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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cruising the Web

So this is the kind of logic we get when courts start trying to massage the Constitution in order to uphold a law like Obamacare. First we had John Roberts saying that, despite what legislators and the President said at the time, the individual mandate was a tax. Now, a panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that it isn't really a tax. The problem is that pesky Constitution that requires that tax laws originate in the House, but Obamacare grew out of the Senate bill. So now the appellate court has ruled that, despite what John Roberts said, the law doesn't raise taxes to create revenue, but just to increase those people who have health insurance. Take that, John Roberts!

Bret Stephens writes that there is something about Palestinians that just seems to make this administration dumb.
Of all the inane things that have been said about the war between Israel and Hamas, surely one dishonorable mention belongs to comments made over the weekend by Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Interviewed by CNN's Candy Crowley, Mr. Rhodes offered the now-standard administration line that Israel has a right to defend itself but needs to do more to avoid civilian casualties. Ms. Crowley interjected that, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jewish state was already doing everything it could to avoid such casualties.

"I think you can always do more," Mr. Rhodes replied. "The U.S. military does that in Afghanistan."

How inapt is this comparison? The list of Afghan civilians accidentally killed by U.S. or NATO strikes is not short. Little of the fighting in Afghanistan took place in the dense urban environments that make the current warfare in Gaza so difficult. The last time the U.S. fought a Gaza-style battle—in Fallujah in 2004—some 800 civilians perished and at least 9,000 homes were destroyed. This is not an indictment of U.S. conduct in Fallujah but an acknowledgment of the grim reality of city combat.

Oh, and by the way, American towns and cities were not being rocketed from above or tunneled under from below as the Fallujah campaign was under way.

Maybe Mr. Rhodes knows all this and was merely caught out mouthing the sorts of platitudes that are considered diplomatically de rigueur when it comes to the Palestinians. Or maybe he was just another victim of what I call the Palestine Effect: The abrupt and often total collapse of logical reasoning, skeptical intelligence and ordinary moral judgment whenever the subject of Palestinian suffering arises.
The media are especially susceptible to this induced stupidity. They'll accept without reservation the Hamas's own estimates of casualty figures and their placing the blame for those deaths solely on Israel.
The real utility of the body count is that it offers reporters and commentators who cite it the chance to ascribe implicit blame to Israel while evading questions about ultimate responsibility for the killing. Questions such as: Why is Hamas hiding rockets in U.N.-run schools, as acknowledged by the U.N. itself? What does it mean that Hamas has turned Gaza's central hospital into "a de facto headquarters," as reported by the Washington Post? And why does Hamas keep rejecting, or violating, cease-fires agreed to by Israel?

A reasonable person might conclude from this that Hamas, which started the war, wants it to continue, and that it relies on Israel's moral scruples not to destroy civilian sites that it cynically uses for military purposes. But then there is the Palestine Effect. By this reasoning, Hamas only initiated the fighting because Israel refused to countenance the creation of a Palestinian coalition that included Hamas, and because Israel further objected to helping pay the salaries of Hamas's civil servants in Gaza.

Let's get this one straight. Israel is culpable because (a) it won't accept a Palestinian government that includes a terrorist organization sworn to the Jewish state's destruction; (b) it won't help that organization out of its financial jam; and (c) it won't ease a quasi-blockade—jointly imposed with Egypt—on a territory whose central economic activity appears to be building rocket factories and pouring imported concrete into terrorist tunnels.

This is either bald moral idiocy or thinly veiled bigotry. It mistakes effect for cause, treats self-respect as arrogance and self-defense as aggression, and makes demands of the Jewish state that would be dismissed out of hand anywhere else. To argue the Palestinian side, in this war, is to make the case for barbarism. It is to erase, in the name of humanitarianism, the moral distinctions from which the concept of humanity arises.
John Podhoretz mocks John Kerry for getting his feelings hurt when the Israelis say tough things about him. He'll make sure that his spokeswoman chastises the Israelis publicly and he'll call Netanyahu to whine about it. I bet young John was the type of kid who'd go running to the teacher anytime anyone on the playground said something mean to him. He's just that kind of guy.

