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Lowry: ‘Deep Ambivalence’ by Obama WH in Dealing with Islamic State



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​Make sure to read more of Rich’s commentary on President Obama’s approach to the growing threat in the Middle East in his Tuesday column, ”Obama’s Iraq War.”

Holder’s Bank of America Heist Funds Left’s Community-Organizer Shock Troops



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Government coercion of the financial sector to make irresponsible loans was the primary driver of the 2007-08 financial meltdown. Yet, as we’ve previously observed here, “Washington has searched every place but within for a scapegoat” – with the Obama Justice Department pursuing politically motivated investigations, prosecutions, and civil lawsuits against banks and credit rating agencies in order to concoct a history that blames predatory lending rather than statist policy.

Now we learn that Eric Holder, the Tom Hagen of this racketeering enterprise of an administration, is using the vig that DOJ muscle is extorting from the banks to pour tens of millions of dollars into the coffers of the radical Left’s top rabble-rousers – in addition to diverting what should be public funds to pay off delinquent debts in cities that Democrats have destroyed.

This from Investors Business Daily:

Radical Democrat activist groups stand to collect millions from Attorney General Eric Holder’s record $17 billion deal to settle alleged mortgage abuse charges against Bank of America.

Buried in the fine print of the deal, which includes $7 billion in soft-dollar consumer relief, are a raft of political payoffs to Obama constituency groups. In effect, the government has ordered the nation’s largest bank to create a massive slush fund for Democrat special interests.

Besides requiring billions in debt forgiveness payments to delinquent borrowers in Cleveland, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Oakland, Detroit, Chicago and other Democrat strongholds — and up to $500 million to cover personal taxes owed on those checks — the deal requires BofA to make billions in new loans, while also building affordable low-income rental housing in those areas.

If there are leftover funds in four years, the settlement stipulates the money will go to Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA), which provides legal aid for the poor and supports left-wing causes, and NeighborWorks of America, which provides affordable housing and funds a national network of left-wing community organizers operating in the mold of Acorn.

The editorial goes on to explain that NeighborWorks, in fact, provided $25 million in 2008-09 to the housing division of the notorious, Obama-allied ACORN – the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, which ostensibly disbanded after a 2009 scandal dried up its government funding. In 2011, NeighborWorks doled out $35 million to similar groups, including the “Affordable Housing Alliance,” which pressures banks to make the kind of high-risk loans that caused the financial crisis and has ties to Obama officials.

The editorial continues:

BofA gets extra credit if it makes at least $100 million in direct donations to IOLTA and housing activist groups approved by HUD.

According to the list provided by Justice, those groups include come of the most radical bank shakedown organizations in the country, including:

• La Raza, which pressures banks to expand their credit box to qualify more low-income Latino immigrants for home loans;

• National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Washington’s most aggressive lobbyist for the disastrous Community Reinvestment Act;

• Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, whose director calls himself a “bank terrorist;”

• Operation Hope, a South Central Los Angeles group that’s pressuring banks to make “dignity mortgages” for deadbeats.

Worse, one group eligible for BofA slush funds is a spin-off of Acorn Housing’s branch in New York. It’s now rebranded as Mutual Housing Association of New York, or MHANY. HUD lists MHANY’s contact as Ismene Speliotis, who previously served as New York director of Acorn Housing.

The recession has dried up funding for such groups. But Holder’s massive bank shakedown could rebuild their war chests in a hurry.

The Bank of America heist is not a one-off for the Obama Justice Department. IBD reminds us that similar funding for Democrat activists has been written into the $20 billion in settlements for which JPMorgan Chase and Citibank were shaken down. This is massive fraud and extortion. The heavily regulated financial institutions are at the government’s mercy – that’s why they were making the bad loans in the first place, under pressure from politicians and the very organizations Holder is now inducing them to underwrite.

