Flashback: The Obamacare Video That Went Viral One Year Ago

Ben Howe /

How do you make a parody out of a joke? It’s harder than it sounds. In some ways, you have to get out of the way and let the truth amuse you. Last year when The Heritage Foundation released this parody video, something resonated with audiences. That something was the realization that sometimes the jokes simply write themselves.

By the Numbers: Surging Immigrant Population Sets Record - Daily Signal

By the Numbers: Surging Immigrant Population Sets Record

Ben Howe / Gabriella Morrongiello /

Nearly four times as many legal and illegal immigrants live in the United States as did in 1970, according to a report issued by the Center for Immigration Studies.

According to the report, which is based on U.S. Census data, the number of immigrants coming from India, China, Latin America, and countries in the Caribbean and Middle East increased the most between 2010 and 2013. The number of immigrants coming to the United States from Europe steadily declined.

Between 2010 and 2013, 4 million new immigrants settled in the United States; and since 2007, when the Great Recession began, at least 7.5 million immigrants have settled in this country, according to the report.

See the infographic below for a better understanding of what these numbers mean.

Infographic by Nicole Rusenko

Infographic by Nicole Rusenko

War Over Women: Colorado Senate Candidates Fight for Female Vote - Daily Signal

War Over Women: Colorado Senate Candidates Fight for Female Vote

Ben Howe / Gabriella Morrongiello / Kelsey Harkness /

Health care and women’s reproductive rights are stealing the spotlight in Colorado’s 2014 Senate race.

The two candidates, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, are battling over issues of abortion, personhood and birth control pills.

As a result, citizens of the Rocky Mountain State are being bombarded with political ads targeting women voters.

Last month, Udall, 64, accused Gardner of taking Colorado’s women and families “backwards.”

The video attacks Gardner for sponsoring a bill that would grant constitutional rights for individuals “at the beginning of biological development,” thereby limiting women’s access to abortion.

But in March, Gardner, 40, announced he was wrong to support the measure. In an interview with The Denver Post, he said:

The fact that it restricts contraception, it was not the right position. I’ve learned to listen. I don’t get everything right the first time. There are far too many politicians out there who take the wrong position and stick with it and never admit that they should do something different.

But Udall isn’t letting Gardner off the hook. Chris Harris, Udall’s campaign spokesman, called the move “an election year stunt.”

Turning the tables, Gardner issued attacks on Udall’s support for Obamacare.

In a series of political ads released this summer, Gardner blasted Udall’s record of voting with President Obama 99 percent of the time, arguing his support for the Affordable Care Act has stripped away women’s rights to choose their own doctors and health care plans.

“Mark Udall lied to the people of Colorado,” he said in an August attack ad highlighting the 335,000 Coloradans who lost their health insurance plans. Instead, said Gardner, citizens of the Rocky Mountain State need “real” health care reform.

Most recently, Gardner’s team went on the offense, flooding the airwaves with ads touting the Republican candidate’s support for “modern policies,” like over-the-counter contraception. In a June opinion piece in The Denver Post, Gardner argued the measure would save women time and money.

Recent polls show Gardner with a slight lead over Udall.

More Bad News for Some Californians: Mayor Wants to Introduce Yet More Climate Regulations - Daily Signal

More Bad News for Some Californians: Mayor Wants to Introduce Yet More Climate Regulations

Ben Howe / Gabriella Morrongiello / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris /

You stay green, San Diego. But it’s going to cost you.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has introduced what would be a costly, aggressive climate plan in a state that already has some of the most egregious climate regulations on the books.

Faulconer’s plan consists largely of forcing expensive and intermittent renewable energy sources on Californians, using taxpayer dollars to promote alternative forms of energy and transportation and taking choices away from families by forcing them to reduce their energy and water consumption.

Faulconer’s climate plan aims to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 (when the economy was slumping and emissions were already low) in half by 2035. Specifically, the plan would set a 100 percent renewable power generation goal and ambitious targets to increase the amount of people that walk, bike or use mass transit to commute. Also included in Faulconer’s plan are aggressive energy efficiency targets to reduce “electricity consumption in apartments and condominiums by 50 percent, by 53 percent in commercial properties and by 40 percent in city buildings” as well as cutting water use down by 9 gallons per capita per day.

