Obama Rolls Out Pen And Phone Today To Take On ‘Income Inequality’

President Barack Obama’s announced pen-and-phone gambit in January may have simply been his way of telling people how he’s planning to use his position to help set up Congressional Democrats for re-election in 2014.

This week, Obama will bring his power of executive order to bear in two anticipated actions that both focus on a favorite election-season talking point for Democrats: income inequality.

Obama is expected to sign an executive order today requiring the Department of Labor to establish new regulations that force Federal contractors to give the government detailed information about the demographic makeup of the employees they pay — including information about employees’ race and gender as a function of how much they’re paid.

In February, Obama issued an executive order requiring Federal contractors to pay their employees a minimum of $10.10 per hour as the first of several promised White House initiatives this year intended to whittle away at income inequality, which Obama has identified as a societal problem that progressivists in the Democratic Party are especially qualified to solve.

Obama is also expected to sign an executive order today that forbids Federal contractors from reprimanding employees who publicly discuss their pay.

The signings, announced to media ahead of April 8 in anticipation of “Equal Pay Day.” Every year since 1996, the National Committee on Pay Equity estimates how much longer women must work into the new year in order to earn the same amount of compensation that men earned by the close of the previous year.

“The White House did not respond Monday to questions about whether it will issue a report dissecting how men and women, or a variety of racial groups, fare in its salary pool,” reported David Martosko of the Daily Mail. “That may be because 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has never paid the same levels of earnings to men and women — not even in the current administration.”

According to an analysis by The Daily Caller of last year’s Report to Congress on White House Staff, the Obama Administration paid females 11.8 percent less than males in 2013 — an improvement over the previous year, when female staffers were paid 18 percent less.

 

Ft. Hood Mom Questions Logic Of Gun-Free Bases

“Well for one thing, they’re trained. They know rules of engagement; we send them off to war, they have their guns, they come home, and then they’re taken away from them on their homes bases. They can’t defend their family, their coworkers; they can’t defend themselves.”

Those are the word of Lynda Voyles-Konecny, the mother of an enlisted son who was reportedly only 100 feet from Ivan Lopez, the man who killed three people at Ft. Hood, Texas last week before killing himself.

Voyles-Konecny sat down with WHNT-TV in Huntsville, Ala. over the weekend to discuss the logic of denying servicemen access to weapons while on base. Here’s a link to the story, which includes a video interview.

“They started describing the buildings where these things were going on,” said Voyles-Konecny, who said she and her family all have legal concealed-carry permits. “I knew exactly where my son was and where the shooter was because I’ve been at Fort Hood…I’m in a better position to defend my family than he is, and that’s a shame.”

Mike Lee: End Washington Cronysim – But First, End GOP Cronyism

Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) had a guest column online today at National Review, calling for his party peers to take a stand against the corporate welfare and “crony capitalism” that permeated Washington politics before the Obama era, and has accelerated, at the acquiescence of both parties, since.

“From the stimulus to cash-for-clunkers, from the bailouts to cap-and-trade, from Dodd-Frank to Obamacare, every name-brand initiative of the Obama era has distorted public policy to privilege well-connected insiders and elites at the expense of taxpayers and consumers,” wrote Lee.

“The Right’s [recent] resistance to corporatism is a welcome development. Special-interest favoritism represents a uniquely malignant threat to the economic, political, and social ecosystem that makes America exceptional.”

That’s all well and good, he argues – but it’s difficult to ask for the public’s trust when it’s clear that cronyism existed within the Republican Party before Obama came to Washington, and that internal resistance to change the culture is as strong within the ranks of the GOP as it is with Washington in general.

Obamanomics has delivered record corporate profits but sagging middle-class wages and an anemic, jobless recovery. It has promoted and exacerbated inequality. It has isolated the poor and squeezed the middle class.

It has also exposed the president’s party to extreme political vulnerability.

But to seize this opportunity — to fix what’s broken in Washington and our economy — a still-distrusted GOP first must end cronyism in our own ranks. The GOP has to close its branch of the Beltway Favor Bank and truly embrace a free-enterprise economy of, by, and for the people.

Impossible? That’s what they said about earmarks.

Too radical a change? These are principles we already espouse.

Imagine a reformed Republican party seizing the moral high ground against political corruption and economic dysfunction. Imagine its leaders, advocating populist, free-market reforms to restore jobs, growth, and fairness to the economy. Faster than you can say “TARP,” we could pin the Left between their egalitarian facade and their elitist agenda, and force them to choose between K Street and Main Street.

That Republican party could not only unify and excite conservatives, but appeal to hardworking families in the purple and blue communities that President Obama’s special-interest favoritism is leaving behind.

Lee then offers a litmus test to determine the GOP’s sincerity when it comes to changing the party’s furtive policy tie-ins with corporate benefactors: whether Congress will renew its authorization of the Federal Export Import Bank (or “Ex-Im” Bank), which uses American tax dollars to subsidize loans to American exporters.

