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Wednesday Links



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The Gettysburg Address was seven score and eleven years ago: history, photos, video and more.

The origin of Humpty Dumpty.

Photoessay: Co-worker asked me to watch her plant while she was out for the week . . .

Basic fainting technique: how to faint in a manner that attracts the attention of a specific gentleman.

Thirty hilariously terrifying animal hybrids that you can be glad don’t exist.

Take this Map Your Mind quiz and find out which famous brains are most similar to yours.

ICYMIMonday’s links are here, and include Pliny the Elder’s advice for avoiding mushroom poisoning, film from a 1937 Nazi boys summer camp in upstate N.Y., the history of prosthetic limbs, and the top 50 all-time video games, ranked.

NR Alumni News



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Northwestern University Press has just issued a volume in honor of NR alumnus and Bill Buckley protégé Garry Wills. For those unfamiliar with the life and views of Mr. Wills the past few years, let it suffice to point out that the preface of this book says that Wills “has become a prophet, much like Rev. Jeremiah Wright,” and intends this as praise. (WFB once joked that he had been “running a finishing school for apostates.”)

The book, Nation and World, Church and God: The Legacy of Garry Wills, is a bit of a misnomer, in that roughly half the essays in it make only cursory mention of Wills; it’s more like an academic Festschrift in that regard than strictly a book detailing Wills’s accomplishments. A highlight of the book is an article by frequent NR contributor Sarah Ruden, questioning the claims of the theological “peacemaking” movement.

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Rescission? Really? How Absurd!



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Several reports are emerging that appropriations chairman Hal Rogers and others are floating the possibility of passing a clean omnibus appropriations bill now and then later “rescinding” the funds that could be used by Obama to implement his amnesty plans. This is sheer and utter nonsense. Balderdash. Tommyrot. And Rogers darn well knows it. Whereas withholding funds for a particular purpose in a larger approps bill at least in theory puts the onus on the president to decide whether it’s worth vetoing the whole bill in order to save the one part, rescissions do just the opposite — and they play entirely into the president’s hands.

In a rescission, Congress is trying to withdraw funds that already have been signed into law. All it takes to block the rescission is a presidential veto — which, it must be noted, is an easy call for him. Absent some pressing motive, his easy answer is to veto it in two seconds flat. After all, he would no longer be needing to choose between that program and all the others in the bill; instead, he would already have his program in hand — so why should he sign the bill taking away what he already has? 

It’s sheer lunacy.

What’s astonishing is that some members seen not to understand this basic, obvious, simple fact of lawmaking.

Indeed, it seems most of them haven’t even heard of rescissions. What’s really bizarre is that one of the ones who seemed at least temporarily bamboozled was Matt Salmon of Arizona:

“Chairman Rogers just got up and said if we pass an omnibus and then the president does this executive amnesty, he said we can rescind it, and we can rescind it with 218 and 51 and we don’t need the president. That’s what he just told me. I’ve never heard that before,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a key conservative lawmaker who has emerged as a leader in crafting strategy on the issue.

How in tarnation can Salmon say he is unfamiliar with rescissions? He was in Congress in early 1995 when the famous Gingrich-led GOP majority successfully pushed through a $16+ billion rescissions package, after two months of painstaking, high-publicity efforts.  In fact, it was effectively the first major fight of Salmon’s congressional career. How can he not remember it?

But that package avoided a presidential veto because Bill Clinton was desperately trying to “get right” with the American people in order to earn reelection. In the wake of the election, he had famously declared that “the era of big government is over.” He had painted himself into a corner. He couldn’t dare veto the bill. On the other hand, Obama now faces no reelection; and the proposed rescission would focus solely, or almost solely, on one of his executive actions, not on big spending in general. Obama would sign that rescission about the same time that a Chik-fil-A cow would eat a hamburger while flying to Pluto on a hot-air balloon.

Look, people can have different opinions about the importance of using spending bills to fight Obama’s amnesty. But to suggest that the way to use spending bills is to allow spending for it now and then rescind it later can only be described as a deliberate deception.

