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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government Accountability Office finds CFPB’s financial stewardship lacking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama, Gruber were on the same page from the beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Obama pledged to stop people like President Obama

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

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

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

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

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

That was then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fair enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-election polling shows Democrats’ popularity continuing downward slide

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

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

From Gallup’s synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government’s dalliance with social media monitoring comes under scrutiny in House Committee

The House committee in charge of things technological has asked the National Science Foundation (NSF) for an explanation of its support of Truthy, the social media-monitoring experiment that’s been criticized for insinuating a relationship between online conservatism and hate speech.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology wrote the NSF this week to inquire why the government awarded the Indiana-based data-mining project a grant of approximately $1 million in public funds.

“I am concerned that a National Science Foundation (NSF)-approved grant… was intended to create standards for online political discussion,” Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) wrote Monday.

“… While some have argued that Truthy could be used to better understand things like disaster communication or to assist law enforcement, instead it appears Truthy focused on examples of ‘false and misleading ideas, hate speech, and subversive propaganda’ communicated by conservative groups. Whether by amazing coincidence or on purpose, it appears that several social media accounts that were highlighted by Truthy were subsequently terminated by the owners of the social media platforms, effectively muzzling the political free speech of the targeted individuals and groups.”

Truthy received the NSF grant after pitching its research in terms of its potential to track “suspicious memes” and “misleading ideas” that Internet users share and discuss. The project’s backers have also suggested a link between “hate speech” and the massive popularity of Twitter has tags, such as #tcot, geared to appeal to political conservatives.

The researchers behind the Truthy project have been mum since late October, when The Washington Free Beacon updated its running series of stories to note the group’s apparent removal of several online features from public view in the wake of unfavorable media reports.

Obamacare 2.0 may implode if enrollment projections come to pass

After its first-year iteration ran through an enrollment season plagued with problems both systemic and technical, Obamacare in its second-year enrollment period may encounter a long-predicted road block: too few enrollments to keep the entire program financially sound.

The Department of Health and Human Services is forecasting approximately 9 million new enrollments in state and federal healthcare exchange markets this year, a total that falls 4 million enrollments short of the 13 million signups the Congressional Budget Office has said will be necessary to keep the program from collapsing on itself (or, alternately, to require a bailout).

Some healthcare industry analysts warn the Obama administration will be hard pressed to recruit enough enrollees to make up the expected gap.

“There aren’t too many products that have more ads telling people they shouldn’t buy it than saying they should,” law professor and healthcare law specialist Timothy Jost told The Washington Times. “All of the low-hanging fruit has been picked already.”

If Obamacare’s year-two enrollment period results in such a dramatic shortfall, expect an accelerated response from the GOP-dominated 114th Congress to modify portions of the Affordable Care Act.

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) are readying an Obamacare alternative, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It’s not yet clear how comprehensive an overhaul to the ACA their new legislation may offer.

“Republicans don’t have the ability for a full repeal — lacking the votes to override a presidential veto — but are determined to make changes, and the Rubio-Ryan legislation is likely to be joined by other proposals,” the Times reported Monday. “President Obama said last week that he’s open to hearing ideas but made clear he’s not willing to do anything dramatic, such as removing the individual mandate.”

Other potential problems with the 2014-2015 enrollment period may lurk. Those tasked with ensuring a stable registration period this year are “scrambling,” according to The Washington Post, to secure “contingency plans in case the information technology or other aspects [of the federal online marketplace] prove less sturdy than the administration predicts.”

Trend: Violent crime falls as gun sales rise

The FBI released its annual Crime in the United States report this week, and the new report implies an inverse relationship between the rate of gun ownership and the incidence of violent crime.

Violent crime continued an overall downward trend, with a reported 1,163,146 such incidents in 2013. The FBI considers “violent crime” to encompass “murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.” Here’s a graph demonstrating the five-year fall in violent crime:

violent crime graphic

“[T]he estimated number of violent crimes in 2013 decreased 4.4 percent when compared with 2012 figures, and the estimated number of property crimes decreased 4.1 percent,” the FBI observed.

