th Congress, as well as businesses and entrepreneurs, should take note of this booming industry. 

CNN: Say, Why Did Prosecutors Delay the Ferguson Decision and Release it at Night?

One of the many questions I had watching the developments in Ferguson, MO unfold last night was why on earth did prosecutor Robert McCulloch decide to delay and release the grand jury’s decision? As it turns out, CNN has written an entire piece asking -- and trying to address -- this very question.

Common sense teaches us that waiting until nightfall to release the verdict, which gives crowds additional time to assemble and expand under the cover of darkness, is a bad idea. This totally avoidable, arbitrary decision is almost certainly one of the reasons why Ferguson erupted into mass demonstrations and destruction last night, despite the president’s strong urgings for protestors in Ferguson to remain peaceful.

But perhaps prosecutors understand these kinds of situations better than I do:

Initially, prosecutors were expected to give law enforcement 48 hours' notice from when the grand jury made its decision to when the announcement was made. But that clearly didn't happen Monday, since the decision and the announcement came on the same day.

But there may have been advantages in keeping the decision secret for hours -- most businesses are closed and there's less traffic.

"Now, I can understand, maybe he wanted to make sure that all students had left school or that everyone had cleared out," said community activist John Gaskin, referrring to McCulloch. "But he could have easily made this (announcement) tomorrow morning."

Also, chilly nighttime weather can sometimes deter violence -- though Ferguson's near-freezing temperatures overnight didn't stop agitators from looting businesses and setting dozens of buildings and cars on fire.

Indeed, if the decision was issued at (say) 6:00 AM, could the chaos have been controlled, or perhaps even avoided? We’ll never know. 

There is, of course, no ‘good time’ to release a decision like this, especially when the verdict is perceived by many as a miscarriage of justice. But doing so at 8:00 PM CT seems like a terrible, terrible decision. And one that could have, and should have, been avoided.

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, the crew over at Morning Joe were also scratching their heads this morning about the timing of the Ferguson decision. “This was totally foreseeable,” the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson said on the program. "This was an awful way to do it."

Obamacare: Most-Used Plans Face Double-Digit Average Premium Increases


Please consider Friday's 'Obamacare losing streak' post officially updated.  Behold, the 'Affordable' Care Act at work.  Congratulations, "beneficiaries" (via The Hill):

The average price of the most popular ObamaCare health insurance plans rose 10 percent for 2015, according to a new study of premium figures published Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)...Not only are premiums increasing, but if consumers do not pick a different plan, they could pay more due to annual changes in how subsidies are calculated.

That's according to the administration itself -- and we know how scrupulously transparent they are about reporting unhelpful news, don't we?  This double-digit average increase for consumers who've signed up for Obamacare's most popular plans speaks to another problem we addressed over the summer: Namely, as the exchanges' so-called "benchmark" plans change from year to year, a large number of customers will be forced to decide between absorbing higher costs (as previous benchmark plans hike their rates), and uprooting themselves from their existing plan -- again, in many cases.  And, as usual, this doesn't even address the high out-of-pocket costs associated with Obamacare's "affordable" plans.  Plus, it's tough to anticipate the full extent of the chaos that will befall the (already buggy) subsidy calculation regime if the Supreme Court reaches the correct conclusion in this important case.  No wonder many uninsured Americans are saying 'thanks but no thanks' to the law supposedly passed for their benefit, according to the latest Kaiser poll:

[Forty-one] percent of uninsured Americans intend to remain uninsured - the vast majority because they do not believe they will find an affordable plan; Just 37 percent have a favorable view of the law, against 46 percent who do not; 46 percent say the law should be repealed or scaled back, against 42 percent who want it expanded or implemented as is; and, Just 16 percent say the law has helped them, while 24 percent say it has hurt (with the majority of those saying it has increased their health costs).

They'll pay substantially more next year for the privilege of remaining uninsured -- unless they avail themselves of one of the administration's catch-all hardship waivers -- but those punitive taxes will still be much lower than than the cost of enrolling in and paying for Obamacare "coverage."  I employ scare quotes there because many Obamacare consumers continue to be let down by their plans' narrow coverage networks, resulting in frustrating problems keeping preferred doctors and obtaining care.  In California, the pain of "access shock" has been amplified by a spate of inaccurate information being relayed to patients:

Bolstering a chief complaint about Obamacare coverage, California regulators said two major health insurers violated state law by overstating the number of doctors available to patients. More than 25% of physicians listed by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California weren't taking Covered California patients or were no longer at the location listed by the companies, according to state reports released Tuesday. In some cases, these errors led to big unforeseen medical bills when patients unwittingly ventured to out-of-network doctors for medical tests or a surgery. The results of the five-month investigation come at a critical juncture as the second year of health law enrollment gets underway...

