Friday Digest

Digest

Oct. 8, 2010

The Foundation

“There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”– James Madison

Government & Politics

ObamaCare – Would You Like Fries With That Exemption?

A silver lining of the Democrat hegemony in Washington has been the massive resurgence of conservative thinking and action among the general public. It certainly would have been nice two or four years sooner, but better late than never.

Given that Republicans can’t possibly win a veto-proof majority in the Senate, the job of cleaning up government will take more than one election cycle. One of the biggest messes is ObamaCare. It remains to be seen whether the GOP has the fortitude to follow through on their pledge to “repeal and replace,” but the resounding defeats this primary season of several incumbent RINOs certainly serve as a motivation.

Democrats up for re-election in three weeks are running from the issue like the plague, and little wonder. This week, it was revealed that 30 companies and organizations received exemptions from the federal requirement to increase the minimum annual benefits for low-cost health plans. Unless they were granted exemptions, McDonald’s and other companies that offer so-called mini-med plans threatened to drop their health plans altogether – leaving employees on the government dole. The biggest waiver was granted to the United Federation of Teachers Welfare Fund, which is a union in New York City that provides health coverage for city teachers.

According to USA Today, “Without waivers, [these] companies would have had to provide a minimum of $750,000 in [medical insurance] coverage next year, increasing to $1.25 million in 2012, $2 million in 2013 and unlimited in 2014.” Of course, all this was predicted by those of us who understand basic free-market economics.

Meanwhile, in keeping with the “radical” notion that the federal government cannot force people to purchase things, voters in three states will decide this fall whether to tell the federal government to stay out of their health care decisions. If passed, the initiatives in Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma will allow those states to opt out of ObamaCare. A similar initiative already passed in Missouri with an impressive 71 percent of the vote.

Naysayers, such as Oklahoma’s Democrat Gov. Brad Henry, call the initiative fruitless, saying that even if it “passes by 100 percent,” the feds could overturn it because federal law trumps state law. In effect, the governor is saying that ObamaCare is inevitable, so we shouldn’t even bother to fight. But this isn’t true. According to what Jon Caldara of Colorado’s Independence Institute calls that “pesky 10th Amendment,” there are several instances in which the federal government is required to yield to the will of the sovereign states. The attorneys general of 20 other states are suing on that principle.

Other opponents of the initiative argue that this collective lawsuit makes the ballots redundant and not worth the costly legal battle that’s sure to follow. However, Caldara and others fighting for health care choice point out that even if this multi-state lawsuit is successful, the federal government could then pressure states to adopt programs similar to the one in Massachusetts. The problems with that system, and its parallels with ObamaCare, are well documented.

The road to repeal hit another major roadblock Thursday when U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh, a Clinton appointee, rejected the argument that the individual mandate to buy health insurance is unconstitutional. According to Steeh, the interstate commerce clause really does cover everything.

Quote of the Week

“[ObamaCare’s] march to the sea is only beginning and the trail of destruction will grow. The last six months have seen 2011 premium increases as high as 9% due to ObamaCare; multibillion-dollar corporate writedowns by Verizon, AT&T, Caterpillar and others; disruption in the insurance markets leading to the erasure of child-only policies and other types of specialty coverage as shown in the McDonald’s imbroglio; the Administration beginning to impose price controls on premiums; insurers withdrawing private options from Medicare Advantage; and Democratic protection of a 1099 tax reporting mandate that will slam small businesses. Republicans should be repeating all of these tangible harms in a litany, while predicting the damage to come.” –The Wall Street Journal

Presidential Seal Falls Off Obama’s Podium

When the presidential seal fell off the podium while Barack Obama was speaking, we had to wonder, is this a message? See for yourself.

New & Notable Legislation

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced legislation for the lame-duck session that would repeal right-to-work laws in 22 states. Currently, workers in those states employed in unionized companies can choose whether to join the union and pay dues. In the other 28 states, known as “forced dues” states, it’s legal for unions to mandate that all workers pay union dues and to fire workers who don’t comply. This is a blatantly obvious power grab by unions and their minions in the Democrat Party. Sherman disguises it as an attempt to level the playing field for “forced dues” states like his native California that “have to compete with the race to the bottom as our companies have to compete with those where the workers would like better wages, working conditions and benefits but are unable to organize to get them.”

