Thursday, May 30, 2013

A few more thoughts on Scandalabra*



We tweeted the following in response to story that had the former IRS commissioner, Douglas Shulman, visiting the White House 157 times during the Obama administration. This is in stark contrast to Shulman's predecessor, Mark Everson, visiting the White House just once during his four years of service during the G.W. Bush administration.







A longer explanation would be that we don't really feel there was any co-ordinated effort orchestrated by the White House for the IRS to target and harass conservative and tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status.


In a political context, a dog whistle is two-pronged speech: There is what is said and what is inferred, particularly to a target audience. During his first term, the President and several people in his inner circle made absolutely unprecedented attacks on private citizens, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and warned of "shadowy" money that was unduly influencing the democratic process.


Or as the Wall St. Journal explained (h/t: WCVarones):


Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.


Dogwhistle. It doesn't take a behavior psychologist to surmise that once the verbal cues from the administration went out, politically-motivated folks in the IRS and other government agencies went to work.


But is that assumption correct?


Now, we realize that having a statist/collectivist in the White House would prioritize his visitors much differently than we would (hell, his entire re-election campaign revolved around his obsession to make an already progressive tax code even more progressive with his inane bleating of making sure everybody is "paying their fair share) but 157 times? Good lord. As we have taken to saying, those conspiracy de-bunkers out there are going to have to do a lot better than this to keep us righties from over-heating in the fever swamps.



(click to enlarge image)






Of course, Shulman can't recall what they talked about, selective amnesia and just pure unknowingness being a hallmark of this administration (to the extent that the President has claimed to not know much about anything, one gets the sense they keep sharp objects away from him in the White House. Can't be hurting himself with unseemly information).

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157 known visits to the White House amidst targeting and harrassing of conservative and tea party groups.



Occam's Razor: a scientific and philosophic rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities.


i.e. it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure what most likely happened here.


Of course, rudder orders from on high and acting upon dog-whistle cues are not exclusive to one another as there's nothing like covering one's bases to ensure a re-election.






* Naked DC has a must-read round-up of what they have coined "Scandalabra" and we are more than happy to run with that term du jour. Go for the photoshops, stay for the writing.





Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In the face of a counter-productive law, Dr. actually doing something to improve healthcare




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It's been pretty well-documented that we don't care much for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare. Use the word search function in the upper left-hand corner of this page and you'll see we've been railing against it for years. So, you may be thinking: "OK, tough guys. We get you aren't fans. Then what would you do to truly reform the system?"

In reality, we have expressed ways we believe our nation's health care system can be improved, i.e., better care at lower costs and they include items such as tort reform, allowing insurance policies to cross state lines and greater flexibility in choosing what gets covered in your health care plan; essentially a pick-and-choose Chinese menu method of putting together your health care plan (Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is proposing something similar for cable TV plans whereby you can "unbundle" your viewing selections so you aren't paying for channels that you never watch).

All these common sense solutions to improving health care in this country appear nowhere in ObamaCare. In fact, it's as if the law is moving in the opposite direction of what we laid out above.

A doctor in Portland, Maine is taking it upon himself to improve his own practice and by extension the quality and cost of the care he provides for his patient and his reform idea lies in the realm of pricing transparency.




From the Bangor Daily News:



Dr. Michael Ciampi took a step this spring that many of his fellow physicians would describe as radical.

The family physician stopped accepting all forms of health insurance. In early 2013, Ciampi sent a letter to his patients informing them that he would no longer accept any kind of health coverage, both private and government-sponsored. Given that he was now asking patients to pay for his services out of pocket, he posted his prices on the practice’s website.

The change took effect April 1.



Pricing transparency. Boom. And aside from a departure from the old and broke status quo, we fail to see what's so radical about it.



Back to the article:



Before the switch, Ciampi had about 2,000 patients. He lost several hundred, he said. Some patients with health coverage, faced with having to seek reimbursement themselves rather than through his office, bristled at the paperwork burden.

But the decision to do away with insurance allows Ciampi to practice medicine the way he sees fit, he said. Insurance companies no longer dictate how much he charges. He can offer discounts to patients struggling with their medical bills. He can make house calls.

“I’m freed up to do what I think is right for the patients,” Ciampi said. “If I’m providing them a service that they value, they can pay me, and we cut the insurance out as the middleman and cut out a lot of the expense.”


How much does a particular medical procedure like the MRI of a joint really cost? You don't know because the insurance companies set the rate. And these are the same insurance companies that have been given even more power under the new health care law. Again, the law is actually moving away from common sense reforms taken up by folks like Dr. Ciampi.



