Archive for April, 2013
April 30th, 2013 at 7:47 pm
California Teachers Sue NEA to Block Forced Union Dues

Ten California public school teachers are suing both the National Education Association (NEA), and its state affiliate, the California Teachers Association (CTA), to block a mandatory $1,000 annual contribution to the union – even though none of the teachers are members of the union.

California’s “fair share” and “agency shop” laws allow CTA, the state’s dominant teachers union, to extract involuntary contributions to fund its activities since non-members are deemed to benefit from the union’s collective bargaining agreements, reports Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner.

The teachers’ lawsuit “claims that NEA and CTA dues fund a Democratic political agenda, not just collective bargaining.” And since the teachers suing don’t agree with that agenda, their coerced dues amount to compelled speech.

In other words, California’s draconian employment tax on non-CTA teachers could be unconstitutional, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s reasoning in Knox v. Service Employees International Union (2012).

Such a ruling could help weaken the CTA’s stranglehold on California politics, and stop its pilfering of non-members’ paychecks.

Stay tuned.

April 30th, 2013 at 2:00 pm
NRO: Time to Fix GOP’s ObamaCare Messaging

The editors at National Review Online give some much-needed advice to the congressional GOP:

“The basic outline of a workable strategy is easy to draw up. First, Republicans should explain why Obamacare is unlikely to work. Second, they should finally unite behind an alternative that would let at least as many people get coverage as Obamacare but without the law’s side-effects. Third, they should say that they plan to repeal and replace Obamacare as soon as they can do so — whether in one fell swoop, which could occur only under a new president in 2017, or one step at a time. Fourth, they should advance bills that both replace parts of Obamacare and highlight its flaws.”

The most perplexing thing about congressional Republicans is that no one has stepped forward to be the Paul Ryan of health care reform. Ryan spent years in the background learning the federal budget process to construct a clear, workable reform that slows down the growth of entitlement spending while making Medicare and Medicaid more market friendly.

With ObamaCare on the books since 2010, it’s a wonder that no Republican in the House or Senate has taken on the responsibility of putting together an alternative that the GOP can rally around. To my knowledge, no one – not the 16 Republican physicians in Congress or anyone on a relevant committee – is taking steps to make sure there’s a workable replacement in the event conservatives get their wish and repeal ObamaCare.

It’s not enough to be right that ObamaCare is wrong on the merits and impossible to implement. There’s also got to be a contrasting vision of health care reform that is better than ObamaCare.

As of now, we’re still waiting.

April 27th, 2013 at 11:12 am
More Writers, Groups Blast Thomas Perez

The excellent Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute takes on Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez here. CATO’s superb constitutional expert Ilya Shapiro does so in a post whose headline calls Perez “all that is bad with government.”  Merit Matters, representing the finest of the FDNY, does so here. James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation weighed in, too. And there have been lots of others.

And George Talbot of the Mobile Press-Register reports a hugely disturbing story of Perez threatening Alabama sheriffs. Please read this one: Is it even lawful for a federal official to threaten sheriffs not to enforce a duly passed law that hasn’t been blocked by the courts?

Perez is a lout.

April 26th, 2013 at 8:04 pm
Feds “Mollycoddle” Jihadists But Profile Christians, Pro-Lifers and Veterans

As a follow-on to Quin’s column this week, it’s interesting to learn which people agencies of the federal government think deserve to be profiled, monitored, etc.

On the one hand, as the Washington Examiner (echoing Quin) points out, FBI training manuals were systematically purged in 2011 of all references to Islam that were judged offensive by a specially created five-member panel.” “Nearly 900 pages were removed from the manuals as a result of that review.”

Without a training manual to fall back on for cover, it’s no wonder that FBI agents took a hands-off approach when investigating Tamerlan Tsarnev, one of the two Boston Marathon bombers who posted a pro-jihad video on his Facebook page. Without specific, bureau-approved criteria for monitoring Tsarnev even though he expressed radical views, frontline investigators let a future terrorist roam free.

