Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Obamacare's Annus Horribilis

Obamacare's Annus Horribilis

by Michelle Malkin

Creators Syndicate

Copyright 2014

There's no candy coating the truth: Obamacare has had a very terrible, horrible, crappy, none-too-happy year. What it really means is that the victims of Obamacare -- taxpayers, health care consumers, health care providers, employers and employees -- have had a hellish, nightmarish 2014.

Let's start with premiums. President Candy Land promised that he'd "lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year." But premiums for people in the individual market for health insurance have spiked over the last year. In fact, Forbes health policy journalist Avik Roy and the Manhattan Institute analyzed 3,137 counties and found that individual market premiums rose an average of 49 percent.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services itself admitted this month that average premiums will rise at least five percent for the lowest-cost plans offered by federal Obamacare health care exchanges. Democrats' reaction? Obamacare rate shock doesn't matter ... because government is redistributing the burden and taxpayers are footing the bill! HHS crowed this week that nearly 90 percent of exchange enrollees received public subsidies in order to pay their premiums.

"Affordable" doesn't mean what White House truth-warpers says it means -- just like everything else they've spewed about the doomed federal takeover of health policy in America.

As the White House tries to hype year-end enrollment numbers and hide Obamacare-imposed cancellations, just remember that the administration got caught this fall cooking the books by including 380,000 dental plan subscribers that have never been counted before. Innocent oopsie? The "erroneous" inflation just happened to push the Obamacare enrollment figures over the president's 7 million goal, while fudging the attrition of more than 1 million enrolled in Obamacare medical insurance plans.

A "mistake was made," HHS 'fessed up after GOP investigators discovered the Common Core math antics. Lying liars. Caught red-handed.

So, how about: "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?" Well, not if he or she isn't practicing anymore. After scoffing at conservative warnings for years that socialized medicine-light would create doctor shortages, Obamacare cheerleaders can no longer whitewash the grim reality. The Physicians Foundation found that 81 percent of doctors believe they are "either overextended or at full capacity." Another 44 percent said they "planned to cut back on the number of patients they see, retire, work part-time or close their practice to new patients."

Analysts on all sides of the debate agree that massive cuts in Medicaid payments to primary care doctors, which take effect on Jan. 1, will reduce patient access. Meanwhile, a Commonwealth Fund survey found that 26 percent of American adults waited six days or more to see a doctor -- with only Canada and Norway performing worse. A separate physicians' staffing company's poll, reported by the left-wing New York Times, found that patients "waited an average of 29 days nationally to see a dermatologist [,] 66 days to have a physical in Boston and 32 days for a heart evaluation by a cardiologist in Washington."

Translation: If you like your doctor, it doesn't mean you'll get to see your doctor. Tick, tick, tick.

How about Obama's pledge to lower costs? A Congressional Budget Office reported earlier this year that implementation will cost taxpayers $2 trillion over the next decade. That's just the direct costs. Obamacare's job-killing regulations continue to discourage businesses from expanding and force more bosses to slash hours to avoid the employer mandate.

Based on estimates by Harvard and University of Chicago economists, health care policy analyst John Goodman concludes that the "indirect cost to the economy ... equals more than $8,000 per household per year -- or four times the size of the direct budget outlays."

This includes the tax on innovation. As I've reported over the last four years, Obamacare's reviled medical-device tax has forced companies to cut back on research and development, in addition to catalyzing layoffs of at least 33,000 workers over the past year. A recent study by the New York Federal Reserve found that half of the state's medical device manufacturers were bracing for "considerably" higher health care costs as a result of Obamacare rules. These include "higher deductibles, increased copays, higher out-of-pocket maximums and an increased employee contribution to the premium."

Who's "stupid" now? The fallout from intrepid Philadelphia investment adviser and citizen researcher Rich Weinstein's exposure of Obamacare architect/deceiver Jonathan Gruber has only just begun. Far worse than Gruber's insult of American voters, Weinstein notes, is the annual $250 billion tax grab at the heart of Gruber and Company's scheme. Obamacare's so-called "Cadillac tax" on expensive health plans was purposely "mislabeled," Gruber said in video uncovered by Weinstein, in order to pass a tax that will eventually hit all employer plans.

Separately, insurers have been lobbying for a total taxpayer bailout of an estimated $1 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, beleaguered Obamacare non-profit "co-ops" that were supposed to lower costs have sucked up $2 billion in loans to date and hundreds of millions more in emergency solvency funding this year.

The worst is yet to come. Before the midterms, panicked and politically driven Obama bureaucrats delayed premium payment deadlines, high-risk insurance pool cancellations and onerous "meaningful use" mandates on health providers grappling with Obamacare's disastrous top-down electronic medical records rules. Those chickens will come home to roost in 2015.
One silver lining: A total of 16 Senators who voted for the federal health care takeover either failed to win re-election or declined to run for re-election.

Good riddance to them and farewell to Obamacare's annus horribilis.

May 2015 Be A Happy and Prosperous One

Will Families of Slain NYPD Officers be Obama's Guests at the SOTU Address?

Will Families of Slain NYPD Officers be Obama's Guests at the SOTU Address?

Jeannie DeAngelis

On January 29, 2013, on the South Side of Chicago, while standing with friends in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park, 15-year-old teen Hadiya Pendleton was killed by two youths who shot into the group in an attempt to hit a rival gang member.

At the time, the president was attending memorials and reacting to the tragedies surrounding the Gabby Giffords; Aurora, Colorado; and Newtown, Connecticut shootings, all three of which took place in 2011 and 2012. Eager to suppress the Second Amendment by exploiting gun violence (while simultaneously promoting and funding unrestricted feticide), and supposedly in hopes of making sure the children are safe, Obama sent wife Michelle to Hadiya's funeral in Chicago. 