Ben Domenech explains the skewed sort of accounting that the CBO is using to assess Obamacare spending.
So here’s where we are now: the Congressional Budget Office is making sweeping assumptions about the future costs of Obamacare and Medicare, assumptions which are at odds with the projections of the administration’s own Chief Actuary at Medicare and which have no explained basis. The CBO doesn’t show its work, but you should probably just trust them: what’s a difference of about six trillion dollars between friends?

Could Republicans be about to take over Illinois state governance? After all, how long could that state continue with the corrupt and inept rule of the Democrats that has just run that state into the ground? I won't hold my breath, but there is a good chance that the GOP will, at least capture the governorship and redress some of the imbalance in the state legislature.

Josh Kraushaar explains how difficult it is for red-state Democrats to be authentic as they try to pretend to their constituents that they're much more conservative than they really are. So we see Democratic candidates in red states this year trumpeting their disagreements with President Obama and ducking out of the state when he comes in to fundraise for the money that will be used to help them get reelected. And they try to convince voters that they aren't rubber stamps for Obama or Harry Reid even though they've voted for them straight down the line. Or we see ads like West Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Natalie Tennant running an ad that shows her shutting off the lights at the White House in protest of Obama's policies that hurt the state's coal industry in a move reminiscent of how Joe Manchin won election from the state with an ad showing him literally shooting at the cap and trade bill. The two ads are very similar. but the Republicans have an easy reply. Why vote for a faux conservative who would support Harry Reid's leadership when they can vote for a real conservative whose election might knock the Democrats out of the leadership and thus make it a whole lot easier to block the policies these Democrats say they oppose?

Peter Suderman explains why it is clear that the drafters of Obamacare always thought that federal subsidies would go only to those states that created exchanges as is the basis of the Halbig case. They just didn't think any state wouldn't create such health exchanges.
The same assumption of universal state buy-in also applied with Obamacare's exchanges. When the health law was being crafted, legislators and policy analysts assumed that every state would set up its own exchange. The Joint Committee on Taxation, which scored the law’s health insurance tax credits, did not examine eligibility in federally run exchanges.

The federal exchange system was such an afterthought that the law provided no funding whatsoever to create it. Federal health authorities had to scramble to rewire funding in order to get it built. In contrast, Obamacare provided nearly unlimited funds for states to set up their own exchanges. The thinking was that no state would turn the government down.

The total lack of funding for the federal exchange strongly suggests that Congress didn't intend any subsidies to flow through the federal exchanges, because Congress didn’t really intend for them to exist.

Democrats are getting more and more worried about signs that they're facing a severe drop in Democratic turnout this year. So they'll have to just gin up more accusations of racism and sexism and throw in a few more wild claims about impeachment to scare up some more voters.

Sheila Jackson-Lee is always good for a laugh. She's claiming today that Democrats never sought impeachment of President George W. Bush because he had executive authority to take the actions they didn't like. She's somehow ignoring that she co-sponsored a bill in 2008 to impeach Bush.

As Ed Morrissey shows, bureaucrats are going to fight kicking and screaming any efforts to allow any of their brethren to be fired over the VA scandal. Just like the teachers unions that will go to the mattresses to fight any effort to fire tenured teachers, even those involved in sexual harassment of students, the group set up to rem]present "senior executives" don't want any senior executives in the VA to lose their jobs over the mess that they oversaw.

Well, this surprises no one: the Philadelphia 76ers object to proposed changes to the NBA lottery to discouraging teams tanking. But that's the whole 76ers game plan.

