Graph: Barack Obama’s Pre-Midterm Slide In Popularity Rivals George W. Bush’s

The Washington Post ran a timeline graph today superimposing the approval rating trends of Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush through their second terms. The graph, supplied to the paper by Robert Blizzard, a Republican pollster at Public Opinion Strategies, also includes Barack Obama’s approval rating through the first ten months of his second term.

obama_approval

What’s interesting is how closely Obama’s approval rating through his second term mirrors that of George W. Bush – a potentially dire sign for Congressional Democrats and State governors seeking office in the 2014 midterm election cycle.

“[I]f you believe that at least some portion of a president’s legacy is built on — or broken by — the state he leaves his party in when he departs office than Obama’s poll standing matters a whole heck of a lot as we get closer and closer to 2014,” writes the Post’s Chris Cillizza.

“The loss of the Senate majority and a smaller minority in the House after November 2014 would make any attempt to rack up second term accomplishments before he left office extremely difficult for Obama. Combine that with the reality that Obama’s second term has not exactly been larded with major wins to date and you understand why Obama and his legacy are on the ballot in 2014 — even if his name is not. And that means his poll numbers matter. A lot.”

Cillizza points out that every midterm election from WWII to 1986 saw the President’s party lose an average of 48 House seats and seven Senate seats during midterm elections, and that the trend has dipped only slightly since then. Add in an unpopular President who appears to be doubling down on an equally unpopular agenda, and the potential for turnover in 2014 is ripe.

News That’s Too Bad To Spin: Obamacare Has Enrolled 3 Percent Of Its Target Customer Base

If you started a company with a fully subsidized startup cost and were granted free publicity months ahead of your product launch that got your product in front of every eligible buyer in the United States, would you be disappointed when your product achieved a 3 percent market share in its first month?

What if the court system had cleared a path for your ambitions to reach monopolistic proportions by giving you permission to dictate to your competitors what they could or couldn’t sell? What if the government set the wind at your back with buyer mandates and a guaranteed market presence in all 50 States?

Even assuming all your startup costs had been paid by a mysterious benefactor and you had no financial skin in the game until the day your widgets hit the market, would you even want to stay in business after you mustered a 3 percent market share? Or would you cut your losses before you incurred any and try your hand at something else?

Government doesn’t have to play by any of the rules that force free markets to be profitable, so it can cruise along indefinitely — or until its financiers grow restless enough to revolt against its policies — by pumping money into a sinking ship.

And according to a Reuters report Monday, that’s the shape of things in the early going for Obamacare, which has managed to enroll only 3 percent of the number of people the Department of Health and Human Services predicted it would. The kicker is that 3 percent is an optimistic figure, one that derived from Obamacare enrollment statistics in the 12 States where online health insurance exchanges are “mostly working smoothly,” according to the report.

HHS expected the State-managed exchanges to enroll 1.4 million people for 2014. They’ve enrolled 49,100 instead. Of course, the enrollment period is ongoing through March 31 of next year. But there’s no universe in which the sign-up rate will accelerate rapidly enough to come anywhere near the 1.4 million target by the time the enrollment period ends.

“Supporters of Obamacare and health insurers fear that scant participation in the private insurance exchanges will prevent them from becoming a sustainable new individual market, including the right mix of young and healthy members to offset coverage for older, sick people,” Reuters observes.

And those are the “supporters.” Far down in the same article, another revealing nugget demonstrates just how doomed the as-implemented configuration of the Affordable Care Act truly is: Part of the paltry 49,100 tally of new Obamacare enrollees includes people who’ve signed up for Medicaid.

And when the Obama Administration finally divulges some numbers on how many people have signed up in all States, as is expected later this week, those numbers – however meager they will appear – will nonetheless be inflated by the White House’s inclusion of anyone who’s put insurance in his or her online shopping cart at Healthcare.gov.

“Health insurance plans only count subscribers as enrolled in a health plan once they’ve submitted [sic] a payment,” The Washington Post reported Monday. “That is when the carrier sends out a member card and begins paying doctor bills.

“When the Obama administration releases health law enrollment figures later this week, though, it will use a more expansive definition. It will count people who have purchased a plan as well as those who have a plan sitting in their online shopping cart but have not yet paid.”

Lest you need some evidence that the Administration is doing everything it can to spit-shine the Obamacare disaster with unsustainably deceitful tactics, check out the latest “glitch” in the online marketplace: About 8,000 would-be shoppers at the Washington State Obamacare website were informed they would qualify for a healthcare subsidy on their tax returns.

But after following through with their Obamacare purchase, those same customers were informed the prices they’d been quoted were too low and that they don’t, in fact, qualify for the generous subsidies and low prices on which they made the decision to buy the coverage in the first place.

“That led many enrollees in the Washington exchange to select generous insurance plans they likely won’t be able to afford once their subsidies are reduced,” reports The Hill. “Those 8,000 individuals likely will need to go through the entire application process again to see what plans at what prices they qualify for under the correct tax subsidy.”

Student Borrowing Increases More Than Fourfold Under Obama

A recent report shows the total debt load borne by borrowers of Federal student loans has increased 463 percent since President Barack Obama began his first term. And it grew at a rate that outpaced student borrowing in the George W. Bush era by more than 500 percent.

CNS News, which crunched the numbers last week, reported that the current balance of outstanding student debt has reached $674.6 billion, compared with $119.8 billion in January 2009, at the start of Obama’s first term.

The dramatic jump isn’t simply coincidental with Obama’s Presidency; it’s a result of it. As CNS observes:

Direct federal student loan spending began to rise rapidly in fiscal year 2010, when the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act — one of the two laws that make up Obamacare — gave gave the federal government complete control over federal loans for education, the Direct Student Loan (DL) program.  This aspect of HCERA became effective July 1, 2010, when the amount of outstanding loans stood at $178,806,000,000. Since then, the balance has increased by 277 percent.

