April 15, 2014

The Taxman

The Taxman Cometh says these taxes that didn't exist 100 years ago …"when our nation was the most prosperous in the world.  We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids."

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Taxes
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Sales Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service FeeTax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

I bet this is not an exhaustive list .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

April 14, 2014

Heartbleed and heartbreak that NSA didn't warn us about but exploited for itself

The biggest flaw in Internet history affecting as many as two-thirds of the world's websites.

The Heartbleed bug lets hackers eavesdrop on supposedly secure communications.

German developer Dr Robin Seggelmann admitted he wrote the code. It was then reviewed by other members and added to OpenSSL software. This addition led to the Heartbleed flaw in the open-source program
Code was added in December, 2011, and no-one picked up the error.

As if the fact that we all have to change our passwords yet again were not bad enought, Bloomberg reports NSA Said to Exploit Heartbleed Bug for Intelligence for Years

Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.
--
“It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first, said Jason Healey, director of the cyber statecraft initiative at the Atlantic Council and a former Air Force cyber officer. “They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.”
---
“We’ve never seen any quite like this,” said Michael Sutton, vice president of security research at Zscaler, a San Jose, California-based security firm. “Not only is a huge portion of the Internet impacted, but the damage that can be done, and with relative ease, is immense.”

The potential stems from a flawed implementation of protocol used to encrypt communications between users and websites protected by OpenSSL, making those supposedly secure sites an open book. The damage could be done with relatively simple scans, so that millions of machines could be hit by a single attacker.

Ace comments  What the hell. What the unholy hell.

This is scary. I'm not even so much bothered by the NSA itself preserving a backdoor into my private stuff. I always figured they could do that anyway, if they wanted.

But they've also exposed everyone to criminal hacking and even compromise by foreign intelligence services.

What the hell. What the unholy hell.

Biz Insider Here's How To Protect Yourself From The Massive Security Flaw That's Taken Over The Internet

Security firms are urging users to only change passwords on sites that have confirmed they are safe

'Changing your password on a vulnerable site makes little difference because the site is still open to attack….'This means your old password would have been at risk, but you're also giving hackers access to your new password - a double whammy.

Heartbleed-Sites-Affected

Affected sites include a number of Google services, including Gmail and YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, Yahoo and Dropbox.  All of these sites have been patched and security experts are advising people to change their passwords on these accounts, even if the sites themselves aren't issuing the advice.

Business Insider  Find Out Instantly If A Site Has Been Infected By 'Heartbleed'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

April 3, 2014

Your Government at Work

Security Breaches of Personal Information at Federal Agencies More than Doubles Since 2009

Millions of individuals who recently entrusted personal, medical, and financial information to the federal government while enrolling in Obamacare via Healthcare.gov may find a recent trend reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) rather unsettling.  The number of security breaches involving Personally Identifiable Information (PII) at federal agencies more than doubled in recent years, increasing from 10,481 in 2009 to 25,566 in 2013.  Perhaps even more disturbing, the GOA found that "none of the seven agencies [in a related study] consistently documented lessons learned from PII breaches."

Despite the fact that the mentally disabled were used by the ATF in six different cities in six different stings the ATF Denies Targeting Mentally Disabled in Sting Operations

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating a series of ATF sting operations in six cities—originally reported on by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel—where agents set up false storefronts, used mentally disabled people to drum up sales of illegal drugs and guns, and then arrested them.

“Your agents target people with low IQs because they are susceptible to this kind of buddying up,” Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) told Jones. “One individual was tutored by ATF agents about how to use a machine gun so he could go out, buy one, and then be arrested by ATF.”

Jones said the ATF only learned that their targets were disabled during defense pleadings in court.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.) pressed Jones to explain how agents were unaware of what they were doing.

“You don’t think your agents dealing with an individual with an IQ in the 50s knew they were dealing with a mentally disabled person?” Duckworth asked Jones. “If your IQ is in the 50s it is very clear someone is mentally disabled.”

Report: EPA tested deadly pollutants on humans to push Obama admin’s agenda

The agency conducted tests on people with health issues and the elderly, exposing them to high levels of potentially lethal pollutants, without disclosing the risks of cancer and death, according to a newly released government report.

These experiments exposed people, including those with asthma and heart problems, to dangerously high levels of toxic pollutants, including diesel fumes, reads a EPA inspector general report obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. The EPA also exposed people with health issues to levels of pollutants up to 50 times greater than the agency says is safe for humans.

The EPA conducted five experiments in 2010 and 2011 to look at the health effects of particulate matter, or PM, and diesel exhaust on humans.

Power Steering: Government Motors Recalling Six Million Plus Vehicles Due to Potentially-Dangerous Defects; No One In Media Asks Where GM's Top CEO, Barack Obama, Was During All This

In addition to the 4.8 million vehicles recalled for various problems ranging from dodgy ignition switches to non-deploying airbags, an additional 1.3 million are now being recalled due to a problem with the power steering that could cause an accident.

GM is Alive, And 13 Victims of GM Malfunctions Are Dead

The headline refers to the fact that 13 people died due to the ignition-switch defect, which would have cost fifty seven cents per car to fix…..
--
Obama touted the defective, deadly Chevy Cobalt as a Government Motors success story….Of course no Obama official is telling people to stop driving Government Motors vehicles now. After all, Government Motors is officially one of this Obama Success Stories so beloved by the media.

But a Democratic Senator, Connecticut's Dick Blumenthal, is in fact telling people to stop driving Government Motors vehicles immediately.

The GM Scandal Is Worse Than You Think.  David Harsanyi tells us why the  government should never own a business.

In February 2010, the Obama Administration’s Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told America, without a shred of evidence, that Toyota automobiles were dangerous to drive. LaHood offered the remarks in front of the House Appropriations subcommittee that was investigating reports of unintended-acceleration crashes. “My advice is, if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it,” he said, sending the company’s stock into a nosedive.

Even at the time, LaHood’s comments were reckless at best. Assailing the competition reeks of political opportunism and cronyism. It also illustrates one of the unavoidable predicaments of the state owning a corporation in a competitive marketplace.  And when we put LaHood’s comment into perspective today, it’s actually a lot worse.  Not only did the Obama administration have the power and ideological motive to damage the largely non-unionized competition, it was busy propping up a company that was causing preventable deaths.

Anyone Seen the Guy Who Gave GM $49 Billion in Taxpayer Money? That would be Steve Rattner, the auto czar.

Rattner has gone largely unmentioned in the coverage of the GM defective-switch scandal. He’s not saying much on his own venues, and apparently no one wants to ask him any questions about President’s Auto Industry Task Force, just how thorough their review of GM was, and how they managed to miss so many consequential lurking safety issues.

There is plenty of blame to go around here. First there’s the serious accusation that GM hid just how deadly the problem could be:…

Then there’s the charge that federal safety inspectors and regulators are now blaming GM to divert attention from their own bureaucratic inertia . . .

Obama Administration Wants to Ax Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Balkans, Iraq.  This is one example of a very effective government program being eliminated.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:02 PM | Permalink

Just how successful as the deadline for enrolling in Obamacare reached

President Obama claims 7 million signed up for Obamacare but a secret  Study shows just 858,000 newly insured Americans have paid up!

Numbers from a RAND Corporation study that has been kept under wraps suggest that barely 858,000 previously uninsured Americans – nowhere near 7.1 million – have paid for new policies and joined the ranks of the insured by Monday night. Others were already insured, including millions who lost coverage when their existing policies were suddenly cancelled because they didn't meet Obamacare's strict minimum requirements.
--
The unpublished RAND study – only the Los Angeles Times has seen it – found that just 23 per cent of new enrollees had no insurance before signing up.  And of those newly insured Americans, just 53 per cent have paid their first month's premiums.  If those numbers hold, the actual net gain of paid policies among Americans who lacked medical insurance in the pre-Obamacare days would be just 858,298.

And for that the health care industry, one-seventh of our national economy was totally upended.  The result: higher premiums, higher deductibles, fewer doctors to choose from and even fewer hospitals and a totally unnecessary attack on religious non profits that have caused the greatest rift between the Catholic Church and the United States government in the nation’s history

Premiums rising faster than eight years before Obamacare COMBINED

The individual market for health insurance has seen premiums rise by 39 percent since February 2013, eHealth reports…..Between 2005 and 2013, average premiums for individual plans increased 37 percent and average family premiums were upped 31 percent .  An important caveat is that eHealth’s prices don’t include subsidies, so the prices for anyone earning between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will be lower.

He enrolled in Obamacare through the Nevada exchange, paid his premium and even called to get assurance that he was in fact enrolled, then he had a heart attack.  After a triple bypass operation, he learned he was not insured and now that Obamacare disaster left him on the hook for $400k+ in medical bills.

Obama told Hispanics he won’t deport their relatives if they sign up for Obamacare…

NR Editorial A Season of Obamacare

While successfully urging Congress to pass a sweeping health-care law in 2009 and early 2010, President Obama and his allies made three main promises. The law would reduce premiums, dramatically expand coverage, and leave people who liked their insurance plans and doctors undisturbed. With the official sign-up period for Obamacare’s exchanges now over, we can say that none of those promises have been kept.

We have, it is true, gotten a modest increase in insurance coverage…..That benefit could have been won more cheaply, and for more people, by modifying public policy to make catastrophic insurance more affordable. The federal government would not have had to mandate essential benefits for everyone, and trample on consciences in the process, or to create a constitutionally suspect board to try to centralize medical practice, or to tax medical devices, or subsidize abortion, or make an ongoing mockery of the rule of law by executing it with an editor’s pen. There were better alternatives. There still are.

Doctor Deficit Will Devastate US Health Care

A disaster looms for U.S. health care: WaPo reports that an alarming number of doctors say they are fed-up, stressed out, overworked, and micro-managed in their primary care practices. The result? By 2020 the U.S. medical system will have 45,000 fewer primary-care doctors than we need, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:50 PM | Permalink

March 28, 2014

Criminals in the Ruling Class

‘WE CHEATED’ — At UNC, whistle-blowers expose a sickening athletic scam

Deans, coaches and professors at certain sham academic departments of the university were complicit in placing basketball and football players with underdeveloped learning skills in classes that didn’t exist and never actually met. The only requirements were that the students write final papers consisting of a few sentences — a task too difficult for some, who could only read and write at a second grade level. Still, they all received As or Bs.

The biggest arrests this week were all Democrat lawmakers.

California State Senator Yeland Lee, praised for his efforts to make government more transparent and authored gun control legislation was arrested Wednesday, accused of conspiracy to deal firearms and wire fraud.  The Charges Show Leland Yee, Shrimp Boy Plotting Illegal Gun Deals With Islamist Militants

Leland Yee, the Democratic California state senator arrested Wednesday on federal corruption charges, plotted to obtain illegal guns for a Chinatown gangster less than a year after pushing wide-ranging bills to require micro-stamping, restrict magazine choice, and regulate private handling of legally owned weapons, according to an affidavit in support of his arrest.

Leland Yee spent a good deal of the last two years railing against the private ownership of firearms, lambasting American citizens who defend expansive protections of the right to keep and bear arms, and exploiting the abomination at Newtown for political gain. While he was doing this, he was apparently helping to put missile launchers and automatic weapons in the hands of what he believed to be the mafia, explaining blithely that “people want to get whatever they have to get,” and looking at Africa as an untapped market for arms dealers.

He was taped by the FBI discussing arms that could be obtained from the Philippines and claimed personal relationships with Islamic rebels in the Philippines, though the weapons were supposedly to be obtained from sources inside the Philippine military.

Yee is the third Democrat state senator to be arrested in California this week. Earlier it was state Sen. Rod Wright (perjury) and then Ron Calderon (bribery).

FBI agents arrested Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon Wednesday for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for “the use of his official position.”  A Democrat, Cannon allegedly accepted more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room, and even an apartment from undercover FBI agents.

The Democrat Speaker of the Rhode Island house resigned and announced he would not seek  re-election after FBI agents, along with agents from the IRS, the U.S. attorney’s office, and state police, raided both his Providence, R.I. office and home Friday.

"I Am Not a Criminal," said Senate Democrat Harry Reid As His Illegal Campaign Donor Is Jailed for funneling more than $130,000 in illegal campaign funds to the Senator's re-election committee in 2007. 

Just before the Federal Election Commission, the FEC demanded that Senator Reid he return $17,000 in campaign funds he had given to his granddaughter, a watch dog group, Cause of Action, filed ethics complaints against Senator Reid for  violating the chamber’s code of conduct by pushing to help a politically connected Las Vegas casino project get visas for foreign investors.

An old story in Western Journalism calls Harry Reid

one of the most ethically challenged politicians in office today. This report will review his alliances with corrupt individuals, his support of ACORN, his ties with organized crime figures and his chronic failure to comply with campaign finance laws.


So I'm not surprised that journalist, author and screenwriter Michael Walsh writes that's it's Time to Break Out the RICO Statute and Break Up the Democrats

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 AM | Permalink

March 27, 2014

Your Government at Work

Sinkhole of bureaucracy

Deep underground, federal employees process paperwork by hand in a long-outdated, inefficient system. Inside the caverns of an old Pennsylvania limestone mine, there are 600 employees of the Office of Personnel Management. Their task is nothing top-secret. It is to process the retirement papers of the government’s own workers.

But that system has a spectacular flaw. It still must be done entirely by hand, and almost entirely on paper.  The employees here pass thousands of case files from cavern to cavern and then key in retirees’ personal data, one line at a time. They work underground not for secrecy but for space. The old mine’s tunnels have room for more than 28,000 file cabinets of paper records.
---
During the past 30 years, administrations have spent more than $100 million trying to automate the old-fashioned process in the mine and make it run at the speed of computers.  They couldn’t.
--
The task takes so much time in part because Congress has made the federal retirement rules extremely complex. The center’s workers must verify and key in information that answers a huge range of questions: What were the retiree’s three years of highest salary? Was the retiree a firefighter? A military veteran? A cafeteria worker at the U.S. Capitol? What about part-time service?

All those answers can change the final pension payment. “One hundred years of bad laws,” McCandless said.
--
A recent study by the Standish Group, a firm in Boston that researches failures, found that only 5 percent of large federal IT projects in the last decade fully succeeded.  Of the rest, 41 percent were failures, canceled before they were turned on.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 AM | Permalink

March 25, 2014

Lights out

I often write about how responsible adults should be prepared to survive a power outage that could extend for several days.  However, we all depend on the government to protect us against longer outages.  If the nation's electrical grid could be so easily sabotaged, shouldn't the government make it a national priority to harden this infrastructure?

The Wall St Journal  U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack  Federal Analysis Says Sabotage of Nine Key Substations Is Sufficient for Broad Outage

The U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out just nine of the country's 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a scorching summer day, according to a previously unreported federal analysis.

The study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that coordinated attacks in each of the nation's three separate electric systems could cause the entire power network to collapse, people familiar with the research said.

A small number of the country's substations play an outsize role in keeping power flowing across large regions. The FERC analysis indicates that knocking out nine of those key substations could plunge the country into darkness for weeks, if not months….

No federal rules require utilities to protect vital substations except those at nuclear power plants. Regulators recently said they would consider imposing security standards…..Many sites aren't staffed and are protected by little more than chain-link fences and cameras.
--
"The power grid, built over many decades in a benign environment, now faces a range of threats it was never designed to survive," said Paul Stockton, a former assistant secretary of defense and president of risk-assessment firm Cloud Peak Analytics. "That's got to be the focus going forward."

Which is why the assault on the California power grid last April by snipers who knocked out 17 giant transformers that funnel power into Silicon Valley before disappearing in the night is so worrying.

What if all the lights go out? The U.S. is at risk of a nationwide blackout — and policymakers and industry have known this for years.

According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission study disclosed by the Journal, a few dozen of the substations are so important to the flow of energy that knocking out just nine of them would cause a metastasizing blackout that stretched from coast to coast. And replacement transformers for these substations can take more than a year to build, deliver and install, in part because most are made overseas.
---
But why did it take almost a year after snipers used a PG&E substation for target practice, and more than 12 years after the 9/11 terrorists showed their affinity for unconventional assaults, before FERC acted? Instead, the commission left its rules unchanged until the news media reported the previously unheralded PG&E attack. …the commission's effort to improve security is a welcome development. But as part of that work, FERC should also address the frightening challenges posed by the grid's reliance on custom-fitted equipment that can take months, if not years, to replace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

March 22, 2014

Longer Reads for the weekend

The Secret Auden  by Edward Mendelson

W.H. Auden had a secret life that his closest friends knew little or nothing about. Everything about it was generous and honorable. He kept it secret because he would have been ashamed to have been praised for it.

David Goldman on The Rise of Secular Religion   Today’s secular liberals are the direct descendants of the past century’s Puritans and Protestants, deeply concerned with matters of sin and salvation in the church of politics.

Daniel Greenfield on The Genocidal Duck Whisperers of the Post-Human Left  Eugenics under the guise of Population, Health and Environment (PHE) which integrates population control into environmentalist initiatives.

High Finance in the U.K. The Much-Too-Special Relationship by Nicolas Shaxson
The City of London threatens U.S. security and abets corruption. Revisionist powers like Russia have figured out this dynamic and are busy exploiting it.

The first part shows that the United Kingdom is the single most important player in a global system of offshore tax havens, and has facilitated and even enthusiastically—if discreetly—encouraged the élite looting of pretty much every country in the world, from Pakistan to Greece to Libya to Mexico, typically via U.S., British and Swiss banks. This is a national security issue par excellence, now revealed in its fullness through the Crimea affair, let’s call it. This British offshore system is a fast-growing cash cow for the City, which will fight to protect it.

The second part of the story tells of how the City of London has spent half a century building a business model based on thwarting and opposing U.S. laws and regulations. It is crucial to understand that this is a deliberate feature of the modern City, not an incidental side effect.

The third reveals the aforementioned depth of Britain’s political capture by the City of London, which makes Britain a thoroughly untrustworthy ally not only with regard to Russia, but many other portfolios as well.
--
One of the great incentives offered by offshore financial centres is lax or even absent financial regulation: Bring your money here, and we won’t regulate it. And that is exactly what happened in London from the 1950s onward. Confronted with this new variant of banking business, the Bank of England simply deemed these dollar trades in London to be outside its jurisdiction, effectively creating an unregulated space for them to trade in.
--
When the London-based bank HSBC bank reached a $1.9 billion settlement with U.S. authorities in 2012 for money laundering for Mexican drugs cartels and many others, British officials said they had no responsibility for oversight, even when the rules clearly state otherwise.
--
When a British or American or Swiss bank helps a foreign dictator and his or her cronies loot a poor country, and helps them stash and hide their winnings permanently offshore, that bank is an accomplice not just in criminal activity, but in that country’s governance problems, by helping its offshore-diving élites float above the societies they rule and trample over. U.S. banks are guilty enough of all these crimes, but Britain and its offshore empire have made offshore secrecy into an art form: an art of darkness, one might say, with apologies to Joseph Conrad.

A lovely story about Robert Downey

The Overprotected Kid

It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting. One very thorough study of “children’s independent mobility,” conducted in urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods in the U.K., shows that in 1971, 80 percent of third-graders walked to school alone. By 1990, that measure had dropped to 9 percent, and now it’s even lower.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2014

"The government has become primarily a massive money-transfer machine"

This is astonishing.  70% Of U.S. Spending Is Writing Checks To Individuals

The government has become primarily a massive money-transfer machine, taking $2.6 trillion from some and handing it back out to others. These government transfers now account for 15% of GDP, another all-time high. In 1991, direct payments accounted for less than half the budget and 10% of GDP.  What's more, the cost of these direct payments is exploding. Even after adjusting for inflation, they've shot up 29% under Obama.

The biggest chunk, 38.6%, goes to pay health bills, either through Medicare, Medicaid or ObamaCare. A third goes out in the form of Social Security checks. Only 21% goes toward poverty programs — or "income security" as it's labeled in the budget — and a mere 5% ends up in the hands of veterans.

So with what's left over everything else has to be cut back, especially the space program and the military.  Yet money was found for pet projects.  Obama Blew $120 Billion on Global Warming and wants $450 million more in his new budget

And the administration gave $5 million to the University of Tennessee to get students to dress up as fruits and vegetables in a "Get Fruved" campaign to convince students to adopt healthier lifestyles

Maybe they plan to make it up with fines like these, The EPA is charging $75,000/day over a private citizen’s pond

All Andy Johnson wanted to do was build a stock pond on his sprawling eight-acre Wyoming farm. He and his wife Katie spent hours constructing it, filling it with crystal-clear water, and bringing in brook and brown trout, ducks and geese. It was a place where his horses could drink and graze, and a private playground for his three children.

But instead of enjoying the fruits of his labor, the Wyoming welder says he was harangued by the federal government, stuck in what he calls a petty power play by the Environmental Protection Agency. He claims the agency is now threatening him with civil and criminal penalties – including the threat of a $75,000-a-day fine. …

The government says he violated the Clean Water Act by building a dam on a creek without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. Further, the EPA claims that material from his pond is being discharged into other waterways. Johnson says he built a stock pond — a man-made pond meant to attract wildlife — which is exempt from Clean Water Act regulations.

The property owner says he followed the state rules for a stock pond when he built it in 2012 and has an April 4-dated letter from the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office to prove it. …

But the EPA isn’t backing down and argues they have final say over the issue. They also say Johnson needs to restore the land or face the fines.

NB.  The EPA only has authority to regulate "navigable waterways" of the United States but has ceaselessly sought to expand its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2014

Has the IRS become politicized?

Bradley A. Smith: Connecting the Dots in the IRS Scandal 

The ‘smoking gun’ in the targeting of conservative groups has been hiding in plain sight….. The political pressure on the IRS to delay or deny tax-exempt status for conservative groups has been obvious to anyone who cares to open his eyes. It did not come from a direct order from the White House, but it didn't have to….

In 1170, King Henry II is said to have cried out, on hearing of the latest actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four knights then murdered the archbishop. Many in the U.S. media still willfully refuse to see anything connecting the murder of the archbishop to any actions or abuse of power by the king.

Strassel: All the President's IRS Agents  The targeting of groups opposed to the Democratic agenda has not ended—it's gotten worse.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee markup Thursday morning, Texas's Ted Cruz offered an amendment to prohibit IRS employees from deliberately targeting individuals or groups based on political views. It was unanimously rejected by every member of the Democratic majority.

Obama IRS Hires Al-Qaida Spy

Mohammad Weiss Rasool, whom the FBI busted last decade for tipping off an al-Qaida terrorist suspect, reportedly now works for the deputy IRS chief financial officer as a financial management analyst, drawing a lucrative salary at taxpayer expense.

According to investigative reporter Patrick Poole, who broke the explosive story in PJ Media, the Obama administration has let a Muslim man convicted of abusing sensitive government data have access to the sensitive financial data of millions of Americans at an agency known for abusing such information.  Astonishingly, the dangerous felon is still at the IRS, where he goes by the name "Weiss Russell."

George Will, The IRS has a one-sided interest in politics

The most intrusive and potentially most punitive federal agency has been politicized; the IRS has become an appendage of Barack Obama’s party. Furthermore, congruent with exhortations from some congressional Democrats, it is intensifying its efforts to suffocate groups critical of progressives, by delaying what once was the swift, routine granting of tax-exempt status.

So, the IRS, far from repenting of its abusive behavior, is trying to codify the abuses.

Daniel Henninger speculates on Lois Lerner's taking the fifth again

I think what is going on here is that the Obama people understand they are on very thin ice with this IRS investigation because abuse of power is not merely a political expression. It's a federal felony. You start pulling on that string and finding other people who conspired to impede a federal investigation, a lot of individuals are going to have very significant legal and political exposure. Lois Lerner is the one they are all hanging on to.

As Peggy Noonan wrote in America and the Aggressive Left.    "We are suffering in great part from the politicization of everything and the spread of government not in a useful way but a destructive one……People feel beset because they are. All these things are pieces of a larger, bullying ineptitude. And people know, they are aware."

If the IRS becomes a political tool to punish so-called enemies, it loses both authority and credibility.  More and more people and I am one of them are beginning to entertain and  support the idea of scrapping the whole IRS Code and instituting instead a flat tax along the lines Steve Forbes proposes

The federal tax code is beyond redemption. We should kill it and institute a flat tax. My flat-tax proposal calls for a 17% tax rate for all, with generous deductions for individuals and families ( a family of four would owe no federal income tax on their first $46,000). And that’s it—no tax on savings and no death tax. The federal corporate tax rate would be dropped to 17%, and capital investments would be expensed immediately. There are other worthy variations of the flat tax.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 PM | Permalink

February 25, 2014

Destroying veterans requests for exams to clear out the backlog

Your government at work and trying to look good

Department of Veterans Affairs employees destroyed veterans’ medical records to cancel backlogged exam requests

Employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) destroyed veterans’ medical files in a systematic attempt to eliminate backlogged veteran medical exam requests, a former VA employee told The Daily Caller.
--
Oliver Mitchell, a Marine veteran and former patient services assistant in the VA Greater Los Angeles Medical Center

We just didn’t have the resources to conduct all of those exams. Basically we would get about 3,000 requests a month for [medical] exams, but in a 30-day period we only had the resources to do about 800. That rolls over to the next month and creates a backlog,” Mitchell said. ”It’s a numbers thing. The waiting list counts against the hospitals efficiency. The longer the veteran waits for an exam that counts against the hospital as far as productivity is concerned.”

By 2008, some patients were “waiting six to nine months for an exam” and VA “didn’t know how to address the issue,” Mitchell said.

VA Greater Los Angeles Radiology department chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden initiated an “ongoing discussion in the department” to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans’ medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist, thus reducing the backlog, Mitchell said.
---
El-Saden, according to Mitchell, was “the person who said destroy the records.” And her plan was actually carried out during the Obama administration’s management of VA.

“That actually happened,” Mitchell said. “We had that discussion in November 2008 and then in March 2009 they started to delete the exams. Once you cancel or delete an order it automatically cancels out that record” so that no record of the exam requests remained.

Mitchell tried to blow the whistle on the scheme and ended up being transferred out of his department and eventually losing his job.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:43 PM | Permalink

February 24, 2014

"One day Mrs. Blackwood had the health insurance plan she had paid for for two decades. Then, “because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing.”

Stephen Blackwood writes in the WSJ,  ObamaCare and My Mother's Cancer Medicine
The news was dumbfounding. She used to have a policy that covered the drug that kept her alive. Now she's on her own.

Though I'm no expert on ObamaCare (at 10,000 pages, who could be?), I understand that the intention—or at least the rhetorical justification—of this legislation was to provide coverage for those who didn't have it. But there is something deeply and incontestably perverse about a law that so distorts and undermines the free activity of individuals that they can no longer buy and sell the goods and services that keep them alive. ObamaCare made my mother's old plan illegal, and it forced her to buy a new plan that would accelerate her disease and death. She awaits an appeal with her insurer.
--
The "Affordable" Care Act is a brutal, Procrustean disaster. In principle, it violates the irreducible particularity of human life, and in practice it will cause many individuals to suffer and die. We can do better, and we must.

Roger Kimball The human face of Obamacare

In some ways Stephen Blackwood’s case is typical. His mother, who had been diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of cancer in 2005 when she was only 49 had been receiving treatment through her insurer. She had had the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for nearly 20 years.  It was expensive, but so was her treatment. “It gave her access to any specialist or surgeon, and to the Sandostatin and other medications that were keeping her alive.” Then came November. She, like millions of other Americans, woke up one day and found out that her plan was cancelled. ….

The story Stephen Blackwood tells is like something out of Kafka—or, perhaps a closer analogy, like something out a totalitarian satrap, for there is nothing fictional about this nightmare. The mind-numbing bureaucracy. The stunning incompetence. The casual, unthinking brutality. It’s all there, coming to a shattered life near you. One day Mrs. Blackwood had the health insurance plan she had paid for for two decades. Then, “because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing.” Nothing. Nada. Nichts. Rien…..

So here you have it: Mrs. Blackwood “had an affordable health plan that covered her condition. Our lawmakers weren’t happy with that because . . . they wanted plans that were affordable and covered her condition. So they gave her a new one. It doesn’t cover her condition and it’s completely unaffordable.”  Got that?

This is no abstract political bargaining chip. It is the life of your mother, your child, your spouse. …

You won’t find chilly, insulated elites like Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama admitting it, but the blood of Mrs. Blackwood and millions of other Americans harmed by their thoughtless legislation is on their heads. Obamacare is a totalitarian scheme masquerading as a humanitarian enterprise.  Its human cost is incalculable, but already, just a few months in, we’re beginning to get a sense of the suffering it will cause.  When your treatment for cancer is disallowed, when your daughter cannot get the medicine she needs, when your mother’s insurance is cancelled, will you still go gently into that good night of liberal sanctimony? Or will you finally realize that when Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally transform the United States of America,” this might not have been the beneficent program The New York Times and other such outlets led you to believe?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2014

"Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game."

Administration to investigate news rooms and how they select news stories

The purpose of the proposed Federal Communications Commission study is to “identify and understand the critical information needs of the American public, with special emphasis on vulnerable-disadvantaged populations,” according to the agency.
--
“The FCC seems unable to keep its hands off the news media for any extended period of time,” Jeffrey Eisenach, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told FoxNews.com.  “It’s the same generic concern of needing a news nanny to make sure we’re all well informed,” he added. “The same people who are concerned about the NSA spying on Americans ought to be concerned about this.”

The FCC Wades Into the Newsroom by Ajit Pai.  Why is the agency studying 'perceived station bias' and asking about coverage choices?

News organizations often disagree about what Americans need to know. MSNBC, for example, apparently believes that traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., is the crisis of our time. Fox News, on the other hand, chooses to cover the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi more heavily than other networks. The American people, for their part, disagree about what they want to watch.

But everyone should agree on this: The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.

Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission, where I am a commissioner, does not agree. Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs," or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run.  A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.

The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about "the process by which stories are selected" and how often stations cover "critical information needs," along with "perceived station bias" and "perceived responsiveness to underserved populations."
--
Participation in the Critical Information Needs study is voluntary—in theory. Unlike the opinion surveys that Americans see on a daily basis and either answer or not, as they wish, the FCC's queries may be hard for the broadcasters to ignore. They would be out of business without an FCC license, which must be renewed every eight years.

Mark Steyn, All the News That Fits the Government Guidelines

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Government of the United States is increasingly corrupt. Its revenue agency is corrupt and its justice department is corrupt, so it's hardly surprising, in a hyper-regulatory regime where bureaucrats write their own rules and enforce them with their personal SWAT teams, that more peripheral government bodies find the temptation too much to resist. On Fox News today, Shannon Bream has been reporting on the Federal Communications Commission's plans to put government monitors in TV and radio newsrooms to assess their coverage of eight "critical information needs", and "underserved populations".
--
I was interested to see what the eight "critical information needs" - or CINs, in the regulatory jargon - actually are. You can find them listed in this report, from something called "Social Solutions International" of Silver Spring, Maryland:
Social Solutions has been tasked with the development of a research design that can be used to identify and understand the critical information needs (CINs) of the American public (with special emphasis on vulnerable/disadvantaged populations).
--
The state has no business determining which news stories have priorities over others, and certainly no business sending monitors into newsrooms to ensure compliance - because the essence of a functioning press is not what the state decrees the citizen has a "critical need" to know but what it doesn't think he needs to know. Why should "Social Solutions International" get to determine "the critical information needs of the American public"? And why should the government get to enforce them?…..

A quote from Salman Rushdie: "Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game." Because without free speech you can never be quite sure whether the ball game is even real
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 AM | Permalink

February 17, 2014

Priorities

Yearly Climate Spending 10x More Than UN Estimate for Ending World Hunger  Yet UN recommends another $147B be spent on warming.

The United Nations estimates it would cost $30 billion a year to end world hunger. That sounds like a lot, but the world spent more than ten times that amount in 2012 on global warming mitigation, according to a recent Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) study.
--
According to the Reuters analysis of the Summary for Policymakers of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, due to be released this April, the UN is calling on the world to invest an extra $147 billion a year in wind, solar, and nuclear power from 2010 to 2029. If we add that figure to CPI’s measure, the UN wants us to spend approximately $506 billion a year to mitigate global warming,

According to the UN, this amount would end world hunger for nearly 20 years.

So it will get a little hotter or a little colder in the future.  Whatever happens we can adapt.  But people who are starving suffer and die.  They can't adapt.

Food and clean water  - that's where our money should go.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:21 PM | Permalink

Who gives what to whom to influence politics

I never even heard of ActBlue before yet it is the top all time donor from 1989-2014 to political candidates and parties.

OpenSecrets.org has the list of the Heavy Hitters: Top All-Time Donors, 1989-2014 based on material released by the Federal Election Commission.

The top 16 donors give to the Democrat party except for 4 who give equally to both.  Twelve of the top 16 donors are unions.  Koch Industries, the bete noir of many leftists, ranks only 59th.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 PM | Permalink

February 10, 2014

What a politicized IRS means

What happens when the IRS becomes a tool for those in power.

You could be hounded like Catherine Engelbrecht

In nearly two decades of running our small business, my husband and I never dealt with any government agency, outside of filing our annual tax returns. We had never been audited, we had never been investigated, but all that changed upon submitting applications for the non-profit statuses of True the Vote and King Street Patriots. Since that filing in 2010, my private businesses, my nonprofit organizations, and family have been subjected to more than 15 instances of audit or inquiry by federal agencies.

* In 2011, my personal and business tax returns were audited by the Internal Revenue Service, each audit going back for a number of years.

* In 2012, my business was subjected to inspection by OSHA, on a select occasion when neither my husband nor I were present, and though the agency wrote that it found nothing serious or significant, it still issued fines in excess of $20,000.

* In 2012 and again in 2013 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms conducted comprehensive audits at my place business.

* Beginning in 2010, the FBI contacted my nonprofit organization on six separate occasions – wanting to cull through membership manifests in conjunction with domestic terrorism cases. They eventually dropped all matters and have now redacted nearly all my files.

You become too scared to work for or donate money to the candidate of your choice.  IRS also  targeted conservative donors

After the revelations of the IRS's targeting of conservative groups came to light, many potential donors to conservative and Tea Party groups said even though they wanted to donate to Tea Party and conservative groups, they did not do so because they were afraid the IRS would find out their identities.

t's just one story, but there's a smidgen of coincidence when six couples donated to Mitt Romney's campaign at a fundraiser in California...

My friends’ tax returns for 2012, both their personal and that of their business, were audited, with the dreaded correspondence originating not in the local IRS office but rather, oddly enough, in Cincinnati.  And in later discussing the matter with the people with whom they attended the fund-raiser, they learned that all six couples had endured the same ordeal.

The rules change in the middle of the game.  Organizations whose purpose is to promote “social welfare” have been given tax-free status since 1959 so long as politics does not become its main purpose. But now the IRS wants to change the game.

The new rules they propose expand the definition of “candidate-related activity” so broadly – to include voter-education campaigns and grassroots lobbying campaigns – and to forbid even the mention of a candidate in any context 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election – that it will make it impossible for these organizations to function.
---
IRS officials, whose job it is to collect taxes, have abused their power to harass those whose politics they do not like. And this is what the current attempt to shut down 501©(4) organizations by rewriting long-standing rules by which they operate is about.


You lose trust. 
An attorney with the IRS for 26 reveals the sick and corrupt culture at the IRS

I have personally witnessed improper giveaways of billions of dollars to taxpayers with inside access at the agency, bullying of elderly taxpayers, the cover-up of managerial embezzlement and misappropriation of thousands of dollars in government funds, and a retaliatory audit. I have also heard credible accounts of, among other things, further improper giveaways, blatant sexual harassment, and anti-Semitism. All of these matters have been swept under the rug.

No more fair presidential elections    Very possible IRS targeting impacted 2012 election

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice, said it was "very well possible" that the IRS's targeting and harassment of conservatives and Tea Party groups impacted the 2012 presidential election between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney

Sekulow said that there is evidence that the "groups being intimidated," even those that did not realize it at the time, had a "significant impact on the election." He said it is "very well possible" that the 2012 election was impacted by an "aggressive, continuous, and systemic intimidation factor by the IRS with applications still pending… for three years."

But if you belong to the right party, you don't have to worry about consequences. "Who is going to jail over this scandal?"

The Commissioner of the IRS lied to Congress in March 2012 when he said there was absolutely no targeting, … "lying to Congress is a crime."

Department of Justice refuses to investigate who it was that was responsible for releasing confidential tax information of Koch Industries…Or who released the National Organization of Marriage's tax return?….. It is a criminal offense to release confidential tax returns.

Barbara Bosserman, an Obama political donor appointed to head Justice Department’s IRS investigation

In the midst of the ongoing criminal investigation, the President himself says there's not even a "smidgen of corruption."
This despite the fact the FBI hasn't even interviewed the victims yet.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

February 6, 2014

Scary is the word for the cybersecurity at federal agencies

It's not just Healthcare.gov that's  a "honeypot for hackers" where applicants have "no reasonable expectation of privacy"

Senate cybersecurity report finds agencies often fail to take basic preventive measures against even modestly skilled hackers.

The report…paints a broader picture of chronic dysfunction, citing repeated failures by federal officials to perform the unglamorous work of information security. That includes installing security patches, updating anti-virus software, communicating on secure networks and requiring strong passwords. A common password on federal systems, the report found, is “password".

The report levels particularly tough criticism at the Department of Homeland Security, which helps oversee cybersecurity at other federal agencies. The report concluded that the department had failed even to update essential software — “the basic security measure just about any American with a computer has performed.”

Report: 4 in 10 Government Security Breaches Go Undetected  DHS, DOJ, DOD, EPA, NASA, Energy, State routinely hacked

Nearly every agency has been attacked, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Defense, State, Labor, Energy, and Commerce. NASA, the EPA, the FDA, the U.S. Copyright Office, and the National Weather Service have also been hacked or had personal information stolen.

In one example, hackers breached the national Emergency Broadcast System in February 2013 to broadcast “zombie attack warnings” in several midwestern states.
--
Even worse, nearly four in 10 intrusions into major civilian agencies go undetected….
---
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which contains volumes of information on the nation’s nuclear facilities, “regularly experiences unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information,” according to the report.

The agency has “no official process for reporting” breaches, cannot keep track of how many laptops it has, and kept information on its own cybersecurity programs, and its commissioner’s “passport photo, credit card image, home address, and phone number,” on an unsecure shared drive.
--
“Weaknesses in the federal government’s own cybersecurity have put at risk the electrical grid, our financial markets, our emergency response systems, and our citizens’ personal information,” Coburn, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “While politicians like to propose complex new regulations, massive new programs, and billions in new spending to improve cybersecurity, there are very basic—and critically important—precautions that could protect our infrastructure and our citizens’ private information that we simply aren’t doing.”
--
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:07 AM | Permalink

"Not even a smidgen of corruption" at the IRS

George Will says the IRS targeting scandal is one of the three biggest political scandals in the past years, on par with Watergate and Iran-Contra.

President Obama in his interview with Bill O'Reilly  Not even a smidgen” of corruption,"

He adamantly rejected the suggestion that the IRS was used for political purposes by singling out Tea Party groups seeking tax exemption.  “That’s not what happened,” he said. Rather, he said, IRS officials were confused about how to implement the law governing those kinds of tax-exempt groups.“There were some bone-headed decisions,” Obama conceded.

But when asked whether corruption, or mass corruption, was at play, he responded: “Not even mass corruption -- not even a smidgen of corruption.”

Documents Show IRS Maneuvered To Regulate Tea Party Groups And Keep It “Hidden From The Public”

Email: IRS’s Lerner, Treasury Department secretly drafted new rules to restrict nonprofits

The Treasury Department and Lerner started devising the new rules “off-plan,” meaning that their plans would not be published on the public schedule. They planned the new rules in 2012, while the IRS targeting of conservative groups was in full swing, and not after the scandal broke in order to clarify regulations as the administration has suggested.

IRS planned secret new rules to justify targeting tea party groups two years ago, reveals bombshell email

Investigators still haven't interviewed many conservative groups that were denied tax-exempt status while their liberal counterparts sailed through

Obama's IRS 'Confusion'  New evidence undercuts White House claims about IRS motivation.

Mr. Camp added that everything his committee has discovered contradicts the White House argument that the IRS scandal was caused by legal "confusion." The current rules governing 501©(4)s have existed, unchanged, since 1959. Prior to 2010 the IRS processed and approved tax-exempt applications in fewer than three months with no apparent befuddlement.

The IRS hyper-scrutiny of conservative groups only began in 2010 amid the Obama Administration's larger political attack on political donors like the Koch brothers, and emails show that IRS officials were acutely aware of this political environment. In February 2010, for example, an IRS screener in Cincinnati flagged an application to his superiors noting: "Recent media attention to this type of organization indicates to me that this is a 'high profile' case."

From then on applications were routed through the offices of Mrs. Lerner and Obama-appointed IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, and long approval delays ensued. Extensive interviews and emails show that neither the initial Cincinnati interest, nor the subsequent Washington delay, was in any way driven by "confusion."

Taking the IRS Fifth If everything was kosher, why won't Lois Lerner talk to Congress?

New IRS Head Apologizes to Conservatives for Scandal Obama Doesn’t Think Exists

The new head of the IRS has apologized to those who suffered because of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups, after he testified before a House subcommittee for the first time.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told reporters after the hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee that the singling out of such organizations for special scrutiny would be “intolerable,” and vowed the IRS is not doing so now.

“It won't happen going forward,” Koskinen said. “And to the extent that people suffered accordingly, I apologize for that.”

Embattled IRS plans employee bonuses for 2013 work to ‘boost morale’It’s hard to think of a group of people less deserving of bonuses than IRS employees. Frankly, this is outrageous,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 1, 2014

"They call it rage. But it feels more like grief"

Peggy Noonan in a must-read piece, Meanwhile, Back in America expresses  what half or more of the country is feeling these days.

All these things—the pushing around of nuns, the limiting of freedoms that were helping kids get a start in life, the targeting of conservative groups—all these things have the effect of breaking bonds of trust between government and the people. They make citizens see Washington as an alien and hostile power.

Washington sees the disaffection. They read the polls, they know.

They call it rage. But it feels more like grief. Like the loss of something you never thought you'd lose, your sense of your country and your place in it, your rights in it.

While In Forbes, Obama's Weaponization of Government

Everyone in the House Chamber knew something that the American people have yet to fully grasp and Republicans have yet to demonstrate an ability to combat – that their government has grown so large, so complex, so involved in virtually every aspect of their lives, that it is now being used as a weapon to by a small segment of the ruling political class.
--
There is a dangerous arrogance of power among the President and senior-level Democrats that should concern every American.

Last week a senior United States Senator gave a speech stating that the IRS should be used to target and punish groups that disagree with the Democratic Party’s political agenda.  Sen. Chuck Schumer stated, “…there are many things that can be done administratively by the IRS and other government agencies — we must redouble those efforts immediately.”
--
The IRS scandal is well-known and the misuse of the agency by the Democrat Party machine is still apparently going on.  However, the IRS is just one of dozens of other agencies under the control of this White House, many of which go unnoticed by the public and are virtually ignored by elected officials.

There are the new revelations about the Administration intimidating banks to prevent them from doing business with a number of legitimate businesses…..Operation Choke Point….

The Administration is refusing to answer any Congressional inquiries about Operation Choke Point….

Then there’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau… a key cog in the Obama Administration’s effort to regulate industries and personal decision-making.  ..

Unfortunately for Americans, this little-known agency is housed as part of the Federal Reserve so it exists outside of the direct pervue of Congress.  How convenient for the President.

As the Washington Examiner’s Richard Pollack recently reported, “they assume all businesses are predatory,” which allegedly gives them the ability to collect up to 96 separate data points from more than 1 billion credit cards.  That’s right – your government is now keeping tabs on how you spend your money.
--
In just the last two weeks more EPA emails showed the coordinated effort between Administration policy-makers and environmental groups over the stalling of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  The Agency’s most recent ridiculous regulatory announcement actually banned the production and sale of 80 percent of the country’s wood-burning stoves.

And on and on

Our system of government is based on checks and balances.  Ever since the beginning of the 20th Century, the Executive has, to one degree or another, been the dominant branch of government in large part due to the explosion of the Federal bureaucracy.  Hundreds of agencies, departments, programs, task forces, and commissions are an arsenal that in the wrong hands can be used against the very freedom the government is supposed to uphold, protect and defend. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

January 30, 2014

The California Drought

The drought in California is so bad that some Bay Area communities could run out of water within 4 months.

In some districts, the wells are running dry while other reservoirs are nearly empty.
--
Some districts have long-running problems that began before the drought. Larger communities like Santa Clara Valley however, have fared better because of long-running conservation programs.

Springs that supply the state historical monument are running at just one-sixth normal and as a result Hearst Castle's fountains and pool are drying up

A powerful ridge of high pressure parked over Northern California has been responsible for a record 52 days of no precipitation in Sacramento.

The State Drought is called a  Disaster In Slow Motion With Wildfires, Dry Wells

So far this year, Cal Fire has responded to more than 400 wildfires that have burned more than 1,000 acres. The five-year average for this time of year is 70 fires and 130 acres.

California  is the nation’s leader in dairy cows, and fourth overall in the U.S. for total number of cattle, trailing Texas, Nebraska and Kansas,  Now ranchers are selling their cattle because there's no grass and little water.

Governor Jerry Brown says he’s prepared to move water from Southern California to drier areas of the state as conditions worsen.

“The president called me today. He offered to do whatever he can do. He obviously can’t make it rain,” he said. “But there are some parts of California that are more privileged from the point of view of water availability than others. So we have systems. We can transfer it. But there are a lot of water rights, a lot of rules, so we’ve got to cut through that and make sure that those who need it most get the water to the extent we have it available.”

This map shows just how bad the drought is today and how badly the Central Valley has been impacted.

 Drought Central Valley

The water shortage like so many other crises in California has been exacerbated by government. Californians are getting another first-hand lesson in the high costs of green regulation.

Local water districts that supply southern California, the Bay Area and the southern San Joaquin Valley may receive only 5% of their contractual allocations this year while growers in the heart of the valley might be cut off completely. Supplies for residents north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta could be sharply restricted for the first time.
--
Suffering the most are farmers south of the delta whose water allocations have plunged over the last two decades due to endangered-species protections. According to the Western Growers Association, up to 4.4 million acre-feet of water is diverted annually to environmental uses like wildlife refuges and salmon restoration. That's enough to sustain 4.4 million families, irrigate 1.1 million acres of land and grow more than 100 million tons of grapes.

Farmers are having to fallow hundreds of thousands of acres and pump groundwater, which depletes aquifers and can cause land subsidence. One irony here is that environmentalists are destroying one of FDR's great public-works programs—irrigating the naturally arid San Joaquin Valley.
--
California's biggest water hog is the three-inch smelt, which can divert up to one million acre-feet in a wet year. In 2008, federal regulators at the prodding of green groups restricted water exports south to protect the smelt, which have a suicidal tendency to swim into the delta's pumps. While wildlife refuges have continued to receive all 400,000 acre-feet of water they're entitled to under environmental regulations, farmers haven't gotten 100% of their water allocations since 2006. Even during years of heavy precipitation, federal regulators have supplied growers with 45% to 80% of their contractual deliveries.

More on the Green Drought  For the sake of the smelt, California farmland lies fallow.

“Factory” is a good word to describe California’s San Joaquin Valley. But “laboratory” might be a little better, for the region is an agri-tinkerer’s delight. The soil being uncharacteristically fertile and the summers being long and dry, growers are afforded that most valuable of things: control. Emancipated from Gaia’s caprice, farmers here can determine precisely not only how much water they wish to provide to their crops but when to add it, too. Which is to say that, in the Central Valley, irrigation is achieved not by the whimsy of the sky but by deliberately placed pipes, pumps, and microprocessors. It is here that the ancient earth meets the best of technology; where Silicon Valley meshes with the baser elements and, together, they yield life. …. This place is a miracle — a vast greenhouse in which, unmolested by the elements and provided with incomparably fecund terrain, farmers can do their thing as never before.

Just under 13 percent of all agricultural production in the United States takes place in the region, which the locals refer to proudly as “the Food Basket of the World”
--
Suddenly, as if crossing a line of demarcation — I am reminded of Checkpoint Charlie, the gate that linked West and East Berlin — we leave healthy fields bursting with life, and we arrive at . . . well, we arrive at nothing: just dust, quiet, and a few pieces of unused farming equipment. It’s quite the shift: a real-life Before and After comparison. And sadly, most of the farm looks like this. Some 9,000 of Harris’s 15,000 acres are fallow — devoid of water and therefore of crops and of workers and of attention. “Uncertainty is the new normal,” CEO John Harris sighs from the driver’s seat, his smile disappearing. “This is no way to run anything.
--
That the drought is making planning all but impossible is a refrain I hear all across the region.
--
The Central Valley’s woes began in earnest in 2007, when the hardline Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) won a lawsuit against California’s intricate water-delivery system, sending farmers like John Harris into a tailspin. In court, the NRDC’s lawyers contended that the vast pumps that help to funnel water from the reservoirs up in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta down to the Central Valley, to Southern California, and to the Bay Area were sucking in and shredding an unacceptable number of smelt — and, the smelt being protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1994, that this was illegal.
---
In 2007, the pumps were turned down; the Delta’s water output was lowered dramatically, contingent now upon the interests of a fish; and the farms that rely on the system in order to grow their crops were thrown into veritable chaos. Predictably, a man-made drought began.

This is a classic tale of activist government run amok — and, too, of the peculiarly suicidal instincts that rich and educated societies exhibit when they reach maturity.
--
Driving out of Harris Ranch after my tour, I am met by a string of protest signs that have been erected by a neighboring farmer. “STOP THE CONGRESS CREATED DUST BOWL!” one reads. “NO WATER = NO JOBS!” says another. A third has some choice words for Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer. The farmers here are frustrated, of course. But their unease is nothing compared with that of their workers….

“Seeing what having no water in this valley did to our communities in 2009,” Gutierrez tells me, “I had to get involved. It was devastating: The unemployment rate was 45 percent; people were standing in food lines. It had a terrifying impact…..“People think of rich farmers,” Gutierrez continues, “but they don’t think about the people who actually work on these farms.”
--
It is a choice that will be difficult to unmake. Suing is futile. … Because the ESA holds that researchers can declare their work private property, scientists must release only their findings and may keep their data and methods secret. Even when the work has been made public, the government’s case has been flimsy at best.
---
Of all our present troubles, California’s farming woes are perhaps the most inexplicably sourced and the most easily fixed. Complacently convinced of their infallibility, legislators in the nation’s richest state have prostrated themselves at the feet of many silly ideas in recent years. But for authorities to have put the livelihood of millions of citizens at the mercy of a tiny little fish is almost too much to bear.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:26 PM | Permalink

January 23, 2014

Administration fears part of Obamacare so flawed, it could bankrupt insurance companies

Well, the Administration has finally admitted it fears part of health care system so flawed it could bankrupt insurance companies, Jim Angle reports:

To justify a no-bid contract with Accenture after firing CGI as the lead contractor, the administration released documents from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services that offered a rare glimpse of its worst fears, saying the problems with the website puts "the entire health insurance industry at risk" … "potentially leading to their default and disrupting continued services and coverage to consumers."

Then it went even further, saying if the problems were not fixed by mid-March, "they will result in financial harm to the government."

It even added that without the fixes "the entire health care reform program is jeopardized."
--
But the back end still hasn't been built, so insurers are dealing with massive confusion, missing information on who's signed up and what subsidies they get.
--
The administration emphasizes that fixing the site by mid-March is urgent. Otherwise the system could descend into chaos and threaten the future of ObamaCare.

Today, Moody's slashes outlook on insurers, cites Obamacare 'uncertainty

Credit ratings firm Moody's Investors Service on Thursday lowered its outlook for health insurers to "negative" from "stable," citing "uncertainty" swirling around the rollout of President Obama's health care law.

In a new report, the agency said that the outlook for insurance companies is no longer clear because the law's insurance exchanges haven't been attracting enough younger individuals. In addition, Moody's analysts were concerned that the Obama administration has been changing regulations after insurers had already set prices for the year.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:28 PM | Permalink

January 22, 2014

Obamacare now beyond rescue

Megan McArdle, Resolved: Obamacare Is Now Beyond Rescue

By “beyond rescue,” I mean that the original vision of the law will not be fulfilled -- the cost-controlling, delivery-system-improving, health-enhancing, deficit-reducing, highly popular, tightly integrated (and smoothly functioning) system for ensuring that everyone who wants coverage can get it.

The law still lacks the political legitimacy to survive in the long term. And in a bid to increase that legitimacy, the administration has set two very dangerous precedents: It has convinced voters that no unpopular provisions should ever be allowed to take effect, and it has asserted an executive right to rewrite the law, which Republicans can just as easily use to unravel this tangled web altogether.

Many of the commentators I’ve read seem to think that the worst is over, as far as unpopular surprises. In fact, the worst is yet to come. Here’s what’s ahead:

She and Scott Gottlieb debated Jonathan Chait and Douglas Kamerow on the Upper West Side in NYC and won!

Scott spoke eloquently about the ways in which narrow networks and the focus on Medicaid are going to deliver an unacceptable quality of care. I talked about why this, among other things, makes the system so unstable.

In a nutshell, Obamacare has so far fallen dramatically short of what was expected -- technically, and in almost every other way. …The administration and its supporters have been counting on the coverage expansion to put Obamacare beyond repeal. So what if the coverage expansion is anemic, the plans bare-bones, the website sort of a disaster?…

…..The Barack Obama administration is in emergency mode, pasting over political problems with administrative fixes of dubious legality, just to ensure the law’s bare survival -- which is now their incredibly low bar for “success.”

Although the fixes may solve the short-term political problems, however, they destabilize the markets, which also need to work to ensure the law’s survival. The president is destroying his own law in order to save it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:49 PM | Permalink

January 14, 2014

Crony capitalism is why we can't buy 100, 60 or 40 watt incandescent lightbulbs.

Crony capitalism isn't just a catch phrase.  It effects all of us and not for the better.  The best example is the ordinary light bulb, the incandescent light bulb that we've all used for years.  On Jan 1, 60 and 40 watt bulbs were banned.

The Washington Examiner discusses how Industry, not environmentalists, killed traditional bulbs.. The competition among  Industry giants life GE, Phillips and Sylvania kept the cost of light bulbs low and the profits as well.  But they couldn't get consumers to buy their fancy halogen, LED and fluorescent bulbs which were more expensive and delivered much higher profits.    People preferred the far cheaper light bulbs that worked perfectly well, that delivered a warm, more aesthetically pleasing light and that didn't have mercury in them which in the new bulbs practically required a haz mat team if a bulb broke so extensive were the precautions that had to be taken.

So the industry giants got behind

The 2007 Energy Bill, a stew of regulations and subsidies, set mandatory efficiency standards for most light bulbs. Any bulbs that couldn't produce a given brightness at the specified energy input would be illegal. That meant the 25-cent bulbs most Americans used in nearly every socket of their home would be outlawed.
--
Light bulb manufacturers whole-heartedly supported the efficiency standards. General Electric, Sylvania and Philips — the three companies that dominated the bulb industry — all backed the 2007 rule, while opposing proposals to explicitly outlaw incandescent technology (thus leaving the door open for high-efficiency incandescents).

This wasn't a case of an industry getting on board with an inevitable regulation in order to tweak it. The lighting industry was the main reason the legislation was moving.

So, simply the threat of competition kept profit margins low on the traditional light bulb — that's the magic of capitalism. GE and Sylvania searched for higher profits by improving the bulb — think of the GE Soft White bulb. These companies, with their giant research budgets, made advances with halogen, LED and fluorescent technologies, and even high-efficiency incandescents. They sold these bulbs at a much higher prices — but they couldn’t get many customers to buy them for those high prices. That's the hard part about capitalism — consumers, not manufacturers, get to demand what something is worth.

Capitalism ruining their party, the bulb-makers turned to government. Philips teamed up with NRDC. GE leaned on its huge lobbying army — the largest in the nation — and soon they were able to ban the low-profit-margin bulbs.

Kimberly Strassel  The Year of the Washington Power Grab  It's corporate cronyism.

In ObamaWorld, winners and losers are chosen by the federal government.

This past year will be remembered for many things, but let 2013 be hailed mainly for this: It was the year that the genius of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" became clear in America. Efforts to centralize control in the name of "fairness" have led to a society that is ever more at the mercy of a federal power—one that decides who does and does not succeed. The winners are favored special interests, political cronies and wealthy lobbyists. The losers are everyone else.
---
Indeed, in ObamaWorld, many millionaires, health-care buyers, energy companies, subprime dealers, political groups, and bird killers are more equal than others. Our new elite is ever more defined by who has the best pull with the administration. So long as government grows, so too will this government-created inequality.  They didn't like the 'efficient' bulbs which were far more expensive, sometimes 20x as expensive that were slow to warm up, cast a cold light and contained a small amount of mercury,

60% Still Oppose Government's Light Bulb Ban

Only one-in-four Americans support the ban on conventional 40- and 60-watt light bulbs in the United States that went into effect January 1, and the same number say they or someone they know stocked up on the old bulbs beforehand.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 PM | Permalink

Why the government should not be running health care

Obama Care This Is What Government-Run Health Care Looks Like

More than two-thirds of the public don't think the government can be trusted to run the nation's health care system successfully. ObamaCare is proving these skeptics right.

The public might not agree on much these days, but one thing it overwhelmingly believes is that government is ill-equipped to manage one-sixth of the economy — 67% said so in the January IBD/TIPP poll.
---
Many plans say only 60% of signees have paid their first premium so far. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield reports that as of Jan. 3 just 8% of those who signed up with Connecticut's exchange had done so.  As a result, even though insurers pushed back payment deadlines that they'd already extended once, many of the 2 million who signed up for ObamaCare will end up disenrolled — creating yet another crisis.
--
Confusion, bureaucracy, delays, crony capitalism, taxpayer bailouts. This is what health care under government control looks like. And this is just the beginning.

Obamacare's Spanish-Language Site Written Not In Spanish but… Spanglish

[T]he translations were so clunky and full of grammatical mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated — the name of the site itself can literally be read "for the caution of health."

"When you get into the details of the plans, it's not all written in Spanish. It's written in Spanglish, so we end up having to translate it for them," said Adrian Madriz, a health care navigator who helps with enrollment in Miami.

This inspirational, disabled family lost its health coverage, and it’s Obamacare’s fault.  Their twin children both with brittle bone disease were denied coverage.  The father has cerebral palsy, the mother has brittle bone disease.

It’s hard to see the Daverts’ situation as anything other than a stinging rebuke of the president’s signature healthcare reform, according to Anne Schieber, senior investigative analyst at the Mackinac Center.

“It’s hard to believe that Obamacare is hurting the very families it was suppose to help,” Schieber told The Daily Caller. “Imagine a family with significant disabilities now thinking about taking out loans and re-entering the workforce just to pay for health insurance.  This is what happens when government meddles with a critical segment of the economy instead of allowing the free market to do its magic.”

