Sunday, June 9, 2013

50 Vetoes: How States Can Stop the Obama Health Care Law

Townhall.com ^ | June 9, 2013 | Michael F. Cannon 


Despite surviving a number of threats, President Obama’s health care law remains harmful, unstable, and unpopular. It also remains vulnerable to repeal, largely because Congress and the Supreme Court have granted each state the power to veto major provisions of the law before they take effect in 2014.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) itself empowers states to block the employer mandate, to exempt many of their low- and middle-income taxpayers from the individual mandate, and to reduce federal deficit spending, simply by not establishing a health insurance “exchange.” Supporters of the law do not care for this feature, yet they adopted it because they had no choice. The bill would not have become law without it.
To date, 34 states, accounting for roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population, have refused to create Exchanges. Under the statute, this shields employers in those states from a $2,000 per worker tax that will apply in states that are creating Exchanges (e.g., California, Colorado, New York). Those 34 states have exempted at least 8 million residents from taxes as high as $2,085 on families of four earning as little as $24,000. They have also reduced federal deficits by hundreds of billions of dollars.
The Obama administration is nevertheless attempting to tax those employers and individuals, contrary to the plain language of the PPACA and congressional intent, and to deny millions of Americans the opportunity to purchase low-cost, high-deductible coverage. Employers, consumers, and even state officials in those 34 states can challenge those illegal taxes in court, as Oklahoma has done. States can also block those illegal taxes—and even stop the federal government from operating an Exchange—by approving a strengthened version of the Health Care Freedom Act.
The PPACA’s Medicaid expansion, which would cost individual states up to $53 billion over its first 10 years, is now optional for states, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius. Some 16 states have announced they will not expand their programs, while half of the states remain undecided. Yet the Obama administration is trying to coerce states into implementing parts of the expansion that the Court rendered optional. States can replicate Maine’s lawsuit challenging this arbitrary attempt to limit the Court’s ruling.
Collectively, states can shield all employers and at least 12 million taxpayers from the law’s new taxes, and still reduce federal deficits by $1.7 trillion, simply by refusing to establish Exchanges or expand Medicaid.
Congress and President Obama have already repealed the third new entitlement program the PPACA created—the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, or CLASS Act—as well as funding for the “co-op” plans meant to serve as an alternative to a “public option.” A critical mass of states exercising their vetoes over Exchanges and the Medicaid expansion can force Congress to reconsider, and hopefully repeal, the rest of this counterproductive law. Real health care reform is impossible until that happens.
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If Not Obama, then Impeach the 16th Amendment (The author makes an excellent point)

Townhall.com ^ | June 9, 2013 | Mark Baisley



I’d say it’s official; President Obama’s Watergate has arrived. And the witty question originally formed for Nixon’s big scandal can now be re-applied to President Plausible Deniability, “What did he not know and when did he not know it?” While I do think that IRS-Gate spells the end of this President’s ability to effectively advance the liberal agenda, I do not see an impeachment on the horizon; at least not for Barack Obama – but perhaps for the Sixteenth Amendment.
The recent parade of citizen witnesses to congressional hearings has laid bare the raw suffering that inevitably comes from tolerating the existence of a despotic government agency. To gain an appreciation for the IRS scandal, one need only hear the eight minute statement from citizen Becky Gerritson before the House Ways and Means Committee. Gerritson’s elocution should be required viewing for every citizen and immigrant over the age of 16, perhaps set to an inspirational John Williams soundtrack. Juxtaposed to Ms. Gerritson are the strained testimonies from IRS employees where I keep expecting to hear that fast paced Benny Hill music welling up in the background.
The righteous momentum against IRS arrogance creates an opportunity for righting a 100–year-old wrong. This past February 3rd marked exactly one century since the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving Congress the “power to lay and collect taxes on incomes.” This disastrous decision ultimately reversed the positions of servant and master between America’s citizens and their federal government.
The accounting nightmare created by today’s 50,000 pages of tax law and regulations has produced a natural hostility between citizens and government, acted out on annual and quarterly cycles. Misinterpretations and non-compliance result in fines, property seizure, and criminal prosecution. The enforcement power given to the agency strikes fear in taxpayers, businesses, charities, and churches, and the temptation has proven to be too much. Politicians and bureaucrats have leveraged this position to influence desired behaviors.
The institutional corruption of government cruelty toward political advantage has placed Washington, DC on a crash course with Mount Rushmore. But while Democrats and Republicans fight over the control stick, National Review correspondent Kevin Williamson has been unbuckling his seatbelt and strapping on a wingsuit. Williamson’s new book arrives with the most appealing (albeit lengthy) title of any political commentary that I have ever seen: “The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure.”
Williamson is right, of course, that the current arrangement is completely unsustainable. And rather than scream all the way into the mountainside, I agree with Williamson that we should prepare to step in with solutions that reflect the Founding Fathers’ pre-Sixteenth-Amendment wisdom. And in an attempt to out-play us, watch for liberals to begin supporting a flat tax solution.
The IRS is appropriately being criticized by both major parties. Releasing the Commissioner into an early retirement does not equal the crime. A systemic change must come to the collection of taxes for the federal government. But the Democrats will soon realize that too much of a change will ruin their ability to control the masses on an individual basis. And by modifying the current complexity to a flat tax, Democrats would trade short term manipulations for maintaining their long term position of control over the individual.
A flat tax would merely simplify the fiasco. It would not resolve anything. Taxing income is the problem. Republicans should move to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
There are two worthy alternatives on the table right now; the Liberty Amendment and the Fair Tax. In 1998 Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) first introduced the Liberty Amendment, a straightforward proposal that repeals the ability to tax income and restricts the federal government to programs specifically enumerated in the Constitution. In 1999 Congressman John Linder (R-GA) first introduced legislation known as the Fair Tax Act. The Fair Tax has received more congressional member support than both the Liberty Amendment and flat tax schemes.
The Liberty Amendment does not attempt to provide solutions to the lost revenues for the federal government. For me, the wisdom in this approach is a forced reduction in the size of the federal government along with re-thinking revenue sources.
The Fair Tax begins with a national sales tax as a replacement for income tax. The IRS is eliminated and the economy would receive a certain boost. It also attempts to replace welfare, unemployment, and other government social involvements with a unified monthly cash payment to every legal resident. The idea here is to collect enough sales tax to fund the government and to send a minimal subsistence payment to everyone, no matter how rich or poor they happen to be.
Ron Paul said of the Fair Tax, “We don’t need to replace the income tax at all. I see a consumption tax as being a little better than the personal income tax, and I would vote for the Fair Tax if it came up in the House of Representatives, but it is not my goal. We can do better.” There is a lot to like about the Fair Tax and a lot to be concerned about, especially the opportunity for liberal mischief in developing dependencies with the cash payments.
But regardless of the final revenue solution, we need to head Rahm Emanuel’s advice that, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” It has now been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the existence of an agency such as the IRS is too great of a temptation for ambitious politicians. The Sixteenth Amendment must be repealed. Further, the very purpose of taxation should be refined to funding government operations. It should never be allowed for social engineering, redistributions, punishment, or spying.
Or as Becky Gerritson bravely told the government in person, “It’s not your right to assert an agenda.”

