Saturday, January 3, 2015

Who’s Running the Country? Truth is, there’s no one behind the wheel!

National Review ^ | 01/03/2015 | Jonah Goldberg 

There’s an old joke in the newspaper business, now immortal on the Internet:
“The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don’t really understand the New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie-chart format. . . . The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country, and they did a far superior job of it, thank you very much . . . ”
And so on. The list gets updated from time to time, and it usually includes, “The National Inquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.” You get the point.
But the joke is on us. You see, no one is running the country.
I don’t mean that as a knock on President Obama. No president “runs” America because the government doesn’t run America — and the president barely runs the government. He can scarcely tell his own employees what to do. Civil-service laws and union rules make it darn near impossible to fire even grossly incompetent employees for anything short of pederasty or murder.
I don’t have the space to rehash the Federalist Papers, but at the federal level there are three branches of government and each one monkey-wrenches the other, all the time. Meanwhile, do you know how many local governments there are in the United States?
Time’s up, and you probably guessed too low. There are, by the Pew Charitable Trust’s count, just over ninety thousand of them (90,056 to be exact).
What the joke gets right is that lots of groups think they should be running the show. But they all resent the fact that they’re not. From Ivy League eggheads to Wall Street fat cats, everyone talks like a backseat driver to a driver who isn’t there.
In recent years, I’ve had the good fortune to get to know some famous .001-percenters. Guess what? Not only do they not run the country, but they’re often desperate to find out who does.
For instance, listening to the Democratic party or, say, the editors of the New York Times (tomayto-tomahto, I know), you’d think the Koch brothers owned America. Of course, if they did, they wouldn’t be spending so much money on elections, would they? Also, if the Kochs were half as evil and powerful as some claim, nobody would be criticizing them.
Meanwhile, for every rich conservative out there, there’s a rich liberal cutting checks, too. In other words, the 1 percenters who supposedly run everything aren’t some homogenized class of economic overlords; they are, in fact, at war with each other. And, trust me, Charles and David Koch, Sheldon Adelson, and Foster Friess no more think they are running the country than liberal super-donors Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, and Tom Steyer do.
The notion that there’s a class or group of people secretly running things is ancient. It was old when the Roman consul Lucius Cassius famously asked, “Cui bono?” (“To whose benefit?”)
The reason is that we seem to be hardwired to assume there are no accidents, that the world is the way it is because people — hidden people — want it that way. The more extreme expressions of this cognitive reflex take many forms, whether anti-Semitic (Who benefits? The Jews!) or Marxist (Who benefits? The ruling classes!) or comedic (“Colonel Sanders with his wee beady eyes!”).
Today, on the left, such thinking has become institutionalized. When the champions of social justice can’t find an actual culprit, the villain becomes systemic racism or sexism or white privilege. But there is always evil intentionality lurking somewhere, like a ghost in the machine. The right has its bugaboos, too. For instance, there are many who think the mainstream media is biased (it is) and that its bias is somehow centrally orchestrated like a scheme by some Bond villain (it isn’t).
I think some people are scared of the idea that nobody is in charge, in part because they want someone to blame for their problems. Others don’t like this notion because they have an outsize faith in the power of human will. If villains aren’t to blame for our ills, then some problems cease to be problems and simply become facts of life.
Me? I like knowing no one is running things because, for starters, it means I’m free.
— Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor of National Review and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Half of Obamacare subsidy recipients owe refunds to the IRS

Washington Examiner ^ | 01/03/2015 | Justin Green 

As many as 3.4 million people who received Obamacare subsidies may owe refunds to the federal government, according to an estimate by a tax preparation firm.
H&R Block is estimating that as many as half of the 6.8 million people who received insurance premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act benefited from subsidies that were too large, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
“The ACA is going to result in more confusion for existing clients, and many taxpayers may well be very disappointed by getting less money and possibly even owing money," the president of a tax preparation and education school told the Journal.
While the Affordable Care Act fines those who don't have health insurance, it also provides subsidies for people making up to four times the federal poverty line ($46,680).
But the subsidies are based on past tax returns, so many people may be receiving too much, according to Vanderbilt University assistant professor John Graves, who projects the average subsidy is $208 too high, the Journal reports.
Tax preparers, who frequently advertise their ability to deliver big refunds, have been working feverishly to avoid customer anger stemming from lower-than-expected refunds due to insurance premiums. They also are trying to make sure customers understand the potential fines for not having insurance.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Will anyone be held responsible for the VA’s criminal negligence?

