Sunday, July 28, 2013

David Whitehouse: Will Inactive Sun Cause Global Cooling?
Something is happening to our sun. It has to do with sunspots or rather the activity cycle their coming and going signifies. Sunspots – dark magnetic blotches on the sun’s surface – come and go in an 11-year cycle of activity first noticed in 1843. It is a process related to the motion of superhot, electrically charged gas inside the sun; a kind of internal conveyor belt where vast sub-surface rivers of gas take 40 years to circulate from the equator to the poles and back.

Somehow, in a way not very well understood, this circulation produces the sunspot cycle in which every 11 years there is a sunspot maximum followed by a minimum. In the last century, the sun’s activity may have been the highest for more than 8,000 years with lots of strong solar cycles. But then things turned. The recent cycle – so called ‘Cycle 24′ – is puny. If history is anything to go by, then the sun’s change of mood could affect us all by cooling the earth and throwing our climate change calculations into disarray....

...But there was something strange about the time when the sunspots disappeared that left scientists to ponder if the sun’s unusual behaviour could have something to do with the fact that the 17th century was also a time when the earth’s northern hemisphere chilled with devastating consequences.

Scientists call that event the Little Ice Age and it affected Europe at just the wrong time. In response to the more benign climate of the earlier medieval warm period, Europe’s population may have doubled. But in the mid-17th century, demographic growth stopped and in some areas fell – in part due to the reduced crop yields caused by climate change. Bread prices doubled and then quintupled and hunger weakened the population....
Feds put heat on Web firms for master encryption keys
The U.S. government has attempted to obtain the master encryption keys that Internet companies use to shield millions of users' private Web communications from eavesdropping.

These demands for master encryption keys, which have not been disclosed previously, represent a technological escalation in the clandestine methods that the FBI and the National Security Agency employ when conducting electronic surveillance against Internet users.

If the government obtains a company's master encryption key, agents could decrypt the contents of communications intercepted through a wiretap or by invoking the potent surveillance authorities of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Web encryption -- which often appears in a browser with a HTTPS lock icon when enabled -- uses a technique called SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer.

"The government is definitely demanding SSL keys from providers," said one person who has responded to government attempts to obtain encryption keys. The source spoke with CNET on condition of anonymity.

The person said that large Internet companies have resisted the requests on the grounds that they go beyond what the law permits, but voiced concern that smaller companies without well-staffed legal departments might be less willing to put up a fight. "I believe the government is beating up on the little guys," the person said. "The government's view is that anything we can think of, we can compel you to do." ...

Democratic establishment unmasked: prime defenders of NSA bulk spying
One of the worst myths Democratic partisans love to tell themselves - and everyone else - is that the GOP refuses to support President Obama no matter what he does. Like its close cousin - the massively deceitful inside-DC grievance that the two parties refuse to cooperate on anything - it's hard to overstate how false this Democratic myth is. When it comes to foreign policy, war, assassinations, drones, surveillance, secrecy, and civil liberties, President Obama's most stalwart, enthusiastic defenders are often found among the most radical precincts of the Republican Party. ...

...Even more notable than the Obama White House's defense of the NSA's bulk domestic spying was the behavior of the House Democratic leadership. Not only did they all vote against de-funding the NSA bulk domestic spying program - that includes liberal icon House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who voted to protect the NSA's program - but Pelosi's deputy, Steny Hoyer, whipped against the bill by channeling the warped language and mentality of Dick Cheney....

...None of this should be surprising. Remember: this is the same Nancy Pelosi who spent years during the Bush administration pretending to be a vehement opponent of the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program after it was revealed by the New York Times, even though (just as was true of the Bush torture program) she was secretly briefed on it many years earlier when it was first implemented. ...

...So the history of Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi isn't one of opposition to mass NSA spying when Bush was in office, only to change positions now that Obama is. The history is of pretend opposition - of deceiving their supporters by feigning opposition - while actually supporting it....
Records of Christine O’Donnell tax snooping disappear
Delaware state officials have told Congress that they likely destroyed the computer records that would show when and how often they accessed Christine O'Donnell’s personal tax records and acknowledged that a newspaper article was used as the sole justification for snooping into the former GOP Senate candidate’s tax history.

The revelations to Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office came Tuesday as the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, the government’s chief watchdog for the Internal Revenue Service, formally reopened its investigation into the matter by re-interviewing Ms. O'Donnell....
Cops Tell Mom Her Son Was Murdered, Kill Her Dog for Good Measure
...Police in Henrico County, Virginia, found 33-year-old Ricky Ellerbe dead (as originally noted by Mike Riggs), the apparent victim of a robbery that netted a cellphone and fifteen bucks. Officers then went to his home to deliver the bad news — and promptly killed the family dog. ...

Can Cops Invade Your Home Just Because You're Scared of Them? Could Be.
...As you might guess, exigent circumstances can be in the eye of the beholder, who is always wearing a badge, and they tend to broaden in definition with time. Law professor and legal blogger Jonathan Turley uses the Goldsberry case as an example of just how loosely the term is being interpreted. As he puts it, "So, police can show up in what looks like a hunting vest at a kitchen window and point a gun into the face of a woman. If she screams and crawls away, that is sufficient to bust into the apartment, drag the occupants outside, and handcuff them in public."

That the "exigent circumstance" in this case was created by the police themselves by pointing a gun through a window and scaring the shit out of an innocent woman would seem to raise some doubts about the righteousness of this particular home invasion, but even that is uncertain. The US Supreme Court addressed the issue of police-created exigencies in the case of Kentucky v. King. Samuel Alito wrote for the majority, "The exigent circumstances rule applies when the police do not create the exigency by engaging or threatening to engage in conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment."...
Physicians Baffled By and Opposed To Obamacare
...A new survey shows that an overwhelming percentage of physicians don't believe that their states' new health insurance exchanges will meet the Oct. 1 deadline for those key Obamacare marketplaces to begin enrolling the uninsured.

Just 11 percent of doctors believe those exchanges will be open for business that day....

Government Employers Also Slash Workers' Hours To Escape Obamacare Costs
...But the Washington Post offers evidence that government employers are doing the same. In fact, government agencies may be among the main hour slashers. "[T]he numbers are higher for the retail and hospitality industries, as well as for government, because those employers often rely on a large number of part-timers but do not already offer them benefits..."...

...Virginia’s situation provides a good lens on why. The state has more than 37,000 part-time, hourly wage employees, with as many as 10,000 working more than 30 hours a week. Offering coverage to those workers, who include nurses, park rangers and adjunct professors, would have been prohibitively expensive, state officials said, costing as much as $110 million....

...The state of Maryland and the District already offer health insurance to workers who log 20 or more hours a week. But some Democratic-leaning communities, including Dearborn, Mich., and Long Beach, Calif., have imposed caps on part-time workers to keep them below the 30-hour threshold....

Chicago City Employees Sue to Block Shift to ObamaCare Coverage
Retired city workers are asking a judge to block Mayor Emanuel from making them rely on Obamacare for their health insurance. It could cost Chicago taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

This affects most city retirees and it underscores how, after decades of grotesque financial mismanagement, the only choices left are painful ones....
IRS Union: Don't Put Tax Collectors Into Obamacare's Health Exchanges!
The Internal Revenue Service is responsible for enforcing multiple provisions in Obamacare, including a slew of revenue-raising taxes and fees, the individual mandate, and the disbursement of insurance subsidies for insurance purchased through the exchanges. But an almost too-obvious ironic twist, its employees don't want to buy insurance through those exchanges themselves. The National Treasury Employees Union, a labor group that represents IRS workers, has set up a form letter for union members to send to their congressional representatives urging legislators not to pass legislation proposed by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Michigan) that could shift tax workers out of their current federal benefits and into the exchanges. ...

Concord: Half of Affordable Care Act call center jobs will be part-time
CONCORD -- Earlier this year, Contra Costa County won the right to run a health care call center, where workers will answer questions to help implement the president's Affordable Care Act. Area politicians called the 200-plus jobs it would bring to the region an economic coup.

Now, with two months to go before the Concord operation opens to serve the public, information has surfaced that about half the jobs are part-time, with no health benefits -- a stinging disappointment to workers and local politicians who believed the positions would be full-time....

