Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cruising the Web

Guy Benson analyzes Paul Ryan's demands if he's going to be chosen as Speaker. They all seem reasonable demands from his point of view if he's going to take a job he doesn't want and didn't seek. Some people are going crazy in their opposition to Paul Ryan. I don't understand why someone who has always been respected as a thoughtful conservative leader. The House Freedom Caucus has endorsed Daniel Webster, but Webster has lower conservative ratings than Ryan. This is true using both the ACU's rating system or Freedom Works. Benson points out that one of his critics, Laura Ingraham, is even knocking Ryan for insisting that his weekends home with his family should be respected. Suddenly the guy that Democrats portrayed as literally tossing Grandma over a cliff is now a squish. Conservative media leaders started bashing him in a totally obnoxious way and the Drudge Report cheerfully passed on ever insult.
Ultimately, Ryan holds virtually all of the cards here, a reality that some of his detractors begrudgingly acknowledge. If the "Fire Paul Ryan" brigade prevails, he'll happily resume his life as an influential, wonky committee chairman who flies home to see his family every weekend. This is man with leverage. He knows it, and he's using it. Another enduring dynamic at play is that Ryan's strident opposition has no viable alternative plan of their own. The man they've endorsed for Speaker has a conservative rating that has fluctuated greatly during his relatively brief tenure in Congress, and his seat may be imperiled by Florida's court-ordered redistricting regime. Other floated names have declined to run, likely due to vote-getting realities (remember, there are roughly 207 House Republicans who aren't in the Freedom Caucus and who have their own interests to tend to) and the undesirability of the job in light of the current environment. (links in the original)
The Freedom Caucus is endorsing a guy who is very likely going to lose his seat during Florida's mandated redistricting. Other than Daniel Webster, they don't seem to have anyone they're supporting. If they can't work up a deal with Paul Ryan, it will be clear that they're less interested in leading the House than just tearing down the GOP leaders they don't like.

Noah Rothman writes about how his opponents are balking at his demand that the House get rid of or modify the rule to make a motion to vacatae the chair.
“The best thing I can assume is that he really doesn’t want the job,” Huelskamp added.


It’s been clear for some time that Ryan does not want to serve as Speaker; not amid divided government, not ahead of another debt ceiling showdown, and not during a contentious presidential election year when there will be no major reform legislation moving through the House and just keeping the lights on will become unduly controversial. (No, conservatives, there will be no push for comprehensive immigration reform in an election year, no matter what you read in fundraising emails from unscrupulous political action committees.) Ryan’s third demand, the preservation of his ability to spend time with his young family on the weekends betrays his lack of interest in the job. Part of being the leader of the House majority and the third in line for the presidency of the United States is donor maintenance and fundraising, and that means spending a lot of time on the road. Ryan has no interest in the politics of the Speakership.

So, Ryan has put the ball in the House Freedom Caucus’s court. A motion to vacate the chair has not been appealed to for a century and, while there was a constant threat that Boehner might face a challenge from his right, there is no telling whether it would have been successful. The threat this motion poses is an almost purely hypothetical one, which makes it perfect ground upon which to fight the House conservatives.....

The Freedom Caucus is in a bind; they either consent to Ryan’s demands and frustrate their already terminally frustrated base of supporters or scuttle Ryan’s bid and anger the vastly broader pool of Republicans who appear warm to his prospective speakership. If Ryan is able to get even the House GOP’s members who are lukewarm toward his leadership bid to virtually beg him to save the conference, his legitimacy will be unassailable. If he cannot, he gets to blame the Freedom Caucus for the chaos that will ensue. Either way, it’s no skin off Ryan’s nose.
And it seems to have worked. Ryan met with them last night and got 70% of the members of the Freedom Caucus to vote support for him. It turns out that they're not that far apart on changes to rules.

