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How About Just Paying Them More?



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Maria Shriver is helping Marriott hotels avoid raising the pay for its housekeepers.

Perhaps fearing that the minimum-wage campaign directed at fast-food restaurants will turn its red and fiery eye toward hotels, Marriott has teamed up with Shriver and her group A Woman’s Nation, to launch a campaign dubbed “The Envelope Please.” It will ”put envelopes in hotel rooms to encourage tipping” at Marriott’s various brands, including Courtyard, Residence Inn, J.W. Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Renaissance hotels. The hotel chain is even suggesting how much to tip: “Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson says $1 to $5 per night, depending on room rate, with more for a high-priced suite.”

If the housekeepers’ exertions warrant that money — and I’m sure they do — why doesn’t Marriott just raise their pay by $1 to $5 per room per night? The company’s press release has the gall to describe “Gratitude Envelopes,” as though women making beds and cleaning bathrooms to make ends meet are engaged in a charitable activity. It’s not even likely this would increase the real wages for housekeepers in the long run in any case; the federal minimum wage for employees who receive at least $30 a month in tips is just $2.13 an hour (something I was chagrined to discover when I waited tables lo these many years ago). If tipping housekeepers became universal, hotels would stop raising their pay and eventually start hiring new ones at the tipping minimum wage, at which point you’d kind of have to tip, as with waiters, since that would be their main source of income. Hotels would thus be able to emulate restaurants, whose advertised menu prices are artificially low and do not reflect the actual cost customers have to pay.

The whole concept of tipping is a distortion of what should be a normal, transparent business transaction. I don’t tip Marriott’s laundry service or its food wholesaler — those costs are figured into the price I pay for a room. If you want someone to carry your bags, that’s optional and you should have to pay extra. But the bed being made is no different from having running water or working lights — it’s part of the standard package you’re paying for.

Do you tip your dental hygienist? The checkout lady at Walmart? The bank teller? As Rick Moranis told Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven, “This is my job. I get paid. You don’t tip FBI men.” If we’re supposed to tip housekeepers, why not bank tellers and FBI men?

The whole effort smells of Marriott paying protection money to Shriver, like Jesse Jackson’s various shakedown schemes. (None of the reporters covering this seem to have asked how large Marriott’s donation to Shriver’s organization was.)

The Census Bureau reports that about half of “maids and housekeeping cleaners” are immigrants (both legal and illegal). You know how to raise the wages of these poor, less-educated women spending their days cleaning hotel rooms? Cut immigration and tighten the labor market. You’ll see how fast hotel chains start competing with each other to attract staff by offering more money and better benefits. (Tightening up welfare rules wouldn’t hurt either.)

Instead, Marriott has lobbied to double legal immigration, in hopes of paying its housekeepers even less than it does now.

GAO Says Abortion Coverage ‘Inconsistent with Federal Requirements’ in Obamacare Exchanges



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Sadly, and at last, a new report by the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) has revealed that the Obama administration has utterly failed to keep its promises to prevent taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions in insurance plans offered through exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And the administration accepts no responsibility for this failure.  

Given the ACA’s extensive list of shortcomings and controversies, the GAO report may elicit little more than a yawn from the media. Yet, the report is stunning in that it documents how the Obama administration has abandoned and even undermined the very promises that enabled the health-care legislation to pass the U.S. House of Representatives.

When objections to taxpayer funding for abortion or abortion coverage nearly brought down the bill, it took an eleventh hour “compromise” — statutory language provided by Senator Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) and a promised executive order — to save the ACA. Now, over four years later, the GAO report confirms that the abortion deal was effectively meaningless.

We hate to say we told you so, but here goes: We told you so.

At the heart of Senator Nelson’s language is an accounting mechanism intended to ensure that federal funds are not used to directly pay for abortions. Issuers of insurance plans that cover abortions in state exchanges are supposed to collect from enrollees a “separate payment” for abortion coverage (i.e., the abortion premium) and a “separate payment” for everything else. Federal funds should only be comingled with the second pot of money.  

The language in the law is unambiguous — “separate payments” are required. Yet, insurance issuers are not collecting separate payments. In fact, the Obama administration is telling issuers that they do not need to collect two checks. When issuers seek guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), they are told that they can merely itemize the amount of a premium that will be used to pay for abortions. 