Republicans control the House and can refuse to fund government activities. And the cut off of support for ACORN shows the Senate can be brought around when the stench is bad enough. So why are we funding an out of control Justice Department to the tune of over $26 billion per year? Why is this budget not drastically reduced to cut off DOJ’s capacity to file politicized suits against sovereign states and financial institutions while practicing unconstitutional racial discrimination in the enforcement of the civil rights laws? Why, when everyone knows this is a racket — i.e., that the targets of these lawsuits will be cowed into settling on bad terms because they cannot afford to litigate against Justice’s limitless war chest and resources — do we allow it to continue?

Most law enforcement can be handled by the states. That is why we did not even have a Justice Department for most of the first century of constitutional governance. Like most lawyers who’ve spent significant parts of their professional lives at DOJ, I am very proud of the work I was privileged to do there. But the Department has a unique governmental mission in that the administration of justice must be removed from partisan politics. DOJ is only worth having if it is, on balance, a positive for our security and the rule of law. Once the Justice Department deteriorates into a leg-breaker for the party in power, it is no longer worth having.

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Obamacare and Work



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Kevin Glass highlights the CBO’s latest take on this subject:

Over the next few years, CBO expects that the rate of labor force participation will decline about 1/2 percentage point further… the most important of those factors is the ongoing movement of the baby-boom generation into retirement, but federal tax and spending policies will also tend to lower the participation rate. In particular, certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act will tend to reduce labor force participation, with the largest effect stemming from the subsidies that reduce the cost of purchasing health insurance through the exchanges. Because the subsidies decline with rising income (and increase with falling income) and make some people financially better off, they reduce the incentive for some people to work as much as they would without the subsidies.

Much of the debate over the effect of Obamacare on work has concerned how we should think about the possibility of de-linking health insurance from employment. Some liberals have argued that it’s a good thing that Obamacare reduces labor force participation: People shouldn’t be “locked” into jobs they hate because it’s the only way they can get health insurance. But CBO has never said that reducing job lock is the main way Obamacare reduces employment. It has consistently pointed out that the structure of Obamacare’s subsidies acts as an implicit tax on work, and thus causes people to work less. It’s hard to see much to cheer in that.

Web Briefing: August 28, 2014

Reading Around



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A Libel in Texas



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As regular readers may have noticed, I am very fond of my home town but have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with my home-town newspaper, the (mighty, mighty) Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, and I had to beat it up a bit in my last print piece. My story was on the ridiculous indictment of Governor Rick Perry, and the fact that the purpose of such indictments is to harass, tarnish, and bankrupt the political enemies of Travis County Democrats, not to convict them of crimes. When I described the case of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, one of my editors here at National Review did something I’ve done any number of times myself: He sent the story back to me with a note to the effect that what I’d written seemed like it couldn’t possibly be true. But it is: After conducting a warrantless raid on Hutchison’s office, the prosecution declined to even present a case against her at trial. The way it works is this: Prosecutors know that evidence gathered in a warrantless raid probably will be ruled inadmissible at trial, but they do not really care — they figure that they’ll get something embarrassing enough that they can coerce their victim into some kind of plea deal before the case makes it to court. When Hutchison did not fold, the case went to trial, where it was dismissed in, if memory serves, about eleven minutes.

Which brings me back to the Avalanche-Journal, where I did two separate stints as an editor over the years. The newspaper’s web site currently is carrying the headline: “Rick Perry: Newest Member of GOP Felons’ Club,” over a column written by a Democratic activist, Carol Morgan. The headline is libelous on its face, meeting all three criteria in that it is: 1. false; 2. defamatory; 3. published with actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth. When I first saw the headline, I wrote to the newspaper’s publisher and its editor, advising them of their very serious error, but they apparently are sticking to their defense, which is that they are too lazy, feckless, and irresponsible to edit content that appears on their web site. (Web columns are “not edited by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal,” according to a disclaimer, as though that changed the fact that they are publishing them.)

