The bombshell announcement last week that the White House would delay (once again) making a decision vis-à-vis the Keystone XL Pipeline until after the 2014 midterm election is leaving many pundits on cable television scratching their heads. One the one hand, the decision ostensibly makes sense; progressive mega donors have pledged lots of money to re-elect Democrats who oppose the project, and thus green lighting the pipeline would significantly imperil the size of the party’s war chest come November. On the other hand, many vulnerable red state Senate Democrats support the project and desperately need an issue to campaign on that is popular with the public. This is it. But because the administration feels as if they’re in a ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t’ situation, they’re punting until after the midterms. Go figure.
But is this a wise decision? That’s the question Joe Scarborough and the crew debated at some length earlier today (via WFB):
Joe Scarborough, for his part, is baffled by the White House’s incessant foot-dragging. He argues that the progressive Left is not going to vote for Republicans anyway -- or against incumbent Democrats -- so it’s not the end of the world if the Keystone Pipeline does get approved. It’s only the “far Left” contingent, he posits, that will rue its construction. So why further jeopardize control of the upper chamber by punting on a Democrat-friendly issue, Scarborough asks, when approving the project makes sense both economically and politically?
If anything, the White House’s decision will put additional pressure on vulnerable House and Senate Democrats to come up with inventive new ways to convince voters to re-elect them. Unfortunately for them, however, the construction of the Keystone Pipeline XL won’t be one of them.
If students don't put in the work they need to and therefore receive failing grades, they don't get to move ahead. If only the same could be said for the teachers.
The Permanent Employment Statute in California has all but assured teachers that, once they reach tenure, they can stop trying. Just look at these shameful figures:
In the last ten years, only 91 teachers out of about 300,000 (.003 percent) who have attained permanence lost their jobs in California. Of those, only 19 (.0007 percent) have been dismissed for poor performance. Is it possible that Golden State teachers are that good? Such an astronomical permanence rate doesn’t square with the performance of California’s fourth- and eighth-graders, whose scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress tests persistently rank near the bottom.
Yes, even though these California elementary school teachers routinely earn poor reviews, they face no repercussions. It is this unfair practice nine California public school children are trying to abolish in Vergara v. California. If they succeed, permananence and other union-backed statutes such as time-consuming dismissals and seniority-based layoffs, will be ruled unconstitutional.
The California Teachers Association has come out strongly against this case, accusing backers of the lawsuit as being the "who's who of billionaire boys club" who are only concerned with "privatizing public schools and attacking teachers and their unions."
But, it's hard to see how policies that keep bad teachers right where they are is beneficial to students who are eager to learn. Superior Court judge Rolf Treu will rule on the case by July 10. Here's hoping he chooses children's futures over teachers' "rights."
Try as they might, President Obama and his media allies cannot tell Americans how to think. On two recent occasions, Obama has attempted to proclaim an end to the national conversation over his unpopular health law. Polling continues to show that most Americans disapprove of the law -- with a sizable plurality favoring complete repeal, and a majority backing major changes. With a nod to Animal House's Bluto, I explained on Fox News why Obama's unseemly attempts to stifle and delegitimize debate won't work (via Right Sightings' Steven Laboe):
In a football-spiking story that could have been written by the White House press team, National Journal's Lucia Graves -- supposedly a news correspondent -- gleefully declares that all of Obamacare's "good news" is, in fact, bad news for "conservative pundits." She proudly touts a colleague's column about the law's "winning streak," arguing that we've been "hyperbolic" in overselling the negative impacts of the law. Setting aside the irony of an Obamacare supporter chastising others for overselling anything, Graves' evidence of conservative hyperbole are (a) the law's strong enrollment numbers, and (b) a USA Today report indicating that 2015 premium spikes may be less dramatic than expected. Let's examine each:
Enrollment: Eight million "sign-ups" is undoubtedly better than most people expected, but as we've explained, once non-payments are factored in, the actual enrollment figure is likely closer to 6.4 million -- quite a bit shy of the administration's goal. More importantly, the White House still won't say what percentage of these people previously lacked coverage, which is the best indicator of whether the law is truly "working," as the president constantly avers. Independent studies have concluded that the large majority of these "new" enrollees already had insurance before Obamacare. Based on the available data, it's entirely possible that the previously-uninunsured population that obtained coverage through the new exchanges amounts to between 1.6 and 2.1 million. "Success." Also, in spite of the president's misleading statistics about "under 35" enrollments, just 28 percent of exchange sign-ups came from the crucial 18-34 "young invincibles" demographic. The White House was hoping for closer to 40 percent; a significant miss. This all passes as "good news" for people who are desperate to nourish a political narrative.
