Archive for August, 2013
August 16th, 2013 at 9:09 am
Podcast – Embassy Closings: A Sign of Bad Things to Come
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In an interview with CFIF, Tim Connors, Senior Manager in the Law Enforcement and Security Division of CAAS, LLC, and former Director of the Center for Policing Terrorism at the Manhattan Institute, discusses recent U.S. embassy closings, our nation’s diminishing military presence overseas, intelligence reports and prison crowding across the country.

Listen to the interview here.

August 15th, 2013 at 8:34 pm
The Lawless Presidency, Continued
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I’ve  written here several times before about the increasingly lawless shape that the Obama Administration has taken in recent years — whether it’s making recess appointments when Congress is still in session, exempting its friends from Obamacare, or trying to make the DREAM Act law via executive order, the reflexive contempt for the separation of powers is regularly apparent. Now, two more items on that front.

First, our friend John Yoo, writing alongside John Bolton at National Review, notes Obama’s decision to bypass Congress’s authority over international treaties in pursuit of a nuclear arms reduction deal with Russia:

The Constitution, however, still stands athwart Obama’s rush to a nuclear-free utopia. Article II, Section 2 declares that the president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties,” but only if “two thirds of the Senators present concur.” President Obama’s last nuclear-reduction pact, the 2011 New START Treaty with Russia, cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal to dangerously low levels, 750 strategic delivery systems and 1,550 warheads. It passed the Senate by a vote of 71–26, but only after breaking a filibuster with 67 votes, not one to spare.

Uncertain it can persuade a dozen Republicans to err again, the administration is considering a Russian deal without Senate approval. According to his spokesman, Secretary of State Kerry told senators that they “would be consulted as we moved forward into discussions with the Russian Federation, but did not indicate that the administration had decided to codify any results in a treaty.” Unnamed administration officials say Washington and Moscow could engage in reciprocal weapons cuts without a written agreement.

Those unnamed Administration officials are right, of course. There’d be nothing to prevent the two countries from coincidentally reducing stockpiles at the same time. At that point, however, it’s not a treaty, it’s a handshake promise, which sort of defeats the whole purpose. Given that international law is basically fictive, however, even a real treaty wouldn’t be particularly enforceable (especially with the roguish Putin), so we need not lose too much sleep over this one.

Then, this tidbit from the Daily Caller:

President Barack Obama is looking to unilaterally impose a $5-per-year tax on all cellphone users to avoid asking a recalcitrant Congress for funding.

The Washington Post first reported the story Tuesday.

The Federal Communications Commission, an independent agency headed by three Obama appointees, would collect the tax, tacking on an additional charge to devices already subject to local, state and federal fees, along with sales taxes…

Deputy White House press secretary John Earnest denied that the move was an “end run” around Congress in a press briefing Wednesday, but added that Congress’s “dysfunctional” state could justify an executive override.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a lot of action in Congress, so the president has advocated an administrative, unilateral action to get this done,” Ernest said.

In my column this week, I compared Obama to his progressive forebear, Woodrow Wilson. This only strengthens the case. Wilson, as you can read here, would have been an enthusiastic cheerleader for precisely this kind of executive chutzpah.

August 15th, 2013 at 6:25 pm
ObamaCare Navigators Could Make $20-48 an Hour Registering Voters

Today, the Obama administration announced $67 million in grants to 105 groups nationwide who will assist people trying to find health insurance on an ObamaCare exchange, according to Politico.

The groups are non-insurance organizations that will in turn employ so-called “navigators” to help insurance seekers fill out an ObamaCare application, obtain insurance, and yes, even register to vote.

Some of the groups receiving grants include Planned Parenthood affiliates and various community organizers and activists. Care to speculate which political party they’ll steer registrants to?

The likely pay isn’t bad either.

In a proposed regulation issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid two weeks ago, it is suggested that the groups employing navigators pay between $20 and $48 an hour. (Navigators are prohibited by law from being paid by insurance companies, so compensation is expected to come from grant recipients.)

You’ve got to hand it to liberals. Not only do they manage to find a way to pay themselves to grow an entitlement, they get to grow their political support too.

What’s that line about democracy lasting only until the people discover they can vote themselves the treasury…?

August 14th, 2013 at 12:01 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Obama-Holder DOJ
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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.

August 13th, 2013 at 1:41 pm
NYC Mayor Bloomberg Dislikes His Own Micromanagement Tactics When Turned Against Him
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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg apparently doesn’t like it when others employ his own nanny-state tactics against him.  In his remarks yesterday after a federal court ruled the NYPD’s “Stop, Question and Frisk” policy unconstitutional, Bloomberg used some awfully sloppy and ironic language, considering his infamous habit of micromanaging citizens’ Second Amendment rights, their soft drink choices, their salt intake and so on:

“Let’s be clear.  People have a right to walk down the street without being targeted by police.  And we have a duty to uphold that right, which is why I’ve signed a law banning racial profiling, and it’s why the NYPD has intensified its training around Stop-Question-Frisk.