..."What's really ironic is working for a call center and trying to help people get health care, but we can't afford it ourselves," said the worker, who asked for anonymity out of fear of losing the job. The county says it had been telling the public and supervisors all along that some positions would be full-time and some part-time. However, portions of staff reports list all 204 jobs as full-time, and a job posting said the same....
Embattled IRS chief counsel met with Obama 2 days before agency changed targeting criteria
...The Obama appointee implicated in congressional testimony in the IRS targeting scandal met with President Obama in the White House two days before offering his colleagues a new set of advice on how to scrutinize tea party and conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, who was named in House Oversight testimony by retiring IRS agent Carter Hull as one of his supervisors in the improper targeting of conservative groups, met with Obama in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on April 23, 2012. Wilkins’ boss, then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 24, 2012, according to White House visitor logs.

On April 25, 2012, Wilkins’ office sent the exempt organizations determinations unit “additional comments on the draft guidance” for approving or denying tea party tax-exempt applications, according to the IRS inspector general’s report....

IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins, One of Only Two Politically-Appointed IRS Officials, Visited the White House for Seven Hours Before Changing the Criteria for Targeting Tea Party Organizations Two Days Later
... Carter Hull, recently retired after 48 years of service at the IRS, was the tax analyst in D.C. in charge of the Tea Party applications. Hull indicated that he was told by the top assistant to Lois Lerner (remember her? In May, she refused to testify and invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent) that Wilkins's office had to review all of the tax-exemption applications from Tea Party groups that Hull was overseeing.

Hull noted that the one application he had actually approved was immediately routed to Wilkins's office for review. When Hull disagreed with the counsel’s office and Lerner about how the Tea Party cases should be handled, the files were taken away from him and transferred to a woman with only several months experience at the IRS.

In addition, lawyers from Wilkins' offices met with Lerner to discuss the targeting.

Former IRS lawyer Carter Hull told the House Oversight Committee on Thursday that Lerner attended an August 2011 meeting where she, Hull, and lawyers from the agency’s chief counsel’s office, among others, discussed the test cases....

IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins a Big Donor and Loyal Democrat
...But who is William Wilkins? According to the 2009 announcement of his appointment to the IRS, Wilkins was a registered lobbyist with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr since 1988. At WilmerHale (the firm's new name after 2003), he was a part of the Tax Practice Group, where he practiced a wide range of tax law services, including “counseling nonprofit organizations, business entities, and investment funds on tax compliance, business transactions, and government investigations.” Before his lobbying career, Wilkins was staff counsel for the Democratic side of the Senate Finance committee, from 1981 to 1988...

...Other congressional Democrats Wilkins donated to include David Pryor, Bill Bradley, Tom Foley, J.J. Pickle, Paul Simon, John Kerry, John Breaux, Tom Daschle, Dianne Feinstein, Robert Abrams, George Mitchell, Cody Graves, Vic Fazio, Paul Sarbanes, Barbara Kennelly, Bruce Vento, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Charlie Rangel, Kent Conrad, Tim Johnson, Jack Reed, Blanche Lincoln, Jeff Bingaman, Sherrod Brown, Jay Rockefeller, Brad Miller, Ken Salazar, and Bob Graham. He has also donated to the Democratic Congressional Dinner Commmittee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and other Democratic campaign groups.

And in an interesting twist, Wilkins appears to have led the defense team of former Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright and the United Church of Christ in Chicago back in 2008. The UCC was under investigation by the IRS at the time for being violation of its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The Wall Street Journal reports that Wilkins apparently did the legal work for Wright and UCC pro bono.
The Democratic Party’s War on Women
...Not only are these men sleazy hypocrites in their politics, they are deeply misogynistic in their behavior — and yet the soi-disant “progressive” crew of female politicians (Hillary Clinton, Kirsten Gillibrand, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Elizabeth Warren, et al.) are strangely silent....
New paper finds global warming since the Little Ice Age explained by natural processes, not man-made CO2

Review finds the Medieval Warm Period was global & generally warmer than the present
Did the IRS’s Tea Party suppression get Obama reelected?
...1. Let’s say Tea Party groups had continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010.

2. And let’s further say that their impact on the 2012 vote would have been similar to that seen in 2010. A new paper co-authored by AEI’s Stan Veuger estimates the grass-roots movement generated 3 million to 6 million additional Republican votes in House races in the midterms.

3. The 2012 result would have seen as many as 5 million to 8.5 million additional GOP votes versus a President Obama victory margin of 5 million votes. And right around now, Mitt Romney would be pushing hard to implement his tax reform plan, and #44 would be launching the Obama Global Initiative...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Obamacare has doctors planning exit
In a survey by a top research firm, six in 10 physicians said it is likely many doctors will retire earlier than planned in the next one to three years.

The same percentage say the practice of medicine is in jeopardy as medical experts lose control of their clinics and compensation with the implementation of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, or Obamacare.

A spokeswoman for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Jane Orient, was not surprised.

She told WND that doctors already have started leaving the profession through early retirement. Among those who remain, some will seek alternatives to what they see coming in the federal government’s takeover of health care....
IRS chief counsel’s office involved in targeting controversy
The chief counsel’s office for the Internal Revenue Service, headed by a political appointee of President Obama, helped develop the agency’s problematic guidelines for reviewing “tea party” cases, according to a top IRS attorney.

In interviews with congressional investigators, IRS lawyer Carter Hull said his superiors told him that the chief counsel’s office, led by William Wilkins, would need to review some of the first applications the agency screened for additional scrutiny because of potential political activity.

Previous accounts from IRS employees had shown that Washington IRS officials were involved in the controversy, but Hull’s comments represent the closest connection to the White House to date....

New testimony claims Lois Lerner and Obama appointee were behind Tea Party targeting
New testimony from IRS officials claims that Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS's Exempt Organizations division, instructed employees to send Tea Party group applications for tax-exempt status through a multi-layered review that included the IRS chief counsel's office, which is led by Obama appointee William Wilkins.

Lerner "sent me email saying ... when these cases need to go through multi-tier review and they will eventually have to [through her staff] and the chief counsel's office," said Michael Seto, the head of the IRS unit that was handling Tea Party applications.

This new testimony suggests that the decision to target Tea Party organizations came from Lerner herself, and that Wilkins' office was closely involved in some of the applications.

Tax law specialist Carter Hull, who works for Seto, testified that despite his 48 years of experience approving or denying tax-exempt status applications, he was told in the winter of 2010 that, at the direction of Lerner, the applications would need to be sent to the chief counsel's office for further review. Hull said never before in his nearly five-decade career had he been told to send applications up the pipeline....

EXCLUSIVE: Feds admit improper scrutiny of candidate, donor tax records
A government watchdog has found for the first time that confidential tax records of several political candidates and campaign donors were improperly scrutinized by government officials, but the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any of the cases.

Its investigators also are probing two allegations that the Internal Revenue Service “targeted for audit candidates for public office,” the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, has privately told Sen. Chuck Grassley....

Former GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell told her tax records were breached
More than two years after her upstart Senate campaign rocked the Delaware political world, Christine O'Donnell got an unexpected contact from a U.S. Treasury Department agent warning that her private tax records may have been breached.

The phone message earlier this year shocked the battled-scarred candidate, a tea party favorite who knocked off Republican mainstay Michael Castle in the primary before losing in a bid to win Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s former seat.

“Ms. O'Donnell, this is Dennis Martel, special agent with the U.S. Department of Treasury in Baltimore, Md. … We received information that your personal federal tax info may have been compromised and may have been misused by an individual,” he said in the January message left on her cellphone.

For Ms. O'Donnell, the message immediately raised red flags.

On March 9, 2010, the day she revealed her plan to run for the Senate in a press release, a tax lien was placed on a house purported to be hers and publicized. The problem was she no longer owned the house. The IRS eventually blamed the lien on a computer glitch and withdrew it....
Detroit Court Case Presents an Impossible Choice
...Detroit’s situation seems almost unprecedented, and it’s not clear how the city can best respond to it. The unions’ biggest problem is that Detroit simply cannot pay their pension claims without destroying city services. Detroit doesn’t have the money to provide even minimal services to its current population while paying off the large numbers of retired workers, many of whom hail from times when the city was larger and richer.

Because there is no money, there is no solution that gives the unions the relief they seek. Total obedience to the state constitutional mandate might not be possible, and that’s a problem. The government can pass a law saying that everyone has a constitutional right to a free trip to the moon, but if it doesn’t build the spacecraft that can get you there the right is void....

