Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fast Food CEO: Gov't Regulation Is Driving Us Abroad, Killing US Jobs

I found this interesting as a reflection of how business in general has been affected by Big Government. In response to increased government regulation, major fast food companies are expanding rapidly - overseas.

In China, customers don't order french fries—they're shu tiao. In Turkey, they're called patates and in Russia, you would ask for kartofel' Fri.

Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee's and Carl's Jr., should know. His company is expanding rapidly abroad due to higher potential outside the U.S., which is hampered by what he sees as too much government regulation.

"It's difficult to open in the U.S., but we love the U.S. and continue to fight the good fight to open restaurants and create jobs," Puzder said. "It's just that the government is making it hard for us to build those restaurants."

Over the last three years, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. opened more restaurants internationally than in their own backyards—a first, he added. CKE now operates restaurants in 30 foreign countries.{..}

"Under the current U.S. business climate, regulatory and tax restrictions tend to curb otherwise dynamic entrepreneurial energy," Puzder said. "We'd love to see more growth in domestic markets. Unfortunately, it's easier for our franchisees to open a restaurant in Siberia than in California."

So aside from bureaucratic red tape, large fees and massive building and environmental regulations, what is stopping companies like CKE from opening more of their restaurants in America?

Puzder names ethanol regulation, which has resulted in higher beef costs, a rising minimum wage and higher labor costs because of Obamacare.

CKE's solution is simply to open less restaurants in America, and to turn increasingly to automation to eliminate as many positions as possible, with things like tablet ordering..and eventually, robot preparation as those costs come down compared to live employees.

"I think it satisfies the needs of younger people. It also reduces your costs," [Puzder] said. "When they talk about raising the minimum wage or providing health care for employees over 30 hours, you're really encouraging automation."

I would imagine that other food companies are doing the same thing.And something else to consider..opening up a small hamburger joint or other fast food restaurant used to be a very basic form of entrepreneurship available to many Americans, as well as providing summer and entry level jobs for a lot of people. If large corporations like CKE aren't opening up these establishments here, it means that a lot of individuals without the resources of CKE won't even try to open their doors.

I'm a non-consumer of fast food, but this strikes me as just one more instance of Big Government killing American entrepreneurship by making it as difficult as possible for the average American to open a business of their own.

That is not a good trend.

Stone Soup: A Parable


Once upon a time, there were some travelers headed for a town some miles away. This being before the days of mass transit, they were going on foot, traveling as a group.

One chilly evening after the day's trek, they were all gathered around the fire and some of the group started talking about cooking a communal meal with everybody pitching in. They had just about decided on doing that when one of them, a middle aged woman with conspicuously high cheekbones spoke up and said, "Ah, if only I had a stone. this would be a perfect night for some delicious stone soup."

"Stone soup?" said one the group. "I've never heard of that. How can you make soup out of a stone?"

"Oh, trust me, it's absolutely delicious" she replied. "And just the thing for a chilly night like this. But I don't have a stone, so...."

Another member of the group piped up, asking, "What's in stone soup? What's it taste like?"

"Oh, it's hard to describe" the woman,whom we'll call High Cheekbones said with a wave of her arm. "I can't really tell you,but once you've had it, you'd love it! So delicious! But of course, without a stone, well, no sense even talking about it."

Another man chimed in, saying "Well, if all you need is a stone, I saw some nice ones back by that river we passed. I could go and get a stone for you."

"Oh, wonderful!" said High Cheekbones. "You do that and I'll make the soup. Best thing you ever tasted."

So the man dutifully got up from the fire and walked back towards the river to get the stone.

While he was gone, High Cheekbones continued to talk to the others abut the stone soup, how good it was and how they were all going to love it.

After about twenty minutes, the man, whose name was Hugo returned to the camp with a round stone about as big as a man's fist. "Will this do?" he asked High Cheekbones.

"Yes, that's fine", she replied. "Oh, but I'm going to need a pot. And some water."

Another man, Ernest, stood up and said, "I have a cauldron. If I go get you some water, can I have some of the soup?"

"Why certainly" said High Cheekbones.

"You know", said Hugo, "If you had mentioned we needed a pot and water, I could have gotten them while I was there, and we could start cooking the stone soup right now. This way, we have to wait for Ernest to come back from the river. And what if he spills some of the water? He'll have to go back again."