'I Was Born This Way'

By Clayton E. Cramer

One of the more effective arguments used by those arguing for same-sex marriage and sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws is that homosexuals have no choice in the matter -- that sexual orientation is something that you are born with, and you can't change it. The claim is that this is a natural part of human variability, no different from skin color or hair color or how tall you are. As an acquaintance -- a generally conservative, gay high power rifle shooter (talk about being a member of the world's smallest cross-section of identity groups) told me once, "Why would anyone choose to be gay?"

There is pretty persuasive evidence that what determines sexual orientation, at least for some homosexuals, is environmental. At a minimum, the evidence of a connection between being sexually abused as a child and homosexual or bisexual orientation as an adult is so widespread that the refusal of the scientific community to seriously consider a causal connection suggests a willful blindness.

The paper "Sexual Abuse, Sexual Orientation, and Obesity in Women," published in the Journal of Women's Health, examined the relationship between obesity and lesbianism -- a relationship that has long been recognized but never systematically explored. What the researchers found was that lesbians in their sample of women over 35 were more likely than the heterosexual women to have a "previous mental health diagnosis" and to be well-educated, and significantly more likely to be obese (40.2% compared to 30.4%). Most importantly, lesbians were almost twice as likely as matched heterosexual women to be have been victims of "intrafamilial" child sexual abuse (CSA), and more than twice as likely to be victims of extrafamilial CSA. Suddenly, the wall of fat that is one stereotype of lesbianism makes a lot of sense -- something to drive away men, and make them stop seeing the lesbian as a sexual object.

This is not just a problem for women who were CSA victims. Here's a study of the among between sexual orientation, CSA, and suicidal behavior among college students in Turkey. The study found that "[s]elf-reported childhood sexual abuse was associated with same-sex sexual behavior. ... Being sexually abused by someone of one's own sex was related to same-sex sexual orientation in male participants but not in female participants. Childhood sexual abuse was found to be an independent predictor of both suicidal ideation and attempts during the past 12 months." So why are suicide rates among homosexuals so high? Is it really a homophobic society? Or is it possible that CSA leads both to high suicide rates and to homosexuality?

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a review of 166 studies of the sexual abuse of boys, and while, unsurprisingly, it did its best to avoid suggesting a connection between CSA and adult sexual orientation, it does not take much reading to see some obvious connections. This description of clinical outcomes of these boys is terribly depressing:

[I]ncreased rates of posttraumatic stress disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoia, dissociation, somatization, bulimia, anger, aggressive behavior, poor self-image, poor school performance, running away from home, and legal trouble. ... The rates among sexually abused compared with nonabused males were 4-fold for major depression (P<.001); 3-fold for bulimia (P<.05); and at least 2-fold for antisocial personality disorder (P = .002), behavior problems (P = .03), low self-image (P = .04), runaway behavior (P<.001), and legal problems (P = .001). ... The rate of attempted suicide was 1.5 to 14 times higher among sexually abused compared with nonabused males.

And the high suicide rate among gay young people is supposed to be because of our homophobic society? Maybe there is another cause -- one that causes high suicide rates among young straight CSA victims, too?

There is a well-known connection between CSA and later substance abuse. There is also a well-known and thoroughly studied connection between homosexuality and substance abuse.

Here's a study from the American Journal of Public Health exploring sexual orientation, CSA, and "HIV-Risk Behaviors" among adolescent kids in the Pacific Northwest. This study found what others have found -- "gay/lesbian and bisexual adolescents are at increased risk for sexual victimization." But which causes which? That Journal of the AMA review described the average age of CSA victims this way: "Reported mean age of first abuse was 5.3 to 8.5 years in studies of children. In a study of adolescents, the mean age of reported abuse onset was older (10 years for those abused by males and 11.9 years for those abused by females). A study of adults recalling their abuse histories noted a similar age of onset of 9.8 years." Which came first? The sexual abuse or the confused sexual identity?

There may not be a single cause of homosexuality. One of the reasons why the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was only partly the continual picketing by gay activists and the actions of closeted psychiatrists in leadership positions of the APA. The psychiatric profession had attempted to explain homosexuality as a result of many different causes, none of which turned out to be generally correct -- and, of course, none of which led to a cure. Perhaps the AMA would have been better off asking if there is more than one cause before deciding that because they did not understand the problem, it was not a problem at all.

If CSA explains homosexuality, it should be grounds for sympathy. Sexuality is to some extent a learned behavior. What we enjoy sexually can be reinforced, and part of what makes early sexualization of children so destructive is their inability to process the mixture of shame, confusion, and pleasure (as sometimes happens).

If behavior is learned, can it be unlearned? This study describes how female sexuality is more malleable than male sexuality -- what the paper describes as "female erotic plasticity." I know people who have successfully walked away from homosexuality, and are perfectly happy, decades later, as straight people.

It is conceivable that many whose sexual orientation has been warped by CSA are so badly broken by it that they may be stuck where they are. Still, the insistence that this is something that one is born with overlooks too much evidence, seeming more like an attempt to preserve an identity group for political reasons than an accurate description of the way things are.