Sherman is either incorrect or just plain lying about the fact that workers in right-to-work states don’t have the right to unionize. Nothing prevents unionizing in these states other than workers’ votes. Furthermore, while he’s correct that California businesses are losing out to right-to-work states, that’s because unions have put such a squeeze on companies to enrich their own bank accounts that many choose not to set up shop there. Others have simply moved to other states.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced legislation that would require the president to deploy a minimum of 10,000 National Guard troops to the southern border in an effort to stem the tide of illegal immigration. “The uniqueness of this,” said Poe, is that the troops “would be paid by the federal government, because everybody says it is the responsibility of the federal government to protect the border. So the federal government will use the resources it already has to pay for those 10,000 National Guard troops, but they will be supervised by the governors of the four states on the border.”

In other news, the House is waiting on the Senate to take action on some 420 bills it has passed since January 2009. We never thought we’d say it, but we’re thankful for the 111th Senate.

Hope ‘n’ Change: Cheer Up, It’s Worse Than You Thought

According to new studies released by the Senate Budget Committee GOP staff and the Congressional Budget Office, Barack Obama’s magic plan to reduce the deficit and balance the primary budget – the actual budget minus interest on the debt – won’t even come close.

The GOP study concludes that the president’s budget proposals would create a deficit averaging 5 percent of GDP each year between 2015 and 2020. However, in order to slow the growth of the debt to the rate of economic growth, currently at 1.7 percent, the primary budget would have to run a large surplus. Obama’s budget thus has no chance of being balanced by 2015. To make matters worse, the CBO reports that interest rates on the debt are expected to rise to 5.9 percent by 2020, making it more difficult with each succeeding year to pay down the debt.

‘One Nation’ Rally Results Are In

A smattering of leftists descended on the National Mall over the weekend to ensure that everyone knows they hate the Tea Party. And while they were at it, they trashed the place. See for yourself.

Also, a correction: We misattributed a quote (since corrected) in the above referenced story to National Review’s Rich Lowry. The quote was actually from Byron York of the Washington Examiner. We regret the error.

Finally, let us know about your Tea Party event by contacting us at TeaPartyPaceCar.com.

Angle Taped Giving Straight Talk

If this was an effort to damage Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, it backfired big time. After meeting with third-party candidate Scott Ashjian, who had their encounter taped secretly and released, Angle’s stock among Nevada conservatives may reach new heights.

Saying that Washington Republicans don’t want her because she will “shake that mess up” isn’t a bad message to have in Nevada, which has a higher percentage of its landmass under federal control (and its inherent regulations) than any other state. And when she argues that “the Republicans have lost their standard, they’ve lost their principles” heads nod in agreement. Above all other years, this may be the time when plainspoken people can make maximum impact. Just ask Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey.

In making this a battle of Washington outsider vs. the consummate Washington insider, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, this tape released by the Ashjian camp may have sunk Reid’s last best hope of painting Angle as too extreme. This is the year that smooth talkers reading their Teleprompters need not apply.

From the Left: Is Emanuel Eligible to Run for Mayor?

Former White House Chief of Staff and Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel has hit his first roadblock on the road to victory, and it just might kill his candidacy altogether. Obviously, Emanuel has been a resident of Washington, DC, for the last 18 months, but in order to qualify as a candidate for mayor, he has to have been a Chicago resident for at least one year prior to seeking office.

His supporters don’t see a problem because Emanuel has a residential property that he owns in Chicago, even though a renter now occupies it and doesn’t want to move out before the lease is up. If Emanuel’s potential opponents want to play hardball, he may find it quite difficult to circumvent the rule. On the other hand, Emanuel has some pretty powerful friends who are also familiar with Chicago politics. This could get interesting.

Judicial Benchwarmer: Kagan Recuses Herself on Many Cases

Officially, this week’s start of the Supreme Court’s fall term marked the first time three women have sat on the Supreme Court simultaneously. But nearly half the cases on the court’s docket this fall will be decided by only two. Because of her previous position as solicitor general, Justice Elena Kagan so far has agreed to recuse herself from 25 of the 51 cases SCOTUS will hear this term. It’s an admirable case of judicial restraint not always practiced, but it leaves a larger possibility that lower court rulings would stand based on a 4-4 split of the high court. Insofar as the perceived conservative to liberal slant, the absence of Kagan leaves conservatives ahead 4 to 3, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the usual “swing” vote.