Governor Perry, as a matter of fact, is not a felon: There is a world of difference between an indictment and a conviction. The grotesquely irresponsible story published by the Lubbock newspaper declines to mention that the cases against Hutchison and Tom DeLay (indicted by the same office) were in the end laughed out of court. The judge in the DeLay case wrote that the evidence suggested very strongly that DeLay had gone out of his way to comply with the law rather than to subvert it, and noted that the jury had been grievously misinformed about the substantive legal matter in question. (DeLay was charged with “laundering” legally obtained campaign funds, a legal impossibility inasmuch as only ill-gotten gains can be “laundered.”) (And never mind that DeLay also was charged with breaking a law that had not been passed at the time he was accused of having broken it — insert your own Terminator-inspired time-travel joke.)

Which is to say, the so-called felons’ club described by the article contains no felons. A bit of news that one might expect to appear in the newspaper, even in an op-ed column. This is not a matter of opinion or a matter of interpretation — it is a matter of fact. The assertion at issue is documentably, undeniably false. And unless the author in question is living under a particularly heavy rock, she must know it to be false — which means that it is a lie told with malice aforethought.

And that is the point of these dishonest indictments. Simpletons hear the word “indictment” and assume that something wicked is afoot, cheap partisans such as Carol Morgan peddle falsehoods, and credulous buffoons who operate newspapers publish those falsehoods under their flags and with their imprimaturs.

I have been a newspaper editor, and I have made my share of mistakes, some of them spectacular, many of them embarrassing. But I have never intentionally published something that I knew to be false, which is what is happening in this case, and no doubt in many other cases around the state. It does not make political, legal, or financial sense for Governor Perry to sue the pants off of these clowns — and, to be sure, being the hack Democrat at the newspaper in Lubbock, Texas, surely must be its own kind of hell. But the writer and, especially, the editors and publishers should be ashamed of themselves nonetheless — and those who rely upon them for their political news should know exactly what sort of credibility is associated with their work. Shame on them all — readers deserve better. 

Clipboard People and Other People



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The latest installment of my “Salzburg Journal” opens with a somewhat peculiar item. I’d like to quote it, then make a comment:

There are a few Jehovah’s Witnesses about. They warmly offer their literature. It takes guts to do what they do — evangelize among strangers on the streets. Sure, such people can be annoying from time to time. But I admire them. How many of us would have the nerve? Or the courage of our convictions?

I have thought the same about Mormons, throughout the world. I remember a pair of cheerful young women who approached me on the streets of Oslo. First they spoke to me in Norwegian. Then, switching to English, they said, “Can we share with you The Book of Mormon today?”

I was rushing, but I wished them well, and I truly meant it. Hell, I would have trouble selling encyclopedias door to door (or whatever the modern equivalent is). I’m sure I couldn’t do it. I might wind up playing ding-dong ditch.

After writing this, I thought, “What about the clipboard people in New York? Are they to be admired?”

The “clipboard people,” as some of us know them, are young men and women who stand around Manhattan, usually on nice days, usually in pairs. They are Soros-funded, I believe. They stop people to ask them to sign petitions or something in favor of a variety of left-wing causes. For example, they’ll say, “Do you have a minute for equal rights?” They mean gay marriage. Or, “Do you have a minute for the environment?” They mean some form of green extremism. Or, “Do you have a minute for reproductive freedom?” You know what that means. I wish they’d just say “abortion,” flat-out.

I do not really admire these people, as I do those Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons I mentioned. Reason: What the clipboard people do is safe, easy, and banal. Here in New York, they’re doing the equivalent of giving away beer to thirsty frat boys. There’s nothing nervy or gutty about it.

Speaking of street people: Earlier this summer, I was stopped on the Upper West Side of Manhattan by a lone, clipboard-bearing man. Or rather, I stopped myself — because he was asking for signatures to get himself on a ballot. Congress, I think. I almost always sign to get people on ballots, no matter who they are. I think participation in democracy should be supported.

As I was signing, the man said, “What changes would you like to see around here?” I said, “Oh, my vote doesn’t really count. I’m a Reagan Republican. I have no effect whatsoever.”