However, insurance issuers are not doing even this — the GAO found that insurance issuers are not itemizing the abortion premiums nor sending a separate bill for the premiums. 

Keep reading this post . . .

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Krauthammer’s Take: Obama, Military ‘Making It Up as They Go Along’



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With the president and his military leaders differing on the subject of ground troops, Charles Krauthammer says the likeliest explanation is that the Obama administration is “making it up as they go along. That does not inspire confidence,” he added.

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, General Martin Dempsey suggested that American forces may have to engage in combat against the Islamic State — this after President Obama’s repeated assurances that there will be no American “boots on the ground.” On Special Report, Krauthammer proposed three possibilities for the apparent contradictions:

Either the president wants not to do it, which appears to be the impression. . . . and the military wants to go ahead and do it, because it knows it’s going to need to at some point. Or, Obama is very cleverly the one giving the good news, and he’s having the generals go out and talk about the inevitable bad news, the ground troops. Or the third possibility is, these guys have no idea what they’re saying or doing, and they can’t agree on what’s going on.

Web Briefing: September 15, 2014

¡Basta!



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I read with interest a piece by Katherine Timpf yesterday: “Sorority in Big Trouble after Taco Tuesday Event Deemed Racist.” It began, “A sorority at California State University Fullerton is in serious trouble because it hosted a Taco Tuesday event where students wore ‘culturally insensitive attire’ such as sombreros.”

It reminded me of an episode that NR editorialized about in a May issue. (In conversation with Kat, I learned that she, too, wrote about this matter, back then.) We said,

A fraternity and a sorority at Dartmouth, Phi Delta Alpha and Alpha Phi, were planning to do something nice: stage a fundraiser for cardiac care. The problem was that they called their event a “Phiesta.” A Mexican-American student complained, saying that “there are various problematic structures and ideologies regarding a Cinco de Mayo-inspired event.” The Greek houses, abashed, canceled their event. A spokesman said, “We felt that the possibility of offending even one member of the Dartmouth community was not worth the potential benefits of having the fundraiser.” Ay, caramba.

Ay, caramba, is right. And I wish these Greek houses would tell the PC police to stuff it — in any language, wearing any kind of headgear, they wish.

P.S. Aren’t there Mexican-American students who will object to the PC police and say, in effect, “Not in our name”? But that is very hard to do. Which is one reason bullies so often get their way.

P.P.S. The Phiesta guy said, “We felt that the possibility of offending even one member of the Dartmouth community was not worth the potential benefits of having the fundraiser.” You know, when I was in college, no one gave a rat’s behind about my feelings. I don’t think anyone ever thought, “Gee, how will Jay feel? Will he be offended?” How about you? Did your college cater to your sensitivities?

Anyway, if you start fuming about idiocy on campus, you can fume forever. Eats up your whole day . . .

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Will: The Past Seven Days Have Been ‘Extremely Good Week for ISIS’



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It has been “an extremely good week” for the Islamic State, says columnist George Will. “Seven days passed since the president used primetime to warn the nation of the gravity of all this. And those seven days have been an extremely good week for ISIL, because it is now clear that under no circumstances will there be troops from the United States — or anyone else.”

How to defeat the Islamic State given the strategic limitations the United States has placed on itself is a conundrum “worse than three-dimensional chase,” Will said on Tuesday’s Special Report. “You’ve got Assad, and then you’ve got various factions of varying degrees of repulsiveness — except for those we now call the ‘vetted moderates’ to whom we are somehow going to get weapons that they will use — only they will use — and that they will not use against this, that, or the other group that fails certain tests of relevance. It’s an amazing problem.”

“The fact remains, [the Islamic State] will not be defeated from the air, and no one’s coming on the ground.”

New Mexico Democrat Loses Third Campaign Manager Since Start of June



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New Mexico governor Susana Martinez’s Democratic opponent has just lost his third campaign manager and a top-level aide, according to the Albuquerque Journal. New Mexico attorney general Gary King’s first campaign manager, Jim Farrell, resigned in June, reportedly to spend more time with his family, and his replacement, Steve Verzwyvelt, left in less than a week after his controversial tweets became a distraction. Verzwyvelt allegedly referred to Mitt Romney as an “elitist a**hat” on Twitter, and called Louisiana senator David Vitter and Governor Bobby Jindal “d*****bags,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.