Coach is Right ^ | January 3, 2015 | Jim Emerson, staff writer 

According to Medical data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Washington Free Beacon, the Veterans Administration admitted that more than 500 military veterans died as a result of errors made at Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals across the country between fiscal years 2010 and 2014. During this time the VA admitted there were 1,452 “institutional disclosures of adverse events” that resulted in the deaths of 526 patients.
The VA identifies “adverse events” as cases in which improper care results in the serious injury or death of a patient. They are defined as “…untoward incidents, diagnostic or therapeutic misadventures, iatrogenic injuries, or other occurrences of harm or potential harm directly associated with care or services provided”. Although 1,452 is not a large number when compared with all of the patients treated at VA medical facilities each year, there is still no excuse for more than 500 deaths to be caused by “accidents” or “untoward incidents.” The VA claims that the disclosure reveals the full picture of medical mistakes effecting Veterans enrolled to receive VA medical care nationwide. And certainly no one connected with the VA would tell a falsehood.

The report contained routine mistakes made by civilian hospitals in which reports of the fatal delays of cancer diagnoses and follow-up treatments triggered the investigation that lead to the VA waiting list scandal.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Obama’s Latest Welfare Queens—the Castro Brothers ^ | January 2, 2015 | Humberto Fontova 

Most of you quickly figured out how Obama’s new amnesty plan creates more Democratic voters. Did you know his new Cuba policy does too? To wit:
First off, Obama did not “lift the Cuba embargo.” Instead he further loop holed it with executive orders, a process that started when he first took office. The Helms-Burton Act of 1996, you see, codified some of the vital economic sanctions against Cuba into U.S. law so a full and genuine “lifting of the embargo” requires a Congressional vote.
But the required votes to lift them are not there. Every year for the past 20 or so the Castro lobby takes a Congressional head count for a lifting, finds it short, and starts lobbying for executive action. With Obama in office the Castro lobby has met with the most success.
The vital codified sanctions prohibit outright tourism to Cuba by U.S. citizens and the purchases of Cuban products by U.S. entities. Obama’s relentless loop holing allows almost unlimited cash remittances from people in the U.S. to Cuba plus travel to Cuba for family visits, educational and cultural exchanges and a multitude of other specifically licensed activities under the rubric of “people to people” travel. This rubric’s rationale is to channel the interaction of Americans to the Cuban people, rather than to regime officials.
But amazingly, (except to everyone familiar with Castroism) under this arrangement every American visitor to Cuba is closely chaperoned and mentored by regime officials (tour guides.) These guides (as anyone half-way familiar with communism should know) are tasked by the Stalinist regime with relentlessly evangelizing on the “glories of Cuba’s healthcare, education and on the wickedness of the U.S. blockade blah…blah.” As if the visiting Americans don’t get enough of that from the U.S. media and their professors.
Bottom line: under Obama’s loop holing thus far the cash flow –from the U.S. to Cuba (remittances, travel expenses) is estimated at $4 billion annually--whereas during the 1970’s The Soviet cash-flow to Cuba was estimated at $3.8 billion annually. And last year well over half a million people visited Cuba from the U.S. --whereas during the 1950’s an average of 200,000 people visited Cuba annually from the U.S.
