"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 & Politics
ObamaCare's Continued Chaos
To no thinking person's surprise, the Obama administration admitted this week that another element of ObamaCare is going to cost more than originally expected. This isn't really news so much as it is yet another confirmation that the president's takeover of health care will be an absolute disaster.
The latest program to exceed expectations is the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which provides health insurance for people who can't obtain coverage through private carriers. The PCIP was meant to be an interim program phasing out in 2014, at which point all insurers will be required to accept all comers who want coverage. In November 2010, the federal government estimated an annual cost of $13,000 per enrollee. Since the program's launch last year, some 50,000 people have signed up, and now the expected cost is around $29,000 per enrollee.
While we're on the subject, the outrageous contraception mandate remains yet another tarnished gem in the ObamaCare crown. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced this week that the administration has begun "outreach" to officials in the Catholic Church, insurers and groups that run self-insured insurance plans. However, Sebelius' "outreach" isn't in search of a compromise with faith-based groups whose rights are being trampled for the sake of free contraception. The administration hasn't backed down from its non-compromise offer that the cost for free contraception be shifted from faith-based employers to private insurance companies. The mandate is here to stay, and faith-based employers have 18 months to comply.
One of the free contraception mandate's more vocal supporters testified this week before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee about how tough life can be without free birth control. The hearing was nothing more than a showpiece for the issue with a single witness, Sandra Fluke (is there a pun here?), a Georgetown law student and self-professed "reproductive rights activist." Fluke made the absurd claim that free contraception is a necessity at her school, which currently doesn't provide it. "Forty percent of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they struggled financially as a result of this policy," she complained.
Fluke asserted that contraception could cost $3,000 through three years of law school. That's a lot of money to spend on protected sex over that time frame. In fact, humorist Frank J. Fleming quipped, "Anyone buying that much contraception should probably be writing it off on her taxes as a business expense." Fluke's assertion that she and other women have an absolute right to contraception at someone else's expense is disturbing. There is no right to sex free of consequences. Fluke also implies that the women of Georgetown law have no control over their urges or actions, all the while thinking she's standing up for women's rights. When did "get your laws off my body" become "you have to pay for the stuff that goes into my body"?
The most important question, of course, is just where within the Constitution is the government granted the power to mandate this sort of thing for private or religious organizations? This was asked of Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) by one of her constituents at a recent town hall. She replied, "Well, basically, we're not looking to the Constitution on that aspect of it." We suppose Hochul's candor is refreshing, but it didn't sit well with the crowd -- nor should it. Hochul attempted to defend ObamaCare by stating that Congress determined that citizens are entitled to health care. "So why don't we provide free access to Band-Aids and cancer screenings?" the constituent followed up. "Aren't those more important to health care than contraception?" Hochul could only say, "Well, clearly more work needs to be done." Nice understatement.
In the Senate, an amendment to impose a religious-conscience exemption to ObamaCare was rejected Thursday. Proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act was attached to an upcoming transportation bill. Democrats were nearly united in opposition, and retiring Maine "Republican" Olympia Snowe was the only GOP member to oppose it. Obama, adamantly pushing "free" contraception, would have been forced to veto the whole transportation bill in order to prevent the conscience exemption from again being the law. His other option would have been to let the amendment pass and hope it takes some of the heat off as the presidential election moves forward.
The one bit of good news is that a House committee voted to throw out the "death panel" provision of ObamaCare. The Independent Payment Advisory Board was supposed to help with cost control, but has been accurately tagged as a "death panel" because of its rationing of care. All things considered, however, a new administration and a more Liberty-friendly Congress must be installed in January to repeal this monstrosity.
This Week's 'Braying Jackass' Award
"The Republicans want to take us forward to the dark ages again ... when women were property that you could easily control, even trade if you wanted to. It's appalling we are having this debate in the 21st century." --Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
On the Campaign Trail: Romney Sweeps
Mitt Romney won the Arizona and Michigan primaries Tuesday, as well as the Wyoming caucuses Wednesday, bringing his winning streak to four. Unfortunately for the frontrunner, he had to spend a lot of money in his "home" state of Michigan to squeak by Rick Santorum in the popular vote. This is in part because some 100,000 registered Democrats turned out to vote for Santorum in an effort to damage Romney's candidacy. This cynical mischief-making is to be expected of the Democrat Party and the current administration, but Santorum's last-minute robocall to rally Michigan Democrats seemed beneath him. In it, he assailed Romney for having criticized the taxpayer-funded $85 billion bailout of Detroit automakers. In fact, neither candidate supported the bailout, and Michigan is perhaps the only state whose voters still do.