To the article, once more:


Even with the loss of some patients, Ciampi expects his practice to perform just as well financially, if not better, than before he ditched insurance. The new approach will likely attract new patients who are self-employed, lack insurance or have high-deductible plans, he said, because Ciampi has slashed his prices.

“I’ve been able to cut my prices in half because my overhead will be so much less,” he said.

Before, Ciampi charged $160 for an office visit with an existing patient facing one or more complicated health problems. Now, he charges $75.

Patients with an earache or strep throat can spend $300 at their local hospital emergency room, or promptly get an appointment at his office and pay $50, he said.

Ciampi collects payment at the end of the visit, freeing him of the time and costs associated with sending bills, he said.

That time is crucial to Ciampi. When his patients come to his office, they see him, not a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner, he said.

“If more doctors were able to do this, that would be real health care reform,” he said. “That’s when we’d see the cost of medicine truly go down.”


(italics, ours)



It's duly noted that it is the self-employed and previously un-insured who are going to get hit the hardest financially because of the new healthcare law.

By getting the health insurance industry out of the way and implementing pricing transparency, Dr. Ciampi is doing that which ObamaCare fails to deliver: strengthening the doctor/patient relationship while loweing the cost of healthcare.

Radical, indeed.








Monday, May 27, 2013

What we and others have been tweeting this past week




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A round-up of news items, articles and colunmns that set us to Tweeting this past week.









This well-travelled line of defense for Team O means they are either lying through their teeth or are completely incompetent. Of course, we do realize that those are not two exclusive features of one another.









Heh.








We're over the deference given to Ivy League schools. They've been dead to us for years.





The President's black audiences are growing tired of his lecturing tone?





It's just who he is and what he does.






On the Woolwich machete' murder this week:

















Important foreign policy speech given by the President in which he clarified... nothing.

















And Sebelius, ahem, requesting donations of Enroll America to get us all up to speed on ObamaCare?













Tiger Woods vs. Sergio Garcia?










On double standards:












In Congressional hearings, Holder said he recused himself in the case of his Department of Justice seizing the phone records of the AP. Further, he stated that he did not ever get involved with the seizure of media outlet communication records. Then... oopsie.








Why, yes, it certainly looks that way now doesn't it?









Majority of commenter pushback on stories featuring DOJ snooping on Fox News' James Rosen and IRS targeting of conservative/tea party groups appears to be based on the fact they just don't like Fox News and/or conservatives. There's been scant principled logic offered.













Some pop culture?








And now for the sad yet inevitable Woolwich aftermath:























And in totally related news, here stateside:






Lefty descendants of the 60s free-speech movement would appear to have gone off the rails a tad, no? This will probably be the greatest political irony of the last 50 years: that the politics of the New Left would morph into the politics of repression and abuse of one's political opposites via government bureaucracies.




OK, gang, that's it. We'll catch up with you all later.


Memorial Day 2013




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We here at Beers with Demo would like to thank those brave men and women in our Armed Forces that made the ultimate sacrifice for this country and so that we may be able to continue to enjoy the freedoms and liberties we do here in America.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Inconvenient multi-colored graphic pretty much destroys narrative


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The L.A. Times breathlessly reports here that recently unveiled California health insurance plan rates as approved by the California health care exchange are "better-than-expected". If by "better-than-expected" they mean that smack upside the head resulted in only a concussion rather than brain damage then, sure, let's all get in line for another crack.

And we believe we are probably being far too charitable with that analogy as how can anyone but the most shameless of spin-meisters see this image below, provided by the same L.A. Times, as good news?


(click to enlarge)




(These figures indicate the lowest monthly cost possible for a 40 yr. old person for the Siver plan, the third most comprehensive of the 4 types of plans approved by the state)



The Times waits until deep in the article to get to some real-life cases that reflect reality vs. spin:


One of the bigger risks is that high premiums turn off healthier, middle-income households that aren't eligible for that federal assistance and have to pay the full premium. Rates could skyrocket if the exchange fails to enroll enough of those people to offset the higher costs of sicker, poorer policyholders.

Katharine King, 59 and a self-employed concert and event producer in Santa Monica, already pays $497 a month for her individual health insurance from Anthem Blue Cross. She wouldn't qualify for federal premium help based on her income. Using the state's online calculator, which doesn't yet reflect the final rates, her premiums could shoot up to nearly $600 a month next year.

"The Affordable Care Act is still not all that affordable unless you qualify for a federal subsidy, which I will not," King said. "It will likely be another case of the middle class kind of getting screwed."

