Lawsuit zeroes in on documents that could link White House to IRS scandal

A plaintiff in one of the ongoing lawsuits against the Internal Revenue Service has learned of the existence of thousands of documents that reportedly tie the Obama administration directly to the political discrimination scandal involving the tax agency’s targeting of conservative nonprofit groups.

The plaintiff, conservative nonprofit Cause of Action, was informed recently by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that approximately 2,500 such documents exist, and that it could gain access to some of them in early December — once the IG’s office has finished poring through them to determine their relevancy, according to Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard:

In an email from the Justice Department’s tax office, an official revealed the high number of documents, suggesting that the White House was hip deep in probes of taxpayers, likely including conservatives and Tea Party groups associated with the IRS scandal.

In requesting a delay in the delivery date of the documents, Justice told Cause of Action, “The agency [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration] has located 2,500 potentially responsive documents and anticipates being able to finish processing 2,000 of these pages by the December 1 date. It needs the additional two weeks to deal with the last 500 pages to determine if they are responsive and make any necessary withholdings.”

Cause of Action is one of a number of conservative groups that sued the IRS following revelations that the agency had held up conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, while simultaneously green-lighting similar applications from moderate and liberal nonprofits.

A similar lawsuit, filed by Texas-based conservative outfit True the Vote, was thrown out by a federal court in late October. True the Vote is considering an appeal, even as the Cause of Action case appears to be gaining fresh momentum.

HHS may start reassigning your Obamacare plan every year without your consent

Lost amid the recent hubbub over the Obamacare numbers-fudging scandal is this interesting bit of news you can use: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering a rules change that would allow it to drop and reassign your Obamacare plan during each year’s enrollment period, unless you expressly renew the same coverage (assuming it’s available) for another year.

In other words, if you have an Obamacare plan and you want to keep it, you’d have to tell the government that — or the government could “demote” your policy to the lowest-cost plan in that same coverage tier when it’s time to re-enroll.

“We are considering alternative options for re-enrollment, under which consumers who take no action might be defaulted into a lower cost plan rather than their current plan,” HHS explained in its fact sheet for Obamacare benefit “parameters.”

That basically amounts to yet another version of government pulling the rug out from under those who’ve bought in to its promises of better, more stable coverage under Obamacare.

“If You Like Your Obamacare Health Plan, You Can Keep It, If HHS Doesn’t Pick a New One For You,” Reason intoned in a headline late last week:

It’s not just auto-reenrollment. It’s auto-reassignment, at least for those who pick that option. Basically, if you like your plan, but don’t go out of your way to intentionally re-enroll, the kind and wise folks at HHS or state health exchanges might just pick a new plan — perhaps with different doctors, clinics, cost structures, and benefit options — for you. And if you want to switch back? Good luck once open enrollment is closed. There’s always next year.

On the bright side, customers might be afforded the option of choosing whether to participate in such an auto-reassignment program, although it’s not clear that many of them would understand the ramifications of doing so.

If adopted, the change would take effect in 2016.

HHS admits Obamacare optimism based on smoke and mirrors

Last week, the Internet lit up with reports that the White House had managed to dress up last year’s Obamacare enrollment performance by finagling the numbers to include dental-only sign-ups — a sleight of hand that added 400,000 policies to its optimistic total.

Without the inclusion of that number, total enrollment last year would have fallen short of its target of 7 million customers.

Throughout the summer, HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had boasted that Obamacare had enrolled 8 million new policies. CMS director Marilyn Tavenner later walked back that claim, testifying in September that the number had been inflated by, oh, about 700,000.

Now, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell has fallen on the sword, only a couple of days after Bloomberg revealed the dental-insurance legerdemain.

Well, she didn’t exactly tackle the numbers lie head-on. But Burwell did at least acknowledge the administration had made a “mistake,” sending this tweet after the dental coverage story began circulating on the Web:

More IRS employee hijinks: out-of-date tax records, lax enforcement of second-job policy

Working for the IRS must have its perks. According to a recent audit from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the agency isn’t doing much to enforce its policy on clearing employees to hold second jobs that don’t present conflicts of interests.

