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Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
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Ted Cruz Wins RLC Straw Poll

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Texas Senator Ted Cruz edged out neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson to win the Republican Leadership Conference presidential straw poll.

The tally, via Breitbart:

In the straw poll, 633 ballots were cast, which was attended by more than 1,500 people. The results were as follows:

1. Ted Cruz — 30.33 percent
2. Ben Carson — 29.38 percent
3. Rand Paul — 10.43 percent
4. Mike Huckabee — 5.06 percent
5. Rick Perry — 4.90 percent
6. Curt Clawson (write-in) 4.58 percent
7. Jeb Bush — 4.42 percent
8. Marco Rubio — 3.32 percent
9. Rick Santorum — 2.37 percent
10. Paul Ryan — 2.05 percent
11. Allen West (write-in) — 2.05 percent
12. Chris Christie — 1.11%

Carson’s supporters evidently did a superb job in organizing for him at the conference. But we’re going to be spending 8 years excoriating a president who lacked any relevant experience for the office. Carson has zero experience in politics and government. Why would we want to repeat the mistake we made with Obama?

No matter. The big surprise from the straw poll was Rand Paui’s distant 3rd place finish. He may not have poured any resources into organizing at the event — he wasn’t in attendance at the conference. But given his showing at the CPAC event where he finished 1st, it must have been a disappointment to finish so far out of the running.

Meanwhile, Cruz wowed the crowd with a barnburner of a speech:

CNN:

The potential 2016 presidential candidate said that across the country, people tell him that they are scared – of losing their freedom, losing their constitutional rights, and bankrupting their children and grandchildren.

“There is an urgency facing this country – there is an urgency in politics unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” he said, arguing those fears were driving a new movement.

“America is waking up. We are seeing revival, we are seeing renewal, and together – mark my words – we are going to turn this nation around,” he said.

Cruz highlighted his past battles with what he regards as the Washington elites, Democrat and Republican, in the fight over drones, gun rights and filibusters. But he cited a “tsunami” of populist power, a wave of grassroots support as the core of those victories.

“Thank you!” he exclaimed to a shout of thanks from the audience. “Nobody cares what any politician in Washington says. Power in politics, sovereignty in America is with we the people, and that is the path to turning this country around, empowering the people.”

That wave will unseat Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, and force Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, out, he said to applause and cheers. A conservative Democrat, Landrieu faces a tough re-election this fall, and the crowd of Louisiana Republicans is eager to unseat her and strip the Democrats of their majority status.

Cruz’s victory in the straw poll is significant because the attendees at the RLC are committed activists who donate money and volunteer for campaigns. It was an impressive demonstration of support from Republicans who matter, as the Texas Senator appears to have a leg up on other conservatives who may run next year.

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Sudanese Woman Condemned for Apostasy to Go Free

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Good news from Sudan. The foreign ministry says that the woman condemned to death for apostasy and who gave birth in prison will go free “within days.”

Voice of America:

Ministry spokesman Abdullah al-Azraq announced the development late Saturday in Khartoum, just days after the woman — 27-year-old Mariam Yahya Ibrahim — gave birth in prison while awaiting her execution.

Ibrahim is also the mother of a 20-month-old son. Both children are incarcerated with their mother.

Born to a Christian mother and a Muslim father and raised Christian after the father left the family, Ibrahim said she had never herself been a Muslim, despite Sudanese law defining children of Muslim fathers as Muslims by definition.

A court in early May gave her four days to recant her Christian faith, and imposed the death penalty when she refused to do so.

Christian-Muslim unions such as Ibrahim’s marriage to U.S. citizen Daniel Wani are defined under Sudanese law as adultery, prompting the judge to impose an additional sentence of 100 lashes on the young mother.

Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is a Christian. He was not allowed to visit his wife and children on the day of the daughter’s birth, but did see his family a few days afterwards. He says they are all doing well.

Sudan has made no move to change the law, so one assumes that this outrage can happen again and again. Perhaps next time, the Sudanese won’t be quite so public about the matter, and some unfortunate woman will pay the price for living in a country stuck in the eighth century.

There were very few expressions of outrage from Muslim countries. Why should there have been? Many would have done the exact same thing. Some may have even resisted the calls from western countries to let her go.

This kind of thing must be punished as surely as a nation is taken to task for violating the human rights of its own people. Trade sanctions, aid withheld, travel restrictions — until there is a strong, vital reaction from the west, this kind of outrage will continue.

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Would a Primary Defeat of Cochran Bring Mississippi into Play for Dems?

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Six term Senator Thad Cochran is in serious trouble and may not win the Mississippi GOP primary on Tuesday. The 76-year old is being challenged by state senator and former talk radio host Mike McDaniel, a Tea Party favorite endorsed by Sarah Palin. Polls show Cochran with a slight lead, but McDaniel has regained the momentum after a scandal involving one of his supporters taking photos of Cochran’s bedridden wife and publishing it on his blog has blown over.

This has been a dirty campaign — an internecine conflict between the establishment and Tea Party that is damaging both candidates. Cochran launched a spurious attack on McDaniel’s voting record, claiming he missed more votes than any other sitting state senator. That proved to be false, although the Senator has refused to correct the record.

The McDaniel campaign has aired ads claiming Cochran supported amnesty in 2006 and only gives lip service to his opposition to Obamacare. Both claims — as well as the attack on McDaniel’s voting record — have been debunked by FactCheck.Org.

All this has Democrats salivating about running against either candidate in November. The likely nominee will be former Rep. Travis Childers who voted against Obamacare, opposes restrictions on firearms, and is against gay marriage. In short, he’s not your typical Democrat and voters may be inclined to give him a hard look following the bruising GOP primary.

Politico:

With the Cochran-McDaniel race headed for a photo finish next week, Childers outlined his general-election campaign message in a phone interview Friday. He all but acknowledged the conventional wisdom on the race: that a Democrat like him might stand a much better chance against a firebrand like McDaniel than a well-liked, 42-year incumbent like Cochran.

“I think there would be a stark contrast between me and state Sen. McDaniel,” Childers said, casting himself as a populist opponent of “far-right extremism” and criticizing Washington for having “forgotten the working people, especially in my state.”

Childers has raised little money to date, just $51,600 through the end of March, and would presumably be counting on an influx of funds from Democrats exploiting every possible path to keeping their Senate majority. In the event that he faces McDaniel, Childers would likely mount a campaign similar to the one Cochran has run in the primary: underscoring the gaps between him and McDaniel on Mississippi-centric concerns, like storm relief and federal spending on agriculture, while seeking to reassure conservative voters that he’s no Barack Obama Democrat.

“I’ve never really been called a liberal myself,” Childers said, parrying a series of questions about his views on national wedge issues.

On health care, he stood by his vote against the ACA, explaining that he believed Congress “could have done a much better job.” But Childers also rebuked opponents of the law who continue to promise its repeal.

“It’s not going to be repealed. You and I know the numbers that it would take. I resent these politicians lying to Mississippians about it being repealed,” he said. “I’m one of those people that will work to make the bill better.”

On gun control and same-sex marriage, Childers distanced himself from national Democratic positions. “I’ve always been a big proponent of the Second Amendment and I still am,” he said, continuing: “My personal feeling is of traditional marriage. That’s my personal feeling … Just because I believe this way, it’s not my place to be judgmental and degrading to anyone.”

But Childers also supports the minimum wage increase, voted for the stimulus bill, and would be a reliable Democratic vote on budgets and taxes.

Does he have a shot?

While McDaniel and his supporters dismiss the specter of a Democratic victory in November, some Republicans in the state aren’t as certain. One of them is Clarke Reed, a godfather of Mississippi GOP politics who led the state party for a decade in the 1960s and ’70s.

“It’s not out of the question a Democrat could win if Thad loses,” said Reed, now in his ninth decade. “With our population, any Democrat who gets one out of four white people wins. I hate to put it that way, but that’s how it is.”

Childers efforts to tar McDaniels with the “extremist” label is probably a dry hole. Mississippi is a very conservative state and while McDaniel may be too conservative for some states, his views are mostly in the mainstream of Mississippi politics.

Democrats are making the same argument in Georgia where Michelle Nunn is facing off against Rep. Jack Kingston. Trying to paint Kingston as an “extremist” in a very conservative state isn’t resonating. Nunn, despite being the daughter of legendary Georgia Democrat Sam Nunn, still has that “D” next to her name in a very “R” state.

Perhaps it’s more a sign of desperation by Democrats who are looking around for ways to keep their Senate majority, than any attachment to reality. Childers is little known, bereft of cash, and is an outlander when it comes to the positions of most Democrats. It’s hard to see how that translates into victory.

The fact is, whoever emerges from the GOP primary fracas on Tuesday will have a clear advantage in the November elections.

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Breaking: POW Held by Taliban Released

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only US POW believed to be held by the Taliban, was freed by his captors in exchange for give Guantanamo detainees, the Associated Press is reporting:

The officials said the Taliban agreed to turn over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The transfers happened after a week of intense negotiations mediated by the government of Qatar, which will take custody of the Afghans.

In a statement, President Barack Obama said Bergdahl’s recovery “is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield.”

Officials said the Taliban turned the 28-year-old Bergdahl over Saturday evening, local time, in Afghanistan. Several dozen U.S. special forces were involved in the exchange, which took place in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border.

Officials described the transfer as a nonviolent handover between the American forces and about 18 Taliban.

Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity in order to describe the details of his release.

Bergdahl is expected to be transferred to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, then on to the United States.

Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, had been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009. He is thought to have been captured by members of the Haqqani network, which operates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and has been one of the deadliest threats to U.S. troops in the war.

The Haqqani network, which the State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2012, claims allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, yet operates with some degree of autonomy.

PJ Media Washington Editor Bridget Johnson highlighted the plight of Bergdahl earlier this year as part of the Yellow Ribbon Project, which seeks to keep the names of Americans held overseas before the public until they are brought home.

Controversy has surrounded Bergdhal since his capture. Did he walk away from his post and desert? Emails to his parents just prior to his capture indicate he was “disillusioned” with America and thought about deserting. His emails home were full of details about the extreme dysfunction of his unit and how he felt he had been lied to by the military.

The emails, published by Rolling Stone in a 2012 article, read as if Bergdhal was ready to go over the wall:

The Rolling Stone article, to be published Friday, also quotes other soldiers and associates of Bergdahl’s as saying that he had talked about walking to Pakistan if his deployment was “lame” and that shortly before his disappearance he had asked whether he should take his weapon if he left the base. Friends and other soldiers describe a survivalist mentality, and Bergdahl’s father, Bob, told the magazine that his son was “living in a novel.”

“The future is too good to waste on lies,” one email reads. “And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong.”

The emails were provided to the magazine by Bergdahl’s family in Idaho, which has gone public with its own discontent with U.S. efforts to free their son. There is no way to authenticate the emails.

Some of Bergdahl’s reported words read like a suicide note.

“I am sorry for everything,” he wrote. “The horror that is America is disgusting.”

He mailed home boxes containing his uniform and books.

Bergdhal made several propaganda videos, but the military usually doesn’t hold that against a returning POW. More problematic will be his debriefing where he will almost certainly be asked about the circumstances surrounding his capture. After telling his parents he was “ashamed to even be an American,” Sgt. Bergdhal will have a lot of explaining to do.

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GOP on Suicide Watch as Immigration Vote Looms

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

OK boys and girls — Let’s all join hands, count to three, and jump off the cliff together.

 

Nobody will ever accuse John Boehner of having political courage — or possessing excess intelligence. Why now? What’s the rush?

Allahpundit
is as disgusted as anyone:

Outrageous. Not the fact that the House leadership wants to do something on immigration; that’s been common knowledge for 18 months. What’s outrageous is the timing, which, if this AP report is accurate, would confirm our most cynical suspicions about just how gutless and unaccountable Republicans are on this issue. I remember critics predicting last year that Boehner wouldn’t bring something to the floor before the House primaries for fear that a backlash among conservative voters would knock out a bunch of incumbents. He’d wait until just after the primaries had ended to do it, so that conservatives would be powerless to exert any influence over the process.

So the timid, scaredy-cat Republicans didn’t want a vote on immigration reform until their sinecure was secure and they didn’t have to face angry conservatives who might have primaried them.

Profiles of a jellyfish.

Businessweek gives the real reason Boehner is hesitating:

Some reformers had hoped that Boehner would find a way around the anti-immigration conservatives in his caucus—that even as he appeased them by denouncing the Senate bill, he would arrange to make it a fait accompli through legislative maneuvering. In January, Boehner issued a “framework” to legalize undocumented workers that might have smoothed the path to legislation, but conservatives quickly beat it back.

To maintain an appearance of working toward reform even as they reject the Senate’s comprehensive approach, various House Committees have passed narrowly targeted bills.

