American Elephants


Other Than That, ObamaCare is Doing Fine… by The Elephant's Child

When the Democrats started digging old plans out of dusty drawers, they decided, since they controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, to go for government sponsored health care; they were absolutely sure that the American people were going to love it. Big mistake.

The cost of American health care had been climbing significantly, and Democrats were sure that they could significantly cut the costs of medicine by making the medical profession more efficient and insisting that they learn from the best practices of industry stars. Another mistake.

Democrats believed that the uninsured were a huge problem because people with no insurance were flooding emergency rooms and driving up costs. Turned out that most of those who used emergency rooms had insurance, they just couldn’t make appointments with their doctor for immediate help. Turned out that a large percentage of the uninsured did not have insurance because they could not afford it, but because they didn’t want to pay for insurance. They were healthy and unconcerned. Oops!

Democrats believed that if they added some nice benefits that people had never had before on their insurance like therapeutic massage, birth control and pediatric dentistry, the government insurance would be even more popular. They would just spread the costs of the new benefits across the board so the expense would not be noticed. They didn’t have an insurance actuary figure out the costs of including those benefits on a policy for 55 and 60 year-old folks who had no need for birth control or pediatric dentistry.

The CBO has issued a report that appears to show that ObamaCare will cost less and cover more people than expected. But their projections seldom turn out. There are just too many variables. The latest report says that ObamaCare will cost $104 billion less over the next 10 years than it thought just two months ago. The numbers rest on the CBO belief that premiums will be flat next year, but the industry has already warned of double-digit rate increases— a sharp rise that will drive costs up far beyond the CBO’s estimates.

Out of the blue, the Census Bureau has changed how it counts health insurance, just at the moment when ObamaCare is roiling the insurance markets. The effect will muddy comparisons between pre-ObamaCare and post-ObamaCare numbers. A lot of things we would like to know, like how many people gained or lost insurance under ObamaCare? Did government crowd out individual insurance? It will apparently take several years before we have answers to those questions.

The one thing that is increasing dramatically is unhappiness among physicians. Nine out of ten doctors discourage others from entering the profession. 300 doctors commit suicide every year. Depression among doctors is not new, but the level of unhappiness is on the rise. Being a doctor has become a miserable and humiliating undertaking, and many doctors feel that America has declared war on physicians and doctors and patients are the losers.

Many doctors just want out. More are running for Congress. Medical students opt for high-paying specialties so they can retire as soon as  possible. MBA plans for physicians are flourishing,  they promise doctors a way into management. The website called the Drop-Out-Club hooks doctors up with jobs at hedge funds and venture capital firms.

Some, including President Obama, seem to believe that doctors are paid way too much and if the government needs to save costs, they can just pay doctors less. This is the mindset that reduced Medicaid to such a point that those who go without health care may do better than Medicaid patients. Same goes for Medicare and the other government controlled health care systems.

More doctors refuse to accept health insurance. Some have gone into concierge medicine, where for an annual fee, the doctor is at your service for the year. The federal government is hoping to go after that escape from ObamaCare, and they are still intending to end Medicare Advantage plans.

Just processing insurance forms costs $58 for each patient encounter, according to Dr. Stephen Schimpff, an internist and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center.  Physicians have had to increase the number of patients they see. The end result is that the average face-to-face clinic visit lasts about 12 minutes, in which the doctor probably spends most of the time interacting with his computer.

Under ObamaCare the incentives are all wrong. The government adds ill-considered benefits to insurance policies in the hope of getting people signed up. This makes the insurance too costly for most people. The push from the government will be a constant effort to cut costs. Hospitals will push for doctors to see more patients in less time, so they can be adequately reimbursed. Doctors will be encouraged to pay less attention to the Hippocratic Oath and more effort to try to get adequately paid, or to get out of the profession—which will encourage the best and brightest to aim for other careers. Watch for a push for increased immigration of physicians from third world countries. Other than that…

 



And On The Day After the Boston Bombing… by The Elephant's Child

Today is the day of the Boston Marathon, and the terror and the victims of last year’s bombing are being solemnly remembered. Oddly enough, the terrorists—Chechnyan radicals allied with al Qaeda—are not mentioned. We seem to have a strange reluctance to say the word terrorism or terrorists in this country.