Alfredo Ceron, 44, an uninsured painter in Los Angeles, has less to worry about with these rates. He said he earns about $100 a day when he has work, which means the federal government would pick up most of the tab for him and his two adult children who still live at home.

"I'd like to get my family covered," he said while waiting in line at a recent downtown festival to get more information about the new insurance options.



Hooray, subsidies! Subsidies that will have to be picked up by middle class folks like Ms. King via the 47 new taxes contained within ObamaCare.


But back to those rate increases... contrary to the Times opening lede, those rate increases are indeed pretty much in line with what was expected. 20-30% increases as depicted above are what the insurance companies said we could all expect with the implementation of the new healthcare law. Again, we're left scratching our head wondering wherein lies the good news.


And put aside, for a moment, the "better than expected" meme; let's never forget the ObamaCare promise that the law would necessarily bend the cost of healthcare downward.


The bottome line result of this law will be that eople like Ms. King and quite likely you will be getting a double-whammy of paying higher monthly premiums plus paying higher taxes to keep this whole wretched monstrosity afloat. We fail to see how that reformed anything.





Radio KBwD is on the air






We've been waiting, literally, for years for that which you will soon bear witness.


A chance rummaging through the CD bin at Sam's Club years ago turned up Exposed Roots: the Best of Alt.Country and just like that, out went 91X and in went The Gourds, Southern Culture on the Skids, Seldom Scene, Calexico, Los Straightjackets and these folks.


Ladies and Gentlemen, just posted on Youtube this past February and from Louisville, KY, it's Freakwater performing "Picture in my Mind."



(massive hook warning at 2:40)






"Whiskey is not evil when it's sitting on the shelf"



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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Video clip of the day



Clear and blatant abuses of power aside, Nick Gillespie of Reason.com reminds us of why the IRS should scare the bejeezus out of all of us.


(Video: approx. 1-1/2 minutes long)








And in case you are unable to load video or are unable to listen to said video... a recap:



So the IRS has admitted to sitting on applications for tax-exempt status by Tea Party groups for political reasons.

According to the government’s own investigation, applications containing terms such as Tea Party and Patriot were singled out for delays and holds even as groups with liberal-sounding names like "Bus for Progress" and "Progress Florida" sailed through the process.

President Obama said “the report's findings are intolerable and inexcusable” and even fired the acting head of the Internal Revenue Service.

Regardless of how this particular scandal shakes out, there’s still going to be at least three good reasons to be scared as hell of the IRS.


1. It’s always been a political weapon.

John F Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon all sicced the IRS on enemies and dissenters. And they were just following in the footsteps of Franklin Roosevelt, whose son said his father was “the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution.”

2. Its rulings are super-complicated and capricious.

The federal tax code is longer than Atlas Shrugged, Ulysses, and the Old Testament put together. It’s so complicated that even former IRS commissioners need help preparing their returns.

3. It's Obamacare's enforcement mechanism.

Starting next year, the IRS will be the cop patrolling the Affordable Care Act’s mandates, with the agency overseeing some 47 tax provisions related to Obamacare. You won’t just be reporting income anymore. You’ll be explaining when, where, and how you bought health care as well.





The first two are ones that people have been aware of, hence, the IRS's generally despised reputation but #3 is new to the party and folks that harbor a basic mistrust of the agency that is extracting scratch from their paycheck need to be aware of this fact.


And what better way than a near-throw away cut'n'paste post is there to shill for our favorite tax idea: a national sales tax to replace the current income tax.


Yes, yes, the devil is in the details but in case you've been living under a rock, like, forever, it's clearly an idea who's time has come.



For righties, you are not taxing one's wealth or production. For lefties, you are taxing (over)-consumption and for everybody... you are gutting the IRS.


With only 47% of the nation's elgible population paying in, this gives everybody skin in the game for how it is our federal government is funded. No more disinterested or un-vested parties. Everybody now will force themselves to be that much more informed as to who and where their money is going and how is a more fully informed electorate with respect to the goings of their federal government a bad thing?


Recent events almost demand it.


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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Unions: bailing on ObamaCare?




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All that we have foretold is coming to pass...



We'd be tempted to break out the wahmbulance for Big Labor but in this fight to repeal and replace the monstrosity of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), it's probably best not to antagonize anybody for previously having their blinders on with respect to the law of the land.

It would appear that after lobbying intensely for it and being squarely in the President's corner through the last two election cycles, Big Labor has seen enough of ObamaCare (before it has even been fully implemented) and is heading for the exits.


From The Hill:


Labor unions are breaking with President Obama on ObamaCare.

