Under pressure from religious and conservative groups, the Obama administration has offered another compromise on the issue of birth control coverage within the Affordable Care Act. While exempting churches and some religiously affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and universities, from supplying the coverage, the new proposal calls for their employees to receive stand-alone private insurance policies providing birth control coverage at no cost. Insurance companies will foot the bill, but only the naive can possibly think the cost won't find its way back to the institution in the form of higher health premiums.
Numerous lawsuits filed against this and other portions of "Obamacare" will proceed and for good reason: the federal government seems intent on setting rules on matters of conscience and worse, defining what constitutes a church, or religious institution.
Put on your shocked faces: Since my bipartisan call last week for Democratic women to join the Ladies Against Senator Sleaze-Bob movement, not a single Democratic woman in Washington has signed up. Here's the thing. The brewing scandal involving N.J. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is not just a "sex scandal." It's a crony corruption scandal of sordid, soap operatic proportions.
Maybe if Menendez were a contestant on "The Bachelor," he'd finally command more widespread female attention. For their part, the Democratic women on Capitol Hill seem as uninterested in the alleged exploitation of underage prostitutes as they are in cozy donor deals, tax evasion and Medicare fraud.
A senior Defense Department official said the ban on women in combat should be lifted because the military's goal is "to provide a level, gender-neutral playing field." I'd like to think the goal of the military should be to have the toughest, meanest fighting force possible. But let's look at "gender-neutral playing field."
The Army's physical fitness test in basic training is a three-event physical performance test used to assess endurance. The minimum requirement for 17- to 21-year-old males is 35 pushups, 47 situps and a two-mile run in 16 minutes, 36 seconds or less. For females of the same age, the minimum requirement is 13 pushups, 47 situps and a 19:42 two-mile run. Why the difference in fitness requirements? "USMC Women in the Service Restrictions Review" found that women, on average, have 20 percent lower aerobic power, 40 percent lower muscle strength, 47 percent less lifting strength and 26 percent slower marching speed than men.
Conservatives are always told they don't do enough to reach across the aisle. We're divisive, obstructionist and hostile to bipartisanship. So in the spirit of unity and comity, I'm announcing the formation of a new social justice group: Ladies Against Senator Sleaze-Bob.
Now all I need are some principled Democratic ladies and liberal media lionesses to step up to the plate with me to protest the vulgar, sexist behavior of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
The Senate's "advice and consent" role doesn't require it to rubber-stamp a presidential appointee for secretary of defense who senators believe would weaken America in this increasingly dangerous world.
Notwithstanding former Sen. Chuck Hagel's diminished view of the post — "I won't be in a policymaking position" — the secretary of defense is an exceedingly important position and must be filled with someone who understands the complexity and gravity of the threats we face.
In the past two weeks, I've highlighted ways we can reduce violent crime in the U.S. But I've saved the best and most powerful solutions for last because they work from the inside out.
In Part 1, I revealed how rational and rewarding it would be to post armed guards at our schools. In Part 2, I showed how reducing the number of firearms in the U.S. would not curb violent crime. Today and next week, I will discuss an age-old solution that America's Founding Fathers knew was key for maintaining civility in our communities — a solution being mimicked by a few nonprofit organizations in our public schools.
Apart from finding out that Barack Obama did far worse in his re-election than nearly any other incumbent who won re-election, the only thing that perked me up after Nov. 6 was coming across a Time magazine published after the 2004 election, when George W. Bush won a second term.
In the mirror image of all the 2012 post-election analyses, the Democrats were said to be finished, out of ideas, hopelessly unpopular. It's like watching MSNBC, with the word "Democrats" replaced with "Republicans."
Democrats had thrown everything they had into beating Bush, crushing the Howard Dean wing of their party and running a moderate -- a Vietnam veteran, no less! They had George Soros, Michael Moore and Code Pink working like fiends to topple Bush.
President Barack Obama is not just a radical leftist; he is obviously so ensconced in his ideology that he believes — or wants you to believe — that anyone who opposes him must have sinister motives.