"Well", replied High Cheekbones, "That sort of thing happens with a big project like this. But instead of complaining, just think about how delicious the stone soup is going to be when it's done. You're going to absolutely love it!"

About twenty minutes later, Ernest returned with the cauldron and the water,  and Hugo, on High Cheekbone's orders, placed the stone in the bottom.

"What happens now?" said Hugo."Are you going to put it on the fire?"

"Oh,yes, that", sighed High Cheekbones. "I guess we're going to have to figure out some way to to hold the pot over the fire, aren't we? Any ideas?"

"Why of course", replied a third man, LeRoi. "What you need is a trestle made out of two sticks and a pole in between to hang the cauldron on. I would have volunteered to do that before, but no one asked me. Can I have some soup if I go ahead and put that up?"

"Why certainly", said High Cheekbones.

"That's going to mean another delay" said Hugo. "Couldn't you have thought of that before?"

"I can't imagine why you're so mean spirited" High Cheekbones snapped. "It's almost as if you're trying to hog more of the soup for yourself and deny others the opportunity to share in this great project!"

In due course the trestle was completed and the water and the stone placed over the fire.

Several of the other travelers had heard from High Cheekbones over and over again how wonderful the delicious stone soup was going to be, and boy, did they want some!

"Y'know, I was wondering", said one woman named Delores, "Can stone soup have onions  in it? I'm taking some onions to market to sell, and I'd happily contribute a couple of them if I could have some of that delicious stone soup..."

"Well, why not?" responded High Cheekbones. "I've made it that way before, and it's really good with onions.You have my permission to just go ahead and cut them up and put them in."

That started a whole stampede of offers. Another traveler contributed salt, pepper and spices, others offered potatoes, carrots, peas and parsnips, and one man even provided a chicken carcass.Still another, a crockery trader, offered the use of bowls and a large ladle. All were promised a share of the stone soup and all were convinced how absolutely marvelous it was going to be.

After awhile,the fragrant aroma of the soup filled the campsite. Finally, High Cheekbones produced a large tureen from her own belongings and filled it to the brim with the soup. Then she announced to the rest of the group that the soup was done. She then called each traveler by name and served them in turn.

As High Cheekbones doled out the soup to the others and they began to eat, they noticed two things. First of all, the soup, while it was certainly welcome was simply ordinary chicken vegetable, and not the delicacy they had been promised. And second, that they had each received a lot less soup than they expected, and certainly less than High Cheekbones.

The first to voice this discontent was, as you would imagine, Hugo.

"Wait just one minute", he cried. "This is ordinary chicken vegetable soup, and pretty average chicken vegetable at that.We could have made this ourselves, and we were just about to before you came along with this marvelous plan for stone soup. What going on here?"

"Yeah", added Mark, who had contributed the spices. "And I notice you got your soup first, and more than any of us. The amount of soup I got doesn't even cover the cost of the spices I put in!"

"I can't believe what I'm hearing from you two" retorted High Cheekbones. "I create a project that results in something that benefits all of us, and you do nothing but find fault. Okay,you have your spice business, good for you. But you didn't build that alone. The community pays taxes for the watchmen on the roads to make sure your shipments don't get robbed, they pay to maintain the roads, the ships that bring you your spices use wharves we all pay for...so why would you be so greedy as to not want to give a little something back?"

"But I pay those taxes too!" shouted Mark. "Isn't that enough giving back?"

Hugo said, angrily,"You know, I think this whole idea of stone soup was just a trick to get High Cheekbones a free meal. We were talking about making soup on our own anyway. We provided all the stuff to make it, we provided all the labor and if you think about it, we could have done this a lot quicker and more efficiently on our own. The only thing she really contributed was that nonsense to convince us all about how delicious stone soup was. And in the end, she helped herself first and took more than any of us!"

"Wait just a minute here!", High Cheekbones snapped back. "I represent the community, and I organized the stone soup project for everyone. It was my organizing ability and leadership that got everybody the soup and saw to it that it was, you know,spread around instead of being limited to just a few special people."

"Then how come you got yours before anyone else and took more than anyone else?" Mark asked with a puzzled look. "The way you organized things, the soup took longer to make, it cost us more and except for you, we ended up with less soup at the end of it. It still seems somehow like this was all about you getting a free meal".

High Cheekbones unsuccessfully tried to stifle a belch (she really had eaten a large amount of soup)and gave Mark a look of utter disdain for a long time.

Finally, she shook her head and said, "Don't you know anything about how government works?"