Try it out - is it a real Salon article or a parody? It's tough to tell.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cruising the Web

As the WSJ points out, not only does the IRS have a partisan streak, it also has a foreign policy. We see this in the case of Z Street, a non-profit that seeks to inform people about issues relating to Israel. So, for their own reasons, the IRS delayed its application for tax exempt status because they were "giving special scrutiny to groups whose missions might conflict with Administration policies." Sound a bit shifty to you? Of course. And so Z Street sued for viewpoint discrimination and the House Ways and Means Committee has obtained emails to demonstrate how the IRS was regarding a pro-Israel group with suspicion.
The "current cases" would have been applications like Z Street's in which Israel-related activity was apparently being scrutinized for its ideological and policy content. The government says Z Street got special scrutiny because it was focused in a region with a higher risk of terrorism, which is hard to believe and in any case doesn't explain all of the IRS's behavior.

It doesn't cover, for instance, why one questionnaire we've seen from the IRS to another Jewish group applying for tax-exempt status asked, "Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?" and "Describe your organization's religious belief system toward the land of Israel." No matter the answers, they should not affect the processing of an application for 501(c) status. The State-IRS emails reveal a political motivation for IRS scrutiny that gives Z Street powerful evidence for its suit charging IRS bias.

On Monday the IRS filed an appeal of the judge's decision denying its motion to dismiss Z Street's case. The government says the action stops all discovery while the appeal is pending, a process that could take months or even years. By filing the appeal on the last possible day, the Justice Department is running out the clock on discovery during the remainder of the Administration.

This is a whole lot of effort to prevent discovery in a case that is not even seeking damages. Ways and Means uncovered the email exchange between State and the IRS only after Treasury was forced to turn over documents it had previously withheld. What else did it lose in the ether?
Gee, I wonder how the hard drives are doing for this people involved in this case. But, seriously, doesn't it make even Democrats uncomfortable to have the IRS ask questions on an "organization's religious belief system" whether it's toward Israel or anything else? And now the Obama administration is trying its darnedest to avoid having to turn over documents involved in this case. Everything they do is so fishy that it stinks right through my computer.

Of course, the IRS having a foreign policy that is antagonistic towards Israel isn't all that surprising. Our Secretary of State seems to have the same problem. He's even willing, as David Ignatius writes, to " undercut not simply the Israelis but also the Egyptians and the Fatah movement that runs the Palestinian Authority, all of which want to see an end to Hamas rule in Gaza." Kerry is in such a rush to get a cease-fire that he doesn't seem to care how he does it even if he engages in futile appeasing of Hamas. Perhaps Kerry isn't anti-Israel as much as he is desperate to achieve a cease-fire. But the effect is the same.

And now the administration is ticked off that Israel had the nerve to criticize Kerry. In case the administration doesn't understand how Kerry angered the Israelis, Jonathan Tobin explains:
Kerry’s disastrous intervention in the current fighting demonstrated the utter and complete incoherence of the position that he has carved out for the United States. On the one hand, Kerry has prioritized the effort to create a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But by seeking to save Hamas by granting it concessions in the form of open borders rather than forcing the demilitarization that he belatedly endorsed, Kerry is making such a peace deal impossible.

The depth of the contradictions here are hard to comprehend. On the one hand, following President Obama’s lead, Kerry has praised Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas endlessly as a true partner for peace even though the PA chief has repeatedly turned down chances to negotiate seriously. But by seeking to place constraints on Israeli military actions directed at degrading Hamas’s capability to launch terror attacks, Kerry is actually undermining Abbas. His cease-fire proposal wasn’t so much an insult to Israel as it was to the PA. Though publicly condemning Israeli actions, it’s no secret that Abbas is hoping that the Jewish state will remove his on-again-off-again rival/partner in the Palestinian government from the scene. By endorsing the proposal for a cease-fire that came from Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey, Kerry stabbed Abbas in the back.

