FDA Mulls Banning Internet Sale Of E-Cigarettes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is inching closer to regulating the burgeoning electronic cigarette industry, with the latest indication coming in the form of talks with E-cig companies about potentially banning outright the online sale of the devices, even as their popularity continues to climb.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the FDA has been meeting with manufacturers to receive input on whether, and how, it should begin regulating the industry. The agency is expected to reveal its regulatory plans in October.

The talks, which were sought by E-cig executives, included the online ban proposal as a means of potentially preventing minors from buying the devices – many of which contain nicotine or vaporize (but do not combust) actual tobacco. A proposal to establish a minimum age of purchase at the Federal level is also being discussed.

It’s in the business interest of traditional tobacco product manufacturers to bring the power of government to E-cigarette makers’ doorstep. A Wells Fargo analyst told the newspaper that the industry, which expects to earn $1 billion in revenue this year, could see it profits jump to $10 billion within five years.

New FDA Center for Tobacco Products director Mitch Zeller said any announcement of proposed regulations would be followed by a period of time during which the public and industry advocates could provide feedback that ultimately could refine any final FDA policies. But, he added, the question of whether the FDA is getting involved in regulating the electronic cigarette market is now a question of when – not if.

Driver Sues For Towns To End Secrecy Surrounding Speed Camera Data; Private Contractor

The leader of a motorist advocacy group in Maryland is suing two municipalities for failing to provide information about how they authorized a speed limit change on a local road, and then hired a private company to operate a speed camera and collect ticket revenue from drivers.

“An agency which places cameras on every street corner shouldn’t be allowed to break the law in order to keep secrets,” Ron Ely, the head of the Maryland Drivers Alliance, told automotive policy website TheNewspaper. “However, this really isn’t about speed cameras. If local governments can conceal potentially embarrassing information from the public on this issue, then what else will they be allowed to hide?”

Ely filed the lawsuit in Prince George’s County, Md. Circuit Court last week, asking the court only to declare that the speed cam data falls within the realm of municipal documents that must be kept on file as a matter of public record, as established by the Maryland Public Information Act. The suit also seeks a $1,000 fine for Brentwood officials who have so far stonewalled Ely’s original request, which originally was filed in October of 2010.

From the report:

The town [of Brentwood] eventually responded in June 2012, demanding that Ely pay a schedule of fees for the involvement of various town employees, including $200 an hour for the town attorney. The total cost to access the documents was left open-ended. Ely considered this response a constructive denial of his request.

…In Morningside, Ely is not seeking obscure or difficult to obtain records. Instead, he wants the calibration certificates and daily setup logs that must be “kept on file” under the state’s speed camera authorization statute. Already, two localities have been caught violating state law in allowing a private company to operate cameras without documenting the calibrations, as required.

Ely filed the request on June 5, but it failed to respond within thirty days, as required under the public records statute. After calling the town, Ely finally received an email from the town attorney on July 25 neither granting nor denying the request.

“Please be advised that the town of Morningside is not the speed monitoring system operator as that term is defined in the Maryland Annotated Code, and therefore, the town of Morningside does not maintain the records and documents pursuant to your request,” Morningside town attorney Todd K. Pounds wrote on August 5.

What Pounds means by that last statement is that the town of Morningside has handed enforcement, along with revenue collections, over to a private company that operates the speed camera. Brekford, the company that installs and maintains the equipment, gets 40 percent of every speeding ticket fine.

 

Obama’s Buffalo Stance On New College Rating Scheme: It’s About Opportunity, Not Academics

President Barack Obama announced a plan Thursday to deploy a program that rewards or punishes American colleges and universities based on how they’re rated under a new Federal assessment system his Administration is devising.

The ambitious plan, which is founded on metrics that will rate colleges based not on academic merit but on the degree to which they extend financial incentives to needy applicants, is supposed to go online in time for the start of the 2015-2016 academic year. The President called on Congress to support him in crafting legislation to implement his plan, which will require tying Federal student aid to colleges’ compliance under the new rating scheme.

The new plan will monitor graduation rates, postgraduate employment, and admissions practices that ensure the poor can get into school and receive a degree – or, as the President said, “how successful colleges are at enrolling and graduating students who are on Pell Grants.”

Critics are already warning that the scheme appears to reward colleges that intentionally weight their admissions processes toward low-income students, regardless of their academic potential, while punishing those that selectively admit students based chiefly on their capacity to succeed at rigorous academic work.

From Obama’s speech, given Thursday at the University of Buffalo (H/T: ShallowNation):

My plan comes down to three main goals.

First, we are going to start rating colleges, not just by which college is the most selective, not just by which college is the most expensive, not by which college has the nicest facilities. You can get all that on the existing rating systems. What we want to do is rate them on who is offering the best value so that students and taxpayers get a better bang for their buck.

Number two, we’re going to jump start new competition between colleges, not just on the field or on the court, but in terms of innovation that encourages affordability and encourages student success and doesn’t sacrifice educational quality.

And the third is we are going to make sure if you have to take on debt to earn your college degree that you have ways to manage and afford it.

…I am directing Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education, to lead an effort to develop a new rating system for America’s colleges before the 2015 college year. Right now, private rankings, like the U.S. News and World Report, puts out each year their rankings — and it encourages a lot of colleges to focus on ways to… “How do we game the numbers?” and you know it actually rewards them, in some cases, for raising costs. I think we should rate colleges based on opportunity. Are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed? And on outcomes – on their value to students and parents.

So that means metrics like: how much debt does the average student leave with? How easy is it to pay off? How many students graduate on time? How well do those graduates do in the work force? Because the answers will help parents and students figure out how much value a college truly offers.

