Patriot Post Friday Digest 2013-09-13

THE FOUNDATION

“We lay it down as a fundamental, that laws, to be just, must give a reciprocation of right.” –Thomas Jefferson

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Hope ‘n’ Change: Playing by the Same Rules

A level playing field?

On Thursday, the House passed the “No Subsidies Without Verification Act,” 235-191, which would block ObamaCare insurance subsidy payouts until the Department of Health and Human Services implements a system to verify eligibility. Republicans aim to close a loophole that HHS created in July that allows people to apply for insurance subsidies without proving their income or whether their employer already provides federally approved health benefits.

HHS insists Republicans are overstating the opportunity for fraud and abuse because fear of future HHS and IRS audits will keep people honest. Yet this audit power hasn’t prevented people from, for example, playing fast and loose with the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Treasury Inspector General estimates that a quarter of those credits go to ineligible recipients, and equivalent fraud in ObamaCare would mean $250 billion in wrongful income redistribution over a decade. Predictably, the Democrat-controlled Senate won’t consider the House measure, though Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced it, and the White House issued a veto threat. Team Obama needs the bodies to make the program work, and they don’t want stricter rules blocking folks from getting their “fair share.”

In related news, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) submitted a bill to subject members of Congress to ObamaCare just like the rest of America. This summer, the Office of Personnel Management quietly issued a blanket exception that allowed Congress and congressional staffers to continue to receive their generous health benefits and be exempt from having to enroll in ObamaCare. The excuse was that if Swamp-dwellers had to contend with ObamaCare, they might leave government service and seek more lucrative employment in the private sector. Republicans, who could have used this outrageous exemption as a powerful weapon against ObamaCare, were mum until now. Given Democrats’ enthusiasm for the law, it seems only logical that they be forced to enjoy it like everyone else. As for the concern about Beltway brain drain, repealing the exemption is a perfect opportunity to trim the fat — and ensuring that DC elites get a good taste of their own medicine.

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NATIONAL SECURITY

Arming the Rebels in Syria

Syrian rebels

After months of delay, the CIA began delivering weapons to Syrian rebels over the last couple of weeks. The deliveries themselves mark an escalation of U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war, even without our own planes dropping bombs. Some may naïvely hope those arms are going to all the friendly good guys John McCain keeps telling us about, but the reality is that jihadis continue to make up a growing part of the opposition.

The Free Syrian Army is the largest rebel force, and McCain and John Kerry estimate that just 10-15% of its 100,000 fighters are al-Qaida affiliates. Senior U.S. military officials disagree, however, with one saying that Islamist groups now constitute “more than 50%” of the anti-Assad force, “and it’s growing by the day.”

Khaled Saleh of the Syrian Opposition Coalition says the support is welcome, “But if you compare what we are getting compared to the assistance Assad receives from Iran and Russia, we have a long battle ahead of us.” Indeed, even as Vladimir Putin mocked Barack Obama and the U.S. in his bit of New York Times sophistry, and as Putin offered the phony deal on Syrian chemical weapons, he continues to aid his client, Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, to add insult to injury for Barack Obama, Assad tacked on a new condition for turning over his chemical weapons stockpiles: “When we see the United States really wants stability in our region and stops threatening, striving to attack, and also ceases arms deliveries to terrorists, then we will believe that the necessary processes can be finalized,” he told Russian state television. On the other hand, Obama threatens to strike if Assad doesn’t turn over his weapons.

This sad saga just keeps getting worse for our feckless commander in chief.

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From the Department of Corrections

In Mark Alexander’s essay yesterday, Spinning the Syrian Spin Again, he mistakenly said that, “when a senator, Obama voted against attacking Saddam Hussein.” Obama was not elected to the U.S. Senate until 2006, and was still an Illinois state senator at the time of the Iraq resolution. He merely expressed his opposition from the safety of that position. Alexander regrets the error.

ECONOMY

Regulatory Commissars: Another Bout of EPA Rules

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The war on coal continues: The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing plans that would slap a carbon emissions rule on developing power plants. If this sounds familiar, that’s because, fearing a legal backlash, the EPA earlier this year nixed a similar plan. You didn’t expect that to stop them, did you?

Evidently going to bat for the Obama administration, The Washington Post began its report, “This month, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose standards that will establish stricter pollution limits for gas-fired power plants than coal-fired power plants (emphasis added).” Sounds like the EPA is making concessions to better accommodate the coal industry, right? Not exactly.

The Post continues: “The average U.S. natural gas plant emits 800 to 850 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt, and coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds. According to those familiar with the new EPA proposal, the agency will keep the carbon limit for large natural gas plants at 1,000 pounds but relax it slightly for smaller gas plants. The standard for coal plants will be as high as 1,300 or 1,400 pounds per megawatt hour … but that still means the utilities will have to capture some of the carbon dioxide they emit.”

In other words, the EPA is offering a higher ceiling for natural gas plants that on average already produce emissions under the EPA’s target of 1,000 pounds. For coal plants, however, the ceiling is significantly lower — meaning the (intended) pressure is on the coal industry.

“As a practical matter, this means that the new proposal will still stop any new coal-fired power plants for the foreseeable future,” observes former EPA employee Jeffrey R. Holmstead. “Given the cost of carbon capture and all the other problems associated with it, any rule that requires [it] will effectively prohibit the construction of new coal-fired plants.” But that is Obama’s goal, isn’t it? Forever destroy the coal industry, the effect on America’s economy be damned.

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CULTURE

Village Academic Curriculum: Racing to the Top of the Money Pile

Is our children learning?