Ross Kaminsky explains why Republicans would be foolish indeed if they opposed Paul Ryan becoming speaker.
More important than your humble columnist’s concurrence that the operation of the House has become far too “top-down” is that Congressman Ryan agrees. That is why he also proposes empowering committee chairmen and members to drive the legislative agenda rather than having leadership simply give marching orders. This is the proper way to deal with conservative members’ legitimate concerns about being too often frozen out of the process.

There is no more credible member of Congress than Paul Ryan when it comes to empowering members and committees. During his budget processes, Ryan would routinely gather two or three dozen congressmen in a room to discuss the budget, to take input and modify the legislation as appropriate, and — of great importance in these days of people neither listening nor talking to each other — to ensure that House members understood both the principles and the practicalities of the legislation so they could explain them to their constituents, to other members, and to the few reporters who care to hear about policy details, particularly from Republicans.

There is no more articulate member of the House when it comes to explaining conservative principles and the policies that emanate from them without sounding like a “right-wing nut.” There is no member of the House more likely to be able to unify the Republican conference and to tame the current disarray and distrust.
But some conservatives who, like Kaminsky, disagree with Ryan on immigration think that is enough to demonize this fine man.
Still, those who call Ryan a RINO or a liberal are, to put it plainly, liars.

Theirs is not a “little white lie”; it is harmful to the Congress, harmful to the Republican Party, and most of all harmful to the nation. The idea that, as some members propose, a little-known Congressman with less than five years of experience in the House is a preferable choice to a man who has for years been the single best spokesman for the Republican Party, the brains and the ideological North Star of the party, and a tremendous example of what all politicians should aspire to be is somewhere between insulting and insane. I have nothing bad to say about Rep. Daniel Webster; I’m sure he’s a fine and principled man. But he should not (and will not) be Speaker of the House in 2015.

So why the objections to Ryan? For some of the most aggressive conservatives, it is a blend of fervent commitment to principle and believing that Paul Ryan is not ideologically pure enough along with a concern about a primary challenge from the right should they be seen as “compromising” with the “establishment.” Mostly I think the opposition is self-serving cynicism, and I say that as someone who — like Paul Ryan — agrees with the vast majority of the policy positions championed by the Freedom Caucus and other liberty-minded members of Congress.

The problem is that there is a much bigger risk than any one congressman’s career (not that this vote actually puts their jobs at risk).

A Republican Party in chaos would be a tremendous benefit to Democrats, risking the GOP majorities in the House and Senate and handing an enormous gift to Hillary Clinton, as we head into a 2016 election in which many Americans, to include every member of the Freedom Caucus, believe the future of the nation is at stake.

It is hard to imagine this country surviving another four years of anti-capitalist and fundamentally anti-American rule, but that is just what is facing us if rabble-rousing conservative members of the House give the liberal media bright ugly colors with which to paint Republicans as unfit to lead the nation.
But I guess that is just too pragmatic for some conservatives.

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Nate Cohn explains how Biden had already lost the "invisible primary" and that is why he decided not to run.

Meanwhile, Chris Cillizza has some fun annotating Biden's speech that he won't run.

I guess they were saving this for a Biden announcement that he would run, but now that he's not running, we can still look back and remember "Joe Biden's Top 10 creepiest Moments." A lot of them involve his nuzzling women he'd just met. I've never understood how his creepy inappropriate touching passes muster in the party built on winning the fictitious war on women. But then this is the same party that, as Gloria Steinem wrote, granted Bill Clinton "one free grope" if the guy supports abortion rights and stopped fondling a woman's breast and putting her hand on his crotch if she turned him down. Clearly, inappropriate behavior that would be hotly denounced if it came from anyone else is acceptable if it comes from a beloved Democratic politican.