And our ratings will also measure how successful colleges are at enrolling and graduating students who are on Pell Grants. And, it will be my firm principle that our ratings have to be carefully designed to increase, not decrease, the opportunities for higher education for students who face economic or other disadvantages.

The President also said that State legislatures “are going to have to step up” to support their public universities.

“They can’t just keep cutting support for public colleges and universities. That’s just the truth. Colleges are not going to be able to just keep on increasing tuition year after year, and then passing it on to students and families and taxpayers. Our economy can’t afford the trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt, much of which may not get repaid because students don’t have the capacity to pay it.”

If the State schools cooperate, while simultaneously accepting the new yoke of a Federal “opportunity” ratings metric, Obama promised to reward them.

“We are going to deliver on a promise we made last year, which is colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer funding go up,” he said. “And we’re also going to encourage states to follow the same principle.”

AlGore: ‘They’ Are Adding A Category Six For Climate Change-Enraged Mega ‘Canes

Former Vice President and Earth Defender Al Gore already invented the Internet.

Now he’s inventing a whole new category of megastorm. Gore told The Washington Post Wednesday that “they” – whoever they are – are about to institute a sixth category to accommodate the rogue, steroidal class of apocalyptic hurricanes coming in the future to a shoreline near you.

Blame man-made global warming:

The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6. The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events.

Eschatology is the enthralling religious preoccupation of the blame-mankind-for-the-apocalypse set, so Gore is simply hewing close to form. But, as the Post’s Jason Samenow notes, Gore’s climate change sermons have always borne an air of hyperbole.

“Generally, Gore’s characterization of the links between global warming and hurricane intensity is a bit fast and loose,” he wrote Thursday. “…[W]ith his penchant for overstatement, Gore will continue to be a divisive and less than credible voice in climate change discourse.”

Still, Samenow checked with the National Weather Service to be sure Gore’s “Category 6” prophecy had some basis in fact. But, like man-made climate change itself, the answer was disappointing.

“No, we’re not pursuing any such change,” responded NWS public affairs director Chris Vaccaro. “I’m also not sure who VP Gore means by ‘they.’ I’d also point out that the top rating, Category 5, has no ceiling: it includes hurricanes with top sustained winds of 157mph and higher.”

Talk about Inconvenient Truths.

Guess Who The Left Hates Now? Starbucks

A gun control group has found an unlikely target in its ongoing campaign to strip Americans of their Constitutional powers.

Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America – the same group that ran a series of irresponsible 2nd Amendment attack ads featuring photos combining children, classrooms and firearms earlier this year – is organizing a Nationwide boycott of everyone’s favorite coffee stop this Saturday.

The boycott is intended to goad the Seattle-based coffee chain into revering its standing policy of following the law of the land. In other words, the group wants Starbucks to ban customers from carrying guns in its stores, even in States that permit open carry.

Dubbed “Skip Starbucks Saturday,” the boycott also urges would-be gun grabbers to sign a petition asking Starbucks to change its policy, and to donate the money they’d otherwise spend on coffee this Saturday to advance the organization’s mission.

From the boycott web page:

Did you know that when you walk into a Starbucks in most states, you could be standing next to someone carrying a loaded weapon? Starbucks allows people to bring guns inside their stores where state open carry laws allow it.

According to Starbucks, this policy is in place because, “We comply with local laws and statutes in the communities we serve.” But the company has put the health and safety of its customers first before. Most recently, Starbucks banned smoking within 25 feet of its storefronts—even where local laws would permit smoking. The company also bans firearms from its corporate offices and prohibits its employees from carrying guns into Starbucks stores.

Help us tell Starbucks it’s time for gun sense.

Starbucks can do as it wants, and likely isn’t interested in becoming an object of veneration or revulsion on either side of the gun debate. But that hasn’t stopped Constitutionalists from staging their own Starbucks appreciation events in recent weeks, with 2nd Amendment advocates organizing their own open-carry group visits to store locations across the country as a show of thanks for the company’s follow-the-law policy on firearms.

Cato Study: Welfare More Lucrative Than Working In Many States

Welfare benefits outpace the amount of money a person can earn at a full-time minimum-wage job in 35 States, according to a study by the Cato Institute.

The study, published Monday, also reveals that welfare recipients in at least 13 States are receiving from the government the cash equivalent of a $15 per-hour full-time job. See a full PDF version of the report, titled “The Work Versus Welfare Trade-Off: 2013,” here.

An earlier iteration of the Cato study, done in 1995, already had shown that welfare benefits “greatly exceed” the poverty level and, because the payouts are tax-free, actually provide more incentive for recipients to remain unemployed than seek jobs that would earn them taxable income.

Michael Tanner, one of the study’s two authors, wrote Monday that welfare must be reformed if its recipients are to view it as a bridge to employment.

From Tanner’s study summary:

The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work. Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, even after accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and in 13 states it pays more than $15 per hour. If Congress and state legislatures are serious about reducing welfare dependence and rewarding work, they should consider strengthening welfare work requirements, removing exemptions, and narrowing the definition of work. Moreover, states should consider ways to shrink the gap between the value of welfare and work by reducing current benefit levels and tightening eligibility requirements.

Tanner adds that the balance in the number of people who correctly use welfare to tide them over until they find a real job has most likely declined since the 1995 report.

Earning any amount of money – even minimum wage money or part-time job money – is an incentive to earn more, Tanner notes. “There is little doubt that one of the most important long-term steps toward avoiding or getting out of poverty is taking a job,” he writes. “[W]hile many anti-poverty activists decry low-wage jobs, a minimum-wage job can be a springboard out of poverty.”

However, welfare keeps many able recipients from looking for work – not because of laziness, but because of economics. “[T]he evidence suggests that many are reluctant to accept available employment opportunities,” said Tanner.