...However the courts eventually decide, decades of misgovernance, the criminal corruption of the Democratic Party in Detroit, and the depraved indifference of politicians at every level as crooks and hacks conspired together to loot and wreck a great American city have brought us to a place where Detroit’s problems seem almost beyond solution. The saddest part of this story is that there is still much, much more pain to come for a lot of people. Both the residents of current day Detroit and the cops, teachers, firefighters and others who trusted in the promises of Detroit politicians and union officials face a world of hurt...
IRS scandal story's legs get sturdier
Liberals have been desperate to stamp a giant "case closed" on the IRS scandal. But, inconveniently for them, facts keep emerging that demand the case stay very much opened, and the trail followed as far as it goes.

Thursday, IRS employees who had direct contact with applications for tax-exempt status by tea parties and other conservative groups testified before Congress that interest in the applications, and control over how they were handled, went at least as high as the office of the chief counsel of the IRS. Now, as Democrats have been at pains to explain ever since this scandal erupted a couple of months ago, the IRS is not an agency loaded with political appointees. The chief counsel is one of only two IRS leaders -- the head of the agency is the other -- chosen by the president....

...Liberals famously are self-proclaimed experts at detecting conservative "dog whistles" -- statements meant to elude the ears of all but the intended recipients, who are then supposed to act on the top-secret messages while everyone else remains oblivious. The ridiculousness of this theory is usually apparent in the fact that liberals, who in this line of thinking should be the ones unable to hear the conservative "dog whistles," nevertheless always manage to detect the messages.

But in the IRS case, it's possible we have an instance of a real "dog whistle," one which really worked in real life.

Obama spent months after the Supreme Court's January 2010 Citizens United decision bashing right-wing advocacy groups -- a good timeline of his remarks can be found here -- and by the final weeks before that year's midterm elections the president was calling these groups engaing in "unsupervised spending" both "a problem for our democracy" and a "threat to our democracy." The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Democrat Max Baucus, wrote a letter demanding the IRS investigate conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. All this happened in the months when, according to evidence already gathered in the House's IRS investigation, we know the agency was well into the process of setting aside tea-party applications and scrutinizing them. And, let's not forget, this was also during the time tea-party groups were complaining about the extra scrutiny and long delays, while IRS officials told Congress they knew about nothing of the sort.

And yet, it would seem Obama, Baucus and other Democrats got exactly what they wanted -- but no one started to connect the dots until the IRS's ham-fisted revelation of the targeting. Isn't that exactly what the left calls a "dog whistle" in its frequent complains about the right? Do liberals ever care in those instances whether the whistler also placed a phone call or sent an email? Nope....
Michigan judge halts Detroit bankruptcy because it dishonors Obama
...Aquilina, who granted the restraining order, clearly was irked.

Prior to her ruling on Friday, she criticized the Snyder administration and Attorney General’s Office for what appeared to be hasty action to outflank pension board attorneys.

“It’s cheating, sir, and it’s cheating good people who work,” the judge told assistant Attorney General Brian Devlin. “It’s also not honoring the (United States) president, who took (Detroit’s auto companies) out of bankruptcy.”

Aquilina said she would make sure President Obama got a copy of her order.

“I know he’s watching this,” she said, predicting the president ultimately will have to take action to make sure existing pension commitments are honored....

...She also ordered that a copy of her declaratory judgment be sent to President Barack Obama, saying he “bailed out Detroit” and may want to look into the pension issue....

Judge Rules That Detroit's Bankruptcy Is Unconstitutional, Ruling That It "Dishonors" Obama
... But that itself would be unconstitutional -- that would give Detroit voters the right to vote themselves the wealth of Michigan taxpayers.

Which seems to be precisely what the judge is saying -- Detroit spent money it didn't have, and spent itself into the grave, and now innocent taxpayers are required to make good on its contracts, despite not being parties to those contracts and despite not being under the sovereign political authority of Detroit.
Anthem Blue Cross shuns insurance market for small businesses
Health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross is spurning California's new insurance market for small businesses, a potential setback in the state's rollout of the federal healthcare law.

Anthem, a unit of WellPoint Inc., is California's largest insurer for small employers. The company's surprising move raised concerns about the state's ability to offer competitive rates and attract businesses to its new Covered California exchange that opens Jan. 1.

The federal Affordable Care Act left it up to health insurers to decide whether they wanted to sell in these government-run marketplaces.

Friday's disclosure made Anthem the first big insurer in California to publicly pass on the small-business pool. Some other big names, such as UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Aetna Inc., have already opted out of California's larger exchange for individual consumers....
Americans Own Nearly Half of the Privately Owned Guns on Earth
That's 88 guns per every 100 Americans.

In 1994, the United States was home to about 200 million privately owned guns. Today, that number has ballooned to between 270 million and 300 million. That's almost half of all privately owned guns worldwide, according to a new essay from the Brookings Institution....
Without Warrants, License Plate Scanners Track Millions of Americans
Courts are at least starting to rule that police need a warrant to attach a GPS tracking device to your car, even if the feds are fighting tooth and nail against that requirement. But that protection may be almost moot if the police can follow everybody's movements by tracking their license plates with roadside cameras and storing and linking the captured information. And, as I've written before, that's exactly what the police are doing, in an ad hoc, but increasingly networked and organized way. Now an Americans Civil Liberties Union report details how widespread the practice has become, and how the federal government encourages the adoption of license plate scanners as a matter of official policy....

...In Maryland, which is rapidly becoming a true surveillance state, with conversations on buses routinely recorded, "three-quarters of Maryland’s law enforcement agencies are networked into Maryland’s state data fusion center, which collected more than 85 million license plate records in 2012 alone." For every one million plates read in Maryland, only 47 are associated with serious crimes....

Driving somewhere? There's a gov't record of that
Chances are, your local or state police departments have photographs of your car in their files, noting where you were driving on a particular day, even if you never did anything wrong.

Using automated scanners, law enforcement agencies across the country have amassed millions of digital records on the location and movement of every vehicle with a license plate, according to a study published Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. Affixed to police cars, bridges or buildings, the scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and note their location, uploading that information into police databases. Departments keep the records for weeks or years, sometimes indefinitely.

As the technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and federal grants focus on aiding local terrorist detection, even small police agencies are able to deploy more sophisticated surveillance systems. While the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a judge's approval is needed to track a car with GPS, networks of plate scanners allow police effectively to track a driver's location, sometimes several times every day, with few legal restrictions. The ACLU says the scanners assemble what it calls a "single, high-resolution image of our lives."...
The Drone That Killed My Grandson
SANA, Yemen — I LEARNED that my 16-year-old grandson, Abdulrahman — a United States citizen — had been killed by an American drone strike from news reports the morning after he died.

The missile killed him, his teenage cousin and at least five other civilians on Oct. 14, 2011, while the boys were eating dinner at an open-air restaurant in southern Yemen.

I visited the site later, once I was able to bear the pain of seeing where he sat in his final moments. Local residents told me his body was blown to pieces. They showed me the grave where they buried his remains. I stood over it, asking why my grandchild was dead.

Nearly two years later, I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed. It was not until May of this year that the Obama administration, in a supposed effort to be more transparent, publicly acknowledged what the world already knew — that it was responsible for his death. ...
State says Obamacare will force 72 percent increase in individual insurance plan rates
Insurance rates in Indiana will increase 72 percent for those with individual plans and 8 percent for small group plans under President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, according to the state’s insurance department.

The spike in costs is due primarily to new mandates under the law, which requires insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions and to offer a minimum level of benefits, said Logan Harrison, chief deputy commissioner with the Indiana Department of Insurance under Republican Gov. Mike Pence. New taxes and fees under the law also contributed, Harrison said.

“This new data regrettably confirms the negative impact of the Affordable Care Act on the insurance market in Indiana,” he said. “The Affordable Care Act requires many Hoosiers to purchase more comprehensive and more expensive health insurance than they may want or need. These rates call into question just how affordable health insurance will really be for many Hoosiers.”

Costs for individual plans is expected to increase from an average of $255 per member per month in 2012 to $570 in 2014, when the most aspects of the law go into effect, Harrison said....

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sunspots and the Great Cooling Ahead
...When sunspot activity is high, as it was during the 1990s and early 2000s, temperatures tend to be high as well. When it is low, as it is now, temperatures fall. And because sunspot activity occurs in decades-long cycles, the unusually cold winter and spring of 2012 may be just the beginning. As a Barron's article recently noted, current sunspot activity is now the least it has been in a century.