An Obamacare supporter recounts his misadventures dealing with HealthCare.gov

We struggled with the healthcare.gov website for months. Every so often, we’d return to find Miles’ application for eligibility stuck in some “pending” netherworld. The Phone People said to wait a few weeks and try again. Nothing ever happened, except that the site said at varying times the application was “in progress” or “incomplete.” I lost count of how many times I re-entered the same information because some Phone Person told me to try that.

The deadline to sign up was Dec. 23, so by Dec. 20 we were frantic. I finally broke down and called the Obamacare navigators in our region, the folks supposedly deputized to guide helpless souls to the finish line. Only two of the five I reached out to even responded, one to say she’d be on vacation for the rest of the year (?!?) and the other to say she was booked solid with other desperate customers. I guess we were supposed to know that the website would never, ever work and plan ahead for that.
--
Three days into 2014, Miles took his Obamacare out for its maiden drive. His stop at the doctor went fine. At the pharmacy, it crashed.  His medication — which has cost us a co-pay of between $10 and $30 under every other plan he’s had since 2004 including one under Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan — would not be covered. At all.  That’s $438 out of pocket. Every month. And it won’t even go against the plan deductible.
--
Much more troubling than the fact that we received so much worthless and conflicting information was that there was nobody to appeal to, nobody to trust.

USA Today editorializes Obamacare overreach tramples Little Sisters

The administration is now stuck arguing that it is justified in compelling nuns who care for the elderly poor to assist in offering health insurance that they say conflicts with their religious beliefs. Talk about a political loser.
--
From a health care standpoint, the Affordable Care Act's mandate that all employers provide coverage, without co-pays, for contraceptives is sound. It is important preventive care. So says the prestigious Institute of Medicine, arbiter of such things.

Wisely, churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, but the administration wrote rules so narrowly that they failed to exempt Catholic and other religiously affiliated hospitals, colleges and charities. Its position was constitutionally suspect, politically foolish and ultimately unproductive. The number of women affected is likely so small that the administration could find some less divisive way to provide the coverage.

Instead, the administration is battling Catholic bishops and nuns, Southern Baptists, Christ-centered colleges and assorted religious non-profits that filed challenges across the country.
--
The lawsuits stem from an "accommodation" President Obama offered after his too-narrow religious exemption caused an uproar in 2012.  The accommodation is more of a fig leaf than a fix: Although religiously affiliated non-profits do not have to supply birth control coverage themselves, they must sign a certification that allows their insurance companies to provide it instead. Some non-profits have acquiesced, but not the Little Sisters and others who argue that this makes them complicit in an act that violates a tenet of their faith. If the non-profits refuse to sign, they face ruinous fines — $4.5 million a year for just two of the Little Sisters' 30 homes.

Federal Government Spends $175 Million on Penis Pumps, Paying More Than Double the Actual Price for the Devices

“Medicare currently pays suppliers more than twice as much for VES as the Department of Veterans Affairs and consumers over the Internet pay for these types of devices,” the IG found.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 PM | Permalink

Burying the IRS Scandal

No one's to blame.  Nothing to see here, move along.

The Fix Is In in the IRS Abuse Scandal

President Obama himself at least set the tone that led to the abuse of conservative, Christian and Tea Party groups by calling for them to be investigated in several of his public comments. He may have done a whole lot more than just set the tone. Obama placed William Wilkins into the IRS counsel’s office, and that office was responsible for developing the IRS guidelines that led to the targeting of the president’s opponents. IRS chief counsel Wilkins met with President Obama just two days before his office handed out the guidelines that agents used to target the president’s opponents. A day after that, the head of the IRS workers union also met with President Obama. Either of these meetings looks bad, but both together look terrible. Also, then IRS commissioner Doug Shulman attended 118 meetings in the White House across the time of the abuse.

The IRS targeted more than just groups formed to oppose the president. It went after individuals, too, including Christine O’Donnell and Catherine Engelbrecht.    Engelbrecht, founder of the election integrity King Street Patriots group, has had to fend off an alphabet soup of federal executive branch agencies. Who has the power to coordinate the activities of all those agencies, and send them after someone doing something that the president, by suing states that enact voter ID, has made clear that he does not like? The power to make all those agencies jump rests in the White House. Nowhere else.

Holder Will File No Charges In IRS Harassment of Tea Partiers Matter;

Tea Party Lawyer: “This has been a big, bureaucratic, former-Soviet-Union-type investigation, which means that there was no investigation”

As you know, Barack Obama, who heard about this when you did, was "outraged" by it all.

Obama admin’s IRS investigation appears to be a sham

The federal government’s criminal investigation of the IRS targeting scandal, spearheaded by the FBI and Holder’s Department of Justice, has long been considered a joke by insiders. DOJ civil rights lawyer Barbara Bosserman, who contributed $6,100 to Obama’s political campaigns between 2008 and 2012, was secretly chosen to lead the DOJ’s investigation, Issa’s oversight committee recently discovered.

FBI investigators went more than half a year without contacting any of the 41 victimized conservative groups represented in an American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) lawsuit against the IRS, even though White House press secretary Jay Carney was able to conclude that the IRS matter was just one of a number of “phony scandals” surrounding the Obama administration.

Wall Street Journal editorial:  The IRS Gets a Pass:'

Not every scandal is a crime, but if the report is right it means no one will be held accountable in any meaningful way for the misuse of the taxing power of the state. This is why Americans don't trust government.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 PM | Permalink

January 8, 2014

A Cheaper and Superior Health Plan --at Walmart

Walmart Health Plan More Affordable and Superior to Obamacare

A Washington Examiner evaluation of Walmart's employee healthcare plan rated it superior to and more affordable than Obamacare. Over the years, Walmart has been undermined by unions and liberal activists, who claim that the retail giant is “notorious” for providing “substandard” healthcare plans.

The former president of the Illinois State Association of Health Underwriters, Robert Slayton, said that in Chicago, Obamacare offers a restricted list of hospital participation. Walmart, on the other hand, belongs to a national healthcare network that provides almost twice as many participating hospitals. What's more, Walmart's network of doctors dwarfs Obamacare's. “You will notice there are 9,837 doctors [under Obamacare]. But the larger network is 24,904 doctors. Huge, huge difference,” Slayton said.
--
Unfortunately, many top-rated hospitals included in the Walmart plan – such as the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics – are left out of most Obamacare exchange plans. Astonishingly, McCaughey cautions, “People who are seriously ill need to stay away from these exchange plans."

In addition to better care, the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that unsubsidized Obamacare enrollees will incur monthly premiums up to nine times higher than Walmart premiums. JAMA indicated that the unsubsidized premium for a nonsmoking couple age 60 can cost $1,365 per month, while the Walmart monthly premium for the same couple would be $134 per month.

 Chart Walmart-V-Obamacare

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

January 3, 2014

The Continuing Trainwreck

The latest on the continuing train wreck of Obamacare.

Novitas Solutions, the company hired to build the back-end payment systems of Healthcare.gov which is still not built is notorious in Dallas anyway for paying out Medicare claims to hospitals late and not at all to one Dallas hospital forcing employees to go without pay for weeks.

Only half of the two million people claimed to have enrolled in Obamacare have paid their premium. Murphy's law

Not only has Obamacare not yet delivered a fully functional front end, it’s backend does not seem to have been built.  The insurance companies who have signed on to it are finding themselves stuck with an army of uninsurables and avoided by the young and healthy who alone can make the risk pool viable. This creates a drought of receivables that in turn disrupts payments to providers who “can’t make payroll”.

It’s a shambles. Unless its fixed hospitals will drop out, patients will go untreated, people will lose coverage and people will go broke. Thomas Sowell asks “what kind of man would blithely disrupt the medical care of millions of Americans, and then repeatedly lie to them with glib assurances that they could keep their doctors or health insurance if they wanted to?”

Hospitals in Northern Virginia are turning away sick people because they can't determine whether their Obamacare plans are in effect. 'They had no idea if my insurance was active or not!': Obamacare confusion reigns as frustrated patients walk out of hospitals without treatment.

APNewsBreak: Adding a new baby to plan not easy

Obamacare  lacks a way for consumers to quickly and easily update their coverage for the birth of a baby and other common life changes such as marriage and divorce, a death in the family, a new job or a change in income, even moving to a different community.

Utter Chaos: White House Exempts Millions From Obamacare's Insurance Mandate, 'Unaffordable' Exchanges  Avik Roy

It’s hard to come up with new ways to describe the Obama administration’s improvisational approach to the Affordable Care Act’s troubled health insurance exchanges. But last night, the White House made its most consequential announcement yet. The administration will grant a “hardship exemption” from the law’s individual mandate, requiring the purchase of health insurance, to anyone who has had their prior coverage canceled and who “believes” that Obamacare’s offerings “are unaffordable.” These exemptions will substantially alter the architecture of the law’s insurance marketplaces. Insurers are at their wits’ end, trying to make sense of what to do next.

Charles Krauthammer.  Stop the upcoming bailout of insurance companies,  How soon before insurance companies start going bankrupt and ask for….

A huge government bailout. It’s Obamacare’s escape hatch. And — surprise, surprise — it’s already baked into the law.

Which is why the GOP needs to act. Obamacare is a Rube Goldberg machine with hundreds of moving parts. Without viable insurance companies doing the work, it falls apart. No bailout, no Obamacare.

CBS: Top ObamaCare official wanted site shut down over security risks — and was overruled

Remember.Hiding the Hacking at HealthCare.gov  If your personal info is filched from the site, the government doesn’t have to tell you.

But at least Target informed its customers of the security breach, as it is required by federal law to do. HealthCare.gov faces no such requirement; it need never notify customers that their personal information has been hacked or possibly compromised. The Department of Health and Human Services was specifically asked to include a notification requirement in the rules it designed for the health-care exchanges, but HHS declined.

Obama Dooms Seniors to Ravages of Aging

On Oct. 1, 2012 the Obama administration started awarding bonus points to hospitals that spend the least on elderly patients. It will result in fewer knee replacements, hip replacements, angioplasty, bypass surgery and cataract operations.  These are the five procedures that have transformed aging for older Americans. They used to languish in wheelchairs and nursing homes due to arthritis, cataracts and heart disease. Now they lead active lives.

But the Obama administration is undoing that progress. By cutting $716 billion from future Medicare funding over the next decade and rewarding the hospitals that spend the least on seniors, the Obama health law will make these procedures hard to get and less safe.

The Obama health law creates two new entitlements for people under age 65 – subsidies to buy private health plans and a vast expansion of Medicaid. More than half the cost of these entitlements is paid for by cutting what hospitals, doctors, hospice care, home care and Advantage plans are paid to care for seniors.  Astoundingly, doctors will be paid less to treat a senior than to treat someone on Medicaid, and only about one-third of what a doctor will be paid to treat a patient with private insurance.

ObamaCare forcing 14 percent cut in Medicare’s home health program.

An estimated 3.5 million poor and ill homebound senior citizens will wake up on New Year’s Day to discover ObamaCare has slashed funding for their home health care program.”
--
Totaling a whopping 14 percent between 2014 and 2017, this cut is the maximum allowable under the ObamaCare law.  The Administration had the discretion to cut less, or even to make no cuts at all.  But they decided to impose the deepest cut made possible by the Affordable Care Act (shouldn’t we be calling this the “Horrible Care Act”?) legislation.  And in doing so, they will shift billions of dollars from Medicare to ObamaCare.
--
The Medicare home health benefit is also of critical importance to younger Americans.  Families across America depend on home health services to help them care for their aging parents.  Having a skilled nurse come to their homes to deliver needed treatment not only means that Mom and Dad don’t have to go into a nursing home – it also means their adult daughters and sons can balance caring for their parents with raising a family and earning a living.

Obamacare so sloppily drafted that US Territories may be unable to have health insurance

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2013

More Obamacare surprises and what polls show about Americans' trust in government

ObamaCare May Devastate the Real Estate and Travel Industries

Americans are among the most mobile people on earth, but ObamaCare may soon start freezing them in place. Millions are losing their health insurance policies and being forced onto the ObamaCare exchanges, where most plans only provide local medical coverage. As Americans realize they must pay for all non-emergency medical care when they leave their home county, their decisions may have a profound impact on the real-estate market, particularly the second home sector, and on the travel business.

Obamacare Escapes the Chains of Law writes Mickey Kaus

You Want to Sell Obamacare You’ve Got to Take Care of Obama: Megan McArdle notes that Obama’s HHS has “reached the limits of its November strategy of using last-minute rule-making to implement on-the-fly changes to the law.” No more rules! Now insurance companies are being “encouraged” and “strongly encouraged” to extend deadlines, accept late payments, pay for some out-of-network doctors and out of plan prescriptions. Many of these things violate the formal terms of the deal the government had made with insurers and will cost the latter money. “They’re asking insurers to pay for the mistakes” the administration made in the launch of the program, complains Avik Roy. The key word is “asking.” But, as Roy notes, there’s a club HHS is holding behind its back–the threat that if insurers don’t play along HHS will be “considering” that factor in the “renewal process.”

It would be hard to frame this policymaking process as a rule. How about: “Insurance companies will have access to Obamacare’s exchanges if they’ve sacrificed a reasonable portion of their expected profits to cover for our screw-ups, as determined by us, and haven’t said anything too nasty about us in the press.”

HHS has pretty clearly escaped the rule of law and entered a world of corporatist haggling, where political leaders and a few big industry types sit around the table and work everything out.

No wonder Seventy-two percent of Americans say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than is big business or big labor, a record high in Gallup's  nearly 50-year history of this question.

64% of Americans think we're on the wrong track

A Pew study finds that just 19% trust the government to do what's right most of the time

Here's another interesting Gallup poll on Party Differences in Honesty and Ethics Ratings of Professions.  Lowest rated are lobbyists, then Members of Congress..  Ad men, car salesmen, lawyers, newspaper and TV reporters are only slightly higher.    Top rated are nurses followed by pharmacists, doctors and military officers.

Finally, from Zerohedge,  83 Numbers from 2013 that are almost too crazy to believe

#1 Right now an all-time record 102 million working age Americans do not have a job.  That number has risen by about 27 million since the year 2000.

#23  According to Consumer Reports, the number of children in the United States taking antipsychotic drugs has nearly tripled over the past 15 years.

#32 In November 2000, 64.3 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  When Barack Obama first entered the White House, 60.6 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  Today, only 58.6 percent of all working age Americans have a job.

#56 Wal-Mart recently opened up two new stores in Washington D.C., and more than 23,000 people applied for just 600 positions.  That means that only about 2.6 percent of the applicants were ultimately hired.  In comparison, Harvard offers admission to 6.1 percent of their applicants.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 PM | Permalink

December 17, 2013

Cutting the pensions of disabled military veterans, leaving pensions of federal civilian workers intact

In what world is this just and fair?

Disabled military veterans not exempt from pension cuts in budget deal

The Free Beacon previously reported that military retirees under the age of 62 would receive 1 percentage point less in their annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in the plan crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D., Wash.).

The section of the U.S. code that has been altered also applies to disabled service members, many of whom have been wounded in combat…

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, called the change “unthinkable.”…I was deeply troubled when my staff and I discovered that even individuals who have been wounded and suffered a service-related disability could see their pensions reduced under this plan.”

Only the military is affected.  There are no such cuts for federal civilian workers.

Can the money be found elsewhere?  Of course.  And easily, by requiring illegal immigrants who file and claim the child tax credit submit a  social security number.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee has put forward a budget amendment to avert proposed cuts to veterans’ benefits by closing a loophole that allows illegal immigrants to collect child tax credits.

Even though federal law bars illegal immigrants from collecting tax benefits like the earned income tax credit, the current child tax credit provision does not require a tax return to include a Social Security number, which means it’s possible for illegals to claim and get the benefits.
--
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration noted in a 2011 report that millions of people without valid Social Security numbers received $4.2 billion in the additional child tax credit in 2010 – up from $924 million in 2005.

Senate GOP fails in final bid to restore military pension cuts to budget bill

Here's an example of what Sessions wanted to eliminate.  IRS Sent $46,378,040 in Refunds to 23,994 ‘Unauthorized’ Aliens at 1 Atlanta Address -

The IRS sent 11,284 refunds worth a combined $2,164,976 to unauthorized alien workers at a second Atlanta address; 3,608 worth $2,691,448 to a third; and 2,386 worth $1,232,943 to a fourth.
--
TIGTA’s audit found that IRS management has not established adequate internal controls to detect and prevent the assignment of an ITIN to individuals submitting questionable applications,” said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. “Even more troubling, TIGTA found an environment which discourages employees from detecting fraudulent applications.”
--
The IRS, according to TIGTA, also assigned ITINs to 15,028 unauthorized aliens presumably living at a single address in Dallas, Texas, and 10,356 to unauthorized aliens presumably living at a single address in Atlantic City, N.J.

Perhaps the most remarkable act of the IRS was this: It assigned 6,411 ITINs to unauthorized aliens presumably using a single address in Morganton, North Carolina….According to the 2010 Census, there were only 16,681 people in Morganton. So, for the IRS to have been correct in issuing 6,411 ITINS to unauthorized aliens at a single address Morganton it would have meant that 38 percent of the town’s total population were unauthorized alien workers using a single address

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 PM | Permalink

December 16, 2013

Obama people meet the reality of Obamacare

House Report:  Ill-trained Obamacare Navigators Encouraging Fraud, Jeopardizing Private Info

The Obama administration decided that Obamacare Navigators, tasked with helping Americans enroll in a health insurance plan, would not undergo mandatory background checks.
--
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a Congressional hearing that it was “possible” for convicted felons to become Navigators.
--
The Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and HHS actually learned that "poorly-trained Navigators gave consumers incorrect information about the health care exchanges, violated HHS rules and procedures, and even encouraged applicants to commit tax fraud in some instances."  Moreover, this was learned from various news reports due to the complete lack of any internal oversight.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tells a national audience, "You are better served by using a navigator".

Paper Fail.  Over 50,000 paper Obamacare applications haven't been touched yet.

As of Monday, consumers have one week — until Dec. 23 — to enroll in a health care plan through the Obamacare exchanges to ensure coverage beginning Jan. 1.

With Affordable Care Act, Canceled Policies for New York Professionals

Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it.
--
But under the Affordable Care Act, they will be treated as individuals, responsible for their own insurance policies. For many of them, that is likely to mean they will no longer have access to a wide network of doctors and a range of plans tailored to their needs. And many of them are finding that if they want to keep their premiums from rising, they will have to accept higher deductible and co-pay costs or inferior coverage.

“I couldn’t sleep because of it,” said Barbara Meinwald, a solo practitioner lawyer in Manhattan.
---
But while those policies, by and large, had been canceled because they did not meet the law’s requirements for minimum coverage, many of the New York policies being canceled meet and often exceed the standards, brokers say. The rationale for disqualifying those policies, said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, was to prevent associations from selling insurance to healthy members who are needed to keep the new health exchanges financially viable.

--
It is not lost on many of the professionals that they are exactly the sort of people — liberal, concerned with social justice — who supported the Obama health plan in the first place. Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.

It is an uncomfortable position for many members of the creative classes to be in.

“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.

“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

December 13, 2013

The Appalling Scandals in the ATF

What in God's name is going on in the e U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, otherwise known as the ATF?  Is this our government at work?

For those of you who have forgotten, Fast and Furious or Gunwalking was an ATF  operation run out of the Arizona Field Office which purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers in the hopes it would lead them to the leaders of the Mexican drug cartels.  Despite the protests of many ATF agents and senior officials, thousands of guns, some bought by ATF officials, were allowed to cross the border to Mexico thereby violating international arms trafficking agreements.  U.S. Border patrol  agent Brian Terry was shot and killed by a rifle  linked to a Phoenix store where a sniper rifles, AK-47s were allowed to 'walk'.  Only 710 of the weapons were recovered

The Mexican government was never informed about the operation.  Weapons tied to the gunwalking operation were found at numerous crime scenes in Mexico where at least 150 Mexican civilians were killed.  Diplomatic relations between the US. and the furious Mexican government were damaged

President Obama evoked executive privilege to block Congressional investigation of the affair.  Attorney General Eric Holder initially testified he knew nothing about the operation, but later was forced to admit to it.  He was held in contempt of Congress for his refusal to hand over some 1300 documents in response to a Congressional subpoena

ATF Caught Using Felons, Teens, and the Mentally Handicapped to Systematically "Manufacture" Gun Crimes

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is probably best known these days for the failure of its disastrous Fast and Furious scheme — a botched initiative that aimed to give American guns to Mexican cartels first and to ask questions later. Under pressure, the administration was quick to imply that the mistake was an aberration. But a watchdog report, published last week by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, suggests that the caprice, carelessness, and downright incompetence that marked the disaster was no accident. In fact, that it is endemic in the ATF.

Among the tactics they discovered ATF agents employing were using mentally disabled Americans to help run unnecessary sting operations; establishing agency-run “fronts” in “safe zones” such as schools and churches; providing alcohol, drugs, and sexual invitations to minors; destroying property and then expecting the owners to pick up the tab; and hiring felons to sell guns to legal purchasers. Worse, perhaps, in a wide range of cases, undercover agents specifically instructed individuals to behave in a certain manner — and then arrested and imprisoned them for doing so. This is government at its worst. And it appears to be standard operating procedure.

The series in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2013

"ObamaCare's net enrollment stands at about negative four million "

I'm posting so much about Obamacare because it is simply the worst implementation of one of the worst laws ever passed by Congress that will effect every American in some way.

'A public safety disaster': Obamacare could force THOUSANDS of volunteer fire departments to close

The Affordable Care Act forces companies with more than 50 workers to buy them all health insurance or pay hefty fines.  The IRS says volunteer firefighters are 'employees,' even though the Department of Labor says they're 'volunteers'.    Out of more than 1 million fire departments in the U.S., 87 per cent are staffed entirely or mostly by life-saving volunteers.  Members of Congress are weighing in, but the Obama administration hasn't taken any action yet to carve out a fire-fighting exception

In the Washington Post, Obamacare's biggest losers -

Gisler wanted to purchase a plan for his 45-year-old son, who has a rare degenerative condition affecting his coordination and speech. His current coverage through Utah’s high-risk insurance pool plan ends Dec. 31. By that time, the Obama administration expects enrollees to transition into health plans sold through the new health-care law.

But so far, Gisler hasn’t succeeded in purchasing coverage -- but not for a lack of effort.

“We’ve had three separate applications that failed to make it through,” Gisler says. “I have a notebook with all the calls I’ve made, maybe 50 or 100. It just goes on and on.”
--

He gave up and bought an individual plan through an insurance broker.

These are Obamacare's biggest losers: People whose current plans have been canceled but who are having trouble getting through HealthCare.Gov to purchase coverage by Dec. 23 -- the deadline for buying insurance that begins Jan. 1.The concern is particularly acute for patients with expensive medical conditions, who rely on their coverage for doctor visits and drug refills that would otherwise break the bank.

Juking the Obamacare stats in the WSJ

A charitable reading suggests that ObamaCare's net enrollment stands at about negative four million. That's the estimated four million to five and a half million people who had their individual health plans liquidated as ObamaCare-noncompliant—offset by the 364,682 who have signed up for a plan on a state or federal exchange and the 803,077 who have been found eligible to receive Medicaid.

The larger problem is that none of these represent true enrollments. HHS is reporting how many people "selected" a plan on the exchange, not how many people have actually enrolled in a plan with an insurance company by paying the first month's premium, which is how the private insurance industry defines enrollment. HHS has made up its own standard.

Insurers know that the hardest part of doing business in the individual market is getting customers to write a check….

HHS also hasn't built the tools that would allow people to pay through the exchange. Customers must contact their putative insurer, who may not be aware of their existence because the federal exchanges continue to produce corrupted data on the "back end" that are crucial for insurers.

After stonewalling for weeks about the error rate, HHS now says it is down to 10%, which we suppose is good enough for government work. But some insurers are still processing applications by hand, not least because one of five customers are submitting them on paper, not electronically.

Oregon signs up just 44 people for Obamacare despite spending $300 million

In the Fiscal Times,  The Many Disrupted Lives Under Obamacare

Congressional staffers told not to trust ObamaCare site info

Rep. Issa accuses HHS of criminally obstructing probe into ObamaCare website  HHS told web site contractors not to release documents to Congressional investigators.

Helen Alvare in USA Today, Obamacare attacks religion, but hurts women

The White House insists that its heavy-handed approach is needed to protect women because it thinks contraceptives are "essential to women's health." That is, to say the least, a highly dubious claim. Women get sick and die, for the most part, of things like heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Their long list of ailments rarely calls for free contraceptives to solve a health problem. In fact, as Judge Janice Rogers Brown recently noted, there are credible medical sources (like the World Health Organization) who now classify some hormonal contraceptives as carcinogens.

Obamacare marketplace violates federal security law

The bureaucracy tasked with Obamacare implementation may be violating a law that requires government agencies to keep private information safe.

Sebelius: People Who Lost Plans ‘Thrilled with the Choices Now Available to Them’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:58 PM | Permalink

December 10, 2013

Mistaking Words and Movies for Reality

Ace on The MacGuffinization of American Politics

In a movie or book, "The MacGuffin" is the thing the hero wants.  Usually the villain wants it too, and their conflict over who will end up with The MacGuffin forms the basic spine of the story.
--
Alfred Hitchcock noted -- counterintuitively, when you first hear this -- that the specifics of the MacGuffin don't really matter at all to a movie. He pointed out that the audience doesn't care at all about the MacGuffin. The hero in the movie itself cares, but the audience doesn't.
--
A MacGuffin only has one requirement: That it be important-sounding, so that the audience understands he hero isn't engaged in some trivial matter, but that the Stakes Are High
--
And that, of course, explains all you need to know about the abnormal political situation we find ourselves in, and the Cult of Barack Obama.

For Obama's fanbois, this is not politics. This isn't even America, not really, not anymore.  This is a movie. And Barack Obama is the Hero. And the Republicans are the Villains. And policy questions -- and Obama's myriad failures as an executive -- are simply incidental. They are MacGuffins only, of no importance whatsoever, except to the extent they provide opportunities for Drama as the Hero fights in favor of them.
--
As with a MacGuffin in the movie, only the Hero's emotional response to the MacGuffin matters.  Again and again, Matthews and his panel focused not on weighty questions of state, but on what toll these important-sounding MacGuffins took upon the Star of the Picture, Barack Obama.

Matthews was not terribly interested in hearing about the problems with Obamacare, or how Obama planned to address them.  But he was very interested in learning how Obama was coping with the challenges.

Peggy Noonan made a similar point in Low Information Leadership

It’s a leader’s job to be skeptical of grand schemes. Sorry, that’s a conservative leader’s job. It is a liberal leader’s job to be skeptical that grand schemes will work as intended. You have to guide and goad and be careful.

And this president wasn’t. I think part of the reason he wasn’t careful is because he sort of lives in words. That’s been his whole professional life—books, speeches. Say something and it magically exists as something said, and if it’s been said and publicized it must be real. He never had to push a lever, see the machine not respond, puzzle it out and fix it. It’s all been pretty abstract for him, not concrete. He never had to stock a store, run a sale and see lots of people come but the expenses turn out to be larger than you’d expected and the profits smaller, and you have to figure out what went wrong and do better next time.
---
Here I will say something harsh, and it’s connected to the thing about words but also images.

From what I have seen the administration is full of young people who’ve seen the movie but not read the book. They act bright, they know the reference, they’re credentialed. But they’ve only seen the movie about, say, the Cuban missile crisis, and then they get into a foreign-policy question and they’re seeing movies in their heads. They haven’t read the histories, the texts, which carry more information, more texture, data and subtlety, and different points of view. They’ve only seen the movie—the Cubans had the missiles and Jack said “Not another war” and Bobby said “Pearl Harbor in reverse” and dreadful old Curtis LeMay chomped his cigar…
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

December 9, 2013

Murphy's Law at work in Obamacare and how you can opt out

Margaret Wente Obamacare, where the liberal dream crashes and burns

The biggest threat to Obamacare is not Republicans. The biggest threat is Murphy’s Law, along with its corollary, the Law of Unintended Consequences. These are the most powerful laws in the world. They are even more powerful than the Affordable Care Act, and they are the nemesis of all master plans. Evidently, the President and his merry band of wonks had never heard of them.

"New Affordable Care US health plans will exclude top hospitals

In a bid to cut costs, insurers selling cover on the new exchanges in states including New York, Texas and California will not offer patients access to two renowned cancer centers - Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, according to The Financial Times.
Access to Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, one of the top research and teaching hospitals, may also be limited, as the insurers attempt to steer customers away from hospitals or doctors they consider too expensive.
----
Some hospital officials are worried about what they call an unintended consequence of the new law.

'We're very concerned. (Insurers) know patients that are sick come to places like ours,' Thomas Priselac, president and chief executive officer of Cedars-Sinai Health System in California told the FT.  'What this is trying to do is redirect those patients elsewhere, but there is a reason why they come here. These patients need what it is that we are capable of providing.'

Obamacare dumps unpaid bills on providers

But the bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decided to issue a rule in March making insurers responsible only for paying claims during the first 30 days of the debtors’ grace period. Who’s on the hook for the other two months? Well, customers are entrusted to foot the bills for additional services. But if they blow off the payments, it’s up to physicians and hospitals to collect.
--
As one hospital rep told me: “It’s potentially catastrophic.” Private practices are already being hit hard with slashed reimbursements, the electronic-medical-records mandate, ICD-10 medical-diagnostic-code changes, and increasing federal intrusions on how they provide care.

-Attention Patients


The Phishing Scam on Healthcare.gov

New problems emerged on Friday, with a Capitol Hill source drawing attention to an apparent scam in the system. The source detailed how, after telling the user the password was incorrect, the site directed the individual to a “forgot password” page — which then asked for highly personal information.

“On that page I was asked for my check card number and my ATM pin,” the source said. “I was fairly confident this was a scam so I called customer service. After a 103 minute hold time, I was told that this was indeed a scam.”

The explanation is not exactly reassuring:

Some shoppers are being directed from the insurance website to an outside site that appears nearly identical to the real exchange, officials confirmed Friday. The fraud is widespread enough that they’re considering adding disclaimers to its website to warn users against divulging their check card or PIN numbers.

The Federalist offers advice on How to Opt Out of Obamacare  Know your options and become savvy self-pay patients

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

December 5, 2013

Other things about Obamacare

WSJ  ObamaCare's Plans Are Worse  How the Affordable Care Act raises prices and limits medical choices.

...the rules ObamaCare imposes to create a supposedly superior insurance product are resulting in an objectively inferior medical product. The new mandates and rules raise costs, so insurers must compensate by offering narrow and less costly networks of doctors, hospitals and other providers in their ObamaCare products. Insurers thus restrict care and patient choice of physicians in exchange for discounted reimbursement rates, much as Medicaid does.

Rigging the Future.  Obamacare Creates 50 New State Databases With No Function Beyond Gathering Potential Voter Information, Real or Fraudulent

Some are losing coverage.  Boy with cancer loses coverage after Obamacare launch.  Bureaucrats won't help unless pregnant or illegal alien..

Others who complained are now getting audited.  Cancer Patient Who Spoke Out Against ObamaCare Now Being Audited

Bill Elliot was a cancer patient who lost his insurance due to ObamaCare and couldn’t pay the expensive new premiums. He was talking about paying the ObamaCare fine, going without health insurance and “letting nature take its course.”

He went on FOX News where his story was picked up by C. Steven Tucker, a health insurance broker who helped him keep his insurance.  Now suddenly Bill Elliot is being audited for 2009 with an interview only scheduled in April 2014. Assuming he lives that long. That might be a coincidence, but Tucker is being audited back to 2003.

In New Jersey, 741 have  signed up for Obamacare while 50,000 signed up for N.J.'s online gambling sites.

Medicaid Is Latest Health-Site Victim. States Refuse to Sign Up Enrollees Due to Incomplete Information from HealthCare.gov

So far, the federal government has been unable to transfer full Medicaid applications to states, potentially leaving people who sought to sign up for Medicaid through HealthCare.gov without coverage.

Millennials Abandon Obama and Obamacare  A majority of America's youngest adults would vote to recall the president.

Over a long weekend followed by some supplemental tweaking,

the three guys who built the working Affordable Care Act policy search web site known as TheHealthSherpa.com for free accomplished what Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s assembled contractors and bureaucrats couldn’t get done with a 42-month head start and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Looks as though Obama turned down an offer by IBM's CEO Samuel J. Palmisano  turned down a free offer to hunt out health care abuse in 2010..

In a 2010 interview, IBM’s CEO said: “We could have improved quality and reduced the costs of the health-care system by $900 billion. … I said we would do it for free to prove that it works. They turned us down.”

Speaking with FOX News’ Stuart Varney, Mort Zuckerman, Editor-in-Chief of US News & World Report, said, “

It’s a little bit puzzling because I think there is a huge amount of both fraud and inefficiency that American business is a lot more comfortable with and more effective in trying to reduce. And this is certainly true because the IBM people have studied this very carefully.

When Palmisano went to the White House and made that proposal, it was based upon a lot of work and it was not accepted. And it’s really puzzling…These are very, very responsible people and don’t have a political ax to grind.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 PM | Permalink

December 3, 2013

Security at the HealthCare.gov website is worse than before

With less than three weeks to sign up for insurance or pay a penalty, problems with the healthcare.gov website are still unresolved.  It is impossible to imagine the anxiety and suffering of the millions who lost their health care policies and who don't want to put their identities at risk by going online to healthcare.gov.

Expert: Healthcare.gov Security Risks Even Worse After ‘Fix’

“It doesn’t appear that any security fixes were done at all,” David Kennedy, CEO of the online security firm TrustedSec, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Kennedy said fundamental safeguards missing from Healthcare.gov that were identified by his company more than a month ago have yet to be put in place.
--
After warning Americans when testifying before Congress on Nov. 19 to stay away from Healthcare.gov, Kennedy now says the situation is even worse.

“They said they implemented over 400 bug fixes,” he said. “When you recode the application to fix these 400 bugs—they were rushing this out of the door to get the site at least so it can work a little bit—you’re introducing more security flaws as you go along with it because you don’t even check that code.”

Get this.  The Federal Government doesn't have to notify anyone if the site is hacked.

“States are required to notify in the event of a breach, the federal government is not,” he added. “So in the event that Healthcare.gov gets compromised and all their information gets taken out of it they don’t have to notify anybody.”

Kennedy said the team working on Healthcare.gov is more likely to hide its security flaws than address them. When it was revealed that the most popular searches on the website were hack attempts—confirmed by entering a semicolon in the search bar—the website simply removed the tool.

The White House won't even give classified briefings to Congress about the security problems of healthcare.gov.  Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers said,

“They could not even provide someone — CMS and HHS, the two folks responsible for the HealthCare.gov website — in a classified setting to come up and talk about the breaches that they know have happened. That’s just unconscionable.”

He warned that there is currently no coordinated effort within the administration to test the website’s newly-written code which was completed over the past two months of repairs, leaving it vulnerable to breaches. “You’re encouraging people to go to a site that our own government knows doesn’t meet safety standards when it comes to security of private information.”

78% Fear ObamaCare Site Security, Could Deter Signups

The latest IBD/TIPP Poll finds that 78% say Americans should be worried about the security of the ObamaCare exchange website, and 53% say they should be "very concerned." This view was shared across parties, with 69% of Democrats saying security concerns are warranted.

More worrisome for the law's success, 82% of those aged 18-24 say concern is justified. These are among the people ObamaCare most desperately needs to enroll to keep overall premiums from spiraling out of control.

John Podhoretz writes in Commentary,  No, Healthcare.Gov Isn’t Working.    Much of the backend hasn't been constructed yet. 

There is no such thing as a functioning website if the “back end” isn’t working. The “back end” is the catchall phrase for everything you don’t see when you visit a website. It refers to the software that translates pictures and words into what you see here. It refers to the software that mediates the relationship between 1) users who enter information, 2) the servers that store the website’s information, and 3) third parties hired to take some (but not all) of the information and process it on their servers and computers. It refers to the security systems put in place so that the website cannot be disabled by an outside attack and so that the data entered cannot be stolen or otherwise compromised.
--
In other words, the back end is the website. What many people are seeing now at healthcare.gov is a visual demonstration of a sign-in. If the sign-in data are not transferred to a database, nothing has happened. It’s like taking a practice test; it’s not scored and it’s not registered and it means nothing.

New Obamacare Headache: Is Your Enrollment Real?

Obama administration officials acknowledged today that some of the roughly 126,000 Americans who completed the torturous online enrollment process in October and November might not be officially signed up with their selected issuer, even if the website has told them they are.
--
While the front-end of the website has been vastly improved, the back-end glitches remain a serious concern, IT experts and industry officials say.
---
For those who thought they enrolled in a plan through the federal exchange since October, the Obama administration now advises that individuals contact their insurance company to verify coverage and if none exists, to start all over again.

Errors plague one third of Obamacare online enrollees

The Washington Post is reporting the bad news for Obama; about of consumers enrolled through healthcare.gov have serious errors in the plans they chose.

The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 PM | Permalink

November 26, 2013

The Train Wreck continues

Yet, more on the continuing disaster of  Obamacare

You can keep your health plan

Almost 80 million with employer health care plans could have coverage canceled, experts predict

Their losses would be in addition to the millions who found their individual coverage cancelled for the same reason.

Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute said that in addition to the individual cancellations, "at least half the people on employer plans would by 2014 start losing plans as well." There are approximately 157 million employer health care policy holders.
---
According to projections the administration itself issued back in July 2010, it was clear officials knew the impact of ObamaCare three years ago.  In fact, according to the Federal Register, its mid-range estimate was that by the end of 2014, 76 percent of small group plans would be cancelled, along with 55 percent of large employer plans.

You can keep your doctor.   

Washington Post  “Health Insurers Limit Choices to Keep Costs Down,”    Narrower networks under Obamacare.

People who say they have already lost their doctors under Obamacare

Average insurance costs would drop $2500/year.

Health Premiums Up $3,065; Obama Vowed $2,500 Cut

The new line is that the health-care law will save money. That's also not true.

According to health-care actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health-care spending will begin spiraling upward again starting next year, as the Affordable Care Act takes full effect. It will reach $5 trillion in 2022, or 20% of GDP, or $14,664 per capita. By 2022, ObamaCare alone is projected to increase cumulative health spending by roughly $621 billion, according to CMS.
---
CMS actuaries find that any positive effects of the ObamaCare delivery system experiments on the cost of health care "remain highly speculative." When they compare their September 2013 projections with earlier estimates in April 2010, these actuaries find that the law would increase national health spending higher than previously expected by an additional $27 billion in 2019 alone.

Chicago Tribune Man, the number of ObamaCare losers really seems to be piling up, doesn’t it?

Honeypot for Identity Thieves

Obamacare website is not safe or secure and should be shut down, say security experts as fears grow personal data of millions is at risk

The Administration was warned in April by a consultant they hired to review progress that's its website was 'fraught with risks'

The Obama administration brought in a private consulting team to independently assess how the federal online health insurance enrollment system was developing, according to a newly disclosed document, and in late March received a clear warning that its Oct. 1 launch was fraught with risks.

The analysis by McKinsey & Co. foreshadowed many of the problems that have dogged HealthCare.gov since its rollout, including the facts that the call-in centers would not work properly if the online system was malfunctioning and that insufficient testing would make it difficult to fix problems after the launch.  This risk assessment, which was encapsulated in a 14-slide presentation, was delivered to senior White House and Department of Health and Human Services officials in four briefings between March 28 and April 8, the committee said.

NYT  ID Verification Lagging on Health Care Website 

Many users of the website have had their applications cast into limbo after they uploaded copies of documents like driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and voter registration cards, or sent them to the office of the federal insurance marketplace in London, Ky.

Yes, There are Death Panels are in Obamacare. 

Ed Driscoll points out how Time magazine finally read the act and regulations

Time magazine, September 10, 2013.   “Sarah Palin Won’t Let ‘Death Panels’ Die,”

As has been explained here, here, here, here, here and here, the new health care law contains no death panels. The Independent Payment Advisory Board, a government panel that may determine some Medicare payments rates, is expressly banned from rationing care. End-of-life counseling, a provision in an early version of a health reform bill that would pay doctors to talk to Medicare patients about living wills, was stripped from the final version
Time magazine editor, November 25th, 2013,  Mark Halperin, senior political analyst

The Affordable Care Act contains provisions for “death panels,” which decide which critically-ill patients receive care and which won’t, according to Mark Halperin, senior political analyst for Time magazine.  “It’s built into the plan. It’s not like a guess or like a judgment. That’s going to be part of how costs are controlled,”

The Cure for Obamacare: The Widely Accepted Alternative and a New Idea to Go with It by Clark Judge

At a luncheon in Washington last week, I stumbled across something new in the Obamacare debate.  Most of the attendees were reporters.  The inevitable question came up: If not Obamacare, what?  And when a Republican ran through an answer (equalizing tax treatment of insurance bought through employers and individually; allowing insurance policies approved in one state to be sold in all; HSAs and high deductible plans; medical liability reform), the reception was attentive, not dismissive.

In other words, Washington is starting to take seriously the prospect of repeal and replace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 PM | Permalink

November 20, 2013

Put children first when it comes to education, not unions

If you care about children getting a good education, this will make your blood boil.  Teachers unions are far too powerful.  They put their own interests first  not those of children.  There are many good teachers who do put children first, but the unions don't. 

Teachers Unions vs. Charter Schools

The Beginning With Children charter school in New York City announced that it will close next year because operating under union work rules has made it impossible to provide students with a decent education.
--
To understand how union work rules can impact the quality of a school, consider this passage from Steven Brill's "Class Warfare," in which he compares the teachers' contracts at Harlem Success Academy, a high-performing charter school in New York City, and a traditional public school that share the same building space and teach kids from the same socio-economic background.

"The Harlem Success teachers' contract drives home the idea that the school is about the children, not the grown-ups. It is one page, allows them to be fired at will, and defines their responsibilities no more specifically than that they must help the school achieve its mission. Harlem Success teachers are paid about 5 to 10 percent more than union teachers on the other side of the building who have their levels of experience.

"The union contract in place on the public school side of the building is 167 pages. Most of it is about job protection and what teachers can and cannot be asked to do during the 6 hours and 57.5 minutes (8:30 to about 3:25, with 50 minutes off for lunch) of their 179-day work year."

In the 2010, 29 percent of the students at the traditional public school were reading and writing at grade level, and 34 percent were performing at grade level in math. At the charter school, the corresponding numbers were 86 percent and 94 percent.

 Testing Results 2010 Nyc Schools

In Louisiana, Governor Jindal instituted a program whereby students in failing schools can receive scholarships in the form of vouchers to go to another school. Eight thousand students have received vouchers in the current school year, and over 93 percent of parents who have participated say they are satisfied with their child’s new school, according to Jindal’s office.

Governor Jindal said, “The scholarships are completely race blind.  It’s done by lottery. It’s one of the reasons over 90 percent of the kids are actually minorities.”

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to obtain a permanent injunction against the scholarship program blocking access to vouchers in districts that are under desegregation orders unless a judge approves them because it claimed the program is 'impeding desegregation'.

The Justice Department’s suit uses percentages of white and black students in schools in areas still facing desegregation orders

to argue that the voucher program uses state funding to thwart the federal government’s desegregation efforts. On closer examination, this argument is a sham. Two cases in the suit are particularly ludicrous. In one instance, six African American students leaving a school through the voucher program decreased the percentage of black students in the school from 30.1 percent to 29.2 percent. In another case, five white students leaving a failing school decreased the percentage of white students in the school from 29.6 percent to 28.9 percent, violating desegregation orders.

Jindal called the lawsuit “cynical, immoral, and hypocritical.”

“Nearly 50 years to the day of Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, the Department of Justice under the Obama administration filed what I think is a despicable lawsuit,” he said at the National Press Club on Wednesday. “They went to federal court in Louisiana to try to trap thousands of children in failing schools.”

Yesterday, the DOJ abandoned its lawsuit

Unable to put forward concrete proof for the claim, the Justice Department abandoned its lawsuit, United States District Court Judge Ivan Lemelle said Friday. However, the Obama administration is still calling for the district court to grant a federal review of the program — with a hearing for that request scheduled for Friday in New Orleans.

GOP wins one for blue-collar parents in Louisiana

The change is a big win for Cantor and other high-powered House Republicans who have championed the school choice revolution in post-Katrina New Orleans.

GOP leaders are joining the fight partly because of their ideological support for school choice, but also to showcase support for American parents who are struggling to rescue their kids from failing, crime-ridden, autocratic, union-controlled, mandatory government-run schools.

Their participation, however, is also part of the GOP’s post-2012 effort to show support for working-class parents.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:01 PM | Permalink

November 19, 2013

CMS Official: Only 30 Percent of HealthCare.gov System Has Been Built UPDATED

CMS Official: Only 30 Percent of HealthCare.gov System Has Been Built

Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told a House subcommittee that the administration still needs to construct the payment systems and other “back office” functions, which constitute 60 to 70 percent of the system.

The White House has said that HealthCare.gov will be functioning for a “vast majority of people” by its self-imposed November 30 deadline. On Monday, reports said that the administration will consider the website a “success” if 80 percent of users are able to enroll by the end of the month.


UPDATE:  Chao later seems to correct himself, saying that 30-40% remains to be built, and 60-70% has been built.

By comparison, U.S. fought WWII quicker than launching healthcare website.    Bill from Kentucky in an email to Fox News’ Bret Baier:

“Putting things in perspective: March 21st 2010 to October 1 2013 is 3 years, 6 months, 10 days.  December 7, 1941 to May 8, 1945 is 3 years, 5 months, 1 day.  What this means is that in the time we were attacked at Pearl Harbor to the day Germany surrendered is not enough time for this progressive federal government to build a working webpage.  Mobilization of millions, building tens of thousands of tanks,  planes, jeeps, subs, cruisers, destroyers, torpedoes, millions upon millions of guns, bombs, ammo, etc. Turning the tide in North Africa,  Invading Italy, D-Day,  Battle of the Bulge, Race to Berlin – all while we were also fighting the Japanese in the Pacific!!  And in that amount of time – this administration can’t build a working webpage.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:46 PM | Permalink

Where is the respect for truth in our government? UPDATED

Unbelievable.  US Census 'faked' 2012 election jobs report    At least one employee just made up data and created jobs out of thin air

In the home stretch of the 2012 presidential campaign, from August to September, the unemployment rate fell…. sharply taking it below 8%.
--
And a knowledgeable source says the deception went beyond that one employee - that it escalated at the time President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012 and continues today.  "He's not the only one," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous for now but is willing to talk with the Labor Department and Congress if asked.

A brief filed by the Department of Justice admitted that Majority of Americans with Employer Health Plans Could Lose Coverage .  That's tens of millions of people

The DOJ federal brief states: “Even under the grandfathering provision, it is projected that … a majority of group health plans will have lost their grandfather status by the end of 2013.” 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) admitted that Democrats knew full well that Americans would be booted from their health insurance plans as an effect of Obamacare implementation…..The redistributive nature of Obamacare, Gillibrand stated, was the point of the program; anyone claiming ignorance, therefore, is not telling the truth.

In 2010, Senate Republicans tried to block Obamacare rule that caused millions of insurance cancellations, but EVERY Democrat voted to save it

As a constitutional-law expert Obama knows full well that a President has no legal authority to waive statutory mandates writes Andrew McCarthy

In sum, Obama is well aware that his proposed “fix” is frivolous. His hope is that the country overwhelmingly consists of dolts who are too uninformed to realize that this is the case, and who, with a little help from his media courtiers, can be convinced to blame the insurance companies, rather than the president, for the fact that millions of Americans are losing their coverage under his “reform.”

He calls Obamacare a "fraud  that, I contend, the Justice Department would not hesitate to prosecute had it been committed by a private-sector executive".

In his conference call with Organizing for America, community organizers and supporters, Obama claims 'more than 100 million have enrolled' with Obamacare, clearly showing both the strain he is under and the delusional effect of his lies.

The Department of Homeland Security announced a blanket parole to illegal alien relatives of military personnel contrary to the law which allows parole only on a case-by-case basis and in limited circumstances.

If you headed a government agency and had an employee who ran a website calling for the mass murder of whites, would you fire him?
The Department of Homeland Security still employs Ayo Kimathi, a militant black nationalist who called for murder of 'Uncle Tom traitors'

Five reasons the IRS scandal won't go away

Prophetic words from Angelo Codevilla, Lies Corrupt Democracy

Democracy has no cure for a corrupt demos. Politicians’ misdeeds taint them alone, so long as their supporters do not embrace them. But when substantial constituencies continue to support their leaders despite their having broken faith, they turn democracy’s process of mutual persuasion into partisan war.
--
[E]veryone seemed to know, then – that respect for the truth is what enables a democratic society that resolves its differences by mutual persuasion, and that absent that respect society devolves into civil war.


UPDATE:  Victor Davis Hanson on Obama's Noble Lies
What is the common denominator of the Obama administration’s serial scandals — the Justice Department’s spying on AP, the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the NSA surveillance, the lies about Benghazi and the ACA — and much of the White House damage-control rhetoric? In a word: the advancement of postmodern notions of justice at the expense of traditional truth.
--
In the postmodern world of the New York Times and Barack Obama, again, “truth” is a relative concept. For reactionaries stuck in ossified notions of absolute truth, perhaps indeed Obama did “misspeak.” But for progressives of our brave new world, Obama was all along speaking truth to power merely by using linguistic gymnastics to advance a larger good — the idea that the privileged who had managed to acquire good health insurance should at last pay more in order to cover those who in the past undeservedly had been deprived of commensurate coverage.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 AM | Permalink

November 15, 2013

Why the Obamacare fix won't work

Mark Steyn

[M]illions of his subjects — or “folks,” as he prefers to call us, no fewer than 27 times during his press conference — have had their lives upended by Obamacare. Your traditional hard-core statist, surveying the mountain of human wreckage he has wrought, usually says, “Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” But Obama is the first to order that his omelet be unscrambled and the eggs put back in their original shells. Is this even doable? No. That’s the point. When it doesn’t work, he’ll be able to give another press conference blaming the insurance companies, or the state commissioners, or George W. Bush . . .

The most telling line, the one that encapsulates the gulf between the boundless fantasies of the faculty-lounge utopian and the messiness of reality, was this: “What we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.” Gee, thanks for sharing, genius.

As Veronique de Rugy points out Speeches Don't Change the Law

Insurance companies who sell plans that are still illegal under the law could be sued in courts and won’t get any legal protection.

"G'head.  Re-Enroll in Your Still-Illegal Health Plan.  I Won't Prosecute.  Trust Me."

Set aside the president’s disregard for the U.S. Constitution, the separation of powers, and the rule of law generally. Here’s how his fix alters – where it leaves – his once-categorical “if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan” promise:

If your insurer hasn’t already cancelled your plan prior to October 1, 2013, and
If you had coverage in effect on October 1, 2013, and
If your insurer wants to invest in re-issuing your already-cancelled plan for just one more year, and
If your state’s insurance commissioner wants to let your insurer re-issue that plan, and
If your insurer and your commissioner can get your old plan re-approved by January 1, and
If your insurer informs you how lousy your old plan was and how awesome ObamaCare plans are, even though they may charge you more for less coverage, and
If your insurance commissioner does not mind approving products that are clearly illegal under federal law, and
If you and your insurer don’t mind engaging in an economic transaction that is clearly illegal under federal law, and
If you trust me when I promise not to prosecute any of you for your clear violations of federal law,
Then you can keep your plan, for one more year.
Does that seem like a fix? It certainly doesn’t seem likely to work.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:04 PM | Permalink

November 12, 2013

"Limitless" security risks for Healthcare.gov

Unbelievable.

Sheryl Attkinsson reports  Memo warned of "limitless" security risks for HealthCare.gov

CBS News has learned that the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security.

Henry Chao, HealthCare.gov's chief project manager at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), gave nine hours of closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee in advance of this week's hearing. In excerpts CBS News has obtained, Chao was asked about a memo that outlined important security risks discovered in the insurance system.

Chao said he was unaware of a Sept. 3 government memo written by another senior official at CMS. It found two high-risk issues, which are redacted for security reasons. The memo said "the threat and risk potential (to the system) is limitless." The memo shows CMS gave deadlines of mid-2014 and early 2015 to address them.

But Chao testified he'd been told the opposite.
--
Late Monday, Health and Human Services told CBS News the privacy and security of consumers' personal information are a top priority, and consumers can trust their information is protected by stringent security standards. The author of the security memo, Tony Trenkle, retired from CMS last week; no reason was given.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

November 1, 2013

93 million people will be unable to keep their current insurance under Obamacare UPDATED

I don't have time in my life to write much about the Obamacare debacle which I saw coming for years except to say it's even worse than I could have imagined.  It looks like most of the 19 million people who buy their health insurance on their own, using their own money, face cancellation of the policies they now hold  and will have to find and more likely more expensive coverage.

Instapundit says So many layers of disaster here. It’s like peeling an onion of fail.

Charles Krauthammer writes Every disaster has its moment of clarity.

Physicist Richard Feynman dunks an O-ring into ice water and everyone understands instantly why the shuttle Challenger exploded. This week, the Obamacare O-ring froze for all the world to see: Hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters went out to people who had been assured a dozen times by the president that “If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan. Period.”

That presidential pledge gets four pinocochios from the Washington Post's Fact Checker

But it's going to get a lot worse when the employer mandate - which Obama unilaterally postponed for year - kicks in.

Avik Roy reports in Forbes Oama officials knew in 2010 that  93 Million Americans Will Be Unable To Keep Their Health Plans Under Obamacare

It turns out that in an obscure report buried in a June 2010 edition of the Federal Register, administration officials predicted massive disruption of the private insurance market.
----
Section 1251 of the Affordable Care Act contains what’s called a “grandfather” provision that, in theory, allows people to keep their existing plans if they like them. But subsequent regulations from the Obama administration interpreted that provision so narrowly as to prevent most plans from gaining this protection.

“The Departments’ mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small employer plans and 45 percent of large employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013,” wrote the administration on page 34,552 of the Register. All in all, more than half of employer-sponsored plans will lose their “grandfather status” and become illegal. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 156 million Americans—more than half the population—was covered by employer-sponsored insurance in 2013.

US News and World Report. Top Hospitals Opt Out of Obamacare.

Bizarre maternity care requirement  The  only people not forced to get maternity coverage are women under 30.    James Taranto writes in Best of the Web, President Haze

First, it's not only men who are forced to buy maternity coverage they are physically incapable of using. So are women in the stage of life between childbearing age and Medicare eligibility.  Second, under-30s are exempt. That's right, the geniuses who wrote ObamaCare are forcing everyone to buy maternity care except the age cohort that includes women at peak fertility.


Healthcare.gov appears to violate White House guidance on web security


Other perverse incentives

Massive financial penalties for married couples or what the Heritage Foundation calls the New Federal Wedding Tax

Obamacare will cause people to freeze in geographic location.

Insurance companies cannot compete across state lines, so your policy is only portable within your state. That’s bad for economic development. A person now has to deal with 50 sets of rules, 50 exchanges. Obamacare didn’t solve the problem.
--
There will be people that stay in place because of insurance costs from one state to the next. I have looked, and personally for me my costs of insurance go up exponentially when I move out of state.

In our old broken healthcare system, employers would pick up the difference. As our society transitions to an independent worker society, and insurance isn’t tied to job, individuals will be forced to pick up the cost.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2013

What is going on in the Army? UPDATED

What in the world is the Army thinking?  Does Army consider Christians, Tea Party, a terror threat?

Soldiers attending a pre-deployment briefing at Fort Hood say they were told that evangelical Christians and members of the Tea Party were a threat to the nation and that any soldier donating to those groups would be subjected to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

A soldier who attended the Oct. 17th briefing told me the counter-intelligence agent in charge of the meeting spent nearly a half hour discussing how evangelical Christians and groups like the American Family Association were “tearing the country apart.”
--
“My first concern was if I was going to be in trouble going to church,” the evangelical Christian soldier told me. “Can I tithe? Can I donate to Christian charities? What if I donate to a politician who is a part of the Tea Party movement?”

Another soldier who attended the briefing alerted the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. That individual’s recollections of the briefing matched the soldier who reached out to me.

“I was very shocked and couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” the soldier said. “I felt like my religious liberties, that I risk my life and sacrifice time away from family to fight for, were being taken away.”

And while a large portion of the briefing dealt with the threat evangelicals and the Tea Party pose to the nation, barely a word was said about Islamic extremism, the soldier said.

Breitbart news has uncovered a Military Training Document: Anti-Christian SPLC a Trusted Source to Define 'Extremism'

For months, the Obama-Hagel Pentagon has promised that reports of military trainers teaching troops that traditional Christian groups are extremists akin to terrorists were isolated incidents by rogue instructors. Now an official Army document contains evidence to the contrary.
--
This is just the latest outrage in a long train of disgraces. Just days ago, soldiers at Camp Shelby in Mississippi were instructed that the Christian conservative American Family Association is a domestic hate group. A month earlier, a security presentation portrayed the Founding Fathers as extremists. Before that, Breitbart News reported on a Christian chaplain who was officially censored by military commanders for talking about the importance of religious faith. And several months before that, Lt. Col. Jack Rich at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, instructed soldiers that traditional Christian beliefs are incompatible with “Army values.”
--
All along, the nation was told these were a series of isolated incidents, not authorized by military leadership. Now military documents suggest otherwise…..

Let's not forget that  the Defense Department told Catholic priests  they would face possible arrest if they celebrated Mass at any military facility around the world during the shutdown even on a volunteer basis.

DOD took this action because Hagel determined--after consulting with Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department--that civilian Catholic priests, working under contract as chaplains, did not, among other things, “contribute to the morale” and “well-being” of service personnel.
--
At Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, the DOD went so far as to lock up the chapel and sequester the Holy Eucharist inside it. -….“The doors to the Kings Bay Chapel were locked on October 4, 2013, with the Holy Eucharist, Holy water, Catholic hymn books, and vessels all locked inside,” said Father Leonard’s lawsuit. “Father Leonard and his parishioners, including Fred Naylor, were prohibited from entering.”

UPDATE:  the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, sent an Army-wide memorandum ordering a halt to all briefings classifying Christian groups as domestic hate groups.

For now, McHugh ordered, Army leaders are “to cease all briefings, command presentations, or training on the subject of extremist organizations and activities, pending promulgation” of a uniform instruction and training program.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

October 9, 2013

Obamacare Chaos

"Exchange launch turns into inexcusable mess" USA Today editorial

Presidents always negotiate over the debt ceiling, even President Obama has

Historically, presidents have had to make concessions to Congress to secure funding. President Reagan endured eight shutdowns. Each time he negotiated with the Democratic speaker of the house, Tip O'Neill, conceding on issues from mid-range missile defense to support for Nicaraguan contras to quickly end the shutdown.