The massacre at Fort Hood is still classified as “workplace violence,” we have the TSA at the airports to check into a long list of supposedly dangerous things and to abuse old ladies and small children, but they may not “racially profile” nor mention the fact that their job is to search for potential terrorists. Journalists fall all over themselves to avoid the use of the word terrorism, the federal government simply does not acknowledge such events nor the intent of the perpetrators.

What’s the deal? Is terrorism to be considered just an aberration of the warmongers George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and only mildly unpleasant things occasionally happen during the Obama administration, which never ever overreacts? Relegated to the old-news department.

Did you know that last April 16, the day after the Boston bombing, a group of terrorists attacked the Metcalf transmission substation, just outside of San Jose, in a military action aimed at disabling a part of America’s electrical infrastructure? The operation began at 1:00 a.m., when the attackers cut underground fiber optic cables, disabling communications and security systems. Thirty minutes later using high-powered rifles, they began a 20 minute assault on the substation’s extra-large transformer and the the cooling system that supports it. Police arrived at 1:50, but the shooters disappeared into the night. There has been no trace of them.

The political response to the attack ranged from an immediate dismissal by the FBI of the idea that it was a terrorist act—to recognition by a bipartisan but small group of U.S. Senators and Representatives that defending America’s electrical grid is an urgent priority. Although there are over 100,000 transformers of all sizes throughout the grid, the destruction of less than two dozen key large transformers—which weigh hundreds of tons, are transported on special rail cars, and are mostly produced in Korea—would cause a catastrophic failure that would blackout the United States. Such is the vulnerability of the system.

This was a professional operation by skilled marksmen—two to six gunmen— trained in reconnaissance, stealth and evasion, and with careful planning. The damage forced electricity to be rerouted to maintain the integrity of power transmission to Silicon Valley, and repairs took several months. One would think the politically connected in Silicon Valley might want to do some serious lobbying about protection of the grid.

We have heard about the potential of an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack—a nuclear explosion in the high atmosphere, which would create a pulse that destroys electrical wiring and hardware across the affected area. This phenomenon has been well understood since the 1960s. It has recently been discovered that a massive solar storm could cause similar damage, but possibly less extensive. Those who think through the potential devastating consequences of failing to defend our sophisticated electrical grid might well wonder why the government is spending billions on frivolous projects but pays no attention to America’s physical vulnerability.

Do read the whole thing. This is a serious matter. The author, Brian Kennedy is president of the Claremont Institute, and the article is adapted from his speech at Hillsdale College, and reprinted in Imprimis, the monthly free publication from Hillsdale (sign up here).

Brian Kennedy outlines practical steps to be taken, and what we are currently doing to solve our vulnerability. (Not much). The attack on the Metcalf transmission substation was brushed aside by the media by the Boston Marathon bombing, and the extended search for the Tsarnaev brother perpetrators.

We really can’t depend on the media any more to keep Americans informed. But we also need to stop fooling ourselves and stop acceding to administration attempts to downplay anything that might interfere with the Obama administration’s efforts to avoid any negative publicity.



Is President Obama Interested in Doing His Job? by The Elephant's Child

The White House on Monday said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Russia is stirring the unrest in eastern Ukraine, but President Obama hasn’t yet decided if further sanctions are warranted. …[T]he juxtaposition is a perfect summary of the current state of U.S. foreign policy.

Vladimir Putin uses Russian special forces to cow a neighbor and steal territory , while Mr. Obama agonizes about what to do.

That was the Wall Street Journal. The White House dithers about what response they may choose. The U.S. has refused to send Ukraine military aid, but offered MRIs, and military type socks.

The Journal adds “We know Mr. Obama didn’t run for President to engage in great power politics, but it is still part of the job description. Is he still interested in doing his job?

In the Weekly Standard, Ruel Marc Gerecht asks:

Is Barack Obama’s threat of preventive military action against the Iranian regime’s nuclear program credible? Would a one-year, six-month, or even three-month nuclear breakout capacity at the known nuclear sites be acceptable to him? Is he prepared to attack if Tehran denies the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, entry into undeclared facilities that may be hiding nuclear-weapons research or centrifuge production? Is he prepared to strike if the regime denies inspectors access to the personnel and documents that would allow the West to see whether—how much—the regime has been lying about weaponization?

