Teamsters Union Balks On Obamacare

Teamsters Union president James Hoffa sent an open letter to President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last week warning them that he’s all but decided to pull his support from the Affordable Care Act if it reneges on the President’s promise that workers happy with their present coverage could continue it once the law takes effect.

Saying Obamacare now threatens to “destroy”Americans’ health and fundamentally change the 40-hour work week, Hoffa’s letter bears the tone of an ultimatum. Here’s the letter in its entirety, printed in a July 12 story for The Wall Street Journal:

Dear Leader Reid and Leader Pelosi:

When you and the President sought our support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat. Right now, unless you and the Obama Administration enact an equitable fix, the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.

Like millions of other Americans, our members are front-line workers in the American economy. We have been strong supporters of the notion that all Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care. We have also been strong supporters of you. In campaign after campaign we have put boots on the ground, gone door-to-door to get out the vote, run phone banks and raised money to secure this vision.

Now this vision has come back to haunt us.

Since the ACA was enacted, we have been bringing our deep concerns to the Administration, seeking reasonable regulatory interpretations to the statute that would help prevent the destruction of non-profit health plans. As you both know first-hand, our persuasive arguments have been disregarded and met with a stone wall by the White House and the pertinent agencies. This is especially stinging because other stakeholders have repeatedly received successful interpretations for their respective grievances. Most disconcerting of course is last week’s huge accommodation for the employer community—extending the statutorily mandated “December 31, 2013” deadline for the employer mandate and penalties.

Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you. We have a problem; you need to fix it. The unintended consequences of the ACA are severe. Perverse incentives are already creating nightmare scenarios:

First, the law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees’ work hours below 30 hours a week. Numerous employers have begun to cut workers’ hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits.

Second, millions of Americans are covered by non-profit health insurance plans like the ones in which most of our members participate. These non-profit plans are governed jointly by unions and companies under the Taft-Hartley Act. Our health plans have been built over decades by working men and women. Under the ACA as interpreted by the Administration, our employees will treated differently and not be eligible for subsidies afforded other citizens. As such, many employees will be relegated to second-class status and shut out of the help the law offers to for-profit insurance plans.

And finally, even though non-profit plans like ours won’t receive the same subsidies as for-profit plans, they’ll be taxed to pay for those subsidies. Taken together, these restrictions will make non-profit plans like ours unsustainable, and will undermine the health-care market of viable alternatives to the big health insurance companies.

On behalf of the millions of working men and women we represent and the families they support, we can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.

We believe that there are common-sense corrections that can be made within the existing statute that will allow our members to continue to keep their current health plans and benefits just as you and the President pledged. Unless changes are made, however, that promise is hollow.

We continue to stand behind real health care reform, but the law as it stands will hurt millions of Americans including the members of our respective unions.

We are looking to you to make sure these changes are made.

You know things have gotten bad for Obamacare when the unions – among the law’s most ardent supporters in the early sledding – are now jumping ship.

Is Government Laying The Groundwork For Propagandist State Media?

The law that has long kept government-supported media outlets – such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe – from being broadcast here in the U.S. was repealed on July 2nd with President Barack Obama’s signing of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

In practical terms, that means that propagandist state media outlets ostensibly funded by taxpayers can now be aimed at the very taxpayers who’re funding them, right here in the U.S. Supporters of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 – the embedded legislation that lifted the ban – say the change actually opens the government to greater scrutiny by sharing with all the Nation the propaganda it’s been piping over to Europe, the Middle East and everywhere else but here.

Lynne Weil, a spokesperson for the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (that’s a government agency) said that Americans would now “be able to know more about what they are paying for with their tax dollars – greater transparency is a win-win for all involved.”

Benevolent, no doubt. But John Hudson of Foreign Policy magazine offers a nice reminder of just how inevitable abuse is for government to begin interjecting its own voice in an effort to subvert the domestic enemies of the ruling class or to sell policy with half-truths (or outright lies):

[I]f anyone needed a reminder of the dangers of domestic propaganda efforts, the past 12 months provided ample reasons. Last year, two USA Today journalists were ensnared in a propaganda campaign after reporting about millions of dollars in back taxes owed by the Pentagon’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan. Eventually, one of the co-owners of the firm confessed to creating phony websites and Twitter accounts to smear the journalists anonymously. Additionally, just this month, The Washington Post exposed a counter propaganda program by the Pentagon that recommended posting comments on a U.S. website run by a Somali expat with readers opposing [al-Quaeda group] Al-Shabaab.