One of his recurring themes is that some Republicans would work with him but can't do so for fear of reprisal from Grover Norquist on taxes, the National Rifle Association on guns, the conservative House caucus, radio talk show hosts and your garden-variety racists, who allegedly oppose Obama just for sport.
Let's look at experts. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was a mathematician and scientist. Newton has to be the greatest and most influential scientist who has ever lived. He laid the foundation for classical mechanics, and his genius transformed our understanding of science, particularly in the areas of physics, mathematics and astronomy. What's not widely known is that Newton spent most of his waking hours on alchemy; his experiments included trying to turn lead into gold. Though he wrote volumes on alchemy, after his death Britain's Royal Society deemed that they were "not fit to be printed."
Lord William Thomson Kelvin (1824-1907) was a Belfast-born British mathematical physicist and engineer. Kelvin's major contribution was in thermodynamics, and he is widely recognized for determining the correct value of absolute zero, approximately minus 273 degrees Celsius. In his honor, absolute temperatures are expressed in Kelvin units. Being an expert in one field doesn't spare one from being an arrogant amateur in others. Based on his knowledge of heat dissipation, Kelvin criticized geologists of his day and claimed that Earth was between 20 million and 100 million years old. Kelvin also said that "X-rays will prove to be a hoax," but he changed his mind after he experienced an X-ray of his own hand. Kelvin also predicted, "I can state flatly that heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
The good news is: Obama and the Senate Democrats have no intention of passing more idiotic gun legislation in response to the Newtown massacre. The bad news is that they also have no intention of passing any legislation about the mentally ill, which would actually do something to reduce these mass shootings.
Instead, the Democrats will jawbone about "assault weapons" and other meaningless gun laws for the sole purpose of scaring soccer moms into hating the National Rifle Association. Expect to hear a lot about Republicans preferring "the gun lobby" to "children." (Which is evidently not at all like preferring the teachers lobby to children.)
Martial arts movie legend Jackie Chan deserves a rhetorical roundhouse kick to the mouth. So does his pal PSY, the Korean rapper whose "Gangnam Style" music video has racked up more than a billion views worldwide. Both men have raked in big bucks from Western fans while trashing the very freedoms and cultures that made them superstars.
Last week, The Washington Post spotlighted a recent interview Chan did with Chinese TV in which he accused America of being "the most corrupt country in the world." The Hong Kong-born Chan also admitted proudly that he is a propagandist for the Communist Chinese government. He openly advised his fellow countrymen to speak with forked tongues when addressing foreign press: "We know our country has many problems. We (can) talk about it when the door is closed. To outsiders, (we should say) "our country is the best."
Former senator Chuck Hagel is a suave, energetic, spirited fellow. He is intelligent, and from his early youth apparently patriotic and undoubtedly courageous. He showed that in Vietnam. Hagel has been a Republican senator and an accomplished businessman. Now he is President Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of defense. Because he is President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense he is attracting dutiful scrutiny, and that is all to the good. This is not your ordinary presidency. In domestic policy and foreign policy President Obama is showing every indication of attempting to be an epochal president (with four million fewer votes for his second term than for his first).
That is to say, he poses a distinct break from Ronald Reagan's model of government and even from Franklin Roosevelt's. In the economy he seems to be resurrecting the welfare state on the model of France or perhaps Spain. In foreign policy he famously promises to "lead from behind," as illogical as that sounds. In both areas his exemplars are sure losers, but his party and his partisans seem not to have noticed.
When I attended primary and secondary school — during the 1940s and '50s — one didn't hear of the kind of shooting mayhem that's become routine today. Why? It surely wasn't because of strict firearm laws. My replica of the 1902 Sears mail-order catalog shows 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped.
Dr. John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime," reports that until the 1960s, some New York City public high schools had shooting clubs where students competed in citywide shooting contests for university scholarships. They carried their rifles to school on the subways and, upon arrival, turned them over to their homeroom teacher or the gym coach and retrieved their rifles after school for target practice. Virginia's rural areas had a long tradition of high-school students going hunting in the morning before school and sometimes storing their rifles in the trunks of their cars that were parked on school grounds. Often a youngster's 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to him by his father.