The further loop holing announced last week will license even more forms of “non-tourist,” “people-to-people” and “educational” (i.e. indoctrinating) travel from the U.S. to Cuba and further raise the cap on cash remittances from U.S. citizens and residents to Cuba. Much of the cash making up these remittances, by the way, comes on the U.S. taxpayers’ dime.
You see, the U.S. issues 20,000 visas to Cubans annually. And amazingly (except to everyone familiar with Castroism) the Castro regime is in charge of which Cubans get them. So Castro’s apparatchiks make sure to issue the exit permits to the type of “refugee” who will get to the U.S. via comfy commercial flight and immediately start sending a portion of his U.S. refugee welfare benefits back to his family Cuba, where the regime promptly skims off 20 percent in various “transaction fees.”
Then the “refugee’s” family spends the rest in regime- owned stores or deposits it in the regime’s Central Bank, between the “refugee’s” frequent visits back to Cuba on the HUGE Obama-opened “family-travel” loophole. On these frequent visits the “refugee” spends most of the rest of his U.S. welfare benefits.
In brief the U.S. is issuing refugee visas to Cubans who the Castro regime makes sure aren’t political refugees by any stretch of the term. Then the U.S. pays these de-facto regime-collaborators “refugee” welfare benefits which mostly benefit the Stalinist regime. The entire time these refugees” are automatically on the fast track to U.S. citizenship..
So has the mainstream media informed you that among the most notorious “Welfare Queens” under Obama’s almost universally –hailed (especially by “taxpayer champions” like Jeff Flake and Rand Paul)) are the Castro brothers? Didn’t think so.
And you’ll never guess which political party these regime-sanctioned Cuban immigrants to the U.S. tend to vote for after their fast track-to U.S. citizenship. For a good clue think typical “Hispanic” voter. Nice work if you can get it, Castro snickers.
Interestingly its Republican Cuban-American legislators themselves who exposed this racket and want it corrected.
Over at The Huffington Post a “Cuba-expert” and prominent member of the Castro-lobby named “Arturo Lopez-Levi” quickly mounted an attack against this Republican initiative to expose this Casrtroite scam. Needless to add Lopez-Levi is beside himself with glee over Obama’s latest executive order on Cuba.
But in fact this gentleman’s real name is Arturo Lopez-Callejas. He’s a “former” Cuban intelligence analyst who is also Raul Castro’s nephew–in-law. His first cousin, Maj. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, owns Cuba’s tourism industry. These fully-documented items, needless to add, are never made explicit either in the Huffington Post, The New York Times, CNN or the multitude of other media outlet who frequently quote “Lopez-Levi’s” “expertise.”
Meanwhile the U.S. Coast Guard intercepts desperate half-dead Cubans on rafts in the Florida straits – (i.e. genuine anti-communist refugees) and returns them to Castro, where many are promptly jailed.
The above explains why after Obama’s latest executive actions the Castro regime is jubilant, and Cuba’s dissidents and democracy activists overwhelmingly despondent (as recognized even by the New York Times!)

It's Time to Brew: the Tea Party Needs to Come Alive!

 americanthinker ^ | Jan. 2, 2015 | Layne Hansen 

Academics and pundits have many criticisms of the Tea Party, e.g., its members are racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. These are unfounded claims, but there is one criticism that is true and it is holding this movement back: the Tea Party is disorganized and lacks sophistication and cohesion. This lack of organization has benefitted the Tea Party in some ways, but the time has come for this passionate but underdeveloped movement to reach its full potential. The Tea Party's goal for the new year should be to once again become a visible and vocal actor in American politics.