Modest though they may be, such a bill could theoretically serve as a vehicle for more ambitious reform. Were the House to pass it, a House-Senate conference committee assembled to reconcile the two bills could—if it were stacked with reform supporters—produce something that very closely resembles the Senate’s bill. “I think that moving in a piece-by-piece fashion on this in a common-sense way is the way to do this,” Boehner said on May 22. Yet so far he has refused to allow the House even to vote on these narrow Republican measures.
Story: An Immigration Deal Worth Reaching

Reformers are clinging to one final possibility: When the primaries are finished and Republican members no longer face the immediate prospect of being unseated by a challenge from their right, they’ll act quickly to address their party’s problems with Hispanics. But that hope is hard to square with how these primary races are unfolding. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who claims to support reform and faces a June 10 primary, recently sent out a campaign flier boasting that he “is stopping the Obama-Reid plan to give illegal aliens amnesty.”

Boehner is likely to lose his speakership if immigration reform passes. At the very least, millions of conservatives would stay home  on election day if he’s stupid enough to bring the bills to the floor.

While the GOP approach is sound — carefully targeted reforms of a broken system with strong enforcement provisions — the problem is that any conference committee with the Senate is likely to end up with a final package looking an awful lot like the execrable “comprehensive reform” passed by the upper body last year. That makes any vote on immigration reform in the House an invitation to force a vote on the Senate bill.

What is the problem with waiting until next year when there’s a good chance the GOP will control both houses of Congress, and won’t have to worry about “amnesty?” The Republican’s piecemeal approach to reform — prudent, realistic, and popular — is a far better alternative than passing a fatally flawed Senate bill that no one expects the Obama administration to honor the enforcement provisions. A GOP bill could put real teeth into those provisions, making it far more difficult for the administration to weasel out of their responsibilities to secure the border.

it’s a canard to say that the passage of an immigration reform bill will attract any Hispanic votes. Reform supporters repeat it like a mantra despite the fact there is zero evidence that Hispanics will begin a love affair with the Republican party if immigration reform is passed. The president, the Democrats, and the press will all see to it that the GOP will get no credit for the bill’s passage, and all the blame for the delay.

The Republicans are about to commit hari-kari and John Boehner is handing them the sword.

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Cake Shop Owner Defiant After Ruling Forces Him to Serve Gay Couples

Friday, May 30th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that Jack Phillips, owner of a cake shop in a suburb of Denver, must bake cakes for gay couples — even though gay marriage is illegal in the state.

Associated Press:

Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission on Friday ordered a baker to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, finding his religious objections to the practice did not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.

The unanimous ruling from the seven-member commission upheld an administrative law judge’s finding in December that Jack Phillips violated civil rights law when he refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012. The couple sued.

“I can believe anything I want, but if I’m going to do business here, I’d ought to not discriminate against people,” Commissioner Raju Jaram said.

Phillips, a devout Christian who owns the Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, said the decision violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of his religion. “I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.

He added his bakery has been so overwhelmed by supporters eager to buy cookies and brownies that he does not currently make wedding cakes.

The couple who sued Phillips, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, were pleased that the commission roundly rejected Phillips’ arguments. “We’re just thrilled by that,” Mullins said.

Gay marriage remains illegal in Colorado. Mullins and Craig were married in Massachusetts and wanted a wedding cake for a reception to celebrate their union back home in Colorado.

State law prohibits businesses from refusing to serve customers based on their sexual orientation.

The panel issued its ruling verbally. It ordered Phillips to stop discriminating against gay people and to report quarterly for two years on staff anti-discrimination training and any customers he refuses to serve.

The “Civil Rights Commission” is a kangaroo court. Their mandate is to find people brought before it guilty of discrimination. That is their raison d’être, and the members of the commission are chosen to prove discrimination is present.

Here is part of their mission statement:

The Commissioners are citizens of Colorado who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate to serve four-year, voluntary terms. They are selected from across the state to represent both political parties. Two represent business (one of whom represents small business), two represent government, and three represent the community at-large. At least four of the members are members of groups of people who have been or who might be discriminated against because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, religion or age. Matters concerning current investigations or appeals before the Commission are confidential and can only be discussed with the parties in the case or the parties’ representatives.

There are 3 Democrats, one Republican, and 3 “un,” meaning unaffiliated on the commission. The fact that at least half the commission is part of the victimhood culture should tell you all you need to know about the fairness of the proceedings.

To sum up: Mr. Phillips was hauled before this commission for not serving a wedding cake to a gay couple even though gay marriage is illegal in Colorado. In other words, it is illegal in Colorado to refuse to take part in the extension of an illegal act. Mr. Phillips is being punished and forced to violate his religious tenets despite the fact that one of the Commission’s mandates is to protect people from being discriminated against because of their religion.

Go figure.

Mark Steyn’s run in with this sort of lunacy in Canada brought out the best in his writing:

If you schmooze enough Third World thug states, it’s not surprising your postmodern cultural relativism starts to drift past the point of no return. As Commissar Lynch primly notes in her report, America’s First Amendment absolutism on free speech is out of step with the “growing global consensus”—that would be the “growing global consensus” represented by the CHRC and its “distinguished guests.” Take Sweden and Cameroon, split the difference, and that should be enough human rights for anyone.

In an op-ed for the Globe and Mail, Jennifer Lynch justified her report on the grounds that it would assist a “balanced debate.” That same day, CTV booked her and Ezra Levant, author of Shakedown, the bestselling book about Canada’s “human rights” regime, on to Power Play, to have that, er, “debate” she’s always talking about. When Queen Jennifer heard Ezra was to be on the show, she refused to debate him, and demanded he be bounced from the airwaves. As Kathy Shaidle put it: “Canada’s Official Censor Tries To Censor TV Debate About Censorship.”

Okay, if she won’t debate Ezra, I’d be happy to do it. All very “balanced”: Maclean’s can sponsor it, Steve Paikin or some such public-TV cove can anchor it. Name the date, I’ll be there. But, in the absence of any willingness to debate, reasonable people pondering Canada’s strangely ambitious Official Censor might object not just philosophically but on Professor Moon-like utilitarian grounds: if you’re not smart enough to debate Ezra Levant, you’re not smart enough to police the opinions of 30 million people.

In the world of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, freedom is a zero sum game; in order to give freedom to some you must take away freedom from others.

It’s nonsense, of course — but Mr. Phillips isn’t laughing.

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Tidal Wave of Illegal Minors Crossing the Border

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

More than 60,000 illegal children below the age of 18 will cross the border this year unaccompanied by an adult, and the government thinks that number is likely to double next year.

The flood of children from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and other Central American nations is putting a tremendous strain on government resources. Reuters reports that not only is there simply no room to house the children, but the budget problem makes it difficult to adequately care for them. It costs the U.S. $252 a day to care for each child and the total cost this year could reach $868 million. That number is expected to climb to $2 billion next year.

The tenfold increase in illegal minors crossing the border alone since 2011 is partly the result of relaxed deportation policies of the Obama administration. But it is also true that many of these children are escaping poverty, abuse, and rampant violence in their home countries.

The shortage of housing for these children, some as young as 3, has already become so acute that an emergency shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, has been opened and can accommodate 1,000 of them, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in an interview with Reuters.

The issue is an added source of tension between Democrats and Republicans, who disagree on how to rewrite immigration laws. With comprehensive legislation stalled, President Barack Obama is looking at small, administrative steps he could take, which might be announced this summer. No details have been outlined but immigration groups are pressing him to take steps to keep families with children together.

The minors flooding over the border are often teenagers leaving behind poverty or violence in Mexico and other parts of Central America such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. They are sometimes seeking to reunite with a parent who is already in the United States, also without documentation.

“This is a humanitarian crisis and it requires a humanitarian response,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski said in an interview. The Maryland Democrat, a former social worker, has likened the flood of unaccompanied children to the “boat people” of past exodus movements.

Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on Mikulski’s committee, said, “The need is there, you know the humanitarian aspect of it, but we’re challenged on money.”

Immigration groups lobbying for comprehensive reform argue that children are being hit hardest by the political deadlock.

With an even bigger funding challenge looming for 2015, Mikulski worries corners might be cut. She said children could end up being placed in federal holding cells meant only for adults and that funds might have to be shifted from other programs, such as refugee aid, to help cover the $252-per-day cost of detaining a child.

Mark Lagon, who coordinated the George W. Bush administration’s efforts to combat human trafficking, tied the sharp increase in unaccompanied minors to both U.S. economic factors and escalating violence in Central America.

He noted that there was a decrease in migration to the United States in the period 2008-2010 that reflected the U.S. economic downturn, and that has been reversed.

What’s to be done? I have some ideas on the next page.

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The ‘Opportunity Gap’ is What Should Concern Us

Sunday, May 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Thoughtful piece by Andrew Quinn of AEI, writing in the  Federalist.  Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity — “fairness at the starting line of life, not forced equality at the finish line,” as Quinn puts it.

But in modern America, with redistributionist schemes a feature of governance, how can we prevent the continuing slide into socialism? Closing the opportunity gap is a good idea but what if those who need opportunity the most fail to take advantage?

Conservatives have little patience for no-strings-attached transfers, but many are amenable to things like vocational training. Such programs seem like straightforward ways to expand opportunity. Offer classes and guidance to people who seek to learn new skills and become more attractive hires. That’s how you offer a hand up—and that beats a handout eight days a week.

It may not be that easy. In their new book Scarcity, behavioral economist Sendil Mullainathan and psychologist Eldar Shafir complicate that distinction. They note that many poor people fail to follow through on promising opportunities—even, curiously enough, when money is no object. Across the world, poor people are disproportionately unlikely to get their children vaccinated even when all they have to do is sign up; they are disproportionately reluctant to wash their hands even though this is cost-free. Low-income Americans on Medicaid, which pays for their prescriptions, still fail to take their medication regularly.

This phenomenon defies the assumptions of standard economics. People whose lives are teetering on the brink have more incentive than anyone to seize on free and low-cost opportunities to improve their lot. But, the data show, they are in fact the least likely group to take advantage of these opportunities. What gives?

Mullainathan and Shafir developed several experiments to find out. In one study, they administered a cognitive test to farmers in India at various times of the year. The test, called the “Stroop task,” measures fluid intelligence and executive control. To paraphrase, it looks both at the subjects’ raw mental bandwidth and their ability to focus and channel that horsepower. The researchers found that farmers systematically did worse in the months leading up to the harvest, when the funds from the last harvest were starting to run out. The stress of financial scarcity markedly limited their cognition. When they measured the farmers post-harvest, after abundance had been restored, their disability disappeared.

America does not have the kind of grinding poverty found in India and other developing countries. But the poverty stricken in the US act much the same as those in poorer countries. With a plethora of programs designed to help, most simply don’t take advantage of the opportunity to go back to school , or train for a good job, or better their lives in a meaningful way.

This is why redistributionist policies are so poisonous. They don’t work and they only add to the hopelessness felt by so many who are poor. An argument can be made that it’s class, not skin color that is holding back many living below the poverty line. And no amount of government handouts is going to change that reality.

 

 

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Reparations and the Moral Repugnance of Collective Guilt

Sunday, May 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You’ve no doubt seen Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 15,000 word article in The Altantic, making the case for slavery reparations. I’ve always enjoyed reading Coates — a brilliant writer, and not one to march in lock step with anyone.

But Mr. Coates has gone off the rails with his advocacy for reparations. He has added to the burden of white man’s sins by including, “Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy.”

Coates presents evidence to buttress his case. Many compelling, maddening anecdotes. Charts, graphs, pictures — a scholarly effort to be sure.

But Bill Jacobson points out the flaws in his argument with devastating ease:

Coates never gives the answer as to who gets what and how.

And that’s ultimately the problem with reparations arguments that are not based upon the people causing the harm paying the people directly harmed by specific conduct soon after the conduct is remedied.

If you can’t answer the question of why a Vietnamese boat person has to pay reparations for the conduct of white plantation owners more than a century earlier, then you can’t make the argument.

If you can’t answer the question of why two successful black doctors living in a fashionable suburb should get reparations paid for by the white children of Appalachia, then you can’t make the argument.

If you can’t answer the question of why the adult black recent immigrant from Paris should be pay or be paid reparations based on the color of his skin for crimes committed in a land he did not grow up in, then you can’t make the argument.

And what about the increasing number of children of mixed race?

That’s the bottom line. Any reparations plan is totally, finally unworkable as a practical political matter. You can’t get there from here and making the attempt will only breed resentment by whites and dashed hopes for blacks.

It is morally repugnant to assign blame to the blameless, and then penalize them for something not their fault. My family never held slaves, we did not participate in Jim Crow, and we did not redline anyone to prevent them from getting a mortgage. How can you justify trying to address injustice by creating more injustice? Madness.

One of the promises of America is that the sons are not held responsible for the sins of their fathers. We don’t always live up to that promise — like we don’t always achieve equal justice under the law. But what makes America exceptional is that we are constantly striving to realize those promises. Not the absolute certainty of guaranteed outcomes, but simply the promise that we can do better. That’s all one can practically expect from human beings.

Coates thinks that without reparations, the U.S. will never be “whole.” Any reparations scheme will tear this country apart — end to end, coast to coast. There may be a case for reparations, but saying it will unite the country is the most ridiculous of all.

