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An Illustration


By now, you have read enough about Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brandeis University, so I will not say much. Let me offer one thought: Historians, when they write about an age, often struggle to say the necessary about that age. There is just too much, the subject is too big. So they try to sum up the age, or impart a flavor of the age, by little facts or stories or other illustrations.

If we go down — if we are killed by a suicidal political correctness (and I don’t think we will be) — historians will be able to point to the case of Hirsi Ali and Brandeis as an illustration.

Krauthammer’s Take: Sebelius Resignation a ‘Textbook Case’ for Getting Rid of Cabinet Member


The White House approached the departure of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius as politically shrewd as it could, according to Charles Krauthammer. While problems with Obamacare and will endure, the Obama administration can now act as if it has turned a page from the Sebelius era.

“I think this was a textbook case of how to do it efficiently,” he said on Friday’s Special Report. Dumping Sebelius at the height of the website’s woes would have been a big political hit in the public’s perception of the law; now, she can leave on a high note after reaching the goal of 7 million enrollees, or “whatever the phony number is today,” Krauthammer explained.

The resignation is also far away enough from the midterms elections that it will likely not be an issue in November. Even if Republicans manage to slam the White House and Democrats over the health-care law during nominee Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s confirmation hearings — which Krauthammer was doubtful would happen given Republicans’ recent track record in congressional hearing — it’ll only be a “week or two” of negative press.

“I think this is sort of how you do it if you’re going to defenestrate a member of your Cabinet,” he said, “from a ground-floor window, so I don’t think she was actually injured in the fall.”


Nevada Ranch Standoff Escalates, Questions about Reid Arise


The situation between Cliven Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over land near Bunkerville, Nev., has intensified as federal officers and supporters of the rancher and his family exchanged a few blows.

The controversy is over whether Bundy owes the federal government millions in grazing fees for his cattle being on the land, which he contends is rightfully his going back more than a century. He also points to a previous agreement with local Clark County that allows him to use the land. As the circumstances unfold, the government has started seizing hundreds of cattle, many of which belong to Bundy.

Protesters and militia groups have begun to rally behind the Bundy family in recent days, sparking some scuffles between the BLM and federal agents. Both sides claim the other is growing overly aggressive; there are reports of protesters surrounding government vehicles, while Bundy’s family has reportedly been tasered and “roughed up” by government officials.

Tensions have reached such a point that one militia group has stated that it is not “afraid to shoot,” according to the Washington Times.

Meanwhile, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval spoke out against the bureau’s “disturbing” confinement of protesters to a “First Amendment area” on the public land; the federal officials have since allowed them to gather on the land as long as they don’t interfere with the seizure of cattle.

“No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans,” Sandoval said.

The Blaze’s Dana Loesch reports on possible ties to another prominent Nevada politician: Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

Part of the BLM’s justification for enforcing its authority over the land is that it falls within the boundaries of a protection area for desert tortoises, a threatened species. But, Loesch writes in her blog, exemptions and accommodations for land falling inside the boundaries have been made in the past for wind- and solar-power projects, as well as a top Reid donor named Harvey Whittemore (Whittmore is currently serving time in prison for illegal campaign contributions to Reid’s campaign.) She asks why similar accommodations can’t be made for Bundy.

As the situation continues to unfold, Bundy’s daughter has offered a plea to onlookers.

“Wake up America,” Bailey Bundy Logue told KSL-TV. “Look what our ancestors fought for and we need to stand up for that. We need to realize what’s happening. They are taking everything away from us. This isn’t only about one family. This is about everyone’s family. This is martial law and it’s in America and so what are you going to do to have it stay out of America?”

Web Briefing: April 18, 2014

Obama Revives Birther Controversy to Rally Supporters


Democrats are reaching deep in to their bag of tricks ahead of this fall’s midterms. While Harry Reid has spent the past month railing against the Koch brothers, President Obama resorted to taking on birtherism on Friday.

While speaking at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference in New York, he revisited the controversy surrounding his birth certificate while discussing the various types of identification residents can provide ahead of voting.

“Just to be clear, I know where my birth certificate is, but a lot of people don’t,” he quipped to a cheering audience.

“You remember that? That was crazy,” the president laughed. “That was some crazy stuff — I hadn’t thought about that in a while.”


Comcast Merger Pits Two Strands of Conservative Thought Against Each Other


There are two competing conservative coalitions forming around whether or not Comcast and Time Warner Cable should be allowed to merge. One group, headed by Grover Norquist (and to which my organization, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, belongs) argues that there is no indication of market failure and so even under current antitrust law that favors government interference, there are no grounds for rejecting the merger. The other group, which includes tea-party organizations, is worried that the administration is politically favoring the merger and allowing it to go ahead quickly as a form of “crony capitalism.”