How Mellisa Harris-Perry Won My Respect


It's all over the internet by now how Mellisa Harris-Perry and her cohorts over at MSNBC made a racist attack on the Romney family, mocking Mitt and Anne's adopted black grandchild.Standard operating procedure for MSNBC.


But then something rather marvelous happened.

Deep inside of her,there's still a core of decency, and it was sickened at what she had done.

The very next day,first thing in the morning, she went on Twitter (and on the air, for all that I know)and issued a heart felt apology, as she put it 'without reservation.' She said there were no excuses for her behavior , and made a point in a subsequent tweet that "I work by guiding principle that those who offend do not have the right to tell those they hurt that they r wrong for hurting. Therefore, while I meant no offense, I want to immediately apologize to the Romney family for hurting them"

She also tweeted, "I apologize to all families built on loving transracial adoptions who feel I degraded their lives or choices."

In other words, a real apology, not a Barack Obama-style 'sorry if you were inconvenienced or something because I lied' apology.

I know for a fact that she wasn't ordered to do so by the suits at MSNBC, who've let far worse stuff go.And it's not like the Romneys had any ratings clout like Sarah Palin does. She simply did it because it was the right thing to do.

And I respect that.It would have been far easier for her to just wallow in the 'attagirls' from her Leftist cohorts and say nothing.

The apology, hopefully, is just a first step for her.Real teshuvah, repentance involves not only recognizing what you've done and doing your best to fix it,but to learn something from it so you don't repeat your misdeed, to spend some soul time thinking 'Why did I do that? How can I avoid doing it again'?

Whatever else we might disagree with, I have a feeling I and Ms. Harris-Perry would agree on that. So I wish Melissa Harris-Perry the very best in that endeavor of self-examination.

The New York Times Sinks Beneath Contempt InTrying To Rewrite Benghazi

(H/t Biff Spackle via Doug Ross)

You can always rely on Pravda-on-the-Hudson..to lie, to hide things away for its Leftist agenda, and in general to soil any notion of what we normally think of as journalism.

A case in point is a recent New York Times 'blockbuster' on Benghazi, which pretty much denies that al-
Qaeda was involved, (which would certainly be news to al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia, who carried out the attack) and that it was primarily a spontaneous riot caused mostly by that obscure video no one had seen and hardly anyone in the Muslim world or the West had heard about until it was seized on by the Obama Administration to protect the president and former Secretary Hillary Clinton.

It doesn't matter to them that virtually every bit of this fable of theirs was absolutely destroyed in the congressional investigation, or that people on the scene have denounced this as fantasy. Or that one of the attackers called and reported the success of the assault to Moktar Belmoktar, a senior commander of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM).

Or that  an independent review of more than 4,000 social media postings from Benghazi found no reference to the video until the day after the attack.

What this is about, of course is Hillary Clinton's assessment of what effect Benghazi is going to have on her planned 2016 run. So some talking points are necessary to cover her pants suit clad behind, as her acolytes repeat the mantra 'according to the New York Times...'

I wouldn't even mention this ridiculous attempt to rewrite history except for the latest claim in response to criticism of this nonsense by Times reporter David D. Kirkpatrick, 'Oh we had a reporter embedded with the attackers who talked to them.'

  David D. Kirkpatrick @ddknyt
@RichardGrenell we had a reporter on the scene talking to the attackers during the attack- still invaluable

140 Retweets 26 favorite

Sure you did. And he kept his mouth shut for 15 months.

The funny part is that this issue was just starting to die down a bit.  The NYT just threw some gasoline on the flames.

These people are not only unworthy of a public megaphone, they're unworthy of living in a free society.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Forum: What Are Your Predictions For 2014?

Every week on Monday morning , the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher's Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or simply daily living. This week's question:What Are Your Predictions For 2014?

GrEaT sAtAn"S gIrLfRiEnD : 2014 will have similar themes to its predecessor.

The wider Middle East will continue to be convulsed by the uprisings of recent years, the Iran/Great Satan relationship will require close attention, the rise of China and re-emergence of Japan should mean headlines coming out of the South China Sea.

The possibility of war between Iran and Great Satan receded across 2013.
Now 2014 throws up the possibility of detente between them, but it will be a difficult road.

If the interim nuclear deal becomes a comprehensive one, detente is possible, if it falls apart then war will again begin to feature in the headlines.