But the incompetence didn’t begin with one ill-considered piece of diplomatic ineptitude. It must be understood that nothing that is going on today—including the grievous casualty toll inside Gaza—would have happened had not Kerry single-handedly forced both Abbas and the Israelis into a negotiation that both knew would only lead to disaster. Throughout the nine months during which the secretary orchestrated a new round of peace talks between Israel and the PA, the administration was warned that the problem wasn’t just that the effort couldn’t succeed so long as the Palestinians were divided between Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas. It was that once the failure occurred, it would provide a justification for a new round of violence in the same manner that past such efforts had done. Kerry not only ignored those warnings but raised the stakes by personally speaking about a third intifada happening if the two sides didn’t do as he bid. Those who pointed out that this was a self-fulfilling prophecy were denounced as insufficiently supportive of peace. But the reality is that Kerry not only set the stage for this new outbreak, he more or less gave Hamas a green light to go ahead and start shooting.

The only common threads in Kerry’s diplomatic endeavors have been his enormous self-regard and a clear animus for the Netanyahu government. Either of these foibles would be forgivable if Kerry were focused on actions that would advance a two-state solution. But by pushing for a settlement when Abbas was unable to comply and then disingenuously blaming his failure on Israel, Kerry hurt the PA and set back any chance for peace. Once Hamas escalated the current fighting, he again took his eye off the ball and focused entirely on pushing for a cease-fire that would enhance the Islamists’ prestige and marginalize the Palestinians that he had championed.

A NYT writer is also falling prey to the copying from Wikipedia bug. I can use this example with my students to show them that just changing a couple of words doesn't mean they're not plagiarizing.

And now women are not supposed to laugh in public in Turkey.

How many ways can the IRS pervert the First Amendment? Bryan Preston reports on how the IRS has formed a deal with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group, to listen in on churches to make sure that they're not politicking.
Democrats routinely campaign from the very pulpit of majority black churches. It happens every single election cycle. Pastors in those churches regularly push parishioners to support the Democratic Party, to support specific government social policy, and even specific candidates for office.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has not sued to get the IRS to investigate any of that. Its targets are churches that align with the more conservative Pulpit Freedom Sunday movement. That tells us what the foundation and the IRS will really be investigating.

The IRS will be monitoring churches to listen for pastors supporting the right to life, the sanctity and traditional definition of marriage, traditional values in general, perhaps even patriotism. Those are the churches, based on the angle that the foundation lawsuit takes, that will potentially find themselves under IRS investigation.

There is no way to know for sure which churches and denominations will come under investigation, though, because the IRS-FFRF deal is being kept secret, according to LifeNews. The Alliance Defending Freedom is using a Freedom of Information request against the IRS to force it to disclose the details of its plans for investigating churches.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is October 5 this year. Congress’ investigations of the IRS abuse scandal has the FFRF’s anti-church campaign on hold for now.

It’s a given that the militant atheist group will plant its operatives in participating churches to gather evidence it will use if and when the current investigations of the IRS are finished.
There is something quite invidious to have the IRS forming an alliance to send in people to report on what pastors say from the pulpit. If ever there was an excessive entanglement of government in religion, this would qualify. Apparently, the IRS isn't familiar with basic constitutional history of the Establishment Clause.

Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury, has an intelligent column refuting the idea that the presidency has become more difficult. First off, he reminds us that, compared to many nation's political leader, our chief executive office is designed to be relatively weak. He also refutes the idea that America in an increasingly divided country. People are still polarized; it is just that the lines of polarization are now along party lines when that has usually not been the case.
The more empirically valid charge is that modern presidents must deal with a very polarized Congress – the most partisan polarized Congress since the 19th century. Both Cillizza and Brownstein argue that it is very difficult for presidents to get legislation passed through a Congress that is so deeply polarized along partisan lines. But the link between partisan polarization and legislative productivity is more complex than this simple narrative would have one believe. Nelson Polsby, in his classic work "How Congress Evolves," describes how a cross-partisan conservative coalition of southern Democrats and Republicans stymied the passage of liberal legislation from 1937 until the mid-1960s. More generally, building on Polsby’s observation, studies show that too little polarization in Congress is as counterproductive to legislative productivity as is too much. This is because under conditions of limited partisan polarization, we often see great divisions within parties (see Polsby’s description of the Democrats during the era of the conservative coalition), and little difference across them – exactly the conditions that James MacGregor Burns complained about in his classic study of American political gridlock in the early 1960s. Evidence shows that legislative productivity under these conditions of weak polarization is as limited as under the deep polarization in Congress presidents confront today.
And finally, he refutes the notion that the world is more difficult today than it has been for previous presidents. Really? The Civil War? Great Depression and WWII? The Cold War? Vietnam? Things are tough in the world, but then that has been the case more often than not for the past century or more. Let's remember that we're commemorating the anniversary of The Great War this week and stop being so myopic about our own era's difficulties.

