White House: Food Stamps Grow The Economy; Conservatives Want To Starve Children

The White House posted a special Thanksgiving message to all Americans last week, using the traditional turkey day graphical motifs and autumnal colors. But the message wasn’t one of gratitude – it was one of progressive guilt.

According to the infographic, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which has enrolled 16 million new dependents since President Barack Obama took office, has been an economic boon for the Nation.

In fact, according to the White House’s math, SNAP has actually yielded $9 for every $5 in food stamp money spent at grocery stores, and has even secured full-time employment for a theoretical 8,900 people…sort of.

“It’s estimated that an additional $1 billion in SNAP benefits supports an additional 8,900 to 17,900 full-time equivalent jobs – including 3,000 farm jobs,” the White House offers.

The infographic doesn’t, however, provide a diagram or footnote to indicate the role “an additional $1 billion in SNAP benefits” plays in clarifying the meaning of that sentence. And surely we don’t have 3,000 farm jobs that would die off as soon as Republicans are done emaciating the bloated Farm Bill – right?

SNAPBOOST

It says a lot about the real state of the economy when the White House can declare, without irony, that food stamps are “boosting the economy right now.”

Of course, there can be no progress without guilting the stingy into giving up their share. And so, according to the Obama Administration, House Republicans are trying to scorch the Earth by taking 4 million people (there’ve been 16 million new enrollees in the past five years, remember?) off the dole.

“Legislation passed by House Republicans would cause nearly 4 million Americans to lose access to SNAP next year. For decades, Congress has authorized SNAP in a bipartisan fashion through the Farm Bill. They don’t have to do it in a way that hurts children, seniors, veterans, and vulnerable families.”

For decades, Congress also passed sweeping, transformative legislation in a bipartisan fashion, too. But that was before the Obama/Harry Reid regime.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns Has Its Share Of ‘Illegal’ Mayors

The New York Post recently pointed out an interesting fact about Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), the gun control project started by outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino: Some of its members haven’t fared so well in staying on the right side of all the other laws they’re sworn, as mayors, to uphold.

From DUIs to misdemeanor endangerment charges (involving guns) to plea deals for Federal bribery indictments, the mayors of MAIG don’t always do their part to preserve the group’s squeaky-clean public reputation.

From the Post:

The latest of the legally challenged is Mayor Gordon Jenkins of Monticello, NY. Last week, he was arrested for driving under the influence and for literally punching a police department clock, which forced cops to handcuff him to a chair.

He’s not alone. Over in Spring Valley, Mayor Noramie Jasmin was arrested for accepting bribes from an FBI informant in April. In Marcus Hook, Pa., Mayor James Schiliro was arrested for reckless endangerment after firing a handgun inside his home during a drunken argument.

Down in Gainesville, Fla., Mayor Craig Lowe was charged with a DUI after being found asleep at the scene of a car accident. Meanwhile, other MAIG members from Hartford to Detroit have found themselves facing prosecutors over charges that include felony corruption, assault and attempted sex crimes with a child.

In order, those last three include:

Felony corruption: Former Hartford, Conn., Mayor Eddie A. Perez was convicted three years ago  of receiving a bribe, being an accessory to the fabrication of evidence, conspiracy to fabricate evidence, conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny by extortion and criminal attempt to commit first-degree larceny by extortion.

Assault: Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick pleaded no contest to assaulting or obstructing a public officer in 2008 as part of a larger plea deal that also saw him resign from office and plead guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice.

Attempted Sex Crimes With A Child: In 2010, former Racine, Wis., Mayor Gary Becker got three years in prison following a sensational scandal in which he was arrested after agreeing on the Internet to meet a child for sex at a Milwaukee mall. Becker was charged with attempted second-degree sexual assault of a child under 16 years of age, possession of child pornography, child enticement, use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, attempt to expose a child to harmful material and misconduct in office.

NFL Won’t Air Gun Manufacturer’s Super Bowl Commercial

The NFL has rejected a paid Super Bowl commercial from firearm manufacturer Daniel Defense, even though the spot appears not to violate the league’s policy on weapons advertising because the commercial in question makes no mention of firearms. The commercial would have aired during Super Bowl XLVIII in February.

According to Guns & Ammo magazine, the commercial was designed with the advertising policies of many television markets in mind, and does not portray the use of weapons or feature any of the company’s products. Rather, it focuses on family protection. Its only visual representation of weaponry is a brief silhouette of the company’s DDM4 rifle as the commercial fades out.

From Guns & Ammo:

The NFL’s Advertising Policy addresses several Prohibited Advertising Categories, including guidelines for ads featuring alcohol, video games, movies, prescription drugs, and, of course, firearms.

The firearms portion of the NFL’s Prohibited Advertising Categories states:

“5. Firearms, ammunition or other weapons are prohibited; however, stores that sell firearms and ammunitions (e.g., outdoor stores and camping stores) will be permitted, provided they sell other products and the ads do not mention firearms, ammunition or other weapons.”

According to these guidelines, Daniel Defense’s Super Bowl commercial does not violate NFL policy for two reasons:

Daniel Defense has a brick-and-mortar store, where they sell products other than firearms such as apparel.

The commercial itself does not mention firearms, ammunition or weaponry.

Since the silhouette of the rifle seemed to be the sticking point, Daniel Defense told the league it would replace the image of the weapon with one of the American flag, or with a quote from the 2nd Amendment.

No dice — the NFL flatly rejected that offer, too.

But the league did allow this ad, bought by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, to air in targeted markets during the Super Bowl last year:

A Third Colorado Senator Throws In The Towel Over Gun Control: Hudak Resigns Instead Of Facing Voter Recall

Democrat Evie Hudak watched in September as Colorado voters sent two of her party colleagues in the State Senate home. Like them, Hudak had supported gun control legislation earlier this year that left many Coloradans angry — angry enough to force two successful recall votes against prominent Democratic supporters of the law.

