ARRA News Service
News Blog for social, fiscal & national security conservatives who believe in God, family & the USA. Upholding the rights granted by God & guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, traditional family values, "republican" principles / ideals, transparent & limited "smaller" government, free markets, lower taxes, due process of law, liberty & individual freedom. Content approval rests with the ARRA News Service Editor. Opinions are those of the authors. While varied positions are reported, beliefs & principles remain fixed. No revenue is generated for or by this "Blog" - no paid ads - no payments for articles. Fair Use Doctrine is posted & used.
Blogger/Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
Contact: (Pub. Since July, 2006)
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, January 31, 2014

NFL's Bad Call - Refuses Pro-2nd Amendment Ad

NRA News Special Report, Ginny Simone Reporting: One commercial you won't see during the 2014 Super Bowl is an ad by gun manufacturer Daniel Defense. The spot, about a Marine Corps veteran who returns home and is determined to defend his home and family the same way he defended his country, was rejected by the NFL. Marty Daniel, president and chief executive officer of Daniel Defense, throws down the challenge flag.

Tags: NFL, 2014, Super Bowl, refused ad, family, marine veteran, Second Amendment, ad, Daniel Defense, gun manufacturer, Ginny Simone, NRA, Special Report To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Keystone XL Pipeline: No More Excuses

 McConnell: ‘Mr. President… Pick Up That Pen You’ve Been Talking So Much About And Make This Happen’

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): “This report from the Obama administration once again confirms that there is no reason for the White House to continue stalling construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  So, Mr. President, no more stalling– no more excuses. Please pick up that pen you’ve been talking so much about and make this happen. Americans need these jobs.  The Keystone XL Pipeline is the single largest shovel-ready project in America, ready to go, but for years President Obama and his hard-left allies have stalled these jobs in a maze of red tape. But if the President meant what he said this week about ‘a year of action,’ he’ll act now on this important project that won’t cost taxpayers a dime to build but will bring thousands of private sector jobs to Americans who desperately need them.(Sen. McConnell, Press Release, 1/31/14)

Majority Of Americans See Keystone As Beneficial
“About 56% say they favor the northern leg of the billion-dollar, Canada-to-U.S. project… according to the poll of 801 U.S. adults completed last month by Stanford University and Resources for the Future (RFF), a non-partisan research group.” (“USA TODAY Poll: Slight Majority Backs Keystone Pipeline,” USA Today, 1/28/14)

“More Americans view the Keystone XL oil pipeline as a benefit to U.S. energy security than as an environmental risk…” (“Keystone Backed In Poll By 56% Of Americans As Energy Security,” Bloomberg, 12/12/13)
UNION SUPPORT: ‘It Is, In The Most Literal Sense, A Life Line’
AFL-CIO: “For many members of our unions, Keystone XL is not just a pipeline; it is, in the most literal sense, a life line.” (President Of AFL-CIO Building And Construction Trades Department Sean McGarvey, Letter To U.S. House Of Representatives, 5/22/13)
International Union of Operating Engineers: “The United States cannot afford further delay and uncertainty on the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s time to unlock the jobs this massive private investment will create and put Operating Engineers to work. The uncertainty that looms over this project has gone on long enough. The United States cannot sit idly by while state-owned Chinese oil companies move aggressively to secure this North American resource and the oil industry looks for other ways to move this product – at the same time the unemployment rate in construction is at 15% and Operating Engineers are hungry for work. Let’s move forward!” (The International Union of Operating Engineers, Press Release, 4/10/13)

Laborers' International Union of North America: “Too many hard-working Americans are out of work, and the Keystone XL Pipeline will change this dire situation by creating thousands of construction jobs, with good wages and good benefits. For these workers, the Keystone XL is not just a pipeline, it is a lifeline.” (LiUNA! General President Terry O’Sullivan, Letter To The U.S. House Of Representatives, 4/15/13)

International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers: “While we are deeply disappointed with the U. S. State Department’s decision not to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline, we are more concerned that a vital project that would create 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs, generate $585 million in state and local taxes plus another $5 billion in property taxes and strengthen North America’s energy independence, has been ensnared in the political deadlock in Washington. … We believe that the decision-making process has been caught up in political gamesmanship.” (International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers, Press Release, 1/18/12)

Tags: Keystone XL Pipeline, No More Excuses To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

ARRA News Praises Rep. Dave Camp For Investigation Of IRS Targeting Of Conservatives

ARRA News Service Editor Bill Smith joined others today in praising Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) for directing the investigation of the IRS targeting of the tea party and other 501(c)4 conservative organizations toward a November 2013 proposed rulemaking by the Treasury Department that will severely restrict the political speech of all 501(c)4s:
Washington, DC – Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) wrote to Treasury Department Secretary Jacob Lew and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen requesting all documents pertaining to 501(c)(4) rulemaking.

Upon sending the letter, the Chairman said “Before having all the facts in hand, Treasury rushed forward with new rules that seriously limit groups’ ability to engage in public debate. It is clear that the Obama Administration is still targeting conservative groups and wrote these rules to put them out of business. This is pure politics and the new IRS commissioner should do the right thing and put a stop to it.”

  • Under proposed Treasury regulations, 501(c)(4) organizations cannot engage in non-partisan activities, like voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts, or convene candidate forums without jeopardizing their exempt status.
  • Chairman Camp introduced H.R. 3865, "Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014," which would prohibit Treasury and the IRS from finalizing the proposed rules for one-year in order to allow for the completion of the IRS targeting investigation and a thorough public discussion, including a review of public comments related to the proposed regulations.
Responses are due to the Committee by February 13, 2014.

Tags: IRS Targeting, conservative, 501(c)4 orgs,  Rep. Dave Camp, Investigation, Ways and Means Committee,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

House Immigration Principles | A Moment Of Truth | Obamacare Blunders On

Back To The Future!
Cartoon by Mike Keefe Posted 6 yrs Ago
 Gary Bauer, Contributing Author: House Immigration Principles Hold on to your hats, folks. House Republican leaders released their immigration reform principles at their caucus retreat yesterday, and all signs suggest we are headed for a bumpy ride. Reports indicate that the discussion over the principles revealed deep GOP divisions over policy and timing.

It is clear from reading the principles that House leaders were struggling to balance competing interests. There is a lot of language about border security. That's good. It speaks of a step-by-step approach to reform and overhaul of the visa system. Fine. Obviously, criminal aliens and gang members would not be allowed to remain in the United States. But, unbelievably, Democrats have resisted this in the past.

Now for the more troubling elements. The Democrats' DREAM Act is a central element of the plan. While rejecting a "special path to citizenship" for other illegal immigrants, millions would be permitted to "live legally and without fear in the U.S.," but their eventual status is murky.

