The Left Has An ‘Extreme’ Base Of Its Own — And It’s Not Ready For Hillary

It may not be as definable as the Tea Party (or maybe it is, if only the mainstream media would harp on it constantly), but the progressive left has an ideological base that’s busy vetting potential 2016 presidential candidates. And if their early grumblings are any indication, Hillary Clinton is too “establishment” to earn their vote of confidence.

We’ve mentioned the Google group called “Gamechanger Salon” in the past; several members of the progressive online circle are bona fide members of the mainstream press. Since news of that group’s existence first appeared, some of its insiders have begun acknowledging their deliberative process to the outside world, explaining some the ideological sine qua nons that, for them, will make the difference in whether a Democratic candidate can pass the true-believing progressive’s sniff test.

Let’s put it this way: For these people, Hillary Clinton is no deep-blue Ted Cruz. She’s more like a periwinkle Chris Christie.

The Hill examined a trove of emails exchanged among members of the Gamechanger Salon group for a Thursday piece headlined “Left blasts Clinton in secret emails,” concluding from those conversations that there’s “significant dissatisfaction” among the far left with the idea of a Hillary nomination.

But why? Because she’s too close to the middle.

“In the emails spanning over a year — starting in June 2013 through July of this year — frustration with Clinton is evident,” wrote The Hill:

Clinton’s too much of a hawk, too cozy with Wall Street, hasn’t spoken out enough on climate change, and will be subject to personal questions and criticisms, members of the group stated in the emails.

… “[A] Clinton presidency undos [sic] all our progress and returns the financial interests to even more prominence than they currently have,” Melissa Byrne, an activist with the Occupy Wall Street movement, said in a November 2013 email.

… “I also came to know how close she was to the pro-Wall Street forces inside the administration and out, and the downsides on foreign policy are all very real. So I will hesitate for a long time before jumping into her campaign,” [Democratic strategist Mike] Lux wrote in a group email.

… One of Clinton’s biggest critics among the group is Guy Saperstein, a major Democratic donor and part owner of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.

In emails, Saperstein called a report out in December of last year that Clinton offered a “reassuring” message to Goldman Sachs executives “horrific,” and slammed her for “ducking a lot of issues, like the Keystone pipeline.”

You get the idea. Clinton is the establishment candidate.

So who does the far left seem to want? The Hill points to Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren’s been exceedingly demure about seeking the presidential nomination.

But she was also on Letterman this month. Hmm.

Does It Bother You That Boehner Probably Isn’t Going Anywhere As House Speaker?

Whatever happens to the Senate majority after November’s midterms, it’s a sure bet that the GOP House majority is untouchable. As the elections inch closer, and as Congress takes a super-early break for campaigning, it’s almost equally assured that Congressman John Boehner (R-Ohio) won’t be losing his grip on the Speaker’s gavel once the dust clears.

Boehner, fresh off a last-minute, pre-break legislative compromise that saw the funding of Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and the president’s still-evolving arms alliance with Syrian “moderates” to combat ISIS, is quietly riding a pre-election strategy of see-no-evil, do-no-evil for GOP incumbents who just want to win this fall without rocking the boat.

“House Republicans are not touting a national manifesto ahead of the midterm elections, as they did with 1994’s Contract with America,” The Washington Post observed today. “Their plan to offer a replacement for President Obama’s health-care law has fizzled.

“The sudden elevation of Boehner, 64, is surprising for a party overloaded with tea party stars and White House hopefuls. Yet in a summer of Republican unease and tumult, Boehner’s workmanlike manner and institutional standing has led to a string of successes and new-found support.”

It’s a perfect situation for Boehner, who sees no need to whip up a conservative-ideology offensive against languishing Democrats — even though doing so would put them further on their heels.

In other words, Boehner’s the perfect guy to remain in charge if all the GOP cares about is playing not to lose.

 

More Stonewalling From Eric Holder To Conceal Fast And Furious Papers

The Department of Justice has filed yet another request to forestall a court order that could require the release of tens of thousands of pages’ worth of documents pertaining to the Operation Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal — a scandal that’s dogged the Obama administration since ATF whistleblowers first approached Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) with their concerns about the secret program in early 2011.

The DOJ filed a request Monday before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, asking the court to allow the department to keep under wraps more than 60,000 pages of Fast and Furious documents until the appeals process following her ruling on whether the documents are protected under executive privilege — if it is an unfavorable one for the DOJ — has run its course.

In other words, the DOJ is asking the court to let the documents stay hidden not only while it argues they’re protected under executive privilege, but even for the duration of the inevitable appeal the department would file if Jackson decides they aren’t covered under executive privilege, as both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have maintained.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wants the documents, but Holder and Obama have so far successfully stalled their release — even after the House held Holder in contempt for refusing to hand them over in 2012.

Jackson has previously demonstrated no special deference to the Obama administration, ordering the DOJ last month to hand over an itemized listing of the documents in question — but not (yet) the documents themselves — by Oct. 1.

The scandal came to light following the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry in 2010. Terry was murdered in a gunfight with alleged illegal immigrants; two guns connected with the Fast and Furious operation were later discovered at the crime scene.

A number of ATF agents, alarmed at Terry’s death and convinced that the gunwalking strategy was undermining its purpose, approached Grassley with their information in early 2011, leading to a congressional investigation.

Court Denies Qualified Immunity For Police Who SWAT-Stormed Florida Barber Shop To Conduct Licensing ‘Inspection’

Law enforcement officers who conducted a warrantless SWAT-style raid on an Orlando barber shop, ostensibly to help inspectors conduct a routine occupational licensing exam, violated the proprietors’ 4th Amendment rights and are not protected from personal liability under the qualified immunity doctrine.

So ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta on Tuesday, harshly condemning Orange County, Florida, officers for their 2010 raid of the Strictly Skillz barber shop — a staged event the court compared to “a scene right out of a Hollywood movie.” That’s how the court began its 44-page ruling:

It was a scene right out of a Hollywood movie. On August 21, 2010, after more than a month of planning, teams from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office descended on multiple target locations. They blocked the entrances and exits to the parking lots so no one could leave and no one could enter. With some team members dressed in ballistic vests and masks, and with guns drawn, the deputies rushed into their target destinations, handcuffed the stunned occupants — and demanded to see their barbers’ licenses. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was providing muscle for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s administrative inspection of barbershops to discover licensing violations.

What’s incredible about this show of force is that the inspectors had visited the same business only two days before — without the muscle — and discovered the shop was in total compliance with all occupational licensing requirements. No violations whatsoever. Reason reports that the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is authorized “to conduct such inspections only once every two years.” Yet there they were again, two days after finding everything aboveboard, with a small army of police. The cops told customers to leave immediately and handcuffed Brian Berry, Strictly Skillz’ owner, as well as two barbers.

The entire hit had been an orchestrated effort to discover evidence of illegal activity that had nothing to do with occupational licensing — though that was the cover story for the raid — and everything to do with contraband. Berry sued the police and the police appealed, arguing their actions were within the scope of legal searches (Really? Without a warrant?) and the officers protected from personal liability under the qualified immunity doctrine.

No way, said the court.

We first held nineteen years ago that conducting a run-of-the-mill administrative inspection as though it is a criminal raid, when no indication exists that safety will be threatened by the inspection, violates clearly established Fourth Amendment rights. …We reaffirmed that principle in 2007 when we held that other deputies of the very same Orange County Sheriff’s Office who participated in a similar warrantless criminal raid under the guise of executing an administrative inspection were not entitled to qualified immunity. …Today, we repeat that same message once again. We hope that the third time will be the charm.

… [T]he plaintiffs contend that the search of Strictly Skillz, which they allege was undertaken with an inordinate display of force, failed to conform to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement for reasonableness. Because we have twice held, on facts disturbingly similar to those presented here, that a criminal raid executed under the guise of an administrative inspection is constitutionally unreasonable, we agree.

…It has long been clearly established that a warrantless administrative inspection must be narrowly tailored to the administrative need that justifies it. Here — where the authorized purpose of the inspection was simply to check for barbering licenses and sanitation violations, and there is no indication that the defendants had any reason to believe that the inspection would be met with violence — the manner in which the supposed inspection of Strictly Skillz was undertaken was unreasonable from its inception and was, in fact, a search. Our cases and those of the Supreme Court have long and repeatedly put officers on notice of these facts. Because, under the facts alleged by the plaintiffs in this case, Vidler and Leslie were active participants in the unconstitutional search of Strictly Skillz, a jury could find them liable for the plaintiffs’ resulting constitutional injuries.

Decisions like this, precipitated by lawsuits over illegal searches, need to happen much more often.

Read much more on the court’s decision at Reason, with plenty of backstory here.

House Votes To Audit The Fed

Ron Paul tried this in 2012. Now the House of Representatives is trying again, with some Senate support from Paul’s son Rand: passing a law requiring the comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office to audit the Federal Reserve.

The House voted 333-92 today in favor of a bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), that would expose the Federal Reserve to an audit that delves further into the Fed’s monetary policymaking process and market operations than the current annual audit built into the board’s oversight. Only one Republican congressman voted against the bill; 106 Democrats voted in favor of it also.

As he did in 2012 to advance his father’s efforts, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Rand Paul justified the need for additional scrutiny and accountability in a lengthy January rant:

[D]on’t let anyone tell you we already have an audit of the Fed. No meaningful audit of the Fed exists and when the primary auditor and overseer of the Fed was asked about $9 trillion dollars, the Inspector General had no clue what had been purchased with $9 trillion dollars. Is there a chance, that the Fed only has our best interests at heart? Sure. But when trillions of dollars change hands, wouldn’t you want to know who got the money and did anyone enrich themselves in the process? $9 trillion is over half of our entire national debt. This is money that is being doled out, in secret, by our central bank. This is, in a sense, laundering money from the American people to bail out big banks and Wall Street.

… The purpose of my bill is to eliminate the current restrictions on GAO audits of the Fed, along with mandating that the Federal Reserve’s credit facilities, securities purchases, and quantitative easing activities become subject to Congressional oversight. Looking into what the Federal Reserve does with our money has significant support from both parties, many members of which have heard the same concerns back home in their states and districts. The Federal Reserve is one of the most secretive institutions in our history. For decades, the people in charge at the Fed, politicians and various “experts” have insisted that such secrecy was integral to its independence and effectiveness.

I can see no reason why the American public should not be allowed to see behind the veil of secrecy at the Fed.

Paul’s full remarks are archived at Breitbart TV.

Obama Administration Begins Collecting Ethnic Data On Gun Buyers

It’s a felony to lie when you fill out ATF Form 4473, the info sheet the federal government requires prospective gun buyers to use when attempting a purchase from any federally licensed reseller.

Form 4473 is required before a federal background check can commence via the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and it asks people things about themselves that the government — if it were to magically begin abiding by the 2nd Amendment — would not ask.

But the Obama administration has modified the form in order to glean even more information about gun buyers, and it made the change in relative silence. Perhaps that’s why stories about outraged gun owners are just now making the rounds, even though the form was amended back in 2012.

It’s a subtle change, and one many people may not have noticed, if they’ve ever had to fill out the form more than once. Before 2012, Form 4473 asked “applicants” (an absurd term for an American citizen intending to buy a gun) to identify their race. Since 2012, the form asks for both racial and ethnic background information.

From The Washington Times, which first reported on the fresh backlash Tuesday:

The Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling.