State regulators are blaming the insurance companies for this kerfuffle, but recall that Covered California, the state's marketplace, experienced similarly embarrassing missteps on this front, too.  These troubles only feed into the larger Obamacare narrative of confusion and incompetence.  Speaking of state-level exchanges, oh look -- fresh cost pressures:

The federal government shelled out billions of dollars to get health insurance marketplaces going in the 14 states that opted to run their own. Now they must act like true marketplaces and start paying for themselves. Under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, state-run health insurance exchanges need to be financially self-sustaining starting in January. Some appear to be on that path, while others have shaky funding models or even none at all. Some states, prohibited from using state money, are imposing fees on plans sold on the marketplaces. Others are spreading costs more widely — which, in one instance, has drawn a federal lawsuit.

Click through to read about various states that have no way to pay for ongoing exchange operations, prompting calls to join the federal exchange (which may not allow for any taxpayer subsidies, pending the aforementioned SCOTUS ruling), and the imposition of taxes and fees that are driving up the cost of healthcare.  The legislatures and governors who declined to participate in this mess are looking more fiscally prudent by the day.

Holder: Despite Grand Jury Decision Not Indict, DOJ Investigation Into Ferguson Case Still Ongoing

Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement late last night about the Grand Jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson on charges for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Holder reminded the public that despite the Grand Jury decision, a separate Department of Justice investigation is ongoing. 

“While the grand jury proceeding in St. Louis County has concluded, the Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown remains ongoing. Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now. Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence. And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions," Holder released in a statement.  “Michael Brown’s death was a tragedy. This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve. While constructive efforts are underway in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust. The Department will continue to work with law enforcement, civil rights, faith and community leaders across the country to foster effective relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to improve fairness in the criminal justice system overall. In addition, the Department continues to investigate allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson Police Department.

“Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury's decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence. Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown's parents, who have asked that remembrances of their son be conducted peacefully. It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting. In the coming days, it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays—and uses—of force,” he continued. 

According to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch "members of the [Grand] jury met for 25 days and heard over 70 hours of testimony from over 60 witnesses before reaching their decision. He confirmed Wilson had fired 12 shots at Brown." 

More than 40 FBI agents have been sent to Ferguson by the Department of Justice to investigate the case. 

Last week former FBI Assistant Director Ron Hosko sent a scathing letter to President Obama classifying Holder as "chief among the antagonists" in Ferguson.

Ferguson Rioters Burn Dozens of Businesses to the Ground, Fire Off Hundreds of Gunshots

Last night the long awaited Grand Jury decision in the case of Michael Brown and Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson was released. According to the decision, there was no probable cause to file charges against Officer Wilson and therefore he is exonerated and will not face indictment. 

As a result of the Grand Jury decision not to indict Wilson, rioters took to the streets last night burning down dozens of buildings, looting, throwing rocks and molotov cocktails at police, burning American flags, burning cars, and smashing windows. Small businesses were completely destroyed and burned to the ground.Twenty-nine people were arrested by police. The good news is nobody was killed. 

"It's really unfortunate this evening because we had really planned...and talked about the fact that we were really hoping for peaceful protests and I mean that," St. Louis Police Department Chief Jon Belmar said during a press conference early this morning.

Violent rioting also erupted in Chicago and Oakland. In Washington D.C. more peaceful protestors took to the streets.

Last week Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced a state of emergency ahead of the decision. The National Guard didn't arrive on the scene until early this morning when riots were over.

Obama on Ferguson: 'We Need to Accept This Decision'

Shortly after the decision went public that Officer Darren Wilson would not be facing criminal charges for the murder of teenager Michael Brown, President Obama made some brief remarks at the White House.

“First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law,” he said. “And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry."

“But I join Michael’s parents by asking anyone who protests this decision does so peacefully,” he continued. “Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone. We should be honoring their wishes.”

He also urged law enforcement officials to exercise “care and restraint” in dealing with any protests that might arise in the coming days, and to recognize that the vast majority of protestors are not trying to stoke racial tensions or cause riots.

He also spoke briefly about the implications of the ruling.

“Finally, we need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation,” he said. “The fact is that in too many parts of this country a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country, and this is tragic because nobody needs good policing than poor communities with higher crimes rates."