For his hard-fought win, Romney receives 16 of Michigan's delegates while Santorum gets 14. Overall, Romney now has 168 delegates to Santorum's 86, while Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul lag behind with 32 and 19, respectively.
Super Tuesday is next on the docket, with voters heading to the polls in 10 states. Newt Gingrich hopes to regain momentum with a win in his native Georgia, as well as a couple of other states, but his poll numbers don't lead us to believe he will succeed. Ron Paul is sticking to his plan to win as many delegates as possible to elbow his way into a prime speaking slot at the convention.
It's here that we should pause to reiterate that The Patriot Post has not and will not endorse any Republican candidate during the primary. Our primary objective is defeating Barack Obama in November, and we fear that refusing to settle for less than a GOP Messiah could jeopardize that goal. None of the four candidates fits that bill, though any of them would be a vast improvement and start us on the road to recovering the Liberty lost since 2009.
This Week's 'Alpha Jackass' Award
Are they kidding? What would the media do if Mitt Romney's official website had a web page that said, "White Americans for Romney"? Obama is a sitting U.S. president running for re-election, so the better comparison would be for George W. Bush to have had a "White Americans for Bush" web page.
Obama is the epitome of a divider, a racial polarizer. Whatever happened to "There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America -- there's the United States of America"?
Words. Just words.
News From the Swamp: Department of Redundancy Department
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported this week that virtually no progress has been made in the past year toward cutting duplicate government programs. Shocking, we know. Last February, government bean counters identified 81 areas in which redundant programs run by multiple agencies are wasting billions of dollars. Barack Obama and Congress have acted to eliminate just four in the past year while 60 other areas have undergone some undefined early steps, and 17 haven't been acted upon at all. Last year, when talk about cutting spending was all the rage in Washington, Obama tried to convince the public that the government would save some real money by eliminating this waste. Such actions are welcome, but they wouldn't have much of an impact on the overall deficit picture.
The GAO report certainly indicates that there was no impact at all because the president and Congress only paid lip service to the effort. The report's findings identified some of the biggest culprits in budget redundancies, and none of them should come as a surprise. The Justice Department spent $30 billion in overlapping crime-prevention and victim-service grants since 2005. There are currently 23 agencies involved in 160 different programs to support homeowners and renters in some capacity. Fully two-thirds of all "green" building initiatives don't have goals or performance measures, making them completely unaccountable to Congress or the public. Meanwhile, members of Congress are still drumming up ideas for new programs that duplicate existing ones.
New & Notable Legislation
The House reintroduced this week several bills meant to give aid to job creation. More than a dozen such bills have languished in the Senate, despite overwhelming support in the House. One bill, the "Jumpstart Our Business Startups," or JOBS, Act, is a bundle of six bills. It targets some of the "red tape and access to capital" issues obstructing growth for would-be small-business owners. The bills all enjoy bipartisan support although not from the House Democrat leadership or Democrats in the Senate. Even the White House offered a word of support.
Andrew Breitbart, RIP
The conservative movement lost a "happy warrior" Thursday when Andrew Breitbart died at 43. He leaves behind a wife and four young children. Breitbart was instrumental in the early days of the Drudge Report and co-founded the Huffington Post before leaving over differences in direction. He then founded his eponymous news site, as well as the "Big" sites -- BigGovernment, BigHollywood, BigJournalism and BigPeace, each taking aim at the antagonists in their titles. Breitbart, however, was perhaps most noted for his devastating "hidden-camera" stings of corrupt liberal organizations such as ACORN and NPR.
He recently completed another book, "Righteous Indignation," in which he concluded, "I love my job. I love fighting for what I believe in. I love having fun while doing it. I love reporting stories that the [Media] Complex refuses to report. I love fighting back, I love finding allies, and -- famously -- I enjoy making enemies." The battle for Liberty will continue, but one valuable Patriot short.
