Barack Obama

Supreme Court Rejects NSA Phone Spying Case

After U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s preliminary injunction was issued back in December, which kept the NSA from gathering metadata pertaining to certain Verizon customers who took part in a lawsuit filed by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, the Supreme Court decided to refrain from reviewing the case.

According to Judge Leon’s ruling, the Justice Department didn’t produce enough evidence to make him believe that the massive surveillance program was justified, which led to his decision to call the NSA’s surveillance programs unconstitutional.

The decision was announced Monday.

Per the rules of the court, at least four of the nine justices must agree on taking up the cause for a full review before it’s accepted, but since the process failed to grant the case a go, the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program remains unchecked by the Supreme Court.

The debate over President Barack Obama’s proposal to change how data gathered by private companies will be stored has also sparked this administration’s harshest critics, especially when it comes to the unconstitutional surveillance programs carried out by the NSA.

Proposed NSA reforms close one loophole while leaving others open

President Barack Obama rolled out a proposal earlier this week that would end the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk phone metadata collection program. The House Intelligence Committee has a proposal of its own purports to achieve the same end.

The proposal pushed by the White House has been received with cautious optimism from civil libertarians, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). They like what they’ve heard, but have explained that the devil is in the details.

Others, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), have pointed out that there’s already a proposal in Congress, the USA FREEDOM Act, that would end bulk data collection. Privacy advocates, however, have panned the House Intelligence Committee’s proposal, which is backed by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

In Wednesday’s Cato Daily Podcast, Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, discussed and dissected both President Obama and the House Intelligence Committee’s proposal, finding them to be welcome news. But he also pointed out that both measures still leave open the possibility of access to Americans’ personal information.

Why Republicans should follow Rand Paul’s lead

The Republican Party seems poised for a successful mid-term election. There has even been talk of a building “Republican wave,” should voter dissatisfaction intensify and solidify, though its far too early to say for sure what will happen.

But if a “Republican wave” does indeed happen this fall and the party takes control of the Senate, a goal that has proved to be out of reach in the past two cycles, GOP leaders and talking heads should be cautious in overstating what it means.

Yes, President Barack Obama is plagued by low approval ratings and rejection of Obamacare, his signature domestic achievement. Voters aren’t too thrilled about the state of the economy or his handling of foreign policy.

But Republicans must realize that electoral success this doesn’t mean that voters have embraced the party, as polls almost universally show. In a two-party system at a time of malaise, the party not in control is the beneficiary of voter anger. This was true in 2006 when Democrats won control of Congress. It was true in 2010 when Republicans gained 63 seats on their way to winning the House of Representatives.

There is no denying that the Republican Party has a very real messaging problem, and party leaders realize it. That’s why the Republican National Committee released a report, The Growth and Opportunity Project, to try to figure out what went wrong in the 2012 election as well as try to find solutions to expand its reach.

Though that “autopsy,” so to speak, raised some excellent points, it alienated many of the grassroots activists that compromise part of the Republican base.

Current Job Market for Teens is the Toughest on Record

Thomas Sowell used his latest piece to address a common misconception regarding the left’s avowed concern for minorities. In his column, the renowned economist pointed out that the educational policies pursued by the left in the name of the poor and the minorities often hurt those they claim to protect.

The same can be said about other policies pursued by Democrats who tend to defend that more interventionism will undoubtedly lead to more opportunities for the poor, the young and the minorities.

According to a Brookings Institute study, teens have been having a harder time finding jobs in recent years. In 2000, research shows that 45% of teens in the U.S. had jobs, now only 26% of teens aged 16 to 19 are employed.

Researchers used Department of Labor and Census data to track youth employment among the 100 largest metro areas in the country. The study shows that 1.8 million teens are either actively looking for a job but are unable to get one or they have part-time jobs, whereas they’d prefer to obtain full-time employment instead. The study refers to this pattern as “underutilization,” which means that teens are not satisfied or financially stable to focus solely on school.

In other words, more teens need to work but are unable to find work.

Obama set to use pen to control worker salaries

When President Obama started talking about getting around Congress with his phone and his pen, we all knew it was not going to end well. Increasing the minimum wage for government contractors hasn’t really had a chance to show any ill effects, so it makes sense that the president is already leaping into fair labor regulations, to start causing havoc in private industry.

The current cause is to force employers to pay overtime to salaried workers. There are already exemptions based on income that would possibly come into play, but they haven’t been adjusted for inflation on the Federal level since 2004. That said, there might be a valid argument to revisit those caps, but to force employers to pay overtime to salaried workers in general is not something any competent leader should consider in a soft job market.

Government increasing liabilities on businesses on a per employee basis is never a good idea when the economy needs private industry to be creating jobs. That is something that keeps getting lost in the shuffle for many reasons, but the two most obvious are the fact that the administration has changed the equations for determining the unemployment rate, and has reduced expectations for reasonable growth. What does that mean? It means that we don’t count people that have dropped out of the unemployment system into the welfare system, and the “new normal” is not really growth — it’s barely treading water.

Republicans win a special election — and complete control of the 2014 narrative

Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid

While we should be cautious to read too much into a special election, there’s no denying that the Republican victory last night in Florida’s Thirteenth Congressional District (FL-13) is bad news for Democrats in the 2014 mid-term election, regardless of how they try to deflect it.