Then he said something that quite surprised me: “I’m from Dixon, Illinois” (the Gipper’s hometown). New York is a city of people from elsewhere — a “city of newcomers,” as Myron Magnet says. (That’s one reason they could elect Bill de Blasio mayor last year: They had no memory of what the city was like when people such as de Blasio ran it. These lessons are unlearnable without experience, it seems.)

Krauthammer’s Take: Obama’s Climate Plan an ‘Incredibly Stupid Idea,’ But Any Agreement Would Have to Be International



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On Wednesday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer reacted to the Obama administration’s efforts to develop a climate-change agreement among nations without the approval of Congress. Krauthammer said the idea that the Obama administration could think itself capable of shaming other countries into an international emissions restrictions was “the dumbest idea since the Russian reset.”

“It’s [the idea of the agreement] also based on the same assumptions that the Russians and the Chinese and others act the way Obama does — with adolescent idealism when it comes to foreign policy,” Krauthammer said. “So it is an incredibly stupid idea.”

But, Krauthammer said, he understands one aspect of Obama’s plans: Any climate-change agreement would indeed have to be international. “Anything that we do unilaterally here would only kill our economy and do nothing,” he said. “There’s a front-page story today on Germany, which is abandoning nuclear weapons and nuclear energy and fossil fuels and its economy is sinking as a result. You want to have an international agreement, but you want to have a treaty,” which would require Congress.

Obama Finally Sends His Toughest Stuff to Ukraine



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As Nat noted earlier today, Russia has apparently opened a new front in its invasion of Ukraine and begun openly shelling the country. In response, it seems that President Obama’s State Department has sent Kiev the most deadly weapons in our deterrence arsenal:

L.A. Times Defends the College Board on AP U.S. History



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Michael Hiltzik, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times has published a heated response to my piece on the intellectual and political background of the College Board’s changes to the AP U.S. History Exam.

Hiltzik accuses me of being part of “the right’s effort to suck the teaching of advanced U.S. History into the culture wars.” Actually, the College Board itself became responsible for sucking history education into the culture wars when it substituted a massively detailed set of teaching guidelines for the brief conceptual outline it issued in previous years. That earlier outline, by virtue of its brevity, wisely allowed AP U.S. History to be taught from a variety of perspectives. Because of its length and its inevitably controversial choices of particular themes and issues to emphasize, the College Board’s new Framework cannot help but stoke public debate.

The College Board itself was perfectly aware that its unprecedented decision to issue a detailed teaching framework would stir up public controversy. In a 2013 article published in the OAH Magazine of History, Lawrence Charap, in overall charge of the new Framework’s development, said “the choices made around which details are explicitly included in the Curriculum Framework will inevitably invite detractors.” Charap goes on to acknowledge receiving feedback from AP U.S. history teachers complaining about the new Framework’s “political correctness.” Invoking memories of the “history wars,” Charap goes on to say that he expects the new Framework will kick up a debate among “historians, history teachers, and the public.” Charap claims to welcome such debate.

So the College Board knew this controversy was coming, and could easily have avoided it by sticking with the brief and flexible conceptual outline it had used for many years. Or, if that outline needed tweaking, this could easily have been done without creating the vastly more coercive attempt to frame the teaching of American history that eventually emerged.

Hiltzik suggests that I want “everything” about U.S. history to be “viewed positively and uncritically by Americans themselves or by people outside its borders.” I neither said nor believe that. I do believe that the Framework is far too negatively tilted. Again, however, differences of this sort should be left to states, school districts, teachers and parents to resolve. The extended, selective, and directive nature of the new Framework inhibits freedom of decision at the local level.

When I say that historian Thomas Bender, who seeks fundamental changes to the way American history is taught, wants less taught about the Pilgrims, Plymouth Colony, and John Winthrop’s City on the Hill, and more taught about the role of the plantation economy and the slave trade in the rise of an intrinsically exploitative international capitalism, Hiltzik asks “What’s wrong with that?” Hiltzik sees Bender’s preference as a welcome move away from “stereotypes” toward a focus on “the flow of underlying historical trends.”

That is far too simple.

Keep reading this post . . .