In an effort to ratchet up her husband's anti-gun rhetoric, at Harper High School in Chicago, where several students had recently lost their lives to gun violence, Michelle personally identified with the murdered teen when she uttered the words "Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her."

It was all very poignant and moving.

Then, just weeks after young Hadiya had been laid to rest, to drive home the guns-need-to-be-controlled point, at the State of the Union, sitting right beside Michelle Obama in the Special People/Political-Point-Scoring Skybox, were Cleo and Nat Pendleton.

Hadiya's bereaved parents listened while the president encouraged a vote for gun reform by referencing their daughter's love for Fig Newtons and lip gloss and her drum majorette performance at an event celebrating his second inauguration.

Stressing the need for Congress to vote for gun control, Obama told his audience that "Hadiya's parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote."

Then the president hammered home the point by saying that "Gabby Giffords deserves a vote[.] ... The families of Newtown ... [and] the families of Aurora deserve a vote."

Fast-forward to December 2014. Amid tensions agitated by the guy who seems more amenable to gun violence if it's taking place during a bout of racial unrest, and with the encouragement of race-hustler Al Sharpton and that converter of lesbians with the biracial son whom he warned to watch out for the NYPD, Mayor Bill de Blasio, two New York City police officers were shot in the head execution-style.

This was not a random shooting. 

Just one week before Christmas, citing the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, clad in camouflage pants and a baseball cap, Ismaayil Brinsley targeted Wenjian Liu, son of Chinese immigrants, and Brooklyn native and aspiring church chaplain Rafael Ramos, solely because they were cops.

Carrying a high-caliber handgun, Brinsley silently approached and fired through the passenger-side window of the police cruiser. Newlywed Liu and devoted father Ramos, who were working overtime on an anti-terrorism drill, were both mortally wounded.

In the wake of those deaths, the president has had little to say. Preoccupied by a 17-day Christmas vacation in Hawaii, the man who flew to South Africa for Mandela's funeral did not allow his golfing time to be disrupted by funerary obligations. Even Michelle was given a reprieve. Rather than rush to New York as she did to Chicago when she attended Hadiya's funeral, the first lady remained in Oahu.

What is odd is that every chance he gets, the president endeavors to weaken the Second Amendment, and yet in the wake of the NYPD murders, Obama seems unwilling to call attention to the rampant bloodshed being perpetrated by angry black youths with racism as their grievance. 

It's also strange is that although he's the nation's chief law enforcement official, unlike Michelle identifying with Hadiya, Obama doesn't seem to personally identify with the assassinated police officers. 

After all, if the belief on the left is that"anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism" contributed to the Tucson, Aurora, and Newtown tragedies, isn't it then the president's responsibility to acknowledge how expressions of sympathy for the Trayvon Martins and Michael Browns of the world might become an inspiration for Ismaayil Brinsley types to attack and kill cops?

Maybe President Obama hasn't noticed, but if ever there was a gun-toting, Quran-carrying "bitter clinger," Brinsley was it!

Furthermore, based on his silence on the subject, the president must not feel it's necessary to mention that the shooter, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, was part of the paramilitary, San-Quentin-originated Black Guerrilla gang and a Muslim with connections to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

However, all is not lost; as the annual State of the Union address draws near, there's plenty of time for Obama to redeem himself.

Similar to the respect he gave Hadiya Pendleton's parents by inviting them to sit in the gallery of the House of Representatives, maybe the president will offer equal time at the upcoming SOTU to the heartbroken teenage sons of Rafael Ramos, Jaden and Justin, and their mother Maritza, as well as the inconsolable widow of Wenjian Liu, Pei Xia Chen.

And what better occasion than a primetime speech for Obama to point out how, despite the stringent regulations his executive orders have sought to impose on law-abiding gun owners, if a thug like Ismaayil Brinsley is bent on murder, acquiring a firearm is still easy to do?

Then, just as the president stressed the significance of saving one child's life through gun control in a prior State of the Union, this year, Obama can announce new measures to protect the lives of the police officers currently threatened by the disgruntled black youths he and his cohort of race-baiters have so blatantly incited.

Jeannie hosts a blog at

The race relation legacy Obama dreads

The legacy Obama dreads

By Paul Mirengoffon Wed, 31 Dec 2014

(Paul Mirengoff) 

Like all presidents, and probably more than most, President Obama is concerned about his legacy. Obama devoutly hopes that the following sentence will not appear in history books: 

Although he was the first African-American elected president, race relations worsened during his time in office. 

It’s not that Obama hates the idea of race relations worsening during his time in office. The idea of “no justice, no peace” may well appeal to him. But Obama doesn’t want to be remembered as a Black president under whom race relations worsened. 

Accordingly, during an interview” with PBS, Obama stated that the nation is “probably in its day-to-day interactions less racially divided” than before. Race relations seem to have gotten worse not because they actually have, but because we’re talking about them more, Obama insisted. 

But how does Obama know that in “day-to-day transactions” the nation is less racially divided? From all that appears, the only day-to-day transactions Obama has with ordinary Americans are with his golf caddies. 

Al Sharpton is Obama’s go-to guy on race related issues. Does Sharpton agree that day-to-day race relations are getting better? And what day-to-day transactions does Sharpton have with ordinary white Americans, anyway? 

Obama “assured” NPR that the issue of mistrust between police and minority communities isn’t new. He claimed, though, that it hasn’t been widely discussed until now, and that the current discussion is “probably healthy.”

