Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Whatever happened to integrity and honor in public service?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), Obamacare: the gift that keeps on giving … headaches, cramps, nausea, and economic insecurity. The list goes on.

From its unseemly beginnings as a one-party creation in smoky back rooms that passed a Congress dominated in both houses by Democrats, without being read and debated by anyone, with only Democrats voting for it and with few Americans supporting it, the ACA is a vast array of failings. 

It’s not an absolute and total failure; nothing is perfect. 

But nearly all of its promises were broken, as many had predicted: you most likely can’t keep your doctor or your insurance plan if you like them; you probably aren’t going to save $2,500 a year in premium payments; and if you see more choice, more competition, and lower costs in healthcare, you will be among an infinitesimally small minority to do so.

Jonathon Gruber has now told the world in a series of recently discovered videos how, in designing the ACA, Congressional Democrats and their staffs employed deception and opaqueness to sneak the law past the American public.

He is an MIT economics professor, the architect of the Massachusetts healthcare plan known as Romneycare that was the model for Obamacare, and who also helped the Democrats create their version of a national healthcare system that most Americans didn’t want. 

In a video from October of 2013 Dr. Gruber admits that a “lack of transparency” was a blessing for the Obama administration and congressional Democrats in passing the ACA. “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” he said. “And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass.”

In another video, he said, “So it's written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said healthy people are going to pay in — you made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money — it would not have passed.” … “That was really, really critical for the thing to pass,” he said. “But I’d rather have this law than not.”

In effect he was saying: “I’d rather not have mugged that old lady and stolen her groceries, but I’d rather have had food to eat than not.”

Efforts by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) and President Obama to distance themselves from the good professor fell well short of the mark: videos, you know.

Of course, all of this under-handedness was for our own good, you know, and if we just weren’t so stupid they wouldn’t have had to deceive us to give us what they insist we need.

But, however, we aren’t all stupid. Some of us knew all along that this bill was a sham and the promises couldn’t be kept, and that at its base Obamacare really is nothing more than a system to control the people and a huge redistribution of wealth from the young and healthy to the old and unhealthy. 

And then there is Barack Obama, himself; President of the United States, leader of the free world, who not only made many promises for the ACA that didn’t come true (did he lie to the people, or just not know what he was talking about?), and over the years said twenty or more times that he can’t act alone on immigration. “That’s not how democracy works.” “That’s not how our Constitution is written.” “I can’t solve this problem by myself.” What he didn’t say, in so many words, is: “Unless I have to act alone because Congress won’t give me the bill that I want, and so I will just do whatever I please.”

And last week he did act alone to circumvent both Congress and the existing laws on immigration and illegal alien deportation to order ICE to ignore up to 5 million illegal aliens in the country, all the while falsely claiming he was doing nothing more than any other president in the last 50 years. Except that he was. The presidential acts alluded to were in response to Congressional action, not because of a lack thereof.

The process of writing and passing the ACA was one devoid of honesty and integrity. Mr. Obama’s issuing of an Executive Order countermanding existing laws on immigration because Congress won’t obey his “orders” is an exercise in petulance, arrogance and overstepping his Constitutional bounds.

Both of these situations reflect the idea that Congressional Democrats and the president think they know better than the people that elected them, and that they are paid to serve what is good for them and for the country, and they have yet again shown that they will do whatever is necessary to achieve their narrow goals, and legal and moral processes be damned. This the-ends-justify-the-means tactic reflects a level of arrogance and hubris that would make the Founders nauseous. 

Our Constitution lays out a framework for doing things in our government that worked very well until we started changing it. 

Allowing any president to unilaterally extend the power of the executive is dangerous and foolish. Every true American in Congress must oppose this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Taking a look at how green energy is working in Europe and America

As the United States grapples with conflicting ideas about whether and to what extent man causes global climate change, the zealous movement to do away with using fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas to produce electricity and switch to “green” sources like wind and solar energy goes forward, full speed ahead.

Far ahead of the U.S. in this campaign are some nations in Europe that some policymakers tout as having adopted smart energy policy. They think the U.S. should follow the lead of countries like Germany and Spain and more heavily subsidize renewable energies like wind, solar, biomass, etc. and tax fossil fuel users more heavily.