Politico takes a look at how Hillary's campaign "boxed out" Joe Biden. They made sure to never criticize him.
Instead of launching public attacks, the Clinton campaign sought to shore up support from heavy hitting unions like the National Education Association. It rolled out endorsements from Obama administration officials Vilsack and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Juli├ín Castro. It quickly pushed out a list of 50 African-American mayors supporting Clinton’s bid (even though at least three people on the list later said they had not yet actually committed to supporting her). Last August, as Biden called into the Democratic National Committee meeting in Minneapolis, Clinton campaign officials told Bloomberg News that Clinton already had 130 superdelegates publicly supporting her and that privately she had shored up 20 percent of the superdelegates necessary to win.

On the debate stage, Clinton embraced Obama, a move that made it more difficult for Biden to pitch himself as the Obama legacy candidate. And she moved leftward on a number of issues, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and attempted to use rhetoric to distance herself from Wall Street, leaving no room for Biden to maneuver between her and the Democratic socialist to her left, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Behind the scenes, groups supporting the campaign made efforts to shore up the support of hand-wringing donors, who during the roughest months of the email saga this summer expressed concerns about whether Clinton was up to the challenge, whether her campaign was up to it, and whether she would be able to stay the course. Clinton allies explained to donors why they thought she had a strong basis and the campaign was not going to falter, and pushed back against any mention of a Biden candidacy, pointing out that it was not clear how Biden would amass the majority of delegates needed to beat Clinton.

Clinton's winning debate performance last week was seen as the final blow to Biden's presidential dreams — his decision not to run was the trophy handed to her as a prize for showing up ready to fight in the debate. Even Biden’s top aides have conceded privately in recent days that Clinton’s performance in the debate was impressive.

Don't believe Hillary's claim that she made during the debate that she is enemies with the health insurance and drug companies. Timothy Carney looks at the actual facts.
No one is surprised that Clinton considers 40 percent of the country her "enemy" because they vote against her. But her claim of mutual enmity with the industries that have long supported her strains credulity for anyone who has followed her career.

When she ran for president in 2008, Clinton raised $696,420 from "health services/HMOs," according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That was the most any politician in history had ever raised from that industry. (Obama, as the nominee, would ultimately break Clinton's record later that same election). Her 2006 Senate re-election had brought in $183,770 from the HMO industry, which at that time was also a new record haul from that industry.

In 2008, Clinton raised $345,234 from the "pharmaceutical manufacturing" industry, according to CRP, far more than any Republican candidate raised in that election.

Her campaign relies heavily on "bundlers" — volunteer fundraisers ("Hillraisers," she calls them) who hustle to collect five and six figures in donations from others. Many of her bundlers, unsurprisingly, are lobbyists. Among her biggest bundlers are lobbyists for drugmakers and health insurers....

No one is surprised that Clinton considers 40 percent of the country her "enemy" because they vote against her. But her claim of mutual enmity with the industries that have long supported her strains credulity for anyone who has followed her career.

When she ran for president in 2008, Clinton raised $696,420 from "health services/HMOs," according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That was the most any politician in history had ever raised from that industry. (Obama, as the nominee, would ultimately break Clinton's record later that same election). Her 2006 Senate re-election had brought in $183,770 from the HMO industry, which at that time was also a new record haul from that industry.

In 2008, Clinton raised $345,234 from the "pharmaceutical manufacturing" industry, according to CRP, far more than any Republican candidate raised in that election.

Her campaign relies heavily on "bundlers" — volunteer fundraisers ("Hillraisers," she calls them) who hustle to collect five and six figures in donations from others. Many of her bundlers, unsurprisingly, are lobbyists. Among her biggest bundlers are lobbyists for drugmakers and health insurers.
She's also done a lot for them.

And this is no surprise. The Clintons have always regarded public office as an opportunity for padding their wallets.
A review of Mrs. Clinton’s official travel and the former president’s for-pay speechmaking, in fact, found several instances like Ireland in which the couple passed through the same foreign country — one for government business, the other for profit or charity — within a few short weeks of each other.

For example, Mr. Clinton gave a speech to a prestigious nonprofit in Sweden for $425,000 in May 2012, and Mrs. Clinton visited the country less than a month later to promote a Clean Air convention. On the same trip, Mr. Clinton made a stop in Denmark to give a paid speech to World Management Limited. Mrs. Clinton visited Denmark the following month for a Green Partnership for Growth event.

