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Scott Ott

Scott Ott co-hosts a news, commentary and humor show called Trifecta on PJTV. He created and hosted the 20-part series on the Constitution titled Freedom's Charter. His satire site, ScrappleFace, spawned three books and praise from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and many others.
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Obama’s Top 7 Lines from UN Climate Speech, Plus Unhelpful Private Responses

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly, and Leonardo DiCaprio, Tuesday on the topic of climate change. Much of the speech was devoted to cataloging what the U.S. has done (and will do) to reduce carbon emissions, to aid developing countries, and to prepare for the inevitable impacts of short-term weather disasters and long-term temperature escalation. He challenged the rest of the world, often referring to China obliquely, to emulate the U.S., which he blamed for much of the problem.

Obama also made the argument that climate-sensitive development is consistent with economic growth and enhanced quality of life — creating jobs, while reducing consumer prices and pollution. But then he said that nations reluctant to do more to stop climate change, fearing it will put them at a competitive disadvantage, need to lead anyway — implying that they should be willing to accept the hit to their economies for the good of the world.

Here’s my subjective list of the president’s Top 7 quotes from the speech, followed by my bracketed italicized remarks of the sort that are not helpful…not helpful at all.

1. ”For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week — terrorism, instability, inequality, disease — there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other…and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.” [I've always said, I'd rather die, eviscerated and decapitated by a hail of fire and ball bearings, than drown at the rate of 3.2 millimeters per year.]

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Will Hashtag Campaign Keep Leftists’ Hands Off of Young PJTV Reporter Michelle Fields?

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

I’m not generally a hashtag campaigner, but after watching three interviews by Michelle Fields at the People’s Climate March in New York City, I couldn’t help but notice how physical they each became. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., actually grabbed Michelle’s handheld microphone. Sen. Bernie Sanders kept touching her bare shoulder, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s handler actually stepped between Michelle and Leo, throwing a block, when the former asked a potentially awkward question. So, here is my first ever hashtag campaign: #LeftyHandsOffMichelleFields

#LeftyHandsOffMichelleFields

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If You Build It, They Will Slum: But Can THEY Build It? Yes, They Can!

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

NYCHA

When the federal government began trimming subsidies to the New York City Housing Authority (Nycha) more than a decade ago, the agency let the its repair list grow, to the point where overdue fixes and upgrades now run into the billions of dollars. U.S. taxpayers cover 80% of the agency’s funding.

But Jayne Merkel, seeing the rundown state of NYC public housing, and the still-high unemployment rate, synthesized a great idea, and it was published Monday as an op-ed in the New York Times. (Yes, the very one.)

Why couldn’t Nycha train tenants to do basic maintenance? Nycha’s professional staffs would still do the complicated work — roof repair, for example — but with some solid training, almost anyone can replaster a wall. At the same time, training for such work can be a first step toward a steady job.

Of course, this could never happen, because…unions.

But let’s run with that idea anyway. Some 650,000 New York Citians live in housing paid for (in part or whole) by taxpayers, according to Crain’s New York. They live there, many don’t have full-time jobs, and yet some $18 billion in repairs and upgrades languish on a government wait list. What would be wrong with teaching a new skill to some of the beneficiaries of this federal entitlement, and letting them spruce up their own surroundings?

While the idea may appeal to both fiscal conservatives and residents of the decaying structures (for differing reasons), the greatest benefit of such a project would be what it does for the sweat-equitists who do the work.

In Marvin Olasky’s book The Tragedy of American Compassion, he quotes U.S. Surgeon General Thomas Parran (1936-1948) , who told a Senate committee that…

“…self-reliance, the satisfaction of work, the joy of acquisition, the sense of equality, the opportunity of leading a normal family life” were vital to good health. He noted that our destitute citizens [must have] an opportunity of a livelihood earned by individual effort. I emphasize useful work; no other type fills the mental needs [or repairs] losses to human character and mental health….

Parran’s concerns echoed those of his boss.

In November 1933 [Franklin] Roosevelt stated, “When any man or woman goes on a dole something happens to them mentally and the quicker they are taken off the dole the better it is for them the rest of their lives.” And early in 1935 Roosevelt added, “We must preserve not only the bodies of the unemployed from destitution but also their self-respect, their self-reliance and courage and determination.”

Later that same year, FDR said, “Most Americans want to give something for what they get. That something, in this case honest work, is the saving barrier between them and moral disintegration. We propose to build that barrier high.

With inspiration from FDR and his surgeon general, I’d like to take Ms. Merkel’s concept a step further.

Every resident of public housing should help to maintain the common areas and facilities, in addition to cleaning his or her own residence, as a condition of the lease. That work can range from raking leaves, to rewiring a breaker box, depending on ability. This not only relieves budget problems, but fosters a sense of community, and chases off the deadbeats who want merely to live off the exertions of others. (I believe the latter cohort comprises a relatively small cluster.)

It’s time to restore dignity to the folks who’ve fallen on hard times with a plan that just might reduce their numbers, by  increasing their employment prospects.

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The Godfather of Medicare and Obamacare Is Not Really Dead

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Rashi Fein, a husband, father and beloved friend, died last Monday at the age of 88. While this is sad news for those who will personally miss him, I’m torn.

Because Mr. Fein, an economist, devoted much of his life — with some success — to the pursuit of universal, government-run, taxpayer-funded health care, I rejoice that his work on this mortal coil has drawn to a close.

And yet, this man is not dead…not really.

There are some Darwinian evolutionists who believe that individual members of a species exist merely as the vessels of DNA — the famous “selfish gene.” So long as the genetic material survives and replicates, the physical manifestation of any individual DNA-vessel matters little.

In that sense, the life force that impelled Rashi Fein will not go gently into that good night. It continues to rage and reproduce.

The New York Times credits Fein with helping to lay “the intellectual groundwork” for Medicare in the 1960s.

Dr. Fein, a proud liberal, regretted that Medicare did not apply to everyone, just as he was disappointed that Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act did not consolidate insurance payments under the federal government. A federal single-payer system, he maintained, would be more cost effective and inclusive.

You see, Rashi Fein, with all of his “ethical and humanitarian perspectives,” was, at best, a dupe of the tyrants (whether idiotic or despotic) who want to limit both your access to health care and the length of your life. At worst, he was one of them.

His obituary in the Times, however, is positively magical.

When Dr. Fein began working on health issues as a young aide in the administration of Harry S. Truman, health care accounted for about 3 percent of the American economy. By the time he weighed in as a respected elder in the field during the debate over President Obama’s health care proposals, the expenditures had risen to 18 percent, an amount roughly equal to the economy of France.

The implication, of course, is that health care costs sextupled as a percentage of the “economy,” and that this fact should trouble the ethical humanitarian in each of us. Sacré bleu, France!?

Might I suggest that those who wring their hands over this disturbing datum visit my new clinic — the Truman Health Emporium — where we’ll offer inexpensive diagnoses and therapies, the costs of which are kept reasonable through the modest expedient of avoiding the use of any medical advances which took place after about 1953 (coincidentally, the year Watson and Crick described the structure of DNA).

So, do I have any takers for the clinic? After all, it’s cheap.

[Tick. Tick. Tick.]

Perhaps you need a bit of persuasion to bring you in.

At our clinic, we’re intentionally ignorant about artificial heart parts, kidney transplants, vaccines for nearly anything, and about what causes AIDS or mitigates its effects. After all, those are all post-1953 phenoms.

We CAN do knee and hip replacements, but a brief description of our methods, materials and outcomes may make you content with your existing natural joint pain. Our cardiac surgeons practice what might today be called “maximally invasive heart surgery.” They’re delighted, and often surprised, when the patient survives. Our most progressive doctors have actually read of experiments in one-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), but of course we don’t have an MRI machine. Nobody did.