Maybe that’s a good thing for the IRS, because if it did uniformly enforce its own policy, it would have to pull its employee info from a database that’s severely out of date and inaccurate.

The TIGTA review — titled “Controls Over Outside Employment Are Not Sufficient to Prevent or Detect Conflicts of Interest” — finds that half of the employees who held second jobs or pursued business ventures in 2011 “did not obtain documented approval, as required by Department of the Treasury regulations and IRS policies.”

Such checks are part of agency policy to ensure that “the IRS has controls in place to provide reasonable assurance that outside employment requests are documented and reviewed for conflicts with employees’ official duties.”

In addition, the audit found that 93 percent of the IRS’s database, which contains records that track employees’ outside work requests, is out of date. It also notes that the agency does not even document all the requests its employees submit.

“Improving controls will be important because TIGTA identified current and former IRS employees with both actual and potential conflicts of interest,” the review explains.

“One employee pled guilty to engaging in a criminal conflict of interest for accessing taxpayer information for the purpose of conducting a private tax and accounting business, 44 IRS employees prepared tax returns for compensation (a prohibited practice), and TIGTA’s analysis identified 20 employees with a high risk of potential conflicts of interest who received outside income without documented approval. For example, four employees operated businesses with annual gross receipts ranging from more than $500,000 to more than $7 million, and six employees had wages of more than $50,000 from outside of the IRS. Significant outside income could impact the employee’s effectiveness on the job.”

The lesson: If you want to hold down two jobs and you’re concerned about how they might conflict, just make sure that your primary employer is the IRS.

Court action may set precedent for future cellphone snooping attempts by law enforcement

It may not represent a sea change in the way police justify their use of a controversial cellular surveillance technique, but a judge’s action in North Carolina last week might have laid the groundwork in establishing how far law enforcement is willing to go to exploit the technology in the future.

Over the objections of local law enforcement, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Richard Boner, of the 26th Judicial Circuit in North Carolina, unsealed a trove of court documents that outline how police had used StingRay-type devices to scoop up evidence from criminal suspects’ cellphones.

StingRay-type devices are capable of simulating a cell tower within a given radius, redirecting individuals’ cell phones away from their service provider’s nearest tower location and connecting directly with those users’ phones. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains that police do not need a warrant to do this, so long as they don’t listen in on actual conversations.

Boner released 529 court documents relating to StingRay use since 2006 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, following a petition from The Charlotte Observer to make the documents public.

“Senior Deputy City Attorney Judith Emken said during that period, police applied for court orders giving them permission to deploy the device, generically called a cell-site simulator,” the Observer reported.

“Court officials, however, did not file the records in the clerk’s office. Instead, police detectives kept copies in investigative files, which are not open to public inspection.

“The arrangement violated the fundamental principle that American courts should be open and transparent, said Linda Lye, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.”

The police have demonstrated a strong inclination to keep their methods secret when it comes to the use of StingRays and similar devices. “[L]ocal cops have lied to courts (at the direction of the United States Marshals Service) about the use of such technology,” ArsTechnica observed last week.

“Not only can stingrays be used to determine a phone’s location, but they can also intercept calls and text messages. While they do target specific phones, they also sweep up cell data of innocents nearby who have no idea that such data collection is taking place.”

Scientists not in agreement on whether humans shape climate

The scientific community is more or less evenly split on whether human beings play a significant role in shaping the Earth’s ever-changing climate, according to one recent survey.

That’s a far cry from the “97 percent” of scientists the Obama administration continually invokes as advocating an anthropocentric view of climate change.

A survey conducted by Purdue University found scientists split in their opinions on the cause of so-called climate change, with fifty percent attributing changes to human activities. The remainder was further split into those who believe humans and nature are both equally shaping the climate, those who believe nature does that job on its own, and those who believe there’s not enough evidence to tell.

None of those surveyed indicated that “climate change” is not occurring.

“Contrary to the repeated insistence of both climate alarmists and the media, scientists do not all agree on the standard climate alarmism talking points,” The Washington Free Beacon observed in its story on the survey.

“A Purdue University scholar, surveying scientists in the agricultural sector including climatologists, found surprising disagreement on humanity’s role in climate change. These findings, though contrary to popular narrative on climate change, are unsurprising to anyone familiar with the prevalence of dissent in the scientific community.”