“We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for for Ferguson, this is an issue for America,” he added. “We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the last several decades. I have witnessed that in my own life, and to deny that progress, I think, is to deny America’s capacity for change. But what is also true is that there are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up.”

At which people he spoke directly to the residents of Ferguson.

“To those in Ferguson, there are ways of channelling your concerns constructively, and there are ways of channelling your concerns destructively," he said. “Michael Brown’s parents understand what it means to be constructive.”

“The vast majority of peaceful protestors understand it as well,” he added.

BREAKING: Officer Darren Wilson Will Not Be Charged UPDATE: Officer Wilson Responds

Editor's note: This post has been updated 

After a lengthy deliberation period, the Grand Jury has decided not to charge Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown on any of the charges he potentially faced. The grand jury could have brought charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter against Officer Wilson (via NYT):

St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, at a news conference packed with reporters from around the world. The killing, on a residential street in Ferguson, set off weeks of civil unrest — and a national debate — fueled by protesters’ outrage over what they called a pattern of police brutality against young black men.

The grand jury’s meetings took place over almost three months in a county building in Clayton, Mo., outside St. Louis. Two assistant county prosecutors, Sheila Whirley and Kathi Alizadeh, presented the evidence.

Mr. McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor, directed his staff to present “absolutely everything” to the grand jury, meaning that the jurors would see and hear more evidence than they would have normally.

He was under considerable pressure in the case, facing widespread calls to recuse himself and be replaced by a special prosecutor after opponents cited what they called flawed investigations in the past involving police officers.

McCulloch said that all transcripts and audio recording, including the one featuring the final 10 shots fired by Officer Brown, would be released. He also stressed how the 12 jurors poured their “hearts and souls” into this case when presented all the evidence, put their lives on hold, and stayed past their pre-determined time to resolve this case. He also mentioned that there were African-American witnesses that saw Michael Brown charging at Officer Wilson at the time of his death.

All interviews were recorded; some witness accounts were discredited since it was determined that they weren’t present at the scene of Michael Brown’s death. They were either running for cover or reiterating what they heard from around their respective neighborhoods.

In other cases, McCulloch said some witnesses made “statements inconsistent with other statements they had made and also conflicting with the physical evidence. Some were completely refuted by the physical evidence.”

He noted that no perjury charges would be filed against those whose witness accounts ended up being inaccurate.One of those inaccuracies was the report that Brown was shot in the back by Wilson; the autopsy results found no gunshot wounds on Brown’s back.

Officer Wilson fired a total of 12 shots; Brown sustained his first wound in his hand, and the last was the shot to his head, according to McCulloch.

As for how the jurors voted, we don’t know if it was unanimous; that information is kept secret.

Officer Wilson has released a statement via his legal team on the Grand Jury’s decision:

Today, a St. Louis County grand jury released its decision that no charges would be filed in the case involving Officer Darren Wilson. From the onset, we have maintained and the grand jury agreed that Officer Wilson’s action on August 9 were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the procedures of an officer.

In a case of this magnitude, a team of prosecutors rightfully presented evidence to this St. Louis County grand jury. This group of citizens, drawn at random from the community, listened to witnesses and heard all the evidence in the case. 

Based on the evidence and witness testimony, the grand jury collectively determined there was no basis for criminal charges against Officer Wilson.

Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions. Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law.

We recognize that many people will want to second-guess the grand jury’s decision. We would encourage anyone who wants to express an opinion do so in a respectful and peaceful manner.

On a side note, Officer Wilson would like to thank those who have stood by his side throughout the process. This continued support is greatly appreciated by Officer Wilson and his family.

Moving forward, any commentary on this matter will be done in the appropriate venue and not through the media.

Michael Brown’s family released this statement on the decision:

UPDATE: NAACP responds:

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO:

“The NAACP stands with citizens and communities who are deeply disappointed that the grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson for the tragic death of Michael Brown, Jr. We stand committed to continue our fight against racial profiling, police brutality and the militarization of local authorities. The death of Michael Brown and actions by the Ferguson Police Department is a distressing symptom of the untested and overaggressive policing culture that has become commonplace in communities of color all across the country. We will remain steadfast in our fight to pass the End Racial Profiling federal legislation. And we stand in solidarity with peaceful protesters and uphold that their civil rights not be violated as both demonstrators and authorities observe the “rules of engagement.” The grand jury’s decision does not mean a crime was not committed in Ferguson, Missouri, nor does it mean we are done fighting for Michael Brown, Jr. At this difficult hour, we commend the courage and commitment of Michael Brown's family, as well as local and national coalition partners."