Hudak, herself the target of a petition to hold a recall vote, would have learned on Dec. 3 whether the petition had gathered enough signatures. But she evidently saw the writing on the wall: On Wednesday, without waiting for the petition to be submitted, she resigned her Senate seat.

Hudak’s resignation means she will avoid the humiliating experience that Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron endured. Morse and Giron chose to fight voters’ recall efforts, both in the courts and on the campaign trail. Each had ardently supported gun control. Each was recalled on Sept. 10 and replaced by a Republican.

If Hudak had lost a recall vote, control of the State Senate would have flipped from Democratic to Republican. Hudak and the State’s Democratic Party leadership decided that avoiding that scenario was sufficient justification for her to resign.

From Fox 31 in Denver:

By resigning before the signatures are turned in, she assures that a Democratic vacancy committee will appoint her replacement, keeping the seat — and the senate — in the party’s hands, at least through November [2014], when her successor will be forced to win reelection.

State law says that an office-holder can resign up to five days after the Secretary of State deems signatures sufficient to force a recall election, but it’s possible a judge could disagree and allow an election to go forward.

Given their track record in court, Democrats decided not to take that risk.

Hudak did herself no favors in the political fallout that ensued following Governor John Hickenlooper’s signing of the gun control measures back in March. She seemed insensitive and out of touch with reality when she tried to redirect a rape victim who testified to the Senate that her ordeal would not have happened if she’d been allowed to carry a legal firearm on a college campus.

From the Denver Post:

Gun-rights activists in Colorado and nationally ripped Hudak for her inartful questioning of a rape victim during a hearing in March on a bill to ban weapons on campus. The woman told lawmakers that had she been permitted to use her concealed-carry permit and carry her gun on campus, the incident may have ended differently.

Hudak disagreed.

“I just want to say that, actually statistics are not on your side even if you had a gun,” Hudak said, during the hearing. “And, chances are that if you would have had a gun, then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you.”

Of that comment, we wrote at the time:

It isn’t clear where Hudak got her numbers, but FBI statistics indicate that firearm use for self-defense outnumbers criminal firearm use 4-to-1. Of the 2.1 million times firearms are used in self-defense annually, 1.9 cases involve handguns and 10 percent involve women fending off sexual predators.

Also according to FBI numbers, there were an estimated 83,425 forcible rapes reported to law enforcement in 2011. Females age 16 to 24 have the highest likelihood of becoming the victim of rape — two to three times higher.

All The Ways Michelle Obama And Other Progressives Want To Ruin Your Thanksgiving

Tomorrow, as you’re sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal and catching up with your loved ones, perhaps you’d like to awkwardly disrupt the holiday with a partisan monologue about what a blessing Obamacare is.

At least that’s what Michelle Obama and an array of affiliated progressive groups want you to do. The First Lady is encouraging her husband’s supporters at Organizing for Action to bring up Obamacare to family members who’d rather be chowing down on turkey.

“As you spend time with loved ones this holiday season, be sure to talk with them about what health reform can mean for them,” she wrote OFA members in a fundraising note. “OFA has some tips to help get the ball rolling…Make a pledge to have a conversation with your family about health insurance this holiday season.”

She goes on to list 14 talking points for Obama supporters who want to leave one in the Thanksgiving punchbowl by talking about Obamacare while everyone else is trying to watch football.

Among her helpful hints:

PICK A TIME

Start early: Don’t wait until the last minute—be sure to start the conversation early!

Integrate the talk into family time: Take advantage of downtime after meals or between holiday activities to start your talk.

THINK ABOUT HOW YOU’LL BRING IT UP

Make it personal: Be honest about your feelings and why this is important to you.

Be persistent, but keep it positive: Tell them you care about their health, and focus on the benefits that come from knowing that you have health insurance.

CHOOSE A PLACE

Get creative: Think about what matters to your family member. Make it memorable!

Find a quiet Place to Shop: You can start your conversation anywhere, but to shop for health coverage, you will want a more quiet, private place to make a phone call or use the internet.

CONVERSATION TIPS

Start by asking: “Have you thought about signing up for health insurance on the new marketplace?”

Offer to walk them through it: “Would you like to take some time with me to sign up right now?”

Ask them to make a plan, and commit to it: “When do you plan on signing up?”

Don’t forget to follow up: “Have you signed up yet?”

If you’re an Obamacare evangelist who’s running up against a particularly quarrelsome conservative curmudgeon in the family, those talking points may not be enough. That’s why the Democratic National Committee launched the “Democrat’s guide to talking politics with your Republican uncle” website.

Yourrepublicanuncle.com evidently has the Republican demographic nailed, since it’s targeted at the opinionated geezers who collectively present the only ideological opposition to socialism’s forward progress in the U.S.

The site doesn’t just vouch for Obamacare, but covers all the bases in protecting Barack Obama’s cult of personality. Whether it’s immigration, Obamacare, climate change or the economy, yourrepublicanuncle.com offers the progressive cheat sheet that Obama’s foot soldiers can use to vindicate his Presidency.

So even if there’s a giant turkey waiting for your family on the table tomorrow, you’ll have an even bigger one on your hands if you’re related to someone crazy enough to take the First Lady’s advice.

Safe, Secure, Reliable: That’s Not Obamacare

Officials admitted late last week that Vermont Health Connect, the health exchange website that handles the State’s Obamacare enrollment, was breached by a user who was able to obtain private information about another applicant — including that person’s Social Security number.

According to The Associated Press, which reported on the security breach after learning the Health Connect website’s privacy advocate had warned Federal Medicaid officials about the incident, the person who was able to breach the site’s security evidently wished only to demonstrate that the site wasn’t robust enough to trust with one’s personal information.

The person whose information was improperly breached received a letter in the mail days after visiting the Health Connect website. Inside was a copy of the application for insurance coverage he’d submitted while on the website, along with a handwritten message on the outside of the envelope: “VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT IS NOT A SECURE WEBSITE!” The same handwritten message also appeared on the back of one of the enclosed pages.