As private lenders have bowed out of the student loan market, thanks to an absence of profit motive as government continues to keep interest rates artificially low, the government itself has begun to play an increasingly prominent role as a primary lender.

And the government doesn’t hold borrowers to the same repayment standards that banks do.

“The problem is further complicated by Obama’s willingness to use debt forgiveness programs to absolve certain students of their obligations,” writes The Daily Caller’s Robby Soave. “The president has frequently championed and expanded such programs, which allow graduates to unload their debt burdens if they work for certain government agencies for lengthy periods of time.”

It’s just one more example of the Obama Administration’s push to expand the welfare state in a calculated effort to capture a greater swath of the broad American middle class.

No Duh, Feinstein! Dem Senator Breaks With Obama To Back ‘Keep Your Coverage’ Bill

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is breaking rank with the Obama Administration by throwing her support behind a bill that would require insurers to continue offering coverage to current customers who are happy with their existing health plans.

Feinstein said today she’s co-sponsoring legislation introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) because, well, it forces the Obama Administration to honor the President’s infamous –and broken – promise that, under Obamacare, people could keep their coverage if they liked it.

“This bill provides a simple fix to a complex problem,” Feinstein said Tuesday in a statement supporting the measure, which would require insurers to honor their current policies “indefinitely.”

Here’s the full text of that statement (H/T: San Francisco Chronicle):

I have decided to cosponsor Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) legislation: Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act. This bill provides a simple fix to a complex problem. This bill will extend the grandfather date for individual insurance plans so that individuals who have insurance policies they like can keep them indefinitely, unless the individual chooses another plan or the insurer stops providing health insurance in the individual market.

Specifically, the bill requires the following:

· Insurance companies must continue to offer—indefinitely—all currently existing insurance plans as of December 31, 2013, on the individual market;

· Future renewal notices must clearly inform customers they have the choice to keep their current plan or shop for insurance in a health exchange, such as Covered California; and

· Insurance companies must clearly state why the plan does not meet new minimum benefit standards.

Since the beginning of September, I have received 30,842 calls, emails and letters from Californians, many of whom are very distressed by cancellations of their insurance policies and who are facing increased out-of-pocket costs.

For example, a father from Rancho Mirage called and said: ‘I work three jobs to pay the bills for my wife and daughter. I got a letter that my plan is going from $420 to $943. I went to HealthCare.Gov, then Covered California. I researched my premiums. A policy almost identical to my old one is being offered for $863. I’m now being forced to come up with over $400 a month with 30 days’ notice. Let me spell it out: I do not have the income to afford this.’

Too many Americans are struggling to make ends meet. We must ensure that in our effort to reform the health care system, we do not allow unintended consequences to go unaddressed.

I believe consumers should be allowed to choose their plans, and they should be adequately informed about those choices. Consumers must be told what their coverage does and does not include so families don’t find themselves paying for an insurance policy they believe is comprehensive when in fact it is not.

The Affordable Care Act is a good law, but it is not perfect. I believe the Landrieu bill is a commonsense fix that will protect individuals in the private insurance market from being forced to change their insurance plan. I hope Congress moves quickly to enact it.

Obama Has Lost America On Immigration Reform

A Pew survey released Friday shows Americans are increasingly frustrated not only by President Barack Obama’s overall performance, but by his handling of almost every matter of policy that has confronted his Administration throughout the ineffectual, scandal-plagued first year of his second term.

Surprisingly, few Americans are fans of Obama’s stance on immigration reform.

According to Pew:

Only about a third of the public (32%) approves of the job Obama is doing on immigration policy; 60% disapprove. Obama’s ratings for this issue among Democrats are mixed: About half (53%) approve of his handling of the issue while 42% disapprove.

Interpreting the reason for that kind of lopsided disapproval among all Americans, as well as for the lack of clear consensus among Obama’s Democratic supporters, is a murky exercise. It’s possible that some who are dissatisfied think Obama’s not being progressive enough; that he shouldn’t wait for Congress to open a path to amnesty when the President could just bypass the rule of law by issuing an executive order.

But the fact that Democrats aren’t closing ranks with Obama suggests an alternate explanation: people don’t like what Obama and the Congressional Gang of Eight are selling.

Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle made exactly that point over the weekend, writing that “Obama’s immigration disapproval rating has skyrocketed as he has ramped up his efforts to lobby Congress for the passage of an amnesty — particularly the Senate’s ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill.”

Boyle continues:

As the American people have learned more and more about the Gang of Eight bill and the effects which amnesty and a drastic influx of millions of new workers would have on the hurting economy, they have grown more and more outraged with what Washington, D.C., is doing regarding immigration reform. In February — before Obama and lawmakers like Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and DIck Durbin (D-ll.L) began their push for immigration reform — the President’s immigration policy approval rating among the American people, according to Pew, was higher than his disapproval rating. His approval rating on immigration then was 44 percent, whereas his disapproval rating was 43 percent.

Over the next several months, the Obama administration worked with the Senate Democrats and a handful of Senate Republicans to develop the more-than-thousand-page-long Gang of Eight bill. The administration helped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rush the bill to the floor with hardly any substantive review from members, staffers, the media, and the American people.

In mid-June, before the Senate bill passed and as its ultimate passage became questionable, Obama’s Pew Research disapproval rating on immigration spiked up to 47 percent, and his approval rating on the issue dropped to 43 percent.

That’s a big swing in public opinion over a brief period of time. But it mimics the President’s freefall in most other policy arenas.

“The new survey finds that majorities disapprove of the way Obama is handling four of five issues tested, with terrorism the lone exception (51% approve, 44% disapprove),” the Pew study observes. “For every issue, including terrorism, his ratings are lower than they were earlier this year.”

