Friday Digest

Oct. 18, 2013

THE FOUNDATION

“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” –Thomas Paine

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

ObamaCare’s Third World Experience

Closer examination of the design and implementation of the ObamaCare enrollment website reveals a long list of mistakes that could have been avoided, but instead were compounded by politically motivated decisions made by the Obama administration. And problems likely won’t be resolved for months.

Late in the design phase of the exchanges, the Department of Health and Human Services removed fundamental elements of the site that would have allowed consumers to actually see the cost of insurance so as to reduce “rate shock.” It had become apparent even to the true believers that ObamaCare wasn’t affordable or flexible in its options. The truth would have led to reduced enrollment, so HHS opted to reject transparency for the sake of political expediency – and they still got low enrollment. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius still refuses to reveal the true number of enrollees, which private sources estimate is a paltry 20% of the government’s target for October.

The administration, fearing Republican and public criticism, opted to keep the construction and testing of the website in-house with trusted campaign tech gurus. Major decisions were made behind closed doors without oversight, like granting the no-bid contract to CGI Federal to build the site. CGI Group, the Canada-based parent company of CGI Federal, was fired by the Canadian government in 2012 for missing three years of deadlines and developing a substandard product that proved unworkable. It will now take several months of continuous patches to a half-billion-dollar website built with decade-old technology and rife with security problems just to gain basic functionality – like providing the correct information to insurers.

What was it Henry Chao, the government’s chief technical officer in charge of establishing the exchanges, said earlier this year? “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.” So much for that.

But the problem is deeper: ObamaCare as a whole is ill-conceived and unworkable, on top of being unconstitutional – regardless of what the Supreme Court ruled.

Speaking of legal challenges, there is also a lawsuit moving its way through the courts in Oklahoma that strikes at the heart of the law. The state’s attorney general is filing suit alleging that the federal exchanges are wrongfully extending subsidies and tax credits, a power the law explicitly leaves only to the states. If the court agrees that the IRS illegally stretched the power of the government to extend subsidies and tax credits, the whole law could be undone. Wouldn’t that be a pity?

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Silver Linings on the CR and DC Debacles

For complete coverage of the beginning, middle and end of the government shutdown, and what opportunities it presents going forward, don’t miss Mark Alexander’s essay on Great News for Conservatives.

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ECONOMY

Income Redistribution: Food Stamps and Hunger

Abandoned Walmart carts

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps, has grown exponentially over the last decade and now redistributes $80 billion in confiscated wealth every year to nearly one in six Americans, making it second only to Medicaid in cost. And we saw just this week what happens when there’s a glitch in the program that endangers this entitlement – a run on Walmart that ended with abandoned shopping carts when the system came back online. Now that the federal government is up and running again, Congress will revisit the $500 billion “farm bill,” a large chunk of which involves food stamps.

Just in time, Michael Tanner at Cato Institute issued a new study showing that SNAP “has a high rate of fraud and abuse.” In fact, “SNAP [is] one of the most frequently abused non-health care social welfare programs.” Tanner further blames deliberately lax eligibility standards for the explosive growth of the program. All the while, he concludes, “[T]here is little proof that the expansion of SNAP has significantly reduced hunger or improved nutrition among low-income Americans.” On the contrary, “[T]here is evidence that SNAP, like other welfare programs, can increase dependence and undermine the work ethic.”

So much for the Left’s “generosity” and “compassion.” In fact, Democrats have nothing to lose and everything to gain by spending your money to grow the size of their poverty-plantation constituency. For their part, farm-state Republicans gladly extend government-subsidized purchases to their own constituents. Where the farm bill is concerned, real reform is too much to hope for.

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NATIONAL SECURITY

The Never-Ending Story, Continued

Nuclear talks with Iran

Iran and the P5+1 (USA, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) concluded their latest round of talks on Wednesday in the long-running standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Both sides issued the usual meaningless make-nice statements that always seem to follow these talks. But there was a worrisome note of naïve optimism coming from some Western officials who should know better. Have they been seduced by the alleged “reformist” nature of Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani? It’s worth remembering that this is the same Rouhani who was present at the creation with Old Whiskers himself; who had to be vetted by the regime before he could run for president; who has bragged in Iranian media about fooling the West; and who led Iran’s Supreme Council for National Security and was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003-2005, when Iran’s secret weapons work was revealed.

Adding to our concern is the lesson Iran learned in watching the Obama administration bumble its way into a Syria “deal” that effectively kept Bashar al-Assad in power while depending on the good will of Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold Syria to its obligations. The lesson for Iran? Obama is so desperate to avoid using force that he will clutch at any political straw offered him. So what straw will Iran offer?

Iran could offer to stop enriching uranium to 20%, which sounds important but in fact is meaningless. Such a concession could be reversed at any time, without delay and probably without detection. Iran could allow inspectors access to Iranian nuclear scientists, but only in tightly controlled interviews with government handlers present – again, meaningless. It could even allow inspectors onto the grounds of the former weapons research site at Parchin. The facility was razed in 2004 and likely offers little if any tangible evidence today. In return, Iran would demand the relaxation of sanctions that have squeezed its economy, even before Iran’s good behavior can be verified. It would likely seek some U.S. affirmation of Iran’s right to nuclear energy (which is not in dispute; only Iran’s compliance with its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations is disputed). And Iran would likely seek a U.S. pledge not to attack Iran as long as political negotiations continue. Would the Obama administration fall for such a ploy? Given its performance during the Syrian crisis, it’s certainly possible.