China is emerging on to the world stage at a steady rate, and under the Premiership of Shinzo Abe Japan is re-emerging almost 60 years after the end of the World War Two.

They will bump up against each other with ripples washing up against the US Navy and countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

China is building a blue water navy, pushing out into the Pacific. To do that it has to sail past Japan and there things get a bit crowded.

At the same time there is a fledging arms race between China and India amid continuing tensions between the two along the Himalayas.

In 2014, Aegypt will hold parliamentary and presidential elections.
Whoever wins - their power will be limited in a fractured country in danger of becoming bankrupt.

Next door in Libya, the state didn't fall apart because it has yet to come together following the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011.

Tripoli was the scene of many gun battles as different militia took on each other and the fledging official armed forces in what is a capital city in name only. The second city Benghazi saw similar scenes amid fears that Libya might disintegrate.

Like Syria. Now some Syrian opposition groups are fighting 'Al Qaeda in Syria', who are fighting the Syrian Kurds, who are also fighting the Syrian opposition, who are still fighting Assad.

Damascus has held yet it's hard to see how it will ever again dominate the whole country. The state lines drawn in the sand by the colonialists a century ago are disappearing.

Al Qaeda does its best to make things worse. We will hear more from al Qaeda in 2014, but its stated aim of creating an Islamic caliphate from which to dominate the world has advanced little since the AQ declarations of war in 1996 and 1998.

Brazil will continue to rise, Russia will continue to dominate its 'near abroad' after a string of policy successes clawing back the influence it lost in the aftermath of the collapse of communism.

Iraq will hold an election which will show how fractured the country still is two years after the Americans went home.

And Afghanistan will hold a presidential election showing how fragile it is ahead of the troop pull-out at the end of the year.

Speaking of fragility, the elections for the European Parliament in late May will show the strength or weakness of loyalty to the main stream post-war consensus across the continent.

The National Front will win huge numbers of votes in France, and UKIP is likely to do well in the UK. The former may well be a reflection of voting intentions in French domestic elections, the latter will frighten the three big British political parties.

Scottish independence? Unlikely, but possible, however that's the future, and if you want to make God laugh - tell him your plans.

And I'm too crunk to write anymore. Happy New Year!

 The Razor : I used to make predictions at TheRazor, and the problem I discovered was not being wrong but with my timing. I predicted Elizabeth Taylor would die in 2007, but she waited until 2011. I pegged Nelson Mandela for that year too and he held on until this month. And I foresaw the collapse of the housing and stock market bubbles – but just not in a financially useful way. Both held on longer than I expected. As Keynes once said, the market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent. This year I even tried, betting a small amount against JC Penney and lost, although I expect that the retailer will fold sometime in 2014. Like people it’s easy to make a general prediction that a company will die. After all everyone does; it’s the timing that’s challenging.

For 2014 I’m predicting the collapse of the stock market bubble again. I can’t believe we’ve got another one so soon after the 2008 and valuations are up there with 17th century tulip bulbs. Bears have been burned the past two years and more will likely suffer before this market becomes rational, but eventually financial gravity will reassert itself, and I’ll venture that 2014 will be the year it does. If I’m wrong about this next year I’m going to start testing the bottled water supply for LSD. Twitter is valued at $40 billion and hasn’t made a single dollar in profit. Not a one. Wall Street is tripping balls and doing the whole glow-stick thing listening to techno. $40 billion? Duuude is the company valuation I see the same one you see? Faaar oooout...

2014 will also be the year the GOP BEGINS to get serious. The 2014 elections are theirs for the taking, so I expect that will steel some minds within the party and the lackadaisical leadership we’ve had over the past few years will get a makeover. The leaders that come out of the 2014 elections will be the ones we talk about in 2016. On second thought maybe I’m tripping. Boehner and Priebus aren’t going anywhere and neither is the GOP.

China is going to pick a fight with someone – likely someone small like the Philippines or Vietnam although a newly militarizing Japan might be the adversary. The US will be caught off-guard as it has been over everything important for the past five years. This administration reminds me of the deer I see while driving around these parts at night except the deer have better scruples. No deer ever let an ambassador die or sent the IRS after its enemies, at least none of the ones I see on my property. China is a lumbering giant and is going to step on someone – soon.