There’s no excuse for a single Member to fall for it. It’s basic American civics: No act of Congress can become law unless the president allows it, unless two-thirds of both houses override the president’s veto. Jeesh. Words fail.

Web Briefing: November 23, 2014

Modernizing the CBO



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I hate to break up a meeting of the Douglas Elmendorf fan club, especially as the club counts many people I deeply respect among its members, but I think the Congressional Budget Office needs a change. 

The issue isn’t so much Elmendorf himself. He’s a professional, and a level-headed liberal, which is a rare gift these days. I wouldn’t say the last few years have been a wonderful time for the CBO, though they haven’t been disastrous either. But I think the basic structure and character of the work of the agency (as well as of Congress’s other scorekeeper, the Joint Committee on Taxation, which assesses the revenue implications of legislation) needs to change pretty dramatically over the coming years. 

Keep reading this post . . .

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Live! From the Caribbean



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Well, it was live at the time. Just a few short days ago, Jay and I recorded our first Need to Know before a live audience on the NR cruise. They were more than live, they were lively, and we hear it was SRO (sorry, we’ll find a bigger room next time!).

We talk about Jonathan Gruber, naturally. And also mandatory voting. You remember the great Stan Evans quip: “Liberals don’t mind what you do, so long as it’s compulsory.” 

Jay has some wise observations about our current mania for governors, the Nation magazine’s planned trip to Cuba, Obama’s single-mindedness, and music. Join us!

Jonathan Karl: So, Is Obama an Emperor Now?



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Jonathan Karl repeatedly asks Josh Earnest whether Barack Obama is now an “emperor,” and then requests an explanation as to what exactly has changed since the president told everybody that he could not legally take the action that he is about to take.


Report: White House Covered Up Gruber’s Gov’t Contract to Help Sell Obamacare



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Fox News’s Bret Baier reports that the White House and congressional Democrats have been less than transparent over Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber’s ties to the government, repeatedly concealing the MIT professor’s $400,000 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services while selling the law to the American people.

Why might they have been quiet about the deal? While Gruber was getting paid a generous fee by the Obama administration to work on the Affordable Care Act, the White House pushed the professor’s work as an objective and impartial analysis of the law. Congressional Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry did the same in committee hearings and on the House and Senate floors. Then-Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein and publications like The Atlantic helped further this narrative.

In other words, Gruber’s obscured relationship with the administration seems to have contributed to the impression of an organic consensus in favor of the law among health-care experts even as the professor was being paid by the law’s most important backer.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught



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From the annals of issues that only intellectuals are capable of misunderstanding: Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA, is worried that the drug trade might end up being dominated by people who care about making money. My experience with drug dealers suggests very strongly that they are a profit-seeking, entrepreneurial lot as it is. 

Rescission?



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“Rescission” is the term floated on Tuesday by House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers. It’s the mechanism by which he says Congress can pass a long-term congressional resolution to fund the government and then, if and when he issues an executive amnesty, rescind funding for particular programs. 

Over the years, the mechanism has been used in a number of ways — some of which have rankled conservatives. They’ve been used, for example, to revoke funding from one program, where it was never intended to be spent in the first place, and funnel it to another. Conservatives didn’t like that gimmick. In 2012, the Washington Post wrote about a group of frustrated freshmen congressmen, including Arkansas’s Tim Griffin, who were looking to get rid of a host of “arcane budget gimmicks involving ‘chimps’ (changes in mandatory spending), budgetary timing shifts and spending cancellations known as ‘rescissions.’” 

“I’m all for any rescission that saves money,” Griffin says. “What we had a problem with and still have a problem with are gimmicks. I am completely in favor of a rescission if that’s what we have to do to reign in the president’s unconstitutional and illegal actions that apparently he’s about to take.” 

Those on the right flank on the Republican conference, most of whom favor the passage of several short-term funding bills or a longer-term bill that doesn’t fund the Department of Homeland Security, see one problem with using the mechanism now: The president can veto a rescission bill. 