If you go over to read Dickinson's essay, you can try your skills at this quiz on the presidency. I thought I was pretty good on presidential trivia, but there were some new ones for me. Every week, I ask my kids a trivia question of the week and they can win extra credit by finding out the answers. Here are my questions from last year. See what you know.

You know - it's just not a great idea for school districts to spend their money on buying every student a laptop. Hoboken has found that out.
By the time Jerry Crocamo, a computer network engineer, arrived in Hoboken’s school system in 2011, every seventh, eighth and ninth grader had a laptop. Each year, a new crop of seventh graders were outfitted. Crocamo’s small tech staff was quickly overwhelmed with repairs.

We had “half a dozen kids in a day, on a regular basis, bringing laptops down, going ‘my books fell on top of it, somebody sat on it, I dropped it,’ ” said Crocamo.

Screens cracked. Batteries died. Keys popped off. Viruses attacked. Crocamo found that teenagers with laptops are still… teenagers.

“We bought laptops that had reinforced hard-shell cases so that we could try to offset some of the damage these kids were going to do,” said Crocamo. “I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed.”

Crocamo’s time was also eaten up with theft. Despite the anti-theft tracking software he installed, some laptops were never found. Crocamo had to file police reports and even testify in court.

Hoboken school officials were also worried they couldn’t control which websites students would visit. Crocamo installed software to block pornography, gaming sites and Facebook. He disabled the built-in web cameras. He even installed software to block students from undoing these controls. But Crocamo says students found forums on the Internet that showed them how to access everything.

“There is no more determined hacker, so to speak, than a 12-year-old who has a computer,” said Crocamo.

All this security software also bogged down the computers. Teachers complained it took 20 minutes for them to boot up, only to crash afterwards. Often, there was too little memory left on the small netbooks to run the educational software.
After several years of all sorts of problems, they're locking away all those laptops. But hey, there went some federal stimulus dollars. It must have been worth it right? I'm sure it led to some jobs in Hoboken for people to repair all those broken computers even if it didn't do anything for the kids' learning.

Check out the Devil's Dictionary of Dating.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cruising the Web

Eliana Johnson got a leak of a Michelle Nunn campaign strategic memo. Nunn is the Democratic candidate for Senate in Georgia and probably the best hope that the Democrats have of a pick-up this Fall. There is nothing really new or even surprising in the memo. It just confirms how the Democrats regard their various constituent groups. They look to gays, Asians, and Jews as fundraising sources. So there is a warning to Nunn that she doesn't yet have a position on Israel yet her position will "largely determine the level of support here." As of the memo, her position on Israel was labeled "TBD." So if she wants the Jews to fundraise for her, she better figure out the correct position to take. And, as for African Americans and Hispanics, the campaign needs to get them to the polls and so they should focus on the black clergy. This get-out-the-vote effort will be especially important since she can't depend on getting the support of white voters. In fact, all they're aiming for is 30% support from the white community.

Nunn's main claim to fame, besides being Sam Nunn's daughter, is that she has been the CEO of the Points of Light Foundation handing out charity to various nonprofits. However, even that could be a problem since, under her leadership, they've given money to an organization with links to Hamas.