The cultural divide between the establishment elites and the citizenry as exemplified by the current Duck Dynasty scandal will grow, although interest in Duck Dynasty itself will flare out. Reality TV shows have lifespans, and with each success they seem to grow shorter. Personally I’m fed up with the genre and find myself watching scripted dramas and comedies although through broadband outlets like Amazon Prime and Netflix. I went without DirecTV for four days this week and didn’t suffer at all. It’s going to be harder to justify rising cable and satellite rates when you can watch whatever you want commercial free via broadband.
As for the Obama administration, I only have one question: How low can it go? After the blatant lies and revelations of 2013 nothing would shock me with this lot. I keep on falling back on Hanlon’s Razor to attribute the blatant disregard for the Constitution and 230+ years of American foreign policy history, but after awhile that excuse no longer works. Stupidity and gross incompetence will only take you so far; you need pure narcissism fueled by amorality to take you to where we’ve been the past 5 years. Until Obama I thought Carter was the worst president in modern American history followed closely by Nixon. Carter would never have painted himself into a corner with his rhetoric over Syria as Obama did in 2013. Nixon would never have used the IRS to attack an entire class of his enemies. What surprise lurk in 2014 for the Obama administration? On one hand I can’t wait to find out; on the other hand I want to disappear to a cottage on an Irish moor before I do.

One should be hopeful at this time of year for the future, but I just can’t be. My optimistic predictions of the past always failed; Paris Hilton did not overdose. McCain did not beat Hillary in ‘08 and Obama did not lose his re-election. But I seemed to do well on the pessimist side.

So going with my prior success, we’re screwed in 2014. Seriously. Doomed with a capital D – OOMED! In a year you’ll look back and say that Scott from The Razor predicted the year accurately and you’ll beg Rob not to ask him to predict 2015.

Oh, and lest I forget, Happy New Year!

The Colossus of Rhodey: 1) Obumble, er, ObamaCare will continue to unravel. As more deadlines approach, anger over the law will increase. Obama will continue to try to unilaterally alter various provisions, and this will lead to a constitutional showdown. There will be no real attempt at impeachment due to political considerations; however, the House GOP will finally seek judicial remedies.

2) The GOP will take control of the Senate with a narrow majority. They'll keep Harry Reid's "nuclear option" as a rule.

3) The GOP will slightly increase its majority in the House.

4) Obama's personal and job approval numbers will continue to plummet.

5) The mainstream media will continue to do its best to support Obama.

 JoshuaPundit: At the risk of sounding rather pessimistic, I think 2014  will be a year of reckoning.

The House will remain more or less as it is, with a few seats fluctuating  plus or minus for the current Republican majority. I do not believe Republicans will win the Senate, although they may pick up a couple of seats. The reasons for this will be (A) The warfare the GOP establishment will wage on Tea Party backed candidates.  (B) The preponderance of  'Libertarian' candidates, some of whom will be Democrat financed and suck up 8-12% of the vote, similar to what happened in the recent governor's race in Virginia (C) Outright voter fraud combined with a massive black turnout in the Democrats' urban enclaves ginned up to 'protect ' Obama from being impeached. Blacks will continue to support him uncritically in spite of his policies that disproportionally damage African-Americans.

Speaker John Boehner will likely at least partially rescue the Democrats from the consequences of ObamaCare by pushing through amnesty for illegal aliens, in spite of the fact that based on the 2012 figures, fully two thirds of the available legal Hispanic vote either voted Republican or stayed home.

ObamaCare will still remain the law of the land at the end of 2014, in spite of being Biblically unpopular. I fully expect a taxpayer funded bailout to be approved either by executive order or congress to 'save the insurance industry'. The media will not concentrate on the fact that the bail out in necessitated by the damage done to the industry by ObamaCare.

Attacks on traditional American values and on Christianity will continue. I cannot predict what the backlash on this could be, or if it will even exist.

The economy in general will be in flux. Americans will sense that something's very wrong, but will have trouble pinpointing it because the figures on things like unemployment and inflation will continue to be gamed. They definitely will notice higher prices on food, fuel, energy, and basic commodities because of the Obama Administration's costly regulatory diktats by the EPA and other agencies. You will likely see more people working less hours at multiple jobs as employers cut hours to evade ObamaCare.

There will be defacto gun control in many Blue run states using heavy taxation on gun ownership and permits and on the sales of firearms and ammunition. I'd advise people to stock up now and to learn how to reload their own ammo.