With little fanfare, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in 2012 amended its Form 4473 — the transactional record the government requires gun purchasers and sellers to fill out when buying a firearm — to identify buyers as either Hispanic, Latino or not. Then a buyer must check his or her race: Indian, Asian, black, Pacific Islander or white.

… On its prior 4473 forms, the bureau had been collecting race data.

One such critic, New Jersey attorney Evan Nappen, surely has the right of it when he finds only a political motive for the change.

“This issue concerns me deeply because, first, it’s offensive, and, secondly, there’s no need for it. If there’s no need for an amendment, then there’s usually a political reason for the change. What this indicates is it was done for political reasons, not law enforcement reasons,” Nappen told The Times.

We’ve featured Nappen before, and he perfectly diluted the way in which government foments and capitalizes on a fear culture surrounding firearms with this pithy phrase: “I do think we’ve gotten to a point where common sense is uncommon.”

What other reason, then, could there be? Is it a civil rights thing?

“If there is a civil rights enforcement reason for the ATF to collect this data, I have not heard that explanation from ATF or any other federal agency,” Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union told The Times.

In a separate but related story, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced a bill on Wednesday that aims to do away with the ATF. Sensenbrenner called the bureau a “largely duplicative, scandal-ridden agency that lacks a clear mission.”

Good thing he’s not an anonymous blogger. Those sound like some pretty extreme words.

 

Cop’s Teenage Son In Coma After Run-In With The Law

After being stopped by police because the car he was driving matched an outstanding warrant for a woman, a 17-year-old boy ended up stunned with a Taser, on the ground and in the hospital, where medical staff had to induce a coma to stabilize the injuries he allegedly suffered at the hands of the Independence, Missouri, police.

The Kansas City Star reported that the FBI has launched an investigation into the incident and that “Independence police said that they would cooperate ‘hand-in-hand’ with the federal investigation and the officer had been placed on administrative leave.”

The boy, Bryce Masters, is the son of a police officer in nearby Kansas City. He was allegedly driving alone Sunday afternoon in a vehicle whose license plate matched that of a woman whom the police had been hunting.

She wasn’t in the car, and Masters reportedly couldn’t get his window to roll down when ordered to do so by Independence officer Tim Runnels. The Star cites witnesses who indicate Runnels appeared frustrated that Masters wasn’t rolling down his window, and that Runnels’ subsequent alleged actions appeared to show him taking that frustration out on the boy:

Police said the stun gun was used on the teen while he was still in the car. At some point, Masters got out of the car under his own power but later fell to the ground, Maj. Paul Thurman said.

…Witnesses said police overreacted.

‘Several times, the cop put his foot on the kid like he was stepping on his neck, but it was on his back,’ said Robert Baker, who lives nearby. ‘I think (the officer) was wrong, because the kid tried to explain to him that his window won’t roll down.’

Others said that Masters, who was in the neighborhood to visit a classmate, did not resist when Runnels pulled him over. They said Masters told the officer that the car’s window would not roll down.

Another witness said she saw Runnels drag Masters into a driveway and drop him, causing Masters’ head to hit the pavement. Masters was listed late Monday in critical condition at a nearby hospital.

“Independence police have firmly defended the actions of Officer Tim Runnels, saying he used a stun gun on the 17-year-old in accordance with department policy,” KCTV News reported Monday. “Runnels has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is routine in cases like this.”

Get Ready For A Shift In The Gun Control Narrative: Scary-Looking Guns Are Out; Handguns Are In

Progressive efforts to take firearms from the hands of law-abiding citizens may be rounding a corner in the arms race of government overreach. A new report from ProPublica and The New York Times suggests gun control advocates may be turning their attention away from the failed narrative against intimidating-looking assault weapons, raising the specter of a new menace to take their place: handguns.

Using data that’s been available anytime they cared to look, the reporters stumbled across this well-known fact:

“It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do.”

Whoa, dude.

Read far enough, and the article gets around to acknowledging the inconvenient truth that homicides in which guns were used have declined steadily and dramatically over the past 20 years. But the authors don’t pair that information with another significant fact: Americans — already ahead of other developed nations in per-capita gun ownership — are buying more and more guns, even as the so-called “gun murder” rate has declined.

The article’s one observation that merits much more attention from the left is this:

“Annually, 5,000 to 6,000 black men are murdered with guns. Black men amount to only 6 percent of the population. Yet of the 30 Americans on average shot to death each day, half are black males.

“… Even as homicide rates have held steady or declined for most Americans over the last decade, for black men the rate has sometimes risen. But it took a handful of mass shootings in 2012 to put gun control back on Congress’s agenda.”

Oh, so there’s a political component to this whole gun control thing? An insincere, dishonest one — one that ignores cultural problems that progressive policies (policies that have nothing to do with guns) have only fomented and exacerbated?

The authors didn’t say that. But it’s between every line of the progressive gun control agenda.

Something Stinks: Liberals, Conservatives Have Different, Distinct Smells

This is too easy. There’s a new study out that asserts conservatives and liberals don’t smell the same. Not only that — the study claims that sensitive noses can pick up on the smell of politically like-minded people, and differentiate that smell from that of people who hold political views with which they don’t agree.

The American Journal of Political Science has published the findings of an academic study called “Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues,” which claims that “[a] growing body of evidence reveals that the mechanisms that account for differences in ideological attitudes are genetically and biologically influenced and conscript olfactory processes.”

In other words, people use their sense of smell, whether they realize it or not, to detect when they’re in the company of someone who thinks as they do.

Implicit in the findings are that people unsurprisingly prefer to hang out with others who share their views — in part because they find their scent more agreeable than those whose views differ from their own.

The nuts-and-bolts research behind this study truly smells. Test subjects had to live with stink-collecting armpit pads attached to their bodies for 24 hours, then remit those pads so that they could be sniffed by a separate group of participants, who indicated the degree to which they found those smells agreeable. Then the political ideologies of members from each group were factored in, and — well, you nose the rest.