To help clear up the debate, my colleague Wayne Crews has an article in Forbes that attempts to get to the bottom of what conservative philosophy should say about antitrust laws. He gets down to the most important principles: 

The conservative anti-merger letter gives credence to the left-wing view that capitalism and economic freedom are inimical to civil society and the diffusion of ideas, when they are in fact the prerequisites.

Information fundamentally cannot be monopolized by any private entity in a free society whose government does not practice censorship (which is the actual prohibition of the airing of alternative views).

The creation and provision of information, content and infrastructure represent the very implementation of free speech rather than its debasement.

Ironically, merger opponents clearly feel entitled to effectively commandeer others’ resources, to limit the size structure and trajectory of someone else’s soapbox. That is the true threat to the First Amendment and the “diversity of viewpoints” that should be of concern to conservatives.

The scale and scope of private, shareholder-owned media organizations are not appropriate targets of coercive public policy.

It is good that conservative groups are now wary of crony capitalism at every turn, given this administration’s parade of abuses, but we must always be sure that we do not allow that to get in the way of creative free enterprise and free expression.

Carney Calls Reporter’s Questions about Sebelius ‘Pretty Lame’


After snapping at the White House press corps earlier this week, Jay Carney struck again with his biting tone.

During Friday’s press briefing, SiriusXM’s Jared Rizzi asked about President Obama’s sudden praise for Kathleen Sebelius in his announcement of her resignation despite showing little public support in recent months. He noted that the president left out Sebelius during his April 1 “victory lap” remarks about surpassing the 7 million enrollment goal.

As Rizzi and Carney went back and forth for a few moments, the press secretary called the question “pretty lame,” and immediately moved on from Rizzi’s inquiries.

“The president, I think, gave you plenty of sound today on his feelings about Secretary Sebelius’s service, so you got it from him and you got it pretty clearly,” he said.

Brandeis, Unlike Hirsi Ali, Surrendered to Intimidation


Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s fiery denunciations of Islam were supposedly too much for Brandeis University to tolerate. Explaining its abrupt decision to rescind the offer of an honorary degree, the University explained that while it admired her work on behalf of women, “we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

It’s nice to think that people are guided by their core values. But Brandeis’s explanation is rubbish. Hirsi Ali, who has been on the receiving end of credible, not to say gruesome, death threats her entire adult life, understands exactly what happened. Brandeis was intimidated. They feared some sort of violent attack by Islamic radicals and chose self-censorship instead.

How do we know? Because Brandeis has never before now demonstrated such a delicate sensibility about strong opinions. The university said that it regretted it did not know earlier about some of Hirsi Ali’s comments, for example, her statement in an interview that Islam is a “death cult.” For what it’s worth, I don’t think that’s fair or true of Islam (though it clearly applies in force to Islamists and Islamic terrorists). But Hirsi Ali suffered genital mutilation, beatings, hateful indoctrination, and an attempted forced marriage at the hands of Muslims. She has earned the right to be heard.  

She has also devoted herself to improving the lives of women around the world, especially those who suffer repression and worse at the hands of religious authorities and cultures.

Brandeis has had no qualms about conferring honorary degrees on Harry Belafonte (1991), Andrew Young (1978), and Desmond Tutu among others. All were known for intemperate comments from time to time. One was a Stalinist. That would be Belafonte. Handsome, charming, velvet voiced Belafonte was a die-hard communist. A passionate supporter of Fidel Castro, he never met a communist government he didn’t like, including the genocidal regime of Mengistu in Ethiopia. And he detested America.

That award was consistent with Brandeis’s core values. 

Andrew Young has a tendency to pop off. When he was UN ambassador, he said the U.S. had “hundreds, maybe thousands” of political prisoners in our jails. He said that American foreign policy was “part of the apparatus of repression in many places on the face of the Earth.” Speaking to the Los Angeles Sentinel, Young had offered these thoughts about people who own businesses in black neighborhoods: “Those are the people who have been overcharging us — selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs.”  

That award was consistent with Brandeis’s core values.

Desmond Tutu has trafficked in classic anti-Semitic tropes. He said: “Whether Jews like it or not, they are a peculiar people. They can’t ever hope to be judged by the same standards which are used for other people.” He has encouraged the boycott of the State of Israel. He has accused Israel of “Zionist apartheid” and charged that Israel has treated the Palestinians worse than whites treated other races in the old South Africa. He has also compared Israel with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

That award was consistent with Brandeis’s core values. 