Judge to California AG: Stop stalling and comply with court order to end 10-day firearms wait period

In August, federal judge Anthony W. Ishiji struck down California’s 10-day wait period for firearms purchases on Constitutional grounds. Now he’s not-so-gently encouraging the state to, ahem, stop stalling and comply with that ruling.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris had requested a stay of that decision, reasoning that doing so on Judge Ishiji’s timeframe would pose a bureaucratic inconvenience.

Ishiji was less than convinced, writing in his denial of that request that the state had better get its priorities straight – and complying with a court order demanding an end to an unconstitutional law happens to be a pretty high priority indeed.

The problem is that Defendant believes that other projects are deserving of greater priority. There is no description of what these critical projects are or when the deadlines might be, nor is there an explanation of why outside contractors cannot be utilized for some of those projects, nor is there an explanation of why computer personnel from different departments or agencies cannot be utilized. A bench trial has concluded, and a law that is actively being enforced has been found to be unconstitutional.

The Court does not know how Defendant or the BOF prioritizes projects, but dealing with an unconstitutional law should be towards the top of the list. It is true that redirecting personnel may cause difficulties, but there is not enough before the Court for it to conclude that Defendant probably would suffer irreparable harm from such redirection. The Court is not satisfied that Defendant has demonstrated irreparable fiscal or administrative harm.

City’s proposed tobacco sales ban goes up in smoke, thanks to massive public outrage — even from nonsmokers

A Massachusetts city’s attempt to become the nation’s first to enact a blanket ban on the sale of all tobacco products came to an abrupt end Wednesday, following passionate opposition from all corners of the community. Public outcry over the proposed nanny-state move brought both smokers and nonsmokers together in a united stand against statist efforts to protect individuals from themselves.

The Westminster Board of Health, which last week caused a national stir by threatening to outlaw the sale of tobacco throughout the city, dropped the proposal following a week of sometime-raucous protest from residents — even those who plainly indicated their strong antipathy for smoking, chewing and dipping.

“I find smoking to be one of the most disgusting habits anybody could possibly do,” resident Kevin West told the board at a public hearing last week. “On top of that, I find this proposal to be even more of a disgusting thing that anybody could ever give any town in the United States of America.”

The three-member board had a hard time making it through last week’s heavily attended hearing, cutting that meeting short after it became clear that the gathered crowd was too emotional and too adamant to preserve the decorum the board had prescribed.

Board chairman Andrea Crete, the lone board member to vote in favor of keeping the proposal active Wednesday, had to adjourn last week’s hearing on the matter over shouts of “Freedom!” Once the hearing was adjourned, reported the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, “[t]he crowd then began singing ‘God Bless America.'”

The proposal has also spurred some residents to launch a recall effort against two of the board members (Crete is up for an election cycle in 2015 and, therefore, is not eligible for a recall).

Obamacare enrollment numbers padded by… dental plans?

When the Obama administration announced it had met its targeted number of 7 million enrollments for its first year, it didn’t announce that nearly half a million of those sign-ups weren’t for health insurance — they were only for dental plans.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that roughly 400,000 policies among the 7.3 million touted by the Obama administration in September were dental policies only. Lumping the stats for dental coverage in with the health insurance numbers was a first for the administration, which didn’t bother to inform anyone at the time that it was including both types of coverage in order to demonstrate success in hitting its target.

From Bloomberg:

Without the dental plans, the federal government would have had 6.97 million people with medical insurance under the law known as Obamacare, investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform committee calculated, using data they obtained from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Federal officials…didn’t distinguish between medical and dental plans, breaking from previous practice without notice.

Blending dental and medical plans let the administration assert that enrollment remained greater than 7 million, the original projection of the Congressional Budget Office. The move also partly obscured the attrition of more than 1 million in the number of people enrolled in medical insurance.

Although the White House was relatively forthcoming with Obamacare figures at the close of last year’s open enrollment period, it has appeared far less transparent since the last comprehensive release of statistics in May of 2014. Previously, the administration had released separate statistics for buyers of healthcare and buyers of dental care through the federal and state-managed insurance exchanges.

