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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Credulous and Tendentious on Benghazi : National Review

The New York Times has published a strange but unsurprising account of the attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012 — strange in that it presents the explanations and testimony of terrorists involved in the attack without comment or context, and unsurprising because that account supports the narrative the Obama administration aggressively promoted for weeks after the massacre.

The first of the Grey Lady’s two key findings: “Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.” This means the Times reporter, David Kirkpatrick, has ignored the evidence that al-Qaeda-linked groups, such as the Egypt-based Jamal network, almost surely did have a role in the assault — asreported by the New York Times in October 2012. Such evidence has been uncovered by the American intelligence community, as attested to by Democratic and Republican representatives with knowledge of it.

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The second finding: The massacre was partly a spontaneous event, and some of the Libyan attackers were angered by a YouTube video that Islamists across the Middle East cited as the inspiration for September 11’s violent demonstrations. This is remarkably thinly sourced — the account admits that “many [of those arriving at the U.S. compound] learned of the video for the first time,” and merely maintains that “Libyan witnesses . . . said they received lectures from the attackers about the evil of the film and the virtue of defending the prophet.” Even the Timesdidn’t manage to find witnesses who could support the Obama administration’s chronology. Susan Rice told us that a video-related demonstration gave rise to the attack; David Kirkpatrick and his Islamist sources say that those angered by the video arrived at a compound already overrun by attackers who had coordinated their assault.

The account is hard to believe on its face: Kirkpatrick pins the planned attack on Ahmed Abu Khattala, a local militia leader who granted him an interview. For his part, Khattala acknowledges his presence at the attacks but says he showed up late — and somehow “strolled coolly through” the raging firefight, Kirkpatrick reports. He heads the Benghazi branch of Ansar al-Sharia, a jihadist organization whose nearby franchise, in a town called Derna, is run by a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and associate of Osama bin Laden. The Derna group denies a role in Benghazi, but the groups share a propaganda outlet, and sources such as the Tunisian prime minister acknowledge there’s mounting evidence that the two groups are one, and connected to the al-Qaeda branch in North Africa. Khattala, like other Benghazi militiamen, gushes about his support for al-Qaeda’s worldwide efforts. Is it so hard to believe that, given the keen interest counterterrorism efforts take in the global network, he has been less than honest about his connection to it and its role in the Benghazi assault?

When Islamic terrorists who support the ideology and sport the heraldry of the global al-Qaeda network killed an American ambassador on the anniversary of 9/11, the Obama administration eagerly accepted their version of the story: that locally based protests had responded to offensive Western blasphemy.

As the Islamist threat grows, the Obama administration has continually, carefully claimed success in defeating “the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11” — Arabs based in Afghanistan and Pakistan and known as “core al-Qaeda.” But there is evidence, though it’s not dispositive, to suggest that the groups participating in the attack in Benghazi had connections to this group. In fact, core al-Qaeda, now led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, urged the group’s affiliate in Yemen to “do something” on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, and his brother led the attack in Cairo that preceded Benghazi.

In Benghazi, Islamist terrorist groups demonstrated, in a tragic and humiliating fashion, an ability to threaten the national-security interests of the United States. Rather than forthrightly address this failure, the administration has given credence to the idea that American deeds — words here, actually — are to blame for Islamist terrorism against the West. This claim is as poorly supported here as ever, but is convenient for this administration’s ideological leanings and political designs.

Ultimately, several other conclusions are undeniable: The Times report confirms that our representatives in Benghazi had laughably little security because of the administration’s na├»ve trust in Islamists, their inability to recognize the threat terrorist groups posed in Libya, and the efforts from the very top to keep the U.S. presence in the country low-profile. Those failures fall, first, at the feet of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. And the men who murdered Americans and humiliated our country have yet to pay any price for their crimes. That failure is ultimately traceable to her superior, President Barack Obama.

The president will never contest another election, so he may not have to answer for these failures. The Times has done its best to ensure that Clinton doesn’t have to, either.

Politico Magazine: 2013 'Great Year for Al Qaeda' Despite Obama's Claims

Politico Magazine: 2013 'Great Year for Al Qaeda' Despite Obama's Claims

by Edwin Mora

Dec 30, 2013 5:07 PM PT

Al Qaeda’s resilience to the demise of its leader Osama bin Laden proved to be strong in 2013, argued an article published by Politico Magazine.

The Dec. 29 article written by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is entitled “Al Qaeda’s Big Year” and covers the terrorist group’s “comeback in 2013.” Gartenstein-Ross, an expert on al Qaeda and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, produced a startling list of successful al Qaeda operations since January.

According to the article, “any way you measure it, 2013 was a good year for al Qaeda.” It noted that 2013 was not supposed to be a year of success considering that Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011.

“But as this year ends, the jihadist group’s regional affiliates have dramatically reasserted themselves in multiple countries, carrying out spectacular attacks and inflicting increasing levels of carnage,” he explained. "Though it’s hard to come by reliable estimates of the deaths they caused, the number is certainly in the thousands, and more than half a dozen countries now view these affiliates, or foreigners who have joined their ranks, as their top national security concern.” 