King’s third campaign manager, Keith Breitbach, joined the campaign at the end of June and left less than three months later. Breitbach cited his mother’s heart problems as a consideration in his departure on September 10. Soon after Breitbach jumped ship, the Albuquerque Journal released a poll showing King down 18 points in the governor’s race. Martinez’s lead in the polls is only eclipsed by her campaign war chest: At the start of September, Martinez had $3.8 million cash on hand compared with King’s $157,730, according to the Albuquerque Journal. With absentee and early voting beginning next month, King has not yet decided if he will hire a fourth campaign manager. 

A crushing win in November would only help Martinez’s chances of appearing on the Republican’s national ticket in 2016. Martinez is the Washington Post’s top pick for a Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2016. Martinez has reportedly decided not to run for national office in 2016, but a landslide victory in a blue state for a Republican who is also the nation’s first female Hispanic governor could thrust her into the national spotlight. 

Re ‘Clinton Intimates Hid Damaging Benghazi Info . . .’



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Ian, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who read your post and thought of Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton’s national security adviser (second term). After 9/11, he stole classified documents from the National Archives — to protect his historical reputation (and that of the Clinton White House, presumably). He hid the documents in his clothing. And then he destroyed them.

This is very dirty pool.

By the way, Sandy Berger was a guest of President Obama’s at dinner the other night, advising him on the Middle East. I don’t believe that wrongdoers should be banished to some Siberia or hermitage, if they are repentant. I hope Berger is — repentant, that is.

And it is hard to trust Clintonistas with governmental responsibility. At least it is for some of us. We’ll see whether the voters go for it, again . . .

Senator Inhofe: Obama ‘Flat Not Telling the Truth’ about Ground Troops in Iraq



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After hearing the Pentagon’s testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Senator Jim Inhofe is more convinced than ever that U.S. “boots on the ground” will end up being used to confront the Islamic State — and he’s accusing President Obama of “flat not telling the truth” about the matter, including the fact that there are already special forces on the ground.

Inhofe spoke just hours after the hearing with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who asked the Oklahoma Republican how he interpreted General Martin Dempsey’s admission that U.S. combat troops may be sent to fight against the Islamic State should air strikes prove insufficient. 

“Well first of all, the president’s just flat not telling the truth,” Inhofe charged. “We already have boots on the ground there. He knows we’re going to have to have boots on the ground. Let’s just go ahead and face it and admit. We’re in a war. And you didn’t win a war unless you’re out there fighting.”

“I did ask the question — and I hope that you took note of that, a lot of people did — is that if we have guys doing air missions and they’re shot down, are we going to have troops down there to save these guys?” Inhofe continued. “And [Dempsey] said, ‘Yes we will.’ So I think he made it very clear that the president is just making that statement for political purposes.”

Does the Fate of Justice in America Depend on the NFL?



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Let’s stipulate that Ray Rice should have gotten a much longer suspension for his act of violence against his fiancée, and let’s further stipulate that there are many loathsome thugs in the NFLand other professional sportsand the league can do a better job setting and enforcing standards. But the media coverage over the last couple of weeks has been wildly disproportionate. We are apparently supposed to believe that the status of women in America, rates of domestic violence, and trends in child discipline all depend on what the NFL decides to do in a handful of cases involving its players. This is completely absurd, but the media pile-on affords lots of opportunities for ax-grinding and is presumably good for ratings, so it’s the NFL every day of the week.

Cavanaugh: A Conference In Paris Doesn’t Get a Ball Rolling



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Kansas Senate Poll: Republican Incumbent Pat Roberts Trailing Independent Candidate



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Independent candidate Greg Orman is beating out both incumbent Pat Roberts and Democratic challenger Chad Taylor in the Kansas Senate, according to a new poll.

The latest survey on the Sunflower State’s rapidly changing race, conducted by Public Policy Polling, gives Orman a seven-point edge over Roberts, 41 percent to 34 percent. Taylor, who is in the midst of attempting to remove his name from the November ballot, comes in at 6 percent, barely ahead of Libertarian candidate Randall Batson at 4 percent.

When pitted against each other head-to-head, 46 percent favored Orman and 36 percent favored Roberts, with 17 percent unsure.