“Most of the benefits go to large corporations that are perfectly capable of securing private financing anywhere in the world,” wrote Lee. “In short, Congress allows the Ex-Im Bank to unnecessarily risk taxpayer money to subsidize well-connected private companies… Whether the beneficiaries of particular Ex-Im Bank loan guarantees are respected, successful companies like Boeing or crony basket cases like Solyndra is irrelevant.”

If Congressional Republicans keep mum when the Ex-Im reauthorization comes up this summer, Lee says it’ll be a sure sign that all the GOP talk about ending cronyism on Capitol Hill is just so much sound and fury for the TV cameras.

For some context on Lee’s capacity for sincerity, though, it’s perhaps helpful to remember that Lee had no problem letting his mortgage bank eat the losses on a short sale of his Utah home to a friend and campaign donor back in 2011, not long after he was elected to the Senate.

Amateurs Who Read News On The Internet Predict World Events Better Than CIA

It may not surprise you, but a consortium of assiduous, conscientious amateurs can better predict the future of human affairs on Earth — for a fraction of the cost — than the CIA can.

The Good Judgment Project (GJP), an endeavor that uses the Internet to link 3,000 unpaid news followers from various walks of life, has managed to accurately anticipate global trends and events more accurately than state-sanctioned, state-funded intelligence agencies like the CIA.

From a recent Reason report:

Elaine Rich is a pharmacist in her 60s. She and a team of 3,000 other amateur forecasters in the Good Judgment Project (GJP) use Google to keep current on the news. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employs over 20,000 professionals, operates with an annual budget north of $14 billion, and has access to oodles of classified information.

Which of these groups is better at predicting world affairs?

When it comes to “everything from Venezuelan gas subsidies to North Korean politics,” reports National Public Radio (NPR), amateurs outperform the pros. Rich, in particular, has “been put on a special team with other superforecasters whose predictions are reportedly 30 percent better than intelligence officers.”

GJP originated as one of several competitors in a government-sponsored “forecasting tournament” that challenges teams to devise their own methods to most effectively predict world events. That competition has been going since 2011, and is currently setting up for its final year.

If you’re interested — and this is by no means an endorsement either of GJP or the competition itself — you can even participate. GJP says having a college degree might be helpful, but it isn’t as important as “a curiosity about how well you make predictions about world events.”

Hillary Can’t Remember A Single Accomplishment From Her State Department Tenure

In an effort to answer a simple question Thursday about her accomplishments as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton stammered her way into one of the great non-answers for which she’s famous.

Speaking with an interviewer at the Women of the World Summit in New York, Clinton was asked:

“When you look at your time as Secretary of State, what are you most proud of? And what do you feel was unfinished, and maybe have another crack at one day?”

Her answer was lengthy, but it did not contain one word that acknowledged the question set before her:

Well, I really see — that was good — that’s why he wins prizes. Look, I really see my role as Secretary, in fact leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race. When you run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton. Some of what hasn’t been finished may go on to be finished, so when President Obama asked me to be Secretary of State I agreed.

…We had the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we had two wars. We had continuing threats from all kinds of corners around the world that we had to deal with. So it was a perilous time frankly. What he said to me was, ‘Look, I have to be dealing with the economic crisis, I want you to go out and represent us around the world.’ And it was a good division of labor because we needed to make it clear to the rest of the world, that we were going to get our house in order. We were going to stimulate, and grow, and get back to positive growth and work with our friends and partners.

 

EPA Conducted Toxin Tests On Human Subjects Without Disclosing The Health Risks

Reports emerged Wednesday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, in recent years, carried out tests of dangerous pollutants on human subjects without fully disclosing the risks — even as it sought “informed” consent from the participants.

According to The Daily Caller News Foundation, the EPA conducted a series of experiments in 2010 and 2011 intended to assess how exposure to particulate matter from diesel exhaust affected human health. But the agency did not consistently disclose the risks associated with exposure to diesel particulate matter (PM), even though some test subjects came into the test with respiratory illnesses like asthma and heart disease.

The Daily Caller’s report drew information from a copy of the EPA Inspector General’s report on human testing practices, which The Daily Caller obtained last week:

These experiments exposed people, including those with asthma and heart problems, to dangerously high levels of toxic pollutants, including diesel fumes… The EPA also exposed people with health issues to levels of pollutants up to 50 times greater than the agency says is safe for humans.

The EPA conducted five experiments in 2010 and 2011 to look at the health effects of particulate matter, or PM, and diesel exhaust on humans. The IG’s report found that the EPA did get consent forms from 81 people in five studies. But the IG also found that “exposure risks were not always consistently represented.”