One example of al Qaeda’s resurgence was a series of jailbreaks in three different nations, all of which occurred in July. At least 1,867 prisoners, including potential jihadists, were freed courtesy of prison breaks at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison (500 inmates freed), Benghazi’s Kuafiya prison (1,117), and Dera Ismail Khanin Pakistan (250). U.S. officials suspected that al-Qaeda was behind the prison breaks, especially considering their close timetable, according to the article. “These jailbreaks are significant to al Qaeda’s future capabilities,” it added.

Meanwhile, the article pointed out that in 2013 “al Qaeda’s biggest gain was perhaps the July military coup that deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, and the often brutal crackdown on protesters that followed. After the coup, jihadist groups in the Sinai went on an immediate offensive, with targets including security officers and Christians.” 

Gartenstein-Ross pointed out that throughout the year al Qaeda’s regeneration was concentrated in the African countries of Mali, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, and Somalia, home to the violent al Qaeda affiliate known as al-Shabaab. However, al Qaeda also made a comeback through operations in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.     

The article explained that “by the end of 2013, more than 6,000 Iraqis had died in violence, the highest level of fatalities since 2007, the peak year of Iraq’s bloody civil war.” Al Qaeda also grew stronger out of its operations in Syria where it fought as “some of the country’s most effective rebel factions,” building on the gains jihadists made there in 2012.

President Obama, on various occasions throughout 2013, had described the jihadist group as “decimated” or some other variation of that word. On August 5, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended Obama’s claim, saying Obama was only referring to the “al Qaeda core" in the Af-Pak region.

According to the article, the jihadist group's “affiliates’ regeneration became so apparent over the course of this year that President Barack Obama was forced to clarify that his administration’s various claims of al Qaeda’s decimation were limited to the core leadership in Pakistan alone.”

However, the Politico Magazine article further acknowledged that “there are signs in Pakistan that even the supposedly decimated core remains resilient despite losing a number of top leaders.”

“Because of the striking developments that occurred this year, thinkers like retired Marine Corps general James Mattis now describe early predictions of al Qaeda’s demise as ‘premature and... now discredited.’ This conflict will neither wrap up as neatly nor as quickly as almost anybody would hope,” later added Gartenstein-Ross.

Obama, he argues, was simply wrong about al Qaeda's being decimated. “The Obama administration’s proclamations about al Qaeda’s near defeat in its first term were eerily similar to those made in Bush’s first administration,” said the author. “And neither of them got it right.”

The author concluded by noting that victory in the U.S. fight against al Qaeda is not clearly defined; it lacks metrics. “As the fight with al Qaeda moves further into its second decade, the U.S. government should focus on addressing two major areas. The first, given the length of the conflict and the public’s war-weariness, is ensuring the sustainability of counterterrorism efforts,” wrote Gartenstein-Ross. “The second is establishing better metrics for success. Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush’s secretary of defense, famously noted in a 2003 memo, ‘we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror.’ The same could be said today.”

Obama's allies wrongly say the deportations are a record

Obama's allies wrongly say the deportations are a record

By: Neil Munro on December 31, 2014 2:12 AM


Fewer than 0.2 percent of the 11.7 million illegal aliens in the United States were deported in 2012 for violating immigration laws, according to data released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“It is a drop in the bucket,” Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Caller. “Relative to the [agency] resources and tools they have been given to do this job, it is a record low,” said Vaughan.

Government officials say they deported a total of 368,644 people. But almost two-thirds of those people, or 235,093, were caught at the border and promptly returned to their home countries.

Only 133,551 resident illegals were picked up in the interior of the country and deported, the ICE report admitted.

But 82 percent of those residents were deported for other offenses, ICE acknowledged. Those offenses include drunk driving, assault, robbery and drug possession.

The remaining 18 percent adds up to only 20,000 illegals of the 11.7 million illegals believed to be living in the United States.

That’s only one immigration-law deportation for every 585 illegals.

The agency said officials want to focus federal police on illegals who also commit additional crimes. “Other than convicted criminals, the agency's enforcement priorities include: those apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States, illegal re-entrants – individuals who returned to the U.S. after being previously removed by ICE – and immigration fugitives,” said the ICE report.

“Immigration laws should be enforced for their own sake, not just as a way to remove criminals,” Vaughan said.

“The main purpose of the immigration of the law is to preserve economic opportunity for Americans and the legal immigrants we choose to accept,” Vaughan said.

Roughly 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, while wages have been flat for at least five years because so many unemployed people are looking for jobs. Under current immigration law, the federal government annually provides work permits to 1 million immigrants and roughly 700,000 short-term or medium-term guest.

Since 2009, Obama’s deputies have blocked or deported 3.2 million border crossers and immigrants, according to a study of federal data by Vaughan.

