Filed under: Foreign Policy, Humor, Politics, Russia | Tags: Speak Softly-No Sticks, The Wages of Passivity, U.S. Foreign Policy
We heard on the radio that President Obama had a telephone conversation with President Putin. I thought this was funny!
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Freedom, Health Care, Politics, Progressivism, Statism | Tags: Admitting Reality, Lies and Euphemisms, The Pretense of Universality
Ross Douthat had an excellent column on Sunday about “the serious moral defect at the heart of elite culture in America.”
He began with a look back at a column by a Harvard undergraduate, Sandra Y.L Korn, which got some attention thanks to its daring view of just how universities should approach academic freedom. She claimed such freedom was dated and destructive and that a doctrine of “academic justice” should prevail instead. Harvard should not permit its faculty to engage in work tainted by “racism, sexism, and heterosexism.” She could come up with only one contemporary example of a Harvard voice that ought to be silenced, a “single conservative octogenarian” the renowned political philosophy professor Harvey Mansfield. Possibly because there are no conservatives to be found at Harvard.
Douthat says he tries to be a “partisan of pluralism, which requires respecting Mozilla’s right to have a C.E.O. whose politics fit the climate of Silicon Valley, and Brandeis’s right to rescind degrees as it sees fit”… but it’s hard to maintain respect “when these institutions will not admit that this is what is going on. Instead, we have the pretense of universality —the insistence that the post-Eich Mozilla is open to all ideas, the invocations of the ‘spirit of free expression’ from a school that’s kicking a controversial speaker off the stage.”
It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.
I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.
Do read the whole thing. We desperately need to clearly understand just what is going on around us. Propaganda fails if everybody knows that it is just propaganda. Lies, recognized, are just embarrassing.
Journalist Jack Kelly asks “Why Aren’t Public Officials Held to Account for Lying?” He contrasts the penalty imposed on a television con man with the whoppers told by government officials, and suggests that the penalties for lying should be equally applied.
It was chiefly the concept of equal protection of the laws — the idea that the rules should apply to the rulers as well as the ruled — that made our government different from most others in the history of the world.
It is the lying that gets toxic.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Freedom, History, The Constitution | Tags: Internet Freedom, Internet Technology, Surrendering Control?
The Obama administration has backed off from its plan to abandon U.S. protection of the open internet in 2015, only a month after announcing its plan to do so. Objections from Bill Clinton, a warning letter from 35 Republican senators, and critical congressional hearings and the administration now says the change won’t happen for years, if ever.
The proposed change is an agreement under which the U.S. retains ultimate control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as Icann. Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling told Congress last week they can extend the contract for up four years.
A House panel voted along party lines on Thursday to delay the administration’s plan to surrender oversight over certain internet management functions. Republicans worry that the proposal to transfer power to an international nonprofit group could open the door to an Internet takeover by authoritarian regimes.The bill would block the transfer of Internet powers for up to a year while the Government Accountability Office investigates the administration’s plan. The bill now goes to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.
Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) argued that the United States should carefully study the proposal before moving forward.”We know what China has done to silence dissent and Vladimir Putin wants to use the powers of the [International Telecommunications Union] to control the internet.”
Democrats accused Republicans of being paranoid. Ranking Democrat Anita Eshoo said “It is not a conspiracy or a digital black helicopter.”
The policy in question is the protection of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) and the vital Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (ANA)— functions that are the lifeblood of the free flow of information online—linking easy-to-remember domain names to numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Bill Clinton issued a directive to Commerce in 1997, to maintain “a market-driven policy architecture that will allow the new digital economy to flourish while at the same time protecting citizens’ rights and freedoms.” Icann has worked under the auspices of the federal government since 1998 to perform the oversight role.
Obama wants to forsake these essential protections in the name of global accommodation, potentially allowing countries or even bodies like the United Nations to impose their own definition of internet “freedom.” Obama’s decision would be consistent with his views on net neutrality, recent efforts of the FCC to place monitors in U.S. newsrooms and the Justice Department’s surveillance of professional journalists.
There is significant evidence that international groups are big on the “international” or “we are the world” idea, and not so much concerned about freedom and equal access. Many authoritarian countries already try to control and censor the internet. Not everyone believes in freedom of information—and we have considerable evidence in our own country of the current struggle to control speech that is unpopular or provocative or simply disagrees. The recent flap about NSA surveillance has made many international activists concerned, although Internet freedom would seem to offer Internet surveillance free to all comers.
When Icann’s contract with the federal government expires in 2015, it simply means that one government contractor is no longer responsible for the administration task. It does not mean the federal government has agreed to cede the oversight role. Only a vote of the U.S. Congress could do that.