Similar research has uncovered other sensory and behavioral differences between conservatives and liberals. “Conservatives will look at an unpleasant image 15 percent longer than liberals, and they’re also more likely to keep an organized dorm room in college,” The Week reported Tuesday. “In fact, one study showed that conservatives are more generally conscientious and liberals are more open to new experiences. Libertarians display some psychological aspects of both groups, albeit with a far lighter helping of respect for authority.”

Democrats Leading Push For Legal Parity Between Citizens And Illegal Aliens In New York

Ahead of a general election that could flip control of the New York State Senate to the Democratic Party, right-leaning media outlets are beginning to take note of an already-active bill that seeks to immensely expand the state’s legal accommodation for illegal immigrants — up to and including the right to run for public office — simply by recognizing them as “New York State Citizens.”

Sounds like a case for the Department of Justice.

Done laughing? The “New York is Home” bill, introduced in June by Democratic state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, would bestow a bounty of citizens’ rights on illegals who’ve made New York their home. The law “would bar police from releasing any information about them to the feds, unless it involves a criminal warrant unrelated to their immigration status,” the New York Post wrote Monday. “Under the proposed legislation, undocumented immigrants could also apply for professional licenses and serve on juries.”

It would also grant them the right to vote (but not in Federal elections) and even to run for office, according to Bloomberg.

That all sounds ambitious and far-flung until you read the bill, which begins by flatly stating its purpose: “To establish New York State citizenship, regardless of immigration status, and providing certain rights and benefits to persons with such citizenship.”

Is it a stunt? Well, California along with several other states have already moved to grant drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants. And Democratic officials in New York aren’t ramping up the rhetoric into Harry Reid-worthy hyperbole; rather, they’re speaking in reserved, realistic tones about the likelihood of its passage and enactment. “The bill would have a better shot at passing with a Democratic Senate,” one legislator told the Post.

Republicans are taking it seriously, too. “This bill could pass if the Democrats are in charge of the Senate,” state Sen. Marty Golden told the paper. “They’re out of their minds…This is astounding. This undermines our nation’s immigration laws and procedures.”

Will Militia Plan To Block Border Bridges Lead To Standoff With Police?

This Saturday, a U.S. militia group will attempt to block the flow of traffic along one or more bridges connecting Mexico and the United States. At least, that’s the message the group allegedly has been sending since last week. What isn’t known is whether such an effort will actually materialize and, if it does, how it will play out as local and federal law enforcement look on.

And despite their limitations on enforcing portions of U.S. immigration law as elected official play fast and loose politics with the sworn duties of officers in the field, there is indeed a heavy law enforcement presence near designated international crossings.

“The region is currently jammed packed [sic] with law enforcement,” Breitbart News wrote in a Sunday piece anticipating the potential standoff.

“In addition to the normal compliment [sic] of local, state, and federal police, there are currently surge operations in place that have brought in over 2,000 people to protect the region; Ranging from additional border patrol officers, to the surge of Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, to the recent deployment of 1,000 members of the Texas National Guard.”

What’s more, law enforcement asserts that it knows the militia is coming — at least, that it has promised to come. That builds tension into an event ahead of its unfolding, regardless of how it actually does (or does not) play out. International bridges aren’t exactly the most expedient routes for illegal immigrants to brave as they contemplate sneaking into the U.S., but they do facilitate millions of dollars’ worth of commerce between Mexico and the U.S. each day.

“We will not allow these groups to disrupt the economic commerce of our region and we are prepared to use force to keep the bridges open,” one unnamed officer told Breitbart. He also went on to assess the plan put forward by the militia as “lawless.”

Which militia — or militias — are these? The original story about Saturday’s expected blockade came from KRGV News in Weslaco, Texas, and it reported on only one militia — without naming names:

Officials say they received word that members of a militia are threatening to block ports of entry.

In Starr County, international bridge authorities met with Customs and Border Protection officials Thursday. Their goal was to discuss the potential problem and find a plan of action.

Starr County has international bridges in Rio Grande City, Roma and Falcon Dam.

Officials received word that members of a militia plan to protest illegal crossings by blocking traffic on Sept. 20.

Breitbart went on to allude to “militia groups” in its report, but didn’t elaborate further.

So far, only representatives from law enforcement appear to be talking with the media, which some observers believe raises questions about the intent and the veracity of the original report.

The Replacement For Fingerprinting? FBI Facial Recognition Program Set To Supplant Current ID Methods

Facial recognition technology and surveillance have been cohabiting for a long time, but today the FBI announced it’s officially wedding itself to a $1 billion program intended to help supplant older, traditional methods (think: fingerprinting) of identifying and tracking individuals.

The new facial recognition system is to be deployed alongside other features in the ongoing rollout of the FBI’s so-called “Next Generation Identification” program, a biometric detection infrastructure which relies on big data to more reliably (according to the FBI) identify and keep tabs on surveillance subjects.

“The vast majority of records contained in the NGI database will be of US citizens,” the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) writes:

The system will include facial recognition capabilities to analyze collected images. Millions of individuals who are neither criminals nor suspects will be included in the database. Many of these individuals will be unaware that their images and other biometric identifiers are being captured. Drivers license photos and other biometric records collected by civil service agencies could be added to the system. The NGI system could be integrated with other surveillance technology, such as Trapwire, that would enable real-time image-matching of live feeds from CCTV surveillance cameras. The Department of Homeland Security has expended hundreds of millions of dollars to establish state and local surveillance systems, including CCTV cameras that record the routine activities of millions of individuals. There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States. The NGI system will be integrated with CCTV cameras operated by public agencies and private entities.