“Further, the EPA did not include information on long-term cancer risks in its diesel exhaust studies’ consent forms,” the IG’s report noted. “An EPA manager considered these long-term risks minimal for short-term study exposures” but “human subjects were not informed of this risk in the consent form.”

According to the IG’s report, “only one of five studies’ consent forms provided the subject with information on the upper range of the pollutant” they would be exposed to, but even more alarming is that only “two of five alerted study subjects to the risk of death for older individuals with cardiovascular disease.”

Crucially, the Inspector General’s report also observed the inherent hypocrisy in the EPA’s unethical use of human subjects without informing them of the health-related risks they’d be facing. “This lack of warning about PM is also different from the EPA’s public image about PM,” the document states.

And how’s this for understatement:

The EPA’s diesel exhaust studies did not include language about the long-term cancer risks of diesel exhaust… [E]vidence suggests that at least some human study subjects would like to know if a study involves risk of death, even if the risk is very small.

What does the “P” in “EPA” stand for again?

Charles Koch Doesn’t Sound Like A Guy Who’s Playing Defense

After weeks of flogging from the progressive left, and with months more to come, libertarian oil mogul Charles Koch poked his head out of the ground yesterday to pen an opinion column for The Wall Street Journal. He struck a tone that didn’t sound defensive, nor did it sound particularly aggressive. It simply sounded like the opinion of a man who’s confident in his beliefs.

Despite daily beratings from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who in recent weeks has developed a near-fetishistic public enthrallment with the evil Koch brothers, Koch’s piece focuses less on self-defense and more on explaining why hand-holding government (Koch repeatedly refers to our present government as “collectivists”) has positioned itself as the average American’s chief obstruction to prosperity and self-determination.

Koch never mentions Reid, or any of his other progressive critics, by name. He doesn’t mention President Barack Obama, either — and the tone of his piece implies that his concern over the present state of American politics transcends whoever’s in the Oval Office at the moment.

Instead, Koch contrasts the nanny-state government we have with a government that serves to foster individual liberty. And he explains that he’s only recently seen a need to expand on Koch Industries’ long history of funding educational outreach by throwing his money into the political sphere.

Here are some highlights:

Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles. I have been doing so for more than 50 years, primarily through educational efforts. It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to also engage in the political process.

… The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.

More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson warned that this could happen… Collectivists…promise heaven but deliver hell. For them, the promised end justifies the means.

…[Character assassination] is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society — and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.

… Rather than try to understand my vision for a free society or accurately report the facts about Koch Industries, our critics would have you believe we’re “un-American” and trying to “rig the system,” that we’re against “environmental protection” or eager to “end workplace safety standards.” These falsehoods remind me of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Koch goes on to list many of the benefits to society a well-run capitalist enterprise, operating on free-market principles, can produce. Most of those highlights focus not on his or his brother’s (or their father’s) personal achievements. Rather, Koch talks about the diversity of his 60,000-member workforce (one-third of the company’s U.S. employees are union members!) and how he tries to apply his own principles in the operation of his company — even when declining a government handout affects the bottom line.

“Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs — even when we benefit from them. I believe that cronyism is nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful, and should be abolished,” he wrote.

“If more businesses (and elected officials) were to embrace a vision of creating real value for people in a principled way, our nation would be far better off — not just today, but for generations to come. I’m dedicated to fighting for that vision. I’m convinced most Americans believe it’s worth fighting for, too.”

Texas Man Freed After Video Evidence Shows Arresting Cop Lied To Secure Jail Time

Ronald Jones, a Dallas man caught between a malicious police officer and his destination one December night in 2009, went to jail for more than a year after Dallas cop Matthew Antkowiak fabricated a story that seemed to support an aggravated assault charge.

Now Jones is free, and $1.1 million richer, after settling a lawsuit against the city in which video evidence taken from the police cruiser – evidence which wasn’t presented at the time of Jones’ incarceration – shows that every word of Antkowiak’s allegation against the 62 year-old man was false.

Jones, who is black, was set to face trial for allegedly attacking Antkowiak and possessing a crack pipe after the officer, en route to an unrelated call involving two white suspects, spotted him on foot and stopped him. But it was Antkowiak who not only attacked Jones, but also apparently arranged to have the cruiser’s camera turned off long enough to obscure discovery of the alleged crack pipe.

Jones was obviously a confused pedestrian who never saw any of it coming.

According to WFAA in Dallas, Jones’ attorney requested the dash cam footage and revealed its contents only a day before Jones was set to face trial:

“Mr. Jones is walking down the street. Doesn’t fit the description at all,” said his attorney, Don Tittle.

The officer claimed Jones was throwing beer cans, so he pulled him over to arrest him.

“From there, he pulls one of Mr. Jones’ arms up very aggressively and Mr. Jones turns around to see what is going on and why was he being placed under arrest, and from there it goes,” Tittle said.

The officer took Jones to the ground and hit him a few times. The two struggled as more officers arrived.