Indeed. George Will riffed on the Pew study Sunday on Fox News, saying Obama’s fifth year in office – highlighted by the poor reception Americans have given the launch of the Affordable Care Act – is more disastrous than any other President’s except for Richard Nixon.

“Well, it is one thing for Bill Clinton to say ‘I feel your pain.’ It is another thing for Barack Obama to say ‘I feel your pain that I have caused,’” said Will. “And for him to say it was caused by a situation – that’s the word he used in the operative sentence – we, this week, marked the one-year anniversary of his reelection.

“Has there ever, with the exception of Richard Nixon in 1973, been a worst first year of a second term?”

 

Government Redistributed $2 Trillion From Upper Income Classes To Poorest In 2012

A new report from The Tax Foundation shows that the Federal government redistributed more than $2 trillion in income from the Nation’s highest earners in 2012 to the bottom 60 percent of income earners.

The extensive study, released Nov. 8, reveals that low-income Americans receive $5.28 in government spending for every dollar they pay in taxes, while high-income families receive $.25 for every dollar they pay. The shrinking middle class shows signs of sliding toward the lower-income bracket, with middle-class income earners receiving $1.48 back for every tax dollar they pay to the government.

The study targets the effectiveness of government schemes, taken as a whole, to shore up the needs of lower-income Americans by seizing and reallocating the wealth earned by top earners.

“While the distribution of the tax burden is a frequent topic of debate — especially in Washington, D.C. — there is little attention given to the distribution of spending programs,” the authors explain. “And rarely has there been any attempt to analyze the totality of tax and spending programs across all levels of government. This study seeks to fill this void by analyzing the distribution of both taxes and government spending at both the federal and state and local levels.”

Here are more of the report’s key findings:

  • As a group, the bottom 60 percent of American families receive more back in total government spending than they pay in total taxes.
  • Government tax and spending policies combine to redistribute more than $2 trillion from the top 40 percent of families to the bottom 60 percent.
  • The total amount of redistribution has increased slightly over the past 12 years. Middle-income and working lower-income families were the biggest beneficiaries.
  • Lawmakers can remove equity as an issue in tax reform by matching any loss in progressivity on the tax side with an equal increase in progressivity on the spending side.

As noted above, there’s an increasing tendency on the part of government to include more middle-class Americans in the entitlement culture – a tendency The Tax Foundation says is deleterious to the Nation’s economic backbone.

“Interestingly, we find that the biggest net beneficiaries of this increase in redistribution from 2000-2012 are middle-income families and working lower-income families (those in the second quintile). These were the families most targeted by economic stimulus programs and more generous tax credits,” the authors note.

“…These findings have particular relevance to the current tax reform debate because distributional issues are one of the key sticking points to reform proposals that would cut marginal tax rates while broadening the tax base. But tax progressivity is only half the picture, because progressivity can be achieved through both taxes and spending. Thus, if moving to a flatter, more economically neutral tax code reduces progressivity in the tax code, overall progressivity of the fiscal system can be maintained with slight adjustments to federal spending.”

In other words, a flat tax would be more equitable for all Americans, regardless of their income, and would negate much of the tax inequity that serves as pretense for the government to its base of financially-dependent citizens.

Salon Chooses Veterans Day To Publish Hit Piece On Culture Of Easy Patriotism

Grandpa’s funeral isn’t the best time for someone to point out his secret drinking problem to family and friends.

Similarly, Veterans Day isn’t the best time to publish a screed against the sometimes-well-meaning, sometimes-facile culture of loosely-defined patriotism that permeates American media and feeds public opinion about what our enlisted men and women do, without question, on behalf of all Americans.

But Salon’s Justin Doolittle went ahead and did just that today, serving up a rant against corporatist professional sports leagues that recruit high-profile athletes and events for their crowd-pleasing, patriotic agenda.

Some of Doolittle’s arguments make fine points, taken out of context. “Freedom has become one of those politically charged terms that means whatever people need it to mean,” he writes.

Hard to argue with that.

But that’s immediately followed by this:

The “freedoms” most Americans think of when they hear the term are enshrined in constitutional and statutory law. They are in no way dependent on the size, scope or even the existence of the U.S. military.

As a Platonic ideal, sure: freedom exists independently. But for people to live free – that takes fight.

The majority of Americans are privileged to live as civilians, removed from the real implications of what happens when someone wants to take by force that which others possess. That’s a testament to the global appeal of the American dream, and to the efficacy of that dream for those of us fortunate enough to be born in the United States of America.

Statutory law enshrines nothing when the rule of law cannot be secured through the defense of the people who live under the law. The Constitution is itself only as vital as our Nation’s will and ability to preserve its sanctity for the people who’ve inherited its promise of opportunity and freedom. The sad and frightening threats to our Constitution that emanate, increasingly, from the seat of American power demonstrate how insidious a thing it is to confuse the perception of freedom with the real thing.

People who have served their time in the military aren’t perfect; they’re flawed human beings like everyone else. Many of them live with flaws that stem directly from the emotional, intellectual and physical scars they sustained during their time in service.

What powerful men are doing to our Nation – and to our military – is troubling. But today is not the day. Ideology aside, today is not the day to take on companies that send out feel-good signals in support of our fighting forces – even if those companies’ motives have more to do with dollars than with patriotism.

Veterans are not the target today. Veterans Day is a time to say something nice; to do something nice as an honoring acknowledgement of those who’ve fought in the U.S. military.

If you don’t have something nice to say; if, in fact, you have something pretty nasty to say about the military; about patriotism; about the rah-rah culture that stands up for our troops, go ahead and say it.

Just say it tomorrow. The spotlight isn’t yours today. It’s a cheap move to try and steal it on the very day when no one should be looking in your direction.

