“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that … he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” –Samuel Adams
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Off Year Elections: Lessons Learned?
Tuesday’s main events were the off-year elections in New Jersey and Virginia, and political prognosticators always look for trends that may be useful for the coming national elections. Let’s just say the lessons Tuesday are mixed.
Beginning in New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie won a resounding re-election bid with more than 60% of the vote in a blue state. Christie is no “Tea Party” conservative, but he has governed on the conservative side, winning pension reform for public employees, tenure reform for teachers that makes it easier to fire bad ones, and vetoing an ill-advised tax increase on the wealthy. On the other hand, he banned gender-disorientation therapy, has generally been ornery toward conservative national Republicans and runs a state still mired at the bottom economically. Still, Christie worked well across the isle and made significant outreach to minorities who supplied his margin of victory – that’s what hugging Barack Obama can do. He is well positioned to make a run at the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, and it’s worth remembering that Ronald Reagan was the last true conservative to win that nomination.
Perhaps the more interesting lessons, however, come from Virginia’s governor’s race, where Clintonista carpetbagger Terry McAuliffe edged conservative Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. It was the latter who spearheaded the major lawsuit against ObamaCare, so Democrats will crow about their Virginia victory, but Cuccinelli was defeated by factors well beyond McAuliffe’s campaign, and if the GOP doesn’t learn from its mistakes, there will be more disappointments to follow in 2014.
Cuccinelli entered the race with an uphill battle created by a largely fabricated scandal involving former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. But more than any other factor, his narrow defeat was due to the completely avoidable liability created by the ill-conceived box-canyon strategy to defund ObamaCare, which enabled Democrats to hang the partial government shutdown around GOP necks. This was particularly true in northern Virginia, where some 30% of the state’s voters reside, including a heavy portion of government employees or contractors.
Indeed, Democrats certainly understand the principle of “divided THEY fall.” Too many Republicans, particularly in our conservative ranks, have yet to figure out that “divided WE fall.”
Of course there were other factors.
The Republican National Committee virtually gave up on Cuccinelli early on, giving him just $3 million. McAuliffe raised almost $15 million more than Cuccinelli, thanks to help from his old boss, Bill Clinton.
In the end, however, McAuliffe victory margin was less than 3%, when he had led in the polls by double digits for months. Thanks to the calamitous rollout of ObamaCare, Cuccinelli nearly pulled off the upset – and undoubtedly would have but for the government shutdown baggage. Of course, it could also be argued that the third party Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis, who received almost 7% of the vote, handed the victory to McAuliffe.
And a final note on the subject of Democrats dividing and conquering their adversaries, it turns out that Sarvis had the benefit of an Obama bankrolling bundler.
Judicial Benchmarks: Federalism at the High Court
A big constitutional law battle is about to reach its climax – a battle between the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment. The Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2) states, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.” The Tenth Amendment reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Read how a domestic dispute may have huge consequences for federalism and comment here.
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NSA Gains Back-Door Access to Tech Giants
In the latest news regarding the activities of the National Security Agency (NSA), we learn that the agency accessed Google and Yahoo communications links connecting the companies' data centers. According to The Washington Post, “By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.” In fact, the information was so vast that the NSA’s Special Source Operations complained of too much hay in the stack.
The project is called MUSCULAR, and it’s basically the other side of the coin from the previously disclosed PRISM. The latter allowed the NSA front-door access to data from cooperating web giants, while MUSCULAR is a clandestine back-door infiltration to collect any and all data that passed international boundaries between Google or Yahoo data centers. Simply put, while everyone knows Silicon Valley and telecom companies were cooperating with the NSA on some stuff, what a lot of people don’t know (and the companies themselves didn’t know until now) is that the NSA was also going behind their backs to compromise their networks. A lot of these companies probably thought there were good reasons to cooperate with the NSA, and at least by “cooperating” they had some oversight about what information was handed over. But now the whole thing just looks like a front, because the NSA had access to far more data than PRISM’s limited scope implied.
The information collected in MUSCULAR also doesn’t seem to be merely the “metadata” – information about emails or web searches – but in many cases the actual content of the messages, including attachments. Naturally, the NSA swears that it is “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.” Perhaps it is, but the fact remains, millions of Americans are caught up in the dragnet for no other reason than they use technology.
CULTURE, SCIENCE & FAITH
Second Amendment: Are Gun Owners Racist?
There’s just something about foreign academics and their lack of understanding of the American system that makes their research questionable at best. Further evidence of that can be found in a recent study by Australian and British researchers, which concludes, “Symbolic racism was related to having a gun in the home and opposition to gun control policies in U.S. whites.” They continue by asserting, “The findings help explain U.S. whites' paradoxical attitudes towards gun ownership and gun control,” before whining that “[s]uch attitudes may adversely influence U.S. gun control policy debates and decisions.”
In essence, what these academics are arguing is that those who legally own firearms automatically assume a racist attitude toward blacks, generally with the belief that their self-protection is required because blacks are a threat. The study authors leap to this conclusion by noting, among other statistics, that “[b]lacks are disproportionately represented in U.S. firearm homicides … and would benefit most from improved gun control.” Yet, in the next breath they concede, “[R]esearch on the reasons for opposition to gun control is sparse.”
Much of their database comes from a single survey called the American National Election Study, with the researchers using data collected between 2008 and 2009 to test their hypothesis. Nowhere in the study, though, are other theories on attitudes toward gun control brought up, but without a great deal of effort we can conclude that our objection to gun control is based on a document drawn up two centuries ago. A plain reading of the Second Amendment is far from racist. Parting question: Where is the study about racist attitudes and the general disregard for life and property exhibited by baggy pants, backward cap gun-toters?
