Feel-Good Friday: When Anthem Fails to Play at High School Volleyball Game, Players Belt it Out

Amid a national climate in which certain multi-millionaire professional athletes refuse to stand for the Star Spangled Banner (a disrespectful act partially defended by our president), and others choose to sit out team trips to West Point, here's a patriotic pick-me-up on a Friday evening. Via Rusty Weiss, after the national anthem malfunctioned before a high school volleyball match in New York State, the team joined hands and sang the song themselves:

George Genthner, a captain for the local fire department, confirmed there was “a technical problem with the PA.” The students ad-libbed in the most patriotic way possible! Marc Fruscio posted the video on Facebook and explained that the anthem “wouldn’t play at the Burgh Volleyball game” before the students took over. Fruscio, who is listed as the boys basketball coach at Lansingburgh, said he was “very proud of the students in attendance.” “The kids just took over,” MaryLynn Kaufmann Rafferty recalled. “It was awesome.” The ‘Burgh Athletic Department, justifiably proud of their athletes as well, took to social media and boasted, “So proud of the students at Lansingburgh High School today for singing the National Anthem at the volleyball game.”

As Weiss says, "Colin Kaepernick, eat your heart out."

What The Cluck: Florida Democrats Not Happy About Voter Registration Drives At Chick-fil-a

Democrats love voter registration drives. In fact, both parties have utilized voter registration drives in their latest ground game operations to increase turnout, bolster voter registration advantages, or try to put states in play. In Florida, Democrats are all for activities that try and get out the vote; they’re just not too pleased that Chick-fil-a is one of the establishments that will be holding these drives (via Fox News):

Democrats in Pinellas County, Fla., are crying fowl over the supervisor of elections’ decision to hold voter registration drives at nine area Chick-fil-A locations earlier this week on National Voter Registration Day.

Susan McGrath, head of the county Democratic Executive Committee and leader of the Pinellas Stonewall Democrats, a pro-LGBT equality group, says she is all in favor of getting out the vote — just not at Chick-fil-A, the Georgia-based fast-food restaurant chain beloved for its fried chicken sandwiches and its adherence to the Southern Baptist culture of its founder by closing on Sundays. The company's CEO Dan Cathy has made multiple remarks in the past expressing a personal opposition to same-sex marriage.

According to the Tampa Bay Times and Creative Loafing, McGrath wrote a letter to Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark, who chose Chick-fil-A for the voter drives, saying: "As an elected official, you have a duty to be evenhanded and fair. Surely, you and your office staff do understand that using Chick-Fil-A as the base for voter registration activities is not only inherently unfair but overtly partisan as well. This company has a strong and well-understood history of anti-LGBT activism and is publicly associated with Republican Party values."

And a lot of people go to Chick-fil-a. Have you ever seen one that’s not totally full? Americans like this establishment. It serves great food. And that’s an opportunity to nab new voters. I hope the elections board ignores this letter. In the meantime, enjoy the chicken and don’t forget to vote Florida voters.

'Quite Bizarre': Nike Refuses to Explain Its Opposition to Bathroom Bill at Shareholders Meeting

At almost every shareholders meeting Justin Danhof has attended, corporations have welcomed questions from their investors. That, however, was not the case at last week's meeting in Beaverton, Colorado for Nike. 

Danhof, who serves as General Counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research, challenged Nike CEO Mark Parker about his company's support of the Obama administration's lawsuit against North Carolina in regards to the bathroom bill HB2, which requires people to only use public restrooms that correspond to their birth certificates. Nike is one of 68 companies siding with the White House and signing an amicus brief in the case. Danhof wanted to know two simple things from Nike. 1) What is the legal rationale for the DOJ's mandate? and 2) If Nike is so opposed to HB2, why do they still do business in the Tar Heel State? 

What followed was "quite bizarre," Danhof said.

"First, I was not allowed to ask my question," he said. "I have never seen this before," he added, calling it "transparency only the Obama administration could envy." 
Instead of taking his inquiry as Danhof submitted it, Nike reworded his question into this watered down version: What is Nike's current view on discrimination and how it relates to HB2? 

Here's what it tells him about the CEO and the company at large.

1) There are "very weak knees" at Nike, and "no courage in conviction." 2) "They have a tough time defending what they've done." If they were confident that the administration was justified in its lawsuit against North Carolina, they would have had no hesitation in answering his questions. 

Parker had hours to come up with an answer, Danhof added. 

This company, he concluded, "cannot stand behind what they've done."  