High Obamacare Traffic Causing Crashes? Not So Much: Only 18 Percent Of Uninsured Have Visited Healthcare.gov

Gallup reported Friday that only 18 percent of all Americans without insurance have even visited Healthcare.gov — the Federal Obamacare website — or any of the State-run websites that sell Obamacare coverage. And even among those uninsured who express interest in buying health insurance soon, only 22 percent report they’ve yet taken a peek at an Obamacare insurance exchange website.

That news stands at odds with early claims by the Administration of President Barack Obama that the Healthcare.gov site crashed early and often because of tremendous consumer demand to find out more about what the site is selling.

From Gallup:

The health exchange websites are not only fraught with the technical problems that have led to so much news coverage in recent weeks, but have also generated relatively little interest or use among uninsured Americans — the primary target group for the exchanges. The majority of uninsured Americans are unfamiliar with the exchanges and relatively few have tried to access them to date, even among those who say that eventually, they will most likely get their insurance through an exchange website.

Fewer than a quarter of all uninsured Americans have so far even attempted to visit an insurance exchange site, according to a new Gallup poll.

That throws an enormous wrench into the workings of Obama’s argument that the Affordable Care Act is designed chiefly to benefit those Americans who have grown accustomed to living without heathcare coverage. The uninsured, after all, are supposed to be Obamacare’s core beneficiaries.

“These results undermine the Obama administration’s confidence in Obamacare to reach its target audience,” writes Lara Seligman on The Hill’s “Healthwatch” blog. “The exchange sites are not only fraught with technical problems that have led to long wait times and error messages for users, but have also failed to generate interest among uninsured Americans.”

In the days following the rollout, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blamed the website’s crash problems on pent-up consumer demand, describing the supposed door-busting rush to buy insurance “sort of a great problem to have.”

Last week, the House Oversight and Reform Committee revealed that the extent of the demand required to crash the site, on the day it launched, was only 1,100 visitors at a time.

 

Berkeley Bans Use Of ‘Illegal Immigrant’

The student government at the University of California at Berkeley student government has banned the term “illegal immigrant,” citing its implicit racism and negative cultural  associations.

Considered one of the Nation’s top public universities, a place of free intellectual discourse where boundless freedom exists for ideas to flourish or die on their own merits, Berkeley’s student government nonetheless will not officially countenance use of “the I-word” in academic writing or in communications between faculty, students and staff.

The university is the second California school to ban “illegal immigrant” this year; the University of California at Los Angeles student government passed a similar resolution over the summer.

Berkeley’s student government voted 18-0 to ban the term, with one student senator abstaining because he felt the resolution was toothless and unenforceable, and that supporters of the measure on campus had not afforded its opponents the respect they themselves were demanding.

According to The College Fix, which obtained minutes of the SGA meeting, the resolution “stated the word ‘illegal’ is ‘racially charged,’ ‘dehumanizes’ people, and contributes to ‘punitive and discriminatory actions aimed primarily at immigrants and communities of color.’ The ‘I’ word is legally inaccurate since being out of status is a civil rather than criminal infraction,” the resolution also states.

Show, Don’t Tell: Obama Uses Words, Not Action, To Say He’s Sorry For Obamacare

If President Barack Obama were “sorry” for lying to everybody about his healthcare law’s destructive effect on existing insurance policies – the policies he pledged everyone could keep if they liked – he wouldn’t be getting on TV with Chuck Todd to say “I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.”

He wouldn’t chase a heartfelt mea culpa with an increasingly feeble self-acquittal of how great his plan really will be, one day, when people finally realize he knew what was best for them at a dark time, when everyone lacked faith that there was room for equivocation and nuance in his oft-repeated words: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away from you, no matter what.”

He’d be going to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), urging the Democratic leadership in Congress to modify or repeal the law. He’d call Attorney General Eric Holder off a defense of Obamacare in a legal challenge from Oklahoma’s attorney general. He’d reach out to Congressional Republicans attempting to ameliorate the effect of millions of Americans’ policy cancelations by urging bipartisan support for the Keep Your Health Plan Act, which aims to keep current policies active – if only for another year.

Action, not words.

Here’s a great piece from Time magazine’s “Swampland” blog on Obama’s talking-point reversals as the President has cast about for a defensible Obamacare narrative in the wake of his favorite law’s disastrous launch.

At this point, it almost seems as though Obama isn’t interested in salvaging anything about Obamacare itself. Rather, he seems to be trying to salvage his credibility and the damage he’s done to Democrats, who are staring down a mob of angry constituents as 2014 approaches.

Gun Magazine Fires Editor For Column Promoting 2nd Amendment ‘Regulation’

Guns & Ammo magazine has fired contributing editor Dick Metcalf following a controversial column  in its December issue in which he attempts a comparison between government regulation of firearms to other “Constitutional” limitations like licensing drivers and arresting people who kill in the name of religion.

Metcalf’s column — which ran under the headline “Do certain firearms regulations really constitute infringement?” — argues that “all Constitutional rights are regulated” and goes on to deliver an eighth-grade civics lesson (you can’t falsely shout “fire” in a crowded theater; you can’t sacrifice people in religious ceremonies) before comparing government regulation of 2nd Amendment rights to restrictions on licensed drivers:

I also received bags of mail every year, much of it from readers who were upset that I advocated the passage of additional state concealed carry laws. These readers typically argued (I’m paraphrasing) the “The Second Amendment is all the authority we need to carry anywhere we want to” or “The government doesn’t have the right to tell me whether I’m qualified to carry a gun.” I wondered whether those same people believed that just anybody should be able to buy a vehicle and take it out on public roadways without any kind of driver’s training, test or license.

I understand that driving a car is not a right protected by the Constitution, but to me the basic principle is the same. I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly. And I do believe their fellow citizens, by the specific language of the Second Amendment, have an equal right to enact regulatory laws requiring them to undergo adequate training and preparation for the responsibility of bearing arms.

I’ve seen too many examples of unsafe behavior on too many shooting ranges to believe otherwise.