Moreover, third parties are already attempting to develop crime prevention platforms that could make the FBI’s next-generation program seem antiquated. Check this out.

tjeff

As The Hill reported Monday, the FBI is denying that it will collect and store information on citizens not under suspicion of criminal activity. But that hasn’t assuaged the concerns of a burgeoning grass-roots anti-surveillance culture in the U.S., which is attempting to develop low-tech methods of its own to thwart unconstitutional mass surveillance — even if it entails making yourself look ridiculous in the process.

Nevada Scraps Do-Over For Failed State Healthcare Exchange

Nevada abandoned its contract with a company to run its failed state Obamacare exchange back in May, waving goodbye to $75 million in wasted contract money in the process. The plan was to shift everyone buying Obamacare coverage over to Healthcare.gov, take a breath and recommit to crafting a new state exchange that could deploy in time for next year’s open enrollment period.

Instead, Nevada’s Silver State Health Insurance Exchange board voted to stop looking for a new vendor to build a new state exchange, and just use the Healthcare.gov exchange permanently. Insurance customers in Nevada will still access the Healthcare.gov enrollment backbone by visiting the state’s Nevada Health Link site, but underpinning it will be the same software and database system employed by the federal Obamacare exchange.

That’s a calculated gamble, since Healthcare.gov isn’t secure. But for the state exchange board, it has become a case of refusing to throw good money after bad.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week:

Shawna DeRousse, chief operating officer of the exchange, said Nevada Health Link enrollments had dwindled to 34,000, down from 38,000 earlier this summer, and sign-ups may drop more as customers face re-enrollment in November. If member counts drop, the state may not be able to support a third switch. Moving onto the federal website will cost an additional $25 million for the state Division of Health and Human Services, which runs Nevada Medicaid. The state’s General Fund must match $3 million of that.

Said the exchange report: “If the next open enrollment is not successful, there is no guarantee that implementing a third system within three years would produce a successful result. Additionally, if the current federal infrastructure fails, it fails nationally, and federal resources will be utilized to fix the system. No additional state funding would be required to remain on the system, given current legislative status.”

There’s nothing like pinning your hopes on an inevitable loser, only to enjoy the benefit of having someone else take the blame for the mess.

Nevada residents filed a class action suit against Nevada Health Link in April, claiming they were paying for coverage they weren’t receiving, thanks to the site’s inability to correctly process and track enrollments.

As the nationwide 2015 enrollment period inches closer, expect a revival of the daily Obamacare horror stories that dominated the news late last year.

“It’s been pretty quiet lately on the Obamcare front… So quiet, that there has been a flurry of articles recently over how Obamacare has dropped to a second or even third tier issue and will hardly matter come election-time,” health policy researcher Bob Laszewski blogged last week. “The last couple of months have been very quiet for Obamacare… That is about to end.”

Missouri Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto Of Bill Permitting Armed Teachers

Both chambers of the Missouri legislature this week accomplished an override of Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill expanding both concealed and open carry rights at schools in the Show Me State.

Nixon had vetoed S.B. 656 in July, arguing that training educational staff to carry concealed firearms on campus “would not make our schools safer” and that only school resource officers should be allowed to possess weapons on school grounds.

The bill  provides for school boards to designate “one or more school teachers or administrators as a school protection officer” after holding a public hearing, requiring the employee to complete a MPOSTC-approved training program, and sharing all information about the resource officers with the state Department of Public Safety. It also provides criminal penalties if a school protection officer fails to secure his weapon while at work.

The Senate overturned Nixon on a partisan 23-8 vote. The House followed suit a day later, overriding the veto Thursday on a bipartisan 117-39 vote.

The bill also does a number of other things, as summarized by The Missouri Times’ Collin Reischman:

An omnibus bill dealing with firearms, Nixon vetoed this bill for it’s provisions allowing schools to designate and train a “school protection officer,” to legally carry a firearm on school property. The bill also lowers the minimum age for a CCW permit from 21 to 19. The bill also prohibits health care professionals from asking about requiring asking a patient about firearm ownership or recording and/or reporting such ownership to a government entity. The bill also addresses so-called “open carry” law. Under the bill, local governments will not be able to prohibit CCW holders from engaging in open carry practices. Democratic Senators Scott Sifton and Jolie Justus spent nearly two hours discussing the bill in a semi-filibuster. The bill ultimately passed by a vote of 23-8 along party lines.

All of those provisions are reinstated by the veto override. S.B. 656 will take effect in Missouri.

Obamacare Hits 250,000 Virginians With Canceled Policies, Extends Opportunity To Buy More Expensive Ones

Last year, U.S. wages and consumer spending fell, even as spending on healthcare costs increased. That’s got to be especially good news for the quarter million people in Virginia who are learning their existing health plans will be canceled this fall.

WVIR News in Charlottesville reported Wednesday that the cancellations fall in line with so many other policies nationwide that simply aren’t legal, because of their coverage options, under the one-size-fits-all Affordable Care Act.

“Nearly a quarter million Virginians will have their current insurance plans cut this fall,” said the local anchor. “That is because many of them did not…are not following, I should say, new Affordable Care Act rules, so a chunk of the companies that offer those individuals their policies [will] make the individuals choose new policies.

“…This goes back to that now heavily-criticized line we heard before Obamacare was put in place: ‘If you like your plan, you can keep it,’” says a spot reporter. “Ultimately, that turned out not to be true for thousands of Virginians and companies in the commonwealth. …[A] staggering number of Virginians will need new plans this fall.”

Those plans will cost more — something insurers have known since at least May. Aside from increased premiums that will likely hit 15 percent on the high end, Obamacare’s metal-graded coverage tier system (platinum, gold, silver and bronze) relies heavily on out-of-pocket contributions that exceed what most canceled policyholders have had to pay prior to the healthcare law.