But the problem that has surfaced under Obama isn’t “discussion” of police-community relations. The problem is race rioting and violence against the police. 

The Ferguson rioting; the chants calling for “dead cops” now; the assassination and attempted assassination of police officers; the reluctance, or even the refusal, of the police to respond promptly to calls for help — these are phenomena we haven’t witnessed since the 1970s. 

These phenomena aren’t “discussions,”and they certainly aren’t “healthy.” They are evidence of a deterioration in race relations and signs of a breakdown in society. 

Obama has contributed to the deterioration and the breakdown. As I wrote here:

Obama and Holder look for occasions to pontificate in ways that undermine mutual trust and trust in institutions that maintain order. They seized, for example, on the unfortunate but justified killing of a thug who attacked a police officer in Missouri as the pretext for claims that law enforcement in this country is systematically unjust to African-Americans.

Shortly after this, they seized on what appears to have been an unjustified, but non-racially motivated, killing in Staten Island as the basis for pressing their divisive theme. . . .

[Their] statements were irresponsible because of their inherent tendency to destroy the balance that [Edmund] Burke described — the one that keeps the demons from overrunning our society. 

Obama is right to fear that history’s judgment in these regards. History tends to be written mostly by liberals. But even some liberal historians may feel, at a minimum, that America’s first African-American president shouldn’t have left race relations in worse shape than he found them.

A Webb of Paranoia

Assume, for a moment, that U.S. News & World Report is accurately reporting this:

While they aren’t acknowledging [2016 Democratic candidate Jim] Webb publicly, Clinton loyalists are keeping an eye on him privately. The week before Thanksgiving, staffers of Philippe Reines, Clinton’s longtime communications guru, pitched talk radio producers on the racy, sexually charged writings in Webb’s novels, according to a source. Webb was forced to fend off a similar attack in 2006, when [his Virginia Senate opponent] Allen accused him of “demeaning women.”

#ad#All of the polling puts Hillary Clinton way ahead of Webb and every other potential Democratic rival. Webb’s best performance in any poll so far is a whopping 3 percent in the ABC News/Washington Post poll. (Admittedly, she led Barack Obama in early 2007 as well.)

Why on earth would the Hillary team go after Jim Webb this early? And why recycle an attack that had absolutely no impact when it was used in the 2006 Senate race? What is this, some form of mudslinging pregame stretching?

At this point, Webb is the only declared Democratic candidate in the 2016 field. Outgoing Maryland governor Martin O’Malley sent eleven staffers to Iowa, suggesting a serious interest in running. Elizabeth Warren most clearly represents the progressive grassroots’ id right now, but she continues to play coy, resorting to a robotic present-tense denial in interviews. Vice President Joe Biden isn’t taken particularly seriously by anyone and polls in single digits half the time.

The early shot across Webb’s bow is a strange response, considering how Hillary, with enormous advantages in fundraising, organizational experience, and name ID, would be much better off with multiple Democratic primary opponents instead of one. If the primary comes down to Webb and Clinton on the night of the Iowa caucuses, Webb -- or any other Democrat -- automatically becomes the vessel for objecting to a Clinton coronation. Any Democrat not sufficiently enthusiastic or pleased with the prospect of a Hillary nomination would give him a serious look, even if Hillary remained the serious favorite. It’s much better for Hillary to have the not-Hillary vote split two or three ways instead of unified behind one rival.

Worse yet, what if O’Malley flops, Biden withdraws after a tepid early reception, Warren never enters, and the prickly Webb, who retired from the Senate after just one term, decides to end his bid early? The nearest that either major party came to an uncontested coronation was the Democrats in 2000, when Vice President Al Gore swept all the primaries against former senator Bill Bradley. If you think Democrats are grumbling about Hillary Clinton now, wait until they see a primary ballot with only one name on it.

Hillary needs some “tomato cans” -- an old boxing term referring to opponents of middling to poor skill, lined up to give a big-name fighter some easy wins.

Jim Webb might be the perfect tomato can. If the Democratic party’s grassroots voters suspect that Hillary Clinton is too hawkish, too centrist, too focused on older voters and working-class whites, and insufficiently connected to the mindset of the party’s progressive younger voters and minorities#...#Webb might be the only Democrat who can make her look like Barack Obama.

In that U.S. News article, one of Webb’s former Senate aides describes his old boss, “I think his roots and family roots are very much in the Democratic Party. But it’s not inner-city, racial Democratic politics. It’s very rural, poor Democratic politics.”

Inner-city, racial Democratic politics isDemocratic politics today. Rural poor voters -- particularly white ones -- don’t carry much weight in Democratic-party politics anymore. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared in 2012 that “rural America with a shrinking population is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country.” The GOP’s advantage among rural voters continued in 2014. Perhaps Jim Webb’s persona and biography could persuade more rural, more male, more blue-collar, and more white voters to vote in a Democratic presidential primary. But he’s swimming upstream, both among these demographics and the Democratic consultant class. Most Democratic strategists are convinced that the party’s long-term future is tied to the “coalition of the ascendant” -- racial minorities, Millennials, and college-educated white women. The policies and rhetoric of this administration and its closest media allies are attuned to those demographics -- talking up gun control, immigration reform, college-debt relief, gay marriage, criticizing America’s police, and so on.

Jim Webb will evoke Andrew Jackson for the party of Al Sharpton, Bill de Blasio, and Sandra Fluke.

Why is the Hillary Clinton machine taking early swings at such a long-shot candidate, with such an unlikely strategy for victory?