That’s a less effective defense of the nation’s borders than every president since President Jimmy Carter, whose deputies blocked or deported 3.2 million illegals from 1977 to 1980. Even President Gerald Ford blocked and deported illegals at a faster rate --- 804,081 per year, compared to Obama’s rate of 800,863 per year, according to Vaughan.

President George W. Bush blocked or deported 10.3 million illegals in eight years, while President Bill Clinton blocked or deported 12.3 million.

Obama’s record low deportation rate, however, is being obscured by false claims from advocates of greater immigration. They argue that that President Barack Obama has spiked deportations to record highs.

Obama’s deportation record “far exceeds the deportation levels of previous administrations and the capacity of immigration courts,” said a statement by a Chicago-based legal enterprise, the National Immigrant Justice Center.

“The high number of deportations demonstrates a failure of the administration’s 2011 promise to use prosecutorial discretion to consider the individual circumstances of people facing deportation and provide relief for those who are integrated in our communities, have U.S. citizen family members, and pose no threat,” said the group.

Those statistical and political claims are being repeated by many media outlets, such as the Washington Post, which reported Sunday that “more than 1 million illegal immigrants were deported in the past three years, a record number.”

“Since taking office, President Obama has deported more than 1.9 million foreigners, immigration officials announced last week, a record for an American president,” according to a report by New York Times reporter Julia Preston, who says advocates for an amnesty are “civil rights” protestors.

Preston’s editors later added a major correction to her article, which originally claimed Obama had caused a “surge” in deportations. “Overall deportations decreased by 10 percent in fiscal 2013 from the previous year. There has not been a ‘surge,’” said the correction.

Spanish-language media is also pushing the false claim.

“President Obama has been very bad in this. He has great guilt in this. He has deported more people than President [George W.] Bush,” claimed Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz Balart on Dec. 22.

One reason for the flawed claims about Obama’s record, said Vaughan, is that Obama administration’s data has conflated two formerly separate categories of deportations.

Prior administrations labelled the arrest and deportation of border-crossers as “removals,” and reserved the use of the “deportation” term for the expulsion of illegal immigrants living far from the border. Under President George W. Bush, removals spiked, but deportations fell sharply, partly because his deputies almost stopped investigations against companies suspected of hiring illegals instead of Americans.

But Obama’s officials have artificially boosted the claimed number of deportations by reclassifying the quick removal of many border crossers as deportations, said Vaughan. That reclassification bumps his total of "deportation" actions up to 1.9 million, and allows his allies to use friendly reporters to declare that he is deporting more people than Bush.

The pro-amnesty “advocacy groups are desperate and they know that they can generate sympathetic attention from the media, ICE is more likely to give illegals a pass to stay for a while,” she told TheDC.

In fact, enforcement declined by 11 percent in 2013, according to an October study by Vaughan’s CIS group. In New England, deportations dropped by 28 percent, according to the Boston Globe.

Obama has also awarded temporary resident and work permits to 567,563 illegals by September, according to an administration report about the June 2012 “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” mini-amnesty. The number of temporary residencies is more than four times the number of 2013 deportations.

Only 21,162 DACA applications for residency were rejected by September, said the report.

The media support for advocates’ claims of tough enforcement also helps drum up apparent political support for an unpopular amnesty, such as that offered by the Senate’s June immigration-expansion bill, Vaughan said.

However, a Dec. 10 poll by Rasmussen shows that 60 percent of Americans believe immigrations laws aren’t being enforced strongly enough. “Fourteen percent (14%) say [enforcement] is too aggressive, while 16% think the number of deportations is about right,” said the survey of 1,000 likely voters.

Many reporters are eager to portray Obama’s declining enforcement of immigration law as tough, Vaughan said. “They would like to believe it [because it] fits the story line they find exciting --- that thanks to the Obama administration’s record and smart enforcement, they’ve showed it is now time time for ‘comprehensive immigration reform,’” she said.

Her claim was bolstered by a Dec. 19 article in BuzzFeed, which used the 1.9 million claim to build sympathy for deported and removed foreigners. "More than 1.5 million undocumented migrants have been deported under the Obama administration, which has prioritized deportation in an effort to demonstrate its commitment to 'border security' while pursuing legislation designed to provide the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants a path to citizenship," said the article, written by reporter John Stanton.


Inequality — crisis or scam?

Inequality — crisis or scam?

By Patrick J. Buchananon Tue, 31 Dec 2013

When President Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing in 1972, Chairman Mao Zedong — with his Marxist revolution, Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution — had achieved an equality unrivaled anywhere.

That is, until Pol Pot came along.

There seemed to be no private cars on Beijing’s streets. In the stores, there was next to nothing on the shelves. The Chinese all seemed dressed in the same blue Mao jackets.

Today there are billionaires and millionaires in China, booming cities, a huge growing middle class and, yes, hundreds of millions of peasants still living on a few dollars a day.

Hence, there is far greater inequality in China today than in 1972.

Yet, is not the unequal China of today a far better place for the Chinese people than the Communist ant colony of Mao?

Lest we forget, it is freedom that produces inequality.