Two dash camera videos obtained by News 8 show multiple officers on top of Jones; one officer is seen kicking him several times.

Jones’ attorney [said] the 62-year-old client was crying for help.

In his report, Officer Antkowiak stated that Jones “…took his right hand and grabbed the officer by his throat, choking him and lifting him off the ground.”

But take a closer look at the dash camera video; it’s Antkowiak who is on top of Jones, choking him.

In his official report, Officer Antkowiak also claimed that Jones “kicked him in the testicles and groin area, while still choking him.”

But that never happens on video.

Jones’ attorney says on the second dash camera video, the officer is asked to turn off the camera. Then the officers said they found a crack pipe and claimed Jones was intoxicated.

The city awarded Jones the $1.1 million settlement in late March.  On the strength of the video evidence, which came to light in 2011, the DA dropped all charges against Jones. Antkowiak resigned in disgrace, but no other officers were disciplined. According to WFAA, police chief David Brown said the city agreed to settle with Jones only because “focus groups told them they would lose the case” in the resulting lawsuit.

House Oversight Committee To Hold Contempt Vote For Lerner

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Thursday the Committee will hold a vote next week to determine whether to hold Lois Lerner in contempt for refusing to share what she knows about the IRS political discrimination scandal that came to light last year.

The contempt vote is scheduled for Thursday of next week.

Issa, who has pursued the IRS scandal without heed for critics who claim his motives proceed from party politics, flatly described Lerner Thursday as a willing participant in the IRS’ discriminatory stonewalling of competing conservative nonprofit groups during President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.

“Ms. Lerner’s involvement in wrongdoing and refusal to meet her legal obligations has left the Committee with no alternative but to consider a contempt finding,” he said.

Lerner, a former IRS employee who oversaw the agency’s exempt organizations division until she resigned in disgrace, has steadfastly maintained she is protected under the 5th Amendment, even though she gave an opening statement in which she declared innocence of wrongdoing in her first appearance before the committee.

Last month, it appeared that Lerner was close to an agreement in which she might receive immunity in exchange for her testimony. But her attorney squelched the idea only a day before she was set to face the Committee again.

If the Oversight Committee does vote to find Lerner in contempt for refusing to testify, the Committee’s finding will proceed to the full House. If Lerner is found to be in contempt of Congress, she faces a misdemeanor charge that carries possible fines of up to $100,000 and possible jail time ranging from a month up to a year.

How Do You Deny Saying Something When It’s On Video? Ask Harry Reid

To every observer but the Senate Majority Leader himself, last week was a bad one for Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Already attempting to quiet allegations of malfeasance in a Las Vegas land deal involving his son’s law firm, Reid face a fresh round of controversy after news broke last week that his campaign had given $17,000 to his granddaughter for “holiday gifts.”

That story was later updated to reveal Reid had actually given his granddaughter nearly double that amount over the past two years, and that he’d conveniently decided to reimburse the missing campaign funds only one hour after independent Nevada journalist Jon Ralston first posted the story to his website.

Reid also warmed the hearts of Obamacare holdouts everywhere last week when he insinuated that enrollment numbers were lagging because people — particularly elderly ones — aren’t competent Internet users.

Against that general backdrop, Reid, whose public non sequiturs have grown more agitated than usual of late, took to the Senate floor to shake his fist at empirical truth.

Some of Reid’s Republican adversaries had begun to question him over a particular tactic he’d used to defend Obamacare in late February: telling his Senate peers that Obamacare “horror” stories of denied care and spiked premiums were made-up, false, phony, baseless, politically motivated lies.

Of course, Reid used the two best examples he could find — cases featured in TV ads funded by the evil, very bad Koch brothers — while neglecting the many legitimate examples of Obamacare “horror” stories in heavy rotation on local television stations and in newspapers across the country.

The Republicans questioned why Reid would accuse them of lying about events that are well documented.

Reid said… well, he said he never said any of that.

“I have never come to the floor — to my recollection, I’ve never said a word about examples that Republicans have given regarding Obamacare and how it’s not very good,” he said Wednesday from the Senate floor (where he’d originally said exactly what he was attempting to deny).

“Mr. President, the junior Senator from Wyoming has come to the floor several times recently, talking about the fact that examples that he and others Republicans have given dealing with Obamacare — examples that are bad — I’ve called ‘lies.’ Mr. President, that is simply untrue.”

Well, here y’go:

Here are Reid’s transcribed remarks from Feb. 26 — one month before his adamant denial — taken straight from the Congressional Record:

… [T]here are plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue, but they are being told all over America.

The leukemia patient whose insurance policy was canceled and would die without her medication — Mr. President, that is an ad being paid for by two billionaire brothers that is absolutely false; or the woman whose insurance policy went up $700 a month — ads paid for around America by the multibillionaire Koch brothers, and the ad is false.

