Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why You Should Be Sympathetic Toward Cliven Bundy

Why You Should Be Sympathetic Toward Cliven Bundy

by John Hinderaker in Federalism, Harry Reid, Obama Administration Scandals
On Saturday, I wrote about the standoff at Bundy Ranch. That post drew a remarkable amount of traffic, even though, as I wrote then, I had not quite decided what to make of the story. Since then, I have continued to study the facts and have drawn some conclusions. Here they are.
First, it must be admitted that legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The Bureau of Land Management has been charging him grazing fees since the early 1990s, which he has refused to pay. Further, BLM has issued orders limiting the area on which Bundy’s cows can graze and the number that can graze, and Bundy has ignored those directives. As a result, BLM has sued Bundy twice in federal court, and won both cases. In the second, more recent action, Bundy’s defense is that the federal government doesn’t own the land in question and therefore has no authority to regulate grazing. That simply isn’t right; the land, like most of Nevada, is federally owned. Bundy is representing himself, of necessity: no lawyer could make that argument.
That being the case, why does Bundy deserve our sympathy? To begin with, his family has been ranching on the acres at issue since the late 19th century. They and other settlers were induced to come to Nevada in part by the federal government’s promise that they would be able to graze their cattle on adjacent government-owned land. For many years they did so, with no limitations or fees. The Bundy family was ranching in southern Nevada long before the BLM came into existence.
Over the last two or three decades, the Bureau has squeezed the ranchers in southern Nevada by limiting the acres on which their cattle can graze, reducing the number of cattle that can be on federal land, and charging grazing fees for the ever-diminishing privilege. The effect of these restrictions has been to drive the ranchers out of business. Formerly, there were dozens of ranches in the area where Bundy operates. Now, his ranch is the only one. When Bundy refused to pay grazing fees beginning in around 1993, he said something to the effect of, they are supposed to be charging me a fee for managing the land and all they are doing is trying to manage me out of business. Why should I pay them for that?
The bedrock issue here is that the federal government owns more than 80% of the state of Nevada. This is true across the western states. To an astonishing degree, those states lack sovereignty over their own territory. Most of the land is federal. And the federal agencies that rule over federal lands have agendas. At every opportunity, it seems, they restrict not only what can be done on federal lands, but on privately-owned property. They are hostile to traditional industries like logging, mining and ranching, and if you have a puddle in your back yard, the EPA will try to regulate it as a navigable waterway.
That is only a slight exaggeration.
bundy.ranch_.nevOne could say that Cliven Bundy is just one more victim of progress and changing mores. The federal government has gotten more environmentally-conscious, and now we really, really care about desert tortoises. (It was the designation of desert tortoises as an endangered species that gave BLM the opportunity to squeeze Bundy in the early 1990s.) But here’s the thing: the Bureau of Land Management–the federal government–is not necessarily anti-development. Rather, its attitude depends entirely on what sort of development is in question.
Thus, BLM has developed a grandiose plan to develop vast solar energy installations on federal land across the Southwest. Wind power projects are favored, too. In fact, the same BLM that has driven Nevada’s ranchers out of business has welcomed solar projects with open arms. Some have claimed that Harry Reid is behind the BLM’s war against Cliven Bundy, on the theory that he wants the land for a solar project in which his son Rory is involved, along with the Chinese. I don’t believe this is correct. The solar projects are located north of Las Vegas, 30 miles or so from the area where Bundy ranches.
But the connection is nevertheless important in two respects. First, BLM has promulgated a regional mitigation strategy for the environmental impacts of the solar developments. Let’s pause on that for a moment: the excuse for limiting Bundy’s rights is the endangered desert tortoise. But wait! Don’t they have desert tortoises a few miles away where the solar projects are being built? Of course they do. That’s where they get to the mitigation strategy, which may involve, among other things, moving some desert tortoises to a new location:
The Gold Butte ACEC is preliminarily recommended as the best recipient location for regional mitigation from the Dry Lake SEZ. This ACEC is located 32 miles (51 km) east of the Dry Lake SEZ.
Gold Butte is the area where Bundy ranches. There are a few problems with the Gold Butte location as a mitigation area; one of them is that there are “trespassing” cattle:
The resource values found in the Gold Butte ACEC are threatened by: unauthorized activities, including off-road vehicle use, illegal dumping, and trespass livestock grazing; wildfire; and weed infestation.
So it is possible that the federal government is driving Bundy off federal lands to make way for mitigation activities that enable the solar energy development to the north. But I don’t think it is necessary to go there. Rather–this is the second and more important point–it is obvious that some activities are favored by the Obama administration’s BLM, and others are disfavored. The favored developments include solar and wind projects. No surprise there: the developers of such projects are invariably major Democratic Party donors. Wind and solar energy survive only by virtue of federal subsidies, so influencing people like Barack Obama and Harry Reid is fundamental to the developers’ business plans. Ranchers, on the other hand, ask nothing from the federal government other than the continuation of their historic rights. It is a safe bet that Cliven Bundy is not an Obama or Reid contributor.
Solar energy projects don't draw BLM snipers
Solar energy projects don’t draw BLM snipers
The new head of the BLM is a former Reid staffer. Presumably he was placed in his current position on Reid’s recommendation. Harry Reid is known to be a corrupt politician, one who has gotten wealthy on a public employee’s salary, in part, at least, by benefiting from sweetheart real estate deals. Does Harry Reid now control more than 80% of the territory of Nevada? If you need federal authority to conduct business in Nevada–which is overwhelmingly probable–do you need to pay a bribe to Harry Reid or a member of his family to get that permission? Why is it that the BLM is deeply concerned about desert tortoises when it comes to ranchers, but couldn’t care less when the solar power developers from China come calling? Environmentalists have asked this question. Does the difference lie in the fact that Cliven Bundy has never contributed to an Obama or Reid campaign, or paid a bribe to Reid or a member of his family?
Based on the evidence, I would say: yes, that is probably the difference. When the desert tortoises balance out, Occam’s razor tells us that the distinction is political.
So let’s have some sympathy for Cliven Bundy and his family. They don’t have a chance on the law, because under the Endangered Species Act and many other federal statutes, the agencies are always in the right. And their way of life is one that, frankly, is on the outs. They don’t develop apps. They don’t ask for food stamps. It probably has never occurred to them to bribe a politician. They don’t subsist by virtue of government subsidies or regulations that hamstring competitors. They aren’t illegal immigrants. They have never even gone to law school. So what possible place is there for the Bundys in the Age of Obama?