Racism, sexism, homophobia — these things will die a natural death. Each successive generation of all colors becomes more tolerant of those who are different. Barack Obama could not have been elected 50 years ago, or 25 years ago — perhaps not even a decade ago. Racial progress is not something that can be quantified by dollars or cents, or how many minorities are lawyers, doctors, and successful businessmen. Progress is measured in the hearts and minds of each individual. Reparations won’t do anything to speed the evolutionary process of achieving a colorblind society and, in fact, would set the cause back 50 years.

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The Case For and Against Mike Pence for President

Saturday, May 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

If the Republican nominee for president is going to come from the ranks of current or former governors, the GOP could do worse than choose former chairman of the House Republican Conference and current governor of Indiana Mike Pence.

Pence is the kind of candidate who just might be able to act as a bridge between the warring conservative factions. His conservative voting record as a House member is nearly impeccable: no to No Child Left Behind and the prescription drug biil; no to the bank bailout; and a budget hawk who was calling for big cuts in spending before it became popular to do so on Capitol Hill.

On the other hand, he has governed Indiana via compromise and pragmatism — two traits that don’t sit well with much of the GOP base. As James Antle III writes in the American Conservative, those qualities of governance have led to several problematic decisions by Pence:

With great fanfare, Pence signed legislation pulling Indiana out of Common Core, making it the first state to junk the controversial education standards many Tea Party conservatives see as a precursor to a national curriculum. “I believe education is a state and local function,” he said. He then embraced new academic standards that were panned as “warmed over” Common Core.

Hoosiers Against Common Core describes Pence’s standards as “re-branding Common Core” and the bill he signed back in March as “a ruse to fool Common Core opponents.” The group says on its website, “The legislation gave the appearance of voiding the Common Core while the Indiana Department of Education and the Center for Education and Career Innovation walked it through the backdoor.”

Then Pence announced he would accept the federal funds that come with Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. But he vowed to seek a waiver that would allow him to pursue Medicaid reforms based on former Gov. Mitch Daniels’s Healthy Indiana Plan rather than the traditional Medicaid plan.

“Reforming traditional Medicaid through this kind of market-based, consumer-driven approach is essential to creating better health outcomes and curbing the dramatic growth in Medicaid spending,” the governor said.

Some conservatives see this too as sleight of hand. One complained to the Indianapolis Star it was “merely the latest iteration of full Obamacare Medicaid expansion thinly disguised as a conservative entitlement reform.” Other critics wrote at Forbes, “Gov. Pence has tried to cover his ObamaCare expansion plan with the veneer of the Healthy Indiana Plan begun by Mitch Daniels.”

Those who have followed Pence since he was in Congress may remember a third instance where he tried to split the baby on a contentious issue. In May 2006, as House Republicans stood against an immigration plan hatched by Bush, John McCain, and Ted Kennedy, Pence gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation in which he outlined “a rational middle ground” between “amnesty and mass deportation.”

Pence’s proposal was an ambitious guest-worker program that essentially privatized a large part of immigration enforcement. “Private worker placement agencies that we could call ‘Ellis Island Centers’ will be licensed by the federal government to match willing guest workers with jobs in America that employers cannot fill with American workers,” he said.

Pence’s immigration reform proposal never went anywhere, with some conservatives calling it “backdoor amnesty.” So what happened to the Tea Party favorite and conservative lion who served in Congress? I’ll explain on the next page.

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The Great National Divide Is on Abortion

Saturday, May 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Despite all the “War on Women” rhetoric coming from Obama and the Democrats, the facts speak for themselves: America is divided right down the middle on the question of abortion.

Taxes, the budget, immigration reform — these are Republican vs. Democratic issues. But abortion as an issue that transcends party, so that even independents are split down the middle.

While solid majorities from each party support their position on abortion, both parties also have a significant number of “defectors” — about the same percentage of Democrats are pro-life as there are Republicans who are pro-choice. This is what makes abortion the true dividing line in American politics.

Gallup:

Americans remain divided on the abortion issue, with 47% of U.S. adults describing their views as “pro-choice” and 46% as “pro-life,” continuing a pattern seen since 2010.

These results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 8-11. Gallup’s trend on this question stretches back to 1995, when Americans tilted significantly more toward the pro-choice label. The balance generally remained more in the pro-choice direction until 2009 when for the first time more Americans identified as pro-life than pro-choice. Since then, these attitudes have fluctuated some, but remain roughly split.

Americans’ identification with the two abortion politics labels differs somewhat by gender and age, with women and 18- to 34-year olds tilting pro-choice, and men and Americans aged 55 and older tilting pro-life. Middle-aged adults are evenly split on the issue.

Regionally, Easterners are the most unified, with 59% calling themselves pro-choice, whereas in all other regions, no more than 50% identify with either label. However, Southerners lean toward the pro-life position (49% to 41%), while those in the Midwest and West are about evenly split.

By far the biggest differences in these views are political, with over two-thirds of Republicans calling themselves pro-life and about as many Democrats identifying as pro-choice. Independents fall squarely in the middle.

A second long-term Gallup trend, this one measuring Americans’ views on the extent to which abortion should be legal, finds 50% saying abortion should be “legal only under certain circumstances,” or in other words, favoring limited abortion rights. This stance has prevailed since 1975. However, a combined 49% of Americans takes a more hardline position, including 28% saying abortion should be legal in all circumstances and 21% believing it should be illegal in all circumstances.

Support for the strong anti-abortion rights position has hovered around 20% since 2011, just below the record-high 23% seen in 2009. Support for strong pro-abortion rights is a notch below the highest levels seen from 1990 to 1995 when it consistently exceeded 30%, but support is up from four to five years ago when it had dipped into the low 20s.

Of course, both sides tolerate their defectors — they just don’t give them any power or place at the national level. Many older Democrats are pro-life while many younger Republicans are pro-choice. That would seem to indicate that eventually, the pro-life faction in the Democratic Party will die off while the pro-choice position in the Republican Party will grow. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Many of those young, pro-choice Republicans may change their minds at some point after they have their own families, their own children. It’s a lot different advocating a position that kills a baby after you’ve looked your firstborn in the eyes and whispered his name.

For the foreseeable future, the issue of abortion will cleave the country, creating a divide that’s going to be hard to bridge.

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It’s Not the VA: It’s Government-Run Health Care

Saturday, May 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Excellent piece in Reason’s Hit and Run blog by J.D. Tuccille that makes the case it’s not just the Veterans Administration that is at fault for the scandal. The problem is government-run health care systems in general, as the UK, Canada, and other places have already discovered.

Such delays are typical of government-controlled, single-payer systems, I wrote yesterday. They’re such a regular feature that the U.K. National Health Service boasts “you have the legal right to start your NHS consultant-led treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral.”

And the deaths that go with such delays may also be a regular feature of single-payer systems.

“Canada’s growing wait times for health care may have contributed to the deaths of 44,273 Canadian women between 1993 and 2009,” that country’s Fraser Institute announced just yesterday.

The estimated 44,273 deaths between 1993 and 2009 represent 2.5 per cent of all female deaths in Canada during that 16-year period, or 1.2 per cent of Canada’s total mortality (male and female).

More specifically, during that same 16-year period, for every one-week increase in the post-referral wait time for medically necessary elective procedures, three female Canadians died (per 100,000 women).

The study reaching those conclusions found no such dramatic relationship between extended waits for care and male mortality, which is reassuring to those of us with a Y chromosome. For double-XXs, not so much.

Fraser reports that wait times for Canada’s single-payer system have grown across 12 major medical specialties from 9.3 weeks in 1993 to 18.2 weeks in 2013. The extended delays grew so bad in Quebec that Canada’s Supreme Court ruled laws banning private medical insurance unconstitutional in 2005.

Wait times for patients in a government-run system appear to be a feature, not a bug.

Inefficiencies are endemic in large bureaucracies because there is zero incentive to perform at a high level. No one works hard because slackers get paid just the same as good workers. There was no incentive at the VA to figure out a way to cut wait times. In fact, it was easier to attempt to cover up the problem than fix it.

For all the enthusiasm shown by the left for a single-payer system, there doesn’t seem to be much thought given to the consequences.  In fact, those eager to expand the power and reach of Washington rarely, if ever, carefully weigh what would be gained against what would be lost or destroyed. It’s why every major initiative by this president has been a disaster — a lack of prudence and judgement that has led to far too many unintended consequences.

Of course, in the case of the VA vs. sick vets, the consequences were known: death and serious illness. But because there is little or no accountability, there was every incentive to hide the bad news.

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The 9/11 Museum’s Tasteless Gift Shop

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Perhaps it’s because the 9/11 attacks occurred so recently that I find the idea of a gift shop inside the recently opened 9/11 Museum to be tasteless and, as the New York Post says, “absurd.”

It may also be that the gift shop is located inside the museum itself that strikes the wrong chord. The Gettysburg National Cemetery has a gift shop located near the battlefield in the wonderful Gettysburg Heritage Center — a place to put on your bucket list if you’re a civil war or Americana buff at all. Similarly, the USS Arizona Memorial runs a bookstore/gift shop in another place dripping with history, the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center.

These are appropriate places to place a commercial establishment — close to but not on hallowed ground. Not so the 9/11 Museum and some of the families of the lost are complaining.

The 9/11 museum’s cavernous boutique offers a vast array of souvenir goods. For example: FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority Police T-shirts ($22) and caps ($19.95); earrings molded from leaves and blossoms of downtown trees ($20 to $68); cop and firefighter charms by Pandora and other jewelers ($65); “United We Stand” blankets.

There are bracelets, bowls, buttons, mugs, mousepads, magnets, key chains, flags, pins, stuffed animals, toy firetrucks, cellphone cases, tote bags, books and DVDs.

Even FDNY vests for dogs come in all sizes.

After paying $24 admission for adults, $18 for seniors and students, and $15 for kids 7 to 17, visitors can shop till they drop.

“To me, it’s the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died,” Diane Horning said.

She and husband Kurt never recovered the remains of their son Matthew, 26, a database administrator for Marsh & McLennan and aspiring guitarist.

About 8,000 unidentified body parts are now stored out of sight in a “remains repository” at the museum’s underground home.

“Here is essentially our tomb of the unknown. To sell baubles I find quite shocking and repugnant,” said Horning, who also objects to the museum cafe.

“I think it’s a money-making venture to support inflated salaries, and they’re willing to do it over my son’s dead body.

Among the museum shop’s specially designed items:

- A black and white “Darkness Hoodie” printed with an image of the Twin Towers. The pullover, like other “Darkness” items, bears the words “In Darkness We Shine Brightest.” Price: $39.

- Silk scarves printed with 1986 photos by Paula Barr, including a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline. Another depicts “lunchtime on the WTC Plaza.” They go for $95 each.

And so on. Tourist gouging is a time honored tradition in these gift shops associated with historical places, so it’s hardly a surprise they want $95 bucks for a scarf. But Mrs. Horning has a point about “inflated salaries” as Breitbart reported in February:

Daniels’s salary was last reported to be $371,307. He received huge raises for three years running. As far back as 2009, there were no fewer than eleven staffers at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum who each made more than $170,000. Four had salaries higher than $320,000.

There has been controversy about the Museum since plans were unveiled 5 years ago. By most reports, much of the museum is a moving tribute to those who died. They played the political correctness game in downplaying the ideology of those who attacked us, but it is mentioned despite CAIR’s complaints.

A restaurant I can see — as long as they don’t serve “Twin Towers Burgers” or some other ridiculous dish. But a gift shop is a a reach and museum officials should consider moving it off the premises.

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Governor Moonbeam Lectures GOP on Climate Change

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

There are about 1500 wild fires raging in Southern California — an annual occurrence as nature clears out old, dry scrub so that new sprouts can take hold.

The danger, of course, is that a hundred years ago, there weren’t million dollar homes in the path of these fires, so residents rightly are anxious and fire fighters exhaust themselves trying to bring the blazes under control.

Also a hundred years ago, there was no theory that global warming was causing the wild fires. But that isn’t stopping Governor Jerry Brown from lecturing Republicans about the dangers of climate change.

Daily Caller:

Brown spoke with Sunday with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about the fires, most of which are in San Diego County and which appear to be more contained than earlier this week.

The governor almost immediately made mention of global warming, claiming the state’s climate “appears to be changing.”

“You say that climate change definitely is at the heart of — at least, a big part of this,” Stephanopoulos noted. “You know there’s a lot of skepticism, particularly among Republicans in Washington, about that. How do you build a consensus to adapt.”

“That’s a challenge,” Brown replied. “It is true that there is virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous. I mean, there is no scientific question, there is just political denial for various reasons best known to those people who are in denial.”

“We live in a world that is not just business, it’s natural,” the governor lectured. “The natural systems. And as we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we’re seeing.

“So we’ve gotta gear up,” Brown continued. “We’re going to deal with nature as we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature, and we’ve gotta adapt to it the best way we can.”