We heard about the evils of Obamacare, about the lives it is ruining in the Republican stump speeches and in ads paid for by oil magnates, the Koch brothers.

But those tales turned out to be just that — tales, stories made up from whole cloth, lies, distorted by the Republicans to grab headlines or make political advertisements.

EBONY Apologizes For Editor’s Racist Tweets

Yesterday, EBONY magazine’s senior editor initiated a race skirmish against Republican National Committee deputy press secretary Rafi Williams, son of liberal political analyst Juan Williams, and threw fuel on the fire by mistaking him for a white man.

The whole thing was ignorant, intolerant and, loathe though we are to admit it, likely a huge (if perverse) publicity boost for Jamilah Lemieux, the EBONY editor who lit up twitter by comparing Williams and other conservatives to hungry cockroaches.

If you aren’t aware of all that, here’s our article, which includes all of Lemieux’s race-baiting tweets.

Thankfully, her employers at EBONY didn’t double down to defend her debate-stifling prejudices. Instead, they issued an apology that pulls no punches on where the magazine stands when it comes to free discourse.

Here’s their statement, which you can also read at EBONY’s website.

EBONY founder John H. Johnson once said that he created EBONY magazine with the intention to affirm a certain sense of “somebodiness” for African Americans. Nearly 70 years ago the magazine began on the principle that, as Black people, we are all somebody — we all count.

Yesterday, the spirit of this mission was disregarded by EBONY.com Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux in a personal Twitter exchange between herself and RNC Deputy Press Secretary Raffi Williams. In part of the exchange, Lemieux responded to an attempt at discourse from Williams with words that curtly dismissed him and his suggestion that she be interested in the “diversity of thought.” She also misidentified him, unintentionally, as White. Williams is Black.

EBONY strongly believes in the marketplace of ideas. As the magazine of record for the African American community, Lemieux’s tweets in question do not represent our journalistic standard, tradition or practice of celebrating diverse Black thought.

In a letter to EBONY from RNC President Reince Priebus, he suggests, “that we can use this unfortunate episode as a catalyst for greater understanding between the Republican Party and the black community.”

EBONY acknowledges Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux’s lack of judgment on her personal Twitter account and apologizes to Raffi Williams and the Black Republican community.

Bill Authorizing Government To Define Legitimate Journalism A Political Albatross For RINOs, Democrats

Another attempt from Congressional Democrats to define the media faces a shaky future. If Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) is right, the so-called media “shield law” bill, which essentially segments application of the 1st Amendment to lock out citizen journalists while favoring members of the media establishment, will never see a floor vote – even though it has been awaiting action since last September.

The Free Flow of Information Act, which in its original version died in the 110th Congress, is designed to codify who is (and who isn’t) protected from subpoenas, as well as who can be compelled to reveal their sources in court. Supported by media companies and opposed by bloggers, the bill seeks, for the first time, to augment 1st Amendment guarantees of free speech by affording card-carrying journalists the right to refuse to testify against sources, while denying independent reporters from all walks of life that same protection.

The bill is co-authored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindesey Graham (R-S.C.), which probably tells you all you need to know. Schumer said last week the measure could come up for a Senate vote at any time, boasting that “we have the 60 votes” needed for passage.

Cornyn scoffed at that assertion this week, telling Breitbart Schumer doesn’t have that kind of support for the vote – and he knows it:

He’s bluffing, Cornyn retorts.

“If he had the votes to pass it, it already would have been passed,” Cornyn says, adding, “This isn’t about passing legislation, this is about distracting the public’s attention and changing the subject from the failed policies of this administration. I think you could put this in that same category.”

“…They want to pick and choose which journalists are covered,” the Texan Republican told Breitbart News. “In other words, if you’re a blogger they might not cover you, but if you work for the New York Times they might. Given the changes in the way we get information and the way we consume news, that really smacks to me in essence of government licensing who’s an official ‘journalist’ for the purposes of a shield law and who’s not. If there is one thing I can glean from the First Amendment, it is that government should not be in the business of licensing the news media.”

That’s a hard argument to rebut on the merits, and involving government in the business of defining its watchers doesn’t make good political sense, either.

Indeed, in a midterm election year in which embattled Democrats and their moderate GOP peers need a rallying point to ensure they hang on to their incumbencies, it’s a puzzling political strategy to push legislation that offends the sensibilities of a public already fed up with near-daily revelations of government infringements on their civil liberties.

Cornyn said he believes Senators who support the bill are clearly placing short-term, pet-issue politics ahead of both big-picture political strategizing and the good of the American people.

“Cornyn believes the bill’s timing – and the administration’s backing of it – appears to be aimed at alleviating criticism of the Justice Department’s secret attainment of Associated Press phone conversations and the administration’s similar actions against Fox News’ James Rosen, among other media targeting,” Breitbart reports.