Study finds more immigrants equals more Democrats --- and more losses for GOP

Study finds more immigrants equals more Democrats --- and more losses for GOP
Politics,Opinion,Byron York,Columnists,Immigration
Republicans are famously divided on immigration reform, but Democrats pretty much unanimously support it. There's a reason for that.
In stark, partisan political terms, continuing the high level of immigration of recent decades, and certainly increasing immigration as envisioned by many reformers, will result in more Democrats winning more elections in coming years.

"The enormous flow of legal immigrants into the country — 29.5 million from 1980 to 2012 — has remade and continues to remake the nation's electorate in favor of the Democratic Party," concludes a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes comprehensive reform proposals like the Senate "Gang of Eight" bill. "As the immigrant population has grown, Republican electoral prospects have dimmed, even after controlling for alternative explanations of GOP performance."
In the report, author James Gimpel, a University of Maryland professor, looks at the immigrants who have come to the United States in recent decades and those likely to come in the future. Through a lot of complicated statistical analysis and close reading of previous studies, he comes to the same conclusion as anyone who has looked through exit polls in the last 30 years: Immigrants tend to vote Democratic.
A 2012 study of 2,900 foreign-born, naturalized immigrants cited in the report showed that about 62 percent identified themselves as Democrats, while 25 percent identified as Republicans, and 13 percent identified as independents. At this moment, according to the report, there are an estimated 8.7 million immigrants in the U.S. who are eligible for naturalization. Not all will become voting citizens, but somewhere between 50 percent and 60 percent will. And it's a sure bet that a majority will identify themselves as Democrats.
Gimpel cites several reasons why future immigration will likely mean more Democrats. The first is that "immigrants, particularly Hispanics and Asians, have policy preferences when it comes to the size and scope of government that are more closely aligned with progressives than with conservatives." Those preferences have expressed themselves in a two-to-one party identification advantage for Democrats in those groups.
Another reason is that the arrival of immigrants, whose ranks include substantial numbers of the poor and unskilled, increases income inequality in the areas they choose to live. "It is from areas of higher income inequality," writes Gimpel, "that we find the most support for a robust government with an expansive regulatory and redistributive role in the economy, among all citizens, not just immigrants." That will likely mean more electoral success for Democrats.
Gimpel found that the partisan impact of immigration "is relatively uniform throughout the country — from California to Texas to Florida." If immigrants arrive in large numbers, areas that are already Democratic become more so, while areas that are Republican become more Democratic. That applies to Texas and other red-state strongholds as much as anywhere else.
The political changes immigration has brought to some of the nation's largest counties are striking. Broward County, Fla., was made up of 11.1 percent immigrants in 1980 and is 31.2 percent immigrant today. It was 55.9 percent Republican in 1980 and 32.4 percent today. San Bernardino County, Calif., was 7.7 percent immigrant in 1980, and 21.4 percent today. It was 59.7 percent Republican back then, and is 46.2 percent today. Clark County, Nev., was 7.6 percent immigrant in 1980 and is 21.9 percent today. It was 59.8 percent Republican then and is 42.6 percent today.
To some Republicans, Gimpel's findings will be just more proof that the GOP must support comprehensive immigration reform as it seeks to build ties with immigrant communities. But Gimpel suggests that doesn't matter. "The decline [in Republican identification] does not seem to vary with the local Republican Party's position on illegal immigration," he writes.
Of course, Republicans are also seeking other ways to appeal to Hispanic voters. Gimpel suggests that if they succeed, it won't be anytime soon. "Entrenched patterns of party loyalty change very slowly, over decades," he writes, "and are not ordinarily subject to wild swings in response to campaign stimuli."
The bottom line is that more immigration favors Democrats; there is no prediction of Democratic electoral ascendancy that doesn't rely on demographic factors as the main engine of the party's dominance.
Even if no changes are made to increase immigration, Republicans face a daunting, long-term task of trying to win the loyalty of immigrant voters. With about 30 million who have arrived here legally in the last three decades, plus about 12 million who are here illegally now but could well become voters someday, plus their natural-born citizen children on the way in the future — it's a hugely important assignment for the GOP.
But it's also reasonable for Republicans not to support policies that could worsen their electoral prospects, if not doom their party to decades of defeat. After all, Democrats are certainly acting in what they perceive to be their party's best political interests.
There are plenty of policy reasons to be on one side or the other in the immigration debate. But in the end, it's all politics. This new report suggests Republicans should understand that as well as Democrats.