You say you’d like a CT scan? How do you spell that?

No, we don’t have any Lipitor or Nexium? ¿Habla inglés?

You want me to use a laser beam to reshape your cornea and give you 20/20 vision? That’s not even a thing.

You see, the advocates of the deceptively named “universal health care” always portray the expense side of the ledger, but rarely invoke the near-miraculous nature of medical advances made possible by the (partially) free market, and by the profit motive. Of course, doctors and patients weren’t the only ones to benefit.

As the money Americans spent on medical care increased, so did the role of economists specializing in health issues. Dr. Fein moved between government and academia, offering research and views on issues like meeting the demand for physicians.

Ironically, Rashi Fein’s obituarist credits the healthy growth of medical spending for Fein’s blossoming career opportunities. It seems someone always wants to issue a grant to an economist to study the runaway cost of healthcare.

I’ve come to view the term “economist” as a synonym for “elitist,” or “socialist,” or “Utopian.” If we’re to believe the New York Times, Rashi Fein was all three.

“A new language is infecting the culture of American medicine,” [Fein] wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1982. “It is the language of the marketplace, of the tradesman, and of the cost accountant. It is a language that depersonalizes both patients and physicians and describes medical care as just another commodity. It is a language that is dangerous.”

I’m sure in the halls and cubicles of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, at the foot of Capitol Hill, the staffers in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services never bandy about such crass, impersonal concepts as price or supply.

No, our benevolent government health officials surely speak in near-poetic terms of intimacy and empathy, always balancing the science of medical technology with the art of human compassion — always striving to deepen the relationship between a physician and her patient.

After all, medical care is not “just another commodity,” it’s a government function, with all of the warmth that that term can conjure.

So, I bid farewell to Rashi Fein. Would that I could to the rest of his kind.

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[Audio] Re-Writing News of the Past: What If the 9/11 Attacks Never Happened?

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

The other day, it occurred to me that most of my children have no memory of a pre-9/11 world. This is my attempt to imagine a “no 9/11 world.” (Click the play button below to listen.)

Transcript of the audio above…

[October 2000] We are getting word just now that Osama Bin Laden, the Muslim terrorist leader who declared war on the United States two years ago, has been killed by U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. President Bill Clinton reportedly gave the order to take out bin Laden after viewing a live CIA video feed from a Predator drone. While some of his friends on the Left had urged Clinton’s Justice Department to indict bin Laden, and bring him to trial, the president said today, “This evil man declared war on us, had a track record of slaughter, billions of dollars in funding and a global network of slavishly-devoted suicidal soldiers. You don’t send lawyers after a man like that — you send Seals, Marines and Green Berets.”

—–
[October 1991]  Immigration and Customs Enforcement today announced it had permanently deported Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, and a number of his associates. Rahman, a radical Islamist preacher who used three New York City mosques as a base to raise money, and to distribute recordings, has called on Muslims to rise up and slaughter the infidel. President Bush said today, “I personally requested the deportation of the blind sheik, in shackles, handcuffed if necessary, to his ACLU lawyer.”

[May 1991] President George H.W. Bush, in a triumphant speech from downtown Baghdad, Iraq, today announced the unconditional surrender of Saddam Hussein’s government and his Baathist Army. The president said that nothing short of total surrender can save Iraq. Bush added that the coalition that conquered Saddam, would stay on the job until Iraqis build a constitutional republic, under the rule of law.
—-
Good evening, it’s April 4, 2013, and today New York City threw a massive party to mark the 40th anniversary of the ribbon-cutting of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The day started with the mayor and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes performing a rousing version of “Happy Birthday” on the roof of Tower One. The festivities wound up with a ticker-tape parade down Liberty Street past the skyscrapers, as New Yorkers cheered their police, firefighters and emergency responders.
[April 15, 2013] The one hundred seventeenth running of the Boston Marathon went off without a hitch today…

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Mourning in America: Gearing Up for the Post-Radio Shack World

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

We all paraded from the AMC Matador Ambassador station wagon into the Acme. Pop cashed his check from the Budd Company at the customer service window, bought a carton of Salems he’d share with Nan, and handed her a wad of cash to pay for the groceries. She steered the cart off among the aisles, for what must have been an island of sweet respite after a week trapped at home with four noisy, dirty, scuffling boys.

Then, most Wednesdays, if we didn’t need a haircut at the barbershop — a Princeton: tight on the sides, longer on top, looped over with a generous handful of Vitalis — it was off to one of three destinations in the Doylestown Shopping Center:

1) W.T. Grant: a five-and-dime, if we needed school clothes or supplies, or to look at the tropical fish, chameleons and pet rodents.

2) Sears: where my brothers and I played Pong, or fished through the discount 45′s bin while Pop shopped for tools.

3) Radio Shack: AKA Heaven for Boys

While the first two had their charms, it was Radio Shack that cast a spell on us, drawing us in at a dead run.

Gadgets and kits, lights and switches, buzzing and whirring and crackling — things that were cool before “cool” became “bad” or “sick” or “ridiculous” or whatever “cool” is now.

There was nothing like Radio Shack.

Today, I read that Radio Shack is sick — actually sick, perhaps dying — almost certainly headed for bankruptcy.

Troubled electronics retailer RadioShack Corp’s shares have lost nearly a third of their value since brokerage Wedbush Securities said on Tuesday the company could file for bankruptcy soon, making the stock worthless by the end of this year.

The stock fell as much as 20 percent to 76 cents on Wednesday, adding to a 23 percent plunge on Tuesday.

“Our price target reflects our expectation that creditors will force a reorganization and wipe out RadioShack’s equity,” Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter wrote in a note.

Oddly enough, I was just in a Shack in McKinney, Texas, on Sunday. Of course, it’s not really Radio Shack anymore…at least not the front half of the store. It’s a Frankensteinian amalgam of hipster brand names, competing for attention against a backdrop of their competitors’ products. It’s the Wal-Mart electronics department, in a third of the space with higher prices.

Cowling my eyes with my hands, I mumble to myself “not seeing anything, not seeing anything” until I reach the back of the store.

Here vestigial Radio Shack yet survives, like a pin-pithed dessicated frog with a faint heartbeat, but no will. My 18-year-old son asks what I’m looking for. It’s a logical question that not one of my brothers would have asked back in the day.

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Boots on the Ground Now: The Moral Depravity of Obama’s Doctrine of the Sanitary War on ISIS

Monday, September 8th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Barack Obama’s delusion of the sanitary war — with no boots on the ground — is, and will continue to be, the proximate cause of…

  • bleeding vaginal lacerations in pre-pubescent girls, whose maidenhood gets rasped away by jihadis who train for child rape by penetrating goats, and of
  • massive contusions, torn breasts, shattered ribs, fractured skulls and bleeding brain matter oozing from women who have been half-buried in sand then stoned to death for perceived offenses against Koranic masculinity, and of
  • asphyxiation by public strangulation of homosexuals, flies swarming on their sun-baked blood-caked dangling feet, and of
  • the hog-butchery of Christians, Jews, atheists and Muslims, whose relatives and countries fail to pay ransom, and of
  • the creation of an unchallenged Islamic State without a fig leaf of secularism or democracy, and with utter disdain for the United Nations and for Western values.

About this clear, present and historical threat, the U.S. secretary of State blandly states in the passive voice:

We have the ability to destroy ISIL. … It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years. But we’re determined it has to happen.