Fast-forward to the current showdown. The House Republicans' fourth (and latest) offer asks for only two changes in ObamaCare: First, eliminate the subsidy for members of Congress, which has outraged the public.

Second, delay for a year making insurance mandatory for individuals. Let anyone enroll in ObamaCare who wants to. But don't penalize individuals for being uninsured in 2014 when the president has already postponed the penalty on big companies for not insuring workers.
--

Given that the President has unilaterally delayed 19 parts of Obamacare, I simply cannot understand why the President wouldn't want a delay so that the software can be fixed  One year gives Democrats an opportunity to fix systemic errors in the software, the regulations, and the law. One year gives nothing at all to the Republicans–nothing–except the opportunity to crow a little bit.

Megan McArdle Republicans Didn't Sabotage Health Exchanges, Obama Did

They did not force the administration to wait until late 2011 to begin awarding important contracts for implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Presumably, they were also not skulking around the Department of Health and Human Services, writing the memos that delayed, until February of this year, the deadline for states to declare whether they’d be running their own exchanges.

Thirty Obamacare Fails

1. 99 Percent of Obamacare Applications Hit a Wall.
--
14. Kentucky Marketplace Customers Have No “Expectation of Privacy”
Kentucky’s state-run Obamacare marketplace issued a disclaimer that users should have “no explicit or implicit expectation of privacy” in the beginning stages of the sign-up process. The site warns that “any or all uses of this system and all files on the system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized state government and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign.”

15. McAfee, Inc., founder John McAfee slammed Obamacare’s lack of security precautions and predicted “millions” of identity thefts because of it. “This is a hacker’s wet dream — I cannot believe that they did this,” McAfee said on the Fox Business Network.

Better Business Bureau issues Scam Alert - "Obamacare" Scams Emerge as New Policies

Scammers look at opportunities where there’s confusion, where people don’t really understand what perhaps the new law is bringing to them. …We’re getting reports even here in Birmingham of people going door-to-door, telling homeowners that they are with an insurance company or they are with Medicare and that they’re going to have to have an Affordable Care Act Card. And so, in order to get their new card they’ve got to give their Social Security number, their bank accounts, all these things that people need to protect with everything they have and we’ve gotten report of them just handing these out… It’s a perfect opportunity for your identity to be stolen, for your bank accounts to be… your payments to be re-routed. … [The federal government is not soliciting door-to-door for people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act], and they’re not going to…  HealthCare.Gov is where you can go for real information…

Obamacare Site Resets All User Passwords In An Attempt To Fix Massive Login Problems

Our courageous press.  Not one dared to ask a  single question during the hour-long press conference with the President about Obamacare and the glitches of the insurance exchanges.

Gov. actuaries say ObamaCare will increase health care spending by $621 billion over next 10 years

‘I like you Obama, but I’m broke’: Americans upset that Obamacare costs money

I checked out an Obamacare exchange and it impressed me.. Until I saw the lowest premium for me was 3x what I am paying now

"I was laughing at Boehner -- until the mail came today,"

Waschura said, referring to House Speaker John Boehner, who is leading the Republican charge to defund Obamacare.
"I really don't like the Republican tactics, but at least now I can understand why they are so pissed about this. When you take $10,000 out of my family's pocket each year, that's otherwise disposable income or retirement savings that will not be going into our local economy."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

Petty, mean and very bad optics

Baptisms, weddings and Masses cancelled per order of Priests Risk Arrest for Offering Sacraments to Catholic Troops During Shutdown

Steve Skojec with CatholicVote.org said, “This is outrageous. It is a violation of the First Amendment. It is a prohibition of the free exercise of religion to order priests under penalty of arrest that they cannot volunteer their time to offer Mass to the faithful on base. This cannot be allowed to stand.”

Senior citizens on tour caught in Yellowstone National Park when shutdown began were locked inside their hotel and forbidden to take pictures; their tour guide accused the NPS of "Gestapo tactics".    Listen to an audio interview of Pat Vaillancourt recount her trip to Yellowstone “Shutdown Theater:” Obama Admin Puts Seniors At Yellowstone Under Armed Guard

NPS kicks out residents on Lake Mead including Ralph and Joyce Spencer, 77 and 80 years of age, respectively, who were evicted from their home on Lake Mead in Nevada by an officious park ranger who told them they had 24 hours to vacate the premises. The Spencers own their home outright, but it sits on land leased from the federal government.  Joyce Spencer said, “I had to be sure and get his walker and his scooter that he has to go in,”

Veterans arrested at Vietnam War memorial in NYC

Lincoln Memorial shut down

 Shutdown Obama's America



Pentagon Withholding Death Benefits for Fallen Soldiers' Families.  17 soldiers have died since the shutdown began.

Shutdown leaves kin of dead soldiers without money for funerals

the Fisher House Foundation has stepped forward to help cover travel and funeral costs to help families receive the remains of their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Meanwhile, Department of Veterans Affairs bought $1 million TV ad buy during shutdown

The shutdown has halted many government services, including military death benefits totaling $100,000, a one year housing allowance, up to $9,000 for a funeral and a flight to Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware, for a dignified reception of their loved ones’ remains.  The outcry has led Congress to act quickly, a bill is expected to be passed Wednesday morning to remedy the problem, according to Speaker of the House John Boehner.

All of the above is why the following two quotes resonated.

Mme Scherzo "The only thing we need to be certain of, beyond mere death and taxes, is this: Our government hates us. They don’t even pretend to care, anymore. The hatred is naked and sadistic. They enjoy making us suffer because they can."

and Mme Scherzo again.  "Regardless of political party, opinion of Obamacare, or who you blame for the shutdown…a government that intentionally makes life harder for its citizens is no longer of, by, or for the people. That is a fact."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

October 1, 2013

Not ready for prime time

It is beyond my ability to understand why the President doesn't welcome a one year delay for the individual mandate in Obamacare until the software is ready for prime time.  After all, the President himself had no problem in  unilaterally delaying the employer mandate for one year without approval of Congress,.   

Today, the first day Obamacare exchanges were open for individual signup and it's no surprise that  Obamacare health insurance exchange websites don’t work; HealthCare.gov a total mess  Go to the link to read the Twitter accounts of people unable to sign up and getting the following message:

 Healthcare.Gov-Crash

State exchanges are down across the country. 

In the Wall St Journal Gottlieb and Astrue on ObamaCare's Technology Mess

President Obama is bracing Americans for inevitable problems as the Affordable Care Act rolls out this week, but what he calls "glitches" are hardly routine. Information technology is ObamaCare's Achilles' heel. The faulty IT will expose Americans to lost data, attempts to enroll online that fail and the risk of fraud.

There are two key technological flaws in ObamaCare. First is the "hub"—the software to link servers at the Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security and state agencies to verify the income and health-insurance status of enrollees and ensure that they are eligible for subsidies. The other flaw is the "portal"—the federally run IT platform that is supposed to let consumers compare health plans and select one that best suits their needs
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:40 PM | Permalink

August 19, 2013

"The Mother of All Scandals is the Taxman"

Michael Leeden, The Mother of Scandals Is Always Pregnant

The mother of all scandals is the taxman.

Benghazi is an event, a terrible event, but the systematic use of the IRS as an instrument of oppression, the omnipresent long arm of the state-to-be, is even worse. It’s a crucial instrument for redistributing wealth, for intimidating critics, and for preventing political opponents from amassing the wherewithal to challenge the would-be tyrants.

Moreover, it serves as cover for collecting sensitive information about us. Sure, the NSA megadata collection is scary, but the IRS is right there, not only putting the Tea Party in purgatory but even grabbing medical records that include very private matters, as emerges in a California law suit.

The suit alleges that IRS agents seized tens of millions of medical records in the course of a search in connection with an investigation of a single person’s failure to pay taxes to the IRS’s full satisfaction:

“These medical records contained intimate and private information of more than 10,000,000 Americans, information that by its nature includes information about treatment for any kind of medical concern, including psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, sexual or drug treatment, and a wide range of medical matters covering the most intimate and private of concerns,” the complaint reads.
--
The IRS scandal is truly the pregnant mother of them all, giving birth to corrupt institutions and corrupt citizens at an alarming and depressing rate. We can speedily recover from the disgusting Benghazi affair by changing leaders. But it will take a full-scale purge to restore the tax collector to virtue.

Ted Cruz has the right idea: abolish the IRS and reform the tax code so that anyone can easily calculate how much he owes, and see that it is fair.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:10 PM | Permalink

August 8, 2013

Chaos coming in October with security concerns with the Obamacare Data Hub

Just a couple of weeks ago, I posted that the Obamacare Data Hub was a 'Honey Pot' for ID Thieves  and last May, The IRS Leviathan is getting bigger  as it will be getting vast new powers  in health care.  It gets worse.

Former HHS Counsel: Obamacare’s Privacy-Protection System is ‘Chaos’

“It’s chaos,” Michael Astrue said on Fox News last night. HHS procrastinated in designing the system, he explained, ultimately throwing it together hastily in order to meet the October 1 date. “They played catch up, and they didn’t have the time and money to do it right — they started doing shortcuts,” he explained.

Avik Roy writes in Forbes HHS Inspector General: Obamacare Privacy Protections Way Behind Schedule; Rampant Violations Of Law Possible

In order for Obamacare to work, the government will need to know a lot about your financial, medical, and employment situation. Has the Obama administration set up adequate safeguards to protect Americans’ privacy under the law? According to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the answer is no. Based on OIG’s analysis, Obamacare’s exchanges may end up illegally exposing Americans’ private records to hackers and criminals.

Obama administration legally required to provide privacy safeguards  ….[it] must adhere to the guidelines of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in achieving these safeguards, before the Obamacare exchanges can legally operate.

Privacy safeguards are at least two months behind schedule…. according to Gloria Jarmon, Deputy Inspector General for Audit Services at HHS, “several critical tasks remain to be completed in a short period of time…If there are additional delays in completing the security authorization,” the chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) may not have the required “security controls needed for the security authorization decision” to open the exchanges on October 1…..What makes them think that they can accomplish a 51-day review in just 10 days? They don’t. The Obama administration is so determined to get Obamacare up and running on time that they are likely to ignore the legal requirements to adequately review these privacy safeguards.
---
Social Security Commissioner: Obamacare exchanges are ‘the most widespread violation of the Privacy Act in our history’
Michael Astrue, who recently stepped down as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, and also once served as HHS general council, is scathing in his condemnation for the Obamacare privacy breach.

“A functional and legally compliant federal exchange almost certainly will not be ready on October 1,” he writes in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard. “The reasons for failure are not short timelines (Congress gave HHS more than three years), political interference (Congress has not focused on ACA systems), or complexity (states have built well-designed exchanges). The reason is plain old incompetence and arrogance.”

According to Astrue, CMS “threw together an overly simplistic system without adequate privacy safeguards,” leaving exchange enrollees “open to identity theft, lost periods of health insurance coverage, and exposure of address for victims of domestic abuse and others…the beta version [of the exchanges] jammed through a few months ago will, unless delayed and fixed, inflict on the public the most widespread violation of the Privacy Act in our history.”

Delay Obamacare’s exchanges by one year  is one solution. 

By all means, sign the petition at WhiteHouse.gov: Grant American People ObamaCare Exemption

IBD ObamaCare Poses a Massive Privacy Risk

Despite repeated assurances that the ObamaCare data hub is on schedule, a government audit finds that vital security measures to protect private information likely won't be ready by Oct. 1. The implications are profound.

As far back as December 2012, Obama administration officials were insisting that the data hub at the center of the ObamaCare exchanges was nearly finished.
Yet all the while, they were pushing back deadlines or missing them altogether, to the point where, unless ObamaCare's launch is delayed, millions of people's privacy will be at risk.

Obama officials may, in fact, have flat-out lied to lawmakers about the data hub's progress.
--
And HHS's chief information officer will now have just 10 days to review the final security assessment report before the hub goes live, instead of the seven weeks originally planned.  Deven McGraw of the Center for Democracy and Technology told Reuters that with these delays, "they've removed the margin for error."

Given the privacy risks involved with the data hub, this is completely unacceptable.
--
Obama officials — desperate to open the exchanges on time — continue to insist that the hub will be ready.  But given their track record, why should anyone believe them?

The bottom line is that if ObamaCare starts on Oct. 1 with an incomplete and unsecured data hub, it could create a privacy nightmare for millions of Americans.
If there were ever a reason to delay ObamaCare, this is it.

This is what the Obama data hub looks like:

 Obamacare Data Hub-2

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:17 PM | Permalink

Government spying is worse than we thought

The spying by the government on American citizens is so far beyond what anyone thought was possible, it's hard to comprehend its scope.  Except that it gets bigger and bigger.

New York Times. N.S.A. Said to Search Content of Messages to and From U.S.

To conduct the surveillance,’ reads the report, ‘the NSA. is temporarily copying and then sifting through the contents of what is apparently most e-mails and other text-based communications that cross the border…[the] computer searches the data for the identifying keywords or other “selectors” and stores those that match so that human analysts could later examine them.’

Revealed: How the NSA will spy on you if you just put the word Osama in an email, text message or Facebook chat

By identifying the recipient of the emails or text messages as the target of the surveillance instead of the sender, the NSA sidesteps a 2008 law that allows spying on domestic soil without warrants as long as the target was a noncitizen abroad.
---
The official said the remaining emails, those not selected by the software, are deleted.  Nonetheless, privacy proponents were in disbelief.

‘The program described by the New York Times involves a breathtaking invasion of millions of people's privacy,’ American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement. ‘The NSA has cast a massive dragnet over Americans' international communications, collecting and monitoring virtually all of them, and retaining some untold number of them in government databases. This is precisely the kind of generalized spying that the Fourth Amendment was intended to prohibit.’

Reuters.  Exclusive: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

"I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

"It is one thing to create special rules for national security," Gertner said. "Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations."

In a follow-up article Reuters reports Exclusive: IRS manual detailed DEA's use of hidden intel evidence

Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.

Meanwhile, Other Agencies Clamor for Data N.S.A. Compiles

“It’s a very common complaint about N.S.A.,” said Timothy H. Edgar, a former senior intelligence official at the White House and at the office of the director of national intelligence. “They collect all this information, but it’s difficult for the other agencies to get access to what they want.”

“The other agencies feel they should be bigger players,” said Mr. Edgar, who heard many of the disputes before leaving government this year to become a visiting fellow at Brown University. “They view the N.S.A. — incorrectly, I think — as this big pot of data that they could go get if they were just able to pry it out of them.”

Report:  Feds Demand Major Internet Companies Turn Over User Passwords

The federal government has demanded that major internet companies turn over users’ stored passwords, two sources told the respected tech website CNet.
--
“If the government is able to determine a person’s password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user,” the report says. “Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.”  But it doesn’t end there. The government is not only requesting the passwords, but its also asking for algorithms and even security questions:

At the same time, the government is doing everything it can to protect its own secrets, today's example, the EPA

The EPA's Game of Secret Science  The agency pursues rules that will cost billions but refuses to reveal its research.

As the Environmental Protection Agency moves forward with some of the most costly regulations in history, there needs to be greater transparency about the claimed benefits from these actions. Unfortunately, President Obama and the EPA have been unwilling to reveal to the American people the data they use to justify their multibillion-dollar regulatory agenda.

To cite a few examples of where the EPA would like to take the country, the agency is moving forward with strict new limits on ozone that by its own estimates will cost taxpayers $90 billion per year, which would make the regulation the most costly in history. Other examples include a Mercury and Air Toxics Standard for power plants (previously known as "Utility MACT") that the EPA estimates could cost up to $10 billion a year. Yet more than 99% of the EPA's health-based justifications for the rule are derived from scientific research that the EPA won't reveal. Taxpayers are supposed to take on faith that EPA policy is backed by good science.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 PM | Permalink

August 2, 2013

The IRS Stinks to High Heaven

Does anyone think this Administration will truly investigate the IRS?

Kim Strassel New Links Emerge in the IRS Scandal Emails released this week sweep the Federal Election Commission into the conservative-targeting probe.

Congressional investigators this week released emails suggesting that staff at the Federal Election Commission have been engaged in their own conservative targeting, with help from the IRS's infamous Lois Lerner. This means more than just an expansion of the probe to the FEC. It's a new link to the Obama team.

In May this column noted that the targeting of conservatives started in 2008, when liberals began a coordinated campaign of siccing the federal government on political opponents. The Obama campaign helped pioneer this tactic.
--
Thanks to Congress's newly released emails, we now know that FEC attorneys went to Ms. Lerner to pry out information about AIP—the organization the Obama campaign wanted targeted……Nine minutes after Ms. Lerner received this FEC email, she directed IRS attorneys to fulfill the request.

This matters because FEC staff didn't have permission from the Commission to conduct this inquiry. It matters because the IRS is prohibited from sharing confidential information, even with the FEC

Is the IRS obstructing justice?  Telling graph at the link

The Internal Revenue Service has produced “less than one percent of the total documents requested in the Congressional inquiry into the IRS targeting of conservative groups,” the Ways and Means Committee announced in a statement Thursday morning, indicating that the agency’s actions are beginning “to look a lot like obstruction.”

“The IRS demands that hardworking Americans comply with its rules and regulations subject to strict deadlines, but it appears that same agency cannot comply with a straightforward Congressional request,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said in a statement.  “The IRS has not even produced one percent of responsive documents – that is inexcusable.  “The IRS has pledged accountability and transparency, but the slow production and compliance in this investigation begins to look a lot like obstruction,” Camp continued.

The IRS Mafia: Hush Money and Politics

Ex-IRS Employee: IRS targeting of Christine O’Donnell “not an aberration.”

Noonan: Fortress IRS Agency stonewalling could permanently harm Americans' faith in government.

In all the day-to-day of the IRS scandals I don't think it's been fully noticed that the overall reputation of the agency has suffered a collapse, the kind from which it can take a generation to recover fully. In the long term this will prove damaging to the national morale—what happens to a great nation when its people come to lack even rudimentary confidence in the decisions made by the revenue-gathering arm of its federal government?

It will also diminish the hope for faith in government, which whatever your politics is not a good thing. We need government, as we all know. Americans have a right to assume that while theirs may be deeply imperfect, it is not deeply corrupt.
--
One irony here is that the Obama White House, always keen to increase the reach and power of government, also seems profoundly disinterested in good governing. It is strange.
--
House investigators this week said they have in fact received less than 1% of the documents they have been asking for from the agency. The IRS itself at one point identified a whopping and rather intimidating 65 million documents that might be relevant to the tea-party scandal. To date—almost three months since the scandal became public—the House Ways and Means Committee says the IRS has turned over only 13,000 pages. And some of them were duplicates.

IRS fails to release political groups' financial filings    Agency won't say why it's withholding normally accessible 527 group disclosures.

IBD  Media Can't Ignore New Developments In IRS Scandal

Lew, Carney and Obama himself act like people worried about a threat lying a little farther under investigators' shovels. And they should be considering the suspicious timeline of Obama-appointed IRS chief counsel William Wilkins visiting the president on April 23 last year; IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visiting the White House the next day; and Wilkins' office sending the IRS "guidance" on the Tea Party the day after that.

The IRS is one of the most powerful, frightening arms of the U.S. government. ObamaCare, about to be implemented, will mean "an unprecedented and unauthorized expansion of IRS power," bypassing Congress' constitutionally defined taxing powers, warns a soon-to-be-released book, "Impeachable Offenses."

If we find our tax-collection agency helped re-elect a president under political orders, Watergate could look trivial by comparison.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:02 PM | Permalink

Benghazi: Pressure on CIA officials NOT to talk

If it's a 'phoney' scandal, why the coverup?

CNN's Jake Tapper.  Exclusive: Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground during Benghazi attack

Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the assault by armed militants last September 11 in eastern Libya.

Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.
--
CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency's Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.

Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency's missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency's workings.

The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress.

It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.

In exclusive communications obtained by CNN, one insider writes, "You don't jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well."

Another says, "You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation."
--
Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.

Almost from the beginning, I've suspected the U.S. was transporting weapons from Libya to the rebels in Syria, but I never thought that included surface-to-air missiles.  Naively I thought the Administration would at least brief the Intelligence Committees.

Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic The Attack in Benghazi: Worth Investigating After All

CNN reports that dozens of CIA agents were on the ground there -- and that they're being pressured to keep quiet. Why?

Trey Gowdy: Administration Is Hiding Benghazi Survivors All Over the Country to Block Us From Interviewing Them

The implication, very clearly, is that this is being done not to protect intelligence assets from terrorist retribution but to “protect” them from Republicans asking inconvenient questions. Which isn’t the first time the GOP’s had trouble talking to relevant personnel: Marine Col. George Bristol was somehow indisposed for months, with the Pentagon unwilling to reveal his whereabouts to investigators, before the House Armed Services Committee finally landed him for a classified briefing this past week

All quiet on the White House front: No press briefing following Benghazi bombshell

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:26 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2013

The 'Intelligence-industrial complex' is spying on you and the prescient words of Sen Frank Church in 1975

CNET Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords  Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.

 Digital-Big-Brother-Is-Watching

National Journal How America's Top Tech Companies Created the Surveillance State  They’ve been helping the government spy on people for a very long time. The cozy relationships go back decades.

Books have been written about President Eisenhower’s famous farewell warning in 1961 about the “military-industrial complex,” and what he described as its “unwarranted influence.” But an even greater leviathan today, one that the public knows little about, is the “intelligence-industrial complex.”
The saga of the private sector’s involvement in the NSA’s scheme for permanent mass surveillance is long, complex, and sometimes contentious. Often, in ways that appeared to apply indirect pressure on industry, the NSA has demanded, and received, approval authority—veto power, basically—over telecom mergers and the lifting of export controls on software. The tech industry, in more than a decade of working-group meetings, has hashed out an understanding with the intelligence community over greater NSA access to their systems, including the nation’s major servers.

Angelo M. Codevilla, The Domestic Roots of International Contempt

The U.S. government did not have to spend billions to record metadata on every American’s phone calls and to access the rest of our electronic communications. It chose to do this because it had decided to deal with the threat of terrorism primarily by policing Americans rather than by forcing the Muslim world’s despots (that world is run exclusively by despots) to suppress anti-American incitement and activities rather than fostering them.

Moreover, the U.S. government crafted its “Homeland Security” on the basis of the counterfactual assumption that every American is as likely as any other American to be or not to be a terrorist – that to decide that any set of persons deserves any more scrutiny than any other, i.e. to “profile,” is impermissible. Hence, because “Homeland Security” is willfully agnostic not to say congenitally dumb, it must spy on everybody. The NSA’s universal elimination of the privacy of Americans’ communications is neither more nor less than the electronic version of the universal virtual undressing and palpating of passengers at airports.

NYReview of Books  They Know Much More Than You Think
The documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA does have a large-scale program to gather the telephone records of every Verizon customer, including local calls, and presumably a similar agreement with AT&T and other companies. These are records of who called whom and when, not of the content of the conversations, although the NSA has, by other methods, access to the content of conversations as well. But the NSA has, on a daily basis, access to virtually everyone’s phone records, whether cell or landline, and can store, data-mine, and keep them indefinitely. Snowden’s documents describing the PRISM program show that the agency is also accessing the Internet data of the nine major Internet companies in the US, including Google and Yahoo.
---
According to a slide released by Snowden, the cable-tapping operation is codenamed “UPSTREAM” and it is described as the “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past.” It also appears to be both far more secret and far more invasive than the PRISM program revealed by Snowden….Through UPSTREAM, however, the agency does get direct access to fiber-optic cables and the supporting infrastructure that carries nearly all the Internet and telephone traffic in the country.
---
In the end, both UPSTREAM and PRISM may be only the tips of a much larger system. Another new document released by Snowden says that on New Year’s Eve, 2012, SHELLTRUMPET, a metadata program targeting international communications, had just “processed its One Trillionth metadata record.” Started five years ago, it noted that half of that trillion was added in 2012. It also noted that two more new programs, MOONLIGHTPATH and SPINNERET, “are planned to be added by September 2013.”
--
One man who was prescient enough to see what was coming was Senator Frank Church, the first outsider to peer into the dark recesses of the NSA. In 1975, when the NSA posed merely a fraction of the threat to privacy it poses today with UPSTREAM, PRISM, and thousands of other collection and data-mining programs, Church issued a stark warning:

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology…. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:37 PM | Permalink

July 25, 2013

The Great Persecution

Christian Tragedy in the Muslim World by Bruce Thornton

Few people realize that we are today living through the largest persecution of Christians in history, worse even than the famous attacks under ancient Roman emperors like Diocletian and Nero. Estimates of the numbers of Christians under assault range from 100-200 million. According to one estimate, a Christian is martyred every five minutes. And most of this persecution is taking place at the hands of Muslims. Of the top fifty countries persecuting Christians, forty-two have either a Muslim majority or have sizeable Muslim populations.

In Crucified Again, Ibrahim performs two invaluable functions for educating people about the new “Great Persecution,” to use the label of the Roman war against Christians. First, he documents hundreds of specific examples from across the Muslim world. By doing so, he shows the extent of the persecution, and forestalls any claims that it is a marginal problem. Additionally, Ibrahim commemorates the forgotten victims, refusing to allow their suffering to be lost because of the indifference or inattention of the media and government officials.

Second, he provides a cogent explanation for why these attacks are concentrated in Muslim nations. In doing so, he corrects the delusional wishful thinking and apologetic spin that mars much of the current discussion of Islamic-inspired violence.

In Afghanistan, for example, where American blood and treasure liberated Afghans from murderous fanatics, a court order in March 2010 led to the destruction of the last Christian church in that country. In Iraq, also free because of America’s sacrifice, half of the Christians have fled; in 2010, Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was bombed during mass, with fifty-eight killed and hundreds wounded.

In Kuwait, likewise, the beneficiary of American power, the Kuwait City Municipal Council rejected a permit for building a Greek Catholic church. A few years later, a member of parliament said he would submit a law to prohibit all church construction. A delegation of Kuwaitis was then sent to Saudi Arabia––which legally prohibits any Christian worship–– to consult with the Grand Mufti, the highest authority on Islamic law in the birthplace of Islam, the Arabian Peninsula.

The Mufti announced that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region,” a statement ignored in the West until Ibrahim reported it. Imagine the media’s vehement outrage and condemnation if the Pope in Rome had called for the destruction of all the mosques in Italy. The absence of any Western condemnation or even reaction to the Mufti’s statement was stunning. Is there no limit to our tolerance of Islam?

it is in Egypt––yet another beneficiary of American money and support–– that the harassment and murder of Christians are particularly intense.
--
Contrary to the apologists who attribute these attacks to poverty, political oppression, the legacy of colonialism, or the unresolved Israeli-Arab conflict, Ibrahim shows that intolerance of other religions and the use of violence against them reflects traditional Islamic theology and jurisprudence.
---
Both Islamic doctrine and history show the continuity of motive behind today’s persecution of Christians. As Ibrahim writes, “The same exact patterns of persecution are evident from one end of the Islamic world to the other––in lands that do not share the same language, race, or culture––that share only Islam.”

David French comments on Our Pathetic Support for Muslim Oppression

It is a sign that we have utterly lost our minds that many Americans worry far more about “Islamophobia” than they do about this very real oppression, and many Americans will mock critics of the Muslim world as bigots or extremists for condemning conduct that should shock the conscience of any civilized person.    It’s one thing to be so blinded by multicultural nonsense (failing to appreciate that it is the Muslim world — not America — that desperately needs to embrace “diversity”) that we can’t clearly identify evil, it’s another thing entirely to subsidize oppression on a grand scale.
---
we subsidize oppressive Muslim governments to the tune of roughly $8 billion per year — collectively far more than we give our closest Middle Eastern ally (and vibrant Democracy), Israel.
--
For too long — through Republican and Democratic administrations — we’ve turned away from abuse of women, ignored the persecution of Christians, made excuses for terrorism, and attached few meaningful conditions to our billions upon billions of dollars in aid. Instead, we’ve wrung our hands about our own “imperialism,” vigilantly policed our alleged Islamophobia, and kept writing checks to intolerant regimes — even as extremism flourished.

At some point this policy moves from naïve, to foolish, to pathetic, and — ultimately — to evil. Right now, we’re pathetic. If we keep paying for this oppression, we’ll be complicit in evil.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:52 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2013

More on Detroit

Michael Barone When people ask me why I moved from liberal to conservative, I have a one-word answer: Detroit.

Daniel Hannan in London Statism is turning America into Detroit

The Observer, naturally, quotes a native complaining that ‘capitalism has failed us,’ but capitalism is the one thing the place desperately needs. Detroit has been under Leftist administrations for half a century. It has spent too much and borrowed too much, driving away business and becoming a tool of the government unions.

Of Detroit’s $11 billion debt, $9 billion is accounted for by public sector salaries and pensions. Under the mountain of accumulated obligations, the money going into, say, the emergency services is not providing services but pensions. Result? It takes the police an hour to respond to a 911 call and two thirds of ambulances can’t be driven. This is a failure, not of the private sector, but of the state.

He quotes Mark Steyn on the Downfall of Detroit

Like Detroit, America has unfunded liabilities, to the tune of $220 trillion, according to the economist Laurence Kotlikoff. Like Detroit, it’s cosseting the government class and expanding the dependency class, to the point where its bipartisan “immigration reform” actively recruits 50–60 million low-skilled chain migrants. Like Detroit, America’s governing institutions are increasingly the corrupt enforcers of a one-party state — the IRS and Eric Holder’s amusingly misnamed Department of Justice being only the most obvious examples. Like Detroit, America is bifurcating into the class of “community organizers” and the unfortunate denizens of the communities so organized.

Charles Krauthammer responds to leftist who claim GOP policies led to Detroit's ruin

Detroit is not really an example of the failure of GOP economic policy. It’s been run by the Democrats for 60 years, and you can cite all the studies about how bad austerity is, all you have to do is look at Detroit and you get an idea of how bad the absence of austerity is, it’s a city in ruin,”

Tyler Burden at ZeroHedge has compiled  25 Facts About The Fall Of Detroit That Will Leave You Shaking Your Head

9) An astounding 47 percent of the residents of the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate.

11) If you can believe it, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

15) 40 percent of the street lights do not work.

16) Only about a third of the ambulances are running.

17) Some ambulances in the city of Detroit have been used for so long that they have more than 250,000 miles on them.

18) Two-thirds of the parks in the city of Detroit have been permanently closed down since 2008.

19) The size of the police force in Detroit has been cut by about 40 percent over the past decade.

20) When you call the police in Detroit, it takes them an average of 58 minutes to respond.

21) Due to budget cutbacks, most police stations in Detroit are now closed to the public for 16 hours a day.

22) The violent crime rate in Detroit is five times higher than the national average.

23) The murder rate in Detroit is 11 times higher than it is in New York City.

24) Today, police solve less than 10 percent of the crimes that are committed in Detroit.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2013

What can we learn from Detroit's Bankruptcy

Kevin Williamson at NR, Detroit Goes Down

In 1960, Detroit had the highest per capita income in the United States; today, it is the poorest large city in the United States….

Detroit has suffered the usual problems associated with large, Democrat-dominated cities. Its spending has long been out of control, and former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and one of his cronies are prison-bound on 31 counts of extortion, bribery, and racketeering….

The city has for years proved unable or unwilling to provide the basic services people expect from municipal authorities: While political cronies got fat, the people of Detroit were left with some of the worst schools in the country, some of the most dangerous streets in the country, and a mass-transit system that is a non-functioning mess. Not that you’d want to start a business there, but if you did, its licensing and regulatory agencies run the gamut from incompetent to corrupt.

So the people of Detroit went on strike…..They packed up and left, taking their businesses, their innovation, and their tax dollars with them. The powers that be in Detroit can rob people blind, but they cannot make them stay.
--
Detroit is the victim of a vicious circle: Failing municipal institutions mean that without the allure of a high-paying job, Detroit is an undesirable place to live, while the unions have helped to drive away a great many of those high-paying jobs. A city that already was corrupt and incompetent saw its tax base evaporate, meaning that it quickly became a city that is corrupt, incompetent, and broke. Of its $11 billion in unsecured debt, the great majority — $9 billion — is owed to pensions and health-benefit plans for the same public-sector incompetents who helped bring the city to its knees in the first place. Detroit’s ruling class is a parasite that has outgrown its host.

Tim Stanley views Detroit  from the U.K., This is what happens if you vote Democratic for 51 years.

I’ve been to Detroit and I won’t be hurrying back. I’ve never been surrounded by such appalling poverty in a Western country – rows and rows of public housing, every window broken, every door barred. I was advised to take a cab everywhere and to avoid the sidewalk at all costs. The gas station near my motel was a notorious hangout for crack dealers. The only way to get any food was to order it in, and the pizza guy refused to enter the motel itself. I had to come out to the freeway and nervously exchange money for food in the middle of the road.
--
But it’s surely no coincidence that Detroit has also been run by the same people for 51 years. Since 1962, the city has always returned Democratic mayors and, lacking in any real political competition, they’ve been allowed to run the city into the ground. High minded liberal rhetoric covers up for incompetence corruption. ….

So what you have is a toxic combination of stupidity and malice, all enabled by a one party system. This is what all of America would look like if only Democrats governed it for fifty years. You won’t read this often, but thank goodness for the Republican Party.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:05 PM | Permalink

July 18, 2013

Chief Counsel, one of only 2 political appointees in IRS, implicated in IRS Scandal

Noonan: A Bombshell in the IRS Scandal

The IRS scandal was connected this week not just to the Washington office—that had been established—but to the office of the chief counsel….
The chief counsel of the IRS is one of only two Obama political appointees in the entire agency.
--
What was the chief counsel's office looking for? The letter to Mr. Werfel says Mr. Hull's supervisor, Ronald Shoemaker, provided insight: The counsel's office wanted, in the words of the congressional committees, "information about the applicants' political activities leading up to the 2010 election." Mr. Shoemaker told investigators he didn't find that kind of question unreasonable, but he found the counsel's office to be "not very forthcoming": "We discussed it to some extent and they indicated that they wanted more development of possible political activity or political intervention right before the election period."

It's almost as if—my words—the conservative organizations in question were, during two major election cycles, deliberately held in a holding pattern.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 PM | Permalink

"Instead of investigating the militant Boston mosque where the bomber brothers were radicalized, the FBI partnered with it for political "outreach."

The PC-ification Of The FBI

Homeland Insecurity: If there's any doubt the FBI's gone soft on Islamic terror and may be overlooking more Boston-style plots, witness the bureau chief's recent Hill testimony.

In a testy exchange with Republican lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Robert Mueller reluctantly acknowledged FBI counterterrorism training materials have been purged of references to "jihad" and "Islam" and that counterterrorism agents have been restricted from doing undercover investigations at mosques.

These outrageous policies likely contributed to the FBI missing signs of radicalization in the Muslim community — including that of the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston. The marathon bombers operated in plain sight of the FBI before killing three and wounding 260.
--
Mueller confirmed that instead of investigating the militant Boston mosque where the bomber brothers were radicalized, the FBI partnered with it for political "outreach."

Asked if he was aware the mosque was co-founded by a convicted terrorist cited by the Treasury Department as an al-Qaida fundraiser, Mueller sheepishly replied, "I was not."
--
The same mosque also has graduated several other convicted terrorists. The FBI helped put all these terrorists behind bars, yet didn't tie them back to the mosque. If the bureau had, it would have seen something rotten with the leadership there
--
Mueller wasn't always Mr. Magoo. Who put the PC blinders on him? Eric Holder.  In October 2011, the attorney general quietly put in force two policies that have made the nation far more vulnerable to homegrown terrorism.

For one, he set up a special review committee to curb mosque investigations, classifying the names of the reviewers, who reportedly may include outside parties.  Also that month he ordered a review of all FBI counterterrorist training manuals "to identify and correct any material that may be construed as offensive to someone of the Islamic faith," according to a directive sent to all FBI field offices.
Reviewers proceeded to purge references to "jihad" and "Islam" in connection to terrorism.

Instead, they are spying on us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2013

What government run health care looks like in Britain

NHS inquiry: Thousands of patients died amid 'fundamental breaches of care'

Eleven NHS hospitals are being placed under special measures after thousands of patients died [13,000] amid "fundamental breaches of care", Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary has said.

He told MPs: "No statistics are perfect but mortality rates suggest that since 2005 thousands more people may have died that would normally be expected at the 14 trusts reviewed.

"Worryingly, in half of those trusts, the Care Quality Commission - the regulator specifically responsible for patient safety and care - failed to spot any real cause for concern, rating them as 'compliant' with basic standards."
--
The review identified disturbing patterns across many of the hospitals, including professional and geographic isolation, failure to act on data or information that showed cause for concern, the absence of a culture of openness, a lack of willingness to learn from mistakes and ineffectual governance and assurance processes. In many cases Trust Boards were unaware of problems discovered by the review teams.

NHS inquiry: Shaming of health service as care crisis is laid bare

The shocking conditions in Britain’s hospitals have been laid bare by an official report which disclosed that failings uncovered in NHS wards were so bad that inspectors felt compelled to abandon their impartial roles and step in to alleviate patient suffering.
--
Inspectors visited 21 hospitals, run by 14 NHS trusts, which had the highest recent mortality rates in England. They found that some of the risks to patients were so severe that they were forced to step in immediately.

During the visits, decisions were taken urgently to close operating theatres, suspend unsafe “out of hours” services for critically ill patients, order changes to staffing levels and to force hospitals to tackle major backlogs of scans and X-rays that had gone unexamined.
During one inspection, a senior nursing official was so dismayed by the shortage of staff that she stepped in to comfort one patient physically because they had been ignored by staff.
--
Clear links were found between shortages of staff and the high death rates that had triggered the investigation.  At Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, junior doctors described a “frightening” workload which left them responsible for up to 250 patients at weekends. Elderly patients were left on the lavatory with the door open, while others were left on trolleys for hours on end. At one of the trust’s community hospitals, nurses were forced to call 999 because there were not enough doctors.
--
Dirt and dust was found to be “ingrained” on the wards at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and two operating theatres were shut immediately due to poor hygiene.
--
Mr Hunt said 11 of the trusts would be put into “special measures” for “fundamental breaches of care” and external experts would be sent in to improve patient care. All 14 trusts have been ordered to make changes.

The NHS claims it doesn't have enough money,  but then the  NHS pays THIRTY TIMES more for cod-liver oil than high street cost: Capsules being bought for up to £89.50  Identical versions available to consumers on the high street for just £3.50 but doctors prescribing the fish oil, available in shops, on prescription.    There are two many cozy contracts with preferred vendors and the state covers them up.

Daniel Hannan, When I criticized the NHS, my elderly mother was harassed – which helps explain the mess we're in

Any organization that is treated as being beyond reproach is bound in time to become flabby, self-serving and producer-centered. It happened to the mega-charities. It happened to the United Nations. It would be surprising if the NHS were an exception.
In today’s Guardian, Simon Jenkins writes, "Lobbyists for the NHS have resisted reform by appealing to public emotion since its foundation. It has served them well – especially the consultants."
--
For a fair chunk of the British Left, a state-run NHS is beyond criticism. It is not a question on which different parties may reasonably disagree (‘Stop treating the NHS like a political football!’) Rather, it is seen, as in Andy Burnham’s formulation, or in Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony, as a test of patriotism. The same people who are quick to deplore the sentiment ‘my country right or wrong’ often take precisely such an attitude to the NHS.
--
When I pointed out that the NHS fared badly by most international comparisons four years ago, my since-deceased mother was harassed by Left-wing journalists. I suppose I should be grateful that her grave has not been vandalized – as happened to the mother of the woman who drew attention to the barbarities in Mid Staffs.

Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said yesterday that Opposing ObamaCare is like Opposing Civil Rights in 1964

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:28 PM | Permalink

July 8, 2013

Zealotry in the Government

zealotry: fanatical and uncompromising pursuit of religious, political or other ideals.

The HHS Mandate Fraud Exposed James C. Capretta Obama’s phony “accommodation” on contraception.

The administration’s final rule on the subject exposes the fraudulence of the entire “accommodation” exercise. In response to the concerns expressed by insurers, the rule drops the fig leaf of a separately issued insurance plan and instead simply requires insurers and third-party administrators to provide the items and products covered by the mandate for free to workers and their families, even if a religious employer elects to exclude those products and services from the insurance contract.  In other words, these products and services are covered in every insurance plan sponsored by employers (with the exception of a narrowly drawn list of churches and houses of worship), whether or not it says so in the insurance contract. Amazingly, the administration asserts that this is an “accommodation” to take seriously.
--
As usual, the administration issued this rule when it hoped to generate the least media attention, on a Friday before a congressional recess. The irony — undoubtedly lost on the administration — is that this recess is devoted to the nation’s birth, which was motivated heavily by the pursuit of genuine religious toleration.

The fight is not over, and can still be won. Those opposed to the mandate are exercising their constitutional rights and are suing the administration. And there’s reason to believe the courts will ultimately defend and honor the religious-liberty traditions of this country in a way the administration would not.

Moreover, this issue can and should be contested in the political arena. There is no public-policy rationale for the HHS mandate, because the products and services covered by it are already widely and readily available, and heavily subsidized by the government for those with low incomes. The administration is imposing this requirement for entirely ideological reasons.


In Spiked, Gay marriage's echoes of the Cultural Revolution by Sean Collins.

The campaign for gay marriage in the US is starting to resemble the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s China. Politicians denouncing their own prior beliefs, people hounding others to recant, the young being upheld as morally superior to the ‘backward’ older generation… it all feels worryingly familiar.

According to the new orthodoxy, we will not have a gay-marriage debate, because you don’t argue with bigotry and homophobia. The most prominent supporters of same-sex marriage (SSM) in the US today - establishment voices from the New York Times to Democratic Party politicians - do not engage with views from the other side; they dismiss them as hateful. Pro-SSM campaigners are trying to make expressions of support for traditional marriage, or the questioning of full marriage rights for gays, appear as beyond the pale as Jim Crow and Holocaust denial.

With its decisions last week, the US Supreme Court added its considerable weight to the movement to silence those who uphold the historical understanding of marriage. In striking down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Court’s 5-4 majority divined that the only motive for the act was a ‘bare… desire to harm a politically unpopular group’. In other words, in passing this act Congress was driven by irrational hostility to gays, nothing more.

In addition to quashing dissent, what makes the gay-marriage campaign a dark kind of Cultural Revolution is its white-washing and distortion of history. SSM advocates face an obstacle in their attempt to make ‘traditional marriage equals bigotry’ an unquestioned dogma: it flies in the face of the historical record and experience. It was not so long ago that many reasonable people espoused a conventional view of marriage, and in no way could they be said to be animated by hatred towards gays. And so today’s gay-marriage campaigners are forced, like Maoists of the past, to rewrite history to have it conform with today’s new party line.

The Anchoress, Antonin Scalia, Bad Person

Scalia spends part of his Windsor dissent arguing in defense of what used to be considered a most “liberal” notion: that human beings have a right to express their point of view without fear of reprisal; a right to dissent from conventional wisdom; a right, even, to be wrong. It is a sentiment that free-thinkers (of even the recent past) would often express by quoting Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s summary of Voltaire’s thinking: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Kennedy’s opinion makes it clear that the days of defending the freedom of others to think and speak outside of the ever-narrowing corridors of what is permissible are numbered; the line of delineation he sketches out is stark, bare, and singular: there will be one (correct) thought or there will be Bad People.

What an illiberal notion!

From Scalia's dissent in Windsor 

The majority concludes that the only motive for this Act was the “bare . . . desire to harm a politically unpopular group.” … Bear in mind that the object of this condemnation is not the legislature of some once-Confederate Southern state, but our respected coordinate branches, the Congress and Presidency of the United States. Laying such a charge against them should require the most extraordinary evidence….. 
--
In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. [It is to] “dis-parage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homo-sexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it...enemies of the human race. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:31 PM | Permalink

July 5, 2013

"Our crumbling 'rule of law'

The Obamacare employer mandate delay is another symptom of our crumbling ‘rule of law’

In what sense do we live under the rule of law if the Congress can pass a bill, the president can sign it, and then the president can unilaterally announce that it is not going to be implemented as planned? Telling me that this kind of discretionary power is routinely exercised by the executive branch is not an answer. In what sense is legislation that permits such discretion the “rule of law”? Isn’t the essence of the rule of law that ordinary citizens can know what the rules are? Can be confident that the rules are not guidelines but, you know, The Law?

We live in a country where the law has not only become unintelligible, written in thousand-page chunks, but has morphed into a giant mass of silly putty that can be reshaped as our rulers find convenient.

Employer Mandate? Never Mind  Obama decides not to enforce the heart of his health-care law.

The employer mandate is central to ObamaCare's claim of providing universal coverage. Companies with 50 or more "employee equivalents" must pay a $2,000 penalty per full-time employee if they don't provide government-approved health insurance. The provision was supposed to start in January, and delaying it is like Ford saying its electric car is ready to go, except the electric battery doesn't work
--
This is more than a typical government snafu. It relates directly to the design of the law, which was thoughtlessly written and rammed through Congress with instructions for the bureaucracy to figure it all out.

And, lo, over eight interim final rules, three final rules, 20 requests for comment, 21 proposed rules, one information collection request, two amendments to the interim final rules, six requests for information and one frequently-asked-questions document, the Administration has created an employer-mandate system that, for example, requires business to track and report every full-time employee's hours of service on a monthly basis.
--
The Affordable Care Act's Section 1513 states in black-letter law that "(d) Effective Date.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013." It does not say the Administration can impose the mandate whenever it feels it is politically convenient.

This selective enforcement of laws has become an Administration habit. From immigration (the Dream Act by fiat) to easing welfare reform's work requirements to selective waivers for No Child Left Behind, the Obama Administration routinely suspends enforcement of or unilaterally rewrites via regulation the laws it dislikes. Now it is doing it again on health care, without any consultation from, much less the approval of, Congress. President Obama probably figures business and Republicans won't object because they don't like the law anyway.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 AM | Permalink

July 4, 2013

Disaster plans for bunnies: UPDATED

Another government idiocy

Two years ago,  the USDA insisted that Marty Hahne,  a magician based in Ozark, MO, needed a license from the USDA to have a rabbit in his act.  The so-called 'Rabbit Police' from the USDA insist that a hand-washing station be installed  within sight from where the rabbit is displayed,  and that the magician and any audience member must wash their hands  before petting the rabbit.  'Rabbit police' from the USDA Stalk Magicians

~Magician-Pulls-Rabbit-Out-Of-Hat

USDA Tells Magician to Write Disaster Plan for His Rabbit.

An Ozark, Mo.-based magician whose story about being harassed by USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service agents (a.k.a., “Rabbit Police”) was one of three stories highlighted in an article two years ago, Marty Hahne contacted me today with an update.

“You won’t believe what the USDA has come up with now,” Hahne wrote in an email message late Friday afternoon.  “If this wasn’t so stupid, it would be funny!”

He went on to share details about his continued harassment by the USDA — all for using a three-pound rabbit in his magic act:

My USDA rabbit license requirement has taken another ridiculous twist. I just received an 8 page letter from the USDA, telling me that by July 29 I need to have in place a written disaster plan, detailing all the steps I would take to help get my rabbit through a disaster, such as a tornado, fire, flood, etc. They not only want to know how I will protect my rabbit during a disaster, but also what I will do after the disaster, to make sure my rabbit gets cared for properly.  I am not kidding–before the end of July I need to have this written rabbit disaster plan in place, or I am breaking the law.

In his email message, Hahne also explained the timeline via which he must comply: 1) the new regulation became effective Jan. 30, 2012; 2) the written plan must be completed by July 29, 2013; 3) Hahne and his wife, Brenda, must be trained to implement the plan as written; and 4) the written plan must be available for review by USDA inspectors by Sept. 28, 2013.

UPDATED:  What the disaster plan must include:    With the July 29 compliance deadline looming, the USDA recently sent Marty the Magician (aka Marty Hahne of Springfield, Missouri) an eight-page communiqué detailing requirements for the plan, which must:

  • Identify common emergencies most likely to occur,
  • Outline specific tasks required to be carried out in response to each of the identified emergencies,
  • Identify a chain of command and who (by name or by position title) will be responsible for fulfilling these tasks, and
  • Address how response and recovery will be handled in terms of materials, resources, and training needs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:36 PM | Permalink

Still revolutionary

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,……

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes….

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.-…

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world…..

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good...

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance….

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice….

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance…..

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:….

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:….

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 AM | Permalink

July 2, 2013

IRS to gather "the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic" ObamaCare Hub

Somehow I don't think the White House delay in enforcing the employer mandate until 2015 will have any effect on ObamaCare Hub.

Think NSA Spying Is Bad? Here Comes ObamaCare Hub

The Health and Human Services Department earlier this year exposed just how vast the government's data collection efforts will be on millions of Americans as a result of ObamaCare.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., asked HHS to provide "a complete list of agencies that will interact with the Federal Data Services Hub." The Hub is a central feature of ObamaCare, since it will be used by the new insurance exchanges to determine eligibility for benefits, exemptions from the federal mandate, and how much to grant in federal insurance subsidies.

In response, the HHS said the ObamaCare data hub will "interact" with seven other federal agencies: Social Security Administration, the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security, the Veterans Administration, Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Defense and — believe it or not — the Peace Corps. Plus the Hub will plug into state Medicaid databases.

And what sort of data will be "routed through" the Hub? Social Security numbers, income, family size, citizenship and immigration status, incarceration status, and enrollment status in other health plans, according to the HHS.

"The federal government is planning to quietly enact what could be the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic," noted Stephen Parente, a University of Minnesota finance professor.

Not to worry, says the Obama administration. "The hub will not store consumer information, but will securely transmit data between state and federal systems to verify consumer application information," it claimed in an online fact sheet .

But a regulatory notice filed by the administration in February tells a different story.

That filing describes a new "system of records" that will store names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, taxpayer status, gender, ethnicity, email addresses, telephone numbers on the millions of people expected to apply for coverage at the ObamaCare exchanges, as well as "tax return information from the IRS, income information from the Social Security Administration, and financial information from other third-party sources."

They will also store data from businesses buying coverage through an exchange, including a "list of qualified employees and their tax ID numbers," and keep it all on file for 10 years.

In addition, the filing says the federal government can disclose this information "without the consent of the individual" to a wide range of people, including "agency contractors, consultants, or grantees" who "need to have access to the records" to help run ObamaCare, as well as law enforcement officials to "investigate potential fraud."

IRS workers used corporate credit cards to splurge $493,000 of taxpayer money on pornography, wine, diet pills and romance novels and WEREN'T disciplined

Greg Rosen, an IRS employee involved in procurement for the agency, is pleading the 5th to avoid testifying before Congress about his  allegedly improper influence to steer a $500 million contract to his friend's fledging company formed in 2011.

100% of Tea Party Groups Targeted by the IRS  concedes the IRS, yet, the FBI, charged with investigating the IRS,  has yet to contact a single tea party group.

IRS Sent $46,378,040 in Refunds to 23,994 ‘Unauthorized’ Aliens at 1 Atlanta Address -

The IRS sent 11,284 refunds worth a combined $2,164,976 to unauthorized alien workers at a second Atlanta address; 3,608 worth $2,691,448 to a third; and 2,386 worth $1,232,943 to a fourth.
--
TIGTA’s audit found that IRS management has not established adequate internal controls to detect and prevent the assignment of an ITIN to individuals submitting questionable applications,” said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. “Even more troubling, TIGTA found an environment which discourages employees from detecting fraudulent applications.”
--
The IRS, according to TIGTA, also assigned ITINs to 15,028 unauthorized aliens presumably living at a single address in Dallas, Texas, and 10,356 to unauthorized aliens presumably living at a single address in Atlantic City, N.J.

You mean to tell me that IRS has no controls that would prevent $46 million in refunds to a single address!  The IRS is an agency completely out of control.  It should be abolished and a flat tax instituted to prevent such corruption and blatant fraud.

Incompetence and Abuse Call for a Clean Sweep of the IRS

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:32 PM | Permalink

June 26, 2013

Our broken security clearance system

The security clearance system of the country is completely broken.

• 87 percent of background checks are never fully completed
• There are no uniform guidelines across the government for different levels of clearance. This means that top-secret clearance at one agency means something completely different at another.
• USIS, a private contractor, conducts 65 percent of all U.S. government background checks.

USIS, which conducted a background check on Snowden, is now under investigation by OPM’s IG for failing to conduct proper background checks.
OPM has already paid USIS $200 million this year.
---
Eighteen OPM investigators have been convicted of falsifying information contained in investigations they’ve conducted. Eleven work for OPM, while the other seven work for private contractors.
Forty other investigators are currently being investigated for falsifying background checks.

“I'm tired of this assumption that contractors are cheaper. I just think it's easier,” McCaskill then said.
With that, Thursday’s matinee of the absurd lowered its curtain.

John Hinderaker at Powerline asks the pertinent question:

"How in the world could the NSA allow a random employee of a contractor, Booz Allen, who had been on the “job” for only a couple of months, such unfettered and apparently uncharted access to secret materials? The fact that the NSA did so is the best argument against that agency’s being a trustworthy custodian of Americans’ secrets.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

IRS sends $46 million in refunds to 24,000 unauthorized aliens all at a single address

IRS Sent $46,378,040 in Refunds to 23,994 ‘Unauthorized’ Aliens at 1 Atlanta Address -

The IRS sent 11,284 refunds worth a combined $2,164,976 to unauthorized alien workers at a second Atlanta address; 3,608 worth $2,691,448 to a third; and 2,386 worth $1,232,943 to a fourth.
--
TIGTA’s audit found that IRS management has not established adequate internal controls to detect and prevent the assignment of an ITIN to individuals submitting questionable applications,” said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. “Even more troubling, TIGTA found an environment which discourages employees from detecting fraudulent applications.”
--
The IRS, according to TIGTA, also assigned ITINs to 15,028 unauthorized aliens presumably living at a single address in Dallas, Texas, and 10,356 to unauthorized aliens presumably living at a single address in Atlantic City, N.J.


IRS Sent $7,319,518 in Refunds to One Bank Account Used by 2,706 Aliens

The Internal Revenue Service sent $7,319,518 in tax refunds in 2011 to what theoretically were 2,706 aliens who were not authorized to work inside the United States and who all used the same bank account, according to an audit report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
--
The inspector general's audit report revealing this remarkable payout was spurred by two IRS employees who went to members of Congress "alleging that IRS management was requiring employees to assign Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) even when the applications were fraudulent.”

You mean to tell me that IRS has no controls that would prevent $46 million in refunds to a single address!  The IRS is an agency completely out of control.  It should be abolished and a flat tax instituted to prevent such corruption and blatant fraud.

Twelve different IRS units nationwide targeted conservatives

“We know that the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division in Washington, D.C. was involved, and that’s where Carter Hull and Lois Lerner were working. We have 14 letters directly from Lois Lerner,” French said. “When Lois Lerner said on May 10 that this was just a few agents in Cincinnati, we were literally holding in our hands 14 letters that she wrote to conservative groups.”

No wonder she took the 5th.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:58 AM | Permalink

June 22, 2013

The Decline in American Entrepreneurship. "The pessimistic view is we've lost our mojo."

America Falls Behind in Creating Entrepreneurs

A new study from Barclays, "Origins and Legacy: the Changing Order of Wealth Creation," finds developing countries now lead the U.S. when comes to wealth creation by entrepreneurs.

Worldwide, 40 percent of millionaires (which is defined as those with investable assets of $1.5 million or more) cited a "business sale or profit" from their business as their source of wealth. Only a quarter of the millionaires cited inheritance as their wealth source.

In the U.S., only 21 percent of millionaires cited business sale or profit as their source of wealth. A much larger percentage cited saved earnings or personal investments as their sources of wealth.

Risk-Averse Culture Infects U.S. Workers, Entrepreneurs

Three long-running trends suggest the U.S. economy has turned soft on risk: Companies add jobs more slowly, even in good times. Investors put less money into new ventures. And, more broadly, Americans start fewer businesses and are less inclined to change jobs or move for new opportunities.

The changes reflect broader, more permanent shifts, including an aging population and the new dominance of large corporations in many industries. They also may help explain the increasingly sluggish economic recoveries after the past three recessions, experts said.

"The U.S. has succeeded in part because of its dynamism, its high pace of job creation and destruction, and its high pace of churning of workers," said John Haltiwanger, a University of Maryland economist who has studied the decline in American entrepreneurship. "The pessimistic view is we've lost our mojo."

Companies that gamble on new ideas are more likely to fail, but also more likely to hit it big. Entrepreneurs face long odds, but those that achieve success create jobs for many others.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 AM | Permalink

June 20, 2013

How Institutions Decay and Economies Die

""We are living through a profound crisis of the institutions that were the keys to our previous success—not only economic, but also political and cultural—as a civilization"

writes Niall Ferguson in his new book, The Great Degeneration, which is reviewed by George Melloan who calls it A Jeremiad to Heed.

Doomsayers are never popular, but sometimes they're right….That maxim applies to the writings of the economic historian Niall Ferguson.
--
With a focus on the United States, "The Great Degeneration" warns that Western civilization has entered into a period of decline due mainly to the strangling of private initiative by the ever-encroaching state. "….

The threatened institutions are representative government, the free market, the rule of law and civil society. Mr. Ferguson is dismayed at the explosion of public debt, the destruction of markets by excessive regulation, the replacement of the rule of law by "a rule of lawyers," and the decay of civil society as represented in part by the decline of thousands of private, voluntary organizations (Rotarians, Elks, et al.) that have contributed so much to social order and progress in America.
--
The most worrisome evidence of decline, he believes, is the "crisis of public debt," with government budgets out of control in the U.S. and Europe. He sees outsize debt as a symptom of the "betrayal of future generations: a breach of Edmund Burke's social contract between the present and the future."
[U.S. future obligations exceed future revenues by $200 trillion, and state and local governments face $38 trillion in unfunded obligations.]
--
The French author Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the scope of American civil society in the 19th century, the many associations that owed their "birth and development" not to law but to individuals freely joining forces. Mr. Ferguson agrees with Tocqueville that "the state—with its seductive promise of 'security from the cradle to the grave'—was the real enemy of civil society."

Earlier this month, Ferguson wrote two op eds in the Wall Street Journal based on the premises of his new book.

How America Lost Its Way  It is getting ever harder to do business in the United States, argues Niall Ferguson, and more stimulus won't help: Our institutions need fixing.

If poor countries can get rich by improving their institutions, is it not possible that rich countries can get poor by allowing their institutions to degenerate? I want to suggest that it is.
--
We used to have the rule of law. Now it is tempting to say we have the rule of lawyers, which is something different.
--
The decline of American institutions is no secret. Yet it is one of those strange "unknown knowns" that is well documented but largely ignored.
--
Each year, the World Economic Forum publishes its Global Competitiveness Index. Since it introduced its current methodology in 2004, the U.S. score has declined by 6%. (In the same period China's score has improved by 12%.) …In only one category out of 22 is the U.S. ranked in the global top 20 (the strength of investor protection). In seven categories it does not even make the top 50.