Orman’s emergence over the last few weeks comes after Taylor tried to withdraw from the race, leading many of his supporters to unite against Roberts by backing Orman. The Kansas secretary of state’s office said Taylor failed to provide adequate explanation for his removal, meaning he will stay on the ballot, for now. On Tuesday, the state’s supreme court heard arguments from Taylor and the state after the candidate appealed the decision to keep him in the race.

Meanwhile, in the state’s gubernatorial election, the poll found Democratic challenger Paul Davis leading Republican governor Sam Brownback 42 percent to 38 percent.

Obamacare and Abortion



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The Government Accountability Office reports that tax dollars are subsidizing insurance plans that cover abortion. That’s not news to Corner readers, of course, but it’s nice to see official acknowledgment of the truth. Tim Carney and John McCormack have more.

‘A Strategy to Defeat the Islamic State’



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Fred and Kim Kagan were key intellectual architects of the surge that saved the Iraq war and defeated the forerunner of the Islamic State the first time around–and were ringing the alarm bells long ago about the descent of Iraq after the U.S. withdrawal, when few were inclined to listen.

Now, they have published a proposed strategy for defeating the Islamic State. I recommend reading the whole thing. You will be struck by its modest tone. What they propose is much more robust than President Obama’s strategy, yet, even then, the risks are high and the prospects of success uncertain.  A few key points.

People speak loosely of how we must rely on the pesh merga and the Iraq army on the ground in Iraq. The Kagans argue this is entirely wrong-headed. The key potential ally, and the only one that will be accepted in the Sunni communities where this battle will be fought, are the Sunni tribes:

Al-Qaeda and like-minded groups such as ISIS can only flourish in distressed Sunni communities. They attack every other religion and sect, but their bases must be in Sunni lands because their ideology is an extreme, exclusionary interpretation of Sunni Islam. Doing anything to al-Qaeda — defeating, disrupting, degrading, destroying, anything else — requires working with the overwhelming majority of the Sunni communities within which it lives and operates. Those communities have shown their distaste for the ideology and the groups that espouse it, rising up against them in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, and almost everywhere else they have appeared, except Pakistan.

 

But al-Qaeda brings more than ideology to the table. Its affiliates are extremely lethal and use brutality to maintain their positions among populations who reject their ideas. The Islamic State has been assassinating Sunni tribal leaders who allied with the U.S. and the Iraqi government during the Awakening in 2007 and pre-emptively killing those it fears might ally with us again. It has also been cleansing the areas of Syria it controls of potential Sunni opponents in an attempt to nip any reprise of the Awakening in the bud. Sunni populations cannot expel al-Qaeda groups simply because they reject their ideas. They need outside help to defeat these well-organized, well-armed, skilled, and determined zealots. They have already shown that they can and will fight against 
al-Qaeda groups with that help, and that they either cannot or will not fight effectively without it.

 

The core challenge facing the U.S. in Iraq and Syria, therefore, is the problem of enabling the Sunni Arab community stretching from Baghdad to Damascus and Turkey to Jordan to defeat al-Qaeda affiliates and splinter groups and persuading that community to rejoin reformed states in Iraq and Syria whose security forces can thereafter provide the help it needs to keep al-Qaeda from returning.

 

Meeting this challenge requires centering operations within the Sunni Arab community rather than strengthening Shi’a and Kurdish forces that are alien and threatening to that community. A strategy of basing in Kurdistan and Shi’a Iraq and providing air support to Kurdish troops and ISF forces intermingled with Shi’a militias and Iranian advisers may achieve some initial successes, but will ultimately fail. The prospect of Kurdish domination over Ninewa Province, including Mosul, and of the permanent Kurdish seizure of Kirkuk, could well spark an ethnic Arab-Kurdish war. ISIS has been working actively to stoke those ethnic tensions inorder to provoke precisely such a conflict, which would allow it to embed itself more deeply among an embattled Arab populace. Merely strengthening Iraqi Security Forces that are rightly seen as Shi’a dominated and militia-infiltrated may also achieve short-term gains, but at the cost of setting conditions for an even larger Sunni Arab mobilization against perceived Shi’a domination that would create new opportunities for ISIS or a successor group to establish itself.

 

The Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria are the only local partners who can be decisive in the fight against ISIS and JN. Our strategy must focus on making direct contact with them, coordinating our efforts with them, building their strength against ISIS, and finding out the terms on which they would be willing to reintegrate into reformed states in Iraq and Syria. They are the pivot of the entire effort and must be at the heart of every phase of our strategy.

