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.”

‘White House Director Of Progressive Media’ Is A Job That Actually Exists

Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report tweeted last week that he’d just paid his first Obamacare penalty as a small-scale employer. He toyed with words, recasting the penalty as a “liberty tax.” But Jesse Lee, White House Director of Progressive Media, used his official Twitter page to call Drudge a liar, saying he couldn’t have paid a penalty because there isn’t one for anyone paying 2013 taxes. Lee was wrong about that, but the mainstream media took off with the disinformation, and a whole lot of people made fools of themselves.

That’s a synopsis of what happened, and it was predictable and interesting for 15 minutes. But what continues to puzzle us is the fact that “White House Director of Progressive Media” is a thing that exists.

The Obama Administration created the “Progressive Media and Online Response” position in 2011, just as President Barack Obama’s second Presidential campaign was ramping up. Obama hired Jesse Lee, who’d had plenty of experience using the Internet as a community organizing tool (the White House calls it “online outreach”), to the position. The newly created role was first announced by a blogger for The Huffington Post.

The job of White House Director of Progressive Media appears to be one of accepting the People’s money as remuneration for issuing unilateral political attacks on elected leaders, private individuals, companies, nonprofits and news outlets under the safe cover of a government job — one that exists at the leisure of the President of the United States.

At the time, NewsBusters’ Aubrey Vaughan described things this way:

The White House is amping up its vigilance in silencing its critics with the creation of a new communications position designed to respond to unfavorable online stories about the President.

Attacking critics is nothing new for the administration, and the creation of this position is only the latest effort to throw the considerable weight of the White House bully pulpit behind efforts to attack Obama’s critics. For the president, this tactic began during the campaign and has continued to date.

Until now, though, the fight was mostly funded by the DNC or campaign teams, as is standard practice for the sort of oppositional approach this position seems poised to adopt. But as an official White House position, taxpayers are actually the ones footing the bill for Obama’s new attack dog.

Lee indeed performed his attack dog function on cue last week, when he responded to the Drudge tweet with this (false) retort:

Lee’s role isn’t one that’s gotten a lot of attention since the 2012 campaign season. But we’re betting Lee just inadvertently raised the profile (and, hopefully, the scrutiny) of the White House propaganda machine by hitching his star to Drudge’s wagon.

Asian Americans Defeat Progressive California Effort To Institute Affirmative Action In College Admissions

A legislative bid to partially reinstate preferential treatment for racial minorities in the college admissions process was defeated in California earlier this month, thanks to a grassroots campaign spearheaded by Asian Americans who had no desire to watch deserving applicants cast aside by racist, progressive social policy.

The proposal would have put an amendment on the November general election ballot to exempt colleges and universities from a portion of Proposition 209 – passed in 1996 – that prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment based on race, ethnicity and national origin.

But a robust effort led by Asian Americans already weary of having to score “140 points more than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics and 450 more points than blacks” on the SAT college entrance exam defeated the partisan effort.

The groups that played the most active role in deflating Legislative Democrats’ support for the amendment aren’t Tea Party types – they’re Asian special interest groups. But on this topic, their message to lawmakers was similar to Constitutional conservatives’ “hands-off” approach to government. From an analysis in The American Conservative:

In the end, it was the Democrats—for the most part, the party that really matters in California state politics—who folded on SCA 5. And it was Chinese-Americans who were the pivotal group in the measure’s defeat.

Olivia Liao, president of the Joint Chinese University Alumni Association, was quoted in the local press describing the initiative as racist. “[Legislators] feel like the Chinese-American community isn’t paying attention to politics,” Liao said, according to the Pasadena Star News. “We are concerned citizens. We need to stand up when things are not right; we need to be heard. We shouldn’t have any [exceptions)] related to race. After all, America is a free country.”

The newspaper also quoted Marina Tse speaking out against SCA 5. “It has a negative impact on high-performing students and Chinese students,” Tse said. “We need to put merit and academic performance as a priority.”

“What this episode demonstrates is that the zero-sum politics of divvying up a fixed pie — rather than expanding it — is a losing game for Democrats, precisely because America is becoming more diverse,” observed Reason’s Shikha Dalmia today. “…[I]t’ll be a losing battle to ask Asians to conform to the mentality of white liberal guilt.”

Indiana Ditches Common Core Standards

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law a bill that dumps the State’s participation in Federal Common Core educational standards and requires instead that Indiana come up with its own set of guidelines.

“I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the State and local level,” said Pence today. “By signing this legislation, Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high.”

Indiana was an early adopter of Common Core in 2010, and was eventually joined by 45 other States in adopting the Federal benchmark model. President Barack Obama has promoted the nationwide adoption of Common Core standards by offering States incentive grants through the Federal “Race to the Top” initiative.