Premiums: As for the possibility of lower-than-expected premium increases, Graves says most righties' predictions of sharp premium jumps were based on a "thinly sourced" article in The Hill, which we wrote about here. But that wasn't our only source -- not by a long shot. In February, Reuters quoted insurance executives predicting "double digit" rate shock in "many states" next year. The news agency followed up earlier this month with a piece describing how insurers are bracing for a "backlash" over rising costs. Bloomberg has followed the trend, too, with a Morgan Stanley analysis pointing to significant hikes for many Americans in the small group market. The Associated Press published a piece a few weeks ago about how rural Americans, in particular, are in for a rough ride. And we haven't even mentioned unaffordable "out-of-pocket" costs, or the impacts of so-called access shock, as people discover that their preferred doctors and hospitals are no longer in network. Nor have we addressed the upcoming waves of cancellation notices, which will materialize over the coming months and years. But since she is so giddy about it, let's take a peek at the analysis Graves trumpets as such fantastic news for Obamacare:
Axene says that as insurers dig through the new health exchange enrollees to figure out their ages and health conditions to determine next year's premiums, he expects an overall increase of 6% to 8.5%...Axene warns there could be wide variations in actual costs. "In some states, there's a very wide spread between the high rate and the low rate — in Manhattan, it was 2-to-1 — but these are averages," he says. He's also been able to get an early read on some of the people who have been enrolling, though the March and early-April exchange enrollees' data aren't yet available. The early enrollees tended to be people with "higher morbidity," he says — about 6-8% had higher-than-average health care needs. But that had been expected, and probably won't play a large part in next year's premiums. However, insurance costs are likely to rise more in coming years as reinsurance and risk corridors disappear in 2017.
State-to-state rate increases will be highly variable, and premiums could really head north once measures that use taxpayer dollars to mitigate insurers' losses phase out. Furthermore, Mr. Axene -- who is the primary source for this piece touted 'round the lefty blogosphere -- says that he hopes Obamacare "bending the cost curve down" will negate this trend. The law is not bending the cost curve down, and the recent (Obamacare-unrelated) slowdown in rising health costs may be over. Finally, because we're being lectured about expectations management, let's recall that the president repeatedly promised that health costs would decrease substantially as a result of his $2 trillion law. The average family, he said, would save $2,500. Nancy Pelosi intoned that "everybody will have lower rates." Now Obamacare backers are pounding their chests over one man's opinion that average premium increases may -- may -- "only" be seven percent for some Americans. How many single mothers will receive their higher health bills and exclaim, Wow! My rates only increased by seven percent this year -- what a huge success! Those pundits sure missed the boat! (Perhaps Democrats can take this uplifting message on the trail with them in the fall). The more likely scenario involves middle class families -- many of whom are already worrying about keeping their doctors and budgeting for higher deductibles -- eyeballing the new prices and reacting thusly: What the hell? Our premiums are going up again? Weren't we told the new law was going to reverse the endless upward climb? Why, yes. Yes you were. Here's your "winning streak," America:
Since before Obamacare was signed in 2010, conservatives have warned the law would turn doctors' offices into DMV style clinics with physicians rapidly rushing through patients in order to survive under the legislation. Further, grave warnings were given about doctors retiring early due to Obamacare making the industry too expensive to practice in. Four years later, 6 out of 10 doctors say they'll be retiring early and now, patients are being rushed through appointments, including at the offices of specialists.
Joan Eisenstodt didn't have a stopwatch when she went to see an ear, nose and throat specialist recently, but she is certain the physician was not in the exam room with her for more than three or four minutes.
"He looked up my nose, said it was inflamed, told me to see the nurse for a prescription and was gone," said the 66-year-old Washington, D.C., consultant, who was suffering from an acute sinus infection.
When she started protesting the doctor's choice of medication, "He just cut me off totally," she said. "I've never been in and out from a visit faster."