Even a partly free nation unleashes the natural and acquired abilities of peoples, and the more industrious and talented inevitably excel and rise and reap the greater rewards. “Inequality … is rooted in the biological nature of man,” said James Fenimore Cooper.

Yet for many people, from New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to President Barack Obama to Pope Francis, income inequality is a curse in need of a cure, as there is today said to be an intolerable measure of such inequality.

But let us first inspect the measuring rod.

Though a family of four with $23,550 in cash income in 2013 qualified as living in poverty, this hardly tells the whole story.

Consider the leveling effect of the graduated income tax, about which Karl Marx wrote glowingly in his “Communist Manifesto.”

The top 1 percent of U.S. earners pay nearly 40 percent of U.S. income taxes. The top 10 percent pay 70 percent. The top 50 percent pay more than 97 percent of income taxes. The poor pay nothing.

Surely, trillions of dollars siphoned annually off the incomes of the most productive Americans — in federal, state and local income and payroll taxes — closes the gap somewhat.

Secondly, though 15 percent of U.S. families qualify as poor, measured by cash income, this does not take into account the vast assortment of benefits they receive.

The poor have their children educated free in public schools, from Head Start to K-12 and then on to college with Pell Grants. Their medical needs are taken care of through Medicaid. They receive food stamps to feed the family. The kids can get two or three free meals a day at school.

Housing, too, is paid for or subsidized. The poor also receive welfare checks and Earned Income Tax Credits for added cash.

In the late 1940s, our family had no freezer, no dishwasher, no clothes washer or dryer, no microwave, no air conditioning. We watched the Notre Dame-Army game on a black-and-white 8-inch DuMont.

Among American families in poverty today, 1 in 4 have a freezer. Nearly half have automatic dishwashers. Almost 60 percent have a home computer. About 2 in 3 poor families have a clothes washer and dryer. Eighty percent have cellphones.

Ninety-three percent of the poor have a microwave; 96 percent a color TV, and 97 percent a gas or electric stove. Not exactly les miserables.

Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation added up the cost in 2012 of the means-tested federal and state programs for America’s poor and low-income families. Price tag: $927 billion.

There are 79 federal programs, writes Rector, that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, social services, training and targeted education to poor and low-income Americans.

“If converted to cash, means-tested welfare spending is more than sufficient to bring the income of every lower-income American to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, roughly $44,000 per year for a family of four.”

Then there are the contributions of churches, charities and foundations.

Where in history have the poor been treated better?

Certainly not in the USA in the 1950s or during the Depression. Why, then, all this sudden talk about reducing the gap between rich and poor?

A good society will take care of its poor. But envy that others have more, and coveting the goods of the more successful, used to constitute two of the seven capital sins in the Baltimore Catechism.

At Howard University in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared, “We seek not just … equality as a right … but equality as a fact and equality as a result.”

Yet the only way to make people who are unequal in talents equal in rewards is to use governmental power to dispossess some and favor others.

Alexis de Tocqueville saw it coming:

“The sole condition which is required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community, is to love equality or to get men to believe you love it. Thus, the science of despotism, which was once so complex, is simplified, and reduced … to a single principle.”

Get people to believe you are seeking the utopian goal of equality of all and there is no limit to the power you can amass.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”

The post Inequality — crisis or scam? appeared first on Human Events.

A New Year and Old Problems

A New Year and Old Problems

By Thomas Sowell - December 31, 2013



Whenever we stand on the threshold of a new year, we are tempted to forget the hazards of prophecy, and try to see what may lie on the other side of this arbitrary division of time.

Sometimes we are content to try to change ourselves with New Year's resolutions to do better in some respect. Changing ourselves is a much more reasonable undertaking than trying to change other people. It may or may not succeed, but it seldom creates the disasters that trying to change others can produce.



Read more: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/12/31/a_new_year_and_old_problems_121099.html#ixzz2p463xIIT 
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Tom Coburn: The Year Washington Fled Reality

'Message discipline' can win elections but is not a healthy way to run a country.

The past year may go down not only as the least productive ever in Washington but as one of the worst for the republic.

In both the executive branch and Congress, Americans witnessed an unwinding of the country's founding principles and of their government's most basic responsibilities. The rule of law gave way to the rule of rulers. And the rule of reality—in which politicians are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts, as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan liked to say—gave way to some politicians' belief that they were entitled to both their own opinions and their own facts. It's no wonder the institutions of government barely function.

The past year may go down not only as the least productive ever in Washington but as one of the worst for the republic.

In both the executive branch and Congress, Americans witnessed an unwinding of the country's founding principles and of their government's most basic responsibilities. The rule of law gave way to the rule of rulers. And the rule of reality—in which politicians are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts, as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan liked to say—gave way to some politicians' belief that they were entitled to both their own opinions and their own facts. It's no wonder the institutions of government barely function.

On health care, President Obama oversaw a disastrous and, sadly, dishonest launch of his signature achievement. The president gave an exception to employers, but not to individuals, without any legal basis, and made other adjustments according to his whim. Even more troubling was his message over the past three years that if you like your plan, you can keep it, and that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. We now know that the administration was aware that these claims were false, yet Mr. Obama continued to make them, repeatedly.