Around the Nation: Construction to Begin on Part of Keystone Pipeline
It's not everything Republicans want and it certainly won't make environmentalists happy, but TransCanada announced earlier this week that they will press on with the southernmost extension of the Keystone pipeline project, a section connecting Cushing, Oklahoma with Port Arthur, Texas. They will also -- once again -- file for a federal permit to extend the Keystone XL pipeline across the Canadian border.
The new pipeline, when completed in late 2013, is expected to transport 700,000 barrels of oil per day and relieve what's become a glut of supply at the Cushing pipeline terminus. According to TransCanada, building and utilizing the new stretch of pipeline will create about 4,000 jobs.
The Obama administration now calls this "welcome news" and claims it hasn't ruled out the remainder of the pipeline yet, but it also makes the laughable assertion that Republicans were really to blame for its scuttling the project "by not allowing sufficient time for important review." Never mind the project's been at the mercy of the Obama State Department for over three years. Democrats, remember, just don't believe that drilling for oil is necessary with solar, wind and amoeba power just around the corner. Meanwhile, tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will keep soaring gas prices down. Not that the White House actually wants prices to go back down.
While the pipeline won't be the complete answer to our energy needs, the adroit nature of TransCanada's decision shows that, regardless of the anti-energy nature of our current regime, smart businesses can still find enough capitalism to succeed despite the best efforts of socialists.
Why Drill When You Can Scoop?
"Drill, baby, drill" is the long-adopted slogan of those who seek a real answer to our energy needs. Last week, Barack Obama put out the call to "scoop, baby, scoop" up algae as the renewable resource we can use to fuel our cars. On the stump in Florida, the president said, "You've got a bunch of algae out there, right? If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we'll be doing all right." And if Obama's inane utterances were nickels, there would be no debt crisis. Unfortunately, every time he speaks, we need a scooper of a different kind.
The truth is that billions of dollars of research into biofuels of many sorts has been going on for decades, and we're no closer to filling our cars with a plankton byproduct. Yet as recently as last year, the Department of Energy handed out $24 million in grants to researchers studying the process of creating oil from algae. This regime certainly has a propensity to "invest" billions into failed schemes that are nothing more than high-priced boondoggles.
There's not much promise on the electric car front, either. After Fisker Automotive lost out on the remainder of its $529 million promised from the Department of Energy, their battery supplier A123 Systems had to lay off 125 workers from its Michigan plant. Still, the "one percent" there is doing all right. Company executives voted themselves hefty raises ranging from 5.7 percent to 20.7 percent despite the company's losing $172 million in the first three quarters of 2011. Abound Solar, which received a $400 million stimulus loan, is also laying off 70 percent of its workforce. If these are stimulus "success stories," we would hate to see the failures.
From the Left: Obama Will Buy a Volt ... in Five Years
It was a daily double for Barack Obama as he could pander to two of his key support groups at the same time. In a recent speech to the United Auto Workers, Obama noted, "I got to get inside a brand new Chevy Volt off the line. ... I liked sitting in it; it was nice. And five years from now when I'm not president anymore, I'll buy one and drive it myself."
Let's face it: The speech wasn't about the car; it was about continuing a narrative that the government saved the American auto industry. He called the idea of a political payback to Big Labor "a load of you-know-what." But there's no denying that great effort was expended to make sure the UAW made out well in the GM and Chrysler deals at the expense of more than 200 years of settled bankruptcy law, as well as citizen bondholders and local auto dealerships, which are primarily non-union.
So what would have happened if the government had done nothing? Most likely one or both automakers would have declared bankruptcy -- just as they did under Obama's takeover -- but doing so under the capitalist system may have enabled them (or any new owners) to negotiate a better labor deal, thereby also strengthening the other two automakers, as negotiations with the Big Three are often based on the first deal struck. Even with the bailout, the fears of a foreign takeover of Detroit were partially realized since Italian-based Fiat now owns the majority of Chrysler. On the other hand, Ford, which didn't take federal money, is now as strong as ever. In the end, though, we would all be better off if Obama didn't have to wait five years to buy a Volt. How about January 2013?
