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Political Hay

In Defense of the Senate Revolt

By 12.16.14

Never has the fundamental flaw of Ratchet Republicanism been more perfectly illustrated than in this Washington Examiner editorial that appeared after Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee led a revolt in the Senate over the weekend. The editorial, headlined, "Senate Republicans need to decide whether they're led by McConnell or Cruz," said:

Every army has disagreements among its leaders, but they must agree on tactics to effect their strategy. Every football team must agree on the next play if it is to work. In the Senate, caucus leaders are chosen precisely to make such decisions. The weekend's events demonstrate that some Republicans are not playing on the same team. This was not a simple, common occurrence of senatorial independence, but rather open defiance of caucus strategy — a decision by junior officers that their own tactical decisions take precedence over those of generals who were chosen for the job.

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Special Report

Obama’s Keystone Confusion

By 12.16.14

In his appearance last week on The Colbert Report, President Obama restated his approach to the Keystone XL pipeline decision, a mindset that can only be described as confused.

The president summarized his strange dilemma as follows: “[Keystone] could create a couple of thousand potential jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline, but we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”

But this thinking hinges on three key — and false — assumptions.

First, that whatever carbon dioxide or pollution (note that I did not say “or other pollution” since CO2 is plant food, not pollution) would be generated in the building or operation of Keystone will not be generated in whatever other method ends up being used to transport oil from Canada through the United States.

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Political Hay

Why Wouldn’t Warren Run for the White House?

By 12.15.14

Once the dust has settled with the $1.1 trillion Crominbus spending bill it will be clear that Elizabeth Warren is running for President in 2016.

Let’s face it. If you’re a Democrat, especially if you’re a liberal Democrat, a so-called progressive or a plain dyed-in-the-wool socialist, 2014 has been a terrible year. The thrill is gone with President Obama. Obamacare has proven to be such an albatross that no self-respecting Democrat wants to acknowledge they ever voted for the man. 

But with Warren’s performance during the Crominbus debate, 2014 ends with light at the end of the tunnel. The Left has found its faith again and with it its new Anointed One. With her anti-Wall Street rhetoric, Warren managed the extraordinary feat of simultaneously distancing herself from both President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Why wouldn’t Warren run for the White House?

Of course, Hillary is the elephant in the room. Or should I say donkey?

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The Nation's Pulse

Blessings Go Uncounted

By 12.15.14

According to the Wall Street Journal, “construction of church buildings in the U.S., has fallen to the lowest level since private records began in 1967.”

That’s not a surprise. The Fifties and early Sixties saw a great surge in church attendance so these data don’t account for the likely building of many new churches in those years. Such structures are usually built to last for a long time, so it’s also not surprising that the number of new religious buildings has declined.

The WSJ concedes that with the recession more-or-less over, renovations and new building may move ahead again; however, its writers have decided that the decline “is a confluence of trends: a drop in formal religious participation, changing donation habits, a shift away from the construction of massive megachurches and, more broadly, a growing taste for alternatives to the traditional house of worship.”

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Special Report

Burma Enjoys an Uneasy Peace: Time to Close Thailand’s Refugee Camps?

By 12.15.14

Mae La Refugee Camp, Thailand

Trees give way to primitive wooden homes in the rolling hills approaching Mae La refugee camp on Thailand’s border with Burma. Access is controlled by the Thai army. The largest camp in Thailand, Mae La, holds 50,000 refugees. Some residents have spent their entire lives within Mae La’s confines.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been at war most of its history. A British colony occupied by Japan during World War II, Burma gained its independence shortly after that conflict ended. But the new government refused to grant the autonomy promised the nation’s many ethnic groups. War erupted.

Although the bloodiest and most tragic aspect of Burma’s history, the fragmented civil war has been overshadowed by the democracy struggle centered in Rangoon. In 1962 the superstitious Gen. Ne Win overthrew his country’s young democracy. The junta changed shape over the years, with his eventual ouster, but the generals refused to relax their bloody grip.