#page#Presidential candidates usually get better the second time around -- experience helps them avoid the same mistakes, they are more prepared for the challenges of the campaign trail, and so on. Mitt Romney clearly was a better candidate in 2012 than in 2008. John McCain was better in 2008 than in 2000.

But what if Hillary isn’t going to be any better than in 2008? What if she and her closest advisers are getting worse? Hillary’s book tour from this summer offers some evidence of this -- she declared she and Bill Clinton were “dead broke” when they left the White House, got static for her position on gay marriage, and had her first public fight with the Obama White House. She continues to make extremely lucrative speeches, including some at public universities, despite the bad publicity.

#ad#It’s not unusual for a politician to have an “enemies list.” But only Hillary Clinton has an enemies spreadsheet:

As one of the last orders of business for a losing campaign, they recorded in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet the names and deeds of members of Congress. They carefully noted who had endorsed Hillary, who had backed Obama, and who had stayed on the sidelines -- standard operating procedure for any high-end political organization. But the data went into much more nuanced detail. “We wanted to have a record of who endorsed us and who didn’t,” a member of Hillary’s campaign team said, “and of those who endorsed us, who went the extra mile and who was just kind of there. And of those who didn’t endorse us, those who understandably didn’t endorse us because they are [Congressional Black Caucus] members or Illinois members. And then, of course, those who endorsed him but really should have been with her#...#that burned her.”

Their spreadsheet formalized the deep knowledge of those involved in building it. Like so many of the Clinton help, Balderston and Elrod were walking favor files. They remembered nearly every bit of assistance the Clintons had given and every slight made against them. Almost six years later, most Clinton aides can still rattle off the names of traitors and the favors that had been done for them, then provide details of just how each of the guilty had gone on to betray the Clintons -- as if it all had happened just a few hours before. The data project ensured that the acts of the sinners and saints would never be forgotten.

(It’s a sad statement on our soulless times that even political vindictiveness is too important to be left to something as subjective as a candidate’s instinct; no, this, too, must be data-driven and “metrics-oriented.”)

If anything, going after perceived enemies is an even bigger obsession in Clinton’s circle now than during the 2008 campaign:

To this day she’s surrounded herself with media conspiracy theorists who remain some of her favorite confidants, urged wealthy allies to bankroll independent organizations tasked with knee-capping reporters perceived as unfriendly, withdrawn into a gilded shell when attacked and rolled her eyes at several generations of aides who suggested she reach out to journalists rather than just disdaining them. Not even being nice to her in print has been a guarantor of access; reporters likely to write positive stories have been screened as ruthlessly as perceived enemies, dismissed as time-sucking sycophants or pretend-friends.

It is not hyperbolic to declare Hillary Clinton the most paranoid presidential candidate since Richard Nixon:

Amy Chozick is the reporter tasked with covering the Clintons -- and the runup to the now-almost-inevitable Hillary Clinton presidential bid -- for the New York Times. Sounds like a plum gig, right? Until, that is, a press aide for the Clinton Global Initiative follows you into the bathroom.

Chozick describes a “friendly 20-something press aide who the Clinton Global Initiative tasked with escorting me to the restroom,” adding: “She waited outside the stall in the ladies’ room at the Sheraton Hotel, where the conference is held each year.”

In this light, Hillary’s allies’ making a ludicrously early and unpersuasive effort to shop dirt on long-shot Jim Webb doesn’t look so unexpected. It’s just what the Hillary 2016 campaign is going to be: paranoid, needlessly nasty, and making unnecessary enemies.

— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.

Michigan GOP Governor Approves Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a one-year pilot program into law on Friday that tests welfare recipients and applicants suspected of substance abuse. 

Those suspected of using drugs will be tested using an “empirically validated substance abuse screening tool.” If the results come back positive, they’ll be referred to a treatment program and will have to continue submitting periodic drug tests. When those tests come back negative, their benefits can be restored. Those who refuse to comply will be suspended from receiving benefits for a six-month period. 

The program will initially start in three yet-to-be-determined counties. 

The legislation passed the Michigan House of Representatives earlier this month despite pushback from Democrats and criticism from some in the local press who say the concept unfairly stigmatizes the poor as drug addicts. […]

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states over the last four years have enacted legislation that allows for the drug testing of welfare recipients and applicants. The federal government paved the way for the practice with welfare reform in 1996. States began proposing mandatory drug testing shortly after, but many early proposals failed to pass. 

In the late 1990s, Michigan enacted the country’s first law requiring drug tests for welfare recipients. But following a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union -- and the ACLU of Michigan -- a federal judge struck down the law as unconstitutional, mainly because it relied on random testing without suspicion of drug use.

The new legislation was more carefully crafted, allowing for drug testing only upon “reasonable suspicion.” It was sponsored by Michigan Rep. Jeff Farrington, Republican of Utica, who told the AP earlier this month, “People want to make sure that we give a hand up to those in need, but they're tired of giving their tax dollars to people that waste it on drugs.”

“We want to remove the barriers that are keeping people from getting good jobs, supporting their families and living independently,” Snyder said in a statement. “This pilot program is intended to help ensure recipients get the wrap-around services they need to overcome drug addiction and lead successful lives. We’ll then have opportunity to assess effectiveness and outcomes.”

Israel on “Unacceptables List.” According to Obama

In an article explaining why North Korea is not a state sponsor of terrorism, Foreign Policy calls for the U.S. to do away with this old classification in favor of a new designation: the “Unacceptables List.” 

“This category would cover all foreign governments whose actions U.S. officials routinely deride as “unacceptable,” but then do very little in response to prevent or deter those actions from reoccurring,” the article states before going on provide a few examples. 