The spin from Democrats is that FL-13 had long-been held by Republicans and the district has a Republican tilt, albeit very slight, at R+2. This is true. But talking points miss some very important points.

First, this is a district twice won by President Barack Obama, so it’s more friendly to Democrats than they want to admit. Secondly, Democrats had the money advantage. Alex Sink, who lost last night, overwhelmingly outraised and outspent her Republican opponent, former lobbyist David Jolly, and outside groups backing the Democrat slightly outspent those backing the Republican candidate.

Third, Jolly was a lobbyist, and that point was frequently brought up by Sink and outside groups backing her campaign. Despite being pegged in populist rhetoric as a Washington insider, Jolly managed to win.

Freedom…It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

Last week, the Democrats held their Winter Meeting at the Capital Hilton, where Emperor Obama, Slayer of Insurance Companies, Defender of the Poor (and making more every day), the Duke of Deficits, addressed his faithful assembled minions, dispensing tidbits of propaganda like an imperial Pez dispenser, reeling them in with promises of endless supplies of government candy, assuring them it is oh so good for them.

Obama declared that “[a]s Democrats, we’ve let the other side define the word ‘freedom’ for too long…freedom for ordinary Americans to honestly pursue their dreams, that’s what we believe.” He went on to define freedom as the power of government to protect you from any adverse circumstance that may arise in your life, and as the ability for government to provide for your health care, your retirement, food, housing, and so on and so forth.

To quote the inimitable Inigo Montoya, the glorious Spaniard from one of my all time favorite movies, The Princess Bride…Mr. Obama, “You keep using that word [freedom]…I do not think it means what you think it means!’” What Obama is describing is not freedom; it is lifelong dependency on the gargantuan Nanny State, with promises of cradle-to-grave nurturing no matter how irresponsible the decisions you make in your life. Of course, the only way for government to protect you from your own mistakes is by forcing others to pay the price for you. Every action has a consequence, and just because you don’t suffer does not mean that someone does not suffer. Someone has to pay the piper. There is no free lunch.

Should we get involved in Ukraine?

Ukraine is a complicated question worldwide. It is a relatively large Eastern European economy – certainly the biggest, after Russia, among the former Soviet Republics. It is also a major natural gas conduit for sales of Russian natural gas from Russia to the European Union.

As such, it’s important to Russia, not just as a transit point for natural gas to its biggest customers in Europe, but also as a large economy that exports a lot of its agricultural products, its workers and its steel to Russia. Having an economy such as this in the Russian-led customs union would lend legitimacy to an organization the Russians have been trying to transform into a European Union-type economic alliance.

In this post I’m going to attempt to lay out some issues, as well as some possible outcomes and solutions.

First, let’s get something straight. There have been rumblings that the U.S. government has somehow been funding the protesters in Ukraine, hoping to topple the corrupt, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. This is a silly idea. Why would the United States work to create a power vacuum? Why would the United States want to facilitate the rise to power of Julia Timoshenko, who by many accounts is just as corrupt as Yanukovych AND has ties to organized crime? It doesn’t make sense.

Snowden raised concerns with supervisors before going to the press

It’s still hard for some of us to grasp the motives behind Edward Snowden’s decision to go straight to the press.

Some question why government officials were never warned that pressing concerns related to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs had to be addressed , and some even question the goals behind the final disclosure of the confidential programs to the press.

While all questions are valid and should be addressed timely, recent reports show that Snowden’s recent testimony to the European Parliament assured the public that his concerns had been discussed with at least 10 officials before he decided to go to the press. According to the report, Snowden would have a hard time pursuing any further whistleblowing mainly because of his status as a contractor.

According to the testimony, the decision to go to the press to leak confidential documents only came to Snowden after he exhausted all other formal avenues.

When asked about the circumstances, Snowden replied that he “had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them.” Edward Snowden’s status as an employee of a private company hired by the U.S. government makes it impossible for the contractor to be protected by whistleblower laws, which are only valid to U.S. government direct employees.

Snowden claimed that because he encountered these legal issues, he feared he “would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information about lawbreaking in accordance with the recommended process.”

Off-exchange health plans see 39% to 56% premium increase from 2013

The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) released a study earlier this week finding that Americans looking to purchase health insurance on the state and federal Obamacare exchanges would find higher premiums and less choice than plans available last year on private exchanges.

The findings in the study aren’t surprising given that Obamacare mandates a number of changes to health insurance, including minimum benefits and actuarial requirements, all of which result increase the cost of coverage. Though the NCPPR offered some insight into the higher costs consumers face, it didn’t offer much in real dollars being spent on health insurance coverage compared to 2013 plans. (eHealth), however, has released data that does provide some insight into how much consumers are paying for off-exchange health plans compared to a year ago. Despite a multitude of promises that Obamacare would make health coverage more affordable, the eHealth study proves otherwise.

“As of February 24, 2014, the average premium for an individual health plan selected through eHealth without a subsidy was $274 per month,” the nation’s first and largest private exchange noted in a recent press release, ”a 39% increase from the average individual premium for pre-Obamacare coverage.”

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