Left 'Totalitarian' About Opposing Views

The left's attempt to ban public discourse on controversial subjects such as global warming  amounts to totalitarianism, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer writes.

"The left is entering a new phase of ideological agitation — no longer trying to win the debate but stopping debate altogether, banishing from public discourse any and all opposition," Krauthammer
writes in The Washington Post Thursday.

"The proper word for that attitude is totalitarian," he explains. "It declares certain controversies over and visits serious consequences — from social ostracism to vocational defenestration — upon those who refuse to be silenced."

Krauthammer argues that the debate over global warming is a prime example of the left trying to silence opposing views.

Those who believe in manmade caused global warming, including President Barack Obama, declare "the science of global warming to be 'settled,'" he explains.

As a result, "anyone who disagrees is then branded 'anti-science.' And better still a 'denier' — a brilliant chosen calumny meant to impute to the climate skeptic the opprobrium normally reserved for the hatemongers and crackpots who deny the Holocaust."

This totalitarian attitude was also recently on display in
the situation that forced Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich to resign just 10 days into the new post because it was discovered that he had donated money to the Proposition 8 effort in California, which defined marriage in the state's constitution as between one man and one woman, the conservative columnist says.

Krauthammer explains that there is a hypocrisy in whom the left decides to lynch since President Barack Obama held the same position in 2008, when Proposition 8 was passed, when he said that "his Christian beliefs made him oppose gay marriage."

The left calls opposition to gay marriage bigotry, he writes.

"By that logic, the man whom the left so ecstatically carried to the White House in 2008 was equally a bigot," he adds.

Those who hold opposing views to the left's orthodoxy are labeled "a denier, a bigot, a homophobe, a sexist, an enemy of the people," Krauthammer writes.

"What's at play is sheer ideological prejudice — and the enforcement of the new totalitarian norm that declares, unilaterally, certain issues to be closed," the conservative author contends.

"Closed to debate. Open only to intimidated acquiescence."

These intimidation tactics are also seen in women's issues like abortion and equal pay, Krauthammer claims.

The best way to fight this growing "totalitarian impulse," he concludes, is to "defend the dissenters, even if — perhaps, especially if — you disagree with their policy. It is — it was? — the American way."

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Thoughts from the ammo line

Thoughts from the ammo line

by Scott Johnson in Higher education, Islam

Our friend Ammo Grrrll returns and is, as usual, on target. She calls this installment of her thoughts “A Short Quiz for Sniveling Cowards.”
Sometimes in the course of soliciting donations, taking meetings, golfing, taking lunch, speaking on the phone, the busy college president must make a controversial decision.
Doncha hate when that happens?? Yikes, how to proceed?
Let’s say you are President of Brandeis University. Some chucklehead decided to acknowledge the unimaginable courage of a woman who, at great peril to her life, fights to shine the light of public opinion on the plight of untold millions of oppressed women.
(No, no, not the women who can miraculously afford another tattoo or hair extensions or weekly nail appointments, or extra cell phone minutes, but need to have somebody else, anybody else, come up with nine dollars a month for free birth control. Clearly, anyone suffering that level of oppression would be too traumatized to speak a word.)
This is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a beautiful Somali woman whose enemies are the people who behead human beings and then upload their feats on YouTube for the viewing pleasure of millions of their fanbois. They throw wheelchair-bound Jews overboard on ships, murder Ms. Ali’s artist friend in the Netherlands and slaughter people in broad daylight in Jolly Olde England where, thank God, at least potential targets are not allowed to carry defensive weapons.
Then let’s say that a jaw-dropping 85 employees at your institution protest honoring this woman and allowing her to address the graduating class. Yikes! What’s a man-shaped substance to do?
A. Fire the 85 employees. It’s a tough economy. Surely you can find 85 professors who understand the concepts of free speech, and actual diversity?
B. Blame the Koch brothers.
C. Crumple like a cheap aluminum walker when hit by a semi.
Congratulations! You correctly chose “C”. Now, in coming up with a reason why you can’t find your balls with a tweezers, you claim:
A. Because War on Women. Oh wait, this IS a woman. Try again.
B. Because Raaaacism. Oh crap, she’s also black. Try again. (Good Lord, she also has high cheekbones. Puh-leeeze don’t let her feel like she’s an Indian, too.)
C..Because we weren’t aware of how much she clashed with our core values. No need to explain what your “core” values are. As Groucho famously said, “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”
Once again, you have chosen C. Good answer! The media won’t touch this with a ten-foot pole, and soon Lindsay will be back in rehab or Miley will twerk, or Kim will be pregnant with little South, and who will care about some African nobody who probably isn’t even gay? Rest assured if you HAD allowed her to speak, The Slavering Mob would have shouted her down, but talk about a buzz kill for a graduation!