This would provide diplomatically interesting results. For example, using the State Department search engine, the top 10 countries for whom “unacceptable” was most often used in conjunction with since the start of the Obama administration: Syria (147), Iran (118), North Korea (115), Israel (87), Pakistan (83), Russia (78), Egypt (77), China (74), Afghanistan (66), and Iraq (63).

Hmm, notice how our “strongest ally and greatest friend” is sandwiched nicely between a communist dictatorship and a safe haven for terrorists? Israeli news website Ynetnews did: 

Most of the condemnations relating to Israel involved building in settlements or the announcement of plans to construct additional housing behind the Green Line. Government spokespeople also castigated Israel for civilian casualties during Operation Protective Edge. […]

The US State Department is not the only entity in the international diplomacy arena that tends to recycle certain phrases. Ynet found that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon used the word "concerned" 140 times in 2014 in statements responding to events. Israel and Palestine were the most concerning places of 2014, with 19 press releases using the term.

"The absurd and arbitrary way in which the United States condemns her allies more than her enemies only serves to render Washington’s pronouncements meaningless in the eyes of most Israelis," Israel Today's David Lazarus writes.   

After all, he observes, "How can building homes in Jerusalem be condemned on par with the actions of nations repeatedly engaged in aggressive and murderous violence towards their own civilian populations with absolutely no regard for human rights?“

Emboldened Cuban Regime Bans Free Speech Protest, Jails Pro-Democracy Activists

Emboldened Cuban Regime Bans Free Speech Protest, Jails Pro-Democracy Activists

( – Two weeks after President Obama announced sweeping changes to U.S. policy on Cuba, the communist regime on Tuesday banned a free speech protest in Havana and detained several pro-democracy activists, preventing others from leaving their homes.
Obama’s policy shift entailed a prisoner exchange and steps to restore diplomatic relations, but set no conditions on an end to repression on the island – a key criticism on Capitol Hill at the time.

Among those arrested hours before open an open microphone event planned for the capital’s Revolution Square – for which the authorities refused to grant permission – was Reinaldo Escobar, the editor of 14ymedio, a digital news outlet.

News of his arrest, and that of another prominent dissident, Eliecer Avila, came from Escobar’s wife, Yoani Sanchez, arguably Cuba’s leading blogger.

Sanchez tweeted that police had handcuffed the two outside her home and taken them away in a police vehicle. Eleven hours later – around 10 PM Cuba and U.S. eastern time – she tweeted again that her husband had been released. Avila was still being held, she tweeted subsequently.

An article posted on the 14ymedio site said Sanchez was herself effectively under house arrest, with a police vehicle parked outside her Havana home and four plainclothes officers guarding entrances to the building.

The event planned for Revolution Square, a prominent location that is home to government ministries and is often used for Communist Party events, aimed to allow ordinary Cubans to step up to a public microphone to share briefly their views on the future of Cuba.

Scheduled for 3 PM local time, it never took place. The event’s organizer, performance artist Tania Bruguera, was reported to be missing, and 14ymedio named several others said to have been detained.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Bruguera’s sister, Deborah, said Tania was taken from her home at 10 AM, after security agents banged on her door for hours. She was not allowed to be accompanied by a lawyer, and was believed to have been taken to intelligence headquarters.

She said family, friends and colleagues were extremely concerned as they did not know where Tania was being held or under what conditions.

Later, 14ymedio reported that after his release Escobar reported having seen Tania Bruguera at the police facility where he had been held, and that she had been wearing a “gray convict uniform.”

In a Twitter post noting the arrests Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a Cuban-American and vocal critic of the regime, said, “Oppression in Cuba won’t change while Castro brothers in charge.”

When Obama announced on December 17 that he was changing five decade-old policies on Cuba, reaction was varied, but much of the negative responses from lawmakers focused on the question of political repression.

“This agreement between Obama and Castro leaves out one important aspect: the Cuban people,” Ros-Lehtinen said at the time. “This misguided action by President Obama will embolden the Castro regime to continue its illicit activities, trample on fundamental freedoms, and disregard democratic principles.” Keep reading

Hannity: Replace Speaker Boehner

Hannity: Replace Speaker Boehner 
By Jesse Byrnes - 12-30-14 17:31 PM EST

Fox News host Sean Hannity is calling on Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) to step down as Speaker of the House.

Hannity, who has criticized Boehner in the past, said it’s “time for new dynamic leadership” for Republicans and threw his support behind Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House select committee investigating the Benghazi attacks.

“Trey Gowdy is my choice for speaker," Hannity told Breitbart News. “He has the ability to articulate and implement the changes needed to get the country on the right path.”

He cited the federal budget, border security, energy independence and Gowdy's opposition to ObamaCare for backing the South Carolina Republican.

“John Boehner has snubbed and ignored conservatives for too long as evidenced by the recent cromnibus budget deal he made with Obama, Reid and Hoyer,” Hannity added, referring to senior congressional Democrats. “It’s time he step aside for the good of country and the conservative movement.”

The $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” was an end-of-year spending bill opposed by many conservatives that passed the House with Boehner’s support earlier this month.

Hannity did not mention the controversy surrounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) in his comments.

It was revealed this week that Scalise spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002, and there have been calls for him to resign. Boehner offered Scalise his support on Tuesday.

Other conservatives have weighed in on Scalise, and argued for more changes to the GOP leadership team in the House.

“GOP establishment a disastrous mess. Clean them out. Time for new leaders with conservative principles,” conservative radio host Mark Levin wrote on Facebook on Tuesday, linking to a story about Scalise. 

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson also criticized Scalise on Monday, arguing his story that he didn’t know about the supremacist’s group’s message was implausible.