Again in the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol:

The Obama administration has scheduled a deputies committee meeting this week—tentatively set for Tuesday—to resolve a bitter inter-agency dispute over a request from Russia with respect to the Open Skies program. Informed sources believe the White House is likely to side with the State Department, which wants to accommodate Russia, over the objections of the Obama administration’s Defense Department and intelligence agencies.

The Open Skies treaty allows the United States and Russia to fly over each other’s territory with planes loaded with certain agreed-upon sensor packages, in order to ensure compliance with arms control agreements and to provide assurance against preparations for various military surprises. Russia has asked the U.S. to agree to an upgrade in the sensor package their planes can carry…The request would apparently result in a significant increase in Russian spying capabilities; the first response from Pentagon was, according to one government official close to the situation, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But the State Department has been making the case for acceding to the Russians’ demands, and the White House seems to be on State’s side. The White House has also stonewalled requests for information from the congressional intelligence committees.

 



The Worst Lies Are The Ones You Tell Yourself by The Elephant's Child

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 universalitythe 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.



The Administration Will Not Surrender U.S. Protection of the Open Internet—for Now. by The Elephant's Child

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.



The Standoff At the Bundy Ranch Ends— For Now. by The Elephant's Child

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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.



The Social-Engineering Approach to Health Care by The Elephant's Child

John Goodman offers two fundamental ways of thinking about complex social systems: the economic approach and the engineering approach.

The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice.

Goodman, the father of the health savings account, calls this “cookbook medicine” which gives doctors rules and protocols for treating patients with various symptoms, and they must record each step along the way. Cookbook medicine does not bother with the differences among people, and is the opposite of personalized medicine which aims to tailor the therapy to the characteristics of the patient.

While it is useful to consider the standard protocols, people are not all the same. Medicine adapted to the genetic makeup of a person is in its infancy, but shows promise. When the cookbook becomes a rulebook to be followed slavishly, we’re in trouble. When complying with endless checklists takes valuable time away from patient care — that’s what’s happening in American medicine. A recent study of emergency room physicians found that they spend more time interacting with screens than patients, clicking the mouse 4,000 times in a 10-hour shift.

The Affordable Care Act was heavily influenced by the engineering model. After all, our bureaucrats are certified experts, and what are experts for if not to tell everybody else what to do and how to do it. Only social engineers would think of running “pilot programs” to control health care costs. What is the purpose of a pilot program if not to find something that appears to work, so you can order everyone else to copy it. Therefore you have the mess of digitizing all medical records and the result that hospitals have different systems that cannot talk to each other?

Dr. Virginia McIvor, a pediatric physician at Harvard Medical School explains the problem:

When a healthy child visits, I must complete these tasks while reviewing more than 300 other preventative care measures such as safe storage of a gun, domestic violence, child-proofing the home, nutrition, exercise, school performance, safe sex, bullying, smoking, drinking, drugs, behavior problems, family health issues, sleep, development and whatever else is on a patient’s or parent’s mind. While primary-care providers are good at prioritizing and staying on time — patient satisfaction scores are another quality metric — the endless box checking and scoring takes precious time away from doctor-patient communication.

If you have been to a doctor recently, you have probably noticed the multiplication of forms you must fill out, questions you must answer. I have noticed that the form now contains a line for “refuses to answer,” which may indicate progress of a sort.

John Goodman is the father of the “health savings account” which works precisely as promised and has been a great favorite. He is president of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) and he blogs regularly on health care matters (you can sign up to receive his columns), and his book Priceless takes on the health care problem.

There are great things happening in medicine that are promising for the future. The engineering rulebook is not interested in other people’s expertise or innovation.

The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice. – See more at: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/cookbook-medicine-2/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HA#more-36412
The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice. – See more at: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/cookbook-medicine-2/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HA#more-36412
The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice. – See more at: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/cookbook-medicine-2/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HA#more-36412


The Unaffordable Care Act Becomes More Unaffordable by The Elephant's Child

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!



Shining a Light on the Dark Corners of Big Bloated Government by The Elephant's Child

Coburn

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.



Kathleen Sebelius Resigns: by The Elephant's Child

Sebelius in trouble

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.

 



The Shame of Brandeis University by The Elephant's Child

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.

 



The IRS Scandal: Day 335 — Heating Up! by The Elephant's Child

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?




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