In June 2012, Mr. Clinton gave a $450,000 speech to YPY Holdings in France. Less than a month later, Mrs. Clinton was in the country for official business. In August of that year, Mr. Clinton made a trip to Brazil and pocketed $850,000 for two days’ work at two different venues. Mrs. Clinton was in the country two months earlier for a United Nations conference on sustainable development.

The amount Mr. Clinton commanded for speeches seemed to rise after Mrs. Clinton became America’s top diplomat.

Of the 13 speeches for which Mr. Clinton personally collected $500,000 or more each, 11 were while Mrs. Clinton served as secretary of state, according to federal disclosure records. Others, such as the donation Mr. Clinton scored while in Ireland, went directly to the Clinton Foundation.

State officials on government time also spent a significant amount of time vetting Mr. Clinton’s private activities, raising a question of what benefit taxpayers received in return.

Mrs. Clinton’s inner circle at State, including Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, often were involved in the discussions, emails show.

For instance, Mr. Clinton scheduled a trip to Africa several weeks prior to Mrs. Clinton, on official business to promote the foundation’s charitable works there. The trip was cleared through the State Department, which had to check with its embassies to ensure there would not be any problems.

“Cheryl: our embassies in both Kampala and Pretoria have informed me that they see no/no problems (with their host governments or otherwise) with President Clinton’s visit to Uganda and South Africa two/three weeks before the Secretary,” Johnnie Carson, a State official, wrote to Ms. Mills.

Ms. Mills forwarded the email to Amitabh Desai, a Clinton Foundation official, who replied: “Thanks. I also think we need a talking point for the media who ask about the timing of their trips.”

For paid speeches that presented bad optics, Mr. Clinton would ask the State Department whether the money could be donated to his charity rather than taking it personally.

In June 2012, Mr. Desai wrote an email to Ms. Mills and Ms. Abedin, along with other top State Department officials asking whether Mr. Clinton could give a speech in Congo — which included a photo line with past dictators — for $650,000.

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Sadly, the VA doesn't seem to be improving at all.
ppointment wait times at the Department of Veterans Affairs are not getting better.

Despite billions of extra dollars poured into the agency in the last year and numerous reforms intended to improve veterans' access to care, whistleblowers and internal documents obtained by CNN reveal some VA facilities continue to grapple with appointment wait times of months or more.

Even at the Phoenix VA medical center, where CNN learned last year "secret" appointment lists were hiding how veterans were dying waiting for care, sources say complicated wait-time calculations obscure ongoing appointment delays.

"The reality is veterans are waiting months -- three, six months at a time, sometimes more -- for care at the Phoenix VA," said one source in Phoenix who agreed to speak to CNN anonymously because of fears of retaliation.

The source said this includes veterans waiting for potentially critical health procedures, such as colonoscopies, and other categories of specialty care that require timely attention.

In August, more than 8,000 requests for care had wait times longer than 90 days at the Phoenix VA, according to documents obtained by CNN, but whistleblowers say delays like these are not accurately reflected in public data because of changes in the VA's method of measuring wait times.

"The VA central office enables an official line that's not consistent with reality," the source in Phoenix said.

Additional VA documents show ongoing delays in care are not limited to Phoenix.
Gee, what an argument for nationalizing the entire health care system so we can all face the sort of care that our nation's veterans are condemned to.

I guess it's best to never say that you're sorry.

Roger Simon recommends that Donald Trump get a copy of "Foreign Policy for Dummies."
Let me get this straight. Two weeks ago Donald Trump said we shouldn’t have gone into Afghanistan, that it was a “terrible mistake” and now he says he was misunderstood?