To give you an understanding of the line of thinking here, one of the earlier versions of the plan even included a mandate that required property owners to make energy efficiency improvements on their homes before they could sell it. And the plan broadly would “give the city a backbone of sorts when future development controversies arise. In the past, the city has quickly caved to neighborhood concerns over new housing or transit projects – if the plan becomes law, the city could argue it’s legally required to support environmentally friendly urban growth principles.”

Now maybe that doesn’t sound that bad. Walking’s good for you, reducing energy and water could save you some bucks and increased renewable energy generation sounds okay. And in a free market where individuals made those choices about commuting habits and energy consumption and producers invested in renewable energy because they saw an opportunity, those decisions are fine.

There is nothing wrong with more renewable energy or alternative fuels replacing conventional resources of energy, but if that shift occurs, it should be driven by market forces, not dictated through government policy.

But Faulconer’s climate plan is a bureaucratic, centrally-planned re-engineering of San Diego’s energy economy that’s going to force pricier electricity on ratepayers and force residents into consuming the amount of energy their government wants them to consume. Billed as an environmental jobs plan, Faulconer’s climate agenda is neither.

Sure, the government can spend money on politically preferable sources of energy generation and “create” jobs in those sectors. But government expenditures are not free. Instead, they merely shift resources from one sector to another and they use labor and capital much less efficiently than the private sector To make matters worse, the increases in energy prices would disproportionately eat into the income of the poorest American families.

The climate benefits of the plan should be called into question as well. Even if the United States as a whole reduced its greenhouse gas emissions 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, it would only reduce global temperatures by two-tenths of a degree Celsius by the end of the century because of the contributions of warming from developing countries. And that’s assuming the climate models accurately project carbon dioxides contribution to warming, which has proven not to be the case. One city’s costly climate plan would avert even less warming.

Much like the administration’s climate action plan, Faulconer’s proposal is all economic pain for no climate benefit.

Opposing John Boehner for Speaker Could Come With Repercussions - Daily Signal

Opposing John Boehner for Speaker Could Come With Repercussions

Ben Howe / Gabriella Morrongiello / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Melissa Quinn /

Conservatives planning to buck the status quo and oppose the reelection of John Boehner as House speaker have received a warning shot. Sources on Capitol Hill say dissenters could be stripped of their committee assignments should they fail to support the two-term speaker.

There haven’t been any public challenges to Boehner, though reports have surfaced that Republicans who vote against him on the floor would be punished.

The process will play out after the Nov. 4 midterm elections when the Republican conference holds a closed-door vote for majority leader, majority whip and conference chair. Those roles are currently held by Kevin McCarthy of California, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, respectively.

Republicans will also select a nominee for House speaker.

When the 114th Congress convenes in January, all 435 House members will gather to vote publicly for speaker.

House Republicans have issued a warning shot to conservatives, who could face consequences for voting against John Boehner.

To dissuade conservatives from opposing Boehner, congressional Republicans are reportedly discussing a rules change. As first reported by National Journal, Republicans are threatening to “punish” lawmakers who buck the conference’s nominee before the whole chamber.

>>> 9 Senate Races That Could Tip the Balance of Power

The Republican conference votes on the rules every two years, and any proposed changes would have to be approved by a majority of the caucus.

One former conservative House aide with knowledge of the dealings cited two reasons for lawmakers to issue such a warning to potential dissenters.

First, the former aide told The Daily Signal, threatening conservatives who may not support Boehner could reduce the chances they mount a campaign against him when it comes time to vote for speaker on the House floor.

Second, House Republicans may be using this as an opportunity to reduce the influence of members not viewed as siding with leadership.

One GOP insider told National Journal there could be between 30 and 40 Republican lawmakers who would vote against Boehner.

In an interview with USA Today, Boehner rejected any suggestion Republicans voting against him in January would face repercussions, and confirmed this in a statement to The Daily Signal.

“I don’t support any such effort,” Boehner said. “It’s not a good idea, and isn’t necessary.”

Requests for comment from McCarthy and Scalise went unanswered.

Conservative Dissenters

In 2010, a wave of tea party Republicans were elected to the House, which led to what many Republicans said was a rift between conservatives and the establishment.

Conservative lawmakers such as Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas pushed back against leadership—including Boehner—and maintained strict conservative voting records, sometimes stymying and other times opposing leadership.

Their actions had consequences.

In late 2012, Amash, Huelskamp and Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona were all removed from key committees for what many said was retribution for their votes. At an event at The Heritage Foundation in December 2012, Amash and Huelskamp said they were blindsided by the news.

“I had to read it in the newspapers,” Amash said at the time.