Here’s the Best Way to Pay for Ending the Corporate Tax Altogether



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Corporate inversions are in the news again after Burger King’s announcement that it will be buying the Canadian chain Tim Hortons. I wrote about why American firms would do something this dramatic a few weeks ago: The U.S. happens to have a highly uncompetitive corporate-income-tax system. And not surprisingly, the Burger King move has revived the debate about the need to reform the corporate income tax — in particular, the idea that we should get rid of the corporate tax system altogether. NR’s editors noted yesterday that Harvard’s Greg Mankiw suggested on Saturday in the New York Times on Saturday that we need to repeal the whole corporate tax altogether.

But we usually don’t get anywhere with this idea because money-hungry lawmakers don’t want to deal with the loss of revenue that would result, even though the revenue the corporate tax generates is relatively small. But Stan Collender, writing in Forbes, has a solution to this problem:. Pay for it by ending all corporate welfare!

He writes:

The usual assumption and recommendation is that it be eliminated but replaced with other taxes. Mankiw, for example, recommended that a consumption tax be considered.

But there is a way to change the debate substantially: Don’t just repeal the corporate income tax;, repeal it and at the same time eliminate all federal support for corporations on the spending side of the budget.

There is clearly $300 billion of subsides and other kinds of support for corporations in the federal budget in fiscal 2014. In fact, if you define federal corporate support broadly and include direct support, insurance, indirect subsidies and other types of payments to all industries, the amount of spending is at at least that level. It could be substantially higher.

This would create a serious debate within the corporate community that hasn’t existed so far and would likely pit the companies and industries that don’t want to pay taxes against those that get significant spending side payments and subsidies.

It would also create a serious problem for the accounting profession where some of the largest firms make a significant amount of their revenue from helping corporations comply with the tax laws. These firms could, therefore, find themselves opposing their largest clients on the issue. Add in tax lobbyists, professors and those companies that have currently have a competitive advantage because they don’t pay any federal corporate income tax and the politics of the debate would change profoundly.

Now, that’s what I call a win-win.

 

IRS Ethics Lawyer Accused of Embezzling, Lying to Court Board



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A lawyer in the IRS ethics office may lose her job and her bar certification if the D.C. Court of Appeals’ recommendation is upheld. Takisha McGee, a section manager in the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, is accused of embezzling funds intended for two medical providers and of lying to the D.C. court’s board of professional responsibility. The Washington Times reports:

In its 43-page report, the board detailed the personal injury case, which resulted in an $8,900 insurance settlement. But after receiving the settlement check, she failed to pay about $3,000 combined to two medical providers whom she was supposed to reimburse for treatment given to her client, according to records.

The board found Ms. McGee took $7,850 from an account set aside for her client’s settlement through a series of “counter withdrawals.” But other than $5,000 paid to her client, “it is not clear where these funds went,” the board report stated. . . .

What’s more, the board found “clear and convincing” evidence that Ms. McGee provided false testimony about her handling of the settlement money during a hearing in the case.

“There are no unique and compelling circumstances here that could justify reducing the recommended and presumptive sanction from disbarment to a lesser sanction,” the board wrote in its ruling. . . .

“In addition to intentionally misappropriating third-party funds, respondent also violated a number of other ethics rules and gave false testimony during the hearing,” the board concluded.

Naturally, McGee regularly delivers lectures to audiences about (in the Times’ words) the “importance of maintaining high ethical standards.”

The CBO’s New Budget Outlook: Debt Ahoy!



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This morning, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an update to its budget and economic outlook for the next decade. In news that will be shocking to none of my readers, the federal debt is projected to grow over the course of the decade.

Check out their chart below:

By CBO’s estimate, the federal debt held by the public will reach 74 percent of GDP at the end of this fiscal year, a level not seen in the US since the topsy-turvy budgetary days of FDR and WWII. By 2024, the federal debt is projected to reach 77 percent of GDP. Before the onset of the recession, federal debt constituted a “mere” 35 percent of GDP. If current economic trends continue, debt levels that were once rationalized by extraordinary economic circumstances may simply become the new normal.