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Environment, Freedom, Law, Politics, Regulation | Tags: Misplaced Militarization, Snipers and Attack Dogs, The Bundy Ranch
The Standoff at the
O.K. Corral Bundy Ranch is standing off. The overarmed and overaggressive Bureau of Land Management has announced that because of the risk of violence, it is withdrawing its forces, some 200 armed agents, including snipers and guard dogs. The county sheriff negotiated the settlement.
It’s not at all clear what this was all about. The family settled in the area in the late 1800s and has ranched in the area ever since. The federal government has allowed Nevada ranchers to graze their cattle on tracts of adjacent public lands for generations. The federal government later created the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to administer and “protect” the vast “federal lands”* including the land the Bundy family’s livelihood is and was dependent upon.
*These lands are frequently called “federal land.” This is inaccurate. They are public lands, owned by the people, and the government supposedly “manages” them for the American people. I don’t think anyone has challenged this frequently used terminology in court, but they should.
I don’t know about you, but I have a real objection to all these armed forces, SWAT teams, and snipers attached to agencies of the government. The Coast Guard, Border Patrol (we read that they were reduced to firing beanbags), and ICE,need to be armed, but this is really going too far. The federal agency did quite a few dumb things. It tasered Cliven Bundy’s son Ammon, rounded up a bunch of the Bundy cattle, and then fenced off a “First Amendment Area” in the middle of nowhere to demonstrate the protection of an “endangered” desert tortoise.
The federal government told the Bundy family that a tortoise existed on the land and therefore the land’s usage for cattle would have to decrease — attacking the Bundy family livelihood, which has led to a 20-year legal battle.The legal battle would seem to have gone against the Bundy family, but the Bundy family can in fact claim to have enjoyed generations of grazing rights on public land — with an arrangement originating in the 1870s when ranchers were offered those rights an enticement for settling the West.
I have no knowledge of the legal aspects of the case, and I suspect that you can’t fight city hall or the federal government. I am deeply suspicious of any claim of “endangered species,” because those so designated usually aren’t actually endangered, and are only used as a tool to accomplish some other purpose. I don’t believe that the Endangered Species Act has ever “saved” a species. The problem is often a simple increase in the number of predators.
Breitbart has done a fine job of outlining the case, the rumors, the law, and the problems involved. I would suggest that the American people are troubled by our imperialistic government and the increased militarization of so many federal agencies who have no business with SWAT teams and armed attacks on ordinary citizens. The Bureau of Land Management brought the angry resistance on themselves, with overreaction.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Economy, Health Care, Politics, Progressivism, Taxes | Tags: How Insurance Works, The Unaffordable Care Act, Uninsured and Up The Creek
The health insurance policy rate hikes in excess of 6% in December were the largest reported since Morgan Stanley’s research team first started conducting quarterly surveys of insurance brokers in 2010. The April survey shows the largest rise in small and individual groups perhaps ever. The average increases are in excess of 11% in the small group market and 12% in the individual market. Some state increases are 10 to 50 times that amount. The analysts conclude that the “increases are largely due to changes under the ACA.”
The analysts conducting the survey attribute the rate increases largely to a combination of four factors set in motion by Obamacare: Commercial underwriting restrictions, the age bands that don’t allow insurers to vary premiums between young and old beneficiaries based on the actual costs of providing the coverage, the new excise taxes being levied on insurance plans, and new benefit designs.
For the individual insurance market (plans sold directly to consumers); among the ten states seeing some of the sharpest average increases are: Delaware at 100%, New Hampshire 90%, Indiana 54%, California 53%, Connecticut 45%, Michigan 36%, Florida 37%, Georgia 29%, Kentucky 29%, and Pennsylvania 28%.
For the small group market, among the ten states seeing the biggest increases are: Washington 588%, Pennsylvania 66%, California 37%, Indiana 34%, Kentucky 30%, Colorado 29%, Michigan 27%, Maryland 25%, Missouri 25%, and Nevada 23%.
Think of the bride whose intimate garden wedding grows into a society-page extravaganza as the guest list keeps growing. The simple two-tier wedding cake turns into a multi-storied edifice with elaborate floral icing on each layer. Not going to cost the same, and all those unneeded flowers and loops add to the cost, just as pediatric dentistry for 60 year-olds adds to the cost on an insurance policy. The massage therapy and acupuncture make a nice selling point, but it really isn’t free.
Since these hikes aren’t coming from HHS, but from the insurance companies, where it cannot be put off till “after the election,” it’s going to get interesting. Affordable Care indeed!
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Economy, Freedom, Regulation | Tags: Big Bloated Government, Exposing Layers of Excess, Spotlighting Duplication
How many bureaucrats does it take to screw in a lightbulb? According to USA today, It takes 10 different offices at the HHS to tun programs addressing AIDS in minority communities. Autism research is spread out over 11 separate agencies. Eight agencies at the DOD are looking for prisoners of war and those missing in action. Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado has 8 different satellite control centers to control 10 satellite programs.