Camille Paglia: Hillary Clinton ‘Has More Sooty Baggage Than A 90-Car Freight Train’

Camille Paglia, one of the few the old-school liberals whose social and fiscal views have always placed her nearer Constitutional libertarianism than 21st century liberalism, has had a rough go of rationalizing, to herself, her ongoing affiliation with the Democratic party. She’s admitted to herself that her eternal optimism for a classical liberal Democratic President is nostalgia, a principled loyalty she feels to her rebellious 1960s academic roots when liberalism and libertarianism were almost one and the same.

“Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans?” she once wrote. “Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills). … How has ‘liberty’ become the inspirational code word of conservatives rather than liberals? I always thought that the Democratic Party is the freedom party — but I must be living in the nostalgic past.”

Paglia is among a number of now-jaded 1960s-era liberal intellectuals and culture-makers who truly believe in America as a land of singular opportunity ordained by a governing charter — the Constitution — that eternally stands as one of humanity’s crowning achievements. Whether you agree with their views, there’s no denying that their beliefs are substantive and uninfluenced by inscrutable motives or shortsighted expediency. The Administration of President Barack Obama has seen liberals like Paglia, Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone, David Mamet and others rue their longstanding faith in the power of last century’s Democratic beliefs to carry over into the perverted Democratic power structure of the present day. Paglia herself voted for Obama in 2008, but she spent the next four years disgusted with him (as she had done with Bill Clinton in the 1990s) and ended up voting with the Green Party in 2012.

In a Salon interview this week, Paglia indicated she’s not interested in continuing to wave the flag for establishment candidates who’ll continue to subvert the very principles that once defined her beloved Democratic Party. In particular, she’s done with Hillary Clinton — big time.

From Salon:

As a registered Democrat, I am praying for a credible presidential candidate to emerge from the younger tier of politicians in their late 40s. A governor with executive experience would be ideal. It’s time to put my baby-boom generation out to pasture! We’ve had our day and managed to muck up a hell of a lot. It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton (born the same year as me) is our party’s best chance. She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train. And what exactly has she ever accomplished — beyond bullishly covering for her philandering husband? She’s certainly busy, busy and ever on the move — with the tunnel-vision workaholism of someone trying to blot out uncomfortable private thoughts.

I for one think it was a very big deal that our ambassador was murdered in Benghazi. In saying “I take responsibility” for it as secretary of state, Hillary should have resigned immediately. The weak response by the Obama administration to that tragedy has given a huge opening to Republicans in the next presidential election. The impression has been amply given that Benghazi was treated as a public relations matter to massage rather than as the major and outrageous attack on the U.S. that it was.

Throughout history, ambassadors have always been symbolic incarnations of the sovereignty of their nations and the dignity of their leaders. It’s even a key motif in “King Lear.” As far as I’m concerned, Hillary disqualified herself for the presidency in that fist-pounding moment at a congressional hearing when she said, “What difference does it make what we knew and when we knew it, Senator?” Democrats have got to shake off the Clinton albatross and find new blood. The escalating instability not just in Egypt but throughout the Mideast is very ominous. There is a clash of cultures brewing in the world that may take a century or more to resolve — and there is no guarantee that the secular West will win.

There’s not a lot that even Rand Paul could add to that.

In fact, Paglia and the thinking members of the Tea Party differ primarily on one point, and that’s the extent to which religion should influence the crafting of a political party’s social platform. Paglia is a secularist who champions religion as mankind’s genius reaction to the brutal world it’s inherited, but she’d just as well live in a society which is ready for art to serve as the dominant vessel to contain and spill forth human nature.

The future tenure of even a two-term Democrat President doesn’t have to result in the Nation-wrecking debacle that’s unfolding under Obama, but just about the only way for that to happen is for party leaders on both sides to start listening to their conscience. Paglia, Chomsky and their sagacious peers are the closest thing Democrats have to a true conscience; and it’s a safe bet no one who matters inside the party is listening.

Phoenix Police Called To Talk Non-Threatening Man Off Roof; Taser Him Five Times; Man Dies

A 44 year-old man in Phoenix was on an apartment roof “acting strangely,” according to local television news reports. So witnesses called the police to help him down. Instead, the police ended up killing him.

Michael Ruiz, the son of a former police detective, got on his apartment roof on July 28, alarming residents who knew of his ongoing drug issues. Fearful that Ruiz would harm himself, they called the cops. When the police arrived, they “coaxed” him off the roof with multiple taser shots and then proceed to drag him in handcuffs down the stairs.

Witnesses said Ruiz’ unsupported head was repeatedly hitting the concrete stairs so hard they could hear the impacts.

His father, Richard Erickson, saw the video made him sick to his stomach.

“I’d never seen anything like this before, even when I was with the police department,” he told ABC-15.

“I started crying ’cause that’s not right, to hurt nobody like that,” said neighbor Verna Young. “He didn’t deserve that. He was a nice person, very nice.”

The EMS report stated Ruiz had been tased five times. He had to be resuscitated once in custody, but he was hospitalized and was eventually put on life support. Erickson decided five days after the incident to take him off life support, and Ruiz died.

Erickson has hired an attorney and said he is seeking the termination of the officers involved in the incident.

Phoenix police are still investigating and have given no comment.

Support For 2nd Amendment-Supporting Florida Sheriff Grows As Trial Date Nears

In early June, Liberty County, Fla., Sheriff Nick Finch was arrested for official misconduct and suspended from office by Governor Rick Scott.

The sheriff’s offense? He set free a man who’d been arrested for carrying a firearm without a permit during a routine traffic stop. The motorist, who was charged with carrying a concealed deadly weapon, was let go after Finch discussed what had happened with the man and his brother (who’d come to the jail to find out what had happened) and determining the arrested man had a 2nd Amendment right to have the firearm in his car.