Here’s an interesting rundown of how out-of-pocket costs are changing, using 2015 rate filings from several states (including Virginia) to illustrate the difference. Hint: the structure is regressive. The costliest tier is also the most expensive out-of-pocket. And it also shares the greatest similarity, in terms of how thorough its coverage options are, to many of the canceled plans it’s supposed to be replacing.

Harry Reid Loses Both The Vote And The PR Campaign As Constitutional Amendment Bill Goes Down In Flames

Remember that supposed Constitutional amendment to restrict political spending by the Koch brothers and repudiate the Citizens United decision? The one that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was hell-bent on bringing up for repeated floor votes? The one that was supposed to be the “salvation of our country,” as Reid declared in May?

Well, consider the country unsaved. The amendment bill died today. And thanks to some procedural Russian roulette from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), it appears to have died for good.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), aimed to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution handing Congress the regulatory power to limit and oversee campaign spending for federal elections. It would also have granted the same power to states to similarly regulate state-level campaign spending. Reid had drawn a line in the sand earlier this year, saying such an amendment is do-or-die for an American elections system hijacked by Koch money.

“It’s been tried before, we should continue to push this and it should become our issue. That really puts the Koch brothers up against it. We believe and I believe that there should be spending limits,” he had said. “… We’re going to arrange a vote on it. We’re going to do it until we pass it because that’s the salvation of our country.”

The bill was never anything more than political theater, a scripted token of Reid’s Koch-ranting midterm elections strategy designed to lay blame at Republicans’ feet for obstructing campaign finance reform. “This bill has no chance of amending the Constitution, or Harry Reid wouldn’t be ready to stage a floor show themed around a phony battle against evil Republicans intent on frustrating its chances,” we wrote in May. “This is the kind of bill that makes for great Sunday news show fodder once it’s failed.”

One big problem: The bill didn’t fail the way Reid had planned. It failed honestly, so to speak, rather than dishonestly. From Washington Examiner today:

Democrats never really thought the measure would go anywhere, as they drafted it on the assumption Republicans would immediately block it. Democrats had hoped then to hold up the vote as an example of GOP obstructionism, a ploy they expected to exploit ahead of the November congressional elections.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Reid’s bluff Monday when he allowed the measure to advance on an initial procedural vote, turning what was supposed to be a Democratic messaging bill against them. McConnell allowed a second procedural vote to pass Wednesday on a voice vote.

The Kentucky Republican then blasted Reid for wasting Senate time on a measure he knew had a slim chance of passing.

So the measure died in today’s partisan 54-42 vote. (It needed 60 to continue.) As majority leader, Reid typically votes against ill-fated bills he supports, since he can reconsider a measure after having voted against it. But since the thing made it all the way to a full Senate vote, he was compelled to vote his… conscience… on a motion to proceed.

Here’s a link to the Examiner’s Tuesday story on how McConnell and the Senate GOP got set to win this one. It has a funny headline.

One-Third Of Voters Don’t Even Know Which Party Controls House, Senate

In two months, U.S. voters will determine whether Congress continues into President Obama’s last two years with a Democratic Senate and a Republican House. But a chunk of those likely voters don’t even know which party currently holds the majority in each chamber.

Rasmussen Reports said Thursday that only 63 percent of likely voters have a clue about which party is in charge of the House and the Senate. As for the remainder, many of them aren’t simply ignorant — they’re (somehow) misinformed.

Twenty percent (20%) mistakenly believe Democrats control the House, while 17% are not sure. Similarly, 18% think the GOP is in charge in the Senate, but 19% are not sure.

This is even less awareness than voters expressed in March of last year. Remember, too, that these are respondents who are the likeliest to vote this November and so presumably are more politically aware than most other Americans.

Broken down by demographics, Rasmussen reveals that “women and those under 40” know less about the present arrangement of party control over the bicameral legislature. As for likely voters who claim a party affiliation, “Republicans are more aware than Democrats and unaffiliated voters, but a sizable number of GOP voters don’t know which party controls which house of Congress.”

And while the general public perceives Republicans to be anti-Obamacare, the party-line votes against the original law — as well as all the repeated GOP-led repeal efforts — haven’t exactly earned each and every Representative a commensurate level of notoriety for their efforts.

“Even though not a single Republican member of either the House or Senate voted for the new national health care law, 31% of likely voters say they are not sure how their representative in Congress voted on Obamacare, an issue at the forefront of this election cycle,” Rasmussen states.

At least we’re all self-aware in our ignorance. Only nine percent of those surveyed indicated they believe that Americans make for well-informed voters.

House Votes To Block EPA Power Grab That Would Regulate Small Waterways On Private Property

In a somewhat bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved H.R. 5078, a “statement” piece of legislation that aims to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s unprecedented reach for regulatory power over small streams, ponds and similar catchments on private lands.

The measure passed on a 262-152 vote, with 227 Republicans and 35 Democrats supporting it. One Republican and 151 Democrats voted against the bill; 17 congressmen did not cast a vote. It now heads to the Senate, where vulnerable Democrats are feeling pressure from lobbies on both sides to kill the bill or save it. The Obama administration indicated on Monday that the President is likely to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk, saying the law is “not an act of good government.”

That’s to be expected, because the EPA’s vision for redefining language in the Clean Water Act to include small catchments and seasonal creeks is in lockstep with the Obama administration’s overarching program of expanding the government’s role in environmental stewardship.

Land-use industries such as oil, farming and the construction trades hailed the House approval of the bill and focused their attention to its passage in the Senate.

“Allowing these agencies to radically increase their jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act would impede the fledgling housing recovery by greatly increasing the number of construction sites required to obtain permits, which would also delay and raise the cost of home building projects,” the National Association of Homebuilders’ Kevin Kelly said Tuesday. “… Today’s House vote sends a strong message to the EPA to go back to the drawing board to find a common-sense middle ground plan that will maintain environmental safeguards and protect landowners from unnecessary regulation.”