The CBO is more pessimistic than the Obama administration about GDP growth over the next decade, but they’re probably still more optimistic than a lot of Americans. These projections are assuming improvements in aggregate demand, higher consumer spending, and a turnaround of the housing sector. Should any of these changes fail to materialize, GDP growth may remain below even the CBO’s tempered projections, and the debt-to-GDP ratio could be even higher than expected.

Now, here is another alarming aspect of this report: Outlays are growing at an average of 5.2 percent per year, which is greater than nominal GDP growth. This is one of our key problems. We will never get the budget under control with federal spending consistently growing faster than our economy.​

Keep reading this post . . .

L.A. Mayor to Propose $13.25 Minimum Wage



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The Los Angeles Times reports that L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti is working on a proposal, to be released on Labor Day, that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $13.25 an hour over the next three years. Garcetti’s office will not confirm the plan, but insiders tell the L.A. Times that the current minimum wage ($9) would jump immediately to $10.25, then increase by to $13.25 by 2017, after which it would grow proportionally with the area’s consumer-price index.

City activists aren’t even satisfied with that: They hope to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour via ballot measure, and some L.A. city-council members are preparing a plan that would pay workers at the city’s largest hotels $15.37 an hour.

In June, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next few years.

With all this progress on the West Coast, President Obama’s $10.10 proposal is beginning to look, well, conservative. 

Jindal Sues Federal Government over Common Core



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Bobby Jindal is having a hard time stopping the implementation of Common Core in his state, so he’s taking it to the next level: The Louisiana governor will sue the federal government on the grounds of that the learning standards’ implementation violates states’ rights.

CBS News reports that the lawsuit argues that the Department of Education is attempt to coerce states in to adopting the controversial standards by tying their implementation to federal grants.

“Common Core is the latest effort by big-government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything,” Jindal said in a statement. “What started out as an innovative idea to create a set of base-line standards that could be ‘voluntarily’ used by the states has turned into a scheme by the federal government to nationalize curriculum.”

Jindal is facing a state-level legal fight over Common Core already – supporters of the program sued him for several executive measures he’s taken to withdraw the state from the standards. Last week, a state judge ruled that Jindal’s decision was harmful to students, teachers, and parents in Louisiana and that Common Core’s implementation did not violate state laws, which the governor had alleged.

Jindal has appealed the ruling but, for the time being, the state’s education superintendent is proceeding with implementation.

The standards have grown more unpopular nationally of late, with Republicans turning more quickly on the program than Democrats. Louisiana’s Republican-controlled legislature and Republican-appointed state superintendent, however, are fighting to implement the standards. Jindal’s effort to undo the standards has been seen as preparation for a 2016 presidential run.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Makes Cringe-Worthy Little League Appearance



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Illinois Democratic governor Pat Quinn is one of the most unpopular governors in the country, so much so that he couldn’t even get gratuitous applause at a Little League team’s rally. Quinn made the embarrassingly awkward appearance at a celebration for U.S. Little League Champions Jackie Robinson West.

“Everybody say, ‘Hey Pat!’ Make some noise!” the host told the crowd before welcoming Quinn. The crowd was almost dead silent as Quinn took the mic.

The governor greeted the crowd asked them to join him in chanting the team’s initials — “J-R-W!” — to no avail.

Via Washington Free Beacon.

Bernie Sanders: Companies Relocating Abroad Are Disrespecting Vets



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Companies such as Burger King that are weighing relocating to more business-friendly countries aren’t grateful for the sacrifices of members of the U.S. military, Senator Bernie Sanders says.

“I think where the American people get really, really angry is that we have families that are sending kids off to war, these kids get killed, they come home wounded — and then you have corporations where we’re seeing corporate profits at an all-time high,” Vermont’s socialist senator told CNN on Tuesday. “Many of these corporations have absolutely no loyalty to the people of the United States or to our government.”