The incident was originally reported to the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Oct. 17, but was confirmed after The AP requested — and obtained — a copy under Vermont public records law.

The commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access told the news agency the incident was the product of “unique circumstances” and represented the only security breach the site had experienced.

The commissioner, David Larson, had testified on Nov. 5 on the site’s general performance before the Vermont House Health Care Committee, assuring lawmakers at that time that no one’s private information had been breached since the site went live.

After news of the incident began reverberating throughout the Internet over the weekend, Larson wrote a letter apologizing for the lie to Committee Chairman Mike Fisher.

The State official overseeing the Vermont Health Connect health insurance exchange has apologized for not being fully candid when a legislator asked him during a committee hearing if there had been security breaches on the website.

“[I] should have instead also included in my response the facts of this single incident, and am sorry that my statements to the committee did not do so,” Larson wrote.

“I was asked about whether any security failures had occurred in Vermont Health Connect,” Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, said of his testimony Nov. 5 to the Vermont House Health Care Committee.

“I responded that no situation had occurred where somebody’s private information had been breached,” he added in a letter of apology to the committee’s chairman, State Representative Mike Fisher. The letter was dated Sunday and made public Monday.

In a statement Monday, Governor Peter Shumlin (D) said he had been briefed on the security breach, which investigators said was neither intentional nor malicious. Shumlin criticized Larson for the misleading testimony.

“I take this incident extremely seriously. It is unacceptable to be anything less than fully cooperative and transparent with Vermonters and their elected representatives in the Legislature. I am tremendously disappointed in Commissioner Larson’s lapse of judgment in this matter,” Shumlin said. “This incident was promptly identified and resolved, and I was disappointed to learn that Commissioner Larson did not adequately disclose the circumstances of it when asked about this topic in committee earlier this month.”

Vermont’s health exchange has been one of the more successful efforts to enroll those eligible for care. The State said that by Nov. 10 it had signed up 3,500 people, about 12 percent of those expected to enroll, according to a study by Avalere Health cited by NBC News.

‘I Won’t Enforce It’: Pro-2nd Amendment Stance Helps New York Sheriff Dominate In Re-Election Bid

Back in May, one county sheriff pledged not to enforce the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, a bill that came early in the post-Newtown backlash of knee-jerk gun control legislation that swept through the Nation’s social progressivism outposts.

That sheriff, Tim Howard of Erie County, signed on to a lawsuit against the SAFE Act along with other New York sheriffs, and famously told The Buffalo News: “I won’t enforce it.”

Howard was up for re-election this year, and he faced two opponents in the general election in early November. But Howard’s stance on gun control resonated with Erie County voters. Here’s how The Buffalo News revisited Howard’s political arc after he won his third term in office:

Four words that he uttered at a news conference last May helped Timothy B. Howard win a third term as Erie County sheriff.

The words were “I won’t enforce it,” and Howard was talking about the SAFE Act, a controversial new state firearms law that has outraged gun owners.

The support of angry firearms owners helped the Republican sheriff to a big win Tuesday over his Democratic Party opponent, retired Sheriff’s Deputy Richard E. Dobson, and Sheriff’s Lt. Bert D. Dunn, a Law and Order Party candidate who lost the Democratic nomination in the September primary.

…Late Tuesday night, a jubilant Howard thanked his supporters and leaders of the Republican and Conservative parties for helping him win. He said people all over Erie County have thanked him for his stand on the gun issue.

“I did what I thought was the right thing to do,” Howard told The Buffalo News. “People in Western New York feel strongly about the Constitution and Albany’s misreading of it.”

The Erie County sheriff’s office is reportedly the largest local police force in western New York, with 1,000 employees and a budget that tops $100 million. Howard’s position at the center of the sheriffs’ collective rebuttal to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who pushed hard for the SAFE Act’s swift passage into law, has been a high-profile one.

Howard went a step further than many of his law enforcement peers in New York, filing an amicus curiae brief on behalf of New York sheriffs attached to the SAFE Act lawsuit. The suit, originally brought in Federal court by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, claims the law infringed on citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights. The suit is ongoing.

Howard never took a defiant position against the SAFE Act in his own county; he simply said he would not initiate any enforcement proceedings that would bring the State into an adversarial relationship with citizens who choose to violate it, because the Nation’s founding documents take precedence over subsequent laws that abrogate their instructions.

“The Constitution is the law of the land,” Howard said in May. “If you know it’s a violation of the Constitution, how can you enforce it? … I don’t think we’re going to suppress evidence; I just don’t think we’ll be actively pursuing it.”

Obama Wishes He Could Bypass Congress On Immigration (And Budgets, And Gun Control, And Everything Else)

President Barack Obama may be out on the rubber-chicken circuit to convince America he won’t attempt an end run around Congress to accomplish his agenda through executive fiat, but it’s visibly evident that’s a painful promise for him to make.

Here he is trying to get tough on a heckler Monday, whom he patently agreed with on immigration reform:

The heckler told Obama he could resolve the ongoing Congressional debate over immigration law because the President has the power, by executive order, to grant amnesty to illegal aliens living in the U.S.

“Actually I don’t. And that’s why we’re here,” Obama said. “…If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing them through Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a Nation of laws; that’s part of our tradition. And so, the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you wanna achieve, but it won’t be as easy as just shouting.”

It’s not the first time the Obama Administration has wistfully daydreamed, out loud, about what Obama could do if only he were king.

“What I will say is that this is not the President’s idealized budget,” said Press Secretary Jay Carney back in April. “It is not what he would do if he were king, or if only people who supported his proposals were in Congress. It was what he believes is a fair and balanced approach to our deficit challenges.”

And it’s not as though Obama hasn’t resorted to the heavy-handed approach in the past. It’s just that, in the midst of an Obamacare meltdown that’s galvanizing some red-State Democrats against him, the likelihood of profound political blowback is far greater than it was, say, back in August, when the President passed two executive orders to close two gun control “loopholes.”