 

The Kagans are clear-eyed about the opposition in Syria:

The moderate elements of the opposition have been especially degraded because they are fighting against both the regime and ISIS. They have also received far less international support than either of their opponents. JN [the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria] has penetrated the opposition thoroughly and interwoven itself with opposition forces across the theater. JN has close operational ties with other Salafist-jihadist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham (HASI), although many other opposition groups also cooperate with Jabhat al-Nusra in battle without necessarily being aligned with JN. This includes an array of groups ranging from members of the Islamic Front to groups falling under the umbrella of the moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA).

 

Jabhat al-Nusra’s fighting prowess keeps it central to opposition efforts in the southern Deraa and Quneitra fronts as well as the Hama and Idlib fronts. It is also influential in the fight for Damascus. Jabhat al-Nusra is quietly cultivating influence within rebel governance and shaping the opposition where it can, although it appears that most opposition groups are cooperating with JN opportunistically rather than ideologically. 


Their strategy requires the commitment of substantial ground forces:

It is impossible to identify precisely the forces that will be required for all of Phase I, let alone for subsequent phases, before operations have commenced. The activities recommended in this paper will likely require the deployment of not more than 25,000 ground forces supported by numerous air and naval assets. The bulk of those forces will likely be comprised of various kinds of units supporting a much more limited number of Special Forces and other assets deployed in small groups with tribes, opposition forces, and Iraqi Security Forces. This plan does not envisage U.S. combat units conducting unilateral operations (apart from targeted attacks against individual enemy leaders and small groups) or leading clearing operations. It requires some combat units in the support and quick reaction force (QRF) roles described above.


And there will be substantial risks:

. . . the dispersed footprint of U.S. troops required by this plan and the immaturity of the theater support infrastructure exposes US soldiers to a high risk of capture and kidnapping. Individual U.S. teams are likely to find themselves threatened by overwhelming enemy force at times. Casualties, hostages, and beheading videos are extremely likely. These risks must be mitigated through the deployment of robust helicopter support and quick response forces. Such forces will greatly increase the total “boots-on-the-ground” requirement, which many will find distasteful. It is essential to keep in mind, however, that withholding those forces and capabilities in order to keep the U.S. troop presence inside Iraq and Syria below some arbitrary number enormously increases the risk to the small number of Americans who would be actually operating with indigenous forces.

Again, read the whole thing–it’s a remarkably well-informed and unvarnished analysis of where we are vis-a-vis the Islamic State.

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Ready to Use Obama Against Tea Party Senators



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Republican governors seem prepared to attack Tea Party lawmakers such as Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Rand Paul (R., Ky.), and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) by comparing them President Obama, who ran for the White House as a freshman senator.

Governor Bobby Jindal (R., La.), pointed to the president’s lack of executive experience as an explanation for his job performance.

“I do think Bill Clinton, having served as a governor, I think that was better preparation for being president [than] simply being a senator, as we’ve seen with President Obama,” Jindal told reporters at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington D.C. when asked to name the Democratic president in his lifetime that he admires most.

Jindal, who is openly considering a 2016 presidential bid, did not draw an analogy between Obama and any Republican, but his comments come one day after former Governor Mike Huckabee (R., Ark.) — who also acknowledges that he is mulling a presidential campaign  — said that GOP should not nominate a senator.

“If not me, I would be supportive of someone who has had executive experience and who has been a governor prior to somebody having only had legislative experience, which I think is fundamentally different in the manner in which one serves,” Huckabee told reporters Monday.

Remember when Rubio, for instance, was hailed as “the Republican Obama,” and as “the Tea Party’s answer to Barack Obama?” When Obama’s campaign victories were fresh on the mind, that might have seemed like an advantage. As the crises accumulate, though, Republican governors who want to run for president seem ready to argue that primary voters shouldn’t put Republican freshman senator in the White House.

Firing Squad Support Growing: Wyoming Takes Aim



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“Through the efforts of anti-death penalty activists, it’s becoming harder to get the drugs necessary for lethal injection,” Wyoming State Senator Bruce Burns (R-Sheridan) tells National Review Online of a Friday decision to propose firing-squad executions in the Equality State. “The secondary form of execution is the gas chamber. The problem Wyoming has there is we don’t have one. So without the drugs we don’t have any form of execution.”