Regulatory Commissars: EPA Heads to Court
Nearly five years after the Supreme Court dubbed the Environmental Protection Agency a legislative body by ruling that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the outgrowth of that decision is heading back to court. This week, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments challenging the EPA's premise that greenhouse gas emissions pose a public health threat -- the premise underlying the agency's rash of rules regulating and restricting greenhouse gases. According to the pro-EPA group Clean Air Watch, "The entire U.S. effort to limit greenhouse gases hangs in the balance." Set to ominous music, this line would fit perfectly in an Al Gore documentary.
In reality, however, what's really at stake is our constitutional system of checks and balances. As The Wall Street Journal notes, those calling out the EPA on its overreach "say the EPA rules give the agency the power to affect energy production in the U.S. [and that] the case has broader implications because the EPA could use its greenhouse-gas findings as a basis to regulate other parts of the economy." The EPA certainly has too much power under the current regime, and the two non-executive branches of our government need to step in and put a decisive stop to its blatant disregard for the Constitution. We fear the Circuit Court is about to do the opposite.
Warfront With Jihadistan: Obama's Sincerest Apologies
Last week we detailed the accidental burning of Korans in Afghanistan, the standard Muslim riots resulting from those burnings, and finally, Dear Leader's expression of his "deep regret for the reported incident." How did Obama's apology work out for everyone? He credits it with having "calmed things down," but, back in reality, the latest body count is over 30 dead, including six American troops, and hundreds injured. Many of the victims were Muslim. We fail to see how killing members of your own Religion of Peace™ brings revenge on American troops, but we admit ignorance about the finer points of Islamist culture.
The usual assortment of leftists were out in full force defending Obama's apology from American critics. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "I find it somewhat troubling that our politics would enflame such a dangerous situation in Afghanistan." Maybe the good secretary should stop blaming her domestic political critics for the violence of Muslims half a world away. We find that somewhat troubling. Besides, as conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer pointed out, Obama didn't apologize to the Afghans. Rather, he apologized to a mob, hoping to appease it. Apologizing to a mob demonstrates only weakness and invites further violence, which Obama got. Interestingly, when reporters asked for a copy of the "apology," White House propaganda minister Jay Carney said that Obama's "sincere" three-page apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai "is not appropriate to show" to reporters. There is little doubt that is true, though we shudder to think what the Groveler in Chief actually said.
There is good news, though. The New York Times seems to have observed that the Taliban is still a brutal bunch of terrorists with this all-too real headline: Beheadings Raise Doubts That Taliban Have Changed. Keen sense of the obvious.
Department of Military Readiness: Lightning Strikes
Using his standard kick-the-can-down-the-road shtick, Barack Obama, through his Department of Defense (DoD) minion, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, touted the wonders of the soon-to-be-operational F-35 Lightning II (a.k.a. Joint Strike Fighter) as a surrogate for the F-22 air superiority fighter. He then axed F-22 production and left America's air superiority against an advanced adversary and virtually any country buying their fighters almost totally dependent on an F-22 fleet one-quarter of the size DoD judges necessary.
That was 2009. Fast-forward to 2012, and the much-ballyhooed F-35 is still "soon to be operational." We are shocked to report that the horse-designed-by-committee fighter is still not ready for primetime. Of course, America has been down this one-size-fits-all road in the past. The original F-4 and F-111 programs are good examples.
Despite arriving last year, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine pilots chosen to train in these planes patiently wait at Eglin AFB in Florida's panhandle, and the end of their wait is not yet in sight. In addition to improperly installed ejection seat parachutes, concerns over cost overruns and inadequate flight testing now plague the fighter and delay the training.
Original projections put the total cost of the Pentagon's order for 2,443 F-35s at $233 billion. That figure has soared to $385 billion, making it the most expensive fighter program in U.S. history and allowing an opening for calls to cut the program dramatically. Meanwhile, some Pentagon officials have expressed concern that the fighter hasn't been flight tested adequately to release it to operational flight lines. None of these strikes against the F-35 bode well for its future, the future of America's air superiority or, more broadly, for the future of America's greater national defense.
Another North Korean Deal
"North Korea has agreed to halt nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and enrichment activities at its Yongbyon nuclear complex in exchange for food aid from the United States," reports CNN. "In return for the moratorium on nuclear activities at this key site, the United States has agreed to a package of 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance to North Korea." The administration made the agreement with North Korea's new supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.