There are simply too many surveys that show homosexuals and bisexuals as disproportionately CSA victims to consider this a coincidence. The overlap between the symptoms of CSA (substance abuse, sexual confusion, suicide, emotional immaturity, obesity, hypersexuality, or asexuality) and behaviors that are very common in the gay community should be causing some serious questions to be asked. Yet "I was born this way" has now become dogma. The progressive movement has made this into a cause -- and the facts do not much matter anymore.

Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at College of Western Idaho. His most recent book is My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill (2012).

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Professor From Columbia Comes Forward Saying Obama Never Attended the University

The Free Patriot ^ | 8 June, 2013 | Wayne Allen Root 

My life has crossed paths with President Obama on multiple occasions. According to Obama, we were Columbia University classmates, both Pre Law and Political Science majors in the Class of ’83. I also ran against Obama in 2008 on the Libertarian Party Presidential ticket. What are the odds?
But something about “the Obama at Columbia story” has always bothered me. Earlier in the week right here at The Blaze I wrote about having just returned from New York, where I attended my 30th Columbia University reunion. I celebrated with my esteemed classmates. Everyone except Barack Obama. As usual- he wasn’t there. Not a trace. Not a video greeting. Not a letter. I could not find any classmates who knew him.
I called Obama “the Ghost of Columbia University.” I pointed out (as I’ve said in the media for many years now) that Obama may have been registered at Columbia, may have graduated from Columbia, but he was rarely (if ever) seen for the two years in-between. It’s a strange, mysterious and frightening story.
Is he the real-life “Manchurian Candidate?” What explains Obama having just enough skeletal proof that he was there (one photo, one roommate, one professor, one friend)…but never seen in a class, never on anyone’s radar screen, almost invisible. A total 2-year blackout. It’s like a story straight out of a novel about the CIA or KGB. He graduated Columbia, but it’s almost as if he never went there.
To make matters more mysterious, Obama’s college records are sealed. He’s had plenty of opportunities to authorize the release, to clear the air. He has never chosen to do so. But why? What has he got to hide? Funny enough Obama has never had a problem ripping open the sealed records of his political opponents. Every step of his career Obama has beaten his opponents by having sealed documents just happen to be publicly exposed by anonymous sources. But not Obama. His records are always unavailable (and never leaked). Obama always seems to have powerful forces on his side.
Did he attend Columbia as a foreign student? That was the educated guess I made in my appearance on “Hannity” on Fox News a year ago. The only photo of Obama from his Columbia days was in his off-campus apartment with a roommate described by USA Today as a Pakistani national, pot smoker, and cocaine abuser. If you’re a foreign student, you live in housing off-campus with other foreign students.
That would also explain how he transferred to Columbia. Transferring into an Ivy League school is all but impossible. I did a little digging and found out only 3 transfer students in all of America were accepted into Columbia in the past academic year. Three students out of 315 million Americans. Yet those who knew Obama at Occidental called him a pot smoker and partier who rarely attended class. You’re telling me that a poor student, with that record, at an average college, was accepted for transfer into prestigious Columbia University? Only if he was an exotic Indonesian foreign student transferring into a college that desperately wanted to claim an ethnically and globally diverse student body.
Still that might explain how Obama got into Columbia. But where was he for those two years? My gut instincts say something is wrong with “the Obama at Columbia story.” Very wrong. Rancid.
But until now, I was the only one publicly voicing my suspicions. That just changed in a big way. Meet Professor Henry Graff, perhaps the most legendary and honored professor ever at Columbia University. He was THE American History and Diplomatic History professor at Columbia for 46 years. And he is more emphatic than yours truly that there are no Obama footprints at Columbia.
I was put on Professor Graff’s trail by another Columbia classmate, skeptical about Obama’s story. He told me that Professor Graff had been the speaker for the Class of ’53 last weekend at Columbia. My friend was watching Graff answer questions from the crowd when he was asked about Obama at Columbia. Graff said, “I have my doubts he ever went here.”
I did some digging and located Graff’s home phone number. I called him yesterday. Now retired, he was delighted to hear from me. He agreed to go on the record about Obama. Unlike Obama, Professor Graff clearly remembered me. He was thrilled to hear from his former student. I was in several of Graff’s classes and he remembered me like it was yesterday. He sounded great- like he hasn’t lost any of his trademark sharpness in 30 years since we last met.
I was honored to learn that this legendary historian has been following my political career for many years. But he had no such cheery things to say about the President. Graff said, “I taught at Columbia for 46 years. I taught every significant American politician that ever studied at Columbia. I know them all. I’m proud of them all. Between American History and Diplomatic History, one way or another, they all had to come through my classes. Not Obama. I never had a student with that name in any of my classes. I never met him, never saw him, never heard of him.”
Even more importantly, Professor Graff knew the other history and political science professors. “None of the other Columbia professors knew him either” said Graff.
Graff concluded our interview by saying, “I’m very upset by the whole story. I am angry when I hear Obama called ‘the first President of the United States from Columbia University.’ I don’t consider him a Columbia student. I have no idea what he did on the Columbia campus. No one knows him.”
There is something wrong with Obama’s story- I know that. Many of my classmates at last weekend’s 30th reunion knew that. Now the most beloved Professor ever at Columbia joins us in publicly questioning the story. Obama is either the ghost of Columbia, or the perfect Manchurian candidate. But something smells rotten at Columbia.