 

Most Want Free Market, Not Regulations, To Dictate Healthcare Costs

A poll that sampled 1,000 Americans last week revealed that 62 percent don’t want healthcare prices set by government mandates or well-intentioned policies, and that the free market offers a better opportunity for striking a desirable balance between healthcare quality and healthcare costs.

That’s hardly a revelation. It’s just another dollop of evidence atop a mountain of studies and surveys, as well as editorials, talk-radio rants and millions of anecdotes (just about everyone, it seems, knows a local doctor who’s planning an early retirement to escape the imminent mess) that collectively demonstrate the confusion and destruction Obamacare is set to wreak not only on the quality and cost of healthcare, but on patient choice as well.

For all the injustice evident in our current, corrupt feedback loop of doctors, insurers and Big Pharma, there’s still a reason Americans don’t like socialized medicine. It limits quality of care, asks people who aren’t sick to pay for treating people who are and takes crucial liberties out of patients’ (and even doctors’) hands.

Look across the Atlantic, where a prominent member of the British Medical Association said the country’s debt-ridden National Health Service (NHS) is worse than “communist China” in leashing doctors and handing bureaucrats the decision-making control over operational policies that directly affect what diagnoses and treatments patients can receive.

The NHS system faces a shutdown of 20 hospitals throughout Britain as it struggles under a growing debt set to top $50 billion within the next decade. The impact of the financial crunch has meant three-month waits (often the difference between life and death) for cancer treatments and warnings that a present-day bailout of British healthcare would dwarf that of Cyprus — not of Cypriot hospitals, but the whole country.

Reading British healthcare officials’ comments is a depressingly Kafkaesque trudge through the lamentations of administrative bosses set within hierarchies pitched against one another in ridiculous power struggles, white noise about what a disservice everything is to the patients and vindictive glances to the past to assign blame along partisan lines. Kind of like watching C-SPAN when the U.S. Senate is in session. Expect the same sort of buzz to filter to these shores, for good, unless Obamacare is repealed.

James Clapper Lies to Congress; Congress Says ‘That’s Cool’

Back in March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied when asked by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) whether the National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting “any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans” by saying, “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not willingly.”

That was before the NSA PRISM scandal broke and exposed the obvious lie.

Clapper spent the next couple of months getting beat up by mostly-conservative online media before issuing a ridiculous apology last week in which he claimed, when answering Wyden, he “simply didn’t think of” the Patriot Act and its broad authorizations (and expansions upon its original powers) that either permit or forgive almost any warrantless spying the Federal government undertakes.

But as the scandal has turned into a circus, it appears the threat of perjury some GOP Congressmen had rhetorically threatened has fallen by the wayside. Wyden and other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee appear to have taken the side of Big Brother in vilifying leaker Edward Snowden, while closing ranks in giving both Clapper and the NSA a pass.

Ben Shapiro of Breitbart wrote Friday:

 Both parties in Congress have declined to do anything about Clapper’s possible perjury. Sen. Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) did not call for his removal; Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and Reps. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-CA) have all declined to comment. “This administration views [NSA leaker Edward] Snowden as the problem, not Gen. Clapper,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

Spying on millions of Americans and lying about it to Congressional overseers? Hey, we’re all friends. Go home; relax.

Allegedly lying to Congress about getting an extra spring in your step while you played a silly children’s game with a bat and ball? Indictment.

 

Selling Public Office: Presidential Campaign Donors Rewarded With Posh Embassy Appointments

President Barack Obama’s penchant for appointing top campaign fundraisers to cherry positions inside luxe American embassies in the capitals of allied nations isn’t a new abuse of American Presidential power; it’s simply an expansion on a trend that’s begun to tick off our friends and frustrate advocates for reform here at home.

Nile Gardiner of Britain’s The Telegraph summed up the feeling in a column indicting the Obama Administration’s “selling of public office” Wednesday:

The Obama administration will claim this is no big deal. After all, previous US administrations, both Democrat and Republican, have also rewarded major donors with plum diplomatic posts.

But long-standing precedent doesn’t mean the practice of rewarding party fundraisers is in any way ethical or right, and it certainly doesn’t serve American interests.

The appointment of Matthew Barzun and other major fundraisers to key diplomatic posts is an insult to the American people, as well as an insult to the countries to which they are being sent.