Of course, the deal is bound to be just as worthless as previous ones to a regime that has little interest in honest deals -- that goes for the North Koreans, too. After all, the NoKos have dishonored every other non-proliferation agreement they ever made, and this one will be quite easy to ignore -- Yongbyon must cease nuclear activity but other facilities are not so constrained. The North Korean people are starving while their communist government pursues its nuclear program, which has provided ironic leverage for them over the years, and this administration has followed the failed example of those before it.
Jimmy Carter should be proud.
Second Amendment: Crime and Guns
Another school shooting this week brought attention back to the issue of the Second Amendment. There were the predictable calls for more gun control, but as we contest every time one of these tragedies occurs, it's a culture problem, not a gun problem. Three high school students in Ohio were killed and two wounded when a deeply disturbed student opened fire in a lunchroom Monday. We offer our prayers for their families and their fellow students.
In related news, the BBC noted the tragedy and referenced a story entitled, "US crime figures: Why the drop?" The article notes a steady fall in violent crime across the U.S. since 1991, and proceeds to offer "10 possible theories" to explain the trend, with the caveat that "no-one agrees on the reasons for this." The BBC chose to lead with "The Obama effect." The article paraphrases "one of the country's top criminologists, Alfred Blumstein," as surmising, "The election of a black president could have inspired some young black men, who are disproportionately involved in arrests for robbery and homicide, says the professor. It's very speculative, he adds, and probably only one factor of many." How something that happened three years ago accounts for a trend that began 21 years ago is left to the reader to interpret.
All nine other reasons were long-term hypotheses. None of the reasons included the increased number of concealed carry permit holders around the nation -- a trend that started, oh, about 1991. And if Obama had any effect, it's that he is now history's best gun-and-ammo salesman.
Meanwhile, it appears that Attorney General Eric Holder took the BBC story to heart and thinks the Obama Justice Department has helped reduce crime, too. In further testimony regarding the Fast and Furious operation, he defended himself by getting a bit testy. He admitted that it was a "fundamentally flawed program," but he insisted that he deserves credit, not accountability. "I think one thing that also has to be understood is that once this was brought to my attention" -- at this point, he slammed his hand on the table -- "I stopped it. I stopped it." He stopped it only after it got out of hand and came to the attention of the public.
Village Academic Curriculum: Trampling Religious Liberty on Campus
America's universities have become hotbeds of discrimination against Christian associations over the years. Two recent examples involve Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
The administration of Vanderbilt has instituted a policy prohibiting religious student organizations from using religious criteria in selecting their leaders. In other words, a Christian group must allow a non-Christian, even one hostile to the group's mission, into its leadership. Reasonable people can see why this would be a problem, but the Left, if it's anything, is always unreasonable. Organizations that refuse to comply will be denied official university recognition. Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos invoked a "sense of inclusiveness, of everyone being able to take part fully in the Vanderbilt experience." This typically empty-headed leftism ignores the fact that anyone can already participate in any group's activities. It's leadership that is at issue.
At North Carolina-Greensboro, a similar dispute is headed to court. The university instituted a policy of supposed "tolerance" for leadership of student associations, so the Alliance Defense Fund is aiding a Christian club to take the school to court. In this case, it appears that the university specifically targeted "Make Up Your Own Mind," a Christian organization, and insisted that non-Christians be permitted to serve as leaders because, the university says, the group is not affiliated with a church and therefore is not a religious organization.
What is it with leftists denying religious liberty these days? Perhaps they're so focused on defending the "right to assemble" portion of the First Amendment on behalf of the Occupy crowd that they have forgotten that it protects religious liberty, too.
"At Guantanamo Bay, it seems no court appearance is complete without a minor controversy," reports Fox News. Majid Khan, a resident of Baltimore, pleaded guilty Wednesday to being an accomplice to a 2003 bomb plot in Indonesia. After the plea, he was asked to approve courtroom sketches of himself, which he declined to do. They were released anyway. As Fox notes, this isn't a new problem. "When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arraigned for the first time in the military commissions, under President George W. Bush, he, too, was asked by a court security officer for approval. Sources told Fox News, at the time, that Mohammed didn't like the nose in the picture and demanded that the sketch artist change it." The nose was indeed changed, and as a service to our readers we are releasing the accompanying edit of the sketch. It really reflects the true beauty of this Muslim extremist, don't you think?
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team