Niall Ferguson: The Regulated States of America  Tocqueville saw a nation of individuals who were defiant of authority. Today? Welcome to Planet Government.

In "Democracy in America," published in 1833, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the way Americans preferred voluntary association to government regulation. ...Unlike Frenchmen, he continued, who instinctively looked to the state to provide economic and social order, Americans relied on their own efforts. "In the United States, they associate for the goals of public security, of commerce and industry, of morality and religion. There is nothing the human will despairs of attaining by the free action of the collective power of individuals."
--
Instead of joining together to get things done, Americans have increasingly become dependent on Washington.
--
As the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Clyde Wayne Crews shows in his invaluable annual survey of the federal regulatory state, we have become the regulation nation almost imperceptibly…..The cost of all this, Mr. Crews estimates, is $1.8 trillion annually—that's on top of the federal government's $3.5 trillion in outlays, so it is equivalent to an invisible 65% surcharge on your federal taxes, or nearly 12% of GDP. Especially invidious is the fact that the costs of regulation for small businesses (those with fewer than 20 employees) are 36% higher per employee than they are for bigger firms.

Here are three recent examples of what Ferguson is talking about.

Department of Labor vs. me

What started as a small family business operating out of our home has grown to 22 states. Now, though, it might all turn out to be illegal, thanks to the bureaucratic thinking of the Department of Labor.

The business model that parents thought was an innovation, but that Labor sees as a menace, is simple but effective. You might have heard of it: cooperation.

Then there is the struggle to start  a charter school in Maryland using a classical curriculum and science that Charles Murray talks about in A case study in the government as enemy.   

Or the harassment experienced by one man who tried to start a non-profit to challenge the imagination of the rising generation by engaging them with the great books and America's moral and constitutional order.  The IRS targeted my organization.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:31 AM | Permalink

June 18, 2013

Your Government at work

IRS snooping.  IRS is collecting your electronic data, virtually everything you do online.  Via Patterico

The Internal Revenue Service is collecting a lot more than taxes this year — it’s also acquiring a huge volume of personal information on taxpayers’ digital activities, from eBay auctions to Facebook posts and, for the first time ever, credit card and e-payment transaction records, as it expands its search for tax cheats to places it’s never gone before.
---
It's well-known in the tax community, but not many people outside of it are aware of this big expansion of data and computer use," says Edward Zelinsky, a tax law expert and professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and Yale Law School. "I am sure people will be concerned about the use of personal information on databases in government, and those concerns are well-taken. It's appropriate to watch it carefully. There should be safeguards." He adds that taxpayers should know that whatever people do and say electronically can and will be used against them in IRS enforcement.

 Newyorker Cover Snoopingunclesam  Artist Richard McGuire

State Department Bullying. Foreign Policy's The Cable:  Exclusive: Whistleblower Says State Department Trying to Bully Her Into Silence

The State Department investigator who accused colleagues last week of using drugs, soliciting prostitutes, and having sex with minors says that Foggy Bottom is now engaged in an "intimidation" campaign to stop her.

Last week's leaks by Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator, shined a light on alleged wrongdoing by U.S. officials around the globe. But her attorney Cary Schulman tells The Cable that Fedenisn has paid a steep price: "They had law enforcement officers camp out in front of her house, harass her children and attempt to incriminate herself."

Employers screening for criminals is racist. The EEOC now says screening potential employees for felonies is discriminatory.

We would have thought that criminal checks discriminate against criminals, regardless of race, creed, gender or anything else. Such criminal checks are legal and have long been part of the hiring process at many companies. You can argue that criminals deserve a second chance in life, or even a third or fourth, but business owners and managers ought to be able to decide if they want to take the risk of hiring felons.

The EEOC suit is part of the Administration's larger effort to redefine racism in America by using statistics, rather than individual intent or evidence.

Rampant Fraud.  Pigford: The Unexamined Obama Administration Scandal

Pigford began innocently enough: as a lawsuit to redress a perceived wrong against a group of 91 black farmers who were denied loans by the Agriculture Department.    But then the number climbed to 400….then 1,600…then… The number of black farmers has metastasized -- nay, exploded -- and the aggrieved group now includes not only blacks, but Hispanics, Native Americans, and females.  In fact over 90,000 people have filed claims seeking a payment under the terms of the original Pigford court ruling. … The total cost could top $4.4 billion.
--
Claimants had only to file applications for a $50,000 payment by stating that they had  "thought about" applying for loans to become a farmer.  Proof of a claimant's intent to farm also included a statement from that petitioner saying he or she had attempted to farm by planting a batch of tomatoes in his or her backyard and having that statement verified by a family member.  In essence, the need to be a farmer at the time of the alleged discriminatory actions by the USDA was not a requirement to share in the financial redress. 
--
Fraud was endemic to the claims process -- for example, every apartment in a New York City building received a settlement of at least $50,000.  Further, some families received checks of $50,000 for each family member (see the NYT's fraud identification narrative of 4-26-13).  These payments were dispensed by the judgment fund's monitor, whose management and control fell to the Executive Branch and Justice Department.

Rampant Fraud II  Hidden camera catches wireless company employees passing out 'Obama phones' to people who say they'll SELL them for drugs, shoes, handbags and spending cash

The 'Lifeline' free-cell-phone scheme cost $2.2 BILLION last year alone, all of it from fees added to the phone bills of paying customers
The biggest beneficiary other than low-income consumers is billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, whose TracFone has collected $1.5 BILLION to date

News reports have documented fraud in the Lifeline program for years.
--
'I have six in my purse now,' Monique Crawford told him. 'Each and every one of these phones works. At home I know I have about 30 and all of them are on.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

June 13, 2013

Human genes can not be patented

A great decision by the Supreme Court and unanimous too.  Human Genes cannot be patented

In Myriad Genetics, The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that companies cannot patent parts of naturally-occurring human genes

The court has said that laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable. 

"We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated," Thomas said.

Wesley Smith writes  Clarence Thomas Shows How It’s Done

….the ruling is a splendid example of how Supreme Court decisions should be crafted….how a Supreme Court decision should be written: Precise. Limited in scope. No bloviating. To the point. Applying, not creating law.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 PM | Permalink

Your government at work

One month into the investigation, FBI Director Testifies He Doesn't Know Who's Leading Investigation in IRS Case

Report: Internal Memo Reveals State Department Hired Thousands of Employees with 'Troubling Histories'

Internal documents from the Inspector General’s office obtained by the New York Post…The Post reported that a whistleblower leaked a December 2012 memo to State Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel from a leader in the Inspector General’s Office, stating that about 2,000 employees within the State Department brought on during a “hiring surge a decade ago” have “troubling histories including criminal matters,” which prevent them from being able to assist prosecutors during trials. The whistleblower also told the Post that this information was intentionally removed from the Inspector General’s report.


Jim Treacher speaks from his own experience with the State Department.  Running me over and lying about it is how the State Dept does business, apparently

Thomas Lifson Top Egyptian pols caught on camera being their America-hating selves

It would be funny if it were not so grim. Thanks to the Obama-supported Arab Spring, Egypt has gone from ally to enemy.  We know this because the country's political leadership was caught on camera speaking in the belief that they were in private, and they let it all hang out. 
--
Magdi Hussein, the leader of the Islamic Labor Party…I'm very fond of battles. With the enemies, of course, with America and Israel…Our battle is with America and Israel, not with Ethiopia.
--
Meanwhile Secretary of State John Kerry last month approved $1.3 billion in annual US military aid to Egypt, despite concerns over democratic progress by the country's new government



NSA's PRISM, the IRS scandal: The U.S. Government gone wild

It is not just administrations and legislatures that are out of control. The government apparatus is so huge no person or group can control it. There are high level career bureaucrats who wield far more pure power than elected officials, including the president. Special interests know this, which is why they spend huge sums lobbying high level bureaucrats and appointees.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:06 PM | Permalink

"A paramilitary politicized bureaucracy is nuts. And, in fact, evil."

In When Your W-2 Meets an AR-15  Mark Steyn first quotes Politico

As chairman of the House Homeland Security oversight subcommittee, [Jeff] Duncan (R-S.C.) toured a federal law enforcement facility in late May and noticed agents training with the semi-automatic weapons at a firing range. They identified themselves as IRS, he said.

“When I left there, it’s been bugging me for weeks now, why IRS agents are training with a semi-automatic rifle AR-15, which has stand-off capability,” Duncan told POLITICO. “Are Americans that much of a target that you need that kind of capability..?

Then Steyn writes

A bureaucracy is bad. A politicized bureaucracy is worse. A paramilitary politicized bureaucracy is nuts. And, in fact, evil.

There is no reason in a civilized society why the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Paperwork should have his own SEAL Team Six.
---
As I wrote in the magazine last year:

By the way, I use the word “agents” rather than “officials” because, in the developed world, the paramilitarized bureaucracy is uniquely American. This is the only G7 government whose education minister has his own SWAT team — for policing student-loan compliance. The other day, the Gibson guitar company settled with the feds over an arcane infraction of a law on rare-wood importation — after their factories were twice raided by “agents” bearing automatic weapons. Like the man said, don’t bring a knife to a guitar fight. Do musical-instrument manufacturers have a particular reputation for violence?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:32 PM | Permalink

June 11, 2013

Scandalpalooza

There are so many scandals in Washington now coming to light, it's a scandalpalooza.  Beyond the scandals we know of, Benghazi, IRS, the DOJ and NSA, other scandals are erupting.    The common thread to all is abuse of power and the chilling of opposition to the party line by the bullying of the government.

There would probably be more if the Inspector Generals were appointed for State, Interior, Labor, Homeland Security and the Agency for International Development but the President has failed to appoint them.   Obama's Inspector General Negligence

All told, an IG has been missing in action at each of those cabinet departments and the AID agency for between 18 months and five years.

In the State Department

CBS:  U.S. State Department Cover-Ups Range from Prostitution Charges to Drug Rings
including allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” with foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.”
--
investigators were told to stop probing the case of a U.S. ambassador who was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park. The memo states that the ambassador was permitted to return to his post despite having, “routinely ditched…his protective security detail” in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.”

 Howard-Gutman-Belgium-Ambassador Howard Gutman, Ambassador to Belgium, identified as the U.S. diplomat accused of "soliciting sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children" denies the charges.

After being called back to Washington, he met with Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, but kept his job.    Gutman raised $500k for Obama and helped finance the inaugural.

DSS agents told the Inspector General's investigators that senior State Department officials told them to back off, a charge that Fedenisn says is "very" upsetting.

"We were very upset. We expect to see influence, but the degree to which that influence existed and how high up it went, was very disturbing," she said.

At the EPA.  Four separate scandals going on at the EPA  including making conservatives pay a fortune for FOIAs to be granted while waiving fees for liberal groups  and leaking confidential information on farmers and cattle facilities to environmental groups

At the FHA.  Yet Another Obama Cover-Up: FHA Bailout Fear

Subprime: For years, the administration has denied FHA troubles. But emails reveal it not only knew of them, but also withheld evidence of projected insolvency from Congress.
--
The agency is letting lower-income borrowers get loans just three years after foreclosure with as little as 3% down and subprime-low credit scores. In fact, 40% of newer FHA-backed loans are subprime.

The risky lending has led to higher delinquencies. Now at 17%, delinquencies on FHA loans are so high the administration has extended the grace period for repayments on troubled loans to a full year.

Last year, the FHA secretly conducted a Fed-style stress test that found agency losses could hit $115 billion. Because the results were politically embarrassing, FHA chose to not disclose them.

At the GSA  According to the IG, Feds in the GSA Threw Contracts to Crony Companies

The stunning report shows that GSA managers routinely overruled contracting officers on certain accounts, including Carahsoft and two large IT contracts with Deloitte and Oracle. The contracts amounted to $900 million in 2011 alone. The IG found, according to the Federal Times, that “After GSA managers intervened in contracting officer decisions, the result was higher-than-appropriate prices for federal customers and a demoralized acquisition staff for GSA.”

At  HHS.  At least 436 Department of Health and Human Services employees Had Insider Tip of $8 Billion Medicare Decision that set private health insurers' stock soaring.  The Department of Justice and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) have launched a probe to investigate possible insider trading.

In the Army  Soldier Who Read Conservative Books Now Faces Charges

A member of the U.S. Army Band who said he was reprimanded for having anti-Obama bumper stickers on his personal car, serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at a party and reading books written by conservative authors like Sean Hannity is now facing Article 15 charges – which cropped up shortly after he went public with his complaints. 

Last summer he was reprimanded for reading David Limbaugh and Mark Levin  privately and silently backstage at a U.S. Army Band concert.  A superior officer told him he was causing "unit disruption" and offending other soldiers

At the Energy Dept.  Nepotism ‘open and widely accepted’ at Energy Department.    Despite the fact that Federal law prohibits  public officials from appointing, employing or even advocating for their children or relatives to work within their agencies

At NSA  Pat Cadell on the sordid revelations .  The Fuse Has Been Lit:  Seven Critical Points on Uncle Sam's Spying Program

If the IRS was so willing to share confidential information with favored private groups, we shouldn’t be surprised, in the end, to learn that NSA/PRISM material ended up in the hands of Obama friends and allies outside of the government.
--
These communications companies put peepholes into all of our private lives, through which Uncle Sam could sneak a peek.  Every e-mail, every phone call, every text-message--the government knows about them all.  It’s now evident that all these wonderful digital services--many of them, such as Google’s Gmail, given away for free--were, in fact, a kind of Trojan Horse.

More at the IRSHouse panel to probe alleged seizure of medical records by IRS

A top House committee launched another probe of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tuesday after a lawsuit alleged that the agency improperly seized millions of personal medical records in California.

The IRS seized 60 million records of 10 million people  without a search warrant or subpoena

Why the IRS is not answering questions about who did what.  Wow: IRS Claims Law Protecting the Privacy of Taxpayer Information Also Protects the Privacy of Those Who Violate Taxpayer Privacy

When everything is a crime, government date mining matters  especially in a flourishing culture of intimidation directed at the Tea Party, traditional marriage supporters, conservatives and other opponents of Obama and his agenda

Losing America by Peter Kirsanow

The “fundamental transformation” of America proceeds apace. The erosion of our freedoms and traditions, once incremental and barely perceptible, accelerates daily.

Armies of bureaucrats commanded by political ideologues remarkable mainly for their galactic incompetence intrude on ever more aspects of our lives — aspects both large and small. They tell us what light bulbs we’re allowed to use and how much water we may flush. They stick swabs in our mouths to collect our DNA and order us to buy health insurance we don’t want. They can seize our land if they think they know how to use it better, or stop us from using our land because a favored amphibian might live there too.
--
Trust us, they say, it’s for your own good; a sovereign imperative, essential for national security. This from a government that freely lets millions cross our borders illegally without bothering to find out even the slightest detail about them.

Roger Kimball  writes

the transformation of us citizens — formerly the employers of all those “public servants” (it sounds funny now, doesn’t it: “public servants” forsooth!) swanning about in Washington on our money — the transformation, I say, of us citizens into serfs, i.e., slaves working for a feudal master.

Via American Digest is  finem respice

If you live in the United States it may finally be dawning on you that you have something of a problem in the government to which you are now a Subject….In fact, given the manner you have quashed the opportunity- almost unique in the history of the species- created by an impossibly rare coexistence of liberty, private property, free markets, the rise of scientific method, and freedom of expression (to name just a few) there is more than a passing argument to be made that your society has squandered one of the greatest intellectual and individualistic fortunes in history.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 PM | Permalink

June 8, 2013

"When the state has the capability to know everything except the difference between right and wrong, it won’t end well"

Mark Steyn on The All-Seeing State and the inevitable corruption of the permanent bureaucracy

So we know the IRS is corrupt. What happens then when an ambitious government understands it can yoke that corruption to its political needs? What’s striking as the revelations multiply and metastasize is that at no point does any IRS official appear to have raised objections. If any of them understood that what they were doing was wrong, they kept it to themselves. When Nixon tried to sic the IRS on a few powerful political enemies, the IRS told him to take a hike. When Obama’s courtiers tried to sic the IRS on thousands of ordinary American citizens, the agency went along, and very enthusiastically. This is a scale of depravity hitherto unknown to the tax authorities of the United States, and for that reason alone they should be disarmed and disbanded — and rebuilt from scratch with far more circumscribed powers.
--
When the state has the power to know everything about everyone, the integrity of the civil service is the only bulwark against men like Holder. Instead, the ruling party and the non-partisan bureaucracy seem to be converging. In August 2010, President Obama began railing publicly against “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity” (August 9th, a speech in Texas) and “shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names” (August 21st, radio address). And whaddayaknow, that self-same month the IRS obligingly issued its first BOLO (Be On the Look-Out) for groups with harmless-sounding names, like “tea party,” “patriot,” and “constitution.”
--
When the state has the capability to know everything except the difference between right and wrong, it won’t end well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 PM | Permalink

June 6, 2013

Ft Hood shootings: Workplace violence or terrorism?

Workplace violence or terrorism?

Nidal Hassan, the Army Major faces court martial for the 2009 Fort Hood shooting during which he shouted Allahu Akbar , Allah is greater, while gunning down a slew of unarmed people, killing 13 and wounding 32.  He is being court-martialed charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of premeditated murder.  He has offered to plead guilty, a plea the U.S. Army can not accept because it is a death-penalty case.

He is not being charged with terrorism.  The Department of Defense classified the events as "workplace violence"  while the Senate released a report describing the mass shootings as the 'worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001. 

The DOD and federal law enforcement agencies have also declined requests from survivors and family members of the slain to categorize the shootings as act of terrorism, or motivated by militant Islamic religious convictions. In November 2011 a group of survivors and family members filed a lawsuit against the government for negligence in preventing the attack, and to force the government to classify the shootings as terrorism.

The spokesman for Al Qaeda praised Hassan, saying that, although he was not a member of Al Qaeda, the

"Mujahid brother … has shown us what one righteous Muslim with an assault rifle can do for his religion and brothers in faith … is a pioneer, a trailblazer and a role-model … and yearns to discharge his duty to Allah and play a part in the defense of Islam and Muslims against the savage, heartless and bloody Zionist Crusader assault on our religion, sacred places and homelands

Hassan had worked as an intern and resident at Walter Reed Medical Center where many of his colleagues were deeply concerned about his inappropriate behavior and comments.  During his senior year at Walter Reed, he made a presentation titled "The Koranic World View as it relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military" and suggested that the DOD should allow Muslim soldiers the option of being released as conscientious objectors.

Beginning in December 2008, Hassan carried on an extensive email correspondence with the late Anwar al Awlaki, an American Imam at a mosque in Falls Church where he  had presided over the funeral of Hassan's mother in 2001 before returning to Yemen in  2004 where he repeatedly called for jihad against the U.S.  He went to hiding in 2006.  Before he was killed by a drone attack in Yemen in 2011, Anwar al Awlaki was a talent recruiter for al-Qaeda,  described by a Saudi news station as the "bin Laden of the Internet". 

The FBI investigated Hassan and concluded that his emails with Awlaki including one in which he wrote "I can't wait to join you" in the afterlife were related to his professional research about Muslims in the armed forces.    He was reported depressed and anxious over his imminent deployment to Afghanistan.  Post-shooting examination of his computer revealed he had a blog where he espoused extremist views and likened a suicide bomber to soldiers who sacrifice their lives for a noble cause and that he attempted to contact al-Qaeda.

The Christian Science Monitor reported on Tuesday

The major, who is conducting his own defense, insists that he acted on behalf of “the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban.
--
Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law in San Antonio, Texas. “He has now labeled himself as a jihadist Islamist murderer, a hardcore jihadist. It’s now clear…, in spite of our leadership in this country, including the Department of Defense and Obama, what his motives are.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 PM | Permalink

June 5, 2013

The Barack H. Obama Foundation

Roger Kimball. The IRS Scandal: It Just Gets Worse and Worse

The Barack H. Obama Foundation is a 501©(3) entity was founded in 2011,  presided over by Malik Obama, the Kenyan-born half-brother of the President and best man at his wedding.   

Malik Obama is also  the executive secretary of the Islamic Da’wa Organisation, an entity that was created by the Sudanese government, which is considered by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist state.

It turns out that these last several years the IRS has not only been harassing groups whose descriptions include phrases like “tea party” and “patriot.” It has also been bending over backwards to give preferential service to certain groups with a different political complexion. Groups, that is, like the Barack H. Obama Foundation.

As The Daily Caller reports IRS official Lerner speedily approved exemption for Obama brother’s ‘charity’ 

Lois Lerner….signed paperwork granting tax-exempt status to the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a shady charity headed by the president’s half-brother that operated illegally for years.

According to the organization’s filings, Lerner approved the foundation’s tax status within a month of filing, an unprecedented timeline that stands in stark contrast to conservative organizations that have been waiting for more than three years, in some cases, for approval.

Lerner also appears to have broken with the norms of tax-exemption approval by granting retroactive tax-exempt status to Malik Obama’s organization. [three years worth ]

Mark Steyn summarizes  “American taxpayers are subsidizing the president’s brother to go and party with the genocidal butcher of Darfur in one of the only four terrorist states on the planet!”.   Audio at the link.

Walid Shoebat reports  Malik is the fourth Obama family member in Kenya who is now implicated in the spread (Da’wa) of Wahhabist Islam.

The three others are Step-Grandmother Sarah, Uncle Sayid, and Cousin Musa, who in 2011 (video translated below), told Al-Jazeera that the Mama Sarah Obama Foundation (MSOF) deceptively diverts its contributions toward scholarships for Kenyan students to attend the most virulent of Wahhabist schools… in Saudi Arabia.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

The "unprecedented" scandal at the IRS threatens the fundamental health of our political system

Seeing real people testify to the real treatment they suffered at the hands of the IRS brings the scandal to life.  It’s all quite chilling, from efforts to intimidate donors and illegally releasing tax returns, to pressuring pro-life groups not to protest outside of Planned Parenthood organizations, to demanding to know about the prayer activities of citizens.

This kind of abuse of power, used in this manner, is something I can’t recall having seen in my three decades in politics. And the Obama administration’s first line of defense, which is that this was being conducted by rogue elements within the IRS, is collapsing. It’s clear that the intimidation tactics were widespread, coordinated and not confined to a few mid-level bureaucrats.

An ordinary woman from Wetumpka, Alabama,  Becky Gerritson,  was the most eloquent .

“In Wetumpka, we are patriotic Americans. We peacefully assemble. We petition our government. We exercise the right to free speech. And we don’t understand why the government tried to stop us.

I’m not here as a serf or a vassal. I’m not begging my lords for mercy. I’m a born free American woman. Wife, mother, and citizen. And I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place. It’s not your responsibility to look out for my wellbeing and to monitor my speech. It’s not your right to assert an agenda. Your post, the post that you occupy, exists to preserve American liberty. You’ve sworn to perform that duty, and you have faltered…

“What the government did to our little group in Wetumpka, Alabama is un-American. It isn’t a matter of firing or arresting individuals. The individuals who sought to intimidate us were acting as they thought they should, in a government culture that has little respect for its citizens. Many of the agents and agencies of the federal government do not understand that they are servants of the people. They think they are our masters. And they are mistaken.

“I’m not interested in scoring political points. I want to protect and preserve the America that I grew up in. The America that people crossed oceans and risked their lives to become a part of. And I’m terrified it is slipping away.

You can watch her emotional and powerful testimony here

John C. Eastman, the National Organization for Marriage's Chairman of the Board, accused the IRS of illegally leaking information about the organization's donors to liberal organizations for political purposes.  In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, he said the IRS leaked the information to the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-gay rights group. He noted the head of the HRC was a co-chair of the Obama campaign.
--

NOM discovered another document with redactions that had been posted. A computer analysis, after removing the document's redaction layer, discovered the document had "originated from within the IRS itself."  He said the group found the header of each page read: “THIS IS A COPY OF A LIVE RETURN FROM SMIPS. OFFICIAL USE ONLY." And that was proof that the leak originated from the IRS.  He said this "unauthorized public disclosure" was "a violation of federal law" and a "serious felony."

Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), said the targeting at the IRS his probe discovered was "unprecedented,"

Peggy Noonan, Restoring public faith will require a full investigation of the IRS's politicization.

this scandal is different and distinctive. The abuse was systemic—from the sheer number of targets and the extent of each targeting we know many workers had to be involved, many higher-ups, multiple offices. It was ideological and partisan—only those presumed to be of one political view were targeted. It has a single unifying pattern: The most vivid abuses took place in the years leading up to the president's 2012 re-election effort. And in the end several were trying to cover it all up, including the head of the IRS, who lied to Congress about it, and the head of the tax-exempt unit, Lois Lerner, who managed to lie even in her public acknowledgment of impropriety.
--
t wasn't a one-off. It wasn't a president losing his temper with some steel executives. There was no enemies list, unless you consider half the country to be your enemies….. What does it mean when half the country—literally half the country—understands that the revenue-gathering arm of its federal government is politically corrupt, sees them as targets, and will shoot at them if they try to raise their heads? That is the kind of thing that can kill a country, letting half its citizens believe that they no longer have full political rights.
--
when a scandal is systemic, ideological and focused on political ends, it will not just magically end. Agencies such as the IRS are part of what Jonathan Turley this week called a "massive administrative state," one built with many protections and much autonomy.  If it is not forced to change, it will not.

Washington Examiner Editorial: IRS targeting of Tea Party is no mere political scandal

What the IRS has done during the Obama years far exceeds previous abuses of the tax agency and threatens the fundamental health of the nation's political system. It's one thing for the tax returns of a few politically powerful individuals to be scanned. But forcing hundreds of organizations representing millions of people to endure endless interrogation and other degrading harassment is typical of authoritarian regimes. It is, as Becky Gerritson put it so well, un-American. No effort should be spared to bring all of those responsible to a full accounting and just prosecution.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

Lets have some penalties for politicians

Another great idea from Glenn Reynolds

  Penalties for Politicians

Government officials are happy making and executing plans that affect the lives of millions, but when things go wrong, well … they're willing to accept the responsibility, but they're not willing to take the blame. What's the difference? People who are to blame lose their jobs. People who are "responsible," do not. The blame, such as it is, winds up deflected on to The System, or something else suitably abstract.

But when you cut the linkage between outcomes and experience, you make learning much more difficult. When you were a toddler learning to walk, you fell down a lot. This was unpleasant: shocking, at least, and often painful. Thus, you learned to fall down a lot less often.
--
Given the low penalties for failure it faces, our political class is one for whom falling down is usually painless and even -- given the surprisingly common tendency of people who have presided over debacles to be given promotions rather than the boot -- actually pleasurable. The leaders move society's arms and legs, but we're the ones who collect the bruises.
--
I'd favor some changes that put accountability back in. First, I'd get rid of judicially created immunities. The Constitution itself creates only one kind of immunity, for members of Congress in speech and debate. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, courts have interpreted this grant of immunity, explicitly in the Constitution, more narrowly than the judicially created ones).
I'd also cut all payments to members of Congress whenever they haven't passed a budget. If they can't take care of that basic responsibility, why should they get paid? Likewise, I'd ban presidential travel when there's not a budget. He can do his job from the White House.

In the past, he has suggested Taxing the revolving door

We see the "revolving door" in almost all industries and sectors of government, and it's a corrupting influence on both government and industry. 
--
In short, I propose putting a 50% surtax -- or maybe it should be 75%, I'm open to discussion -- on the post-government earnings of government officials. So if you work at a cabinet level job and make $196,700 a year, and you leave for a job that pays a million a year, you'll pay 50% of the difference -- just over $400,000 -- to the Treasury right off the top. So as not to be greedy, we'll limit it to your first five years of post-government earnings; after that, you'll just pay whatever standard income tax applies.

This seems fair. After all, when it comes to your value as an ex-government official, it really is a case of "you didn't build that." Your value to a future employer comes from having held a taxpayer-funded position and from having wielded taxpayer-conferred power. Why shouldn't the taxpayers get a cut?

And Repeal the Hollywood tax cuts!

The first such proposal would be to restore the 20 percent excise tax on motion picture theater gross revenues that existed between the end of World War II and its repeal in the mid-1950s.
--
The movie excise tax was imposed in response to the high deficits after World War Two. Deficits are high again, and there's already historical precedent. Of course, to keep up with technology, the tax should now apply to DVDs, downloadable movies, pay-per-view and the like. But in these financially perilous times, why should movie stars and studio moguls, with their yachts, swimming pools and private jets, not at least shoulder the burden they carried back in Harry Truman's day -- when, to be honest, movies were better anyway.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:35 AM | Permalink

June 3, 2013

More on what you don't know about Obamacare

IRS: Cheapest Obamacare Plan Will Be $20,000 Per Family

In a final regulation issued Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assumed that under Obamacare the cheapest health insurance plan available in 2016 for a family will cost $20,000 for the year.

Two-Thirds of Americans Don't Know If They Will Insure Under Obamacare

In Forbes, Coming Soon To America: A Two-Tiered, Canadian-Style Health Care System

The evolution toward a two-tiered system was already under way before Barack Obama became president. But ironically, the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is accelerating the pace of change. It is doing so in four ways….
--
These four changes add up to one big problem: we are about to see a huge increase in the demand for care and a major decrease in the supply. In any other market, that would cause prices to soar. But government plans to control costs (even more so than in the past) by vigorously suppressing provider fees and the private insurers are likely to resist fee increases as well. That means we are going to have a rationing problem. Just as in Canada or Britain, we are going to experience rationing by waiting.
--
Waiting times are going to be especially lengthy for anyone in a health insurance plan that pays providers below-market fees. The elderly and the disabled on Medicare, low income families on Medicaid, and (if the Massachusetts precedent is followed) people who acquire health insurance in the new health insurance exchanges will find they are financially less desirable to providers than other patients. That means they will be pushed to the end of the waiting lines.
--
Those who can afford to will find a way to get to the head of the line. For a little less than $2,000 a year, for example, seniors on Medicare can contract with a concierge doctor. These doctors promise prompt access to care and usually talk with their patients by telephone and email. They serve as an advocate for their patients, in much the same way as an attorney is an advocate for his client.

But every time a doctor becomes a concierge doctor, he (or she) leaves an old practice serving about 2,500 patients and takes only about 500 patients into the concierge practice. (More attention means fewer patients.) That means about 2,000 patients now must find a new physician.
--
Because the two tiers of health care will compete with each other for resources, the growth of the first tier will make rationing by waiting even more pronounced in the second tier.

Michael Barone, Another enormous ObamaCare ‘Oops’

Would you like to have a “skinny” health insurance policy? Probably not. But if you’re employed by a large company, you may get one, thanks to ObamaCare.
--
That’s the conclusion of Wall Street Journal reporters Christopher Weaver and Anna Wilde Mathews, who report that insurance brokers are pitching and selling “low-benefit” policies across the country.

Wonder what a “skinny” or “low-benefit” insurance plan is? The terms may vary, but the basic idea is that policies would cover preventive care, a limited number of doctor visits and perhaps generic drugs. They wouldn’t cover things such as surgery, hospital stays or prenatal care.
--
As Weaver and Mathews explain, ObamaCare’s requirement that insurance policies include “essential” benefits such as mental-health services apply only to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. But larger employers “need only cover preventive service, without a lifetime or annual dollar-value limit, in order to avoid the across-the-workforce penalty.”

Low-benefit plans may cost an employer only $40 to $100 a month per employee. That’s less than the $2,000-per-employee penalty for providing no insurance.

“We wouldn’t have anticipated that there’d be demand for these type of Band-Aid plans in 2014,” the Journal quotes former White House health adviser Robert Kocher. “Our expectation was that employers would offer high-quality insurance.”

Oops.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

May 24, 2013

Roger Ailes' letter to Fox employees

Ailes' letter to Journalists is a Cry for Press Freedom

Dear colleagues,

The recent news about the FBI’s seizure of the phone and email records of Fox News employees, including James Rosen, calls into question whether the federal government is meeting its constitutional obligation to preserve and protect a free press in the United States.  We reject the government's efforts to criminalize the pursuit of investigative journalism and falsely characterize a Fox News reporter to a Federal judge as a "co-conspirator" in a crime. I know how concerned you are because so many of you have asked me: why should the government make me afraid to use a work phone or email account to gather news or even call a friend or family member? Well, they shouldn’t have done it. The administration’s attempt to intimidate Fox News and its employees will not succeed and their excuses will stand neither the test of law, the test of decency, nor the test of time. We will not allow a climate of press intimidation, unseen since the McCarthy era, to frighten any of us away from the truth.

I am proud of your tireless effort to report the news over the last 17 years. I stand with you, I support you and I thank you for your reporting with courageous optimism. Too many Americans fought and died to protect our unique American right of press freedom. We can’t and we won’t forget that. To be an American journalist is not only a great responsibility, but also a great honor.  To be a Fox journalist is a high honor, not a high crime.  Even this memo of support will cause some to demonize us and try to find irrelevant things to cause us to waver.  We will not waver.

As Fox News employees, we sometimes are forced to stand alone, but even then when we know we are reporting what is true and what is right, we stand proud and fearless.  Thank you for your hard work and all your efforts.

Sincerely,
Roger Ailes

Michael Isikoff reports for NBC News Holder OK'd search warrant for Fox News reporter's private emails, official says

Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.

ABC News: Holder to investigate Holder Obama Orders DOJ Review of Leak Investigations

"I have directed the attorney general to report back to me by July 12th.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:51 AM | Permalink

" if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now—if the internal corruption within it is not broken—it will never stop, and never be broken.'

Disgraced IRS Chiefs: IRS Needs More Money

Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman,…. "The last couple years the Congress has not been funding the IRS sufficiently," 

However, according to the IRS’s own website, "The Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request for the Internal Revenue Service is approximately $12.8 billion, a $944.5 million increase (8%) over the FY 2012 enacted level."

Former Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller…what the IRS needs is more agents and "a bigger budget" in order to ensure that the IRS stops harassing and targeting conservatives based on their political beliefs.  


Lois Lerner placed on paid administrative leave

Lois Lerner Directly Involved in IRS Targeting, Letters Show

Lois Lerner at the Federal Elections Commission

“I’ve known Lois since 1985,” says Craig Engle, a Washington, D.C., attorney who from 1986 to 1995 served as the executive assistant to one of the FEC’s commissioners
---
Engle describes Lerner as pro-regulation and as somebody seeking to limit the influence of money in politics. The natural companion to those views, he says, is her belief that “Republicans take the other side” and that conservative groups should be subjected to more rigorous investigations. According to Engle, Lerner harbors a “suspicion” that conservative groups are intentionally flouting the law.

General counsel’s reports composed during Lerner’s tenure at the FEC confirm Engle’s recollections of a woman predisposed to back Republicans against the wall while giving Democrats a pass.

The Real Voter Suppression of 2012   Voter ID didn’t reduce turnout, but the IRS may have.

Noonan: A Battering Ram Becomes a Stonewall The IRS's leaders refuse to account for the agency's corruption and abuse.

We learned the people who ran and run the IRS are not going to help Congress find out what happened in the IRS. We know we haven't gotten near the bottom of the political corruption of that agency. We do not know who ordered the targeting of conservative groups and individuals, or why, or exactly when it began. We don't know who executed the orders or directives. We do not know the full scope or extent of the scandal. We don't know, for instance, how many applicants for tax-exempt status were abused.
--
With all the talk and the hearings and the news reports, it is important to keep the essentials of this story in mind.

First, only conservative groups were targeted in this scandal by the IRS. Liberal or progressive groups were not targeted. The IRS leaked conservative groups' confidential applications and donor lists to liberal groups, never the other way around.

This was a political operation. If it had not been, then the statistics tell us left-wing groups would have been harassed and abused, and seen their applications leaked to the press. There would be a left-wing equivalent to Catherine Engelbrecht.

And all of this apparently took place in the years leading up to the 2012 election. Meaning that before that election, groups that were anti-Obamacare, or pro-life, or pro-Second Amendment or constitutionalist, or had words like 'tea party' or 'patriot' in their name—groups that is that would support Republicans, not Democrats—were suppressed, thwarted, kept from raising money and therefore kept from fully operating.

That is some kind of coincidence. That is some kind of strangely political, strangely partisan, and strangely ideological "poor customer service."
--
Again, if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now—if the internal corruption within it is not broken—it will never stop, and never be broken. The American people will never again be able to have the slightest confidence in the revenue-gathering arm of their government.

Strassel: Conservatives Became Targets in 2008  The Obama campaign played a big role in a liberal onslaught that far pre-dated Citizens United.

The left was targeting conservative groups and donors well before the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling on independent political expenditures by corporations.

If the country wants to get to the bottom of the IRS scandal, it must first remember the context for this abuse. That context leads to this White House.

Krauthammer Cues from Above: The White House and the IRS   The scandal might not go all the way up, but the climate of intolerance does.

For years the administration has conducted a concerted campaign to demonize Fox News, delegitimizing it as a news organization and even urging its ostracism. Then (surprise!) its own Justice Department takes the unprecedented step of naming a Fox reporter a co-conspirator in a leak case — when no reporter has ever been prosecuted for merely soliciting information — in order to invade his and Fox’s private and journalistic communications.
--
It’s not unlawful to run an ad hominem presidency. It’s merely shameful. The great rhetorical specialty of this president has been his unrelenting attribution of bad faith to those who disagree with him. He acts on principle; they from the basest of instincts.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:50 AM | Permalink

"The IRS is a broken institution"

The IRS has no shame.    Who had the bright idea of going after adoptive families?

IRS Morality: Defend Planned Parenthood, Deluge Adoptive Families with Audits

As we get word that the IRS has harassed a number of pro-life groups, including at least one alleged demand that a pro-life group not picket Planned Parenthood, check out this statistic: In 2012, the IRS requested additional information from 90 percent of returns claiming the adoption tax credit and went on to actually audit 69 percent. More details from the Taxpayer Advocate Service:

Sixty-nine percent of all adoption credit claims during the 2012 filing season were selected for audit.

Of the completed adoption tax credit audits, over 55 percent ended with no change in the tax owed or refund due in fiscal year 2012. The median refund amount involved in these audits is over $15,000 and the median adjusted gross income (AGI) of the taxpayers involved is about 64,000. The average adoption credit correspondence audit currently takes 126 days, causing a lengthy delay for taxpayers waiting for refunds.
--

So Congress implemented a tax credit to facilitate adoption – a process that is so extraordinarily expensive that it is out of reach for many middle-class families — and the IRS responded by implementing an audit campaign that delayed much-needed tax refunds to the very families that needed them the most. Oh, and the return on its investment in this harassment? Slightly more than 1 percent.

This audit wave got almost no media coverage, but what was the experience like for individual families? In a word, grueling. Huge document requests with short turnaround times were followed by lengthy IRS delays in processing, all with no understanding for the unique documentation challenges of international adoption. Here’s how one adoptive family described the experience:…..
--
The IRS is a broken institution. Yet despite its moral and legal corruption, it still wields immense power. As Congress investigates wrongdoing, it’s past time to consider fundamental tax reform. In other words, starve the beast. It has proven it can’t be trusted with power.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 AM | Permalink

May 22, 2013

The other targets of the IRS in its pattern of suppressing opposition

Every day, we learn more about the IRS essentially silencing those who oppose the Administration's policies, but we'll learn nothing from Lois Lerner, the top IRS official when all this is going on because she's going to invoke the Fifth Amendment when she testifies before Congress
on Wednesday.    But then again, it is unlikely that she even has a passing relationship to the truth.  The Nine Lies of Lois Lerner

Because She Hasn’t Suffered Enough… Obama IRS Targeted 83 Year-Old Survivor Of a Japanese Concentration Camp

IRS targeted the Conservative Hispanic Society

Bill Donohue: IRS Targeted Catholic League

Just weeks after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, I was notified by the IRS that the Catholic League was under investigation for violating the IRS Code on political activities as it relates to 501©(3) organizations. What the IRS did not know was that I had proof who contacted them to launch the investigation: Catholics United, a George Soros-funded Catholic organization.
--
Korzen was dumb enough to share with CNN the complaint issued by his group to the IRS. The document, which was leaked to me by someone at CNN, matches up extraordinarily well with the IRS complaint of Nov. 24.

IRS targeted Anne Hendershott, a Catholic writer and professor  who  writes it's now A Safe Time to Tell Your Story

Unlike Mr. Donohue, I have no proof that my audit was politically motivated. I am describing the process not because I want the publicity; rather, I am hoping that now that Bill Donohue has led the way, others from the pro-life community who have been targeted by the IRS will come forward. It seems like a safe time now.

Catholic, Pro-Life and Pro-Marriage Groups Also Targeted by IRS

Catholic writer and professor Anne Hendershott wanted the public to know that Obamacare funds abortions.  So she wrote a series of articles critical of the Affordable Care Act in March of 2010.In May of that year, the IRS called.

Hendershott finds herself among an emerging class of taxpayers who believe they were targets of special scrutiny and intimidation by the Internal Revenue Service for political reasons.
--
Sue Martinek told the Register she ran into similar problems with the IRS, which demanded that she and others involved with a pro-life organization pledge to never protest Planned Parenthood — the country’s largest abortion business.
--
John Eastman, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) believes one or more IRS employees committed a felony in March 2012 by sharing his organization’s private tax documents with the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that lobbies for same-sex “marriage.” The Human Rights Campaign published the documents on its website, publicly revealing the names of donors to the National Organization for Marriage.

“The Human Rights Campaign was headed by Joseph Solmonese, who at the time had just been named national co-chair of the Obama election campaign,” Eastman told the Register.

Crisis reports IRS Targets Catholic Critics of Obama Regime,

It is not an overreaction to say that these IRS scandals sound like official favoritism of certain organizations and political viewpoints and an attempt to suppress opposition.
--
This is the administration that has given us the HHS Mandate, supported the claim in the Hosanna-Tabor case that a religious body could not choose its own ministers, wouldn’t defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, increased federal financial support for Planned Parenthood, and is trying to stop military personnel from sharing their faith. This all indicates an agenda of hostility to traditional Christian morality and a willingness to share in the repressiveness that has come to characterize the political left.

Jeffrey Lord writes Obama and the IRS: The Smoking Gun?

President met with anti-Tea Party IRS union chief the day before agency targeted Tea Party.

FOR 27 MONTHS the IRS Refused to Approve Tea Party Applications While DOZENS OF LIB GROUPS Were Granted Tax-Exempt Status

Richard Epstein et al on The Real Lesson of the IRS Scandal

Federal agencies from the FDA to the EPA to the FCC threaten the rule of law.

The IRS and the Drive to Stop Free Speech: Such a scandal was bound to happen after the government started trying to rule the expression of political views.

Armed DHS Agents Monitored Multiple Tea Party IRS Protests Today

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:19 AM | Permalink

The DOJ's War on the Press and the First Amendment

DOJ investigators seized personal emails of Fox reporter When ordinary reporting is seen as criminal activity.

The DOJ got the records because they claimed James Rosen, a Fox reporter, was a criminal co-conspirator.

Michael Clemente, Fox News' executive vice president of news, defended Rosen in a statement issued Monday afternoon.
"We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter," Clemente said. "In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press."

Yesterday we learned that the DOJ also seized the phone records of Rosen's parents.

Tonight we learned that the DOJ seized phone records of Fox News at the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and other operations and phone records of Fox executives.  More Shocking Details about DOJ spying on Fox News.

Watchdog report says DOJ official retaliated against ‘Furious’ whistle-blower, lied about it

The former U.S. Attorney for Arizona could be disbarred, after an investigation found he lied to the Justice Department about his role in trying to discredit the federal whistle-blower who exposed the botched gun-running scheme known as Fast and Furious.

Dennis Burke -- the former chief of staff for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appointed as U.S. Attorney for Arizona by President Obama in September 2009 -- lied when asked if he leaked sensitive documents to the press meant to undermine the credibility of ATF whistle-blower John Dodson.
---
"We also concluded that Burke's disclosure of the Dodson memorandum was likely motivated by a desire to undermine Dodson's public criticisms of Operation Fast and Furious. Although Burke denied to congressional investigators that he had any retaliatory motive for his actions, we found substantial evidence to the contrary," the IG report, released Monday, said.

Sharyl Attkisson's computers compromised

Sharyl Attkisson, the Emmy-award winning CBS News investigative reporter, says that her personal and work computers have been compromised and are under investigation.
--
Attkisson told WPHT that irregular activity on her computer was first identified in Feb. 2011, when she was reporting on the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal and on the Obama administration's green energy spending, which she said "the administration was very sensitive about." Attkisson has also been a persistent investigator of the events surrounding last year's attack in Benghazi, and its aftermath.

Eugene Robinson, longtime Obama supporter, "Obama administration mistakes journalism for espionage" 

Kirsten Powers, How Hope and Change Gave Way to Spying on the Press

Turns out it’s a fairly swift sojourn from a president pushing to “delegitimize” a news organization to threatening criminal prosecution for journalistic activity by a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, to spying on Associated Press reporters. In between, the Obama administration found time to relentlessly persecute government whistleblowers and publicly harass and condemn a private American citizen for expressing his constitutionally protected speech in the form of an anti-Islam YouTube video.

Where were the media when all this began happening? With a few exceptions, they were acting as quiet enablers.
--
Yet only one mainstream media reporter—Jake Tapper, then of ABC News—ever raised a serious objection to the White House’s egregious and chilling behavior.
---
Now, the Democratic advocacy group Media Matters—which is always mysteriously in sync with the administration despite ostensibly operating independently—has launched a smear campaign against ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl for his reporting on Benghazi. It’s the kind of character assassination that would make Joseph McCarthy blush.
--
What all of us in the media need to remember—whatever our politics—is that we need to hold government actions to the same standard, whether they’re aimed at friends or foes. If not, there’s no one but ourselves to blame when the administration takes aim at us.

Liberal Juan Williams: ‘Journalism Has Been Criminalized’ by DOJ

According to The Washington Post’s original report on the topic, when the DOJ investigated in the leaking of classified information in 2009 about North Korea, it not only obtained Rosen’s phone records, but his personal emails as well. It used security badge records to track Rosen’s visits to the State Department, and the DOJ also traced the timing of his calls to Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser suspected of leaking information to Rosen.

In the court documents for the warrant to search Rosen’s personal e-mails – the “SUBJECT ACCOUNT” and “the Reporter” --  the FBI is cited as stating “there is probable cause to believe the Reporter has committed or is committing a violation of section 793(d), as an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator, to which the materials relate.”

In The New Yorker, The Justice Department and Fox New's Phone Records

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that, as part of the investigation of the Kim leak, Obama’s Department of Justice seized e-mails from Rosen’s personal Gmail account. In the search warrant for that request, the government described Rosen as “an aider, and abettor, and / or co-conspirator” in violating the Espionage Act, noting that the crime can be punished by ten years in prison. Rosen was not indicted in the case, but the suggestion in a government document that a reporter could be guilty of espionage for engaging in routine reporting is unprecedented and has alarmed many journalists and civil libertarians.

Suppress the press: The Obama administration’s history of targeting the media

Investor's Business Daily: The Obama Objective: To Control The News

For awhile, it looked like the White House wanted just to control "the narrative." But its seizure of AP phone records and surveillance of Fox employees now show its real aim: to control the news.

The Obama political team at the White House has always prided itself on its media savvy. After all, they got a candidate with an otherwise unsalable socialist past elected on a campaign that sold his personality, not his platform.
---
But it turns out their mastery of the press went a lot deeper than just the political arts. The latest news that the Justice Department investigated Fox News reporter James Rosen and two other newsmen in the normal course of their investigative reporting on a national security matter — coming on the heels of their seizure of Associated Press phone records — suggests an administration obsessed with controlling the news itself with a heavy hand reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.


In the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald

This week, the New Republic's Molly Redden describes what I've heard many times over the past several years: national security reporters have had their ability to engage in journalism severely impeded by the Obama DOJ's unprecedented attacks, and are operating in a climate of fear for both their sources and themselves. Redden quotes one of the nation's best reporters, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, this way:

It's a huge impediment to reporting, and so chilling isn't quite strong enough, it's more like freezing the whole process into a standstill."

--
That, of course, is precisely the point of the unprecedented Obama war on whistleblowers and press freedoms: to ensure that the only information the public can get is information that the Obama administration wants it to have. That's why Obama's one-side games with secrecy - we'll prolifically leak when it glorifies the president and severely punish all other kinds - is designed to construct the classic propaganda model. And it's good to see journalists finally speaking out in genuine outrage and concern about all of this.

Breitbart News, A Culture of Intimidation   it is now more obvious than ever that this administration has, in the words of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), created a “culture of intimidation” that stretches from the White House down to myriad agencies of the executive branch.

Department of Justice: …
State Department: ….
Internal Revenue Service: ….
Department of Health and Human Services: ….
Department of the Treasury: …..
Federal Bureau of Investigation: ……
Department of the Interior: …….
Department of Homeland Security: ….
Environmental Protection Agency: ……

The intimidation comes from the top down in the Obama administration. And it is pervasive.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 AM | Permalink

May 21, 2013

Bengahzi: Where was Huma and the 10 pm phone call ---Updated

Andrew McCarthy  Huma's Moonlighting? No Problem….Just Don't Mention Her Crescent Lighting

Huma Abedin maintained her title as Secretary of State Clinton's deputy chief of staff even though she spent her time in New York taking care of her new baby and her husband, the disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner who tweeted himself naked to teenage girls.  Huma was permitted to moonlight as a "special government employee" who was paid $135,000/year who didn't have to disclose her other sources of income on the federal financial disclosure forms, income received as a  "strategic consultant" to Teneo, a global consulting firm as well as income received as a consultant to  the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation.

Ms. Abedin began her long professional association with Mrs. Clinton in 1996, as an intern to the first lady in the Clinton White House. In the years that followed, she remained a Clinton staffer from the White House to the Senate, and eventually to the State Department. At the same time, she also served from 1996 through 2008 as assistant editor of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, a publication founded by Abdullah Omar Naseef, a major financier of al Qaeda whose Islamic “charity,” the Rabita Trust, is a designated terrorist organization (on which Naseef colluded with Wael Hamza Jalaidan, an Osama bin Laden intimate who is one of al Qaeda’s founders).

Naseef is a former secretary general of the Muslim World League, which Osama bin Laden described as one of al Qaeda’s primary funding sources. In the late seventies, he retained Abedin’s parents to run his newly formed Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs and edit its journal, which has been an Abedin family affair ever since. For seven years, Naseef overlapped with Huma Abedin at the journal, as a member of its advisory editorial board. He withdrew after 2003 — right around the time he was named as a defendant in the civil case brought by the victims of the 9/11 atrocities (a suit from which he was dropped in 2010 because a court found it lacked jurisdiction over him). The journal is still edited by Ms. Abedin’s mother, Dr. Saleha Abedin, who took over when Ms. Abedin’s father passed away. Both parents have had deep Muslim Brotherhood ties. In fact, Saleha Abedin runs an organization, the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child, which is a part of the Union of Good — a major Hamas supporter and, yes, a designated terrorist organization run by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the top Muslim Brotherhood sharia jurist.

I quote so extensively because Huma Abedin is Hillary's foremost Mideast adviser.  I wonder what role she played in advising Hilary Clinton on the night of the attack.    After all, women played big roles before and after the attack in Libya.  The Benghazi scandal’s female factor

So what was discussed in The 10 PM Phone Call between Clinton and Obama?  Andrew McCarthy again.

Obama and Clinton had been the architects of American foreign policy. As Election Day 2012 loomed, each of them had a powerful motive to promote the impressions (a) that al-Qaeda had been decimated; (b) that the administration’s deft handling of the Arab Spring — by empowering Islamists — had been a boon for democracy, regional stability, and American national security; and © that our real security problem was “Islamophobia” and the “violent extremism” it allegedly causes — which was why Obama and Clinton had worked for years with Islamists, both overseas and at home, to promote international resolutions that would make it illegal to incite hostility to Islam, the First Amendment be damned.
--
There is good reason to believe that while Americans were still fighting for their lives in Benghazi, while no military efforts were being made to rescue them, and while those desperately trying to rescue them were being told to stand down, the president was busy shaping the “blame the video” narrative to which his administration clung in the aftermath.
---
We do not have a recording of this call, and neither Clinton nor the White House has described it beyond noting that it happened. But we do know that, just a few minutes after Obama called Clinton, the Washington press began reporting that the State Department had issued a statement by Clinton regarding the Benghazi attack. In it, she asserted:

Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.
--
CNS News asked Carney whether, in that 10 p.m. phone call, the president and Secretary Clinton discussed the statement that Clinton was about to issue, and, specifically, whether they discussed “the issue of inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

Carney declined to answer.

UPDATE: The Difference it Makes: Hillary's Fingerprints on the Benghazi Video Narrative

Hillary Clinton was the first senior Obama Administration official to publicly blame the video for the Benghazi attack.  ….We can tell where the video narrative did not come from: the career Foreign Service.
__
By September 13, Mrs. Clinton blamed the video for the Benghazi assault explicitly. Speaking at a State Department meeting with the Moroccan President, she pinned not only the Benghazi attack, but the violent outbursts spreading across the Arab Middle East, on Muslim popular outrage triggered by the “disgusting and reprehensible,” “deeply cynical” video. 
--
On September 14, Mrs. Clinton went all in. Speaking at Joint Base Andrews, in front of cameras, flag-draped caskets, and the families of four murdered Americans, she said, “[w]e’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with.” According to the parents of the former Navy SEALs at the ceremony, Clinton also privately blamed the video for their sons’ deaths, promising to “make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.” 
--
the video narrative predates the draft talking points, but was never included in them. This is key to identifying the source of the phony “video” narrative. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:17 AM | Permalink

"We have lives here. We have businesses. If we get involved in politics, they will ruin us." More on the IRS scandal

When entire classes of people have been targeted by the most powerful agency in Washington, the system of government has become corrupted..

The Enemies List more sinister that Nixon's or LBJ's

Many have compared the recent scandals to past presidential trespasses, such as Richard Nixon’s wiretapping of political “enemies” or Lyndon Johnson’s having the IRS audit them to silence or otherwise intimidate them. Those analogies are important, but mostly because understanding them properly teaches us what is new, and potentially more alarming, about the current IRS scandal.
---
The enemies list à la Obama, which targets entire classes of people or organizations, is more dangerous to a free and open society because it paves the way for more systemic and widespread abuses by government. It is spawned by an insidious philosophy that discounts the intrinsic value and uniqueness of individuals. Group traits such as ideology, religious beliefs, occupation, military status, and even gun ownership trump individual qualities and come to define the citizen in the eyes of the increasingly intrusive government.

James Tarento writes.  …. the IRS scandal was a subversion of democracy on a massive scale. The most fearsome and coercive arm of the administrative state embarked on a systematic effort to suppress citizen dissent against the party in power.

Is the IRS scandal the worst political scandal in American history?  Bookworm says Yes.

Why? Because you, the People, became the targets of a comprehensive federal government effort to stifle dissent, one made using the government’s overwhelming and disproportionate policing and taxing powers.

All of the other scandals, going back to Andrew Johnson’s post-Civil War scandals, Warren G. Harding’s 1920s Teapot Dome scandal, Nixon’s Watergate, Reagan’s Iran-Contra, and Clinton’s Oval Office sexcapades have actually been narrowly focused acts of cronyism, garden-variety political chicanery, or personal failings. It’s been insider stuff.
--
Once a government gets the bit between its teeth and starts targeting special interest groups, that is the end of freedom, not just for those first groups targeted, but for everyone.
--
the IRS, an agency that has the power to destroy every person in America, did all of this on its own initiative. What we’re seeing in that case is the fall-out of a complete Leftist takeover of American institutions. We will have become a tyranny by bureaucracy (in no small part due to the fact that federal agencies are heavily unionized, and always with a Leftist slant), with the entire federal government irredeemably corrupt.

Just how egregious the conduct of the IRS was is best understood by looking at some of the victims. The True Scandal can be seen in the story of  Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote and was targeted by the IRS, the FBI, the Texas OSHA and the Texas Commissission of Environmental Quality and the ATF.

 Catherine Engelbrecht

Other Tea Party groups decided not to form nonprofits at all after learning about her experience, she says. “They were scared,” she explains, “and you shouldn’t be scared of your government.”

Catherine says the harassment has forced her to seriously reconsider whether her political activity is worth the government harassment she’s faced.

“I left a thriving family business with my husband that I loved, to do something I didn’t necessarily love, but [which] I thought had to be done,” she says. “But I really think if we don’t do this, if we don’t stand up and speak now, there might not [always] be that chance.”

John Kass writes in the Chicago Tribune that the IRS Scandal is a reminder of how he learned about The Chicago Way

This scandal is about more than partisanship. It's bigger than whether the Republicans win or the Democrats lose.
It's even bigger than President Barack Obama. Yes, bigger than Obama.

It is opening American eyes to the fundamental relationship between free people and those who govern them.

This one is about the Republic and whether we can keep it.

And it started me thinking of years ago, of my father and my uncle in Chicago and how government muscle really works.
----
I couldn't understand how we could argue about politics over baklava and watermelon and coffee, but not put it into practice.
We could support a political candidacy, we could donate or work for one or another politician that we agreed with.
This is America, I said.
"Are you in your good senses?" said my father. "We have lives here. We have businesses. If we get involved in politics, they will ruin us."

And no one, not the Roosevelt Democrats or the Reagan Republicans, disagreed. The socialists, the communists, the royalists, everyone nodded their heads.

Of Sarah Ingram, the manager of the IRS office that targeted these organizations, was promoted to head the office of the IRS that is implementing Obamacare.  Deroy Murdock says

It is beyond outrageous that this secret policewoman — whose actions were at least execrable, if not illegal — would get within three time zones of any American's health-care data. She should be sacked before lunch and seriously considered for prosecution.

The Stasi IRS? Where have we seen this sort of intensive scrutiny and record keeping before? Where have we seen the use of detailed records used to repress opposition to government?

We saw it in Eastern Germany before the fall of the infamous Wall in 1989 in the form of the Stasi, the arm of the secret police, which kept voluminous information on every individual and every organization within that hapless and oppressed nation.

Congress needs to give the IRS a dose of its own medicine, an audit from top to bottom.  I see no other way to clean up the "IRS rat's nest" than an Independent Special Counsel with subpoena power and so does Larry Kudlow

The IRS was taking the Tea Party out of play for the 2012 election, as it looked to avoid a repeat of 2010 and another Tea Party landslide.

If the IRS wasn’t politically targeting conservative groups, why did its leading spokespeople lie? This was not even cognitive dissonance. It was outright lying before Congress. Lois Lerner, a key player in the IRS’s tax-exempt division, is being accused by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee of no fewer than four lies. The inspector general’s report shows that she knew about the targeting problem in June 2011, but wouldn’t admit to it in correspondence with Congress over the next two years.
--
Of course, Obama charged Treasury secretary Jack Lew with straightening this out. But Lew’s an Obama political operative.
By the way, a special counsel will have to do a special investigation, since we’re already learning the inspector-general investigation was a very superficial operation. And an independent special counsel can investigate any possible White House connections with senior Treasury officials, connections that could lead to the Oval Office.
--
[The IRS] is a massively important government agency. And now we know that it is fraught with corruption and a liberal-left political agenda.