Burns serves on the state’s interim Joint Judiciary Committee, which considered solutions to the problems lethal-injection state executions are facing all over the country. The committee last week rejected a proposal to ban the death penalty and submitted a proposal that would make Wyoming the third state (along with Utah and Oklahoma) to authorize its department of corrections to use firing squads for executions.

“The committee looked at various means of execution,” Burns tells NRO. “Other than lethal injection and gas chamber, the other standard means are the electric chair, hanging and firing squad. Firing squad seemed like the most efficient. It’s also usually the most thorough. One of the legislators [Republican State Representative Stephen Watt] asked what if they all miss? But there is less likelihood of all the members of a firing squad missing than there is of the kind of problems we’ve seen with other means.”

An April execution by lethal injection in Oklahoma was “botched” in the sense that condemned prisoner Clayton Lockett’s death throes were energetic and lengthy enough to make the grim reality of killing clear to onlookers. That incident provoked a wave of revulsion toward capital punishment, though the death penalty remains popular throughout the United States. In the aftermath of the Lockett execution, some observers, instead of ruling out the death penalty, have begun to question whether state governments’ preference for more humanitarian-seeming methods is in fact any less harsh than more traditional forms of state-sponsored killing.

“I tried to put myself in that position,” Burns notes. “How would I want to be executed?” The firing squad has actually been a requested means of execution for such prominent prisoners as Major John André, the British officer who facilitated Benedict Arnold’s defection during the Revolutionary War, and who reportedly remarked after learning that he would instead be hanged, “I am reconciled to my death, but I detest the mode.”

The full Wyoming state house will vote on the proposal in January.

 

Tags: Death , Capital Punishment , Wyoming

Mike Huckabee: Ted Cruz’s Worst Nightmare



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Mike Huckabee dropped his biggest hint to date yesterday that he might run for president in 2016. Should he run, his national name ID and his strong 2008 run probably doom any chance Rick Santorum has (Santorum’s 2012 vote largely overlapped with Huckabee’s 2008 backers). But it also throws a huge monkey wrench into any hopes Senator Ted Cruz has of winning the nomination.

Cruz’s chance rests on mobilizing tea-party grassroots conservatives behind his cause and quickly emerging as the sole conservative choice to take on a more moderate Republican. But polls have consistently shown that tea-party supporters have significant overlap with politically active Evangelical Christians. In most Senate primaries with tea-party challengers, Evangelicals and anti-government conservatives have tended to unite behind one person. Huckabee’s entrance into the race would give the Evangelicals a choice: Do they prefer an overtly religious man with less credibility on spending reduction or a conservative anti-spender who is also an Evangelical?

The primary track record since Pat Robertson’s 1988 campaign suggests many would prefer the more religiously themed man. Evangelicals have consistently given religious conservatives strong support even when they are Catholic (Pat Buchanan in 1996, Rick Santorum in 2012). Even in 2000, when Evangelical Texas governor George W. Bush had secured most mainstream religious conservative support, fringe religious conservatives Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes still received nearly a quarter of the vote in the pivotal Iowa caucus. It would be hard to imagine that Huckabee could not do as well as Bauer and Keyes, and if he did, there wouldn’t be enough hard-core conservatives left for Cruz to corral.

Given how much attention is given to the first two races, it is hard to see anyone getting the nomination who doesn’t win or place in either Iowa or New Hampshire. Since New Hampshire has one of the most moderate GOP electorates in the nation, that means Cruz, Huckabee, or any other candidate relying on movement conservative support needs to win or place in Iowa to have any shot at all. That means one of them must effectively knock out the others in Iowa to have a chance in subsequent races. Given Iowa’s nearly 30-year preference for religious conservatives, that bodes ill for Cruz.

Cruz has plenty of time to deal with this potential threat. He could adopt more of a public stance on things like persecution of Christians, marriage and the family, and religious freedom. He could also speak more openly about his faith and the role it plays in his public life. In the absence of that, though, Cruz is likelier than is currently thought to go the way of big-talking Texans John Connally and Phil Gramm and quickly disappear from the 2016 contest if Huckabee gets in.