In 2014, millions of Americans will likely discover that the president's claim that the average family will save $2,500 on health insurance was equally disconnected from reality.

The president apologized in part for his statements, but his actions reveal the extent to which he has conformed to, rather than challenged, the political culture that as a presidential candidate he vowed to reform.

The culture that Mr. Obama campaigned against, the old kind of politics, teaches politicians that repetition and "message discipline"—never straying from using the same slogans and talking points—can create reality, regardless of the facts. Message discipline works if the goal is to win an election or achieve a short-term political goal. But saying that something is true doesn't make it so. When a misleading message ultimately clashes with reality, the result is dissonance and conflict. In a republic, deception is destructive. Without truth there can be no trust. Without trust there can be no consent. And without consent we invite paralysis, if not chaos.

Taking unilateral, extralegal action—like delaying the employer mandate for a year when Mr. Obama realized the trouble it would cause for businesses—is part of a pattern for this administration. Immigration and border-security laws that might displease certain constituencies if enforced? Ignore the laws. Unhappy that a deep-water drilling moratorium was struck down in court? Reimpose it anyway. Internal Revenue Service agents using the power of the state to harass political enemies? Deny and then stonewall. Unhappy with the pace of Senate confirmations for nominees? Ignore the Constitution and appoint people anyway and claim that the Senate is not in session.

The Obama administration hardly has a monopoly on contributing to Washington's dysfunction. Congress more than earned its 6% national approval rating, a historic low.

Congress's most significant action this year was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to undo 200 years of precedent that requires a supermajority to change Senate rules. To speed the approval of executive appointments and judicial nominations, Sen. Reid resorted to raw political power, forcing a vote (52-48) that allows the Senate majority to change the rules whenever it wants. In a republic, if majorities can change laws or rules however they please, you're on the road to life with no rules and no laws.

The supermajority safeguard that prevented senators from destroying the institution in which they serve is now largely gone. Gone also are members of the majority who understood the need to protect minority rights. There are no moreRobert Byrds to quote Cicero, who said, "In a republic this rule ought to be observed: that the majority should not have the predominant power."

Instead, we have a majority leader who has appointed himself a Rules Committee of one. Referring to the right of the minority to offer changes to bills under consideration, Mr. Reid said: "The amendment days are over." Like President Obama, Mr. Reid is great at message discipline but weak on the rule of law and reality. His narrative about Republican obstruction of appointees is a diversion from his own war against minority rights. Even before his wrecking of the supermajority tradition, Mr. Reid had already used Senate rules to cut off debate and prevent the minority from offering amendments 78 times—more than all other Senate majority leaders combined.

On the budget, Democrats and Republicans alike are celebrating the avoidance of another nihilistic government shutdown as a great victory. The choice to not commit mass political suicide may be a step toward sanity, but it isn't reform. Solving the problem—fixing entitlements, reforming the tax code and consolidating the government's $200 billion in duplicative spending—would be reform. Yet as my annual Wastebook report showed, even in this year of budget-sequestration anguish, the federal government still managed to fund the study of romance novels, provide military benefits to the Fort Hood shooter and even help the State Department buy itselfFacebook fans.

If Congress wants to get serious, and be taken seriously, it can start by doing its job. It can debate and pass individual appropriations bills—a task that Congress has not completed in eight years. And perhaps Congress can cut some of the stupidity in government spending. The House deserves some credit for trying—it passed four appropriations bills—but the Senate deserves none. Mr. Reid did not pass a single appropriations bill in 2013, thus shielding vulnerable members of his party from having to make tough votes.

How the nation's leaders perform in Washington is a reflection of the country, and culture, they represent. Moral relativism and postmodern disregard of truth has been promoted by academia for decades; sometimes it seems that the best students of that thinking can be found in Washington. We live in a time when laws and rules are defined however the holders of power decree, and "messaging" is paramount, regardless how far the message is from reality.

The coming year presents an opportunity to Americans who hope for better. Despite Washington's dysfunction, "We the People" still call the shots and can demand a course correction. In 2014, here's a message worth considering: If you don't like the rulers you have, you don't have to keep them.

Mr. Coburn, a Republican, is a senator from Oklahoma.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Large New Tax on Small Business

A Large New Tax on Small Business

The latest ObamaCare levy takes effect Jan. 1.

ObamaCare includes so many taxes that it's hard to keep track, but one of the worst takes effect on Jan. 1. This beaut is a levy on health insurance premiums that targets the small business and individual markets.

At $8 billion in 2014 and $101 billion over the next decade, the insurance tax is larger than ObamaCare's taxes on medical devices and prescription drugs combined. The Internal Revenue Service classifies the tax as a "fee" but it functions like an excise tax on premiums. The IRS collects an annual flat amount specified by theAffordable Care Act to be allocated among the insurers according to market share.