UPDATE II: Photos of Officer Wilson after Michael Brown shooting have been released.

UPDATE III: Via RebelPundit, video of Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, reacting to the grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Wilson over the death of her son. [WARNING: Strong language]

UPDATE IV: President Obama held a presser on the Ferguson grand jury decision at 10pm last night. As Dan wrote, Obama said,"we need to accept that this decision." He also said, "we are a nation built on the rule of law."

DUDE: Prior to the McCulloch's presser detailing the grand jury's decision, CNN contributor Donna Brazile said that Michael Brown was "shot and murdered."

Obamacare Twice as Likely to Hurt Americans than Help

A rising number of Americans are claiming that Obamacare has negatively impacted their health insurance policies.

Only 14 percent claim they have been helped by Obamacare, while more than twice as many (35 percent) say they have been hurt by it, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll release Monday.

“Among voters who say their health insurance has been changed by the law, 17% say they have been helped, but 66% report being hurt by it.

A majority of voters (55%) still views the health care law unfavorably, while 39% share a favorable opinion of it. This includes 38% with a Very Unfavorable view versus 16% with a Very Favorable one. Negative opinions of the law fell to a recent low of 50% two weeks ago.”

On Monday, Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN that members of Congress were “very forthright with the American public” when they wrote the health care law.

Obamacare is about about having affordable coverage, and helping people who do not have coverage to get it, Sebelius explained.

By these standards the legislation has failed. Obamacare is hurting individuals who already have health insurance policies (goal number one) and has fallen drastically short of its projected enrollment numbers (goal number two).

The majority of Americans polled (60 percent) believe the government’s monopolization of the health care industry will only stifle free market competition and exacerbate costs.

2016: Democrat Jim Webb Enters The Ring

Jim Webb, former Democratic Senator from Virginia, has launched an exploratory committee for a potential 2016 candidacy. On paper, Jim Webb looks as if he has potential; he carries himself as a centrist, he’s a military veteran, and he could get traction with blue-collar, working class whites–a constituency that is trending towards Republicans:

Last week, Webb released a 14-minute video outlining his intention to toss his hat into the 2016 ring–for now (via National Journal):

"Over the past few months, thousands of concerned Americans from across the political spectrum have urged me to run for president," Webb said in the video. "A constant theme runs through these requests: Americans want positive, visionary leadership that they can trust, at a time when our country is facing historic challenges. They're worried about the state of our economy, the fairness of our complicated multicultural society, the manner in which we are addressing foreign policy and national security challenges, and the divisive, paralyzed nature of our government itself. They're worried about the future. They want solutions, not rhetoric."

Webb is trying to define himself as a moderate whose limited political experience is a boon: He has political experience, but he's not a "career politician." He's a veteran of the Marine Corps, but he's also generally antiwar. He understands Wall Street, but will not be beholden to it.

"I learned long ago on the battlefields of Vietnam that in a crisis, there is no substitute for clear-eyed leadership," Webb said. "Each time I served not with the expectation of making government a career, but to contribute to the good of the country during a period of crisis or great change," Webb said. "In that spirit, I have decided to launch an exploratory committee to examine whether I should run for president in 2016.

Then again, while Mr. Webb is a Democrat, he never mentioned what party nomination he was vying for in the video. You can speculate, but he will probably file as a Democrat. In doing so, is Webb the anti-Clinton candidate for 2016?

Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review wrote that Webb isn’t a candidate who is concerned about probability for success; he was given a 15 percent chance of beating then-Sen. George Allen in 2006. She noted how he brings an “aura of leadership” to the 2016 field:

Webb has never followed any drumbeat but his own, an attribute that soured him on both political parties. Yet it fits perfectly with the populism that drove Democrats out of office earlier this month.

He uniquely reflects Main Street's frustration with Washington.

He pushed back on Republicans in 2006, when dissatisfaction with George Bush's handling of the Iraq war led him to run and win — as a Democrat — that Senate seat in Virginia. By 2010 he was as dissatisfied as the rest of the country with Barack Obama's presidency and the Democratic Party, and he quickly decided after that year's wave election that he would not seek re-election to the Senate.

In short, his disconnect with Washington mirrors yours.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that nearly 60 percent of Americans believe our political and economic systems are barriers working against them. That alienation crosses all parties, races, ages and professions; whites, blacks, Hispanics, millennials, boomers, white- and blue-collar, high-tech and poor, all are fed up.