“In February, Health and Human Services began breaking out dental enrollment numbers as a separate category from medical plan sign-ups,” reported Vox. “The Obama administration reported 421,000 stand-alone dental plan enrollments as of February 1, and then 1.1 million sign-ups in May.”

Then, the White House went silent on enrollment statistics until the obfuscated September report.

In addition to scaling back its data, the administration came under fire for postponing this year’s enrollment start date (and the arrival of higher premium costs) until after the midterm elections. It didn’t help that new videos surfaced this month revealing one of the Affordable Care Act’s chief architects, Jonathan Gruber, flaunting a contemptuous and condescending view of the public — a view, many people inferred, the White House seemed to share.

London mayor weighs in on the scientist who apologized for wearing a shirt that offended the righteous

There’s been plenty of right-minded anger over progressive feminism’s co-opting of last week’s unmanned comet landing — an Internet sanctimony spasm that detracted from the significance of the achievement in order to target one man for his choice of clothing.

A Hawaiian-style button-up festooned with cartoonish, Betty Page-style bombshell models became the very mundane star of an otherwise momentous day. And its wearer, Dr. Matt Taylor, offered a shame-filled, tearful apology for unwittingly sending the world an (apparently) bad message about gender bias in the scientific community.

London Mayor Boris Johnson came to Taylor’s defense this week, penning a column for The Telegraph that excoriated the progressives’ obsession with off-the-shelf moral outrage.

After viewing Taylor’s apology on television, Johnson had a lot on his mind.

“Everyone in this country should be proud of Dr Taylor and his colleagues, and he has every right to let his feelings show,” Johnson wrote. “Except, of course, that he wasn’t crying with relief. He wasn’t weeping with sheer excitement at this interstellar rendezvous. I am afraid he was crying because he felt he had sinned. He was overcome with guilt and shame for wearing what some people decided was an ‘inappropriate’ shirt on television.”

Taylor’s apology — and its implicit message that progressive shaming tactics can succeed — made Johnson see red:

I watched that clip of Dr Taylor’s apology — at the moment of his supreme professional triumph — and I felt the red mist come down. It was like something from the show trials of Stalin, or from the sobbing testimony of the enemies of Kim Il-sung, before they were taken away and shot. It was like a scene from Mao’s cultural revolution when weeping intellectuals were forced to confess their crimes against the people.

Why was he forced into this humiliation? Because he was subjected to an unrelenting tweetstorm of abuse. He was bombarded across the internet with a hurtling dustcloud of hate, orchestrated by lobby groups and politically correct media organisations.

And so I want, naturally, to defend this blameless man. And as for all those who have monstered him and convicted him in the kangaroo court of the web — they should all be ashamed of themselves.

… What are we all — a bunch of Islamist maniacs who think any representation of the human form is an offence against God? This is the 21st century, for goodness’ sake. And if you ask yourself why so few have come to the defence of the scientist, the answer is that no one dares.

There’s much more where this came from.

A notable irony, of course, is that Taylor’s shirt was made especially for him, as a birthday gift, by a woman — by this woman.

Pastors launch initiative to separate religious marriage rites from state-sanctioned civil unions

In an overdue sense-maker, a small group of Protestant pastors is uniting in an initiative to cease performing marriages that legally bind couples on behalf of the state. Instead, they will continue to marry couples in their ministerial capacity, but are advising future partners to “seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings.”

The Revs. Ephraim Radner and Christopher Seitz — the former an Anglican minister; the latter an Episcopalian — explained their “Marriage Pledge” initiative at the website of First Things magazine:

The new definition of marriage no longer coincides with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and woman. Our biblical faith is committed to upholding, celebrating, and furthering this understanding, which is stated many times within the Scriptures and has been repeatedly restated in our wedding ceremonies, church laws, and doctrinal standards for centuries. To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage.

Therefore, in our roles as Christian ministers, we, the undersigned, commit ourselves to disengaging civil and Christian marriage in the performance of our pastoral duties. We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life.

The site then provides an online form for others to sign the Marriage Pledge.