But not all markets. IRS regulations published in November excluded "any entity that is a self-insured employer to the extent that such employer self-insures its employees' health risks." Since about four of five employers with more than 500 workers and most union-negotiated health plans are self-insured, they are spared from the tax. So is insurance on behalf of "government entities," such as original Medicare (but not privately run Medicare Advantage).

This political selectivity means the most gold-plated public, private and labor plans are exempt and the tax burden falls on the saps who work for small businesses, the self-employed and individuals—i.e., the people who can least afford it.

The White House tells business that the tab will be picked up by deep-pocketed insurers, which is good for a laugh. The Congressional Budget Office reports the tax will be "largely passed through to consumers in the form of higher premiums" and "would ultimately raise insurance premiums by a corresponding amount." The Joint Tax Committee and private economists, such as former CBO director Doug Holtz-Eakin, say the tax will boost insurance costs about 2% to 2.5%. The consultant Oliver Wyman estimates the take will rise to as much as $500 per covered worker by decade's end.

Wasn't the Affordable Care Act supposed to be about expanding coverage in part by lowering premiums, not slapping on more overhead? By this liberal logic taxing cigarettes should create more smokers.

Oh, and to salt the wound, this "fee" is not deductible for corporate income tax purposes. In other words, health plans pay the tax and then federal and state taxes on the taxed amount. Mr. Holtz-Eakin estimates this unusual taxes-on-taxes rule means that the effect on premiums is 54% larger than the dollar amount of the tax itself.

The research arm of the National Federation of Independent Business calculates that the higher insurance costs will shrink hiring by 146,000 to 262,000 jobs over the next decade, with 59% of those losses hitting small business. They'll also be further encouraged to dump coverage and send their workers to the mercies of the ObamaCare exchanges. The latter was probably a main liberal purpose from the start.

Louisiana Republican Charles Boustanyand Utah Democrat Jim Matheson's repeal bill already has 229 cosponsors, or a House majority, including some dozen Democrats. The White House naturally promises a veto. Happy New Year.

Congressman: Don't let Sochi Olympics become Benghazi,

Congressman: Don't let Sochi Olympics become Benghazi, Boston Marathon

(CNN) – Rep. Michael Grimm on Monday likened the recent bombings in southern Russia to the security threats leading up to the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, as well as red flags ahead of the Boston Marathon bombings.

As the world prepares for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in less than six weeks, the Republican congressman from New York said "we cannot sweep these threats under the rug, like we did with Benghazi or the warnings from Russia on the Tsarnaev brother behind the Boston Marathon bombing."

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A second suspected suicide bombing struck the city of Volgograd on Monday, killing at least 14 people. The explosion came one day after 17 people were killed in a blast at the city's main train station.

A spokesman for Russia's federal investigation agency told a state-run news outlet that both explosions were terrorist attacks, though no one has claimed responsibility.

Volgograd is about 400 miles northeast of Sochi.

Grimm, the co-chair of the House Russian Caucus, called for the U.S. to work closely with Russia and allies "to combat the threat of terrorism."

"That begins with taking every threat seriously and acting accordingly, so that the Winter Olympics remain a dream for athletes around the globe, instead of becoming a nightmare like Benghazi," he said in a statement.

Grimm's district, which covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, has a notable Russian population and constituents from other former Soviet Union republics.

The U.S. government on Monday offered its "full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

She added that "we would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety of the athletes, spectators, and other participants."

NYT doing Clinton's bidding with Benghazi story, says GOP lawmaker

NYT doing Clinton's bidding with Benghazi story, says GOP lawmaker
By Mario Trujillo - 12-30-13 09:20 AM EST

A GOP member of the House Intelligence Committee alleged Monday that The New York Timespublished a story about the Benghazi, Libya, attack in order to advance former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s possible White House bid 

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) described the newspaper report as “totally unsatisfactory and completely false” after it turned up no evidence that al Qaeda, or other “international terrorist groups,” was involved in the attack last year that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Westmoreland said the Times could be trying to help lay the groundwork for a potential Clinton presidential run in 2016. Clinton led the State Department during the attack. 

“The reports by the New York Timeswas — I don’t know why they put it out unless it was for political reasons, but we thoroughly dispute that story as far as the link to al Qaeda,” he said Monday on Fox News. 

“Of course Secretary Clinton was in charge at the time, and you know there are just now a lot of rumors going and pushing about her running for president in 2016,” he said. “So I think they are already laying the groundwork.”

He also accused the newspaper of attempting to absolve Clinton and the Obama administration. 

“We are not quite as used to this kind of political machine as the president and the Clinton’s have, and so I think they are just laying the groundwork and trying to absolve [Clinton] from the lack of security that was sent over there, the number of requests for security that was turned down,” he said. 

The Times report also concluded that the attack was spurred in part by outrage over an anti-Islam video made in the United States — a claim initially pushed by the administration. The administration eventually concluded that it was a planned attack by extremists in the country. 

“No. No, the video never came into play,” Westmoreland said. 