Democrats won't accept anything that does not include citizenship -- they want more left-wing voters. In fact, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted the principles as a "joke" and a "hoax," adding, "Without citizenship, it's a nonstarter."

Of course the devil is in the details and we don't have any details at this point, just a statement of principles. But the greatest concern is how anything gets negotiated with Democrats who control the Senate and the White House. The Republican House can pass a great bill, but once Obama and Harry Reid are done with it, it won't be our bill anymore.

I agree with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who said yesterday:
"[House leaders] may or may not be right, but their argument is that we should focus exclusively on Obamacare and on jobs. In that context, why on earth would the House dive into immigration right now? …Rather than responding to the big-money lobbying on K Street, we need to make sure working-class Americans show up by the millions to reject Obamacare and vote out the Democrats.

"...if we are going to fix our broken immigration system -- and we should -- it makes much more sense to do so next year, so that we are negotiating a responsible solution with a Republican Senate majority rather than with Chuck Schumer."
A Moment Of Truth
Immigration reform, budgets and taxes are all important issues. But I believe America's growing virtue deficit and the breakdown of the family are equally important, if not more so, to the survival of this great nation.

Strong families are the foundation of strong societies and parents are the greatest role models in a child's life. Even when you think they are not paying attention, they are!

So when the Inspiration Network recently approached my public policy organization, American Values, with a unique opportunity to promote the family, I gladly accepted. Together we produced an ad about the critical role parents play in developing the character of their children. Watch it here. Your support for our work makes opportunities like this possible. Thank you, my friends.

When so much of the popular culture mocks and undermines traditional values, the Inspiration Network is a great alternative with family-friendly entertainment and classic shows you can enjoy with your kids. Please support them and their advertisers!

Obamacare Blunders On
Here are latest Obamacare blunders making headlines:
  • Obamacare was supposed to help cure the crisis of too many uninsured Americans, right? Well, it seems the uninsured don't like Obama's plan. A new poll by the Obamacare-friendly Kaiser Family Foundation finds that uninsured Americans disapprove of Obamacare by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
  • Obamacare was going to make health insurance more affordable, right? That's not what is happening to thousands of businesses, including this Pennsylvania small business. Premiums went up 32% and deductibles went up much more. Millions of Americans have experienced similar instances of rate shock thanks to Obamacare.
  • Why are so many Americans paying more for their health insurance now? Because, as the Associated Press reports, Obamacare really was all about the redistribution of wealth.
  • Perhaps they thought they were signing up for Obama's free health care, but rate shock might also explain why an estimated 20% of Obamacare "enrollees" are not paying their premiums.
  • Obamacare was supposed to provide more access to healthcare, right? Don't tell that to a lot of sick children in Seattle. Hopefully their parents will vote Republican this November!
"No One Is Listening"
Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote a prophetic column last week. Referring to President Obama's then-upcoming State of the Union address, Noonan wrote:
"No one's really listening to the president now. He has been for five years a nonstop windup talk machine. Most of it has been facile, bland, the same rounded words and rounded sentiments, the same soft accusations and excuses."
Peggy was right. The Nielsen ratings are in, and Obama's address posted the worst viewership in 14 years. He's been losing State of the Union viewers every year, and that shouldn't surprise anyone. Re-runs always lose viewers.
Gary Bauer is a conservative family values advocate and serves as president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families

Tags: Immigration, U.S. House, Obamacare Blunders, Gary Bauer, Campaign for Working Families To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

State Dept Releases Keystone XL Study: Pipeline Reduces Greenhouse Gasses | House GOP Leaders Address Overhaul Of Immigration Laws

Today in Washington, D.C. - Jan 31, 2014
The Senate is not in session today and will reconvene at 2 PM on Monday. On Monday, the Senate will consider the conference report for H.R. 2642, the farm bill. A vote on cloture on the conference report is scheduled for 5:30 PM.  Yesterday, the Senate rejected 3 Republican amendments to S. 1926, the flood insurance bill, and then passed it by a vote of 67-32.

The House met in pro-forma session at 3 PM for 5 minutes. Otherwise the representatives are meeting according to their political party conference in annual policy retreats to discuss positions on various issues.

The Washington Times reports that "House Republican leaders have ruled out a special pathway to citizenship but do support granting some form of legal status and work permits to most illegal immigrants." Below is  the GOP Caucus Leadership Statement of Principles regarding the overhaul of immigration laws which has been "met with anger from the right. Conservative groups."
The State Department released its final environmental report on the Keystone XL pipeline. While knocking down a key argument of pipeline opponents—that blocking Keystone would stop Canada from developing oil sands, the report that NOT approving the pipeline would result in HIGHER greenhouse gas emissions.  Which appears to be double speak, to the left that they don't want to do this but we need to have the the XL Pipeline for the greater good of "reducing greenhouse gasses - one of the touchstones of the Global Warming environmentalists.

Sean Hackbarth writing for the U.S. Chamber noted. "Along with its environmental analysis, the report reaffirms the economic benefits from construction of the pipeline that were stated in the draft EIS:
    42,100 new jobs. - $2 billion in earnings. - $3.4 billion added to U.S. GDP.
" .... Now, we’re in the National Interest Determination stage, where eight other federal agencies and the public can weigh in on whether approving the pipeline is in the nation’s national interest. Based on all that we know now about the jobs that will be created, the economic impacts, and its minimal effects on the environment, it’s clear that approving the Keystone XL pipeline is in America’s best interests."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement today after the State Department issued its latest report on the Keystone XL Pipeline:  “President Obama is out of excuses.  The fact that he has let a final decision on the Keystone pipeline project – and the more than 100,000 jobs that come with it – languish for more than five years is economic malpractice.  Middle-class families and small businesses continue to struggle in this economy, and the president’s refusal to back this job-creating project is hurting our economy.  If President Obama wants to make this a ‘year of action’ he will stand up to the extreme Left in his own party, stand with the overwhelming majority of American people, and approve this critical project.”

NOTE:  On May 22, 2013, the House passed the bipartisan Northern Route Approval Act (H.R. 3), legislation introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) that approves the Keystone pipeline and eliminates legal and regulatory barriers to its construction and the tens of thousands of jobs it will create.  The Senate has refused to take up the bill.

CNN reported last night, “The results of an environmental impact study into the Keystone XL pipeline project will be announced Friday afternoon, two senior administration officials and another source familiar with the timing told CNN. . . . ‘The (study) is in the final stages of preparation and we anticipate a release of the document soon,’ a State Department spokesperson told CNN. ‘As a reminder when it is released, (the study) is not a decision, but another step in the process prescribed by the Executive Order’ from the President.”