Clearly separating state-sanctioned civil unions from the rites of marriage as performed by religious ministers is a phenomenon whose time has come, First Things’ deputy editor told The Daily Caller.

“I used to oppose calls to get government out of the marriage business, but times have changed,” said Matthew Schmitz. “Many people see this and many more will. The signatories include some of the most clear-eyed and learned pastors who have refused to go along with the new orthodoxy on marriage. I expect more will follow their lead, if not today, tomorrow.”

Check out the Marriage Pledge at the First Things website.

Facebook takes the conservative approach in enforcing its ‘no-guns’ ad policy

Facebook recently informed one of the nation’s major firearms resellers that it won’t allow the dealer to advertise for firearms-related security items such as gun safes. The social media network already has a no-advertising policy in place concerning actual firearms, but it is using a strict interpretation of that policy to shut the door on ads that actually encourage firearm safety.

A recent Veterans Day-themed ad from the Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, North Carolina, didn’t feature guns — only safes and vaults. But the company was notified its seemingly innocuous ad couldn’t be promoted on Facebook because it violated the site’s ad policy on firearms.

“[W]hen they went to place the ad, a note from ‘Vanessa’ at Facebook shot it down,” Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard reported Tuesday:

Your ad was rejected because it violates the Ad Guidelines. Ads may not promote firearms, ammunition or weapons (ex: paintball guns, BB guns, knives, etc)…This decision is final. Please consider this the end of our correspondence about your ad.

In order for such an ad to be considered a violation, one must assume Facebook strictly interpreted its own policy’s language prohibiting advertising that “directly or indirectly link[s] to landing pages where people can purchase any of these products.” However, the same policy regards “images of weapons” as “generally acceptable, as long as the weapon is not pointed directly at the person seeing it.”

“It cannot be stressed strongly enough,” Hyatt’s director of marketing told the Examiner. “Guns need to be secured from unauthorized use. We cannot understand why Facebook would deny us the ability to promote this sale and help gun owners to secure their firearms.”

Government Accountability Office finds CFPB’s financial stewardship lacking

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has had a rough beginning. There’s been profligacy, secrecy, intrusiveness and questions about the constitutionality of its considerable powers under limited oversight.

Now, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is questioning how capable the bureau is at conserving and managing its own money.

A GAO review released this week finds the CFPB has demonstrated “control deficiencies” that “collectively represent a material weakness in CFPB’s internal control over reporting of accounts payable” and that it has not developed internal checks that would catch lapses and inaccuracies in recording how much money it owes vendors and contractors.

According to Washington Examiner, it’s a problem the GAO noted in last year’s review of the agency — one the CFPB appears to have done little to remedy.

“GAO said it pointed out CFPB’s failure to account properly for property acquired by the bureau in 2013, but the problems continued in 2014,” the Examiner reported Tuesday.

“… The GAO auditors cautioned that the problems they described ‘may adversely affect any decisions by CFPB’s management that are based, in whole or in part, on information that is inaccurate’ in the bureau’s 2014 financial report.”

The GAO review is just the latest in a series of self-created problems for the CFPB. Since it first went live in 2011, the agency has been slammed by conservative critics for its lack of structured accountability, its overspending on a lavish new headquarters in Washington, D.C., its reluctance to talk about that project’s skyrocketing costs, and its NSA-like surveillance of American citizens’ financial data and spending practices.

Another state tightens food stamp eligibility by requiring recipients to find work

Indiana is preparing to implement changes to its implementation of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — aka food stamps — to better ensure recipients use the program as a ladder out of poverty instead of abusing it as an open-ended entitlement.

Beginning next year, the state will stop waiving the federal requirement that tasks recipients with holding some kind of job, looking for a job or receiving job-related training. Instead, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration will require “able-bodied” adults with no dependents to hold down a job of 20 or fewer hours per week, or to provide documentation that they’re on a path to securing employment.

WXIN-TV in Indianapolis reports the change could remove 65,000 people from SNAP eligibility — a change that one critic says will flood the state’s welfare-to-work program.

“The employment and training program served 783 people in 2014, and when this waiver takes full effect, there’s maybe 65,000 Hoosiers that are going to be rushing in to try to get on that program,” Indiana Institute for Working Families program manager Jessica Fraser told the news outlet.