Car carry is legal in Florida for those without a conceal-carry permit, but the law stipulates such firearms must be securely encased or not readily accessible for immediate use — two stipulations the suspect allegedly didn’t meet when he was pulled over in Liberty County. Finch, who reportedly  told the arresting deputy he “believed in 2nd Amendment rights,” returned the man’s confiscated weapon and, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), “destroyed or removed official arrest documents from the Liberty County Jail, making it appear as though an arrest never occurred.”

In a recent interview with Michael Lofti from the grass-roots journalism e-zine Ben Swann, Finch said he would “Absolutely not” do things differently if he could go back and relive the incident.

“I wouldn’t have done anything different,” he said. “Once I became aware of the arrest, I immediately called the clerk and told her not to book Parrish. I am a Desert Storm veteran. I took an oath to protect the Constitution in the army and again as a sheriff. The state is charging me with destroying documents, which never existed. They do not have a case.”

Finch said the fact that the State offered to drop the charges against him, if only he’d resign from office, strongly indicates a political, and not a judicial, motive behind his prosecution.

With Finch’s Sept. 30 trial date approaching, the case is being closely watched by local supporters and people nationwide concerned that the State is tightening its grip on citizens’ 2nd Amendment freedoms and the elected officials, like Finch, who would stand alongside the people to defend them.

Tea Party supporters, conservative law enforcement organizations and Constitutionalists from across the country are planning to attend an Aug. 24 fundraiser in Panama City, Fla., for Finch’s legal defense fund, which is also collecting money on a website administered by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.

Fred Brownbill of the Save America Foundation explained the importance of the Finch case in his call for people to attend the fundraising event.

As you know, the office of the county sheriff is under attack in many places.  The Constitutional sheriff is a threat to tyranny.  The duty of the Constitutional county sheriff is to protect and defend the Constitution and to interpose himself between his people and anyone who would violate their rights.

Federal Reserve Holdings Of U.S. Treasury Securities Quadruples Since 2008, Surpasses $2 Trillion

The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy of quantitative easing, ostensibly intended to steady the U.S. economy, has more than quadrupled the amount of Treasury securities owned by the Fed since Chairman Ben Bernanke hatched the strategy in 2009.

As of last week, the Fed holds $2,001,093,000,000 (that’s $2 trillion) in U.S. Treasury securities. In late 2008, before the Fed began its four-year run, it held $475.9 billion — less than one-quarter the amount of U.S. debt it now holds.

The Fed’s Aug. 14 report represents the first time its holdings of government debt have surpassed the $2 trillion mark.

The Federal Reserve owns more American debt than any other entity. China is a not-too-distant second, holding more than $1.2 trillion in U.S. Treasury securities. Foreign entities, including China, own $5.6 trillion in U.S. debt.

In all, the United States owes a cumulative $16.9 trillion to creditors worldwide, although one economist has estimated the government’s real obligations are closer to $70 trillion if built-in, consequential costs of current debts and anticipated fiscal stresses are factored in.

According to professor James Hamilton of the University of California-San Diego, the Federal government has intentionally been keeping U.S. debt off the balance sheet by omitting unfunded liabilities such as government loan guarantees and deposit insurance, as well as postsecondary education government loans.

“The biggest off-balance-sheet liabilities come from recognition of the fiscal stress that will come in the form of an aging population and rising medical expenditures,” Hamilton told FOX News last week. “It is worth noting that there are many historical episodes in which off-balance sheet liabilities ended up having quite significant on-balance sheet implications.”

Conservative economists continue to warn that forestalling an economic collapse by the endless printing of fiat currency only will exacerbate the scale of an inevitable economic doomsday, when creditors finally lose faith in the government’s abilities to meet its obligations.

Say No More: Henry Kissinger ‘Delighted’ If Chris Christie Takes 2016 GOP Nomination

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told National Review today he’d be delighted to see New Jersey Governor Chris Christie win the Republican nomination for the 2016 Presidential race.

“We’re friendly, and I think extremely highly of him, and he knows I’d be delighted if he became a national candidate,” Kissinger said. “Conservatives should recognize his long-term potential.”

Kissinger’s remarks suggest he, like many in the GOP establishment, views the word “conservative” as a functional description used to identify a political base, rather than as a values-laden term that connotes a principled ideology or world view.

It’s not surprising that Republican leaders have been preoccupied with vetting “electable” candidates with lazy mass appeal, instead of finding future leaders who possess well-defined ideas – even if their conservative values aren’t all things to everyone.

Despite his camera-hostile corpulence, Christie’s giving the GOP the former. His sound bites are filled with all-inclusive, rah-rah ear candy – but they signify nothing.

From National Review:

“I’m in this business to win,” Christie told [Boston RNC members last week], to approving cheers. “For our ideas to matter, we have to win, because if we don’t win, we don’t govern, and if we don’t govern, all we do is shout into the wind.” It wasn’t an ideological overture but a pugnacious and pragmatic message directed to a group that’s tired of losing. And they loved it, and Christie, too, since he increasingly looks like the only center-right governor and national star looking hard at a 2016 campaign. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is widely believed to be leaning against it, and senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, though popular with tea-party activists, are privately viewed with wariness by the Republican donor class.

If the GOP leadership continues, like Kissinger, to long for a Chris Christie run at the White House in 2016, the Republican Party will be doubling down on a National strategy that’s gotten their insipid high-profile candidates nowhere – even as principled, values-driven Republicans continue to win statement victories as State Legislators and Governors in recent years. As ever, the National GOP is already showing signs its 2016 strategy will consist of Playing Not To Lose.