Breitbart took note of the FBI report, comparing last year’s drop in violent crime with previously released data on the upward tick in background checks for gun sales in 2013.

“On January 6, Breitbart News reported there were 21,093,273 background checks for firearm purchasers conducted in America in 2013. And while this number of background checks represented a record, we explained then that the number of guns sold could be many times higher. That is because background checks are done on gun purchasers, not on the number of guns being purchased,” Breitbart wrote.

“… These record gun sales and the subsequent reduction in crime square perfectly with a Congressional Research Service report covered by Breitbart News on December 4, 2013. That study showed that the number of privately owned firearms in America increased from 192 million in 1994 to 310 million in 2009.”

Another green energy bailout incoming?

One of history’s most ambitious and costly solar utility projects, already in debt $1.6 billion to the federal government, is returning to the trough, hat in hand, for another half-billion government dollars to help pay off the borrowed money.

Principal investors in the Ivanpah solar energy array in California’s Mojave Desert initially obtained a $1.6 billion loan to jump-start construction. The Obama administration blessed the project (and the loan); the president pledged the project would put “1,000 people to work.”

Google, Inc. and NRG Energy are the project’s two chief investors. The Ivanpah solar array offers an impressive spectacle: thousands of giant upturned mirrors configured in concentric circular rings around their focal points: a set of three massive towers that channel the mirrors’ reflected heat energy into the production of steam power.

The plant “was unveiled in February with great fanfare. Dr. Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, justified taxpayers’ investment at the time, saying, ‘We want to be technology leaders. It’s good for our economy and it’s also good for helping stimulate the global transition to low carbon,'” according to Fox News.

“But since then the plant has not lived up to its clean energy promise,” that story continues. “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the plant produced only about a quarter of the power it’s supposed to, a disappointing 254,263 megawatt-hours of electricity from January through August, not the million megawatt-hours it promised.”

Even as Ivanpah was under construction, some critics from the scientific community predicted the plant wouldn’t produce enough energy to justify its cost.

“My reasoning is that the 392 megawatt (nominally 400 megawatt) power station will cost 3 billion dollars to build, per the press release of [energy company] Southern California Edison,” chemical engineer and green energy blogger Lindsay Leveen wrote for Breitbart in 2012. “… The level of wasted investment in Ivanpah is three times the amount of wasted taxpayer money we gave to Solyndra. That is why Ivanpah equals Solyndra times three.”

Obamacare ideas man: Law wouldn’t have succeeded without ‘stupidity of the American voter’

One of the pivotal players in the creation of the Affordable Care Act said the law could never have happened without one crucial ingredient: “the stupidity of the American voter.”

Conservative nonprofit American Commitment unearthed a year-old video of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber speaking at what appears to be a policy panel.

In the clip, Gruber defends the law’s essential goodness, but points out that progress requires breaking a few eggs:

This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as “taxes.” If CBO scores the mandate as “Taxes,” the bill dies. Okay? So it’s written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law that… made it explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed. OK?

… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically… call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically, that was really, really critical to get anything to pass. And that’s the second-best argument.

… Yeah, there’s things I wish I could change, but I’d rather have this law than not.

Gruber, an economics professor at MIT, served as a White House consultant during the crafting of the Affordable Care Act. He wasn’t simply a random consultant, though. His contract with the Department of Health and Human Services described his expertise as “a sole sources basis for technical assistance in evaluating options for national healthcare reform.”

As the fallout from Obamacare’s rocky launch began to lay some of the blame for legal challenges to the law at Gruber’s feet, the law’s Democratic supporters began to distance themselves from him.

Now they have one more reason.