Now that Europe’s green energy policies have been in place for several years, a look to see how they have worked might help us decide whether this is a good plan for the U.S. to follow.

From Canadafreepress,com comes information about Germany’s energy policies. The news here is not so good; green energy policies are driving up energy prices and forcing hundreds of thousands of people into energy poverty. Specifically, a study of Germany’s experiences found:
  • Residential German electricity prices are nearly three times higher than electricity prices in the U.S. 
  • As many as 800,000 Germans have had their power cut off because of an inability to pay for rising energy costs. 
  • Germany’s feed-in tariff scheme provides lavish subsidies to renewable energy producers. 
  • On-shore wind has required feed-in tariffs that are in excess of 300 percent higher than market prices. 
  • Germany’s Renewable Energy Levy, which subsidizes renewable energy production, cost German households $9.6 billion in 2013. 
  • The cost to expand transmission networks to integrate renewables stands at $33.6 billion, which grid operators say accounts “for only a fraction of the cost of the energy transition.”

Information from the Institute for Energy Research produced some data on the effects of Spain’s push for green energy that began in 1994. The program involved tariffs, quotas and subsidies, and has earned kudos from international leaders, including President Barack Obama.

The Spaniards have seen increases in electricity rates from 2005 to 2011 of 92 percent for domestic users and 78 percent for industrial users, while during that same period the U.S. saw rate increases of 24 percent for domestic users and19 percent for industrial users from fossil fuel produced electricity.

Here is a comparison of Spanish and American rates per kilowatt-hour:
  • Spain – Domestic $29.46 and Industrial $14.84 
  • U.S. - Domestic $11.69 and Industrial $6.81.

While prices were increasing in Spain the level of carbon dioxide actually rose, rather than declining, increasing 34.5 percent from 1994 to 2011. As a result of this the Spanish government confessed in 2012 that it can’t afford to continue subsidizing green energy.

Meanwhile, the French energy and environment minister, Segolene Royal, who was appointed to the position last spring, plans to create 100,000 jobs by 2017 with her green energy growth initiative. She wants to reduce France’s 75 percent reliance on nuclear energy for electricity production to 50 percent by 2025 by investing in wind, solar, biomass and marine energy sources. She also plans to help 500,000 low-income families add insulation to their homes.

Writing on Erika Johnsen points out that to accomplish these high-minded goals France will have to throw “gobs and gobs of money” into the mix through subsidies, tax credits and/or consumer quotas, which inevitably end up being paid by consumers through higher prices, higher taxes, or increasing France’s national debt, which is already a serious problem. The French economy is weak, much weaker than Germany’s, and we have already seen what happened in that grand green experiment.

In apparent ignorance of these horrid experiences from our European brothers and sisters, the ideologically blinded Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is driving the U.S. toward green energy use. The EPA does this not through the natural evolution of increased efficiency and value of green energies that gradually supplant older and dirtier fuels, but by punishing the existing producers of the major fuel sources of coal and natural gas that account for 66 percent of our electricity production.

This approach is responsible for killing jobs and harming local economies, and producing higher prices for consumers as the EPA goes merrily along, oblivious to the destruction in its wake, and to the misery the thoughtless drive for green energy has produced for Spain and Germany.

The administration’s “feel-good” emotional support for three risky green companies cost three-quarters of a billion taxpayer dollars. Solar energy companies Solyndra and Abound Solar wasted $529 million and $70 million respectively, and last December hybrid carmaker Fisker Automotive filed for bankruptcy adding another $139 million to the tab.

And now climatologist John L. Casey warns of a shift in global climate, a cold spell to last 30 years, and it has absolutely nothing to do with carbon dioxide emissions. It’s due to the sun. “All you have to do is trust natural cycles, and follow the facts; and that leads you to the inevitable conclusion that the sun controls the climate, and that a new cold era has begun," he said.

Perhaps the EPA will forsake the “green fantasy” in favor of reality.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The election of 2014 is over. What did we learn? Where do we go?