Half Of Obamacare’s Implementation Deadlines Missed Thanks To Presidential Delays, Waivers

Statistics from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reveal that the Administration of President Barack Obama has missed half of the deadlines required to legally implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The CRS, an arm of the Library of Congress that functions as a nonpartisan Congressional research and reference center, has tabulated 82 separate deadlines that represent mandatory stepping stones in the rollout of Obamacare. Each one is a part of the ACA, and enforcing each is required if the law (and its enforcers) are to retain their integrity.

But, as Forbes contributor Avik Roy points out, the Obama Administration has already missed 41 of them — and the start date is still six weeks away.

As of May 31, 2013, when the CRS analysis was completed, the White House had yet to meet 9 of 12 deadlines from the first year after the Affordable Care Act was enacted. It failed to meet 22 of 53 deadlines in the second year; another 8 became moot after Congress did not appropriate funds to complete the assigned tasks. In year three, the administration missed 10 out of 17 deadlines. That’s a total of 41 out of 82 deadlines missed.

If you exclude the 9 deadlines that became moot because Congress never appropriated the funds to meet them, the Obama administration missed 41 out of 73 deadlines, or 56 percent.

In analyzing the CRS report, I erred on the side of generosity. If the administration missed a particular statutory deadline by a week or less, I counted it in their favor as a “met” deadline. In any case where there was ambiguity in the CRS report, I assumed that the administration had met the deadline. So these 50-56 percent missed deadline figures should be seen as slightly conservative.

Dated June 5, the CRS research doesn’t even take into account the President’s recent announcements that he’s unilaterally delaying the very pillars of his signature piece of social re-engineering legislation. Large businesses now get a one-year break before they have to offer employees insurance under the new law; insurers now have one more year before they have to cap consumer out-of-pocket costs. And Obama, who’s been the “Decider” throughout it all, can’t blame Congress or Republican opposition. He’s been working within the Administrative and bureaucratic structure to unilaterally (and illegally) pick and choose which pieces of his puzzle he’s ready to put into place.

We’ll get Obamacare when it’s good and ready.

“Obamacare may fail at reducing insurance premiums, or at wisely using taxpayer funds. But the law is scheduled to spend $1.9 trillion over the next ten years,” writes Roy. “Only new laws, not wishful thinking, will change that.”

Illegal Food Stamp Trafficking Up 30 Percent Since 2006

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a study on the illegal resale of food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The report found a 30 percent increase in the proportion of SNAP recipients who illegally sell their SNAP credits back to stores, which fraudulently redeem the credits by paying the SNAP recipients the credits’ cash value.

The 30 percent jump has been incremental, dating back to 2006 — the earliest period covered in the study. Food stamp trafficking fraud now accounts for an estimated $858 million per year in diverted SNAP funds, compared with $330 million in 2006.

The SNAP program itself has also grown immensely since President Barack Obama’s aggressive expansion of the program’s reach, with last year’s benefits totaling more than $74 billion — compared with $34 billion in 2008.

Predictably, the study links the increase in SNAP fraud with the commensurate increase in the Obama-era expansion.

And even though the dollar value of misappropriated SNAP funds represents a smaller percentage of the entire SNAP budget today than it did during Bill Clinton’s Presidency (3 percent now, compared to 4 percent in the mid-1990s), technology is likely to thank. The program’s full-scale adoption of point-of-sale, declining-balance debit cards, which debuted in limited numbers in the late 1980s, took human “error” out of the old process of exchanging and tracking government-issued paper scraps of fiat food currency.

But personal relationships and the low-budget exigencies of mom-and-pop economics still combine to account for the bulk of transactions in which “customers” swap Food Stamps for cash.

The U.S. Food and Nutrition Service’s press release for the study states: “[T]he report attributes the change in the rate to 1.3 percent primarily to the growth in small- and medium-sized retailers authorized to accept SNAP that may not provide sufficient healthful offerings to recipients. These retailers accounted for 85 percent of all trafficking redemptions. This finding echoes a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that suggested minimal stocking requirements in SNAP may contribute to corrupt retailers entering the program.”

No Prophet Is Welcome In His Own Land: Hometown Paper Torches Chicago Jesus; Obamacare

You know public will to embrace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is in freefall when President Barack Obama’s hometown newspaper pens an editorial calling for the “monstrosity” to be dismantled.

In a Sunday editorial headlined “How President Obama is flouting Obamacare,” The Chicago Tribune took a wrecking ball to the President’s ham-handed finessing of a law his Administration is legally required to carry out in full, opining that Obama is “bending that enforcement in wayas that test, and arguably exceed, the boundaries of lawful conduct.”

Then the editorial board called on lawmakers to take a wrecking ball to the law itself, and to start from scratch to come up with something else. “Democrats strong-armed Obamacare into law three years ago. Now they’re busy flouting it” by delaying employer insurance mandates, documentation requirements, out-of-pocket spending caps and carving out Congressional staff exemptions, thanks to the President’s intervention. Those aren’t administrative refinements; they’re wholesale interpretive revisions:

Obama isn’t making tweaks. He’s trying to circumvent major flaws that began flaring when the law was enacted. Hence the many carve-outs, delays and special deals that have been piling up since he added his signature to Obamacare on March 23, 2010.

The president crusaded for this law and has embraced its nickname. But he did not write the law. Congress did. Major changes are necessary — he has stipulated by his actions that this law as constituted cannot work — and Congress should legislate them for his review.

Bottom line: Let’s delay and rewrite this ill-conceived law. Congress need not start from scratch. Lawmakers can build on what all of us have learned from three years of painful trial and error. Three years of attempting, but failing, to make this clumsy monstrosity work for the American people.

The piece also challenges Obama’s Constitutional standing to pick and choose which parts of the law he can enforce, noting the legal outcry we’d all be hearing if Mitt Romney had won the 2012 election and then attempted to turn his back on Obamacare.

Read the entire piece, and share.