In Praise of Strength

Dec 31, 2014 By Ben Carson

It was extremely encouraging to see the United States and Sony eventually stand up to the cyberbullying of the North Koreans by allowing the movie The Interviewto be released despite threats of retaliation.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are hallmarks of American life, and we must jealously guard these values from both internal and external threats. In fact, all of the freedoms guaranteed to American citizens by our Constitution must be steadfastly preserved, or they will be eroded. Vigilance and courage are necessary every day if we are to remain a free society.

#ad#I am proud of the president of the United States for taking a tough stand on this issue, although I am not sure that his promise of proportional retaliation is the correct answer. The response should go far beyond proportionality, and an example should be made of the perpetrators by using a host of available options to inflict punishment not easily forgotten. If we use proportionality as our standard, future adversaries need consider only certain consequences for encroaching on our rights. If, on the other hand, they realize that they will suffer enormous consequences, I believe their adventurism would be tempered.

I do not advocate becoming a bully on the global stage, but I do believe that strength is a quality that is respected by all cultures, regardless of their ideological bent. I remember how much trouble students in my high school in Detroit caused the weak teachers who had no idea of how to control them. There was one teacher, 5 feet tall, who tolerated no foolishness, and even the burly football players feared her. You could hear a pin drop in her room, though the same students produced total chaos in other classrooms. She was extremely nice to me and the other cooperative students and would go out of her way to ensure that we received a good education. I think the lesson here is obvious.

There was a time when American citizens were relatively safe, no matter where they traveled in the world. Everyone knew that there would be significant consequences for harming Americans. Today, not only is the fear gone, but there is little respect for our leaders because our nation appears to be a paper tiger. This is a situation that can be quickly rectified with courageous and principled leadership. Many will remember the Iran hostage crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During that time, we had a president who was neither feared nor respected. On the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president, the hostages were released.

It is imperative that, as a nation, we say what we mean and we mean what we say. This contributes to the safety and stability of the world and, in the long run, will cost us less money and fewer lost lives. Our friends around the world should have no better ally, and our enemies should have no fiercer foe. We certainly do not need to make everyone conform to our values, but we must protect and defend those values, including freedom of expression. We should never yield to evil nor should we ignore it; we do so at our own peril.

— Ben Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and author of the new book One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future. © 2014 The Washington Times. Distributed by

US releases 5 more Guantanamo Bay prisoners, sends them to Kazakhstan

US releases 5 more Guantanamo Bay prisoners, sends them to Kazakhstan

GITMO cheap land rental deal.jpg

March 6, 2013: The exterior of Camp Delta is seen at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. (Reuters)

Five men who were held for a dozen years at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent to the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan for resettlement, the U.S. government announced Tuesday.

The two men from Tunisia and three from Yemen had been cleared for release from the prison by a government task force but could not be sent to their homelands. The U.S. has sent hundreds of prisoners from Guantanamo to third countries but this is the first time Kazakhstan has accepted any for resettlement.

Their release brings the prison population at Guantanamo to 127, according to a Pentagon statement.

The U.S. identified the Tunisians as 49-year-old Adel Al-Hakeemy, and Abdallah Bin Ali al Lufti, who military records show is about 48.

The Yemenis are Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi, who is about 46; Muhammad Ali Husayn Khanayna, who is about 36; and Sabri Mohammad al Qurashi, about 44.

All five had been captured in Pakistan and turned over to the U.S. for detention as suspected Islamic militants with ties to Al Qaeda. None of the men were ever charged and a government task force determined it was no longer necessary to hold them.

The U.S. does not say why they could not be sent home but the government has been unwilling to send Yemenis to their country because of unrest and militant activity there while in the past some Tunisians have feared persecution.

Nearly 30 prisoners have been resettled in third countries this year as part of President Barack Obama's renewed push to close the detention center over opposition from Congress.

A Year of Liberal Double Standards

A Year of Liberal Double Standards
What seems like staggering hypocrisy is actually remarkably consistent from liberals’ perspective. 
Jon Stewart on <i>The Daily Show</i>

Many conservatives finished the year angry about the same thing they were angry about at the beginning of the year: liberal double standards.

As I write this, GOP House whip Steve Scalise is in hot water over reports that he spoke to a group of racist poltroons in Louisiana twelve years ago. Whether it was an honest mistake, as Scalise plausibly claims, or a sign of something more nefarious, as his detractors hope, remains to be seen.

But one common response on social media is instructive. Countless conservatives want to know: Why the double standard? Barack Obama was friends with a domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers. His spiritual mentor was a vitriolic racist, Jeremiah Wright. One of his administration’s closest advisers and allies is Al Sharpton, a man who has inspired enough racial violence to make a grand dragon’s white sheets turn green with envy.

Meanwhile, the Democratic party venerated the late senator Robert Byrd, a former Klansmen himself. He was one of 19 senators (all Democrats) to sign the Southern Manifesto opposing integration. One of his co-signers was William Fulbright, Bill Clinton’s mentor.

When Republicans are in power, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” When Democrats are in power, dissent is the racist fuming of “angry white men.”

Peaceful, law-abiding tea-party groups who cleaned up after their protests — and got legal permits for them — were signs of nascent fascism lurking in the American soul. Violent, anarchic, and illegal protests by Occupy Wall Street a few years ago or, more recently, in Ferguson, Mo., were proof that a new idealistic generation was renewing its commitment to idealism.

When rich conservatives give money to Republicans, it is a sign that the whole system has been corrupted by fat cats. When it is revealed that liberal billionaires and left-wing super PACs outspent conservative groups in 2014: crickets.