“No scientific question”? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) would beg to differ. The UN body admits it doesn’t know why there has been a 17 year pause in the rise in temps. Isn’t that a question, Jerry? They also admit that they don’t know why there’s more arctic ice this year than last, nor can they explain why the ocean level isn’t rising as fast as their models predict.

“We live in a world that is not just business, it’s natural…” That may be the most awkward, cringe inducing political attack I’ve ever read. What’s he trying to say? Republicans only care about business? Sheesh.

Perhaps the most jaw dropping statement he made is the idea that heat from global warming causes fires. If that were true, we’d all be crispy critters. The theory is that rainfall patterns will be disrupted by climate change and areas that were previously wet would suffer droughts and places that were dry would experience flooding.

Well, as mentioned at the outset, these wild fires are pretty much of an annual occurrence, although for reasons unrelated to climate, they are getting worse. That’s because the wildfires are indeed, a man made phenomenon — but not due to man made global warming.

Those hillsides and ravines that are burning have been made tinder dry by soil erosion due to over building. Just 7 years ago, scientists dismissed global warming as a cause of the fires:

In a study published last year in the journal Science, researchers looking at Western federal forests found nearly seven times more land burned from 1987 to 2003 than in the previous 17 years.

The analysis mainly attributed this to a 1.5-degree rise in average spring and summer temperatures. With spring arriving earlier and snow melting faster, the forests dried out sooner, extending the average fire season by more than two months.

The study, however, found Southern California was different from the rest of the West, with no increase in the frequency of fire as temperatures rose.

“In Southern California, it’s hot and dry much of the year,” said Anthony Westerling, a climate scientist at UC Merced and the study’s lead author. In other words, Southern California was already perfect for fire.

“That is a fire-prone environment regardless of whether we are in a climate-change scenario,” said Tom Wordell, a wildfire analyst at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. “I don’t want to be callous, because many people are homeless and suffering, but if you live in a snake pit, you’re going to get bit.”

A far cry from Governor Moonbeam’s dire warnings of catastrophe.

It appears that a concerted effort is underway by global warming hysterics to push a climate change legislative and regulatory agenda. The White House releasing a big climate change study designed to scare the pants off Americans. The EPA ready to publish new CO2 regs next month. Every tornado, every cyclone, every excess raindrop, every unusual temperature change — warmer or cooler, it doesn’t matter which — brings out the long faces and dire predictions from the cultists.

Does anyone take them seriously anymore?

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Obama is ‘Madder than Hell’ about VA Scandal

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Of all the self-serving tripe…

Guess what. The president of the United States is “madder than hell” about the Veterans Administration scandal. That’s the word from White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Funny…VA Secretary Eric Shineski said almost the exact same thing last week when testifying before Congress when he said, “Any allegation, any adverse incident like this makes me mad as hell.”

I suppose they could have channeled Howard Beale completely and added, “And I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Perfect — the administration taking its defense cues from a fictional nutcase TV anchor. Except this administration has an abundance of patience and forbearance when it comes to the incompetence and stupidity of its members — president included. So you have to wonder where their breaking point truly is.

Politico:

President Barack Obama is “madder than hell” about the Veterans Affairs scandal, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough says.

“The president is madder than hell, and I’ve got the scars to prove it, given the briefings I’ve given the president,” he said in an interview with CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett that aired Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

“Nobody is more outraged about this problem, right now, Major, than the president of the United States,” McDonough added.

McDonough’s comments echoed VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s statement at last week’s Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, when the secretary said he was “mad as hell” about the reports.

Shinseki and the Obama administration have come under fire for reports that at least 40 veterans died while waiting for care in the Phoenix VA system. Several lawmakers, as well as The American Legion, a top veterans’ advocacy group, have called on Shinseki to resign.

Asked about the secretary’s performance at the Senate hearing last week, McDonough said: “We don’t score testimony on Capitol Hill or otherwise. What we score is results that results to the services and benefits that our vets have earned.”

Undersecretary of Health Robert Petzel, who testified with Shinseki at the hearing, stepped down on Friday.

McDonough, as he has in earlier interviews, touted the administration’s commitment to veterans and its “historic increase” in benefits for veterans.

“The president’s demanding that we get to the bottom of the exact allegations that you’re talking about as it relates to whether veterans are getting the timely access to care that they have earned,” McDonough said, adding that as soon as the reports came out, he reached out to Shinseki to ensure the department had accountability measures in place to handle the problem.

“Nobody is more outraged about the problem…” than Obama? Oh really? The president is more outraged than the families of the 100 vets who died waiting for treatment because the VA was trying to cover up its mismanagement?

I’m sure the loved ones of the dead appreciate the president’s anger. Too bad Obama couldn’t get worked up about the unacceptable care at VA hospitals prior to it becoming a scandal.

More than Benghazi or even the IRS scandals, this has the potential to seriously damage the president and his administration. The VA’s actions have angered both Democrats and Republicans, so the administration can’t claim it’s a partisan witch hunt. There are also documents that prove the coverup, willing witnesses who are eager to tell their story, and the politically explosive charge that the Commander in Chief doesn’t care about those who served.

No way the press can bury this scandal or turn it into a partisan circus. For the first time in his presidency, Obama faces a scandal without his party to back him up or the press to run interference for him.

It’s going to be a long summer for Obama.

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Swiss Voters Decisively Reject $25 an Hour Minimum Wage

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A Swiss TV network projects a decisive defeat for a ballot measure that would have established the world’s highest minimum wage at $25 an hour. The network projects a 77-23 tally when all the votes are counted.

The measure was backed by unions, the Greens, and the socialists. Business and the government opposed the wage, warning it could make living in Switzerland even more expensive than it is now, and would hurt the very people it was aimed at helping due to a loss of low-skill jobs.

BBC:

Under the plan, employers would have had to pay workers a minimum 22 Swiss francs (about $25; £15; 18 euros) an hour.

Supporters said the move was necessary for people to live a decent life.

But critics argued that it would raise production costs and increase unemployment.

Almost 77% of voters opposed the minimum wage proposal, according to almost complete results. Supporters had argued it would “protect equitable pay” but the Swiss Business Federation said it would harm low-paid workers in particular.

The issue was the most prominent of several referendums held on Sunday.

Unions argued that the measure was necessary because of the high living costs in big Swiss cities such as Geneva and Zurich.

The unions are angry that Switzerland – one of the richest countries in the world – does not have a minimum pay level while neighbouring France and Germany do.

They argue that surviving on less than 4,000 francs a month is not possible because rents, health insurance and food are all prohibitively expensive.

The minimum wage in Germany will be 8.5 euros an hour from 2017.

A key element of the campaign in favour of a minimum wage was the argument that the Swiss welfare system was being forced to subsidise businesses which refuse to pay a living wage.

But business leaders and the government said low unemployment and high standards of living for the majority showed there was no need for change.

Small businesses, in particular Swiss farmers, were especially worried that being forced to pay their staff 4,000 francs a month would price their products out of the market.

Most of Switzerland’s low-paid workers operate in the service industry, in hotels and restaurants, and the majority of them are women.

This is not a turn to the right for Switzerland — just likea referendum earlier this year on limiting immigration from the EU was not a sign of xenophobia. The Swiss are a very practical, pragmatic people and detest extremes. By any measure, the $25 an hour minimum wage was a radical proposal and deserved to go down to defeat.

Voters also defeated a ballot measure last year that would have limited executive pay to 12 times the amount made by the lowest paid worker in a company. That measure was also overwhelmingly rejected 65-35.

The Swiss apparently see limits to their experiment in democratic socialism and, while concerned about the income inequality question, won’t overturn their society to address it.

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Does Obamacare Need a CEO?

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Sure. Let’s add another layer of bureaucracy to an already fantastically complicated program.

Reuters:

A group of healthcare experts close to the White House is urging the Obama administration to appoint a new chief executive officer to oversee Obamacare’s online health insurance exchanges and safeguard the next open enrollment period that begins in six months.

The recommendation, in a report due to be released by the Washington-based Center for American Progress think tank, calls for a major shakeup within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which presided over last year’s disastrous rollout of the federal market portal, HealthCare.gov.

The idea would be to take the exchanges out of the current bureaucracy and put them in the hands of a CEO with private-sector experience who could run them as true e-commerce sites. The CEO would answer only to President Barack Obama and his intended new health secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

CAP’s plan would have the CEO assume full oversight of both federal and state exchanges, as well as insurers and market regulations, but not Medicare or Medicaid.

The White House said in a statement it had not reviewed the CAP recommendation, but was open to considering “all ideas” that might improve the law’s implementation after the botched October rollout and subsequent recovery.

The report’s co-authors, including former White House healthcare adviser Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, say the change should be made soon to address challenges that include the completion of automated “back end” systems needed to carry out vital functions with insurers, state Medicaid agencies and other entities.

“An absolutely essential element of achieving these goals is having the exchange run by a CEO who is both given the resources and made accountable for the exchange’s performance,” Emanuel, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, told Reuters in an email from Switzerland.

The idea is not new. Reform advocates, including CAP pressed the same idea on the White House after HealthCare.gov’s October crash, the first in a series of setbacks that posed a political challenge for Obama and his Democratic allies. The administration opted instead for a more narrowly defined health technology czar to rescue the site.

I hate to break the news to the wonks at CAP, but what the hell do we employ a cabinet-level Secretary at Health and Human Services for except to be accountable and run programs like Obamacare? If they’re saying that Obamacare is too complex for one agency to run, then it’s too complex to be run by government at all.

Why is the standard liberal answer to every problem in government to add on more layers of bureaucracy? Why not cut some bureaucracy, simplify things? The levers of power to run Obamacare won’t change. CMS will still be heavily involved. What will change is that CMS will answer to the Obamacare CEO, who will have his own staff, his own departments. One need only look at the Department of Homeland Security to get an idea of what ever expanding bureaucracy can do.

Making someone responsible for a disaster doesn’t mitigate the effects of the disaster. It’s bound to make things worse.

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Hero Cat to Throw Out First Pitch at Minor League Baseball Game

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

As a cat lover, I never tire of seeing this video of Tara, the Hero Cat, saving his young boy from serious injury at the hands of a very mean, vicious dog.

Now, Tara has been asked to throw out the first pitch at a Bakersfield Blaze minor league baseball game. Sounds impossible, right? Take a look at that video again and tell me there’s anything a cat can’t do — besides come when they’re called, sit, fetch, and, er…never mind.

Dan Besbris of the Bakersfield Blaze minor league baseball team said Friday that the cat named Tara will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the next home game. Besbris wouldn’t reveal how they expect to pull off the stunt, hoping to heighten interest. Tara has already proven she’s exceptional, he said.

“It sounds crazy,” Besbris said. “But we’ve got a trick up our sleeve.”

Can’t wait for video of that.

Indeed, I have been kept by cats for more than 40 years and could never have imagined a feline capable of such an act. What went on in that devious, mammalian brain — that usually could give two figs about their human companions — that caused Tara to place herself in mortal danger by attacking an animal three times its size? Tara not only ran toward the dog, she actually gave it a good bump. Her aggressiveness startled the dog to flight.

There have been instances of cats waking up sleeping humans, warning them of a fire. But cats tolerate us, allow us into their lives for mostly selfish reasons. Magnanimous gestures are not, as a rule, part of a cat’s makeup.

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Great News: Your Obamacare Subsidy Is Probably Too Big

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Washington Post has gotten a hold of some documents that the administration probably hoped would never see the light of day.

Apparently, more than a million people who are receiving subsidies for their Obamacare insurance policies are in for a surprise: the subsidies are either too large or too small.

The problem is that the income reported by more than a million consumers doesn’t match what the IRS has on file. And the procedure to match income with subsidy can’t be implemented because the back-end of the healthcare.gov website still hasn’t been built.

The problem means that potentially hundreds of thousands of people are receiving bigger subsidies than they deserve. They are part of a large group of Americans who listed incomes on their insurance applications that differ significantly — either too low or too high — from those on file with the Internal Revenue Service, documents show.

The government has identified these discrepancies but is stuck at the moment. Under federal rules, consumers are notified if there is a problem with their application and asked to upload or mail in pay stubs or other proof of their income. Only a fraction have done so, according to the documents. And, even when they have, the federal computer system at the heart of the insurance marketplace cannot match this proof with the application because that capability has yet to be built, according to the three individuals.

So piles of unprocessed “proof” documents are sitting in a federal contractor’s Kentucky office, and the government continues to pay insurance subsidies that may be too generous or too meager. Administration officials do not yet know what proportion are overpayments or underpayments. Under current rules, people receiving unwarranted subsidies will be required to return the excess next year.

The inability to make certain the government is paying correct subsidies is a legacy of computer troubles that crippled last fall’s launch of HealthCare.gov and the initial months of the first sign-up period for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Federal officials and contractors raced to correct most of the technical problems hindering consumers’ ability to choose a health plan. But behind the scenes, important aspects of the Web site remain defective — or simply unfinished.

White House officials recently have begun to focus on the magnitude of income discrepancies. Beyond their concerns regarding overpayments, members of the Obama administration are sensitive because they promised congressional Republicans during budget negotiations last year that a thorough income-verification system would be in place.