The Obama administration has been studying and stalling this project for years. Last week, all 45 Senate Republicans wrote to the president, “On March 14, 2013, at a meeting with Senate Republicans, you were asked when we could expect a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. At that time, you told us that a decision on the Presidential Permit would be made before the end of the year. We are well into 2014 and you still have not made a decision. . . . Given the length of time your administration has studied the Keystone XL pipeline and the public’s overwhelming support for it, you should not further delay a decision to issue a Presidential Permit.”

But even with the report’s expected release today, CNN notes, “[T]he process is far from over. Once the results of the study are out, eight U.S. agencies will then comb through it and offer their feedback.
Secretary of State John Kerry will make a final recommendation to the White House. The president would then decide whether or not to approve the construction of the pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast.”

Bloomberg News
suggest that the conclusions of the State Department study will be little changed from one the agency released nearly a year ago. “The U.S. State Department is preparing a report that will probably disappoint environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone pipeline, according to people who have been briefed on the draft of the document. While the report will deviate from a March draft in some ways to the liking of environmentalists, the changes won’t be as sweeping as they had sought, several people familiar with the government’s deliberations over the review told Bloomberg News. . . . The March report concluded that the Canada-U.S. oil pipeline would have only a minimal impact on carbon emissions, because the oil sands in Alberta will be developed anyway. Several people briefed on the findings, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said they expect the final report will track that conclusion. . . . TransCanada applied more than five years ago for a permit to build the pipeline through the U.S. heartland, connecting the oil sands with refineries along the coast of Texas and Louisiana. . . . ‘The president has had five years of inaction on the Keystone XL pipeline,’ Brian Straessle, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, a Washington-based representative for the oil industry, said. ‘If 2014 is really his ‘year of action,’ he should start by approving Keystone.’”

As Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said following President Obama’s State of the Union address, “For all his talk of phones and pens, he didn’t even mention using his pen to sign off on the Keystone Pipeline. It’s the single simplest action he could’ve taken to create jobs. And it’s a project that would’ve created thousands of jobs right away. And it still can, if the President will just lead. Unions support it. Prominent members of his party support it. The American people overwhelmingly support it. But there’s one small group that doesn’t support it: powerful special interests on the far-Left.”

The president and his administration have stalled this project for far far too long. Keystone XL is supported by a majority of Americans, supported by unions, supported by Democrats, is an actually “shovel-ready” way to create jobs and would help reduce American dependence on oil from the Middle East. Will President Obama finally make the decision to support jobs and energy or will he once again side with the far Left?

Tags: State Dept Report, XL Keystone Pipeline, House Republicans, Overhaul Of Immigration Laws To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Iraqi Government Threatens Action Against Kurds as Oil Exports Set to Begin

Bill Smith, Editor: When the U.S. and its allies went to war with Iraq's former dictator, Saddam Hussein, the U.S found the Kurds both welcoming and supportive. The Kurds had suffered under Hussein and hoped to be allowed to establish an independent state. Unfortunately, the American State Department and the  White House pursued a one state solution verses allowing Iraq to be divided. The below article reveals that this one state solution is not working. Interestingly, the Kurds have both the resources and the apparent will to become independent. And the the Kirdish Regional Government is willing to export oil from its region to Turkey. However Iraq's central government via its Oil Minister has threatened that "Iraq will take legal steps to punish Turkey, Kurdistan, and the international oil companies involved in exporting oil."  Although the U.S. military were victorious in Iraq, the U.S failed in its diplomatic resolution of the war. Both the Bush and Obama administrations failed to understand or to accept major internal cultural differences in Iraq and focused solely on one state solution in an effort to buffer Iraq which they had before Hussein was removed.

 by Nicholas Cunningham: Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs firmly stated the central government will take action, "including fiscal measures," if Kurdistan begins exporting oil without coming to an agreement with Baghdad. The remarks came as Minister Hussain al-Shahristani spoke at a conference in London on January 28. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) announced in mid-January that oil had begun to flow through a pipeline towards Turkey and that exports would officially start by the end of the month.

Shahristani argues that Kurdish oil must be exported through the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO), a government-owned entity responsible for marketing Iraq's oil. He reiterated that oil extracted from any region of Iraq, including Kurdistan, is the "property of the Iraqi people," meaning that it is owned by the central government.

The tough statement follows similar threats from other Iraqi government officials in recent weeks as the Kurds prepare to export oil to Turkey. On January 17 Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi said Iraq will take legal steps to punish Turkey, Kurdistan, and the international oil companies involved in exporting oil. And on January 12 Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki promised to cut KRG's share of the national budget if it begins exports without approval from the central government.

The conflict escalated when Baghdad followed through on Maliki's threat. It released a draft national budget on January 15 that completely cut off funding for Kurdistan, a move meant to put pressure on the KRG to heed the central government's demands. Kurdish ministers walked out of the cabinet session when the budget was released.

The central government has been angling to prevent Kurdistan from unilaterally exporting oil to Turkey, but that does not mean Baghdad doesn't want Kurdish oil to flow. Indeed, according to the budget, the central government is requiring 400,000 barrels of oil from Kurdistan to be exported, and any shortfall will be made up by deducting from Kurdistan's share of national revenues. Kurdistan is entitled to a 17% share of revenues collected as part of Iraq's revenue sharing arrangement. The KRG argues that those funds are often not delivered.

Yet it also appears that Kurdistan is pushing for much more than merely to export oil on its own terms. Ali Balu, a former head of Iraqi parliament's oil and gas committee recently stated that within a few years "Kurdistan is going to be rid of its status as a region within Iraq," according to an article in Rudaw, a Kurdish news web site. Balu went on, "a plan is underway for Kurdistan to be an independent state in the near future."

Exporting oil from Kurdistan is a key step in the KRG's plan to eventually declare independence from Iraq. Clearly, Baghdad is not oblivious to this fact, seeing which way the winds are blowing. This is why the central government is so adamant about centralizing the oil export process. Both sides may be unwilling to give in, but the situation appears to be coming to a head, as Kurdistan expects to initiate exports within days.
© 2013 This article by Nicholas Cunningham was contributed to the ARRA News Service by James Stafford, the Editor of - the leading online energy news site, Its news and analysis covers all energy sectors from crude oil and natural gas to solar energy and hydro.

Tags: Iraq, threats,  Kurds,  Kurdistan, oil, Turkey,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Democrats for Women

by AF "Tony" Branco, Editorial Cartoon

Tags: Democrats, women, Bob Filner, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, scandals, editorial cartoon, AF Branco To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Another Environmental Lie Exposed: Bees are Thriving

 Alan Caruba, Contributing Author: I cannot say it strong enough. Do not believe the lies that environmental groups, particularly those that receive millions from liberal foundations and from members who never question the “science” they claim to justify massive scare campaigns.

One such organization is Friends of the Earth (FOE) and its latest claim is that bees are dying all over the world as the result of the use of pesticides in agriculture and by people protecting their gardens. It is a lie.