But Hirsi Ali’s strong condemnation of Islam is disqualifying. 

When she lived in Amsterdam, Hirsi Ali joined with Theo Van Gogh to make a brave film about the treatment of women in Islamic countries. Van Gogh was murdered for it. His killer, after nearly severing Van Gogh’s head with a knife, took the trouble to impale a note on the dead man’s chest. It was a message to Ayaan Hirsi Ali – “You’re next.”

Most ordinary people would fall silent. Not Hirsi Ali. When Holland would no longer provide security for her, she came here. But she didn’t stop speaking, writing, and agitating to free women and girls from repression. She is one the most remarkable and courageous figures of our time. 

Was she guilty of one or two heated overstatements? Sure. But she can be proud that unlike Brandeis University in this instance, she has never shown an iota of cowardice.


Maine Governor Vetoes Medicaid Expansion


Many states around the country are still in the process of deciding whether they will expand Medicaid or not. For instance, Florida, Utah, and Virginia have signaled their interest in a full Medicaid expansion, but governors in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana, and Missouri are exploring different approaches using waivers or so-called private-option type plans modeled after Arkansas’s recent expansion. Neither options are good ideas but that may not dissuade some governors from going ahead with them.

Thankfully, not everyone is falling for the alleged Medicaid-expansion free lunch promised by the Obama administration. After a long drawn-out fight, Maine governor Gov. Paul LePage just vetoed another bill that would expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 70,000 residents and privatize the program through managed care. The Democrat-controlled legislature wasn’t able to overturn the governor’s veto last year, and it isn’t clear that they will be more successful this time around, according to the Boston Globe.

Citing the “disastrous impact on Maine’s budget” and calling the proposed savings through the expansion and managed care “mirages,” the governor renewed its staunch opposition to the expansion. These are sound arguments. In a timely book published by Mercatus Center, The Economics of Medicaid, my colleague Chuck Blahous makes the case that contrary to what was announced, the expansion of Medicaid will likely turn out to be a very expensive move.

I have summarized his arguments in the Washington Examiner this morning. here they are:

First, from the get-go, states that expand will have to foot the bill for the administrative costs of covering those adults, as well as other costs related to other parts of the expansion.

Second, this almost-free lunch on paper will likely turn out to be very burdensome for the states. As Blahous explains, throughout the last decade, Medicaid has progressively become one of the biggest programs in most states’ budgets, and it’s still growing. Although each new beneficiary added under the expansion won’t cost nearly as much to the states, it will still add to the cost of an already unsustainable situation.

In addition, states can’t be sure the federal government will stick to shouldering the extra costs of the Medicaid expansion in the future [Between 2014 and 2016, federal government would pay for 100 percent of the expansion. That share would drop to at least 90 percent thereafter]. The federal government is facing serious fiscal problems of its own, and it is very possible that future fiscal constraints at the federal level will leave the states footing the bill for the expansion.

But, of course, there are many other reasons to resist the expansion of Medicaid, most of them laid out by the other authors in the book. For one thing, Medicaid is actually a bad deal for the recipients themselves. Study after study has shown that the program often provides second-class care. Poor access and poor health outcomes are often the fate that awaits Medicaid beneficiaries — including greater reliance on emergency rooms and higher mortality rates.

Other health-care specialists like the Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy and Bloomberg View’s Megan McArdle have written extensively about the Oregon study — the Rolls Royce of Medicaid studies. For instance you can find all the information you need on the study’s findings here, here, here; and here, here, here and here.

In this context, and in light of all this information, state legislators should ask themselves whether they should follow the steps of Governor LePage. Is the expansion really worth the future cost to taxpayers in their states and is it really fair to throw more low-income Americans into costly substandard health care?

Obama’s Obvious Motive


No, no, no. Dana Milbank has it wrong again. The interpretation of recent events is obvious. Barack Obama didn’t fire John Kerry for screwing up the Middle East. He didn’t fire Eric Holder for Fast and Furious. He obviously fired Kathleen Sebelius because he is sexist. 



Slate Writer Endorses Firing Pro-Choice CEOs?


One of the more amusing aspects of the Mozilla affair has been watching writers trying to justify their intolerance through the use of allegedly universally applicable norms. Thanks to Conor Friedersdorf, I ran across this example from Slate’s Will Oremus.