On Sunday, other members of the Intelligence Committee — including Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — alsopushed back on the report that al Qaeda was not involved.

Standing Strong for America in 2014

Standing Strong for America in 2014

on Mon, 30 Dec 2013

The U.S. economy is gaining strength, but the ObamaCare train wreck, festering problems in far away China, and uncertain leadership at the Federal Reserve could derail the recovery. No small courage will be required for good sense to finally restore American prosperity.

ObamaCare

President Obama is imposing the Affordable Care Act on a justifiably unwilling citizenry. The botched rollout is laying bare the absolute incompetence of the Washington bureaucracy, but that is not the worst of it.

Many young Americans have decided that ObamaCare health insurance is too expensive for their needs, and insurers face financial ruin paying claims to a less healthy population of policyholders than anticipated. They will charge higher rates in 2015 and may require a bailout.

Don’t count on Republicans winning the Senate and putting ObamaCare out of its misery—the electorate may prove too cynical.

In the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election, voters angry about ObamaCare blamed Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Yet, he managed a narrow victory by promising free health care to 300,000 citizens by expanding Medicaid.

Lest jobs creation and growth be handicapped by an excessively expensive and bureaucratic health care system, “makers” may simply have to tell the “takers” enough is enough, march on Washington, and demand radical changes.

Don’t productive Americans deserve a civil rights movement too?

China’s Banking Mess

China’s economic miracle may prove a bigger fraud than the American pre-crisis prosperity built on shabby lending and consumer spending on steroids.

Many Chinese businesses that stock Walmart with unimaginably inexpensive gadgets were built on loans they can’t repay. Similarly, banks have financed provincial governments to build cities occupied by displaced farmers that have no jobs.

Beijing has raised interest rates to gradually deflate bubbles in stock and land prices, but now borrowers cannot pay those rates and banks and private lenders could face ruin.

A financial crisis won’t end the rise of China, but it would expose a great fraud: the superiority of state-directed capitalism over western democracy and free markets.

No one would be more disappointed than the collectivists at National Public Broadcasting and other liberal media, who celebrate each Chinese achievement with the enthusiasm the French cheered General Washington’s victories over the British.

The simultaneous debunking of the ACA and Chinese miracle offer conservatives the opportunity to refocus the debate in America from the shortcomings of free markets and private enterprise to helping those thrive and contribute to middle class prosperity as they did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Federal Reserve

During the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve balked at bailing out GM. The Fed could have bought the automaker’s bad debt, just as it took bad mortgages off banks’ books. Ben Bernanke pronounced assisting GM would be “industrial policy” and limited the Fed to extraordinary measures to stabilize banks and credit markets. 

Obama used TARP—the Treasury fund established by President Bush and Congress—to rescue both GM and American International Group, an insurance company.

The next financial crisis well could be defined by the coincident plights of health insurance companies under ObamaCare and the sagging fortunes of American companies who invested in China’s “recession proof” economy.

New Fed Chairman Janet Yellen is well known for her very liberal political views, which not so incidentally color her economics. In a crisis, she could see the limits of Fed policy discretion very differently than Bernanke.

Using the Fed’s money printing machinery to bail out health insurance companies and ObamaCare could put America on a path to inflation and corruption similar to Latin American nations during the 1970s and 80s.

It would be up to Republicans in the Senate to shut down the chamber if necessary to force hearings and compel Chairman Yellen to defend the dollar, not debase the currency.

Standing up to the failures of liberalism, when it counts, has never been politically easy—and Republicans like Speaker Boehner and Congressman Ryan are rightly the targets of Tea Party criticism.

All along, at crisis moments like these, they have capitulated. Now standing strong for America is even more difficult, but if not now then when?

-- 

Peter Morici, an economist and professor at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, is a widely published columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

Kwanzaa: The Scientology of Holidays | RedState

Kwanzaa: The Scientology of Holidays | RedState

Kwanzaa: The Scientology of Holidays

What do you get when you take a bad science fiction writer with a desire for immortality and add a lust for tax breaks? Scientology. What do you get when you take a neo-marxist felon and add a desire for black nationalism? Kwanzaa. What do both Kwanzaa and Scientology have in common? They are products of post-modern culture given legitimacy by a press hell bent on diminishing the Judeo-Christian heritage in the United States.
Over the next few weeks, the media will be profiling families celebrating Kwanzaa — advent wreath lighters are too religious for media profiles.
Kwanzaa has absolutely nothing to do with Africa and everything to do with hating the United States. Kwanzaa is the brain child of Ron Everett, who you will not be surprised to learn, chaired the African American Studies department of California State University, Long Beach, from 1989 to 2002. Some time before that, he spent several years in jail for torture, changed his name to Maulana Ron Karenga, put on a dashiki, embraced marxism, and declared Kwanzaa a real holiday.
In 1971, a California jury convicted Karenga of assaulting and torturing two women. A May 14, 1971, article in the Los Angeles Times documented the torture: “Deborah Jones, who once was given the Swahili title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Ms. Davis’s mouth and placed against Ms. Davis’s face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said.”
Being California, the state released Mr. Karenga in 1975, then promptly admitted him to public universities so he could become Dr. Ron Karenga. In 1977, Karenga outlined the principles of Kwanzaa and later noted, “People think it’s African, but it’s not. I came up with Kwanzaa because black people wouldn’t celebrate it if they knew it was American. Also, I put it around Christmas because I knew that’s when a lot of Bloods were partying.” Karenga went on to call Christ “psychotic” and declared Christianity a “white religion.” Apparently, the media agreed.
As the late Tony Snow once commented, “There is no part of Kwanzaa that is not fraudulent.” Kwanzaa actually is the perfect holiday for the mainstream media. Every other holiday celebrates a religious miracle, patriotic heros, or America itself. Every other holiday celebrates something greater than the self. Kwanzaa was made up by a felon establishing a holiday whereby people can celebrates the racial self. The self-absorbed mainstream media has been looking for a self-absorbing holiday. Now they have it, with a self-absorbed President to boot.
In short, Kwanzaa is the perfect post-modern politically correct holiday.