What this means is that the era of global cooling has begun. In the northern hemisphere, three out of the four last winters and springs have been unusually cold. This spring was so cold in East Asia that China was forced to import millions of tons of grain and soybeans from the U.S. and other suppliers.

The environmental elitists in Manhattan and Laguna Beach may not be greatly inconvenienced by cold winters, but ordinary people have to eat, too, and food exhausts a much greater share of their income. For the world's poor, a cold year means the difference between eating and going hungry, or between heating one's home and shivering all winter. Or as the philosopher Thomas Hobbes put it (while living through the thick of the Little Ice Age himself), it's the difference between a life that is warm and comfortable and one that is "nasty, brutish, and short." Because climate alarmists are focused on global warming when they should be concerned with cooling, life for the world's poor is likely to be just that....

...Every year, nearly half of the U.S. corn crop goes up in smoke, burned as corn ethanol, while children in Guatemala lie listlessly in the dust, their bellies swollen with starvation. The president is not there at their side, either literally or figuratively. He is too busy playing golf or vacationing at the billionaire beach houses on Martha's Vineyard or Oahu. ...
When Government Meets Organized Crime
...But the public's missing something more valuable than mob drama: "This trial is not just about organized crime," writes the Boston Herald's Margery Eagan, it involves "the corruption of the federal government — the same government banning you from this trial — in the form of a disgraced FBI. It's a civics lesson worthy of us all."

Indeed, from 1975 to 1990, in its quest to bring down the Italian mob, the FBI's Boston office became partner in crime to Bulger's "Winter Hill Gang." A 2004 House Committee on Government Reform report, "Everything Secret Degenerates," found that "a number of men were murdered because they came to the government with information incriminating informants" and the FBI tipped them off.

"When you give us information on one person and they got killed," then a second, and a third, Bulger's partner Steven "The Rifleman" Flemmi testified in 2008: "I mean, he's an FBI agent, he's not stupid."...
Lessons from the Bhopal chemical-spill disaster
...2. The decision to use the hazardous chemical MIC was the Indian government’s, not UCC’s. UCC’s initial plan was to import already-combined chemicals and to process diluted and safer pesticides. But the Indian government was pursuing a policy of national self-sufficiency, requiring that everything be “Indianized.” MIC could have been imported much less expensively, as UCC initially planned, but UCC was required by the government to manufacture pesticides from scratch. This in turn required the storage and handling of large amounts of hazardous MIC.

3. The government directives also required the building of larger facilities. As the parent corporation, UCC was allowed to submit generalized guidelines for the design of the safety systems. But in the name of national self-sufficiency, the Indian government required that Indian consulting firms do the detailed design and installation of the safety systems.

4. The Indian government was also pursuing an affirmative action program. The effect of affirmative action was to replace UCC’s foreign experts in engineering and agricultural chemistry with locals. Not surprisingly, many of the locals were under-educated, and many happened to be friends and family members of Indian politicians in charge of regulating the facility.

5. Finally, the decision to situate the chemical plant in the middle of a residential community was the Indian government’s, not UCC’s. The local Bhopal government was pursuing a re-zoning policy, which included giving thousands of Indians construction loans to encourage them to build their homes near the chemical plant....
California Insurance Commissioner on Obamacare Enrollment Counselors: "We can have a real disaster on our hands."
...The exchange, known as Covered California, recently adopted rules for a network of more than 21,000 enrollment counselors who will provide consumers with in-person assistance as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. In some cases, they will have access to personal and financial information, from ID cards to medical histories.

But the state insurance commissioner and anti-fraud groups say the exchange is falling short in ensuring that the people hired as counselors are adequately screened and monitored.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones also said the exchange does not have a plan for investigating any complaints that might arise once the counselors start work. That means consumers who might fall prey to bogus health care products, identity theft and other abuses will have a hard time seeking justice if unscrupulous counselors get ahold of their Social Security number, bank accounts, health records or other private information, he said.

"We can have a real disaster on our hands," Jones, a Democrat, said in an interview....

Hospital trusts rapped over major failures
Eleven hospital trusts are being placed in special measures because of major failings, the government has announced.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the trusts, among 14 investigated for high death rates, had problems so entrenched that tough action was needed....

...Mr Hunt set out a detailed breakdown of the problems identified at the individual trusts, but among the common themes listed were:

• Patients being left on trolleys, unmonitored for excessive periods and then being talked down to by consultants

• Poor maintenance in operating theatres, potentially putting patients in danger

• Patients often being moved repeatedly between wards without being told why

• Staff working for 12 days in a row without a break

• Backlogs in complaints

• A patient inappropriately exposed where there were both male and female patients present

• Low levels of clinical cover - especially out of hours

• Hospital boards being unaware of potential problems, including a spate of still births

California Obamacare Patients Can Expect Few Choices, As Well as a "Real Disaster"
As Peter Suderman documented yesterday, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a member of President Obama's own party, sees a potential for "real disaster" as poorly screened enrollment counselors gain access to sensitive patient data through Covered California, the state health exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act. Making matters worse, options for private health care coverage are dwindling to the point that residents of California, the most populous state in the union, will have very little to pick from should they choose to put their personal data at risk by shopping for coverage through Covered California — or elsewhere, for that matter.

In a July 2 press release from the California Department of Insurance, Jones revealed that United Healthcare will follow Aetna's exit from the state at the end of the year....

Obama to Congress: Only I Can Amend ObamaCare
...Yesterday, he threatened to veto both bills. Think about that. President Obama has threatened to veto a bill that would codify his own policy of repealing the employer mandate for one year. He supports rewriting federal law – but only if he does it. Not if Congress does it.

I’d wager lots of congressional Democrats are pretty angry at President Obama today.

The individual mandate is ObamaCare’s least popular provision. Just 17 percent of Americans support it. Only 12 percent support letting it take effect while employers get a pass. When he unilaterally delayed the employer mandate, President Obama put House Democrats, and potentially Senate Democrats, in the position of having to cast their most unpopular pro-ObamaCare vote, ever. The attack ads practically write themselves. ”Congressman X voted against giving families the same breaks as big business.”

On top of that, Obama’s threat to veto the bill codifying the employer-mandate delay marginalizes all of Congress, Democrats included. It also puts Democrats in an impossible situation. If Democrats vote against the president on the employer mandate – by voting for the bill codifying his policy (are you confused yet?) – then they are breaking ranks with their party’s leader. If they vote with the president – by voting against the bill codifying the president’s policy – they would be participating in their own marginalization....

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The 'Absentee' Senator
...Mr. Franken trailed Mr. Coleman by 725 votes after the initial count on election night, and 215 after the first canvass. The Democrat's strategy from the start was to manipulate the recount in a way that would discover votes that could add to his total. The Franken legal team swarmed the recount, aggressively demanding that votes that had been disqualified be added to his count, while others be denied for Mr. Coleman.

But the team's real goldmine were absentee ballots, thousands of which the Franken team claimed had been mistakenly rejected. While Mr. Coleman's lawyers demanded a uniform standard for how counties should re-evaluate these rejected ballots, the Franken team ginned up an additional 1,350 absentees from Franken-leaning counties. By the time this treasure hunt ended, Mr. Franken was 312 votes up, and Mr. Coleman was left to file legal briefs.

What Mr. Franken understood was that courts would later be loathe to overrule decisions made by the canvassing board, however arbitrary those decisions were. He was right. ...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Unions Seek Changes to PPACA
...Since last year, union leaders have complained that many of the law’s requirements will drive up costs for union-sponsored health-care plans that are managed jointly by unions and mostly small employers, making unionized workers less competitive and potentially causing unionized employers to drop the plans that cover more than 20 million people.

To offset the expected rising costs of these “multiemployer” plans, several union groups want their lower-paid members to be able to remain on the plans while also getting access to federal insurance subsidies to be provided under the law. Their problem is that under the law, the subsidies were designed to be used by low-income workers who don’t have employer coverage, as a way to help them buy private insurance. The bottom line: they want lawmakers to apply the subsidies to people in the multiemployer plans.

In a letter dated July 11 to Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, union officials also said they are concerned the Affordable Care Act is leading employers to cut workers’ hours below 30 hours a week so that workers can avoid requirements to provide health coverage for those workers in the future.