These are simply 26 new areas pointed out by the Government Accountability Office, where federal government programs are overlapping, duplicative, fragmented or just inefficient. There are 162 areas so identified in part reports. This gives Congress a clear map for saving tens of billion of dollars a year.
We owe this list to Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who wrote the legislation requiring this annual report, which is now in its fourth year. “Turning this ready-made list of cuts into savings is one of the best ways Congress can regain the trust and confidence of the American people”, he said. “At the end of the day there are no short cuts around the hard work of oversight and identifying and eliminating waste.” The prepared testimony said:
It is impossible to account for how much money is wasted through duplication, in part because the government doesn’t keep track of which programs each agency is responsible for.
“One of the most troubling things in GAO’s report is the number of agencies that have no idea just how much taxpayer money they are spending on their programs,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). He has sponsored legislation , the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, that would require the government to better track spending data from Congress to an agency to its ultimate recipient. The bill has passed the House 388-1 last year and waiting for a vote from the Senate.
The agencies in question will object. Every agency in question will feel their slice of the pie is more important, and losing budget and personnel diminishes the agency. Bureaucracies always have empire-builders in their ranks. They just are not often recognized, because they have been good at telling their superiors how necessary that budget and that staff are to the good of the nation.
Many of GAO’s recommendations deal with some of the most complex and challenging areas across the federal government,” said Beth Cobert, the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, in a statement. “Fully addressing them is a long-term process that in many cases will take years to implement.”
Uh huh. Shine a spotlight on them and see what happens to the dark corners. Last year, the GAO reported that the two main groups responsible for POW/MIA issues were “unable to resolve disputes” about who was responsible for what. When last month, National Public Radio detailed how bureaucratic and slow the search for remains was, DOD Sec. Chuck Hagel ordered that POW/MIA efforts be streamlined into a single office.
This is what transparency and sunlight are all about. A media that is too lazy, uninterested, or partisan to do their traditional job as governmental watchdog, actually costs taxpayers money. A bloated, expansive government that is more interested in being important and powerful than in freedom and thrift harms everyone.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Health Care, Law, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius Resigns, Sylvia Matthews Burwell
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has resigned. It was noticeable when President Obama gave his “mission accomplished” speech in the Rose Garden, surrounded by everybody else, and Sebelius was unacknowledged in the speech.
Officials said Ms Sebelius made the decision to resign and was not forced out. I’m somewhat sympathetic. She had an impossible task, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Administration aides have worried that the dreadful problems at HealthCare.gov might result in lasting damage to the president’s legacy. You think? She had an impossible task, nobody can make can make ObamaCare work.
The secretary told the president that the March 31 deadline for sign ups and rising enrollment numbers provided an opportunity for change, and that he would be best served by someone who was not the target of so much political ire, according to Dennis McDonough.” She does hope—all of us hope—that we can get beyond the partisan sniping.”
Nominated to replace her is Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently head of Obama’s OMB and someone who Obama believes will bring “an intense focus and management acumen to the department.”
Ezra Klein, newly self-described as an advocate of “explanatory journalism” said “Kathleen Sebelius is resigning because ObamaCare has won. President Obama wouldn’t let Sebelius leave unless he was confident ObamaCare was safe.” That’s why he gave her a big hug in the Rose Garden and thanked her profusely for her long five years of service.
Filed under: Developing Nations, Freedom, History, Islam, Law, Politics | Tags: Activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Brutality to Women and Children, Misogyny of Islamic Society
Brandeis University invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born activist to speak at their upcoming graduation ceremonies and receive an honorary degree. Well deserved. She has focused on the brutal treatment of women and girls rampant in Islamic societies like the one in which she was raised. Her efforts to call attention to them as a legislator in the Netherlands led to fear for her life and her eventual flight to the United States.
Since they thought her brave advocacy deserved the recognition of an honorary degree, it was somewhat startling that the controversial aspect of her views was new and surprising information that led to Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to claim that he had to withdraw the degree because of information he had only lately discovered. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was not surprised that she came under attack from the Council on Islamic Relations. Such attacks are not new.
One might think that she had given $1,000 some six years ago to the campaign to recognize marriage as a contract between a man and a woman, as it has been for several thousand years. At Rutgers University, faculty and students objected to Condoleezza Rice’s selection as graduation speaker, based on her association with the Iraq War, but so far Rutgers seems to have more character than Brandeis.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali said:
I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin. For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called “honor killings,” and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse as wife-beating or child-beating. Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices. So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against my being honored in this way.