Sanders worried that if more companies feel the need to move abroad because some U.S. companies have already done so, federal tax revenues that pay for infrastructure, education, and health-care could be imperiled.

Melchior: ‘Clear Favoritism’ By Obama Admin for Punishing Oil Companies More than Wind Farms for Killing Birds



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Make sure to check out Jillian’s latest piece, “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Liberals Catch Mitch McConnell Repeating His Public Statements in Private



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The Nation has Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) “caught on tape” describing his hopes for the Senate “at a secret meeting of elite donors convened by the Koch brothers.”

The Nation introduced it by comparing it to a Politico interview McConnell gave recently. “What McConnell didn’t tell Politico was that two months ago, he made the same promise to a secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers,” Lauren Windsor writes.

As scoops go, it’s a pretty odd one. The Nation is reporting that Mitch McConnell said the same thing in private that he has already said in public.

The closest they get to an inconsistency is that McConnell mentioned that he wanted to “go after” Democrats on financial-services issues.

“[That’s] a key omission from his Politico interview,” Windsor writes, before noting how McConnell has already made his opposition to Obama’s financial-services policies very clear, in public. “He has been a vocal opponent of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in particular, and presumably under his Senate leadership funding for the CFPB would be high on the list of riders for the appropriations chopping block.”

Secret recordings of politicians’ conversations are fun to write about, but they’re more fun if they’re different from the public interviews the politician gives.

From Where, Peanut Butter?



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The American Enterprise Institute’s online magazine has an interesting essay on the history of, among other things, peanut butter (which I love, which WFB loved, and which mentions WFB’s love).

Like many other prepared foods, though, peanut butter is not a traditional homemade product that was merely industrialized in the 19th century, like jelly or bread. Instead it developed decade by decade, shaped by innovations in chemistry, marketing, distribution, and even packaging. And its popularity shows both the power and limits of intellectual property.

Also interesting:

Economic crises and wartime emergencies have shaped our diet since at least the 17th century, when German peasants, recalling the marauding bands of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), realized that a hard-to-plunder potato field could be life-saving insurance against future military foraging. The 20th-century Depression brought a boom for cheese as a protein alternative. Kraft began to market premixed macaroni and cheese in 1937, and it has remained a staple. At about the same time, the Swiss Cheese Union mounted a successful marketing campaign based on a pseudo-historical identification of fondue as a national dish for “spiritual defense” of the nation. For thrifty meat eaters there was Spam, a mix of ham and an oversupply of pork shoulder meat, introduced by Jay C. Hormel. Even Nutella breakfast spread was developed by a pastry maker in wartime Italy who used locally abundant hazelnuts to extend scarce cocoa. Taste for these foods survived the hard times that made them popular.

In addition to interesting history, the essay uses peanut butter to illustrate “both the opportunities and the risks of intellectual property.” The essay also mentions the Wienermobile, in the driver’s seat of which I have personally sat.

The entire essay, by Edward Tenner, can be found here.

— Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar and economist at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him on Twitter at twitter.com/MichaelRStrain.

Al Michaels on Bob Costas: Viewers ‘Don’t Want to Be Lectured To’



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The only point of injecting political commentary into football broadcasts to “piss [the fans] off,” says Sunday Night Football play-by-play man Al Michaels, commenting on his NBC Sports colleague Bob Costas’s new habit of offering commentary during halftime broadcasts.

Over the past few seasons, Costas has used his halftime soliloquies to tackle various political or cultural issues, including gun control and the name of the Washington Redskins.

“You should have seen Twitter on Bob that night, but that’s a whole other story,” he told the Hollywood Reporter when asked about the name controversy. “Our audience wants to watch a football game, and all you really do to fans when they’re watching the game, if you go in that direction, is piss ’em off. They don’t want to be lectured to — period.”

On whether he was surprised that the Redskins controversy has gotten so big, Michaels said, “You know how things go in this world right now: Something gets out there, and . . .”

Last year, Costas called the team’s name “an insult, a slur” during a halftime disquisition on the issue. And following the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher in 2012, Costas said that the United States’ “gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy.”

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