The United States and her allies defeated Hitler’s Wehrmacht, along with the Italian Royal Army, and the air, land and sea forces of the Empire of Japan in three-and-a-half years. Now, Secretary Kerry says it may take nearly that long to defeat an enemy said to number between 5,000 and 12,000 fighters, fielded by a government that can’t build a single tank, airplane or ship.

Of course, all of this time won’t be spent building weapons, equipping troops, crafting military strategy, deploying forces and assets, re-taking territory and bludgeoning the enemy into unconditional surrender.

No, Obama and Kerry need time to draft tentative agreements, allow diplomats to drink turkish coffee (infused with Sharia-verboten spirits), smoke the hookah, kiss the cheek, bow the head before monarchs and transfer satchels of crisp Franklins to tribal leaders within and outside of Islam-professing governments.

Obama believes Americans lack the stomach for all-out war, especially against an enemy for whom he has some empathy — being subjected as both he and they are to American cultural bigotry and oppression.

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Gov. Christie Goes to Mexico, NY Times Covers It Like a Campaign Event, Ignores Actual Purpose

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Gov. Chris Christie in MexicoI read this whole article about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s visit to Mexico, and still didn’t know why he was there.

A campaignlike air pervaded his events, whose locations seemed to be chosen for their cinematic backdrops…There was a TV-ready quality to his schedule. Aides rushed reporters and photographers into many of his meetings for a few moments, to briefly witness Mr. Christie at work, then commanded them to leave. Inside the school stadium, his staff repeatedly repositioned reporters for the best possible shot of Mr. Christie, who seemed to bask in the presidential-style trappings and treatment.

Finally, I viewed the embedded video, in which the governor talks about the importance of trade between his state and Mexico.

Based on the New York Times reporter’s account, one might think the entire purpose of the trip was to practice campaign stagecraft, which he apparently did all too well, in the reporter’s slyly inserted opinion.

I’m not saying that Gov. Christie’s supposed presidential aspirations aren’t a legitimate topic of news coverage, but if you really wonder what type of president he might be, it would be useful to hear about whether, and how, he fulfilled the purpose of his trip.

As usual, reporters are more interested in horse races, than policy, competence and integrity.

That said, it’s refreshing to see a Republican who actually understands that we have rapidly become a visual society, and if you want to communicate, you need to pay as much attention to scenery and shot angles as you do to what you say.

[NOTE: This brief article does not imply endorsement of Chris Christie, the nation of Mexico, or the New York Times. Sad but true, I hesitate to even write on such topics because of the vitriolic comment streams that flow from the mere mention of certain words or names. On-topic comments deeply appreciated.]

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Should Your School District Pony Up to Hire a Super-Superintendent? New Study Says, ‘Meh.’

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

They make handsome salaries, make important-sounding speeches, and often make their Boards dance to their tune, but NPR reports that a new study says school superintendents have virtually no impact where it matters.

“We just don’t see a whole lot of difference in student achievement that correlates with who the superintendent happens to be,” says Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. He’s a co-author of what’s likely the first broad study to examine the link between superintendents and student achievement.

Chingos and his co-authors, Grover Whitehurst and Katharine Lindquist, analyzed student test score data from Florida and North Carolina over a 10-year period. His conclusion: Hiring a new superintendent made almost no difference in student success.

Chingos explains the findings this way: “What percentage of differences in student achievement is explained by superintendents? It’s very small, about 0.3 percent.”

Whether you hire a new one, or pay bonuses to keep the one you have, it won’t really matter to the bottom line.

In football, coaches cash in, but not for long if they can’t win.

But in this sport, where the average Superintendent makes $195,000 fully rolled up with bennies, there’s not only a lack of consequences for paltry student performance, there’s no explicit connection between the two.

O, sure, every superintendent talks about student achievement, but few would be willing to link their contract to it.

One exception is New Jersey, where in 2011, as part of a salary cap law, the state started paying Superintendents CEO bonuses – up to 15% of salary — based on metrics determined by the local school board. Of course, that happened thanks to Gov. Chris Christie. The unions fought him all the way and the accusations fly that districts play fast and loose with the benchmarks.

Having worked a few years in the admin building of a public school district, and read a number of books on education reform at that time, I can tell you that few people “in the industry” actually know how to increase student performance. 

I worked in the PR department, and sometimes we’d get a call from a parent thinking of moving into our district. They always asked about our state ratings, clearly concerned about their children’s future. Sometimes I wanted to ask “how much money do you make?” Because the only thing that seemed clear from our in-district stats was that schools in better neighborhoods, with higher incomes, registered higher average standardized test scores.

Of course, this new study will have little impact on contract negotiations, thanks to the magical thinking of school boards, which always see their district as an exception to the rule.

 

 

 

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Federal Judge Breaks the Streak: Upholds Right of the People to Define Marriage Under Law

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

A Federal Court in Louisiana this afternoon upheld the right of the people of the state to define marriage. [Read the ruling.]

Louisiana not only holds to a traditional, heterosexual, definition of marriage (the technical term for that is “marriage”), but it also does not recognize homosexual pairings performed in other states which have redefined marriage.

The ruling breaks a streak of 27 court decisions striking down traditional marriage laws passed by legislatures.

Of course, the wrath of the Left is about to fall on Judge Martin Feldman, a Reagan appointee, and on anyone who sides with him.

But for the moment, at least, vive la différence!

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Taco Bell Drive-Thru Work of Art Shows Capitalism Is All About Heart

Friday, August 29th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Because this experience is so rare, not only did I visit TellTheBell.com to answer their customer-service survey — something I never do — but I just came in from the mailbox (yes, the snail-mail box) where I placed this letter, and put up the red flag for the postman. I share it with you now, as I would a visit to a fine museum, an inspiring concert, or a thrilling spectator sport.

Taco Bell 022872, 11829 Abrams Rd., Dallas, TX 75243

To the Manager,

I had such an experience at your restaurant drive-through yesterday, I had to take a moment to let you know. Over the years, I have worked in customer service, in restaurants, in sales and in customer-service training. My family frequently visits Taco Bell and other fast-food places.

But yesterday was far and away the finest drive-through experience I have had…even better than Chik-fil-A, which was the previous standard-bearer.

Laquiata H. (as her name appears on my receipt), greeted me through the speaker with a clear and cheerful voice. She immediately let me know that she was ready to serve when I was ready to order, no hurry. This little touch I found immediately endearing and comforting. Drive-throughs always feel rushed, menus are complicated and, if you don’t have perfect vision, difficult to read. (BTW, the small type on yours meant that we had to read the choices aloud to my wife in the passenger seat, inevitably fouling your speed stats.)

Laquiata was an island of peace and happiness in a hectic day. When we got to the window, she greeted us with a smile. When she handed us our food, she repeated the order clearly to eliminate errors. That little gesture made me feel like she really cared about us, and wanted us to have a terrific experience.

I don’t know if you realize how extraordinary this is in your industry. I have come to loathe drive-throughs, with their squawk boxes, fast-talking, inarticulate automatons, and frequent errors. Most folks in this line of work seem more concerned with getting rid of you, than with serving you.

Please convey my gratitude to Laquiata, and the support team that made it possible for her to be the voice and face of joyful welcome.

She singled-handedly turned a commodity into a work of art.

Thank You,

Scott Ott

One of the things that makes America great is folks like Laquiata, who bring this attitude to work each day.

Capitalism, after all, isn’t about prices, and markets, and margins, and finance.

It’s about people, and beauty, and emotion, and excellence, and human need, and joy, and love and liberty.

All of that other stuff is just mechanism.

This is heart.

This is real.

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What Was Speaker Boehner Thinking When He Released Video Calling Himself a Monkey?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner…the titular leader of Republicans on Capitol Hill…the man who in negotiations must stare steely-eyed across the table at the reptilian-blooded House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and at the Commander in Chief, his chill-ness, President Barack Obama…this man…this force of nature has released a video likening himself unto a wind-up clanging toy monkey.