Danhof attends shareholder meetings in order to promote a free market agenda and challenge any actions that seek to disrupt the separation of powers. As such, the HB2 case is more than just a defense of social conservatism, it's about calling out unconstitutional behavior.

The HB2 case, Danhof said, is a clear overreach of power. The DOJ claims the bill is "sex discrimination," but that's not exactly what the 1964 Civil Rights Act meant because the law considered "sex" to be one's biology and not one's state of mind. Additionally, that's not how our government system works. We vote for Congress, not the DOJ, Danhof reminded Nike. The DOJ isn't supposed to write the laws. 

Nike is supposed to be accountable to its investors. Danhof is disappointed they can't answer tough questions even just once a year.

ICYMI: Female Trump Supporter Wearing Make America Great Again Hat Drove Social Justice Warrior Insane

Make America Great America hats just set liberals off. I mean, it’s just absurd. On Monday, a social justice warrior reportedly had to be held back by peers to avoid getting into a physical altercation with a female Trump supporter

at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. Caleb Ecarma and Kassy Dillon of Campus Reform had more:

The victim of the assault has chosen to remain anonymous, saying that she feels unsafe and threatened, and has even resorted to asking campus security to escort her around the college. While the perpetrator of the assault has not been publicly identified, he is reportedly a male student at Gustavus College.

“She was walking around bothering no one by wearing a Trump hat, she didn’t deserve this and there’s no way that this should’ve happened,” Minnesota Federation of College Republican Chair Amanda Peterson told Campus Reform. “I wish this was a surprise to me, but it’s not, it’s no secret that college students with conservative leaning viewpoints aren’t strangers to this type of thing on campus.”

According to Peterson, the young woman was merely attempting to enter the campus cafeteria when the male student approached her and began shouting slurs and waving his coat menacingly in an effort to scare her, at one point even having to be restrained when he attempted to charge at the female student.

The school’s College Republican chapter has filed an assault charge and the administration planned on speaking with the female student. The college also told Reform that the incident was solely a verbal assault, and that it did not get physical. Still, it’s a hat my precious progressive snowflake. It’s a hat.

New York Knicks Player Skips Military Dinner, Has "Mixed Feelings" About American Wars

New York Knicks center Joakim Noah has refused to attend a dinner event with Army cadets at West Point because it's hard for him to "understand why we have to go to war."

Noah added he had "mixed feelings" about spending time at the West Point Military Academy, where the Knicks are holding training camp this week, because he is opposed to the idea of young troops fighting in wars.

"It's hard for me a little bit. I have a lot of respect for the kids who are out here fighting. But it's hard for me to understand why we have to go to war, why kids have to kill kids around the world," Noah said after a practice on Friday. "So I have mixed feelings about being here. I'm very proud of this country. I love America but I just don't understand kids killing kids around the world."

He added: "At the end of the day, I'm not anti-troops. It's just not comfortable for me to see kids going out to war and coming back having seen what they've seen, having done what they've done. It's sad for me. It's sad for me because they're just sent out for things that I don't really want to get into it to be honest with you. It's hard for me."

Noah says he feels “uncomfortable’’ the Knicks are conducting training camp for the third straight year at West Point.  

But do not worry America, not all NBA players feel the same as Noah when it comes to the military.

Watch Live: Trump Speaks in Michigan Campaign Rally

Friday Fun: Take A Look At These Baby Pandas

It's been a long week, so why not look at 23 baby pandas born in China over the past year. It was one of the most best years for the breeding center, with roughly double the number of normal births. To celebrate their success, all of the panda babies were put together on display ahead of China's Golden Week celebration.

And boy, is it cute:

Have a great weekend!

Watch Live: Clinton Holds Rally in Coral Springs, Florida

Howard Dean (Sort-of) Apologizes For Saying Donald Trump Is A Coke User

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has apologized, sorta, for saying that he thought Donald Trump's sniffles during the debate were caused by a coke habit. Dean tweeted the allegation midway through Monday's debate.

On Friday, Dean apologized for saying that the Republican nominee for president was using illegal drugs--or, rather, he apologized for his use of "innuendo," whatever the heck that means. Dean is also a contributor on MSNBC.

From The Hill:

"I apologize for using innuendo. I don't think it's a good thing to do, I don't think it's the right thing to do," Dean, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, told MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle.

"This entire campaign has been debased by innuendo. Where was the mainstream media calling out innuendo 15 months ago when Donald Trump started running for president of the United States?" Dean continued. "That's what I want to know. Do your job."