Claiming that the Tea Party needs to ramp things up again is not to say that the movement hasn't accomplished anything in the last few years. It does, however, mean that the Tea Party needs to return to its origins as a protest movement that exerts pressure on establishment politicians. The movement has had an influence at the ballot box, taking the House away from Democrats in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. However, electioneering has become the main, if not only, function of the movement. Instead of switching back and forth from protest to electioneering mode, the Tea Party needs to become a multi-faceted movement that constantly and relentlessly attacks its opponents from all angles. In the HBO miniseries "The Pacific", a character named Snafu gives advice that the Tea Party should follow. As Tea Partiers begin to undo Progressives' agenda -- something that has been in the works for a century -- their opponents will get even nastier, as difficult as that is to imagine. To combat this, Tea Partiers need to be willing to fight.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Crippling Sony hack 'was the work of a disgruntled former employee named "Lena" who was laid off'

Daily Mail ^ | 1-1-2015 | Joel Christie and Sara Malm 

Cybersecurity experts have given a detailed outline to the FBI about the hack attack against Sony Pictures, insisting it was not the work of North Korea but a group of current and former employees who shared a 'mutual hatred' for the company.
While the FBI and Sony have announced they believe Pyongyang carried out the hack - claims that were denied by leader Kim Jong-un - independent security officials have been coming forward for the past week saying most of the evidence points to an inside job.
Silicon Valley security firm Norse, which provides intelligence to companies to prevent their software from being hacked, has been investigating the compromise at Sony and shared their findings with the FBI on Tuesday, according to Gawker.
Norse senior vice president Kurt Stammberger said the hack hinges on a woman he called 'Lena', who he says worked in a 'key technical' position for 10 years but was sent packing in May during a large sweep of lay-offs. 
Stammberger would not reveal to Gawker how Norse came to such a conclusion.
However he said Lena would have remained 'very well placed to know which servers to target' after leaving the company and 'where all the sensitive information in Sony was stored'.
Lena - which may be an alias - then joined forces with other former employees and people in the hacking community to humiliate Sony.
Stammberger said the people who hadn't worked for Sony 'were individuals that were connected with torrenting Sony movies and content online, were targeted by legal and law enforcement arms, and were irritated that basically they were caught'.
'We are very confident that this was not an attack master-minded by North Korea and that insiders were key to the implementation of one of the most devastating attacks in history,' Stammberger told CBS
(Excerpt) Read more at ...


Breitbart ^ | January, 2, 2015 | By DANIEL HOROWITZ 

Conservatives have grown used to being a minority in Washington, irrespective of which party controls the White House and Congress. But on Tuesday, January 6, a group of just 29 conservatives will have perhaps its only opportunity to change the course of history and drive the direction of the country.
It would only require 29 House members to depose current Speaker John Boehner. With this leverage, conservatives could negotiate significant reforms from a successor who emerges on a second or third ballot, thereby restoring the mandate given to them by the electorate on November 4.
Tuesday will be a profound time for choosing, and given the way Obama has ostensibly overturned the results of the midterm elections, the Speaker’s election could prove more impactful than the votes cast at the ballot box.
We are not living through ordinary times; we are experiencing a constitutional crisis – one in which the sitting president has threatened to remake our immigration system and other fundamental laws, traditions, and values through executive fiat.
Yet, at the same time, the leader of the Republican-controlled House has admitted to giving the president the green light to implement executive amnesty. More broadly, he has demonstrated time and again that he will pass votes with Democrat support and whip votes together with Obama to avoid fighting the president on the fundamental issues of our time.
At this critical juncture, the few dozen conservatives in the House have two options.
They can allow themselves and the 2014 electorate to remain disenfranchised, helplessly standing by while Boehner passes crucial legislation on amnesty, budget bills, Obamacare, and debt ceiling increases with Democrat support. Or they can seize control of their own destiny by using the first vote of this Congress – the only vote for which Boehner cannot relyon Democrat support...
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

If We Only Spent All the Money, Then Everyone Would Be Prosperous?