I have now watched the video — dubbed “The Monkey in the Room” —  several times, pondering after its perplexing purpose — searching for the deeper meaning that might escape my public-school-molded mind. It’s presented as an official video the Speaker of the House, with “Speaker.gov” prominently displayed. Therefore, “we, the People” picked up the tab for the staff time required to film, edit and post it.

Perhaps Rep. Boehner released “The Monkey in the Room” in order to bond emotionally with people who think the House Speaker should be an affable sot, frittering away his days as the remote-controlled automaton of his sophomoric staff.

The most humanizing take might be that John Boehner and his staff have inside jokes, just like the folks in the cubes at your office.

But just like those jokes, they rarely play elsewhere.

The title of the video provides an extra measure of absurdity, apparently combining the clichés “elephant in the room” with “get this monkey off of my back” to spawn “The Monkey in the Room.”

After enduring his video and his tenure as Speaker, I’d suggest a better title: “Get This Elephant Off Of My Back.”

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Hope in the Midst of American Decline

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

More and more I’m convinced that America right now isn’t a country dealing with a mere dip in its mood and might. It’s a country surrendering to a new identity and era, in which optimism is quaint and the frontier anything but endless. 

— Frank Bruni, NY Times, Lost in America, 8/27/2014

Drawing on a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Times columnist Frank Bruni paints a picture of a nation on the down slope, with no end in sight. He notes that 60 percent of those polled feel America is “in decline.” 

But if you dig into the data you find that, while the depressing number has indeed climbed to 60 from 54 percent in January 2011, in five of the last eight times the pollsters asked this question (going back to October ’91) the readout was higher than 60, peaking at 69 percent in June 2008. 

So, you might say, cheer up, Frank Bruni, it could be worse. 

However, the next question in the survey brings a chilling context to that 60-percent figure. The question: “Do you feel confident that life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us?”

Only 21 percent said they do. Back in the dog days of decline in summer 2008, that number was 31. During a declension nearly as severe, in 1991-92, around 41 percent still felt confident their kids would have a better life. 

We Are Dissatisfied

Americans have always been a dissatisfied lot — we wouldn’t have come here if we were not. But we’ve always coupled that dissatisfaction with a belief in a better tomorrow. We’ve backed that belief with a determination to make it so, and a bone-deep conviction that we lived in a land where anything is possible.  We’re all about “the pursuit of happiness.”

This is what seems to have slipped…or rather, to have been tripped.

You see, it’s not that a Jimmy Carter-esque malaise has fallen across the fruited plain, but rather that malaise has been spread like mayonnaise across the amber waves of grain by people who seem determined to share the gloom of their own existential angst with the rest of us.

I, for one, will have none of it.

America still offers the greatest franchise opportunity on earth, available with no money down, to anyone willing to invest his sweat equity. In fact, that opportunity now exceeds the wildest dreams of our Fathers, as the internet has dried up the ocean and we can cross it barefoot in a moment. Global markets lay beneath our feet like Russell H. Conwell’s proverbial “Acres of Diamonds.” 

That doesn’t mean careful plans can’t collapse in the face of unforeseen obstacles. They quite likely will, and perhaps should, since passionate dreamers tend to lose touch with marketplace reality and must run headlong into an obsidian wall from time to time, to jar us into exploring other options. 

This opportunity also doesn’t excuse us from competition, both legitimate and nefarious. Some of your opponents will see your presence as healthy inspiration for their own innovations. Others will work tirelessly and deceitfully to ensure that you’re bankrupted and living under a bridge in a cardboard box. But the alternative to the exhilarating roller coaster of competition is the mundane merry-go-round of corporate wage-slavery, or government-subsidized bondage. The merry-go-round thrills only those who have never ventured beyond the painted pony.

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Keep Talking Like This, Councilman Scott Sherman, and You’ll Be My Pick for the 2016 GOP Nominee

Monday, August 25th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

On August 18, 2014, San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman showed in just five minutes that he communicates basic principles more effectively than any Republican presidential candidate in recent memory.

His brief, unscripted remarks came in support of the mayor’s veto of a Democrat effort to force city businesses to increase their minimum wage to $11.50 per hour.

Sherman, perhaps the only member of council who has “signed the front of a paycheck,” found himself in a two-person minority on the veto-override vote, against six Democrats.

Watch the video below, and then help me to understand why this eminently reasonable position fails to persuade Democrats who say they care about jobs.

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Is It Time for Medicaid to Cover Species Dysphoria?

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Janice Hickok’s Mom knew she that was different from other children as early as kindergarten.

“She kind of kept to herself,” Belinda Fenwell-Hickok says. “She could be affectionate when she felt like it, but even then, when I’d lean over to give her a hug, she’d turn her shoulder and just, sort of, rub it against my leg and start to walk away.”

The awkward behaviors multiplied, but Belinda says she was in denial…for years. She ignored the advice of friends, and eventually refused to return emails and text messages from the school guidance counselor.

Then came the virtually-inevitable moment.

“I walked into her bedroom one day,” Belinda said, “and Janice had something hanging out of her mouth.”

Even now, the memories cause her to well up with emotion — nine years later.

“I just screamed, ‘Janice, no! Spit him out. Spit him out!’ But it was too late,” she said. “Our pet hamster, Marvin, twitched a bit and just stopped moving. Janice let him drop to the carpet, and just strolled away like nothing had happened.”

Now in her mid-40′s, Belinda’s careworn face makes her look 20 years older.

“Back in the 1990s,” she explained, “nobody was talking about species dysphoria. How was I supposed to know she was a cat, trapped in the body of a girl.”

Janice refused to speak to a reporter about her condition, although she has “come out” to most of her friends and family.

Experts believe that as many as one-in-317 humans, and nearly all domesticated cats and dogs, may have some degree of species dysphoria. As with many rare conditions, it was education that helped her Dad come to terms with who Janice is.

Chad Hickok has lived alone, visiting his daughter one weekend per month at a local kennel since his 10-year marriage to Belinda collapsed — torn apart by the stress of what’s clinically known as second-hand species dysphoria.

“The toll it takes on the family can be greater than the impact on the species-dysphoric individual,” according to Jason Stenderweil, visiting professor of Species Identity at U.C. Berkeley. Dr. Stenderweil pioneered species-transition procedures, at a time when most academics and surgeons still classified the medical condition as a “mental illness or some kind of freakish hobby.”

According to Janice’s Mom, the ability to simply “be who she is” among her friends, co-workers and neighborhood cats, brings some measure of relief from the stress of their fight with the government.

For the past three years, Janice and her family have devoted thousands of hours to a fruitless effort to get Medicaid to cover the procedures she so desperately needs “to be whole.” But no government-run health care program will pay for any of it — from the physician-monitored dietary, fur-implant and quadrupedal-locomotion regimens, to the ultimate species re-assignment surgery and veterinary care. Surgery alone can cost upwards of $230,000, followed by tens of thousands of dollars in monthly maintenance therapy.

The family even lobbied their Congressman, who finally introduced a bill last month to amend Obamacare, requiring that employer-provided health insurance include diagnosis and the full range of treatments to allow species-dysphorics to live normal animal lives. The bill awaits consideration by the Appropriations Committee and the Agriculture Committee.

A White House spokesman said President Obama’s position on government-funded species-dysphoria treatment is “currently evolving,” but “whether someone who appears human might actually be a rabbit, or a tiger or a Galapagos tortoise is a question above the president’s pay grade.”