Without changes, the health-care law “will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class,” the union officials wrote....
Why the President's ObamaCare Maneuver May Backfire
...Mr. Obama, however, has made a habit of exercising an unlawful suspending power, refusing to enforce selected federal laws, including various provisions of the immigration laws against young, undocumented aliens; work requirements enacted as part of the 1996 federal welfare reform law; and the testing accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law.

One key problem with suspension power—aside from the fact that it destroys the balance of power between the two political branches—is that, when skillfully exercised, it sidelines the judiciary. The Constitution requires that a party commencing litigation must have what is commonly called "standing," i.e., the party must have suffered or will suffer a legal injury that a court can redress. A determined president can head off litigation by effectively rewriting federal statutes in ways that do not create individual injuries so no party has standing.

By suspending the Affordable Care Act's employer insurance mandate, however, the president has potentially given millions of Americans the necessary standing to challenge his conduct. This is because the Affordable Care Act is a highly integrated law, with many of its key provisions dependent on each other. In addition to the employer mandate, the law also contains an "individual mandate," requiring most Americans to sign up for a required level of health-insurance coverage or pay a penalty.

The individual mandate was one of the core parts of the Affordable Care Act considered by the Supreme Court in the 2012 case of NFIB v. Sebelius, where the court upheld the statute against constitutional attack. Throughout that litigation, the Obama administration portrayed the individual mandate as an "integral part of a comprehensive scheme of economic regulation" that included the employer insurance mandate, which was intended to give millions of Americans a way of meeting their new obligation to have health insurance. In other words, suspending the employer insurance mandate prevents the individual insurance mandate from working the way Congress intended.

Like the employer mandate, the individual mandate by law will take effect in January 2014 (unless the president postpones that as well). Individuals who will then have to buy their own health insurance will arguably have suffered an injury sufficient to give them standing to sue. ...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Big Bad Government
...ObamaCare's problems are not unique. Important parts of the federal government are breaking down almost simultaneously.

The National Security Agency has conservative philosophers upset that its surveillance program is ushering in Big Brother. What's more concretely frightening is that a dweeb like Edward Snowden could download the content of the NSA's computers onto a thumb drive and walk out of the world's "most secretive" agency. Here's the short answer: The NSA has 40,000 employees. (Some say it's as high as 55,000, but it's a secret.)

Echoing that, when the IRS's audits of conservative groups emerged, the agency managers' defense was that the IRS is too big for anyone to know what its agents are doing. Thus both the NSA and IRS are too big to avoid endangering the public...

Even some conservatives have given up and boarded the death star. The Senate immigration bill throws $46 billion at the Department of Homeland Security to implement a "border surge" strategy that has no chance of achieving its goals. Securing the border is the conservatives' Solyndra....
Cameras Catch Mystery Break-In at Whistleblower's Law Firm
The offices of a Dallas law firm representing a high-profile State Department whistleblower were broken into last weekend. Burglars stole three computers and broke into the firm's file cabinets. But silver bars, video equipment and other valuables were left untouched, according to local Fox affiliate KDFW, which aired security camera footage of the suspected burglars entering and leaving the offices around the time of the incident.

The firm Schulman & Mathias represents Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator at the State Department's Office of the Inspector General. In recent weeks, she raised a slew of explosive allegations against the department and its contractors ranging from illicit drug use, soliciting sexual favors from minors and prostitutes and sexual harassment.

"It's a crazy, strange and suspicious situation," attorney Cary Schulman told The Cable. "It's clear to me that it was somebody looking for information and not money. My most high-profile case right now is the Aurelia Fedenisn case, and I can't think of any other case where someone would go to these great lengths to get our information."

According to the KDFW report, the firm was the only suite burglarized in the high-rise office building and an unlocked office adjacent was left untouched. ...
State Department official accused of trading visas for sex
A State Department consular officer in Guyana is accused of selling visas to the United States to suspected drug dealers and others in exchange for sex and cash bribes....
Left and Right Unite: Let's Not Get Too Upset When Government Does Bad Things
...At In These Times, Louis Nayman reminds proggies that they ought not get too upset about massive government data hoovering and constant surveillance, because doing so might undermine Government Itself, which does so many great things for us it would be churlish to complain:

...As people who believe in government, we cannot simply assume that officials are abusing their lawfully granted responsibility and authority to defend our people from violence and harm. If that’s not a proper function of government, I don’t know what is....

...And Patrick Howley at Daily Caller notes in his disucssion of the viral video of a young libertarian resisting at a DUI checkpoint in Tennessee (see J.D Tuccille on that) that while young conservative/libertarian activists may be cool and all, sometimes they really need to understand that one is obligated to knuckle under to authority because it is authority:

...The young conservative-libertarian movement is rapidly gaining popularity in the aftermath of Rand Paul’s #standwithrand anti-drones filibuster and the Obama administration’s IRS and NSA surveillance scandals. Commentators often criticize the movement for being too extreme. And there is a genuine insurrectionist spirit in the conservative-libertarian movement — a spirit that, if taken too far, can cause young people to disrespect men with a badge, and to disrespect their elders....
Experts: Obama’s plan to predict future leakers unproven, unlikely to work
In an initiative aimed at rooting out future leakers and other security violators, President Barack Obama has ordered federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on behavioral profiling techniques that are not scientifically proven to work, according to experts and government documents. ...

...Under the program, which is being implemented with little public attention, security investigations can be launched when government employees showing “indicators of insider threat behavior” are reported by co-workers, according to previously undisclosed administration documents obtained by McClatchy. Investigations also can be triggered when “suspicious user behavior” is detected by computer network monitoring and reported to “insider threat personnel.”

Federal employees and contractors are asked to pay particular attention to the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors – like financial troubles, odd working hours or unexplained travel – of co-workers as a way to predict whether they might do “harm to the United States.” Managers of special insider threat offices will have “regular, timely, and, if possible, electronic, access” to employees’ personnel, payroll, disciplinary and “personal contact” files, as well as records of their use of classified and unclassified computer networks, polygraph results, travel reports and financial disclosure forms. ...
Microsoft’s Surveillance Collaboration: Voluntary Aid, or New Legal Tactic?
In July of last year, Microsoft began publicly testing an online e-mail and chat service called Soon afterward, according to the British newspaper the Guardian, the company reengineered it in a way that allowed the National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program collect chat data before it was encrypted.

Privacy campaigners and surveillance experts are now pondering whether Microsoft’s actions were forced by a previously unknown legal tactic, or whether the company voluntarily made the changes to aid surveillance. The Guardian report marks the first time that a major Internet company has been described to have modified its systems to enable government surveillance, as opposed to simply providing access to data it already held....

...In its statement Thursday, Microsoft hinted that some of its actions were made under legal duress. It said that “when we upgrade or update products legal obligations may in some circumstances require that we maintain the ability to provide information in response to a law enforcement or national security request.”...

Timeline: How the World Was Misled About Government Skype Eavesdropping
...All of these details provide significant insight into how the NSA is able to monitor Skype video and audio chats, shedding light on the likely reason why the company refused to answer questions last year about its eavesdropping capabilities. In 2008, Skype was happy to go on record saying that it could not monitor chats due to its encryption, but that policy clearly changed after the PRISM cooperation began in 2011.

In addition, the documents revealed by Snowden call into question false public statements made by Microsoft regarding Skype and its security. The standout example of this is the claim in its transparency report that it handed over the content of zero Skype communications in 2012. But the company also deceptively stated in its transparency report that calls made between Skype-Skype users were encrypted peer-to-peer, as I noted last month, implying that they did not pass through Microsoft’s central servers and could not be eavesdropped on. Indeed, prior to the disclosure of the secret NSA documents, Skype’s Mark Gillett even had the audacity to accuse journalists raising questions about its eavesdropping capabilities (including me) of misleading Skype users about “our approach to user security and privacy.”...
The Left vs. Free Speech's Shawn Mitchell has an interesting perspective on Barack Obama's hostility to free speech, and specifically the Citizens United case:

...In the harsh light of the IRS scandal, and news other agencies targeted conservatives, it's impossible to doubt the administration saw an even more useful tool in [Federal Election Commission] prosecutions aimed to silence inconvenient companies. The IRS had to wait like a web-bound spider for self-selected organizing groups to seek non-profit status. In contrast, enforcing a ban on political speech, however that term might be creatively construed, against corporate America, offered the FEC a wide and happy hunting ground. No need to wait for a rag tag bunch to present itself seeking your blessing. Instead, Obama enforcers in the mold of Lois Lerner could scan the landscape for scalps, or, for the occasional "crucifixion" as the loose-lipped EPA administrator was caught boasting.