Months after the president's reelection, a variety of unions are publicly balking at how the administration plans to implement the landmark law. They warn that unless there are changes, the results could be catastrophic.


The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) - a 1.3 million-member labor group that twice endorsed Obama for president - is very worried about how the reform law will affect its members' healthcare plans.

Last month, the president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers released a statement calling "for repeal or complete reform of the Affordable Care Act."

UNITE HERE, a prominent hotel workers' union, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are also pushing for changes.




What has Big Labor freaked out, of course, is the now-infamous claim made by the President back in 2009 that if you liked your doctor and you liked your healthcare plan, nothing in the law would change that.


Many UFCW members have for their health care plans what are known as multi-employer or Taft-Hartley plans and according to the administration's own analysis, the law does not provide subsidies for the 20 million people covered by these plans. (We'll pause here to note the oddity of an administration analyzing a law it helped create after the fact, lending creedance to then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi's, also now-infamous line that the law had to be passed so we could find out what's in it).


What's unclear from the article, is if the law simply does not provide these subsidies where none existed previously or if they eliminated them as an umm... pre-existing condition. heh. Knowing what we do know about this law and how it was fashioned, it would not surprise us in the least if, in haste to get this thing out the door, they goofed up and added language that would eliminate those subsidies.


Either way, union boys are chapped that without those subsidies, their employers will dump them from their current health care plans and force the union members into the state exchanges with what the unions believe contain even more expensive health care plans but of crappier quality.



Here's UFCW President Joe Hansen:



"You can't have the same quality healthcare that you had before, despite what the president said," Hansen said. "Now what's going to happen is everybody is going to have to go to private for-profit insurance companies. We just don't think that's right. ... We just want to keep what we already have and what we bought at tremendous cost."

If the administration were to expand the subsidies to cover the Taft-Hartley plans, it's likely that the price tag for ObamaCare would rise, though it's unclear by how much.




So, how to fix this problem, if at all:



Hansen wants the Obama administration to use its regulatory powers to address the matter; a legislative remedy is all but impossible in the divided 113th Congress.

"When [the Obama administration] started writing the rules and regulations, we just assumed that Taft-Hartley plans - that workers covered by those plans, especially low-wage workers - would be eligible for the subsidies and stay in their plans and they're not," Hansen said.



This is also known as "Sebelius mode" in honor of the Health and Human Services Secretary who will be overseeing the administration of ObamaCare and what is "Sebelius mode" is if you goon up the actual legislation, screw it, you get, more or less, a mulligan with the writing of the regulations on the back end.




And now Hansen, not wanting to appear too critical of the administration he has in his back pocket...

Hansen, however, said he has no regrets about endorsing Obama or supporting the healthcare reform law. UFCW is a major Democratic donor, contributing to several of the party's candidates and giving to last year's convention in Charlotte, N.C., and this year's inauguration.



However...

The union president said changes to his members' health insurance might lead to problems at the ballot box for candidates.

"What happens in 2014 could be at issue here. ... There is going to be a lot of disenchantment with how did this happen and who was in power when it happened. No matter what I say, that's going to be there," Hansen said. "They are upset already and it hasn't even taken effect already."




We know the unions are not going to turn their back on the Democratic party come the mid-terms, so we'd gladly settle, however, for them just sitting it out.


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Monday, May 20, 2013

What we and others have been tweeting







We're no longer calling what's gone down the past 2 weeks as "scandals", they are, in fact, crises.

















Sorry, effectively chilling freedom of the press and having the most intrusive federal agency in the nation bully and intimidate organizations of a particular political hue gives the term "scandal" a bad name.



... and the hits just keep coming:








And to those who blame the IRS crisis on the Citizens United Supreme Court case:

















The IRS targeted only small and medium-sized conservative/pro-life/tea party groups as they would not have the resources nor time and patience to stand up to the IRS.



And apparently it wasn't just those aforementioned groups getting worked over by the IRS:







And with all the congressional hearings and press conferences this past week, there was a single consistent theme:





Well, actually "I don't know" was the phrase used even more than "I can't remember."



Recalling the good ol' days when describing the President as cool and detached was meant as a compliment.









And in the name of being forever vigilant with respect to preserving our freedoms and liberties, Charles Cooke writing for National Review Online makes a great case for paranoia:





So, yeah, go ahead and release your inner conservative hipster:









So, what about all those wacky ideas for reforming the tax code, now?












Related: the IRS has not done themselves any favors with respect to us conspiracy theorists out there.














In regards to yesterday's Sunday talk shows there was a singular, consistent theme as well.






