Meanwhile, Belinda is nearly at the end of her rope.

“I don’t need someone to ‘fix’ Janice, forgive the expression,” she said. “I need the federal and state governments to acknowledge that she has the same rights as any other American resident, to live out her brief lifespan as authentically as she can. And that takes money that we just don’t have.”

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Naive Mitt Romney Still Doesn’t Get It: Obama Does Not Make Policy ‘Mistakes’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Mitt Romney, once again, proves himself unfit to be a candidate for president of the United States. That’s not to say he wouldn’t be a good president. We’ll never know.

Never.

Barack Obama, on the other hand (the left hand), has shown himself to be an excellent candidate, but a disastrous president.

With apologies to DC Comics, Romney is BizarrObama. Perhaps it’s more faithful to the Bizarro World storyline to say that Obama is BizarrOmney.

On the surface, Romney’s poll numbers climb with each step of Obama’s descending popularity. Where Romney demonstrates towering competence, Obama’s executive effectiveness inhabits the abyss–he’s abysmal. Romney sees the Russian threat clearly, and stands against it. Obama sends Putin a shiny red “Reset” button which, when pressed, reboots Soviet territorial ambitions.

But it goes deeper than that. Romney inhabits a spherical planet on the opposite side of the sun from Obama’s cube, leading him to say things like this

I was not a big fan of the president’s policies, as you know, either domestically or internationally, but the results of his mistakes and errors, in my opinion, have been more severe than even I would have predicted.

The headline quote making the rounds is that Romney, at a West Virginia rally for GOP congressional candidates, said Obama is “a good deal worse than I ever expected.”

This can be explained only by positing the existence of Bizarro World, where everything is a flipped version of life on Earth. Otherwise, we’re left with the inexplicable scenario of a Romney who understands the darkness in the heart of Vlad the Impaler, but finds Barack Obama’s motives inscrutable.

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Abortion: The Awesome Lifestyle Option

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

She spoke in a soft voice, this stout black woman in the next chair.

Mother of 11, she had agreed to be interviewed for a fundraising video that I was asked to help produce, years ago, for a crisis pregnancy center. She told me she had undergone six abortions and also gave birth to five children alive–thus the total of 11. Government social workers in Philadelphia had directed her to a town in Central Pennsylvania, because, they said, it was easier to get assistance there. Social workers in that town had passed her on to my town.

I asked her if she was alone among her Philly friends in having multiple abortions.

“No,” she said, there were others.

I asked if she and her friends ever talked about the abortions. She said they did. I was trying hard to let her tell the story, and to avoid reacting, or imposing my own views on the conversation. (I’m paraphrasing here from a memory that may never leave me.)

“When you talked, what kind of things did you talk about?” I asked her.

Her face was placid, her voice, matter of fact.

“O, well, like if he was ugly,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I thought I knew, but I wanted her to say it. She said she meant what I thought she meant. They talked about whether the father of the baby was ugly. In case I was as dense as I seemed to be, she added that nobody wants to have an ugly guy’s baby.

“What else did you talk about?”

“Like, where am I gonna get the money?” At that time, she said, they needed about $200 for an abortion.

I was really fishing here, but I couldn’t get her to say what I thought was the obvious topic when it comes to abortion. I finally asked.

“Did you ever talk about whether it was right or wrong, or anything like that?”

She squinted at me like I had asked her to solve a quadratic equation, or had suddenly begun babbling in Urdu. The question made no sense to her.

“No,” she said, and I imagined she wanted to add, “How would that ever come up?”

That conversation came back to me recently when I read an op-ed in the Washington Post, headlined “Stop Calling Abortion a Difficult Decision.” The author, Janet Harris, is the former communications director for Emily’s List, a PAC that supports female pro-abortion Democratic candidates for office. No, I didn’t mean to write “pro-choice,” because it’s clear from this article that Janet Harris views abortion-on-demand as a positive, healthy alternative to a life ruined by an unwanted child. In fact, she’s trying to help her friends in the movement get away from the term “pro-choice” with its awkward moral dimension.

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RedState in 15 Minutes: Conservative Highlight Reel Has Cruz, Haley, Perry, DeMint, Kibbe & More

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

I’ve cobbled together a video of some of the top moments from speakers at this month’s RedState Gathering, in Ft. Worth, Texas, where more than 400 politically-engaged conservatives rallied to hear what they believe, spoken with passion, power and practical application.

Speakers featured in this 15-minute RedState highlight reel include…Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (GOP candidate for governor), Former Sen. Jim DeMint (now at Heritage Foundation), Texas Rep. Scott Turner (candidate for House Speaker), Matt Kibbe, of FreedomWorks and Jessica Anderson of Heritage Action.

I left out more good stuff from each speaker than I included, and there were other powerful speakers, but I wanted to give you the flavor of the event in a brief time. Some of this footage I shot personally, and the rest I pulled from the redstatemedia channel on YouTube. You’ll notice I included a long snippet from Texas Rep. Scott Turner, and that’s because…well, it’s my highlight reel. You can do your own, but I think you’ll like him.

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Why the Tea Party MUST Be Racist

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

The Tea Party movement must be racist.

That’s not to say that its candidates or supporters actually ARE racists, but rather that they MUST be racist, if the establishment elitists of both parties hope to hold onto their power-lock in Washington, state capitals and local governments.

Curtis Wilkie

Journalism Professor Curtis Wilkie’s New York Times op-ed warns Southerners to avoid the siren song of the populist Tea Party, to avoid plunging back into the racist abyss.

 

In Tuesday’s New York Times, journalism professor Curtis Wilkie revives the evidence-free assertion of Tea Party racism by rehearsing the sins of past “demagogues” and then attributing their discriminatory actions to the modern movement for a more Constitutional government that taxes less and regulates less. Wilkie cries out to stupid Southerners to stop their ears against the “siren song” of the latest incarnation of the anti-brown-skin choir, knowing as he does that the South could tip at any moment and go full antebellum Dixie.

Under a patina of history, Wilkie warns that populists often have rallied the “working class” to blame blacks for their problems, and they could do the same today, visiting their vitriol this time on immigrants.

Wilkie accurately notes that the Tea Party is winning, even though its candidates in six U.S. Senate races failed to attract a majority of voters. But lest you marvel at the success of this decentralized movement in pressuring politicians to take our founding charter seriously, Wilkie conjures a heinous specter.

The [Tea Party] movement’s success, with its dangerous froth of anti-Washington posturing and barely concealed racial animus, raises an important question for Southern voters: Will they remember their history well enough to reject the siren song of nativism and populism that has won over the region so often before? [emphasis mine]

Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama, among others, portrayed himself as a tribune of the working class while championing segregation. It’s hard not to hear echoes of those eras today. Tea Party candidates have targeted federal taxes and spending, while attacking Chamber of Commerce interests and the leadership of the Republican Party. Racism has been replaced with nativism in their demands for immigration restrictions, but the animosity toward the “other” is the same.

You see, if you think the federal government spends too much, or spends on the wrong things, you’re a racist.

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Can Obama-Hack PAC ‘Battleground Texas’ Turn a Big Red State Blue? What Should the GOP Do?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

As PJ Media readers know from my colleague Bryan Preston, Battleground Texas has a well-funded, boots on the ground, long-term strategy designed to turn Texas toward the Democrats. It’s run by former Obama political hacks. Their activities this year are virtually indistinguishable from Democrat Wendy Davis’ campaign for governor.

Currently, Republicans hold all statewide offices, and control the legislative and executive branches of Texas government…not to mention two U.S. Senate seats. So it seems a tough nut to crack, but they’re going for it.