The attack on the use of pesticides began in 1962 with the publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” that claimed that their use posed a threat to human life. She said “Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species -- man -- acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world.”

The problem with her opinion is that humanity cannot alter nature, but can protect itself against the diseases and other problems. Humanity endures nature in the form of climate that currently is cooling much of the Earth. Were it not for science, we would not have put an end to polio and reduced other diseases such as malaria by killing the mosquitoes that spread it. We would not have learned how to create water purification systems that protect the residents of cities worldwide. We would not have learned how to increase crops that feed millions thanks to genetic modification.

Is humanity at risk? There are seven billion of us, more than any previous time on Earth.

Why do I defend pesticides? Because, since the 1980s, I have served pest control trade associations by providing communications programs, too often ignored by the mainstream press. In the 1980s I worked for a corporation that produced one of the most extraordinary pesticides invented; one that was applied with water! It so alarmed the Environmental Protection Agency, that it insisted that its multi-million dollar registration be repeated and that company decided to cease making it available in the U.S.

What do pesticides do? They protect us against trillions of insect and rodent pests that spread diseases while some represent millions in property damage—termites—every year. In June 2011, the EPA announced it intended to ban the sale of “the most toxic rat and mouse poisons, as well as most loose bait and pellet products” to residential customers. The only result of such a ban would be millions more rats and mice in their homes!

Rachel Carson’s book predicted the massive loss of bird species due to the use of pesticides. It was a bestseller and is still in print. She was wrong, but she triggered the beginning and growth of environmental groups that have used the same bad “science” to unleash all manner of fears on Americans and worldwide. Friends of the Earth is just one of them.

Recently I received a FOE email from Lisa Archer, its food and technology program director, in which she reported a Valentine’s Day project to stop Home Depot and Lowe’s stores from selling pesticides. The project is based on the totally false claim that all the bees are dying from the use of pesticides; in particular neonicotid pesticides that are widely used in agriculture.

The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) disputes this while acknowledging that “In the last decade, a massive decline in bee populations was detected. It was given the name of “Bee Colony Collapse Disorder” and “while the problem seems to have abated somewhat after 2010, periodic declines continued, and fears of recurrent major extinctions persisted.” The fears have been fanned by environmental organizations, but the ACSH revealed new research by scientists affiliated with the Department of Agriculture here and in China, reviewed in “The Scientist” that “provides the first evidence that the bee problem in fact, stems from the tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV), not from pesticides.”

Not from pesticides despite the FOE’s claim that “neonicotinoid pesticides are killing bees” noting that Europe is banning them. Europe is a hotbed of environmental fears and, ironically, is reversing its trend toward solar and wind energy after it has driven up the cost of electricity there and harmed its economic growth.

The ACSH reports that “the bees may pick up the virus from the pollen of plants that they feed upon, and that the virus may be spread to other bees by mites that feed on them. Once it has gained a foothold in a bee, the researchers determined that TRVS can replicate itself in the bee’s body.”

“This process of a virus moving from one species to another is call ‘host shifting’”.

Writing in 2012, Rich Kozlovich, a pest control expert, reported that “it is not true that there has been a mysterious worldwide collapse in honey bee populations. In fact managed bee hives (which contain the bees which do the vast majority of our pollinating) have increased by a remarkable 45 percent over the last five years.”

He also noted that “most staple foods—wheat, rice and corn—do not depend on animal pollination at all. They are wind-pollinated, or self-pollinating.”

These well-established facts mean nothing to FOE or other environmental organizations seeking to demonize pesticides. It means nothing to the EPA that has banned many extraordinarily effective pesticides from use to protect humans and property.

It is the advances of modern science that have protected and extended human life. Banning them just exposes Americans to a range of diseases, some of which kill. Until more Americans understand that the real threat is the EPA and the environmental groups spreading baseless fears, they will continue to be at risk.
Alan Caruba is a writer by profession; has authored several books, and writes a daily column, "Warning Signs" disseminated on many Internet news and opinion websites and blogs. He is a contributing author at ARRA News Service.

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McConnell Slams Proposed IRS Rule Targeting Conservative Groups | Reid Blocks Trade Promotion Authority

Today in Washington, D.C. - Jan. 30, 2014:
The Senate reconvened at 10 AM today and resumed consideration of S. 1926, the flood insurance bill. At 11:15, the Senate held a series of votes on amendments to the bill. Senators voted 34-65 to reject an amendment from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), 24-75 to reject an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), and 49-50 to reject an amendment from Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). The senate then recessed until 1:50 PM when they will vote on final passage of S. 1926.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 64-35 to waive a budget point of order against S. 1926.

The House is not in session today.  However, at a press conference today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) addressed the Senate Majority Leader Reid’s recent comments opposing Trade Promotion Authority, and called on President Obama “to stand up and lead on this issue” to help boost exports and create more American jobs. 

Boehner said, "I think in order to maximize our year, it’s important that we show the American people that we’re not just the opposition party – we’re actually the alternative party.

“We’ve passed dozens of bills this year that would help the economy, would help improve education, improve energy production in America, mostly sitting over in the United States Senate. But I think Republicans have to do more to talk about the better solutions that we think we have that will help the American people grow their wages, have opportunities at a better job, and clearly have a better shot at the American Dream.

“Listen, we know that the president’s policies are not working. That’s why we need to show the American people that the policies that we’re in favor of really will improve their lives.

“You know, one of the president’s priorities is Trade Promotion Authority. And I’ve made clear over the last several months that the president needs to engage in this issue. This morning, the Senate Majority Leader said he was not in favor of Trade Promotion Authority. Trade Promotion Authority allows the administration to negotiate with our colleagues and allies around the world to expand trade. Expanded trade means more opportunities for Americans, more exports. So the question is, ‘Is the president going to stand up and lead on this issue?’ We cannot pass this bill without his help. And if this is one of his own priorities, you would think that he would have the Senate Majority Leader working with him to pass Trade Promotion Authority in order to expand opportunities for our fellow citizens.

Another comment regarding President Obama's use of lofty rhetoric about opportunity and his plan to revive the economy during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore says the reality doesn’t match the rhetoric: "Opportunity for All is such an uplifting pro-America theme. But doesn’t this mean school choice? Doesn’t it mean cleaning up the crime and corruption in cities? Doesn’t it mean discouraging fatherless homes? Doesn’t it mean keeping tax rates low and regulations light so people can set out a shingle and start businesses? Obama has been the anti-opportunity society president." Recommend reviewing Heritage Experts Analyze President Obama's State of the Union Speech.