That didn’t seem to factor into the comments Rogers made to his colleagues: “Chairman Rogers just got up and said if we pass an omnibus and then the president does this executive amnesty, he said we can rescind it, and we can rescind it with 218 and 51 and we don’t need the president. That’s what he just told me. I’ve never heard that before,” Arizona’s Matt Salmon told Breitbart​.

Another GOP congressman tells me: “Rogers claims the House and Senate can vote to rescind with no presidential signature. Uh, not in my Constitution.”  

Chris Cillizza’s Interesting Error



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I do not understand this Chris Cillizza post. Cillizza argues that conservatives have jumped all over Jonathan Gruber for two reasons: “(a) The ACA was made purposely vague to keep the public in the dark about its depth and breadth, and (b) liberals think conservatives are stupid.”

About the first item there is little ambiguity: Democrats did not merely keep discussion of the Affordable Care Act “vague,” they willfully misled Americans about the program they were establishing.

The second point, however, is odd. Gruber did not argue that conservatives are stupid; he argued that Americans are stupid, that Democrats were obliged to mislead the public because of the “stupidity of the American voter.”

“So, it’s not just that the Obama administration is trying to pull the wool over your eyes,” Cillizza writes. “It’s that they think you, conservative American, are too stupid to even notice.”

I am pretty sure that “American voter” and “conservative” are not synonyms, and that the country would be markedly different if they were. Too much is made of the “inside the Beltway” mentality, of Washington’s habit of regarding the rest of the country the way Jane Goodall regarded the residents of Gombe Stream National Park. But this is an interesting error on Cillizza’s part, assuming that conservatives as conservatives must be intellectually defensive rather than simply pointing out arrogance and vanity, as though Gruber were not working for the fellow who declared: “I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

It is easy to slip into cheap Menckenism on the subject of American voters, but they are, it often seems, insanely stupid. It is a puzzle how Americans, who are the world’s smartest engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and firefighters, allow themselves to get took time after time by the half-bright collection of swindlers and criminals who aspire to rule us. That they also permit themselves to be condescended to by men such as Barack Obama and Jonathan Gruber is mysterious, too, and, contra Chris Cillizza, not to conservatives alone.

A GruberGate Megamix



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American Commitment has put together a compilation: “All of #GruberGate in Two Minutes.” 

Should Elmendorf Be Reappointed CBO Chief?



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Gregory Mankiw thinks so. Dr. Mankiw was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, and is a widely respected economist. He acknowledges that “GOP leaders may be tempted to put their own stamp on the Congressional Budget Office,” but argues still that Douglas Elmendorf — a former Fed economist who served in the Clinton administration — should be reappointed when his term as director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ends in January.

Someone recently said to me that the CBO director is not really a player in the political game. He is more like the referee. That analogy sheds light on why Doug is the right person for the job. What do you want in a good referee? Competence and impartiality. Doug has demonstrated both. He is a superb economist and, over the past six years as CBO director, has shown himself to be scrupulously non-partisan.

I understand that GOP leaders may be tempted to put their own stamp on the Congressional Budget Office. But sometimes the benefits of continuity transcend ideology and political affiliation. Ronald Reagan reappointed Paul Volcker, and Barack Obama reappointed Ben Bernanke, despite the fact that both Fed chairs were initially appointed by a president of the other party. In the same spirit, I would encourage the GOP congressional leaders to reappoint Doug Elmendorf as CBO director.

So does Charles Murray, who weighed in on Twitter, agreeing with Mankiw.

As does AEI economist Alan Viard, who wrote the following today.

Doug, whom I have been privileged to know since we were in graduate school, has done a superlative job in his six years as CBO director. Aided by the agency’s exceptional staff, he has steadfastly challenged both parties’ efforts to evade economic realities, unflappably weathering all of the ensuing criticism. Under Doug’s leadership, CBO has consistently provided insightful economic analysis, including extensive examination of the disincentive effects of tax and spending policies. His integrity is unassailable.