Dean dove into a critique of media coverage of Trump's candidacy during the interview, also saying that the Republican presidential nominee has done far worse in his campaign.

"I would be very willing to apologize, not to Donald Trump, but I don't think using innuendo is a good thing," Dean said. "I would like the media of this country to apologize."

...sure.

Oh My: Is Hillary Planning to Put Loretta Lynch on The Supreme Court?

Earlier this year when President Obama was searching for late Justice Antonin Scalia's replacement on the Supreme Court, Attorney General Loretta Lynch was reportedly on his short list of potential nominees. During the process, in which it quickly became clear whoever was nominated would not get a vote in the Senate before the election, Lynch withdrew her name from selection. 

Attorney General Loretta Lynch has asked not to be nominated to the Supreme Court, a Department of Justice spokeswoman said Tuesday.

"The Attorney General determined that the limitations inherent in the nomination process would curtail her effectiveness in her current role," DOJ spokeswoman Melanie Newman said in a statement.

But now with the election just 39 days away, the rumor mill is swirling with chatter Democrat Hillary Clinton is planning to consider Lynch for the Supreme Court should she win the White House. 

There’s been some speculation that Loretta Lynch, the attorney general of the Department of Justice, could be on Mrs. Clinton’s short-list. Mrs. Clinton already floated the idea to The New York Times in July, that she would like Ms. Lynch to stay on and serve in her administration.

If Clinton were to nominate Lynch to the Supreme Court, it would only bolster accusations of corruption and would put the private, secret meeting between Lynch and Bill Clinton on her private plane just days before the FBI announced a non-indictment over Hillary's email server in July, into a whole new perspective. 

Supreme Court aside, if Clinton wins she is reportedly planning to keep Lynch as Attorney General.

Debate Commission: Whoops, Donald Trump Had A Bad Microphone At The Debate

The Commission on Presidential Debates has confirmed that there were indeed audio issues with Donald Trump's microphone during Monday's debate. Shortly after the debate ended, Trump accused Hofstra University of giving him a defective microphone, a claim that many brushed off. But as it turns out, Trump was right.

From The Hill:

The Commission on Presidential Debates issued a one-sentence statement Friday admitting "issues" with Donald Trump's audio in this cycle's first debate Monday.

"Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," the statement read.

The audio issues were apparently confined to within the debate hall, and were not noticeable on the various television and online broadcasts of the debate.

Senator David Perdue: No Budget Should Mean No Pay

The idea of docking pay for lawmakers if they fail to produce a budget has been thrown around before. Never before, however, has such an idea been so promoted and meticulously researched than by a freshman senator from Georgia - David Perdue.

Perdue’s staff released an initial proposal on Thursday detailing what he hopes will make for a better budgeting process in Congress. The release could not have come at a more relevant time – leaders in the House and Senate reached a budget agreement literally hours before an impending government shutdown.

Senator Perdue explains that not only will the threat of docking lawmakers’ and staffers’ pay be a beneficial incentive to avoid Capitol Hill’s eleventh hour budget deals, but it will also be essential in tackling America’s debt crises. Producing last minute budgets add to the debt and streamlining the process will be cost-saving for the country.

The legislative proposal is no surprise. Senator Perdue has made a career of balancing budgets. He was a former Fortune 500 CEO (his net-worth is in the billions) before winning a seat in the Senate chamber in 2014 on a budget hawk platform. He promised voters in the Peach State he would change how money is spent in Congress and he seems to be delivering.

On top of creating a no-pay incentive, the amendments suggested also call for a special committee to be created as a means for negotiations. Medicare, Social Security, and other entitlement programs would be forced to undergo more financial evaluations.

Perdue has supporters in the lower house working on similar legislation. Fellow Georgian Rep. Tom Price (R) is also working on a no-budget, no-pay rule.

The proposition does not come without its critics, however. Staffers from both the right and the left have come out against the measure - saying any threat to remove staffers’ pay would simply result in an exodus of talent.

Here's Hillary Clinton's Favorite World Leader

Hillary Clinton named German Chancellor Angela Merkel as her favorite world leader. Clinton praised Merkel for her "extraordinary" handling of the country's various issues, including the refugee crisis.

“Oh, let me think. Look, I like a lot of the world leaders,” Clinton said, bursting into laughter initially when asked about her favorite world leader during a gaggle with reporters aboard her campaign plane in Chicago. “One of my favorites is Angela Merkel because I think she’s been an extraordinary, strong leader during difficult times in Europe, which has obvious implications for the rest of the world and, most particularly, our country.”