But people also have a right to walk down the street without being killed or mugged.  And for those rights to be protected, we have to give the members of our Police Department the tools they need to do their jobs without being micromanaged and second-guessed every day by a judge or a monitor.”

I certainly agree with Bloomberg that yesterday’s decision was incorrect, unwise and not supported by the applicable law or facts.  That said, it would be nice if he would practice what he suddenly preaches.  Hopefully, this moment will serve as a corrective for his own micromanagement inclination while the court decision itself heads down the road toward reversal.

August 12th, 2013 at 3:54 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:  Tim Connors, Senior Manager in the Law Enforcement and Security Division of CAAS, LLC – National Security and Embassy Closings;

4:30 CDT/5:30 EDT:  Scott McEwen, Coauthor of the #! New York Times bestseller “American Sniper” – nonstop-action thriller, “Sniper Elite: One-Way Trip”;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Lance Izumi, Koret Senior Fellow and Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute – Unions and Schools; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Angela Logomasini, Senior Fellow at Competitive Enterprise Institute – Liberal Media Needlessly Scaring Women.

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

August 12th, 2013 at 11:07 am
Study: Conservatives More Adventurous than Liberals in Consumer Choices
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So here’s some interesting socio-political news.  A new study from one of the top business schools in the nation, Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, contradicts the popular stereotype that conservatives are comparatively stodgy and unadventurous while liberals are open-minded and inclined to try new things.

According to the study to be released today, conservatives are actually more adventurous than liberals when it comes to product selection and real-world exercise of choice.  According to Naomi Mandel, one of the study’s authors, “Usually, when you think of conservatives, you think of people who like to have control over things or who are familiar and predictable.”  Those of us who actually are conservatives, of course, tend to know better.  After all, we’re the ones devoted to “free markets, free people,” as the saying goes.  By getting government off of people’s backs and allowing them to make their own individualized choices rather than comply with more of a government-dictated, one-size-fits-all model, societies can become more prosperous and happier, as the real-world evidence repeatedly confirms.

So liberals can continue expressing fealty toward choice-limiting institutions like ObamaCare or the Post Office.  Contrary to popular myth, we conservatives reply, “Vive le difference!”

August 9th, 2013 at 5:29 pm
Waiver Wars
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There are a lot of reasons to lament the rise of the administrative state. There’s the lack of accountability that comes from policy decisions being made by unelected bureaucrats. There are the cozy relationships that often form between regulators and those they regulate. There’s the avalanche of rules and regulations that make the law so vast as to be virtually unknowable. But one factor that’s become especially salient during the Obama years is the fact that administrative caprice undermines equality before the law. Case in point: the outbreak of waivers for favored clients of the Obama Administration.

While we’ve heard about this trend most often in regards to Obamacare, it’s also become a serious issue in education. As noted in Ezra Klein’s Wonkbook:

No Child Left Behind technically expired in 2007. But Congress didn’t manage to do anything about it. They just kept appropriating money for the zombie bill. And so the outdated provisions of this out-of-touch bill began strangling the education system.

NCLB says that fully 100 percent of school districts need to meet tough proficiency goals in reading and math in 2014 or they lose tons of money. It’s not going to happen. They’re not going to hit those targets and that’s been clear for years now. Everyone knows NCLB needs an overhaul. But, you know, Congress.

So the Obama administration has started waiving NCLB for states that propose sufficiently rigorous alternative plans. So far, 39 states and the District of Columbia have been let out of No Child Left Behind. On Wednesday, they were joined by eight individual school districts in California — Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and Sanger. That’s the first time that’s ever happened.

“This is a pretty troubling development,” Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, told The Post. “The states have always traditionally been in control of accountability for most school districts. . . . The idea that the secretary of education is controlling the accountability system in eight districts in California is kind of mind-boggling.”

Of course, the Obama administration says, with some justification, that it would’ve been even more troubling to leave the million kids in these districts in the grips of a law that no longer makes any sense.

Luckily, we have a mechanism for amending or repealing laws that don’t make sense: it’s called Congress. If you can’t get a fix through, too bad. You don’t get to change the rules when you don’t like the outcome.

The Obama Administration shouldn’t be in a position to determine “sufficiently rigorous alternative plans” and favor some states over others. That’s a legislative judgment that needs to be worked out on Capitol Hill. And even that, frankly, is too much. Ideally, education should be managed exclusively at the state and local level. The bowels of the federal administrative state, however, are the last place from which control should be emanating.