Who’s Matthew Barzun? Well, for one thing, he’s not a diplomat; and he certainly lacks any connection to Britain. He’s a former Obama campaign finance chairman who helped the President raise $700 million for his re-election bid, including $2.3 million out of his own funds. That all happened after Obama had rewarded him for similar work in the 2008 race by appointing him as ambassador to Sweden, another honorific that placed Barzun at the front of a line of vastly more qualified career diplomats. Barzun’s nomination still must be confirmed by the Senate.

In all, Obama has sent 18 of his biggest fundraisers to American embassy posts since 2009. But his friends don’t end up in dangerous, destabilized places (like, say, Benghazi, Libya); they go to London, Paris and Rome.

For conservatives, lambasting Obama has become a straw man pastime; it’s too easy. But this sort of abuse of office has been slowly creeping into the culture of the American Presidency, and Obama is only building on a perverse tradition laid down by immediate predecessors hailing from both major parties.

According to the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), 89 of Obama’s 276 ambassador nominations — 32 percent — have been “political” appointees, with the rest going to “real” diplomats. Slain Libya ambassador Christopher Stevens was one such “real” diplomat, having joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1991 and having served in multiple roles in several Mideast countries.

Those numbers are very much in keeping with precedents set by George W. Bush (28 percent political, 72 percent diplomatic); Bill Clinton (26 percent political, 74 percent diplomatic); George H. W. Bush (31 percent political, 69 percent diplomatic); and Ronald Reagan (33 percent political, 67 percent diplomatic).

“Now is the time to end the spoils system and the de facto ‘three-year rental’ of ambassadorships,” the AFSA asserts in a statement on its website. “The United States is alone in this practice; no other major democracy routinely appoints non-diplomats to serve as envoys to other countries.”

GOP To Harry Reid: Go Nuclear, And It’ll Bite You In 2014

Republican Senators have threatened Majority Leader Harry Reid that they’ll stall every attempt at passing legislation until after midterm elections, if he invokes the so-called “nuclear option” that would change Senate rules to allow a simple 51-vote majority vote to end a Republican-threatened filibuster.

“If Senator Reid changes the character of the Senate, then the Senate ceases to function. We’ll take our case to the people, we’ll argue for a new majority and then Republicans will be in a position to do whatever Republicans with 51 votes want to do,” said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) Thursday.

Reid’s “nuclear” threat stems from GOP Senators’ warnings that they’ll use a filibuster to halt the nomination of several of President Barack Obama’s nominees.

In other words, turnabout is fair play – and if the Republican Party regains control of the full Congress in 2014, expect Obama’s final two years in office to be a prison sentence, as the President watches Congress dismantle signature legislation like the Dodd-Frank Act and Obamacare.

H/T: The Hill

Ohio School System Allows Concealed Carry For Teachers

The board of education for an Ohio school district has approved a concealed carry policy for teachers in the 1,300-student system.

The school board of the Newcomerstown Exempted Village school district approved the change for the upcoming academic year after parents of students attending the system’s four schools urged changes that would equip faculty and staff to answer a hypothetical active-shooter scenario by shooting back.

In order for selected employees of the school system to carry a concealed weapon on campus, they must complete training and certification by the local sheriff’s department each year, and must possess a concealed carry permit.

In order to ensure the program assuages possible criticism that teachers aren’t supposed to double as law enforcement officers, or that bad guys could plan a mass shooting around knowledge they might gain about how the program is carried out among the faculty, the board is keeping quiet about specifics.

“Our school safety plan is not public record for obvious reasons,” said Board President Jerry Lahmers “We also want to protect the safety of the individuals [carrying guns], so that they don’t become targets, if such a situation does occur. We hope that this policy will act as a deterrent. The policy is intended to provide that extra last margin of safety.”