Clinton praised the German chancellor’s “leadership and steadiness on the Euro crisis,” while adding that “her bravery in the face of the refugee crisis is something that I am impressed by.”

While this was supposed to be a "swipe" at Republican nominee Donald Trump, it's still kind of telling that Clinton landed on Merkel. Merkel's popularity in Germany has plummeted as Germans grow increasingly upset with the handling of the refugee crisis. Her political party is hemorrhaging votes to a rival party that promises to handle the refugee situation better. That's not exactly someone I'd be parading around as a role model.

Not Again: Trump Goes on Unhelpful, Late Night Tweet Storm About a Sex Tape

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump was up late last night and apparently away from his campaign team. For weeks, Trump has surged in polls due to staying on message about important issues and by staying away from his cutting, abrasive personal attacks. That ended last night as Trump inserted another day of coverage around his alleged treatment of Venezuelan beauty queen and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado by accusing her of having a sex tape. 

After days of coverage, it's clear Machado was used by Clinton to bait Trump, which he's still hooked on. We also know Machado is from a politically well connected family in communist Venezuela, was accused of being an accomplice to murder and threatened to kill a judge. These things aren't what the media is focused on, but instead  on Trump calling her "an eating machine" and forcing her to workout in front of media cameras because she "gained a massive amount of weight." Does Machado have a sex tape? Who knows, but bringing one up is immature at best and well below the stature of any man who wants to be President of the United States.

Trump said during the debate Monday his best attribute is his temper. His latest tweetstorm proves once again that isn't true.

Surprise: WH Weighs New Scheme to Raid Obscure Fund, Jam Through Illegal Obamacare Bailouts

Step one -- The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) concurs with the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) in finding that the Obama administration violated the law by illegally redirecting Obamacare-related funds to insurance companies. Taking taxpayer dollars specifically earmarked by lawmakers for specific purposes and applying them to a politically-motivated bailout does not fall under the executive branch's discretionary purview, GAO concludes. Chris Jacobs offers additional context:

As I have previously explained at NRO, the reinsurance funds collected from employers had two – distinct purposes: first, to repay Treasury for the $5 billion cost of a separate program in place from 2010 through 2013; and, second to subsidize insurers selling Obamacare plans to high-cost patients during the law’s first three years. When collections from employers turned out to be less than expected, HHS prioritized the second objective to the exclusion of the first – an action that, according to the GAO, violates the plain text of the statute. As the opinion noted, “the fact that HHS’s collections ultimately fell short of the projected amounts does not alter the meaning of the statute.” The memo continued that, because agencies must “‘effectuate the statutory scheme as much as possible’ . . . HHS continues to have an obligation to carry out the statutory scheme using a method reflective of the specified amounts even though actual collections were lower than projected.” As a result, the GAO concluded that the Department has no authority to divert to insurers approximately $3 billion in reinsurance contributions that should be allocated to the Treasury.

Step two -- Republicans, who have done excellent work blocking various taxpayer-funded bailouts of health insurance companies taking on water under the failing law, and who challenged HHS's shady shell game, applaud the decision (via Bloomberg and Politico):

The letter was cheered by Republicans in Congress who said that it provided evidence that the programs were being used by the Obama administration to bail out insurers. “GAO's new legal opinion is simple: the law is the law and HHS broke it,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a press release. “Washington has been running a textbook, crony scheme: cutting checks to big insurance companies that can afford lobbyists instead of giving taxpayers the $5 billion they're owed. Congress must put taxpayers ahead of insurance companies,” he added. In press releases from both Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the lawmakers who requested the legal opinion from the GAO said the letter confirmed that the HHS had violated the law in its management of the program. “This is about fairness and respect for the rule of law clearly anchored in the Constitution,” they said in a joint statement.

Step three -- The Obama White House explores tapping into other federal funds to execute the bailouts anyway, deliberately defying the clear will of Congress in a desperate, dubious effort to shovel tax dollars into major insurers' coffers.  They're trying to fix the pounding political headache they've created for themselves, as Obamacare-participating insurers post huge losses and exit marketplaces left and right.  The hope is to stem the tide of this collapse with big bailout payments, using taxpayer dollars (that were never intended for this purpose) to paper over the law's fatal flaws while Obama remains in office:

The Obama administration is maneuvering to pay health insurers billions of dollars the government owes under the Affordable Care Act, through a move that could circumvent Congress and help shore up the president’s signature legislative achievement before he leaves office. Justice Department officials have privately told several health plans suing over the unpaid money that they are eager to negotiate a broad settlement, which could end up offering payments to about 175 health plans selling coverage on ACA marketplaces, according to insurance executives and lawyers familiar with the talks. The payments most likely would draw from an obscure Treasury Department fund intended to cover federal legal claims, the executives and lawyers said. This approach would get around a recent congressional ban on the use of Health and Human Services money to pay the insurers. The start of negotiations came amid an exodus of health plans from the insurance exchanges that are at the heart of the law...GOP lawmakers are already beginning to cry foul. “It’s an end run on the clear .?.?. intent of Congress,” said Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (Va.). The money in question involves one of three strategies to help coax insurers into the marketplaces by promising to cushion them from unexpectedly high expenses for their new customers.

Click through for more details about this cynical scheme, the audacity of which is breathtaking. The Obama administration wants to raid an entirely separate federal fund in order to funnel billions of tax dollars as an effective bribe to temporarily slow the implosion of an unsustainable, failing law that most Americans opposed from the moment it was proposed and debated -- and continue to oppose today, years later, as critics' predictions have been vindicated by reality.  The law is actively harming more Americans than it's helping, yet Obama is intent on ignoring Congress and fleecing taxpayers in a frantic effort to apply lipstick to this fetid, sweating pig of a disastrous partisan experiment.  Every Democrat running for office this year should be asked on the record whether they support this bailout.

Obama's Hometown Chicago Tribune Endorses Johnson, Not Clinton for President

Barack Obama's hometown newspaper that twice endorsed his candidacy, The Chicago Tribune, has endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president. 

“This is the moment to see this election as not so much about them as about the American people and where their country is heading,” the editorial reads. “And this is the moment to rebuke the Republican and Democratic parties.”

Clinton's “intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust,” disqualify her from becoming President of the United States the editorial goes on to say.  

The Tribune says Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld “are agile, practical and, unlike the major-party candidates, experienced at managing governments.”

Horrifying Disrespect: Bodies of Deceased Veterans Left to Rot Hospital Morgue For Months

Since the Veteran's Affairs scandal broke in 2014, exposing the hospital system and government employees left thousands of veterans on long waiting lists leading to death, the agency has received an increase in spending to deal with the backlog and wait times. 

Things have gotten worse, not better. Wait times have doubled and now, a horrifying report out of Illinois shows bodies of deceased veterans were left in the hospital morgue for months.

An Illinois Veterans Affairs hospital already under fire for excessive wait times, festering black mold and kitchen cockroaches faces a new shame – the bodies of dead patients left unclaimed in the morgue for up to two months without proper burial, whistleblower documents allege.

The whistleblower, whose identity is not being revealed for fear of retaliation, complained last month to the VA’s inspector general about the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital’s handling of veterans’ remains in cases where families have not come forward to claim the body. The complaint singled out Christopher Wirtjes, chief of Patient Administrative Services, saying “The Chief of PAS has the funds available, yet has no sense of urgency to lay the veteran to rest.”

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., whose office also received the complaint along with emails, is now calling for Wirtjes’ firing and in a statement, slammed the hospital – located in the Western suburbs of Chicago -- over its recent history of controversies.

“Hines VA -- the hospital that has been overrun with cockroaches and mold and left vets waiting for care for months on secret wait lists, has reached a new low in the treatment of our veterans,” Kirk told FoxNews.com. “We now have reports of bodies being left to decompose in the morgue for months on end.”

Back in 2014 President Obama vowed the system would be upended and changed, adding another unfulfilled promise to a long list during his tenure.

"When I hear allegations of misconduct, any misconduct -- whether its allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times, or cooking the books - I will not stand for it. Not as commander in chief but also not as an American. None of us should," Obama said. "If these allegations prove to be true it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period."

And who could forget the 300,000 VA employees, including top level executives, who received performance based, taxpayer funded bonuses in 2014 after manipulating wait times.

About half the more than 300,000 people who work at the Department of Veterans Affairs received performance-based pay bonuses in 2014, according to a recent investigation.

Yes, the VA. The same agency still under fire for how some veterans seeking medical care are treated. The same one with a long backlog of claims for government benefits. The same one in which a new facility in Denver is more than $1 billion over budget.

Executives managing that project received bonuses of from $4,000 to $8,000.

Bonuses of $1,000 to $4,000 went to managers overseeing a program in which opiates were over-prescribed to veterans — one of whom died.  