And, as must be typical with all Democratic candidates, the campaign isn't worried about the media. They know that the media are in their back pocket.
Her strategists are optimistic that the media won’t prove much of an obstacle. They write that at some point her opponent, who at the time the document was written had yet to be determined, will be “shoveling research” against her. But they say they anticipate they will often have “fair warning” about negative news stories and can work to “kill or muddy” them.
Yup, just about what one might expect from a Democratic strategy memo. I wonder how the media feel about being taken for granted like that. And I'm sure that fundraising targets in the gay, Asian, and Jewish community are totally used to being regarded as piggy banks for Democratic candidates. Situation normal.

Ed Morrissey links to this story about the difficulties people might have with the supposedly automatic renewal of Obamacare.

Isn't it nice of Valerie Jarrett to personally guarantee health insurance companies that the federal government would bail them out through risk corridor payments so that they won't have to hike up premiums which might annoy consumers? And who cares that that wasn't what the risk corridors were designed to do or that Obama didn't have authority to use the money that way?
The risk corridor program was intended to pool payments from insurers and redistribute the funding to the companies that attracted the sickest and most costly influx of patients — leaving the companies that signed up the more profitable customers with the bill.

Jarrett initially protested that the administration had already promised insurers 80 percent of what they wanted in the first place, but eventually conceded that HHS’s “policy team is aggressively pursuing options.”

The next month, the Obama administration issued rules that would permit taxpayer funding to be doled out to insurers through the risk corridor program, which was originally supposed to be budget neutral.

The Obama administration’s assurances have gone far with insurance companies. Out of 15 companies surveyed by the committee, 12 expect to receive payouts from the risk corridor program. Just one expects to pay into the fund — the other two expect no net change.

Just including the 15 companies the Oversight Committee interviewed, taxpayers could be on the hook for $725 million in 2014. The report concluded that the changes to the program could cost taxpayers $1 billion by the end of the year.

Insurance companies have the Obama administration in a tight spot over the program. Without guarantees of a taxpayer bailout, insurers like Burrell were left with drastic premium hikes as their only remaining way of making up their losses.
A few hundred million dollars here and a few million dollars there. All being promised by this president without any funding authority from Congress.

This is how oblivious Nancy Pelosi is to reality in the Middle East. Even though everyone who knows anything about the current conflict in Gaza knows that Qatar is funding Hamas, Pelosi looks to Qatar for information on the true nature of Hamas.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says the United States must look to Qatar, an ally of the terrorist group Hamas, for advice in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"And we have to confer with the Qataris, who have told me over and over again that Hamas is a humanitarian organization," she told CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley.
Yeah, that's a good source of analysis. And then she argues that Obama has exercised strong leadership concerning Putin and Russia. Neither "strong" nor "leadership" are two words to be used in the same sentence concerning Obama and his policies towards Russia and Putin. Heck. Even the New York Times is exposing Obama's weak reactions to the shooting down of MH17.

But what really annoys Nancy Pelosi is that she wasn't given time in her CNN interview to bash Republicans. That is what truly concerns her.

I'm sure it's hard to limit this list to 18, but here it goes for "The Most Cringe-Worthy Phrases Ever Spoken By a Politician.

Susan Page writes in USA Today that Obama has become a lame duck before his time and give him some advice about how to recover his mojo in the final two years of his presidency. One of her pieces of advice is to look to foreign affairs. Yeah, that doesn't seem to be fertile ground for Obama.

So, in the NC Senate race, who's the real facilitator of crony capitalism?

And this is why Obama has to go to so many fundraisers.

If you've ever played the board game of Diplomacy, you'll enjoy this retrospective on the game.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cruising the Web

Charles C. W. Cooke summarizes the increasing embarrassment
that the Obama administration is facing in trying to argue that the wording in the Affordable Care Act that limited federal subsidies only to states that established their own exchanges was just a typo. Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist regarded by many as the architect of Obamacare has been making that argument since the Halbig decision. But now video and audio have surfaced from 2012 with Gruber giving speeches telling people that states are going to want to establish their own exchanges because they won't get subsidies.
The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it.
That's just what the lawyers for Halbig have been arguing - that the law was deliberately written to deny subsidies to states without exchanges as a stick to force states to establish those exchanges. It was no typo or grammar mistake; it was deliberate. Gruber tried to defend himself by saying it was a "speak-o" and that he misspoke back in 2012. But apparently, Gruber made that "speak-o" at least twice. He is not a stupid man. This was clearly part of the arguments in favor of Obamacare that he was making in his speeches back then.