Indiana is the first State to drop the controversial one-size set of standards. Pence said he believes the replacement standards currently being developed by State educators, stakeholders and elected representatives will provide a blueprint for academic achievement that more faithfully reflects the aspirations of his constituents.

“As the task of writing our new academic standards continues, I am grateful to the more than 100 Indiana educators who have put thousands of hours into a comprehensive, transparent, and rigorous process of academic review and am confident that our state will produce Indiana standards that will prepare our students for success in college, careers, and life,” he said.

Rock, Paper, Scissors: Oregon Obamacare Exchange A Model For Failure

We’ve written a lot about Cover Oregon, perhaps the most corrupt, wasteful, inefficient and glitchy among all the many corrupt, wasteful, inefficient and glitchy government-run Obamacare health insurance markets. But as the enrollment deadline for Obamacare approaches, we may soon be reading its valediction.

To say the rollout of Covered Oregon has been a mess is to understate the case.

There are the millions of dollars thrown at silly, insipid television advertisements designed to appeal — insultingly so — to the granola set. There’s the accidental extension of insurance benefits to 4,000 illegal aliens. There’s been a reversion to paper processing in order to offset the lack of a functioning online enrollment interface. There have been alarming, nearly constant lapses in security and the protection of patients’ personal information. There have been firings and resignations — most recently last week, when director Bruce Goldberg resigned amid a fresh round of investigative findings by an auditor. There’s even a Federal investigation.

And nobody dissembles and deflects blame more shamelessly than Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber, who’s managed to change his story by the day to suit the latest crisis.

Now, with a week to go until the Obamacare enrollment deadline passes, Cover Oregon is imploding on itself, while State politicians attempt to rewrite the narrative to expunge from the permanent record their past support for the program.

As of Friday, the online exchange had not successfully enrolled a single person in an insurance plan, even as hastily hired processors juggle thousands of alternate paper applications in a bureaucratic morass worthy of a sitcom. Here’s how KATU described one processor’s account of Cover Oregon’s efficiency problems last week:

It feels like a scene ripped from “The Office.”

Source A was deep in the middle of processing an application when a manager walked in.

“He said stop what you’re doing, lock your computers, get up,” Source A said. “I’m going to count you off by threes. Ones over here, twos over here, threes over here.

“We were told to play rock-paper-scissors against everybody in our little group and then the remaining people out of those would play against each other and we would get a certificate.”

Work was piled high. Problems with the system meant hours went by some nights with no work completed, so the staff had a backlog of applications.

Source A didn’t want to play a game of rock-paper-scissors when it felt so much like playing a game with people’s health.

“I told him, I was like, this was not a morale booster,” Source A said. “We were working. And I just went back and sat down and it was really pointless, but it was 15-20 minutes of wasted time.

In the midst of such fun, nobody knows what to do to get Cover Oregon working so that State residents can, at long last, freely avail themselves of artificially priced, one-size-fits-all health insurance. Kitzhaber has requested from the Feds an extension to the March 31 enrollment deadline. He’s also begun confessing that Oregon might need to simply ditch its own State insurance exchange and just refer everybody who wants Obamacare to Healthcare.gov.

Note from the Editor: As you’ve just read, the Obamacare abomination doesn’t bode well for anyone. But if you know how to navigate the system you can still control your own healthcare—as every American should! My trusted friend and medical insider, Dr. Michael Cutler, and I have written a concise guide to help you do just that. I urge you… Click here for your free copy.

Holder Won’t Appoint Special IRS Prosecutor In Tea Party Scandal

In January, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) approached U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder with a request that the Department of Justice get serious about its purported investigation into Internal Revenue Service discrimination against conservative organizations. Two months later, the DOJ has shrugged it off.

Cruz was among many conservatives angered by the DOJ’s languor in pursuing the source of the IRS’s discriminatory targeting of Tea Party groups. The agency’s political usefulness to President Barack Obama during his second run for the White House, through its selective delaying of conservative groups’ applications for tax exempt status, has been reflected in the partisan DOJ’s conduct of the resulting investigation.

DOJ set Barbara Kay Bosserman, an Obama campaign donor, in charge of the investigation, assuring a conflict of interest that would favor the IRS’s (and therefore Obama’s) position. News that Bosserman would lead the investigation led Cruz and others to question whether the DOJ would undertake any discovery efforts at all.

“It strains credulity to say that, out of the over 114,000 employees of the Department of Justice, the only possible choice to lead the investigation was a major political donor to President Obama,” Cruz wrote in January. “This, on its face, is a significant conflict of interest.”