“You remember when this [bill] was recently resurrected? It was essentially an attempt to deflect… from the Department of Justice and this administration… the criticism they were taking [from] James Rosen and other traditional journalists. So, I really question the timing of all of this,” Cornyn said.

White House Releases Propagandist Video Of Michelle Obama Doing Something Great In China

First Lady Michelle Obama locked the press out of her extravagant trip to China on the public dime. But she was fine with spending quite a few public dimes on pieces of propaganda like this, which summarize whatever portion of her trip the White House deems appropriate for people to know about.

Compare that with video propaganda from another nation whose head of state keeps a tight grip on how he’s perceived. Even though Kim Jong-un is posing for an inferior camera and the post production is sketchy, the point of each clip is pretty much the same.

The White House YouTube page entices viewers to “go behind the scenes with First Lady Michelle Obama” on her China trip. Whatever, man – this 1:44 video clip offers a hell of a lot more access than any independent photographer got.

All hail this world’s incredible Supreme Leaders.

H/T: Weasel Zippers, for pointing out the similarity.

CBO: Interest Alone On U.S. Debt To Close In On $1 Trillion Within The Next 10 Years

The latest analysis from the Congressional Budget Office reveals that the interest on existing and projected U.S. debt is on track to approach $1 trillion over the next decade.

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee, posted this infographic to demonstrate how the interest on the Federal debt alone stacks up against every major Federal appropriations expenditure in 2014:

CBO---Interests-Costs-To-Dwarf-Virtually-Every-Federal-Expense

As the graphic shows, ten years’ worth of interest payments on projected U.S. debt is nearly 50 times greater than the money our government will spend on the space program in 2014. In fact, it’s almost four times greater than the Federal government will spend this year on every major appropriations-funded program. CBO estimates a cumulative interest load of $880 billion by 2024; for perspective, the current Federal debt stands at approximately $17.5 trillion, with an estimated 2014 interest payment of $230 billion.

IPCC Takes A Small Step Back From Climate Change Gloom And Doom

It’s nothing close to a sea change, but it appears that the forthcoming United Nations report from its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will reflect, at least in its economic data set, a toned-down version of the alarmist, world-wrecking global warming propaganda for which the IPCC has become infamous.

Real-world events, coupled with the passage of time, have left the IPCC little choice but to grudgingly acknowledge, in as face-saving a way as is possible, that its predictions concerning the economic costs of man-made global warming have been pessimistically high.

According to a leaked draft of the IPCC report, due for release later this month, the global economic toll of weather-related events attributable (by the IPCC) to anthropogenic climate change has been ratcheted down from an estimate of 5 percent to 20 percent of world gross domestic product to somewhere between .2 percent and 2 percent.

“If the lower estimate is correct, then all it would take is an annual growth rate of 2.4 percent (currently it’s around 3 percent) for the economic costs of climate change to be wiped out within a month,” observed Breitbart‘s Nick Hallett Wednesday. “This admission by the IPCC will come as a huge blow to those alarmists — notably the Stern Review’s author but also including everyone from the Prince of Wales to Al Gore — who argues that costly intervention now is our only hope if we are to stave off the potentially disastrous effects of climate change.”

The flipside of this news is that the IPCC isn’t likely to stress the change in the part of its report that matters most: the Summary for Policymakers. The Summary is far more widely read — and cited by global warming apologists in government — than any of the data that underpins the Summary’s opinionated findings.

That has irked one of the IPCC report’s lead authors, who this week requested the panel remove his name from the summary document because of its inflated, “four hoursemen of the Apocalypse” tone.

“The message in the first draft was that through adaptation and clever development these were manageable risks, but it did require we get our act together. This has completely disappeared from the draft now, which is all about the impacts of climate change and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This is a missed opportunity,” wrote Richard Tol, a University of Sussex economist who served as lead author on report’s chapter economic impacts section.

House Oversight Growing Impatient With IRS’s Sluggish Response To Tea Party Inquiry

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee investigating the Internal Revenue Service-Tea Party discrimination scandal are all but threatening contempt charges if top IRS officials don’t stop stonewalling the Committee’s request to hand over former Exempt Organizations director Lois Lerner’s emails.

Current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has balked at the blanket request, telling the Committee it would take years for the agency to comb through Lerner’s old correspondence and redact sensitive information concerning taxpayers. Besides, he argued Wednesday, the Oversight Committee has all the important stuff already.

“What they want is something that’s going to take years to produce,” he told the panel. “… You may want to have this investigation go on forever. We have provided you all the emails relevant.” Koskinen went on to say he didn’t expect the agency would able to produce all of Lerner’s emails, as well as those of other IRS employees with possible ties to the scandal, before the end of this year (or, in other words, until after the November midterm elections).

Determining whether potential evidence is relevant isn’t part of the IRS commissioner’s job, shot back Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

“What part of ‘all’ don’t you and the IRS understand?” he asked Koskinen. “We don’t care what you think is irrelevant. … We don’t want the excuses anymore. Prioritize them.”