President Obama's latest news conference was further confirmation that his voracious appetite for spending was not satisfied but whetted by the fiscal cliff deal, which he views as an appetizer.
We were told that the GOP achieved a coup in the fiscal cliff negotiations because they lured Obama into an agreement to lock in the Bush tax rates except for the highest-income earners. Never mind that Obama agreed to no spending cuts or entitlement reform after demanding a "balanced approach" to deficit reduction; they told us he'd be forced to address those matters in a couple of months in the debt ceiling negotiations. They argued that by agreeing to make the Bush rates "permanent," Obama had tacitly admitted that he couldn't sustain the welfare state through tax increases on the middle class and that he'd now have to — grudgingly or not — turn his attention to spending cuts and entitlement reform.
On Nov. 29, 1766, Benjamin Franklin wrote for the London Chronicle: "I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. — I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."
I love seeing and hearing stories of people rising above adversity. Here is a story of one of those special people.
Official Washington hailed the deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff as a significant bipartisan accomplishment. However, voters around the country viewed the deal in very partisan terms: Seven out of 10 Democrats approved of it, while seven out of 10 Republicans disapproved.
Just a few days after reaching that agreement, an inside-the-Beltway publication reported another area of bipartisan agreement. Politico explained that while Washington Democrats have always viewed GOP voters as a problem, Washington Republicans "in many a post-election soul-searching session" have come to agree. More precisely, the article said the party's Election 2012 failures have "brought forth one principal conclusion from establishment Republicans: They have a primary problem."
Nearly two years ago, U.S. News & World Report came out with a story titled "Educators Implicated in Atlanta Cheating Scandal." It reported that "for 10 years, hundreds of Atlanta public school teachers and principals changed answers on state tests in one of the largest cheating scandals in U.S. history." More than three-quarters of the 56 Atlanta schools investigated had cheated on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, sometimes called the national report card. Cheating orders came from school administrators and included brazen acts such as teachers reading answers aloud during the test and erasing incorrect answers. One teacher told a colleague, "I had to give your kids, or your students, the answers because they're dumb as hell." Atlanta's not alone. There have been investigations, reports and charges of teacher-assisted cheating in other cities, such as Philadelphia, Houston, New York, Detroit, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Washington.
Recently, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's blog carried a story titled "A new cheating scandal: Aspiring teachers hiring ringers." According to the story, for at least 15 years, teachers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee paid Clarence Mumford, who's now under indictment, between $1,500 and $3,000 to send someone else to take their Praxis exam, which is used for K-12 teacher certification in 40 states. Sandra Stotsky, an education professor at the University of Arkansas, said, "(Praxis I) is an easy test for anyone who has completed high school but has nothing to do with college-level ability or scores." She added, "The test is far too undemanding for a prospective teacher. ... The fact that these people hired somebody to take an easy test of their skills suggests that these prospective teachers were probably so academically weak it is questionable whether they would have been suitable teachers."
Egypt's terror-coddling President Mohamed Morsi has repeated his arrogant demand that America free convicted 1993 World Trade Center mastermind Omar Abdel-Rahman. I'd like to report that President Obama repeated his unequivocal rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood leader's entreaties. But as of this writing, no such public statement or restatement yet exists.
That's right. Obama has kept mum about Morsi's vociferous lobbying on behalf of Abdel-Rahman, the "blind sheik," who is serving a life sentence at a maximum-security prison in North Carolina for seditious jihad conspiracy. The commander in chief's silence speaks volumes.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tells us the tax issue is behind us and that we can now move on to spending. Really? What makes him think the GOP will succeed this time when it couldn't last time?
The just-concluded fiscal cliff deal included no material spending cuts, which the GOP justified by saying it had achieved locked-in rates for most of Bush's tax cuts, which would force Obama to seriously discuss spending cuts and entitlement reform as part of the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations.