>>> Conservatives Predict Boehner Won’t Be Back as Speaker Next Year

Their removals stood in contrast to a deal leadership made with incoming freshman in 2010, when a wave of tea party lawmakers was elected to the 112th Congress. Then, Huelskamp said members were encouraged to “vote their conscience and their district” as long as they made leadership aware of their votes before casting them.

But Huelskamp said leadership reneged on that deal and instead ranked members based on their votes. Those who “didn’t get a high enough score,” he said in 2012, were “punished.”

Huelskamp himself was removed from the Budget and Agriculture Committees, despite his extensive knowledge of the agriculture industry as a former farmer. Similarly, Schweikert was stripped of his spot on the Financial Services Committee despite his business background.

House Republicans are floating a rules change that could strip conservatives opposing Boehner of their committee assignments.

Electing the Speaker

Boehner was up for reelection as speaker at the start of the 113th Congress, but he was met with pushback from conservatives in the conference.

When the entire chamber gathered to vote, several lawmakers bucked the status quo and failed to back the Ohio Republican.

Six Republicans voted for other GOP members, and others either abstained or simply said “present.” Reps. Paul Broun of Georgia and Louie Gohmert of Texas cast votes for outgoing Republican Allen West of Florida. North Carolina’s Walter Jones supported former Comptroller General David Walker, who served from 1998 to 2008.

The speaker of the House does not have to be a sitting member of Congress.

Mixed Messages

In the 2014 elections, Republicans are working to pick up 11 seats, bringing the total number of GOP members to 245—the largest Republican majority since Harry Truman’s presidency. The campaign to achieve such a goal has been dubbed the “Drive to 245.”

Political strategists such as Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report say it’s possible.

Support for Boehner as speaker, though, is not inevitable. Several GOP congressional hopefuls have refrained from announcing support for the top Republican while campaigning.

Dave Brat, the Virginia Republican who ousted former Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the June Republican primary, refused to endorse Boehner in interviews with both The Washington Post and Washington Times. Instead, he vowed to continue running on principles, not personalities.

>>> Boehner: Ground Troops Needed to Defeat ISIS ‘Barbarians’

Boehner has hit the campaign trail with a number of GOP candidates, including state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, who is running against Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster in New Hampshire’s 2nd District. The speaker was on hand to help Garcia fundraise.

Within his own conference, some conservative firebrands have committed to supporting Boehner should he remain the only viable candidate for speaker.

“I don’t see much of a challenge mounting, and I suspect that there won’t be a challenge,” Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho said during Conversations with Conservatives last month. “However, if we don’t take the Senate, I think there might be rumblings as to maybe we need a new direction as a Republican Party.”

Labrador mounted a campaign for majority leader following Cantor’s loss, but McCarthy defeated him in June.

How to Wage a Better (Information) War Against Terrorism - Daily Signal

How to Wage a Better (Information) War Against Terrorism

Ben Howe / Gabriella Morrongiello / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Melissa Quinn / Helle Dale /

Defeating ISIS “requires the application of all the tools of national power–diplomatic, economic, information, military,” stated Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Pentagon news conference on Aug. 21.

For Rick Stengel, who took over six months ago as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, developing the public diplomacy piece of the strategy has become a top priority.

In some respects, the U.S. government has better tools for this battle than it did on Sept. 11, 2001. The Center for Strategic Counter Terrorism Communication at the State Department has spearheaded the fight since 2010. Today, its staff duels with terrorist propaganda on Twitter and Facebook in at least four Middle Eastern languages and has recently added English language feeds as well.

Staffers engage in hashtag duels and lend support to Muslims who speak out to denounce terrorism. The CSCC has launched the #Notinmyname campaign on Twitter, which encourages Muslims to speak out in defense of their religion against violent extremists who threaten to hijack it. Though the digital battlefield is a major challenge, the United States’ technological edge is significant.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration needs to reconsider the wisdom of closing down of the Office of Strategic Communication at the Pentagon, which was shuttered in November 2012. The office was always controversial and criticized by liberal media for engaging in psychological warfare and propaganda. Yet, its staff were among the most insightful when it came to understanding the phenomenon of radicalization as well as the tribal cultures of Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was only too happy to hand over the remains of its functions and budget to the State Department under Hillary Clinton.

Another element in a strategy has to be reform of U.S. international broadcasting to make it more effective in reaching target audiences. A tug of war has developed between Congress and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which won’t help the work of countering extremists and autocracy in target broadcast countries.