Targeted prosecutions could have spread quite a pall and chill across business big and small as word spread: "Stay away from politics. Who needs the brain damage?"

In 2010 and 11, the political landscape was a hostile place for team Obama. Americans had just repudiated his entire case for governing and Congress was running scared. Shrewd minds like Axelrod and Jarrett looked for new and potent ways to bleed force from the massing movement. They found them. But Citizens United denied them a formidable switchblade indeed, and may have saved untold blood.

Of course, if it was necessary for Obama to steal the 2012 election, the abuse of the IRS and other agencies was sufficient to achieve that goal. Still, Mitchell's analysis has the ring of truth. Central to the left's political strategy are efforts to impose social costs on dissenters--to make opposition not worth the effort. It reminds us of our vacation last year in Beijing, where the locals are not obviously oppressed, but hardly anyone discusses politics....
Report: Thousands fled Canadian health system in 2012
Thousands of Canadians continue to flee the country to seek medical treatment abroad, with the United States a common destination.

An estimated 42,173 Canadians left their homeland in 2012 to seek medical treatment elsewhere. This is a decrease from the 46,159 Canadians who fled the country in 2011 for medical treatment.

“In some cases, these patients needed to leave Canada due to a lack of available resources or a lack of appropriate procedure/technology,” according to a report by the Fraser Institute — a free-market Canadian think tank. “In others, their departure will have been driven by a desire to return more quickly to their lives, to seek out superior quality care, or perhaps to save their own lives or avoid the risk of disability.”...

ObamaCare Will Now Add To Deficits In First 10 Years
In September 2009, President Obama promised the country that "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future."

But it turns out Obama did sign such a plan — in fact, ObamaCare could add upwards of 180 billion dimes to the deficit in its first 10 years, an IBD analysis of various official budget reports found.

According to the Congressional Budget Office's initial forecast made in March 2010, ObamaCare was supposed to cut the deficit a total of $124 billion in its first decade. Democrats seized on this to show Obama had lived up to his promise.

Almost as soon as Obama signed the law, however, his administration started making changes that added costs and cut revenues. The most recent was the one-year delay in the employer mandate.

The result is instead of a $124 billion deficit cut from 2010 to 2019, ObamaCare will likely add about $18 billion in red ink over those same years. And that assumes nothing else changes in the years ahead....
NYC cases show crooked cops' abuse of FBI database
NEW YORK (AP) — It's billed by the FBI as "the lifeline of law enforcement" — a federal database used to catch criminals, recover stolen property and even identify terrorism suspects.

But authorities say Edwin Vargas logged onto the restricted system and ran names for reasons that had nothing to do with his duties as a New York Police Department detective. Instead, he was accused in May of looking up personal information on two fellow officers without their knowledge.

The allegation against Vargas is one of a batch of corruption cases in recent years against NYPD officers accused of abusing the FBI-operated National Crime Information Center database to cyber snoop on co-workers, tip off drug dealers, stage robberies and — most notoriously — scheme to abduct and eat women.

The NCIC database serves 90,000 agencies and gets 9 million entries a day...

$20 million claim against DOC by man shot 16 times
Thirty-year-old Dustin Theoharis in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, recovering from his twelfth surgery - this one to reconstruct his jaw. It’s unlikely he will ever fully recover from the barrage of bullets fired by police on Feb. 11, 2011. His attorney, Erik Heipt said that Theoharis suffered "a broken shoulder, 2 broken arms, broken legs, he had a compression fracture to his spine, damage to his liver and spleen.”

Theoharis wasn't the guy police were after. The King County Sheriff's deputy and Washington Department of Corrections officer who shot him were at the house to arrest a man who’d violated his parole. But in a search of the house after the shooting, they surprised Theoharis in the basement room he was renting.

Cole Harrison, who was at the house, described it this way: "They (the officers) rushed into that room like they were going to get somebody. I mean they rushed down there and then all of a sudden. Boom, boom, boom, boom.”

It’s estimated that the two officers fired more than 20 bullets; 16 hit Theoharis, who was lying in bed. The officers said they thought Theoharis was reaching for a gun. They later told investigators they weren’t sure how many bullets they fired....

Friday, July 12, 2013

When Hollywood Held Hands With Hitler
...Urwand unearthed evidence that suggests the studios were not merely self-censoring in an effort to keep their shareholders, audiences, and industry and government monitors happy. Rather, he says, the studios began working in detailed coordination with Nazi officials, putting profits above principles.

Largely through the Third Reich's vice consul in Los Angeles, Georg Gyssling, the Nazi-Hollywood relationship gave Hitler and his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, effectual power over what films got made, what scenes got cut, which stars and filmmakers were blacklisted, and which Jewish studio employees in Germany were fired. The Germans demanded say not just over American films shown in Germany but over those shown anywhere. Nazi emissaries visited theaters worldwide to report back on whether promised scene cuts had in fact been carried out. If not, the officials scolded the studios and threatened to close German production and distribution markets to them. The studios, year after year, would promptly grovel and comply.

Germany wouldn't allow the studios to take their profits out of the country. Paramount and 20th Century Fox circumvented that restriction by shooting newsreel footage in Germany that they could sell worldwide. However, the Nazis determined what footage those newsreel crews could film and how that footage was used for studio-produced Nazi propaganda shorts.

MGM didn't have a newsreel operation and was losing most of its profits to German banks because of draconian Nazi finance laws. To diminish that loss, as Urwand discovered in one of his most damning archival finds, MGM instead lent money to firms that manufactured Nazi armaments in Austria and the Sudetenland, received bonds in exchange for those loans, then sold the bonds to an American bank. "In other words—the largest American motion-picture company helped to finance the German war machine," Urwand writes....
Michael McConnell: Obama Suspends the Law
...Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution states that the president "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." This is a duty, not a discretionary power. While the president does have substantial discretion about how to enforce a law, he has no discretion about whether to do so.

This matter—the limits of executive power—has deep historical roots. During the period of royal absolutism, English monarchs asserted a right to dispense with parliamentary statutes they disliked. King James II's use of the prerogative was a key grievance that lead to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The very first provision of the English Bill of Rights of 1689—the most important precursor to the U.S. Constitution—declared that "the pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal."

To make sure that American presidents could not resurrect a similar prerogative, the Framers of the Constitution made the faithful enforcement of the law a constitutional duty....

...In 1998, the Supreme Court struck down a congressional grant of line-item veto authority to the president to cancel spending items in appropriations. The reason? The only constitutional power the president has to suspend or repeal statutes is to veto a bill or propose new legislation. Writing for the court in Clinton v. City of New York, Justice John Paul Stevens noted: "There is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes."

The employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act contains no provision allowing the president to suspend, delay or repeal it. Section 1513(d) states in no uncertain terms that "The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013." Imagine the outcry if Mitt Romney had been elected president and simply refused to enforce the whole of ObamaCare....
Another IRS Scandal Waiting to Happen
...The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), for instance, makes it clear that staff may not commence investigations until a bipartisan majority (four members) of the commission votes that there is a "reason to believe" a violation has occurred. In theory, this provision should guard against IRS-like witch hunts.

Except that over the years staff have come to ignore the law, and routinely initiate their own inquiries—often on little more than accusations they find on blogs or Facebook FB -0.43% . For a sense of how these investigations can go off the rails, consider that Lois Lerner—before serving as the center of today's IRS scandal—was the senior enforcement officer at the FEC. A Christian Coalition lawyer has testified that during a (sanctioned) FEC investigation in the 1990s—in addition to generating endless subpoenas, depositions and document requests, Ms. Lerner's staff demanded to know what Coalition members discussed at their prayer meetings and what churches they belonged to. Once staff gets rolling, there is little to stop them.

More troubling to some FEC commissioners has been the staff's unsanctioned and growing ties to the Obama Justice Department. In September 2011, Tony Herman was named FEC general counsel. Mr. Herman in early 2012 brought in Dan Petalas, a Justice prosecutor, as head of the agency's enforcement section. FECA is clear that a bipartisan majority of commissioners must vote to report unlawful conduct to law enforcement. Yet FEC staff have increasingly been sending agency content to Justice without informing the commission. ...