Harry Reid vows to keep hammering the Koch brothers

From the do-what-works department: Senate Majority Leader (for now) Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the Democratic caucus aren’t done with the Koch brothers — not by a long sight. Vowing to continue a strategy that did the Democrats no favors in the midterm elections, Reid and other party leaders have indicated they’ll redouble their efforts to turn the American people against the pair of wealthy conservative political donors.

“[D]espite Republicans — and some Democrats — publicly decrying the [Koch-bashing] strategy after Tuesday’s GOP wave as an ineffective waste of money, Reid told allies on election night that he planned to continue hammering the brothers, according to an operative close to him,” POLITICO reported Friday.

Reid isn’t the only one pledging to remain dogged in the anti-Koch rhetoric. “[B]ig-money liberal groups ranging from the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm and House super PAC to the outfits run by billionaire Tom Steyer and conservative-turned-liberal enforcer David Brock all signaled that they intended to pursue anti-Koch spending and oppo [ad hominem] tactics headed into the 2016 election,” the story continues.

Brock’s progressive group issued a post-election memo to fellow Democratic leaders that suggests the midterms, somehow, may actually have improved the effectiveness of the party’s strategy of demonizing the Kochs.

“This will be easier now that they [Republicans] are in power,” the memo intoned, according to POLITICO.

But not all Democratic operatives agree that sustaining the anti-Koch campaign will produce better results than it has to date.

“It’s utterly ineffective,” one operative said, lamenting that the anti-Koch campaign has all the optics of insider politics — instead of the populism that Reid and others have been banking on. “[T]his strategy is more about the candidates. It says, ‘Look at me! Help me — they are spending money against me.’ There’s no connection between that and voters,” said Democratic strategist Thomas Mills.

Black Americans continue to languish in the Obama economy

Who isn’t benefiting from the Obama economy? Black people who want to work, that’s who. The latest round of employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) continues to indicate that black Americans are among the big losers in the president’s hollow economic “turnaround.”

As the labor force posted its first real net gains in many months, October’s employment data shows that black people in the workforce continue to fare poorly. Last month, 114,000 blacks dropped out of the labor force. The number of blacks with jobs in the U.S. as a whole also fell by 41,000.

Those numbers came in the same report that showed increases in net employment numbers for the general population.

“[T]he employment picture for all Americans aged 16 and older improved from September to October, as the overall unemployment rate declined from 5.9 percent to 5.8 percent, the number of employed increased from 146,600,000 to 147,283,000, and the number of unemployed decreased from 9,262,000 to 8,995,000,” CNS News reported Friday.

The labor participation rate — the same metric that found 114,000 black people had stopped looking for work — also improved for the general population, according to the BLS.

“Those not in the labor force, which are those who not only did not have a job, but they did not actively seek one in the last four weeks, declined from 92,584,000 to 92,378,000,” CNS News reported.

The October unemployment rate for black Americans came in at 10.9 percent, compared with 5.8 percent for the population as a whole.

Pelosi wants to fight on as House minority leader

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has indicated she isn’t ready to cede her party’s leadership to a younger generation just yet. Following a midterm bloodbath for congressional Democrats, Pelosi said she wants to stay on as minority leader because she still has unfinished business to check off her agenda.

According to The Hill, Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats beseeching her caucus to keep her as minority leader — evidently because she’s passionate about strengthening voting rights before she walks away from her leadership position.

“To succeed, we must inspire, educate and remove obstacles to participation,” wrote Pelosi. “Only by changing our political environment and broadening the universe of the electorate can we build a strong sense of community and an economy that works for everyone.

“This basic and even non-partisan challenge, which many of you told me you share, has convinced me to place my name in nomination for leader when our Caucus meets… I respectfully request your support, your comments and your participation.”

Pelosi is joined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in the effort to keep current party leaders in top congressional roles. All three have indicated they wish to remain in their leadership roles (in Reid’s case, as Senate minority leader) in the 114th Congress.

The new Congress convenes on Jan. 3.