The Dow will continue to rise simply because there are so few if any  places to invest and get any kind of return that beats inflation. There may very well be a correction later in the year, (Twitter worth $40 billion????) and as always, some savvy investors will jump off the bus beforehand while other will stay abroad and get slaughtered.

In foreign affairs, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will go nowhere.In April,the talks will collapse, which is the Palestinian strategy, so that Abbas can blame Israel and go to the UN to demand Palestinian statehood along the indefensible pre-1967 lines. Barack Obama will instruct his hand-picked UN Ambassador Samantha Power to abstain so that this will pass.the Security Council.

I expect Iran to make a successful nuclear test in 2014. What the Israelis will do then is unpredictable, but I don't expect them to sit quietly, especially if the scenario I predict when it comes to the Palestinians and the American betrayal plays out. I also predict as a consequence of this that Israel becomes closer to China and possibly even Russia, especially as both countries extend their influence in the Middle East.

Syria will settle into a quasi-stalemate, while Iraq will continue to be wracked by terrorism as a consequence of essentially disenfranchising its Sunnis. Turkey may very well see a change in government, but it that happens it will be a quasi Islamist/Turkic Nationalist government led by the Gülenists ousting  the Muslim Brotherhood oriented Islamist government of Erdoğan and the AKP. rather than secular democracy if it does. That would still likely be a change for the better as far as the West is concerned.

The situation in the western Pacific will continue to be volatile, as China expands its blue water navy while we retreat and U.S.allies like Japan and Australia realize that the Obama Administration's 'Pacific Pivot' is meaningless. Look for Japan in particular to revamp its military.

In fact, I predict that the former democratic U.S. allies of the Anglosphere, Australia, Canada and India will all become increasingly independent when it comes to the U.S.

No security agreement will be signed and we will leave Afghanistan in 2014, having accomplished nothing.

One positive aspect of 2014 will be that most Americans will begin to look more honestly at where our Republic is heading. That could very well set the stage for more positive changes in direction in the future.

 Virginia Right! : Obamacare will continue to be the top story. As people begin to use their plans and discover that in addition to paying a pretty penny for coverage, the doctor's and hospital bills will be unaffordable after the Obamacare plan pays the paltry amount it will pay. People will not be able to afford the copay and deductible portion they are required to pay and also pay the monthly premiums. The newly covered people will be unable to pay their portion and will essentially still be uncovered.

The Republican war on the TEA Party will make holding the House an up hill battle and winning the Senate an impossible dream as TEA Party activists turn on Republicans and run Conservative alternatives as third party candidates in the general election. Establishment Republicans are already nearly indistinguishable from Democrats and the war on all things TEA will only result in Democratic victories. The only saving grace will be Obamacare.

The victory in the Duck Dynasty persecution of Phil Robertson will carry into 2014 as more people will challenge the left wing bullies demanding Christians abandon Bible teachings and beliefs.

The economy will suffer a major meltdown in 2014.

The Glittering Eye :Last year I didn't make any predictions on my blog. For a number of years at the beginning of each year I made twenty some-odd predictions on areas from the economy to politics to sports to the Academy Awards, recapping at the end of the year to see how my predictions for that year had faredt. My typical accuracy of prediction was between 80-90%.

One of the things I noticed was that although my predictions were generally right I also failed to predict the biggest stories of the year. For example, this year I wouldn't have predicted the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy, Edward Snowden's absconding with his trove of NSA secrets, or that the debut of Healthcare.gov would have been bungled in such a dramatic fashion.

At this point I don't have any plans to make my annual predictions on my blog. However, in a spirit of bonhomie I'll pitch in here to contribute some predictions.

By the end of 2014 marriage between same-sex partners will be legalized in all 50 states of the United States, effectively mandated by the U. S. Supreme Court.

As of December 31, 2014 the U. S. unemployment rate will be 7% plus or minus .2%. It will feel much worse, few will really believe the statistics, and BLS statistics will be entering the territory of the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics, whose reports are almost universally disbelieved.

Between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014 the real gross domestic product will have increased by less than 3%. It could be much, much worse. I think it's about 3:2 that we've entered a recession by the end of the year.

12 Years a Slave will win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Sandra Bullock will win for Best Actress. Robert Redford will win for Best Actor.

By March 31, 2014 fewer than 3.5 million people will have signed up for insurance via the healthcare insurance exchanges whether Healthcare.gov or the various state-run exchanges. That's just a little more than 1% of Americans, 10% of the number of people without healthcare insurance, and half the number projected by the CBO. Proponents of the PPACA will proclaim the exchanges a success. On December 31, 2014 the PPACA will still be on the books.