H/T: Reason

Charging Zimmerman; Texas Gold; Britain’s Panopticon; ‘High’ Taxes; Secession In The Wild West – Thursday Morning News Roundup 7-11-2013

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

  • Prosecutors in George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial want to ask jurors to consider lesser charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter as closing statements are underway today. Source: Associated Press
  • Texas’ oil output has doubled in less than three years, putting it in the ranks of OPEC heavy-hitters like Venezuela, Kuwait and Nigeria. Source: FuelFix
  • The British Security Industry Authority (BSIA) estimated there are up to 5.9 million closed-circuit television cameras in the country, including 750,000 in “sensitive locations” such as schools, hospitals and care homes. That’s one per 11 people. Source: The Telegraph
  • The taxes on recreational marijuana might go a lot higher than first thought. Smokers buying at shops in Denver may pay up to 35 percent in taxes. Source: CBS Denver
  • More From Colorado: Secessionists are pushing to create a 51st state out of parts of northeast Colorado, as this year’s legislative session underscored a growing urban-rural divide over State policy on a number of issues – but especially gun control. Source: CBS Denver

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

Schools Expelling Michelle O’s Austere, Expensive Lunch Program

Michelle Obama pushed hard to get the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFK) passed by Congress in 2010. And it did pass. Who wants kids to be hungry?

The Act authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USAD) to revamp the nutritional criteria for public school lunches and expanded the free school lunch program. The USDA estimates it will cost $3.2 billion to completely implement the nutritional changes nationwide over a five-year span. The free lunch expansion increases the Federal government’s $11 billion annual allotment for lunch subsidies by more than $1 billion per year.

But as quickly as many public schools have begun adopting new standards that replace traditional menu offerings with things like “part of” a chicken patty on a little croissant and arugula pizza, they’ve often just as quickly abandoned the program.

Why? Because kids hate it, it’s too expensive for the schools, the lunches themselves cost more for paying students, and cafeterias are losing money as kids continue to resort to bringing lunch from home in order to stave off hunger and eat what they choose.

It was reported Tuesday that the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school district in New York dropped the program after losing $100,000 implementing the new Federal menu, but it’s only the most recent district to have left Obama’s attempted food fiat in the dust. Schools in Wisconsin, South Dakota, Massachusetts, Iowa, Kansas — pretty much everywhere, in other words — are either ditching the program or wrestling with angry students and parents in an effort to stay the course.

As with all nanny programs, the 850 calorie-maximum school lunch scheme is fraught with hypocrisy.

“The voluminous menu that’s good enough for the federal bureaucrats’ cafeteria should be good enough for our children’s school lunchroom,” said Senator Tim Huselkamp (R-Kan.), an ardent HHFK opponent, in April. “If USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack thinks the federal government should dictate what local governments put on their school lunchroom menus, why isn’t he leading by example? Secretary Vilsack should impose his ‘Nutrition Nanny’ standards on the USDA buildings’ cafeteria menus before the USDA seizes control of lunchroom menus in 100,000 school districts.”

New Leaked Graphic Reveals Upstream — Big Daddy To PRISM’s Big Brother

If the National Security Agency’s (NSA) PRISM program is Big Brother to American (and global) computer users, then a program revealed Wednesday in The Washington Post is the surveillance state’s Big Daddy.

Meet “Upstream.”

upstream-promo-606 CROPPED

Upstream became public knowledge with the release of a single slide — presumably one leaked to both The Washington Post and the Guardian by Edward Snowden — that appeared on The Post’s website Wednesday atop a story titled “The NSA slide you haven’t seen.”

As it appears, Upstream is a program of undersea fiber-optic cable tapping authorized and carried out by the U.S. government.

From Wednesday’s story:

The slide also shows a crude map of the undersea cable network that carries data from either side of North America and onto the rest of the world. As a story in Sunday’s Post made clear, these undersea cables are essential to worldwide data flows – and to the surveillance capabilities of the U.S. government and its allies.

…Both slides [the Guardian had previously published a separate slide that reveals some, but not all, of the same information] have circles attached to arrows suggesting possible collection points, but they cover areas too broad to discern where NSA accesses fiber-optic cable networks. The slides also list code names under the Upstream program.

If PRISM is intended to siphon off information about computer users’ activities by deploying surveillance at the host servers where all that information is being passed back and forth, Upstream can be thought of as the bottleneck-hijacking of the major 12-lane highways on which that information has to travel. What information it’s collecting is, of course, not known. But there’s no limit to what information it could be collecting.

Programmatically, Upstream is just a name on a slide — just as PRISM is. Leaving aside the empowered few in the loop of illegal government surveillance, there’s no telling whether the public holds enough information to conjure an accurate mental picture of the scope of these programs or a true understanding of how they overlap and intersect. These names are just shorthand to describe the things that outrage us. But at this point, outrage is a de rigueur state of mind for thinking Americans.

See more slides from the Snowden leak here.