Sounds remarkably like the same dude who mixed up Hamas and Hezbollah and claimed he was hearing the word Kurds when Hugh Hewitt was asking him about the Quds force. Or the know-nothing who sloughed off his lack of knowledge of terror leader names because, he insisted, they’d be gone before he took office, when the likes of Hasan Nasrallah have been around for decades. Fool me once, as they say…

Anyway, here’s CNN on the subject. Yes, I know it’s CNN but read the transcript:
Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that he has consistently supported the decision to invade Afghanistan and that his earlier comment calling the war there a “terrible mistake” was a result of him misunderstanding the question he was asked.

In a statement provided by top aide Michael Cohen, Trump referred to a “misunderstanding” that he had during his interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

“I have always been in favor of going into Afghanistan because it sits next to Pakistan which has nuclear weapons. I have not been in favor of going into Iraq,” he said. “When I made the statement about not going into Afghanistan, I thought Chris was referring to Iraq.”

But a review of the transcript from his October 6 interview with Cuomo makes clear that Trump was indeed labeling Afghanistan a mistake, since he was comparing the situation there with that in Iraq.
Let’s face it, Trump fans: your boy needs a copy of Foreign Policy for Dummies and fast. If it doesn’t exist, someone should write for him. I have bad news. Hillary Clinton is going to eat his lunch on this one and it opens the door for the rest of those bonehead comments on the Middle East. You better hope the FBI gets her, but even Bernie Sanders would have a field day.

To be honest, Trump sounds like a guy who paid about as much attention to foreign policy until now as I have to building golf courses. Even the reason he gives in his statement for going into Afghanistan in the first place sounds weird and made up. It wasn’t Al Qaeda, 9/11 or Bin Laden, but because Pakistan had nukes? Pakistan had nukes years before that.
I guess Trump doesn't listen to the questions that are being asked and, instead, is concentrating on what insults or wild statement he's going to hurl. The ability to listen is an important characteristic for a good leader. It never seems to be one that Trump has developed.

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For all the problems within the Republican Party, things aren't wine and roses among the Democrats. Matt Yglesias wrote this week at Vox about the perils facing the Democrats. He just seems to have noticed the losses the party has suffered across the country during Obama's presidency.
The presidency is extremely important, of course. But there are also thousands of critically important offices all the way down the ballot. And the vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republicans hands. And, of course, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Indeed, even the House infighting reflects, in some ways, the health of the GOP coalition. Republicans are confident they won't lose power in the House and are hungry for a vigorous argument about how best to use the power they have.

Not only have Republicans won most elections, but they have a perfectly reasonable plan for trying to recapture the White House. But Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren't even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don't even admit that they exist.

Instead, the party is focused on a competition between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton over whether they should go a little bit to Obama's left or a lot to his left, options that are unlikely to help Democrats down-ballot in the face of an unfriendly House map and a more conservative midterm electorate. The GOP might be in chaos, but Democrats are in a torpor.
Things are worse at the state level.
In what Democrats should take as a further bleak sign, four of the 11 states where they control both houses of the state legislature — Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois — have a Republican governor. This leaves just seven states under unified Democratic Party control.

Republicans have unified control of 25 states.
Jim Taranto comments on Yglesias's conclusions.
He is weaker still on the question of how the party ended up in this situation. Indeed, he doesn’t address it at all. But when Obama took office in 2009, his party had large majorities in both House and Senate and was considerably better off by every other measure Yglesias cites. It is probably already accurate to say that no president since Herbert Hoover has overseen such a calamitous down-ballot performance by his party. And Hoover was in office at the time of a financial crisis. Obama was supposed to play the role of FDR.

One word that never appears in the Yglesias essay is “ObamaCare.” (Nor does he refer to it by its euphemistic formal title, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or by a generic term like “health-care reform.”) Putting aside the question of its merit as policy, can anyone deny that the politics of ObamaCare were and have remained disastrous? Obama's “signature achievement” was an ideological act of recklessness that put the diminished and discredited GOP back on the right side of public opinion. More than any other factor, it enabled the overwhelming Republican victories in 2010 and, after its effects began becoming clear, in 2014.
We'll see if Hillary Clinton is the woman to bring the Dems back to power across the country. Somehow I don't see Democrats riding into office on her coattails except if the Republicans embrace self-immolation by picking an unelectable candidate. And my regular readers know whom I mean.

