Cortney O'Brien - Battleground Texas Suggests State Republicans Don't Care About Children's Health
Posted: 6/30/2014 1:00:00 PM EST

On Sunday, the liberal progressive group Battleground Texas, whose goal it is to "Turn Texas Blue," released an email to supporters outlining the Texas GOP vs. Texas Democrats platform. One contrast they made, was that while GOP are rejecting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Democrats are fighting to improve children’s health.

UNICEF defines The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as such:

The Convention changed the way children are viewed and treated – i.e., as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity.

So why would Texas Republicans be opposed to such a seemingly worthy project?

Well, not included in Battleground Texas’s misleading email was that this convention would put more parental responsibility in the hands of the government. outlines “20 things you need to know” about the UN convention and how it is contributing to a loss of parental rights:

“The best interest of the child principle would give the government the ability to override every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision.”

What’s more, the UN convention also promotes abortion:

“Children would have the right to reproductive health information and services, including abortions, without parental knowledge or consent.”

It’s no wonder the Texas GOP is concerned with this convention. Consider this text from the Texas GOP platform on both parental rights and the right to life:


Parental Rights and Responsibilities ? We believe that parental rights, authority and responsibilities are inherent and protected by the United States Constitution. Local, state, or federal laws, regulations, or policies shall not be enacted that limit parental rights in the rearing of both biological and adopted children. Parents have the right and responsibility to direct and guide their children’s moral education. We strongly support a Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Party Candidates and the Platform on Protecting Innocent Human Life - We implore our Party to support, financially or with in-kind contributions, only those candidates who support protecting innocent human life.

The Charter of the United Nations claims to recognize “The inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” But, that apparently doesn’t include our brothers and sisters in the womb.

Who knows how to better care for their children than their parents? The Texas GOP recognizes that no government can replace the love, care and guidance a mother and father can give. They best know their children and they best know how to raise them. These sections of the GOP platform, however, must not have fit in Battleground Texas’s email.

They may not be turning Texas blue anytime soon, but Battleground Texas is certainly turning faces red with their outrageous claims.

Katie Pavlich - Reminder: Hobby Lobby Provides Coverage for 16 Types of Contraception
Posted: 6/30/2014 12:45:00 PM EST

After today's Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, the left and Democrats are predictably claiming the 5-4 decision bans contraception for women.

That claim is completely false. Not to mention, Hobby Lobby itself provides coverage of 16 different types of contraception to its employees.

The Green family has no moral objection to the use of 16 of 20 preventive contraceptives required in the mandate, and Hobby Lobby will continue its longstanding practice of covering these preventive contraceptives for its employees. However, the Green family cannot provide or pay for four potentially life-threatening drugs and devices. These drugs include Plan B and Ella, the so-called morning-after pill and the week-after pill. Covering these drugs and devices would violate their deeply held religious belief that life begins at the moment of conception, when an egg is fertilized.

Facts matter, but to the left, emotion on this issue wins.
Daniel Doherty - Obama to Nominate Former Procter & Gamble CEO as VA Secretary
Posted: 6/30/2014 11:30:00 AM EST

Choosing a nominee to permanently replace former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is an important and crucial decision. After all, the federal agency has been criticized from all sides -- and justifiably so -- after numerous whistleblowers came forward and reported that veterans were going untreated for years and left to die in VA hospitals so that government employees could profit at their expense. Startlingly, too, the problems at the VA are not isolated to a few clinics or hospitals; corruption at the VA is systemic and well-documented. And, therefore, the next VA Secretary’s top concern is and must be bringing more accountability, efficiency, and transparency to the federal agency.

The Washington Post reports that the administration has tapped Bob McDonald to succeed interim VA Secretary Sloan Gibson -- a somewhat surprising choice given his relatively short military career. Nevertheless, his business acumen and managerial capabilities as a former CEO are obvious pluses:

President Obama on Monday will nominate Bob McDonald, a West Point graduate who served as chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to take over as head of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, according to White House officials.