So he’s now paying lip service, even to his own supporters, to the truth that executive orders aren’t the answer. But what will happen if Democrats do well in 2014, or if Obama’s approval numbers climb back above 50 percent?

Will The Government Bail Out Insurers Crippled By Obamacare?

What happens to the health insurance market if the Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t sign up the 7 million people it targeted for Obamacare between now and March 31, 2014? Insurance companies are in business to turn a profit, aren’t they?

When Obamacare fails to hit its enrollment goal (an inevitability even its supporters aren’t trying to spin), there will be millions of Americans without health insurance and dozens of insurance companies facing massive losses. But buried somewhere in the Affordable Care Act’s more than 10,000 pages is the bailout: risk adjustment, Federal government style.

Obamacare’s “risk corridor” proviso is receiving more attention since President Barack Obama’s “administrative fix” announcement last week, when he called on insurers to accept his invitation to continue offering policies to customers who’d already been dropped under Obamacare’s new rules.

Insurance companies instantly balked at the President’s announcement, because they’d already invested a lot of time and money in negotiating new pricing schemes in each State, while simultaneously waving farewell to lost revenues under their old pricing structure. So HHS stepped in to clarify exactly what the President meant.

“Though this transitional policy was not anticipated by health insurance issuers when setting rates for 2014, the risk corridor program should help ameliorate unanticipated changes in premium revenue,” HHS wrote to insurance regulators.

“Risk corridors,” writes Bloomberg Businessweek, “are part of an obscure set of Obamacare rules intended to protect insurance companies from deep losses if they sign up too many sick people — an insurance policy for insurance companies. It’s one of the so-called Three Rs — reinsurance, risk adjustment and risk corridors — meant to backstop health plans through byzantine adjustments in the transition to a new marketplace where carriers can’t turn sick people away.

Here’s more from Bloomberg:

The third program, called risk corridors, is a temporary way to limit insurers’ potential losses and profits. It applies only to insurers selling plans on the health exchanges. The mechanics are complex, but the gist is this: If it turns out a health plan set its rates too high — collecting much more in premiums than it paid out — the carrier pays a portion of the excess to the government. On the other hand, if insurers set rates too low, the government will backstop some of their losses.

That in itself doesn’t promise insurers a bailout — let alone a government-money gravy train. But the risk corridors program, like the rest of the pricing regulations set in place by Obamacare, were envisioned as “budget-neutral” rules that function only when the right mix of people sign up for insurance.

But the right mix of people isn’t signing up for Obamacare. There are far too few people in the total pool, and of those few who have signed up, there’s a disproportionate number whose medical needs exceed those of the average customer.

That, wrote Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) last week, leaves the Federal government obligated to essentially bail out insurance companies that won’t see profits under Obamacare’s new coverage mandates.

Here’s a portion of Rubio’s Nov. 18 column in The Wall Street Journal:

Risk corridors are generally used to mitigate an insurer’s pricing risk. Under ObamaCare, risk corridors were established for the law’s first three years as a safety-net for insurers who experience financial losses. While risk corridors can protect taxpayers when they are budget-neutral, ObamaCare’s risk corridors are designed in such an open-ended manner that the president’s action now exposes taxpayers to a bailout of the health-insurance industry if and when the law fails.

Subsequent regulatory rulings have made clear that the administration views this risk-corridor authority as a blank check, requiring no further consultation or approval by Congress. A final rule handed down in March by HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services states: “Regardless of the balance of payments and receipts, HHS will remit payments as required under section 1342 of the Affordable Care Act.”

Rubio has introduced a bill, the “Obamacare Bailout Prevention Act,” to repeal the risk corridor proviso from the Affordable Care Act.

Is The EPA Taking Aim At Your Property By Reinventing The Clean Water Act?

A proposed draft rule from the Environmental Protection Agency could expand the number of waterways covered under the Clean Water Act. The proposal is eliciting strong opposition from property owners and conservative legislators who say the rule would pave the way for Federal oversight of small-scale building projects and private land use on private property.

The EPA is denying that this is the case, claiming the new proposal doesn’t aim to expand the Federal agency’s jurisdiction or reach farther than the Clean Water Act presently does.

Technically, that appears to be true. But the devil is in the details.

A 2006 Supreme Court ruling called for the EPA to demonstrate more thorough scientific documentation in claiming protection under the Clean Water Act for small waterways or isolated lakes, ponds and wetlands. In order for the EPA to halt development of such a site, it should demonstrate that the isolated waterway is in fact located within the “significant nexus” of nearby protected navigable waters.

“Significant nexus” — what a phrase.

The proposed rule, supporters claim, simply follows through on the court’s interpretation of the law. But, by leaving all of the interpretative leeway of that phrase in the hands of the EPA, it’s not difficult to envision the agency claiming new oversight of ravines, seasonal creeks and other runoff points on private lands because, under the new interpretation, the Clean Water Act of 1972 really gave the EPA jurisdiction over all those things in the first place.

That already doesn’t sit well with the agricultural industry, and some Congressional Republicans say it shouldn’t sit well with anyone who owns rural property.

National Hog Farmer magazine reports that the rule is facing strong opposition from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), which represents farmers who fear they will soon face a new and costly layer of Federal regulation just to continue doing business as they’ve always done.

NPPC says the draft regulation would bring under CWA [Clean Water Act] jurisdiction man-altered and man-made water bodies, including farm ditches, tile drainage and field filter strips. Even wetlands that are “many miles away” from jurisdictional water could be regulated, according to NPPC.

The Supreme Court has limited EPA’s and the Corps’ jurisdiction under the CWA in several instances, ruling that it cannot be based on a mere connection to a navigable water or extend to waters far removed from navigable waters.

If the draft rule becomes final in its current form, NPPC says that EPA and the Corps [of Engineers] could potentially have jurisdiction over large tracts of state and private lands, and CWA permits would be required for a host of activities on them. Farmers could be required to obtain permits to apply manure, fertilizer or pesticides, for example.