But the trend may be catching on. Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage — who was homeless as a child — moved to end food stamps for able recipients who similarly don’t work (and aren’t looking for work) back in July.

LePage has received a lifetime’s share of criticism from the progressive left, but he just won re-election in a race that lost Tom Steyer — billionaire environmentalist and profligate Democratic donor — $2.3 million in a failed bid to replace LePage with “green” Democrat Mike Michaud.

Obama, Gruber were on the same page from the beginning

Although President Obama and other top Democrats are enthusiastically distancing themselves from the revealing remarks of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, the history of the healthcare law suggests that the Obama administration very well knew that millions of Americans would not be able to keep their healthcare plans once the law took effect.

Gruber, under a $400,000 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), created economic models to explain how Obamacare would sustain itself financially, infamously observing that a degree of legerdemain would be both necessary and achievable, thanks to the “stupidity” of the American voter.

His model, of course, relied on Obamacare’s legal requirement that all Americans buy government-approved health insurance or pay a penalty — the so-called individual mandate, a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act. He defended the mandate in a 2009 analysis (H/T: Pj Tattler):

I have developed the Gruber microsimulation model to estimate how health reforms would affect insurance markets; this is a very similar model to the one the Congressional Budget Office used to score the PPACA, and my model derives very similar to CBO. I can use this model to consider what would happen if Congress removed the mandate while keeping all other aspects of the law intact. I find that:

▪ Total insurance coverage would rise by fewer than 10 million persons rather than the 32 million persons estimated by CBO. The number of uninsured would be reduced by less than 20 percent rather than by about two-thirds.

▪ Employer-sponsored insurance, which is projected to erode by about 5 million persons under reform, would instead erode by over 20 million persons.

“Erode,” of course, means “lose your health coverage as it currently exists” — a direct contradiction to the president’s false boast that anyone who liked their healthcare plan would be able, under Obamacare, to keep it. Period.

“[N]ot only did he [Obama] seemingly forget that he has already admitted to a provision of the health care law having not been ‘extensively debated’ and ‘fully transparent,'” PJ Tattler’s David Steinberg wrote Monday, “it was Jonathan Gruber himself who originally advised the administration that Obamacare would cause millions of Americans to lose their plans.”

Democrats have been grappling with buyer’s remorse, where Gruber is concerned, ever since the first of several incendiary Gruber statements ahead of the Obamacare rollout went viral. Not only do Gruber’s pre-rollout remarks reveal Obamacare’s sales job to have been a willful obfuscation of the truth, they also belie — at best — a profound lack of ethical judgment.

“[I]n January 2010, Gruber was penning op-ed pieces in the Washington Post and New York Times advocating for Obamacare, without having disclosed to his editors that he received nearly $400,000 from the [Obama] administration to produce an ‘objective analysis,’ that would be used in promoting the legislation,” Watchdog noted Sunday.

Report: Most Americans outside labor force don’t want to work

If you don’t want to work, you’re not alone. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says a significant chunk of the 92 million people no longer in the American labor force just aren’t that into employment.

For months, BLS reports have continued to track a decline in the unemployment rate as more and more people have left the labor force. The prevailing logic held that many of those who’d given up looking for jobs had grown disillusioned with the economy and had struck out one too many times to continue their job hunt.

But there’s another factor at play, according to a Pew analysis released Friday: Some people are comfortable enough to view working for a living as a drag.

“You might think legions of retiring Baby Boomers are to blame, or perhaps the swelling ranks of laid-off workers who’ve grown discouraged about their re-employment prospects,” Pew’s analysis reads.

“While both of those groups doubtless are important (though just how important is debated by labor economists), our analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggests another key factor: Teens and young adults aren’t as interested in entering the work force as they used to be, a trend that predates the Great Recession.

“By far the biggest chunk of people not in the labor force are people who simply don’t want to be, according to data from the monthly Current Population Survey (which the BLS uses to, among other things, calculate the unemployment rate).”

Although the Pew report suggests young people comprise the biggest segment of Americans uninterested in holding down jobs, there’s no single demographic dominating the trend away from valuing employment. Pew indicates that 93.3 percent of adults outside the labor force last month “didn’t want a job.”