Harvard Prof: Tea Party Not Going Anywhere, More Likely to Win

Harvard Prof: Tea Party Not Going Anywhere, More Likely to Win

on Sun, 29 Dec 2013

A government and sociology professor at Harvard writes that the Tea Party is more likely than not to "win in the end" in an age when Americans are becoming more removed from Washington and distrusting the federal government and their elected officials. 

"Tea Party forces will still win in the end," Theda Skocpol writes, unless moderate Republicans can defeat them. Skocpol concedes that the Tea Party "will triumph just by hanging on long enough" as Americans are getting fed up by "our blatantly manipulated democracy and our permanently hobbled government."

The article, "Why The Tea Party Isn't Going Anywhere," was first published in the journalDemocracy, and later reprinted in The Atlantic

Despite the fact that Democrats, the mainstream media, and the Republican establishment again were predicting the "demise of the Tea Party" immediately after the government shutdown ended, Skocpol doesn't believe so.

"But we have heard all this before," she writes. "The Tea Party’s hold on the GOP persists beyond each burial ceremony."

Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson published a book in 2011 that "showed how bottom-up and top-down forces intersect to give the Tea Party both leverage over the Republican Party and the clout to push national politics sharply to the right."

"At the grassroots, volunteer activists formed hundreds of local Tea Parties, meeting regularly to plot public protests against the Obama Administration and place steady pressure on GOP organizations and candidates at all levels," they found. "At least half of all GOP voters sympathize with this Tea Party upsurge."

Though Skokpol and Williamson have their typical biases and describe the Tea Party movement as a "radical" one that may not like minorities--without any evidence of that assertion--they acknowledge that "even though there is no one center of Tea Party authority—indeed, in some ways because there is no one organized center—the entire gaggle of grassroots" and outside groups that support the movement "wields money and primary votes to exert powerful pressure on Republican officeholders and candidates."

Skocpol observes that the "Tea Party clout has grown in Washington and state capitals" because "Americans are also losing ever more faith in the federal government." In addition, "most legislators and candidates are Nervous Nellies," and they have seen the Tea Party defeat establishment Republicans like Charlie Crist in Florida in 2010 and David Dewhurst in Texas in 2012 in addition to knocking off incumbent Republican Sens. Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Richard Lugar (R-IN). 

"That grabs legislators’ attention and results in either enthusiastic support for, or acquiescence to, obstructive tactics," Skocpol writes. 

She writes how powerfully someone like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) resonates with the Tea Party. She noted that he was able to direct House Republicans to pressure House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to demand that President Barack Obama and Democrats fund the government except for Obamacare. 

Skocpol notes that it will not be easy to defeat the Tea Party. 

"For one, at least three successive national election defeats will be necessary to even begin to break the determination and leverage of Tea Party adherents," Skocpol writes. She concedes that Tea Partiers will not "stand down easily or very soon."

Skocpol notes "moderate Republicans" do not have as much power in Washington or in state capitals and points to Cruz as being "very well positioned to garner unified Tea Party support in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries." The Chamber of Commerce will reportedly spend $50 million to wage war against the Tea Party, along with Karl Rove's American Crossroads; Skocpol believes unless those groups defeat the Tea Party, it may well win many permanent victories.

"During the last election cycle, no far-right candidate ever consolidated sustained grassroots Tea Party support, as those voters hopped from Rick Perry to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum," Skocpol writes. "But this time, Cruz may very well enjoy unified and enthusiastic grassroots Tea Party support from the beginning of the primary election season."

Skocpol also sends a warning to Democrats who think that the Tea Party will fade because of a few bad polls. 

"Once the October 2013 shutdown ended in supposed total victory for President Obama and his party, many Democrats adopted a cocky swagger and started talking about ousting the House GOP in 2014," Skocpol writes. However, she warns that "a clear-eyed look shows that Tea Party remains powerful and has achieved victories that continue to stymie" Democrats and their statist agenda.