All water flows downhill. If the EPA can retroactively extend the meaning of the Clean Water Act to include, as Bloomberg’s Amena H. Saiyid phrased it, “all natural and artificial tributary streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands that affect the chemical, physical and biological integrity of larger, downstream navigable waters,” there’s really not a square inch of land open to any use at all without first clearing a new set of hurdles.

And, an expansion of EPA jurisdiction could also give environmental groups standing to file lawsuits against any activity of any scope — from barn raising to small-scale organic farming to rock crushing — if it can claim anything on the land falls under Federal protection. In theory, someone who’s been raising a small brood of hens at his hilltop farmhouse could find himself at the defending end of an environmental lawsuit if watchdog groups can find incriminating levels of nitrates anywhere beneath the land.

“A draft rule obtained by the Science Committee is a massive expansion of EPA regulatory authority over private property, giving the agency jurisdiction over almost all man-made and natural streams, lakes and ponds in the U.S.,” wrote Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) earlier this month. “[S]uch a power grab undermines states’ rights and increases federal control of private property that ‘could lead to the EPA telling us what to do in our own back yard.’”

McConnell: Punch Tea Party “In The Nose”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) evidently has a plan for the 2014 midterm Congressional elections: punch the Tea Party in the nose.

The comment came to light today via Breitbart, following an interview with a GOP donor who said he heard McConnell’s remark during an Oct. 30 conference call hosted by Karl Rove’s Crossroads donor group.

On the call, according to a donor who was on it, McConnell personally named Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as Tea Party conservatives he views as problematic for him. “The bulk of it was an attack on the Tea Party in general, Cruz in particular,” the source, a prominent donor, said in a phone interview with Breitbart News.

But the most memorable line came at the end of the call.

“McConnell said the Tea Party was ‘nothing but a bunch of bullies,’” the source said. “And he said ‘you know how you deal with schoolyard bullies? You punch them in the nose and that’s what we’re going to do.’”

The source said Rove was less vivid in his remarks, but essentially agreed with McConnell that Tea Party conservatism needs to be relegated to the margins as part of the GOP’s 2014 center-line campaign strategy.

The revelation comes just one day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wielded majority power to castrate Senate Republicans’ powers, and Senate procedure along with it.

In light of Reid’s invocation of the filibuster-ending nuclear option, and the failure of Republican leaders to counter by withholding unanimous consent on the rest of the day’s business, “an aide to a Tea Party lawmaker said that McConnell’s focus on trying to go after the Tea Party has jeopardized Senate Republicans’ chances at actually beating Democrats.”

Red State persuasively argues the Tea Party isn’t the problem; McConnell’s weak leadership is:

Instead of fighting fire with fire, McConnell is basically saying we can’t do anything until after the elections:

“The solution to this problem is an election,” McConnell said at a Thursday press conference after the Senate voted to go nuclear, changing the rules of the filibuster.

“The solution to this problem’s at the ballot box,” McConnell said. “We look forward to having a great election in November 2014.” […]

“I don’t think this is a time to be talking about a reprisal,” he said. “I think it’s at time to be sad about what’s been done to the United States Senate.” [Daily Caller]

I’m sure Harry Reid is scared to death.

There is one simple thing Republicans can do to retaliate.  They can start by ending the Democrat super-majority on legislative issues.  They can easily pledge to filibuster every piece of legislation and deny all requests for unanimous consent until the rules change is overturned.

…Harry Reid has identified a soft target.  And until we change GOP leadership in the Senate, he will keep punching.

We’ve seen that the most loyal servants in President Barack Obama’s partisan army don’t reward true negotiating overtures or understand the time-tested, workaday dance of give-and-take. For the GOP to accomplish anything in the current Congress, it needs leaders who are willing to hew to the party’s core values and take a stand. It isn’t the Tea Party McConnell should want to punch “in the nose” – it’s the Democrats who are leading him about with the ring they’ve stuck in his.

Report: Wealthy Nations Have Too Many People On Antidepressants

The developed world has seen an immense increase in the use of antidepressant drugs as prescriptions for nonessential, quality-of-life medications continue to fly out of physicians’ hands.

That summarizes one finding in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s  (OECD) “Health at a Glance” report for 2013. OECD, an international economic group headquartered in Paris, is composed of members representing 34 nations that collectively seek to promote the spread of democracy and “policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.” It was born from the post-World War II European economic bloc tasked with implementing the Marshall Plan.

The OECD’s report reveals that physicians in many developed countries now prescribe medication for one out of every 10 people, while in the United States, more than one in 10 people obtain some form of medication to treat symptoms of depression. Meanwhile, the report finds that rates of depression worldwide haven’t gone up; rather, doctors just seem to be writing more prescriptions for antidepressants than ever before.

OECD says the report raises “concerns about [the] appropriateness” of overprescribing these types of medications, which entered the market as treatments for the most severe cases of depression, as a stopgap alternative to non-medical therapies such as counseling and cognitive behavior therapy.

From the report:

[R]ising consumption levels can also be explained by the extension of the set of indications of some antidepressants to milder forms of depression, generalized anxiety disorders or social phobia. These extensions have raised concerns about appropriateness. Changes in the social acceptability and willingness to seek treatment during episodes of depression may also contribute to increased consumption.

Doctors and academics critical of the increasing ubiquity of quality-of-life drugs aren’t surprised by the report’s findings.

“Antidepressants are widely oversubscribed to get rid of unhappiness,” Professor Tim Cantopher, a consultant psychiatrist in Britain, told South African newspaper Mail & Guardian. “They were not designed for that. Unhappiness is part of the human condition. But real clinical depression does respond to antidepressants.”

House Blocks Obama Administration’s Fracking Regulations

In a bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives decided Wednesday to block White House regulations on fracking (hydraulic fracturing), citing the fact that States already regulate the practice and that an extra layer of Federal red tape will only slow America’s re-emerging oil and natural gas economy.