“Passage of H.R. 5078 isn’t just a clear rejection of the overreach that lies in the EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. rule,” the American Farm Bureau Federation said in a statement after the bill passed. “Today’s action is an unmistakable signal that the tide is turning against those who ignore the constitutional separation of powers in the United States. We will ditch this rule.”

Separation of powers and federal encroachment were clearly on the mind of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), who titled his legislation the “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act.”

“For more than 40 years, America’s waters have been made cleaner and safer by a balanced regulatory partnership between the states and the federal government. The basis for this partnership was a commonsense understanding that not all waters are subject to federal jurisdiction, and that the states must have the primary responsibility for regulating waters within their own boundaries,” Southerland said from the House floor Tuesday.

“But now, decades of success have been put at risk under the guise of ‘clarifying’ the scope of the federal jurisdiction. Under its proposed rules, federal agencies like the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers would see their regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act drastically expanded to the point of covering almost any body of water throughout America — from ditches to culverts to pipes to watersheds to farmland ponds.”

Those environmentalists who view the government as a just arbiter of land use issues weren’t happy with the vote.

Salon’s Lindsay Abrams characterized the bill’s robust GOP support as “hysterical rhetoric” and accused Republicans of “twisting” a benign, much-needed clarification of policy language into an election-year issue to politically isolate rural-state Democrats.

For more on what the bill actually says, just check it out.

Commissioner Koskinen Says IRS Tries To Follow The Law ‘Whenever We Can’

Take comfort in knowing that, just as you only try to follow federal tax law “whenever you can,” the agency that collects and enforces those same laws is right there with you.

What? You always follow federal tax law because you don’t have much of a choice? Never mind then — the IRS hasn’t got anything in common with you.

At a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing today, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the panel the IRS sometimes does what the law prescribes. “Whenever we can, we follow the law,” said Koskinen, prompting a quick retort from Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), according to The Hill: ““I encourage you to follow the law in all instances.”

Koskinen’s remarks came amid a barrage of questions about how the IRS will manage to ensure that everyone who’s required to report their healthcare coverage information to the agency this tax season will provide accurate information. It’s a crucial point: The Obama administration has missed the mark repeatedly in assurances about deadlines, premium costs, the security of patient information and the expediency of incorporating insurance verification into the annual tax-filing gauntlet.

Healthcare.gov’s Andy Slavitt faced questions about such concerns, with House members pointing out the website was recently reported to have been hacked — just one of several serious rollout failings that have engendered, in Slavitt’s own words, a “trust gap” between congressional overseers and the public on one hand, and the Obama administration on the other.

Wednesday’s hearing came only a few days after another potential IRS scandal-within-a-scandal emerged, when a Department of Justice spokesman reportedly called Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) office by mistake in an attempt to drum up some help on how to continue shaping the IRS narrative in its ongoing political discrimination scandal involving conservative nonprofits. Issa is chair of the House Oversight Committee, which has an ongoing investigation into the scandal.

“Apparently thinking he had reached the office of Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) [Cummings is on the House Oversight Committee], [DOJ spokesman Brian] Fallon said the department wanted congressional staffers to get documents to selected reporters so that officials could comment on them ‘before the majority’ did,” The Hill reported Tuesday.

“After Issa spokesman Frederick Hill replied that Oversight Committee staffers would have to examine those documents first, the line went silent, and Fallon placed the call on hold for three minutes.

“When he returned to the line, Fallon was ‘audibly shaken,’ according to an account of the conversation that Issa recounts in a letter sent to [Attorney General Eric] Holder.”

You can read the letter Issa sent to Holder following that incident here.

Every Day They’re Unemployed, More Jobless People Go Shopping Than Look For Work

Looking for a job — especially when jobs are hard to find — is a drag. But shopping’s fun. And because so many people in the U.S. can live funded and jobless at the same time, more of them are spending their days buying stuff — not even necessary stuff — than looking for work.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey (ATUS), unemployed people from 2009 through 2013 spent more time shopping for nonessential goods on a daily basis than hunting for a job or following up on invitations to job interviews.

From CNS News, which recently crunched the BLS’ survey numbers:

Only 18.9 percent of Americans who were unemployed (in surveys conducted from 2009 through 2013) spent time in job search and interviewing activities on an average day, according to BLS. Yet 40.8 percent of the unemployed did some kind of shopping on the average day — either in a store, by telephone, or on the Internet. 22.5 percent of the unemployed, according to BLS, were shopping for items other than groceries, food and gas.

The upshot, then, is that 22.5 percent of unemployed Americans shopped for stuff other than gas and groceries, while only 18.9 percent looked for work. Unemployed Americans also spent 9.24 hours per day, on average, sleeping and 5.93 hours per day on leisure and social activities.

Statistics released by the Census Bureau last month revealed that 110 million Americans — more than 35 percent of the population of the United States — are now receiving some form of means-tested welfare from the government. Add in Medicare and Social Security, and that number jumps above 150 million, or just under half the U.S. population.

As Cato Institute fellow Michael Tanner recently observed, the present surge in welfare benefits is a legacy of presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “[T]he growing welfare caseload cannot be blamed solely on President Obama,” Tanner wrote in National Review.

“True, the number of people on welfare has increased by 12.5 million since he took office. But welfare also increased during the Bush administration: The proportion of households receiving SNAP (food stamps), TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), or SSI (Supplemental Security Income for the disabled) increased 36 percent during his presidency.”

VA Officials Allowed To Influence Inspector General Report To Downplay Alleged Role In Patient Deaths

A draft of an Inspector General’s report on a Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital was modified to include softer language absolving VA officials of any alleged role in causing delays that may have contributed to patient deaths — but only after the draft, without that benign language, had been submitted to VA administrators and then released to the public.