Through its chief counsel, the House also released a memo Wednesday asserting that Lerner, who has continued to withhold testimony under her controversial invocation of her 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination, is still in jeopardy of a contempt charge if she does not agree to provide testimony about how the IRS carried out its targeting of conservative nonprofit groups.

Lerner, who offered a statement of innocence to Congress before pleading the 5th, has since maintained that her claim of innocence in no way conflicts with her right to plead the 5th.

Harry Reid: You Fools Don’t Know How To Use The Internet And Sign Up For Obamacare

You’re all idiots — that’s why you haven’t signed up for Obamacare yet.

Thus spake Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today, opining on why President Barack Obama’s signature piece of social reform hasn’t taken off with the American public.

“We have hundreds of thousands of people who tried to sign up who didn’t get through,” he said. “There are some people who are not like my grandchildren who can handle everything so easily on the Internet, and these people need a little extra time. It’s not — the example they gave us is a 63-year-old woman came into the store and said, ‘I almost got it. Every time I just about got there, it would cut me off.’ We have a lot of people just like this through no fault of the Internet, but because people are not educated on how to use the Internet.”

Never mind that the Obamacare website itself is unstable and that its database underpinnings are unreliable. (The same can be said for many of the State-run Obamacare websites as well, some of which haven’t successfully enrolled a single person.) And never mind that plenty of people are Internet-savvy enough to get online and pay their bills, read their email, check the weather forecast and comment on websites like this one about how awful Obamacare is.

As one YouTube commenter sagely observed, “The Internet gets you [to] the website, ONCE YOU ARE ON THE WEBSITE the internet has done its job and its [sic] now the WEBSITE NOT THE INTERNET.”

At any rate, “a little extra time” is apparently what many of Reid’s tech-ignorant luddites will get, so long as they’ve thrown their names into the Obamacare queue. The Obama Administration announced today that people who begin an online Obamacare application before the March 31 deadline will be allowed to wait until mid-April to finish it — relying on nothing more than the “honor system” to verify that they began the process before the deadline.

Former Dodd-Frank Policy Wonks Walk Through Washington’s Revolving Door

If you were among the Washington government workers who helped bring the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to life, the chances are good that you’re now entertaining a host of attractive job options in the private sector.

That’s because there are plenty of companies right down the street from your old government digs that need your expertise in order to stay on the right side of the law. And who better to hire than those who helped roll out the law?

According to The Hill, more than two dozen former Federal workers involved in deploying Dodd-Frank’s new regulations “have decamped from government for lucrative jobs in the private sector.”

Many of the officials who were foot soldiers in the Dodd-Frank effort have moved on to law firms, with several now advising clients on how to comply with the complex rules that they themselves had helped to write.

…Dodd-Frank veterans who left government reject the suggestion they are cashing in and say it’s preposterous for critics to think they are helping clients find loopholes in the law.

Hiring reciprocity between government policymakers and private consulting firms has become commonplace.

Companies with headquarters inside the Washington Beltway reel in many of the policy wonks with whom they’ve established strategic relationships during their time as government regulators, because there’s no more effective way to recruit the kind of expertise that can help navigate complex policies and laws.

“Critics of the ‘revolving door’ between government and the private sector bemoan the trend, arguing it helps financial institutions move the levers of Federal policy,” observes The Hill.

“We’re seeing the revolving door much more frequently in the financial services sector, more so than any other industry I’ve seen,” one government affairs lobbyist told the publication.

Supreme Court Appears Split On Hobby Lobby’s Obamacare Challenge

The Supreme Court appeared evenly divided over Hobby Lobby’s challenge to Obamacare’s so-called contraception mandate in oral arguments Tuesday, with Justice Anthony Kennedy standing out as the sole member who still may be reserving judgment over whether employers with religious objections can decline to subsidize birth control coverage for their employees under the law.

Lawyers for Hobby Lobby and Pennsylvania-based Conestoga Wood Specialties, the plaintiffs in a pair of related lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, argued for nearly 90 minutes before the court Tuesday morning. When they were finished, it was evident that Kennedy remained the lone swing vote on the court.

SCOTUSblog has a narrative recap of Tuesday’s proceedings. Attempting to flesh out the limitations of each side’s argument, Kennedy appeared to play devil’s advocate for both sides during oral arguments. But he seemed to grow more aggressive toward the government’s position as the morning wore on.

From SCOTUSblog:

When it was Solicitor General [Donald B.] Verrilli’s turn at the lectern, he found immediately that Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito, Jr., were ready to pounce, disputing each of the government lawyer’s core points about the need for the contraceptive mandate in this context.