But not to worry; the Obama administration knows whom to target.

David Limbaugh over at NewsBusters has a sobering round-up of many of the instances of government profiling of Christians, pro-lifers, and Second Amendment supporters.

Examples include military bases blocking access to the Southern Baptist Convention’s website for “hostile content,” a West Point study linking pro-life advocates to terrorism and a Department of Homeland Security briefing alleging that returning military veterans with Tea Party views could pose a security threat.

Branches of the federal government as diverse as the U.S. Army, DHS and the Houston National Cemetery, among others, are part of a seemingly coordinated effort to monitor and marginalize people that not so long ago would have been considered as the patriotic backbone of America. In today’s upside-down world, however, not so much.

Clearly, when it wants to, the Obama administration knows how to keep tabs on individuals and groups it deems dangerous to public safety. Unfortunately, they aren’t the people who are acting like terrorists.

April 26th, 2013 at 2:27 pm
NYT Confirms Pigford Fraud

Remember the multi-layered Pigford scandal?

After years of criticisms by conservatives that the controversial lawsuit settlements were politically-engineered windfalls paid at taxpayers’ expense, The New York Times, flagship publication of the mainstream media, confirms every word:

But a succession of courts — and finally the Supreme Court — had rebuffed their pleas. Instead of an army of potential claimants, the government faced just 91 plaintiffs. Those cases, the government lawyers figured, could be dispatched at limited cost.

They were wrong.

On the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling, interviews and records show, the Obama administration’s political appointees at the Justice and Agriculture Departments engineered a stunning turnabout: they committed $1.33 billion to compensate not just the 91 plaintiffs but thousands of Hispanic and female farmers who had never claimed bias in court.
The deal, several current and former government officials said, was fashioned in White House meetings despite the vehement objections — until now undisclosed — of career lawyers and agency officials who had argued that there was no credible evidence of widespread discrimination. What is more, some protested, the template for the deal — the $50,000 payouts to black farmers — had proved a magnet for fraud.

The total cost of the Pigford-related settlements could exceed $4.4 billion.

With the facts undisputed, it’s time to get answers and, perhaps, resignations.

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April 26th, 2013 at 1:12 pm
House GOP to Make Immigration Reform Intelligible

The Los Angeles Times has a good piece outlining how House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), a former immigration attorney whose committee has jurisdiction over immigration laws, is planning to contribute to the reform debate begun by the Senate’s Gang of Eight proposal.

In contrast to the Gang’s sprawling 844 pages, Goodlatte is opting for much smaller pieces of legislation that deal with specific issues, such as a guest worker program, border security, and expanding use of E-Verify among employers.

Goodlatte’s process also has another feature that commends it – education for deliberation.

“At the same time, however, the House bills could provide an important educational exercise for many newer GOP lawmakers as they learn the complexities of the immigration debate. Many Republicans represent congressional districts that have very small Latino or immigrant populations, leaving them unfamiliar with the issue. Republican leaders, however, believe that passing immigration reform legislation is vital to their future electoral strategy of attracting Latino voters.

“Goodlatte and others have been conducting study sessions attended by 100 Republican lawmakers to bring them up to speed on immigration issues.”

A big part of Paul Ryan’s popularity is derived from his emphasis on explaining how the current federal system works, where it needs to be fixed, and what solutions will fix the problems. Just like Ryan, Goodlatte seems to realize that Members of Congress, and the public too, will benefit from getting more time, more information, and more debate about how to fix our broken immigration system.

Besides, as ObamaCare has shown, there’s no virtue in “comprehensive” reform if its parts are unintelligible and unworkable. Better to get the policy right the first time.