Last week’s mid-term election results surprised almost everyone in some way. Republicans won control of the US Senate, increased their majority in the House of Representatives by 13 seats, and won a number of other victories, as summarized here by The Washington Post:

  • Net gain of 8 legislative chambers, increasing from 59 to 67 out of a total of 98 (Nebraska is technically unicameral, but it is dominated by Republicans as well).
  • This sets a record for the modern era, breaking the one in 2012.
  • Republicans now have total control of 24 states, controlling legislative chambers as well as the governor’s office.
  • Republicans have supermajority status in 8 states.
  • Control is split in 17 states (3 of whose governors flipped from Democrat to Republican).
  • Republicans now have four lieutenant governorships due to defeating Democrat incumbents.
  • Democrats have total control in 6 states.

Given the broad and deep defeat of Democrats across the nation it is apparent that the country disapproves of what liberal Democrats have been doing. Those who voted elected Republicans in big numbers, and those that didn’t vote made a strong statement of non-support for the radical policies of liberal Democrats.

A day after the election, President Barack Obama was defiant, showing no inkling that he understood that his policies and the direction he and his fellow liberals had set were to blame for what happened the previous day.

“What we’ve seen now for a number of cycles is that the American people just want to see work done here in Washington,” he said. “They’re frustrated by the gridlock. They’d like to see more cooperation, and I think all of us have a responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen.”

That sounds promising, but no more had he sounded the trumpet of cooperation than he committed to going around Congress with a plan to stop deportations and allow as many as 5 million illegal aliens to stay in the United States, at least temporarily. Given that he did nothing on immigration for the first six years of his tenure, except weaken border security, why is this so important now?

His position not only is a slap in the face of Congressional leaders, but also of the American people. Seventy-four percent of voters said in an exit poll by The Polling Company that President Obama should work with Congress rather than go around Congress on immigration.

The Polling Company results showed that "majorities of men (75 percent), women (74 percent), whites (79 percent), blacks (59 percent), and Hispanics (54 percent)," oppose an executive amnesty, and that opinion was shared by Republicans (92 percent) and Independents (80 percent), and even by a majority of Democrats (51 percent).

He is also on the wrong side of the Obamacare issue. The Real Clear Politics Average of polls conducted in October shows that nearly 52 percent of those polled are opposed to Obamacare, while only 38 percent favor it.

Nevertheless, "On healthcare, there are certainly some lines I'm going to draw," Mr. Obama said on Wednesday. "Repeal of the law I won't sign," and he will resist efforts to improve the bill, such as by getting rid of the individual mandate.

This election was certainly not a mandate for Congress and the president to work together to pass the same kinds of legislation that liberal Democrats favored before the election. The people want change.

The mission statement for the new Republican majority should be “First, do no harm.” That means no amnesty, and fix or repeal Obamacare, among other things.

The federal government is too big, too expensive, too intrusive; it is out of control and a danger to the freedom of the American people: Government must be reigned in. That is what the election meant.

Participants in a nationwide CBS News poll in late October were asked what was the most important issue that would affect their vote in the upcoming election. The stagnant economy topped the list at 38 percent.

To get the economy moving we have to cut tax rates across the board, both corporate and personal, which will put millions of dollars in the hands of people and businesses to spend as they see fit.

And then:

  • Cut government spending. There’s more than enough waste in administrative agencies to “pay for” tax cuts.
  • Repeal the tax on medical devices imposed by the Affordable Care Act that punishes companies developing needed technology.
  • Approve the XL Pipeline, and both create jobs and help end dependence on foreign oil.
  • Reign in the EPA, remove the shackles on domestic energy production. Defund it, if necessary.
  • Secure the borders and stop the influx of illegals, drug cartels and other criminals from Mexico, and potential terrorists. Deport or jail the criminals among the illegals.
  • Start restoring our military to its former strength, and try to reacquire those seasoned officers driven to retirement by the Obama administration.
  • Restore selection of US Senators to state legislatures, as it was originally designed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

One investigative reporter’s intriguing trials and tribulations

Sharyl Attkisson is an award winning television journalist who until recently worked for CBS News. She received two Emmy nominations in 2010 and another in 2011 for investigating members of Congress and the government’s wasting of tax dollars. Her reporting of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) “Operation Fast and Furious” debacle won CBS News the Investigative Reporting Award from Accuracy in Media in 2012, and also won CBS Evening News the Radio and Television News Directors Association's National Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Video Investigative Reporting.