Guns & Ammo fired Metcalf Thursday, issuing a statement and an unequivocal apology to readers whose views of the 2nd Amendment evidently don’t come with Metcalf’s caveats. Editor Jim Bequette wrote:

As editor of “Guns & Ammo,” I owe each and every reader a personal apology.

No excuses, no backtracking.

Dick Metcalf’s “Backstop” column in the December issue has aroused unprecedented controversy. Readers are hopping mad about it, and some are questioning “Guns & Ammo”’s commitment to the Second Amendment. I understand why.

Let me be clear: Our commitment to the Second Amendment is unwavering. It has been so since the beginning. Historically, our tradition in supporting the Second Amendment has been unflinching. No strings attached. It is no accident that when others in the gun culture counseled compromise in the past, hard-core thinkers such as Harlon Carter, Don Kates and Neal Knox found a place and a voice in these pages. When large firearms advocacy groups were going soft in the 1970s, they were prodded in the right direction, away from the pages of “Guns & Ammo.”

In publishing Metcalf’s column, I was untrue to that tradition, and for that I apologize. His views do not represent mine — nor, most important, “Guns & Ammo”’s. It is very clear to me that they don’t reflect the views of our readership either.

Dick Metcalf has had a long and distinguished career as a gunwriter, but his association with “Guns & Ammo” has officially ended.

I once again offer my personal apology. I understand what our valued readers want. I understand what you believe in when it comes to gun rights, and I believe the same thing.

I made a mistake by publishing the column. I thought it would generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights. I miscalculated, pure and simple. I was wrong, and I ask your forgiveness.

Read the statement in its entirety here.

Sanford, Fla., Police Flip-Flop On Scheme To Disarm Neighborhood Watch

The Sanford, Fla., police department has reversed its position on a scheme that sought to disarm neighborhood watch volunteers who patrol the suburbs, even if they’re lawful gun owners.

The original plan, coming in the aftermath of the now-infamous show trial of Sanford resident George Zimmerman over the stand-your-ground shooting death of Trayvon Martin, appeared to be a police effort to rehabilitate the city’s maligned public image by preventing neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns so that there would never be a repeat — however unlikely — of the circumstances that led to Zimmerman’s self-defense shooting of Martin.

But, according to the Orlando Sentinel, the police department has adjusted its stance from recommending an outright legal ban on neighborhood watch volunteers bringing their weapons with them on patrol to a simple “recommendation” that they should leave their guns at home.

“We originally came out with a stern, ‘You should not,'” said Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith Monday. “We took a second look at it.

“We want people to feel as though they are part of a movement. And it’s smarter for us to say, ‘Listen, if you’re going to be a part of it, you need to abide by the rules. And it’s a voluntary organization and if you choose not to be a part of it, you don’t have to be a part of it.’”

That sounds a bit like grudging equivocation from the police chief, but his department faced a backlash from locals who take the Bill of Rights seriously.

The Sentinel cites the argument of one such resident, neighborhood watch coordinator Phil Unser, as illustrative of how fallacious a ban on guns for watch volunteers would have been.

If a Neighborhood Watch volunteer was driving home with a gun in the car and saw someone breaking into a house, for example, would he have to take his gun home and lock it up before reporting the crime to the police?

“It doesn’t even make sense,” Unser said.

In all, the department floated the gun ban idea for only a week before the city council voted to “recommend” that volunteers remain unarmed. However, the “Legal Insurrection” blog reports: “It remains true that volunteers in a more thoroughly organized form of neighborhood watch — called ‘Citizens on Patrol’ — will be prohibited from being armed.”

In other words, after a week’s worth of protestation from local watch volunteers, nothing has changed, except that the city council held a meaningless hold-harmless vote to absolve it — if only in spirit — from the bad press that could attend another progressive outcry over any future stand-your-ground incidents.

Netanyahu Slams Obama Agreement As ‘Deal Of The Century’ – For Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly doesn’t agree with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney that there’s “no daylight between Israel and the United States” on presenting a united front to Iran in ratcheting down Iran’s developing nuclear weapons program.

In a statement today on his official website, Netanyahu called an expected deal that would roll back sanctions against Iran in exchange for an end in the country’s nuclear weapons program a “grievous historic error” that sets back a longstanding foreign policy comity between the U.S. and Israel.

“If the news that I am receiving of the impending proposal by the P5+1 is true, this is the deal of the century, for Iran. Because Iran is essentially giving nothing and it’s getting all the air taken out, the air begins to be taken out of the pressure cooker that it took years to build in the sanctions regime,” wrote Netanyahu.

“What we’re having today is a situation that Iran is giving up, at best, a few days of enrichment time, but the whole international regime’s sanctions policy has the air taken out of it. That’s a big mistake, it will relieve all the pressure inside Iran, it is a historic mistake, a grievous historic error.”

The P5+1 represents the five permanent member nations of the UN – the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China, plus Germany.

Netanyahu effectively laid bare the buffoonery of the Obama Administration’s insistence that Israel and the U.S. now see eye to eye on walking back their lockstep partnership in approaching Iranian weapons development over the decades.

Here’s how POLITICO framed Carney’s characterization of the dysfunction between the U.S. and Israel:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed Thursday that the U.S. is proposing a limited and “easily reversible” easing of some economic sanctions, if Iran agrees to freeze its nuclear efforts. A senior U.S. official who briefed reporters Wednesday as talks got underway again on the issue in Geneva, said the countries negotiating with Iran are also hoping to get Iran to agree to unwind some aspects of its program during an initial period that could last six months and would be intended to allow for more in-depth discussions to resolve the standoff.

Asked about Netanyahu’s sharp denunciation of the U.S.-backed plan, Carney breezed past the significant tactical disagreement and instead emphasized what he said was agreement between the U.S. and Israel on the goal of ending what both countries see as Iran’s effort to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

“There is no daylight between Israel and the United States, between the president and the prime minister, when it comes to the objective of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Carney said. “And all options remain on the table to achieve this objective.”