Brain Surgery Patient's Obamacare Plan Denies Meds, Drops Doctors

Brain Surgery Patient's Obamacare Plan Denies Meds, Drops Doctors

A New York woman suffering from a neurological disease that has required four brain surgeries has been dropped by all of her doctors and denied medications due to her Obamacare plan.

"I've been vomiting. I lost 22 pounds. The pain is unbearable," said Margaret Figueroa, 49, on Wednesday. "My medication helps me function during the day."
Figueroa suffers from a disease known as Arnold Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia. Even though the Obamacare plan she purchased assured her that she was covered, her insurance card was denied when she went to fill her prescriptions. Then she learned that none of her doctors accept her Obamacare plan. Figueroa says she cannot find a doctor who accepts her Obamacare plan; indeed, there are only six doctors in all of Staten Island who take her plan, none of whom she's been able to get appointments with.
Figueroa's congressman, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), intervened to help her obtain some of her vital prescriptions. Grimm says he's already received calls from at least a dozen Staten Island residents facing the same problem with Obamacare's "narrow networks" – extreme restrictions to doctor and hospital access imposed by Obamacare.
"Even though the insurance company cashed your check, it doesn't mean it (the policy) has been implemented," said Grimm at a Wednesday press conference with Figueroa. "That's the problem – that the back end of Obamacare hasn't been fully built. You can go on the front end of an application and look at a list of plans, but what they don't tell you is that many of those plans don't have doctors yet."
Figueroa is not alone.
As Breitbart News reported in January, the Washington Post warned that "Obamacare's narrow networks are going to make people furious – but they might control costs." Breitbart News contributor Scot Vorse learned the hard way about Obamacare's narrow networks when the nearest dentist who accepted the mandatory dental plan he was required to purchase for his children was over 100 miles away.
Obamacare's narrow networks have also shut out access to top cancer centers. The Associated Press says just 4 of 19 nationally recognized comprehensive cancer centers offer Obamacare access through all insurance plans in their state Obamacare exchanges, and a McKinsey and Co. study revealed 38% of all Obamacare plans only allow patients to pick from just 30% of the largest 20 hospitals in their areas.
Experts say the narrow network horror stories will only grow as more and more Obamacare customers attempt to use their Obamacare insurance only to realize its harsh realities.
Obamacare remains deeply unpopular nationally. The latest USA Today/Pew Research poll finds that just 37% of Americans now support Obamacare.
Photo of Margaret Figueroa courtesy of the Figueroa family.

Issa: IRS Probe Will Continue Despite White House Roadblocks

Issa: IRS Probe Will Continue Despite White House Roadblocks

Image: Issa: IRS Probe Will Continue Despite White House Roadblocks

By Todd Beamon
Rep. Darrell Issa said on Thursday that the congressional investigation into the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS will proceed despite any obstacles from embattled former supervisor Lois Lerner or the Obama administration.

"Whether Lois Lerner breaks her silence and testifies or is simply held to account when the full House of Representatives votes her in contempt, this president has been put on notice that the targeting investigation will move forward," Issa said in an op-ed piece in the
Orange County Register. "Try as this administration might, this investigation will not go away until we get the full truth."

Who Is Your Choice for the GOP's 2016 Nominee?

Issa, the two-term California Republican, is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The panel has been investigating the targeting scandal of tea party, conservative, and religious groups starting in 2010 through the 2012 presidential election.

The scandal led to Lerner's suspension and retirement last year — and several other Internal Revenue Service employees have been fired or put on administrative leave. Others face congressional investigation.

Lerner was also
held in contempt by Issa's committee after twice invoking the Fifth Amendment in questioning on the scandal.

In addition, the Oversight Committee has been battling the White House to obtain documents it has subpoenaed about the special screening the conservative groups faced in their applications for tax-exempt status.

The administration still has not provided substantive information to the panel, Issa has charged.

Emails released this week by Judicial Watch, however, showed that
Lerner discussed working with the Justice Department last year to prosecute nonprofits she felt had "lied" about their political activities.

The documents, which the watchdog organization obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit it filed last October against the IRS, suggest that the targeting may have reached further into the White House than Lerner had originally suggested.

She had said early on that that the targeting was based solely out of the IRS' Cincinnati field office.

In addition, emails released last week by the House Ways and Means Committee showed that the
IRS targeted Crossroads GPS, the group co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove.

In his Register piece, Issa discussed three critical things Congress has learned about the scandal since his committee began investigating it last year:

  • That IRS targeting of the tea party groups was political, in response to the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, which struck down certain bans on political spending as violations of the First Amendment.
Issa quoted a Duke University speech Lerner gave later that year. "Everyone is up in arms because they don’t like [the ruling]," she said, according to documents the congressman qujoted, and they "want the IRS to fix the problem."
  • That tea party and conservative groups were solely targeted — contrary to assertions that liberal organizations were, too.
"That isn’t true, and the IRS enabled this false narrative by selectively releasing misleading materials before key IRS employees were made available for interviews" to oversight committee investigators, Issa said.
  • That President Obama’s pledge to cooperate never materialized.
"Almost a year into the investigation, the IRS has still not produced all subpoenaed documents — even some of the most basic documents," Issa said. "Instead, it has wasted taxpayer dollars playing games, delivering documents that are often meaningless or perpetuate misleading narratives."