Supported by 12 Democrats and opposed by two Republicans, Wednesday’s 235-187 passage of H.R. 2728 represents an early symbolic defeat for President Barack Obama, who has proposed that fracking on Federal lands should be regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The President has, of course, threatened to veto the bill, if it survives a more arduous trip through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Prior to the vote, House Republicans said it doesn’t make sense for Obama to attempt to fix a policy that isn’t broken.

“Hydraulic fracturing has been safely and effectively regulated by States for decades. So the Obama Administration’s proposed regulations are unnecessary,” said Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. “They’re redundant, and it simply wastes precious time and money duplicating what is already being done successfully.”

The bill specifically forbids the Department of the Interior from enforcing any Federal regulation on hydraulic fracturing on Federal lands, as well as on tribal lands that regulate the exploitation of their own mineral resources.

It also requires the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a study on the environmental impact of fracking that takes into account the efficacy of regulatory practices set in place by the States.

Ted Cruz’ Answer To Obamacare: ‘Expand Competition’

In a sometimes-fiery exchange with CNN’s Chris Cuomo Thursday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dodged ad hominem insults to bring out a point that’s so far fallen on deaf ears – both among Congressional Democrats, as well as the moderate Republicans who prefer staging political stalemates to shaping meaningful policy reforms.

His point? Conservatives have been pushing for a while now to reverse Obamacare’s market-constricting mandates by freeing the insurance industry to sell competing policies across State lines.

“[Y]ou want a positive, affirmative solution? You know, the single best thing we can do is expand competition,” said Cruz. “Let people purchase health insurance across state lines. If you want to expand access, what you want to do is increase choices and drive down cost.

“What Obamacare does is decreases choices and drives up cost. It doesn’t make sense, and it isn’t working.”

Harry Reid To Force Nuclear Option, Change Senate Rules, Cut A Path For Obama Nominees UPDATE: Rules Changed

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is moving forward with the so-called “nuclear option” to end filibusters by minority-party opponents of proposed legislation, a move designed to give President Barack Obama’s current batch of nominees a cakewalk through the Senate confirmation process.

Senate Democrats are expected to force a vote today, despite procedural attempts by Republicans to have the vote forestalled.

“The change we propose today would ensure executive and judicial nominations an up or down vote on confirmation,” said Reid. “Yes or no. The rule change will make cloture for all nominations other than the Supreme Court, the majority the threshold vote, yes or no.” Reid described the no-filibuster rule as a necessary measure to end partisan gridlock and “evolve” the Senate. “It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the decision, a product of transitory political expediency, would come back to haunt Reid and the Democratic majority.

“I realize this sort of wishful thinking might appeal to the uninitiated newcomers in the Democratic conference who served exactly zero days in the minority, but the rest of you guys should know better,” McConnell said.

“The Majority Leader promised over and over again that he wouldn’t break the rules of the Senate to change the Senate,” McConnell also said. “When Democrats were in the minority they argued strenuously for the very thing they now say we will have to do without, namely the right to extend a debate on lifetime appointments. In other words they believe that one set of rules should apply to them and another set to everybody else.”

The Senate is reportedly well-attended today, with “almost every Senator… at his or her desk in recognition of the significance of the moment.”

Under the “nuclear option,” the Senate would change its rules of procedure so that Presidential nominees could be confirmed on a simple majority vote, undercutting the 60-vote majority needed to break a filibuster opposing the nominations. The Reid proposal is expected to affect Presidential nominations for judicial and executive-branch appointments, but not Supreme Court nominations.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), about as conciliatory an adversary as Senate Democrats could hope for, was evidently beginning to see the light Thursday, telling reporters, “This changes everything; this changes everything.”

UPDATE:

In a 52-48 vote, the Senate dramatically changed its rules to limit the minority Party’s ability to filibuster and prevent the confirmation of Presidential nominees. Only three Democrats, Senator’s Carl Levin (Mich.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), voted against Majority Leader Reid’s proposal.

The change will clear the way for confirmation of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals along with his nomination of Representative Mel Watt to a housing regulatory agency appointment.

“It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

“The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken. And I agree.”

Minority Leader McConnell said that the Democrats had simply picked a fake fight over the Federal judgeships in order to distract Americans from the problems plaguing Obamacare.

“It only reinforces the narrative of a party willing to do or say just about anything to get its way,” said McConnell.

Republicans have been critical of the Democrats’ embrace of the nuclear option since lawmakers on the left gained control of the Senate in 2006.

In 2005, GOP Senators threatened to employ a similar tactic in order to move some of President George W. Bush’s nominees.

“To change the rules in the Senate can’t be done by a simple majority. It can only be done if there is extended debate by 67 votes,” Reid said in May 2005.

“They are talking about doing something illegal. They are talking about breaking the rules to change the rules, and that is not appropriate. That is not fair, and it is not right,” he said in April of that year.

 

* Sam Rolley contributed to this report.

Florida City Tells Couple They Can’t Keep Their 17-Year-Old Vegetable Garden

A Florida couple who had cultivated a small garden for nearly two decades at their Miami Shores home was given an ultimatum earlier this year by the city’s zoning code enforcement officer: Dig up your garden or pay $50 a day to the city for violating a new ordinance.

After spending months attempting to obtain an exemption from the city that would have allowed them to continue tending a modest plot of vegetables at their home (just as they’d done for the past 17 years), Tom Carroll and his wife, Hermine Ricketts, dug up their garden.

Miami Shores had instituted a new zoning ordinance in May outlawing vegetables (but not, as watchdog.org notes, fruit, trees or plastic flamingoes) in the front yards of local homes.

That measure was followed by a visit to the couple’s home courtesy of the zoning department, which told the homeowners they would have to comply or pay a never-ending fine.

After Carroll and Ricketts capitulated, the Institute for Justice — a civil liberties nonprofit organization staffed by lawyers — stepped in, filing a lawsuit that seeks to have the discriminatory ordinance declared unConstitutional. The organization alleges the code infringes on the couple’s privacy, and that the ordinance exemplifies a growing nationwide trend that pits government against small-scale food growers.