Socialist Venezuela New Food Police Unit Targeting People For Waiting In Supermarket Lines

Venezuelans continue to fight for survival, as the nation’s socialist experiment has all but collapsed. Looting is commonplace. Hunger is rampant, with Venezuelans of every economic class eating out of garbage cans for sustenance. And a medical system that is so starved of supplies, like soap and gloves, that newborns are reportedly being put in cardboard boxes in maternity wards. That’s coupled with the spikes in infant deaths that began when the country started to falter. The energy shortages haven’t helped either. The rapid inflation has rendered the nation’s currency worthless, there’s no real domestic food production, and all of this has led to empty shelves at supermarkets.

The long lines have been a source of ire for the socialist government led by President Nicolas Maduro, the late Hugo Chavez’s successor, who says that his nation’s economic woes are brought on by outside sources. He’s banned lines outside of bakeries and supermarkets. Those who are willing to sleep outside of supermarkets to beat the rush are arrested and detained. As The Washington Post reported, these people are given sentences like community service and cleaning the streets, but they’re not defined punishments in Venezuelan law. Moreover, there’s no clear definition as to what constitutes hoarding or transactions on the black market. It’s the Maduro government’s attempt to find a scapegoat. So far, almost 10,000 people have been scooped up by “Dracula’s bus,” which might as well be the nickname for the food police:

The hunt for food started at 4 a.m., when Alexis Camascaro woke up to get in line outside the supermarket. By the time he arrived, there were already 100 people ahead of him.

Camascaro never made it inside. Truckloads of Venezuelan troops arrived in the darkness, arresting him and nearly 30 others seemingly pulled from the queue at random, according to his lawyer. Camascaro, 50, was charged with violating laws against interfering “directly or indirectly” with the production, transportation or sale of food. He has been in jail for three months awaiting a hearing.

I went to see the prosecutors and explained that he was just buying some food for his family. He’s not a bachaquero,” said Lucía Mata, Camascaro’s attorney, using the Venezuelan term for someone who buys scarce, price-capped or government-subsidized goods to resell on the black market.

[…]

…[T]he Venezuelan government has arrested or detained at least 9,400 people this year for allegedly breaking laws against hoarding, reselling goods or attempting to stand in line outside normal store hours, according to the Venezuelan human rights organization Movimiento Vinotinto. Many were taken into custody by the Venezuelan troops assigned to police the checkout aisles and the long lines snaking into supermarkets.

Ismary Quiros, a deputy director at Movimiento Vinotinto, said the law does not define exactly what constitutes illegal hoarding, smuggling, or reselling of goods. She said the government’s real goal is to find scapegoats for the scarcities.

[…]

According to the Caracas-based rights group Provea, national guard troops have periodically carried out a mass-arrest operation nicknamed “Dracula’s Bus” to round up Venezuelans trying to wait in line overnight for groceries, now a banned practice.

Oh, and of course, due process is a not even considered in these proceedings. The Post added that many that are arrested are simply trying to keep their families alive, with economists estimating that almost half of the Venezuelan workforce is dependent on black market goods to make it through the day. When you have to mandate that people leave their jobs to work in the fields, you know your economic experiment has failed. When the nation’s military is part of a new policing unit to monitor food distribution, you know 21st Century Socialism is a total disaster.

Watch Live: Clinton Holds Rally in Florida

More Zombie Voters Discovered, This Time in VA

The curious case of the dead voters continues, this time in Virginia, where at least 19 people who are very much dead are very much registered to vote.

The FBI is investigating why 19 dead people were registered to vote in the town of Harrisonburg. The people were registered by a group that was attempting to register (alive) students to vote at James Madison University. The voter registration fraud was discovered when a clerk looking over the entries recognized one of the names as the deceased father of a local judge.

From the Washington Post:

One case came to light after relatives of a deceased man received a note congratulating him for registering, Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst said Thursday.

“His family members were very distraught,” said Garst, who confirmed the existence of the FBI and police investigation but said she could provide few details because the case is ongoing.

All 19 were initially registered as voters in the Shenandoah Valley city of Harrisonburg, although a clerk double-checking the entries later raised questions about one. She recognized the name of Richard Allen Claybrook Sr., who died in 2014 at age 87, because his son is a well-known local judge. She happened to recall that the judge’s father had died.

Meanwhile, the zombie voter epidemic has also touched Colorado, where dozens of deceased people were found on the voter registration list and sent mail-in ballots. Great work, everyone!

This post has been updated.