The congressman also slammed new IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for injecting "politics into the IRS by engaging in revisionist history" — "reinventing the scandal into a narrative of bureaucratic bumbling" and not calling it "targeting."

"Sailing into a headwind of partisan opposition and obstruction, getting this administration to turn over critical documents is never easy," Issa concluded, adding, "more work remains."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Report: Emails Show Justice Dept. Involved in IRS Tea Party Probe

Embattled former IRS official Lois Lerner last year discussed working with the Justice Department to prosecute nonprofit organizations that she felt had "lied" about their political activities, according to new documents released on Wednesday by Judicial Watch about the agency's targeting of conservative groups.The new documents show Lerner's communications with Justice within days of publicly acknowledging that the Internal Revenue Service was singling out tea party, conservative, and religious groups.

They also indicate that the targeting may have reached further into the Obama White House despite Lerner's original assertions that it was all based out of the agency's Cincinnati field office.
In a May 8 email, for instance, Lerner said that she had received a call from Richard Pilger, director of the elections crimes unit at Justice.Pilger asked whether the IRS could help the department "piece together false statement cases about applicants who 'lied'" on a particular IRS form, "saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures.

"DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs," Lerner said in the email.

"I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS…," she said.

Lerner wrote the email to Nikole Flax, who was chief of staff at the time to Steven Miller, who was the acting IRS commissioner.

She responded in an email the next day: "I think we should do it -- also need to include CI [Criminal Investigation Division], which we can help coordinate. Also, we need to reach out to [Federal Election Commission]. Does it make sense to consider including them in this or keep it separate?"

Lerner, who retired last September, oversaw the unit that evaluated applications for tax-exempt status. Miller was fired because of the scandal, and Flax has reportedly been targeted by congressional investigators.

Judicial Watch said on Wednesday that it had obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act
lawsuit filed last October. The watchdog group has sought documents showing how the IRS had targeted the groups between 2010 and the 2012 presidential election.

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the IRS failed to respond to four FOIA requests dating back to last May.

"These new emails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations that the IRS had already improperly targeted," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. "The IRS emails show Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is now implicated and conflicted in the IRS scandal."

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that has been investigating the scandal, said the new emails underscored "the political nature of IRS tea party targeting and the extent to which supposed apolitical officials took direction from elected Democrats.

"These e-mails are part of an overwhelming body of evidence that political pressure from prominent Democrats led to the targeting of Americans for their political beliefs," the California Republican said in a statement.

"Now I see why the IRS is scared to give up the rest of Lois Lerner's emails,” Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan said in a statement.

The documents "further prove the coordination among the IRS, the Federal Election Commission, the Justice Department and committee Democrats to target conservatives," he said.

Jordan added that had the oversight panel not become involved, "Eric Holder’s politicized Justice Department would likely have been leveling trumped-up criminal charges against tea party groups to intimidate them from exercising their Constitutional rights."

President Barack Obama has denied GOP charges that the targeting of the groups was politically motivated or illegal, telling
Fox News in February that "not even a smidgen of corruption" was involved in the specialized screening.

In addition, emails Issa's panel released last week showed that staff members of the oversight committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, had shared information with the IRS that effectively led the agency to investigate True the Vote after the group filed its application for tax-exempt status in 2010.

Cummings did not disclose any of those dealings with oversight committee Republicans,
Issa charged.

In a March 27 email, Lerner told IRS staffers about an April 9 2013, hearing — and the document also suggests that the other Obama administration departments might have been targeting the conservative groups.

The tax-exempt status the groups were seeking was 501(c)(4), which allows them to keep their donors private.

"There are several groups of folks from the FEC world that are pushing tax fraud prosecution for c4s who report they are not conducting political activity when they are (or these folks think they are)," Lerner wrote in the email.

"One is my ex-boss Larry Noble (former general counsel at the the FEC), who is now president of Americans for Campaign Reform," she added.

"This is their latest push to shut these down.

"One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn't feel so comfortable doing the stuff," Lerner said. "So, don't be fooled about how this is being articulated — it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity."

Lerner ignited the controversy last May when she disclosed the scandal in response to a question asked at a conference in Chicago.

Her response came just before the Treasury Department's inspector general released a report disclosing the targeting.

President Obama fired Miller — and at least three other IRS workers have been placed on put on administrative leave.

In testimony before the oversight committee, Lerner has twice invoked the Fifth Amendment, though she has denied wrongdoing. The panel voted last week to hold her in contempt for her refusals.

If the
full House finds Lerner in contempt, the matter would be referred to federal prosecutors.

Where Income Inequality Is Worst

Where Income Inequality Is Worst
With President Barack Obama calling income inequality "the defining challenge of our time," much attention has been focused on the topic of late.