The un­or­tho­dox pick of a retired corporate executive whose former company makes iconic household products such as Tide detergent and Charmin toilet paper — rather than a former military general — underscores the serious management problems facing the agency charged with serving more than 8 million veterans a year. On Friday, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors submitted a report to the president finding “significant and chronic system failures” and a “corrosive culture” at the Veterans Health Administration, which has come under fire for record-keeping that was skewed in an effort to cover up the long waits imposed on former troops seeking medical care.

The WSJ reports that lawmakers have greeted the president's decision both positively and with suspicion. And while some veterans groups have attacked the selection process -- i.e., angered over not being fully consulted and included in the search -- others still have welcomed the choice:

While Mr. McDonald would normally be seen as an unexpected choice, a crisis at the agency over extended wait times for health care and other problems means that "right now, they need someone with management skills,'' said Bob Wallace, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"He comes with the credentials they need at this time: management expertise and someone who has made a living making tough decisions," Mr. Wallace said. "He has no allegiance to anyone in the VA. He can do what needs to be done without offending his friends."

Perhaps that's exactly why McDonald is the right manager for the job. But will he sail through the nomination process? We'll see.

Matt Vespa - SCOTUS Limits Union Power To Collect Dues
Posted: 6/30/2014 11:06:00 AM EST

Today, the Supreme Court delivered a blow to public sector unions with their 5-4 decision that limited their power to collect dues.

The case involved a class-action lawsuit involving eight Illinois health workers, or personal assistants (PAs), who care for disabled persons in the comfort of their own homes. They’re also considered state workers, which means they must pay “agency fees” to the organized labor organizations that supposedly represent their interests with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) or the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

An agency fee is the lifeblood of a labor union, as it covers the cost for collective bargaining. The eight workers have argued that this agreement violated their First Amendment rights.

No public sector union employee can be forced to support their affiliated union’s political agenda, but the Supreme Court also ruled in 1977 [Abood v. Detroit Board of Ed.] that states can “require workers to pay partial dues… to cover the union’s cost of negotiating their contracts and representing them in grievances. Illinois is among the states to require just that,” according to Politico.

In the decision for Harris V. Quinn, Justice Alito, writing for the majority, wrote that the First Amendment prohibited collection of agency fees from these health workers, who do not wish to join or support a union, but stopped short of gutting the right for unions to collect dues from workers who do not agree with public employee union activity by refusing to extend the Abood decision:

The First Amendment prohibits the collection of an agency fee from Rehabilitation Program PAs who do not want to join or support the union. Pp. 8–40.

The Abood Court also failed to appreciate the distinction between core union speech in the public sec- tor and core union speech in the private sector, as well as the conceptual difficulty in public-sector cases of distinguishing union expenditures for collective bargaining from those designed for political purposes. Nor does the Abood Court seem to have anticipated the administrative problems that would result in attempting to classify union expenditures as either chargeable or nonchargeable, see, e.g., Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Assn., 500 U. S. 507, or the practical problems that would arise from the heavy burden facing objecting non- members wishing to challenge the union’s actions. Finally, the Abood Court’s critical “labor peace” analysis rests on the unsupported empirical assumption that exclusive representation in the public sector depends on the right to collect an agency fee from nonmembers. Pp. 8–20.

(b) Because of Abood’s questionable foundations, and because Illi- nois’ PAs are quite different from full-fledged public employees, this Court refuses to extend Abood to the situation here.

What justifies the agency fee in the Abood context is the fact that the State compels the union to promote and protect the interests of nonmembers in “negotiating and admin- istering a collective-bargaining agreement and representing the in- terests of employees in settling disputes and processing grievances.” Lehnert, supra, at 556. That rationale has little application here, where Illinois law requires that all PAs receive the same rate of pay and the union has no authority with respect to a PA’s grievances against a customer. Pp. 25–27

Now, what is the Abood decision?

D. Louis Abood was a teacher in Detroit who sued the city’s Board of Education on the grounds that paying dues to a union was a violation his First Amendment rights, as he did not agree with its political activities.The Court ruled:

Insofar as the service charges are used to finance expenditures by the Union for collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment purposes, the agency shop clause is valid.