While the recusal situation is unusual, it’s not unprecedented. The late Justice Thurgood Marshall also served as solicitor general before being picked by President Lyndon Johnson and he had to recuse himself regularly during the early part of his tenure. Unfortunately, at just 50 years of age, Kagan will have plenty of time to leave her mark on the nation.

National Security

Warfront With Jihadistan: Times Square Bomber Sentenced

On Tuesday, the wannabe Times Square Bomber, 31-year-old Faisal Shahzad, was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to slaughter Americans. On May 1, Shahzad’s explosive-filled Nissan Pathfinder was found parked in a crowded Times Square with smoke seeping out of it. Fortunately, his homemade bomb had fizzled. Inside the vehicle, the New York Police Department bomb squad found bags of fertilizer, two five-gallon gasoline cans, over 150 M-88 fireworks, three propane cylinders, and alarm clocks wired to act as a timer. Shahzad was subsequently captured on May 3 trying to flee the country. In June, he pleaded guilty to a 10-count indictment, which included charges of terrorism and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Shahzad, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen (and now traitor), received his bomb-making training in Pakistan from the Taliban. He showed no remorse during his sentencing, telling the judge where his true allegiance lies. “We are only Muslims trying to defend our religion, people, honor and land,” Shahzad told U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum. “But if you call us terrorists for doing that, then we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing until you leave our land and people at peace.” Shahzad also warned of further threats to come, saying, “Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun.”

These are statements that every American needs to re-read and digest, as they go straight to the heart of the determined jihadi enemy that we face in the Long War. Currently, tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan are rising due to our drone attacks against jihadis in Pakistan, and due to jihadi counterattacks against Pakistan-based NATO forces. Now, talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are reportedly occurring. Given all this, now is not the time for Obama to disengage the U.S. from Afghanistan. We must keep the fight on jihadi territory as much as possible, lest it come again to ours.

SCOTUS Hears Arguments in Westboro Baptist Case

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case involving free speech at funerals for American soldiers. Albert Snyder, the father of Matthew Snyder, a soldier killed in combat, sued Fred Phelps and his sick band of village idiots at Westboro Baptist “Church” in Topeka, Kansas, for protesting outside his son’s funeral. Of course, Westboro isn’t much of a church and somehow we doubt many Baptists would embrace such hate. The group exists seemingly for the sole purpose of protesting military funerals with signs such as “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” claiming that soldiers’ deaths are the result of America’s moral decline. According to their website, they have organized 44,269 such protests.

Snyder won the case in district court, but saw that decision reversed on appeal. He is asking the Supreme Court to reinstate the $5 million verdict. We fully expect the Court to uphold the appeal and vindicate Phelps. Though Phelps’ speech is vile, hateful and not the least bit Christian, the Founders recognized that free people have a right to free political speech. That said, the First Amendment does begin with “Congress shall make no law,” meaning local ordinances are another matter. Perhaps one day, Phelps and his ilk will see the error of their ways. Until then, they are a constitutionally protected thorn in our sides.

Profiles of Valor: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller

On Oct. 6, United States Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. It was the third Medal of Honor awarded for actions in the war in Afghanistan, which began nine years ago Thursday. Sgt. Miller’s mother, father and seven siblings received the Medal on his behalf.

In January 2008, Miller was serving with Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, which was conducting combined operations with Afghan troops from Forward Operating Base Naray in Kunar Province near the Pakistani border. When the team was ambushed by Taliban fighters, they called for close-air support. Miller engaged the enemy using his vehicle’s turret-mounted 40mm MK-19 automatic grenade launcher.

After the team’s captain was wounded, Miller remained at the front providing suppressive fire and saving the captain’s life. Drawing the fire of some 100 enemy fighters, Miller fought on, giving his team time to take cover and return fire. He was shot in the side, but continued to fire and throw grenades at the enemy. Wounded a second time, Miller used his last ounce of life to fire his remaining ammunition and throw his last grenade. In the seven-hour battle, Miller is credited with having killed at least 10 jihadis and wounding dozens more, while saving the lives of seven Americans and 15 Afghans.

His citation concludes, “Staff Sergeant Miller’s heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty, and at the cost of his own life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.”