And just a reminder for the next time you hear the "Washington D.C. is hopelessly gridlocked" meme.







OK, gang, that's it for today. We'll catch ya later.



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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Video clip of the day




We present to you a clip from the oft-contentious congressional hearings with HMFIC of the IRS and IRS scandal fall guy, Steven Miller, who was set to retire in June.



He would appear to have some problems with that whole 1st amendment thingy:






From the Washington Examiner:


During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing today, Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., grilled outgoing IRS commissioner Steven Miller about the IRS targeting a pro-life group in Iowa.

“Their question, specifically asked from the IRS to the Coalition for Life of Iowa: ‘Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers,’" Schock declared.

“Would that be an inappropriate question to a 501 c3 applicant?” asked Schock. “The content of one’s prayers?”

“It pains me to say I can’t speak to that one either,” Miller replied.

After Schock pressed him further, Miller explained that although he couldn't comment on the specific case, it would "surprise him" if that question was asked.




We cannot think of a better reason for the 1st amendment than what you just witnessed.

That's it. That's the whole idea of the 1st amendment - to keep a meddlesome government out of your life and the fact that the man in charge of the tax collection agency of this country cannot give a definitive answer with respect to our most important amendment ought to scare the living hell out of everybody.


We tweeted the other day something along the lines that if you were still a big government liberal, you probably were'nt paying attention to things... for this is the end game of a progressive utopia.


Whether the low level IRS employees were acting on orders from their superiors or, worse, just acting upon the engrained culture at the IRS, this represents the abuse of unbridled and unchecked government power... and the man in charge gives every appearance of not really giving a damn about it.


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Some thoughts on what's been going on lately



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That wasn't meant as an admonishment to our liberal friends who follow us on Twitter (and whom most likely pay no never mind to our politically-themed tweets) rather an invitation to discuss just what the unfolding scandals represent in the broader context of things. And to provide, perhaps a counter-balance to that if it was taken as an admonishment, we offered up this:








We used "Ruling Class/Political Class" in the context of Angelo Codevilla's phenomenal essay from the American Spectator, "America's Ruling Class - And the Perils of Revolution" written nearly 3 years ago. (It's a lengthy piece but you would be doing yourself a huge favor to take the 20-30 minutes to read it)


To look at what has been happening in Washington through a partisan prism would be a big mistake and would be missing the larger point of assessing the role of government and how and in what manner its power is wielded.


Put simply, the scandals of the IRS, the Justice Department secretly obtaining Associated Press phone records and Pigford, are all symptomatic of a federal government that has become so large and intrusive that the inevitable result is contempt and corruption.


Attorney General Eric Holder's testimony yesterday before Congress provided excellent examples of this. When asked about how many or how often his department seized the phone records of media outlets, he claimed he couldn't quantify a number... he could not even ballpark it. He gave every impression that seizure of private records was standard operating procedure at the Justice Department.


We won't apologize for saying this exchange did not cover our constitutional republic in glory.


And when pressed for details specific to the Associated Press case, he claimed he recused himself from that case so he knew nothing of the details. He recused himself but couldn't recall specifically when he did and he did not recuse himself in writing and further, never informed his boss in the White House that he had recused himself. For an operation as serious in nature as it relates to the 1st amendment, civil liberties and privacy concerns, there is no record of him recusing himself other than him verbally telling his deputy that he had done so. (And it turns out the justification for these phone record seizures as being a matter of national security may be bogus). Unreal.


We use Holder as an example because he has been a favorite whipping boy of ours over the years as he personifies the complete contempt and quite possible corruption for which he has never been held accountable.


Accountability. A leviathan the size of our federal government will quickly lose accountability as that size becomes structured in a byzantine maze of agencies, bureaus and departments. To date, only one person has been axed as a result of the IRS debacle and that person, the head of the agency was going to be stepping down in June, anyway. The two "low level" employees in Cinncinnati whom we were told were responsible for the effective harassment of conservative groups have been "disciplined", or so we've been told. End of story, correct?


In reality, these abuses have been going on for years with the knowledge of senior IRS officials who did nothing to stop it. That hastily arranged presser last Friday was pure kabuki theater designed to get out ahead of and play damage control in front of the Inspector's General report that was to drop shortly thereafter on Friday. Even the IG report blandly labeled the wrongdoing as "mismanagement" when all indications point to the politicization of the tax-exempt application process.


Tea party and other conservative groups simply gave up in the light of overburdening and outrageous lines of questioning or for fears they might perjure themselves for not knowing the nature of any of their future activities as had been asked of some of the groups as part of the application process. And it only took 3 or 4 years of banging on their dinner plates to see any action taken on this. No accountability so the harassment and intimidation was allowed to continue, again, with the full knowledge of higher-ups within the IRS.