— Henry Olsen is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Receives Warm Welcome at Yale



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The decision of Yale’s William F. Buckley Jr. Program to invite Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak on campus attracted significant controversy last week, with more than 30 student organizations signing a letter protesting her appearance, but her speech on Monday went off without confrontation or interruption. 

Hirsi Ali, an activist for women’s rights in Islamic societies who was disinvited from speaking at Brandeis University earlier this year, received multiple standing ovations from the large crowd gathered at Yale. Hirsi Ali went after claims by the school’s Muslim Students Association that she lacked the scholarly credentials necessary to speak authoritatively on Islamic issues.

“Why is my experience relevant? Is it because I was raised a Muslim? Is it because I was married off or had my genitals cut? No,” she said.

“Ladies and gentlemen of Yale, every creed has a core and the core of Islam is to submit to the will of Allah,” Hirsi Ali said. “You can’t fight the symptoms of radical Islam, without addressing the core of Islam.” Over the last decade, she said, the U.S. has refused to face the source of the problem.

In advance of Monday’s event, the Yale MSA said Hirsi Ali’s past comments were libelous and slanderous and sought to have another speaker present to challenge Hirsi Ali’s statements. MSA board member Abrar Omeish declined to comment to NRO after the event, and pointed to a letter circulated by MSA and an opinion column she wrote in the Yale Daily News as representative of the group’s views. 

Rich Lizardo, president of the Buckley Program, told NRO he thought the event went smoothly and jokingly apologized for the lack of conflict at the actual event. Hirsi Ali did not speak to reporters after the event, but did stop by a group of them to thank a Brandeis student for attending.

Gen. Dempsey Says He’ll Recommend Combat Troops to Iraq If Airstrikes Fail



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Army General Martin Dempsey, current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured U.S. senators on Tuesday that he has no intention of sending American combat troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq — but admitted that that could all change if air strikes fail to dislodge the jihadists from urban positions.

Senator Jack Reed (D., R.I.) singled out President Obama’s repeated pledge of “no boots on the ground” in Iraq or Syria, despite the well-known presence of hundreds of American military advisers. “You suggested that if the situation changes, you might recommend, or come to us with a recommendation that would enhance their mission or change their mission,” the senator noted. “Can you clarify what they’re doing?”

Dempsey explained that while the airmen bombarding Islamic State targets “are very much in a combat role . . . the folks on the ground are very much in a combat advisory role. They are not participating in direct combat. There is no intention for them to do so.”

“I’ve mentioned, though, that if I found that circumstances evolving, then I would, of course, change my recommendation,” the general admitted. 

As an example, Dempsey described a possible offensive by Iraqi forces to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city which was captured by the Islamic State last June. “It could well be part of that particular mission to provide close-combat advising, or accompanying for that mission,” he said. “But for the day-to-day activities that I anticipate will evolve over time, I don’t see it to be necessary right now.”

 

Insurer That Covered Nearly 60 Percent of Minnesota Obamacare Enrollees Drops Out of Exchange



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The insurance company that covers about 60 percent of Minnesota’s Obamacare enrollees will no longer sell plans when the enrollment period opens this year, delivering the latest blow to the state’s already-troubled exchange.

In a statement on Tuesday, insurer PreferredOne announced that “continuing on MNsure was not sustainable” for its business model due to the high administrative costs associated with the law. The Star Tribune reports that PreferredOne hired 50 new employees to deal with the various changes facing the company after last year’s launch, even as it constituted a small number of the firm’s customers.

The decision to drop out will vastly change the landscape for MNsure customers from the year before: 59 percent of all enrollees bought a plan through PreferredOne, which had offered the lowest-priced plans. Policyholders will be able to renew their plans with the company, but not if they receive a federal subsidy, as most enrollees do.

University of Minnesota political expert Larry Jacobs told KSTP that PreferredOne’s decision could also have political implications: with PreferredOne no longer on the exchange to drive competitors’ prices down, rates could jump in October, a month before the midterm elections.​

But MNsure officials say PreferredOne’s announcement to exit is an indication that the exchange is working as planned:

 

The Minutiae of Election Rules in the Kansas U.S. Senate Race



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The Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning in the dispute over whether the state’s ballot will bear the name of the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. The nominee, Shawnee County district attorney Chad Taylor, tried to withdraw from the ballot on September 3. With less than an hour to go before the deadline for withdrawal, he hand-delivered his written request to Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach. But Kobach has refused to take Taylor’s name off the ballot, asserting that his attempt to withdraw did not comply with Kansas law.