Condoleezza Rice hits Democratic race baiters hard in post-midterm comments

Now that her most visible public role involves selecting worthy contenders for a college football playoff, you might think Condoleezza Rice would stifle her impulse to speak plainly about partisan political squabbles.

Hardly. Rice unloaded on Democrats for one of their pet midterm campaign strategies Thursday, telling Fox News that racial fearmongering is an insulting, ineffective and reality-blind tactic that has no place in modern America — a country she described as “the best place on Earth to be a minority.”

“The idea that you would play such a ‘card,’ and try fearmongering among minorities just because you disagree with Republicans — that they are somehow all racists — I find it appalling. I find it insulting,” she said.

“Of course we still have racial tensions in this country. But the United States of America has made enormous progress in race relations, and it is still the best place on Earth to be a minority.”

The former secretary of state under President Georges W. Bush drove her point home in overt fashion.

“As a Republican black woman from the South, I would say to them, ‘really?’ Is that really the argument you’re going to make in 2014? … I’ve been black all my life — I don’t need anyone to tell me how to be black,” she scolded.

Rice’s comments come two days after voters handed the U.S. Senate majority to Republican candidates and further cemented the GOP’s firm majority in the House of Representatives. One GOP victory that upended the Democrats’ race-baiting narrative was that of South Carolina Republican Tim Scott, who won an overwhelming victory in his Senate race.

Scott became the first elected black Senator from the Palmetto State (or anywhere else in the South) since 1881.

Predictably, the progressive side of the political landscape had no congratulations to offer. Perhaps they were taking their cues from the NAACP, which gave Scott one of the lowest ratings of any member of Congress — using qualifiers that align closely with the agenda of the Obama administration — in its civil rights “report card.”

Berkeley’s soda tax a small win for the nanny state in Tuesday midterms

The midterm sweep may have signaled a strong nationwide lean away from the progressive left Tuesday, but at least one bastion of progressivism managed to advance the nanny state.

Residents of Berkeley, California, approved a ballot measure making the city the first in the U.S. to institute a true sin tax on high-calorie sodas and sweetened drinks. The new tax is set to take effect at the start of 2015.

The idea that government has an obligation to protect beverage consumers from themselves was most infamously popularized by former Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose efforts to penalize residents for buying large sugary drinks was ultimately repudiated by the courts.

Berkeley’s measure, known to voters as ballot measure D, will impose a 1-cent tax on every ounce of each beverage included under the law. Those include not only sodas, but also sweetened energy drinks, teas and coffee drinks. The measure passed by a simple majority vote.

Supporters of the local measure were emboldened by the victory, pledging to carry the sugar tax campaign to other parts of the U.S.

“We fully expect other communities to take on the soda industry and succeed,” said Dr. Vicki Alexander, who represents the “Yes on D” movement, in a release Tuesday.

DOJ dumps Fast and Furious docs as midterms take over the news cycle

The U.S. Department of Justice unloaded tens of thousands of pages of documents it had previously withheld under a claim of presidential privilege late Monday, just as the mainstream news cycle ramped up its wall-to-wall coverage of the midterm elections.

DOJ dumped more than 64,280 pages of Fast and Furious documents Attorney General Eric Holder had, until Monday, refused to share with government watchdogs and congressional overseers under a claim that the information the documents contain was protected after President Obama asserted a claim of executive privilege.

The documents will remain closed for public scrutiny as the House Oversight Committee and other members of Congress review them for any security-sensitive information.

The document dump represented “a move Republicans said was an admission by President Obama that he overstepped his legal bounds,” according to The Washington Times.

“Investigators had sought the documents for years, with the House even suing in federal court to force their release,” The Times’ Stephen Dinan wrote Tuesday.

“Mr. Obama had asserted executive privilege, claiming the documents were part of the ‘deliberative process’ of White House decision-making and therefore didn’t need to be divulged, but the court rejected those claims.”