As Marco Rubio pointed out the other day, these are the sort of things you see in the 3rd world or failed state republics. This sort of stuff should not be happening here. But this is where we are because of our fool's errand of replacing a healthy skepticism of government and a desire to limit its power to a mindset that the government's good intentions as advertised by our betters in the Ruling Class justified an ever-increasing expansion of government powers... and as our Founders knew, we also know what is paved with good intentions.


These abuses, harassments, intimidations and lack of accountability are simply part and parcel to a government that grows so large, it simply gets drunk on its own power and starts running amok and trampling its original and intended charter.



* That quote in the image is from our President a couple weeks back at the graduation ceremony at the Ohio State University.

We forgot where we read it first but someone claimed that these scandals have all been making a better case for conservatism than all our leading conservative thinkers as we have seen the practical application rather than the theoretical and rhetorical.






Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Not quite sure people involved with 60s free speech movement had this in mind...



... but then again, considering the oppressiveness into which modern liberalism has morphed from its live and let live days 40-50 years ago, maybe this is exactly what they had in mind.



Bad news for those of you out there that thought that perhaps college was a forum for freedom of expression and a place to exchange and debate different ideas and beliefs. The Department of Justice and Department of Energy have teamed up to issue broad and arbitrary speech codes that must be followed by any college or university that receives federal funding.


Reason.tv is approx. 3 minutes long:





"It is so broad that it turns every single student and every single faculty member on campus, at least arguably, into harassers," warns Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

He's talking about sweeping speech codes just imposed by the Departments of Justice and Education on virtually every college campus in the United States.

The new mandate was revealed in a letter from the DOJ and DOE to the University of Montana that states "sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as 'any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," including "verbal conduct." The new rules apply to all colleges and universities receiving any sort of federal money, including Pell grants, federally backed student loans, and more. The letter contends the conduct in question need not be offensive to an "objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation." That means that there is effectively no check on what might count as harassment. Course materials, overheard comments, stupid jokes - it's all potentially actionable.




You would be correct in assuming that this is what Jonah Goldberg was referring to in his book Liberal Fascism.


If sexually-themed speech is going to come under such broadly interpreted scrutiny, who's to say political speech won't be next? If we've learned anything at all this past week, it's that holding certain political views or voicing opposition to elements and characteristics of the government can get you bullied and harrassed by that same government.

Good to see any such incorrect speech will not be tolerated on our college campuses.








Monday, May 13, 2013

A bake sale would appear to be so much more dignified.



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... if not more ethical and/or legal.

It's been well-documented in these pages just how poorly the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka ObamaCare) roll-out is coming along as the ranks of those who wrote and/or voted for the law have been playing CYA of late with respect to, in their words, the coming "trainwreck".


Now, count the Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius (pictured), as one of those going into panic mode because she feels a hugely controversial and high-profile piece of legislation that became the law of the land over 3 years ago is not being properly educated to the public. In fact, things are so bad that she is being reduced to going hat in hand to solicit donations from not only tax-preparers but the health insurance lobby itself in order to jump start a broader public awareness campaign for Obamacare.


Quick side note: About 2-1/2 years ago we wrote of Sebelius fretting over the lack of public awareness with respect to the law. 2-1/2 years later and they really haven't done a damn thing to improve the situation. 2-1/2 years later and they're still thrashing around in the shallow end of the pool. Heckuva job, Kathy.



From the New York Times:


WASHINGTON — Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, has solicited sizable donations from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and H&R Block, the tax preparation service, as part of a multimillion-dollar campaign to ensure the success of President Obama’s health care law, administration officials said Sunday, even as a leading Senate Republican raised questions about the legality of her efforts.

The foundation is expected to contribute as much as $10 million, while H&R Block is expected to make a smaller donation of about $500,000, the officials said.

The senior Republican on the Senate health committee, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, said the fund-raising “may be illegal.” He likened it to efforts by the Reagan administration to raise money for rebels fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, after Congress had restricted the use of federal money. Aides to Mr. Alexander said Sunday that he would ask the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, to examine the propriety of the Obama administration’s fund-raising efforts.



Repeat the following slowly: Funds are being "solicited" from tax preparer services for a law that will be enforced by the federal tax agency, the IRS. For those of you in Placentia, California, that would spell "conflict of interest".

And that's a nice touch by the Senator from Tennessee: always invoke a scandal from the other side's bĂȘte noir for a proper display of bipartisan skepticism.