These days, stories like Eisenstodt's are increasingly common. Patients — and physicians — say they feel the time crunch as never before as doctors rush through appointments as if on roller skates to see more patients and perform more procedures to make up for flat or declining reimbursements.
It's not unusual for primary care doctors' appointments to be scheduled at 15-minute intervals. Some physicians who work for hospitals say they've been asked to see patients every 11 minutes.
And the problem may worsen as millions of consumers who gained health coverage through the Affordable Care Act begin to seek care — some of whom may have seen doctors rarely, if at all, and have a slew of untreated problems.
Because liberals don't seem to understand the concept of supply vs. demand, they failed to recognize early on that an influx of new patients without new doctors would cause a shortage and lessen the quality of care. Well, here we are.
Obamacare was sold on the idea that the government shouldn't come between a patient and their doctor. Further, people were told the law would get them more treatment and expanded care, not less. Primary care and specialty care offices are already seeing the devastating effects of government meddling in the healthcare system. We're seeing exactly the opposite of what was promised on every single level.
Well, this is going to be a heartbreaker for the hysterical global warming crowd. According to a new study, emissions from burning corn are worse for the environment and produce more CO2 or 'global warming' gases than the burning of traditional gasoline.
Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.
A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.
The federal government has already dumped billions of dollars into facilities and programs producing biofuels in the name of preventing climate change but as usual, is having the opposite effect than originally intended.
Just last week, biofuel industry producers told the New York Times 2016 was the year they were looking most forward to bring cleaner energy to the United States. Oops.
“The whole purpose of the Renewable Fuel Standard was to encourage investment to create brand-new technologies that would help the United States become more energy-independent and use cleaner and more efficient fuels. We feel like we are just on the verge of doing that and now the E.P.A. is talking about changing the rules," Executive Vice President of the heavily subsidized biofuel company Abengoa Christopher Standlee said to the paper.
Al Gore, call your office.
There are plenty of studies out there demonstrating the effects long-term marijuana use has on users, but for the first time, researchers at Northwestern University looked into the relationship between casual marijuana use and brain changes. What they discovered, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is significant. The researchers found that young adults who used marijuana even once or twice a week showed “significant abnormalities in two important brain structures,” Fox News reports.
“There were abnormalities in their working memory, which is fundamental to everything you do,” Dr. Hans Breiter, co-senior study author and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told FoxNews.com. “When you make judgments or decisions, plan things, do mathematics – anything you do always involves working memory. It’s one of the core fundamental aspects of our brains that we use every day. So given those findings, we decided we need to look at casual, recreational use.”
FoxNews.com has the details:
For their most recent study, Breiter and his team analyzed a very small sample of patients between the ages of 18 and 25: 20 marijuana users and 20 well-matched control subjects. The marijuana users had a wide range of usage routines, with some using the drug just once or twice a week and others using it every single day.
Utilizing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers analyzed the participants’ brains, focusing on the nucleus accumbens (NAC) and the amygdala – two key brain regions responsible for processing emotions, making decisions and motivation. They looked at these brain structures in three different ways, measuring their density, volume and shape.
According to Breiter, all three were abnormal in the casual marijuana users.
“For the NAC, all three measures were abnormal, and they were abnormal in a dose-dependent way, meaning the changes were greater with the amount of marijuana used,” Breiter said. “The amygdala had abnormalities for shape and density, and only volume correlated with use. But if you looked at all three types of measures, it showed the relationships between them were quite abnormal in the marijuana users, compared to the normal controls.”
Because these brain regions are central for motivation, the findings from Northwestern help support the well-known theory that marijuana use leads to a condition called amotivation. Also called amotivational syndrome, this psychological condition causes people to become less oriented towards their goals and purposes in life, as well as seem less focused in general.
Since the results were alarming, Breiter stressed that more studies need to be done examining a larger study sample, to see what happens longitudinally, to determine what the effects on the brain are if users quit, and so on.
“This study is just a beginning pilot study, but at the same time, the results that came out are the same as a canary in a coal mine,” Breiter told FoxNews.com. “...The interaction of marijuana with brain development could be a significant problem.
As many states consider following Colorado and Washington’s lead in legalizing recreational marijuana use, more research in this area is especially critical.