Government watchdog Judicial Watch has also sued for the release of the documents, sparking a months-long slow burn of periodic court orders and deadlines that saw the DOJ lose ground in its effort to keep the information concealed.

Holder, already in contempt of Congress for refusing to release the documents, was ordered by a federal judge in August to release the information to the Oversight Committee.

The Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), interpreted the prodigious document dump as indirect evidence that Obama and Holder have been spuriously invoking executive privilege all along.

“The sheer volume of last night’s document production — which consists entirely of documents that the Justice Department itself acknowledges are not covered by Executive Privilege — shows that the President and the Attorney General attempted to extend the scope of the Executive Privilege well beyond its historical boundaries to avoid disclosing documents that embarrass or otherwise implicate senior Obama Administration officials,” the Committee stated in a Tuesday release.

DOJ wants lawsuit against EPA’s carbon rule to go away

By now, you’re probably familiar with the EPA’s proposed cap-in-trade rules change, a flexing of the agency’s regulatory power that has given campaign fodder to GOP candidates in states whose economies rely heavily on the coal industry.

The proposal, part of the Obama administration’s larger effort to introduce new EPA regulations that heavily politicize government’s role in environmental advocacy, was immediately targeted with a lawsuit filed by Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp.

Murray argues that the EPA is (of course) attempting to assert powers it has never claimed before and that the agency is attempting to reimagine the Clean Water Act in ways that aren’t merely unconstitutional, but also are harmful to an entire sector of the U.S. economy.

But the DOJ has stepped in, filing a motion on Monday requesting that the court dismiss the company’s lawsuit. DOJ argues — with legal precedent seemingly on its side — that an entity like Murray cannot have standing to sue over the rule while it is still in the proposal stage. In other words, no one can sue over the rule until it is, in fact, a rule.

According to The Hill, Murray’s representatives acknowledge that the lawsuit’s timing is unusual. But, the company claims, the EPA is putting businesses in unusual positions by taking extraordinary measures.

“The plain language of the Clean Air Act clearly prohibits the Obama administration’s radical Environmental Protection Agency from promulgation of these unlawful and very damaging rules, and the EPA’s motion to dismiss does not change this fact,” a Murray spokesman said in response to DOJ’s motion to dismiss.

Judge slams Obama’s activist Department of Housing and Urban Development

A U.S. District Court judge has reversed a rules change published last year by President Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), repudiating the department’s attempt at wielding policy measures to legislate outcomes that Congress never intended when it passed the Fair Housing Act.

Judge Richard Leon, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, scolded HUD in his ruling Monday for attempting to speak where Congress — the legislative body from which the department’s regulatory powers flow — had plainly remained silent.

In particular, Leon admonished HUD for attempting to change its rules so that its application of fair housing policy would achieve equal outcomes — instead of equal opportunity to obtain housing under the law, as Congress intended.

HUD strayed beyond its powers last winter, according to a Weekly Standard report, when it “published a regulation pursuant to the Fair Housing Act that defines discrimination as actions or policies that while neutral and nondiscriminatory in their intent have a disparate impact, shown through statistics, on a group of persons defined in terms of race (and other protected groups):

The legality of the new rule was challenged almost a year ago by two of the largest among the trade associations representing homeowner’s insurers, the pith of their argument being that in passing the Fair Housing Act Congress defined discrimination as disparate treatment — the different treatment of individuals on account of race — and not as disparate impact. The agency thus lacked the authority to make the new rule.

Leon agreed, siding with the plaintiffs who brought the suit, arguing that Congress only intended the Fair Housing Act to provide a level playing field — not to forcibly reconstruct social demographics by using policy as a social engineering tool.

“In the FHA, Congress has included no such effects-based language,” Leon wrote in his 32-page ruling. “… It takes hutzpah (bordering on desperation) to argue” that the FHA is meant to produce equal outcomes.

“This is, yet another example of an Administrative Agency trying desperately to write into law that which Congress never intended to sanction,” Leon surmised.