April 26th, 2013 at 12:00 pm
This Week’s Liberty Update
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Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Senik:  Boston Terrorism: An Immigration Wake-Up Call
Hillyer:  Obamites Must Stop Mollycoddling Islamists
Ellis:  Unaccountable Congress Considers Exempting Self from ObamaCare Exchanges
Lee: Civil Libertarians and Excessive Post-Boston Angst

Video:  Obama’s Make-Believe Budget
Podcast:  Unions Set Sights South
Jester’s Courtroom:  Third Time’s Not a Charm

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

April 25th, 2013 at 7:37 pm
More ObamaCare “Drafting Errors” Show Law’s Fatal Flaws

And the hits just keep on coming.

After news broke that the leadership in both the House and Senate were conspiring to exempt themselves from ObamaCare’s costly insurance exchanges, we’re told that the problem isn’t Congress shirking responsibility for a law it passed.

It’s worse.

The real issue, according to reporting by health policy expert Ezra Klein, is that Congress is too stupid to write a law clear enough to know what it does.

Per Klein:

“Here’s how it happened: Back during the Affordable Care Act negotiations, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) proposed an amendment forcing all members of Congress and all of their staffs to enter the exchanges. The purpose of the amendment was to embarrass the Democrats. But in a bit of jujitsu of which they were inordinately proud, Democrats instead embraced the amendment and added it to the law.

“So Grassley’s amendment means that the largest employer in the country is required to put some of its employees — the ones working for Congress — on the exchanges. But the exchanges don’t have any procedures for handling premium contributions for large employers.

“That’s where the problem comes in. This was an offhand amendment that was supposed to be rejected. It’s not clear that the federal government has the authority to pay for congressional staffers on the exchanges, the way it pays for them now in the federal benefits program. That could lead to a lot of staffers quitting Congress because they can’t afford to shoulder 100 percent of their premiums.”

Got that?

Rather than think through how an amendment would alter the structure of a law that, as one of its architects put it recently, “is probably the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress,” Democrats opted to play games. No wonder the lead author of the law sees “a huge train wreck coming down.”

Whether it’s a fine that’s really a tax, a “family glitch,” or now an ambiguous gap in coverage, ObamaCare’s so-called drafting errors are making it one of the worst written laws ever.

April 25th, 2013 at 4:37 pm
Video: Obama’s Make-Believe Budget
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In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the president’s budget proposal and how its calls for even higher taxes, higher spending, bigger government and more empty promises will do nothing to get us out of the Obama recession.

April 25th, 2013 at 3:06 pm
Harm Offensive

Read all about it at The American Spectator. It comes from Obama and starts at the FAA, and then on from there.

April 24th, 2013 at 9:58 am
Rallying Against Thomas Perez

David Bossie of Citizens United has come out swinging against Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez. Not only does Bossie hit Perez for things I’ve mentioned in the past, such as unlawful use of private e-mails for government business (and then testifying falsely about the same), but Bossie also notes this:

Thomas Perez has also waged war against people of faith and the pro-life movement. For example, he brought a case against Mary Susan Pine in Florida Federal Court. Pine is a woman who for more than two decades engaged in friendly sidewalk counseling for women seeking abortions in West Palm Beach. While engaging in this ministry, Ms. Pine was notified by police that she had violated city and state traffic laws on one particular day, then the Justice Department brought charges under Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE). However, because FACE allows an exemption for peaceful demonstration, it was immediately tossed out of court and Perez’s division was charged court and attorney fees.

When it says Perez’ “division” had to pay court fees, what it means is that American taxpayers had to pay the fees and penalties for Perez’ improper attempt to prosecute a peaceful, innocent woman.

As I’ve noted before, Perez and his team have quite a losing streak in court. Not only are they radical and dishonest, but they are bad lawyers, too:

Indeed, Perez doesn’t even seem to be a very good lawyer at all: His positions also have been rebuked by courts in Arkansas (about the Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act), again in the D.C. District Court, in New York on an education case (U.S. v. Brennan), in a Florida abortion case where Perez’ team was abusively prosecuting peaceful protesters, and most particularly in a major Perez loss in Florida when trying to force the state not to remove non-citizens from its voter rolls.