On another major issue, Fox News reports, that  “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the White House on ‘The Kelly File’ Wednesday night for initiating a new Treasury Department rule that would redefine what political groups can do and keep their tax-exempt status, a regulation he believes is meant to silence conservatives. The proposed regulation would create a new term, ‘candidate-related political activity,’ to help the IRS decide which social welfare organizations qualify for tax-exempt status, according to The Washington Post. . . . McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly he believes this is another example of the Obama administration bypassing Congress, and the regulation will unfairly target conservatives. ‘You’re looking at an administration trying to silence the voices of their critics going into this important fall election,’ McConnell said.”

In a Wall Street Journal column last week, Kimberley Strassel explained where this rule came from. “The fight was sparked by a new rule that the Treasury Department and the IRS introduced during the hush of Thanksgiving recess, ostensibly to ‘improve’ the law governing nonprofits. What the rule in fact does is recategorize as ‘political’ all manner of educational activities that 501(c)(4) social-welfare organizations currently engage in. It's IRS targeting all over again, only this time by administration design and with the raw political goal—as House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) notes—of putting ‘tea party groups out of business.’ . . . It only makes sense in a purely political context. The president's approval ratings are in the toilet, the economy is in idle, the ObamaCare debate rages on, and the White House has a Senate majority to preserve. With one little IRS rule it can shut up hundreds of groups that pose a direct threat by restricting their ability to speak freely in an election season about spending or ObamaCare or jobs. And it gets away with it by positioning this new targeting as a fix for the first round. This week's Democratic rally-round further highlights the intensely political nature of their IRS rule. It was quietly dropped in the runup to the holiday season, to minimize the likelihood of an organized protest during its comment period. That 90-day comment period meantime ends on Feb. 27, positioning the administration to shut down conservative groups early in this election cycle.”

Leader McConnell took the Senate floor today to blast the Obama administration for the rule. He said, “James Madison once wrote, ‘I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.’ And that’s just what’s going on here. The fact is, right now the Obama administration is getting ready to codify the same kind of intimidation and harassment of its political opponents that stunned a nation last year. . . . [I]t’s time we start talking about it. Because what the administration is planning here is nothing less than declaring a war not just on its opponents, but on free speech itself. Here’s their plan: the administration proposes to redefine political activity so broadly that grass-root groups all across the country that exist for the sole purpose of speaking out on issues of liberty or limited government or free enterprise or anything else that the administration doesn’t want to hear about will be forced to shut down. Just by speaking out on these issues of broad public concern, they’d be ruled out of bounds under new IRS rules — just in time, by the way, for the mid-term elections. If you think that this kind of speech is precisely what the First Amendment was written to protect, you’d be right. So this is a hugely important. And that’s why groups all along the political spectrum, and the folks that support them, are increasingly concerned. Now, as usual, the folks who are pushing this new assault on speech tell us it’s some kind of good-government proposal that increases transparency. But the truth is, the only thing transparent here is the administration’s thuggish attempt to shut down its critics.”

“The arrogance here is just breathtaking,” he continued. “But we’ve seen this kind of thing again and again from our liberal friends over the years. They just can’t accept a public that disagrees with their plans for the country. They just can’t seem to accept a society in which ‘we the people’ establish the rules, not them. And whether it’s the Fairness Doctrine, or the DISCLOSE Act, they want those who disagree with them to sit down and shut up. Their view is: You can fight for your ideals. You can speak out — but only if you agree with me. If you’re on the other side, you don’t have a right to speak out. And not only that, I’m going to put you out of business. I’m going to use the IRS to identify anybody who disagrees with me and shut them up. And I’m doing it through regulation, because I can’t pass it through legislation. This is just one way the President plans to go around the peoples’ elected representatives this year. And every American needs to know about this abuse of power. Let me be clear: what the administration is proposing poses a grave threat to the ability of ordinary Americans to freely participate in the democratic process. I think that if the American people knew what the administration was really up to, they’d react with the same kind of outrage they did last year about the targeting of conservatives at the IRS.”

As Strassel pointed out, this “puts a spotlight on newly sworn-in IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who vowed during his confirmation hearing to restore public trust in the agency, and now must decide whether to aid in a new and blatantly political abuse of IRS powers.” Speaking to Megyn Kelly last night, McConnell explained that the new IRS Commissioner is the key figure here. “We’ve got a new commissioner over at the IRS. I want to see if he has the integrity to stand up to this White House, like the IRS Commissioner did when Richard Nixon was trying to use the IRS to achieve a political objective. Will this new, fresh IRS Commissioner, coming in to clean up this troubled agency, be used by this White House to silence critics? Will he throw the IRS right in the middle of this big political debate?”

Tags: Free Speech, IRS, Targeting conservative groups, Senator Harry Reid, blocking Trade Promotion Authority To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Obama ‘Declaring A War’ On Free Speech With IRS Rules

by Ramsey Cox, The Hill: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused President Obama of waging a war against free speech by changing the tax code to stop political organizations from claiming tax-exempt nonprofit status.

McConnell said the administration is expected to change the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) code by more broadly defining political activity.

“What the administration is planning here is nothing less than declaring a war not just on its opponents, but on free speech itself,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “The administration proposes to redefine political activity so broadly that grass-root groups all across the country that exist for the sole purpose of speaking out on issues of liberty or limited government or free enterprise or anything else that the administration doesn’t want to hear about will be forced to shut down … just in time by the way for the mid-term elections.”

The IRS got into trouble last year for targeting Tea Party groups by not giving them nonprofit, tax-exempt status. The administration is now changing the rules so politically active groups won’t qualify for the exemption.

“They want those who disagree with them to sit down and shut up,” McConnell said.

McConnell called on the head of the IRS to stand up against the administration’s “thuggery” and vowed that Republicans would continue to fight the IRS code change because it violated the First Amendment.

"The new IRS commissioner has a simple choice: he can either restore the public’s trust in an agency whose reputation was already in doubt, or he can allow himself to be used as a political pawn by an administration that now seems willing to do anything to keep those it disagrees with from fully exercising their constitutionally-protected right to free speech," McConnell said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) defended the administration and said the action was needed because people like the Koch brothers "disguise" themselves as social welfare organizations even though their organizations are trying trying to unseat Democrats in Congress.

"These social welfare organizations are extremely helpful, but the Koch brothers aren’t a social welfare organization," Reid said. "Folks who act as political organizations should have to disclose where the money comes from."

Tags: IRS rules, war on free speech, free speech, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

MyRA Proposal Is a Head-Scratcher

Cynicism of the day: Life is full of oximorons. Is it true the President wanted to name something after one of his dream foxie ladies? Doubt it. But if so, how would he do that without being too obvious? Could the answer be by naming the new program MYRA?

All joking aside . . .

On the serious side, the following Patriot Post article details more info on President Obama's new Nationalized MyRA program.

The Patriot Post: One of the more puzzling proposals in the State of the Union address was the idea of MyRAs. Structured like a Roth IRA that invests in savings bonds, the federal government would guarantee these beginner investment accounts aimed at the poor. “It's a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg,” Barack Obama said. “MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in.” Naturally, he implemented the plan Wednesday with his infamous pen.