But the deepest level of income inequality in America is in one of the country's bluest states.

"The most profound level of inequality and bifurcated class structure can be found in the densest and most influential urban environment in North America — Manhattan," writes Joel Kotkin, executive editor of and Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University.

In 1980, Manhattan (New York County) ranked 17th among U.S. counties in income inequality. It is now the worst among the nation's largest counties.

The most commonly used measure of inequality is the Gini index, developed by Italian statistician Corrado Gini. It ranges between zero, which would be complete equality (everyone in a community has the same income) and one, which is complete inequality (one person has all the income). Manhattan's Gini index was at 0.596 in 2012, higher than South Africa's index before apartheid ended.

If Manhattan were a country, it would rank sixth highest in income inequality out of 130 nations, according to Kotkin.

In 2009, New York's richest 1 percent earned one-third of the entire city's personal income — nearly twice the proportion for the rest of the nation.

A recent Brookings Institution study found that the big cities with the most pronounced levels of inequality are those with the highest costs: New York, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

One factor fueling urban inequality is the federal tax code regarding home ownership, which helps upper-income Americans the most, according to a Washington Post editorial by Charles Lane.

Tax deductions for mortgage interest are projected to cost the Treasury $70 billion in fiscal 2014, while property tax deductions will cost $31 billion. Home-sale capital gains up to $500,000 are also tax free, and they will likely cost the Treasury $52 billion this year.

About 73 percent of mortgage-interest deductions go to the top 20 percent of earners, and 30 percent go to the top 1 percent, according to Lane.

Yet most lower-income earners don't take advantage of the deduction because they don't earn enough to itemize deductions on their federal returns.

Some of the country's worst inequality can also be found in rural areas, according to a study by University of Washington geographer Richard Morrill cited by Kotkin.

The worst rural inequality is likely in the agricultural areas of California.

"The Golden State is now home to 111 billionaires, by far the most of any state," Kotkin writes in an article that first appeared at "California billionaires personally hold assets worth $485 billion, more than the entire GDP of all but 24 countries in the world."

Yet California has the highest poverty rate in the country, adjusted for housing costs. As of 2012, with about 12 percent of the U.S. population, California accounted for one-third of the country's welfare recipients.

Cruz: Holder Should be Impeached if No Action on IRS Scandal

Stumbled Sen. Ted Cruz said Congress should impeach Attorney General Eric Holder if he does not seek indictments for people such as former senior IRS official Lois Lerner for their roles in the agency targeting scandal.

In an appearance Thursday on conservative talk show host Sean Hannity's radio show, the Texas Republican and possible 2016 presidential contender, said Holder should be impeached for "defying Congress and the rule of law,"
Breitbart reported.

Cruz said Holder's actions were not in keeping with the policies of the Justice Department, which has "a bipartisan tradition of resisting partisan pressure and upholding the rule of law."

He cited examples of previous attorneys general, such as Janet Reno and Elliot Richardson, as models for how the department should be run.

Cruz described Holder as "the most partisan attorney general the country has ever had," Breitbart reported.

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Cruz also said he was "very pleased" that Lerner was held in contempt by the House Oversight Committee, but criticized the Obama administration for not moving to indict one person eight months after the inspector general concluded that the IRS had wrongfully targeted conservative groups for heightened scrutiny.

Cruz also took aim at President Barack Obama for appointing a Democrat, who was a fundraiser for his presidential campaign, to lead the IRS investigation, saying it would be akin to John Mitchell investigating Richard Nixon, according to Breitbart.

Mitchell was attorney general during Nixon's first term and chairman of his 1972 presidential re-election campaign. Mitchell went to prison for Watergate-related crimes.

Cruz added that Obama had a "pattern of lawlessness" that "is breathtaking" and "dangerous" for liberty.

"We have never seen a president who consistently ignores the law and brazenly defies the law," Cruz said, mentioning immigration, marriage, drug, and welfare laws. The president's unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act also defy his authority in the Constitution, Cruz said. 

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The shame of Brandeis

The shame of Brandeis
by Scott Johnson in Higher education, Islam, Political correctness