Business & Economy

Income Redistribution: A Stimulating Look at Utopian Economics

Albert Einstein purportedly stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Apparently, the Obama administration disagrees, especially in light of its new report claiming that the spending-upon-spending “stimulus” plan is on-time, under budget and relatively fraud- and abuse-free – other than sending $18 million to dead people, anyway. Moreover, the measure worked as planned, and the economy is back on track. No doubt it’ll be even more robust after even more government spending.

Silly us for believing that double-digit unemployment, depressed markets and unprecedented budget deficits are all indicators of an economy nowhere close to being “back on track.” Our mistake, it seems, was neglecting to use the “jobs-saved” new math that has been the hallmark of the Chosen Administration since its inception. White House officials touted the relatively small number of complaints – less than 2 percent in over 200,000 contract awards – as evidence of the success of the drunken-sailor spending program. We would like to offer a different explanation as to the paucity of complaints, namely, that few complain when a gift horse (read: big government) is throwing billions of dollars at them. Independent of the degree to which spending is “fraud-free,” it’s still spending.

On a completely unrelated note, tens of thousands of workers have just been shown the door, courtesy of the termination of stimulus-subsidized employment programs. A $5 billion program, “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families,” is drawing to an end, and with it approximately 250,000 more will hit the streets and unemployment lines, highlighting yet again that government does not produce jobs. Any jobs it claims to “produce” will both cost more and be less sustainable than would otherwise be true in the free market. Meanwhile, in September, another 95,000 jobs were lost.

In contrast, Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s Pollyanna-ish chief economist, stated that the report on stimulus spending affirms that “the recovery act has accomplished much of what it set out to do.” Sadly, we must agree: Hamstringing the free market while redistributing wealth to Democrat constituency groups? Check. Helping the economy to actually recover? Not so much.

Regulatory Commissars: Fuel Mileage Requirement to Increase

The Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced last Friday that they are considering regulating fuel mileage for vehicles even further – to an eye-popping 62 mpg by 2025 – so that CO2 emissions per mile might possibly be reduced by 3 to 6 percent. The Associated Press reports, “The government envisions gas-electric hybrids making up about half the lineup of new vehicles under the most aggressive standards, while electrics and plug-ins would comprise about 10 percent of the fleet.” These changes would add about $3,500 to the price of every vehicle, though the government claims owners would save $7,400 over the vehicle’s lifetime.

Meanwhile, in the government’s version of Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the Roadrunner, the Obama administration appears to be simultaneously trying to “stimulate” interest in higher mileage vehicles by choking off oil supplies through dragging out its offshore drilling ban, which artificially drives up gas prices. We can only hope this scheme will blow up in the their face too. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is “reviewing” the moratorium just as Europe’s energy chief is considering putting a ban in place.

In other oil news, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released a report on the federal response to April’s oil spill and, not surprisingly, the administration comes in for criticism. The report said, “The federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem.” That, in a nutshell, is the essence of Hope ‘n’ Change.

Will Rental Property Owners Have to Fill Out 1099s?

While many of us are still scratching our heads as to how the innocuous-sounding Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., ObamaCare) was passed, Congress is trying to add yet more layers of bureaucracy that will separate us from our freedom and our money. Congress has handed Barack Obama the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, which expands the reporting requirements on IRS form 1099 to include individuals who own rental property. Currently, ObamaCare mandates that small businesses file a 1099-MISC for goods valued at over $600. Under the new bill, property owners would be considered to be “engaging in business” and as such would be required to report any goods or services – valued at over $600 in a 12-month period – associated with the property.

This may sound simple, but for the 10 million Americans affected, it will be anything but. Ryan Ellis of Americans for Taxpayer Reform illustrated it perfectly: “So imagine that you’re renting out your starter condo. You pay a property manager, a plumber, a repairman, a locksmith, a condo association, etc. Imagine having to get a taxpayer identification number, order 1099-MISCs from the IRS, fill them out by hand, keep a copy for yourself, send a copy to each payee (from whom you had to get a tax ID number and other information), and then finally take your legitimate rental deduction. Then the IRS finds some hiccup somewhere, and you get audited – all to placate an insane Congress.”