Only an independent special counsel could possibly straighten this mess out.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:00 AM | Permalink

May 16, 2013

The IRS Leviathan is getting bigger

Tim Carney: The IRS is deeply political — and very Democratic

Judging by available evidence and an inspector general's report released this week, the story here is not a Nixonian White House using all of government's tools to punish critics.

The story is instead one of government power so great that, even in the hands of nonpolitical career civil servants, politically motivated abuse is inevitable. And the ultimate problem is that our tax code and campaign finance laws put the IRS in the business of policing political speech. Politics inevitably comes into play.

And this is the agency that's going to be in charge of enforcing Obamacare

Your Next IRS Political Audit  The tax agency is getting vast new power in health care.

Over the last decade or so the tax agency has stretched its portfolio and become an enforcer and decision-maker for government benefits and programs. Three years ago, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who operates within the IRS, presciently noted that ObamaCare is "the most extensive social benefit program the IRS has been asked to implement in recent history."


This March the IRS Inspector General reiterated that ObamaCare's 47 major changes to the revenue code "represent the largest set of tax law changes the IRS has had to implement in more than 20 years." Thus the IRS is playing Thelma to the Health and Human Service Department's Louise.
---
Instead of going after tax cheats, these bureaucrats will write and enforce tax regulations for parts of the economy in which they have no core competence. For example, do ski instructors or public school teachers count as seasonal workers? How long is a "full time" work week? Is it 40 hours, or 30?
--
The IRS will also dispense ObamaCare's insurance subsidies since technically they're "advanceable" tax credits, i.e., transfer payments made prior to filing a tax return. The IRS will also police the individual mandate-tax to buy health insurance, as well as the business penalties for not offering Washington-approved coverage to employees.

To monitor compliance with these rules, the IRS and HHS are now building the largest personal information database the government has ever attempted. Known as the Federal Data Services Hub, the project is taking the IRS's own records (for income and employment status) and centralizing them with information from Social Security (identity), Homeland Security (citizenship), Justice (criminal history), HHS (enrollment in entitlement programs and certain medical claims data) and state governments (residency).

The data hub will be used as the verification system for ObamaCare's complex subsidy formula. All insurers, self-insured businesses and government health programs must submit reports to the IRS about the individuals they cover, which the IRS will cross-check against tax returns.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink

A phony recusal and a probably phony reason for seizing AP's records

Strangest recusal ever. AG Holder refused to answer questions put to him by Congress about  the DOJ's seizure of phone records from the Associated Press saying he had 'recused' himself.

But he never put it in writing and he never told anyone about it until he was called as a witness.

28 USC § 591requires the Attorney General to do so.    Otherwise no one will know and the AG could learn all sorts of stuff he's recused himself from the White House and elsewhere.

A completely phony recusal and probably illegal. 

Bomb plot briefing may undercut DOJ's case for AP records seizure

A massive Justice Department investigation into the disclosure by the Associated Press of an ongoing covert operation against an al Qaeda suicide cell in Yemen -- a probe that included a sweeping  secret subpoena of the press association’s phone records  -- has been justified by U.S. officials on the grounds that the news organization “put the American people at risk.”

But that assertion by Attorney General Eric Holder could be undermined by the White House’s decision to publicly comment about the operation at the time and reveal details beyond those in the original AP story, according to legal experts and counterterrorism officials.

Within hours after the AP published its May 7, 2012 story, then-White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, currently the director of the CIA, held a background conference call in which he assured television network commentators that the bomb plot was never a threat to the American public or aviation safety.

The whole reason why DOJ seized the phone records appears to be phony too.  AP replies to DOJ's lastest

Overbroad.

"The scope of the subpoena was overbroad under the law, given that it involved seizing records from a broad range of telephones across AP’s newsgathering operation. More than 100 journalists work in the locations served by those telephones. How can we consider this inquiry to be narrowly drawn.

Rather than talk to us in advance, they seized these phone records in secret, saying that notifying us would compromise their investigation. They offer no explanation of this, however.

Instead they captured the telephone numbers between scores of AP journalists and the many people they talk to in the normal business of gathering news. How would narrowing the scope of the phone records have compromised their investigation?"

The AP held the story on the plot to put a bomb on an airliner to the US and didn't publish the story until the government assured them the national security concerns had passed

"Finally, they say this secrecy is important for national security. It is always difficult to respond to that, particularly since they still haven’t told us specifically what they are investigating.

We believe it is related to AP’s May 2012 reporting that the U.S. government had foiled a plot to put a bomb on an airliner to the United States. We held that story until the government assured us that the national security concerns had passed. Indeed, the White House was preparing to publicly announce that the bomb plot had been foiled."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:21 PM | Permalink

One woman's story of intimidation by the IRS

Via Ann Althouse

STEFANO:  This was before I joined Americans for Prosperity. I was just a stay-at-home mother. I was pregnant with another baby, and I wanted to do what was right.  My Tea Party group was becoming really large and I couldn't run the money and the donations through my bank account. I was advised the IRS would come after you for that. So I started calling other groups and I thought I would file and create an organization, and here they were all getting targeted by the IRS, and I got scared.

RUSH:  So Willis then said, "Well, what were they asking you?"

STEFANO:  These are all out there now, and I have actually documents showing it. You know, "Send us your Facebook pages, your Twitter pages," and I said, "Does that include personal pages?" and they said, "Everything."  They wanted to know your personal relationships with politicians and political parties. And I asked, "What would happen if I don't send this to you?" and they said, they made an insinuation like, "Look, it can be considered perjury if you omit things from the IRS."  I'm a pregnant stay-at-home mother on one income, I thought, "Oh, my goodness, I'm not doing anything." I stopped.

RUSH:  Exactly.  She stopped.  She's trying to set up a tax-exempt organization to raise money for the causes she believed in. She's a Tea Party woman.  This is the War on Women.  She didn't start the group. She did not start her group because she was scared of being charged with perjury if she didn't answer all the questions and send in all of the information that they were demanding.  So there's your answer, in part, why the electorate didn't look the same in 2012 as it did in 2010.  These groups were shut down.  The regime shut them down, made it, in this woman's case, impossible for her to set up her fundraising group and to begin working on behalf of the things she believed in.

RUSH:  Look, in plain, simple language for low-information voters to understand this. What was happening was, it just wasn't fair, folks, what the IRS was doing was not fair to these Tea Party groups.  They were denying them the right to participate in the political process by harassing them because of what they believed.  That's not American, that's not fair, and it was mean.  It was really mean.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:44 PM | Permalink

So many IRS Targets, so many ways to go after them

So far, 500 organizations were targeted.

A physician practicing in Kansas City, Milton Wolf is Obama's second cousin.  In 2010 when he began speaking out and writing columns against Obamacare, the White House urged the Washington Times to drop him as a columnist and the IRS refused to give him his tax refund for several months.

J. Christian Adams, one of the Obama/Holder Department of Justice's most effective critics  was told "it's no accident you were audited",  Add Me to the List of IRS Targets.

A prominent Catholic professor who wrote articles critical of Obama was audited in 2010 and the IRS auditor wanted to know who was paying her and what the organizations' politics were.  Since then she has not written a single article and said, "“It was clear they didn’t like me criticizing the people who helped pass Obamacare,”  later adding, “The IRS is very frightening.”

Some Christian ministries were targeted.  Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritan’s Purse and the Biblical Recorder – all of which supported traditional marriage.

True the Vote was targeted in Houston.  True the Vote is against election fraud and monitors polling places across the state.  They applied for exemption 3 years ago and are still waiting.

True the Vote has been through five rounds of IRS questionnaires, the third of them came with nearly 150 questions.

"'We want to see every Facebook posting you've ever posted, and every tweet you've ever tweeted. And we want to know everywhere you've ever spoken,'"  said Catherine Englebrecht, founder of the organization.

….documents reveal IRS employees admitted the application was being reviewed by a task force at the IRS in Washington, DC.

On top of that -- and maybe most concerning -- Englebrecht says her personal taxes were audited at the same time for the first time. And on the very day she got that lengthy questionnaire from the IRS, her business got its first visit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in decades. Just months later, it received a visit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"In 20 years of being in business, none of that had ever happened," Englebrecht said…

."I don't want to believe that I started an effort to encourage citizens to work at the polls, and some three years later, I've been investigated by every government agency that exists," Englebrecht said.

Certain Democrat Senators encouraged the IRS to go after conservative groups.  The WSJ reports

In a September 2010 letter to then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman, Montana Senator Max Baucus encouraged the IRS to investigate the use of nonprofit status by conservative groups.
--
In March 2012, New York Senator Chuck Schumer and six other Democrats signed a letter demanding that the IRS put a "cap" on spending by nonprofits or face legislation. In the meantime, they wrote, the groups should be forced to "show their math" to prove that they deserve the tax-exempt status they are applying for.

George Soros gave $6.1 million to groups linked to pressure on the IRS to target conservative nonprofits

Several Soros-funded groups including the Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21, the Center for Public Integrity, Mother Jones and Alternet have worked to pressure the IRS to target conservative nonprofit groups.
--
The IRS scandal can be traced back to a series of letters that the liberal groups Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Democracy 21 sent to the IRS back in 2010 and 2011

The timeline and the letters can be seen at the link.

The director of the Office of Rulings and Agreements which oversees the  determinations of tax-exempt organizations was a $2000 donor to Obama's 2008 campaign.

I didn't know that the IRS employees had a union: the National Treasury Employees Union.  The NTEU endorsed Obama in 2008 and 2012 and gave 94% of its campaign money to anti-Tea Party candidates.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:56 AM | Permalink

May 15, 2013

IRS stole 60 million medical records

IRS sued for stealing the 60 million medical records of 10 million Americans

The Internal Revenue Service is now facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that it improperly accessed and stole the health records of some 10 million Americans, including medical records of all California state judges.

According to a report by Courthousenews.com, an unnamed HIPAA-covered entity in California is suing the IRS, alleging that some 60 million medical records from 10 million patients were stolen by 15 IRS agents. The personal health information seized on March 11, 2011, included psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, sexual/drug treatment and other medical treatment data.

“This is an action involving the corruption and abuse of power by several Internal Revenue Service agents,” the complaint reads. “No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search.

“IT personnel at the scene, a HIPPA facility warning on the building and the IT portion of the searched premises, and the company executives each warned the IRS agents of these privileged records,” it continued.

According to the case, the IRS agents had a search warrant for financial data pertaining to a former employee of the John Doe company, however, "it did not authorize any seizure of any healthcare or medical record of any persons, least of all third parties completely unrelated to the matter," the complaint read.

The class action lawsuit against the IRS seeks $25,000 in compensatory damages "per violation per individual" in addition to punitive damages for constitutional violations.  Thus, compensatory damages could start at a minimum of $250 billion
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:32 PM | Permalink

May 14, 2013

Benghazi news today

Barbara Boxer  and other leading Democrats  blame the Republicans for the scandal saying they cut funds for embassy security

but Charlene Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, testified in October that budget cuts did not affect resources for security in Benghazi. On Face the Nation that same month, House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa said the State Department was sitting on more than $2.2 billion in unused funds designated for embassy security.

The U.S. State Department has a $50 billion budget

The fact checker at the Washington Post gives Obama's claim that he called Benghazi 'an act of terrorism'  Four Pinocchios meaning "Whoppers".
Eight months after the fact.

The president’s claim that he said ‘act of terrorism’ is taking revisionist history too far,” Kessler wrote in a post Tuesday, “given that [Obama] repeatedly refused to commit to that phrase when asked directly by reporters in the weeks after the attack.”

Mark Steyn calls out the Band of Brothers and the incestuous relationships between the mainstream media and the Obama Administration.

It was revealed today that CBS News President David Rhodes' brother is Obama Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, who was instrumental in rewriting the Benghazi talking points. But it gets worse. It is now learned that ABC President Ben Sherwood's sister, Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, is a Special Assistant to Barack Obama on national security affairs. But even this isn't it! CNN's deputy bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, is the wife of Tom Nides, who until February was Hillary Clinton's deputy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 PM | Permalink

Double Standards

Groups not in line with the Administration are treated quite differently.  The scandals keep multiplying.

EPA waives fee requests for friendly groups, denies conservative groups

Conservative groups seeking information from the Environmental Protection Agency have been routinely hindered by fees normally waived for media and watchdog groups, while fees for more than 90 percent of requests from green groups were waived, according to requests reviewed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

US windfarms avoiding prosecution for eagle deaths

More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country's windfarms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.

Each death is federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits, and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines. No wind energy company has been prosecuted, even those that repeatedly flout the law.
--
"What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces, that is OK," said Tim Eicher, a former US Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent.
--
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has proposed a rule that would give wind-energy companies potentially decades of shelter from prosecution for killing eagles. The regulation is currently under review at the White House.

The proposal, made at the urging of the wind-energy industry, would allow companies to apply for 30-year permits to kill a set number of bald or golden eagles. Previously, companies were only eligible for five-year permits.

It's a Legal Double Standard   Obama administration gives wind energy industry a pass on killing birds, but not oil and gas.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 PM | Permalink

More on the IRS Updated

IRS tells Pro-Life Ministry to Promote Abortion

“She told me … they were going to deny my application,” he told WND. “She did get nervous though in the end when I pressed her that I wanted specific information about why I had to educate from a pro-abortion perspective not just pro-life. I explained to her that the Pro-Life Action League even has pro-life in their title and they certainly don’t teach pro-abortion topics and they are still 501©(3). I also told her that Planned Parenthood does not teach about pro-life issues yet they are also still a 501©(3).”

He also told WND that the IRS had rewritten his proposed bylaws “to paint our organization as a political organization. I couldn’t believe they took it upon themselves to do that,” he told WND.

Progressive-leaning investigative journalism group ProPublica says the IRS gave us conservative groups' confidential info whose tax-exempt status was pending.

James Bovard at The Wall Street Journal has a Brief History of IRS Political TargetingOne survey found that 75% of IRS respondents felt entitled to deceive or lie to Congress.  Presidents  Roosevelt, Kennedy,  Nixon, and Clinton did it too.  In the case of Nixon, his misuse of the IRS was the 2nd article of impeachment against him.

IRS demanded  a reading list from an applicant for 503©(4) status  The applicant sent back a copy of the Constitution. 

IRS agents in Washington were involved in the targeting of conservative groups.

The IRS targeted Billy Graham

Obama's half-brother got retroactive tax-exempt status for the Obama Foundation despite never having applied for it and raising money anyway.

Chiefs at IRS Knew of Targeting and did nothing

The report of the Inspector General of the IRS is here.  He found that "inappropriate criteria" was used to identify potential political cases which were then subject to "significant processing delays" and from whom "unnecessary information" was requested.

The IRS: Worse than profiling

Not only is the targeting a violation of these groups’ First Amendment rights, it is a violation of the most carefully protected class of speech: core political speech, which the ourts have again and again recognized as central to the very functioning of the Republic. It makes little difference whether the IRS’s intention was to chill speech; it chose a tool likely to have that effect.

Such “viewpoint discrimination,” as it is known in jurisprudence, is “virtually per se unlawful,” according to constitutional litigator and NRO contributor Shannen Coffin. That is, it is such a pernicious subclass of free-speech restriction that it is all but unjustifiable by definition.

ABC News’ Trey Hardin: West Wing Of White House Authorized IRS-Gate Targeting (video)

Trey Hardin: “I will tell you this on the IRS front. I’ve worked in this town for over 20 years in the White House and on Capitol Hill and I can say with a very strong sense of certainty that there are people very close to this president that not only knew what the IRS were doing but authorized it. It simply just does not happen at an agency level like that without political advisers likely in the West Wing certainly connected to the president’s ongoing campaign organization.”

Obama released a statement condemning the IRS for targeting conservative groups calling the actions "intolerable and inexcusable."  Treasury Secretary Jack Lew charged with holding the responsible accountable and for implementing the IG's recommendations.

The Department of Justice opens a criminal probe into IRS's politically biased audits.

Politico reports that D.C. is turning on Obama

“And it goes beyond even the story,” National Journal’s Ron Fournier, who covered the Clinton and Bush scandals and was once the AP Washington bureau chief, said on the show. “One common thing with Benghazi and the IRS scandal, is we’re being misled every day. We were lied to on Benghazi, on the talking points behind Benghazi, for months. We were lied to by the IRS for months and now they’re sending a clear message to our sources: Don’t embarrass the administration or we’re coming after you.” 

UPDATE/ A flashback to 2009.  Glenn Reynolds writes in the WSJ, Tax Audits Are No Laughing Matter

At his Arizona State University commencement speech last Wednesday, Mr. Obama noted that ASU had refused to grant him an honorary degree, citing his lack of experience, and the controversy this had caused. He then demonstrated ASU's point by remarking, "I really thought this was much ado about nothing, but I do think we all learned an important lesson. I learned never again to pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA brackets. . . . President [Michael] Crowe and the Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS."
--
Should the IRS come to be seen as just a bunch of enforcers for whoever is in political power, the result would be an enormous loss of legitimacy for the tax system.
--
This is why the IRS is so strict with its own employees. Paul Caron, a professor at the University of Cincinnati who writes the TaxProf blog, noted in response to Mr. Obama's remarks that the law calls for the termination of IRS employees who make audit threats for illegitimate reasons. He suggested that Mr. Obama's "joke" might be grounds for firing if he were an IRS employee.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 PM | Permalink

Bits and pieces

105-Year-Old Texas Woman Reveals Bacon as her Secret behind Long Life    She outlived 3 of her 7 children and her husband and attributes her long life to eating bacon every day.  Bacon.

$763 billion.  The One Number You Need to Know in O’s Budget.  That's the amount we'll be paying in interest payments in 2023 if Obama's budget is enacted.  According to Kevin Williamson,

Under Obama’s budget, in 2020 interest payments alone would amount to more than national-defense spending in that year. By 2023, interest payments alone would amount to more than all nondefense discretionary spending in that year.

---
Politically and economically unsustainable.  Not one person in Congress voted for it.   

It does not stand a chance of being ratified into law, but it is worth noting the fact that the president of the United States has just proposed a budget that amounts to a national economic suicide pact. And he couldn’t even be bothered to do that on time. There may be a political case for his having done so, but as national economic leadership, this budget is grossly irresponsible.

Pew research reports US gun homicide rate down 49% over last 20 years 

Two takeaways from the WSJ piece on The Crucial Years for Protecting Your Eye Health:  By age 40, the lens of the eye gradually loses the ability to focus.  If you're buying off-the -shelf reading glasses, don't select the ones that appear to make things clearest.  It's probably a stronger prescription than your eyes need which can encourage their loss of focus to go faster.    Don't wear your reading glasses while using the computer because it may encourage your eyes to weaken faster.

Insurers predict 100% to 400% Obamacare rate explosion

New regulations, policies, taxes, fees and mandates are the reason for the unexpected "rate shock," according to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which released a report Monday based on internal documents provided by the insurance companies. The 17 companies include Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Kaiser Foundation.

Iran is now chairing the UN Council on Disarmament.  Tossup as to whether that's more outrageous than Syria as chair of the UN Human Rights Committee

Americans are ditching driving Young people no longer see driving as freedom because they've only known driving as congestion.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 PM | Permalink

May 13, 2013

"The Government has mandated speech codes on all campuses"

Legal Insurrection reports : The FIRE ""The Government has mandated speech codes on all campuses"

The Foundation for Individual Rights In Higher Education (FIRE) is the premier non-partisan organization fighting to protect free speech and other constitutional rights on campus.  The FIRE defends everyone’s rights, regardless of political affiliation.  The FIRE is not an organization prone to hyperbole.

So when I received this email late this afternoon from FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley, it got my attention:

THIS. IS. OUTRAGEOUS. The government has mandated speech codes on all campuses. I hoped I would never see this day, but I feared I would

FIRE's press release

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MANDATES UNCONSTITUTIONAL SPEECH CODES AT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES NATIONWIDE

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2013—In a shocking affront to the United States Constitution, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education have joined together to mandate that virtually every college and university in the United States establish unconstitutional speech codes that violate the First Amendment and decades of legal precedent.

“I am appalled by this attack on free speech on campus from our own government,” said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has been leading the fight against unconstitutional speech codes on America’s college campuses since its founding in 1999. “In 2011, the Department of Education took a hatchet to due process protections for students accused of sexual misconduct. Now the Department of Education has enlisted the help of the Department of Justice to mandate campus speech codes so broad that virtually every student will regularly violate them. The DOE and DOJ are ignoring decades of legal decisions, the Constitution, and common sense, and it is time for colleges and the public to push back.”

In a letter sent yesterday to the University of Montana that explicitly states that it is intended as “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country,” the Departments of Justice and Education have mandated a breathtakingly broad definition of sexual harassment that makes virtually every student in the United States a harasser while ignoring the First Amendment. The mandate applies to every college receiving federal funding—virtually every American institution of higher education nationwide, public or private.
--
Among the forms of expression now punishable on America’s campuses by order of the federal government are:

Any expression related to sexual topics that offends any person. This leaves a wide range of expressive activity—a campus performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a presentation on safe sex practices, a debate about sexual morality, a discussion of gay marriage, or a classroom lecture on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita—subject to discipline.
Any sexually themed joke overheard by any person who finds that joke offensive for any reason.
Any request for dates or any flirtation that is not welcomed by the recipient of such a request or flirtation.

There is likely no student on any campus anywhere who is not guilty of at least one of these “offenses.” Any attempt to enforce this rule evenhandedly and comprehensively will be impossible….
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:08 PM | Permalink

The Chilling Power of the IRS

WELL, we' re learning a lot more about the IRS,  the agency which, by law, we entrust with our most private financial information.  We are now seeing what happens when this agency with extraordinary powers becomes partisan and politically corrupt.    'Witch hunt',  'Inquisition',  'absolutely chilling' are on the lips of conservatives and liberals.

And this agency is about to hire thousands, as many as 16,000,  new IRS agents to enforce Obamacare, the 47 tax provisions under the law, even deciding who gets included

What we know so far:

According to the Inspector General of the IRS,  the IRS began targeting conservatives in 2010.

The IRS targeted groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution.

By the summer of 2011, the IRS broadened their criteria for audits to include

groups focused on government spending, government debt, taxes, and education on ways to "make America a better place to live." It even flagged groups whose file included criticism of "how the country is being run."

By early 2012, the criteria were updated to include organizations involved in "limiting/expanding government," education on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and social economic reform.
--
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins …"This is truly outrageous and it contributes to the profound distrust that the American people have in government," Collins told CNN's "State of the Union." "It is absolutely chilling that the IRS was singling out conservative groups for extra review. And I think that it's very disappointing that the president hasn't personally condemned this."

The Jewish Press reports the IRS  targeted pro-Israeli groups.

They targeted Romney donors .  The national co-chair of Romney's presidential finance committee, vilified by the Obama campaign, was told he would be audited by the IRS and the Labor Department.

They may also have leaked confidential information.

Brian Bow, the president of the National Organization on the Family said

“There is little question that one or more employees at the IRS stole our confidential tax return and leaked it to our political enemies, in violation of federal law,”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:41 PM | Permalink

May 10, 2013

An apology is not enough

Back when Richard Nixon was president, the thought that he might  use the IRS to go after his enemies was greeted with horror by everyone. To my knowledge he never did so.

Now the IRS admits they went after it targeted organizations with 'patriot' or 'tea party' in their name and scrutinized them excessively.

IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, said 

"That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That's not how we go about selecting cases for further review," Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.

"The IRS would like to apologize for that," she added.

If this were a private organization the wrong-doers would be fired immediately.  But the government never fires anyone, so the bad eggs stay on, maybe on suspension, but almost certainly continuing to draw their pay.

They should be fired, kicked out and the fear of God put into every single IRS employee.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 PM | Permalink

Benghazi

Hugh Hewitt summed it up in the headline of his blog piece:

Never have so many “journalists” been so blase about terrorism, the murder of Americans, the heroism of SEALs and a cover-up at the highest levels of Washington, D.C. including the sitting president and a possible future president.

The testimony of Greg Hicks was riveting.  As the career official recounted the events that night , he choked up several times.  Listening to him, so did I.

When he heard Susan Rice say on 5 different Sunday talk shows that the cause was a stupid YouTube video, the senior American on the ground in Libya, he said, "I was stunned.  My jaw dropped."

The Administration was very busy that night.  ABC News reports Benghazi Talking Points Underwent 12 Revisions, Scrubbed of Terror Reference

Stephen Hayes reports in The Benghazi Scandal Grows

The original CIA talking points had been blunt: The assault on U.S. facilities in Benghazi was a terrorist attack conducted by a large group of Islamic extremists, including some with ties to al Qaeda.

These were strong claims. The CIA usually qualifies its assessments, providing policymakers a sense of whether the conclusions of its analysis are offered with “high confidence,” “moderate confidence,” or “low confidence.” That first draft signaled confidence, even certainty: “We do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda participated in the attack.”

There was good reason for this conviction. Within 24 hours of the attack, the U.S. government had intercepted communications between two al Qaeda-linked terrorists discussing the attacks in Benghazi. One of the jihadists, a member of Ansar al Sharia, reported to the other that he had participated in the assault on the U.S. diplomatic post. Solid evidence. And there was more. Later that same day, the CIA station chief in Libya had sent a memo back to Washington, reporting that eyewitnesses to the attack said the participants were known jihadists, with ties to al Qaeda.

There are many questions that can not be answered until a Select Committee is appointed to investigate them.

1. Why did the State Department deny the consulate extra security, leaving it  essentially unguarded in a war zone  despite two previous attacks?
2. Once the attack started, why were military resources told to stand down when they wanted to go rescue the besieged Americans?
3. Why did the Administration lie about what happened, even over the coffins of the dead?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

May 3, 2013

Is the Pentagon destroying the morale of those in uniform?

What is going on in the defense department?  They are on the search for extremists in uniform but they are relying on extreme groups to advise them on who is an extremist. 

It was just last month that the US Army Labelled Catholics, Orthodox Jews and Evangelicals as Religious Extremists on a par with Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Ku Klux Klan, Sunni Muslims and the Nation of Islam.   

The presentation also warned that members of the military are prohibited from taking leadership roles in any organization the Pentagon considers 'extremist,' and from distributing the organization's literature, whether on or off a military installation.

Turns out the presentation was heavily influenced by Maurice Dees, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center whose fear-mongering has amassed so much money that it's probably the richest anti-poverty organization in the history of the world, an organization that gets an "F" rating from Charity Watch    Dees is called  the "King of the Hate Business" by the late progressive leftist Alexander Cockburn.  Cockburn decried the highly gullible and often highly educated people who continue to respond to the SLPC hate appeals with millions of dollars.

Now let's turn to the new Pentagon consultant on tolerance, Mikey Weinstein.

You probably saw the story earlier this week, Pentagon Taps Anti-Christian Extremist for Religious Tolerance Policy

Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), in a column he wrote for the Huffington Post. Weinstein will be a consultant to the Pentagon to develop new policies on religious tolerance, including a policy for court-martialing military chaplains who share the Christian Gospel during spiritual counseling of American troops.

Weinstein decries what he calls the “virulent religious oppression” perpetrated by conservative Christians, whom he refers to as “monstrosities” and “pitiable unconstitutional carpetbaggers,” comparing them to “bigots” in the Deep South during the civil rights era.  “Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.” ….Regarding those who teach orthodox Christian beliefs from the Bible, Weinstein concludes, “Let’s call these ignoble actions what they are: the senseless and cowardly squallings of human monsters.”

Weinstein then endorses the ultra-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), who publishes a list of “hate groups.” Alongside truly deplorable organizations like the KKK, the SPLC’s list includes a host of traditional Christian organizations (for their support of traditional marriage) and Tea Party organizations (for supporting limited government). Weinstein says SPLC correctly labels them all as “hate groups.”
--
In other words, it should be the official policy of the United States to decree what a human being’s spiritual needs are, and punish for violations a military officer who is an ordained clergyman who attempts to share his own personal faith with another service member when discussing religious matters. You cannot imagine such a thing ever happening under any previous president.
--
God help us now when someone with such visceral hatred of conservative Christians—literally tens of millions of Americans—who says sharing this gospel is “spiritual rape” is helping develop policies for how to deal with Christians in the military.

Weinstein says those guilty of this “treason” must be “punished.” Under federal law, the penalty for treason is death. And the Obama administration is sitting down to talk with this man to craft new policies for “religious tolerance” in our military.


What is this hater doing consulting with the Pentagon on tolerance?  I have been reassured that there's been no change in policy at the Pentagon.
But, but.  The Pentagon's hiring of Mikey Weinstein, a raving anti-Christian as a consultant on tolerance is extremely troubling.

David French in Are Military Leaders and the MSM Embracing an Anti-Christian Extremist?

And the Washington Post, CNN, ABC News and others treats him as a serious commentator on faith in the military? Substitute “Muslim” for “Christian” in any of these comments and the brass wouldn’t let him darken the Pentagon’s doors.
--
Sadly, because he meets with generals – because the likes of the Washington Post take him seriously — he may very well exercise influence over the military’s religious policy. I have no problem with the Pentagon meeting with a wide vareity of credible voices as it formulates and refines religious policies, but this is a man who literally demands courts-martial for speech he dislikes, a man who declares that servicemembers exposed to Christian ideas are “spiritual rape victims.” 
--
Mikey Weinstein meets with generals because the media give him power. Blinded by their own fear, ignorance, and hate, they give voice to an extremist they would condemn in virtually any another context. It’s pathetic and embarrassing.

The Pentagon has been clueless in the past.    But clueless is not the right word.  Pathetic cowering so they would not been seen as politically incorrect is more exact.

Remember  Major Nidal Malik Hassan who  shouted  "Allahu Akbar "  as he killed 13 people and injured 32 others at the Fort Hood military base in November, 2009 . The Senate described the Ft Hood shootings  as "the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001."    The Department of Defense classified the shootings as "workplace violence."    He has been judged sane and is being tried in a military court .  Hassan has twice offered to plead guilty, but Army rules prohibit the judge from accepting a guilty plea in a death penalty case.

While enlisted in the Army, Hassan earned his medical degree and completed his internship and residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  In 2009 he received a promotion from Captain to Major and was transferred to Ft Hood despite a poor performance evaluation.  Since 2004 he become increasingly radicalized.  He was against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, visited violent Jihadist web sites where as a commentator he supported suicide bombers and carried on email correspondence with Anwar al_Awlaki, the American Al Qaeda jihadist living in Yemen, who repeatedly called for violent jihad against the US until his death by a drone attack in Yemen in 2011.

Despite the fact that Hassan's colleagues and superiors were deeply concerned about his aggressive, agitated behavior and extremist comments which they described as "paranoid" and "schizoid", nobody raised any red flags.    Cowardly behavior that can not be justified but only explained by surrender to political correctness.

Perhaps the Hassan case explains why the military is hunting for extremists in its ranks.  But it doesn't explain the deeply confused thinking by the Pentagon whose spokesman is trying to make a distinction between evangelizing and proselytizing that doesn't exist..     

We are justifiably proud of the brave men and women who make up  our all volunteer army.    A 2008 survey found that Christians make up 77% of those in military service, 22% claim no religion and about 1% is made up of other religions.    Is there any evidence whatsoever of the "virulent religious oppression" by conservative Christians that Mikey Weinstein claims? 

What does it do to their morale to have the Pentagon, in an appalling exercise of moral equivalence, calling them religious extremists?  What do they think about a Pentagon advisor calling them "spiritual rapists" and "monstrosities"?  Would this be tolerated for a second if Muslims were called that?

We ask these men to be ready to die at any time to preserve our freedoms.  Surely they deserve better.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 PM | Permalink

Roundup: Rising suicide, rising number of men who don't want to marry, the DSM and mental illness

Suicide Rate Rises Sharply in U.S.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  There is a 30% surge in suicides among middle-aged Americans (35-64). 

Boomers account for the largest increase.  For  men in their 50s, suicide rates jumped nearly 50%  and women in their early 60s, the increase was nearly 60%.  Some explanation lies in the economic downtown and the increased availability of opioid drugs.  Maybe it's the increased stress of caring for aging parents while still providing financial and emotional support to adult children.  I expect life just didn't pan out the way they expected or wanted, and, having discarded religion,  they had no source for hope.

Men Thirty to Fifty Less Likely to Marry

Among never-married adults ages 30 to 50, men (27%) are more likely than women (8%) to say they do not want to marry.  That's a very great gap.  As one commenter pointed out, marriage holds no real benefits for men any more.

The Real Problems With Psychiatry  Hope Reese interviews Gary Greenberg
A psychotherapist contends that the DSM, psychiatry's "bible" that defines all mental illness, is not scientific but a product of unscrupulous politics and bureaucracy. 

Nobody can define mental illness.
___
one of the issues with taking these categories too seriously is that it eliminates the moral aspect behind certain behaviors.
___
The American Psychiatric Association owns the DSM, (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, now in its 5th edition)  They aren't only responsible for it: they own it, sell it, and license it. The DSM is created by a group of committees. It's a bureaucratic process. In place of scientific findings, the DSM uses expert consensus to determine what mental disorders exist and how you can recognize them….

Dr. Joy Bliss, another MD Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst, comments

I tend to think that the whole thing is a pseudo-medical charade, designed for the drug industry and for the insurance industry's convenience.

If "mental health" cannot be defined, how can you draw lines to define "mental illness"? You can, at the extremes, but otherwise you can't. Everybody is a little nuts.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

Government health insurance protects income, but does not improve health

The Oregon Trial  A new study exposes Medicaid's flaws, but liberals call it success.

On Wednesday the New England Journal published the results from year two of the Oregon project, which "showed that Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes" versus being uninsured. If Medicaid were a new drug, in other words, the FDA would reject it.
----
Medicaid in Oregon did nearly eliminate catastrophic medical expenses, compared to 5.5% of the uninsured control group that experienced a ruinous illness or injury. But that sure sounds like an argument for reforming Medicaid to extend basic catastrophic coverage to more poor people, instead of holding Medicaid lotteries.

Extending Medicaid benefits to the poor did not improve their health whatsoever.  It did improve their mental health and reduce their financial strain and hardship.  Megan McArdyle explains why this study is a big, big deal.

Government health insurance unquestionably functions as income protection.  What's less clear is whether it functions as health protection.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

May 1, 2013

Pigford: Appalling government corruption costing as much as $4billion to win black votes

In its story U.S. Opens Spigot After Farmers Claim Discrimination, the New York Times vindicates Andrew Breitbart when it finally reports on the Pigford Scandal.

political appointees in the Obama administration’s Justice and Agriculture Departments turned a potential government court victory into $1.3 billion settlement for Hispanic and female farmers — some of whom never even claimed discrimination in court. The story also detailed how the feds relied on a flawed payout system for black farmers that was ripe with fraud and revealed that career officials in the Agriculture Department had opposed the program.

The Washington Free Beacon calls it an "absolutely epic story" says the Obama Administration got away with $50,000 payouts to black farmers  over the objections of career employees and officials of the Justice Department who said there was no evidence of widespread discrimination for fear of being called racist.

The compensation effort sprang from a desire to redress what the government and a federal judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department. But an examination by The New York Times shows that it became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees. In the past five years, it has grown to encompass a second group of African-Americans as well as Hispanic, female and Native American farmers. In all, more than 90,000 people have filed claims. The total cost could top $4.4 billion. …

From Daniel Foster, One anecdote

In fact, he boasted, he and his four siblings had all collected awards, and his sister had acquired another $50,000 on behalf of their dead father.  She cinched the claim, he said to a ripple of laughter, by asserting that her father had whispered on his deathbed, “I was discriminated against by U.S.D.A.”

“The judge has said since you all look alike, whichever one says he came into the office, that’s the one to pay — hint, hint,” he said. “There is no limit to the amount of money, and there is no limit to the amount of folks who can file.”  He closed with a rousing exhortation: “Let’s get the judge to go to work writing them checks! They have just opened the bank vault.”

The National Review editorializes Pigford Forever

The Times reports in great depth, instead of closing the spigot, in 2010 the Obama administration did not just acquiesce to, it spearheaded the expansion of, the Pigford con on the taxpayer’s dime, and saw to it that not just black Americans, but any woman, Hispanic, or Native American who could so much as gesture at discrimination had access to a billion-dollar pool of easy money.
---
Pigford and its spawn instead resembles in organization and aim a criminal conspiracy of breathtaking proportions, and one in which the federal government was first complicit and then ultimately responsible. The Times report exposes — as Dan Foster did in his piece for us two years ago — Senator, Candidate, and President Obama’s advocacy for the settlements as barely alloyed quid pro quo, in which Pigford profiteers promised to help Obama run up the score against Hillary Clinton in the rural South in exchange for his work on their behalf. Similarly, the Hispanic case was negligently settled at the urging of the polluted Senator Robert Menendez, who threatened to make noise if the Department of Justice did not give Hispanics the same deal the president gave blacks.

At a minimum, a congressional investigation is needed, as is congressional intervention in the continued administration of the payouts.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 AM | Permalink

April 11, 2013

I didn't know that

Progressive Racism - the hundredth anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s segregation of the civil service

One hundred years ago today, Woodrow Wilson brought Jim Crow to the North
---
Wilson, our first professorial president, was a case in point. He was the very model of a modern Progressive, and he was recognized as such. He prided himself on having pioneered the new science of rational administration, and he shared the conviction, dominant among his brethren, that African-Americans were racially inferior to whites. With the dictates of Social Darwinism and the eugenics movement in mind, in 1907, he campaigned in Indiana for the compulsory sterilization of criminals and the mentally retarded; and in 1911, while governor of New Jersey, he proudly signed into law just such a bill.

Prior to the segregation of the civil service in 1913, appointments had been made solely on merit as indicated by the candidate’s performance on the civil-service examination. Thereafter, racial discrimination became the norm. Photographs came to be required at the time of application, and African-Americans knew they would not be hired. The existing work force was segregated. Many African-Americans were dismissed. In the postal service, others were transferred to the dead-letter office, where they had no contact with the general public. Those who continued to work in municipal post offices labored behind screens — out of sight and out of mind. When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Independent Political League objected to the new policy, Wilson — a Presbyterian elder who was nothing if not high-minded — vigorously defended it, arguing that segregation was in the interest of African-Americans. For 35 years, segregation in the civil service would be public policy. It was only after Adolf Hitler gave eugenics and “scientific racism” a bad name that segregation came to seem objectionable.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink

This is how government wastes your money

Officials 'can't account for' $700 million in Katrina aid

The relief program, which disbursed grants of up to $30,000 to more than 24,000 homeowners, was supposed to be used to elevate homes and protect property in areas vulnerable to storm surges. Instead, as the report by Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) David Montoya now shows, of the $1 billion earmarked for home improvements, homeowners seem to have spent a striking majority - at least $700 million - on anything but.
--
Now, HUD is putting pressure on the State of Louisiana to recover the disbursed grants, though Montoya has stated that chances officials will get the money back are slim to none. Still, according to the Inspector General’s report, homeowners who received HUD assistance for home elevation are legally on the hook for completing the work.

$700 million In Katrina Aid Gone Missing

Instead of telling residents that the government will pay up to $30,000 for them to get their houses elevated, and all the residents would have to do was send the government an actual invoice from a reputable renovation company – one that was on the governments “approved list”, the government instead gave a blank cheque to these people in the hope they would do the right thing and spend the money responsibly.

They didn't.  Clearly they saw this $30,000 disbursed by the government as free money to be spent in any way they wanted.  Fat chance any of it will be recovered.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

April 8, 2013

U.S. Army labels Catholics, Orthodox Jews and Evangelicals as Religious Extremists

You've probably seen this, but it's so idiotic, I had to make note of it.

 Army-Religious Extremism

US Army Labeled Evangelicals, Catholics as Examples of Religious Extremism,"

The U.S. Army listed Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism as examples of religious extremism along with Al Qaeda and Hamas during a briefing with an Army Reserve unit based in Pennsylvania, Fox News has learned.

The incident occurred during an Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training brief on extremism. Topping the list is Evangelical Christianity. Other organizations listed included Catholicism, Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Ku Klux Klan, Sunni Muslims, and Nation of Islam.

The military also listed “Islamophobia” as a form of religious extremism.

Mark Steyn points out in Don’t Fire Until You See The Whites of Their Cassocks

Think of the number of people involved in the creation, printing and distribution of this graphic — and along the way not one of them stopped to say, “Hey, this is totally dumb.”
--
When Major Hasan got a case of Pre-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and opened fire at Fort Hood standing on a table yelling “Allahu Akbar!”, it was just the luck of the draw: He could have been shouting the Angelus. Best to prepare for all eventualities.

The Daily Mail reports Army Reserve training material lists Catholics, evangelical Christians and some Jews in 'religious extremism' category along with the KKK, Hamas and Al Qaeda

The presentation also warned that members of the military are prohibited from taking leadership roles in any organization the Pentagon considers 'extremist,' and from distributing the organization's literature, whether on or off a military installation.
--
Citing a Southern Poverty Law Center report as evidence that extremism is on the rise, the Army Reserve presentation blames 'the superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories,the changing racial make-up of America and the prospect of 4 more years under a black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country.'

Good grief.  It is very scary that the Pentagon is basing these scurrilous charges on 'information' provided by Maurice Dees.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and its President Maurice Dees are notoriously anti-Christian  hate-mongerers,  challenged by  the left and the right,  as Charlotte Allen points out this week in "The King of Fearmongers."  (via Ed Driscoll)    Fearmongering has proved to be extremely lucrative for Dees and the SPLC.

Thanks to the generosity of four decades’ worth of donors, many of whom—as SPLC president Richard Cohen himself noted in a telephone interview with me—are aging Northern-state “1960s liberals” who continue to associate “Southern” and “poverty” with lynchings, white-hooded Klansmen, and sitting at the back of the bus, and thanks also to what can only be described as the sheer genius at direct-mail marketing of Dees, the SPLC’s 76-year-old lawyer-founder, who was already a multimillionaire by the late 1960s from the direct-mail sales of everything from doormats to cookbooks, the SPLC is probably the richest poverty organization in the history of the world. From its very beginning the SPLC, thanks to Dees’s talent for crafting multi-page alarmist fundraising letters, has not only continuously operated in the black, but has steadily accumulated a mountain of surpluses augmented by a shrewdly managed investment portfolio. Today the SPLC’s net assets total more than $256 million (that figure appears on the SPLC’s 2011 tax return, the latest posted on the organization’s website)
---
Its severest critics aren’t on the conservative right … but on the progressive left. … . that one of the most vituperative of all the critics was the recently deceased Alexander Cockburn, columnist for the Nation and the leftist webzine CounterPunch. In a 2009 article for CounterPunch titled “King of the Hate Business,” Cockburn castigated Dees and the SPLC for using the 2008 election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president as yet another wringer for squeezing out direct-mail donations from “trembling liberals” by painting an apocalyptic picture of “millions of [anti-Obama] extremists primed to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of Mein Kampf tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other.” Cockburn continued: “Ever since 1971 U.S. Postal Service mailbags have bulged with Dees’ fundraising letters, scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America, in dire need of legal confrontation by the SPLC.”
---
What has infuriated the SPLC’s liberal critics is their suspicion that Morris Dees has used the SPLC primarily as a fundraising machine fueled by his direct-mail talents that generates a nice living for himself (the SPLC’s 2010 tax filing lists a compensation package of $345,000 for him as the organization’s chief trial counsel and highest-paid employee) and a handful of other high ranking SPLC officials plus luxurious offices and perks, but that does relatively little in the way of providing the legal services to poor people that its name implies.
--
One of the SPLC’s leitmotifs is that there is an ever-spiraling amount of hate in America.
--
there may soon come a day when the SPLC’s donation-generating machine, powered by Dees’s mastery of the use of “hate” to coax dollars from the highly educated and the highly gullible, finally breaks down. That is why, according to Cohen, the SPLC has no intention of soon spending down much of that $256 million in stockpiled assets that has earned the center an “F” rating from CharityWatch. “We’ve tried to raise a substantial endowment, because our fundraising is on a downward trend,” Cohen told me. “Those 1960s liberals—they’re getting older, and the post office is dying. We’re likely to be out of the fundraising business within 10 years.” What the SPLC wants to do is to ensure that “hate” is forever.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:42 PM | Permalink

March 26, 2013

Obamacare is looking more like a train wreck in slow motion every day

Obamacare official: “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience”

With time-running out before the major provisions of President Obama’s health care law are set to be implemented, the official tasked with making sure the law’s key insurance exchanges are up and running is already lowering expectations.

ObamaCare Turns Three: 10 Disturbing Facts Americans Have Learned

The bulk of ObamaCare doesn't take effect until next year. That's when the so-called insurance exchanges are supposed to be up and running, when the mandate on individuals and businesses kicks in, and when the avalanche of regulations on the insurance industry hits.
Boost insurance costs  a 3.5% surcharge on insurance plans sold through federally run exchanges. There's also a $63 fee for every person covered by employers. And the law adds a "premium tax" that will require insurers to pay more than $100 billion over the next decade. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation expects insurers to simply pass this tax onto individuals and small businesses, boosting premiums another 2.5%.

Push millions off employer coverageIn February, the Congressional Budget Office said that 7 million will likely lose their employer coverage thanks to ObamaCare — nearly twice its previous estimate. That number could be as high as 20 million, the CBO says.

Cause premiums to skyrocket.  Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said ObamaCare will likely cause premiums to double for some small businesses and individuals.
And a more recent survey of insurers in five major cities by the American Action Forum found t
hey expect premiums to climb an average 169%.

Cost people their jobs. ….human resources consulting firm Adecco found that half of the small businesses it surveyed in January either plan to cut their workforce, not hire new workers, or shift to part-time or temporary help because of ObamaCare.

Tax the middle class ….  much of the $800 billion in tax hikes imposed by ObamaCare will end up hitting the middle class...

Add to the deficit. 
The Government Accountability Office reported in January that Obama-Care will likely add $6.2 trillion in red ink over 75 years…..

Cost more than promised….GAO reported in January that Obama-Care will likely add $6.2 trillion in red ink over 75 years

Be a bureaucratic nightmare. Consumers got their first glimpse of life under ObamaCare when the Health and Human Services Department released a draft insurance application form. It runs 21 pages. "Applying for benefits under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul could be as daunting as doing your taxes," the AP concluded after Exacerbate doctor shortages.

Exacerbate doctor shortages. Last summer, a study by the Association of American Medical Colleges found that the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than its needs by 2015, thanks in large part to ObamaCare

Leave millions uninsured.  After 10 years, ObamaCare will still leave 30 million without coverage, according to the CBO. As IBD reported, that figure could be much higher if the law causes premiums to spike and encourages people to drop coverage despite the law's mandate.

Three Years of Obamacare: $31 Billion in Regulation Costs, 71.5 Million Hours in Compliance

It would take more than 35,000 full-time employees working year round to fully comply with the monstrous Red Tape Tower the law has become.

 Obamacare-Regs-Tower

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink

We spend more on Disability Insurance than food stamps and welfare combined

An astonishing fact.  The federal government now spends more on disability than food stamps and welfare combined.

In 2009, DI began paying out more in benefits than it took in from payroll taxes. By 2016, it is set to run out of money.

Two factors are driving the program's explosive growth: first, newly liberalized eligibility standards. …heart disease was the top cause of DI awards in 1961. Today, with the new eligibility standards, back pain and mental illness top the list. As a result, the share of all adults receiving DI benefits doubled from 2.3 percent in 1989 to 4.6 percent in 2009.

The second reason for the exploding disability rolls and continued record-setting is the continued weakness of President Obama's economic recovery. It has been thoroughly established that DI applications correlate not with worker health but with worker employment prospects.

Once a worker qualifies, he or she possesses an asset producing a guaranteed income of $13,000 a year for life, plus free health care through the Medicare program. (Compare that with the average minimum-wage job, which offers only $15,000 a year without health care.) The benefits are far from extravagant, but they can offer older workers a bridge to the Social Security retirement age, and an early start on Medicare. Fewer than 1 percent of workers who go on DI ever leave the rolls. Don't blame the applicants or the beneficiaries -- they are just responding to the incentives the government creates through the DI program. The only way someone can lose DI is by working SEmD which is one reason most never try. Instead, for many who were perfectly able to work a few months ago, DI has become a voluntary life sentence to idle poverty.

Planet Money reporter Chana Joffe-Walt uncovered a “disability industrial complex” fraught with fraud that churns out 14 million checks every month to citizens the government has deemed disabled. 

--
Disabled workers do not get counted in the unemployment figures. If they did, the numbers would be far higher.
--
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program—which covers kids and adults—has exploded.  SSI is now seven times larger than it was 30 years ago.
--
The report suggests that the much-touted Welfare to Work policies of the 1990s that appeared to successfully move welfare recipients off the public dole may have been a mirage. States have figured out that shifting people from welfare to disability frees up substantial funds, as states have to pay the costs of welfare, but the federal government picks up the tab for disability.

“That’s a kind of ugly secret of the American labor market,” said MIT economist David Autor.  “Part of the reason our unemployment rates have been low, until recently, is that a lot of people who would have trouble finding jobs are on a different program.”

Joffe-Walt says disability has “become a de facto welfare program for people without a lot of education or job skills.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 AM | Permalink

March 21, 2013

This should turn out well

The Department of Homeland Security is allowing "trusted traveler" status to Saudi passengers so they can skip normal passport controls.

Only an exclusive handful of countries enjoy inclusion in the Global Entry program -- Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the Netherlands. According to the IPT, some officials are questioning why Saudi Arabia gets to reap the benefits of the program, when key U.S. allies like Germany and France are not enrolled; Israel has reached a deal with the U.S., but that partnership has not yet been implemented.
--
The program allows travelers who have undergone a thorough vetting process -- fingerprinting, background checks, interviews with customs agents, etc.-- to attain a low-risk status that allows them to skip the line at customs and complete their entry process at an automatic kiosk.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

March 18, 2013

"Many American cities are being run more like criminal conspiracies than anything else."

Walter Russell Mead looks at the " pre-eminent civil rights problem of our day -[that] is devastating minority communities throughout the country."

An Important Day for Detroit

Disgraced ex-Mayor and shameless identity politician Kwame Kilpatrick has been convicted on twenty-four counts of extortion, racketeering, and bribery. The stunningly corrupt politician, who looted from Detroit’s poor and needy to pay for a life of luxury he never earned, is going to jail. His life is ruined, and his family has been shamed.
--

It’s only fitting that today, a must-read piece in the NYT (co-authored by Mary Williams Walsh, one of the country’s most careful, thoughtful reporters on state and local pension issues) details the social and fiscal nightmare Detroit’s thugocracy has bequeathed to the young and vulnerable who still inhabit the ruined city. The latest bit of misery was unearthed by a financial consultant brought in to dig through Detroit’s books. He found “an additional $7.2 billion in retiree health costs that had never been reported, or even tallied up.” Until 2008, Detroit was not required to keep track of its workers’ lifetime health care bills. Now, of course, it’s the people who are least able to pay who will bear the brunt of this.

The report follows Detroit’s descent from one of America’s greatest cities into a Third World-style wasteland of incompetence and corruption where streetlights are dark, police don’t respond to calls, and the poor are left to fend for themselves. The process of ruin took decades and is the work of more than one generation of a degenerate political class. But Kwame Kilpatrick’s story is a reminder that the hyenas are still picking at what little is left of the city’s corpse.

Detroit Dems Enrich Wall Street As City Goes Bust

Ever since the long death spiral began, Detroit has relied on periodic bond sales to keep its bills paid. The thinking was clear: borrow now, pay it back later when the city’s finances recover. Of course, Detroit’s finances never recovered, and now it’s on the hook for much of this borrowing, in addition to the fees that these banks charged.  And these are serious fees. Bloomberg reports that since 2005, Wall Street banks have charged the city a whopping $474 million. As a comparison, that’s about as much as the city’s current entire police and fire budget for this year:
---
As Detroit is learning now, in many cases they weren’t. And Detroit is not alone: In city after city, struggling pension funds have turned to exotic Wall Street investments claiming high returns and minimal risks. In some cases this is working out, in many more it isn’t, but either way, Wall Street is collecting its fees and leaving taxpayers and pensioners to pick up the pieces when it falls apart.
--
If our so-called ‘progressives’ today weren’t so intellectually decadent and, well, historically challenged, they would be leading the charge to clean up American cities. Instead they are mostly silent — and sometimes even defend the machines.
It’s a terrible shame because reformers and progressives really can fight the rot and help the poor — if they can get past their messed up ‘political correctness’ illusions long enough to recognize the basic facts of the case.
--
The best way to stop future tragedies like this is to enforce the law. From voting fraud to corrupt relations with contractors and financiers to fraudulent accounting on pensions, many American cities are being run more like criminal conspiracies than anything else. And the cost isn’t just the money the politicians steal, or the inflated profits that those doing business with a crooked city can earn or even the sweetheart deals with public sector unions who function as part of the machine. It is the shambolic education offered to generations of poor kids, the lack of protection for person and property, the burden of a government that is both costly and ineffective and the enterprises and jobs such a government kills or drives away: corrupt big city machines may be the most important single civil rights issue in America today.
--
This is the pre-eminent civil rights problem of our day and is devastating minority communities throughout the country. Our political establishment, our university faculties and fashionable intellectuals, our newspaper editorialists, our legal profession and our clergy stand essentially silent; it is the silence of shame.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2013

Now this is an idea I like

What Congress could learn from the papal conclave

If you want a budget, lock up the Congress, take away their cellphones and Internet, don't let them go to fund raisers, and if necessary put them on bread and water until they pass a budget. It has worked for hundreds of years in the Catholic Church, it might even work in Washington.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:12 PM | Permalink

March 13, 2013

How corruption of our government happens

Saying Anything to Get More Money
SEC Charges Illinois for Misleading Pension Disclosures  Investors in municipal bonds were mislead about the underfunding of pension obligations, a fact that significantly increased their financial risk.

Ignoring Obvious Corruption because of party loyalty
The descent of the once great city of Detroit into chaos, corruption and insolvency is illuminated by the conviction yesterday of former  mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D)  on 24 separate federal corruption charges, which could cost him up to 20 years in prison. ABC, CBS, and NBC could not be bothered to even mention the conviction of this disgraced ex-mayor of a major, blighted American city on their nightly news programs.

Making Invidious Racial Distinctions  Inspector General Report on Racialist Dysfunction inside DOJ

The 250-page report offers an inside glimpse of systemic racialist dysfunction inside one of the most powerful federal government agencies.
---
Though the report took almost four years to complete, it was worth the wait. Though the report commenced as an investigation into the New Black Panther dismissal, seemingly every rock the investigators turned over resulted in more creatures fleeing the sunshine. The final report captures a range of outrageous conduct, including the following examples:

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is a Racial Entitlement

But yesterday’s DOJ inspector general’s report makes plain: many staff inside the Justice Department define Section 5 exactly as Scalia does: as a “racial entitlement.”

In the report, Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez — a possible Obama nominee to head the Department of Labor — makes clear that he doesn’t think Section 5 should ever be used to protect a white minority in covered jurisdictions.

Perez feels it should only be used to prop up the political position of “people of color.” If the victims of discrimination happen to be white, too bad — they are not protected.

The very man responsible for this terrible state of affairs in one of our most powerful agencies is now Obama's nominee for Secretary of Labor.    Why  Thomas Perez Should be Blocked.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 PM | Permalink

Will a Budget ever get Passed?

How long will it take before Congress deals with the very real problems of our mounting debt?

Debt Soared $5.5 Trillion Since Last Senate Budget

“If you want a sense of just how massive the nation’s debt problem is, consider this: The U.S. added $226 billion in new debt in just the 35 days since President Obama missed the legal deadline to submit his budget. That’s more than the government will spend this year on education, homeland security, law enforcement, housing aid, energy and the environment, combined.”  Instapundit

House GOP would cancel health care reforms, trim $5t in spending

The proposal that Ryan will release Tuesday morning would balance the budget in 10 years by reducing overall federal spending growth from 4.9 percent to 3.4 percent for a savings of $5 trillion over the next decade, Ryan told "Fox News Sunday."
---
Ryan's budget will include controversial changes to Medicare that he first rolled out last year, including converting the program to provide "insurance premium support" that beneficiaries can use to buy private health insurance. He also proposes gradually raising the age of eligibility from 65 to 67.

Paul Ryan in the WSJ explaining his plan, The GOP Plan to Balance the Budget by 2023

The goal can be reached, with no new taxes, while increasing spending 3.4% annually instead of the current 5%.

After 4 years without a budget, Senate Democrats release their proposed budget that includes nearly $1 trillion in new taxes and would not balance the budget

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2013

He should be doing his real job

While Major Bloomberg is at war against Big Gulps,transfats,  salt (and food donations to the homeless because the salt content can't be assessed) and too loud earbuds, he is neglecting what is most central and most important of his mayoral responsibilities.

Education

80% of high school graduates can't read but must get remedial help and relearn reading, writing and arithmetic before they can begin classes at community college.

Emergency Response

Despite spending $2 billion to overhaul the 911 system, emergency response times have actually slowed.

As much as $100 million has been wasted by purchasing separate dispatch systems for the NYPD and FDNY when one new one would have been just fine. The separate systems were incompatible, so the city had to spend $15 million for an interface to get them to communicate with each other.

He confessed he didn't bother to read the 911 report by city-hired consultants that found New York's recently-overhauled 911 system is plagued by delays and errors.

Infrastructure

He dismissed the idea of building surge barriers or tidal gates even as New York is the third most vulnerable state in the US. to hurricanes, behind only Miami and New Orleans.
There are no preventive measures being planned to forestall the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2013

The Scandal of the National Health Service and its CEO who runs the 5th largest organization in the world

Following up on my post, National Health Care in Britain Responsible for 40,000 Preventable Deaths, Pays 15 Million Pounds to Silence Whistleblowers, I want to point to what Richard Fernandez writes about in The Hospital of Death

The man at the center of the scandal was Sir David Nicholson, the Chief Executive of the NHS.