Under White House pressure, federal health officials and the contractor, Serco, are this weekend beginning to step up efforts at resolving a variety of inconsistencies that have appeared in applications, including income discrepancies. One White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity about internal discussions, said that White House and federal health officials are “all on the same page that the issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible.”

In light of this information I call to your attention this statement from CMS that is full of lies from beginning to end:

Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the federal insurance exchange, said: “The marketplace has successfully processed tens of millions of pieces of data — everything from Social Security numbers to tribal status to annual income. While most data matched up right away during the application process, we take seriously the cases that require more work and have a system in place to expeditiously resolve these data inconsistencies.”

Bataille also added that “an inconsistency does not mean there is a problem with a consumer’s enrollment” but that the consumer must send in additional documentation to verify whether their application information is accurate. “We’re working every day,” she said, “to make sure individuals and families get the tax credits they deserve and that no one is receiving a tax credit they shouldn’t.”

So, the website has processed a lot of information — except the correct subsidy amount for more than a million people. And there will be nothing “expeditious” about resolving the inconsistencies. CMS won’t even start addressing this problem until the summer.

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EPA to Unveil Carbon Regs Next Month

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In early June, the Environmental Protection Agency will launch the most determined assault on American business since the 1970′s when they unveil new regulations governing the release of carbon dioxide by power plants.

The new regs are ostensibly aimed primarily at coal-fired power plants. But similar regulations are in the works that will impact dozens of industries and tens of millions of consumers who will see their electric bills skyrocket (as promised by candidate Obama).

The new regulations may also mean the virtual death of the coal industry, already hit hard by other EPA regs, costing tens of thousands of jobs.

Once published, the EPA will ask for comments on the new regs, looking at the summer of 2015 for the rules to become final. There will also be legal challenges to be overcome. But with the Supreme Court already having ruled that CO2 is a “poison” and the EPA can legally regulate it, any challenge to the regulations faces an uphill climb.

Politico:

The move could produce a dramatic makeover of the power industry, shifting it away from coal-burning plants toward natural gas, solar and wind. While this is the big move environmentalists have been yearning for, it also has major political implications in November for a president already under fire for what the GOP is branding a job-killing “War on Coal,” and promises to be an election issue in energy-producing states such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana.

The EPA’s proposed rule is aimed at scaling back carbon emissions from existing power plants, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gases. It’s scheduled for a public rollout June 2, after months of efforts by the administration to publicize the mounting scientific evidence that rising seas, melting glaciers and worsening storms pose a danger to human society.

“This rule is the most significant climate action this administration will take,” said Kyle Aarons at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, one of a host of groups awaiting the rule’s release. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has urged the EPA to “go ahead boldly” with the rule, saying the agency must step in where Congress has refused to act.

But for coal country, the rule is yet another indignity for an industry already facing a wave of power plant shutdowns amid hostile market forces and a series of separate EPA air regulations. Coal-state Democrats like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin have joined the criticism, echoing industry warnings that the fossil fuel was crucial to keeping the lights on in much of the U.S. during this past brutal winter.

“You have another polar vortex next year, how many people will lose their lives?” Manchin asked at a POLITICO energy policy forum Tuesday.

Manchin may or may not have a point. Certainly, coal fired plants will find it too expensive to operate, thus reducing the amount of electricity generated in the US. But it’s unclear whether there will be any actual shortages due to this loss of capacity as other plants can increase their output. Of course, all of this means much higher electric costs that will be passed on to the consumer.

The EPA insists that coal and carbon regulation can co-exist:

Despite opponents’ warnings that the rule will be a death sentence for coal-fired power, EPA leaders have been adamant that they’ll offer states ample “flexibility” to devise their own ways to cut carbon. Some states may join regional cap-and-trade networks, similar to an existing Northeastern compact that has co-existed with coal plants for years. Others could push for investments in wind and solar power, or in energy efficiency programs that help homeowners and businesses reduce their demand for electricity.

The rule, set to become final in mid-2015, would apply to the nation’s thousands of coal and natural gas-fired power plants. But coal — the cheapest, dirtiest and most abundant fossil fuel — would bear the heaviest burden.

That means its impact could be greatest in states like Kentucky, a major coal producer that gets as much as 90 percent of its power from the fuel — and which as recently as 2010 had the country’s lowest electricity prices. It’s also a crucial state in the 2014 Senate electoral calendar.

All of this because the administration has determined that climate change is impacting the US now and cutting emissions will somehow save us. If we’re that close to destruction, it’s already far too late to reverse or slow down the warming process. Besides, there is no evidence that any of these regulations will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by one, single molecule. That’s because China and India — who will be constructing dozens of new coal fired plants over the next few years — will more than make up for any reduction in CO2 emissions from the US.

The coal industry is still years away from any kind of clean burning process that would take most of the CO2 out of emissions. By that time, there probably won’t be much call for coal as an energy source anyway.

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Did Oregon Senate Candidate Monica Wehby ‘Stalk’ Her Old Boyfriend?

Friday, May 16th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You’d certainly think so reading this Politico headline:

“Oregon Senate hopeful accused of stalking boyfriend”

Her ex-boyfriend, timber magnate Andrew Miller, called police last year after seeing Wehby leaving his home. In a police report, he is quoted as accusing her of “stalking” him and told the police he would get an order of protection the next day.

As it turns out, Miller did not seek the protection order, and both sides describe the break up as “amicable.”

What happened then?

Miller and Wehby’s relationship has become an issue ahead of Oregon’s GOP Senate primary on Tuesday. Miller has helped fund radio and billboard ads slamming one of Wehby’s rivals for the Senate nomination, state Rep. Jason Conger. The Oregon Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Wehby in which it noted that Miller has given nearly $31,000 to a super PAC attacking Conger. Miller said he does not think his relationship with Wehby is relevant “outside a group of people who pay a lot of attention to politics.”

Miller has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years backing GOP candidates in Oregon, including Chris Dudley in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

In a statement to POLITICO, Wehby said she was unaware that a police report had been filed over the 2013 incident and downplayed the episode.

“The first time I ever learned of this report was this evening and there really isn’t much to it of consequence,” Wehby said in her statement. “A year ago I went through the process of concluding a relationship. That relationship ended amicably, and while I’m not pleased that it has been deemed newsworthy, I guess that is the cost of challenging the political status quo.”

In an interview, Miller said he now regrets calling the police on Wehby. The couple had dated for about two years, but broke up in 2013. Miller, who is divorced with four children, said they remain friendly.

“There was a week there or so when we were breaking up that people can be emotional. And me included,” Miller said. “If I think back to that period of time, I regret saying those things in that light.”

“There’s a lot of things that I like about Monica and respect about her,” Miller added. “I never sought [a protective order]… We’re friends.”

Miller said he supports Wehby’s candidacy, yet he will not be involved in the Senate campaign if Wehby is the Republican nominee. Miller said his efforts to defeat Conger are not related to his relationship with Wehby.

Where did the police report come from? The Oregonian says that Politico obtained it. Suspicion on who put the bug in Politico’s ear about a juicy police report that was published 4 days before the GOP primary has fallen on incumbent Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley. But Merkley denied leaking the report — which, when you think about it, is not quite the same as telling Politico it existed in the first place.

Merkley has plenty of reason to drag Wehby down — or even try to alter the GOP primary where Wehby is heavily favored to win. Wehby is running neck and neck with Merkley in the polls and is likely to be well funded and very competitive in November.

We’ve all been where Wehby was two years ago; suddenly dumped by your ex like a sack of potatoes with no explanation, no call, no nothing. It’s clear she wasn’t stalking Miller — that all she wanted was some kind of explanation for his sudden change of heart.

This really is a non-story, but whoever leaked the police report has gotten what they wanted; a barrage of negative press for Wehby just a few days before the primary.

 

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Racist Camel Draws Protests on College Campus

Friday, May 16th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

What’s a clever, creative way to celebrate “Hump Day”? Yeah, I thought of that too but this is a “G” rated site.

At St. Thomas College in Minnesota, one student hit upon the brilliant idea to bring a camel on campus so that students could have a little fun before finals next week. They’d call the event “Hump Day” and make the event something of a petting zoo where students could relax, take pictures with the camel and generally let off a little steam.

A local vendor was contacted and everything was ready. Then, trouble.

But last week the plan was abruptly scrapped after opponents mounted a protest on Facebook, saying it was not only a waste of money, but insensitive and possibly racist as well.

The event — called “Hump Day” — was organized by the Residence Hall Association, a student social committee, “to have a little fun, bring students together,” said Aaron Macke, the group’s adviser.

Their intention, he said, was to come up with an idea for a gathering that was creative and drew interest.

“And obviously, this one did, both ways.”

The original plan was to bring the camel to the St. Paul campus May 14 and turn the quad into “a petting zoo type of atmosphere,” Macke said. The camel, he noted, is trained for events like these and owned by a local vendor.

In fact, last December St. Thomas brought a reindeer to campus (also hired locally) for the same purpose. No protests ensued.

Macke said he’s not sure who started the Facebook page, but last week it was bristling with indignant comments. Some suggested the event was disparaging to Middle Eastern cultures, an example of animal cruelty and even environmentally unfriendly. “I think they thought the camel was coming from another part of the world,” he said, “[and] it would be bad for our carbon footprint.” Others simply objected to the cost. (Macke said the fee, about $500, was coming from a social event fund.)

Within 24 hours, the organizers decided to cancel the event. “It kind of comes back to the purpose of the organization,” said Macke, who is director of residence life at St. Thomas. “If this is going to be something that’s divisive, then it’s not worth doing.”

Is it any wonder that college campus’s have become bastions of political correctness? With an attitude that nothing divisive should occur — except when being divisive scores political points, like BDS protests and “white privilege” demonstrations — the opposition to tyranny cowers in the corner.

Were there protests against this GEICO commercial?

Are there 21,000,000 racists out there? That’s how many hits the video has gotten on YouTube.

Actually, one school actually banned the phrase “Hump Day” because middle school kids were saying it so much — no doubt, with the double entendre fully in mind:

The Geico “Hump Day” commercial has received over 15 million hits on YouTube, and has it be one of the most memorable commercials to date.

But the “Hump Day” catch phrase is causing problems at a middle school in Connecticut. So many kids were saying it all day, every day. They said it so much that it was disrupting class.

The principal took drastic steps and banned the phrase from school.

As is obvious from this statement on the cancellation offered up by RHA, the organization assumed that students actually have a sense of humor and want to have fun, rather than demonstrate a humorlessness and an overripe notion of “sensitivity” to a particular culture:

“RHA’s goal in programming is to bring residents together in a fun and safe environment where all people can enjoy themselves,” RHA president Lindsay Goodwin said in a statement on RHA’s Facebook page. “It appears however, this program is dividing people and would make for an uncomfortable and possibly unsafe environment for everyone attending or providing the program. As a result, RHA has decided to cancel the event.”

Unsafe environment? Students are going to riot over a camel? Sheesh.

Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, had the tweet of the day: “Reindeer, yes, camel, no? … Are college students ‘racially insensitive’ to Laplanders? Or are they just idiots?”

It’s been said by many that we are becoming a country where our only freedom left is freedom from being offended. I’d add that we’re also becoming a country where people take fake offense to innocuous gestures simply because they know that the powers that be — especially on college campuses — wish to avoid “divisiveness” at all costs and will bow to their will. It’s an irresistible power trip that the gimlet eyed revolutionaries on campus can’t let go.

Not only is it injurious to free speech, it makes America a very boring place to live. And that’s the bottom line with the students who protested this event. They have the sense of humor of marmosets and a killjoy attitude that makes watching grass grow exciting by comparison.

Lighten up, kids. Kick off your shoes, feel the grass between your toes, and pet the damn camel.

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Your Right to Be Annoying Upheld by New York Court

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

If you make a living on the internet, you’ve no doubt been exposed to harassing, annoying, correspondents and commenters who anonymously (or otherwise) seem to take enormous enjoyment from attacking you.

But most of us have not been subjected to the kind of pathological attacks that some academics experienced at the hands of the the son of a scholar whose theories about the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls were dismissed by the academy. The son began a campaign of internet harassment that included voluminous emails, blog postings, and even forgery and impersonating his father’s critics. This led to his arrest and conviction under a controversial statute — “aggravated harassment in the second degree” — which is defined as communicating with someone “in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm” and “with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm.”

New York’s highest court ruled that the statute is drawn too broadly to be consistent with free speech rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.

Jacob Sullum of Hit and Run blog:

Quoting an earlier case, the court said “any proscription of pure speech must be sharply limited to words which, by their utterance alone, inflict injury or tend naturally to evoke immediate violence.” That’s a reference to Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, a 1942 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court approved criminal penalties for “fighting words.” The defendant in that case, a Jehovah’s Witness who attracted a hostile crowd by denouncing organized religion as a “racket” on the streets of Rochester, New Hampshire, was arrested for calling a city marshal “a goddamned racketeer” and “a damned fascist.” The Court never again used the “fighting words” doctrine to uphold speech restrictions, which is just as well, given the utterly subjective nature of a test that hinges on anticipated emotional reactions to insulting or offensive utterances. In any case, all of the interactions that led to the harassment charges against Raphael Golb took place online, a situation quite different from the in-person encounters the Court evidently was imagining in Chaplinsky.