I want to take the liberty of affirming John Podhoretz’s brief comments on the withdrawal of Brandeis University’s invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ayaan was to receive an honorary degree at its upcoming graduation ceremony. John writes:
If you have not yet heard, Brandeis University has rescinded its offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born activist whose work has focused on the barbaric misogyny rampant in Islamic societies like the one in which she was raised—and whose efforts to call attention to them as a legislator in the Netherlands led to a political crisis there and her eventual flight to the United States.
Given that it only takes a Google search to find out everything one would need to know about her, including the controversial aspects of her views, it is laughable for Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to claim he had to withdraw the degree because of information he had only lately discovered. Ayaan Hirsi Ali said this afternoon that she was not surprised she came under attack from demagogic apologists like the Council on American Islamic Relations: She has come to expect such things.
Here John pauses to quote Ayaan’s response to this situation:
What did surprise me was the behavior of Brandeis. Having spent many months planning for me to speak to its students at Commencement, the university yesterday announced that it could not “overlook certain of my past statements,” which it had not previously been aware of. Yet my critics have long specialized in selective quotation–lines from interviews taken out of context–designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree.
John continues and renders the judgment which would I would like to associate myself:
What Lawrence has done here is the nothing less than the act of a gutless, spineless, simpering coward.
My late uncle, Marver Bernstein, served as the university’s president from 1972 to 1983. I know Marver would have been appalled beyond belief at his shameful successor’s monstrous capitulation to the screaming voices of unreason. As should we all be.
Bill Kristol has posted Ayaan’s statement on this sad state of affairs, quoted in part in John Podhoretz’s comments above:
Yesterday Brandeis University decided to withdraw an honorary degree they were to confer upon me next month during their Commencement exercises. I wish to dissociate myself from the university’s statement, which implies that I was in any way consulted about this decision. On the contrary, I was completely shocked when President Frederick Lawrence called me—just a few hours before issuing a public statement—to say that such a decision had been made.
When Brandeis approached me with the offer of an honorary degree, I accepted partly because of the institution’s distinguished history; it was founded in 1948, in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, as a co-educational, nonsectarian university at a time when many American universities still imposed rigid admission quotas on Jewish students. I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin. For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called “honor killings,” and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse as wife beating or child beating. Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices. So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against my being honored in this way.
What did surprise me was the behavior of Brandeis. Having spent many months planning for me to speak to its students at Commencement, the university yesterday announced that it could not “overlook certain of my past statements,” which it had not previously been aware of. Yet my critics have long specialized in selective quotation – lines from interviews taken out of context – designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree.
What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The “spirit of free expression” referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014. Neither Brandeis nor my critics knew or even inquired as to what I might say. They simply wanted me to be silenced. I regret that very much.
Not content with a public disavowal, Brandeis has invited me “to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.” Sadly, in words and deeds, the university has already spoken its piece. I have no wish to ‘engage’ in such one-sided dialogue. I can only wish the Class of 2014 the best of luck—and hope that they will go forth to be better advocates for free expression and free thought than their alma mater.
I take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported me and my work on behalf of oppressed woman and girls everywhere.
Bill renders his own judgment on Brandeis’s pitiful performance here.

The Numbers Are In: Obamacare Causes Health Insurance Costs to Skyrocket

The Numbers Are In: Obamacare Causes Health Insurance Costs to Skyrocket

by John Hinderaker in Obamacare

Morgan Stanley has reported on its quarterly survey of insurance brokers, and Scott Gottlieb of Forbes sums up the depressing findings:
Health insurance premiums are showing the sharpest increases perhaps ever according to a survey of brokers who sell coverage in the individual and small group market. …
The average increases are in excess of 11% in the small group market and 12% in the individual market. Some states show increases 10 to 50 times that amount. The analysts conclude that the “increases are largely due to changes under the ACA.”
The analysts conducting the survey attribute the rate increases largely to a combination of four factors set in motion by Obamacare: Commercial underwriting restrictions, the age bands that don’t allow insurers to vary premiums between young and old beneficiaries based on the actual costs of providing the coverage, the new excise taxes being levied on insurance plans, and new benefit designs.
The prior survey conducted in January also showed rates rising during the fall of 2013, but the new increases will come on top of those hikes and are even sharper.
Obamacare was supposed to save the average family $2,500 annually; instead, it has made health insurance far more expensive. And yet Harry Reid tells us that everyone who points out that his or her insurance costs more under Obamacare is a liar. And Barack Obama says the debate over Obamacare is over. No, Barry, it is just beginning.

Is There a Market For Stupidity?

Is There a Market For Stupidity?