That is not a poll that helps establishment Washington. But it is one in which Webb could shine.

Webb resigned as Ronald Reagan's Navy secretary in 1988 when he disagreed with budget cuts. He has criticized both parties, most recently Democrats; in his announcement, he did not indicate which party's nomination he will seek.

He brings a unique life experience to the race — and, if he runs as a Democrat, he gets an early jump as the anti-Hillary candidate, according to Democrat strategist Dane Strother: “As that candidate he will get more traction than most believe. He even might be able to catch lightning in a bottle.”

Zito noted that we’re going through a neo-populist wave that has yet to be defined à la the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, but if Webb has these qualities, it could be something for these unnamed voters to rally around.

The Origins of Thanksgiving

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

This special Townhall Weekend Journal is presented by Michael Medved.

UC Berkeley Students Ignore Filmmaker Waving ISIS Flag, Spew Hate When Brings Out Israel's

The University of California-Berkeley is about as liberal an institution as they come—but how exactly would students react to seeing ISIS and Israel’s flags being waved, filmmaker Ami Horowitz wondered.

What he discovered was surprising even for him.

Horowitz said he waved the ISIS flag for two hours and got absolutely no response from students, with the exception of one approaching him to let him know he could not smoke on campus. When he switched to Israel’s flag, however, he said it took less than 30 seconds for the “vitriol to come pouring in.” 

“There’s a whole layer cake of shock for me when it comes to what I experienced in this video and certainly, there’s nobody there that doesn’t know what ISIS is and what kind of atrocities and evil they represent, and to have nobody push back, I was pretty blown away,” he said.

“There’s a real disease of thought on our college campuses and I think it’s important to highlight that,” he said.

H/T: WeaselZippers 

Four Pinocchios: WaPo Fact-Checker Shreds WH on Executive Amnesty 'Precedent'


If you've been following our coverage of President Obama's executive action on immigration, you already know that a key pillar of the White House's defense is that plenty of precedent exists for this type of move.  Nothing to see here, except a bunch of anti-Obama overreaction from the usual suspects (if the "usual suspects" include multiple Congressional Democrats and Independents).  We've repeatedly linked to a pair of columns that take apart the Obama administration's dishonest justification; they point out that Obama's move is much, much broader in scope and implication than anything executed by his predecessors -- whose far narrower previous orders either applied to discrete, targeted groups of people, or were issued in an effort to enforce a duly-passed law.  The White House seems to be gravitating toward one ostensible parallel in particular, stating that Obama's decision is comparable to President George HW Bush's 1990 action on immigration.  The president himself touted this example during his appearance on ABC's This Week, which we discussed earlier:

“If you look, every president – Democrat and Republican – over decades has done the same thing as I mentioned in my remarks,” he added. “George H. W. Bush, about 40 percent of the undocumented persons at the time were provided a similar kind of relief as a consequence of executive action.” When asked about using executive action, the president said his view on the issue has not changed. “If you look – the history is that I have issued fewer executive actions than most of my predecessors, by a longshot,” Obama said. “The difference is the response of Congress, and specifically the response of some of the Republicans. But if you ask historians, take a look at the track records of the modern presidency, I’ve actually been very restrained, and I’ve been very restrained with respect to immigration. I bent over backwards and will continue to do everything I can to get Congress to work because that’s my preference.”

First off, tallying the raw number of executive orders is pure misdirection.  Conservatives aren't objecting to how many unilateral actions Obama has taken; they're upset about the magnitude, impact and context of those decisions.  Obama surely realizes this, but since he's staked much of his legacy on the "stupidity" of the American people, this sort of answer is par for the course.  As for the 'Bush did it, too!' excuse, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler -- who last week dismantled Obama's 'royal flip-flop' on the legality of this decree -- again goes to work:

Bush’s action in 1990 was designed to ease family disruptions caused by the landmark 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which allowed nearly 3 million illegal immigrants to gain legal permanent residency...The 1.5 million [40 percent] figure is too fishy to be cited by either the White House or the media. As best we can tell, this is a rounded-up estimate of the number of illegal immigrants who were married (1.3 million became 1.5 million.) But that figure was already overstated because it included applications that were pending or on appeal...Indeed, the 100,000 estimate that the INS gave on the day of the announcement might have been optimistic. Fewer than 50,000 applications had been received before the policy was superseded by a new law. The numbers generated by that law — a little more than 140,000 — further indicate that the universe of potential applicants was much smaller than 1.5 million, especially given that the law eased restrictions even more. In the end, 200,000 amounts to about 6 percent of the illegal immigrant population at the time, not 40 percent. Small wonder the White House prefers the larger number.