20 Basic Truths You Can’t Talk About in America Anymore

John Hawkins | Jun 08, 2013

1) People who want to change sexes should be treated by a psychologist, not deformed through surgery, given hormone treatments, and falsely told that they can change sexes.
2) Most people who remain poor over the long haul in America stay that way because of their own poor life choices.
3) Most black Americans are good and decent people, but percentage wise there are more black Americans in jail because percentage wise, black Americans commit a lot more crimes than white Americans.
4) As often as not in America, the people claiming to be "victims" are the real bullies and they don't deserve anyone's sympathy.
5) The reason most politicians in D.C. are shameless liars with no character is because most Americans will knowingly choose a shameless liar with no character who says what they want to hear over an honest man with morals who tells them the hard truths they'd rather ignore.
6) Illegal aliens are foreigners who knowingly broke the law to come here and Americans owe them even less than we owe other foreigners living in China, Sweden, or El Salvador because at least those people didn't break our laws.
7) Life begins at conception and having an abortion is no morally different than strangling your baby in the crib.
8) Most liberals aren't patriotic and they don't love their country.
9) Our soldiers should make every effort to avoid civilian casualties, but when it comes right down to it, the life of an American soldier should be treated as more important than the life of a foreign civilian.
10) We'd be better off as a society if the people who are ignorant, ill informed, or who really don't care one way or another, didn't vote.
11) The only practical way to make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is for the Israelis to transfer the Palestinians and take their land.
12) This is a Christian nation that has been successful because it adopted Christian principles and the more we move away from that, the worse off we will be as a nation.
13) Men are just generally better at some things than women, just as women are just generally better at some things than men are.
14) "Racism" used to be a big deal in America, but these days the people who cry racism are usually phonies trying to gain a political advantage or deflect from ethical shortcomings or poor performance.
15) Long term, the only way our country can pay its bills is by asking everyone who's not dirt poor to pay as much in taxes to the government as they're given in services if they want to continue to receive those services.
16) Nine times out of ten, a mother and father will do a considerably better job of raising a child than a single mother, a single father, two gay parents or their grandparents.
17) The Boy Scouts could never survive gay scoutmasters because no parents with a brain in their head are sending their male, teenage boy out in the woods alone with a gay man who may very well be attracted to him, just as the parents of Girl Scouts wouldn't want to send their teenage daughter out alone in the woods with a straight adult who might secretly be savoring the opportunity to have her alone.
18) People who are homeless over the long term are overwhelmingly mentally ill or have substance abuse problems and the only thing we can really do to help them is round them up, put them into halfway houses and force them to get treatment in spite of themselves.
19) If you have good character, you should feel ashamed of taking food stamps, taking welfare, or being on a school lunch program.
20) We would be much better off as a nation if most of the immigrants to this country were well educated people from nations in Europe that shared our Western values as opposed to our current policy which brings in mostly less educated people from Third World nations.

IRS employee: Washington showed “unprecedented interest” in Tea Party groups!

Hotair ^ | 06/09/2013 | Ed Morrissey 

Elizabeth Hofacre has turned out to be a gold mine to investigators of political corruption at the IRS. The Cincinnati-office specialist didn’t take kindly to having the entire mess dumped on the shoulders of her colleagues and herself, and has made it plain in depositions that this was no low-level innovation. The Hill became the latest media outlet to peruse the transcripts, and added a little more to the growing public record of the targeting effort’s genesis in Washington rather than Cincinnati:
An IRS staffer in Cincinnati told congressional investigators that a Washington official was the driving force behind the targeting of Tea Party organizations in 2010, and showed unprecedented interest in those groups’ tax-exempt applications.
Elizabeth Hofacre, the Cincinnati staffer, said that she started receiving applications from Tea Party groups to sift through in April, 2010. Hofacre’s handling of those cases, she said, was highly influenced by Carter Hull, an IRS lawyer in Washington.
As it turns out, the scapegoating wasn’t the only thing that angered Hofacre. Normally, the IRS doesn’t interfere with rank-and-file agents when they choose targets for their investigation and make decisions on applications. When it came to Tea Party and other conservative groups, Hofacre suddenly found that her autonomy had been stripped, which she found “demeaning”:
Hofacre said that she integrated questions from Hull into her follow-ups with Tea Party groups, and that Hull had to approve the letters seeking more information that she sent out to those organizations. That process, she said, was both unusual and “demeaning.”
“One of the criteria is to work independently and do research and make decisions based on your experience and education,” Hofacre said, according to transcripts reviewed by The Hill. “Whereas in this case, I had no autonomy at all through the process.”
“I thought it was over the top,” she added, in interviews held by investigators in both parties from the House Oversight and Ways and Means committees. “I am not sure where it came from, but it was a bit unusual.”
In the end, even Hofacre ended up getting stalled and stonewalled by Hull, she claims. Hofacre got so tired of dealing with angry applicants who couldn’t fathom why the IRS kept stalling that she took another position. Hofacre also told investigators that requests for donor lists were “appalling,” but those requests came after she had already left.
The “low-level employee” defense is crumbling in both fact and perception. Gallup’s latest survey shows that 59% of all adults believe that high-ranking IRS officials knew full well about the targeting of conservatives, and even a plurality of Democrats do too:
Nearly six in 10 Americans believe that high-ranking IRS officials in Washington were aware the IRS had a practice of targeting conservative political groups for greater scrutiny in recent years. One-quarter think knowledge of this was mainly limited to the agency’s office in Cincinnati where the mishandled applications for tax-exempt status were processed.

Almost as many — 50% — believe that high-ranking Obama administration officials knew about it, too. That includes 54% of independents. Barack Obama’s approval rating on handling the issue is just 32/58, and with 77% of Americans believing this to be a serious matter (49% say very serious), that’s a bad position to be in — especially with two NSA scandals being added to the Scandalabra this week.