The CBO is widely respected by both Republicans and Democrats, and by economists, and its analysis is taken extremely seriously by the policy community. It is correctly viewed as a truly honest broker, and it is extremely powerful. (Indeed, I wrote an op-ed in February making the point that the CBO under Elmendorf has both helped and hurt the president’s policy initiatives.)

Mankiw, Murray, and Viard  are right to praise Elmendorf. He is, as Dr. Mankiw writes, a superb economist. (And being a solid economist with a Ph.D. should be required to lead an agency that is staffed with many Ph.D. economists and is dedicated to producing economic analysis.) And he deserves much credit for the CBO’s reputation for impartiality during his tenure. Elmendorf has been a great steward of one of our country’s important institutions — he is a public servant of great integrity. A CBO director less dedicated to solid, mainstream, academic, non-partisan analysis could put a large dent in the quality of the CBO’s work and reputation. That would be bad, a very bad outcome indeed.

Even if under a Republican Congress the CBO is to complement its existing analysis with other methods — more transparency, “macrodynamic scoring” — then who better than Dr. Elmendorf to lead the effort?

It has been said that the graveyards are full of indispensable men, and Dr. Elmendorf certainly isn’t the exception. But he is a fantastic CBO director, and the GOP could do much, much worse than to reappoint him.

Count me with Mankiw, Murray, and Viard. Elmendorf for CBO director.

— Michael R. Strain is deputy director of economic policy studies and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MichaelRStrain.

‘Lost Cause’ Rob Astorino Beat Andrew Cuomo Outside of New York City



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Governor Andrew Cuomo won a relatively comfortable reelection earlier this month, defeating Republican opponent Rob Astorino by 13 points, 54–41. But that’s hardly a resounding victory for an incumbent governor against a relatively unknown foe, and it turns out that he was only dragged over the finish line by an incredibly strong performance in New York City. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports that Cuomo was actually beaten by Astorino in the rest of the state:

Cuomo’s 13-percentage-point win over Republican challenger Rob Astorino on Nov. 4 was fueled by a large margin of victory in New York City, where he took home 77 percent of the nearly 1 million ballots cast, according to the state Board of Election’s unofficial results.

Take away the city, however, and the rest of the state backed Astorino — albeit by a slim margin. Outside of the five boroughs, Astorino collected 1.3 million votes — or 49 percent — compared to Cuomo’s 1.2 million, or 46 percent, in a low-turnout election. Three third-party candidates were also on the ballot.

It’s a shift from four years ago, when Cuomo, a Democrat, won 55 percent of the non-New York City vote en route to a 30-percentage-point win.

“The election returns were a whisper from the past, where Democrats ran up big margins in New York City, lost by big margins upstate and tried to hold strong in the suburbs,” said Lawrence Levy, who heads Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies.

Astorino’s strong performance upstate isn’t entirely unprecedented, but it shows he had success with plenty of the electorate. And he did that after the immensely powerful and well-known governor next door and no stranger to winning big in the suburbs to outdo the cities, Chris Christie, wrote him off as a lost cause . . .

ISIS Is in Libya (But Don’t Worry, Just a ‘Manageable’ Number of Them)



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CNN posed the following tough question to the United Nations’ special envoy to Libya: Is it news to him that the company has become “an operating site for extremist fighters,” the Islamic State specifically? In almost a parody of international-bureaucrat impotency, the envoy, Bernardino Leon, tells the network from the capital of the country next door . . . “yes, absolutely.”

But don’t worry, he says: “We don’t believe this [the Islamic State's strength] is a high number” and it’s still something the Libyan government and/or the international community “can manage.” How an international community that has done little for the country since backing Islamic-extremist rebels’ overthrow of the government in 2011 or a government that doesn’t control most of the country is supposed to do that “managing” isn’t quite clear.

CNN’s anchor does a nice job of pushing Leon about what the U.N. thinks might actually work — he repeatedly alludes to the political process, but free Libya’s politics have been dominated by unacceptable militant and Islamic elements.