…When Verrilli said the Court has never found a right to exercise religion for corporations, Alito wondered if there was something wrong with the corporate form that it would not be accorded religion freedom rights.  Did Verrilli agree, Alito said, with a lower court’s view that the only reason for a corporation to exist was to “maximize profits?”  Verrilli said no, but Alito had made his point.

…As Verrilli’s situation worsened, Justice Kennedy moved in to wonder why it was that Congress would allow a government agency — the Health and Human Services Department — “the power to decide a First Amendment issue of this consequence….  That is for Congress, not for an agency.”  Kennedy would repeat that criticism later in the argument.

…The low point for Verrilli, however, came late in his argument, when Justice Kennedy told him bluntly: “Under your view, for-profit corporations can be forced to pay for abortion.  Your reasoning would permit that….  You say that for-profit corporations have no standing to litigate what their shareholders believed.”

On the other ideological end of the bench, liberal justices questioned whether exempting a corporation’s owners form a legal provision on religious grounds doesn’t amount to treating the corporation itself as a “person” possessed of individual rights — rights that trump those of their employees.

The plaintiffs also came under bench scrutiny for asking the court, in some justices’ view, to start down a slippery slope of religiously defensible corporate exemptions from Federal laws.

“If your argument was adopted,” Justice Elena Kagan told the plaintiffs’ attorneys, “then you would see religious objections come out of the woodwork” — including, she added, religiously based objections to vaccinations, blood transfusions or any other service a company’s owners might object to on religious grounds.

The court is expected to rule on the pair of cases in June.

Navy Top Gun Trainer: Social Conditioning Focus Is Suffocating Retention Efforts

Social “conditioning” programs aimed at making the U.S. military a kinder, gentler, more lawsuit-proof workplace have begun supplanting its core mission: fighting and killing enemies.

That’s the open message a former Top Gun instructor is sending the U.S. Navy’s top brass.

The website of the nonprofit U.S. Naval Institute is featuring this month a lengthy study by Commander Guy Snodgrass, who cautions that a lack of trust in senior Naval leadership – borne from a combination of factors that includes too great an emphasis on social issues and not enough on fighting wars – is precipitating a severe enlistment and retention crisis.

“Put simply, there is no dollar amount that can be spent, or amount of training that can be conducted, that will completely eradicate complex issues such as suicide, sexual assault, or commanding officer reliefs for cause – yet we continue to expend immense resources in this pursuit,” he wrote.

“Sailors are bombarded with annual online training, general military training, and safety stand-downs – all in an effort to combat problems that will never be defeated. The perception is that these efforts are not undertaken because they are incredibly effective, but rather because of significant political and public oversight…Sailors continue to cite the over-focus on social issues by senior leadership – above and beyond discussions on warfighting – a fact that demoralizes junior and mid-grade officers alike.”

Snodgrass, an F-18 pilot who went on to write speeches for the Pentagon Chief of Naval Operations, doesn’t solely attribute the Navy’s retention problem to its leaders’ forced fixation on sensitivity training – he lists a number of factors, each of which poses a serious problem on its own: attitudes of millennial-generation recruits about work for pay, sustained campaigns that lack tangible and principled objectives, a distressed global economy, and changes in promotional incentives within the Naval command hierarchy.

Supreme Court To Hear Hobby Lobby’s Obamacare Contraception Lawsuit Today

The Hobby Lobby lawsuit over whether government can impose Obamacare mandates on companies whose owners’ religious beliefs conflict with portions of the law is set to go before the Supreme Court today.

At issue is the Obamacare contraception coverage mandate, which requires employers to provide birth control coverage for employees as part of their overall health insurance. The outcome could determine the extent to which the government can enforce Obamacare’s contraception insurance mandate.

It could also determine whether Constitutional protections for individuals’ religious freedoms will be construed, by the courts, as equally applicable to the companies those individuals own — and how an employer’s religious views will reconcile with the religious views of their individual employees.

The plaintiffs, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania, are invoking the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which prohibits the government from placing a “burden [on] a person’s exercise of religion.” The companies aren’t the only ones that have filed suit over the mandate; the High Court consolidated dozens of similar cases in accepting the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga suits.

“[W]hether it is the individuals, the corporations, or both who are exercising religion, the government cannot simply wish away the reality that its policies substantially burden Respondents’ religious exercise in a wholly unjustified manner,” the plaintiffs argued in a brief last month.

The government maintains that companies are not provided the same Constitutional protections reserved for individual citizens.

The Supreme Court will hear 90 minutes of oral arguments from both sides today.

Don’t expect a decision by the Court to revolutionize Obamacare — as SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston observed in an analysis of the case last week, “[t]he nation’s politics, and many of its legislatures (including Congress), are absorbed with debates over whether to keep the law, to amend it, to render it unenforceable, or to repeal it altogether. None of that depends upon the outcome of this case. The Court has not been asked to strike down any part of the law, and it almost certainly won’t volunteer to do so.”