So whether you’re among those who have it too good to want a job, or those who have it too rough to keep looking for one, there’s at least one thing you can still do:

Senator Obama pledged to stop people like President Obama

For the president’s many conservative critics, the Senator Obama-versus-President Obama meme is a gift that keeps giving. Every few weeks, someone finds a video from Obama’s first presidential campaign that completely repudiates his words and actions as president.

On this outing, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) promises to “reverse” President George W. Bush’s reliance on expanding his executive powers at the expense of Congress, and he makes other strong statements against unilateral executive actions.

Meanwhile, President Obama is preparing a unilateral executive action to grant amnesty to an enormous block of illegal aliens living in the U.S., over the strident objections of GOP House and Senate leaders (and, one must presume following the midterms, a majority of their voting constituents).

The Washington Free Beacon has stitched together a funny-yet-sad compilation of the two Obamas’ disparate views on executive action, as it pertains to amnesty:

“I taught constitutional law for 10 years. I take the constitution very seriously,” Sen. Obama said at a Pennsylvania town hall event in 2008. “The biggest problem that we’re facing right now has to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States of America.”

That was then.

“I gave the House over a year to go ahead and at least give a vote to the Senate bill. They failed to do so and I indicated to Speaker Boehner several months ago that if, in fact, Congress failed to act, I would use all the lawful authority that I possess to try to make the system work better, and that’s going to happen,” President Obama warned Friday.

No apologies here: Nicki Minaj video director defends the transgressive nature of art

Essentially telling social critics and politically correct complainers, “It’s not me; it’s you,” the director of a music video that’s been excoriated for its quasi-Nazi imagery dismissed the idea that topical agendas should, or can, restrain artists who aren’t in the business of using their media as a platform for social commentary.

The sanctimonious Internet, ever watchful for the next occasion to be offended, sunk its claws into the creative types behind hip-hop crossover artist Nicki Minaj’s recent music video for the single “Only.” Its animated presentation featured lots of suggestive military and totalitarian regalia. Worse, it emphasized red and black, whose usefulness, according to natural law, is now limited only to willfully incendiary invocations of Hitler and the Third Reich.

Video director Jeff Osborne took complete ownership of the video, telling Billboard its social critics won’t get the apology they’re pining for:

The reason I’m not apologizing is because neither I nor the video are anti-semitic. I can’t be sorry for something I’m being falsely accused of. The video represents [record label] Young Money as a generic totalitarian regime, which takes images and symbols from several countries and time periods, one of which is Nazism. As an artist I have two voids to fill. First, meeting the demands of the client and two, creatively applying my own voice where I can. The Young Money team came to me with a set of parameters in which they exactly stated — something black and white, dark, ominous, with hints of imagery like Sin City or Metalocalypse.

As far as applying Nazi imagery, 100% me. Whether it was interpreted that way to their team, I have no idea. Not once did we ever sit in the same room, nor did they ask if I applied a deeper hidden meaning. I simply send them the video and they reject, approve, or ask for changes.

… I made this creative decision to show the juxtaposition of the most iconic form of totalitarianism and ways it still exists today, specifically in politics, the military-industrial complex, censorship, and intense monitoring and tracking of our citizens. It has nothing to do with glorifying Hitler or the Holocaust.

We aren’t concerned with defending or applauding the aesthetic merits of the music and imagery, nor with weighing the worth of whatever “statement” it is that Osborne was trying to make.

But only in a progressive paradise would anyone find comfort in censoring created works because their sounds, shapes, colors and symbols remind some people of very bad things. Art can do a lot of things; but it can’t control your mind, and it can’t inhibit your liberty. There’s a reason it’s protected by the 1st Amendment. If you think a painting’s ugly, look away. But don’t expect to control the painter.

“My comment about the First Amendment was in regard to people demanding the video be removed, not their interpretation of the video, which I welcome openly, whether positive or negative,” said Osborne, “because that’s the point of art.”

Fair enough.