Ed Morrissey summarizes:

This is the report that the White House apparently seized like Rose grabbing a door off the Titanic, but it doesn’t support their argument at all. That’s because the actual number of applicants under Bush’s action came to just under 47,000. That’s 1/30th of the claim made by Earnest and Obama. Within a month, Kessler notes, Congress passed an amended version of the immigration law, which Bush signed, which gave an even wider window for family members to apply for deportation protection. The total number of those who applied under the new law, over a four-year period, was about 200,000 — less than 1/7th of the numbers Earnest and Obama claimed, and only about 6% of the overall illegal immigrant population at the time. None of this was a secret, and certainly shouldn’t have been to the White House, which has access to all of this data. Apparently, all they know how to do is troll Google for any supporting argument they can find.

Setting aside the bogus, wildly inflated statistics (pattern of behavior, anyone?) Bush's move in 1990 was undertaken in an effort to enforce a law passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan.  Obama's decision, by contrast, was explicitly triggered as a means of circumventing Congress, a "consequence" of its failure to comply with the president's policy preferences.  We've been wondering about how Republicans might retaliate against this overreach; Sen. Ted Cruz said over the weekend that he wants the Senate to block all Obama appointees until the amnesty is rescinded:


As we noted last week, Cruz isn't alone on this one. When I first saw the headline about the Texan's proposal this morning, I thought, what about Hagel's replacement? Would Republicans really allow the Secretary of Defense position to sit vacant or with a placeholder for an extended stretch while America is at war with ISIS?  Cruz allows an exception for "vital national security positions," which has to include SecDef -- right?  Also, kudos to Chris Wallace for a good, tough question on the Attorney General issue.  Would the Cruz plan ensure that, gulp, Eric Holder stays on the job even longer?

White House Plays Dumb Over Advisor Al Sharpton's $4.5 Million in Unpaid Taxes

MSNBC host, self-proclaimed civil rights activist, professional race-baiter and shakedown artist Al Sharpton apparently owes $4.5 million to the IRS in unpaid taxes. On top of this long list of titles, Sharpton also serves as an unpaid advisor to the White House and President Obama on civil rights issues, race and politics. In fact, just three days after the 2014 midterm elections Sharpton was invited to the White House to offer advice about how to work with the GOP in the new Congress. In August, President Obama spoke for Sharpton's National Action Network. The video of Obama's speech is available on the official White House YouTube page and is watermarked with the WhiteHouse.gov logo. 

"I want to say thank you to your leader, Rev. Al Sharpton, give him a big round of applause. I appreciate being an Action President."

Regardless of Sharpton's indisputably long history, partnership and many White House visits to meet with President Obama, recent news of Sharpton's massive tax bill have Obama administration officials playing dumb. 

"There was a rather long story in the New York Times last week about Al Sharpton having allegedly having back taxes up to $4.5 million between personally and his for-profit entity. He has said that he's paid a bunch of it, there's some dispute about how much has been paid or not. He's here frequently at the White House as an advisor to the President, the President spoke to his organization a few months ago. Is the White House concerned he hasn't paid his taxes," Fox News' Ed Henry asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Monday. 

"Ed I have to be honest with you I haven't read those stories. I can tell you the question you are asking though does illustrate the kind of important and justified restrictions that there are on political interference with any sort of tax investigations or tax enforcement. I am confident that this administration is allowing whatever enforcement procedures are underway to be carried out," Earnest said. 

"But an adviser to the president should pay his or her taxes?" Henry asked further.

"I think every American should pay his or her taxes”  Earnest continued.

Shorter White House: Sharpton owes taxes? What

On a related note, during a recent speech in Chicago the White House stripped out a line from President Obama about unpaid bills piling up on his desk.

During a rare trip home to Chicago, Obama on Monday lamented the life he left behind. “One of the nice things about being home is actually that it’s a little bit like a time capsule,” he told supporters at a fundraiser.

“Because Michelle and I and the kids, we left so quickly that there’s still junk on my desk, including some unpaid bills,” he joked. “I think eventually they got paid–but they’re sort of stacked up. And messages, newspapers and all kinds of stuff.”

The White House, however, left the president’s quip about his unpaid bills out of the official transcript.