Compare and contrast Carney’s words with Netanyahu’s. Regardless of your take on the Obama Administration’s conciliatory stance toward Iran, it’s an outright lie to claim there isn’t a chasm separating the U.S. and Israel right now.

Five Anal Probes, One Colonoscopy And No Drugs Later, New Mexico Man Sues Local Police Force

A New Mexico man has filed a Federal lawsuit against the City of Deming, Hidalgo County, the Gila Regional Medical Center, a slew of police officers and others attached to a January encounter with municipal police that subjected him to several anal probes and a colonoscopy in an attempt to find narcotics — narcotics that weren’t there — because the cops thought he had clinched his rear suspiciously when they saw him get out of a car near a Wal-Mart.

The suit alleges David Eckert, the plaintiff, was stopped by Deming police the day after New Year’s because he allegedly failed to stop completely at a stop sign as he was leaving the Wal-Mart parking lot. The cops allegedly questioned Eckert about the way he had tightened his buttocks as he exited his vehicle, then went ahead and made the decision to begin a series of searches from the probable caused they had developed, literally, by the seat of Eckert’s pants.

After trotting out a police dog, which dutifully “hit” on Eckert’s car seat, police detained Eckert and obtained a cavity search warrant issued by a local judge so that they could begin looking for the drugs they believed Eckert must have been hiding in his anus.

The Deming police took Eckert to a local emergency room, where the doctor on duty refused to do the cavity search on ethical grounds. So they hauled Eckert over to the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City.

Here’s how Albuquerque’s KOB News summarized what happened next:

While there, Eckert was subjected to repeated and humiliating forced medical procedures. A review of Eckert’s medical records, which he released to KOB, and details in the lawsuit show the following happened:

1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.

2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.

8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.

Throughout this ordeal, Eckert protested and never gave doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center consent to perform any of these medical procedures.

When you’re done hyperventilating, consider this: The search warrant didn’t permit the police to perform any kind of search whatsoever in Grant County, where Gila Medical is located. The warrant was for Luna County, where the Wal-Mart incident began. Aside from the merit-based illegality of developing probable cause from a gluteal muscle contraction and forcing a man into unnecessary, repeated, invasive medical procedures, everything the police did in Grant County was illegal and inadmissible. And KOB reports that the hospital searches took place three hours after the Luna County warrant had expired.

The entire ordeal took 14 hours.

“David Eckert is suing The City of Deming and Deming Police Officers Bobby Orosco, Robert Chavez and Officer Hernandez,” reports KOB, as well as Hidalgo County Hidalgo County Deputies David Arredondo, Robert Rodriguez and Patrick Green; and Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty and the Gila Regional Medical Center, including two physicians: Robert Wilcox, M.D., and Okay Odocha, M.D.

Since the filing of the lawsuit and the revelation of the gory details, Eckert’s story is all over the Internet. That has already elicited another police abuse story from a second alleged victim, Timothy Young, who endured a similar search at Gila Medical — this time after he had been stopped by State police for not using a turn signal.

“Leo,” the very same sniff dog the cops used in the Eckert case, issued an alleged false “hit” in Young’s incident as well. As KOB’s investigation revealed, the dog’s certification as a drug sniffer — which is supposed to be renewed annually after ongoing retraining — expired in April of 2011.

The Inevitable Obamacare Relief Deal For Labor Unions Is On Its Way

The Administration of President Barack Obama is likely to grant exemptions to some labor unions that will open the way for Obamacare subsidies for members’ health plans, following ongoing complaints from union leadership that, in the early spotlight of the Obamacare rollout, the White House had temporarily ignored.

According to Kaiser Health News, the reversal of policy (or illegal executive revision of a Congressional Act, depending on your point of view) was buried in a slew of Obamacare rule tweaks issued by the Department of Health and Human Services last week.

From the Kaiser report:

Buried in rules issued last week is the disclosure that the administration will propose exempting “certain self-insured, self-administered plans” from the law’s temporary reinsurance fee in 2015 and 2016.

That’s a description that applies to many Taft-Hartley union plans acting as their own insurance company and claims processor, said Edward Fensholt, a senior vice president at Lockton Cos., a large insurance broker.

Insurance companies and self-insured employers that hire outside claims administrators would still be liable for the fee, which starts at $63 per insurance plan member next year and is projected to raise $25 billion over three years.

Unions, a key Obama ally, have increasingly criticized the Affordable Care Act as threatening the generous medical plans held by many members.

Eliminating the reinsurance fee was one of several resolutions adopted at the AFL-CIO’s September convention, along with giving union plans access to ACA tax credits for lower-income members.

The Obama Administration had angered its ardent organized labor base days before the Oct. 1 rollout by maintaining that the law, as HHS planned to enforce it, would not allow union members to double dip by receiving Obamacare subsidies after their employers had absorbed part of the cost of premiums through group health care coverage.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) cautioned anyone who would listen at the time that the Administration was merely waiting for the initial media spotlight to shine away from the Obamacare story before giving unions — one of the vocal interest groups the Chicago Tribune described as “special pleaders” — most, if not all, of what they asked for.

Former NSA Codebreaker: No One Listened When I Tried To Blow The NSA Whistle Years Ago

William Binney, a codebreaking specialist whom the National Security Agency enlisted to help decipher electronic data to foil post-Sept. 11 terror plots, recently told CBS Baltimore his attempt several years ago to protest the agency’s abuse of its growing tech powers led only to personal heartache as the government pushed back against his vocal concern.

Binney was brought in by the NSA after the World Trade Center attacks to help develop new software that could mine enormous amounts of cell phone and email data he believed the agency was collecting legally to target potential foreign terrorists.