But just in case Yglesias's despondency is making Republicans giddy, Ramesh Ponnuru will bring us right down as he predicts that "Hillary will likely win the White House." Usually, it is difficult for a party to retain the White House after a president of the same party has served two terms. Since World War One, the only men to have done so are Herbert Hoover, FDR/Truman, and George H.W. Bush. And, as Ponnuru points out, Clinton is facing a better electoral picture than Bush 41 did.
But voters then were much happier about the state of the country than they are now. In the fall of 1988, most polls found that Americans were slightly more likely to say that the country was “headed in the right direction” than that it was “on the wrong track.” Now, more than twice as many people give the negative answer as give the positive one.

Clinton also lacks an advantage that Barack Obama had in 2008 and 2012: being the first black nominee and then the first black president. Black turnout was higher than usual in both years, and the Democratic share of the black vote was even higher than usual too. If black voters in 2016 act as they did in 2004, during the last pre-Obama election, that change by itself will erase roughly half the Democratic margin in the popular vote from last time.

Against all these reasons for optimism must be set the fact that Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the six most recent presidential elections. It may be that Republican victories in legislative and gubernatorial elections don’t carry over to presidential elections for structural reasons. For example, the geographic diffusion of Republican voters helps their party win legislative seats but doesn’t help them win the White House.

One common explanation for the Democrats’ White House winning streak is that demographic trends favor them: Asians and Hispanics, two rapidly growing groups, have leaned increasingly left; young white voters are moving left, too, as Christianity weakens among them. Another explanation is that voters, even ones who are middle-of-the-road ideologically, think Republicans’ priorities are too skewed toward rich people and big business. These are intertwined theories, since the party’s plutocratic image is partly responsible for its weakness among blacks, Hispanics, and young people, all groups that tend to be less prosperous than the national average.

Clinton’s campaign would like the public to warm to her personally, but it does not appear to have any illusions that she can have anything like the charisma Obama did in 2008. Instead its strategy seems to be to bet that the Democratic party’s advantage on demographics and issues can overcome Clinton’s deficiencies as a candidate. When Clinton officially launched her campaign on Roosevelt Island in June, her speech did not contain any memorable statements. Instead it celebrated the elements of the Democratic coalition and championed a series of poll-tested liberal policies....

She will also use Republican opposition to Obamacare, including the contraceptive mandate it enabled, for this purpose. If she is running next fall, she will bank on the appeal of these policies and fear of the Republicans to keep black turnout high and increase turnout among single women, who also vote heavily Democratic.

Republicans have very little in the way of popular policy proposals to counter the appeal of liberalism. The Republican presidential candidates have not built their campaigns on offering conservative ideas that would give any direct help to families trying to make ends meet. Their tax-cut proposals are almost all focused on people who make much more than the average voter. So far, Republicans do not seem to be even trying to erode the Democratic advantage on middle-class economics.

The Democratic nominee will also probably benefit from a slight edge in the Electoral College. Eighteen states, with 242 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, have voted Democratic in each of the last six elections. Some analysts call these states a “blue wall” that Republicans will not easily break through.
Just to add in to the whiplash from such electoral predictions, here is some comfort based on studying elections around the world.
Elections are not mysterious events subject to the whimsy of unpredictable candidates and voters. They’re actually highly predictable, with a set of variables that influence outcomes in familiar ways.

Because of that, we can say, with reasonable confidence, that a Republican will be moving into the White House in 2017.

That conclusion is based on the results of a data model we created, and is primarily the result of two factors, both related to the challenges faced by “successor” candidates — candidates from the same party as the incumbent. First, a Republican will win because voters typically shy away from the party currently in power when an incumbent isn’t running. In fact, a successor candidate is three times less likely to win. Second, President Barack Obama’s approval ratings are too low to suggest a successor candidate will take the White House.