August 9th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
All Animals Are Equal, but Congressional Animals Are More Equal than Others
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We all recall former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s infamous instruction that Congress should pass ObamaCare so that we can all find out what’s in it.  Well, it turns out that Congress itself didn’t like what it found, and desperately worked to secure a free pass from the ObamaCare mandates to which other Americans are bound.  Like in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” some are apparently more equal than others despite the law’s statutory language that Congress and its staffers would be subject to the law that they passed.  As our old compatriot Quin Hillyer notes, that not only violates the law and all concepts of fairness, it also contravenes an important portion of the Contract with America:

For decades, Congress had exempted itself in myriad ways from laws or rules applying to the rest of the country.  The Contract vowed to change that – and on the very first day of the new Congress in 1995, it did.  Here was the language:  “First, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress.”  How simple.  How straightforward.  And how important!  And for the next 18½ years, until this past week – and despite frequent rumors to the contrary – that’s exactly what Congress did.  For all its faults, Congress actually abided by the Contract’s rule.  But now that’s gone. Now, via a ruling worked out between certain congressional leaders and the White House, federal subsidies for health insurance – of a sort available to no private-sector workers – will continue to be provided for congressmen and their staffs.  This sort of special exemption for government workers is not a merely symbolic annoyance; instead, it feeds a perception that soon becomes an attitude that soon makes itself manifest in various actions.  The perception is that government workers are above the law; the attitude that can grow among the federal workforce is that those workers are our masters rather than our servants; and the actions that flow from that attitude can include many abuses, small and large, of privacy or liberty.”

An important point, and one that Americans should raise as Congressional leaders head home for August recess and citizen townhall meetings.

August 9th, 2013 at 11:45 am
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:

Ellis:  Misunderstanding ObamaCare’s Employer Mandate could be Costly for Small Businesses
Senik:  A War Worth Fighting: Rand Paul and Chris Christie
Lee:  CBS-Time Warner Standoff Reemphasizes Need to Deregulate TV Marketplace

Video:  A Town Hall Agenda
Podcast:  ObamaCare Is Fundamentally Unworkable
Jester’s Courtroom:  Ride at Own Risk

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.

August 9th, 2013 at 10:45 am
Video: A Town Hall Agenda
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From issues like ObamaCare to immigration to the ongoing administration scandals, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses several questions that should be put to Members of Congress at town hall meetings during the August recess.

August 9th, 2013 at 8:41 am
Podcast: ObamaCare Is Fundamentally Unworkable
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Avik Roy, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, discusses the Obama Administration’s unilateral decision to delay parts of ObamaCare, why delaying the employer mandate while continuing to implement the individual mandate is unfair to hard-working Americans and evidence that the law is failing to work as intended, and how ObamaCare will make health insurance less affordable as premiums rise.

Listen to the interview here.

August 8th, 2013 at 6:09 pm
Compassion, Liberal Style
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Protectionism for volunteers? It’s an idea only the left could love. From John K. Ross, writing at Reason:

In the aftermath of the tornado that devastated Joplin in 2011, Remote Area Medical, a Tennessee-based charity that provides free health care, sent its mobile eyeglass laboratory to Missouri to help.

But it wasn’t allowed to assist because Missouri law makes it extremely difficult for doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals to offer free services.

“We did send the vehicle up there,” said RAM founder Stan Brock. “Unfortunately, it was not allowed to do anything because we did not have a Missouri-licensed optometrist and opticians available to do the work.”

Now, the kindhearted amongst you may have assumed (hoped?) as I did upon reading that passage that this was the product of some archaic law that no one knew existed until the situation arose (though even then one would have to question why they bothered enforcing it). Nope. Not only is this active policy, it’s one that the Show-Me State’s governor is intent on protecting:

In May, state legislators passed the Volunteer Health Services Act, which would have allowed health professionals licensed in other states to offer free care in Missouri and also would have relaxed medical malpractice liability for volunteer health workers.

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill last month, writing that the VHSA “is unnecessary given that Missouri already has a system in place that encourages volunteerism.”

There is political calculation and then there’s intellectual and moral perversion. Saying “Thanks, but we’d prefer you not help the most afflicted amongst us” falls decidedly into the latter category. It’s stories like this that remind us that “compassionate conservatism” is a tautology.

August 8th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
Investigation of IRS Scandal Uncovers Links to the FEC

How often do the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Elections Commission share information about non-profit political groups?

If the question seems highly unusual that’s because it is. Ordinarily, there is no reason for the two federal agencies to communicate about a private entity, yet evidence is mounting that IRS and FEC officials had several conversations about politically conservative non-profit groups.

To recall, the IRS has the power to grant or strip a group’s non-profit status, and the FEC is the main arbiter of political speech. If there is evidence of coordination between these two agencies to discriminate against associations because of their viewpoint, a whole new level of government corruption will emerge.