Analysis: As Hillary Attacks on Treatment of Women, Countering with Clintons' History is Fair Game

First things first: Calling a woman "Miss Piggy" while pressuring her to lose weight is mean-spirited -- even if her weight gain constituted a contract violation, and even if demanding that she trim down was entirely justified. Calling a woman of Hispanic ethnicity "Miss Housekeeping" is racially-tinged, to put it charitably, and demeaning. And talking about Bill Clinton's decades-old sexual escapades and misconduct is probably not productive ground on which to be fighting, in the context of a late-stages presidential election. (Making cracks about Mrs. Clinton's health, after having shown advantageous restraint, is definitely not helpful to Trump). All of which is to say that I have no intention of defending Trump's boorish excesses, both alleged and manifest. That being said, however, the media's treatment of Hillary Clinton's latest attack on Trump has been predictable and biased. Various outlets had stories about Alicia Machado in the can, evidently waiting for Clinton to unleash her attack on Trump at the debate, followed up by a slickly-produced campaign video. This is known as "coordination." In a column for CBS News, Will Rahn notes that few outlets have delved into Machado's sordid past, which includes alleged entanglement in a murder, violent threats against a judge, an affair with a drug kingpin, and a sex tape-related break-up with an athlete. If she's effectively being trotted out as a character witness against Trump, news consumers should be given all the facts:

An obscure figure in America less than a week ago, Machado is perhaps the biggest story in politics at the moment. So it’s almost inexplicable that, despite all this coverage, the publications discussing the extraordinary stories of her life are mostly right-wing ones. The most interesting thing about the mainstream articles is what they leave out. There is no discussion at CNN or The New York Times, for instance, about her post-pageant fame as the fiancée of Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu, or how he reportedly called it off after a reality show she was on revealed video of her apparently having sex with a housemate. Likewise, there is little mention of how a Venezuelan judge once alleged on live TV that Machado had threatened to kill him. Or how the Mexican attorney general’s office later said she was the girlfriend of a major narco trafficker, and that she he had a child with him, according to Univision and other outlets. Or how a government witness who reportedly testified about their affair was later shot to death...Additionally, if all the allegations against Machado are true, they would not necessarily undermine her accusations against Trump. People should not sit off in priggish judgment of her life, or assume she’s a liar because she made mistakes when she was younger. But that doesn’t mean that her life, which has been reported on extensively in the Spanish language press, should be sanitized and whitewashed by the press. The political media is not in the beatification business; if it’s out there, readers deserve to know it.

Meanwhile, as Katie mentioned yesterday, the Trump campaign has distributed marching orders to its surrogates, recommending that questions about the GOP nominee's treatment of women be countered with reminders of former President Bill Clinton's conduct, and his wife's complicity in viciously attacking his accusers. Many in the press have reacted by fanning themselves, overwhelmed by the vapors of "beyond the pale" indignation. Look at what these horrible people are saying about the Clintons. Here's one representative tweet from a CBS News correspondent in disseminating the talking points:

Bill Clinton's misdeeds aren't merely limited to "dalliances," such as receiving oral sex in the Oval Office from a very young intern, which he also did. Serious allegations against him include misconduct, harassment, and forcible rape. Blaming Bill's wife for his sins (Rudy Giuliani's recent broadside seems particularly foolish) is unfair. Pointing out that she's tolerated and enabled the sexual objectification and exploitation of women in order to protect her political interests is fair game. As is drawing attention to the role she played in trying to destroy 'unhelpful' women, especially since she's chosen to make Trump's poor treatment of women a central line of attack.  As far as narratives go, going blow-for-blow on infidelity, sexual misconduct and the treatment of women (especially spearheaded by three guys with nine wives among them) doesn't seem strategically smart.  But it's at least preferable to spouting  ludicrous anti-empiricism on polling or peddling bonkers conspiracy theories.  I'll leave you with Rush Limbaugh unhelpfully calling Machado a "porn star bimbo" in the process of more helpfully pleading with Trump to turn the page on this whole chapter:

Yeah, Rush, who could have ever anticipated Trump (a non-conservative whom you -- ahem -- "never" took seriously on immigration) getting easily baited into committing unforced errors by fighting petty, counter-productive battles? Aside from, you know, everyone?

UPDATE - Who's up for a manic, paranoid 3am tweet storm, with fewer than 40 days to go until the election?

Um: We Also Lifted Sanctions on Iran Same Day As Ransom

UPDATE: House Speaker Paul Ryan responds.