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Profiles of Valor: U.S. Army Capt. William D. Swenson

Swenson received the Medal of Honor for heroic actions in battle in Afghanistan.

Read the rest and comment here.

CULTURE

Redefining ‘Hate Groups’ in the Army

The war on religious liberty continues. Fox News' Todd Starnes reports, “Several dozen U.S. Army active duty and reserve troops were told last week that the American Family Association, a well-respected Christian ministry, should be classified as a domestic hate group because the group advocates for traditional family values.” In other words, because the group stands for biblical values, the “tolerant” Left can’t tolerate them.

The incident allegedly happened during an official training session at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, which included a slide presentation listing the AFA alongside neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. For AFA, the slide featured a picture of Fred Phelps of the Westboro “Baptist Church,” whose deranged flock grabs headlines by staging “God Hates Fags” protests at military funerals. Phelps has no connection to AFA, but much of the information was likely provided by the intolerant Leftists at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

An Army spokesman later said that the presentation was “produced by a soldier conducting a briefing which included info acquired from an Internet search,” and the briefing materials have “since been updated, and any references to AFA were removed.” But evidently, the Army is also trying to figure out who blew the whistle. Tragically, the military is becoming ever more a reflection of the cultural degradation promoted by the Left. But it’s critical that our military personnel are able to freely exercise the same rights they’ve sworn to defend.

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BRIEF OPINION

For the Record

Historian Victor Davis Hanson: “[H]ad President Obama himself just listened to earlier guidance from Barack Obama, his opponents might have had no cause for either a government shutdown or another debt-ceiling crisis. In 2006, Obama rightly called for an end to the Bush administration’s intemperate deficit spending that had resulted in an annual deficit of $250 billion that year. Accordingly, Sen. Obama voted to shut down the government rather than automatically to extend the debt ceiling. … The next year, Obama voted ‘present’ rather than to approve another $160 billion in annual borrowing that would add to the debt. … In 2008, candidate Obama returned to the issue of profligate spending again. For most of 2008, candidate Obama also called for a kinder and gentler Washington politics. … Through a series of metaphors, similes and allusions [during the recent shutdown, however], Obama reduced his opposition to little more than ransom takers, house burners, defaulters, global economy crashers, nuclear bomb users, extremists, threateners, extortionists, hostage takers, plant burners and equipment breakers – who are apparently also untrustworthy and irresponsible.”

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Re: The Left

Columnist Ann Coulter: “No major legislation has ever been passed like Obamacare – and I’m using the word ‘passed’ pretty loosely. It became law without both houses ever voting on the same bill. (Say, is the Constitution considered ‘settled law’?) … The most hilarious part of the ‘settled law’ argument is that it’s coming from the left, for whom nothing is ever ‘settled’ until they get their way…. Liberals seem to believe our founding fathers sought to create a country where the pushiest always win. (That’s why they’re the party of trial lawyers.) They want the nation’s policies to be determined by a never-ending co-op board meeting dominated by the most obnoxious shareholders. … Liberals will fight until they get their way – and, as soon as they do, they announce their one victory is ‘settled law.’ That’s what happened with Obamacare. … When Democrats refuse to give up on an issue, it’s against the will of the people with one party laughing, ‘Ha ha! We have 60 votes!’”

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Political Futures

Economist Walter E. Williams: “President Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus, black state and local politicians, and civil rights organizations are neither naive nor stupid. They have been made aware of the unemployment effects of the labor laws they support; however, they are part of a political coalition. In order to get labor unions, environmental groups, business groups and other vested interests to support their handout agenda and make campaign contributions, they must give political support to what these groups want. They must support minimum wage increases even though the increases condemn generations of black youths to high unemployment rates. They must support Davis-Bacon Act restrictions even though those restrictions handicap black contractors and nonunion construction workers. I can’t imagine what black politicians and civil rights groups are getting that’s worth condemning black youths to a high rate of unemployment and its devastating effects on upward economic mobility, but then again, I’m not a politician.”

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For more, visit The Right Opinion.

CHRONICLE QUOTES

Alpha Jackass

Barack Obama: “Let’s work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse. That’s not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government. You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it. That’s not being faithful to what this country’s about.”

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The BIG Lie

Barack Obama: “Nobody shares the frustrations of the American people more than I do because I see day in and day out the damage that something like a shutdown does.”

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Demo-gogues

Sen. Chris Murphy: “There was so much economic hurt that had already piled up … people just didn’t have any wiggle room, when the Tea Party decided to stick a knife into the backs of hard-working American families. We’re here because Tea Party Republicans in the House see this misery as a bargaining chip.”

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Dezinformatsia

MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts to Rep. Marsha Blackburn: “Let me ask you, when it comes to ObamaCare, do you hate ObamaCare more than you love your country?”

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From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File

Nancy Pelosi: “[ObamaCare is] about the benefits, about the liberation of people to a healthier life of liberty; the freedom to choose their happiness, that all remains.”

So forcing people to sign up for overpriced insurance is the essence of Liberty?

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Village Idiots

Actor Robert Redford: “There’s a body of congressional people that want to paralyze the system. I think what sits underneath it unfortunately is there’s probably some racism involved, which is really awful.”

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Short Cuts

Fred Thompson: “An Illinois man wrote his Congressman to say that, thanks to Obamacare, ‘my premium is now higher than my mortgage.’ Can’t wait until Obama fixes the problem by making home ownership mandatory.”

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team

Join us in daily prayer for our Patriots in uniform – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen – standing in harm’s way in defense of Liberty, and for their families.

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