Despite supporting Eich’s ouster, Oremus assures us that he’s not interested in firing people for their political views:

The notion that your political views shouldn’t affect your employment is a persuasive one. Where would we be as a democracy if Republicans were barred from jobs at Democrat-led companies, or vice versa?

Well said. But there’s more:

But this is different. Opposing gay marriage in America today is not akin to opposing tax hikes or even the war in Afghanistan. It’s more akin to opposing interracial marriage: It bespeaks a conviction that some people do not deserve the same basic rights as others. An organization like Mozilla might tolerate that in an underling, and it might even tolerate it in a CTO. But in a CEO—the ultimate decision-maker and public face of an organization—it sends an awful message. That’s doubly so for an organization devoted to openness and freedom on the Web—not to mention one with numerous gay employees.

So there’s the principle. If you’re leading a company, and your personal views “bespeak a conviction that some people do not deserve the same basic rights as others,” then you have to go.

Can anyone think of a contentious area of public policy where one side not only denies that other human beings deserve the same “basic rights as others,” they also deny those other human beings even have the right to live? What if that other side actually supported state subsidies for the mass killings of those other human beings? Or denied they were “people” at all — in spite of science, logic, and reason?

So, Mr. Oremus, is it goodbye to pro-choice CEOs?

Our union — our culture — survives in large part because we have learned to live together and, yes, work together in spite of considerable differences over the deepest and most important issues in our lives. Of course there are mission-oriented organizations — like, say, a gay-rights organization or a Christian ministry, to take two examples — where there is a need to make sure that employees are unified in outlook and purpose, but if we argue that certain people no longer truly belong in the commercial life of this country because of their views on contentious issues, then we are crossing a line that will bring with it not only unintended consequences for the intolerant but also a fracturing of the cultural compact that keeps our nation together.

This fracturing will manifest itself not just in the headline-grabbing cases like Mozilla’s but also in the daily interactions and daily indignities that will continue our national sorting into ideological and religious enclaves. People tend to go where they’re wanted. Some people, of course, welcome this sorting, but I’d like to think that if Slate’s Oremus is a talented technology writer, his analysis of the latest trends at Apple or Google would be just as welcome at a conservative-dominated Tennessee-based employer as they would be in Slate. Likewise, I’d like to think my legal skills could translate to a San Francisco or New York law firm just as well as they do here in flyover country. My views on marriage have little to do with whether I’m able to litigate a contract dispute.

The bottom line: Apologists for intolerance aren’t embracing any sort of workable principle, they’re embracing mob rule when they’re the mob. 

WaPo’s Milbank Wrongly Suggests GOP Didn’t Target Sebelius as Much Because She’s White


Despite several calls for Kathleen Sebelius’s resignation, or for President Obama to fire her, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank thinks that the Health and Human Services secretary didn’t receive the same level of criticism as President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder because of her race.

From MSNBC on Thursday:

Let’s compare Holder to Kathleen Sebelius, who has presided over Obamacare, which is the thing that has most antagonized the Right and the Republicans over all these years. You’re not seeing calls for her impeachment, you’re not seeing the same level of personal vitriol.

I think, that’s why, again, it’s fair to ask the question, and let every individual say why it is that they have that particular antipathy toward this attorney general, toward this president, and why not, say, toward Kathleen Sebelius, who they’re obviously much more at odds with.

Milbank’s explanation comes after Holder suggested race was why Congress has been harsh on him and the president.

Since the botched launch of last October, several lawmakers called on Sebelius to resign, including 32 House Republicans and a handful of GOP senators such as Kansas’s Pat Roberts and Kentucky’s Rand Paul. Additionally, in 2012, the conservative nonprofit Cause of Action argued that Congress had the authority to impeach Sebelius for violating the Hatch Act by engaging in partisan political activity.

To Milbank, Republicans’ objections to either Obama, Holder, or Sebelius couldn’t be rooted in substantive concerns on important matters. Instead, somehow, race is the motivating factor.

Via Truth Revolt.

Sebelius Experiences One Last Glitch in ‘Bittersweet’ Resignation Speech


In what could be a fitting metaphor following the disastrous launch of and subsequent problems with, Kathleen Sebelius had to pause partway through her resignation speech when she realized a page was missing.

Sebelius was quick on her feet upon the discovery, thanking President Obama and others before wrapping up her remarks.

Earlier in the announcement, the president called Sebelius departure bittersweet and congratulated her for overseeing the first launch of the health-care exchanges, even if there were some bumps and bruises along the way. He also introduced his nomination to replace Sebelius: Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

What Has Hillary Clinton Accomplished?