Gone are the days of warm, fuzzy and “multifaceted” documents on public diplomacy. Today’s public diplomacy must have a hard edge. It must look more like the deliberate and carefully crafted strategies of Cold War days. It must be like Reagan’s Directive 77, which established the Office of Public Diplomacy within the White House and established an interagency working group to coordinate the elements of national power that Dempsey talked about. We will need them all.

The 17-Year-Old Leading Thousands to Protest Communism - Daily Signal

The 17-Year-Old Leading Thousands to Protest Communism

Ben Howe / Gabriella Morrongiello / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Melissa Quinn / Helle Dale / Kelsey Harris /

An “extremist” … “a threat” … “an infiltrate.”

A copy of an article titled "Equal Right to Nominate" published March 2013.(Photo: Huang Feng Personal Website/Wordpress)

A copy of an article titled “Equal Right to Nominate” published March 2013. (Photo: Huang Feng Personal Website/Wordpress)

These are the words Chinese mainland authorities, national security and pro-Beijing newspapers use to describe 17-year-old Joshua Wong.

Photo: Todd Darling/Polaris

Photo: Todd Darling/Polaris

But to those in favor of freedom, Wong is a hero.

Photo: Alex Hofford/Newscom

Photo: Alex Hofford/Newscom

He’s one of the students leading the demonstrations in Hong Kong where millions are gathered making legitimate demands for democracy. The protests were sparked after Beijing officials rejected a proposal that would allow open nominations for a 2017 leadership election last month.

On Sept. 26, Wong and 12 other people were arrested and dragged out of government headquarters. He was bleeding and screaming, and wasn’t released until Sept. 28.

Photo: Alex Hofford/Newscom

Photo: Alex Hofford/Newscom

Police have resorted to tear gas, pepper spray and batons to control crowds. The Chinese government is also attempting to block all social media applications.

Photo: Newscom

Photo: Newscom

While today is only the sixth day of the pro-democracy protests, Wong has publicly protested communism since 2011 when he and other students founded a group called “Scholarism.”

Photo: Scholarism Facebook Page

Photo: Scholarism Facebook Page

In 2012, when Beijing government tried to implement Communist Party-approved education in Hong Kong public schools, Wong called it “brainwashing” in a video by the South China Morning Post. That September, Scholarism organized more than 12,000 people to strike against the program.

Photo: Scholarism Facebook Page

Photo: Scholarism Facebook Page

Days later, the government stopped the education plan.

According to Quartz, Wong’s “careful analysis of the murky laws that govern the relationship between the mainland and its wealthy capitalist territory is what’s landed [him] at the center of the showdown with the Communist Party. And, for that matter, his role in the protests erupting in Hong Kong’s downtown thoroughfares.”

Photo: Jerome Favre/Newscom

Photo: Jerome Favre/Newscom

After his release, the humble, passionate, Wong wrote a message to his Facebook community in response to the many citizens who tell him ‘Hong Kong relies on you’ and call him a hero:

“The hero of the movement is every single Hong Kong citizen.”

Photo: Daniel J. Groshong/Polaris

Photo: Daniel J. Groshong/Polaris

For more coverage of Hong Kong, check out this photo essay that takes you straight into the protests.

If Obama Acts Alone on Immigration, House Judiciary Chairman Vows Court Challenge - Daily Signal

If Obama Acts Alone on Immigration, House Judiciary Chairman Vows Court Challenge

Ben Howe / Gabriella Morrongiello / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Melissa Quinn / Helle Dale / Kelsey Harris / Josh Siegel /

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says Congress should “go to court very quickly” to stop President Obama if he decides to act alone on immigration by deferring deportations and offering work permits to millions of people in the U.S. illegally.

“If the president were to take further action, I believe it would be very important for Congress to undertake a challenge to that,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, at a Heritage Foundation event about Obama’s use of executive action.

“I would hope we would go to court very quickly and seek an injunction restraining the administration from granting those kind of work authorizations that I don’t think the law in any way provides for,” Goodlatte said.

Obama said last month that he plans to put off executive action on immigration until after the November midterm elections, citing the surge of unaccompanied children who flooded the U.S. border with Mexico this summer—and political concerns—as the reasons for the delay.

President Obama said he will announce executive action on immigration after the November midterm elections.

Even though the House has rebuffed attempts to revive comprehensive immigration reform during the border crisis this summer, Goodlatte said Obama should work with Congress to make an changes to current policy.

