The Spectacle Blog

Puerto Rico is $70B in the Hole and Looking for a Bailout

By on 6.30.15 | 4:34PM

You cannot sustain an entire state's economy on ziplines and piña coladas. Greece is, of course, learning that on something of a national scale. When you pay everyone for everything they do regardless of whether they do it or not, and rely on the occasional tourist with a Groupon Getaway to create most of your GDP, things go south really quickly, especially when your unfunded pension liabilities come due.

Failing Obamacare Co-ops Give Execs Lavish Pay, And May Violate The Law

By on 6.30.15 | 3:46PM

Taxpayer-funded Obamacare health insurance co-op’s may be running afoul of the law by giving extravagant paychecks to their top executives, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation.

More than a million Americans have enrolled in the 23 non-profit Obamacare co-ops since they began in 2011.  The co-ops were intended to be consumer-operated non-profits focused on delivering healthcare to the working poor and others needing health insurance.

Eighteen of the 23 co-ops paid their top executives prodigious salaries ranging from $263,000 to $587,000, according to 2013 IRS tax filings.

The high take-home pay for the “nonprofit” executives appears to violate both federal law and Obamacare rules prohibiting “excessive executive compensation.”

The co-ops were originally funded in 2011 with $2 billion under Obamacare in an experiment to provide tax-paid competition to private sector health insurance providers.

Most of the Obamacare co-op executives are paid more than members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, U.S. cabinet secretaries and the governors of all 50 states.

United Church of Christ’s Selective Outrage Against Israel

By on 6.30.15 | 3:12PM

The General Synod of the United Church of Christ has voted to boycott and divest its holdings in companies that do business in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The vote took place at their national meeting in Cleveland.

The UCC is also expected to vote to cast Israel’s policies in Gaza and the West Bank as “apartheid” later today.

Both the Episcopal Church and the Mennonite Church will also be holding divestment votes later this week.

This is all part of the decade-long Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Among its objectives is to dismantle the security fence that has kept out Palestinian suicide bombers and to allow Palestinian refugees full right of return.

ISIS Beheads Two Women in Syria

By on 6.30.15 | 1:06PM

ISIS has beheaded two women in Syria. Agence France-Presse has the gruesome details

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group has beheaded two women in Syria on accusations of “sorcery,” the first such executions of female civilians in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.

“The Islamic State group executed two women by beheading them in Deir Ezzor province, and this is the first time the Observatory has documented women being killed by the group in this manner,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. He was referring to the group, which is also known as IS and ISIL.

The Britain-based monitor said the executions took place on Monday and Sunday and involved two couples.

In both cases, the women were executed with their husbands, with each pair accused of “witchcraft and sorcery.”

UMKC Can’t Afford Hillary, Forced to Settle for Cut-Rate Clinton

By on 6.30.15 | 11:57AM

Even though Marco Rubio is clearly the one-percenter in this race, Hillary Clinton, when she was still toiling in the private sector, wasn't doing so badly. Commanding upwards of $200,000 per speech, the former Senator and Secretary of State was flying across the globe, often in first class on the dime of whomever booked her, delivering exceptional, motivating speeches to gatherings of donors, professionals and other assorted hoi polloi. 

But when the University of Missouri Kansas City tried to book Hillary for the unveiling of their "Womens Hall of Fame," the $275,000 price tag for a couple of hours of the Secretary's time was just far too much. So, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post, the UMKC settled for the Clinton Foundation's budget package: a speech from Chelsea Clinton, who commanded "only" $65,000. 

The Washington Post Thinks Marco Rubio is Super Rich

By on 6.30.15 | 11:27AM

The good news is, the media has finally realized that harping on Marco Rubio's college loans and modest boat purchases is a losing strategy. 

The bad news is, in response, they've just started harping on Marco Rubio's amazing, limitless wealth and how one man, the son of immigrants from Cuba, became a self-made hundred-thousand-aire by trading in his modest job as a small time lawyer for the spectacular wealth creation attendant to a life of political service. In other words, the Washington Post is 100% convinced that Marco Rubio is filthy, stinking rich and there's very little you can do about it.

Marco Rubio was 28 when he was elected to the Florida legislature. He was about to become a father and was struggling to balance the financial demands of a growing family with his political aspirations.

The Next Great Walker Union Battle: Tenure

By on 6.30.15 | 11:07AM

Wisconsin unions Monday are once again attacking Republican Gov. Scott Walker, this time over a proposed budget that may result in cuts to tenure for state college professors.

With the upcoming budget session, the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee is expected to propose a plan to reform the University of Wisconsin System. While it is not yet finalized, unions warn the plan will cut $250 million in funding and will remove academic protections for professors such as teacher tenure.

This latest union battles comes at the heels of a likely announcement Walker will run for president. With his previous labor reforms, unions will likely become one of his main advisories.

“Today’s move by JFC Republicans to pay for Scott Walker’s tax breaks for his wealthy donors by slashing public education is shameful,” Eleni Schirmer, co-president of the Teaching Assistants’ Association, said in a statement. “These cuts will devastate a UW System that has already been cut to the bone and beyond in previous years.”

Teachers Unions’ Political Power Stunts Education Reform in Montana

By on 6.30.15 | 10:55AM

Some Montanans now have access to education tax credits, after Senate Bill 410 passed into law in May, but school choice remains extremely limited in the state.

SB 410 was the only school choice bill to pass this legislative session, and it became law without Gov. Steve Bullock’s (D) signature.

Legislators introduced a variety of education bills this session, including measures for Common Core repeal, charter schools, data privacy for students, standardized testing reform, and greater local control. All but two failed to reach the governor’s desk, and of those two, Bullock vetoed one and the other became law after a 10-day waiting period, when Bullock neither signed nor vetoed it. 

Political, Judicial Impediments

Sen. Kris Hansen (R-Havre) says it is difficult to make changes in education policy in Montana because of the influence of teachers unions and a court interpretation of the state constitution.

“In Montana, if there’s any bill that isn’t 100 percent supported by the teachers’ union, the first claim is that it’s unconstitutional,” Hansen said. “The unconstitutional claim falls on a segment of the Montana constitution.”

Christie Still Isn’t Ready to be President

By on 6.30.15 | 10:52AM

Four years ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie resisted calls by Republicans to make a bid for the White House in 2012. During a speech before AEI in February 2011, Christie stated:

You have to believe in your heart and your soul that you’re ready to be president. And I don’t believe that about myself right now.

Christie would reiterate this position in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper back in April. “So I get lots of people who come to us and say, oh, you should have done it four years ago,” said Christie, “And I tell you one thing I know for sure I wasn’t ready to be president four years ago. And so the worst thing wasn’t not running; it was if I had run and won already.”

Turkey Toying With Military Intervention In Syria To Challenge The U.S.?

By on 6.30.15 | 10:46AM

Turkey is determined to keep Syrian Kurds from statehood in the aftermath of victories against Islamic State, highlighting just how different Turkish and U.S. regional aims really are.

According to some Turkish media reports, the government is planning a military intervention to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria, supporting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement the country ”will never allow” a Kurdish state along its southern border last Friday, The Daily Beast reported.

The country’s military has purportedly been ordered to send troops into Syria, but this hasn’t been confirmed or denied by the government. According to Turkey’s foreign minister, a statement will be released after the National Security Council meets Tuesday.

There is some credence to the claim, but it’s probably a matter of fierce debate, says Robert Pearson, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey from 2000-2003. It could be designed to test the U.S. or caution it away from helping the Kurdish YPG too aggressively by way of the airstrike campaign.

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