...These ties are disturbing, since the Obama campaign pioneered the tactic of demanding that Justice pursue criminal investigations of its political opponents as a means of intimidation. The FEC's info-funneling to Obama Justice raises the obvious question of whether Obama Justice wasn't in turn influencing FEC reports. (It also raises another question: If Justice had this kind of pipeline to the FEC, did it have one to the IRS?)

These questions are why election law requires bipartisan diligence over investigations and information sharing. Mr. McGahn is attempting to right the ship by getting the commission to adopt a new enforcement manual that would require uniform procedures. Yet FEC Chairman Ellen Weintraub has been uncharacteristically quiet on the issue, and liberal groups such as the Center for American Progress (via its Think Progress blog) have launched howling accusations that Mr. McGahn is trying to "block enforcement" and "weaken the agency." Some have suggested he's trying to ram through the change while the commission has a temporary 3-2 Republican majority. ...

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Kerry Takes Fire For Yachting During Egypt Crisis

Kerry Takes Fire For Yachting During Egypt Crisis
As the crisis in Egypt unfolded, a far more minor intrigue arose in Nantucket: Was Secretary of State John Kerry on a yacht Wednesday or not?

Briefly, he was, it turned out.

On Wednesday, a CBS News producer snapped a picture of a yacht and reported that the secretary was on board. The State Department initially called that report “completely inaccurate” but did not elaborate on Kerry’s whereabouts, saying only that he was working all day and phoned in to a Situation Room meeting on Egypt that afternoon. ...

John Kerry, who owns a $7 million yacht, a $7 million Beacon Hill townhome, a $9 million ocean-front Nantucket home, a $5 million Idaho ski retreat, a $4 million estate in Pennsylvania, and a $5 million home in Georgetown, wants you to undergo mandatory lifestyle cutbacks to prevent CO2-induced bad weather

MA Sen. John Kerry Puts his $7 million yacht in Rhode Island, Avoids MA Boat Tax
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is docking his family’s new $7 million yacht in neighboring Rhode Island, allowing him to avoid paying roughly $500,000 in taxes to the cash-strapped Bay State. Its ironic because these are the same kind of taxes from which Kerry is paid to represent the people of Massachusetts....

Health insurance marketplaces will not be required to verify consumer claims

Health insurance marketplaces will not be required to verify consumer claims
The Obama administration announced Friday that it would significantly scale back the health law’s requirements that new insurance marketplaces verify consumers’ income and health insurance status.

Instead, the federal government will rely more heavily on consumers’ self-reported information until 2015, when it plans to have stronger verification systems in place.

The delay comes after a Tuesday announcement that the federal government would postpone for one year a requirement that employers with 50 or more full-time workers provide health coverage....

Obama’s never-mind presidency

Obama’s never-mind presidency
...The PPACA remains unpopular, and there are congressional elections in years divisible by two — not even the Obama administration can ignore that constitutional fact — so last Tuesday, the administration said this about the act’s mandate that in 2014, large employers provide expensive health-care coverage for their workers or pay a substantial penalty: Never mind.

Although the Constitution has no Article VIII, the administration acts as though there is one that reads: “Notwithstanding all that stuff in other articles about how laws are made, if a president finds a law politically inconvenient, he can simply post on the White House Web site a notice saying: Never mind.”

Never mind that the law stipulates 2014 as the year when employers with 50 full-time workers are mandated to offer them health-care coverage or pay fines. Instead, 2015 will be the year. Unless Democrats see a presidential election coming.

This lesson in the Obama administration’s approach to the rule of law is pertinent to the immigration bill, which at last count had 222 instances of a discretionary “may” and 153 of “waive.” Such language means that were the Senate bill to become law, the executive branch would be able to do pretty much as it pleases, even to the point of saying about almost anything: Never mind.

Will Obama Follow Richard Nixon As An Asterisk President?
...Noonan ventures that a Tea Party, not under attack by the IRS, but that simply maintained its momentum after 2010, would “have brought the Republican Party as many as 5-8.5 million votes compared to Obama’s victory margin of 5 million.”

Per Noonan, the mere disclosure of the IRS harassment would have cost Obama even more votes:

“Imagine if we–if you can–what would have happened if this fact (IRS harassment of Tea Party groups) came out in September 2012, in the middle of a presidential election? The terrain would have looked very different.”...

...Imagine just one renegade reporter from the mainstream media (network television, the New York Times, or Newsweek) reporting just one simple fact, which we know to be true – that the President communicated directly with his top defense and intelligence officials handling the Benghazi crisis only once – at 5 PM – as word of the tragedy was first coming in. (We still do not know the President’s whereabouts that fatal night. He was next seen at 10:30 AM the next day in the Rose Garden before jetting off to campaign in Las Vegas).

The renegade reporter’s headline — Obama AWOL as American Diplomats Killed in Benghazi – could have dealt a critical blow to the Obama campaign. This pithy but true headline would have changed the complexion of the Obama-Romney foreign policy debate on October 23 and shut off mainstream-media’s Candy Crawley’s shameful and incorrect interference in the debate on behalf of the President....

U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement

U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement
WASHINGTON — Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home.

“Show all mail to supv” — supervisor — “for copying prior to going out on the street,” read the card. It included Mr. Pickering’s name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word “confidential” was highlighted in green.

“It was a bit of a shock to see it,” said Mr. Pickering, who with his wife owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. More than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Postal officials subsequently confirmed they were indeed tracking Mr. Pickering’s mail but told him nothing else.

As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service. ...

Obama Credit Watchdog Snoops Personal Financial Data
Big Brother is watching you — in even more ways than previously known. It turns out the National Security Agency and Internal Revenue Service aren't the only federal agencies gathering sensitive information about you.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform, is collecting reams of data on your bill-paying and spending habits.

In fact, the Obama administration is compiling a massive database of personal information, including monthly credit card, mort gage, car and other payments.

The data will be warehoused by private contractors and shared with other federal agencies and Congress, as well as researchers in the field.

Democrats on the House banking panel have already requested auto lending industry data that the CFPB is collecting as part of anti-discrimination probes....

Cardinal Dolan Transferred $57 Million To a Cemetery Fund to Shield It From Sexual Abuse Victims

Cardinal Dolan Transferred $57 Million To a Cemetery Fund to Shield It From Sexual Abuse Victims
[T]he files released Monday contain a letter [Dolan] wrote to the Vatican in 2007, in which he explained that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.”

The Vatican moved swiftly to approve the request, the files show, even though it often took years to remove known abusers from the priesthood....

...Archbishop Listecki released a letter last week warning Catholics in his archdiocese that the documents could shake their faith and trying to explain the actions of church leaders while offering apologies to victims.

“Prepare to be shocked,” he wrote. “There are some graphic descriptions about the behavior of some of these priest offenders.”...

...Cardinal Dolan’s moves involving church assets have come under particular scrutiny. Lawyers for the victims said the documents would prove that he transferred $130 million from the church’s books — about $55 million in a cemetery account, and $75 million in an investment account — to shield the money from abuse victims. ...

Cardinal Timothy Dolan: ‘Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation’
While supporters of marriage equality celebrated the Supreme Court's historic decisions on gay marriage on Wednesday, religious conservatives slammed the rulings and vowed to continue their fight against same-sex unions.

“Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation," Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a joint statement representing U.S. bishops. "The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong."...

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Healthcare roundup 7/6/13

Just a reminder from the WSJ: ObamaCare will make premiums skyrocket
For a relative few, the upcoming ObamaCare mandates will provide some relief from the high cost of covering pre-existing conditions. For most of the people in the individual-plan market, though, costs will skyrocket, the Wall Street Journal reports today. Rates could rise by double or even triple what healthy middle-age consumers now pay in the non-employer market, and that may mean a disincentive that will put even more stress on risk pools...

Insurance Costs for Healthy Americans To Soar Under Obamacare
Healthy consumers could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage under the federal health law later this year, while the premiums paid by sicker people are set to become more affordable, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of coverage to be sold on the law's new exchanges....

Obamacare at odds with state
The Affordable Care Act is proving to be anything but in Massachusetts. The recent revelation that federal regulatory changes could jack up premiums over 50 percent for some small companies has resulted in resistance from an unexpected source: the senior Democratic leadership in the state Senate.

The Senate passed a bill that will force Gov. Deval Patrick and his administration, to seek a waiver from certain elements of the ACA. The House on Friday went along with the Senate language. The move could come to a head when the provision lands on the governor’s desk. Should he sign it, it would be an embarrassing political moment for the Obama administration. How is it that the ACA is forcing significant changes to the state law officials claim was their model?...