To find out the truth, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is requesting “All documents and communications between or among any FEC official or employee and any IRS official or employee for the period January 1, 2008, to the present.”

If past experience with the Obama administration is any guide, House committee staff could be in for a lot of reading.

August 8th, 2013 at 2:05 pm
Some Clarity on ObamaCare’s Employer Mandate

Today, I’m up with a column that identifies what ObamaCare’s employer mandate really means for small businesses.

Note to Members of Congress and HR consultants – it’s not what you think.

Most of the attention on this particular mandate has focused on the idea that employers can avoid the twin threats of costly insurance or hefty fines if they pare back full-time employees to part-time status.

By not employing 50 full-time employees a small business can avoid triggering the mandate, or so the thinking goes.

But the reality is that ObamaCare adds up the total amount of part-time hours worked to create “full-time equivalent” (FTE) employees that count toward the 50 employee total. Meet or exceed the threshold, and say hello to huge compliance costs.

This is why a proposed legislative fix won’t actually solve the underlying problem, which is capping the amount of hours a small business can pay out to 50 FTEs – whether they are full-time, part-time or some combination of both.

It’s time for Congress to take a closer look at how ObamaCare’s employer mandate works and repeal it.

August 6th, 2013 at 7:25 pm
Ready for Your ObamaCare ID?

With just eight weeks to go until ObamaCare’s October 1 enrollment, the Health and Human Services department is scrambling to meet the deadline.

Its first order of business: A log-in portal where users can create a personal account.

In a few clicks you can get a sense of the kind of information you’ll be sharing via your account: family size, personal income, health history, age, gender and employment status.

Yes, some level of government likely has access to most if not all of this information, but it is ObamaCare’s user account that will, for the first time, house all of it in one place.

It will then be the Federal Data Hub’s job to share this information with the applicable state-based insurance exchange, and check your entries against another federal database to ensure accuracy.

As I’ve written before, the two federal databases will attract attention from hackers and identity thieves.

The ObamaCare user account creates a third inviting target.

Enjoy your privacy, while it lasts.

August 5th, 2013 at 10:28 am
Ramirez Cartoon: ‘But I Gave You My Flexibility…’
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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.

August 2nd, 2013 at 12:08 pm
Obama Saves Congress from ObamaCare

In a last ditch effort to shield Members of Congress and their staff members from having to pay the same outrageous premiums set to hit everyday Americans under ObamaCare, President Obama personally intervened to ensure that the government would instead pay the bill.

The deal preserves a 75 percent contribution by the federal government for Congress and its staff toward the price of the new, costlier health insurance premiums available under ObamaCare, according to Politico.

The decision flies in the face of an amendment attached to ObamaCare that requires Congress and staff to use the same health insurance exchanges as everyone else with the same rules. Until today, that meant that a person’s salary – from a Senator’s to an entry-level staff member’s – would determine whether a person qualifies for a federal subsidy and if so for how much.

But now we see that, once again, Congress and this President are choosing to operate by a different set of rules than the ones they enforce on everyone else.

August 2nd, 2013 at 11:48 am
‘Vital’ Agriculture Programs Pay Millions to the Dead
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If you followed the recent debate in Congress over the farm bill, you know that the associated programs were often sold as vital to preserving a way of life in rural America. To cut one red cent anywhere would be to betray the nation’s farmers. So we were told, anyway.

Well, it turns out that there are at least a few beneficiaries who will probably be able to get by without the federal handout. From James Grieff at Bloomberg View:

It’s bad enough that the U.S. government showers billions of dollars a year in subsidies and handouts on the nation’s farmers, a group that as a whole is much better off than most Americans. Now the Government Accountability Office says in a new report that many of the recipients of that federal largess aren’t even alive.

The agency determined that thousands of dead farmers have received as much as $36 million in payments for crop insurance, disaster aid and conservation programs. The report doesn’t say how dead farmers received the checks or who went to the banks to cash them — but never mind, since that wasn’t the GAO’s assignment.

These are the same people, keep in mind, who think that government can make health care less expensive than the private sector. Count me skeptical. In fact, I’m guessing that experiment will play out like an exaggerated version of the scenario above: with more money wasted and a higher body count.

August 2nd, 2013 at 11:00 am
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:

Lee:  “Recovery Summer,” Episode V – New Government Report Shows U.S. Economy Stalling Five Years into Recovery
Ellis:  Detroit’s ObamaCare Bailout Could Bankrupt the Young and Healthy
Senik:  Obama Gripped by Intellectual Exhaustion

Podcast:  Lessons Learned the Hard Way in Detroit
Jester’s Courtroom:  Into the Deep End

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.