When Republicans invoke God or religious faith as an inspiration for their political views, it’s threatening and creepy. When Democrats do it, it’s a sign they believe in social justice.

One can do this all day long. But while examples are easy, explanations are hard.

I don’t know who first said, “Behind every apparent double standard lies an unconfessed single standard” (and as far as I can tell, neither does the Internet), but whoever did was onto something.

What looks like inexplicably staggering hypocrisy from the conservative perspective is actually remarkably consistent from the liberal perspective.

Well, “perspective” is probably the wrong word because it implies a conscious, deliberate, philosophical point of view. What is really at work is better understood as bias, even bigotry.

If you work from the dogmatic assumption that liberalism is morally infallible and that liberals are, by definition, pitted against sinister and — more importantly — powerful forces, then it’s easy to explain away what seem like double standards. Any lapse, error, or transgression by conservatives is evidence of their real nature, while similar lapses, errors, and transgressions by liberals are trivial when balanced against the fact that their hearts are in the right place.

Despite controlling the commanding heights of the culture — journalism, Hollywood, the arts, academia, and vast swaths of the corporate America they denounce — liberals have convinced themselves they are pitted against deeply entrenched powerful forces and that being a liberal is somehow brave. Obama, the twice-elected president of the United States, to this day speaks as if he’s some kind of underdog.

Frank Rich, the former New York Timescolumnist and theater critic, recently interviewed Chris Rock for New Yorkmagazine. He wanted to know why right-leaning comedian Dennis Miller isn’t as funny (at least according to Rich) as Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. He asked Rock, “Do you think that identifying with those in power is an impediment to laughter?”

It was a hilarious and revealing moment. Stewart — who recently had to turn down a pleading request from NBC to take over Meet the Press — has long identified with liberals in power. Moreover, he’s easily one of America’s most powerful liberals, routinely creating and enforcing liberal conventional wisdom (much as Rich had done from his perch at the Times). Miller, meanwhile, has nowhere near the same cultural clout precisely because he doesn’t affirm the single standard at the heart of liberalism: “We’re the good guys.”

— Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor of National Review and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2014 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our Illegal Immigration Problem

Freedom Quote

Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language.. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.

Theodore Roosevelt, 1907

I Want a President Who Loves America

I Want a President Who Loves America

Christopher Chantrill

I first fell in love with America 49 years ago. I flew from the UK to Denver visit my parents in Christmas 1965, and it was love at first sight. I fell in love with America, the land; I fell in love with America, the people. And I fell in love with the American way of life, the unconsciously optimistic approach to life and work and the future.

When I returned to the UK and college in the New Year I found that my Brit pals didn't want to know about America. Too bad. I immigrated to America after graduation in 1968 and never looked back. I applied for citizenship as soon as possible and my naturalization certificate is dated January 3, 1975.

So, in just about a week, I'll have been a U.S. citizen for 40 years. And do you know what this naturalized U.S. citizen would like more than anything in the world?

I would like to elect in 2016 a president who loves America with all his heart.

I don't mean that the president should be a Polly-Anna and pretend that everything is hunky-dory in America. I just want a president that wants to fix America because he loves America.

Unlike our liberal friends and their poster boy, President Barack Obama.

The problem with our liberal friends is that they think that they are too evolved to descend to the celebration of a nation-state and its flummeries of patriotism and flags and Pledges of Allegiance. And so thinks President Obama. Liberals are globalists; they are cosmopolitans. And so is President Obama. They believe in supranational governance with the EU and the UN. And so does President Obama.

They do not love America; they sneer at America.

There may one day be a world government, but its time is not yet. And the reason is simple; it was articulated by the notorious British politician and classical scholar, Enoch Powell. He said that the EU could not work because there was "no European demos," no European people. There is a British people, a French people, a German people, but no European people. And no world people.

We lovers of America know that the modern nation-state is an astonishing achievement. It has united humans on the basis of language and principle instead of the age-old basis of tribe and kindred. Of course, the unification was not done with sweetness and light; it was done by force and domination. English is not the language of Wales and Scotland. French is not the language of Brittany. Italian is the language of Tuscany, not Naples. And don't get me started on India.

But liberals are ashamed of the nation-state, and so they sneer at it while they boost their chimeras of supranational governance and multiculturalism. Any fool can see that supranational governance is a dead letter and that multiculturalism is a recipe for civil war.

In The Fatal Conceit, F.A. Hayek faulted liberals for imagining that politicians and experts could design and implement a system to run the modern economy. But I think that their real "fatal conceit" is the idea that liberals can control the passions of politics. We can see this with the administration's current enthusiasm for inflaming racial tensions through hyped-up attacks on white-on-black and police violence. What do they think is going to happen from prodding African Americans into anti-police riots and demonstrations?

The fact is that politics is a lethal weapon. That is why I like to call politics civil war by other means, for the job of a politician is to rile up his supporters for the political fight. Unfortunately, as the German general wrote, "No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the enemy." Once you've got your supporters all riled up and deployed into the streets, then what?

And these days the height of political sophistication is supposed to be the idea of the "permanent campaign."

I'd say that the opposite is true. There may be no alternative to riling up your supporters during an election campaign, but after the election is over it is time to bury the hatchet and remember that we are all Americans. The job of the president is not to stigmatize the opposition but to knock powerful heads together and advance his program with bipartisan consensus, because we all love America.

That's why I want to elect a president that loves America. I want a president that so loves this country and so loves its people that he couldn't even imagine the idea of an 8-year partisan forced-march to fundamentally transform America.

My kind of president would say: Why, if we did that you never know where it would end up. We might end up destroying America, and why would anyone want to risk doing that?