McCain ends suspense; says he’ll run again in 2016

The conservative vigil over Sen. John McCain’s political intentions for 2016 appears to be at an end. The former GOP presidential nominee and political moderate has indicated he’ll seek a sixth Senate term, despite a stiff headwind from ideological conservatives in his home state of Arizona.

McCain told MSNBC he’s “absolutely” making plans to run again, but acknowledged he’ll face stronger opposition — particularly in the party primary phase — than he’s yet seen in his long political career.

“You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I definitely think that I would have to absolutely anticipate a Tea Party candidate or two or three… everybody tells me that I’m the number one target of the tea partiers,” McCain said.

“We’ve already talked with finance people in the state, we’ve already talked to different groups and organizations ranging from the Arizona Chamber to the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance to build the coalitions we need to build.”

A raft full of Tea Party challengers, rather than a single widely supported challenger from the right, may offer McCain his sole means of political salvation. He’s polled terribly in Arizona against other potential candidates, he’s lost the formal support of his partisan base at home, and political pundits are questioning his chances like never before. McCain will be 80 years old in 2016.

Post-election polling shows Democrats’ popularity continuing downward slide

For the first time in a long time, Democrats fare worse than Republicans in nationwide political polling — a striking phenomenon that suggests the midterm elections may have been a mere harbinger of worse things to come for Democrats, rather than the momentary nadir of their popularity during the waning years of a troubled presidency.

Gallup revealed Wednesday that Democrats are perceived favorably by only 36 percent of Americans, compared with a (not impressive) 42 percent favorability rating for Republicans.

From Gallup’s synopsis:

After the 2012 election, many political analysts focused on the GOP’s “image problem.” Now, it is the Democrats who appear to have the more battered image. Their favorability rating has never been lower, and they are reeling from defeats that cost them control of the U.S. Senate and strengthened the Republican House majority to levels likely not seen in 90 years.

On the other hand, the American public does not admire Republicans more, their numerous election victories notwithstanding. Neither party can say it is making significant progress in improving its image among the U.S. population, but undoubtedly the 2014 elections augmented the GOP’s ability to shape the agenda in Washington and in state capitals across the country. This newfound power could pose its own problems for the GOP.

The 36 percent approval rating for Democrats marks a record low, according to Gallup. Democrats have polled higher than their GOP foes in every Gallup survey since Sept. 2011. Whether that advantage broadens in coming months will largely depend on how the new Republican majority in both houses of Congress carries out the will of the voters who sent GOP candidates to Washington, D.C., predicts Gallup.

“The [Republican] party could be on the verge of winning over a greater segment of the country or, not unlike the Democrats this year, could see its brand go into a free fall,” the survey states. “This will depend on what Republican leaders do in the coming two years.”

That video of the Obamacare architect deriding ‘stupid’ American voters wasn’t just a one-time thing

Jonathan Gruber, the ideas man who consulted with the Department of Health and Human Services to help craft the theoretical underpinnings of Obamacare, has spent the past couple of days explaining why he described American voters as “stupid” in a video that recently surfaced on the Internet.

But, as it turns out, that one video was only the beginning. Two others have since surfaced — thanks largely to the efforts of a nonplussed investment adviser who began digging into the origins of the Affordable Care Act, after he reportedly lost his insurance when Obamacare was implemented in 2013.

Gruber told Fox News on Tuesday that he regretted having made the comments in the controversial video and that he was simply speaking “off the cuff” at an academic conference. Then Fox’s Megyn Kelly tossed out a second video in which Gruber essentially made the exact same point, including his “too stupid to understand” refrain.

Then, lo: a third video of Gruber dissing the hoi polloi began drawing attention Wednesday, after The Daily Caller published a story calling attention to its existence (the video has lingered on YouTube since November of 2012).

Speaking at a forum at the University of Rhode Island, Gruber stood for a full hour to delve into the thinking behind the Obama administration’s restructuring of health insurance policy. He spoke rapidly, but his statements were anything but “off the cuff.”

“It’s a very clever, you know, basically an exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter,” Gruber helpfully explained.

Gruber also helped develop an Obamacare comic book to sell the Affordable Care Act to people who best understand complex information when there are few words and many pictures. Sounds like those people and “stupid” American voters might be one and the same.