Perez is a loser and a fraud.

April 23rd, 2013 at 5:01 pm
More Against the Core

Two weeks ago I wrote here (in part) about the efforts of Alabama reformers to escape from the Common Core national educational standards. Now comes Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation to explain why Alabama really ought to make such as escape.

Here’s the key section:

In fact, the state standards Alabama eschewed in order to adopt Common Core standards were quite good, receiving high marks from the Fordham Institute and Education Week’s Quality Counts survey. Alabama students would be well-served by returning to the standards and assessments that were in place before the state signed on to Common Core and working to improve upon those standards in a way that meets the unique needs of local schools and students.

Across the country, policymakers, teachers, parents, and taxpayers are waking up to the numerous problems Common Core national standards present. The loss of classic literature, the mediocre mathematics standards, the significant costs to taxpayers, the elimination of competitive pressure to increase standards of excellence, and, most troubling, the massive federal intervention and further disenfranchisement of parents.

This is a big deal. As this peer-reviewed study indicates, Common Core is a trap.

April 23rd, 2013 at 4:13 pm
Using Stimulus for Polling Strippers

The reformist public interest group Cause of Action released a very interesting report last week, one which I had hoped to have time by now to write about at greater length. For immediate purposes, though, time doesn’t allow, so here’s the short version: Through the infamous 2009 “stimulus” bill, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control allocated at least $94 million worth of grants that, to quote the CoA press release, “supported lobbyists and public relations companies who used taxpayer dollars to push laws and agendas that would lead to tax increases on tobacco and sugar sweetened products—violating federal law as well as HHS and Office of Management and Budget guidelines.”

Asked CoA Executive Director Dan Epstein: “With a program whose funding is expected to grow into the billions, how much more lobbying will the taxpayers be on the hook for before Kathleen Sebelius decides that it’s time to be accountable?”

There’s lot of good stuff in the report, most of it important but less than, uh, sexy. But, as is often the case, amidst the straightforward details there is one particular absurdity sure to attract guffaws.  It seems that one grantee actually conducted a focus group, on the effects of a proposed smoking ban, with nine “exotic dancers.” The strippers, according to the report, said that a “smoke-free adult entertainment establishment” would lead to a loss of income.

Gotta love using federal taxpayers to discover that patrons won’t look at what’s hot unless they have smoke. (Does this mean that where there’s no smoke, there’s no heat?)

Jokes aside, the rest of the CoA report documents misuse of tax funds that, even if not quite so nakedly absurd, are equally objectionable from a legal standpoint. Every bureaucrat and grantee is supposed to know that using federal funds to lobby government is strictly verboten — but HHS seems uninterested in providing the oversight necessary to make sure the rule is enforced.

Coming from an agency whose Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, already was found to have improperly campaigned on government time, in violation of the Hatch Act, this is further evidence of the Obamites’ rampant politicization of the bureaucracy.  (Surprise, surprise: The White House declined to punish her.)

Again, the whole report is here.

April 23rd, 2013 at 1:52 pm
Dem Senator Retires After Calling ObamaCare “Train Wreck”

And now the other shoe drops.

Less than a week after telling HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that her implementation of ObamaCare’s costly and confusing health care system is a “train wreck,” U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) announces he’s retiring.

Baucus’s comments caused a stir because they met the Washington, D.C. definition of a gaffe – telling the truth in public.  With the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and lead ObamaCare author, on record as criticizing the President’s signature policy, it looked like it might finally be acceptable for Democrats in Congress to admit the obvious: ObamaCare is a disaster in the making.

But rather than stick around and fight to reform the law, Baucus is choosing to bow out of a tough reelection campaign in 2014. The decision could make it much easier for Republicans to pick up the seat, potentially adding another vote to the conservative-led repeal caucus.