Although public employee unions' activities are political to the extent they attempt to influence governmental policymaking, the differences in the nature of collective bargaining between the public and private sectors do not mean that a public employee has a weightier First Amendment interest than a private employee in not being compelled to contribute to the costs of exclusive union representation. A public employee who believes that a union representing him is urging a course that is unwise as a matter of public policy is not barred from expressing his viewpoint, but, besides voting in accordance with his convictions, every public employee is largely free to express his views, in public or private, orally or in writing, and, with some exceptions not pertinent here, is free to participate in the full range of political and ideological activities open to other citizens. Pp. 227-232.

The Constitution requires that a union's expenditures for ideological causes not germane to its duties as a collective-bargaining representative be financed from charges, dues, or assessments paid by employees who do not object to advancing such causes and who are not coerced into doing so against their will by the threat of loss of governmental employment. Pp. 234-235.

Harris V. Quinn had union leaders quaking in their boots since this decision could’ve struck down laws in 26 other states requiring other public-sector employees to pay union dues.

Sahil Kapur at Talking Points Memo noted that some union members are saying this case could ensure unions’ “final destruction:”

Unions fear the implications extend far beyond the home health worker profession in Illinois. Agency fees in principle are important to public employee unions because they're required by law to bargain for all workers in a unionized setting. If agency fees for non-members are ruled to be a violation of free speech, unions fear they would lose funding, become less effective at bargaining for benefits and, in turn, lose members.

A death spiral.

One labor official said such a result would bring about "the possible final destruction of the American labor movement." The official added, "It would cause the death not only of public sector unions and what's left of private sector unions, but also the Democratic Party," suggesting that the demise of unions would make Democrats more reliant on Wall Street money.

For now, union organizations can rest easy knowing that they're no longer threatened. But, more legal action is coming.

Guy Benson - Reuters: Iran Caught Cheating on Arms Embargo With Nuke Talks Set to Resume
Posted: 6/30/2014 10:33:00 AM EST

Tehran was accused of breaching the UN arms embargo earlier this year by using elaborate methods and erecting front companies to hide clandestine procurements, and now UN watchdogs say they've caught the Iranian regime red-handed. Reuters landed the exclusive over the weekend:

A U.N. expert panel has concluded that a shipment of rockets and other weapons that was seized by Israel came from Iran and represents a violation of the U.N. arms embargo on Tehran, according to a confidential report obtained by Reuters on Friday. The finding comes just days ahead of the next round of negotiations in Vienna between Iran and six world powers aimed at securing a deal that would gradually lift international sanctions on Tehran -- including the arms embargo -- in exchange for curbs on the controversial Iranian nuclear program."The Panel finds that the manner of concealment in this case is consistent with several other cases reported to the (Security Council's Iran Sanctions) Committee and investigated by the Panel," the experts said..."The Panel concludes that the shipment of arms and related materiel found aboard the Klos C is a violation of Iran's obligations under paragraph 5 of resolution 1747," they added, referring to the U.N. arms embargo on Tehran. Despite Iranian denials, the experts said official seals from Iranian customs authorities on containers that held some of the arms "substantiates the Iranian origin of those containers." Further evidence on the Iranian origin came from the Iranian bill of lading, cargo manifest and the container stowage plan.

The weapons, and how they're hidden:

The report includes details on the arms, which were concealed in a shipment of cement: 40 M302 rockets and fuses, including four different variations of the rockets; 181 120 mm mortar shells; roughly 400,000 pieces of 7.62 caliber ammunition. The experts said the concealment techniques were similar to other cases of alleged sanctions violations by Iran they have investigated -- in Nigeria, arms were shipped amid crates of marble; in other cases reported by Israel arms were hidden in containers with polyethylene pellets, lentils and cotton. In another case of reported by Italy, Iran allegedly shipped dried explosives among bags of powdered milk, the report said.