It's hard to believe, but the Iran ransom scandal we learned about has taken another turn for the worst. We already know that on the same day that Iran released four American prisoners, the U.S. government forked over $1.7 billion in cash. That's not all. Now, officials report that we lifted UN sanctions on two key Iranian banks as part of the swap agreement, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. agreed in a third document to support the immediate delisting of the two Iranian banks, according to senior U.S. officials. In the hours after the documents were signed at a Swiss hotel, the different elements of the agreement went forward: The Americans were released, Iran took possession of the $400 million in cash, and the U.N. Security Council removed sanctions on Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International, these officials said.

These sanctions were supposed to remain in place until 2023. Yet, the U.S. agreed to lift them after Iran claimed Bank Sepah was critical to their economic growth. So, we apparently complied - and the timing was no coincidence, officials say.

“Lifting the sanctions on Sepah was part of the package,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the deliberations. “The timing of all this isn’t coincidental. Everything was linked to some degree.”

Why were these banks sanctioned in the first place? They are reportedly connected to Iran's missile program.

Congress has passed legislation making it illegal to send future ransom payments to Iran.

Steny Hoyer Doubts Democratic Takeover of House

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is hopeful Democrats will pick up a handful of seats in November's House elections, but stopped short of predicting a complete takeover.

“It is not beyond the realm of possibility that we take back the House if there’s a wave election created," he told reporters on Thursday. "Right now, we don’t see that."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also downplayed expectations, simply telling reporters it's too early to tell.

The last time Republicans had the opportunity to take the House, they didn't waste it.

The Democrats have a much better shot at retaking the Senate, but over the summer Guy analyzed how even that outcome may be in jeopardy.

USA Today Breaks Its Presidential Election Silence For the First Time in History

By unanimous consent, USA Today has declared GOP nominee Donald Trump to be "unfit for the presidency."

With this harsh announcement on Thursday, the outlet broke its 34-year silence in regards to presidential politics. Yet, with a 50 percent chance that Donald Trump will be our next president, the editors saw no choice but to speak up.

From the day he declared his candidacy 15 months ago through this week’s first presidential debate, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.

Whether through indifference or ignorance, Trump has betrayed fundamental commitments made by all presidents since the end of World War II. These commitments include unwavering support for NATO allies, steadfast opposition to Russian aggression, and the absolute certainty that the United States will make good on its debts. He has expressed troubling admiration for authoritarian leaders and scant regard for constitutional protections.

In case that didn't convince their readers, the editorial goes on to list several bolded reasons why they should not vote Trump, including how he's a "serial liar," "ill-equipped" and has run a campaign built on prejudice.

Also in bold print, however, is the line that reads their editorial is not an endorsement of Hillary Clinton. 

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's vice presidential running mate, felt immediately compelled to respond to their unflattering post. He penned his own editorial, entitled "Donald Trump is ready to lead."

States Sue Obama Administration in Last-Ditch Effort to Stop US From Giving Up Control of Internet

Republican attorneys general from Nevada, Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma are suing the Obama administration in a last-ditch effort to stop the U.S. from giving up control of the internet’s domain name system.

“Trusting authoritarian regimes to ensure the continued freedom of the internet is lunacy,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “The president does not have the authority to simply give away America’s pioneering role in ensuring that the internet remains a place where free expression can flourish.”

The AGs … asked a judge late Wednesday to step in and stop the transition to an international oversight body, after GOP lawmakers failed to stall the move as part of a short-term spending bill. 

Paxton was among the four Republican AGs who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division. 

The U.S. government has been in charge of domain names for more than three decades, thanks to a Commerce Department agency's oversight of an obscure, but powerful, Los Angeles-based nonprofit called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). 

The lawsuit argues that if the transfer takes place, as it’s scheduled to on Oct. 1, people will “lose the predictability, certainty, and protections that currently flow from federal stewardship of the Internet and instead be subjected to ICANN’s unchecked control.” 

The suit argues the looming transfer violates the property clause in the U.S. Constitution which prohibits handing over government property without Congress’ approval. The suit also claims the handoff would violate First Amendment rights and says ICANN, the nonprofit owners in control, would be unchecked and could start to censor speech. […]

Republicans in Congress, though, have long-objected to the transfer, which they called a “giveaway” to the rest of the world. They argue that handing over control to a non-government entity would give countries like Russia and China the ability to control online speech – something supporters categorically deny. 

The new lawsuit also claims ICANN “has a documented history of ignoring or operating outside of its governing bylaws.”

“Nothing protects the Plaintiffs from additional occurrences of ICANN oversight failures,” the suit says.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai warned Americans on the “Sean Hannity Show” Wednesday that giving up control to ICANN should be worrisome for anyone who values “free expression and free speech rights generally.”