Many political observers see Taylor’s bid to withdraw as a political ploy to clear the field for former Democrat Greg Orman, the independent candidate in the race. Polling showed Taylor and Orman were splitting the Democratic vote in their attempt to unseat the Republican incumbent, Senator Pat Roberts. Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) told National Review Online that “this is pure, cold, political calculus on the part of the Kansas Democratic party and the national Democratic party” intended to “get another liberal into the Senate.”

Last Thursday, Taylor filed a writ of mandamus asking the Kansas supreme court to order Kobach to withdraw his name from the ballot. The court ordered that all briefs on the case be filed by Monday and held oral arguments this morning. Time is of the essence, because the ballot has to be certified so that it can be printed and sent out to early voters, such as servicemen and women stationed overseas. (Those ballots must be mailed 45 days prior to Election Day under federal law.)

The crux of the case revolves around 14 words that the Kansas legislature added in 1997 to the state statute governing withdrawal of a nominated candidate (K.S.A. 25-306(b)). Prior to this amendment, a candidate could withdraw for any reason or no reason. But the amendment requires any candidate to declare “that they are incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected.”

Taylor, despite being a lawyer who spends his days reading and applying state law, failed to do that. His withdrawal letter simply stated that he wanted to withdraw from the race pursuant to the statute. As an amicus brief filed by a Democratic voter, David Orel, supporting Kobach says, Taylor “merely invoked the statute, without saying a single word about whether (or why) he is incapable of serving if elected.”

Kobach’s brief lays out the unambiguous history of the statutory amendment. Kobach makes a clear-cut case that the Kansas legislature intended to prevent the exact type of political manipulation now occurring in this U.S. Senate race. His brief emphasizes that requiring a declaration of incapability had a very specific purpose: “to combat the problem of dummy or ‘placeholder’ candidates.” Requiring such a declaration “was intended to prevent party leaders from inducing candidates to resign in the service of a larger political play.” It “ensured that the primary election process did not become a game, confusing voters, giving the appearance of corruption and undermining public confidence in the electoral system.”

In fact, the amicus brief filed by David Orel supports the point that declaring oneself “incapable” is not something a sitting officeholder who is a candidate wants to do. As the brief says, although Taylor:

seeks to convince this Court to intervene in a federal election, he has not explicitly declared himself incapable of service (or offered any reason for why he is incapable. Instead, the most he can say is that his desire has run dry: he “do[es] not want to be a candidate for U.S. Senate”; “do[es] not want” to have his name on the ballot; ”do[es] not want to have [his] name associated with the Democratic party for purposes of the 2014 U.S. Senate race.”

But as Orel’s brief notes, “not wanting to do something is, of course, fundamentally different from not being capable of doing something. Mr. Taylor’s eleventh-hour change of heart simply is not a valid basis for withdrawal under Kansas law.”

There is no case law in Kansas applying this specific requirement. Kobach, however, cites other state court holdings, including decisions from Texas and California, that have required strict compliance because statutes “dealing with candidacy for political office are mandatory and are to be strictly enforced.” In fact, the California Court of Appeals stated that allowing removal of a candidate’s name from the ballot “encourages undue influence by more powerful candidates, political ‘teams’ who may withdraw in favor of one another, and the deterrence of potential candidates who may consider the race overcrowded.” This seems to be a perfect description of the political machination at play in Kansas.

The Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that the time, place and manner of federal elections are delegated to state legislatures unless Congress intervenes. Thus, Kobach cautioned the Supreme Court that it cannot relax the withdrawal requirement imposed by the state legislature.

If this case were decided purely on the law, then Taylor’s writ of mandamus would be dismissed and his name would stay on the ballot. But a Kansas lawyer I talked to was not optimistic: Four of the justices on the court were appointed by former Democratic governor Kathleen Sebelius. Yes, the same Kathleen Sebelius who headed the Health and Human Service Department until this past April and was in charge of implementing Obamacare.

If the court does grant his withdrawal, the voters who put Taylor into office as a district attorney might want to seriously consider whether he has also declared himself “incapable” of serving in that office.

— Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and coauthor of “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department” (HarperCollins/Broadside 2014).

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