Libya has been a haven for Islamic terrorists for years, and as the Islamic State grows in prominence, some number of the groups that are overrunning Libya will probably look to the group in Syria and Iraq for guidance. We don’t know how much that connection per se matters, but it’s certainly a bad sign of what we should have known all along, and of a near-intractable problem for the country’s governance.

Does Abortion Trump Religious Liberty?



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As the recent dust-up over Houston’s subpoena of pastors’ sermons indicates, religious liberty arguably is the most fragile and embattled civil right of our time. Yesterday I sent a letter to the California Director of the Department of Managed Health Care,  as well as to the D.C. city council regarding the issue. In the letters, I express concern that recent actions taken or contemplated by these entities threaten religious liberty.

In California, Director Rouillard recently decided that state law requires all health-care plans, including health plans purchased by religious employers, to cover elective abortions. In D.C., the city council is considering a bill that would require religious employers to cover elective abortions and would forbid employers from firing employees who advocate for abortion in opposition to the organization’s religious beliefs.  Both California’s decision and the proposed D.C. bill arguably violate the Weldon Amendment, which would result in the state and District losing federal funds. D.C.’s proposed bill is particularly egregious because it’s blatantly inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Hobby Lobby and Hosanna-Tabor.

The letter to California is available here, and the letter to D.C. is available here.

Dartmouth Student: I Should Be Able to Regulate Your Speech



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If you don’t mind too much, a student at Dartmouth would very much like to regulate your speech. In The Dartmouth, Zach Traynor laments that:

Free speech is often cited as a cornerstone of American democracy. Individuals or a group have the right to express themselves and say whatever they want with fairly few restrictions. As long as the speech does not imminently incite violence, constitute slander or libel, or have excessively objectionable content, the speech is allowed.

There are some benefits to this arrangement, Traynor concedes — among them that the system:

protects crucial kinds of free expression, like criticisms of the government or U.S. policy, the publication of potentially risqué or provocative works and the ability to mock others for comedic effect. It allows for dissenting but respectful viewpoints critical to our system of democracy: people can be heard even if they have an unpopular opinion, and they have the opportunity to convince people of the virtue of their point of view.

But, nice as this is, that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be afforded an opportunity to decide what you should be prosecuted for saying:

 That said, this country has gone too far in allowing people to say whatever they want, and should curtail speech that is obviously harmful to society, such as hate speech.

Ah, of course: “hate speech” — yet another lovely example of the illiberal Left’s tendency to destroy useful concepts by appending other words to them. (For a solid illustration of this in practice, take a look at the progressive movement’s penchant for gluing buzzwords to “justice.”) I especially like the implication that in a country with this much intellectual diversity there is such a thing as “obviously harmful” expression.

The peculiar thing about Traynor’s post is that he appears to be well aware of the case against punishing people for moving their mouths in a manner that upsets him. ”What,” he asks smartly, “is stopping the government from moving past sensible restrictions on free speech, once they are in place, to something more Orwellian, as in China or other authoritarian regimes”? And yet, he’s ultimately not too worried by the prospect of the state introducing a “small but significant change to the freedom of speech in this country: namely, the prohibition of unambiguously destructive, hateful speech.” And why not? Well, because “given America’s deeply-held cultural norms and the power of the Internet and social media,” abuse is unlikely. Later, he spells out this position: “This country,” he says, “is supposedly built on freedom and equality, not on the right to say whatever you want without significant consequences.”

I’m always amused by this argument, because it boils down to the question, “why should we worry about destroying our basic liberties and traditions when we have our basic liberties and traditions there as a backstop?” In this country, the right to “say whatever you want without significant consequences” is not separate from “America’s deeply-held cultural norms” or its “freedom and equality,” it is an exposition of those things. That’s what “freedom and equality” means. “How does America benefit from allowing speech that many other developed and democratic countries have wisely deemed to be against their modern values?” Traynor asks in conclusion. That he was allowed without consequence to publish a treatise agitating against the foundational values of the country should help him to answer his own question.