The Court of Appeals vacated Golb’s three harassment convictions, along with several other convictions based on allegations that did not meet the statutory definitions of those crimes. But it left in place 10 counts of forgery in the third degree and 10 counts of criminal impersonation in the second degree, based on email messages in which Golb pretended to be his father’s academic nemeses. Both of those crimes are Class A misdemeanors.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, disagreeing in part with his six colleagues, said he would have dismissed the entire indictment against Golb. He argues that the criminal impersonation statute is “unconstitutionally broad” and that using the forgery statute to punish the same actions is “similarly objectionable”:

Treating pseudonymous emails as forgeries when they are made with some intent to “injure” in some undefined way is no different than penalizing impersonation in internet communication for the same amorphous purpose. Both treatments give prosecutors power they should not have to determine what speech should and should not be penalized.

Are there no limits, then, to internet harassment?  This ruling would not appear to affect communication that threatens bodily harm to a recipient or his family. But what of some crazy who who disagrees with you and floods your email box with scurrilous lies or posts comments or Facebook postings clearly designed to injure you?

You can block his email and ignore what he says about you elsewhere. The attorney who handled the case for Mr. Golb said it best:

Ronald Kuby, an attorney who was involved in Golb’s defense at an early stage of the case, welcomed the decision as victory for “the demented and dissident, the crazies and the critical, the malcontents and the maladjusted.”

That describes a lot of internet commenters — present company excluded, of course.

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A Millennial Trashes the Class of ’14

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Daily Beast political reporter Olivia Nuzzi, who once interned for Anthony Weiner, has penned a serious tirade directed at her millennial brethren.

The not very subtly titled: “The Oh-So-Fragile Class of 2014 Needs to STFU And Listen to Some New Ideas” — takes millennials to task for their agitation against commencement speakers with which they disagree. She refers to the action by Smith College students to get the school administration to cancel the appearance at commencement of one the most powerful and consequential women in the world — IMF head Christine Lagarde:

The petition—which boasts 483 signatures (less than half of their goal of 1,000)—states that although they “do not wish to disregard all of Ms. Lagarde’s accomplishments” and they “recognize that she is just a good person working in a corrupt system” they do not want to “encourage the values and ideals that the IMF fosters.” As if Smith College has such influence that allowing Lagarde to address its graduating class will have some kind of measurable effect on how people think about the IMF.

On the petition page, a student is quoted as saying she is “utterly disgusted that Smith has chosen to host someone from the IMF, an organization that has proven itself to be nothing but imperialistic, ineffective, and oppressive.”

Because God forbid these delicate students should be exposed to an idea or an organization with which they disagree—at college.

Whether or not you think the IMF is destructive, Lagarde is a powerful woman who has probably managed to do more in her 58 years on the planet than many whole graduating classes accomplish in the entirety of their lives.

You might barely understand opposition to Condi Rice appearing at Rutgers due to the hard left’s position that she’s a war criminal. That might not have a basis in fact, but as an exercise in hysterical, ideological fervor, you might be able to explain their position.

Not so with Lagarde, who heads one of the most powerful organizations in the world. Opposition to her speaking at commencement appears to be centered on the idea that the IMF forces kleptocrats, crooks, crony capitalists, and free spending socialists to tighten their belts and become a responsible government before they receive any funds. This necessarily leads to budget cuts, cuts in the government workforce, reduced pensions, and other offenses against powerful public service unions who would rather blame the IMF (who are trying to save them) than their own government that brought them to the brink in the first place.

Unlike the US government, who loans money to the same crooks and doesn’t necessarily expect it to be repaid, the IMF’s austerity plans are meant to force governments to face the reality that the free ride is over and it’s time to grow up. Countries come to the IMF as a last resort because no responsible central bank in the world would loan them any more money. The kids don’t understand this and Nuzzi hits the nail on the head in explaining why:

Millennials have grown up in a world where you are never forced to see, hear or read anything that you haven’t personally selected. 7,000 TV channels, a DVR to skip commercials, millions of websites—we have been able to curate our own little worlds using technology, wherein nothing unpleasant or offensive can creep in. So when we’re forced to sit through a commercial or, heaven forbid, listen to someone talk who isn’t Mary-freakin’-Poppins, we can’t handle it.

The entire point of college is to be exposed to different things: Different types of people, different ideas—and maybe some of those people will hail from organizations that negatively impacted poor countries, or maybe they were partly responsible for a war that ate up the country’s resources and resulted in human rights abuses and lots of needless death. But if, at the end of your time as an undergrad, you haven’t learned that oftentimes you find great wisdom in shitty people, or just that there might be some value in hearing what someone you don’t like or respect might have to say, what on earth have you learned?

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney, who is apparently the only sane person in the room at that institution. said in a statement that activists had their “desired effect, but at what cost to Smith College?

I want to underscore this fact: An invitation to speak at a commencement is not an endorsement of all views or policies of an individual or the institution she or he leads…I remain committed to leading a college where differing views can be heard and debated with respect.”

Young people are the worst.

Even the appearance of offending is enough to set these kids off. If Lagarde had been able to explain to these kids that, for instance, Greece was forced into draconian budget cuts because the government employed 20% of workers; that pensions and other benefits were literally bankrupting the country; that the Greek government had hidden the extent of their budget deficit and debt from the rest of the EU (with the help of Goldman Sachs); that the rest of the EU had been bankrolling the Greek budget deficit; and that the European Central Bank would only loan the Greek government money if the IMF came on as a partner; don’t you think they would have learned something genuinely valuable?

But millennials put very little stock in learning as a process, preferring to pick and choose what information to “learn” based on whether the source of that information has views that generally comport with their own worldview. It’s this sort of ideological cocoon that Nuzzi is directing her anger and she should be commended for doing so.

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Have Scientists Found the Santa Maria?

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

This gave me chills reading it. The mystery of the resting place of Christopher Columbus’s flagship may have been solved after 500 years.

The Independent is reporting exclusively that archeologists believe they have found the remains of the Santa Maria — the ship that carried Columbus to the New World in 1492.

The key discovery actually occurred in 2003 when archeologists pinpointed Columbus’s first fort in the New World on the coast of Haiti. From there, it was a matter of some brilliant detective work and a careful reading of Columbus’ journal.

“All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria,” said the leader of a recent reconnaissance expedition to the site, one of America’s top underwater archaeological investigators, Barry Clifford.

“The Haitian government has been extremely helpful – and we now need to continue working with them to carry out a detailed archaeological excavation of the wreck,” he said.

So far, Mr Clifford’s team has carried out purely non-invasive survey work at the site – measuring and photographing it.

Tentatively identifying the wreck as the Santa Maria has been made possible by quite separate discoveries made by other archaeologists in 2003 suggesting the probable location of Columbus’ fort relatively nearby. Armed with this new information about the location of the fort, Clifford was able to use data in Christopher Columbus’ diary to work out where the wreck should be.

An expedition, mounted by his team a decade ago, had already found and photographed the wreck – but had not, at that stage, realized its probable identity.

It’s a current re-examination of underwater photographs from that initial survey (carried out back in 2003), combined with data from recent reconnaissance dives on the site (carried out by Clifford’s team earlier this month), that have allowed Clifford to tentatively identify the wreck as that of the Santa Maria.

The evidence so far is substantial. It is the right location in terms of how Christopher Columbus, writing in his diary, described the wreck in relation to his fort.

1-00

(The final resting place of the Santa Maria?)

The History Channel is underwriting the dig and may have hit the jackpot. Can you imagine the ratings for a show that tells the story of how they found the Santa Maria? They would at least rival the National Geographic Channel show about the finding of the Titanic.

They may never be able to conclusively prove the wreck is the Santa Maria. There isn’t much left after 500 years. But if they ever do confirm the discovery, it will be one of the most significant historical finds in history.

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Sabato: Surf’s Up, GOP!

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

An interesting chart from UVA professor Larry Sabato that lists various scenarios for the November elections.

“How big a wave” for the GOP?

1-2

Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley’s unkind jab at farmers and Senator Chuck Grassley has made Iowa as competitive as Arkansas. If the right GOP candidate emerges from a very crowded, competitive primary,  Iowa could very well go Republican.

Much depends on President Obama’s approval numbers — which many analysts believe can’t get much better given the moribund economy and late summer-early fall fallout from more Obamacare surprises.  Republicans have to be able to field candidates who can ride the wave– regardless of whether they’re Tea Party or establishment.

If not — wipeout.

 

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Chamber of Commerce Gives Stark Ultimatum to GOP

Monday, May 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Tom Donohue, President of the US Chamber of Commerce, has given an ultimatum to the Republican party; pass immigration reform or don’t bother fielding a candidate for 2016.

Earth to Mr. Donohue: The most recent Pew survey of the most important issues facing the country places immigration reform in 16th place — just behind “reducing the influence of lobbyists” and just ahead of “Dealing with moral breakdown.”

And a Pew/USA Today poll released just a few days ago shows immigration reform finishing dead last as an issue that matters most in 2014. It received 6% of the vote compared to the economy and health care at 27% and 21% respectively.

The American people don’t care about immigration reform. It’s an inside the Beltway issue being pushed by the business community that wants millions more low wage, low skilled workers.

Donohue’s threats are empty:

Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, predicted that Congress would pass immigration legislation this year and said Republicans shouldn’t bother to field a presidential candidate in 2016 if they don’t.

His comments echo warnings from others, including high-profile Republicans, that the GOP cannot win if it does not improve its showing with the fast-growing Latino electorate, and cannot do that without approving an immigration package. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill last summer but it has languished in the GOP-controlled House ever since.

“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” Mr. Donohue said at an event Monday on infrastructure issues. “Think about that. Think about who the voters are. I just did that to get everybody’s attention.” (His comments are at about the one hour mark on this C-Span video.

Some House Republicans have said they want to pass immigration legislation, including legal status and the chance for citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally. But many in the House are loathe to take on an issue the divides the party during an election year.

Mr. Donohue tried to knock down one popular notion that Congress can still tackle the issue next year, ahead of the 2016 election. “We’re absolutely crazy if we don’t take advantage of having passed an immigration bill out of the Senate because going back and doing it again might be harder,” he said.

Many Republicans recognize a need for some immigration reform. Guest workers, visa reforms, even a modified DREAM Act would pass the House. Reasonable people may disagree about immigration reform but the Senate bill that so enamors Mr. Donohue is far from reasonable. The chamber president is starting to sound like Obama when he was trying to get Democrats to pass Obamacare. “We’ve come this far, let’s finish it,” was the president’s message. Look what that got us.

There’s a very good reason why the GOP is so obstreperous when it comes to immigration reform; the Senate bill stinks. There is a huge divide between the House and the Senate regarding what constitutes “immigration reform” and many Republicans — even those who support some kind of reform — don’t trust House Republicans to resist Senate Democrats on the issues of path to citizenship and border security, to name two.

Donohue resorted to wild exaggeration to try and hammer his point home:

Beyond politics, he said stalling on immigration will have economic ramifications. He said immigrants are needed for all sorts of jobs, including health care. “If you don’t do it (pass immigration), you’re going to go to the nursing home and pick up your mother-in-law and bring her home,” he said.

Utter nonsense, and Donohue knows it. If the nursing home is short staff, maybe they’ll have to raise wages to attract workers. Of course, Donohue and the rest of his Business Roundtable friends want new immigrants so they can keep wages low.

And that’s the whole reason for this tirade. It isn’t about improving the GOP’s position with Hispanics. Republicans will get zero credit for helping to pass it and even if Latinos were grateful, how many votes would switch?

This is about Chamber of Commerce members being able to hire ultra-low paid foreign workers — people who will take any job at any wage.

Republicans must find a way to attract more Hispanics to the party, but they’re not going to do it pandering to immigration activists. Convincing Hispanics that Republican policies are ultimately better for them as Americans is what needs to be done, not some fake “outreach” that will legalize millions of people who snuck in through the back door.

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Someone Send Eleanor Clift the Current White House Talking Points on Benghazi

Monday, May 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In her weekly appearance on the McLaughlin Group Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast rattled off some interesting talking points on the Beghazi attack.

The only problem was that they were the wrong vintage; the talking points were long out of date, making her appear absolutely ridiculous.

ELEANOR CLIFT: I would like to point out Ambassador Stevens was not murdered. He died of smoke inhalation in the safe room in that CIA installation.

SUSAN FERRECHIO: I don’t think that’s a fact, Eleanor.

CLIFT: I think that is a fact.

FERRECHIO: I’ve heard a drastically different story from people who are also in the know about that. So, I don’t think it is –

PAT BUCHANAN: It was a terrorist attack, Eleanor. He was murdered in a terrorist attack.

CLIFT: It was an opportunistic terrorist attack that grew out of that video.