I have a suggestion for those people with more time to research this or some journalist who wanted a scoop, but I would recommend people look back to 2012 when governors were making decisions whether or not to set up their own health exchange or to rely on the federal exchanges. There was a period that I remember when one or two governors announced they weren't going to have their own exchanges and then it was like a row of dominos as more and more states made that decision. I suspect that, at some point when these decisions were being made, that people from HHS would have talked to those governors or legislators and reminded them that their citizens weren't going to get those subsidies. This was obviously the plan, as Gruber was speaking about in his speeches. Call those governors and ask them if they received any such communication from HHS or if any Democrats in their state or elsewhere made that point. Maybe no one mentioned that, but it seems to make sense that, if the denial of subsidies was planned as a stick to move the states in one direction, someone would have wielded that stick at some point.

Charles C. W. Cooke explains why all this really matters. It's much bigger than deciding the fate of Obamacare.
Those of us who have been critical of Obamacare’s endless textual invitations to leave the details of national policy up “the secretary” have often referred to the law as an “enabling act” — as a perilous general warrant that transfers the prerogatives of Congress to the executive branch and substitutes for the codified work of citizen-approved legislators the transient whims of a haughty mandarin class. Little did we know just how appropriate our critique would become. There being nothing in America’s constitutional settlement that permits a president to recast the rules if they prove electorally inconvenient for him, the Obama administration’s repeated rewriting of the law has been vexing enough in isolation. Far worse, however, is that in the eyes of the expansionist Left, Obamacare seems not to represent a limited series of binding and meaningful words on a page — there to be implemented within the usual bounds of discretion — but a holistic permission slip for its aims. Increasingly, its defenders’ arguments are boiling down to “but this is a good idea,” an approach that renders Obamacare little more than a shell into which good intentions can be poured without limit and that cannot legitimately be resisted — not by Congress, not by the states, and not even by the courts. “Sure,” the attitude dictates, “it doesn’t say we can do that explicitly. But all right-thinking people believe we should.” “Yes,” say the foot soldiers, “this was fought over tooth and nail and passed in extreme circumstances. But the intent of the good guys should prevail nonetheless.” Meanwhile, anyone who pushes back is met with the same mawkish, manipulative cry: “Are you really going to take away from people what we have now given them?”

The answer to this question should be a resounding “yes.” Yes, if you had no authority to give out favors in the first instance. Yes, if you insist upon behaving with no regard for memory or for history. Yes, if you are determined to hijack the system and ride roughshod over the consent of the governed. “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,” Aldous Huxley once wrote. The rule of law, neither. Reality is not optional, and power is not its arbiter — whatever our celebrated experts might find it convenient to forget.
Kimberley Strassel reports on how the IRS rule came about saying that all the states would get federal subsidies despite what the actual text of the law said. Originally, the IRS had decided otherwise because they, you know, read the law. But then the political appointees in the administration put pressure on the IRS and lo and behold, they changed their minds.
We know this thanks to a largely overlooked joint investigation and February report by the House Oversight and Ways and Means committees into the history of the IRS subsidy rule. We know that in the late summer of 2010, after ObamaCare was signed into law, the IRS assembled a working group—made up of career IRS and Treasury employees—to develop regulations around ObamaCare subsidies. And we know that this working group initially decided to follow the text of the law. An early draft of its rule about subsidies explained that they were for "Exchanges established by the State."

Yet in March 2011, Emily McMahon, the acting assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department (a political hire), saw a news article that noted a growing legal focus on the meaning of that text. She forwarded it to the working group, which in turn decided to elevate the issue—according to Congress's report—to "senior IRS and Treasury officials." The office of the IRS chief counsel—one of two positions appointed by the president—drafted a memo telling the group that it should read the text to mean that everyone, in every exchange, got subsidies. At some point between March 10 and March 15, 2011, the reference to "Exchanges established by the State" disappeared from the draft rule.