20 Completely Ridiculous College Courses Being Offered At U.S. Universities

TEC ^ | 06/08/2013 | Michael Snyder 

Would you like to know what America's young people are actually learning while they are away at college? It isn't pretty. Yes, there are some very highly technical fields where students are being taught some very important skills, but for the most part U.S. college students are learning very little that they will actually use out in the real world when they graduate. Some of the college courses listed below are funny, others are truly bizarre, others are just plain outrageous, but all of them are a waste of money. If we are going to continue to have a system where we insist that our young people invest several years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars getting a "college education", they might as well be learning some useful skills in the process. This is especially true considering how much student loan debt many of our young people are piling up. Sadly, the truth is that right now college education in the United States is a total joke. I know - I spent eight years in the system. Most college courses are so easy that they could be passed by the family dog, and many of these courses "study" some of the most absurd things imaginable.
Listed below are 20 completely ridiculous college courses being offered at U.S. universities. The description following each course title either comes directly from the official course description or from a news story about the course...
1. "What If Harry Potter Is Real?" (Appalachian State University) - This course will engage students with questions about the very nature of history. Who decides what history is? Who decides how it is used or mis-used? How does this use or misuse affect us? How can the historical imagination inform literature and fantasy? How can fantasy reshape how we look at history? The Harry Potter novels and films are fertile ground for exploring all of these deeper questions. By looking at the actual geography of the novels, real and imagined historical events portrayed in the novels, the reactions of scholars in all the social sciences to the novels, and the world-wide frenzy inspired by them, students will examine issues of race, class, gender, time, place, the uses of space and movement, the role of multiculturalism in history as well as how to read a novel and how to read scholarly essays to get the most out of them.
2. "God, Sex, Chocolate: Desire and the Spiritual Path" (UC San Diego) - Who shapes our desire? Who suffers for it? Do we control our desire or does desire control us? When we yield to desire, do we become more fully ourselves or must we deny it to find an authentic identity beneath? How have religious & philosophical approaches dealt with the problem of desire?
3. "GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity" (The University Of Virginia) - In Graduate Arts & Sciences student Christa Romanosky's ongoing ENWR 1510 class, "GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity," students analyze how the musician pushes social boundaries with her work. For this introductory course to argumentative essay writing, Romanosky chose the Lady Gaga theme to establish an engaging framework for critical analysis.
4. "Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame" (The University Of South Carolina) - Lady Gaga may not have much class but now there is a class on her. The University of South Carolina is offering a class called Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame. Mathieu Deflem, the professor teaching the course describes it as aiming to “unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga with respect to her music, videos, fashion, and other artistic endeavours.”
5. "Philosophy And Star Trek" (Georgetown) - Star Trek is very philosophical. What better way, then, to learn philosophy, than to watch Star Trek, read philosophy, and hash it all out in class? That's the plan. This course is basically an introduction to certain topics in metaphysics and epistemology philosophy, centered around major philosophical questions that come up again and again in Star Trek. In conjunction with watching Star Trek, we will read excerpts from the writings of great philosophers, extract key concepts and arguments and then analyze those arguments.
6. "Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond" (The University Of Texas) - Why would anyone want to learn Klingon? Who really speaks Esperanto, anyway? Could there ever be a language based entirely on musical scales? Using constructed/invented languages as a vehicle, we will try to answer these questions as we discuss current ideas about linguistic theory, especially ideas surrounding the interaction of language and society. For example, what is it about the structure of Klingon that makes it look so "alien"? What was it about early 20th century Europe that spawned so many so-called "universal" languages? Can a language be inherently sexist? We will consider constructed/invented languages from a variety of viewpoints, such as languages created as fictional plot-devices, for philosophical debates, to serve an international function, and languages created for private fun. We won t be learning any one language specifically, but we will be learning about the art, ideas, and goals behind invented languages using diverse sources from literature, the internet, films, video games, and other aspects of popular culture.
7. "The Science Of Superheroes" (UC Irvine) - Have you ever wondered if Superman could really bend steel bars? Would a “gamma ray” accident turn you into the Hulk? What is a “spidey-sense”? And just who did think of all these superheroes and their powers? In this seminar, we discuss the science (or lack of science) behind many of the most famous superheroes. Even more amazing, we will discuss what kind of superheroes might be imagined using our current scientific understanding.
8. "Learning From YouTube" (Pitzer College) - About 35 students meet in a classroom but work mostly online, where they view YouTube content and post their comments. Class lessons also are posted and students are encouraged to post videos. One class member, for instance, posted a 1:36-minute video of himself juggling.
9. "Arguing with Judge Judy" (UC Berkeley) - TV "Judge" shows have become extremely popular in the last 3-5 years. A fascinating aspect of these shows from a rhetorical point of view is the number of arguments made by the litigants that are utterly illogical, or perversions of standard logic, and yet are used over and over again. For example, when asked "Did you hit the plaintiff?" respondents often say, "If I woulda hit him, he'd be dead!" This reply avoids answering "yes" or "no" by presenting a perverted form of the logical strategy called "a fortiori" argument ["from the stronger"] in Latin. The seminar will be concerned with identifying such apparently popular logical fallacies on "Judge Judy" and "The People's Court" and discussing why such strategies are so widespread. It is NOT a course about law or "legal reasoning." Students who are interested in logic, argument, TV, and American popular culture will probably be interested in this course. I emphasize that it is NOT about the application of law or the operations of the court system in general.
10. "Elvis As Anthology" (The University Of Iowa) - The class, “Elvis as Anthology,” focuses on Presley’s relationship to African American history, social change, and aesthetics. It focuses not just on Elvis, but on other artists who inspired him and whom he inspired.
11. "The Feminist Critique Of Christianity" (The University Of Pennsylvania) - An overview of the past decades of feminist scholarship about Christian and post-Christian historians and theologians who offer a feminist perspective on traditional Christian theology and practice. This course is a critical overview of this material, presented with a summary of Christian biblical studies, history and theology, and with a special interest in constructive attempts at creating a spiritual tradition with women's experience at the center.
12. "Zombies In Popular Media" (Columbia College) - This course explores the history, significance, and representation of the zombie as a figure in horror and fantasy texts. Instruction follows an intense schedule, using critical theory and source media (literature, comics, and films) to spur discussion and exploration of the figure's many incarnations. Daily assignments focus on reflection and commentary, while final projects foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie.
13. "Far Side Entomology" (Oregon State) - For the last 20 years, a scientist at Oregon State University has used Gary Larson's cartoons as a teaching tool. The result has been a generation of students learning — and laughing — about insects.
14. "Interrogating Gender: Centuries of Dramatic Cross-Dressing" (Swarthmore) - Do clothes make the man? Or the woman? Do men make better women? Or women better men? Is gender a costume we put on and take off? Are we really all always in drag? Does gender-bending lead to transcendence or chaos? These questions and their ramifications for liminalities of race, nationality and sexuality will be our focus in a course that examines dramatic works from The Bacchae to M. Butterfly.
15. "Oh, Look, a Chicken!" Embracing Distraction as a Way of Knowing (Belmont University) - Students must write papers using their personal research on the five senses. Entsminger reads aloud illustrated books The Simple People and Toby’s Toe to teach lessons about what to value by being alive. Students listen to music while doodling in class. Another project requires students to put themselves in situations where they will be distracted and write a reflection tracking how they got back to their original intent.
16. "The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur" (University of Washington) - The UW is not the first college with a class dedicated to Shakur -- classes on the rapper have been offered at the University of California Berkeley and Harvard -- but it is the first to relate Shakur's work to literature.
17. "Cyberporn And Society" (State University of New York at Buffalo) - With classwork like this, who needs to play? Undergraduates taking Cyberporn and Society at the State University of New York at Buffalo survey Internet porn sites.
18. "Sport For The Spectator" (The Ohio State University) - Develop an appreciation of sport as a spectacle, social event, recreational pursuit, business, and entertainment. Develop the ability to identify issues that affect the sport and spectator behavior.
19. "Getting Dressed" (Princeton) - Jenna Weissman Joselit looks over the roomful of freshmen in front of her and asks them to perform a warm-up exercise: Chart the major moments of your lives through clothes. "If you pop open your closet, can you recall your lives?" she posits on the first day of the freshman seminar "Getting Dressed."
20. "How To Watch Television" (Montclair) - This course, open to both broadcasting majors and non-majors, is about analyzing television in the ways and to the extent to which it needs to be understood by its audience. The aim is for students to critically evaluate the role and impact of television in their lives as well as in the life of the culture. The means to achieve this aim is an approach that combines media theory and criticism with media education.
Are you starting to understand why our college graduates can't function effectively when they graduate and go out into the real world?
All of this would be completely hilarious if not for the fact that we have millions of young people going into enormous amounts of debt to pay to go to these colleges.
In America today, college education has become a giant money making scam. We have a system that absolutely throws money at our young people, but we never warn them about the consequences of all of these loans. The following is an excerpt from an email that one reader sent me recently about the student loan industry...
For example, one woman told me that her and her husband sat down and thought of every possible expense they could when they were applying for parent/student loan for their daughter. When the approval came back, they were approved for 7k more than they asked for…how about ****! Of course at 7%, why not! Funny thing is they kept the 7k, because she’s in wealth management and said she could “easily” get more than 7% in the stock market……awesome! I have another example of a younger friend of mine who graduated law school from Vanderbilt with 210k in student loans. I asked if tuition was that much there. She said kind of, but they kept offering more than the actual tuition, so she took it and used it for a better lifestyle. Now 20% of her income goes to pay those loans, and it’s still not enough to touch one dollar of the principal…so all she is doing is paying interest, and building on principal…like a revers amortizing mortgage. To make it worse, she was able to save 25k, so she is going to buy a house somehow. Having explained to her that the best investment in the world is to pay off a high interest loan, she said I’m tired of waiting to have a life.
In a recent article entitled "The Student Loan Delinquency Rate In The United States Has Hit A Brand New Record High" I detailed how nightmarish our student loan debt bubble is becoming. According to the Federal Reserve, the total amount of student loan debt has risen by 275 percent since 2003, and it just continues to soar.
A college education can be a wonderful thing, but right now we have got a system that is deeply, deeply broken.