BUCHANAN: The video had nothing to do with it.

CLIFT: There were demonstrations across the world.

Someone this obtuse should serve on the defense team for the 9/11 conspirators.

Need I point out that the White House itself changed its tune on Benghazi, admitting that the video had nothing to do with it?

And Holy Mother! Stevens wasn’t killed in a terrorist attack — or was it an “opportunistic” terrorist attack? I’m sure the families of the 3,000 people who died on 9/11 are put at ease knowing their loved ones died of being crushed, or burned to death, or even of smoke inhalation rather than at the hands of terrorists. After all, I think the 9/11 terrorists were quite “opportunistic,” taking advantage of lax airport security and an unprepared America.

Ed Morrissey:

It’s moments like these that prove the need for a comprehensive investigation into Benghazi. If media figures like Clift are still babbling out long-debunked talking points on national television, then the House needs to eliminate any more confusion or ambiguities in a decisive and authoritative manner.

Clift is stuck in an information cocoon, unwilling to listen to any information at odds with what she is absolutely sure is the truth. But in trying to protect the administration — and Hillary Clinton — she makes herself look pathetically out of touch and ill-informed.

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The Most Famous Kiss in NFL History

Sunday, May 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Michael Sam was in tears when he took the call telling him he had been picked in the 7th round of the NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams. Overcome with emotion, his boyfriend tried to comfort him as he let all the emotions bottled up for three days go.

Then, he gave his lover a peck on the lips. And then two more little pecks.

And Twitter exploded. Miami safety Don Jones tweeted “horrible” after the fact. Ownership did not take kindly to it:

A negative one-word tweet from Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones after the selection of Michael Sam in the NFL Draft drew a rebuke from the team.

Shortly after the St. Louis Rams selected Sam in the seventh round Saturday, Jones tweeted, ”Horrible.” The tweet was taken down a short time later.

[...]

”I was disappointed in those comments,” Hickey said. ”That’s not what we stand for as an organization. The draft weekend is the culmination for so many players of their lifetime achievement of their dream to achieve their goal. For Michael Sam, for all the other players, it’s such a great celebration as they begin their future.

”We’re going to sit down with Don Jones and address (the tweet)

Other negative reaction was a lot nastier:

chris phillips @bengie241
Follow

I did not wanna see Michael Sam kiss his boyfriend like the freak
6:58 PM – 10 May 2014

Was happy to see Michael Sam get drafted but they didn’t have to show him and his bf kissing

@espn y’all really showed this fag kissing his boyfriend on live tv -michael Sam

— Jody (@ihateYujody) May 10, 2014

Supreme Magnetic XL @MrGoldPackXL
Follow

@wingoz #Michael Sam ain’t have to kiss his faggot boyfriend on camera I have a small strong black son I can’t expose him to that fag
7:32 PM – 10 May 2014

The ESPN video clip doesn’t even show the kisses. No doubt the Disney company doesn’t need the headaches.

It’s not like Sam and his boyfriend locked lips and swapped spit. They were little pecks for God’s sake. Half the country goes bananas because of a same-sex peck on live TV? Sheesh.

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It’s a Good Thing We Don’t Need the Secret Service to Protect the President

Sunday, May 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Wait…what? No, really. At least, that’s the opinion of the Secret Service itself.

I mean, why else would a supervisor pull agents from duty around the perimeter of the White House in order to “protect” an assistant to the director who claims she was being harassed?

Makes perfect sense — as long as you can forget that the Secret Service is supposed to be protecting the president of the United States.

What’s more, some of the agents pulled off the White House perimeter went to the inspector general and tattled. This is the same inspector general who “softened and delayed” investigations, according to the  Washington Post – an inspector general who embodies all the qualities we’ve come to expect from the Obama administration:

Top Secret Service officials ­ordered members of a special unit responsible for patrolling the White House perimeter to abandon their posts over at least two months in 2011 in order to protect a personal friend of the agency’s director, according to three people familiar with the operation.

The new assignment, known internally as Operation Moonlight, diverted agents to a rural area outside the southern Maryland town of La Plata, nearly an hour’s drive from Washington. Agents were told that then-Director Mark Sullivan was concerned that his assistant was being harassed by her neighbor, the three people said.

Two agents were sent twice a day, in the morning and the evening, to monitor the home of the assistant, Lisa Chopey. The trips began June 30, 2011, and extended through the summer before tapering off in August, according to people familiar with internal shift records.

The agents were members of a surveillance team code-named Prowler, which patrols the outskirts of the White House compound and responds to reported problems. The unit is also tasked with monitoring the southern side of the White House whenever crowds gather to watch the president and first family travel via motorcade or helicopter.

Agents inside the Washington field office were concerned that Operation Moonlight increased security risks to the compound and the president, two people familiar with the discussion said.

On the first day of the new operation, the two Prowler agents on duty were directed to leave their position on the Ellipse, the public park directly south of the executive mansion, minutes before President Obama departed on his helicopter. The aircraft’s movements on and off the South Lawn are times of heightened security concern.

The agents thought the reassignment was a potentially illegal use of government resources. They were concerned enough about their own liability that they kept records of their involvement and their superiors’ instructions.

Some reported the operation to the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service’s parent agency. People familiar with the operation said a Senate committee’s recent finding that the former DHS ­inspector general softened and delayed investigations — particularly those critical of administration officials — renewed frustration that the issue may have not been properly investigated.

Bureaucrats get a lot of perks, but this one is choice. Imagine being able to call on the Secret Service to protect/intimidate your next door neighbor to keep her from harassing you.

And who are you going to believe? Agents who kept detailed records of the months-long assignment or a former director who says it was only over the 4th of July weekend? I guess we’ll be able to see who’s lying and who’s telling the truth on that.

Oh — and the idea that the Prowler surveillance team didn’t have anything to do with protecting the president?

This past Tuesday, a motorist joined the Obama daughters’ motorcade and drove onto the White House grounds before a barrier could be raised to block him. Prowler agents responded to the incident and interrogated the driver, determining that he was unfamiliar with the city’s streets and made a mistake.

“Prowler is there for a reason, and it shouldn’t be pulled when the president is on the move,” said Dan Emmett, a former Secret Service agent and author of the book “Within Arm’s Length.”

The Secret Service has carefully built up an image over the years of quiet competence and devotion to duty — even unto death. Whether the agency has gone downhill in recent years or the laxity, immorality, and failure to comport oneself as someone guarding the most important man in America has been there all along is hard to say.

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” said the grizzled reporter who was writing Jimmy Stewart’s story of how he became The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  You almost wish you could, given the storied history of the Secret Service. But protecting the president is too important a job to be left to men and women of weak character and arrogant minds.

Print the facts and let the truth sort them out.

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Failed Obamacare Exchanges Cost Taxpayers Half a Billion Dollars

Sunday, May 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Fourteen states set up their own Obamacare insurance exchanges instead of participating in the healthcare.gov national exchange. Of those 14 exchanges, 4 are being scrapped, and  2 more might be.

The cost of these failed exchanges is reaching nearly $500 million dollars — with the promise of more good taxpayer money thrown after the bad.

The accountability question has yet to be addressed. Who is going to refund the American taxpayer? The management of these sites resulted in a waste of epic proportions. The incompetence in setting them up is only part of the problem. A company that failed to properly construct a site was overseen by state bureaucrats. The bureaucrats reported to elected politicians.

And yet no one anywhere is stepping forward to take responsibility. We only hear insincere apologies and promises to do better.

There is absolutely no difference between putting the half billion dollars in a pile in the middle of the Mall in Washington and lighting it on fire, and giving it to these 4 states, telling them to build a website. The result is exactly the same.

We should start asking the same question that John Boehner asked about the IRS scandal: Who is going to jail?

Politico:

Nearly half a billion dollars in federal money has been spent developing four state Obamacare exchanges that are now in shambles — and the final price tag for salvaging them may go sharply higher.

Each of the states — Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and Maryland — embraced Obamacare, and each underperformed. All have come under scathing criticism and now face months of uncertainty as they rush to rebuild their systems or transition to the federal exchange.

The federal government is caught between writing still more exorbitant checks to give them a second chance at creating viable exchanges of their own or, for a lesser although not inexpensive sum, adding still more states to HealthCare.gov. The federal system is already serving 36 states, far more than originally anticipated.

As for the contractors involved, which have borne most of the blame for the exchange debacles, a few continue to insist that fixes are possible. Others are braced for possible legal action or waiting to hear if now-tainted contracts will be terminated.

The $474 million spent by these four states includes the cost that officials have publicly detailed to date. It climbs further if states like Minnesota and Hawaii, which have suffered similarly dysfunctional exchanges, are added.

Their totals are just a fraction of the $4.698 billion that the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation calculates the federal government has approved for states since 2011 to help them determine whether to create their own exchanges and to assist in doing so. Still, the amount of money that now appears wasted is prompting calls for far greater accountability.

Where has that funding left the four most troubled states?

Nevada, for one, is still trying to figure out its future. Oregon has decided to switch to HealthCare.gov. Maryland wants to fix its own exchange, maybe by incorporating what worked in Connecticut. Massachusetts actually wants to do both — build a portal from scratch while planning a move to the federal exchange as a backup.

Massachusetts’ dual-track approach could require more than $120 million on top of the $170 million it already has been awarded. That cost is nearly twice as much as if the state were to simply bail on its Connector, but officials seem to be banking in part on the Obama administration’s greater interest in helping the Massachusetts exchange — the once-pioneering model for Obamacare — survive.

Note to Massachusetts politicians: Over our dead body.

In fact, it would be far less expensive to simply shut the sites down rather than give these incompetents a blank check to “fix” them. That’s the option being mulled by the state of Hawaii who has spent an average of $10,000 per Obamacare enrollee because of a useless, dysfunctional website that has already cost mainland taxpayers $100 million:

Michael Gold, president and CEO of Hawaii Medical Services Association, says the state shouldn’t keep spending money on the Hawaii Health Connector, a system that he says is financially unsustainable and does not work.

“I think there’s an alternative that Hawaii needs to pursue immediately,” Gold said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Hawaii should ask the federal government for an exception to the part of the Affordable Care Act that requires states to set up and run their own insurance exchanges, Gold said. He thinks businesses should buy approved plans directly from insurance companies, as they have done in the past. Individuals would do the same, or the federal government could take over that part of the exchange, he said.

Lawmakers on Friday were outraged at Gold’s assertion that the state hasn’t already pursued flexibility from federal requirements. Rep. Angus McKelvey of West Maui said they sought waivers from the federal government and were told they had to wait until 2017.

“We tried. We aggressively pursued that,” McKelvey said. “The federal government says there’s only one route to go.”

The state already is pursuing ways to streamline the exchange by removing it as the middle-man between employers and insurers, and seeking waivers from the federal government, said Beth Giesting, health care transformation coordinator for Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

“It is a simplified role for the Connector, rather than no role for the Connector,” Giesting said.

The Legislature also passed a bill setting up a task force to pursue the waiver.

The rollout of Hawaii’s health exchange was delayed and plagued with technical problems. The Connector was awarded more than $200 million in federal funds. It has used about $100 million. It signed up 9,217 individuals, plus 628 employees and dependents. To date, the Connector has raised only $40,350 in user fees, according to Nathan Hokama, the exchange’s spokesman.

Unfortunately, there’s no law against a politician or bureaucrat wasting taxpayer money.  If there were, I would imagine we’d have to build a few more prisons to house the majority of politicians in America who have voted for “roads to nowhere” and other such boondoggles.  And a few more prisons constructed for all the bureaucrats who shouldn’t be put in charge of redecorating their office much less a $200 million dollar IT project.

So no one will go to jail. And I suspect President Obama won’t press the issue of a refund very hard, considering the fact that he doesn’t want to advertise how much money his namesake achievement has cost the American taxpayer.

Nothing to see here…move along.

 

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Study: Obamacare Employer Mandate Bad for Low Wage Workers

Sunday, May 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A new study prepared by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concludes that low wage workers would be most drastically affected by Obamacare’s employer mandate.

Washington Examiner:

“Employers with 50 or more workers not offering coverage pre-[Affordable Care Act] are the same employers that are highly likely to not offer in the future, therefore incurring the ACA’s penalties,” the study reads. “Because the nonoffering firms are much more likely to be firms dominated by low-wage workers … low-wage employees will bear the greatest brunt of the penalties imposed. Therefore, using employer penalties as a tool for financing reform tends to be a regressive approach.”

The arguments against eliminating the employer mandate while keeping the rest of Obamacare intact are that if employers aren’t required to provide coverage, then they’ll have a financial incentive to stop offering it and dump individuals on government-run exchanges or Medicaid. This would drive up the cost of Obamacare, and at the same time, the government would no longer be collecting penalty money from non-complying firms.

The study predicts that most employers would still maintain coverage even if the mandate is eliminated, and that 500,000, or 0.3 percent, would lose coverage. It also estimates that ditching the mandate would require raising $46 billion from 2014 through 2023 to offset the cost of the elimination of penalty revenue and the increased spending on government health benefits.