As the Reuters article spells out in its lede, this discovery comes mere days prior to the resumption of quixotic nuclear talks between Iran and a handful of Western powers plus Russia, led by the US. The Obama administration already loosened sanctions on Tehran in exchange for the regime agreeing to press a (completely and quickly reversible) "pause" button on their nuclear program. Iran's top officials have defiantly insisted they haven't agreed "to dismantle anything." Leave it to the Israelis to make the painfully obvious point, followed by a predictable rebuke from our friends in Moscow (who've remained busy in Ukraine, even as the world's attention has drifted):

At the time that the arms were seized, Israel said the case showed Iran was not negotiating in good faith with the six powers - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. "At the same time that it is talking to world powers, at the same time that Iran is smiling and saying all kinds of honeyed words, that same Iran is sending lethal weaponry to terrorist organizations and it is doing so in a complex web of covert, worldwide operations," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. The circulation of the Panel of Experts' report to the Iran Sanctions Committee just ahead of a deadline for Iran and the six powers to reach an agreement in the Vienna nuclear talks clearly irritated Russia. Earlier this week Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, complained that "any information not backed up by concrete facts ... could have a negative impact on the conduct of negotiations of the group of six and Iran."

The regime is actively violating international law in the middle of negotiations over a new international agreement. They cheat. They lie. They're not trustworthy peace partners, and as the world's top exporter and sponsor of terrorism, they practically represent the textbook definition of bad-faith actors. Will the Obama administration continue to play along with this charade -- working towards a "deal" with an illegitimate government that has no intention of keeping its word? Will the White House maintain its orders that Harry Reid obstruct a bipartisan vote on a sanctions bill in the Senate? Remember, the proposed legislation would only trigger tougher sanctions on Iran if they walk away from the bargaining table, or are caught cheating on the terms of the deal. Tehran's negotiators have denounced those terms as a nonstarter. And why might that be?

Christine Rousselle - BREAKING: SCOTUS Sides With Hobby Lobby
Posted: 6/30/2014 10:19:00 AM EST

In a victory for religious freedom, the Supreme Court ruled today 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. in the case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (formerly named Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby). The case was the strongest legal challenge to Obamacare since 2012.

The case concerned the HHS Contraception Mandate, which mandated that employers provide certain forms of contraception at no cost to their employees.

While still a legal victory for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., the decision is limited to closely-held for-profit corporations, not non-profits such as Little Sisters of the Poor. The decision is also strictly limited to the issue of the contraception mandate, not other medical practices.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion:

This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer's religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.

Alito was joined in his opinion by Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Kennedy. Kennedy also wrote a concurring opinion, detailing how the government already has programs in place to pay for birth control. Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, and Kagan.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. both claimed that the mandate violated their religious freedom. Both companies believe that certain forms of contraception induce abortion, which violates the religious convictions of their owners.

The Supreme Court is now adjourned until October.

This post has been updated.

Katie Pavlich - Gallup Poll: Confidence in Government Nosedives
Posted: 6/30/2014 7:30:00 AM EST

According to new polling published by Gallup Monday morning, confidence in the federal government has taken a nosedive and is at its lowest point since polling was started in 1991. President Obama has taken the biggest hit with confidence in the presidency eroding the most.

Americans' confidence in all three branches of the U.S. government has fallen, reaching record lows for the Supreme Court (30%) and Congress (7%), and a six-year low for the presidency (29%). The presidency had the largest drop of the three branches this year, down seven percentage points from its previous rating of 36%.

While Gallup recently reported a historically low rating of Congress, Americans have always had less confidence in Congress than in the other two branches of government. The Supreme Court and the presidency have alternated being the most trusted branch of government since 1991, the first year Gallup began asking regularly about all three branches.

But on a relative basis, Americans' confidence in all three is eroding. Since June 2013, confidence has fallen seven points for the presidency, four points for the Supreme Court, and three points for Congress. Confidence in each of the three branches of government had already fallen from 2012 to 2013.

Further, polling shows confidence in the presidency was significantly higher among Americans under President George W. Bush than it has been under President Obama.

Katie Pavlich - Decision Day at the Supreme Court For Hobby Lobby and Obamacare Contraception Mandate
Posted: 6/30/2014 7:10:00 AM EST

In its final rulings of the year Monday, the Supreme Court is set to release its decision about whether private businesses like Hobby Lobby have the right to exercise freedom of religion as a company by rejecting the contraception mandate in Obamacare. This will be the biggest decision made by the Supreme Court surrounding Obamacare since the law was determined to be a tax and was upheld as constitutional in June 2012. Here is a quick summary from The Wire:

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores & Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp v. Sebelius.