So what do you think about our system of higher education?

Obamacare Shoving Doctors Out of Private Practice

fool.com ^ | June 8, 2013 | Keith Speights 

First went the dinosaurs, then the dodo. Are physicians in private practices next on the path to extinction? The trends show the numbers of physicians practicing privately are steadily dropping. Some blame Obamacare for pushing doctors out the door. Is this accusation based on fact or fantasy?
Survey says A 2012 survey of physicians conducted by the Doctor Patient Medical Association, or DPMA, found that 90% of respondents thought the U.S. medical system was on the wrong track. 83% said that they were actually thinking about leaving the profession. 95% of physicians responding to the survey thought that private practices are losing out to corporate medicine.
Who's to blame? Nearly two-thirds said the government was the root of most of their problems. Even more identified the best solution as reducing government involvement in medicine.
Keep in mind a couple of things about this survey, though. First, faxes were sent to fewer than half of all active physicians in private practice. Only 4.3% of these surveys were returned. The responses don't necessarily accurately represent the opinions of physicians nationwide. Second, Obamacare wasn't specifically mentioned in the questions asked.
However, a 2013 physician survey by Deloitte that did use statistically valid sampling methods appears to confirm some of these concerns, albeit with lesser intensity. This survey found that 57% of physicians think that "the practice of medicine is in jeopardy." Only 31% gave the U.S. health care system a favorable grade. 62% said that more physicians will retire early because of how the practice of medicine is changing, with around 75% saying that fewer qualified individuals will pursue medicine as a career.
Regarding Obamacare, 44% of physicians think that the law is "a good start" compared to 38% who think that it is "a step in the wrong direction," with 18% undecided. 93% of physicians are concerned about being paid too little for services performed under episode-based bundled payments, which was promoted in Obamacare. More than half of physicians expect their incomes to fall dramatically over the next three years.
Doctors in the house The reality is that, regardless of physicians' opinions about Obamacare, the law is contributing to more doctors moving away from private practices. Health care reform emphasized close collaboration between health care providers through Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs, and bundled payments. Many expected private physician practices to be acquired with this focus -- and they were right.
A 2011 survey by the Medical Group Management Association showed almost 75% more doctors employed by hospitals since 2000. Less than half of all U.S. doctors now work in private practices. An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine attributed acceleration of this trend to Obamacare.
HCA Holdings (NYSE: HCA ) , the nation's largest private hospital chain, embarked upon a major hiring campaign for physicians over the last few years. A key impetus behind this wave of bringing new doctors on board came from the ACO emphasis in Obamacare.
Hospitals aren't the only organizations scooping up physicians. Major insurers have also gotten into the act as they adapt to the new health care landscape created by Obamacare.
In 2011, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH ) bought Monarch Health Group, a large physician group in Southern California. UnitedHealth's Optum business segment previously purchased two smaller physician groups in the region -- AppleCare Medical Group and Memorial HealthCare Independent Practice Association.
Humana (NYSE: HUM ) acquired Metropolitan Health last year. Metropolitan Health operates a network of physicians and other clinical professionals who focus on providing care for Medicare beneficiaries. Humana also bought Concentra, with its 300 health clinics spread across 40 states, in 2010.
No-good goodbye? Will this trend of doctors saying goodbye to their private practices be a good thing? Not necessarily.
According to one estimate, Medicare pays more than $1 billion per year than it would otherwise when doctors work for hospitals. That's largely because hospitals receive higher reimbursements from the government program for many specialty services than individual doctors would.
Another potential issue stems from the possibility that hospitals could push doctors in their employment to pump up numbers of admissions and tests. Health Management Associates (NYSE: HMA ) is under investigation in several states for possible actions including the "medical necessity of emergency room tests and patient admissions." A 60 Minutes story in December focused on some of these alleged admissions issues. The company disputes these accusations.
Of course, if you own stock of hospitals that are hiring away physicians from private practices, the trend is probably quite welcome. In large part due to the impact of Obamacare, hospital stocks have soared. HCA shares are up more than 60% over the last year. HMA stock gained more than 130% during the same period.
The way of the dinosaur and dodo? Physician private practices will almost certainly continue to decline, but they probably aren't headed for total extinction. Some doctors will resist the temptation to work for larger entities, even if their pay suffers as a result.
While the shift away from private practices was already under way prior to Obamacare, the legislation definitely threw gasoline on the fire. As a result, perhaps another federal action is now needed: adding physician private practices to the endangered species list.