Update: Are Colorado legislators already having second thoughts?
Governor Andrew Cuomo found defiance instead of compliance this week in New York as gun owners showed him just what they think of his "SAFE" Act. Tuesday marked the deadline for gun owners to register their "assault weapons" under the anti-gun legislation. But, they had a slightly different way of marking the occasion:
Roughly 70 opponents of the law who gathered outside the Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building in downtown Buffalo late Tuesday afternoon to shred State Police registration forms for assault weapons.
So, why is this law so unpopular? Well, barring the fact that "assault weapon" is merely a political term, the SAFE Act has already resulted in 1,200 felony charges. Turns out New Yorkers don't like legislation that essentially turns them from law-abiding citizens using their right to bear arms one day, and criminals the next.
“They have been shredding the Constitution for years,” said Rus Thompson, who led Tuesday’s rally. “You shred the Constitution, we’ll shred any form you want us to fill out. They can’t arrest a million people. What are they going to do?”
“Nobody is going to comply with this,” added Tim Swedenhjelm, a gun owner and a 30-year range safety officer from Springville. “We don’t call them ‘assault rifles’ because they’re not ‘assault rifles.’ Assault rifles are automatic weapons. These are not automatic weapons. When I hear politicians call them assault rifles, you know they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
It seems not even law enforcement is on the governor's side. Sheriff Timothy B. Howard of Erie County told The Buffalo News that, even though officers are required to report any individuals who don't register their firearms, his deputies aren't exactly going out of their way to do so:
I am not encouraging them to do it. At the same time, their own consciences should be their guide. I am not forcing my conscience on them. That is a decision they should make.”
Earth to Cuomo: You don't respect people's rights, they don't respect you.
Obamacare is more than just a new entitlement. Charles Blahous of economic policy think tank Economics 21 writes about just how large of an impact that its provisions will have on the economy in the future. Spending on Obamacare's coverage expansion is immediately a massive entitlement expansion, and will only get worse.
Blahaus contrasts Obamacare with our other major entitlement programs and finds that ACA spends more than all but Medicare, and does so much faster:
After these initial rollouts, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid costs grew far faster than originally envisioned, sometimes due to subsequent legislation, sometimes due to unanticipated healthcare cost growth. It wouldn’t be surprising for either factor to affect the ACA, which would be even more problematic for reasons given below.
When new enrollment figures were released last week, the national discussion focused on whether the ACA is fulfilling its coverage expansion goals. The largely unwritten and more important story, however, is that the ACA is rapidly becoming a colossal fiscal disaster as enrollment proceeds heedless of the concurrent collapse of the law’s financing structure.
With the Obamacare rollout largely solidified and Republicans likely unable to make any major dent in the legislation until after the 2016 election - and everything might hinge on a win there - this will continue to be a drain on the federal budget, and just one more massive health entitlement.
If the rosy economic and long term health projections don't pan out, spending on coverage expansion is going to look much worse.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are disappointed with First Lady Michelle Obama. Why? Because she is using real chicken eggs Monday in the 136th White House Easter Egg Roll.
Who better to address this horrendous decision than three adorable children who seem to know just want to say…
PETA is known for using a variety of tactics to promote their message. These include suggesting to turn serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s house into a vegan restaurant, using Martin Luther King Jr. day to promote the rights of abused animals, and giving books full of graphic images of mutilated cows to elementary school children.
It is very unlikely Michelle Obama will take PETA’s advice and use plastic eggs in the roll. After all, she is using the event to promote her Let’s Move! initiative, which supports consuming eggs as part of a healthy breakfast.
Shortly after becoming the most successful crowdfunding campaign ever on Indiegogo, the Gosnell Movie project spearheaded by filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney to expose late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell and his 40 year history of filthy abortion clinics and butchering of babies, has just reached $1 million in funds. That means they are nearly halfway to their goal of completing a movie about America's most prolific serial killer that the mainstream media all but ignored.
By reaching the $1 million mark, the Gosnell campaign also becomes the largest non-celebrity film on any crowdfunding website. McElhinney reacted to this incredible feat:
"We now have 11,000 people who through small contributions are sending a message to the media and Hollywood that they are tired of seeing the news being suppressed to protect uncomfortable truths."
To make a contribution to this impressive and important campaign, click here.
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