These two cases, considered together, challenge the health care reform law's contraceptive mandate. There are two broad questions at issue here: whether private businesses have the right to exercise their freedom of religion either under the Constitution or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and if so, whether the contraceptive mandate violates that religious freedom. Those are both big questions with implications for the more than 40 other challenges to the contraceptive mandate working their way through the courts. However, as we noted in our recap of the oral arguments, the court could end up issuing a much narrower ruling. Justice Ginsburg has said that the Hobby Lobby decision will be one of the last released by the court this month.

Those on the side of Hobby Lobby in this case are confident in the arguments that were made before the court on this issue earlier this year and believe freedom of religion will prevail.

"Absolutely, we win -- we are very confident after oral argument in March that we will prevail in this case," Chief Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Hannah Smith, who is representing Hobby Lobby, said in a recent interview on Fox News. "The Court was very skeptical that the government's claim that the federal law and the constitution doesn't allow for-profit businesses to be protected in their religious freedom. I think you saw some of the liberal justices being very skeptical of that claim."

Protests by liberal and conservative groups are expected outside of the Supreme Court ahead of the ruling.

Sarah Jean Seman - Obama Seeks Emergency Funds to Expedite Illegal Immigrant Deportations
Posted: 6/29/2014 6:30:00 PM EST

President Barack Obama is planning to ask Congress for more than $2 billion in emergency funds in order to address the growing border patrol problem and to expedite the deportation of illegal immigrant children being held in shelters in the United States.

According to the Associated Press:

Obama plans to make the requests of Congress in a letter to be sent Monday, the White House official said. Details of the emergency appropriation, including the exact amount and how it will be spent, will come after lawmakers return from their holiday recess on July 7, said the official, who was not authorized to speak by name and discussed the requests on condition of anonymity.

Obama will also ask that the Homeland Security Department be granted the authority to apply "fast track" procedures to the screening and deportation of all immigrant children traveling without their parents and that stiffer penalties be applied to those who smuggle children across the border, the official said.

In an ABC News interview Thursday the president spoke out against the current processing system used by the DHS:

“The problem is that under current law, once those kids come across the border, there’s a system in which we’re supposed to process them, take care of them, until we can send them back.”

He additionally sent a clear message to families in Central America, warning them not to send their children across the border.

“If they make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”

More than 60 percent of Americans disapprove of how Obama is handling immigration issues, according to a recent Gallup poll. Perhaps his direct warning to Central Americans and his request to Congress will sway these numbers.

Kevin Glass - Harry Reid and Senate Dems Refuse To Actually Legislate
Posted: 6/29/2014 5:47:00 PM EST

With Democrats scared that they're going to lose the Senate in the November 2014 elections, they've been very hesitant to actually legislate. Doing so would require some of their members to actually take a position on some important issues, and in response to that, they're just grinding everything to a halt.

Well, more than usual.

The Associated Press actually delves into the issue. There's nothing wrong with refusing to legislate - a government that isn't doing anything is a government that isn't doing any bad things - but Democrats often blame Republicans for "blocking legislation."

Here's the AP report:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., now is requiring an elusive 60-vote supermajority to deal with amendments to spending bills, instead of the usual simple majority, a step that makes it much more difficult to put politically sensitive matters into contention. This was a flip from his approach to Obama administration nominees, when he decided most could be moved ahead with a straight majority instead of the 60 votes needed before.

It's not just Harry Reid stopping action on the floor of the Senate. Even in the committee process, Democrats are halting action:

In the Appropriations Committee, long accustomed to a freewheeling process, chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., has held up action on three spending bills, apparently to head off politically difficult votes on changes to the divisive health care law as well as potential losses to Republicans on amendments such as McConnell's on the coal industry.

While the AP describes this as a new trend, this is pretty par for the course in the Obama era. Harry Reid hasn't allowed Republicans so much as a hint of a say in the legislative process in the Senate. That's just how President Obama likes it, as well.

As the AP writes, the top Democrats that they're trying to protect are Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana). All three of them are considered some of the most vulnerable Dems this November.