Working-Class America Less Stable As Labor Jobs Market Shrinks

If you’re among the Americans who bypassed college in favor of a traditional manufacturing or other skilled labor job, you’re part of a shrinking post-World War II middle-class workforce that continues to face decimation and destabilization as a once-healthy jobs market gives way to the low-wage service sector.

A joint study conducted by the University of Virginia and Harvard University reveals that the decline of America’s manufacturing workforce has far-reaching societal and cultural ramifications and that the typical American dream — which revolves around nuclear families, lifelong marital relationships and raising children — isn’t a tenable way of living for many who’ve been affected.

In the study, titled “Intimate Inequalities: Love and Work in a Post-Industrial Landscape,” researchers found that marriage, in particular, has become linked with a stable and secure middle-class existence. And if someone is still trying to work his way upward toward the middle class, his economic circumstances typically aren’t amenable with the expense and commitment that stable family life requires.

“Marriage is becoming a distinctive social institution marking middle-class status,” said Sarah Corse, a Virginia associate professor of sociology and the study’s lead author. “Working-class people with insecure work and few resources, little stability and no ability to plan for a foreseeable future become concerned with their own survival and often become unable to imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others. Insecure work changes peoples’ non-work lives.”

The study also finds an increasing gap between the material success and stability of today’s non-college-educated workforce and those who seek the kind of full-time, unionized jobs that powered America’s middle-class strength from the 1940s through the 1980s.

Those who hold college degrees tend to find more stable, better-paying jobs. That, in turn, allows for a measure of freedom to marry and raise children.

“Middle- and upper-middle class people, as a result, express high expectations for their marriages, centering on self-fulfillment, deeply engaged parenting by both parents and psycho-emotional awareness. They also ‘insure’ themselves against marital complacency, conflict and dissolution through private material and emotional ‘investments,’” the study states.

The study isn’t an endorsement for finding economic stability only through obtaining a college degree. Rather, it’s an observation of how dramatically the American economic environment has changed, at the expense of millions who, in previous decades, could find and keep good jobs — often in or near their hometowns — all without having to seek a college education in order to advance their vocational opportunities.

But for the would-be investor, the study provides strong evidence that until an individual can secure his own livelihood and at least some modicum of middle-class stability, his opportunities to set aside even a small portion of his disposable income with an eye toward the future are almost nonexistent.

Rand Paul’s ‘No Aid To Egypt’ Stance Vindicated As Congress Galvanizes Against Obama’s Coup Denial

As the growing conflict between Egypt’s army and tenacious supporters of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood continues to plunge Egypt into chaos, the official American response has called international ridicule upon President Barack Obama.

The President’s refusal to acknowledge last month’s military coup has kept open avenues of American arms support to Cairo — even as pundits openly question which side we’re really arming and who will benefit from hand-me-down guns in the region if the present conflict resolves.

But there’s more blame to go around. Congress rejected an amendment two weeks ago that would have suspended aid to Egypt until it can hold free elections.

The Senate vote wasn’t even close: 86-13.

“It would be a terrific mistake for the United States to send a message to Egypt: you’re on your own,” said Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) in opposing the measure — this, after himself calling for the exact same thing in early July. “I urge my colleagues to vote to table the Paul amendment.”

Ah, “The Paul Amendment.” Now it all starts to fall into place.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had attached an amendment to the omnibus transportation bill that, had it been approved, would have suspended the $1.5 billion a year in military aid the United States has been giving Egypt until the country holds free and fair elections. In the meantime, the money would instead go to fund bridge rehabilitation projects here in the U.S.

That was more than two weeks ago. By Friday of last week, violence in Cairo had reached such a level that headline writers were trotting out the Red Nile allusions.

More than 600 deaths (by the time you read this, probably many more) had been documented in Giza and Cairo, with resolute supporters of Mohammed Morsi vowing never to back down in their fight to reinstate the country’s deposed leadership.

The military government had reneged on its original pledge to handle the Brotherhood’s violent protests with kid gloves, announcing last Thursday that resistance would be met with live fire. The new corrupt regime began describing the old corrupt regime’s supporters — whose violent post-coup resistance at least reflects the defensible belief that Morsi was a legitimate leader who was overthrown in a coup d’état — as terrorists and criminals.

Amid all this, it goes without saying that it’s a historically bad time to be a Christian in Egypt.

So, with last week’s mounting chaos as a backdrop, Paul unloaded on Senators for supporting Obama’s duplicitous handling of the Egypt crisis by continuing the already-dubious armament gravy train.

“This is something that those who voted in Congress are going to have to live with,” Paul told Foreign Policy magazine last Thursday. “The question is: How does their conscience feel now as they see photographs of tanks rolling over Egyptian civilians?

“For those who think more weapons is ‘engaging’ us with the Egyptian people, ask an Egyptian,” Paul added. “When you’re protesting in the streets and you’re run over by an American tank, you’re not going to be appreciative of American engagement.”

Whether Senators are struggling with heartfelt guilt trips is anyone’s wild guess; but as the flow of violent imagery coming out of Egypt accelerated last week, their political conscience had begun to sting.

POLITICO reported a significant number of Democratic and RINO Senators had begun to use rhetoric mimicking Paul.

While suspending joint military exercises as the president has done is an important step, our law is clear: aid to the Egyptian military should cease unless they restore democracy,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is working with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on legislative language that would impose conditions on assistance to Egypt.

…Leahy isn’t alone among Democrats who see the sudden removal of Morsi as a coup — Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has also called for aid suspension until elections are scheduled.

Paul also dialed up the heat on an increasingly feckless Obama.