Back to the article:


The Department of Health and Human Services said that Ms. Sebelius’s actions to supplement money appropriated by Congress were proper and would continue, despite criticism from Republicans. After first denying that administration officials had engaged in fund-raising, the department confirmed Friday that Ms. Sebelius had made calls soliciting support from the health care industry, including insurance and pharmaceutical executives.

Jason Young, a spokesman for Ms. Sebelius, said she had suggested that health care executives and others support the work of Enroll America, a private nonprofit group that shares the president’s goal of securing coverage for people without insurance. Several people who received solicitations said that current and former administration officials had suggested seven-figure donations.

An insurance executive said that some insurers had been asked for $1 million donations, and that “bigger companies have been asked for a lot more.”



Again, let's ease ourselves into the way back machine and touch on the relationship enjoyed between Sebelius and the health insurance industry. As soon as the ink was dry from the President's signature, health insurance companies faced with covering more people and more people with more mandated coverage provisions, warned that insurance premiums would necessarily rise significantly because of this. This did not set well with Sebelius as she engaged in some not-so-subtle bullying of her own.


From September of 2010:


President Barack Obama's top health official on Thursday warned the insurance industry that the administration won't tolerate blaming premium hikes on the new health overhaul law.

"There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a letter to the insurance lobby.

"Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections," Sebelius said. She warned that bad actors may be excluded from new health insurance markets that will open in 2014 under the law. They'd lose out on a big pool of customers, as many as 30 million people nationwide.


(italics, ours)


We suppose we can't blame her for being mildly chapped as the Health lobby itself was also in those backrooms writing up the legislation. Imagine the sense of betrayal amidst the cozy corporatist arrangement enjoyed by Big Health and the federal government.


She later backed off that threat but the damage had been done as the message was made entirely clear: Mighty fine health insurance company you got there. It'd be a shame...


So, considering this highly, err... passive-aggressive relationship between the two entities since the passage of ObamaCare we now have this:


While Ms. Sebelius asked for support from health care executives, she did not make “a direct fund-raising appeal” to entities regulated by the government, Mr. Young said. In any event, he said, under a decades-old federal law, the secretary can encourage support for private nonprofit entities promoting public health.



Terrific: on one hand we have a high-ranking administration official threatening the livelihood of private businesses for speaking frankly and on the other we have that same person looking for financial support from said private businesses. We'd be impolite to call this a shakedown but does this administration have any idea how horrible the optics on this look? Any idea whatsoever? We'd also call this relationship adversarial but since they're in bed together, can we just call it a bad marriage? A bad marriage made permanent by a horrible law?


If those folks who claim they live in the reality-based community want the rest of us to put our tin foil hats away, they're going to have to do a better job than this. Within the same calendar week that the IRS has admitted to bureaucratic harassing of conservative groups, we have the federal government soliciting donations from tax-prep agencies and private entities to help fund a public-awareness campaign for their miserable law.


And what if those "offers" are refused? Do you want to tell the person who once threatened your business livelihood you aren't going to be her patsie? Do you want to tell the entity that regulates your business that you do not wish to voluntarily fund its folly?


For those of you who question the inherent dangers of a corporatist style of governance favored by this administration, here it is writ large and with feeling.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

What we and others have been tweeting






Ooo boy... Crazy, crazy week. Wednesday, 3 whistleblowers stepped forward and in sworn testimony to Congress, blew the lid off the official White House version of events of what transpired in Benghazi, Libya.

Then on Friday morning, the IRS stepped forward and admitted to harrassing conservative and tea party groups. This was followed by a off-the-record, err... "deep background" closed doors White House press briefing.




To summarize our overall reaction to this week:













By the time it takes people how to figure out how to spell her name correctly, Sharyl Attkisson may be out of a job at CBS News. You see, Ms. Attkisson has been one of the only people in the main stream media to do the heavy lifting on subjects like Fast and Furious and, more recently, Benghazi. Word search her name at the upper left corner of this page and you will see the various times we've linked to her articles and praised her 4th estate vigilance.


The 4th estate that 40 years ago brought down a Presidency, now shies away from any and all contact with hard-hitting investigative journalism where it concerns a fan-boy presidency.


















Oh, and you'd be pleased to know the head of CBS News has a brother who is a high-level advisor within the Obama administration.









And media attempts to circle the wagons, aren't going so smoothly:












So, if the media can't seem to properly circle the wagons, then maybe the White House can help. In the wake Friday morning's ABC News bomshell report that the White House and State Department heavily edited and revised the now-discredited CIA talking points about the attack on Benghazi, an off-the-record "deep background" invite-only press briefing was held.