Emails viewed by congressional investigators nonetheless showed that Treasury and the IRS remained worried they were breaking the law. An email exchange between Treasury employees in the spring of 2011 expressed concern that they had no statutory authority to deem a federally run exchange the equivalent of a state-run exchange.

Yet rather than engage in a basic legal analysis—a core duty of an agency charged with tax laws—the IRS instead set about obtaining cover for its predetermined political goal. A March 27, 2011, email has IRS employees asking HHS political hires to cover the tax agency's backside by issuing its own rule deeming HHS-run exchanges to be state-run exchanges. HHS did so in July 2011. One month later the IRS rushed out its own rule—providing subsidies for all.

That proposed rule was criticized by dozens of scholars and congressional members, all telling the IRS it had a big legal problem. Yet again, the IRS did no legal analysis. It instead brought in a former aide to Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, whose job appeared to be to gin up an after-the-fact defense of the IRS's actions. The agency formalized its rule in May 2012.

To summarize: The IRS (famed for nitpicking and prosecuting the tax law), chose to authorize hundreds of billions of illegal subsidies without having performed a smidgen of legal due diligence, and did so at the direction of political taskmasters. The agency's actions provided aid and comfort to elected Democrats, even as it disenfranchised millions of Americans who voted in their states to reject state-run exchanges. And Treasury knows how ugly this looks, which is why it initially stonewalled Congress in its investigation—at first refusing to give documents to investigators, and redacting large portions of the information.

Administration officials will continue to use the IRS to try to improve its political fortunes. The subsidy shenanigans are merely one example. Add Democrats' hijacking of the agency to target and silence political opponents. What you begin to see are the makings of a Washington agency—a body with the power to harass, to collect, to fine, to imprison—working on behalf of one political party. Richard Nixon, eat your heart out.
It used to alarm people when they saw a president politicizing the IRS. Now it's SOP for the Democrats.

George Will writes about why the GOP might have a winning Senate candidate in Oregon.

Turnabout is fair play. After two presidential cycles when the Democrats hung antipathy to George W. Bush around the GOP candidates, now Hillary will find herself portrayed as running for the third term of Barack Obama. She is going to have to defend his policies, particularly in foreign policy. She already is getting those questions and having to defend him. She might try to sell herself as the third term of Bill Clinton's presidency, but she won't be able to escape Obama's record. That must really burn her.

Hillary Clinton keeps up her argument that Americans need to do a better job of selling ourselves to the rest of the world. And then she goes to say that George W. Bush's efforts fighting HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa make her proud to be an American. The implication she leaves is that that is no longer true for Americans today. Hmmm. And who was the Secretary of State whose main accomplishment was traveling to more countries than any previous Secretary of State? Why weren't her four years in office that just ended a year and a half ago more successful in selling the image of the United States?

Now who would expect this? People are getting angry when they find out that they're paying more and getting less for their health insurance due to Obamacare.

Chelsea Clinton has tried to have it both ways - refusing to talk to the media sometimes and then trying to get all sorts of publicity and a job in the media other times. And for someone with two advanced degrees in fields in which she never had a job, she seemed to luck her way into jobs with six-figure salaries and for which she had no experience whatsoever. It sounds like the perfect preparation for her to run for high political office.

A plagiarism scandal now hits BuzzFeed. When will people learn how easy plagiarism is to catch these days?

Jazz Shaw points out how the income of Michigan workers has actually risen despite (or because) its becoming a right-to-work state.

This is depressing. Literally. The typical household is now worth a third less than it was a decade ago.

If your movie ticket gets more expensive, blame the ADA and the DOJ. Or just stay home and wait for the movie to come to Netflix.

Dave Barry gives his take on Fifty Shades of Grey. Very funny.