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The Right Prescription

Obamacare and Eugenics

By 12.15.14

The scariest words uttered during Jonathan Gruber’s recent appearance before the House Oversight Committee were “positive selection.” They were read aloud by Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, from a 1997 paper the professor co-authored concerning abortion. The opus in question made the Congressman uneasy because of the following passage: “By 1993 all cohorts under the age 19 were born under legalized abortion and we estimate steady state savings of $1.6 billion per year from positive selection.” Rep. Massie asked the professor what was meant by “positive selection.” This question was evidently not anticipated in Gruber’s pre-testimony coaching, so he became evasive.

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Car Guy

How Uncle Killed Pontiac

By 12.15.14

The French philosopher-economist Frederic Bastiat wrote about the unseen repercussions of government interfering with the market’s natural progressions. In other words, what might have been. Perhaps the saddest four words in the language.

One such might-have-been is the 1982 Turbo Trans-Am.

You have probably never heard of it. Because, of course, it was never produced. But it almost was. And had it been, Pontiac might not have gone out of business.

But, I am getting ahead of the story.

It was the early ’80s and the Pontiac Firebird (and its sister car, the Chevy Camaro) were long overdue for a major update. They’d been in continuous production since 1970 and although they’d both set sales records for their respective divisions in the mid-late ’70s — in part because they were neat cars but also because there were so few other neat cars around during the disco-era darkness — by the time of Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration, it was clearly time for a change.

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Loose Canons

Sen. Feinstein Offers Tears for Terrorists

By 12.15.14

If you’re at all knowledgeable of the CIA’s actions since the 9-11 attacks, and if you read the “torture report” released Tuesday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, you’ll have to conclude that it is as much a work of fiction as the Rolling Stone article condemning fraternity life at the University of Virginia for condoning a culture of rape.

The SSCI report was written with Jonathan Gruber’s philosophy in mind, that Americans are so ill-informed, stupid, and gullible that they’ll buy any well-crafted narrative.

Let’s cut to the chase: no one can defend those rogue CIA interrogators who caused two deaths of detainees or who did things such as force-feed detainees anally or stuff a man into a small box for ten days. But the vast majority who didn’t — especially those who conducted interrogations under the “enhanced interrogation techniques” program — deserve to be defended against the charges Feinstein’s report levies against them.

Her report had three objectives.

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Ben Stein's Diary

I See America Working and It’s a Beautiful Sight

By 12.13.14

People ask me all of the time, “Ben, now that you’re not doing a quiz show, what do you do?” The answer is that for my fun and livelihood, I travel the country from end to end and up and down talking with business people about the economy. And it’s a fascinating, eye-opening journey.

In a word, it reminds me of the immortal Walt Whitman poem, “I Hear America Singing.” I hear and I see America, and the free market capitalist system working. And working beautifully.

Remember those evil oil companies who were using their muscle to oppress the American family by keeping oil and gas prices high? Well, despite being fought tooth and nail by the government and the environmentalists, the oil companies discovered a way to get immense amounts of oil and gas out of shale.

The result, as every American now knows, is a giant drop in energy prices that translates into a bonanza for almost all American families. The oil companies did that, not the Energy Department. The oil companies might now regret that they did it since oil has fallen so much… but in the end, the consumer made out great as the free market would have predicted.

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Political Hay

It’s the Branding, Stupid

By 12.12.14

Kathleen Sebelius sees Obamacare as “working.” It just suffers from “a very bad brand.”

The former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services told Politico, “Obamacare, no question, has a very bad brand that has been driven intentionally by a lot of misinformation and a lot of paid advertising.”

The translation into Gruberese reads: “The American people are too stupid.” The 58 percent that favor repealing the law have been manipulated into their opinions—and not, alas, by PajamaBoy or Magic Johnson public-service announcements.

“I think we may need to call it something in the future different,” Kathleen Sebelius-Gruber concludes, “but it is working.”

The proponents of change recalcitrantly clinging to discredited ideas remains a universal political paradox. Miserable people want to bring change to everything but the one thing that would bring happiness: themselves. Transform one-seventh of the economy? Do it yesterday. Change my mind? Never.

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