What’s interesting about the study is that it isn’t coming from a group traditionally opposed to the law. In fact, quite the opposite. The study argues that ditching the mandate will strengthen the law and help it become more entrenched.

“Eliminating the employer responsibility requirements should substantially diminish employer opposition to the ACA,” the study reads. “In fact, without that burden, employers may play more of a role promoting the expansion of coverage under the law.”

Most health insurance reformers believe that getting insurance through your employer is a costly, and unnecessary benefit and should be eliminated. Even some on the right agree with that notion. Obamacare was supposed to be a way station on the march to get rid of employer based insurance altogether — another feature, not a bug.

The Obama administration figured that the political fallout from implementing the mandate was greater than the need to preserve insurance for millions of workers. So it’s been delayed until 2016 for most employers.

Might the mandate be canceled? A $46 billion shortfall over the next decade would be hard to overcome — unless Obamacare is repealed and then it won’t matter.

Besides, there are other affects of the mandate that may force its cancellation:

The study acknowledges an argument often advanced by both conservatives and businesses that hiring will likely be stunted by the arbitrary cut-offs in the mandate, imposing different requirements and starting dates for companies employing with below 50, 50-99, and 100-plus workers.

But the federal government expects to gain billions in penalty payments from companies that choose not to obey the mandate in the end. These costs “are likely to be passed back to the workers in the form of reduced wages,” particularly low-wage employees.

There have been suggestions that employer health insurance be taxed as regular income. Eliminating the tax subsidy for health insurance could cut as much as $1.6 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years. But the political cost would be great, considering that eliminating the tax subsidy would raise taxes on tens of millions of Americans. It’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

Sometime later this summer and into fall, millions of employees may be getting notices that their company will no longer be offering insurance, forcing them to buy insurance on the exchanges. How many businesses would rather pay the penalty rather than pay for health insurance is unknown.  Kaiser thinks that as many as 43 million workers will find themselves in that boat over the next few years.

It’s just one more indication that anyone “celebrating “the “success” of Obamacare  is living in a cocoon.

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Gay NFL Prospect Still Waiting for a Call Day 3 of Draft (Updated)

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Update: Sam was taken by the St. Louis Rams in the 7th round. He was the 249th selection out of 256.

Missouri All American defensive end Michael Sam, who came out as gay last February, was first thought to be a mid round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. But his performance at the draft combine was a disappointment.

At 6’2″ and 261 lbs, he doesn’t measure up size wise to most pro D-ends. And his 4.9 40 yard sprint is below average for his position. No one doubts his heart, but he doesn’t possess the sheer athleticism coveted by most pro teams.

Consequently, through 6 of the 7 rounds of the draft, Mr. Sam is still available. He may still be chosen, but the NFL is already worried about their image in rejecting an openly gay player.

NBC News:

“For them not to select him would be very problematic,” said Cyd Zeigler, the founder of OutSports.com, which published an insider account of Sam’s coming out three months ago.

Fairly or not, he said, “If he isn’t selected, it’s a public black eye on the league.” Zeigler likes Sam’s chances on the merits: The players Zeigler has talked to say that “that guy can play,” he said.

Sam was named defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, the toughest college conference in the nation.

“There is a 99.99% chance @MikeSamFootball will be drafted,” Zeigler wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “I’d say 100%, but have to leave room for war and plague.” He said that he thinks “the gay thing” will probably help with some teams and hurt with others.

Sam wants to be seen as a football player and nothing more. But activists like Zeigler want to make him an issue — as if his gayness should be a determining factor in whether he gets drafted or not. Why should the league get a black eye if a gay player isn’t drafted because — horror of horrors — he isn’t good enough?

At the time, Sam seemed an almost certain draft pick. But his stock dropped after what analysts said was a disappointing performance at the NFL combine, where players take physical and mental tests in front of coaches and scouts.

“I think he’s going to go late, and it has nothing to do with the storyline,” Jon Gruden, the former NFL coach and ESPN “Monday Night Football” analyst, said Thursday on MSNBC. “I think it has to do with his performance at the combine.”

Nate Silver of the prediction site FiveThirtyEight.com, earlier this week put Sam’s chances at “no better than 50-50,” based on an analysis of players rated similarly by media draft projections.

If all 32 teams pass on Sam for all seven rounds of the draft, it would at least add a headache for a league already dealing with the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, a crisis over concussions and regular headlines of player’s running afoul of the law.

Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media who studies the NFL’s ratings and image, said that a backlash might come not against the league but against individual teams. Those teams might face questions about why they chose, say, a borderline wide receiver over joining with Sam to break a barrier.

Because even a borderline wide receiver — if the team has a need at that position — is better than drafting a slow, underweight, undersized defensive end they might not need.

Professional sports is one of the last bastions of pure meritocracy in America. You can either play or you can’t. Teams spend millions of dollars to evaluate talent and the league sets up the combine to showcase the abilities of college athletes who want to participate in the draft.

The fact is, Sam suffered by comparison to other prospects. He didn’t measure up. And this is going to give a team a black eye for taking a player who can make an impact in lieu of making “history” and taking a player in the name of diversity?

Spare us the sanctimony. I hope Mr. Sam is drafted, or latches on with an NFL team before next season. I just hope he’s chosen for the right reasons and not to avoid criticism and yield to the agenda of the gay lobby.

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Common Core Opponents Labled ‘Far Right Extremists’ by SPLC

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The far left Southern Poverty Law Center has issued a report on opponents of Common Core standards in public schools that characterizes them as “far right extremists” who are out to destroy the public school system in America.

Gee — who woulda thunk it?

Actually, some of this report borders on hysterically funny comedy. They take some of the off the wall statements made by some of the most obscure groups that no one has ever heard of and package it as mainstream conservative opposition to Common Core.

One of the major opponents of Common Core standards are a group of 130 Catholic scholars. Unfortunately for the SPLC, there doesn’t appear to be a far right wing extremist in the bunch:

As the uproar grows against the Obama administration-pushed Common Core nationalized education standards, a coalition of more than 130 prominent Catholic scholars and professors outlined its firm opposition to the scheme and is now asking U.S. bishops to reverse the advance of the controversial reforms among American Catholic schools. Already, more than half of U.S. dioceses have replaced Catholic teaching traditions by adopting the dubious national standards, they said. However, the fight is far from over, and many of the nation’s top Catholic education experts are working hard to turn the tide and undo the damage being inflicted under Common Core.

Among other concerns highlighted in a letter to church leaders from 132 Catholic scholars, the educators warn that the scheme, which they said represents a “radical shift,” is really a “step backwards” in terms of education. Beyond the particulars of the widely criticized standards, however, the powerful document points out that there are even greater fears about Common Core as it relates to the church and its institutions: the philosophy and aims of the reforms, and how they will “undermine” Catholic education while “dramatically” diminishing children’s horizons.

“Because we believe that this moment in history again calls for the intercession of each bishop, we have been made bold to impose upon your time with our judgments of Common Core,” wrote the scholars, led by Notre Dame Law Professor Gerard Bradley and whose ranks include professors and leaders at many of America’s most prestigious Catholic universities. “In fact, we are convinced that Common Core is so deeply flawed that it should not be adopted by Catholic schools which have yet to approve it, and that those schools which have already endorsed it should seek an orderly withdrawal now.”

But what’s truly laughable about the report is the idea that the Common Core opposition is actually a guise for an effort to bring down public education in the US.

Daily Caller:

“Across the United States, a fierce wave of resistance is engulfing the Common Core State Standards, threatening to derail this ambitious effort to lift student achievement and, more fundamentally, to undermine the very idea of public education,” the May 2014 report proclaims.

The report largely ignores the large number of critics on the American political left, including the Chicago Teachers Union, who deplore Common Core because it mandates evermore standardized testing. It also largely ignores the complaints of a multitude of critics on the right, who oppose a technocratic takeover of public education that wrests education decisions out of the hands of local school boards and parents.

Instead, the SPLC report insists, opposition to Common Core comes from “far-right extremists” who oppose Common Core out of fears it will “indoctrinate young children into ‘the homosexual lifestyle’” and “turn children into ‘green serfs’ who will serve a totalitarian ‘New World Order.’”

“The disinformation campaign is being driven by the likes of Fox News, the John Birch Society, Tea Party factions, and the Christian Right,” the report declares. The SPLC also mentions “the Koch brothers,” of course.

The conspiracy theorists behind the SPLC report theorize that “the radical right” hopes to use opposition to Common Core as a proxy in a broader fight to terminate all public education for some 50 million schoolchildren in the United States.

Wow. I suppose the bigger the lie, the easier it is to believe but that’s a doozy. I have read a lot of criticism of Common Core over the last few years and I have yet to hear any mainstream, responsible individual or group call for the abolition of US public schools. That’s as outrageous a smear of ordinary Americans — most of whom send their kids to public schools — that you can make.

But, of course, the SPLC isn’t interested in the facts. They’re interested in cash. Fundraising off “far right extremists” is what they do. Don’t be surprised if they start naming some of the groups mentioned in the report as “hate groups” for opposing Common Core.

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Boehner Names Members of Benghazi Select Committee

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Speaker John Boehner has tapped 6 additional Republicans to sit on the Select Committee on Benghazi — all lawyers, including a former federal prosecutor.

Meanwhile, Republicans are forging ahead despite Nancy Pelosi’s rejection of committee rules and the Democrat’s failure to name any members to sit on the panel.

Boehner’s choices were, if not inspired, certainly acceptable to the broader party. He appeared to choose members who could add to the committee’s deliberations rather than choose members based on loyalty to him.

The Hill:

The Speaker announced his picks to serve under Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on the special committee on Friday, selecting a mix of junior and senior members and adding an additional former federal prosecutor in freshman Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.).

In addition to Brooks and Gowdy, Boehner’s appointees are Reps. Peter Roskam (Ill.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), Mike Pompeo (Kan.) and Martha Roby (Ala.).

Roskam is the highest-ranking member and serves now as the GOP’s chief deputy whip, while Jordan and Westmoreland are staunch conservatives who have been deeply involved in the Benghazi investigations to date. Pompeo is the only military veteran, while Roby led a probe into the Benghazi attack as a subcommittee chairwoman on the House Armed Services Committee.

They will join Gowdy, who served as a prosecutor for 16 years before his election to Congress in 2010.

“This investigation is about getting answers for the families of the victims and for the American people,” Boehner said in a statement. “These members have each demonstrated a commitment to this goal, and I have confidence that they will lead a serious, fact-based inquiry. As I have expressed to each of them, I expect this committee to carry out an investigation worthy of the American lives lost in Benghazi.”

The Speaker also called on Democrats to make their appointments to the panel, although it was unclear on Friday whether they would participate. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) emerged from a meeting with her caucus without a decision, and the Democratic leadership was meeting Friday afternoon to consider a response from Boehner’s office to a letter outlining their concerns about the ratio.

Democrats had wanted an even split of Republicans and Democrats on the panel. But after Boehner rejected that demand, they are instead pushing for a firm commitment that Democrats will have a say in the issuing of subpoenas and calling witnesses.

“I also urge my Democratic colleagues to treat this tragedy with the proper respect and appoint members so that we can finally, on a bipartisan basis, get answers, provide accountability, and help deliver justice,” Boehner said. “It is critical that this committee do its work in a focused, timely manner, so that the House can continue to make the economy and job creation its priorities.”

Rank-and-file Republicans lobbied aggressively in private to be named to the high-profile panel, and Boehner gave assignments to three members of the large GOP class of 2010. Westmoreland is a deputy chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, while Jordan has butted heads with the Speaker as a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

There has been controversy over the idea of the GOP fundraising off the committee. Boehner’s choice of Rep. Westmoreland would appear to give the green light to those efforts.

Pelosi’s rejection of the rules proposed by Boehner may be a gambit to wring concessions from Republicans to give the Democrats more of a say in the committee’s deliberations. She is testing to see how far the Republicans are willing to go it alone. Right now, the odds are 50-50 that the Democrats boycott the proceedings.

What do the Democrats want?

Democrats say they are concerned it will not allow their party to participate fairly in the investigation, which will involve subpoenas and viewing of classified materials related to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

According to a Democratic leadership aide, Pelosi rejects a rule that will not prevent chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., from issuing unilateral subpoenas without consulting with Democrats. The rules would also allow Republicans to prevent Democrats from interviewing witnesses.

Democrats say they do not want a repeat of the investigation conducted by the House Oversight panel, headed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., which they believed was highly politicized: “Regrettably, the proposal does not prevent the unacceptable and repeated abuses committed by Chairman Issa in any meaningful way, and we find it fundamentally unfair.”

The committee is politicized because Benghazi has become a huge political issue. Pelosi knows full well how this kind of thing works considering that the Democrats played the same games with Republicans when they had control of the House.

Republicans are laying the groundwork for public hearings that may begin in a couple of weeks. Will Democrats be able to resist the siren call of nationally televised hearings? Or will they try to blow up the committee by refusing to participate?

Republicans are ready to proceed either way.

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