Obama administration takes first step in probe on who leaked info about phone, email tracking

Fox & AP & Reuters ^ | June 9 | Catherine Herridge & Chad Pergram & Wire Staff 

The source said a “criminal report has been filed,” which begins the process.
...Fox News confirmed early Sunday that all members of the House of Representatives will be invited to a special, secure briefing on the NSA's surveillance programs on Tuesday. It was unclear if there would be a similar briefing for senators.

(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...

Scandalzapoppin

By Clarice Feldman

With serious and demonstrable charges of administration wrongdoing popping up every day, conservatives are rightfully angry at the desultory treatment they get from the media.
At Just One Minute, the poster known as "daddy" summarizes that feeling well:
Worth mentioning how the NY Times and the WaPo and Andrea Mitchell and ABC/NBC/CBS/CNN etc, were all so interested in Sarah Palin's Emails, that they recruited volunteers across the nation to help them pore thru them.

Yet when Lisa Jackson specifically uses false email aliases like "Richard Windsor" (unethically and probably illegally) to conduct Government business, and Sebelius today is discovered to have pretty much done the same thing, it is all met by yawns from the suddenly incurious Journalists mentioned above."
Darwin central has much the same complaint:
Friedersdorf also mocks conservatives for finding media bias in coverage of conservative icons who apparently are not worthy of unbiased reporting, mentioning Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann by name. Omitted is any mention of the unbiased AP assignment of eleven reporters to fact check Sarah Palin's autobiography. Perhaps that caused the paucity of personnel available to cover Fast 'n' Furious. Oh, those pesky, silly coincidences kept another story from ever reaching the American public.
[snip]
Compare and contrast the coverage of the Valerie Plame scandal (body count, zero, for those keeping score), with the coverage of Benghazi. Alternatively, consider l'affaire Plame (body count zero), with the protracted somnolence -- it never rose to the level of reporting -- produced by the DOJ's Fast 'n' Furious embarrassment. At last count, over two hundred people lost their lives as a result of Fast 'n' Furious, one of them being United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Ho-hum. Got something snarky about the Tea Party?
Young cons.com noted the entertainment industry is just as guilty of using double standards and diversionary tactics as is the press: "With all these Obama scandals piling up the next episode of SNL will have some great George Bush and Sarah Palin jokes."

I'm not sure what the answer is. I suppose we could leak that Sarah Palin was with Obama on the night of the Benghazi massacre. I mean after all, no one knows where he was so it's not impossible. That might get their attention. Maybe we could send Soros-funded Media Matters a picture of Palin outside the IRS headquarters slipping Lois Lerner the instructions on how to keep the Tea Party from getting the tax status they sought.

I mean, how else besides bias and ignorance can the media fail to follow up on stories that seem as easy to get to as Jack Horner's plum fished from a pie?

Here are just two examples of the seemingly inexhaustible mound of evidence of pervasive administration lawlessness that are turning up daily.

The first involves the almost daily revelations that the IRS officials' Congressional testimony was utterly false.
A misfired email from a U.S. Internal Revenue Service employee in Cincinnati alerted a number of Washington IRS officials that extra scrutiny was being placed on conservative groups in July 2010, a year earlier than previously acknowledged, according to interviews with IRS workers by congressional investigators.
Transcripts of the interviews, reviewed by Reuters on Thursday, provided new details about Washington managers' awareness of the heightened scrutiny applied by front-line IRS agents in Cincinnati to applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups with words like "Tea Party" in their names.
A political furor over the practice has engulfed the tax agency for nearly a month since a senior IRS official publicly apologized for it at a conference. Since then, the IRS' chief has been fired by President Barack Obama, the FBI has mounted an investigation and Congress has held numerous hearings.
The transcripts show that in July 2010, Elizabeth Hofacre, an IRS official in Cincinnati who was coordinating "emerging issues" for the agency's tax-exempt unit, was corresponding with Washington-based IRS tax attorney Carter Hull. She was asked to summarize her initial findings in a spreadsheet and notify a small group of colleagues, including some staff in the Washington tax-exempt unit. However, she sent her email to a larger number of people in Washington by accident.
"Everybody in DC got it by mistake," Hofacre said in the transcripts. She later clarified that she did not mean all officials but those in the IRS Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements unit.
Secondly, more and more information is surfacing about cases where Romney donors or applicants for 501 (c) (3) or (4) were audited by more than just the IRS -- something increasingly likely to have been the result of interagency coordination and White House involvement. Still, these revelations seem to be from the targets coming forward often to the new media, not the establishment press seeking out victims.
The Internal Revenue Service's political targeting might not have been limited to a few "rogue Cincinnati agents" or even organizations seeking nonprofit status. A major Mitt Romney fundraiser and campaign official -- along with her husband and three other family members -- all got a visit from the taxman in 2012.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Kit Moncrief, a big-money fundraiser and state chair in Texas for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, recounted an unusual telephone call she received from an IRS agent on her personal cell phone in the spring of last year.
"The first place [the agent] called me was on my cell phone," Moncrief said, explaining that she believed the only place the agent could have accessed the number was from a Romney list. "The number is listed under my husband's name. She wouldn't have been able to be able to have my cell phone number because on the IRS form it shows the office number.[snip]according to Moncrief, the agent explained that her call was due to an "administration directive."
[snip]
Moncrief said the process was "strange" on two levels. "It was just very strange, number one that she called me for the family business. The tax returns would have said to call the office. And number two she probably said something that she shouldn't have said, that this was a directive from the administration," she added.
According to Kit Moncrief the agent was very interested in her, asking Moncrief's employees specific questions about her activities.
Kit and her husband Charles Moncrief were not the only Moncriefs the IRS visited.