For the country, that is, rather than for herself? Byron York reports on a question traditionally directed at people who might run for president. The question turns out to be hard to answer. Which must mean it’s a sexist question.

Dem. Senator: Of Course Obamacare Had Problems — It’s ‘So Big’


The numerous delays and unilateral alterations to Obamacare were to be expected — given the health-care law’s massive breadth, said Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.).

“We were reordering one-sixth of the American economy — you don’t do that without some bumps along the road,” the first-term senator told MSNBC on Friday. “I’m certainly forgiving of the president making some decisions to try to implement in a way that makes sense.”

Murphy argued that President Obama and his signature law needed “a little bit of grace period, a little bit of latitude” because problems were bound to occur given its wide scope, but that this approach was the only viable one.

“This thing is so big — the only way to do it was to make it big,” he said.

Lee: Sebelius’s Resignation ‘Not about the Person; It’s about the Policy’


Mike Lee wants people to know that just because Kathleen Sebelius is on the way out at the Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t mean that Obamacare’s many problems are as well.

“This ultimately isn’t about the person; it’s about the policy,” the Utah Republican said to Fox News on Thursday. “Secretary Sebelius was in charge of implementing a very unpopular policy.”

He predicted that Sebelius’ expected replacement, Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, faces a “tough road ahead of her” in getting her nomination through the Senate, especially among some Democrats facing reelection this fall.

Sebelius, Survival, and Success


In Bloomberg earlier this week, I argued that Obamacare’s enrollment figures did not make for a “success story,” only a “survival story.” It had achieved a modest increase in coverage rates, one that looks disappointing compared to earlier projections, and done so at a high cost. Those costs, I continue, are likely to mount and once again to put off into the distance its supporters’ expectation of future popularity.

Ezra Klein, quoting me, treats survival and success as the same thing. Sebelius is indeed, as he says, leaving at a relative high point–but it’s relative mainly to the state of the Obamacare project six months ago, which even its friends had to acknowledge was abysmal. From 2009 to mid-2013, nobody sold this law on the basis that by April 2014 it would have “won its survival.” That survival required, after all, merely a Democratic veto point over legislation, minimal public support, and the failure of the law to implode on its own. If Republicans have power in 2017 and self-perpetuation is the law’s most impressive accomplishment, it is not likely to continue to be one for long.

Friday links


Handheld jet engines. Really.

Death and Taxes and Zombies: Tax implications of the zombie apocalypse.

Man Spends Four Years and Millions of Dollars Building an Epic Truck for His 4-Year-Old Daughter.

Gallery of extremely well-edited vintage/current overlapping pictures of Paris.

Irish Brewmaster Reviews Cheap Wines, Wine Expert Reviews Cheap Beers.

Before They Went Solo: Early Bands Of Bowie, Elton, Hendrix And Others. (I was a huge fan of Long John Baldry (wiki) back when Elton John (then named Reg White) and Rod Stewart played/sang backup for him)

Medicinal Soft Drinks and Coca-Cola Fiends: The Toxic History of Soda Pop.

ICYMI, Thursday’s links are here, including building a hydroelectric dam in your bathtub, the U.S. Army’s Camel Corps, and advice from c. 530 on how to use bacon.

52 Years Not a Slave


On Babalublog, the great writer Carlos Eire celebrates his “second” birthday — the day he and his brother escaped from the oppression of Castro’s Cuba.

Mark Begich Is Running on Obamacare, Just Without, You Know, Mentioning Obamacare


David Axelrod likes a new ad by Alaska Democratic senator Mark Begich, who’s running for reelection this fall. “Democrats on offense on ACA with powerful ad,” he boasts. You’ll notice something:

As Stu Stevens, Romney’s 2012 campaign manager, points out: It’s a powerful ad that makes use of Obamacare — without mentioning Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, the ACA, health-care reform, the law Mark Begich voted for, or anything. It basically sounds like Begich performed a random constituent service to resolve the woman’s insurance issues, which is a nice way to frame it, since constituent services tend not to have the deleterious effects on other constituents Obamacare does.

Sebelius Two Weeks Ago: ‘I’m in’ for ‘Round 2’ of Obamacare


While many called for her to step down months ago, the timing of Kathleen Sebelius’s resignation comes a couple weeks after she assured HuffPost Live that she would “absolutely” be sticking around as Health and Human Services secretary.

“I’m in,” she responded when host Alyona Minkovski asked if she would remain as secretary. “​This is the most satisfying work I have ever done.”​ 

According to reports, Sebelius started discussing her future plans with President Obama last month and submitted her resignation last week, around the time of her appearance of HuffPost Live.


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