At last weekend’s RedState Gathering, talkradio host Mark Davis (KSKY 660AM, and frequent sub for Rush Limbaugh) joined me on stage to gauge the threat from Battleground Texas, and to plot the approach that conservatives can use going forward to build stronger relationships with people who love liberty.

(BTW, I’m about halfway through Davis’ new book, Lone Star America: How Texas Can Save Our Country, and highly recommend it if you want to hear about a land where your principles are more than mere campaign promises.)

Democrats flipped Colorado. Could they do it again? Watch the video, and join the conversation in the comments below.

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The Song of Liberty in Full-Throated Crescendo at RedState Gathering in Ft. Worth, Texas

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

“In Texas, gun control means hittin’ what you’re aimin’ at.”
— Sen. Ted Cruz

That reliable applause line was one of many that fired up an audience of more than 400 who came from around the country to hear, meet and question heroes of the conservative movement like Sen. Cruz, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and many less-known leaders. If the reaction from the faithful was any indication, most speakers hit what they were aiming’ at.

PJ Media, along with Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks and others, helped to sponsor the event, organized by Eric Erickson’s RedState.com. I attended the sessions, interviewed participants, and consumed Texas-sized portions of barbecue. It was a weekend full of laughter, enthusiasm, and serious discussion of issues and values.

It may sound antiquarian or naive, but the annual event shows that there are still a lot of people who harbor a deep love for this country, for her Constitution and for the values that make America great.

Jim Pinnell, a retired financial advisor from nearby Fairview, Texas, probably best summarized why folks spend the time and money to come to RedState Gathering:

“These people care,” Pinnell told me. “Many of us were former Republicans. I think deep down we’re all conservatives. We’re all Constitutional conservatives. We believe in this country. We believe in the rule of law and freedom. And these people preach it and live it.”

Of course, the speculation about the next presidential cycle never stops, and Red Staters had a rich menu of options set before them.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, evangelist of red state principles, enthused about the policies he claims make the big state great — a magnet for business, a factory for jobs, a farmland of opportunity and a refuge for anyone who relishes the sweet aroma of freedom.

Sen. Ted Cruz encouraged brow-beaten conservatives with the “seven victories” he says they’ve achieved.

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A Video Dad Who’s Not an Idiot: Watch This Breakthrough Ad, Hope Hollywood Gets It

Monday, August 4th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Love the portrayal of the Dad in this ad, even with the shallow analogy to a breakfast cereal. I could write a lot more about this, but I think you’ll get it right away, and probably share it.

Let’s hope some Dad in Hollywood gets it, and builds a sitcom or a movie or both around this vision of Fatherhood.

(BTW, I wouldn’t eat Peanut Butter Cheerios if one bowl inoculated me against chiggers for life. Love peanut butter when it stands alone — rugged, independent — but not all mushed up in other stuff. That’s just how I am.)

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The PR Is (Also) Settled: Top Public Relations Firms Refuse to Flack for Climate-Change ‘Deniers’

Monday, August 4th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

In what looks like the final nail in the coffin for climate-change denial, some of the world’s most credible professional organizations have just announced they will no longer work with “climate deniers.”

That’s right, ten of the globe’s top public relations firms have declared that they will no longer “frame the debate” from the “sky is NOT falling” perspective.

Along with “the science,” the PR is now settled.

A spokesman for WPP, the world’s largest ad agency and parent of Burson Marsteller and Ogilvy Public Relations, said…

We ensure that our own work complies with local laws, marketing codes and our own code of business conduct. These prevent advertising that is intended to mislead and the denial of climate change would fall into this category.

The announcement fell like a ton of unread news releases on people who had placed their hope for defeating the man-made climate-change narrative upon firms so trustworthy that they’re commonly called “flacks.” These are the companies who have popularized idioms like “is that true, or is it just PR?” These are people whose credibility is exceeded perhaps only by used-car salesmen.

Since climate deniers can’t find a good PR firm these days, they were unlikely to respond to a reporter’s questions, so I didn’t contact them for a reaction to this devastating news.

The British Guardian demonstrated its objectively-journalistic professionalism by teaming up with the DC-based “Climate Investigations Center” (CIC), making follow-up calls to PR firms to pop the question about whether they would refuse work from climate deniers. The Guardian even released an “internal email” from the largest independently-owned PR firm, Edelman…

An initial response to CIC from Edelman inadvertently included an internal email which said: “I don’t believe we are obligated in any way to respond. There are only wrong answers for this guy.”

Kent Davies, Climate Investigations Center

This is the major research firm with which The Guardian teamed up to ask big PR firms if they’d stop working for “climate deniers.”

Edelman eventually did respond, but refused to join the virtuous chorus of information integrity, saying it makes decisions about which clients to serve on a case-by-case basis.

Capitalists!

As the Guardian points out, Edelman works for the American Petroleum Institute, and helped to develop the Keystone XL pipeline campaign for the project that would have created thousands of jobs, cut the risk of ocean oil spills and exploding rail cars, as well as reduced our dependence on foreign oil.

Whores.

Of course, CIC needs no introduction. Formed all the way back in 2014, it’s staffed by at least one man, Executive Director Kent Davies, a former research director at Greenpeace, who has apparently hung his own shingle now, doubtless eager to escape the cubicle Hell of anti-corporate America.

 

 

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How Will We Avoid Disaster if Politicians Won’t Listen to Experts? Cries Galaxy Guardian Krugman

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

The science is settled in yet another field — economics — but no one’s listening. Citizens of the galaxy, be afraid.

New York Times pundit and economist Paul Krugman says the “overwhelming” consensus among his colleagues proclaims the Obama stimulus reduced unemployment and was “worth it.” But most Americans have no idea that these academics speak with virtually one voice on Obamanomics.

More important, over the past several years policy makers across the Western world have pretty much ignored the professional consensus on government spending and everything else, placing their faith instead in doctrines most economists firmly reject.

One rejected doctrine, “government austerity measures,” is pure foolishness during down cycles according to Krugman’s cabalmates. After all, nearly every economist knows that the only sure way to keep recession from plunging into depression is massive new government spending of money borrowed from our grandchildren.

Krugman wrings his soft science hands over the consequences of ignoring the voice from the ivory tower.

All of which raises a troubling question: Are we as societies even capable of taking good policy advice?

The op-ed column is headlined: “Knowledge Isn’t Power.” Like most progressives, Krugman believes that all it takes to do the right thing is to know the right thing, and so he’s crestfallen at the realization that the treasury of economics knowledge remains untapped by policy makers.

This must be tremendously frustrating, because Krugman started his career with the ambition to be a kind of guardian of the galaxy.

 “I went into economics,” he wrote in an e-mail message, “because I read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, in which social scientists save galactic civilization, and that’s what I wanted to be.”

For those stories, Asimov invented a fictional science called psychohistory – a mix of social science, history and math, whose practitioners, in Krugman’s words, “understand the true dynamics” and thus “save the galaxy.”

In fairness to Krugman, he has, at least, entered a parallel field of fictional science. Among the most common news headlines related to the economy are those proclaiming how far astray economist predictions were from actual performance.

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14-Year-Old Kid Imitates LeBron James, by Becoming CEO of His Own Pizza Delivery Business

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

This story contains most of what’s great about this land of opportunity — creativity, hard work, volunteerism, risk-taking and learning from other leaders.

Fourteen-year-old Ajayi Jackson couldn’t could get a job because of bloody age discrimination [my phrase, not his], so he started his own company, Pop’s Pizza, with $100 of capital be borrowed from — you guessed it — his Dad.

He invented the made-from-scratch pizza recipe after learning to cook from his Mom. Already turning a profit, he’s made his sister jealous because she works longer hours for someone else and makes less money.