“While President Obama ‘condemns the violence in Egypt,’ his administration continues to send billions of taxpayer dollars to help pay for it. The law is very clear when a coup d’état takes place, foreign aid must stop, regardless of the circumstances,” Paul said Thursday in a reiteration of his “no-aid” stance. “Mr. President, stop skirting the issue, follow the law, and cancel all foreign aid to Egypt.”

Obama instead rattled his fake plastic saber by canceling Operation Bright Star, a joint military exercise with Egypt. But he stayed quiet as the money spigot kept flowing.

Judge Overturns Los Angeles Policy On Seizing And Impounding Cars Driven By Illegal Aliens

A Los Angeles judge has ruled that the city’s policy on seizing and impounding vehicles violates California State law, and is too permissive and open to aggrandizement.

Superior Court Judge Terry Green ruled that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had essentially invented a method for confiscating cars that was inconsistent with both the spirit and the letter of State law, finding that the department’s policy on seizing vehicles driven by illegal aliens wasn’t reasonable in cases when a legal resident and licensed driver was also present.

From the car-centric policy journal TheNewspaper:

At issue is what to do when police pull over an illegal alien, someone who is by definition an unlicensed driver in the state. Judicial Watch, a conservative group, filed suit to force cops to seize and keep cars belonging to illegals for thirty days.

Los Angeles did a brisk business in car impounding until a 2005 decision of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals changed the legal landscape. The court found that just because a statute allows a car seizure, it does not automatically make confiscation reasonable for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit held that there was no reason for police to seize a legally parked car from an unlicensed driver when another licensed driver was present.

The department’s rule advised officers to confiscate vehicles that impede traffic flow, present a safety hazard, are located in vandalism-prone areas or “if there is nobody available to lawfully move it out of the way.”

Conservative groups have argued that the LAPD’s confiscation policy represents an “end-run around a law clearly ordering thirty-day impoundment of vehicles from drivers with expired or non-existent licenses.”

Setting aside the immigration politics, the city had a nice little racket going with the impoundments. Retrieving a confiscated vehicle in L.A. can cost more than $1,000 per incident, according to TheNewspaper. Multiply that by the “hundreds of thousands” of cars impounded annually, and the take gets into seven-digit territory.

Congressional Republicans AWOL From August Town Hall Meetings

No wonder the public’s disgust with Congress surpasses even the disdain they hold for President Barack Obama.

As Congress takes off the month of August, back-home constituents expected an opportunity to debrief their Senators and Representatives following a dismal, gridlocked, ineffectual Summer term.

But many Congressional Republicans would rather hunker down in private over the five-week August recess than face constituents on both sides of the political spectrum angry over the Legislative branch’s milquetoast indecision on immigration; the Federal budget and the national debt ceiling; Obamacare, agriculture subsidies; transparency and civil liberties; and — well, just about everything else.

Take the case of Dallas-area Representative Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who has yet to reconnoiter with the same Tea Party base that helped him win his seat in the first place. “He can just give us a date,” Katrina Pierson, one of Sessions’ conservative constituents, told The New York Times. “We’ll set it up.”

So far, so silent. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is playing golf with Donald Trump. So-called conservatives like Texas’ Sessions and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are simply missing in (in)action.

Here’s Breitbart’s rundown of some more GOP legislators known to not be participating in the dirty work of facing their constituents — that is to say, their bosses — so that they can go back to Washington, D.C., and do the job they were hired to do:

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL); Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AK); Rep. John Kline (R-MN); Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX); Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), the chair of the House Rules Committee; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who has “not announced any town halls but did participate in them in 2009.”

As The Times’ piece points out, the GOP’s shunning of town hall feedback is strategic. People like Graham know they’re in trouble with conservatives, and they simply would rather let them eat cake. “Congressional offices have gotten increasingly clever about keeping their schedules under wraps,” waiting until the last minute to announce any public feedback meetings, holding meetings in tiny venues and even front-loading the crowd with ardent supporters, who are asked to show up earlier than the announced start time in order to file in first.

Matt Kibbe, President of conservative activist group FreedomWorks, said in May that Graham in particular exemplifies GOP hypocrisy at its worst. “Lindsey Graham could be replaced with someone worthy of that seat,” he said. “The way he lashed out at Rand Paul [for filibustering on drones], he’s begging for a primary.”

But Kibbe saved an even more apt barb for his comment to The Times this week. Wondering aloud why Graham and other GOP do-nothings won’t come out of their shells for frank town hall meetings during their 35-day vacay, he observed:

“To quote Lindsey Graham, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to be afraid of.”

Follow who’s holding town hall meetings and who’s not this month over at the FreedomWorks “demand a town hall” Web page.

Obama’s Unilateral End Run Around Congress: Hike FCC Cellphone Fees To Pay For High-Speed Internet

President Barack Obama is hoping to add another “signature” accomplishment to mark his second term in office that, if successful, could stand alongside the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as a landmark aggrandizement of the reach and power of the executive branch.

The President has wholly embraced a novel idea that, if implemented, would expand high-speed Internet access and elevate the role of technology in student-teacher interaction in public schools nationwide. It would cost billions of dollars, which the President knows Congress won’t appropriate by legislating any sort of new tax or hike in consumer “fees.”

So Obama is turning to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ram through yet another new fee that would be tacked on to the bills of cellphone users everywhere in the United States — well, at least all the cellphone users who aren’t using free Obamaphones — to pay for the program, estimated to cost between $4 billion and $6 billion.

The program itself, first announced in a chirpy White House press release dated June 6,  has been dubbed “ConnectED.” According to the President, the program aims to “connect 99 percent of America’s students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within 5 years, calling on the FCC to modernize and leverage its existing E-Rate program to meet that goal…This ambitious initiative does not require Congressional action.”