But DOJ indicated this month that Holder wasn’t interested in launching an objective inquiry into the matter.

“This investigation has been and will continue to be conducted by career prosecutors and law enforcement professionals in accordance with all department policies and procedures that are designed to ensure the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik responded. “The department remains committed to integrity and fairness in all of its law enforcement efforts, without regard to politics.”

Cruz shot back last week, characterizing the absurdity of the decision by invoking history.

“Just as nobody would trust John Mitchell to investigate Richard Nixon, nobody should trust a partisan Obama donor to investigate the IRS’s political targeting of President Obama’s enemies,” he said. “Sadly, ‘in the discretion of the Attorney General,’ Eric Holder has chosen to reject the bipartisan tradition of the Department of Justice of putting rule of law above political allegiance.”

Why Would Anyone Vote For Hillary? Because She’s A Girl, That’s Why

Among likely voters in the 2016 Presidential election, those who say they would vote for Hillary Clinton indicate their choice is based not on her qualifications or statesmanship, but on the fact she could make history as the first female U.S. President.

Being a girl trumped all other reasons those polled in a Gallup survey, released today, gave for favoring Clinton if she were to run for President.

From the summary:

Clearly Clinton’s “unique selling proposition” is that she would be the first woman president. Nearly one in five Americans mention this historic possibility as a positive, including 22% of women, 27% of 18- to 29-year-olds, and 30% of Democrats. A Gallup analysis of a similar question, asked of a representative Gallup Panel sample in 2007, also found that Americans were more likely to mention her being the first woman president than any other positive factor.

To Gallup’s open-ended poll question – “In your view, what would be the best or most positive thing about a Hillary Clinton presidency?” – 18 percent of respondents indicated the fact that she “would be [the] first woman president,” followed by nine percent who said they value her foreign policy expertise or other experience.

Predictably, the party-line breakdown reflects a very different set of responses. Among Democrats, 30 percent said electing America’s first female President formed the basis of their support, followed by 16 percent who attributed their support to Clinton’s experience.

Republicans responded to the same question in lower numbers across the board (because few Republicans have any inclination to vote for Clinton for any reason), but 11 percent said they’d vote for her just to accomplish a change in leadership, followed by seven percent who said electing a female President was the deciding factor.

Like Republicans, independent voters didn’t answer that poll question in great numbers, either. But 17 percent put the girl thing at the top of their list of reasons to vote for Clinton, while eight percent cited her experience.

Issa Challenges Treasury Department Over Obamacare Politics

Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is calling on the Treasury Department to explain its Constitutional role in delaying Obamacare’s employer mandate. Issa alleges the Treasury Department is caught up in President Barack Obama’s political strategy to put off as many harmful Obamacare provisions as possible until after the 2014 Congressional midterm elections.

Issa and other Republican Congressmen wrote to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Thursday, asking the Treasury Department to provide all of its correspondence with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services over the employer delay, which the Obama Administration pushed forward in February.

The Treasury Department’s final rule included Obama’s proposed delay for companies that employ 50 to 99 employees, even though Congress has never amended the Affordable Care Act to accommodate a change to its standing stipulation that businesses must choose between offering healthcare coverage or paying a fine.

The only reason, said Issa, is that the White House is attempting to slow the rollout of the most damaging portions of Obamacare by instructing HHS and the Treasury Department to change the law through behind-the-scenes policy tweaks.

“Information obtained by the Committee suggests that last year’s decision to delay the employer mandate was made by the White House and not the Treasury Department,” Issa wrote. “We were surprised to learn that the White House Chief of Staff knew about the employer mandate delay prior to the head of the department implementing the program. This finding raises serious questions about whether the White House directed the delay of the employer mandate for political reasons.”

According to The Hill, which reported on the Oversight Committee’s challenge Thursday, one Treasury staffer admitted to the Committee that “he couldn’t recall” any conversations about whether the Treasury Department can legally implement changes to the law:

Issa cited testimony from Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur, who in an interview with Oversight said repeatedly he couldn’t recall if anyone at Treasury discussed whether the agency had the legal authority to delay the mandate.

“These admissions are stunning: there are more than two thousand attorneys in the Department of Treasury, and the official responsible for tax policy cannot recall a single one inquiring into the legal authority for the employer mandate delay,” the letter says. “Furthermore, Mr. Mazur’s responses are inconsistent with the Department’s claim that it relied upon an asserted authority under § 7805 of the Internal Revenue Code.

“While we believe that Obamacare, including its penalties on employers, is bad policy and should be repealed, it is clear that by law the Administration cannot act unilaterally to delay unpopular aspects of Obamacare until after the next November election.”