You may remember “Operation Fast and Furious,” although it received much less coverage than it deserved. That was the name attached to the ill advised, poorly conceived, and error-ridden misadventure devised by ATF, an effort to shut down the flow of U.S. guns to Mexican drug cartels. The idea was to allow guns to be put in the hands of Mexican drug traffickers for the purpose of tracking them to cartel members and arresting them.

Not only did ATF botch tracking the weapons, but people who were armed with two of those “Gun Walking” weapons and were illegal aliens that the ATF had not arrested, killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry on the U.S. side of the Mexican border. While it is certainly possible to dream up a more preposterous plan than this one, “Fast and Furious” richly deserves the Dubious Achievement Award.

While working for CBS News in 2013, according to, Ms. Attkisson told a Philadelphia radio station that "[t]here has been an issue in my house and there has been an issue with my computers that's gone on for quite a long time that we're looking into.” The issues, she said, had been occurring for about two years. An investigation by CBS News confirmed that, indeed, an external third party had accessed her computer numerous times.

Further problems were outlined by Erik Wemple on “By November 2012, writes Attkisson, disruptions on her home phone line were so frequent as to render it unusable: ‘I call home from my mobile phone and it rings on my end, but not at the house. Or it rings at home once but when my husband or daughter answers, they just hear a dial tone. At the same time, on my end, it keeps ringing and then connects somewhere, just not at my house. Sometimes, when my call connects to that mystery-place-that’s-not-my-house, I hear an electronic sounding buzz,’ reads one passage in [her new book]. She also alleges that her television set ‘spontaneously jitters, mutes, and freeze-frames.’ The home alarm, too, ‘sounds at a different time every night’ and when she checks with the alarm system, it indicates that there’s ‘trouble with the phone line.’”

Who had the motive and the means to do such things?

Could it have been a competitor network? Perhaps. But would a competitor have strong enough motivation to take on such a project? How about a foreign entity, like China? China has the wherewithal, but would it be interested in the subjects Ms. Attkinsson was investigating? Probably not.

How about the CIA, FBI, NSA, DOJ or other government department? Well, given that she was looking into misbehavior of members of Congress and the “Fast and Furious” mess, yes, both motive and wherewithal exist in administrative agencies. However, the Justice Department denied any involvement, so we can just follow the lead of the mainstream news media and put that suspicion to rest, can’t we?

Ms. Attkinsson did yeoman’s work investigating and reporting on the “Fast and Furious” government screw-up, but CBS’ interest ran out before the story was over, as did the government’s interest in explaining to the American people how such a thing happened.

You would probably use more than all your fingers and toes counting the prominent media outlets that share a grand lack of curiosity for epic blunders, bungles, fiascoes and miscalculations by our government over the last few years, like the Benghazi security failure, the Solyndra financing boondoggle, the IRS targeting non-profit applicants, the NSA mass spying project, the failure to secure the southern border, and the Justice Department spying on reporters’ private communications.

Finally, however, after more than five years a few media outlets have started to notice and point out the administration’s many shortcomings, and to ask questions about these things.

Ms. Attkinsson left CBS News this year due to what she said is the network's liberal bias and lack of dedication to investigative reporting. She has written a book, Stonewalled: One Reporter's Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington, published by Harpers, and focusing on difficulties she has experienced in reporting on the Obama administration.

Sharyl Attkinsson epitomizes what the Fourth Estate is supposed to be: the people’s guardian against government misbehavior. A responsible and determined news media provides the public the information it needs to properly evaluate what its government and elected officials are doing, and as such is an indispensable tool for a free society. This function has been largely missing since January of 2009. Maybe if a Republican is elected president in 2016, the function will be revived.