The Washington Examiner reported on the “crucial” omission Monday, noting that agency officials succeeded in effecting revisions to the version of the IG report that went public — evidently in an attempt to avoid the criticism that might have followed if the public had reviewed the harsher, final version.

“The single most compelling sentence in the inspector general’s 143-page final report on fraudulent scheduling practices at the Phoenix veterans’ hospital did not appear in the draft version, according to a staff analysis by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs,” wrote the Examiner.

“It was inserted into the final version, the only one that was released to the public, after agency officials had a chance to comment and recommend revisions.”

That meaning of that sentence revolves on the omission of a passage that proclaimed the IG could not “conclusively” prove that Phoenix VA officials’ delays had led to anyone dying:

While the case reviews in this report document poor quality of care, we are unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans.

“No such language appears in the draft version that was sent by the IG to agency officials for comment,” the Examiner reported.

That means the higher-ups in the VA thought the draft of the report was too damning, and they persuaded the IG to dress it up for their benefit. The IG had already concluded that the Phoenix VA had falsified appointment logs to conceal the delays in patient care.

Government Jacks The Cost Of Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

The State Department is about to quintuple the cost for renouncing U.S. citizenship, even as the number of Americans who voluntarily abrogate their relationship with the Unites States continues to surge. Talk about an inversion of the concept of supply and demand.

Even as the number of people renouncing their U.S. citizenship is on pace to exceed 4,000 this year, setting a new record in the process, the government is taking steps to get one last ounce of money from each soon-to-be ex-citizen in the bargain. 

Yahoo News reports that the State Department this week is hiking the price of renunciation from $450 to $2,350 — evidently in an attempt to create an incentive for tax-weary Americans to think twice before severing their formal commitment to their country. It’s perhaps an interesting footnote to mention that, before 2010, renouncing one’s U.S. citizenship didn’t cost a cent

In 2013, 2,999 people renounced their citizenship, obliterating the next-highest annual number, 1,781, who walked away from U.S. citizenship in 2011. 

Unsurprisingly, the chief reason for cutting ties seems to focus on the way the U.S. government requires its citizens to report (and pay taxes on) the wealth they generate in other countries. The U.S. and Eritrea are the only countries in the world that tax their citizens on everything they earn, whether it’s earned at home or abroad. Too, the record-setting number of freshly minted expatriates coincides with a general surge in the American tax burden. 

“[T]the most likely cause appears to be the Obama-era crackdown on U.S. citizens hiding wealth overseas,” observes Yahoo News:

From 2001 to 2008, 3,937 people who had lived on U.S. soil for at least eight years either renounced their citizenship or gave up lawful permanent resident status, according to Andrew Mitchel, an international tax attorney in Centerbrook, Connecticut, who tracks the figures closely.

From January 2009 to the quarter ending June 30, 2014, the number rose to 9,566, according to a Yahoo News analysis of the figures published on a quarterly basis by the Internal Revenue Service.

The rise has coincided with a campaign that has scooped up about $6 billion in taxes, interest and penalties from more than 40,000 U.S. taxpayers since 2009.

Government policies to quell expatriation have increasingly targeted the wealthy. New renouncers have to pay what amounts to an “exit tax” — one “predicated on the legal fiction that you sell all of your worldwide property at its fair market value on the day before you expatriate,” according to liberty blogger Mark Nestmann.

Currently, the threshold for the “exit tax” stands at $2 million in global net worth and the long-term fulfillment of a couple of tax liability prerequisites before you renounce. 

If you’re interested, here’s what the government has to say to those thinking about renouncing their citizenship. But before you round up $2,350 and head to a U.S. consulate, read this first.  

America’s Labor Force Is Becoming Less Flexible As Government Becomes More Intrusive

It’s getting harder and harder to get hired into a legitimate job, as municipal, state and federal regulations continue to chip away at the incentive for ambitious individuals to seek a profit – or for job seekers (particularly low-skilled ones) to pursue employment.

That’s a sentence that could have been written decades ago, but the present gauntlet of licensing and regulation (on the startup side), as well as the increasingly rigorous employee vetting process (on the labor side) have clouded the United States’ once-flexible labor environment so that it’s coming to resemble Europe’s or Japan’s.

That’s the conclusion of Steven Davis and John Haltwanger, two American researchers who presented some of their findings to Fed chair Janet Yellen and her European counterparts at an economic conference last month in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They point to the ongoing ossification of America’s once-fluid labor force, as well as an ever-escalating government regulatory threshold that makes entry into the ranks of the employed more difficult than it’s ever been.

From an analysis of their research in The Economist:

Some of this may be down to structural changes in the economy…But less benign forces are also at work. The spread of occupational licensing, for everything from horse massage to hair braiding, has raised barriers to entry for occupations that once required little or no training. American employers used to be free to sack workers more or less as they pleased, but that “employment at will” doctrine has been eroded somewhat by court decisions that have established an implicit contract between employee and employer. That makes firms less likely to fire people, and therefore to hire them. The authors also finger the information revolution: a job applicant these days could be undone by a criminal record, a poor credit history or even an impolitic Facebook posting, all of which are easy to find online.

On the labor side, that trend is particularly harmful to young, low-skilled job seekers – mostly male. “All this…could explain why the employment rate (the share of the population with jobs) has fallen so much for less educated men in recent decades,” notes The Economist. “[P]olicymakers should not try to increase turnover for its own sake, but rather remove artificial barriers that trap workers in poorly paid, insecure jobs.”

The advent of mandatory, portable, one-size-fits-all health insurance (Obamacare) was supposed to represent the removal of one such barrier, but nothing the government does to improve people’s lives occurs in a vacuum. “In America, Obamacare could improve fluidity by making it easier for employees to change jobs without losing health insurance,” the analysis observes.

“But it could also expand the ranks of part-time workers by requiring employers to provide insurance only for full-time ones. That is something America’s bifurcating job market could do without.”