In the midst of a blooming scandal, we cannot imagine worse optics than an off-the-record "deep background" invite-only press briefing.















Consider our minds blown.








Yep. And the legacy media continues to cover themselves in glory.












But, hey, we think we've got it figured out.









And with respect to whistleblower testimony to Congress on Wednesday, predictably the long knives came out for the most prominent of them, Gregory Hicks, the State Department’s former deputy chief of mission in Libya.











Former Marine with 22 years of decorated service to our country in the diplomatic corps and an uncited source claims he was the "worst manager ever" as proof of lack of credibility.

That's the best they can do?












Now as Hicks' testimony blew holes in the administration's account of things, let's all remember that the only person in custody as a result of this catastrophe is being held right here in the good ol' US of A. That's right. It's crappy Youtube video guy who was originally claimed by the administration to be responsible for the spontaneous demonstration terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate.







If lefties can make heroes out of domestic terrorists like Bill Ayers, can't we, in the name of free speech, make a cause celebre' out of Nakoula?








Free speech? What's that have to do with Benghazi? Let's take scroll down memory lane shall we and re-look at all the wonderful things being said by our betters with respect to censorship and suitable punsishment for Nakoula


























On a lighter note:







And with respect to this IRS harrassment...













And a very good question that shouldn't be a rhetorical one:





We doubt anyone is going to be held responsible for this.





And to wrap things up:













OK, gang. That's it. Have a great weekend and a tremendous Mother's Day.







Thursday, May 9, 2013

We hope this guy would have approved of the following message



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We were doing some quality control of our blog post archives when we ran across the post below from over two years ago. It concerned the increase in scope and breadth of our entitlement society and the deleterious effects it has on the individual which then is passed along to our society as a whole.

Look at what has happened in Europe, particularly southern Europe, where even talk of relatively modest austerity measures to their massive social safety net is cause for rioting in the streets. The rioters haven't figured out or refuse to acknowledge basic economics: you may vote for free stuff but in reality, that stuff is not free; the cost has to be picked up somewhere and by someone and with an aging population, someone is becoming an increasingly smaller number paying out benefits to a growing population of pensioners. The math dictates that this is an unsustainable situation and math wins, math always wins.

From April of 2011:





Give us a chance so we can dicover the most valuable ways to serve one another.





Dennis Prager from NRO on entitlements vs. rights and free markets vs. the welfare state:

What handouts do, and what the transformation of handouts into rights does, is create a citizenry that increasingly lacks the most important character trait - gratitude. Of all the characteristics needed for both a happy and morally decent life, none surpasses gratitude. Grateful people are happier, and grateful people are more morally decent. That is why we teach our children to say "thank you." But the welfare state undoes that. One does not express thanks for a right. So, instead of "thank you," the citizen of the welfare state is taught to say, "What more can I get?"

Yet, while producing increasingly selfish people, the mantra of the Left, and therefore of the universities and the media, has been for generations that capitalism and the free market, not the welfare state, produces selfish people.




John Stossel was on O'Reilly the other night and claimed that private charity would step in and replace the broader government-sponsored and managed social safety net were it ever dismantled. We tend to agree with him but we wonder if we've passed the point of no return in that our desire and incentive to voluntarily give our time, talent and treasure to helping those less fortunate than us has been blunted to the point that our belief is no longer true.

When one starts claiming that a job, a house and health care are "rights", how is anything then not on the table to be provided and which results in the involuntary confiscation of those that create, build and provide those assumed rights?

We're seeing some positive signs particularly at the state level where steps are being taken to curtail the collective bargaining "rights" of government employee unions and also to prevent the automatic deduction (see also, confiscation) of tax-payer-funded salaries which go directly to political causes, most notably those that involve the further expansion of union "rights".

Rights supported by the confiscation of goods and services are not right at all and that's why we love that quote above that was taken from the Keynes v Hayek smackdown in the previous post.



Give us a chance = Free will not top down/command and control decision-making will allow...

So we can discover = our God-given talents, intellect and ability to figure out...

the most valuable ways = achieving the most efficient means...

to serve one another = of being a positive force in society whether in the market place or charity.





Back to real time:

Dull, listless, yet ever-more selfish and ungrateful wards of the state or vibrant, giving, independent and grateful members of society. It seems like a no-brainer but our voting habits would also seem to indicate otherwise.


We've probably been doing a piss-poor job of it but we will continue to make the case for the ultimate morality and decency of free market socio-economics over the ultimate enslavement of statism/collectivism.

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