The best part of the story: Ajayi, like a lot of kids, admires NBA star LeBron James. But the budding entrepreneur is more interested in King James’ off-court business than in his moves in the lane.

He wants to meet the hoops hero because LeBron owns a chain of pizza places, and could share tips for success in business.

God bless Ajayi Jackson, and God bless America.

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Cantor Quits Early: Governor Should Deny His Request for Lame-Duck Special Election

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

A member of Congress who loses his primary loses his influence. Few have lost more influence in less time than Rep. Eric Cantor, drubbed in May by a relative-unknown, summarily dethroned as House majority leader.

Nevertheless, Republicans in Virginia should call on Gov. Terry McAuliffe to deny Cantor’s request that he call a special election when Cantor quits the House early on August 18th, as he has just announced he would.

“I want to make sure that the constituents in the 7th District will have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session,” Cantor told the Times-Dispatch. “That way he will also have seniority, and that will help the interests of my constituents [because] he can be there in that consequential lame-duck session,” he added.

Cantor actually wants the special election to happen on November 4th, the same day as the general election. This means that the winner of the special election (who Cantor naturally assumes will be the Republican Dave Brat) would start immediately, having a leg up on the rest of freshman class of 2015…that is, assuming he also wins the general election race.

Of course, there’s no reason Cantor can’t remain in the saddle, voting his conscience (if anyone does that anymore) through the end of his term.

Late-term special elections are political power maneuvers having nothing to do with the purported effort to ensure that people of the district “have a voice.” After all, isn’t Eric Cantor the voice of his district? With 234 Republicans vs. 199 Democrats, Cantor could walk away now — no doubt to a lucrative legal or lobbyist career already lined up — with no loss to the GOP.

Odds are that Cantor was told that he would call for a special election by the Oz-behind-the-curtain party patriarchs who sustain their own power through such tactics. I’m sure some partisan hack will question my devotion to the party, but my devotion is first to the rule of law, the Constitution, and integrity in public service.

To quote The Dread Pirate Roberts, “We are men of action. Lies do not become us.”

If there’s a bright spot in this story, it’s this: Cantor’s coinage of the phrase “a very consequential lame-duck session.”

Apparently a duck’s handicap does not prevent mischief.

Perhaps these should be called “starving vulture” sessions instead.

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Rubio’s Utilitarian Case for Traditional Marriage Dodges More Powerful, Controversial Approach

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

How many more social conservatives must we endure as they make the utilitarian case for traditional marriage, dodging the more frank, powerful and controversial biblical case, summarized thus: “God says.”?

In Sen. Marco Rubio’s recent speech at Catholic University, as my colleague Rodrigo Sermeño reports, Rubio defended “strong values for a strong America.” But the senator connected these values only tangentially with the God who designed us and who sanctifies our relationships. He rested the weight of his argument upon the social sciences, history, conventional wisdom and stats about wealth and happiness.

Thousands of years of human history have shown that the ideal setting for children to grow up is with a mother and a father committed to one another, living together, and sharing the responsibility of raising their children. And since traditional marriage has such an extraordinary record of success at raising children into strong and successful adults, states in our country have long elevated this institution and set it apart in our laws.

This is what I mean by the utilitarian argument. Essentially, he says that marriage works, so the government should recognize it.

“I was taught certain values that led me to live my life in a sequence that has a proven track record of success. In America, if you get an education, find a good job, and wait until marriage to have children, your chances of achieving economic security and professional fulfillment are incredibly high,” Rubio said.

Rubio calls this the “success sequence,” and attributes our moral decline to the “erosion of the success sequence.”

But the truth is that the social and moral wellbeing of our people has a direct and consequential impact on their economic wellbeing.

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Sarah Palin Does Not Give Up; Her New Web Channel Has More Potential than Political Post

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

The Sarah Palin Channel

PJ Media’s Susan Goldberg is dead wrong about Sarah Palin’s new project.

Sarah Palin has officially given up on her political career. Launching the Sarah Palin Channel, the former Alaskan governor has apparently decided to follow in Oprah’s footsteps and impact the voters where it counts: paid Internet TV. Palin isn’t the first conservative to move into the media subscription fray (Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh both beat her to it) and, thank God, unlike Kim Kardashian she isn’t establishing her solo career on a sex tape.  But, at the very moment when Obama’s presidency is taking a nosedive off of the cliff of no return, do conservatives really need just another pretty face?

Au contraire, ma soeur!

Beyond Goldberg’s ribald remarks treating the former governor like a piece of meat (moose, no doubt), she needs to consider who holds more influence in the country: Beck or Boehner? Rush or Ryan (not Seacrest, Rep. Paul)? Katy Perry or Rick Perry? Palin pioneers a path I pray others will pursue. (And as a PJTV.com personality, I welcome Sarah Palin to the subscriber-based internet realm.) 

Picking up where TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska left off, the Sarah Palin Channel will feature videos of the Palin family enjoying the bounties of the Alaskan wilderness. It was charming for a season, but really, is anyone going to pay ten bucks a month to watch even more reality TV?

We’ll find out. I wouldn’t bet a nickel against Palin’s channel. And this move does not mean she’s “given up on her political career,” for the following reasons…

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Free-Market Case Study: Who’s Entitled to a Tax Subsidy for Big Developers, and Who Benefits?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Scott Ott
Neighborhood Improvement Zone Board in Allentown, Pa.

Civic leaders on this Allentown, Pennsylvania, tax-subsidy board decide which developers qualify, and which don’t, when it comes to hundreds of millions of dollars for downtown development.

Well, we’re living here in Allentown.
And they’re tearing all the old buildings down
But a guy who wants to save a hotel
Can’t get the cash from
the taxpayer well.
(with apologies to Billy Joel, and the people of Allentown, Pa.)

When funded by taxpayer money, is a developer entitled to a subsidy if he merely meets the basic requirements of the state program, or are civic leaders on the local subsidy Board compelled to apply extra scrutiny exactly because it’s public money.

That’s the fight in Allentown, Pennsylvania, right now, where a so-called “Neighborhood Improvement Zone” (NIZ) redirects tax dollars into developer projects — a hockey arena, hotels, office, retail and residential space — in the hopes that the investments in downtown will eventually pay off in bigger tax receipts for government, and in a revitalized city. This “local story” has broad implications for your community, state, nation and world. I’ll offer four reasons (below) why such arrangements, and the politicians who push them, deserve extraordinary scrutiny from taxpayers and voters.

It’s a special developer-entitlement zone for Allentown-only set up by the state legislature, thanks to the vigorous efforts of Allentown’s state senator, who counts the major developers among his top campaign donors, and whose wife got a job with a lobbying firm that has clients who benefit from the special tax-subsidy district. (Conflict of interest allegations have been denied all around.) The lead developers have just set up a political action committee to support candidates who support the NIZ, without regard to political party affiliation.*

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Rumsfeld an Alien Wizard? Cuba Faked Moon Landing? Congress Banned from Editing Wikipedia

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Critics have slammed Wikipedia, the crowdsourced online encyclopedia, saying its lack of professional editors makes it an unreliable source.

Well, that’s true when Congress gets involved.

It seems our hardworking representative(s) and/or their hardworking staffer(s) devoted time, on the public dime, to altering Wikipedia pages to accuse the Cuban government of faking the moon landings (when everyone knows it was the U.S. government that did that), and to name Donald Rumsfeld as an alien wizard.

It seems that those edits were the final straw for Wikipedia’s administrators, who implemented a 10-day ban on any changes coming from one particular IP address within the US Congress, “due to disruptive editing originating from that address”.