Given that there are already many retirement-account options out there, we're left wondering what problem Obama is trying to solve. And as National Review's Kevin Williamson notes, “Does anybody know why savings bonds went out of fashion? Because they are a terrible way to save money.” Low-risk, low-return. In fact, the federal workers' program this seems to be based on had a return of less than 1.5% last year and 2.24% over the last three. While the principal protection would keep the account balance from going down, the account could still lose value if inflation outpaces the return.

Given Obama's predisposal to nationalize everything, we question if this isn't the first step in doing so for retirement accounts. After all, just think about all the tax-free earnings sitting in IRAs that Obama wishes he could get his hands on. At a minimum, he seems to want poor, uninformed voters to invest more of their paychecks into the U.S. government. To the extent that MyRAs are used, that money will be invested in U.S. debt instead of private equity – at least until each account hits $15,000 and rolls into a private IRA.

We have another idea. How about privatizing (even partially) Social Security? That's what George W. Bush proposed in his post-re-election State of the Union. Unfortunately, the idea never went anywhere, and Social Security, with its multi-trillion dollar liabilities, remains unsustainable. In fact, the MyRA proposal is a tacit admission that Social Security isn't going to be enough for younger workers. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, that's exactly the case: Baby boomers and Generation Xers need $4.3 trillion more for retirement than Social Security and savings currently provide.

Tags: president Obama, SOTU, economy, MyRA, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

President Obama: Mr. Inequality

 Ken Blackwell, Contributing Author: No one in modern America has done more than President Obama to bring about inequality. His modern utopia is turning into a queuetopia. Under ObamaCare, Americans have to queue up even to sign up for health care.

We will of course have to stand in ever lengthening lines to get his “navigators” to direct us to a real physician. It’s a queuetopia when the best he can offer in his State of the Union Address is a longer period of time to stand in the unemployment lines. Few of those who have to wait in those lines would prefer a government check to a real job.

Queuetopia was Winston Churchill’s word to describe what the Socialists in Britain had brought to that once-proud island. Churchill also described the difference between free market economies and socialist centrally planned economies: “Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” As more and more Americans find their health insurance plans being cancelled, plans that 85% of us were satisfied with, our trust in Mr. Obama’s word has dissolved. Now, 63% of Americans tell pollsters they do not trust this president to make the right decisions for our country.

In his much-touted State of the Union Address, Mr. Obama told Congress to give the American people a raise. Do all businesses now belong to Congress? Do all employers have to look to Congress now for every decision they make?

Congress once promised to live under the laws it passed. Now, Members of Congress and their staffs—thanks to the Obama administration’s edicts—will have subsidies paid for by you and me. These subsidies make sure they will not feel our pain when we face premium hikes for health care. No wonder it is said that in government, liberals live and breathe and have their being.

President Obama deserves the sobriquet of Mr. Inequality because his administration from its earliest days has been taking an axe to the lowest rungs of America’s ladder of social mobility.

We have long known that family—especially the two-parent, married family—is vital for upward mobility. So is regular attendance at a church or synagogue, and working for or starting a small business. These are great generators of upward mobility. We often say this woman or man was “the first one in her family to go to college.” It is understood that families can make all the difference in educational attainment, in celebrating young peoples’ achievement.

This administration has promoted abortion-on-demand since its first days in office. New analysis from Family Research Council’s Dr. Henry Potrykus shows that liberal abortion can cost America more than one hundred billion dollars a year. And he’s been at it for five years.

Single parenthood is one of the most important factors in social mobility. A new study from Harvard confirms this. Yet, Mr. Obama’s Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner virtually challenged Congress to cut Medicaid. He said that 40% of children born today qualify for Medicaid.

This administration does not deplore out-of-wedlock births. The Obama White House invented “Julia,” their iconic cartoon character, who goes through her entire life tied to government programs. In 2012, they announced that Julia had “decided to have a child.” No husband. No marriage. She just decided.

No one wants to return to the Scarlet Letter. Under Obama, however, single parenthood is a status to be encouraged. And the fact that this is a driver for poverty seems not to trouble this administration at all. How else to explain President Obama giving a Medal of Freedom to Gloria Steinem, who infamously said: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

Another classic study “Who Escapes?” focused on the importance of church-going for minority youth. This 1986 analysis by the National Bureau of Economic Research has never been refuted or even seriously challenged. This analysis showed that young people in troubled neighborhoods still have a chance to escape some worse outcomes if they are regularly involved in their church or synagogue.

The government cannot order young people to go to church or synagogue, but it should give space and respect for what have been called mediating institutions in society. This is especially important for youth being raised in single parent families.

But the Obama administration threatens religious freedom more than any in American history. Whether it’s the Little Sister of the Poor or the Hobby Lobby Corporation and Conestoga Wood Company, these organizations have had to spend precious time and money racing into federal court to defend themselves from the threats to their consciences of HHS Mandates.

Small businesses create most of the new jobs and provide most of the innovation in our economy for new products and services. The Obama administration has burdened small businesses more than any previous administration. Small businesses have been saddled with the burden of ObamaCare, in addition to increased taxes and strangling red tape.

Education, of course, is important to upward mobility. Abraham Lincoln, self-educated as he was, always championed “the right to rise.” But this administration has been singularly hostile to the greatest education reform of them all—parental choice.

No one should criticize President Obama for sending his beautiful and bright daughters to a stylish prep school in Washington, D.C. He also had the benefit of an exclusive prep school education—Honolulu’s Punahou Academy.

What we criticize him for is his administration’s heartless efforts to crush school choice for children from low income households in the District of Columbia. This is unconscionable.

But for Mr. Inequality, it’s policy. So we can consign his latest State of the Union puffery to the slag heap of history. Never before was so much said by so few that was so hurtful to so many.
Ken Blackwell is a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, former Secretary of State for Ohio. and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council. He is a contributing author to theARRA News Service.

Tags: President Obama, Mr Inequality, queuetopia, socialism, Obamacare To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

One Speech Too Many

pix via Warning Signs
 Alan Caruba, Contributing Author: I didn’t take notes while President Obama gave his State of the Union speech. There was no need to.

There was a time when the SOTU was a just a letter sent to Congress, but in the era of radio and television, Presidents took advantage of the opportunity to be seen and heard laying out their priorities and asking Congress to fulfill them. Since then they have become little more than laundry lists and rarely memorable.

More people will watch a sporting event than tuned in to listen to Obama. In five years he has probably given more speeches than several previous Presidents combined. His first term felt like an extension of his election campaign with one speech following another and soon enough his reliance on a Tele-Prompter became a joke.

Suffice to say that Obama has given one speech too many. Or is that one hundred speeches too many?