According to the transcript, the president said “we left so quickly that there���s still junk on my desk, including some–newspapers and all kinds of stuff.”

This morning, the White House issued an updated transcript, but it still didn’t mention the “unpaid bills.” Instead, it included an “inaudible” in that portion.

As the old cliche goes, birds of a feather flock together.

Ferguson Grand Jury Has Reached A Decision

It has arrived. The Ferguson grand jury has finally reached a decision over whether any criminal charges will be filed against Officer Darren Wilson who was involved in the shooting death of Michael Brown last summer; Brown’s death spurred days of protests and a renewed discussion about race relations.

Some schools in Ferguson have been closed, police have set up barricades and a command center, and Gov. Jay Nixon recently declared a state of emergency (via USA Today):

A St. Louis County grand jury has completed deliberations in the case of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen in August touched off weeks of sometimes violent protests, multiple media outlets reported Monday.

Some Ferguson, Mo., schools were closed, a police command center was in place and barriers have been set up to help control protests near the courthouse in St. Louis and in downtown Ferguson, a suburb of the city.

Police officials and protest organizers have collaborated on rules of engagement. Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and activated the state's National Guard.

The evidence brought before the grand jury may not reach the public for some time, if at all. If Wilson is indicted, evidence presented to the grand jury would not be released because it would be used during the trial. And St. Louis County Director of Judicial Administration Paul Fox released a statement Sunday denying that Judge Carolyn Whittington had agreed to release the information if Wilson is not indicted.

Whatever the grand jury decision, authorities say they want to avoid repetition of the chaos that followed the Aug. 9 shooting, when some protests turned into violent, ugly clashes with police.

Yet, Gov. Nixon wasn’t entirely sure who was in charge of responding when it comes to protestors.

CNN reported last week that while the grand jury was deliberating, Officer Darren Wilson was considering resigning from the police force, but he could change his mind if the grand jury brings charges against him.

The grand jury is made up of nine men and five women; nine are white, three are black.

Nine of the 12 jurors must agree whether to indict Officer Wilson or not.

We will keep you updated.

UPDATE: Jurors from the grand jury have been released.

UPDATE II: Tory Russell, co-founder of Hands Up United, calls for police officers to "keep calm:"

I am urging calm. I’m urging calm for the police officers to not pepper spray me, tear gas me, mace me and shoot rubber bullets. People need to urge the police to be calm. Stop hurting kids, stop traumatizing our communities.”

Reminder: Green Cards For Millions of Illegal Immigrants Means Longer Wait Times For Legal Immigrants

By now you know that last week President Obama announced the legalization and prioritization of five million illegal immigrants who will eventually receive Green Cards and work permits thanks to his executive action. During his announcement of this plan at the White House, Obama essentially argued his move was necessary to make the "broken immigration system" more fair and to keep families together, but as usual, his rhetoric doesn't add up to the reality. 

When illegal immigrants are prioritized by the federal government and given a spot at the front of the line, millions of individuals going through the proper legal channels to become American citizens or to obtain visas are pushed even farther back in the process and given longer waiting periods. In most situations, this means legal immigrants spending longer periods of time away from their families. 

My colleague Conn Carroll reminded us of the numbers and harsh reality of executive action has on legal immigrants last week:

At current staffing levels, USCIS issues about 1 million green cards per year. And when Obama enacted his first executive amnesty, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012, wait times for legal immigrants to get their visas tripled from under five months to over 15 months. 

Only about 1 million illegal immigrants were eligible to apply for DACA amnesty and only about 600,000 were given amnesty. Obama's next amnesty, however, will reportedly allow up to 5 million illegal immigrants to apply and no one knows how many will take him up on the offer.

But assuming the turnout for Obama's next amnesty is bigger than DACA, we can safely assume that legal immigration delays will get much much worse.

The New York Times published an extensive piece in February detailing the consequences of prioritizing illegal immigrants before individuals engaged in the legal process.

Many thousands of Americans seeking green cards for foreign spouses or other immediate relatives have been separated from them for a year or more because of swelling bureaucratic delays at a federal immigration agency in recent months.

The long waits came when the agency, Citizenship and Immigration Services, shifted attention and resources to a program President Obama started in 2012 to give deportation deferrals to young undocumented immigrants, according to administration officials and official data.

The trouble that American citizens have faced gaining permanent resident visas for their families raises questions about the agency’s priorities and its readiness to handle what could become a far bigger task.