ECONOMY, REGS & TAXES
Fighting Fracking Fiction
Providing yet more proof of the falsity of the anti-fracking fracas, a study performed by Public Health England (PHE), an agency within Britain’s Department of Health has found that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” as a means of tapping into vast underground resources of natural gas poses few emissions-related health risks when operations are run properly. The study, which examined fracking operations in countries including the United States, also found that “[c]ontamination of groundwater from the underground fracking process itself … is unlikely.”
This comes on the heels of another recent study that showed fracking hardly poses the grave greenhouse gas emissions threat that ecofascists claim. Unfortunately, the truth – however often confirmed – is unlikely to mollify anti-fracking alarmists, who have said the process does everything from ignite tap water to cause bowel disease. (And that’s not even mentioning all those fracking-induced traffic accidents. Seriously, folks, we can’t make this stuff up.) What the truth does do, however, is make it more and more difficult for fracking’s foes credibly to fight the facts with little more than fiction.
For the Record
Economist Thomas Sowell: “ObamaCare is in many ways old wine in new bottles. For example, when confronted with the fact that millions of Americans stand to lose their existing medical insurance, as a result of ObamaCare, defenders of ObamaCare say that this is true only when those people have ‘substandard’ insurance. Who decides what is ‘substandard’? What is older than the idea that some exalted elite know what is good for us better than we know ourselves? … ObamaCare … began as supposedly a way to deal with the problem of a segment of the population – those without health insurance. But, instead of directly helping those particular people to get insurance, the ‘solution’ was to expand the government’s power over everybody, including people who already had health insurance that they wanted to keep. Since there has never been a society of human beings without at least some segment with some problem, this is a formula for a never-ending expansion of government power. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are all on record as believing in a ‘single payer’ system – that is, a government monopoly able to impose its own will on everybody. Even the current and future problems of ObamaCare can help them to reach that goal.”
Re: The Left
Columnist Mona Charen: “The question many on the left are asking as they witness the Obama administration flail in response to HealthCare.gov’s debut disaster is: How could this happen? Obama is so brilliant, so capable and so wise. How could he bungle his signature initiative? He isn’t, but even if he were, it wouldn’t make a particle of difference. One of the central delusions of progressives is that government is efficient and effective and that complex human societies are amenable to centralized control and direction. We on the right presume government ineptitude. … Those spending other people’s money have very little incentive to economize or seek top value. Nor can central bureaucrats possibly have enough information to make wise decisions about something as complex as one-sixth of a $16 trillion economy. As Friedrich A. Hayek cautioned: ‘The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.’”
National Review: “The president misspoke: What he meant to say, a hundred or so times, was: ‘If I like your insurance, you can keep it.’ You may like your insurance, but that is not quite good enough for the Obama administration. Contrary to the endlessly repeated promise of the president and his political allies, millions and millions of Americans who do in fact like their current insurance policies are receiving notices that they will not be allowed to keep them. The White House and its media allies are working furiously to explain away this fact, but there is no explaining it away: The president lied about this. … Nor can the Democrats say that they did not see this coming. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Senator Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.) introduced a bill specifically intended to alleviate this problem and ensure that small businesses would have their health-insurance plans grandfathered in. Democrats voted unanimously against it. There is no amount of clever spin or media denial that can make the president’s promises accord with the reality of what his administration is doing – or with the fact that he knew his claims were untrue at the time he was making them.”
For more, visit The Right Opinion.
Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh: “This ObamaCare lie is lying about the most personal thing in many people’s minds: Their relationship with their doctor and their health. Not only that, the health of their entire family. This is as personal a lie as this president or any president could have told people.”
The BIG Lie
Barack Obama “Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you could keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed. So we wrote into the Affordable Care Act, you’re grandfathered in on that plan. But if the insurance company changes it, then what we’re saying is they’ve got to change it to a higher standard.”
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “[W]hat we’re talking about here is insurance companies who chose not to keep the plan they could have grandfathered, and they chose to change the plan that they were making available to people that they already insured in the individual market. … So, no. there was nothing about what President Obama or that I or any other Democrat supporting the affordable care act said that was not true.”
Barack Obama: “We [passed ObamaCare] to put to end the days when the individual market had no standards, when every year, thousands of Americans would be dropped from their coverage. People are acting like this is some new phenomenon.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “Well, as I understand it, you can keep [your insurance plan] up to the time – and I hope this is correct, but this is what I’ve been told – up to the time the bill was enacted, and after that, it’s a different story. I think that part of it, if true, was never made clear.”
Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer: “[I]f the president were to allow people to have those [insurance] plans be downgraded, or insurance companies to keep selling barebones plans … he’d be violating [an] even more important promise to the American people – that everyone would have a guarantee to access of quality affordable health insurance.”
National Journal’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “America, we’ve got some bad news: Our Constitution isn’t going to make it. … [T]he Constitution simply isn’t cut out for 21st-century governance. … As we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, constitutions have started to look and more alike. Not surprisingly, the U.S. has one of the world’s least generic constitutions. … American exceptionalism is a fine thing, but there are still things we can learn from other places.”
From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File
Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok: “The TSA … is an agency of the DHS charged with ensuring the security of transportation, most notably air transportation. Although it has not been widely singled out by Patriots, it has been subjected to criticism by far-right homophobes, among others, who have alleged that TSA agents engaging in hand searches are really sexually groping travelers.”
Humorist Frank J. Fleming: “Maybe Obama speeches should have that guy at the end of prescription drug ads who quickly explains all the side effects. … Obama and the Democrats lied about how Obamacare would force people off their plans, and the only way to deny that is more lies. … If you like your lies, you can repeat them.”
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team
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