by John Hinderaker in Socialism, Venezuela

The single worst thing any government can do is try to control prices. The result of price controls, always and everywhere, is disaster. At PJ Media, Richard Fernandez sets forth the sad history of price controls in Venezuela under Chavez and Maduro. There is lots more, but here are some excerpts:
In September 2013 the Guardian wrestled with a mystery. “‘No one can explain why a rich country has no food.’ Toilet paper, rice and coffee have long been missing from stores, as Venezuelan president blames CIA plot for chronic shortages.”
Let’s pause on that for a moment: only a news outlet as chronically myopic as the Guardian could fail to understand how a rich country can have no food. The answer is: they have a socialist government that tries to control prices.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times [economist Brad] Schiller wrote: “two years before his death, Hugo Chavez tried to repeal the law of supply and demand … Chavez despised the law because he believed it robbed the poor and unjustly profited producers.”
In its place, he persuaded the Venezuelan legislature to enact the 2011 Law on Fair Costs and Prices, a price-setting mechanism to ensure greater social justice. A newly created National Superintendency of Fair Costs and Prices was empowered to establish fair prices at both the wholesale and retail levels. More than 500,000 price edicts have been issued. Companies that violate these price controls are subject to fines, seizures and expropriation.
Not that he had any good experience with price controls. Chavez had been draining the state-owned Venezuelan oil industry for years using the same methods of price controls. “The most flagrant subsidy is for gasoline. Venezuelans pay only 4 to 6 cents per gallon for gasoline, the cheapest in the world. But it costs Petroleos de Venezuela, the government-owned oil company, close to $2 a gallon to extract, refine and distribute it. With domestic consumption now running about 600,000 barrels a day, the financial loss on subsidized oil is roughly $20 billion a year.”
The result was the ruin of the Venezuelan oil industry and the flight of its petroleum engineers to Canada.
But experience never deters a socialist. Chavez continued his war on the law of supply and demand:
Venezuela was once the largest coffee producer in the world but in 2004 it imported coffee for the first time from Brazil. By 2012 Venezuela was importing 43,000 metric tons from abroad. Today the movement of coffee beans is attended with the care accorded to shipments of gold bullion, under the watchful eye of SADA. “With SADA, any significant transport of food items anywhere in Venezuela must be declared. The truck, the merchandise, the driver, the dates of delivery, everything must be recorded previously if you want to make a delivery.”
Despite the regime’s best efforts, somehow the wreckers and saboteurs that are always summoned into existence by a socialist government find a way to foil the planners. After a little more socialist governance, Venezuelans no longer had enough to eat. The Chavez/Maduro government decided the country needed more cowbell:
As the Guardian explains: “battling food shortages, the Venezuelan government is rolling out a new ID system that is either a grocery loyalty card with extra muscle or the most dramatic step yet towards rationing in Venezuela, depending on who is describing it.”
Registration begins at more than 100 government-run supermarkets across the country on Tuesday and working-class shoppers – who sometimes endure hours-long queues at the stores to buy cut-price groceries – are welcoming the plan.
“The rich people have things all hoarded away, and they pull the strings,” said Juan Rodriguez, who waited two hours to enter the government-run Abastos Bicentenario supermarket near downtown Caracas on Monday, then waited three hours more to check out….
Patrons will register with their fingerprints, and the new ID card will be linked to a computer system that monitors purchases. The food minister, Félix Osorio, said it will sound an alarm when it detects suspicious purchasing patterns, barring people from buying the same goods every day. But he also said the cards would be voluntary, with incentives such as discounts and entry into raffles for homes and cars.
Ah yes, cars. Automobiles are another triumph of socialist central planning:
The last car company in Venezuela, Toyota, closed shop this year after it was denied permission to remit payment for the handful of cars purchased this year. Ford wasn’t doing too good either — selling a total of two cars last month. Venezuelans looking for a car must buy second hand. And wouldn’t you know? Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro signed an edict to regulate the price of used cars “in the government’s latest measure to combat inflation.”
With grocery stores no longer functioning due to price controls, Venezuelans are increasingly buying food from street vendors. That’s a problem! The government has a solution: more price controls.
The Venezuelan government ordered Tuesday that sidewalk vendors may only sell basic foods if they respect price controls and guarantee the necessary conditions of “hygiene and healthfulness.” …
Foods subject to the government resolution are “rice, pre-cooked cornflour, wheat flour, pasta, beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, goat and pork.”
Also included are canned sardines, tuna and mackerel; powdered whole milk, pasteurized and sterilized with a long shelf life; cheese, eggs, soy milk, edible oils except olive oil; margarine, legumes, sugar, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, ground coffee, coffee beans, and salt.
The official resolution allows 30 days for sidewalk vendors to conform to the official measure, and says that whoever infringes it will be penalized with the “confiscation of their goods.”
It is fun, and entirely appropriate, to ridicule moronic leftist policies. But still, a nagging question remains: how can anyone be this dumb? If anything has been conclusively established by world history, it is that price controls are a horrible idea. And yet one government after another goes down the socialist path. Why? Fernandez attempts an answer:
The more interesting question is the absence of the demand for common sense. To wit: why doesn’t the Chavez government wise up? What keeps the feedback loop from working in Venzuelan politics? You would think that disastrous experience with price controls would lead to less of it and to an increased supply of common sense. But the contrary is happening: instead the greater the disaster the bigger the demand for more imbecility.
Fernandez draws an analogy to the Obama administration’s foreign policy, which I don’t find entirely persuasive. But this is his broader conclusion:
One possible answer is that once a ruling elite buys into a paradigm then all solutions have to be found within the paradigm space. It’s useless to argue ‘why doesn’t Venezuela leave the producers alone’ because that option is not on the table within the terms of their mental system. The only levers Venezuela actually has are the ones they allow themselves to consider. They have hired millions of bureaucrats to implement their price control system and that’s all they can do. To accept price controls are a failure is to accept they and all their useless functionaries are failures and to dismantle themselves.
That’s never going to happen while a single Venzuelan Boliver remains left to debase. Similarly the Obama administration’s foreign policy model cannot be fixed except within its own terms of reference. They know — like the Chavistas — that they’re always going to be re-elected, perhaps not only in spite of their failures but in some sense because of them.
In some bizarre way, stupidity often works. Not for the citizens who have to suffer its effects, but for governments.
If there were a homo economicus, if the rational actor of market theory really existed, then neither Obama nor Chavez would even be elected. Those who criticize president Obama’s lack of belief in American exceptionalism should look at the counterargument from his point of view. “If America is so exceptional then how come I am president?” The real problem with believing in the Law of Supply and Demand is accounting for the existence of an apparently endless market for stupidity.
Which in my view remains a mystery.