George Washington warned us in his Farewell Address about a time in America's future when we might be tempted to discard the pillars of civility: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them."
Let me give a great example of what Washington's words look like in action.
I hate to break it to those deniers who believe that President Obama's tax-guzzling capacity has somehow been diminished by the fiscal cliff provision to fix "permanent" tax rates. You're dreaming.
Several smart columnists and respected conservative editorial pieces tell us that a major silver lining in the crisis deal just concluded is that by agreeing not to reinstitute the Clinton tax rates (and leave the Bush rates in place) for all but the "wealthy" (income of $400,000 for single filers and $450,000 for marrieds), Obama and the Democrats made a major concession. They argue that if Democrats couldn't do better after Obama was just re-elected and when the debt is so high, they'll never be able to. They'll have to realize that they will never be able to sustain their desired welfare state through raising taxes alone and have to come to the table on serious spending cuts and entitlement reform.
HONG KONG -- We read about famous people like French film star Gerard Depardieu, who moved to Belgium to avoid a 75 percent income tax on millionaires proposed by France's Socialist government (a measure rejected last week by a French council, though French leadership has vowed to resubmit a similar proposal). Then there is Eduardo Saverin, who took the extreme step of giving up his U.S. citizenship and could see a savings of $39 million on his Facebook investment, according to the research firm Wealth-X. He says business reasons, rather than high taxes, were his primary motivation.
I had read about financially motivated expatriates but never knew one who had taken the ultimate step until I visited with my longtime friend "Sam" (I'm withholding his real name to protect his current employment). Sam works for a large investment firm. He has lived here for the last 25 years.
President Obama will kick off the new year the same way that he kicked off the old year: by demanding that the wealthy pay their "fair share" in taxes. But while millions of small-business owners, struggling entrepreneurs, inventors and investors brace for a double whammy of fiscal cliff tax hikes and new Obamacare taxes, the class-warrior in chief's richest pals are getting a pass.
It's a Golden Pass for liberal millionaires and billionaires who support higher Obama taxes for everyone but themselves. Meet the Democratic tax evaders of the year.
I wonder, as we begin 2013 and look forward to four more years of this insufferable poseur in the White House, where Sandra Fluke might be. Miss Fluke is the lady who made birth control a matter of national security, in particular her own personal supply of pills and God knows what else. Prior to her appearance on the national scene I always thought it was a male?s responsibility to supply condoms, as the occasion warranted. Yet Miss Fluke enlightened me. Actually she never told us what she used these items for. I suppose I am jumping to conclusions. She might be an artiste, and they may be part of her palette. There are all sorts of things birth control devices can be used for. At any rate, she brought birth control to the fore in American presidential elections at least four decades after they became a fixture in America. In that respect she made history.
Prior to Miss Fluke's public campaign for birth control, those who follow national politics had believed that elections revolved around the economy. But in 2012 we had an economy in a feeble condition. After four years in the White House, President Barack Obama presided over the weakest recovery from a recession on record. He had given Keynesian economics a bad name, even with many Keynesians. He had enlarged the federal government to almost 25 percent of GDP, from its traditional size of 18 or 19 percent. He was running deficits of a trillion dollars a year and promised them for years to come.
I am bored with politics, refuse to pay attention to the news and am watching only True Crime TV shows and Turner Classic Movies these days. With the Democrats controlling the Senate and presidency, nothing good can possibly come out of Washington for at least another two years. So I thought I'd start the new year with something useful, like a short list of bad inventions.
(1) SILENT DISHWASHERS
Are people installing dishwashers next to their beds? I've checked my "Top 500 Daily Irritations" list and dishwasher noise is not on it.
What possible benefit derives from having a dishwasher that makes absolutely no noise? Was that gentle whooshing sound driving some homeowners bonkers? Is this a product designed by the same people who gave us the electric car, a vehicle so silent that the first sign of its approach is the sound of your pelvis breaking as the car hits you?