Maybe There Is a Way to Challenge Obama in Court



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I just returned from a week of sun, fun, and politics with the happy National Review cruisers of the Allure of the Seas. One of the frequent topics of conversation (other than favorite Democrat loser on November 5 or the Republican presidential nominee in 2016) was the White House’s coming order deferring the deportation of illegal immigrants. President Obama is flouting his fundamental duty, set out in Article II of the Constitution, to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The president can only refuse to carry out an Act of Congress if it violates the higher law of the Constitution – which no one seriously claims is at issue with the immigration laws.

NR speakers on the cruise, including me, were at a loss on how to oppose President Obama’s violation of the Constitution. Challenges to the White House’s earlier refusals to enforce Obamacare, immigration, and welfare laws have failed. Talk of impeachment may follow the Framers’ original design, but it is politically impossible and self-destructive. 

What about legal options? Conservatives are trapped because they favor a limited scope for judicial review by the federal courts. Under the doctrine of standing, long favored by conservatives, no individual can bring a claim unless they have suffered a discrete “injury in fact” that is traceable to the government’s conduct and can be redressed by the court. President Obama’s refusal to enforce the law affects us all by violating the Constitution, but it is hard to claim that it harms any individual citizen (it only benefits the illegal immigrant).

But an overlooked lawsuit may offer a path forward to a court challenge to Obama’s coming order. On September 16, West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, sued the president to stop his “administrative fix” to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. According to the suit, filed by Elbert Lin (the state solicitor general and a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas), the Department of Health and Human Services illegally foisted its own statutory duty to enforce the ACA’s market requirements on to the states. By passing the buck, the Obama administration wants to commandeer unwilling states, make them politically accountable (in lieu of the HHS) for the change, and create dissonance in federal law on a state-by-state basis. You don’t want federal law to mean one thing in West Virginia and another in Massachusetts. And in the undocumented immigration context, the administration is threatening to simply ignore federal law.

Regardless of how the anti-commandeering claim (as U.S. Supreme Court cases call it) comes out on the merits, West Virginia’s suit highlights the way for a federal court challenge to an Obama immigration order.  These administration abuses injure states, which the Supreme Court has said deserve “special solicitude” in these situations.  West Virginia has standing because it has been injured: Not only must it spend money and resources to enforce federal law within its borders, it must also bear political accountability brought on by the shift of responsibility from HHS to the state.  The harm seems far more imminent and actual than the purported standing recognized by Justice Stevens in Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), where the Court found injury in fact because Massachusetts might lose land to the rising seas brought on by global warming.

States, whether West Virginia on Obamacare, Arizona on immigration or, in a Republican administration, Vermont on environmental policy, should have the minimum right to ask federal courts to compel the president to live up to his constitutional job-description: faithful execution of the laws.

Jonathan Gruber Has Earned Millions from Government Contracts



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A little deception goes along way — toward paying the bills, at least. The Daily Caller reports that Jonathan Gruber, MIT economist and Obamacare “architect,” has earned “at least” $5.9 million since he was recruited by the Obama administration to help craft its health-care law.

According to the Caller’s Chuck Ross:

The federal government has paid Jonathan Gruber at least $4 million since the year 2000, for his work as an expert witness, a legal consultant and for his consultation on Obamacare.

That comes on top of at least $1.6 million the MIT economist has been paid by several states to consult on their health care bills.

Fox News’s James Rosen adds other findings, reporting that Gruber and his firm have secured millions in consulting fees over the last decade and a half. Rosen reports a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services worth more than $2 million, and another two HHS contracts worth just under $400,000, taken together. Gruber contracted for consulting work with the National Institutes of Health for $2.05 million, and with the Department of Justice for $1.74 million. From the State Department, for his testimony as an expert witness, he received $103,500.

Moreover:

Fox News found that Gruber and his firm shared in a $481,050 contract with Michigan, a $400,000 deal with Wisconsin, and a contract with Minnesota worth nearly $330,000. Other contracts included deals with California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts – where Gruber notably worked with then-Gov. Mitt Romney – Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

According to the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, Gruber is in such high demand because his “Gruber Microsimulation Model” is very like that used by the Congressional Budget Office. “That means administration policy-makers could predict with reasonable certainty how CBO would score legislation,” writes Kessler. “Given that legislation in Washington often falls or rises depending on the CBO score, that made this model a very powerful tool for administration officials.”