“For 17 years, Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll used their front yard to grow food for their own personal consumption,” IJ said in announcing the lawsuit. “And for 17 years, nobody had a problem with it . . . until now.”

Hermine and Tom are part of a nationwide movement of small-scale food producers and consumers who are tired of the government dictating what foods they can grow, sell, and eat. On November 19, 2013, they joined with the Institute for Justice to challenge Miami Shores’ senseless front-yard vegetable garden ban.  Their case aims to vindicate the right of all Americans to peacefully use their own property to support their own families.

Despite the fact that Carroll and Rickets are stable, longtime residents whose position in the neighborhood has remained stable and benign over many years, the ordinance did not include language to grandfather in properties like theirs. The law’s intent, as written, is to “protect the distinctive character of the Miami Shores Village.”

The Institute for Justice has some good background information on the couple’s case, including its significance in the wider context of similar legislation throughout the country that takes direct aim at property owners who produce and consume their own food.

“Because Hermine and Tom’s right to grow vegetables on their own property for their own consumption is protected by the Basic Rights and Right of Privacy Clauses of the Florida Constitution, courts are required to apply heightened scrutiny in reviewing Miami Shores’ ban on front-yard vegetable gardens,” IJ maintains. “That means Miami Shores will have to prove that its ban promotes a compelling governmental interest and is narrowly tailored to advance that interest. If the government does not meet that high burden (and it cannot), the ban must be struck down as unconstitutional.”

To see more photos of the couple and their property, check out IJ’s related media page.

Unlike The Rest Of America, Congress’ Dose Of Obamacare Comes With A Giant Spoonful Of Sugar

In the long run-up to Obamacare’s Oct. 1 launch, Congress made much over its commitment to keeping itself honest. Congress members and staffers, they pledged, would indeed adhere to the same coverage plans and mandates that Congress had imposed on the entire Nation.

But no one said anything about Congress members and eligible Capitol employees getting the white-glove treatment.

The New York Times, which has had a rough time adjusting its former editorial stance as it attempts to stay atop Obamacare’s now-burgeoning wave of unpopularity, got mad about it Tuesday.

“Members of Congress like to boast that they will have the same health care enrollment experience as constituents struggling with the balky federal website, because the law they wrote forced lawmakers to get coverage from the new insurance exchanges,” wrote The Times’ Robert Pear.

What follows is a sarcastic tirade highlighting the vast difference between the Congressional Obamacare enrollment experience and that of just about everybody else:

That is true. As long as their constituents have access to “in-person support sessions” like the ones being conducted at the Capitol and congressional office buildings by the local exchange and four major insurers. Or can log on to a special Blue Cross and Blue Shield website for members of Congress and use a special toll-free telephone number — a “dedicated congressional health insurance plan assistance line.”

And then there is the fact that lawmakers have a larger menu of “gold plan” insurance choices than most of their constituents have back home.

That’s right. Congress actually has more options than everyone else, especially on the deluxe end of the coverage spectrum. There are 112 Obamacare gold-level coverage packages available to Congress, whereas most constituents back home can count on one or two hands the number of gold-level packages available to them.

The problems most people have with Obamacare have to do with its mechanical functionality (accessing websites that work as advertised) and with its cost (obtaining coverage that’s “affordable,” as advertised).

But the problems Congress members and staffers are having represent a wealth of riches.

“Lawmakers and their aides are not eligible for tax credit subsidies, but the government pays up to 75 percent of their premiums, contributing a maximum of $5,114 a year for individual coverage and $11,378 for family coverage,” writes Pear. “The government contribution is based on the same formula used for most other federal employees.

“…Congressional aides naturally have a few complaints. Some are confused by the large number of options.”

No worries. They can just call the Congress-only toll-free Obamacare number to get their questions answered rapidly.

Liven Up Thanksgiving Dinner By Suggesting Michael Bloomberg Is Right About Gun Control

A new ad campaign by Mayors Against Illegal Guns – New York Mayor Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s over-funded, under-performing gun control nonprofit – is helpfully suggesting that people hijack their own Thanksgiving family gatherings by “Talking Turkey” about why we need more gun laws.

Are members of your family ardent believers in the frank simplicity of the 2nd Amendment? Here’s your chance to alienate them while breaking bread:

Everyone has friends and relatives with strong opinions and shaky facts. You can help set the table straight – all you need is this simple guide to Talking Turkey about guns!

What guide? The wholesome-looking one that Mayors Against Illegal Guns superimposes over a sepia background of police tape and cop cars on its “Demand Action” website. For comedic purposes, here’s the guide:

turkeytalkers

The Numbers Game: U.N. Panel Gets Its Climate Change Numbers By Hand-Picking Sympathetic Data

You know how policy progressives are always citing the consensus of the overwhelming majority of scientific experts to drive home their point that man-made climate change is well understood and “settled?”

The pool of experts who supposedly prop up progressives’ calls for ever more-ambitious environmental policies is actually a lot smaller, and its findings a lot less politicized, than pundits claim.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has a history of neglecting evidence in order to adhere to an aggressive climate change agenda, claims an affiliation with 2,500 scientific experts who all agree that the disaster-averting result acting to curb man-made global heating is worth any economic cost.

Only problem is, the number of scientists who actually have signed off on that opinion is nowhere close to the 2,500 the IPCC claims. To be sure, the IPCC has sourced isolated tidbits of its global warming puzzle from among 2,500 experts, but they don’t all agree. In fact, according to the National Post’s Lawrence Solomon, some disagree “vehemently.”

“To their embarrassment, most of the pundits and press discovered that they were mistaken — those 2,500 scientists hadn’t endorsed the IPCC’s conclusions, they had merely reviewed some part or other of the IPCC’s mammoth studies,” Solomon writes. “To add to their embarrassment, many of those reviewers from within the IPCC establishment actually disagreed with the IPCC’s conclusions, sometimes vehemently.”