With his recently announced amnesty plan, President Obama has given USCIS the "far bigger task" previously warned about and has made the system more unfair, not less. It's unfortunate President Obama's focus isn't on prioritizing the people who want to do things legally or on reforming the legal immigration system before rewarding millions of individuals for breaking the law by putting them at the front of the line.

Meanwhile, people who waited for years to get through the legal process want their money back:

Obama: Future Presidents Can 'Absolutely Not' Replicate My Power Grab on Other Issues


In which ABC News' George Stephanopoulos presents President Obama with Allahpundit's 'shoe-on-the-other-foot' scenario regarding Obama's reimagined conception of prosecutorial discretion (video via NRO):


GS: So you don't think it would be legitimate for a future president to make that argument?

BO: With respect to taxes?

GS: Yeah.

BO: Absolutely not.

Not included in that mini-transcript is Obama's largely unresponsive word soup of a soliloquy, which veered incoherently from one talking point to the next, but never addressed the actual question at hand.  It took a follow-up from Stephanopoulos to pry an answer out of the president, which came in the unpersuasive form of flat assertion:  Yes, I can do this on immigration; no, a Republican couldn't do this on something like taxes.  Does anyone doubt that Obama would happily switch his stance on this question from "absolutely not" to "absolutely!" if the political incentives were different?  He spent the last few years citing the law and the Constitution to rule out the executive amnesty he's now ordered.  He spent his time in the Senate and running for president inveighing against President Bush's expansionist vision of executive authority, only to surpass Bush's alleged transgressions many times over once elected.  This is someone who does whatever the political moment demands, remorselessly shunting aside pesky details.  Allahpundit notes how some lefties are casting about for reasons that applying the Obama Precedent to tax enforcement, for instance, would be totally different and unacceptable.  He links to Sean Trende's smart piece that makes quick work of their premise:

[A Vox writer's] first scenario involves President Rick Perry declaring that there would be a 17 percent flat tax and instructing the Justice Department to defer all prosecutions. He cites former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger’s response: “no president can relieve any one American of a statutory obligation to pay taxes. The next president can come collecting– and interest and penalties will be accruing until he or she does.” First, Obama’s action suffers from the same shortcoming. In theory, nothing legal stops a future Republican president from using the list of individuals signed up for work permits as a sort of “illegal immigrant database” to help focus deportations. In fact, the statute of limitations for most audits is three years, with a practical limit of less than that.

Also, just as practical limitations would probably prevent a future GOP president from deporting these individuals, so too would a future Democratic president find it difficult to collect on millions of three-year-old tax bills. But more importantly, when President Perry walks out the door, he can issue a pardon for everyone who avoided taxes during his presidency. Prokop just sort of breezes past this possibility, asserting that it would provoke a massive public outrage. But what would an outgoing President Perry care? He would do so after the next presidential election. Moreover, millions of Americans would have enjoyed substantially lower tax rates for either four or eight years. The incoming president would have a hard time reverting to a 28 percent middle-class tax rate...

Yup.  The Obama Precedent means that presidents can use Congressional inaction as a fig leaf to effectively rewrite laws (even "temporarily") via "enforcement discretion," or whatever.  That standard could apply to a whole host of issues.  The "absolutely not" answer rings especially hollow coming from the eponymous author of the Obama Precedent.  Click through for AP's point that if anything, Obama's 'Congressional gridlock' rationale is significantly more applicable to tax policy than immigration.  I'll leave you with an excerpt from Ross Douthat's sharp and succinct piece on Obama's transformation into an imperial president:

So how did we get from there to here? How did the man who was supposed to tame the imperial presidency become, in certain ways, more imperial than his predecessor? The scope of Obama’s moves can be debated, but that basic imperial reality is clear. Even as he has maintained much of the Bush-era national security architecture, this president has been more willing to launch military operations without congressional approval; more willing to trade in assassination and deal death even to American citizens; and more aggressive in his war on leakers, whistle-blowers and journalists. At the same time, he has been much more aggressive than Bush in his use of executive power to pursue major domestic policy goals — on education, climate change, health care and now most sweepingly on immigration...Confronted with [limiting] realities, Clinton pivoted and Bush basically gave up. But Obama can’t accept either option, because both seem like betrayals of his promise, his destiny, his image of himself. And so he has chosen to betray himself in a different way, by becoming the very thing that he once campaigned against: an elected Caesar, a Cheney for liberalism, a president unbound.

Read the whole thing -- it's more analytical than polemical, despite its pointed conclusion.