Culture & Policy

Climate Change This Week: Eco-Terrorism

Environmental crusaders claim to want a more kumbayah world, but they’re apparently willing to advocate the most hideous violence to achieve it. A British climate fear group called the 10:10 Campaign is advocating that everyone cut their carbon emissions by 10 percent. To illustrate, they produced a video (warning: graphic content) depicting a teacher leading her class in brainstorming for ideas. When two students react indifferently, the teacher shrugs it off, saying, “No pressure,” but then nonchalantly pushes a button, blowing up the two children.

As Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto explains, “The ‘crime’ for which the children in the video are ‘executed’ is one of omission, not commission. They are murdered not even for dissenting against 10:10’s political crusade, but merely for being indifferent to it. This is the essence of totalitarianism.” This theme is repeated three more times in other contexts, all with adults.

Perhaps the 10:10 Campaign is taking cues from Osama bin Laden, whose penchant for blowing up innocents is well documented. The terrorist kingpin recently raised the green flag, claiming, “Massive climate change is affecting our nation and is causing great catastrophes throughout the Islamic world.” At fault, of course, are Americans, whom he believes “have destroyed nature with [our] industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history.”

For its part, the White House seems eager to join the environmental crusade and Osama bin Laden by installing solar panels atop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Somehow, we doubt bin Laden will be appeased. Somewhere, though, Jimmy Carter must be smiling.

Around the World: On Trial for Speech

After daring to compare the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” as well as noting the connection between the Islamic holy book and terrorist attacks, popular Dutch politician Geert Wilders found himself in an Amsterdam courtroom this week on trial for “inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims and insulting their religion.” When Wilders tried to claim his right to remain silent, however, Presiding Judge Jan Moors said Wilders had been labeled as “good in taking a stand and then avoiding a discussion” and added, “By remaining silent, it seems you’re doing that today as well.” As National Review’s John Derbyshire notes, “I thought the right to silence was pretty well established in the court proceedings of civilized nations.” We thought so, too, but so much for objective judging.

Meanwhile, Jihad Watch exposed the UK Telegraph’s bias in its report that Wilders “attacked the three judges sitting in the Amsterdam court.” It seems Wilders and his lawyers asked that the court be dissolved, noting, “With this presiding judge and such a panel of judges, a fair trial isn’t possible anymore.” Vicious attack, indeed.

Finally, as Jihad Watch accurately notes, Wilders “has a right to compare [the Qur'an] to whatever he likes, be it the works of Adolf Hitler or Edward Bulwer-Lytton. If it hadn’t been the Qur'an, no one would care. If it had been the Bible, no one would have raised an eyebrow.” Wilders could face a year in prison and/or a hefty fine for his “crime.”

From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File

No part of American life is free from nanny-state interference, not even the national pastime. When Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds clinched their first division crown since 1995 last week, the players celebrated with champagne and cigars, which were distributed by Reds owner Bob Castellini. “That’s when the troubles began,” writes the Heritage Foundation’s James Gattuso. “Ohio state law, as it turns out, bans indoor smoking in such facilities. And at least five concerned citizens called in to Cincinnati’s health department to report the dangerous breach of law. The Reds are now under investigation.”

Mercifully, the state’s health department can’t take action without an inspector having witnessed the smoking violation, but the department must make an unannounced follow-up visit within 30 days. Says Gattuso, “That probably means sending an inspector to a Reds playoff game in the name of protecting the public health and welfare, of course.” Naturally.

And Last…

Last week, we were amused to find that failed Democrat presidential candidate Michael Dukakis was advising Democrats on how to win this November’s elections, despite having won only 10 states in 1988 himself. We concluded, “at least it wasn’t advice coming from George McGovern or Walter Mondale.” Little did we know how prescient that remark would prove to be. None other than Walter Mondale, winner of just one state in 1984, is now giving free election advice to the Democrats as he works the media to promote his new book. Among Mondale’s kernels of wisdom: Barack Obama should get rid of his teleprompters – “idiot boards,” to be exact. Nothing to quibble with there.

Mondale also complained that Ronald Reagan won in a landslide in 1984 because he “was up there talking about morning in America and how nice it was to be in that town and so on,” while Mondale was stuck “talking about the problems we had and how we had to find answers.” As for how that applies to Democrats, Mondale concluded, “I think [Obama has] got to find a way of, of, of having people feel him and knowing that he cares that, it’s, he can do that but he has to do that.” Um, yeah. Democrats can be sure of one thing: With Mondale’s sound counsel, Minnesota is securely in hand.

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