A second term, according to the political pundits, is usually a more subdued time as a President seeks to get a few “legacy” pieces of legislation passed and, by then, most people have taken their measure of the President, either liking or disliking him. A President’s popularity or approval ratings usually decline.

Obama’s refusal and failure to work with Congress, combined with the disaster of Obamacare that was passed with only Democratic Party votes and, even then, required Chicago-style bribery and pressure, has seen not just his approval begin to slip away, but it includes the whole of Congress.

Obama’s assertion that he will use executive orders to get his way is simply an admission that he has failed to work with Congress and intends to continue as his second term shapes up to be one of increased resistance. Earlier presidents faced with a Congress whose power was held by another party used persuasion and compromise, but Obama uses neither.

In late January a Gallup poll revealed that “The enduring unpopularity of Congress appears to have seeped into the nation’s 435 congressional districts, as a record-low percentage of registered voters, 46%, now say that the U.S. representative in their own congressional district deserves re-election. Equally historic, the share of voters saying most members of Congress deserve re-election has fallen to 17%, a new nadir.”

It’s worth noting that the 17% who say most of Congress deserves re-election is well below the roughly 40% that has been around for decades and Gallup says “Typically, results like these have presaged significant turnover in Congress, as in 1994, 2006, and 2010. So Congress could be headed for a major shake-up in its membership this fall.”

There’s a history lesson in the 1994 election which occurred when Bill Clinton was President. It marked the greatest victory of the Republican Party since 1980. The GOP picked up 54 seats in the House of Representatives and 8 seats in the Senate. The issue that drove this change was Clinton’s advocacy of a change in the nation’s healthcare system. The Democrats did not learn anything from that defeat and Obama doubled-down on it.

While the media naturally focuses on the President, many Americans appear to have made a shift to Republicans because, at present, there are 30 Republican governors in America. Since Obama took office, Republicans have picked up a net nine governorships. In 24 of those States, Republicans control the legislatures. Democrats have similar power in just 12 States. So, at the State level, voters have already demonstrated their preferences.

A Wall Street Journal-NBC poll published on January 28, the day of the SOTU speech, revealed a nation “increasingly worried about (Obama’s) abilities, dissatisfied with the economy, and fearful for the country’s future.”

“Large majorities of respondents said they want the White House and lawmakers to focus on job creation and early-childhood education, and a slimmer majority favored increasing the minimum wage.” Just over half expressed an interest in “reducing income inequality.” Obama is appealing to the “low-information” voters these days, but the majority understands that only a growing economy can address the need for more jobs.

“The survey found that just over half of Americans disapprove of the President’s performance, with 43% approving, a trough that remains little changed since the early summer. Nearly six in 10 say they are uncertain, worried or pessimistic about what he will do with the remainder of his presidency. Disapproval for Congress, too, is near its all-time high.”

The midterm elections in November are likely to change Congress by adding many more Republicans in the House and enough in the Senate to give the GOP control of Congress. That will eliminate the chokehold that Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, has exercised to kill more than a hundred and fifty pieces of legislation sent by the House to repair the nation’s stagnant economy. It will likely override the President’s veto power.

Obama’s SOTU will receive a cascade of political analysis, but if the polls are any indication, the public is far less interested in another Obama speech than they are in getting the kind of change the nation really needs to grow its economy and address its problems.
Alan Caruba is a writer by profession; has authored several books, and writes a daily column, "Warning Signs" disseminated on many Internet news and opinion websites and blogs. He is a contributing author at ARRA News Service.

Tags: President Obama, One Speech too many, SOTU, Alan Caruba, Warning Signs To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Four Key Differences In The Thinking Of Democrats And Republicans

Herman Cain
 by Herman Cain: Distinctions.  There's more Republicans have to do than just market themselves better. A lot more. But when President Obama delivered his latest State of the Union address, we already knew that it will be steeped in themes that reflect how Democrats view this nation.

That presents a good opportunity for Republicans to draw a distinction between how Democrats see America and how they see it. There are crucial differences in the way the two parties think, and isolating them in clear ways helps to define the path forward in the contests coming this year and in 2016.

I'm borrowing some of this from work that others have done, but taking from that and adding my own thinking to it, I'd say the four major distinctions are these:

1. Role of Government. Democrats see government as the solution to problems. Republicans see government as functioning best when it's minimal so people can solve their own problems.

2. Unity. Democrats divide Americans into groups and offer different outcomes and benefits for each group. Republicans see everyone simply as Americans, and also as individuals, each of whom can pursue the outcomes they desire. Democrats divide. Republicans unite.

3. Wealth. Democrats want to confiscate wealth and redistribute it. Republicans want to see the wealth pie grow so that there is more to go around, and leave people with the freedom to pursue their goals without the government stepping in and telling them how much they can have or what they have to give to someone else. Democrats believe the amount of wealth that can exist is limited so government has to decide who can have how much. Republicans believe the amount of wealth that can exist is unlimited because it only depends on the tenacity of Americans to go out and produce it.

4. World leadership. Democrats embrace the United Nations view that no one nation is any better than any other, and as such America should "lead from behind" by essentially giving over its global leadership role to the UN. Republicans believe America is the exceptional nation, and must lead.

I believe that if Republicans successfully establish that these are the key difference between them and Democrats, they will find that the vast majority of Americans agree with them on all four.

Now, as I said at the start, you have to do more than market and position yourself. You have to actually lead. And Republicans in Congress need to let go of the excuse that because they don't control the White House, there is nothing they can do to lead. That's not true. Leaders lead not because of the position they hold, but because they are leaders.

If Republicans lead according to these principles, they will create a distinction between them and Democrats that will make the Republican Party the choice of Americans once again.

Tags: Herman Cain, democrats, republicans, differences,  thinking, key differences, role of government, unity, wealth, world leadership To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Improving our Voting Systems

John Fund
 by John Fund, National Review Online: [T]he Presidential Commission on Election Administration issued its report on improving voting in the U.S., and here’s hoping Americans pay attention to it. Our sloppy and archaic voting systems leave us tottering every election on the brink of another Florida-style electoral meltdown like the one we had in 2000. The president’s commission says that it’s finally time to address the systemic defects.

One of its recommendations is earlier voting registration, including allowing people to register online. With proper safeguards, such as requiring that people be already listed in some existing government database through which they can verify their identity, such reforms are laudable. The commission also recommended greater use of technologies that compare registration lists across state lines and that allow purges of ineligible voters. A 2012 Pew Foundation study found, for example, that 2.2 million dead people are still listed as being registered to vote.