Why are we so confident, especially when opinion poll data now gives Hillary Clinton the edge over most Republican opponents? The simple answer is that we’re relying on models, not polls.
The researchers look at the average error rate of polls based on the time before the election. A year out from an election, the error rate of polls is 7.9%. They also look at the approval rating of the current president and how that translates to the possibility of a successor candidate winning. Obama is at 45% now which translates in their model to another Democrat having 14% chance of victory.

I would accept such positive news, but remember that our elections are not based on popular votes, but the electoral vote. And Ponnuru had some good, but depressing news there. Looking at the electoral map from 2012, and then try to figure which states the GOP could win next year that Obama took then. Republicans need Florida, Ohio, and probably Virginia and then another state like Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, or New Mexico. That's going to be a hard task. That's why I support Rubio. I don't see any other GOP candidate who could put that together.

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David Marcus explains why Bernie Sanders should show more support for the religious freedom of those companies who don't want to be forced to take actions that they believe will violate their religious beliefs.
Bernie Sanders applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. Although his application was ultimately rejected, by the time that happened he was 26, and no longer eligible for the draft. So, for all intents and purposes, Sanders’ application ensured he would stay safe at home.

This has not been a big issue in the campaign, nor should it be. Sanders’ views have since changed, and he is no longer a pacifist; but, assuming his youthful application was sincere, he was simply exercising his religious freedom....

The Left argues that conscientious objection differs from participation in gay weddings, based on a conflict in the latter between the first and fourteenth amendments. A gay couple has a Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection, while the wedding cake baker has a First Amendment right not to violate his religious beliefs. Liberals side with gay couple by favoring equal protection over religious freedom, or a negotiated accommodation for both.

But conscientious objection contains a similar constitutional quandary. Freedom of religious expression forbids the government from forcing a person to violate his or her pacifist beliefs. But the Establishment Clause forbids the government from rewarding or punishing any set of religious beliefs. When a pacifist refuses to fight, somebody else has to, and that person is being burdened as a result of their religion (or lack thereof).

When Sanders applied for conscientious objector status, he did so knowing that another person would have to fight specifically because his religious, or moral beliefs did not exempt him from service. So why does Sanders believe that a pacifist’s moral beliefs must be protected even if it burdens others, while a Christian can be compelled to violate his or her beliefs specifically because it burdens others?
It's an interesting argument. I'd like to hear Sanders asked about that.

This is so true! Erik Telford explains what an idiotic policy our ethanol mandates and subsidies are. It is actually bad for the environment, the ostensible reason for the policy, and it is bad for the economy and our cars.
The RFS also hurts American families’ budgets by damaging their cars and other gasoline-operated equipment. The Environmental Protection Agency is well aware of this fact, and has acknowledged that ethanol in gasoline can damage internal combustion engines by increasing exhaust temperatures and indirectly causing component failures. Higher percentage ethanol-blended fuels may increase the damage to American’s cars if the RFS remains in place.

It’s not just prices at the gas pump and costs at the repair shop increasing because of RFS—it’s prices at the grocery store, too. Anything corn goes into is more expensive because of the RFS. Purdue University researchers found that repealing the RFS would cause food prices to fall 13 percent overall. In 2012, the average U.S. family of four faced a $2,000 increase in food costs due to the higher corn prices RFS has caused. The increase in costs for both food and fuel are especially harmful to lower- and fixed-income families that spend a larger percentage of their wages on food and fuel.

While the RFS may be a boon to Iowa corn farmers, it’s essentially a tax on the poor, who are suffering from higher prices because of it. Plus, it’s a net negative for the environment. It’s time for presidential candidates, particularly Republicans, to stop pandering to voters in Iowa and promise to repeal the harmful Renewable Fuel Standard.
Yes! And cheers to any presidential candidate who has the courage to oppose the policy.