Whatever the spin, this much is clear. Last week Baucus let it be known he could no longer defend the law. Now, it’s clear he can’t win with it either.

Hopefully, it’s the start of a trend.

April 23rd, 2013 at 11:18 am
Washington Post Poll: Bush Approval Now Equals Obama’s
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Well, this will come as unwelcome news in the Obama White House.  Their “Blame Bush” raison detre never held merit intellectually.  Even if it did, however, someone willing to blame Bush for Obama’s failures at this point would by logic have to blame Clinton for Bush’s failures.  Now, a new poll from The Washington Post and ABC News suggests that it’s no longer a workable political strategy regardless of logic.  Specifically, almost as many people now approve of Bush’s performance as disapprove, and he now equals Obama:

The new poll found 47 percent saying they approve and 50 percent saying they disapprove. Among registered voters, his approval rating today is equal to President Obama’s, at 47 percent, according to the latest Post-ABC surveys.”

So “Blame Bush” is running on fumes, and exploiting the Newtown victims’ parents as political props failed him.  To which ploy will Obama stoop next?

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April 22nd, 2013 at 4:06 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: Terrorism
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez. 

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

April 22nd, 2013 at 2:44 pm
THIS WEEK’s RADIO SHOW LINEUP: CFIF’s Renee Giachino Hosts “Your Turn” on WEBY Radio 1330 AM
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Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CDT/5:00 pm EDT:  Matt Patterson, Senior Fellow, Center for Economic Freedom at the Competitive Enterprise Institute – UAW Sets Sights South;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Phil Kerpen, President of American Commitment – Tax Dollars Illegally Funding Lobbying;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Charlotte Hays, Director of Cultural Programs at the Independent Women’s Forum – The Lean In Debate; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Tyler Kercher, Florida State Association Director for Skills USA – Florida State Leadership and Skills Conference.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

April 20th, 2013 at 9:37 am
Calif.’s High Speed Rail Barrels through another Barrier

This won’t make California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown happy.

On the same day a state court blessed a settlement between Brown’s high-speed rail authority and Central Valley farmers that clears the way to begin construction on a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco bullet train, the federal Surface Transportation Board announced it is claiming jurisdiction over the multi-billion dollar project, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

California officials have filed for an exemption, but that might not be an easy sell since the state has angered environmental activists by seeking exemptions from several state regulations already. I wouldn’t be surprised if the assertion of jurisdiction by STB is the result of some closed door lobbying at the federal level to slow down Brown & Co.’s runaway rail project.

Either way, California taxpayers may get an unexpected ally if STB maintains a presence. Originally approved by voters in 2008 with an advertised price tag of $10 billion, the proposed rail line is now estimated to cost at least $68 billion. If the project is made to comply with the federal versions of state regulations California has exempted itself from, the cost of the program will climb higher still.

Further cost overruns and delays could become California’s version of ObamaCare – an idea with a cost structure too big to work that gives partisans on both sides something to hate.

If conservatives want to make headway in Golden State politics, cheering on the train wreck that is Governor Brown’s high-speed rail boondoggle could be one of the ways to start.

April 19th, 2013 at 11:58 am
This Week’s Liberty Update
Posted by Print

Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Lee:  Leading Democrat Labels ObamaCare “Train Wreck”
Ellis:  Poll: Favorability of States Rise While Feds Fall to Historic Low
Hillyer:  Borax Case Needs Lemon-Freshening

Podcast:  ObamaCare: The Doctor is Out
Jester’s Courtroom:  Jackpot Justice

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

April 19th, 2013 at 9:05 am
Podcast – ObamaCare: The Doctor is Out
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In an interview with CFIF, Sally Pipes, president, CEO and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, discusses how ObamaCare is prompting doctors to make plans to retire early or depart from the current system of third-party payment, and what that means for patients.

Listen to the interview here.