Charles Moncrief told The DC his daughter Gloria Holmsten and brothers Bill and Richard Moncrief were also audited by the IRS in that same 2012 timeframe, all by different agents.

Bill Moncrief's audit lasted from May to July 2012, Richard Moncrief's audit lasted from June to December 2012, and Gloria and her husband Erich Holmsten's audit lasted from April to June 2012.

[snip]

The IRS audit of Kit and Charles Moncriefs lasted from April to June 2012, and according to the family, everything was found to be in order.
[snip]
Indeed the Moncriefs are not the only Romney supporters who have spoken out about their experience with the IRS.
In an interview with The DC in May, Mitt Romney super PAC donor Frank VanderSloot explained how he was audited twice by the IRS after being attacked by the Obama campaign as one of eight "wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records." In that interview the billionaire businessman and former national co-chair of the Romney campaign's finance committee said that he was "not the only one" on that list had received a visit from the IRS.
With all this bubbling up, I viewed with some suspicion reports of a wide-net NSA spying program first reported in Britain's leftwing paper, the Guardian, by the notorious Glenn Greenwald, known most famously for creating numerous sock puppets to tout his own work online.

Shortly afterward, the Washington Post picked up the story, initially claiming despite their denials that the government's top-secret PRISM program had accessed servers from large firms with their cooperation. The Post has since
retracted that claim:
The Post previously claimed that Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple "participate knowingly". The phrase that stood out in the report (it has been repurposed by numerous tech blogs and news sites across the Web) since it suggested that US firms willingly agreed to a process that -- at best -- could violate the rights of millions in the US if their data is accidentally monitored by the NSA.
Hours after the news broke, and every company bar PalTalk and AOL denied any knowledge of the program and allegations of their involvement, the Post has changed its stance.
Senators Feinstein and Chambliss, leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, confirm there is nothing new about the program and various reputable conservative reporters including John Podhoretz, James Taranto, and Andrew McCarthy have asserted there is no scandal in this and it does not involve wiretapping of all of our communications, although most sensible commentators do or, I think, would, concede the administration's credibility is so low at this point, it is not paranoia to question the possible misuse of this program by Obama and his appointees.

My guess is that this was leaked to Greenwald and the Post by those (White House insiders or Chinese hackers) who either wish to distract from real scandals -- look what the evil Bush made Obama do -- or to put the administration on the defensive about its criticisms of Chinese hacking.

Professor Orin Kerr
describes the program for those whose hair might be on fire at this latest bit of news:
The leaked news about the PRISM surveillance program has been the big news story today. The details are murky, but one question that we should be asking is whether the program is legal. From what I've seen so far, it sounds like the program is the way the government is implementing the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and the Protect America Act of 2007, which were enacted in response to the 2005 disclosure of the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program. Here's what I wrote about the PAA of 2007 when it was going through Congress:
So what does the legislation do? A. . . The first change is a clarification that FISA warrants are not needed for "surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States." That is, if the government is monitoring someone outside the United States from a telecom switch in the U.S., it can listen in on the person's calls and read their e-mails without obtaining a FISA warrant first. The Fourth Amendment may still require reasonableness in this setting when one or more people on the call of e-mail are inside the U.S. or are United States citizens, but there is no statutory warrant requirement.
The second change is a requirement of a formal authorization of a program to do such monitoring. The Director of National Intelligence and the AG have to approve a program (for up to one year) reasonably designed to be limited to the monitoring of persons outside the United States. Those procedures have to be submitted to the FISA court, which then reviews whether the Executive's conclusion that the procedures are reasonably designed to only pick up the communications of people reasonably believed to be outside the U.S. is "clearly erroneous." If the conclusion is clearly erroneous, the court sends them back and tells the Executive to try again. The government can also appeal that determination to the FISA Court of Review and if needed the Supreme Court. I'm not exactly sure, but my sense is that this is a one-size-fits-all order; that is, the one authorization covers all the providers.
It sounds like the PRISM program is the way of implementing the statute, now codified at 50 U.S.C. 1881a. Recall this detail from the original Post story:
Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade key in "selectors," or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target's "foreignness." That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by the Post instruct new analysts to submit accidentally collected U.S. content for a quarterly report, "but it's nothing to worry about."
Presumably the bit about "selectors" that are "designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target's foreignness" are ones that have been approved by the DNI and AG and then approved by the FISA court to implement the authority to target "persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information." 50 U.S.C. 1881a(a).
Anyway, maybe this is obvious to everyone, but I thought I would add it just in case it wasn't.
While it might be tempting to do to this administration what its backers in and out of the media did to the prior administration -- conjure up scandal where there isn't any -- I think it can only be a distraction that weakens the credibility of those who want to pursue real White House wrongdoing.

In any event, the week ended on one up note, the president, unaccountably praised by the media for so long as a great orator, was
rendered speechless when he stood at a podium in San Jose without a ghostwritten script.