Nicholson is a man who never held a job in his life outside of government and activism. “Nicholson joined the NHS on graduation, and then the Communist Party of Great Britain”.  Nor was he just a casual, student Red. Nicholson, according to the Guardian, was a “tankie”, a “term referring to those members of the Communist Party of Great Britain that followed the Kremlin line, agreeing with the crushing of revolts in Hungary and later Czechoslovakia by Soviet tanks; or more broadly, those who followed a traditional pro-Soviet position.”  And rung by rung  this compassionate man climbed the ladder of the NHS until he reached its pinnacle.
--
One of the biggest concentrations of deaths was at an “elite” hospital, the Mid-Staffordshire hospital which triggered an investigation by the “apparently high mortality rates in patients admitted as emergencies”. Too many people were turning up dead. A study subsequently showed that up to 1,200 patients may have died due to negligence in the “elite” hospital, which has since become so notorious it may now be placed under new management.
--
when the report touches on what actually happened to the patients it is the stuff of war-crimes. It is not an exaggeration to say that nothing suggested by the most rabid critics of Guantanamo is half so bad. Baldly put what really happened in the hospital was that thousands of old Britons were left to starve, die of thirst, stew in their waste for extended periods,  lie neglected and unmedicated or cast out of the wards at the slightest opportunity.
--
For strange as it may seem, NHS head Sir David Nicholson, of whom nobody may have previously heard, ran the fifth largest organization in the world. The NHS is far bigger than the British Army, larger than the Indian Railways and the Chinese state-owned energy network. Sir David Nicholson’s fiefdom is actually exceeded only by McDonald’s, Walmart, the US Armed Forces, the Chinese Army and the Chinese railway and may have inflicted more deaths than all of these organizations combined.

It's the unaccountability of these government ministers that rankles me the most.  Nicholson will find a way to absolve himself of any responsibility much as the way no one in the U.S. government is responsible for the debacle in Benghazi.

By contrast, look at what happened when the management was turned over to a private firm. Transformed: The failing NHS trust taken over by private firm has one of the highest levels of patient satisfaction

Hinchingbrooke, a hospital in Cambridgeshire with 160,000 patients, was on the verge of going bust when it was taken over by Circle last year.
But NHS figures show it is now ranked as one of the highest for patient happiness and waiting times.

Patient satisfaction: Hinchingbrooke Hospital, the first NHS trust to be run entirely by a private firm, is ranked as one of the highest for patient happiness and waiting times
The company running the trust has slashed losses at the hospital by 60 per cent and will soon begin to pay off burgeoning debts built up over years of mismanagement. The takeover deal, which saved the hospital from closing down, is seen as a blueprint for the future of many NHS trusts.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:48 PM | Permalink

March 4, 2013

Two things I just learned about WW2

Just how many more Nazi ghettos and camps there were then we ever knew and how depraved their "care" centers were.

The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking

Thirteen years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.  What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.

The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945. The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.

“The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.  “We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”

The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.

Just how creatively inventive the English were in being deceptive.

Operation Starfish: Extraordinary story of Second World War sites designed to look like burning cities which saved 2,500 lives and diverted 730 air raids

Starfish decoy towns in Britain helped to dupe Nazi aircraft during Blitz.  They were built to lure enemy bombers away from more populated areas.

Tanks containing diesel and paraffin were placed on top of 20ft towers.  Diesel was released onto coke or coal before water was released on top which caused a virtual explosion of fire and steam, looking like a burning town.


Two other famous deceptions by the British that come to mind: Operation Mincemeat later made into a film The Man Who Never Was and  Operation Fortitude created entire fake armies to make Nazis believe that a much larger invasion force would be embarking from Kent and that the landings at Normandy were but a diversionary tactic

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:30 PM | Permalink

March 2, 2013

National Health Care in Britain responsible for 40,000 preventable deaths, pays 15 million pounds to silence whistleblowers

Doctors don't trust their own hospitals.  40% of doctors would NOT recommend their own workplace to friends or family

Nearly 40 per cent of doctors would not recommend their own hospital to friends or family, startling new figures reveal.
A further one in three do not believe NHS managers act on the concerns of patients.
The Department of Health’s own survey also found that a third of NHS staff had witnessed medical blunders or near misses at least once in the last month.

In reality it is the NHS, not James Bond, who has the real government license to kill. writes Richard Fernandez

The NHS, which its creators boasted would be the ‘envy of the world’, has been found to have been responsible for up to 40,000 preventable deaths under the helm of Sir David Nicholson, a former member of the Communist Party of Britain. “He was no ordinary revolutionary. He was on the hardline, so-called ‘Tankie’ wing of the party which backed the Kremlin using military action to crush dissident uprisings” — before he acquired a taste for young wives, first class travel and honors.

The stories of the pathetic deaths of the elderly under his care — 1,200 in one hospital alone — have scandalized the British public, especially when it emerged he spent 15 million pounds in taxpayer money to gag and prosecute whistleblowers — often doctors and administrators who could not stomach his policies.

The public money spent on stopping NHS staff from speaking out is almost equivalent to the salaries of around 750 nurses.

The figures were revealed after a two year battle by Conservative MP Steve Barclay, who eventually obtained them after tabling a number of Parliamentary Questions.

The figures show a total of £14.7m of taxpayers’ money was spent on almost 600 compromise agreements, most of which included gagging clauses to silence whistleblowers.
--
A whole generation is finished. Like their counterparts a hundred years ago, the European young are being sent to their professional death in millions. The carnage at both ends of the age spectrum — with the old being killed off and the young’s professional lives essentially buried — is a sign that the welfare state, the future on offer to “Julia” and Sandra Fluke, is now an empty box.
--
The current elite has abused, as very few elites have abused in the past, the power of trust. They’ve taken legitimacy built by generations of competence and used it to paper over mediocrity and madness.  The trust they had to squander was immense; and they squandered it.

When the crash happens the disillusionment will be tremendous. It won’t be the kind of disillusion that loses elections or topples a government. It will the kind of disgust that pulls down a civilization.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 AM | Permalink

February 25, 2013

The disaster of legalized prostitution

Why even Amsterdam doesn’t want legal brothels  The Dutch experiment in legalized prostitution has been a disaster.

Legalization has imposed brothels on areas all over Holland, whether they want them or not. Even if a city or town opposes establishing a brothel, it must allow at least one — not doing so is contrary to the basic federal right to work. To many Dutch, legality and decency have been irreconcilably divorced. It has been a social, legal and economic failure — and the madness, finally, is coming to an end.

The brothel boom is over. A third of Amsterdam’s bordellos have been closed due to the involvement of organized criminals and drug dealers and the increase in trafficking of women. Police now acknowledge that the red-light district has mutated into a global hub for human trafficking and money laundering. The streets have been infiltrated by grooming gangs seeking out young, vulnerable girls and marketing them to men as virgins who will do whatever they are told. Many of those involved in Amsterdam’s regular tourist trade — the museums and canals — fear that their visitors are vanishing along with the city’s reputation.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

"“All the prices are too damn high.”

Much discussed is Steven Brill's piece on A Bitter Pill, Why Medical Bills are Killing Us

I got the idea for this article when I was visiting Rice University last year. As I was leaving the campus, which is just outside the central business district of Houston, I noticed a group of glass skyscrapers about a mile away lighting up the evening sky. The scene looked like Dubai. I was looking at the Texas Medical Center, a nearly 1,300-acre, 280-building complex of hospitals and related medical facilities, of which MD Anderson is the lead brand name. Medicine had obviously become a huge business. In fact, of Houston’s top 10 employers, five are hospitals, including MD Anderson with 19,000 employees; three, led by ExxonMobil with 14,000 employees, are energy companies. How did that happen, I wondered. Where’s all that money coming from? And where is it going? I have spent the past seven months trying to find out by analyzing a variety of bills from hospitals like MD Anderson, doctors, drug companies and every other player in the American health care ecosystem.
---

One example The $21,000 Heartburn Bill

One night last summer at her home near Stamford, Conn., a 64-year-old former sales clerk whom I’ll call Janice S. felt chest pains. She was taken four miles by ambulance to the emergency room at Stamford Hospital, officially a nonprofit institution. After about three hours of tests and some brief encounters with a doctor, she was told she had indigestion and sent home. That was the good news.

The bad news was the bill: $995 for the ambulance ride, $3,000 for the doctors and $17,000 for the hospital — in sum, $21,000 for a false alarm.
---

Overuse of technology like CAT scans

“We use the CT scan because it’s a great defense,” says the CEO of another hospital not far from Stamford. “For example, if anyone has fallen or done anything around their head — hell, if they even say the word head — we do it to be safe. We can’t be sued for doing too much.”

His rationale speaks to the real cost issue associated with medical-malpractice litigation. It’s not as much about the verdicts or settlements (or considerable malpractice-insurance premiums) that hospitals and doctors pay as it is about what they do to avoid being sued……. When Obamacare was being debated, Republicans pushed this kind of commonsense malpractice-tort reform. But the stranglehold that plaintiffs’ lawyers have traditionally had on Democrats prevailed, and neither a safe-harbor provision nor any other malpractice reform was included.

Follow the Money

Put simply, with Obamacare we’ve changed the rules related to who pays for what, but we haven’t done much to change the prices we pay.  When you follow the money, you see the choices we’ve made, knowingly or unknowingly.
Over the past few decades, we’ve enriched the labs, drug companies, medical device makers, hospital administrators and purveyors of CT scans, MRIs, canes and wheelchairs. Meanwhile, we’ve squeezed the doctors who don’t own their own clinics, don’t work as drug or device consultants or don’t otherwise game a system that is so gameable. And of course, we’ve squeezed everyone outside the system who gets stuck with the bills.

We’ve created a secure, prosperous island in an economy that is suffering under the weight of the riches those on the island extract.

And we’ve allowed those on the island and their lobbyists and allies to control the debate, diverting us from what Gerard Anderson, a health care economist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says is the obvious and only issue: “All the prices are too damn high.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

February 19, 2013

"“In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished" UPDATED

In the U.K., William Oddie on Pope Benedict's  warnings on secularism and religious liberty

One of the most central insights of Pope Benedict’s pontificate was summed up in his phrase “the dictatorship of relativism”. In his now famous conversation with the German journalist Peter Seewald (the same one on which he said that popes can abdicate), he said this, in explanation: “In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason – so-called Western reason – claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the ‘new religion’ as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.”
--
There can be little doubt that this secularist dictatorship is being rolled out in this country today, notably in the education system, where in certain key areas, certain forms of behaviour must be presented as being valid and acceptable whether or not teachers believe they are.
--
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury spoke out about the implications for religious liberty of the vote last Tuesday on the same sex “marriage” bill now being pushed (probably irresistibly) through the Commons by the “Conservative” Prime Minister, David Cameron. Bishop Davies last week told married couples gathered from all over his diocese to celebrate landmark anniversaries at an annual Mass of Thanksgiving for Marriage that it was possible to “see the absurdity of changing the identity of marriage in the name of a false understanding of equality by the desire to even strike out the cherished names of ‘mother’ and ‘father’”.

That was a predictable enough criticism. But he also repeated a warning he has given before: having said that recognising the truth of marriage was not “an injustice to be remedied” he went on to predict that soon it could even become an offence to repeat “the beautiful teaching of Christ” that marriage is the lasting union of one man and one woman which forms the foundation of the family.

Update:  Today's example.  Andrew Cuomo’s Radical Abortion Regime

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks to impose a radical new abortion regime on the state, one that goes far beyond the euphemistic byword “choice.” The bill would in fact limit many choices, for instance the choice of Catholic hospitals and other institutions with moral objections to decline to allow abortions to be performed in their facilities. It would limit the choices of organizations that counsel pregnant women if their counseling were held to be insufficiently enthusiastic about abortion. It would limit the choices of organizations that seek to help women in crisis without involving themselves in the politics of abortion.
--
Governor Cuomo’s bill is not about easing access to abortion — those bloody skids already are well-greased. The issue is political domination. The abortion party does not brook resistance, and it steadfastly seeks to ensure that everybody has a hand in its grisly business: taxpayers, employers, priests. All must be implicated. If a religious hospital declines to provide abortions, then it must be forced to do so. If a counseling center treats adoption as preferable to abortion, it will either change its mind or have its mind changed for it by the gentle persuasion of the State of New York.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 PM | Permalink

February 5, 2013

Dangerism

Smothered by Safety by Lenore Skenazy

• An upstate New York school district outlawed soap in its pre-school bathrooms for fear that children might suddenly start drinking it. Now kids must come out and ask an adult to squirt some soap in their hands.

•  Unaccompanied children under age 12 were banned from the Boulder, CO, library, lest they encounter “hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture…and other library patrons.”

• The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of certain fleece hoodies sold at Target because of lead paint on the zipper, which presumably could raise blood lead levels if the zippers are eaten.

•  A New Canaan, CT, mom was charged with “risk of injury to a minor,” for letting her 13-year-old babysit the three younger children at home for an hour while the mom went to church.

• A Tennessee mother was thrown in jail for letting her kids, aged 8 and 5, go the park without her, a block and half away from home.

* A Hazmat crew was summoned to Seminole High School in Florida after a science student brought in a mercury thermometer
--
When rational parenting decisions become criminalized, parents are forced to think irrationally. I hear from parents all the time who’d like to let their kid walk to school, or play outside, but worry they could be cited for negligence.
---
Welcome to the world of “dangerism.” That’s a term coined by Gever Tulley, author of 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Kids Do). He uses it to describe the way normal, everyday objects and activities can be reclassified as dangerous when seen through the worst-case-scenario lens. That’s why, for instance, federal playground safety guidelines propose removing “tripping hazards, like tree stumps and rocks.”
--
When the government declares that we must live in a zero-risk world, it is free to outlaw almost any product or parenting practice it decides to set its sights on. And we have no recourse but to toss the toys we trust, the heirlooms we loved, and the age-old belief that if we train our kids to be brave and smart, we can gradually let them out to embrace the world, risk and all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink

February 4, 2013

Communism, Fascism and liberals

John Gray reviews Vladimir Tismaneanu's The Devil in History, Communism, Fascism, and some lessons of the twentieth century
in Communism, Fascism and liberals now featured in The Times Literary Supplement.

Writing about Tismaneanu's belief that

in important respects Communism and Fascism were at one. He is clear that “Communism is not Fascism, and Fascism is not Communism. Each totalitarian experiment has its own irreducible attributes”. Even so, the two were alike in viewing mass killing as a legitimate instrument of social engineering.
---
Tismaneanu’s account of Communist totalitarianism will be resisted by those who want to believe that it was an essentially humanistic project derailed by events – national backwardness, foreign encirclement and the like. But as he points out, the Soviet state was founded on policies which implied that some human beings were not fully human. Lenin may have held to a version of humanism, but it was one that excluded much of actually existing humankind. …. If radical evil consists in denying the protection of morality to sections of humankind, the regime founded by Lenin undoubtedly qualifies.
--
In its predominant forms, liberalism has been in recent times a version of the religion of humanity, and with rare exceptions – Russell is one of the few that come to mind – liberals have seen the Communist experiment as a hyperbolic expression of their own project of improvement; if the experiment failed, its casualties were incurred for the sake of a progressive cause. To think otherwise – to admit the possibility that the millions who were judged to be less than fully human suffered and died for nothing – would be to question the idea that history is a story of continuing human advance, which for liberals today is an article of faith. That is why, despite all evidence to the contrary, so many of them continue to deny Communism’s clear affinities with Fascism. Blindness to the true nature of Communism is an inability to accept that radical evil can come from the pursuit of progress.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink

"The streets of Stockholm are awash with the blood of sacred cows"

In the Economist, Northern lights  The Nordic countries are reinventing their model of capitalism, says Adrian Wooldridge

THIRTY YEARS AGO Margaret Thatcher turned Britain into the world’s leading centre of “thinking the unthinkable”. Today that distinction has passed to Sweden.  The streets of Stockholm are awash with the blood of sacred cows. The think-tanks are brimful of new ideas. The erstwhile champion of the “third way” is now pursuing a far more interesting brand of politics.

Sweden has reduced public spending as a proportion of GDP from 67% in 1993 to 49% today. It could soon have a smaller state than Britain. It has also cut the top marginal tax rate by 27 percentage points since 1983, to 57%, and scrapped a mare’s nest of taxes on property, gifts, wealth and inheritance. This year it is cutting the corporate-tax rate from 26.3% to 22%.

Sweden has also donned the golden straitjacket of fiscal orthodoxy with its pledge to produce a fiscal surplus over the economic cycle. Its public debt fell from 70% of GDP in 1993 to 37% in 2010, and its budget moved from an 11% deficit to a surplus of 0.3% over the same period. This allowed a country with a small, open economy to recover quickly from the financial storm of 2007-08. Sweden has also put its pension system on a sound foundation, replacing a defined-benefit system with a defined-contribution one and making automatic adjustments for longer life expectancy.

Most daringly, it has introduced a universal system of school vouchers and invited private schools to compete with public ones. Private companies also vie with each other to provide state-funded health services and care for the elderly.
---
Why are the Nordic countries doing this? The obvious answer is that they have reached the limits of big government. “The welfare state we have is excellent in most ways,” says Gunnar Viby Mogensen, a Danish historian. “We only have this little problem. We can’t afford it.” The economic storms that shook all the Nordic countries in the early 1990s provided a foretaste of what would happen if they failed to get their affairs in order.

Policy makers would do well to study the Nordic model.  Using competition and market forces to improve the delivery of governmental services, the Nordic countries also live within their means.  Here at home, we can't even get a President to submit a budge or Senate to pass one, much less to address the very real problems of entitlements and debt.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

January 30, 2013

Ethanol and other examples of government waste

Zero Dark Ethanol

The cellulosic ethanol industry produced zero gallons in 2011 and zero in 2012. But the EPA still required oil companies and refiners to buy 6.6 million gallons in 2011 and 8.7 million in 2012—and then to purchase millions of dollars of "waiver credits" for failing to comply with a mandate to buy a product that did not exist. This is the sort of thing that led to the Protestant Reformation.

Study: New E15 gas can ruin auto engines

The fuel industry's American Petroleum Institute tested the 15 percent ethanol gas approved in 2010 and found it gums up fuel systems, prompts "check engine" lights to come on, and messes with fuel gauge readings.

"Failure of these components could result in breakdowns that leave consumers stranded on busy roads and highways," said the industry report. Worse: API said the fuel problems--not found in E5 or E10 blends--aren't always covered by auto warranties.


As Walter Russell Mead points out in World's Largest Lobbies in Ethanol Deathmatch

Studies have shown that using corn for fuel is neither green nor cost-effective. Worse, it drives up global prices for corn, starving the world’s poor.
--
In 2012, 40 percent of U.S. corn went towards producing biofuels. Compare that to 2006, when just 19 percent of corn was used for fuel. Keep in mind that we’re actually producing fewer bushels of corn now than we were back in 2006.


The auto industry is thriving, except for subsidized alternative fuel vehicles.

From sport utes to sports cars to soccer-mom vans, every industry segment is thriving—with the notable exception of the alternative-fuel vehicles into which Washington has sunk billions of taxpayer dollars.


The buck stops at the desk of EPA's Lisa Jackson, The Worst Head of the Worst Regulatory Agency Ever

'Incalculable waste' in U.S.-paid $100 billion Afghan fund

The unprecedented $100 billion program slated to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan has been ravaged by theft, cost overruns, bribes, unused facilities and "incalculable waste,"

Going for Broke

According to Hillary Clinton’s long-delayed Benghazigate testimony, the State Department just did not have enough money to provide security for a mission in one of the most dangerous places in the world.

It did however have 16 million dollars to spend on 2,500 kindle book readers at the drastically inflated price of $6,600 per device.

It had $79,000 to spend on Obama’s books and $20,000 on a portrait of Obama. The US Embassy had $150,000 to spend on a book about the ambassador’s residence.  There was $4.5 for art in embassies, but no money for Benghazi security.

But then, "What difference does it make?"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:10 PM | Permalink

January 17, 2013

The bounds of common decency

The war on prescription drugs has gone too far when inhumane treatment of ordinary people is justified.  The bounds of common decency bind the police as well.

Radley Balko writes in the Huffington Post about  government overreach in its paranoia over opioid painkillers.

New Victims in the War on Painkillers  No victim is Mayor Bloomberg who is dictating medical policy for NYC emergency rooms.

This policy is going to cause needless suffering. People who genuinely, legitimately need pain medication aren't going to be able to get it

But what about the 80 year old man, a former Navy medic, whose wife of 58 years just died on colon cancer in their bedroom when the police, not ten minutes after her death, burst in without a warrant to search for prescription drugs.

"I was holding her hand saying goodbye when all the intrusion happened," he told the Deseret News…

"I was indignant to think you can't even have a private moment. All these people were there and they're not concerned about her or me. They're concerned about the damn drugs. Isn't that something?" Mahaffey said.

Mahaffey said he was treated as if he were going to sell the painkillers, which included OxyContin, oxycodone and morphine, on the street.

In Oklahoma, Jamie Lynn Russell, a 33-year-old woman went to an emergency room in such extreme abdominal pain that she couldn't lie down or even cooperate with hospital staff who called a police officer to help them.    He found two prescription pills that he determined didn't belong to her, so he he took her to jail for drug possession.      Russell was in jail for less than two hours before she died of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. 

Said the sheriff, "There is nothing my staff in the jail could've done differently,"  ""It's very regrettable for the family. My heart and prayers go out to them."

The hospital is also at fault here.  I can't imagine taking a woman in such extremes pain out of a hospital where she could be treated just so she could be taken to jail over the possession of  two pills. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

December 11, 2012

Is Poverty becoming the new normal?

One million Americans entered poverty in the last two months

Release delayed until after the election. Number of Americans on food stamps,  47.1 million,  not only a new all time record, but the monthly increase of 420,947 from July was the biggest monthly increase in one year.

in August and September, over three times as many foodstamp recipients were add to the economy as jobs (324,000).

Robert J. Samuelson  Is the economy creating a lost generation?

This is not a good time to be starting out in life. Jobs are scarce, and those that exist often pay unexpectedly low wages. Beginning a family — always stressful and uncertain — is increasingly a stretch. The weak economy begets weak family formation. We instinctively know this; several new studies now deepen our understanding.

When the labor market operates smoothly, it creates an economic escalator. Just out of high school or college, young workers typically switch jobs frequently until they find something that fits their talent and temperament. Job changes often mean higher pay; people move to advance themselves. The more they succeed, the more confident they feel in marrying and having children.
--
Fully one-fifth of younger workers belong to the “underemployed.” As Shierholz notes, the young always have higher unemployment rates. It’s just worse now.


There may not only a lost generation but also lost states who have made everything worse by never facing up to their own debt.

In California, schools are taking virtual pay day loans to keep operating and end up getting only more deeper in debt.  According to NPR, one California school district, "a $2.5 million bond will cost the district a whopping $34 million to repay." 

In New York, the state is still repaying debt from the bonds it issued when the state sold Attica prison to itself during Mario Cuomo’s governorship in the early 1990s. The state has continually refinanced the debt and extended the term of the borrowing rather than repay it.

Michael Barone, Soul-crushing Dependency

“This is painful for a liberal to admit,” writes liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, in Profiting from a Child's Illiteracy,  “but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in soul-crushing dependency.

Kristof is writing from Breathitt County, Ky., deep in the Appalachian mountains, about mothers whose Supplemental Security Income benefits will decrease if their children learn to read.

Evidently SSI administrators decided to be more generous to parents of such children. But, as Kristof notes, giving parents an incentive to keep children from learning to read works against the children’s long-term interest.

Kristof’s column makes a point similar to that in my Dec. 2 Examiner column on the vast rise in people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance payments. As with SSI, one imagines that those responsible for extending benefits to those not previously eligible did so out of a sense of generosity. But as I noted, “there is also a human cost. Consider the plight of someone who at some level knows he can work but decides to collect disability payments instead. That person is not likely to ever seek work again, especially if the sluggish recovery turns out to be the new normal. He may be gleeful that he was able to game the system or just grimly determined to get what he can in a tough situation. But he will not be able to get the satisfaction of earned success from honest work that contributes something to society and the economy.” Generosity that produces “soul-crushing dependency” is not really generosity.

Ace comments on Barone and expands the discussion to the dismal failure of the government-run, i.e. public school system.

When the media natters Republicans about intransigence and being held prisoner to their most "extreme" and ideological elements-- how come never a single word is mentioned about Democrats' evil obedience to the teachers' unions?

The incredible thing here is that almost every liberal will admit this, and almost every liberal in the business of politics has seen the documentary Waiting for Superman. They know the current system is more of a trap for, say, poor black kids than Jim Crow ever was.  And what do they propose doing about it? Absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing.
---
A reformer in Waiting for Superman made this point: If school districts had the power to fire (without the heavy union interference) merely the bottom 6% of teachers, 90% of the problems with public education would be solved.  But Democrats will never permit that. That 6% that is in danger of being fired are the most fired-up members of the Teachers Unions, because their livelihoods depend on the policy of absolutely no terminations for incompetency, and those most fired-up members of the Teachers Unions are in turn the shock troops of the Democratic turnout machine…..

It's the ultimate Cult of the Old -- we do this because we have always done so before. Not a single Member of the Herd of Independent Thinkers ever demonstrates all this "courage" they're always complimenting themselves for to question this demonic policy.

How tough it is these days to get out of poverty.  In Rust Belt, a teenager’s climb from poverty

Tabi shared the rental house with her mother and sometimes her mother’s boyfriend. Her four older siblings were grown. None of them had graduated from high school. They wore headsets and hairnets to jobs that were so futureless that getting pregnant at 20 seemed an enriching diversion. Born too late to witness the blue-collar stability that had once been possible, they occupied the bottom of the U.S. economy.

“I’m running from everything they are,” she said.
--
Her mother had five kids and no husband at age 23. Tabi, the last born, was a welfare and WIC baby who grew up with evictions and lights getting cut off. Her 39-year-old mother remembers it differently.

The only people who are doing well are government employees. Americans believe public workers better paid and more secure (Bingo!)

"The federal workforce has become an elite island of secure and high-paid workers, separated from the ocean of average American workers competing in the global economy," according to a report this year by the Cato Institute.

That report found the average civilian federal government worker collected just under $84,000 a year in taxpayer money, about $32,000 more than the average private sector worker. That's a total federal worker package of about $236 billion a year.
---
Even a plurality (48%) of government employees admit their private industry counterparts do work harder.

Another 67% believe that government workers have greater job security than those in the production- profit-driven private sector,

These two states in terrible financial situations,  California and New York, top the charts in the amount they pay their government workers.    There's been a 100%+ increase in California employee state pay since 2005 and at least one state psychiatrist earned $822,000 in one year !

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:36 PM | Permalink

December 10, 2012

Unused FEMA trailers yet many Sandy victims are still homeless

Sandy victims still struggling to find warm housing

Six weeks after Sandy hit the New Jersey and New York coast, residents are still struggling and in desperate need of shelter. Many hard-hit victims are not getting help despite President Barack Obama’s pledge of the full support of the federal government, and they are dealing with red tape the president said would not be tolerated.

In the Red Hook community of Brooklyn, N.Y., many residents are still living in their unheated, powerless homes in freezing temperatures. Help from the government for residents has not come.

One victim from the Midland Beach section of Staten Island is living out of his car, going from one house to another each day in search of a warm bed. Dozens of residents are living in their sewer-flooded homes without heat or power in Gerritsen Beach.

Thousands living in hotels courtesy of FEMA are about to lose their rooms. Hotel stays for victims are set to expire on Dec. 13. That would force tens of thousands into the cold, which could prove a public relations disaster for the Obama administration and FEMA.
---
Staten Island resident Billy Stout said he is living out of his car and jumping from one house to another.

“It’s tough,” he said.

Stout went to FEMA for assistance and was told he should apply for a SBA loan. He asked why he would apply for a loan as he is disabled and on Social Security disability. He said FEMA told him that once he’s denied for the loan they could give him assistance. That assistance came after three weeks in the amount of $2,400. He cannot find a rental unless he travels two hours away.

“I don’t think the government has done enough. They could be doing more,” said Stout, suggesting FEMA “could put up trailers at the closed Arthur Kill Correctional Facility or at Miller’s Field. There is so much space there. Then people would have a warm place to stay. I don’t know why they don’t do that.”

Neither do I since there are at least 92 unused FEMA trailers in Pennsylvania  and 520 in Missouri and who knows how many elsewhere are lying unused.

Does FEMA even keep track of their trailers that could be moved to places in great need?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

December 8, 2012

"No tag shall in time of peace be placed on mattresses quartered in any house without the consent of the owner"

Some constitutional amendments I could get behind.  Don Surber writes Fight for the right to be left alone

• Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of a health care insurance system, or prohibiting riding a motorcycle without a helmet; or abridging the freedom of hate speech, or of the politically incorrect press; or the right of the people to party, and to petition the government to leave them the heck alone.

• A well-lit household being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear incandescent light bulbs shall not be infringed.

• No tag shall in time of peace be placed on mattresses quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

• The right of the people to be secure in their bathrooms, bedrooms and thoughts, against unreasonable rules and regulations, shall not be violated.

• No person shall be held to answer for a picayune rule or otherwise petty regulation, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 PM | Permalink

December 6, 2012

"Fixing the health care system by government fiat is like neurosurgery with a hammer"

Obamacare Jumps the Shark in its Premiere.  Walter Russell Mead explains

One of the reasons blue programs jump the shark is that over time more and more special interests lobby politicians to get special features added. The small add-ons and tweaks make programs more expensive and complicated to administer—and much, much harder to reform. This process begins when the laws are written; the lobbyists are there to tuck special little surprises between the pages of the bill. It continues as the regulations necessary to implement the new laws are written; once again, lobbyists are on hand to mold the regs to their liking. And it persists year after year after year, as lobbyists look for ways to amend the existing laws or add new requirements by inserting language into other bills.

---
The law is a blunt instrument; fixing the health care system by government fiat is like neurosurgery with a hammer. It’s going to hurt more than you think, and will harm more than it helps. Let’s hope politicians figure that out before too much damage is done.

A Physician's New Reality: Patients Ask Me to Break the Law

I have now posted a notice in my office and each exam room stating exactly what Obamacare will cover for those yearly visits. Remember Obama promised this as a free exam — no co-pay, no deductible, no charge. That’s fine and dandy if you are healthy and have no complaints. However, we are obligated by law to code specifically for the reason of the visit.  An annual exam is one specific code; you can not mix this with another code, say, for rectal bleeding. This annual visit covers the exam and “discussion about the status of previously diagnosed stable conditions.” That’s the exact wording under that code — insurance will not cover any new ailment under that code.
--
Private doctors are becoming a thing of the past. By 2014, less than 25% of physicians will be in private medicine. Obama was right in stating you can keep your doctor if you want to — the problem is he or she will rarely be available.

On top of all of that, doctors will be obligated — that’s right, obligated — to talk to you about things you may have no interest or need to talk about.  You may just want to have a pap smear or check your cholesterol. However, I am now mandated by the government to talk to you about your weight, exercise, family life, smoking, sexual abuse(!), and even to ask if you wear seat belts. And I am mandated to record your answers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

November 19, 2012

Administrators grow like kudzu

In Oklahoma, Market-based, low overhead medical care with transparent pricing as an antidote to Obamacare

To understand how deeply discounted the Surgery Center’s fees are, consider that a nearby local hospital in Oklahoma City, Integris Baptist Medical Center, charges more than $33,000 for a “complex bilateral sinus procedure.”  When the same surgeon performs the same surgery at the Surgery Center, the total cost is less than $6,000. Reasons? The hospital is receiving payment from a third party (insurance company or government), and not the patient, who therefore has no incentive or reason to question or monitor the price. Another reason that the hospital charges 5 times more than the Surgery Center for the same procedure is the huge difference in administrative overhead.  Reason explains:

Except for the clerical staff, every employee at the Surgery Center is directly involved in patient care. For example, both human resources and building maintenance are the responsibility of the head nurse. “One reason our prices are so low,” says Smith, “is that we don’t have administrators running around in their four or five thousand dollar suits.”

When I was in law school one professor after another would call a new law that required regulations to flesh it out, the "full-employment for  lawyers act."  The point is evergreen when you consider how many people called  Sarbanes Oxley, the "full-employment for accountants act"

What I didn't see was how stealthily grew '"administrators" until, in most school districts and colleges, they now outnumber the teachers and professors.  Same thing in hospitals, in unions, in municipal and state governments.  Administrators  grew like kudzu and they didn't need any law to do so.  Lots of regulations helped.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 PM | Permalink

November 13, 2012

The dismaying evidence of voter fraud in the election

-Hmmmm

Hmmmmmmm

I'm not a conspiracy nut, but nothing troubles me more than voter fraud because tampering with the electoral process undermines the very nature of our democracy.    I and most people want fair elections.  It should be easy to vote, but hard to cheat.  It's more like, easy to vote, easy to cheat.  If people don't have trust in the integrity of electoral system, they won't trust their leaders.    As of this morning, petitions seeking White House approval to 'secede' from the nation now come from 47 states.  In Texas and Louisiana both, the petitions have gathered more than 25,0000 signatures, triggering White House review.  It is very dismaying to see the nation fracture when we have so many enormous problems that require both parties to solve.  Thankfully, neither Romney or Ryan are contesting the results.

The presidential election was decided by a mere 407,000 votes in four states reports Jim Geraghty

Florida: 73,858

Ohio: 103,481

Virginia: 115,910

Colorado: 113,099

Below are the articles I came across while reading about the election result that questioned the integrity of the voting process.

COLORADO

Colorado counties have more voters than people
Using publicly available voter data and comparing it to U.S. Census records reveals the ten counties having a total registration ranging between 104 to 140 percent of the respective populations.

OHIO

Obama won county in Ohio with 108% voter registration

What Luck! Obama Won Dozens of Cleveland Districts with 100% of the Vote

One out of five registered Ohio voters is bogus reports the Columbus Dispatch in September

“in two counties, the number of registered voters actually exceeds the voting age population: Northwestern Ohio’s Wood County shows 109 registered voters for every 100 eligible, while in Lawrence County along the Ohio River it’s a mere 104 registered per 100 eligible.”

Odd?  Romney got zero votes in 59 precincts in Philly, and 9 precincts in Ohio
Two Election Judges Replaced after Illegal Activity in Ohio
In Hamilton County, the area that houses Cincinnati, two election judges — one Republican and one Democrat — were replaced after illegally allowing unregistered voters to cast their ballots.

FLORIDA

St. Lucie County, Florida Had 141.1% Turnout; Obama Won County
Out of 175,554 registered voters, 247,713 vote cards were cast in St. Lucie County, Florida on Tuesday. Barack Obama won the county.

In Florida: Obama Got Over 99% in Broward County Precincts

More ballots turn up in Broward: Seven days after the election ended, and two days after the results were unofficially certified.
Broward elections workers Monday said they had found 963 unaccounted-for ballots in a warehouse. They were put in the wrong place, members of the Broward County Canvassing Board were told on Monday.

"How can you lose them? This is terrible,'' said Dania Beach candidate Chickie Brandimarte, whose close race won't be called until at least Tuesday.

VIRGINIA

Police investigating Rep. Moran's son over possible voter fraud
"The Arlington County Police Department has initiated a criminal investigation of this matter."

Released Wednesday by Project Veritas — a conservative organization headed by the Republican activist James O’Keefe — the video showed Patrick Moran perusing ways to help a man he thought was a campaign volunteer cast ballots on behalf of 100 people the operative said weren't planning to vote.

Fraud: Some told they already voted, others brag about voting multiple times

Obama Lost in Every State With Photo ID Law

A list of closely contested state elections with no voter ID, which narrowly went to Obama include: Minnesota (10), Iowa (6), Wisconsin (10), Nevada (6), Colorado (9), New Mexico (5) and Pennsylvania (20). This amounts to a total of 66 electoral votes.
--
Romney also likely had the states of Florida and Ohio stolen from him, which don’t require photo IDs. Ohio requires a non-photo ID. Would a library card do? Florida “requests” a photo ID, but doesn’t require it.

John Fund writes Voter Fraud Is No Myth

We should clean up our voter rolls, require those casting absentee ballots to provide a driver’s license or Social Security number and make photo ID mandatory at the polls. Photo ID will not just stop the voter impersonation liberals claim doesn’t exist, but will cut down on multiple voting, non-citizen voting, people voting in the wrong precinct, out-of-state voting and voting in the names of fictitious people.

Those states that do want a voter id, that do want to clean up their voting rolls have met opposition from the Department of Justice.

I agree with the U.N election observers who were amazed that voter ID isn't a national requirement.

The most often noted difference between American elections among the visitors was that in most U.S. states, voters need no identification. Voters can also vote by mail, sometimes online, and there's often no way to know if one person has voted several times under different names, unlike in some Arab countries, where voters ink their fingers when casting their ballots.

The international visitors also noted that there's no police at U.S. polling stations. In foreign countries, police at polling places are viewed as signs of security; in the United States they are sometimes seen as intimidating.

Which puts me in the company of nearly 75% of Americans who believe the same thing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:20 PM | Permalink

October 26, 2012

The Shameful Disgrace of Benghazi

As Jim Treacher said last week  What’s The Big Deal About Benghazi, Anyway?

"Come on, you guys. It’s only an American ambassador and three other Americans who served their country, murdered by Islamic terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11. In a country our president invaded unilaterally and, arguably, illegally. And our government only ignored the copious warnings of an impending terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi, and actually reduced security there, despite the since-murdered ambassador’s entreaties. And our president has only been lying about it for over a month because it reflects very badly on his self-evidently disastrous foreign policy. It’s not like it was a hotel break-in.”

I was in law school when Watergate unfolded and I would spend hours every day pouring over news articles and testimony because I could not believe an American president and his administration would act so deceitfully.  But Watergate was nothing compared to the disgrace of Benghazi and the deceit and dissembling of this Administration across the board and from the top down.  In Watergate nobody died.  In Benghazi four Americans were killed and every person serving in the military or the diplomatic services must now be asking themselves whether anyone would come to their help if they were in trouble.  What an example of breach of trust this Administration leaves.  Anyone who knows anything about this story is furious.    But only now are most Americans learning about just how deceitful and shameful this Administration has been.

CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack, sources say  Jennnifer Griffin reports.

Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later was denied by U.S. officials -- who also told the CIA operators twice to "stand down" rather than help the ambassador's team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

Three urgent requests for military backup were denied.  CIA operators were ordered to stand down.
Who issued the order to stand down and deny the requests for help?  Who has the authority? The Defense Secretary?  The President?  The Chief of Staffs?

AC-130U Gunship was On-Scene in Benghazi, Obama Admin Refused to Let It Fire

The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Specter gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights. The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours — enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.

There were two AC-130Us deployed to Libya in March as part of Operation Unified Protector….The AC-130U was purpose-built for a select number of specific mission types, including point-defense against enemy attack. It was literally built for the kind of mission it could have engaged in over Benghazi, if the administration had let it fire. As the excerpt above clearly shows, we had assets on the ground “painting” the targets with the laser.

US Seals killed in attack disobeyed orders in heroic effort to save Stevens and Smith

Woods and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the Consulate which at that point was on fire. Shots were exchanged. The quick reaction force from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the Consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack. They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight.
--
In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Specter gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights. The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours -- enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.

Charles Woods, the father of slain Navy Seal Tyron Woods  responds to "Stand down" order:

That is cowardice by the people that issued that order. And our country is not a country of cowards. Our country is the greatest nation on Earth. And what we need to do is we need to raise up a generation of American heroes just like Ty who is an American hero. But in order to do that, we need to raise up a generation that has not just physical strength but moral strength.  We do not need another generation of liars who lack moral strength.

What Joe Biden said to this same father who just lost his hero son at the ceremony for the Libya victims at Andrews Air Force Base, “Did your son always have balls the size of cue balls?”    Don't ever say this to a grieving father.

Charles Woods'  encounter with President Obama at the sad ceremony to meet the returning coffins.

“When [Obama] came over to our little area” at Andrew Air Force Base, says Woods, “he kind of just mumbled, you know, ‘I’m sorry.’ His face was looking at me, but his eyes were looking over my shoulder like he could not look me in the eye. And it was not a sincere, ‘I’m really sorry, you know, that your son died,’ but it was totally insincere, more of whining type, ‘I’m sorry.’”

Woods says that shaking President Obama’s hands at his son’s memorial service was “like shaking hands with a dead fish.”

“It just didn’t feel right,” he says of his encounter with the commander in chief. “And now that it’s coming out that apparently the White House situation room was watching our people die in real time, as this was happening,”

Hilary Clinton told Charles Woods, the U.S. would “make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.

Apparently even the State Department had a live stream and was aware of their calls for help. My son wasn’t even there. He was at a safe house about a mile away. He got the distress call; he heard them crying for help; that’s why he and Glen risked their lives to go that extra mile just to take care of the situation. And I’m sure that wasn’t the only one received that distress call—you know, come save our lives … I’m sure that other people in the military, in the State Department, in the White House, received that same call that he would receive.

Father of Slain SEAL: Who Made the Decision Not to Save My Son?

Did Obama Watch While They Fought for Their Lives?

a drone ordered in from Tripoli sent back images of the attack in real time.  The battle was sent on streaming video direct to the Situation Room in the White House.  Within two hours, emails from Benghazi reported that Al Qaeda in Libya was claiming responsibility.
--
Former Assistant Defense Secretary Bing West …At 5 p.m., President Obama met with Vice President Biden and Secretary of Defense Panetta in the Oval Office. The U.S. military base in Sigonella, Sicily, was 480 miles away from Benghazi. Stationed at Sigonella were Special Operations Forces, transport aircraft, and attack aircraft - a much more formidable force than 22 men from the embassy….
--
Military sources tell CBS News that resources at the three bases include fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships, which the sources say can be extremely effective in flying in and buzzing a crowd to disperse it…. Add to the controversy the fact that the last two Americans didn't die until more than six hours into the attack, and the question of U.S. military help becomes very important.
--
Everything was sacrificed to the goal of acting as if the jihadi war against America was inconsequential. Libya was to be 'normalized.' Not by doing the actual work of stabilizing the country, but by our Administration refusing to station Marines there to protect our ambassador.  The attack on our embassy was normalized by treating it like a spontaneous demonstration, nothing you would scramble a Specter AC-130 for.

"No real time information" said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in an attempt to explain why no US forces of any kind were deployed to help the trapped Americans despite live reports from the Annex one mile away from the fighting and the drone overhead.

Report :  Hillary Clinton asked for more security at Benghazi and the Obama White House denied that request   According to Edward Klein, author the The Amateur, a biography of Obama, who was told that by lawyers close to Clinton.

Hillary, the President, Ambassador Rice and Jay Carney all  blamed the YouTube video. 

First, Aid the Living

Our diplomats fought for seven hours without any aid from outside the country. Four Americans died while the Obama national-security team and our military passively watched and listened. The administration is being criticized for ignoring security needs before the attack and for falsely attributing the assault to a mob. But the most severe failure has gone unnoticed: namely, a failure to aid the living.
--
It is bewildering that no U.S. aircraft ever came to the aid of the defenders. If even one F18 had been on station, it would have detected the location of hostiles firing at night and deterred and attacked the mortar sites. For our top leadership, with all the technological and military tools at their disposal, to have done nothing for seven hours was a joint civilian and military failure of initiative and nerve.

State Department emails from day of Libya attack show that militant group Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility.

Fox News was told that an estimated 300 to 400 national security figures received these emails in real time almost as the raid was playing out and concluding. People who received these emails work directly under the nation’s top national security, military and diplomatic officials.

It knew what Ansar Al-Sharia was all about -- to "impose Sharia," in the words of Ansar Al-Sharia's "Commander" Mohammad Ali al-Zahawi.

Al Qaeda-linked jihadists helped incite 9/11 Cairo protest in The Long War Journal

Several al Qaeda-linked jihadists helped incite the protest outside the US embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11. The jihadists include senior members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a group that merged with al Qaeda, and a senior Gamaa Islamiyya (IG) leader who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda's senior leadership...The Wall Street Journal has reported that US intelligence officials think Mohammed al Zawahiri put one of the suspects responsible for the terrorist attack in Benghazi in touch with his brother.

On Real Clear Politics, the video Bret Baier Special On Libya: "Death And Deceit In Benghazi".  It's going to be updated this weekend.

Robert Spencer on The Real Lesson of Benghazi

Speaking about the Libyan revolution in March 2011, Obama warmly praised the dawning in Libya of “the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny.”  After providing military aid to the anti-Gaddafi rebels despite evidence of their al-Qaeda links, the administration–whether the call really came from the White House or the State Department or both–had every reason to ignore the request from Benghazi for more security, and to pretend that the whole thing was just a spontaneous uprising over a video, not the carefully planned September 11 jihad attack that it proved to be.
--
But the White House and State Department not only do not acknowledge this fact–they have done all they can to deny and obfuscate it. ... indeed, Obama administration officials are expressly forbidden to link Islam with terrorism, as if Islamic terrorists weren’t busy linking the two on a daily basis. The errors of analysis and wrong decisions that cost lives all follow from this initial false premise.
--
About six months ago a State Department official contacted me privately and told me about State employees who had been assigned to study the life of Muhammad, with an eye toward putting together a positive portrayal of the prophet of Islam that would presumably win more Muslim hearts and minds by going out with the United States government’s seal of approval.  The officials who began studying the earliest Muslim sources about Muhammad, however, were astonished as they came face-to-face not with a seventh-century Gandhi, but with a figure of war and rapine who appeared to justify the worst allegations of the “Islamophobes” that the Obama administration has so roundly excoriated. Needless to say, the puff piece on Muhammad did not appear.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:35 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2012

Bankruptcy of existing policies

Did Economists Doom Obama's Presidency?  by Samuel Staley

If President Obama loses the election in November, economists may well end up taking a share of the blame - for good reason. Their models misled him into applying ambitious stimulus therapies to jump start the economy and boost employment that haven't worked, vastly undermining his re-election prospects.
--
In short, in what is perhaps the most important exercise in economic policy modeling since the Great Depression, two of the nation's foremost economists failed. And the failure was an epic one. They predicted that unemployment would peak at 8 percent after the stimulus. In fact it peaked at 9.9 percent. So it's unclear whether trillions of dollars of stimulus spending bought the country any reduction in unemployment whatsoever. It's also hard to escape the conclusion that it would have been better to do nothing and let the economy run its course.   Indeed, this failure is particularly notable because Romer and Bernstein's effort was well within accepted mainstream practice of the profession, not an exception.

Walter Russell Mead, "The overwhelming policy failures of modern American liberalism are undermining the basic viability of three of our greatest states"

Three states form the base of Democratic political power in the United States: California, New York and Illinois. All three states are locked in an accelerating economic, demographic and social decline; all three hope that they can stave off looming disaster at home by exporting the policies that have ruined them to the rest of the country.

Mary Williams Walsh, a talented reporter who is doing much to sustain the luster of the New York Times brand these days, has a must-read piece on the mess that is Illinois, and it is a compelling description of the misery and ruin that well-intentioned liberals combined with aggressive public sector labor unions inflict on the poor they ostensibly want to serve.

Narcissism, Consumerism And The End Of Growth  using Japan as the "bellwether of economic stagnation and social recession.

What we're seeing in Japan is the confluence of three dynamics: definancialization, the demise of growth-positive demographics and the devolution of the consumerist model of endless "demand" and "growth."  Japan is the leading-edge of the crumbling model of advanced neoliberal capitalism: that consumerist excess creates wealth, prosperity and happiness.

What consumerist excess actually creates is alienation, social atomization, narcissism, and a profound contradiction at the heart of the consumerist-dependent model of "growth": the narcissism that powers consumerist lust and identity is at odds with the demands of the workplace that generates the income needed to consume.
---
Narcissism is the result of the consumerist society's relentless focus on the essential project of consumerism, which is "the only self that is real is the self that is purchased and projected."….[According to Christopher Lasch] the ontological essence of narcissism: a fear of the emptiness that lies at the very core of consumerism.
---
"Personal gratification" is the driver of narcissism and consumerism, which are two sides of the same coin. Consumerist marketing glorifies the "projected self" as the "true self," encouraging self-absorption even as it erodes authentic identity, self-esteem and the resilience which enables emotional growth--the essential characteristic of adulthood.  Personal gratification is of a piece with self-absorption, fragile self-esteem and an identity that is overly dependent on consumerist signifiers and the approval of others.
--
The ultimate contradiction in this debt-consumption version of capitalism is this: how can an economy have "endless expansion and growth" when pay and opportunities for secure, high-paying jobs are both relentlessly declining? It cannot.  Financialization, consumerist narcissism and the end of growth are inextricably linked.
--
We need a third way that offers people work, resilience and authentic meaning. In my view, that cannot come from the Central State or the global corporate workplace: it can only come from a relocalized economy in revitalized communities

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 PM | Permalink

October 18, 2012

Green Energy Failures Funded by Obama's Department of Energy

I'm glad the Foundry did this because I could never keep track.  The Complete List of Obama's Taxayer-Backed Green Energy Failures

36 companies that have received federal support from taxpayers have either gone bankrupt or are laying off workers and are heading for bankruptcy. This list includes only those companies that received federal money from the Obama Administration’s Department of Energy. The amount of money indicated does not reflect how much was actually received or spent but how much was offered. The amount also does not include other state, local, and federal tax credits and subsidies, which push the amount of money these companies have received from taxpayers even higher.

The complete list of faltering or bankrupt green-energy companies:
Evergreen Solar ($24 million)*
SpectraWatt ($500,000)*
Solyndra ($535 million)*
Beacon Power ($69 million)*
AES’s subsidiary Eastern Energy ($17.1 million)
Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)
SunPower ($1.5 billion)
First Solar ($1.46 billion)
Babcock and Brown ($178 million)
EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*
Amonix ($5.9 million)
National Renewable Energy Lab ($200 million)
Fisker Automotive ($528 million)
Abound Solar ($374 million)*
A123 Systems ($279 million)*
Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($6 million)
Johnson Controls ($299 million)
Schneider Electric ($86 million)
Brightsource ($1.6 billion)
ECOtality ($126.2 million)
Raser Technologies ($33 million)*
Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)*
Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*
Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*
Range Fuels ($80 million)*
Thompson River Power ($6.4 million)*
Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*
LSP Energy ($2.1 billion)*
UniSolar ($100 million)*
Azure Dynamics ($120 million)*
GreenVolts ($500,000)
Vestas ($50 million)
LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($150 million)
Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*
Navistar ($10 million)
Satcon ($3 million)*

*Denotes companies that have filed for bankruptcy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:37 PM | Permalink

What is not being said about Benghazi?

A brief recap on Libya and Benghazi

The question I have is why the Administration put out such a phony story for so long that they had to know would be exposed.  They can only be hiding something that is even worse.

The real objective of the Benghazi attack may have been US intelligence operations in North Africa and the Middle East writes Richard Fernandez

“It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” said one U.S. official who has served in Libya and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the FBI is still investigating the attack. “We got our eyes poked out.”

The CIA’s surveillance targets in Benghazi and eastern Libya include Ansar al-Sharia, a militia that some have blamed for the attack, as well as suspected members of al-Qaida’s affiliate in North Africa, known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
--
One of the reasons why the administration clung to the story that an anti-Muslim video sparked the attack for so long was because it could not admit to itself the more catastrophic alternative: that the attacks on the embassies were part of a big counterintelligence operation against the US. James Clapper apparently came to the reluctant conclusion some hours after the attack that it was his bailiwick not Hillary’s which was in the crosshairs.
--
The biggest possible can of worms would be that the CIA had its “eyes poked out” to prevent it from seeing some dangerous operation that is even now hatching in the intelligence shadow of the ‘Arab Spring’: the possibility that there is something out there which has to be kept secret from US intelligence. How better to do it than to disrupt a major center of US intelligence operations in the area?

So it’s better for the public to think that an unknown video producer was the cause it all. The alternative, explanation: that the enemy intelligence agencies destroyed the CIA’s efforts to recover from the ‘Arab Spring’ and that America is now flying blind in the Middle East would be a hard thing to admit.

The New York Times reports that Jihadists Are Receiving Most Arms Sent to Syrian Rebels

Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.

That conclusion, of which President Obama and other senior officials are aware from classified assessments of the Syrian conflict that has now claimed more than 25,000 lives, casts into doubt whether the White House’s strategy of minimal and indirect intervention in the Syrian conflict is accomplishing its intended purpose of helping a democratic-minded opposition topple an oppressive government, or is instead sowing the seeds of future insurgencies hostile to the United States.
--
The United States is not sending arms directly to the Syrian opposition. Instead, it is providing intelligence and other support for shipments of secondhand light weapons like rifles and grenades into Syria, mainly orchestrated from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The reports indicate that the shipments organized from Qatar, in particular, are largely going to hard-line Islamists.

It's beginning to sound a lot like the Fast and Furious debacle.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:50 PM | Permalink

October 17, 2012

More Government Idiocies

After $500 Million Spent, Uranium Project To Be Redesigned Because Equipment Won’t Fit.

“Because the space issue was discovered so late in the design process it will have a greater impact on the project, and that could affect cost, schedule and safety, he said.”

How many Chevy Volt Batteries did $150 million in government money make? (Hint: Less Than One)

The company, Compact Power, was the recipient of $150 million taxpayer dollars and millions more in tax deferments and credits. Compact Power was supposed to be building thousands of batteries for the Chevy Volt here in America. Instead, they are furloughing workers before producing a single battery, Fox News reports. Not one.

Amtrak snack bars lost $84.5 million last year; $833 million in 10 years  and other gems of wasted money from the Heritage Foundation.

In fiscal year 2010, the federal government spent nearly $1.7 billion to maintain 77,700 underused or unused buildings.
--
The Department of Agriculture's Office of the Chief Information Officer funded a $2 million intern program. Only one intern was hired full time as a result.
--
The Internal Revenue Service stored 22,486 items of unused furniture in a warehouse at an annual cost of $862,000.
--
- The U.S. Navy bought 450,000 gallons of biofuels for $12 million, or almost $27 per gallon, to conduct exercises to showcase the fuel and bring it closer toward commercialization. It is the largest biofuel purchase ever made by the government.

Wasted Money - Senator Coburn's Wastebook 2012

$113,227 for a video game preservation center in New York, $10 million for a remake of "Sesame Street" for Pakistan, $765,828 to subsidize a "pancakes for yuppies" program in Washington, D.C., and $764,825 to study how college students use mobile devices for social networking.

 
Michigan State Police used $10,000 in federal funds to purchase 400 talking urinal cakes.

$947,000 NASA is spending to send six volunteers to Hawaii, where they will test out various space menus while simulating a mission to Mars,

And more

taxpayers are subsidizing phone service, i.e. free cell phones, at a cost of nearly $1.5 billion a year.

$325,000 grant for the development of "Robosquirrel" - a robotic rodent designed to test the interaction between rattlesnakes and squirrels

An estimated $70 million loss for producing pennies.

Nearly $700,000 from the National Science Foundation to a New York-based theater company so it could develop a musical about climate change and biodiversity. "

A $1.2 million National Science Foundation helped pay for a study which asked 39 adults ages 60 to 77 to play “World of Warcraft” for two hours a day over two weeks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 16, 2012

Rationing for seniors under Obamacare UPDATED

When the possibility of competition between insurance carriers is excluded, the only way to control Medicare costs is through rationing.

Obamacare’s IPAB: When Government Takes Over Health Care, You Become A Budget Item

IPAB is a board consisting of 15 unelected, appointed bureaucrats whose task it is to cut the growth of Medicare spending, and the cuts they are mandated to make will be deep.

The decisions IPAB makes behind closed doors can only be overturned by a supermajority of Congress, something almost impossible to achieve.

So, the politicians have set up a system where they can say to seniors, “It was those bureaucrats that cut your Medicare, not me.”

How does IPAB achieve these cuts?  The supporters of the law say, “It says right in the statute IPAB cannot ration.”  But what IPAB can do, and in fact is their only option for controlling costs, is to cut reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals.  They decide what procedures are important, not your doctor, and they decide what Medicare will pay for them.

When services are no longer available to seniors because reimbursements for those procedures have been drastically cut, that’s rationing.

UPDATE: How $716 million is cut from Medicare to fund Obamacare

-Obamacare Cuts Medicare

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

October 13, 2012

The Continuing Shame of Benghazi

Mark Steyn: 'Politicized' Benghazi distracts from Big Bird

"The entire reason that this has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan."

Thus, Stephanie Cutter, President Obama's deputy campaign manager, speaking on CNN about an armed attack on the 9/11 anniversary that left a U.S. consulate a smoking ruin and killed four diplomatic staff, including the first American ambassador to be murdered in a third of a century. To discuss this event is apparently to "politicize" it and to distract from the real issues the American people are concerned about. For example, Obama spokesperson Jen Psaki, speaking on board Air Force One on Thursday:

"There's only one candidate in this race who is going to continue to fight for Big Bird and Elmo, and he is riding on this plane."
----
Instead, the State Department outsourced security for the Benghazi consulate to Blue Mountain, a Welsh firm that hires ex-British and Commonwealth Special Forces, among the toughest hombres on the planet. The company's very name comes from the poem "The Golden Journey To Samarkand," whose words famously adorn the regimental headquarters of Britain's Special Air Service in Hereford. Unfortunately, the one-year contract for consulate security was only $387,413 – or less than the cost of deploying a single U.S. soldier overseas. On that budget, you can't really afford to fly in a lot of crack SAS killing machines, and have to make do with the neighborhood talent pool. So who's available? Blue Mountain hired five members of the Benghazi branch of the February 17th Martyrs' Brigade and equipped them with handcuffs and batons. A baton is very useful when someone is firing an RPG at you, at least if you play a little baseball. There were supposed to be four men heavily armed with handcuffs on duty that night, but, the date of Sept. 11 having no particular significance in the Muslim world, only two guards were actually on shift.

Let's pause right there, and "politicize" a little more. Liberals are always going on about the evils of "outsourcing" and "offshoring" – selfish vulture capitalists like Mitt Romney shipping jobs to cheap labor overseas just to save a few bucks. How unpatriotic can you get! So now the United States government is outsourcing embassy security to cheap Welshmen who, in turn, outsource it to cheaper Libyans. Diplomatic facilities are U.S. sovereign territory – no different de jure from Fifth Avenue or Mount Rushmore. So defending them is one of the core responsibilities of the state. But that's the funny thing about Big Government: the bigger it gets, the more of life it swallows up, the worse it gets at those very few things it's supposed to be doing. So, on the first anniversary of 9/11 in a post-revolutionary city in which Western diplomats had been steadily targeted over the previous six months, the government of the supposedly most powerful nation on Earth entrusted its security to Abdulaziz Majbari, 29, and his pal, who report to some bloke back in Carmarthen, Wales.

 Steven Breen Cartooncartoon by Steve Breen

So why on 9/11 were Marines stationed at the Barbados embassy but not at Benghazi near an armed Al Qaeda cell?

At the vice-presidential debate,  Biden interrupted Ryan 85 times and told at least 10 outright lies including "Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security"
despite the fact that the day before, former regional security Eric Nordstrom described,  in open Congressional hearings, his frustration with having his requests for security turned down by the government bureaucracy and his unforgettable line,  "For me the Taliban is on the inside of the building."

Suddenly everyone's reading the Bible and Proverbs 29:9: " If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet"

And Clint Eastwood is looking like a prophet when he said this about Joe Biden, "Just a kind of a grin with a body behind it."