Last year, the Senate passed a bipartisan overhaul of immigration law that included a path to legal status and citizenship for many illegal immigrants.

Goodlatte argues that because Obama announced he would act alone, it discouraged Democrats from undertaking serious negotiations in Congress.

“Most people feel immigration reform is needed, but there’s disagreement on what it should be,” Goodlatte said.

But when you try to bring legislative bodies together and you have to work out the differences and in the middle of that the president says, ‘Here is my list of things … and if you don’t do it I will,’ those who agree with the president’s policies can sit back and say, ‘Well I don’t need to enter into tough negotiations about what needs to be done to enforce the law or reform the law and instead, I will just wait for the president to act.’

Besides effectively expanding his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which delays deportation for certain immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, Obama is also expected to pursue changes that would produce more legal visas for people wanting to work in the United States.

No matter the form of action, Goodlatte vowed to fight it.

“The president does not have the authority to act,” Goodlatte said. “We should challenge.”

China Cutting Off News of Hong Kong Protests - Daily Signal

China Cutting Off News of Hong Kong Protests

Ben Howe / Gabriella Morrongiello / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Melissa Quinn / Helle Dale / Kelsey Harris / Josh Siegel / Josh Siegel /

As protesters in Hong Kong continue their demands for greater democracy, China’s Communist government is restricting media coverage of the events to the rest of the country.

According to the Associated Press, coverage of the Hong Kong protests has been limited in mainland China to TV anchors reading brief statements with no video and text reports with no photos.

The China Media Project found that only nine articles in Chinese newspapers were written Tuesday about the Hong Kong protests, with most running an article by the official Xinhua news service that described the “recklessness” of the protestors.

Words such as “tear gas,” “Hong Kong,” “barricades” and “Occupy Central” were either blocked or severely censored on Chinese microblogs.

Also Tuesday, the police detained Wang Long, an activist in Shenzhen, after he forwarded news about the protests on social media.

The Hong Kong protests started Friday when students took to the streets to demand greater democracy.

The protesters want the right to elect the city’s leader, or chief executive, without procedural limits that would make it so only Beijing’s preferred candidates make the ballot.

Dropping the TSA: 19th Airport Joins More Efficient Private Screening Program - Daily Signal

Dropping the TSA: 19th Airport Joins More Efficient Private Screening Program

Ben Howe / Gabriella Morrongiello / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Melissa Quinn / Helle Dale / Kelsey Harris / Josh Siegel / Josh Siegel / David Inserra /

Tired of long lines at TSA airport checkpoints? Today, the Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) began a transition to private security screeners rather than Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners in a change that promises more efficient security measures.

SFB just joined the TSA’s Screening Partnership Program (SPP) that allows airports to replace TSA screeners with more flexible and cost-effective screening services provided by private companies and overseen by the TSA. While this may seem strange to many Americans who have grown accustomed to TSA-manned checkpoints, it really isn’t abnormal for airports to manage their own security with government regulation and oversight. After all, most European airports are run this way, and now 19 airports in the U.S. are as well.

The main benefits of the SPP are enhanced productivity and lower costs, while maintaining equal or greater levels of security. How can this be? One major reason is that the private sector can be far more efficient and flexible in hiring and training employees than the government, reducing employee turnover, increasing productivity, and lowering personnel costs even though salaries and benefits are identical to TSA agents. A study by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure found that taxpayers could save “$1 billion over five years if the Nation’s top 35 airports operated as efficiently as [San Francisco International Airport] does under the SPP model.”

With TSA managers still overseeing screening operations at SPP airports, security is not endangered. In fact, when the workforce is better managed under the SPP, other benefits including better security and better customer service, naturally follow.

The TSA, however, has been loath to get out of frontline screening. The TSA started rejecting all requests for SPP expansion in 2011 until Congress acted in 2012 to reverse the TSA. The TSA has been slow to approve SPP requests as it has held that the SPP is actually more expensive, even though various government and nongovernment studies have criticized its findings.

As SFB joins the list of SPP-administered airports, the TSA should do more to get out of the personnel management game and return its focus to overseeing security at U.S. airports. The existing SPP framework should be reformed to allow more airports to easily join SPP and to choose their own contractors from a list of TSA-approved screeners.

The SPP offers better, more efficient, and friendlier screening for less money. SFB and 18 other airports are reaping these benefits—isn’t it about time the SPP came to the airport nearest you?