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, Also see his American Manifesto and get his Road to the Middle Class.

When Facts Don't Matter

Dec 30, 2014 By Thomas Sowell

Some of us, who are old enough to remember the old television police series Dragnet may remember Sergeant Joe Friday saying, “Just the facts, ma’am.” But that would be completely out of place today. Facts are becoming obsolete, as recent events have demonstrated.

What matters today is how well you can concoct a story that fits people’s preconceptions and arouses their emotions. Politicians like New York mayor Bill de Blasio, professional demagogues like Al Sharpton, and innumerable irresponsible people in the media have shown that they have great talent in promoting a lynch-mob atmosphere toward the police.

Grand juries that examine hard facts live in a different world from mobs who listen to rhetoric and politicians who cater to the mobs.

#ad#During the controversy over the death of Trayvon Martin, for example, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus said that George Zimmerman had tracked Trayvon Martin down and shot him like a dog. The fact is that Zimmerman did not have to track down Trayvon Martin, who was sitting right on top of him, punching him till his face was bloody.

After the death of Michael Brown, members of the Congressional Black Caucus stood up in Congress, with their hands held up, saying, “Don’t shoot.” Although there were some who claimed that this is what Michael Brown said and did, there were other witnesses -- all black, by the way -- who said that Brown was charging toward the policeman when he was shot.

What was decisive was not what either set of witnesses said but what the autopsy revealed, an investigation involving three sets of forensic experts, including one representing Michael Brown’s family. Witnesses can lie but the physical facts don’t lie, even if politicians, mobs, and the media prefer to take lies seriously.

The death of Eric Garner has likewise spawned stories having little relationship to facts. The story is that Garner died because a chokehold stopped his breathing. But Garner did not die with a policeman choking him.

He died later, in an ambulance where his heart stopped. He had a long medical history of various diseases, as well as a long criminal history. No doubt the stress of his capture did not do him any good, and he might well still be alive if he had not resisted arrest. But that was his choice.

Despite people who say blithely that the police need more “training,” there is no “kinder and gentler” way to capture a 350-pound man, who is capable of inflicting grievous harm, and perhaps even death, on any of his would-be captors. The magic word “unarmed” means nothing in practice, however much the word may hype emotions.

If you are killed by an unarmed man, you are just as dead as if you had been annihilated by a nuclear bomb. But you don’t even know who is armed or unarmed until after it is all over and you can search him.

Incidentally, did you know that, during this same period when riots, looting, and arson have been raging, a black policeman in Alabama shot and killed an unarmed white teenager -- and was cleared by a grand jury? Probably not, if you depend on the mainstream media for your news.

The media do not merely ignore facts, they suppress facts. Millions of people saw the videotape of the beating of Rodney King. But they saw only a fraction of that tape because the media left out the rest, which showed Rodney King -- another huge man -- resisting arrest and refusing to be handcuffed, so that he could be searched.

Television viewers did not get to see the other black men in the same vehicle that Rodney King was driving recklessly. Those other black men were not beaten. And the grand jury got to see the whole video, after which they acquitted the police -- and the media then published the jurors’ home addresses.

Such media retribution against people they don’t like is part of a growing lynch-mob mentality. The black witnesses in Missouri, whose testimony confirmed what the police officer said, expressed fears for their own safety for telling what the physical evidence showed was the truth.

Is this what we want? Grand juries responding to mobs and the media, instead of to the facts?

— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at theHoover Institution. © 2013 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

New York City arrests drop by 66%

New York City arrests drop by 66%

Last updated 1 hour ago

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks from the podium to the New York City Police Academy Graduating class in New York December 29, 2014
New York Mayor de Blasio was heckled at the city's police academy graduation

Arrests in New York City are down 66% amid increasing tensions between police unions and the mayor since two officers were shot and killed on duty.

Citations for low-level and traffic offences have dropped by more than 90% compared with the same week a year ago.

The BBC has confirmed the figures, first reported in the New York Post.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to speak to the city's police unions after the groups have criticised him for what they see as anti-police rhetoric.

Demonstrators in New York City and across the US have focused on what critics say are brutal police actions against unarmed African Americans this year.

Two particular cases championed by the protesters were that of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, killed in police encounters in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City respectively. Grand juries chose not to charge officers in both cases.

The mayor lost police backing when he expressed some sympathy with the protests and said he had to train his mixed-race son in how to deal with police officers.

Unnamed sources told the Post the sharp drop in arrests in the past week was in part because of fears for officer safety but also in part due to a deliberate slowdown.

One union president reportedly told officers to use "extreme discretion" in making arrests, saying "the rules are made by them to hurt you. Well now we'll use those rules to protect us," according to a recording obtained by Capital New York.

A spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association denied union leader Pat Lynch was encouraging a slowdown in arrests.

Protests supporting police were held in Miami
Protests supporting police were held in Miami
Officers Liu Wenjin (left) and Raphael Ramos in a composite image
Police officers Liu Wenjin (left) and Raphael Ramos were shot while sitting in their patrol car

Meanwhile, an annual report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found that 50 officers were killed by guns in 2014, a sharp increase from 32 deaths in 2013.

But the sharp increase in police deaths by firearm follows a decline from 2011, when 73 officers were killed in gunfire. And police deaths by guns remain far below the all-time high of 156 in 1973.

The 2014 figure included 15 ambush deaths, like Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were killed last week in New York.

The gunman - who subsequently killed himself - had posted anti-police messages online, referring to Garner and Brown.

The deaths of Ramos and Liu have brought to the fore simmering tensions between police unions representing the rank-and-file officers and the mayor's office.