Amazing how sterilizing language can be. “Modernize and leverage its existing E-Rate program” is the President’s disinfected version of “raise fees without Congress passing a law.” The E-Rate program benefits from the FCC’s prerogative to assess universal service fees for government-backed programs that ostensibly support the common good — something the commission already does for things like E-911 and Obamaphones.

So that you see the broad application of powers the FCC wields, think of the inscrutable machinations of the public utility or service commission in your home State — writ large at the Federal level — and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how inviolate and powerful is the FCC’s ability to raise your phone bill with the stroke of a pen. The five-member FCC commissioner panel is currently down to three members (all Obama appointees), and will inevitably hold a three-member Democrat-affiliated majority once Obama finally secures Senate confirmation for the two ongoing vacancies.

Former FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a Republican appointee, said the commission has no Constitutional business helping Obama or any other President impose fiat tax hikes in order to realize a grand personal vision:

Using the FCC as a way to get around Congress to spend money that Congress doesn’t have the political will to spend — I think that’s very scary…Constitutionally, it’s Congress that decides how federal funds should be spent.

Jeffrey H. Anderson of The Weekly Standard was more damning of Obama’s naked ambition and disregard for the rule of law:

It is becoming increasingly clear that President Obama does not approve of the American Founders’ notion that Congress’s role is to pass laws, and the president’s role is to execute them. On the heels of his unilateral decision not to start Obamacare’s employer mandate on the date that the legislation prescribes — a decision that begs the question of whether a Republican president, following Obama’s precedent, could unilaterally decide to gut other parts of Obamacare — Obama is now seeking to raise taxes on all cell phone users, reappropriate the billions collected, and spend it on “a whole new educational ecosystem.”  Moreover, he says, “We can do this without Congress.”

Orange County, Florida Sheriff Blithely Proclaims: ‘We Are A Paramilitary Organization’

A Wednesday Orlando Sentinel report on a hiring spree at the burgeoning Orange County, Florida Sheriff’s Office quoted Sheriff Jerry Demings unironically describing his department as a “paramilitary organization.”

From the story:

An improving economy has allowed Demings to open 125 positions that have been frozen since 2009. So far, 60 have been filled as the pool of qualified applicants grows with service members leaving the military and entering civilian life, said the Sheriff’s Recruiting and Background Manager Mary Ann Salazar.

“We are a paramilitary organization, so hiring veterans makes sense, and its important to the sheriff to bring in these highly skilled men and women,” Salazar said.

Demings said more than half of the deputies hired into one of the $38,000-$40,000 per-year positions come from a military background. The sheriff’s comments demonstrate an obvious confidence in the quality of his new hires, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But it’s incredible how oblivious more and more officers, police chiefs and sheriffs – many of them conscientious and well-intentioned – are becoming to the changing character of law enforcement in America.

The same goes for the general public. The Sentinel report eschews even a passing mention of the trend, and doesn’t make any connections between Orange County’s hiring pattern and the overall movement, Nationwide, toward the militarization of our civilian public servants in the law enforcement field.

More Obama Administration Steamrolling Of Congress: EPA To Act On ‘Climate Change’

Really, who needs Congress anymore?

Certainly not the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, which is busy game-planning end runs around Congress on education, wireless infrastructure, immigration and now climate change.

Gina McCarthy, whom President Barack Obama nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in March, told an audience of academics at the University of Colorado Wednesday that the President’s June 25 climate change speech at Georgetown University represented a watershed moment of Presidential will to do something about global warming – with or without Congress’ help.

“Essentially, he said that it is time to act. And he said he wasn’t going to wait for Congress, but that he had administrative authorities and that it was time to start utilizing those more effectively and in a more concerted way,” said McCarthy.

What does that mean? McCarthy wasn’t specific – no surprise there – but she indicated Obama is likely to use his very pliable EPA to look for ways to implement innovative (and costly) carbon swaps, regulations and energy standards at the Federal level, while borrowing green-initiative ideas from cities – like Boulder – that have adopted them.

“[We will] start paying attention to what’s going on in states and cities like Colorado and Boulder, and to start learning what you have already learned and to start getting the federal government to take the responsibility that it must take to face the challenge of climate change,” she said.

“…We’re going to do this this year, next year, the following year, until people understand these are not scary things to do, these are actions we can all do, they’re actions that benefit everybody, that will grow the economy, and they’re actions that will protect the health and safety of individuals.”

The President’s Climate Action Plan Fact Sheet lists some of the visionary ideas Obama plans to channel through the administrative power of the EPA, without any Congressional oversight – even those “policies” (a.k.a. “laws”) that effectively raise fees and taxes while instituting punitive fines.

Taken straight from the White House Fact Sheet, Obama’s plan:

•Directs EPA to work closely with states, industry and other stakeholder to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants;

•Makes up to $8 billion in loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy and efficiency projects to support investments in innovative technologies;

•Directs DOI to permit enough renewables project—like wind and solar – on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes; designates the first-ever hydropower project for priority permitting; and sets a new goal to install 100 megawatts of renewables on federally assisted housing by 2020; while maintaining the commitment to deploy renewables on military installations;

•Expands the President’s Better Building Challenge, focusing on helping commercial, industrial, and multi-family buildings cut waste and become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020;

•Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 – more than half of the annual carbon pollution from the U.S. energy sector – through efficiency standards set over the course of the Administration for appliances and federal buildings;

•Commits to partnering with industry and stakeholders to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to save families money at the pump and further reduce reliance on foreign oil and fuel consumption post-2018; and

•Leverages new opportunities to reduce pollution of highly-potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons; directs agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy; and commits to protect our forests and critical landscapes.

In keeping with Obama’s pattern, verbs like “establish,” “expand” and “leverage” have more transparent meanings: “regulate,” “borrow/subsidize” and “tax.” Look for the EPA – not Congress – to expedite Obama’s fallacious, myopic “green” revolution.