About the maker of that anti-Muslim film that nobody ever heard about before it was blamed for the Al Qaeda -planned uprisings around the globe on September 11,  Walid Shoebat. a former member of the Muslim Brotherfhood says it was made by Muslim terrorists and the man Nakoula Bacile Nakoula is not a Christian Copt but a fraudster with multiple identities  who embezzled millions of dollars with Shoebat's cousin Eiad Salame.

So it's no surprise that Ayman al-Zawahri,  the leader of Al-Qaida,  has urged Muslims to wage holy war against the United States and Israel over that film.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 PM | Permalink

October 12, 2012

Freedom to Succeed

He grew up in communist Hungary, emigrated to the United States and became a billionaire.  Thomas Peterffy is Rich, worried and buying ad time.

He's not running for office. He's not part of a super PAC. He's not lobbying for or against any ballot measures.  But billionaire Thomas Peterffy is spending millions on television ads this election season with one cautionary message: Avoid socialism.

"I grew up in a socialist country and I have seen what that does to people. There is no hope, no freedom, no pride in achievement," he says with a soft Hungarian accent in the ad. "The nation became poorer and poorer, and that's what I see happening here."

Peterffy told CNN he expects to spend $5-$10 million on the ad buy, depending on its effectiveness. The spot will run on CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, and test markets in Ohio, Wisconsin, and possibly Florida.
--
Peterffy left his country and moved to New York in 1965, where-without knowing English–he got a computer programming job on Wall Street. He later purchased his own seat on the American Stock Exchange in 1977 and, fast forward a few years, found himself the creator of Interactive Brokers, one of the first electronic trading firms.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2012

Taxpayers Could Face ‘Billions’ in Legal Costs - Lockheed Martin to Refrain From Layoff Notices

Taxpayers Could Face ‘Billions’ in Legal Costs Due to Administration Asking Lockheed Martin to Refrain From Layoff Notices

Lockheed Martin has reversed its decision to send layoff notices to many of its employees shortly before the election, after some serious pressure from the Obama administration. (Lockheed is concerned the sequestration defense cuts, which will take effect January 2 barring Congressional action, will force it to layoff employees.) …. But in a new letter, Senators Chuck Grassley and Kelly Ayotte are demanding answers as to why the administration agreed that taxpayers would cover any legal expenses Lockheed faces as a result of not giving employees a 60-day layoff notice, as required by the WARN Act
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

October 3, 2012

TSA agent caught stealing and 'Food Police' and hungry kids

Theft by TSA agents  Almost 400 TSA security officers have been fired over luggage theft in less than a decade

'I was addicted to stealing… and everyone else did it too': Ex-TSA agent reveals epidemic of thefts from passengers as he admits he took almost $1MILLION in possessions

Even the special TSA locks sold for luggage won't work, Brown says, because TSA employees learned how to pick them without being detected.
---
Poor morale and low pay put temptation in the way of many of his fellow officers, he said.  'They didn't think it was okay, but they did it and said, "I don't care. They ain't paying me. They're treating me wrong",' he said. 'But then when people started seeing they could profit off of it, then it became massive,'

ABC News tracks missing iPad to Florida home of TSA Office
Confronted two weeks later by ABC News, the TSA officer, Andy Ramirez, at first denied having the missing iPad, but ultimately turned it over after blaming his wife for taking it from the airport.

Airlines collect a record amount of bag fees

U.S. airlines collected more than $1.7 billion in baggage fees during the first half of the year, the largest amount ever collected in that six-month period.


The Food Police.
  Obama Administration's Cafeteria lunch rules.  School cafeteria employee, 'Seconds Banned, Extra Food Thrown Away Under Obama Rules

the new federal guidelines require vegetables to comprise the largest portion of a student’s lunch, while the entrée is now being treated as a side dish. That means a lot more of the stuff most kids don’t eat and just a tiny portion of the palatable item.

“It’s completely flip-flopped in terms of portion size,” our source says. “I’m appalled at the serving sizes we’re required to give high school students.”
Even though some kids may be leaving the lunch room hungry, the new Obama-imposed rules prohibit students from receiving additional helpings, even when there’s food left over….“Two ounces of protein won’t cut it for high school athletes,” she notes.
--
In February, a North Carolina school made national headlines when it was revealed that a lunch inspector told a 4-year-old girl that her homemade turkey sandwich, banana, potato chips and apple juice were unhealthy and that she needed to eat a USDA-approved school lunch.

In New Bedford, students have created a black market – for chocolate syrup. The kiddie capitalists are smuggling in bottles of it and selling it by the squeeze, according to SouthCoastToday.com.

Students beg for more food in YouTube video, We Are Hungry

A Florida school district may install 'trash-cams'

to monitor what kids are throwing away – after they discovered that students were tossing out their federally-mandated fruit and vegetables.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:07 PM | Permalink

September 29, 2012

The debacle of U.S. foreign policy

What I learned on the web today, not from the mainstream media, is totally disheartening.

Two weeks after Islamists murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens, FBI agents  still have not been granted access to the U.S. consulate in Libya to investigate the crime scene.

Continuing Muslim protests at US embassies around the world, Media ignores

As Jim Geraghty points out, hundreds of Thai Muslims are massed around our embassy in Bangkok, Thailand; Bangladesh’s police reported that they had picked up a university professor for planning an attack on our embassy in Dhaka; hundreds more Muslims are massing in Calcutta, India, breaking through barricades and trying to break into our embassy; a 200-vehicle convoy of Muslim radicals rabble roused near the US embassy in Manila, Philippines.

From Mark Steyn's latest column: Obama a better president of the future

The excitable lads around the globe torching American embassies with impunity seem to have figured this out, even if the striped-pants crowd at Turtle Bay are too polite to mention it. Obama is not the President of the Future. He is President right now, and one occasionally wishes the great visionary would take his eye off the far distant horizon where educated women and fire-breathing Imams frolic and gambol side by side around their Chevy Volts, to focus on the humdrum present where the rest of us have the misfortune to live.
---
Even more extraordinary, on Sept. 14, fewer than two dozen inbred, illiterate goatherds pulled off the biggest single destruction of U.S. airpower since the Tet Offensive in 1968, breaking into Camp Bastion (an unfortunate choice of name) in Afghanistan, killing Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Raible, and blowing up a squadron’s worth of Harriers.  And, even though it was the third international humiliation for the United States in as many days, it didn’t even make the papers. Because the court eunuchs at the media are too busy drooling over Obama’s appearance as what he calls “eye candy” on the couch between Barbara and Whoopi.

…And to the baying mob from Tunis to Jakarta those dead Americans and al-Qaida flags over U.S. embassies and an entire USMC air squadron reduced to charred ruins are a veritable Willie Wonka production line of eye candy. To the president, they're just "bumps in the road" to the sunlit uplands of "the future.

From the Anchoress, Court Eunuchs of MSM won’t tell us, so thank you, BBC!

Do a Google search on “Camp Bastion”, and it’s all BBC, baby, all BBC! Add the word “assault” to the search and you do find a story in the New York Times…in the “world” section, under Asia Pacific, with an headline about the Taliban’s reach.
I guess that’s one way to say “see, we reported on it” while insuring that a story doesn’t really make many ripples in the public awareness.

The BBC report she references. Camp Bastion assault: Details emerge of Taliban attack

The Taliban attackers who broke through Camp Bastion's perimeter chose the darkest night of the year to launch their assault….They quickly made their way to the US Marine Harrier flight line. They were dressed in American army uniforms but, instead of boots, they wore training shoes.

In quick succession, they fired rocket-propelled grenades at eight Harrier jump jets under canvas hangers, destroying six and damaging two.

Every Marine, whether a mechanic or pilot, is a trained rifleman.  Squadron Commander Lt Col Chris Raible ran 150 metros across open ground under fire. He was carrying only his service pistol.  As he lay down, shooting at the insurgents, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby, killing him.
Sgt Bradley Atwell was also killed by an RPG as he pushed forward with a counter-attack.

Capt Smalley said: "Lt Col Raible was one of the best Harrier pilots we have in the entire fleet… He wrote on many of the tactics and techniques that the Harrier uses."

Bookwormroom writes about the lack of uproar about the U.S. drone attacks on our supposed ally Pakistan

Stories are starting to appear in the U.S. press saying that Obama’s drone attacks — each of which he allegedly approves personally, after carefully selecting the target he wants dead — are killing and wounding thousands of civilians, including women and children, in Pakistan:

U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed far more people than the United States has acknowledged, have traumatized innocent residents and largely been ineffective, according to a new study released Tuesday.  The study by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law calls for a re-evaluation of the practice, saying the number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low — about 2%.

“TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 – 1,362 individuals,” according to the Stanford/NYU study.

Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of “double-striking” a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.

Finally some one is reporting on the Fast and Furious gun-running-to-the drug-cartels scandal that killed several hundred Mexicans.  Not the American press but Univision.  Here's a video preview by ABC News of the "bombshell" report on Univision, Sunday night at 7 with English subtitles.

Among other groups of Fast and Furious victim stories Univision says it will tell in the special to air Sunday evening at 7 p.m., is one about how “16 young people attending a party in a residential area of Ciudad Juárez in January of 2010″ were gunned down with weapons the Obama administration gave to drug cartel criminals through Fast and Furious.

The Anchoress writes

Kind of like the “Fast and Furious” story — the gun-running operation which (contrary to this administration’s line) was not started “under Bush” and which took place without the knowledge of the Mexican government, and which program’s toll on human lives has been rather stoutly ignored by the press — is suddenly seeing a little coverage at least on days when most people don’t pay much attention to news. The US mainstream press could have covered the story any time these past 16 months or so, but it has taken the insistent attention by Univision to force the American press to, if not keep up, at least do enough to allow for plausible deniability when they’re asked why they ignored the story.

In Foreign Policy magazine, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, We’ve Lost Track of Some Syrian Chemical Weapons.  This follows reports that  Syrian rebels claim to have taken control of a military base that contains chemical weapons.

Among those Syrian rebels, of course, are a lot of jihadists who march under the black banner of al-Qaeda. So when the rebels state that they have chemical weapons, it's almost the same as saying al-Qaeda has some - or at least has the opportunity to get its hands on them.

We are now giving drones to Yemen.  What could possibly go wrong?

The equipment marks a significant change in U.S. military cooperation with Yemen, which was suspended until earlier this year. Moreover, the U.S. Defense Department traditionally has kept a close hold on any UAV technologies, exporting them almost exclusively to close Western allies.

Benghazi-Gate:  A Timeline of Government Deceit, Deception and Outright Lies.  long and extensive and totally dispiriting.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 PM | Permalink

The Benghazi Coverup

According to a source close to Ambassador Stevens, the US diplomat was worried about his personal safety and "never-ending" security threats in Benghazi in the months leading up to the attack.  CNN reports that "Stevens specifically mentioned a rise in Islamic extremism and al Qaeda's growing presence in Libya" to the source close to him. …  Facts: 

  • Amb. Stevens was aware and concerned about the growing terrorist threat in Libya.
  • Clinton's State Department chose to use un-armed security from Britain rather than the US Marine Embassy Guard for protection.
  • On September 10th, al-Qaeda called specifically for Libyans to target Americans to avenge the death of an al-Qaeda leader.
  • On September 11th, heavily armed terrorists attacked the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi and murdered Amb. Stevens and three other Americans.

What really happened to Ambassador Stevens?

 Amb Stevens Dragged

No Marines for Libyan Ambassador: Full Secret Service Detail for Valerie Jarrett's Vacation   On Martha's Vineyard!

As the New York Times reports Valerie Jarrett is The Other Power in the West Wing has a full-time Secret Service detail even though her only title is "Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs." 

The White House refuses to disclose the number of agents or their cost, citing security concerns. But the appearance so worried some aides that two were dispatched to urge her to give the detail up. She listened politely, one said, but the agents stayed.

Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice went on 5 Sunday news shows on Sept 15 to say

“The best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo, as a consequence of the video.”

Our fearless misleader, Steve Hayes reviews recent reports adding to the enormity of the administration line peddled by Rice et al. in the days after the murders:

The attack was, in fact, planned. It did involve al Qaeda-linked terrorists. It was not a copycat of the protests in Cairo, Egypt. Indeed, there was no protest outside the consulate in Benghazi at all. The U.S. compound was not well secured. The two ex-Navy SEALs killed in the attack were not there to protect the ambassador, and they were not, obviously, joined by several colleagues also providing security. The date of the attack was not coincidental. And the anti-Islam YouTube video at the center of the administration’s public relations effort had nothing to do with the assault that took the lives of four Americans.

This, more than anything, is the problem with the administration’s response. It wasn’t that they failed to provide enough information to the public, but that they provided incorrect information and did so long after it was clear to many in the intelligence community that the political narrative was false.

It bears constant repeating.

Four American diplomats were murdered on American soil on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Libyan government had warned us days ahead of time. Our American Ambassador warned that he was being targeted by Al Queda. And yet, we took precisely zero additional security precautions.

Up until a few days ago, Administration officials have been lying about the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attack. They have even tried to cover-up the basic facts of the assassination.


Democrat Pollster Pat Caddell. Mainstream media is threatening future of country

“First of all, we’ve had 9 days of lies…If a president of either party…had had a terrorist incident and gotten on an airplane [after remarks] and flown off to a fundraiser in Las Vegas, they would have been crucified…it should have been, should have been, the equivalent, for Barack Obama, of George Bush’s “flying over Katrina” moment. But nothing was said at all. Nothing will be said. […] It is [unacceptable] to specifically decide that you will not tell the American people information they have a right to know. [The MSM] has made themselves the enemy of the American people. It is a threat to the very future of the country; we’ve crossed a new and frightening line on the slippery slope, and it needs to be talked about."

The Benghazi cover-up  is worse than Watergate

It involves the terrorist murder (not an electorally irrelevant burglary) of government officials, their reckless endangerment, the undermining of the Bill of Rights and free speech by our own administration in response to Islamist threats, and, ultimately, the complicity of that same administration, consciously or unconsciously, in the downfall of Western civilization.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media function as their more-than-willing accomplices in this downfall, in essence as Obama’s court eunuchs.
Sound excessive?  Hear me out.

Libya: The Timeline 

Fox News’ Special Report produced a timeline of the Benghazi attack and its aftermath that provides a useful and comprehensive survey of events to date:.

Only ABCNews' Jake Tapper Reports that Administration secretly knew Benghazi was a terrorist attack from day one; CBS, NBC Embargo.

Gallup: 60% of Americans don't trust the mainstream media.  I'm one of them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:20 PM | Permalink

September 20, 2012

The Scandal of the "Non-Partisan" AARP - UPDATED 3x

Far from being the non-partisan advocate for seniors,  the  AARP, as newly released show, took a distinctly partisan if stealthy role in co-ordinating with the Obama Administration to pass Obamacare.

Kimberly Strassel on The Love Song of AARP and Obama

Thanks to just-released emails from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we now know that AARP worked through 2009-10 as an extension of a Democratic White House, toiling daily to pass a health bill that slashes $716 billion from Medicare, strips seniors of choice, and sets the stage for rationing. We know that despite AARP's awareness that its seniors overwhelmingly opposed the bill, the "nonpartisan membership organization" chose to serve the president's agenda..

The 71 pages of emails show an AARP management taking orders from the White House, scripting the president's talking points, working to keep its board "in line," and pledging fealty to "the cause." Seniors deserve to know all this, as AARP seeks to present itself as neutral in this presidential election.
--
AARP had long lambasted cuts in fees to Medicare doctors because reduced payments would mean fewer doctors who accept patients with the insurance. Yet in its campaign for ObamaCare, it argued the money the health law strips from Medicare—by imposing price controls on hospitals—would improve "care."
--
In August 2009, AARP had already unveiled a national advertising blitz for ObamaCare, to ensure that "every member of Congress knows the 50-plus community wants action to fix what's wrong with healthcare." The group made this claim despite weeks of daily tracking showing its members in revolt against the president's plan.

UPDATE:  I thought this was a useful chart to understand just where the $716 billion cuts are in Medicare.

 Obamacare Raids Medicare

The chart comes from Deroy Murdock in The Corner who comments:

Democrats will find it difficult to refute the below chart by Heritage Foundation research assistant Alyene Senger. It very clearly shows the $716 billion that Democrats swiped and delineates exactly from where in Medicare they stole it. This is as close to a police report of a home burglary as one will find in public policy, a graph is based on irrefutable data from the Congressional Budget Office. Democrats can run but cannot hide from these numbers:

UPDATE 2: Paul Ryan speaks to the AARP and Yuval Levin was there.

Be sure to read Paul Ryan’s speech to the AARP’s national convention today—a clear and forthright elucidation of the case for saving Medicare and the federal budget through market-based reforms and against doubling down on failed central planning and price controls through Obamacare.
--
The AARP sometimes presents itself as a kind of membership organization consisting of senior citizens, but it is basically a huge financial-services company with an enormous stake in the current design of the Medicare system (it makes about half a billion dollars in revenue each year endorsing and selling Medicare supplemental, Medicare Advantage, Medicare prescription drug, and long-term care insurance policies). It profits in particular from higher-premium Medicare supplemental coverage (because it receives a royalty fee on every dollar seniors spend on premiums for AARP-endorsed products), and so would be a major loser in a premium-support reform. The organization has therefore worked closely with Democrats to oppose such a reform, and in return has also been helpful to them in the broader health-care debate—lobbying in favor of Obamacare, for instance, despite the fact that it made major cuts in Medicare and despite the very evident opposition of AARP members.

UPDATE 3:  An analysis shows AARP made $2.8 billion off of Obamacare and stands to make billions in the future

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 PM | Permalink

Alexis de Tocqueville, a Prophet

From Chapter VI on de Tocqueville's Democracy in America,  the Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear

It would seem that if despotism were to be established among the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them. I do not question that, in an age of instruction and equality like our own, sovereigns might more easily succeed in collecting all political power into their own hands and might interfere more habitually and decidedly with the circle of private interests than any sovereign of antiquity could ever do.
--
I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world….the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.
--
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Inspired by Mitt de Tocqueville by Samuel Gregg

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:17 PM | Permalink

September 18, 2012

Will someone explain to me why the Department of Homeland Security has purchased over a billion rounds of ammunition?

And why is the DHS  blacking out the amount of bullets bought?

The Department of Homeland Security has redacted information relating to the quantity of bullets it is buying following a controversy concerning the agency’s purchase of over a billion rounds of ammo, which many fear is a sign the federal government is preparing for civil unrest in the United States.

Despite the fact that documents are only supposed to be redacted if authorized by Congress or for national security reasons, a solicitation posted on the FedBizOpps website yesterday concerning ammunition purchases made by the DHS on behalf of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) contains numerous blacked out sections.
--
The solicitation explains how the contract put out by the DHS to purchase the ammunition was not subject to “full and open competition,” a process justified by what the DHS claims was an “unusual and compelling urgency” to acquire the bullets, noting that there is a shortage of bullets which is threatening a situation which could cause “substantial safety issues for the government” should law enforcement officials not be adequately armed.

The Department of Homeland Security’s decision to black out sections of the document, including the number of bullets being purchased, is likely to be related to a massive controversy which has snowballed over the last few weeks pertaining to concerns as to why the federal agency has purchased well over a billion rounds of bullets over the last 6 months alone.

The DHS’ decision back in March to purchase of 450 million rounds of .40-caliber hollow point bullets that are designed to expand upon entry and cause maximum organ damage prompted questions as to why the federal agency required such powerful bullets and in such large quantities merely for training purposes.

This was followed up by a more recent order for a further 750 million rounds of assorted ammunition, including bullets that can penetrate walls.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 PM | Permalink

More government idiocies UPDATED

Subsidizing wind energy jobs. 
The Joint Committee on Taxation, the non-partisan congressional entity established in 1926,  concludes that the cost of creating wind-energy jobs is about $329,000 per job.  Oregon blasted through that  average with the Shepherds Flat wind project which was awarded $490 million in cash from the federal government to create just 35 permanent jobs at a cost of about $14 million each.

No statistics on Pell Grants that cost us $40 billion a year
We spend $40 billion per year in Pell grants; yet, no one keeps statistics of how effective the program is by tracking how recipients fare in college.

My guess is that the figure is so embarrassingly low that the government doesn't want it published. I wrote a year or so ago that the Pell Grant graduate rate, after six years, was 40 percent, based on a bit of statistical estimation I did. No one seriously questioned my result. For every two students who -after six years -succeed to get a degree, three fail. Yet spending on this program has expanded enormously in recent years.

Targeting libraries for lending e-books.
DOJ Targeted Public Library for Lending E-Books 'Inaccessible' to the Blind.  I'm all for assistance to people with disabilities, but this is ridiculous.

– The U.S. Justice Department says it has reached a settlement with the Sacramento (California) Public Library over a trial program the library was conducting that let patrons borrow Barnes and Noble NOOK e-book readers. DOJ and the National Federation of the Blind objected to the program on grounds that blind people could not use the NOOK e-readers for technological reasons.

The Justice Department said the settlement is aimed at stopping discrimination: “Emerging technologies like e-readers are changing the way we interact with the world around us and we need to ensure that people with disabilities are not excluded from the programs where these devices are used,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez in a news release.  A DOJ official told CNSNews.com it interviewed a woman who could not participate in the library's e-reader program due to her disability and concluded that the program had violated the ADA.

Following the logic of the Justice Department, libraries should be banned from lending out videos (inaccessible to the blind) and CDs (inaccessible to the deaf).

Banning father-daughter dances.
Following a complaint by a single individual, father-daughter dances and mother-son events are banned in Cranston, R.I…

"This is 2012 and they [public schools] should not be in the business of fostering blatant gender stereotypes."

said the ACLU in filing the suit.  I wish the ACLU would fight for religious freedom which is seriously threatened rather than these silly cases which deprive normal people the pleasure afforded in traditional events that have been enjoyed in thousands of communities by millions of people.

Promoting the cult of a killer.
The Environmental Protection Agency in its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month included the iconic image of Che Guevara along with the slogan “Hasta la victoria simper,” or “On to victory, always.”    Che, as any knowledgeable person knows, was the butcher of Cuba and set -up forced labor camps for dissidents, gays and practicing Catholics.  Re-branding Guevara: Che the Butcher

Violence was at the core of Che’s philosophy. Shortly before his death at the hands of Bolivian troops in 1967, he wrote “Message to the Tricontinental.” In this essay he advocated the effective use of violent hatred:

"Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy. "

Philadelphia wants garden torn up and debris put back on empty lot.
Real estate developer who spent $20,000 transforming debris-filled lot into garden is told by city he was trespassing… and now they want him to change it BACK

A real estate developer who repeatedly sent in requests to buy a vacant lot next to some of his property was repeatedly denied or ignored by the city, he said.  So Ori Feibush, who owns OCF Realty as well as OCF Coffee House, decided to take matters into his own hands, spending around $20,000 to clean highway dividers, weeds, and a decade’s worth of garbage.

But the city of Philadelphia said that by cleaning the dilapidated lot, Mr Feibush was trespassing. To add insult to injury, the city said that Mr Feibush had to return the 1,600-square feet back to its original state.

UPDATE: Obama Administration sent unarmed British firm to protect U.S. Mission in Benghazi in the spirit of a '"low profile"

American Marines were not stationed at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli or the American mission in Benghazi, as would typically have been the case. In the spirit of a "low profile," the administration didn't even want an American company in charge of private security. Blue Mountain, the British firm the State Department hired, was willing to abide by the "no bullets" Rules of Engagement (ROE), so were a logical fit for the contract. These sub-standard protections for American diplomats were signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the ROE. 

In essence, the Obama Administration tasked an unarmed British firm with security responsibilities that should have been handled by armed American servicemen, and it was all approved by the Secretary of State. Needless to say, the plan failed and an Ambassador was murdered, along with several others.

As of now, the State Department has not disclosed the full State Department Rules of Engagement for Libya.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 PM | Permalink

August 28, 2012

Government Idiocies

Just a few of the more egregious idiocies I've read about in the past week.

In Nebraska a deaf preschooler may have to change his name because in sign language it resembles 'weapons'
The sign for his name  is a violation of the school district's weapons policy.

Phoenix Woman Ordered to Not Give Out Water in 112 Degree Heat Because She Lacked a Permit

ABC-TV 15 from Phoenix reports that local Christian proselytizer Dana Crow-Smith was ordered by a "Neighborhood Preservation Inspector" to stop giving out free bottled water last month when the temperature in Phoenix reached 112 degrees because she lacked a vending permit, though she was not vending.

Holder Justice Department Recruits Dwarfs, Schizophrenics, and the ‘Intellectually Disabled’

Those with “targeted disabilities” may be hired through a “non-competitive” appointment. That means they don’t have to endure the regular civil service competition among applicants, but can be plucked from the stack of resumes and hired immediately instead.  According to the documents, those with these “targeted disabilities” may be hired “before the position is advertised” and even “before the position’s closing date.” Moreover, lawyers with psychiatric disabilities and “severe intellectual” disabilities receive a waiver from the requirement that a new DOJ employee have practiced law for one year before being hired.

Outraged Judge Frees Veteran Raub from Virginia Psych WardHe was detained by government officials for postings on his Facebook page for being critical of President Obama.  He was never formally arrested or charged with a crime.

The new executive order that requires race-based school discipline.

President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order hiring race-sensitive bureaucrats to hold meetings and mandate racial discipline quotas,,,,,.  In plain English, that means that if different races have different incidences of disciplinary action, those of a favored race who act worse will be punished less, or those of a disfavored race who act better will be punished more, or both….Punishing students differently based on skin color

D’oh! US Postal Service wasted $1.2 million on ‘Simpsons’ stamps

The U.S. Postal Service — which is currently in the throes of snowballing debt — wasted $1.2 million on the production of “Simpsons” themed stamps, according to an inspector general’s report.  One billion stamps featuring the cartoon family were produced — and only 318 million were sold, the Washington Post reports.
`
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:46 PM | Permalink

August 16, 2012

Government Round-up: Exxon-Mobil's taxes, bullets and Job gains since 1948

Taxation Hero ExxonMobil Pays $3 In Taxes For Every $1 In Profit.  It paid the U.S. Treasury $59 billion from 2006-2010.

Exxon-Mobil's  US tax bill was bigger than its US earnings.

In 2010, our total tax expenses in the United States were $9.8 billion, which includes an income tax expense of more than $1.6 billion. That $9.8 billion in taxes exceeded our 2010 U.S. operating earnings of $7.5 billion.

Some ways the government has been spending it.

Your Agriculture Department Paid $2 Million for a Single Intern

A report from the Agriculture Department’s Inspector General has revealed some stunning examples of financial waste in the Department’s nascent technology security efforts, which have mismanaged about $63 million in taxpayer funding. Among the IG’s findings: the USDA spent more than $2 million on an internship program that only hired one full-time intern, $3 million on technology hardware that was never used, and $235,000 on a project that was later canceled due to redundancy.

Why is the Social Security Administration going to purchase 174 thousand rounds of ammunition? to be delivered to 41 locations across the country.

Why did the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) put out a contract for 46,000 rounds of hollow point bullets?

Why did  Homeland Security purchase 450 million rounds of .40 caliber hollow point bullets?

Obama's Failure in Job Gains In One Big Chart or why he is called the Dr. Kevorkian of job creation.

Jobcreationsince1948Politicalmath

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:54 PM | Permalink

"Cronyism is now permeating our justice system" No prosecution of Wall St criminals

Over $1 billion in customer funds  which were supposed to be segregated funds  'disappeared' when MF Global went bankrupt in one of the 10th largest bankruptcies in US history.

John Corzine, formerly CEO of Goldman Sachs and former Senator for New Jersey (D) and former governor of New Jersey (D), was the CEO of MF Global was the money went missing.

Today the New York Times reports that No Criminal Case is Likely in Loss at MF Global.  Highly unlikely are charges against Corzine.

That keeps the Administration's perfect record on persecuting Wall St criminals.  Zero.  No prosecutions under Obama and AG Holder at all.

By comparison, the Bush administration prosecuted and convicted over 1300 Wall St financial criminals including 130 corporate vice presidents and over 200 CEOs and corporate presidents.

The Clinton administration prosecuted over 1800 S&L (savings and loan) executives and won convictions in about 1000 cases.

Bush - 1,300 convictions;
Clinton - 1,000 convictions;
Obama - Zero attempts

Why?

The GAI report reveals that the Department of Justice upper echelon is stacked with attorneys from law firms representing the very same companies involved in the financial meltdown of 2008, as well as financial corporations with questionable actions during the Obama administration…AIG, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, CitiBank, Deutsche Bank, ING, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Wilmington Trust, and John Corzine's MF Global.

These very same DoJ attorneys also happen to be some of Obama's biggest bundlers for Obama's 2008 bid for president.
-
"When we think of cronyism and the problems of cronyism and crony capitalism, we think in terms of economic loss and gain," Schweizer said in a phone interview. "What we're showing here is that cronyism is now permeating our justice system. So, it's not just a question of dollars and cents, it's a question of whether you're going to face legal jeopardy or not on what you're doing."

UPDATE:  Ace: Good News: You Can Now Officially Steal $1 Billion From Your Customers And Avoid Prosecution, As Long As You're Hooked Up With the Self-Styled "Party of the Common Man"

A billion dollars of customer money just disappeared -- it wasn't lost in bad investments, it was lost as in "I can't find it" -- and apparently there is no criminality here.

People lose wallets. They lose cell phones. They lose pencils. They lose lighters.

They tend not to lose a billion dollars. Not without someone wishing it be "lost."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 AM | Permalink

August 9, 2012

The Drought Continues to Worsen

Effects of the drought.  Half of US Counties now considered disaster areas

As of this week, nearly half of the nation's corn crop was rated poor to very poor, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The drought is continuing to make food more expensive, up 6% in July), and affecting global corn prices,  up 23% in July

"Corn is in almost everything"

More than one-third of our corn crop is used to feed livestock. Another 13 percent is exported, much of it to feed livestock as well. Another 40 percent is used to produce ethanol. The remainder goes toward food and beverage production.

Exacerbating the effects of the drought is the government mandate, part of the renewable fuel standard that requires fuel sold in the U.S. to contain 13% ethanol which is made from corn.

What corn can be grown should be used for Food, Not Fuel.   

With the stroke of a pen, the EPA can suspend the mandate and return 40% of the corn crop to farmers.    Will the President direct the EPA to do so?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink

August 7, 2012

“Each stolen election is a bullet at the heart of what this country is about.”

The integrity of the ballot box is now in question.    Democrat Pat Caddell says

“Each stolen election is a bullet at the heart of what this country is about.”

“Support of the voter I.D. law, it’s called common sense.”

“We are talking about the demise of our democracy and it is slow motion suicide.”

160 Counties in the U.S. have more registered voters than people actually eligible to vote

A nonpartisan election integrity group has sent legal notices to 160 counties across the U.S. that it says have more voters on its registration rolls than actual live, eligible voters — and thus represent potential hotbeds for election fraud,
--
The counties in question are spread across 19 states that together account for 203 electoral college votes, including six current battleground states. Among the counties are LaSalle, Ill., which True the Vote identified as having 520 percent voter registration; Jefferson, Miss. with more than 230 percent; and Hanson, S.D. with 165 percent.

“It’s simply unacceptable for any county to have more voters on its rolls than people who are alive and eligible to vote,” True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht said in a statement. “Failing to maintain accurate voter registration records is a flagrant violation of Section 8 in the NVRA.”

What happens when 1,099 felons vote in a race won by 312 ballots?  Senator Al Franken.

"When voters are disenfranchised by the counting of improperly cast ballots or outright fraud, their civil rights are violated just as surely as if they were prevented from voting," write Fund and von Spakovsky. "The integrity of the ballot box is just as important to the credibility of elections as access to it."

Restoring Integrity in America's Elections: True the Vote Summit 2012

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

Is it General Motors or Government Motors?

Unbelievable. 

GM which still owes taxpayers billions of dollars has just spent $559 million to sponsor a British soccer team! For all that money, Manchester United players will now sport  Chevrolet  on their red jerseys.  The only good part of this story is that the GM marketing chief responsible for this terrible deal was removed.  Still, $559 million?

To refresh your memory, Some generally excepted Tarp Fund Bailout numbers

  • $49.5 Billion - Conservative agreement of total TARP funds loaned or given to GM
  • $30.1 Billion - Government purchase of GM stock - GM did not have enough financing to support a re-organization plan a bankruptcy court could accept, (or so it was stated), so to get the money, the U.S. Government gave GM $30.1 billion dollars in exchange for 60% ownership of the New GM company….the $30.1 billion is not a loan that can be repaid - it can only be recovered through the sale of the government's interest in GM ownership.
  • The AWU's, (UAW), received a 17% ownership stake in GM, (65% in Chrysler), in lieu of the money GM owed for union health and pension commitments.
  • Private secured investors were given a settlement agreement at the rate of 29 cents on the dollar *Note: these "private investors" also included investment funds composed of other union pension funds, like the Federated Teachers Association…..It should be noted that established contract law required secured creditors be paid first, but Obama's administration simply ignored this legal requirement and gave the unsecured union creditors first position - leaving whatever might be left for the secured investors.
  • Common-share stock holders were completely wiped out, when GM emerged from bankruptcy, all shares in the "old" GM were worthless

  • GM was allowed to retain a $45 billion business-loss tax credit, carried forth from the "old" GM to the "New" GM - a practice unheard of in bankruptcy proceedings, essentially adding a $45 billion "gift" to off-set tax liabilities of the new company.
  • Delphi, a parts supplier network and GM spinoff, had all GM debt to it cancelled. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also decided to cut pensions liabilities for salaried non-union employees to expedite GM’s emergence from bankruptcy. 

Emails: Geithner, Treasury drove cutoff of non-union Delphi workers’ pensions

Emails obtained by The Daily Caller show that the U.S. Treasury Department, led by Timothy Geithner, was the driving force behind terminating the pensions of 20,000 salaried retirees at the Delphi auto parts manufacturing company….The move, made in 2009 while the Obama administration implemented its auto bailout plan, appears to have been made solely because those retirees were not members of labor unions.

The internal government emails contradict sworn testimony, in federal court and before Congress, given by several Obama administration figures.


Government Motors: As GM shares near record low, taxpayer loss on bailout rises to $35 billion

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 AM | Permalink

Making the same mistake over and over

And You Thought the Housing Crisis Was Over!  The Community Reinvestment Act is back, as if 2008 never happened.    This time by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the brain child of Elizabeth Warren.

Yes, believe it or not, the federal government is now starting another initiative to force banks to lend to low-credit-rated blacks and Hispanics -- not just anybody but specifically blacks and Hispanics -- and is threatening -- and already imposing -- huge punitive fines if they don't. Moreover, this time they're going even further. They're going to take over the credit rating agencies and force them to change their standards to accommodate blacks and Hispanics so that nobody will have any idea who is a bad credit risk and who is not.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

August 3, 2012

"Sorry, not Catholic enough"

Just  how narrowly drawn is the religious exemption in the HHS mandate? Cardinal Dolan gives some examples

A Catholic hospital founded and still sponsored by nuns, striving to carry out our Savior’s command to care for the sick?  Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, its purpose is not the inculcation of religious values, and it hardly asks for a person’s religion before admitting a patient.

A Catholic Charities homeless shelter, providing a bed, a shower, and a nutritious meal?  Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, it serves all seeking help, regardless of their religious beliefs.  (Would the government prefer us to turn away anyone who can’t produce a baptismal certificate and recite the Nicene Creed?)

A Catholic high school founded and still run by a religious order, which has proudly educated young men, preparing them to succeed in college, in the work place, as husbands and fathers?   Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, the student populations is more than 50% non-Catholic.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

Your government at work

The Government Admits The US Power Grid Can Be Taken Out At Any Time

The Government Accountability Office just released a report backing up earlier findings: because a series of recommendations were ignored, the U.S. electric grid remains highly susceptible to cyberattacks.

The grid is reliant on a number of IT systems that have known and likely unknown vulnerabilities. The result of a cyberattack on the grid could result in damage to electricity control systems, power outages, and failures in safety equipment on a scale currently unknown.
--

The worst is, GAO told the Government what they had to do last year, and it was ignored. The Department of Commerce's report on smart grid security was "missing key elements" and has not been fixed.

IRS missing billions in ID theft

The Internal Revenue Service may have delivered more than $5 billion in refund checks to identity thieves who filed fraudulent tax returns for 2011, Treasury Department investigators said Thursday. They estimate another $21 billion could make its way to ID thieves' pockets over the next five years.

Amtrak lost $800M on cheeseburgers and soda

Taxpayers lost $833 million over the last decade on the food and beverages supplied by Amtrak, which managed to spend $1.70 for every dollar that received in revenue.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 AM | Permalink

"The so-called 'Welfare State' is less a means of combating poverty than institutionalizing it...This is an irrefutable lesson of history"

Roger Kimball on Despotism, Distraction and the Defense of Civilization

The so-called “Welfare State,” for example is less a means of combating poverty than institutionalizing it. You don’t hear that from our politicians. But that is the irrefutable lesson of history.
--
That is to say, the battle for freedom and against the encroachments of servitude is never over. Every generation must fight it again, indeed, every individual must always be vigilant about keeping freedom alive in his own heart. That is the great Burkean point I try to make in The Fortunes of Permanence. Civilization is an achievement not a gift; it is always besieged, must constantly be defended, and once lost, is immeasurably difficult to reclaim. We see the results of the assaults against freedom all around us.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink

Why persuade and convince when you can browbeat

Some comments on the HHS mandate now in effect.

George Weigel writes

The administration has not made any serious effort to address the concerns over the mandate that have been vigorously pressed by Catholic bishops, Catholic employers, pro-life Americans of all religious persuasions and none, and civil-society advocates. The administration’s alleged “accommodation” of these concerns — after the White House appeared to have been blindsided by the ferocity of the response to the original mandate — was quickly recognized for the accounting shell game it was and is. As such, it was rejected as an unacceptable governmental intrusion into the unique mission of religious bodies, even by religious institutions and associations that had supported Obamacare.

Speaker John Boehner issued a statement

The administration’s mandate stands today not because it is sound policy; not because it reflects the will of the people; not because it is consistent with the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.  The mandate stands today because the Democratic-controlled Senate preemptively blocked legislation that would have reversed this attack on religious freedom.  And it stands because the President of the United States has refused to listen to the people and institutions that built a great nation.

David French in Self-Indulgence as a Foundational Virture

The imposition of the HHS mandate combined with the continuing — and inane — campaign against Chick-fil-A demonstrates how we’re replacing our founding virtues of industry, honesty, marriage, and religiosity (as described in Charles Murray’s invaluable Coming Apart) with a new prime virtue — self-indulgence. What is remarkable about the Chick-fil-A controversy is the extent to which the company’s entire portfolio of work, its excellent food, welcoming environment, extensive charitable interventions with at-risk families and youth, are nothing but ashes and dust unless Chick-fil-A gets on board with a sexual revolution that places self-indulgence (and defense of that indulgence) over every other cultural value.

He makes another valuable point, Stigma Beats Dogma.  Why persuade and  convince when you can browbeat.

In the battle of ideas, stigma always beats dogma. In other words, through stigmatization, one can defeat a set of ideas or principles without ever “winning” an argument on the merits.
--
Here’s a question for conservative parents and teachers: Are we really equipping young people to face the challenges of college if we teach them arguments? Or should we instead be primarily preparing them to face scorn and hate with inner toughness and good cheer? After all, when a professor calls you a “fascist bastard” for defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, what is he doing if not trying to defeat dogma with stigma?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:45 AM | Permalink

July 31, 2012

"Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry"

Cardinal George, a native of Chicago, responds to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel's statement that Chick-fil-a is not welcome in Chicago because it does not share 'Chicago values'.

I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval.  Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a “Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities” and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it?  I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, “un-Chicagoan.”

The value in question is espousal of “gender-free marriage.”  Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry; and espousing the understanding of marriage that has prevailed among all peoples throughout human history is now, supposedly, outside the American consensus
--
People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life.  The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage.  This is also what religious leaders of almost all faiths have taught throughout the ages.  Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of “two becoming one flesh” (Mt. 19: 4-6).  Was Jesus a bigot?  Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan?  Would Jesus be more “enlightened” if he had the privilege of living in our society?  One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free.

Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.  Surely we can find a way not to play off newly invented individual rights to “marriage” against constitutionally protected freedom of religious belief and religious practice.  The State’s attempting to redefine marriage has become a defining moment not for marriage, which is what it is, but for our increasingly fragile “civil union” as citizens.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:12 PM | Permalink

Happy Birthday Milton Friedman

Today is the 100th birthday of Milton Friedman, The Man Who Saved Capitalism

Well over 200 million were liberated from poverty thanks to the rediscovery of the free market. And now as the world teeters close to another recession, leaders need to urgently rediscover Friedman's ideas.

I remember asking Milton, a year or so before his death, during one of our semiannual dinners in downtown San Francisco: What can we do to make America more prosperous? "Three things," he replied instantly. "Promote free trade, school choice for all children, and cut government spending."

How much should we cut? "As much as possible."

Thanks to YouTube, Milton Friedman can be watched in all his glory. All ten episodes of his PBS series Free to Choose are there.
Here is a short except on what he has to say about  Greed.

 

The editors at the National Review extol Professor Freedom

His work in the end was not about numbers, data, or equations, but about the alleviation of unnecessary human suffering and the removal of barriers to human flourishing. As he put it: “The only cases in recorded history in which the masses have escaped grinding poverty is where they have had capitalism and largely free trade.”
--
He was unstinting in his criticism, but he was a famously happy warrior. His wit was one of his great pedagogical tools. Inspecting a government-run canal-building project in Asia, he noted that the workers were using shovels and wheelbarrows instead of bulldozers and earth-moving equipment, and was informed by his guide that using shovels meant more jobs for the workers. “Then why not use spoons?” Friedman asked.
--
Capitalism, Friedman argued, was good not because we need not protect the worker and the consumer, but because capitalism actually protects the worker and the consumer, while government merely makes proclamations about doing so.

Kevin Williamson on Freidman's Economics of Love.

Friedman’s libertarianism was based on an economics of love: for real human beings leading real human lives with real human needs and real human challenges. He loved freedom not only because it allowed IBM to pursue maximum profit but because it allowed for human flourishing at all levels. Economic growth is important to everybody, but it is most important to the poor.

Thomas Sowell calls Friedman

one of those rare thinkers who had both genius and common sense. Most people would not be able to understand the complex economic analysis that won him a Nobel Prize, but people with no knowledge of economics had no trouble understanding his popular books like Free to Choose or the TV series of the same name.
--
As a professor, he did not attempt to convert students to his political views. I made no secret of the fact that I was a Marxist when I was a student in Professor Friedman’s course, but he made no effort to change my views. He once said that anybody who was easily converted was not worth converting.  I was still a Marxist after taking Professor Friedman’s class. Working as an economist in the government converted me.
--
Although Milton Friedman became someone regarded as a conservative icon, he considered himself a liberal in the original sense of the word — someone who believes in the liberty of the individual, free of government intrusions. Far from trying to conserve things as they are, he wrote a book titled Tyranny of the Status Quo.

Milton Friedman proposed radical changes in policies and institutions ranging from the public schools to the Federal Reserve. It is liberals who want to conserve and expand the welfare state.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2012

Bean bags

By now you are probably all familiar with the Fast and Furious scandal which has fascinated me much as Watergate scandal when it unfolded.

The similarities are striking: the coverup by the Executive Branch of an ill-begotten program.  The principal difference being in Watergate no one died, while in the Fast and Furious scandal we have two dead American agents and maybe hundreds of Mexicans shot dead by drug cartels using weapons supplied to them by our government without telling the Mexican government.

But I was dumbfounded to learn that Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and his unit were only allowed to fire bean bags at heavily armed dope smugglers.

Bean bags!  Even worse, a new Border Patrol training video is instructing agents that when confronted with an armed shooter, they should run away and hide!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:34 PM | Permalink

July 10, 2012

Since 2009, more people filed for disability than found jobs

I'm all for seeing that every hungry person gets fed, but the fact that 1 in 7 Americans now gets food stamps is very troubling because you know as well as I that they are not in any danger of starving.    More and more people are gaming the system. 

Rich Lowry explains why Food Stamps are out of control

Two-thirds of the Agriculture Department’s budget is devoted to welfare programs. The biggest is food stamps, which is now the nation’s second-largest welfare program after Medicaid. Its inexorable growth during the past decade, through good times and bad, is a testament to government’s self-generating expansion.  Asked what labor wanted, the great 20th-century union leader Samuel Gompers answered, “More.” The modern welfare state lives by the same credo. About 17 million people received food stamps back in 2000. Some 30 million received them in 2008. Roughly 46 million people receive them today. From 1 in 50 Americans on food stamps at the program’s national inception in the 1970s, 1 in 7 Americans are on them now. 

No longer do recipients have to pass an asset test or work and no one enforces the income eligibility.  Fraudulent use of food stamps is so prevalent that even the Democratic legislators in Massachusetts passed a bill that would ban the use of food stamps, called EBT debit cards, to purchase tattoos, manicures, guns, porn, body piercings,  jewelry and bail.  Governor Deval Patrick vetoed the bill because he said,  it humiliated poor people.
 
How can we let this go on when we are headed towards national insolvency?

Uncle Sam's 40-year average debt to GDP ratio is 38 percent. At the end of 2008 Washington was up to 40 percent. By the end of 2012 that number will be 73 percent, "the highest percentage since shortly after World War II," said CBO. ….These numbers disguise worse news, however. CBO does not count intra-government borrowing as part of the national debt. So when the Treasury Department "borrows" money from Social Security, CBO doesn't count it, even though cash will have to be procured -- through more borrowing -- to pay promised benefits to retirees. The full national debt already is 100 percent of GDP, compared to about 84 percent for Europe.

Arthur C. Brooks says America Already Is Europe

From the progressively of our tax code, to the percentage of GDP devoted to government, to the extent of the regulatory burden on business, most of Europe's got nothing on us…. How can we be slouching down the same debt-potholed, social-democratic road as Spain? There are three explanations, all of which point to a worrying future for America.

First, the American left is every bit as focused on growing government and equalizing incomes as the Spanish left…The second force leading us down the social-democratic road is cronyism. America possesses a full-time bipartisan political apparatus dedicated to government growth and special deals for favored individuals and sectors….Third, and most importantly, while a majority of Americans are neither leftists nor corporate cronies, they aren't paying much attention to the political system.

Looking first at Europe, Bret Stephens writes about The Entitlement State and Zombies

European leaders will not cure what ails their economies because the people who voted them into office are addicted to what ails those economies.
In other words, they are addicted to entitlements…..

it's a testament to the zombifying power of entitlements. It's sometimes said that modern Europeans aren't willing to fight for anything anymore. But that's not true: Every time an entitlement is even slightly at risk—whether it's raising the retirement age to 62 from 60 in France or tinkering with the legal architecture that guarantees jobs for life in Italy—Europeans go right to the barricades.  That's not just because they are defending a financial benefit. They are also defending a way of being and a state of mind: a conviction that it's up to somebody else to provide for their well-being; a terror of what might happen should that somebody else fail to provide.
--
Observing this situation, Americans might suppose that we are still a long way from Europe. But consider this: As of the first quarter of 2010, 48.5% of Americans lived in a household that received some form of government assistance. That's up from 44.4% when the financial crisis began in 2008, and up from around 30% just 30 years ago. In the meantime, 49.5% of Americans paid no federal income tax as of 2009, up from 34.1% when George W.Bush took office.

Once ObamaCare kicks in, the percentage of takers will move north of 50% (if it hasn't already), and we will become a nation of modern zombies—or, if you prefer, democratic serfs…..Incentives matter, but not as much as habits do. And a habit of dependency, as any addict knows, will sooner drive a man to degradation than to reform.

Just last week we learned that just  80,000 found work last week while 85,000 dropped out of the labor force to collect disability payments from Social Security!

Mona Charen on The Failures of Obamanomics

From the beginning of the recovery in June 2009, more Americans have joined the ranks of the disabled (3.1 million) than have found jobs (2.6 million). Record numbers have also filed for unemployment insurance, welfare benefits, and food stamps (which one in seven Americans now receive).

The federal government has so many welfare programs that a top official of the Government Accountability Office couldn’t even provide a fixed number to a House oversight committee, nor would Patricia Dalton “hazard a guess” as to what percentage of these programs are accomplishing the purposes for which they were created. What is not in doubt is the increase in funding President Obama has requested for welfare — 42 percent over 2008 levels.
--
Obama never acknowledges that his economic philosophy — enthusiastically enacted by a Democrat-dominated Congress in 2009 — not only has failed but makes no sense. By what logic does adding record numbers of people to the welfare rolls aid the economy? Fewer and fewer Americans are earning the money from which these expanded benefits are to be paid.
This can't go on and it won't.    We are headed over the fiscal cliff into free fall.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 AM | Permalink

May 31, 2012

Test of Fire

Daniel Henninger, Church Is Still Not State

How ironic it will be if Catholic voters, about 27% of the electorate, put the first Mormon in the White House some 50 years after John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic president. More telling, though, about the current state of the American mind will be the fact that after more than a thousand days and events in Barack Obama's presidency, the reason for this result will be an unexpected reaffirmation of an American principle older than the country's first presidential election: the free exercise of religion.
--
The backlash among Catholics to the HHS order, across the political spectrum, was an astonishing thing to witness. One anecdote sticks with me from the first days. A friend in Ohio told of talking to a diocesan priest of no apparent political persuasion who said, "I hope these bishops are prepared to go to jail over this."

Go to jail? What's going on here?
--
Some things don't change, though, and among them is an American antipathy to being pushed too far. Americans are a tolerant people, but past some point they push back. With the HHS mandate upon them, a lot of Catholic voters are thinking resistance. It's an old American tradition.
--
The Obama administration is effectively saying that all the practices and beliefs embedded in the Obama health-care law are established in America and consent is required, no matter what some religion purports to believe. It is this attempt to displace religious belief with an alternative belief system that goes against the American grain and has Catholics up in arms.

The New Yorker magazine is often touted for its fact-checking.  Yet there is an egregious error in its essay Why is the Catholic Church going to Court. Ed Whelan explains;

1) Talbot claims that the “lawsuit” (actually, there were twelve lawsuits filed last week, on top of the several that were already pending) “proposes . . . that religious freedom means that they [the Catholic plaintiffs] can deny access to birth control to people who don’t share their faith or that article of it.” (Emphasis added.) But that’s an outrageously false claim. If and when the lawsuits succeed, Americans will continue to have ready access to birth control. What is at stake in the lawsuits is the separate matter of whether the Obama administration can dragoon those employers who have religious objections to facilitating the use of contraceptives, abortifacients, and/or sterilization services to be the vehicle for implementing its agenda.
--
4} Talbot contends, “Going to court will embed the Church in partisan politics and yoke it to the right wing.” But, as Archbishop William Lori nicely put it last week:

This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing.

This is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:03 PM | Permalink

May 30, 2012

Big Green Failing Big Time

Do you know when the last global summit was?  Neither  do I.  The green agenda has been forgotten or disregarded as  people realize how fraudulent it is.  The  prophets of environmental armageddon more than ever seem like Reverend Camping with his predictions of the end of the world and rapture. 

Walter Russell Mead wites in Global Green Agenda Continues to Fail

Remember when meetings to debate and negotiate an international carbon treaty were big news? The Copenhagen Summit was hailed as the largest assembly of world leaders ever to gather for one event; when it fizzled in waves of shame and confusion, the green movement was shocked and dismayed.
---
Those who want to follow the latest stage in the futile march of the global greens can read the BBC dispatch on the global non-summit; the air of despair hanging over the process comes through loud and clear. These are bureaucrats who realize they are becoming so irrelevant that they may soon face the grim possibility of budget cuts: as of now, there are no funds available for the next global green gabfest, tentatively scheduled for Bangkok.

Concern about the climate, we continue to believe at Via Meadia, is not misplaced, but the crazy set of unrealistic objectives, laughable foreign aid boondoggles, Malthusian panic mongering and cockamamie treaty plans made this UN process a clown circus that was doomed to fail — and the sooner, the better. There was a time — as recently as early 2010 — when the Great and the Good, the Champions of the Conventional Wisdom and the Oracles of the Davoisie identified this forlorn negotiation as the wave of the future and the last best hope of man.

Let the futility and failure to which all this led be a reminder to us and to them: those who guide the world’s destiny aren’t nearly as discerning as they think they are. Between the American housing bubble, the European meltdown and the climate disaster, it almost begins to look as if the Establishment consists mostly of overpaid, egotistical blowhards.

The Myth of Green Jobs Continues to Unravel

As The Examiner’s Brian Hughes reminds us, then-candidate Obama promised to create 5 million green jobs, at the low, low cost of only $15 billion per year:
--
Obama spent $90 billion of his stimulus package on green energy projects, including weatherization of buildings and development of electric vehicles. Yet, by the end of last year, just 16,100 people landed new jobs in the so-called green industry, Labor Department statistics show, far short of the 200,000 jobs the White House projected it would help create each year.

The Green Energy Bubble is Bursting Everywhere

Obama has grown very quiet about climate change.  He can spot a political loser from a Chicago mile away.  He’s not attending the UN’s 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit that started the whole climate diplomacy circus.  Twenty years ago the greens browbeat President Bush to attend, which he ultimately did.  But the craven greens seem to be giving Obama a pass.  As Roll Call reports:

President Barack Obama’s first Earth Day proclamation in 2009 was an urgent call to address global warming. This year? The word “climate” didn’t even get a mention. . .

__

Item: In an extremely curious New York Times story last week, Times environmental writer John Broder notes that President Obama pushed hard for the final approval of Shell Oil’s long sought permit to begin drilling in a new offshore oil field in Alaska, which has been held up for years by bureaucratic red tape and environmental lawsuits.

This opening of the frozen frontier to oil exploration is curious because  the President nixed the Keystone pipeline for no rational reason simply to please his base.  His administration has delayed and delayed to approve new onshore drilling in Alaska  threatening the physical viability of the Alaskan pipeline because of declining oil flow.

Center of gravity in oil world shifts to Americas

From Canada to Colombia to Brazil, oil and gas production in the Western Hemisphere is booming, with the United States emerging less dependent on supplies from an unstable Middle East. Central to the new energy equation is the United States itself, which has ramped up production and is now churning out 1.7 million more barrels of oil and liquid fuel per day than in 2005.

“There are new players and drivers in the world,” said Ruben Etcheverry, chief executive of Gas and Oil of Neuquen, a state-owned energy firm that is positioning itself to develop oil and gas fields here in Patagonia. “There is a new geopolitical shift, and those countries that never provided oil and gas can now do so. For the United States, there is a glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

May 22, 2012

"The Catholic Church has unleashed legal Armageddon on the administration"

Harvard Law School Professor Mary Ann Glendon explains Why the Bishops Are Suing the U.S. Government.

The main goal of the mandate is not, as HHS claimed, to protect women's health. It is rather a move to conscript religious organizations into a political agenda, forcing them to facilitate and fund services that violate their beliefs, within their own institutions.
---
More is at stake here than the mission of all churches, including the Catholic Church, to provide social services like health care and education to everyone regardless of creed, and to do so without compromising their beliefs. At the deepest level, we are witnessing an attack on the institutions of civil society that are essential to limited government and are important buffers between the citizen and the all-powerful state.
--
If religious providers of education, health care and social services are closed down or forced to become tools of administration policy, the government consolidates a monopoly over those essential services. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put it, we are witnessing an effort to reduce religion to a private activity. "Never before," he said, "have we faced this kind of challenge to our ability to engage in the public square as people of faith."
--
Religious freedom is subject to necessary limitations in the interests of public health and safety. The HHS regulations do not fall into that category. The world has gotten along fine without this mandate—the services in question are widely and cheaply available, and most employers will provide coverage for them.

But if the regulations are not reversed, they threaten to demote religious liberty from its prominent place among this country's most cherished freedoms. That is why Cardinal Dolan told CBS's "Face the Nation" on April 8: "We didn't ask for this fight, but we won't back away from it."

This is the Biggest Religious Lawsuit in U.S. History and the network news shows ignored it writes Brent Bozell in Newsbusters.

The fact is that the Catholic Church has unleashed legal Armageddon on the administration, promising ‘we will not comply’ with a health law that strips Catholics of their religious liberty.  If this isn't 'news' then there's no such thing as news. This should be leading newscasts and the subject of special, in-depth reports. Instead, these networks are sending a clear message to all Americans that the networks will go to any lengths – even censoring from the public an event of this historic magnitude – to prevent the release of any information that will hurt Obama’s chances of re-election.

This is the worst bias by omission I have seen in the quarter century history of the Media Research Center.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:34 PM | Permalink

May 15, 2012

Oil, Government Fraud, Kodak and Neighborhood Nuclear Modules

I've been away all day so I'm only now catching up on the news.

And this is very good news.  GAO: Recoverable Oil in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming 'About Equal to Entire World's Proven Oil Reserves

The Green River Formation, a largely vacant area of mostly federal land that covers the territory where Colorado, Utah and Wyoming come together, contains about as much recoverable oil as all the rest the world’s proven reserves combined, an auditor from the Government Accountability Office told Congress on Thursday.

“USGS estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil, and about half of this may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions,” Mittal testified.

“The Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, estimates that 30 to 60 percent of the oil shale in the Green River Formation can be recovered,” Mittal told the subcommittee. “At the midpoint of this estimate, almost half of the 3 trillion barrels of oil would be recoverable. This is an amount about equal to the entire world's proven oil reserves.”

Think of the implications of creating  tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of new jobs,  of becoming truly energy self reliant, free from troublesome tyrants in the Mideast.

What an amazing world.

 Earth By Russian Electro-L
photo of earth from Russian weather satellite

The bad news is that about 75% of it is controlled by the Federal Government's Bureau of Land Management. 

It's news, but not surprising news, that Public Employees Second Only to Financial Pros in Fraud according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), the world's arrest anti-fraud organization.

A congressional staffer who has worked to combat fraud at the federal level agreed that the amount of money being spent has stretched the government thin and left limited accountability. A culture has developed that excuses lavish spending programs, he said, pointing to the GSA’s $800,000 Las Vegas retreat, which has resulted in several firings and resignations.

“The federal government is sending all of this money out and there’s no follow up, no accountability,” the staffer said. “It’s part of the culture.”

It doesn't help that states are gaming the system too.

This is astonishing,  Kodak Had a Secret Nuclear Reactor Loaded with Enriched Uranium Hidden in a Basement in Rochester, N.Y.

Kodak's purpose for the reactor wasn't sinister: they used it to check materials for impurities as well as neutron radiography testing. The reactor, a Californium Neutron Flux multiplier (CFX) was acquired in 1974 and loaded with three and a half pounds of enriched uranium plates placed around a californium-252 core.

The reactor was installed in a closely guarded, two-foot-thick concrete walled underground bunker in the company's headquarters, where it was fed tests using a pneumatic system. …It wasn't until 2006, well after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, that it was decided to dismantle it.

This story brought to mind stories of neighborhood nuclear plants from 2008.  Mini nuclear plants to power 20,000 homes

Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb.

The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.