Don’t expect a Congressional investigation into this misuse of public funds, because…

a) It’s Congress, and

b) there’s no physical evidence, because government hard-drives never survive these sorts of incidents.

And stop laughing at us, Great Britain. Your MPs have been caught doing the same…a lot.

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Why Not Set Up Refugee Kiosks in Honduras? Can We Consider Any Idea from Obama, McCain?

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

A plan to evaluate refugee status for Hondurans in Honduras currently makes the rounds in D.C. – apparently backed by some in the Obama administration, it resembles a recent bill from Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona. The idea is to protect people, especially youth and children, from a dangerous trek across coyote-infested lands.

No one knows the details of this plan to set up, in effect, refugee immigration kiosks in Honduras, and the White House says no decision has been made, but already there’s pushback. This raises the question: Do Republicans, conservatives and libertarians need to shoot it down immediately because…

1) It might increase immigration from Honduras, and

2) might spread to other countries, and/or

2) it’s backed by McCain and Obama?

After all, we’re talking about facilitating legal immigration, and this might keep potential immigrants from piling up in U.S. border towns, jeopardizing public health and straining social services.

Regardless of the eventual shape of this plan, it’s time for folks on the Right to take the moral high ground on immigration. Oddly enough, if we’re serious about that, we’ll find that the issue isn’t immigration at all.

I know that even in whispering this, I may run afoul of my friends who think that it is the tide of immigrants — some unwilling to assimilate — that’s destroying our country. They’re stealing American jobs, or bearing contagions, including radical Islam. Seal the border.

Before our knees jerk in opposition to the latest proposal, we need to ask: Will the tide stop anytime soon under any plan which can actually pass Congress, and be implemented efficaciously?

No. The tide will stop when America stops being the beacon of liberty. I contend that one who wishes to stem the tide of immigration, inadvertently wishes American demise.

The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus

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Meanwhile, in the Capital of the Caliphate, the Trains Run on Time, Impressing the NY Times

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

One can’t help but compare today’s New York Times’ dispatch from Raqqa, the “capital” of the new Islamic caliphate, with previous Times reports highlighting the troubles afflicting U.S. efforts in Iraq.

While sturm und drang prevailed in the latter, the leaders of the Caliphate seem to make the figurative trains run on time (something even Mussolini didn’t do).

More pragmatically, ISIS has managed to keep food in markets, and bakeries and gas stations functioning.

“What I see in Raqqa proves that the Islamic State has a clear vision to establish a state in the real meaning of the word,” said a retired teacher in the city of Raqqa. “It is not a joke.”

Many said that they received official receipts stamped with the ISIS logo and that the fees were less than they used to pay in bribes to Mr. Assad’s government.

 “I feel like I am dealing with a respected state, not thugs,” said a Raqqa goldsmith in his small shop as a woman shopped for gold pieces with cash sent from abroad by her husband.

In fairness, the story also notes that Muslim Sharia law leaves the hands of thieves disarmed,  smokers without a break, drinkers dry and women cloaked.

But there is a darker side to Islamic rule, with public executions and strict social codes that have left many in this once-tolerant community deeply worried about the future.

Of course, mentioning “a darker side” indicates the reader should weigh the relative merits of the coming Muslim dynasty with an open mind. Take the good with the bad.

O, and by the way, all three of Raqqa’s Christian churches have been shuttered, stripped of crosses, black flagged and converted to Islamic suicide bomber recruitment centers.

Nevertheless the story ends on a high note.

After ISIS’s advance into Iraq last month, the Jordanian went to Mosul to help organize a hospital there before returning to Raqqa.

“He talked with an eager shine in his eyes, saying that the caliphate of the Islamic State that began in Raqqa would spread over the whole region,” one of his employees said.

There was a time when the Left pooh-poohed theories that jihadis would establish a caliphate from which to launch their conquest of the rest of the earth.

Now, it seems, the caliphate exists, but it’s not as bad as those radical Right-wing scaremongers said.

 

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How Secretary John Kerry Can ‘Address Long-Term Palestinian Grievances,’ Stopping War with Israel

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Shortly after touching down in Tel Aviv today (7/23), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the press why he had come to the region.

The goal, Mr. Kerry stressed, was not only to obtain a cease-fire but to map out a “sustainable process going forward” that would address some of the long-term grievances of the Palestinians in Gaza and prevent the fighting between Hamas and Israel from erupting every few years. [emphasis added]

His jet landed at Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s front door, which had already been slammed shut by U.S. and European officials banning flights in and out. One can only imagine the comfort Kerry’s words brought to the mothers of Israel, whose sons crawl through tunnels attempting to flush out Hamas terrorists.

After all, what long-term grievances might the Palestinians harbor that Mr. Kerry could address?

How about the fact that Israelis live on land that Palestinians will forever claim as their own?

Well, he might address that by agreeing with Hamas and Fatah that a Jew can no longer have an address in the former, and ephemeral, state of Israel. Then he could get back on his plane at Tel Aviv’s new Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Hassan Yassin International Airport and enjoy a ticker-tape parade down Broadway.

That might encourage Hamas to stop lobbing thousands of missiles into the area. Although history shows that if radical Muslims don’t have Jews or Christians to kill (or even if they do), they’ll kill each other. Even Bill Maher knows that.

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Heart-ectomy for Obamacare: Did Obama’s Lawyers Really Make This Argument?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

By now you’ve heard that a federal three-judge panel ruled that the Affordable Care Act does not permit federal subsidies to help people buy insurance through HealthCare.gov. This cuts the heart from the redistributive scheme by essentially pricing young, healthy people out of the market.

But scrolling down in The New York Times story, I found the stunning argument that the Obama administration offered in a vain attempt to rescue the president’s sole accomplishment.

Basically, the law says only the states can help people pay for their Obamacare policies. So, here’s how the all the president’s lawyers tried to get around that.

Obama administration officials said that an exchange established by the federal government was, in effect, established by a state because the secretary of health and human services was standing “in the shoes” of states when she established exchanges.

Imagine how Obama and his cronies might apply that principle.

Federal executive branch officers can act on behalf of the legislative branch in each of the states. This is a shocking coup attempt against federalism, republican governance, the separation of powers and the Constitution itself.

No, it’s not the first time he’s tried something like this, but forgive me if I never grow accustomed to the audacity of these would-be transformers.

Burwell ruling

Click the image to read the actual ruling.

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Religious Leaders Beg Obama to Force Them to Hire LGBT, Then Celebrate His Commandment

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

This morning’s email bag included a news release with quotes from officers at Union Theological Seminary and Auburn Theological Seminary, in celebration of President Obama’s executive order effectively requiring religious organizations with government contracts over $10,000 to hire homosexuals.

Religious leaders across the country declared victory today as the president honored their request to leave out a religious exemption in an executive order banning LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.

This follows a “grassroots campaign” to gather signatures begging the president to force them to hire homosexuals — or in politically-correct parlance, to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In exultant language, the news release goes on…

Present at today’s signing ceremony was Rev. Fred Davie, Executive Vice President of Union Theological Seminary and a member of the LGBT community. “Today at the White House I witnessed the arc of history bend toward justice,” said Davie. “This is a tremendous victory for those of us who believe that as people of faith we should be exemplary, not exempted. Leaving out a religious exemption is simply the right thing to do, both theologically and civically. It is my obligation, and desire, as a Christian and a member of human community to love my neighbor and it is my obligation as a citizen to treat all my fellow citizens equally, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

It’s a peculiar locution — “leaving out a religious exemption” — akin to “leaving out the leaving out.” The authors of the press release preferred double negative to a plain assertion, like: “the president commanded faith-based organizations to violate the tenets of their faith if they want to serve as a federal contractors.”

But why all of this unseemly lobbying?

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