Our academic institutions are in bad shape. They are bastions of political correctness, conformed speech, and Leftist theology. Free speech is neither understood nor observed. You must conform. Dissent is not allowed. In such an atmosphere, it’s no wonder that graduates are having trouble finding jobs. Critical thinking, though much celebrated, doesn’t often happen. Is one to believe that Brandeis University favors genital mutilation and prepubescent little girls married off to old men, and honor killings?
Here’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali giving an earlier speech, in 2013 in Australia. We fear our activists because they might prove to be controversial. Someone might object. But then we might still be burning dissenters at the stake.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Law, Politics, Progressivism, Regulation, Taxes, The United States | Tags: Lois Lerner To Be Charged, Partisan Political Treatment, The IRS Scandals
The IRS scandal is heating up again. Darrell Issa’s committee has released emails that show Democratic staffers from the House’s Government Oversight and Reform Committee communicating with the IRS about True the Vote, an anti-voter fraud organization that the Democrats wanted to suppress. It appears that Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, to whom these staffers reported, may have lied during a committee hearing when he denied that his staffers had put the IRS on the trail of True the Vote.
The emails show the Democrats calling True the Vote to the IRS’s attention and requesting records about that organization. Lois Lerner was anxious to provide for them. The staffers do consistently refer to “publicly available” information, so there is no evidence that the IRS shared confidential taxpayer information with the Democrats.
House Republicans are closing in on Lois Lerner. The Department of Justice under Eric Holder has failed to do anything about the IRS scandal, or any other scandal involving the Obama administration. It is clear that Lois Lerner has broken the law. The House is threatening to hold her in contempt. If Eric Holder refuses to act, they can, if necessary, arrest and imprison her.
There is no evidence that the IRS pursued any progressive group at any time. Documents show that Ms. Lerner actively corresponded with liberal campaign-finance groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center which had asked the IRS to investigate if conservative groups including Crossroads GPS were violating their tax-exempt status. After personally meeting with those groups, Ms. Lerner contacted the director of the Exempt Organizations Examinations Unit in Dallas to ask why Crossroads had not been audited. “You should know that we are working on a denial of the application,: Ms. Lerner wrote in an email.
The Ways and Means Committee disclosed that in January 2013, Ms. Lerner asked her staff to examine five conservative groups that the website ProPublica had called “controversial dark money groups,” including Americans for Responsible Leadership, Freedom Path, Rightchange.com, America is Not Stupid, and A Better America. Four of those groups eventually got the full IRS super-scrutiny treatment and three were audited.
It is particularly interesting that the groups that had to undergo extra examination from the IRS were those who wanted to prevent voter fraud, and those who expected to donate to Republican candidates. Democrats have been aggressive in trying to block any attempt to require photo ID to assure voters are who they say they are and entitled to vote. Kinda’ makes you thing that Democrats depend heavily on voter fraud to win elections, doesn’t it?
Filed under: Politics
Yesterday was “Equal Pay Day.” Supposedly the day when women catch up to men in the pay department. Obama reiterated the 77¢ that women are supposed to receive for any man’s $1 in pay. “It’s not a myth, it’s math,” Obama said. We might ask if he controlled for education, experience, training, accomplishments, skill level, tenure, occupation, region, degree of risk — no? Then what level of math are we talking about?
The White House has no business trying to set salaries for American businesses. That’s a totalitarian move in the American free market.
Anyone who has worked in an organization of any kind knows the play of personality, education, ambition, character, looks, sex and a couple of hundred other variables at work. A while back, an executive was featured on the cover of an American business magazine because he had a temper and when aroused was apt to throw chairs. Get a bunch of people together and wait for dissension to arise. People should get combat pay just for participating in an organization, and extra if Human Resources is involved. “How engineers see meetings” suggests the problems. Combat pay. I’ve been in meetings like this. Can you imagine that more equal pay would improve anything?
Women who do the same job as men receive the same pay by law, established by the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Lily Ledbetter Act simply gave a woman longer in which to decide to sue. No real help for a woman, but a big payback to the Trial Lawyers. Now we have the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), designed to convince women that Democrats care about them — and that Republicans are waging a war on women.
The PFA is another payback to trial lawyers. Studiously avoided are words like “lawsuits,” “government reporting requirements” and “red tape.” Government bureaucrats are empowered to collect information about compensation practices and establish a “national award” for employers deemed superior in advancing “pay equity.” The incentives (Liberals don’t understand incentives) are all wrong. Businesses would limit the number of employees, adopt more rigid, one-size-fits-all compensation packages, and hire fewer women. It’s like forcing union regulations on every business. No advancement based on merit. Little opportunity for promotion.
“Equal Pay” sounds good, but the government does not help anyone by attempting to regulate the free market. It’s a proposed law that would directly harm working women — particularly those looking for a job.