The IPCC has since shifted to a newer made-for-media statistic that uses a percentage rather than a hard number. That gives the U.N. panel a lot more rhetorical wiggle room, even though the facts that lie behind its claim that “97 percent of the world’s climate scientists” agree on the causes and effects of global warming don’t support the claim itself.

Solomon points out that, in order to arrive at the “97 percent” figure, the IPCC had to cull only the opinions of only the most adamant global warming adherents from a group of scientists who responded to a 2009 online survey sponsored by the University of Illinois. A pair of sympathetic researchers led that effort, and their first order of business was excluding the wider scientific community — including “solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists and astronomers” — in favor of 10,257 scientists in fields like geology, paleontology and oceanography. The researchers didn’t factor in the respondents’ academic qualifications or their current jobs. About 1,000 of those included in the survey didn’t have a Ph.D.

Even with a group hand-selected to tell researchers what they wanted to hear, the opinions of the 3,146 people who actually answered the survey still didn’t achieve a consensus on the extent to which mankind is contributing to global warming. So the IPCC zeroed in on a subset of scientists who’d responded to the survey. There were only 77 people in that special group.

Of those 77 scientists, the IPCC then pinned down 75 who said they believed there was a direct link between human activity and climate change, with the other two dissenting — presumably so that there’d be an obligatory wacko contingent included in the final conclusion, just to make the results somewhat believable. Divide 77 into 75 and you get .974.

Voilá! That’s 97 percent.

Even if there are thousands upon thousands of scientists whose opinions on man-made global warming run the full gamut from all-out denial to all-out acceptance, the ICPP used sympathetic research to isolate a small group of people to advance its policy agenda.

Every closed system is perfect. If all the people within a group believe exactly the same thing, and all are equally willing to live with the consequences of their beliefs — no matter how absurd they may seem to outsiders — a closed system can function perfectly. In fact, that’s exactly what cults do.

But when a cult begins expecting the rest of the world to accept the faith of its believers, and asks the rest of the world to bear the cost of achieving the cult’s aims, it’s time to push back. People may play an indeterminate role in shaping the global environment in ways that are poorly understood and in ways that lack the context of human documentation over the course of the Earth’s long history. But no one in 2013 has the omniscient perspective to assume an absolutist’s position on that complex interaction of possible causes and possible effects.

Especially not the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its cultist adherents.

Police Shoot, Kill 61-Year-Old Woman With Multiple Sclerosis Who Allegedly Wouldn’t Drop Knife, Guitar

Police in San Jose, Calif., shot and killed a 61-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis in the driveway of her home on Nov. 16 because she didn’t respond to their orders to drop a knife.

They were there because a neighbor had called police with a noise complaint. Her widowed husband confirmed that the couple had indeed been arguing that day.

The victim, Andrea Naharro Gionet, was a diminutive woman who’d been diagnosed with MS earlier this year. Local news reports described the way in those who knew Naharro took police to task for the way they handled the encounter.

From KTVU News in Oakland:

“I asked the police why didn’t you just Tase her,” said Pam Polacci of Boulder Creek, a friend of Naharro. “Why did you use such deadly force?”

The three deputies who encountered Naharro just after midnight Saturday had a different impression.

They were responding to a noise complaint from one of Naharro’s neighbors.

“The subject produced a weapon,” said Sheriff’s Sgt. Kurtis Stenderup.

That weapon, a knife of unspecified size was in Naharro’s hand as she stood in her driveway. When she refused the deputies’ order to drop it, they say they fired.

Neighbors reported hearing three shots. Authorities have not said how many times Naharro was struck.

“The knife was located next to the deceased subject,” added Stenderup.

Onlookers told media that the victim appeared to have been holding a guitar in one hand and a kitchen knife in the other when the police opened fire.

“Even if she walked towards them and they told her to ‘stop’, c’mon,” said family friend Tony Poalucci. “You guys know how to do hand to hand combat. Pull her to the ground.”

IRS Cincinnati Office Pushed Back Hard When Lerner Tried To Throw ‘Rogue’ Employees Under The Bus

Newly released emails from the Internal Revenue Service’s Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division office in Cincinnati show that, from the beginning, Lois Lerner was setting the office up as a “rogue” fall guy for the Tea Party discrimination scandal.

The new batch of emails, products of an ongoing investigation into the scandal by the House Ways and Means Committee, show that Cincinnati exempt organizations director Cindy Thomas called out Lerner directly for attempting to make the scandal appear to be the work of outliers working without authorization from Washington, D.C.

On May 10 (the day the scandal first broke to the media), Lerner was claiming it was all Cincinnati’s fault, and that nobody else within the IRS knew that the agency was holding up conservative groups’ applications to be granted nonprofit status during the 2012 general election cycle.

To say that incensed Thomas, back at the Cincinnati office, is an understatement.

“Cincinnati wasn’t publicly ‘thrown under the bus’ [but] instead was hit by a convoy of Mack trucks,” Thomas wrote Lerner in an email that same day.

“As you can imagine, employees and managers [here in Cincinnati] are furious.” Thomas wrote to Lerner.

Confronted May 10 with questions about the brewing scandal, Lerner, who was attending a conference for the American Bar Association at the time, said rogue employees at the Cincinnati office “didn’t have the appropriate level of sensitivity about how this might appear to others, and it was just wrong.”

Thomas, who never publicized her anger with Lerner, excoriated her via email.

“Was it also communicated at that conference in Washington that the low-level workers in Cincinnati asked the Washington office for assistance and the Washington office took no action to provide guidance to the low-level workers?

“. . . How am I supposed to keep the low-level workers motivated when the public believes they are nothing more than low-level and now will have no respect for how they are working cases? The attitude/morale of employees is at the lowest it has ever been.”

At least they can take solace in the fact that Lerner ultimately did take the fall, most likely in a move by the Obama Administration to decapitate the scandal while the public still believed its head wasn’t attached to the White House. She resigned in September, and poked her head up last month to announce she wanted to volunteer to help a local citizens’ group in Maryland screen grant applications from nonprofit organizations. Old habits die hard.