58,000 Californians to lose current insurance under Obamacare
The nation’s largest health insurance company has decided to stop covering individuals in the nation’s largest state.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. said that it will not participate in California’s individual health insurance market beginning Jan. 1, 2014, when Obamacare regulations will take effect, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Last month, insurance giant Aetna also announced that it will no longer cover individual Californians. Together, the companies’ decision to stop providing individual coverage will affect 58,000 existing customers in California....

California schools will teach students how to torment parents about Obamacare
The Los Angeles Unified School District will promote Obamacare by teaching students to become “messengers” for the controversial government expansion over the U.S. healthcare system.

Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, initially announced a $990,000 state grant for the training instruction in May, reports Fox News. The grant is one of several totaling $37 million.

“Teens trained to be messengers to family members” is how one school district explains the central purposes for the grant, according to the Heartland Institute, a conservative and libertarian think tank.

A grant summary also listed “outreach calls” to families and “adult-student class presentations” as purposes. The outreach calls will involve staffers paid with tax dollars calling students’ homes....

Report: Government is responsible for housing bubble, not banks

Report: Government is responsible for housing bubble, not banks
...The new report about the housing-bubble was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, by authors Patrick Bayer, Fernando Ferreira and Stephen Ross.

“More than 1 in 10 black and Hispanic homeowners in our sample had a delinquent mortgage by 2009, compared to 1 in 25 for white households, and a similar pattern held for foreclosure rates,” said the report.

However, “racial and ethnic differences in foreclosure are tiny for homes that were originally purchased from 1998 to 2003 [when the bubble remains small], but substantial for homeowners who originally purchased their homes between 2004 and 2007,” the report said.

“These results call into question the [government policy] of encouraging homeownership as a general mechanism for reducing racial disparities in wealth… [because] such a push may backfire, leaving vulnerable households in a difficult financial situation and adversely affecting their wealth and credit-worthiness for years,” the report concluded....

Second teen spends months in jail for sarcastic video game threat

Second teen spends months in jail for sarcastic video game threat
Just days after multiple news outlets reported the story of a Texas teen jailed for making a sarcastic threat online, a Mississippi mother facing a nearly identical situation gave an exclusive interview to The Daily Caller News Foundation about her son’s lengthy incarceration.

Josh Pillault was arrested last October for threatening to kill people and destroy buildings. At the time of his arrest, he was 19-years-old, and an avid video game player.

The threats were made while he was playing “Runescape,” an online multiplayer fantasy game. Another player began antagonizing him, and eventually told him to kill himself.

Irritated, Pillault said he would kill not just himself, but also take out the local high school. He also mentioned Columbine — the name of an infamous school shooting — according to reports.

It was the response that the other player had been hoping for, according to Pillault’s mother.

“His gleeful last words to Josh were ‘Knock, knock!’ which is a reference to the feds he sent our way,” wrote Stacey Pillault in an email to TheDC News Foundation.

Federal authorities raided the Pillault home a few days later, arresting Josh. He has been in jail ever since....

Lawsuit: Police seize homes, arrest owners to investigate neighbor

Lawsuit: Police seize homes, arrest owners to investigate neighbor
A family is suing the city of Henderson, Nevada for violating their Third Amendment rights — the constitutional prohibition against quartering soldiers in a private home during peacetime without the owner’s consent.

The Mitchell family says that’s essentially what happened when Henderson police allegedly arrested them for refusing to let officers use their homes for a “tactical advantage” in a domestic violence investigation into a neighbor, according to an official complaint.

Police officers contacted Anthony Mitchell on July 10, 2011, with a request to use his house as a lookout while investigating his neighbor. When Mitchell told police that he did not wish to be involved, the complaint alleges, police decided they would use the residence anyway.

According to Courthouse News Service, the police department decided that if Mitchell refused to leave or open the door, officers would force their way in and arrest him.

Mitchell claims this is exactly what happened. First officers “smashed open” Mitchell’s door with a “metal ram” after he did not immediately open it himself. He then “curled on the floor of his living room, with his hands over his face,” as the police shot Mitchell and his dog — which the family claims did not attack the officers — several times with “pepperball” rounds.

Pepperball is a projectile containing chemical irritant pepper spray, which is released upon impact.

Afterward, Mitchell was arrested for “obstructing a police officer.”...

Liberal nonprofit that pressed Shulman to target conservatives houses his wife’s group

Liberal nonprofit that pressed Shulman to target conservatives houses his wife’s group
The progressive nonprofit organization Common Cause urged then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman to investigate activities of conservative donors despite housing the campaign-reform group that employs Shulman’s wife.

In 2012, Common Cause urged Shulman and fellow embattled IRS official Lois Lerner, director of the agency’s tax-exempt organizations division, to investigate the Koch Brothers’ attempted takeover of the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute.

“Common Cause respectfully requests that the Internal Revenue Service initiate an investigation into whether attempts by Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, shareholders of the Cato Institute, to take control of and manipulate the Cato Institute for partisan political purposes expose a flaw in the Cato Institute’s structure that jeopardizes its tax exempt status under 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3),” Common Cause president Bob Edgar wrote in a letter to Shulman and fellow IRS official Lois Lerner dated March 9, 2012....

...Common Cause provides office space to the progressive campaign-finance reform organization Public Campaign which employs Shulman’s wife Susan L. Andersen as a senior program advisor....

Employer Mandate? Never Mind

Employer Mandate? Never Mind
These columns fought the Affordable Care Act from start to passage, and we'd now like to apologize to our readers. It turns out we weren't nearly critical enough. The law's implementation is turning into a fiasco for the ages, and this week's version is the lawless White House decision to delay the law's insurance mandate for businesses, though not for individuals.

The employer mandate is central to ObamaCare's claim of providing universal coverage. Companies with 50 or more "employee equivalents" must pay a $2,000 penalty per full-time employee if they don't provide government-approved health insurance. The provision was supposed to start in January, and delaying it is like Ford saying its electric car is ready to go, except the electric battery doesn't work. ...

...Which brings us to the dubious legality of this delay. The Affordable Care Act's Section 1513 states in black-letter law that "(d) Effective Date.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013." It does not say the Administration can impose the mandate whenever it feels it is politically convenient.

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

Citizens United: The IRS Scandal's Smoking Gun?

Citizens United: The IRS Scandal's Smoking Gun?
...Obama used his 2010 State of the Union address to insult the conservative justices to their face and threaten an end-run around Citizens United by legislation or executive order, an assault cheered on by congressional Democrats. True to his word, the president tried to choke off corporate spending with the Disclose Act, a hyperpartisan travesty designed to identify political "enemies" for harassment from the left while giving unions a pass. It failed in the Senate.

No longer able to wield the FEC as a partisan sword, and frustrated by his inability to stifle conservative speech with his shiny new law, Obama set about denouncing conservatives as enemies of democracy, while Democratic Senators bombarded the IRS with letters demanding a regulatory crackdown against the Tea Party and other right-wing extremists.

Obama and the Democrats got their wish, but now their bad behavior has come back to haunt them. In the wake of the IRS targeting scandal, the Citizens United saga looks for all the world like brass-knuckle Chicago politics. Worse, because they obviously shared the partisan objective of stifling anti-Obama campaign speech, the bad guys at the IRS and the White House-led Citizens United "resistance" are politically joined at the hip

Like the IRS harassment campaign that replaced it, FEC suppression of political speech relied on uncertainty, intimidation, and delay to work the administration's political will. This was not lost on the court. Citizens United pointed an accusing finger directly at the White House, warning against the chilling of political speech by "uncertainty caused by the litigating position of the Government."

The mechanism for regulatory abuse was the very case-by-case approach demanded by the administration and defended by Stevens....

IRS's Lerner Had History of Harassment, Inappropriate Religious Inquiries at FEC
Perhaps no other IRS official is more intimately associated with the tax agency's growing scandal than Lois Lerner, director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division. Since admitting the IRS harassed hundreds of conservative and Tea Party groups for over two years, Lerner has been criticized for a number of untruths—including the revelation that she apparently lied about planting a question at an American Bar Association conference where she first publicly acknowledged IRS misconduct....

...The trouble with this defense is that, prior to joining the IRS, Lerner's tenure as head of the Enforcement Office at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was marked by what appears to be politically motivated harassment of conservative groups....