But as he helped build the new computer program and gained access to exactly how indiscriminate the spy agency’s surveillance methods were, he backed away.

“The idea was, ‘How can you look into terabytes of data going by every minute and see what’s important in that data that you need to pull out to look at and analyze to figure out intentions, capabilities of potential enemies in the world,’” he told CBS. “The data that was being taken in was all about United States citizens. They’re destroying our democracy is what they’re doing.”

Binney maintains that Congress, for all its outrage over the Edward Snowden revelations, has for years failed to listen to other would-be whistleblowers who tried to effect change by legal means. “The government can’t admit a mistake. They have to cover up everything,” he said.

Frustrated at the stonewalling, and unwilling to collude with the government in an endeavor he knew to be illegal and wrong, Binney resigned from his job.

For his trouble, the FBI raided him in 2007 on suspicion that he had already divulged too much.

“They pushed their way in with guns drawn and pushed my son out of the way and came upstairs and pointed guns at my wife and me. They took our computers and all the electronic equipment we had,” he said.

“I think they’re violating the foundation of this country. The thing that makes this country strong are the rights and freedoms that we have in the Constitution.”

Read the full CBS Baltimore report here.

McAuliffe Wins; Cancer Patient With Dropped Insurance Blasts White House Response To Her Story; Chinese Yuan Rises; President Silent As Another Subsidized Green Company Sinks; Obamacare’s Pathway To Food Stamps; No Wonder The Postal Service Is Broke – Wednesday Morning News Roundup 11-6-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the Virginia governor’s race on Tuesday, in a surprisingly close victory over Republican rival Ken Cuccinellii – who was heavily outspent and trailed in the polls for much of the race. With nearly all precincts reporting, McAuliffe was ahead with just 48 percent of the vote, to Cuccinelli’s 45 percent. Though McAuliffe previously held a double-digit lead, exit polls showed voters opposed to the federal health care law overwhelmingly backed Cuccinelli, helping him narrow the gap on Tuesday. Source: Fox News…

 

  • Edie Sundby, the 62 year-old California cancer survivor who made a powerful intervention into the Obamacare controversy with a stinging Wall Street Journal op-ed told blasted a “snotty” tweet by a White House aide that attempted to undermine her moving story. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer sparked outrage on Monday by tweeting a link to a liberal blog post that claimed Sundby – who passionately described how she suffers under the changes of the Affordable Care Act – only lost her health insurance because of corporate greed. Source: Daily Mail…

 

  • International use of the yuan is increasing as the world’s second-largest economy opens up its capital markets. In the first nine months of this year, about 17 per cent of China’s global trade was settled in the currency, compared with less than one per cent in 2009, according to Deutsche Bank AG. Source: Bloomberg…

 

  • Failing to heed the lessons of the Solyndra debacle, Energy Department officials kept quiet about their knowledge that a government-backed electric car charger company was sliding toward bankruptcy and putting taxpayer money at risk, the agency’s chief watchdog has found. Source: The Washington Times…

 

  • Republicans have another reason to hate Obamacare: It could grow the number of people on food stamps. The Obama Administration has ordered a study to determine whether the Affordable Care Act, by increasing the number of people eligible for Medicaid, will also increase the number of people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program based on how states enroll people. Source: POLITICO…

 

  • The United States Postal Service overpaid trucking contractors $61.5 million through its Voyager Card Program, which allows drivers to expense their gas on a credit card. According to the inspector general, the Postal Service failed to identify fuel overpayments by contractors on Highway Contract Routes (HCR), which covers more than 17,000 drivers. Source: The Washington Free Beacon…

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Without A Legal Debt Limit, Government Borrows At Historic Pace

As Congress naps between fights over whether (or, rather, when and by how much) to raise the Federal debt limit, we’re technically without a legal cap on how much money the government can owe.

And it shows. According to the Treasury Department’s Oct. 31 statement, the Federal debt jumped in October by the second-largest margin in the Nation’s history. Last month, the Federal debt increased by nearly $409 billion, surpassing the $17 trillion mark for the first time.

That’s the largest single-month increase in history, behind only October 2008, when Congress passed the TARP bailout and the debt limit climbed by $545 billion.

From CNS News:

At the close of business on Sept. 30, 2013, the last day of fiscal 2013, the federal debt subject to limit stood at $16,699,396,000,000. At the close of business on Oct. 31, 2013, the first month of fiscal 2014, the debt subject to limit stood at approximately $17,108,378,000,000.

Thus, during October, the debt increased $408,982,000,000 — or about $3,567 for each of the 114,663,000 households the Census Bureau estimates there are in the United States.

Much of the $409 billion increase came all at once, as the temporary end of the Congressional debt limit fight opened the way for an immediate infusion of borrowed Federal money. The government hiked the debt by $328 billion in a single day as soon as the government shutdown ended.

“The giant jump comes because the government was replenishing its stock of “extraordinary measures” — the Federal funds it borrowed from over the past five months as it tried to avoid bumping into the debt ceiling,” The Washington Times wrote at the time. “Under the law, that replenishing happens as soon as there is new debt space.”

Until Feb. 7, the government exists in a no-man’s land of legal exemption that affords President Barack Obama to set the de facto debt limit because Congress chose to set a deadline — and not a dollar cap — on spending under its so-called “clean” continuing spending resolution. As the Times story reports, “[T]hat means debt can rise as much as Mr. Obama and Congress want it to, until the Feb. 7 deadline.”

Oregon Promotes Obamacare, Enrolls No One

Oregon, a State that spent $3.2 million on ads like this one to ensure its State-run Obamacare exchange would take off with willing customers, has yet to enroll a single living soul in any of its new coverage plans.

Cover Oregon, the State healthcare exchange, is blaming the stillborn launch on computer glitches — a problem that supposedly was confined to the Federal healthcare.gov website for non-participating States.