As laudable or intriguing as many of the commission’s recommendations are, there are trouble spots in its report. The commission’s most controversial recommendation is to expand early and absentee voting, in large part to reduce the polling-place waiting times to 30 minutes or less, even though an MIT study found that the average waiting time on Election Day in 2012 was only 14 minutes. Convenience-oriented voting is popular, and one-third of the ballots cast in 2012 came in before Election Day. Most of the long lines that people complained about actually formed during early-voting periods, when only a small number of voting sites were open. If those voters had voted on Election Day, they would probably not have had long waits.

But along with the convenience of early voting, there are clear risks and costs. Of the two methods, early voting is preferable because it takes place inside a building where poll workers can observe the process. Absentee voting is much more problematic because the ballots are cast away from the supervision of election officials, and coercion, manipulation, and fabrication can be a part of the process.

While the commission endorses more absentee voting, it also notes the dangers involved. “Fraud is rare, but when it does occur, absentee ballots are often the method of choice,” it concludes. But the report says not one word about state-of-the-art measures that states such as Kansas have adopted to combat absentee fraud — for instance, having the voter include the last few digits of his Social Security number or a copy of a photo ID. It also ignores how hard it would be to integrate election observers into the process as early and absentee voting expand.

In 2001, after the Bush v. Gore meltdown, the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, issued a comprehensive report on the trend toward all-mail elections and relaxed absentee-ballot laws. It found that “unrestricted absentee voting probably had not increased turnout at all.” Studies since then have shown that early and no-fault absentee voting might actually hurt turnout. The Ford-Carter commission also argued that all-mail elections and no-excuse absentee ballots did not satisfy five essential criteria for honest and fair elections:

1. Assuring the privacy of the secret ballot and protecting against coerced voting;

2. Verifying that only duly registered voters cast ballots;

3. Safeguarding ballots against loss or alteration;

4. Assuring their prompt counting; and

5. Fostering the communal aspect of citizens voting together.

These concerns are real.

We were reminded just this week of problems associated with absentee ballots. Guerrilla videographer James O’Keefe released an undercover video of a meeting of Battleground Texas, a leftist group working to elect Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor. The video shows the Davis supporters ignoring questions about whether forging a signature on a relative’s absentee ballot was legal. “People do that all the time,” said Lisa Wortham, pretending to cover her ears. Wortham is an attorney and a deputy voter registrar working with the group. A volunteer from the group adds her opinion: “I don’t think that’s legal, I’ll do like Lisa did — I didn’t hear you say that.” Other Battleground Texas workers agree but jokingly cover their ears and also pretend not to hear.
The use of secret ballots cast in traditional polling locations can protect voters from being pressured, and it also guards against forged signatures and other kinds of tampering. Absentee ballots are vulnerable to these problems because people cast them in unmonitored settings where family members, employers, churches, union leaders, nursing-home administrators, and others can coerce the voter, which is illegal. The ability of political parties, candidates, and independent groups to appoint observers who can monitor polling sites and the casting of votes helps guarantee the integrity and security of our elections.

No-excuse absentee-ballot laws make it easier to engage in tactics such as requesting absentee ballots in the name of low-income public-housing residents and senior citizens and then either intimidating them or casting votes for them. Fraud even has its apologists. The late Richard Cloward, of the voter-rights group Human Serve, once told CBS News: “It’s better to have a little bit of fraud than to leave people off the rolls who belong there.” But as former Democratic senator Chris Dodd has said, we should be able to “make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

Just this month, a vote-fraud scandal has rocked the town of Donna in South Texas. The school-board president, who had won reelection in 2012, committed suicide after accusations were made against three politiqueras, or vote brokers. “A woman who worked as a politiquera in Donna said paying cash or trading drugs for votes had been common in recent elections,” reported the New York Times. The politiqueras sit next to elderly and disabled voters as they mark their absentee ballots in kitchens and living rooms. Often they will leave with the marked ballots, promising to stamp them and mail them for the voter.

Alabama provides another example of how absentee ballots have long been used to skew elections. Back in 1996, the state’s Democratic secretary of state Jim Bennett said, “We don’t use guns, tanks, and bullets to put political leaders in power. We simply allow absentee-ballot manipulation to undermine and quite possibly corrupt the system.” Bennett switched parties the next year in protest against the use of absentee ballots by old-time political bosses to steal elections in the state’s “Black Belt.” When African-American voters who were oppressed by political machines in the Black Belt went to civil-rights groups for help, their pleas were ignored. After all, these new political machines were run by African Americans.

After years of effort, some of the Black Belt bosses were convicted of voter fraud, but fraud continues, according to former Democratic representative Artur Davis, who represented the area until 2011. “I was offered the chance to buy votes in face-to-face meetings,” he says. “I know the practice goes on to this day.”

The lack of controls on absentee ballots brought Chicago-style vote-buying north to Wisconsin a decade ago. The NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, WTMJ, filmed Democratic campaign workers handing out food and small sums of money to residents at a home for the mentally ill in Kenosha, after which the patients were shepherded into a separate room and given absentee ballots. One of the Democratic operatives fled when she saw the NBC camera crew. A few years before, former Democratic representative Austin Murphy was convicted of engaging in absentee-ballot fraud in a Pennsylvania nursing home, where residents who were barely aware of their surroundings were an easy mark.

In close races, a flood of absentee ballots can delay the results of elections for weeks and lead to fractious recounts. “Any time you have more paper ballots outside the polling place, the greater the chance of mistakes and delays,” New Hampshire secretary of state Bill Gardner, a Democrat, told me. “Getting final election returns appears to be the only area of life today where news travels slower,” says John Carlson, a Seattle talk-show host, who recalls that in 2000 control of the U.S. Senate hinged on counting late absentee votes from a close race in Washington state. The outcome — and who would control the Senate — wasn’t known until December 1.

Early and absentee voting with responsible controls is fine, but it does increase the cost and difficulty of campaigns. Rather than focus their efforts on a single day, candidates now to have to maintain a full-time and fully funded pre-election operation for weeks before an election. People often tell pollsters that they think campaigns use too much advertising, take too many polls, and spend too much money. A greater amount of early and absentee voting will mean more of all three things.

Lastly, many analysts, ranging from George Will on the right to Norman Ornstein on the left, have decried the transformation of voting into an act of convenience rather than one of communal pride. Absentee ballots not only dispense with the privacy curtain of the voting booth, but “they consign to private spaces the supreme moment of public choice,” Will notes. “Election Day should be the exhilarating central episode of our civic liturgy.”

If present trends continue, at some point we will become a nation where half of us vote on Election Day and the other half . . . well, whenever. But the notion of an Election Day is embedded in a law passed by Congress in 1872, when it was stipulated that presidential elections should be held on the same day throughout the nation. With extended early voting, the concept of an Election Day — where people vote with roughly the same information and after all the debates have been held — loses most of its meaning.
John Fund is national-affairs correspondent for NRO. He has also published several books on election problems and been an expert on in-side Washington Shenanigans for years.

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