The US government has licensed the technology to Hyperion, a New Mexico-based company which said last week that it has taken its first firm orders and plans to start mass production within five years. 'Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a kilowatt hour anywhere in the world,' said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. '

So what is Hyperion doing today?

Hyperion Power Generation plans to build one of its first modular nuclear devices at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River test site in South Carolina.

And it changed its name.  SMR Developer Hyperion Power Now Gen4 Energy

The Gen4 Module (formerly the Hyperion Power Module) is a small next generation nuclear power reactor that will not require refueling during its 10-year operational lifetime, as well as no on-site access to nuclear fuel, which reduces safety and proliferation concerns.  According to the release, G4M technology has the potential to provide power to undeveloped regions, demonstrate unmatched nuclear safety, as well as provide a cleaner energy source by emitting no greenhouse gasses.  The G4M will produce 25 MW of safe and reliable electric power that is manufactured in a factory and transported to the installation site completely sealed. After its useful life it is replaced with an entirely new power module.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 AM | Permalink

May 9, 2012

Justice for Sale

Why haven't any of the people responsible for the financial crash been charged and brought to trial?

Justice for Sale

In an explosive Newsweek article set to rock official Washington, reporter Peter Boyer and Breitbart contributing editor and Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer reveal how Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice are operating under a “justice for sale” strategy by forgoing criminal prosecution of Wall Street executives at big financial institutions who just so happen to be clients of the white-shoe law firms where Holder and his top DOJ lieutenants worked.
--
Not surprisingly, of the elite bundlers who made up Obama’s 2008 campaign, the second most represented industry after law was the securities and investment industry.
--
As Boyer and Schweizer report, Department of Justice criminal prosecutions are at 20-year lows for corporate securities and bank fraud. And while large financial institutions have faced civil prosecution, those typically end in settlement fees with the major banks that represent a fraction of their profits, often paid through special taxes on mortgage-backed securities.

Breitbart reports Top DOJ officials were Obama bundlers with Wall St Ties

Four of the top officials at the Department of Justice were all big money fundraisers for President Obama’s 2008 campaign with strong ties to Wall Street—the very entity the Obama Administration has said must be criminally prosecuted for bringing about the biggest financial crisis in U.S. history.
--
The nexus between big money campaign fundraising and senior appointments at the Department of Justice raises numerous questions and appearances of conflict of interest that go far beyond mere recusal from certain cases. Furthermore, many of the financial institutions the Department of Justice claims to be criminally investigating for financial fraud are former clients of the law firms from which DOJ’s top brass hail.

Where's the justice?  Where's the deterrent to future reckless Wall Street criminal shenanigans?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 AM | Permalink

May 1, 2012

"Obama's crew has nothing on the team that got drunk before JFK's assassination"

In the wake of the Secret Service scandal, here's something I didn't know. 

The Biggest Secret Service Failure of All Time

Obama's crew has nothing on the team that got drunk before JFK's assassination.

Congressman Pete King, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, calls the scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia “the worst moment in the history of the Secret Service.”

He’s wrong about that. The worst moment in the history of the Secret Service was November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. It was the first and only time since the Secret Service was put fully in charge of protecting the president in 1902 that a president was assassinated.

William Manchester, in his 1967 book about the Kennedy assassination, The Death of the President, reports that nine agents of the White House Secret Service detail were out after midnight on November 22, starting with “beer and mixed drinks.” One agent was out until 5 a.m. Manchester wrote, “Fellow drinkers during those early morning hours included four agents who were to ride in the president’s follow-up care in Dallas, and whose alertness was vital to his safety.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

April 27, 2012

Italian style

Italy can still teach our Congressmen a thing or two.

What is it with you Italians?

The Italians despise the politicians they elect because they are hugely paid, hugely corrupt, and hugely useless. They can blame no one but themselves, because each nation gets the politicians it deserves. Once upon a time before I knew better I used to think there was a solution: Catch the Italians young before it is too late and force them to spend an entire day each week at school learning the difference between right and wrong and why this matters. But then I remembered that they are all Catholics and the Catholic Church does all that anyway. And look where that has got the Italians! So then it dawned on me: It’s gotta be in their DNA.
---
There are 435 Congressmen in America (population 311 million) and 100 Senators; their gross basic salary is $174,000. There are 630 Deputati, as members of the Lower House are called in Italy (population 60 million) and 315 Senatori. Average salary is around 200,000 euro ($261,000) according to a recent survey of European politicians’ incomes.

Italy’s politicians the highest-paid in Europe.
--
Italian politicians usually have second jobs, because let’s face it: They have a lot of time on their hands. I know one of them: He is a newspaper columnist with whom I am coauthoring a book on Benito Mussolini. My coauthor declared earnings for 2011, I noted recently with a great deal of irritation, of 340,000 euro ($444,000).
--
after three years on the job, for example, they are entitled to a fat inflation-proof pension when they reach 60 (which most of them already are). Planes, trains, stamps, gym, cinema, theater, life and personal-injury insurance, hairdresser, tennis, and English lessons—you name it, they get it free.

Obviously, they also get free private health and dental care for themselves and their families.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:52 PM | Permalink

Obamacare and Pope Leo XIII, the handwriting on the wall

Recommended by the Scrapbook. here are a couple of very good articles to read over the weekend

The most intelligent article I've read about How to Replace Obamacare by James Capretta and Robert Moffit in National Affairs .

The Handwriting on the Wall by George Weigel

the words on the wall at this moment in history speak of the results of a negation — a deconstruction — of the deep truths on which the civilization of the West has been built. And one of the main things that the "handwriting on the wall" in the early 21st century is telling us is that the secular project is over.

By "secular project," I mean the effort, extending over the past two centuries or more, to erect an empty shrine at the heart of political modernity.
--
In both its hard and soft forms, the secular project was wrong. Above all, it ignored the deep truth that it takes a certain kind of people, living certain virtues, to make democracy and the free economy work properly. People of that kind do not just happen. They must be formed in the habits of heart and mind, the virtues that enable them to guide the machinery of free politics and free economics so that the net outcome is human flourishing and the promotion of the common good. There is no such formation in the virtues of freedom available at the empty shrine.

A glimpse of what the empty shrine does produce was on offer late last summer in Great Britain, when packs of feral young people rampaged through city after city in an orgy of self-indulgence, theft, and destruction. The truth of what all that was about was most powerfully articulated by Lord Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

This was the bursting of a dam of potential trouble that had been building for years. The collapse of families and communities leaves in its wake unsocialized young people…[who are the products of] a tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West, saying that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality, and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement.
--
That false worship of the Self — the worship of that which is not worthy of worship — has led to a severe attenuation of the moral sinews of democratic culture: the commitment to reason and truth-telling in debate; the courage to face hard facts squarely; the willingness to concede that others may have something to teach us; the ability to distinguish between prudent compromise and the abandonment of principle; the very idea of the common good, which may demand personal sacrifice.
---
Taking a cue from that great philosophical celebrant of irony, Richard Rorty, Colgate University's Robert Kraynak has neatly described the net result of all this as "freeloading atheism": Like Belshazzar's lords, wives, and concubines, those formed by the empty shrine and the worship of the imperial, autonomous Self have been drinking profligately out of sacred vessels, freeloading on moral truths that they do not acknowledge (and in many cases hold in contempt), but which are essential for sustaining democracy and the free economy, which the freeloaders claim to honor. But as Lord Sacks pointed out last summer, that jig is up.
--
What I have called the "empty shrine" at the center of political modernity was, for Leo XIII, the result of a dramatic revolution in European intellectual life in which metaphysics had been displaced from the center of reflection, thinking-about-thinking had replaced thinking-about-truth, and governance had therefore come unstuck from the first principles of justice. Science, which had replaced metaphysics as the most consequential of intellectual disciplines, could provide no answer to the moral question with which all politics, in the Western tradition, begins: How ought we to live together? Worse, when science stepped outside its disciplinary boundaries and tried its hand at social and political prescription, it let loose new demons, such as Social Darwinism, that would prove astonishingly lethal when they shaped the national tempers that made possible the great slaughters of the First World War.
--
Leo XIII insisted that freedom is not sheer willfulness. Rather, as Leo's successor John Paul II would later put it, freedom is the human capacity to know what is truly good, to choose it freely, and to do so as a matter of habit, or virtue. According to this line of argument, a talent for freedom grows in us; we cut short that learning process if we insist, with the culture of the imperial autonomous Self, that my freedom consists in doing what I want to do, now.
---
"The handwriting on the wall" at this moment in history is telling us that a political culture detached from the deep truths embedded in the human condition eventually yields traits of selfishness and irresponsibility that ill befit citizens of a democracy. "The handwriting on the wall" is telling us that a democratic politics that ignores those deep truths eventually dissolves into thinly disguised dictatorship — the dictatorship of relativism. And if that is the message, then our duty comes into clearer focus, too.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:27 PM | Permalink

April 25, 2012

"The Constitution is wrong" How about the People's Rights Amendment?

The Constitution is your patrimony.  Be very aware of the people who want to amend it out of existence. 

Abraham Lincoln said,
"Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties."

George Washington said,  “The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon”

Sam Adams, “"The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring a mark of everlasting infamy on the present generation – enlightened as it is – if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of designing men."

Patrick Henry said,  “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”

Henry Clay,  “The Constitution of the United States was made not merely for the generation that then existed, but for posterity- unlimited, undefined, endless, perpetual posterity

Enter Jim McGovern, (D) US Representative from Worcester, MA., “The Constitution is wrong.”

Now he is sponsoring the People's Rights Amendment in what Jeff Jacoby calls a 'flawed war'

McGovern’s problem, it turns out, is with the Bill of Rights. He objects to the way it safeguards fundamental rights — such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances — not only when citizens act as lone individuals, but also when they unite as corporations in order to pool their assets and act more efficiently.

Like many on the left, McGovern has gone batty on the subject of “corporate personhood.” This is a perfectly commonplace, centuries-old legal construct that makes it possible for individuals organized as a group to carry out their affairs effectively. Because corporations are legal “persons,” for example, they can rent property without requiring the signature of every shareholder on every lease. They can be sued in court as single entities, without obliging plaintiffs to go after tens of thousands of individual defendants. They can be taxed. They can enter into contracts. They can register patents.

What infuriates many liberals is that corporations can also express political views, spending money to take sides in contested elections.  . “Corporations are not people,” scowled McGovern at a Democratic forum last week…..So the congressman proposes to strip corporations of all constitutional liberties and guarantees.
--
Under McGovern’s proposal, corporations — for-profit and nonprofit alike —would have no more rights than legislators chose to give them. Congress could ban ExxonMobil and R.J. Reynolds from commenting on any public issue, and they would have no recourse to the First Amendment. But it isn’t only Big Oil and Big Tobacco that could be censored with impunity. So could Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association. So could the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and the Museum of Fine Arts. So could innumerable universities, charities, churches, small businesses, and government watchdogs. And so, of course, could most newspapers, magazines, TV networks, and book publishers. Corporations of every kind would lose their constitutional defenses. Vast swaths of American life would be permanently vulnerable to the whims and vendettas of politicians.

And what is true of First Amendment rights would be true of all the others: Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, due process under law, the right to trial by jury — corporations could be stripped of them all.

McGovern and Pelosi may honestly imagine that mutilating the Constitution in this way will make American democracy more wholesome and less corrupt. What it would really do is empower the political class to a degree never before seen in our history. Far from reinvigorating the dream of the Founding Fathers, the People’s Rights Amendment would transform it into a nightmare.

The National Review editorializes, Keep the First Amendment

The phrase “stunning development” is used far too often in our politics, but here is an item that can be described in no other way: Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats, frustrated by the fact that the Bill of Rights interferes with their desire to muzzle their political opponents, have proposed to repeal the First Amendment.

That is precisely what the so-called People’s Rights Amendment would do. If this amendment were to be enacted, the cardinal rights protected by the First Amendment — free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances — would be redefined and reduced to the point of unrecognizability. The amendment would hold that the rights protected by the Constitution are enjoyed only by individuals acting individually; individuals acting in collaboration with others would be stripped of those rights.
--
The so-called People’s Rights Amendment would have some strange consequences: Newspapers, television networks, magazines, and online journalism operations typically are incorporated. So are political parties and campaign committees, to say nothing of nonprofits, business associations, and the like. Under the People’s Rights Amendment, Thomas Friedman would still enjoy putative First Amendment protection, but it would not do him much good inasmuch as the New York Times Company, being a corporation, would no longer be protected by the First Amendment. In short, any political speech more complex than standing on a soapbox at an intersection would be subject to the whims of Nancy Pelosi.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 PM | Permalink

April 18, 2012

Crony Justice

Corzine Steals Billions Sans Charges, Errant Whale Watcher Faces Prison

Justice may be blind, but who works overtime to make it deaf, dumb, and stupid?

Which would you imagine might attract more aggressive enforcement from the Justice Department: the theft of $1.2 billion from supposedly segregated customer brokerage funds, or lying about an alleged incident of whistling to attract the attention of a whale so that whale watchers could get a better peep? If you said the latter, then you appreciate the extent to which federal law enforcement priorities have run off the rails.
--
Who has set the priorities at the Justice Department that is allowing this to happen, and why? How can an SEC that can't catch a Bernie Madoff before he blows himself up or nail a guy like John Corzine after his hand, arm, neck, and head are caught in the cookie jar be expected to professionally, effectively, and impartially enforce the thousands of regulations inflicted on the rest of us?
--
But woe to anyone who messes with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's rules on harassing marine mammals. Or runs afoul of the Environmental Protection Agency when their backyard is declared a wetland. Or gets in a Davis Bacon labor dispute with a powerful union. Or fails to file accurate Affirmative Action Plan paperwork. Yet it seems that if you‘ve got the right Washington connections you can pick your clients' pockets and even burn the economy to the ground without suffering any consequences.

This is more than just justice gone awry. It is the systematic destruction of the rule of law and its replacement by shameless cronyism.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink

April 9, 2012

Writing off the old

In the much touted national health service of Great Britain, life-saving treatment is denied to the elderly.    Even palliative surgery!

Sentenced to death for being old: The NHS denies life-saving treatment to the elderly, as one man's chilling story reveals

When Kenneth Warden was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer, his hospital consultant sent him home to die, ruling that at 78 he was too old to treat.

Even the palliative surgery or chemotherapy that could have eased his distressing symptoms were declared off-limits because of his age.

His distraught daughter Michele Halligan accepted the sad prognosis but was determined her father would spend his last months in comfort. So she paid for him to seen privately by a second doctor to discover what could be done to ease his symptoms.

Thanks to her tenacity, Kenneth got the drugs and surgery he needed — and as a result his cancer was actually cured. Four years on, he is a sprightly 82-year-old who works out at the gym, drives a sports car and competes in a rowing team.

‘You could call his recovery amazing,’ says Michele, 51. ‘It is certainly a gift. But the fact is that he was written off because of his age. He was left to suffer so much, and so unnecessarily.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

Generational tax

Too many abortions, not enough babies and too generous pensions put Germany in the position where it now must levy a special tax on the young.  And so, extra burdens are added to those who are just starting out in adult life.  This is not the way it should be.   

This is the first, not the last, of generational taxes we will see.

Germany set to tax young

GERMANY is proposing to levy extra taxes on the young to pay for the costs of the country's growing numbers of old people, under government plans for a ''demographic reserve'' levy.

Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats have drafted proposals that, if law, would require all those over 25 to pay a proportion of their income to cushion Germany against a looming population crisis.

... officials are considering a special levy of about 1 per cent of income.

Estimates from Germany's federal employment agency predict that the workforce will be reduced by 7 million people by 2025.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2012

No donated food for the homeless

Nanny Bloomberg sinks to new lows as the mayor bans all food donations to all government-run facilities that serve the city's homeless.

In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services recently started enforcing new nutritional rules for food served at city shelters. Since DHS can’t assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters have to turn away good Samaritans.
--
DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond says the ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers. A new interagency document controls what can be served at facilities — dictating serving sizes as well as salt, fat and calorie contents, plus fiber minimums and condiment recommendations.

The city also cites food-safety issues with donations, but it’s clear that the real driver behind the ban is the Bloomberg dietary diktats.

Diamond insists that the institutional vendors hired by the shelters serve food that meets the rules but also tastes good; it just isn’t too salty. So, says the commissioner, the homeless really don’t need any of the synagogue’s food.
--
The ban on food donations is the direct result of work by many city agencies, all led by a mayoral task force.
--
The Bloomberg administration is so obsessed with meddling in how we all live that it’s now eating away at the very best that New York citizens have to deliver.

Well, if you believe government can do it all, you can eliminate all charity like City Harvest and Meals on Wheels and all the groups at city churches and synagogues.    City Harvest for example rescues food from all segments of the food industry including restaurants, wholesalers, greenmarkets, bakeries, caterers, hospitals and corporate cafeterias, as well as canned food drives.  No more says Mayor Bloomberg.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2012

"Strongly unified and intensely focused"

U.S. Bishops are strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom.

This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.
---
Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry. HHS thus creates and enforces a new distinction—alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law—between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need, of any faith community or none.

A mandate to act against our teachings. The exemption is not merely a government foray into internal Church governance, where government has no legal competence or authority—disturbing though that may be. This error in theory has grave consequences in principle and practice. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers” will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world. For decades, the Bishops have led the fight against such government incursions on conscience, particularly in the area of health care. Far from making us waver in this longstanding commitment, the unprecedented magnitude of this latest threat has only strengthened our resolve to maintain that consistent view.
--
A violation of personal civil rights. The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing “services” contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption.
 

George Weigel writes in No Compromise

There will be no compromise here, for there can be no compromise of first principles. Those who understand that will gather their energies and continue to defend both Catholic and American tradition.

Would Obama's Mandate Fly With the Founding Fathers?

The young American republic was largely born from a Protestant dissenting tradition. The freedom to worship freely was a deep root of the colonial experience; as scholars like Barry Alan Shain and Donald Lutz have shown, colonial America was made up of countless small congregations wanting to live as their beliefs guided them.

Thomas Jefferson :  “That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

James Madison: ‘The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right....It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

March 14, 2012

Twice as expensive as we were lead to believe

So many accounting tricks were used to 'reduce' the apparent cost of Obamacare so that it could be pushed through Congress, we are only now beginning to learn its true costs as Philip Klein points out.

President Obama's national health care law will cost $1.76 trillion over a decade, according to a new projection released today by the Congressional Budget Office, rather than the $940 billion forecast when it was signed into law.

That's twice as expensive as we thought.  If a car dealer did this, he would rightly be accused of "bait and switch".

Of course, these numbers are so large, it's impossible to grasp them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:46 AM | Permalink

March 13, 2012

Cameron's conservative government will argue Christians have no right to wear cross at work.

At the Farm, Maggie makes an essential point that should be blazoned in neon

Britain again: Christians have no right to wear cross at work, says Government - Christians do not have a right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work, the Government is to argue in a landmark court case.

There is a deep confusion there. The government does not dispense or remove rights. Government is supposed to be there to protect freedom.


The Mayor of London Boris Johnson says

I don’t know the process by which government lawyers have decided this is the right way to go, but someone needs to march into their room, grab them by the lapels, and tell them not to be such confounded idiots.
---
Mrs Eweida is a member of a group — Christians — and she wanted to express her membership of that group in a small and inoffensive way. She was suspended and sent home. She was told she could not have contact with the public. She was discriminated against. She did suffer disadvantage. It is plain as a pikestaff. Government lawyers should run up the white flag now. Never mind Strasbourg: it is time for some common sense.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:50 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2012

Revolt against Obamacare's Central Committee - the IPAB

My faith in the inherent soundness of the American citizenry is strengthened when 75% of Americans are against Obamacare and a clear majority think it's a bad thing, according to a CNN/Gallup poll.

One example of a very bad thing that's received too little attention: the unaccountable, unelected Central Committee of Obamacare, the IPAB, will not be required to tell us what regulations they plan to enact and whatever regulations they do promulgate  will not be reviewable either in administrative proceedings or in the courts.  The IPAB is the rationing board, the ultimate in government price control

Last week, 24 medical organizations representing 350,000 doctors urged Congress to repeal Medicare’s new Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). That’s the right prescription for improving American health care and protecting access to innovative treatments for seniors.

Getting rid of the health care rationing board

The IPAB is the ultimate backstop to try to reining in the costs of the gigantic new entitlement...If the IPAB survives, it’s predictable what will occur: It will try small steps and then larger and more onerous ones aimed at reining in costs. And when all those fail, the reimbursement rates will be slashed. The Democrats may declare “rationing” isn’t in the cards, but when health-care providers can’t be adequately reimbursed, they limit or eliminate certain treatment options.

Even Democrats are joining the Independent Payment Advisory Revolt

The vehicle is a bill from Tennessee Republican Phil Roe that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, the new ObamaCare bureaucracy with vast powers to control health care and health markets starting next year. A straight majority of the House has joined Mr. Roe as co-sponsors—some 234 Members, including 20 Democrats.
---
This turn is remarkable because the IPAB really does embody ObamaCare's innermost I values and beliefs—to wit, that health decisions are too important to leave to the people receiving the care (patients), the people providing the care (doctors and hospitals), the people paying for the care (taxpayers), or even the people who got the government involved in the first place (politicians).
--
The irony is that the White House is expanding the government-run health care that it says the government can't be trusted to run by itself, even as its unaccountable, unelected board undermines democratic consent. The IPAB was relieved of the normal checks and balances of notice-and-comment rulemaking, and its edicts aren't subject to administrative or even judicial review. Consumers have far more rights of legal recourse under the private health plans that Mr. Obama deplores.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

Government failing elderly in Britain

Walter Russell Mead, 50% of UK Nursing Home Patients Abused By Government Health Care

Fans of government health care keep telling us that government can do the job, and they point to countries like the UK as examples where single payer, government run health care systems deliver high quality, compassionate care.

They are either grossly ignorant or they are lying through their teeth.

A recent study by a British healthcare regulator finds that half of all elderly people in Britain’s nursing homes are being denied basic health services.

Half.

And you can't fire them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:13 AM | Permalink

March 9, 2012

The Church of Big Government

The West may been too worn out to care about protecting religious freedom, free speech or much of the Constitution at all.  Still

it ought to bother you that in the cause of delegitimizing two millennia of moral teaching the state is willing to intrude on core rights — rights to property, rights of association, even rights to private conversation.

Mark Steyn in a must-read article The Church of Big Government

Discussing the constitutionality of Obamacare's "preventive health" measures on MSNBC, Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post told Chris Matthews that she reasons thus with her liberal friends: "Maybe the Founders were wrong to guarantee free exercise of religion in the First Amendment, but they did."

Maybe. A lot of other constitutional types in the Western world have grown increasingly comfortable with circumscribing religious liberty. In 2002, the Swedish constitution was amended to criminalize criticism of homosexuality. "Disrespect" of the differently orientated became punishable by up to two years in jail, and "especially offensive" disrespect by up to four years. Shortly thereafter, Pastor Ake Green preached a sermon referencing the more robust verses of scripture, and was convicted of "hate crimes" for doing so.
__

[M]ost of the West now believes in the state as church — an all-powerful deity who provides day-care for your babies and takes your aged parents off your hands....  America's Catholic hierarchy, in particular, colluded in the redefinition of the tiresome individual obligation to Christian charity as the painless universal guarantee of state welfare....They were gung ho for Obamacare. It never seemed to occur to them that, if you agitate for state health care, the state gets to define what health care is.
--
As Tocqueville saw it, what prevents the "state popular" from declining into a "state despotic" is the strength of the intermediary institutions between the sovereign and the individual. But in the course of the 20th century, the intermediary institutions, the independent pillars of a free society, were gradually chopped away — from church to civic associations to family. Very little now stands between the individual and the sovereign, which is why the latter assumes the right to insert himself into every aspect of daily life, including the provisions a Catholic college president makes for his secretary's IUD.
___
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 PM | Permalink

March 8, 2012

Grab bag of interesting links

I've been knocked out much of this week with a stomach flu, so this is a grab bag of links I found interesting

Fascinating series of photographs by Miho Aikawa entitled Dinner in NY.  Amazing how many people eat alone and while doing something else.

Very interesting series on the new camouflage patterns the army will be introducing and how they are created using 3-D layering, light-reflecting gradients, shadows and pixels to disrupt what you're seeing

An infographic on What It Costs to Leave This World.

How a Syrian adventure became a nightmare, Five Years in Damascus

Damascenes have lived with this regime for decades and know it only really understands the way of the gun. It is a regime that scoffs at political ideals, a family fiefdom forged long ago in an absurd tribal pride that values a misplaced honor and personal ego over all. It can smuggle and steal, and it is not afraid to shoot and kill --but it will not negotiate or compromise.

How the history of toothpaste explains why you can't lose weight, The Power of Habit

Before Pepsodent, almost no Americans brushed their teeth. A decade after Hopkins' advertising campaigns, pollsters found that toothbrushing had become a daily ritual for more than half the population.
---
Craving, it turns out, is what powers a habit.

Charles Cooke went out to see how available free contraceptives were and brings back a huge Contraceptive Haul

To listen to the president and the various women’s groups who have so enjoyed throwing around the absurd “anti-women” hyperbole over the last month, one would think that Americans were still required to ape the cloak-and-dagger subterfuge of a drug deal in order to get their hands on contraception, and that they were paying a hefty premium into the bargain. This could not be further from the truth. In my foray, remember, I looked solely for “free” contraceptives. But — quelle horreur! — it is still possible, even normal, to buy contraceptives in every drugstore in the country. Indeed, so ample and various is the supply that it comes in a startling array of flavors, methods, and combinations. No questions are asked. Nobody is excluded.

The Romans in their baths were "obsessive gym bunnies"

We've all heard Warren Buffett  insist that he and the rich are not paying enough taxes.  Maybe he's just not paying the taxes he's required to.  Now, two of Buffett's subsidiary companies are being sued by the federal government for tax evasion?

We wish we'd had babies in our thirties, admit 80 per cent of first-time parents in their forties.

Despite the growing number of mothers 40 years old and over, 80 per cent of women and 70 per cent of men said that the 'optimal age for parenting' are the thirties. The University of California, San Francisco, interviewed 170 people in the small but telling survey.

Christian club isn't religious

The University of North Carolina- Greensboro is saying Christian student club isn’t religious and therefore must allow students of other religions and belief systems to become leaders and members as a condition to being a recognized group.

"We’ll mock Jesus but not Mohammed, says BBC boss,"

The head of the BBC, Mark Thompson, has admitted that the broadcaster would never mock Mohammed like it mocks Jesus.

He justified the astonishing admission of religious bias by suggesting that mocking Mohammed might have the “emotional force” of “grotesque child pornography”.

But Jesus is fair game because, he said, Christianity has broad shoulders and fewer ties to ethnicity.

Imagine looking at this art every time you went to the airport.  Something is rotten in the Denver airport

-Denver-Airport-4

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

March 1, 2012

The cynical, bogus birth control lie and the Bishops

Breaking.  The Senate voted 51-48 to kill an amendment which would have restored a conscience exemption in the Obamacare on a generally party-line vote.    I've read in various places that Obama was losing support of women.  What better way to get them back on board than "to change the narrative" from the First Amendment of Freedom of Religion to those awful Republicans who want to take away your birth control.

As the Anchoress wrote

The frankly false ideas are being served up by the mainstream media and others who evidently believe women are staggeringly stupid. The GOP, they maintain, is after their ladyparts, and colluding with Christians who suddenly wish to outlaw contraception.
--
This lie is another distraction, and an exceedingly cynical one. Prior to that debate no one was even thinking about contraception bans as a public issue; even now, the only people actually doing so are assorted Democrat operatives and their allies in the media. Time will tell whether American women are as stupid and susceptible to baseless fearmongering as the Democrats clearly believe them to be.

No one has proposed outlawing birth control.  Not even the Bishops.  What the Democrats are proposing is a new welfare program to provide free birth control to every woman no matter how rich they are.  At the same, the Democrats cut $500 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare. 

There is no problem with access to birth control.  The question is who is going to pay for it.  For the poor, free birth control is provided by state and federal funded family planning clinics.  Even Planned Parenthood gives away free birth control to anyone who wants it.

What is most upsetting to me is that the keystone, the crown jewel of the Bill of Rights, freedom of religion, fought for, preserved by generations of Americans is now being scuttled by this Administration and Democrats for a  bogus birth control argument designed to win women back to the Democrat side come the 2012 election.    If allowed to go into effect, this mandate will create chaos across the country as Catholic hospitals, schools and charities close down.

Kathleen Sebelius says she's working on a compromise plan on contraceptive coverage under the HHS mandate and she's talking to Catholic health leaders, union leaders, and "our partners at labor"  to figure out a strategy.  Every one but the bishops.

We don't need no stinking Bishops!

Amazing. I wonder how much longer the charade goes on. We’ve known since early 2009 that the concept of conscience means nothing to this president who is much more interested in asserting power, sidestepping the constitution and acquiring more power.

This thing has been a game from the start, one put in play last November when Mrs. Pelosi let slip about “this conscience thing” that Catholics bother the government with. It’s a game, but it’s one they want to win, and one we can’t afford to lose.

And this is why they’re not interested in talking to the Bishops:

Only in the post-mandate world might it be considered ‘liberal’ for the government to coerce people into violating their religious beliefs; to justify that coercion based on the minority status of those beliefs; to intrude into the internal affairs of religious organizations; to crush out religious diversity in the private sector; and to incentivize religious groups to serve fewer of the needy.”

Investors' Business Daily Chicago's Cardinal warns of Obamacare Gulag

The ex-head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops compares the administration take on freedom of worship to the Soviet Union's and says its contraceptive mandate will force church hospitals to close.
--
Cardinal George essentially rejected the administration position that you can have freedom of conscience as long as you don't act on it and that Catholics can run hospitals believing what they want as long as they don't act on those beliefs.

Cardinal George responded that what Catholics and others do is what they believe and the two cannot be separated.

"Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the constitution of the former Soviet Union," Cardinal George wrote in a column in the Catholic New World. "You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship — no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. We fought a long Cold War to defeat that vision of society."

Francis Cardinal George publishes his letter to parishioners

Why does a governmental administrative decision now mean the end of institutions that have been built up over several generations from small donations, often from immigrants, and through the services of religious women and men and others who wanted to be part of the church’s mission in healing and education? Catholic hospitals, universities and social services have an institutional conscience, a conscience shaped by Catholic moral and social teaching. The HHS regulations now before our society will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to follow their conscience.
--
What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down.
--
The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church. The bishops didn’t begin this dismaying conflict nor choose its timing. We would love to have it ended as quickly as possible. It’s up to the government to stop the attack.

Ed Morrrisey on the significance of Catholic hospitals  and why it would be a disaster if they are forced to close

The Catholic Church has perhaps the most extensive private health-care delivery system in the nation. It operates 12.6 percent of hospitals in the U.S., according to the Catholic Health Association of the U.S., accounting for 15.6 percent of all admissions and 14.5 percent of all hospital expenses, a total for Catholic hospitals in 2010 of $98.6 billion. Whom do these hospitals serve? Catholic hospitals handle more than their share of Medicare (16.6 percent) and Medicaid (13.65) discharges, meaning that more than one in six seniors and disabled patients get attention from these hospitals, and more than one in every eight low-income patients as well. Almost a third (32 percent) of these hospitals are located in rural areas, where patients usually have few other options for care.
--
Imagine the impact if these hospitals shut down, discounting the other 400-plus health centers and 1,500 specialized homes that the Catholic Church operates as part of its mission that would also disappear.

Then there's the schools. 

The Catholic Church runs over 7500 primary and secondary education schools in the US (where over a third of students are non-Catholics), educating more than 2.5 million students.  Thanks to a near-blanket moratorium on vouchers, taxpayer money doesn’t get used in teaching these students in a system that has a 99% graduation rate and a 97% success rate at placing students in college.  Based on an average student cost of $8000 in public schools, Catholic schools save taxpayers about $20 billion dollars a year.

And the charities

In 2003, the latest data available, they provided emergency food services to 6.5 million people, temporary shelter to over 200,000 people, and a range of other assistance to another 1.5 million people, including assistance in clothing, finances, utilities, and even medication.  Those efforts would disappear overnight, along with schools and hospitals.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 PM | Permalink

February 28, 2012

Perverse incentives

This has gone viral over the net and I don't where it started.  I found it at Maggie's Farm

The food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, has announced that is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to "Please Do Not Feed the Animals" because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.

It's funny and true except for the part about the National Park Service being part of the Department of Agriculture.  It's not.  It's part of the Department of the Interior.  But yes, the indeed, the NPS tells that to all park visitors.

It reminded me of Vodkapundit's comment to the chart below which shows that you can do as well working one week a month at minimum wage as you can working a $60,000 -a-year, full-time, high-stress job.  The chart originated with Wyatt Emerich of the Cleveland Current and then picked up by Zero Hedge which verified all the numbers.

 Entitlement-Nation

Stephen Green, the Vodkapundit, commented, "The safety net is becoming a barcalounger. Who’s got the remote?"

Seems to me that we do very well for the poor and very poorly for the middle class who work and pay taxes.  A society built on such perverse incentives and unsustainable entitlements can not last. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:23 PM | Permalink

February 21, 2012

"Anti-Catholic and Un-American"

Father Barron on the HHS mandate.  Clear, calm and considered as always.

Added bonus Where are the women?

Bonus No. 2  Soft tyranny via Maggie's Farm

..."taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrial animals of which the government is the shepherd."

Alexis de Toqueville,
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:18 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2012

"Rendering moot the very first clause of the First Amendment"

The Audacity of Power: President Obama Vs. The Catholic Church by Charles Kadlec in Forbes via The Anchoress

In one of the boldest, most audacious moves ever made by a President of the United States, President Barack Obama is on the brink of successfully rendering moot the very first clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis added). If he forces the Catholic Church to comply with the Health and Human Services ruling to provide its employees with insurance that covers activities the Church has long held sinful — abortion via the morning after pill, sterilization and contraceptives — then the precedent is clear: when religious beliefs conflict with government decrees, religion must yield.
--
Before our very eyes, President Obama is on the verge of establishing the principle that the right to religious freedom comes not from our Creator, but from those who rule us. A government endowed right granted to women now trumps our unalienable right to act in accordance with our religious beliefs and conscience. Not only does this overturn the First Amendment, it also tramples the nation’s founding principles as announced in the Declaration of Independence. Such an achievement would be the true audacity of power.

The fundamental question is whether the Catholic Church, and by extension, individual Americans have to engage in activities according to the rulings of this and future Presidents, or are we free to live our lives as we choose as long as we do not harm another. Are we free to engage in long standing religious practices that have never before been deemed unlawful, or has the federal government established a de facto state “religion” that it is prepared to enforce through the full coercive power of its financial resources and the imposition of financial penalties.
--
I am not a Catholic, nor do I believe in the Church’s opposition to contraception. But I pray that the leadership of the Catholic Church will have the faith and courage to stand for its core beliefs and use all of its moral power and political influence to defeat the President’s edict. I pray they will reach out across the political spectrum to people of all faiths, agnostics and atheists in the name of religious freedom and individual liberty

Paul Ryan on Meet the Press

“What we’re getting from the White House on this conscience issue, it’s not an issue about contraception, it’s an issue that reveals a political philosophy the president is showing that basically treats our constitutional rights as if they were revocable privileges from our government, not inalienable rights from our creator,”

David French

Religious employers are asserting rights of conscience and free exercise of religion grounded in the First Amendment, arguably the single-most important constitutional provision protecting individual liberty from state power. Competing against this 200-year-old foundational legal principle is . . . an executive branch regulation (not even a statute) establishing a “right” that has never before existed in the history of the Republic — a “right to contraception coverage at no additional cost”

David Warren, a Canadian, in Matters of Conscience

Americans do not yet fully realize that ObamaCare is a "work in progress." What they see now is only the thin end of the wedge, and the current controversial HHS Mandate is modest compared to what will arise farther down the road.

A "Preventive Services Task Force" has been empowered to "prioritize" (thus effectively decide) everything to be covered by private health insurance - and with perfect Kafkaesque serenity, for it makes all decisions behind closed doors, need not announce decisions in draft, and is under no obligation to consider any external suggestions. Its decisions cannot be directly appealed, and it cannot be sued for the consequences of them.

If the Americans fail to repeal ObamaCare, they will soon learn it was a stalking horse for the full "socialization" of their health-care system.

Obama Deceives Catholics on Compromise, J. Christian Adams

Give the Obama administration their due, they sure are great deceivers. In an effort to escape the firestorm engulfing them because of the ObamaCare mandate that forces churches to violate their theology, the president announced a “compromise” on February 10. The details of this compromise demonstrate that President Obama simply cannot be believed.
--
Lies, all.

First, nothing was changed from the original rule.  The Department of Health and Human Services, Friday night, hours after Obama’s big “compromise,” issued the final regulation in exact form as the regulation first issued in August 2011 “without changes.”  Church-affiliated entities, such as Catholic hospitals, were still not exempted in the issued final regulation.

This is Not Just a “Culture War,” It’s An Attack on The First Amendment by Ron Futrell

This is also a fight much larger than “culture.” Culture is something that defines art and common belief. Culture is something that changes with the times and can actually be defined as you wish. Much of our culture today is not what it was 50, 100, or 200 years ago.
--
For the media to call this a “culture war” greatly diminishes its value, this is a battle over the First amendment of the US Constitution. Obama wants the Constitution circumvented to pander to his base, I would hope that most of us would be united with the Catholic Church in wanting it protected.

It Isn't Just Catholics Mad About ObamaCare Mandate

This week, two non-Catholic Christian colleges are proving that Obama-Care's contraception-sterilization requirement isn't just a Catholic concern. They are suing for their religious freedoms, too.
--
The two schools argue that the "compromise" President Obama announced earlier this month, forcing insurers themselves instead of religious institutions to provide the controversial services — and for free — "is entirely fictitious."


Memo to Jews: After They Come for the Catholic Church, They Will Come For Us
  David Goldman

Today it is contraception and the morning-after pill. Tomorrow it will be kosher slaughter, or matrilineal descent, or circumcision, or other matters of existential importance to Jewish observance. If the Obama administration gets away with forcing Catholic institutions to step across lines of life and death in the name of “health,” the federal government will have a precedent to legislate Judaism out of existence — as several other countries have already tried to do.
--
Open the door to “scientific” determination of matters of life and death, and America’s Orthodox Jews — a minority within a minority — will be vulnerable to a new Inquisition. On this issue, there can be no compromise. Agudath Israel is right: Jews should stand by the right of the Catholic Church to determine what is acceptable by its standards, just as we one day will ask the Catholic Church to stand by our right to determine what is acceptable by our standards. To its credit, Britain’s Catholic Church stood by us in 2009 when the English courts shamefully and wrongly ruled that our most basic religious criteria were “racist.” Shamefully and wrongfully, some Jews have failed to stand by the Church under the Obama administration’s persecution. I appeal to these Jews: Don’t be naive. We’re next.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:50 PM | Permalink

January 31, 2012

The Slap in the Face of Catholics

Some argue that if was the Catholic vote that gave Obama his victory in 2008,  If that is true, I am even more surprised at the Administration's decision to battle the Catholic Church.  Politically, it's a dumb-headed move surpassing even the decision against the Keystone pipeline.  In a completely unnecessary battle, Obama has managed to unite the Catholic left against him as William McGurn points out.

In a post for the left-leaning National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters minces few words. Under the headline "J'ACCUSE," he rightly takes the president to the woodshed for the politics of the decision, for the substance, and for how "shamefully" it treats "those Catholics who went out on a limb" for him.

The message Mr. Obama is sending, says Mr. Winters, is "that there is no room in this great country of ours for the institutions our Church has built over the years to be Catholic in ways that are important to us."
--
Catholic liberals ...understand that if left to stand, this ruling threatens the religious institutions closest to their hearts—those serving Americans in need, such as hospitals, soup kitchens and immigrant services.

Obama plays his Catholic allies for fools in his radical power grab on health care writes Michael Gerson

Catholic leaders are still trying to process the implications of this ambushThe president had every opportunity to back down from confrontation. In the recent ­Hosanna-Tabor ruling, a unanimous Supreme Court reaffirmed a broad religious autonomy right rooted in the Constitution. Obama could have taken the decision as justification for retreat.

There would have been no controversy at all if President Obama had simply exempted religious institutions and ministries. But the administration insisted that the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s Hospital be forced to pay for the privilege of violating their convictions.

Obama chose to substantially burden a religious belief, by the most intrusive means, for a less-than-compelling state purpose — a marginal increase in access to contraceptives that are easily available elsewhere. The religious exemption granted by Obamacare is narrower than anywhere else in federal law — essentially covering the delivery of homilies and the distribution of sacraments. Serving the poor and healing the sick are regarded as secular pursuits — a determination that would have surprised Christianity’s founder.

the astounding ambition of this federal precedent will soon be apparent to every religious institution. Obama is claiming the executive authority to determine which missions of believers are religious and which are not — and then to aggressively regulate institutions the government declares to be secular. It is a view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized that it barely covers the space between a believer’s ears.

What the President has started is a culture war.  111 Bishops Speak Out Against Obama/HHS Mandate.  One fiery bishop wrote in a letter read out to all in his archdiocese.

“We cannot and will not comply with this unjust decree. Like the martyrs of old, we must be prepared to accept suffering, which could include heavy fines and imprisonment,”...Our American religious liberty is in grave jeopardy,”...“This means that all of our Catholic schools, hospitals, social-service agencies and the like will be forced to participate in evil,” ...

Another bishop, Bishop Zubik of Pittsburgh said

“The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, ‘To Hell with you!’” the bishop said in a column posted on his diocesan website. “There is no other way to put it.”
-“
It is really hard to believe that it happened. It comes like a slap in the face,”
--
Let’s be blunt,” said Bishop Zubik. “This whole process of mandating these guidelines undermines the democratic process itself. In this instance, the mandate declares pregnancy a disease, forces a culture of contraception and abortion on society, all while completely bypassing the legislative process.

“This is government by fiat that attacks the rights of everyone--not only Catholics; not only people of all religion,” said the bishop. “At no other time in memory or history has there been such a governmental intrusion on freedom not only with regard to religion, but even across-the-board with all citizens.”

Yuval Levin in Religious Liberty and Civil Society

The particulars of what the Obamacare insurance mandate rule does, and the unwillingness of the administration to exempt religious employers, are just stunning. Religious institutions are basically going to be fined for holding views regarding contraception, sterilization, and abortion that are different from the Obama administration’s views. For instance, Notre Dame University, which employs more than 5,000 people, is going to be given the choice of either expressly violating its religious convictions or paying a $10 million fine to the federal government. It’s bad enough that any employer with a moral objection has to spend his money this way, but it is especially egregious to compel religious institutions to do so.
--
what is at issue in the controversy over the administration’s rule is not just the question of religious liberty but the question of non-governmental institutions in a free society.
--
Does civil society consist of a set of institutions that help the government achieve its purposes as it defines them when their doing so might be more efficient or convenient than the state’s doing so itself, or does civil society consist of an assortment of efforts by citizens to band together in pursuit of mutual aims and goods as they understand them? Is it an extension of the state or of the community? In this arena, as in a great many others, the administration is clearly determined to see civil society as merely an extension of the state, and to clear out civil society—clearing out the mediating layers between the individual and the state—when it seems to stand in the way of achieving the president’s agenda.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

January 22, 2012

"Unconscionable" challenge to religious liberty

The Other Health-Care Mandate: Good Samaritan Turned Upside Down

From the outset, the administration sought to camouflage the mandate’s radical assault on conscience by inserting an exemption for “religious employers” who objected to paying for contraception and abortion. It is a pitifully small fig leaf, however.

An organization cannot qualify if it has a “non-religious” aim (such as caring for the sick or feeding the hungry), or if it hires or serves persons of different faiths. In other words, the administration has managed to legislate a grotesque inversion of the parable of the Good Samaritan: A religious group loses the protection of the law precisely because it reaches across boundaries to help the outsider.

Religious Liberty the Latest Target of Obamacare

The Obamacare regulation gives faith-based institutions, like Catholic universities and hospitals, the choice of violating the fundamental tenets of their faith by covering the federally mandated coverage in their employee health plans, or of dropping health insurance for their employees — in which case they would be fined for violating the employer mandate.

This is an outrage...

here is a war on religion from the Left, and it is very dangerous to the institutions that make our civil society function.

The Catholic Church historically has been a vital part of the safety net — providing aid for the poor, care for the sick, shelter and food for the homeless, and care for mothers in need, as a few examples.

The health-care law threatens to tear gaping holes in that safety net by forcing Catholic health plans to cover contraception, by denying funds to Catholic adoption agencies, and ultimately by forcing taxpayers — including Catholics — to fund abortion.

This is dangerous to the very fabric of our society. It’s a crucial reason why the whole health law, with its centralized control over health-care decisions, must not stand.

" A Foul Ball, By Any Standard" U.S. Bishops vow to fight this edict.

Unconscionable to force citizens to buy contraceptives against their will.

The HHS rule requires that sterilization and contraception – including controversial abortifacients – be included among “preventive services” coverage in almost every healthcare plan available to Americans. “The government should not force Americans to act as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented at all costs,” added Cardinal-designate Dolan.

The cardinal-designate continued, “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty."

The HHS rule requires that sterilization and contraception – including controversial abortifacients – be included among “preventive services” coverage in almost every healthcare plan available to Americans. “The government should not force Americans to act as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented at all costs,” added Cardinal-designate Dolan.

Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan

“Almost every employer and insurer in the country to provide sterilization and contraceptives, including some abortion-inducing drugs, in their health plans… Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”

"...the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our conscience"

Beginning August 1, 2012 (less than eight months from today), the insurance premiums we pay, including the insurance premiums paid by Catholics for employees of churches and schools -- will be used to cover drugs and procedures that are in direct conflict with the teachings of our Church.

That's right. Our government will now force us to pay for insurance coverage for birth control, sterilization and even some abortion drugs.
---
Abortion-rights groups immediately applauded the decision.

"Birth control is not just basic health care for women, it is an economic concern," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "This common sense decision means that millions of women, who would otherwise pay $15 to $50 a month, will have access to affordable birth control, helping them save hundreds of dollars each year."
--

Was it for this that President Obama cut $500 billion from Medicare?  Why are contraceptives and abortifacients 'privileged' as opposed to every other drug, like statins for instance?

As you might recall, it was primarily orthodox Catholics and conservative Evangelicals who kept saying during the last presidential campaign that then-Sen. Obama's record revealed a man with an unswerving, ideological obsession with making access to contraceptives and abortion available to just about anyone, anytime, anywhere—and on the taxpayers' dime. Yet it is those very folks who are continually painted as the extremists and the rigid zealots, blinded by their religious faith. But, really, who are the extremists and zealots here? How much physical, familial, cultural, social, and spiritual damage must take place before the scales fall from the eyes of those who want a drug for every problem, an excuse for every sin, and the government's heavy hand at every turn in the road of life?

Just last week Pope Benedict XIV  spoke to the American bishops in Rome on their "ad-limina" visit about the alarming state of religious freedom in America.      What the bishops told him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:58 AM | Permalink

"National Insanity"

Robert Samuelson calls President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico 'an act of national insanity"

Now consider how Obama's decision hurts the United States. For starters, it insults and antagonizes a strong ally; getting future Canadian cooperation on other issues will be harder.

Next, it threatens a large source of relatively secure oil that, combined with new discoveries in the U.S., could reduce (though not eliminate) our dependence on insecure foreign oil.

Finally, Obama's decision forgoes all the project's jobs. There's some dispute over the magnitude. Project sponsor TransCanada claims 20,000, split between construction (13,000) and manufacturing (7,000) of everything from pumps to control equipment.

Apparently, this refers to "job years," meaning one job for one year. If so, the actual number of jobs would be about half that spread over two years. Whatever the figure, it's in the thousands and important in a country hungering for work. And Keystone XL is precisely the sort of infrastructure project that Obama claims to favor.

The big winners are the Chinese.

The Washington Post editorializes Obama’s Keystone pipeline rejection is hard to accept

We almost hope this was a political call because, on the substance, there should be no question. Without the pipeline, Canada would still export its bitumen—with long-term trends in the global market, it’s far too valuable to keep in the ground—but it would go to China. And, as a State Department report found, U.S. refineries would still import low-quality crude—just from the Middle East. Stopping the pipeline, then, wouldn’t do anything to reduce global warming, but it would almost certainly require more oil to be transported across oceans in tankers.

The environmental impact of the Keystone pipeline has been studied for three years, yet the President said the Republicans were rushing him  into a decision within 60 days and that wasn't enough time.  Charlotte Hays points out that when it came to showering the politically-connected Solyndra with millions of taxpayer dollars, the Administration couldn't move fast enough.

When it came to TARP and Obamacare, the Administration's urgency was so great, congressmen and senators weren't given time to even read the bills before they were voted on.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 AM | Permalink

January 12, 2012

Government can't even build a solar installation in Death Valley

Leave it to Walter Russell Mead for the best article on why Green Tech Plus Red Tape Yields No Hope

Where better to set up solar panels than California’s Death Valley? The sun’s always shining and from May to September the temperature doesn’t stray much below a whopping 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yet even in Death Valley government-funded solar projects are floundering.  The L.A. Times has the story:
--
According to the article, the solar panels in Death Valley have been unplugged for at least two-and-a-half years due to the various agencies tripping over one another.

And in the meantime, one has to wonder: if the wrangling, process crazed bureaucrats wrestling with the conflicting, nonsensical regulations and requirements issued by various state, local and federal bureaucracies can’t work out reasonable solutions to the relatively simple question involved in a no-brain solar installation in the desert, what chance is there that these same bureaucracies will redesign the American energy grid and take us to the low carbon utopia that always seems just out of reach?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:09 PM | Permalink

December 3, 2011

The unknown health risks that are shutting down music in the EU

David Pryce-Jones reveals unknown health risks that is shutting down music in the EU

At which timely moment, the Daily Mail reports a special contribution of the Brussels bureaucracy: Musicians may no longer be allowed to play instruments whose strings are made of the traditional cow gut. The prohibition was apparently brought in a decade ago; there were dispensations, but these are not being renewed.

Oh, how they care for our well-being! They’ve spotted a health risk. Nobody has ever caught mad-cow disease from a stringed instrument, but you never know, they just might. Not long ago, these bureaucrats put a similar ban on organ pipes. Nobody in a thousand years has been ill from the lead content of organ pipes, but again they might have been. Never mind that we shall never be able to hear the music of Bach as he heard it.

Here's what the Daily Mail said:  Bach-ing mad: EU could ban orchestras from using cow gut for strings

They are lauded as some of  the greatest works of European culture.

But even compositions by the likes of Bach, Vivaldi and Purcell aren’t safe from the Brussels busybodies.

Performers warn it may soon be impossible to play such music as the composers intended it to be heard because of EU rules restricting the manufacture of traditional cow gut instrument strings.
--
Campaigners say that to catch mad cow disease, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, from strings from an infected animal, you would need to swallow several yards of them.

Carolyn Clarke, of manufacturer Bow Brand, of King’s Lynn, Norfolk, said: ‘The gut is bleached and varnished in string making so it poses no risk to humans.

‘And why would anyone chew on a harp string?’  

Violinist Viktoria Mullova, who has a 1750 Guadagnini violin with gut strings, said banning such strings ‘would be like telling pop stars they couldn’t use microphones’.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:16 PM | Permalink

November 9, 2011

“America is seizing up before our eyes”

American Optimism by Elizabeth Scalia

Last week Mark Steyn wrote, “America is seizing up before our eyes,” and that is a spot-on image. She is like a brilliantly conceived machine that, poorly maintained for more years than any of us cares to admit, has gone too long untuned; the oil of her invention has thinned out and broken down and now bit-by-bit, gear-by-gear—economically, socially, spiritually—she is making an ungodly noise and grinding to a halt.
---

There are probably ten thousand articles to be found on the Internet all fleshing out their theories of what is behind America’s swift collapse. Curiously, most of them will touch—all without realizing it—on the seven deadly sins; Capitalist Greed; Spiritual Sloth; Physical Lust; Nationalist/Military Pride; Consumer Gluttony; Partisan Wrath; Class Envy. Good arguments can be made blaming some are all of these sins for our current dire straits and for the sense that we are standing upon a precipice.

The classical seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues are relevant in all ages, even ours, because human nature doesn't change.

Here is the article Elizabeth referenced: Mark Steyn, Occupiers part of grand alliance against the productive

At first glance, an alliance of anarchists and government might appear to be somewhat paradoxical. But the formal convergence in Oakland makes explicit the movement's aims: They're anarchists for statism, wild free-spirited youth demanding more and more total government control of every aspect of life – just so long as it respects the fundamental human right to sloth. What's happening in Oakland is a logical exercise in class solidarity: the government class enthusiastically backing the breakdown of civil order is making common cause with the leisured varsity class, the thuggish union class and the criminal class in order to stick it to what's left of the beleaguered productive class. It's a grand alliance of all those societal interests that wish to enjoy in perpetuity a lifestyle they are not willing to earn. Only the criminal class is reasonably upfront about this. The rest – the lifetime legislators, the unions defending lavish and unsustainable benefits, the "scholars" whiling away a somnolent half-decade at Complacency U – are obliged to dress it up a little with some hooey about "social justice" and whatnot.
--
America is seizing up before our eyes: The decrepit airports, the underwater property market, the education racket, the hyper-regulated business environment. Yet, curiously, the best example of this sclerosis is the alleged "revolutionary" movement itself. It's the voice of youth, yet everything about it is cobwebbed
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

October 28, 2011

"A class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists"

Peggy Noonan likes Paul Ryan as much as I do and writes much better, The Divider vs. The Thinker.

Mr. Ryan receives much praise, but I don't think his role in the current moment has been fully recognized. He is doing something unique in national politics. He thinks. He studies. He reads. Then he comes forward to speak, calmly and at some length, about what he believes to be true. He defines a problem and offers solutions, often providing the intellectual and philosophical rationale behind them. Conservatives naturally like him—they agree with him—but liberals and journalists inclined to disagree with him take him seriously and treat him with respect.

This week in a major speech entitled Saving the American Idea: Rejecting Fear, Envy and the Politics of Division  , he attacked corporate welfare and crony capitalism

"Why have we extended an endless supply of taxpayer credit to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, instead of demanding that their government guarantee be wound down and their taxpayer subsidies ended?" Why are tax dollars being wasted on bankrupt, politically connected solar energy firms like Solyndra? "Why is Washington wasting your money on entrenched agribusiness?"

Rather than raise taxes on individuals, we should "lower the amount of government spending the wealthy now receive." The "true sources of inequity in this country," he continued, are policies "that enriches the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless." The real class warfare that threatens us is "a class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society."

Most of the country knows this.  Angelo Codevilla in his  essay last year,  America's Ruling Class and the Perils of Revolution was prophetic. 

Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?
---

Its attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that "we" are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. How did this replace the Founding generation's paradigm that "all men are created equal"?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:31 AM | Permalink

October 10, 2011

"Learn to Love the Gridlock"

Justice Scalia reminds us what makes the United States different from other countries

Why do you think America is such a free country? What is it in our Constitution that makes us what we are?” And I guarantee you that the response I will get — and you will get this from almost any American *** the answer would be: freedom of speech; freedom of the press; no unreasonable searches and seizures; no quartering of troops in homes… those marvelous provisions of the Bill of Rights.
--
the real key to the distinctiveness of America is the structure of our government.  One part of it, of course, is the independence of the judiciary, but there’s a lot more.
--
There are very few countries in the world, for example, that have a bicameral legislature...very few countries have two separate bodies in the legislature equally powerful.  That’s a lot of trouble, as you gentlemen doubtless know, to get the same language through two different bodies elected in a different fashion.

Very few countries in the world have a separately elected chief executive.
--
“Ach, it is gridlock.”  I hear Americans saying this nowadays, and there’s a lot of it going around.  They talk about a disfunctional government because there’s disagreement… and the Framers would have said, “Yes! That’s exactly the way we set it up. We wanted this to be power contradicting power because the main ill besetting us — as Hamilton said in The Federalist when he talked about a separate Senate: “Yes, it seems inconvenient, inasmuch as the main ill that besets us is an excess of legislation, it won’t be so bad.”  This is 1787; he didn’t know what an excess of legislation was.
--
Unless Americans can appreciate that and learn to love the separation of powers, which means learning to love the gridlock which the Framers believed would be the main protector of minorities, [we lose] the main protection.  If a bill is about to pass that really comes down hard on some minority [and] they think it’s terribly unfair, it doesn’t take much to throw a monkey wrench into this complex system.  Americans should appreciate that; they should learn to love the gridlock.  It’s there so the legislation that does get out is good legislation.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

September 29, 2011

The U.S. government sold guns to really bad guys

Fast and Furious is a scandal I can't keep up with, but now, according to Michael Walsh in the NYPost, there is A 'Furious' revelation .  I agree that a special prosecutor is now needed.  This is far worse than Watergate.

This just might be the smoking gun we’ve been waiting for to break the festering “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal wide open: the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives apparently ordered one of its own agents to purchase firearms with taxpayer money, and sell them directly to a Mexican drug cartel.

Let that sink in: After months of pretending that “Fast and Furious” was a botched surveillance operation of illegal gun-running spearheaded by the ATF and the US attorney’s office in Phoenix, it turns out that the government itself was selling guns to the bad guys.
--
People were killed with Fast and Furious weapons, including at least two American agents and hundreds of Mexicans. And the taxpayers picked up the bill.

So where’s the outrage?

There’s none from the feds. Attorney General Eric Holder has consistently stonewalled Rep. Darrell Issa, Sen. Chuck Grassley and other congressional investigators.
--
Further, we now know that a host of federal agencies (including the ATF, the FBI and IRS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration and, very probably, top officials at the Department of Homeland Security) were all in the loop at various levels, as was the White House.

Where are the Woodward and Bernsteins of today?  At Pajamas Media, MSM Sheep: Ignoring the Scandal of the Century

I don’t wish to understate it: elements of the U.S. Departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security, and Treasury are responsible for supplying an arsenal to narco-terrorists waging a civil war against an American ally. Our federal government may bear responsibility for at least 200 murders committed with “walked” firearms, in what Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales describes as a “betrayal” of her country by the Obama administration.
--
This is objectively the most important political and legal story in America right now.
--
Instead, both the New York Times and Washington Post have responded to Gunwalker with attempted character assassinations of Congressman Darrell Issa, the lead investigator.

The Post ran a desperate hit piece on Issa, a story turned down by at least two other news organizations and left-wing blog Talking Points Memo for being too thinly sourced. They gave the byline to a reporter returning from a plagiarism suspension.

After that failed to stop Issa, the New York Times produced a hit piece so rife with errors that it amounted to fiction.

Among the MSM, only Richard Serrano of the Los Angeles Times, Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News, and William Lajeunesse of Fox News have faithfully reported on the story.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 PM | Permalink