In 2009, Barack Obama pushed a new educational initiative called Race to the Top as part of his stimulus program. Its goal was to improve educational outcomes for public school students by using federal money to entice states to meet certain standards. Three years later, a study by a group called Broader, Bolder Approach to Education — an offshoot of the union-backed Economic Policy Institute — conceded that the Race to the Top program has “fundamental flaws.” “Even in the best of circumstances,” the report notes, “Race to the Top could not achieve what it sets out to do.” And while that sounds like damning criticism from an Obama ally, it’s only because their report argues that the federal government doesn’t go far enough.

The study defines four “mismatches” between the goals of Race to the Top and hard reality, with the key one being the gap between what states promised for federal money and what can be delivered for the meager share of state educational dollars the Race to the Top grants provided. In all but one of the cases cited, the grant was less than 2% of the state’s total educational budget. Very little can be accomplished with that proverbial drop in the bucket.

Given the study’s source, it’s no surprise that the solutions advocated reach far beyond the classroom, as they cite reams of statistics supposedly showing the relationship between various aspects of socioeconomic status and student achievement. “[U]nless an accompanying set of student, family, and school supports is rolled out with the Common Core,” they sniffle, “a policy agenda that again addresses only a minority of the drivers of race- and income-based achievement gaps will further widen those gaps.”

But is there any reason to believe states won’t continue saying they’ll do anything in order to keep the spigot of federal dollars flowing? It seems to us that those 30 pieces of silver aren’t really worth the strings that are always attached to a check from Uncle Sam.

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BRIEF OPINION

Essential Liberty

Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh: “It is because of this liberty and freedom that our country exists, because the Founders recognized it comes from God. It’s part of the natural yearning of the human spirit. It is not granted by a government. It’s not granted by Putin. It’s not granted by Obama or any other human being. We are created with the natural yearning to be free, and it is other men and leaders throughout human history who have suppressed that and imprisoned people for seeking it. The U.S. is the first time in the history of the world where a government was organized with a Constitution laying out the rules, that the individual was supreme and dominant, and that is what led to the U.S. becoming the greatest country ever because it unleashed people to be the best they could be. Nothing like it had ever happened. That’s American exceptionalism. Putin doesn’t know what it is, Obama doesn’t know what it is, and it just got trashed in the New York Times. It’s just unacceptable.”

Re: The Left

Columnist Jonah Goldberg: “Social liberalism is the foremost, predominant, and in many instances sole impulse for zealous regulation in this country, particularly in big cities. … Seriously, who else do people think are behind efforts to ban big sodas or sue hairdressers for charging women more than men? Who harasses little kids for making toy guns out of sticks, Pop Tarts, or their own fingers? Who wants to regulate the air you breathe, the food you eat, and the beverages you drink? Who wants to control your thermostat? Take your guns? … Who’s in favor of speech codes on campuses and ‘hate crime’ laws everywhere? Who’s in favor of free speech when it comes to taxpayer-subsidized ‘art’ and pornography (so long as you use a condom, if liberals get their way) but then bang their spoons on their high chairs for strict regulations when it comes to political speech? … At the national level, who bypassed Congress to empower the EPA to regulate the atmosphere? Oh, and who pushed Obamacare on a country that didn’t want it?”

Faith and Family

FRC’s Tony Perkins: “As a former quarterback, Craig James isn’t used to being on the defensive. … The retired Pro-Bowler became the latest face of the war on religious liberty, when — after one day on the job — Fox Sports gave James the boot for his conservative views on marriage. And here’s the kicker: he made the comments, not at the sports desk, but during last year’s Senate campaign! … High level executives felt he hadn’t been properly vetted (or, properly excluded, depending on how you look at it). When the news broke, a Fox Sports spokesman tried to explain away the network’s religious profiling. ‘We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.’ First off, Craig didn’t say them there — or anywhere in his commentating capacity. He stated his position as a candidate for public office — in response to legitimate constituent questions. … Is the grip of religious hostility so tight that Americans can’t even have an open debate for fear it’ll cost them their jobs?”

For more, visit The Right Opinion.

CHRONICLE QUOTES

Upright

Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto: “Because America is so much mightier than Russia, the American presidency is a much stronger position than the Russian presidency. But a strong man in a position of weakness, if he is ruthless about taking advantage of his adversary’s vulnerabilities, can get the better of weak man in a position of strength. Saul Alinsky understood that, and so does Vladimir Putin.”

Insight

President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Nothing just happens in politics. If something happens you can be sure it was planned that way.”

Demo-gogues

Sen. John McCain: “[Republicans are] not going to impeach the president. They’re not that crazy. … If [Obama] launched an attack on Syria without the endorsement of Congress, it would be vastly more complicated if Congress had already acted. If he acted without the agreement of Congress, you could make the argument before the resolution was passed … that he is acting as other presidents have.”

Dezinformatsia

Washington Post’s Ezra Klein: “I can’t believe the White House’s strategy on Syria is working out this well. I doubt they can, either. … Kind of amazed I’m saying this, but the White House may really be about to win on Syria.”

From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File

CNN’s Piers Morgan: “I’d like to suggest a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines the right NOT to be shot/killed by a gun.”

This Week’s ‘Braying Jackass’ Award

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “[T]he anarchists have taken over. … We’re in a position here where people who don’t believe in government — and that’s what the Tea Party is all about — are winning, and that’s a shame.”

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Village Idiots

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “[B]ased on past experience, there was not a lot of optimism about resolving this [Syrian conflict] diplomatically with Russia’s help, given the role Russia had played in the past.”

Short Cuts

Comedian Jay Leno: “You know the polls show many Americans are ill-informed about Syria. In fact, 9 out of 10 people surveyed thought Syria is the female voice in their iPhone.”

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team

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