In Vermont, where Jonathan Gruber has a $400,000 contract with the state for “policy expertise, research, and economic modeling related to the implementation of Green Mountain Care,” the senate minority leader is calling for his termination. If he is successful, Gruber will no doubt weep — all the way home to his many government millions.

PBS’s Cold War Nostalgia



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One increasingly hears a nostalgia for the Cold War around Washington dining tables or war-gaming tables. “It was so much more understandable,” or “What I’d give for that stability again,” are among the more regular comments. Somewhat as often, observers of the international scene express their worry that terrorists and jihadists like the Islamic State have become so adept at using social media to further their ends. The release over the weekend of the fifth beheading video of an Islamic State hostage is but one example of the group’s exploitation of social media, which also includes recruiting, encouragement, and the sharing of terror how-to’s.

Such comments represent some of the more immediate expressions of angst, confusion, and concern over a world that seems to be growing more unstable by the day. From the Islamic State to Russia, and Iran to China, the challenges to maintain global stability seem to be gathering like storm clouds. It is not too far-fetched to predict that we are fated to a protracted, multi-front struggle against very different types of actors. For a country that sought to end its foreign commitments and recharge after more than a decade of war, the future looks depressingly demanding.

Revisionist takes on the past are an almost natural accompaniment to such pessimism. It’s useful to be reminded occasionally, however, that the liberal West faced challenges just as great, and sometimes greater, during the Cold War, by an enemy that was far more skillful in propaganda and image making. 

Many good lessons, but also much contemporary revisionism, are on display in “Cold War Roadshow,” a presentation of PBS’s American Experience set to premier nationally this evening. The show is a compelling look at “the unprecedented barnstorming across America in the fall of 1959 by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev,” as PBS puts it. In a diplomatic first, a Soviet leader crisscrossed the United States, becoming a media giant and providing fodder for endless commentary by the forerunners of today’s Washington–New York media–​entertainment complex. It also set the template for future tours of America by adversaries or competitors. Khrushchev’s homespun peasant-turned-authoritarian leader act was novel when seen in the flesh, and the thousands of ordinary Americans who lined the streets in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo (where Khrushchev made a rare, unscripted campaign-style stop), and of course rural Iowa were clearly optimistic that his visit might lead to a world in which the balance of terror was ratcheted down a notch or two.

Yet Khrushchev’s tour was but one scene inside a decades-long play. Coming just three years after the brutal invasion of Hungary, but also three years after Khrushchev’s famous secret speech denouncing Stalin’s crimes, it was part of an evolution in the Soviet Union, not necessarily a shift in the nature of the Cold War. The international struggle between capitalism and Communism would be affected ultimately by changes inside the U.S.S.R, but the trip, however popular in the American imagination, did little to affect the near-term course of the Cold War.

Keep reading this post . . .

Universities Are Now Taking Down Their Jonathan Gruber Videos



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Universities that hosted Jonathan Gruber are now removing videos of the MIT professor from their websites after a series of candid admissions from the Obamacare architect ignited a firestorm against the health-care law.

Videos from college conferences and Washington think tanks over the last few years show Gruber bragging about the law’s deliberate complexity and belittling American voters’ intelligence. 

Now at least two colleges who hosted the professor have tried to scrub Gruber from the internet. The University of Pennsylvania removed Gruber’s October 2013 panel appearance — in which he laughed about “the stupidity of the American voter” — on November 10, but quickly reposted the video after withering criticism.

On Monday the University of Rhode Island took a page out of Penn’s book, removing a 2012 discussion where Gruber explains how the law was passed to “exploit” the American voters’ “lack of economic understanding.” URI offered no explanation on its webpage as to why the video was pulled. 

Dave LaVallee, assistant communications director at URI, told National Review Online that the university is currently investigating why the video was pulled.

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