But Cover Oregon spokesperson Amy Fauver told NPR the disastrous rollout is forcing the program to beg would-be customers to line up in an email waiting queue:

We have on our website right now a place where people who just want to wait, who just want to do it electronically, can give us their e-mail address, and we will e-mail them when the system is fully functional.

Sure enough, the Cover Oregon website doesn’t even offer an option for online enrollment. The site invites residents to fill out a paper application and promises online enrollment is “coming soon.”

Like healthcare.gov, Cover Oregon is anticipating the enrollment glitches should be ironed out by the end of this month. That’s when the real fun begins, because the approximately 7,300 people who’ve attempted to apply for coverage will finally discover whether they’re eligible for the plans they want, as well as how much more they’ll have to pay.

Portland-based KATU News reported last week that residents whose existing plans were dropped because they don’t measure up to the new Obamacare policy mandates (like across-the-board maternity care) are facing extraordinary premiums for new, qualifying policies. One viewer said his new policy would cost him an additional $300 a month.

Another Oregon station, KVAL, reports premium costs will more than double for those who are still able to afford the coverage:

Independent insurance brokers like Skylar Jones of Eugene are waiting to hear from you.

He’s just set up a new venture called Oregon Covered.

“What we’re doing is we’re helping individuals,” Jones said. “We’re setting up enrollment meetings. We analyze their situation from start to finish.”

…He just hopes the promised [Obamacare] subsidies are enough to help his clients.

“In some of my individual clients we’re seeing 100 to 200 percent cost increases, and that causes some huge concerns for our individuals,” he said.

Oregon, of course, offers just one instance of an Obamacare nightmare scenario that’s beginning to play out in several States. All of this news comes at a time when President Barack Obama is walking back his unequivocal promises on how the Affordable Care Act will only help Americans who need insurance and not affect those who already have it.

Obama told a gaggle of Organizing for Action supporters Monday that he never promised everyone they could keep the insurance they were already happy with. According to Obama, what he really said was that “you could keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law was passed.”

Here’s A Map Of Jay Carney’s ‘Small Sliver’ Of Americans Whose Insurance Has Been Canceled Thanks To Obamacare

Remember Jay Carney on NBC’s “Morning Joe” last week, telling a former Bush appointee that “only a sliver or cut” of the American population was getting policy cancelation notices thanks to Obamacare’s one-size-fits-all coverage mandates?

The comment was intended to diminish the strength of criticisms that President Barack Obama had lied about people getting to keep health coverage they liked, as well as to deflect some of the heat the Administration has taken for the egregiousness of the falsehood of one of the President’s most famous statements.

But here’s a map that illustrates just how many people on individual health plans have been dropped by their providers because of Obamacare. Four hundred thousand people in Georgia is not a sliver; nor is 900,000 in California or 800,000 in New Jersey.

canceled

The map reflects only individual policy cancelations and doesn’t consider the effects of Obamacare on employer-sponsored group plans. And it’s a snapshot of a moment in time in the early days of the Obamacare rollout. Across the board, these numbers will increase. And it only shows data gathered from 16 States and Washington, D.C.

Just for fun, here’s a link to a Fox News story about Obamacare’s effect on insurance costs hitting Republican States harder than Democratic States.

And here’s a story about a Virginia school district that’s considering hiring a gaggle of substitute teachers because it can’t afford the ballooning cost of employee benefits for full time teachers under Obamacare.

And one more about doctors at small New York offices defecting from their line of work or retiring early because of the market push toward larger, cheaper, inferior centralized health care that Obamacare is bringing about.

Looks like 2014 is not the year to get sick.

No Love For Hillary Among The People Who Are Supposed To Vote For Her

Is it possible that Hillary Clinton’s star among her most ardent political supporters is on the wane?

A poll released last week by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News suggests the former First Lady and Benghazi-botching Secretary of State has lost major clout with the very demographic groups that progressives commonly take for granted: declared Democrats and young people.

The poll, which gauged the opinions of 800 people, found only 46 percent held a positive general opinion of Clinton, while 33 percent viewed her negatively. That’s a 10 percent drop since the last iteration of the same poll in April:

Overall, 46 percent registered a positive view of the ex-secretary of state, compared to 33 percent who expressed a negative opinion. As recently as April, 56 percent saw Mrs. Clinton in a positive light.

Crucially, though, Clinton’s appeal to people the mainstream press lazily associates with Democratic success appears to be fading:

The new survey shows some weakness among independents, Democrats and people between the age of 18 and 34.

In April, for example, 53% of 18-to-34-year olds had a positive image of Mrs. Clinton in the Journal’s polling. That figure fell to 38% in the new survey.

In that same period, Mrs. Clinton’s support among independents fell from 46% to 35%. Her support among Democrats fell 12 points — from 88% to 76%.

Despite the ephemeral nature of political polls, across-the board drops like those have to be indicative of something. Losing 12 percent with your party base in a six-month period is particularly problematic for a would-be candidate The Wall Street Journal deemed, in the accompanying article, as “the solid front-runner in the Democratic field” for the 2016 Presidential nomination.

Other political figures, such as Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) fared worse than Clinton in the same poll. But in every case, a significant portion of those surveyed said they simply weren’t familiar with the names of relative political newcomers like Cruz or even Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Clinton’s name, by contrast, was familiar to nearly everyone surveyed — a fact that reveals more deeply entrenched opinions cultivated over her long career hanging out in or around the halls of political power.

“Pure and simple, she’s gone from being the nonpartisan secretary of state to potentially a partisan Democratic nominee for president,” survey consultant Peter Hart told the Journal. “It’s not that voters all of the sudden have seen a new side of Hillary that has caused them to take a second look. She is no longer the non-partisan secretary of state and that brings out the partisan fangs on the part of former supporters.”

Time will tell if the latest poll indicates a real trend, or a mere blip on Clinton’s way to a supposedly inevitable coronation at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.