Reason Magazine ^ | January 2, 2015 | Matt Welch, editor-in-chief 

On the front of today's New York Times business section is a remarkable—or should I say remarkably unremarkable—news article whose entire premise, unchallenged in the course of 1,341 words and input from 10 sources, is that more government spending is a very good thing because it leads to more government jobs and therefore helps the economy. Hooray!
If you think I am being unfair in this characterization, consider the headline: "Government Spending, Edging Up, Is a Stimulus." Or the headline on the jump page inside: "Rebound in Government Spending Starts to Aid Economy After Years of Cuts." Or the headline on the associated chart: "A Small But Important Lift." Or the blurb: "The public sector is once again adding to prosperity." Before consuming some counter-factual questions, enjoy the celebratory sounds of friction-free assumptions and loosening belts:
NAPLES, Fla. — For a long stretch, government spending cutbacks at all levels were a substantial drag on economic growth. Now, finally, relief is in sight. For the first time since 2011, local, state and federal governments are providing a small but significant increase to prosperity. […]
And so on a recent windswept afternoon, John Lynch, armed with a police radio and a giant net, stood along a fishing pier in Naples, on guard for pelicans that might become entangled in fishing lines.
"That's my job, to try and get them to safety," said Mr. Lynch, a retired banker with a snowy beard whose uniform was a fisherman's cap and shorts. Mr. Lynch is one of the latest additions to the city's payroll. His is the kind of government job this Gulf Coast town never would have even contemplated during the recession. […]
"This new revenue, the increase in the economy, the increase in G.D.P. —everything is looking good," [said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution]. "It's releasing pressure to be fiscally restrained." […]
The Naples Pier outreach assistant job was a minor item in the $32.9 million budget, but an important symbol that times were flush again. […]
The Naples Fire­ Rescue Department just bought two new emergency vehicles worth $196,000 each. One of the boxy red trucks arrived last month, just in time to be steered gingerly down the route of the city's annual Christmas parade, where palm trees were adorned in white holiday lights and children darted for candy tossed from holiday­ themed floats.
It is an event so precious to locals that the city kept it going during the downturn, said John F. Sorey III, mayor of Naples.
"We've got to preserve the wow factor," he said, "or all our tourists could go somewhere else."
Credit where it's due: As government-spending euphemisms go, preserving the wow factor is surely in the Top 20...
I have only four questions for the NYT and those who agree with its premise that the more government spends, the more prosperous we are:
1) Why were states not measurably more prosperous after increasing government spending by more than 80 percent in real terms between 2003 and 2007?
2) Between the time of Bill Clinton's last submitted budget of $1.8 trillion, and Barack Obama's first submitted budget of $3.6 trillion, did the average American become more or less prosperous?
3) The United States after World War II, Canada in the 1990s, and Australia in the 1980s all became significantly more prosperous—despite ample warnings to the contrary—after cutting, not increasing, government spending. Wha' happen?
4) Is there a ceiling on what percentage of GDP the government should account for, and if so why should there be one, and where should it be?


Breitbart ^ | January, 2, 2015 | By Tony Lee 

In 2016, especially after President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty, Democrats may be on even thinner ice with white voters, especially white working-class males.
Though the mainstream media wants to gin up the narrative that Republicans have trouble winning minorities, the 2014 midterm elections again showed, as Politico noted, “that Democrats have their own significant demographic vulnerability: working-class white voters. Republicans won white voters without a college degree by 30 points, 64 percent to 34 percent, according to exit polls, equal to their margin in the wave election of 2010.” In addition, “support for President Barack Obama among working-class whites has dropped 8 points since 2010.”
Political analyst Charlie Cook told the outlet that “Democrats have chosen to focus on issues that the liberal base of the party really likes, but the working-class person in West Virginia or Arkansas or Louisiana or Alaska doesn’t necessarily identify with.”
“The challenge that the Democratic Party has in parts of the country appears to be even more formidable than it was two years ago,” he added.
But Obama is likely to swerve even more to the left after Democrats in red states like Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan, Mark Begich and Mary Landrieu lost their reelection bids in Arkansas, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana, respectively.
In his end-of-year press conference, Obama indicated that he was liberated because he no longer had to worry about the reelection prospects of Democrats from conservative states.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...