Israel will not have attacked Iran. Iran will not have suspended its enrichment program.

Republicans will pick up seats in the House and Senate, holding control of the House but narrowly failing to gain control of the Senate.

Illinois's reformed public pension plan will be struck down by the courts.

Here's the prediction in which I have the most confidence: none of my predictions, with the possible exception of my same-sex marriage prediction, will be among the top stories of the year for 2014.

Rhymes With Right : Predictions, predictions, predictions -- do I have predictions for 2014? You bet I do.

Let's break them down by category

World Affairs

1)We'll finally see the death of Fidel Castro. The Left around the world will mourn deeply.

2)The current Turkish government will fall, and a more secular regime will replace it -- returning the nation to its historical political configuration.

3)Nobody will do anything serious about the instability in Syria because there are no good guys there -- which means a year from now Assad will still be killing his people and Islamists will still be trying to overthrow him.

4) Iran will continue working towards nuclear weapons -- and Israel will continue to show restraint, not launching a military attack on the Islamic Republic. However, there will be more "unexpected deaths" of researchers, "industrial accidents" and "software problems" that most will understand are the results of Israeli efforts to provide for its own security.

5)The Christian population of the Middle East will continue to be persecuted and the governments of the West will continue to ignore the violence against followers of Christ in the region.

National Affairs

1) The GOP will hold the House of Representatives, even picking up a handful of seats as a part of the ObamaCare backlash.

2) The GOP will also win the US Senate -- but will hold only 51 seats following bruising primaries against incumbents and a couple of meltdowns by "not ready for prime-time" nominees.

3)Barack Obama will continue to govern using the same playbook as the late Hugo Chavez, issuing executive decrees and making illegal recess appointments despite the restrictions on executive power contained in the Constitution.

4)Chief Justice John Roberts will write a 5-4 majority opinion on the ObamaCare birth control mandate -- and will deliver a stinging defeat to Barack Obama by striking down the mandate on First Amendment grounds.

5)Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden will both declare their candidacy for President before Christmas. So will at least three Republicans -- one of whom will be Chris Christie. Thus begins the long slog to November of 2016.

Texas Affairs

1) Despite drawing a great deal of national attention -- and out of state money -- Wendy Davis will NOT be elected Governor. Greg Abbott will be elected with over 55% of the vote.

2)Republicans will hold on to all statewide elected offices and both houses of the legislature. Among the statewide winners will be Jerry Patterson as Lt. Governor and George P. Bush as Texas Land Commissioner.

3) While Senator John Cornyn will face a crowded primary field that includes Congressman Steve Stockman, he will be the Republican nominee for Senate and will hold the seat for the GOP in November.

4)As the CD36 GOP primary has 12 candidates, the nomination will be decided in a runoff between two candidates who have garnered only about 20% of the vote each in the primary. The ultimate victor will be Seabrook businessman Dave Norman.

5) In 2014, the Houston Texans have their third number one draft pick since 2002. In 2006, they did the unexpected thing and drafted Mario Williams despite Reggie Bush being the consensus #1 pick of experts and Vince Young being the fans sentimental favorite -- but this year we will see them pick a quarterback with that first pick. And no, it won't be Fresno State's Derek Carr, the younger brother of their 2002 number one pick -- it will be the very safe and very expected Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, despite sentimental fan hopes for Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

 The Independent Sentinel:Predictions for 2014: John Podesta will push through Mr. Obama's agenda on global warming, immigration, and any other far-left idea that comes up. No one will be held accountable for anything except Republicans who will be blamed for everything. We will be lied to by the administration and the media will swear it's true. The media will be very busy preparing for the second coming of Hillary Clinton who will diet and get Botox injections. Nancy Pelosi will make idiotic statements. Republicans will take over the Senate, at least they had better. If Republicans don't get the Senate back, we're toast.

Well, there you have it.

Make sure to tune in every Monday for the Watcher’s Forum. And remember, every Wednesday, the Council has its weekly contest with the members nominating two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. The votes are cast by the Council, and the results are posted on Friday morning.

It’s a weekly magazine of some of the best stuff written in the blogosphere, and you won’t want to miss it.

And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter..’cause we’re cool like that, y'know?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

John Kerry's Stupid,Futile 'Peace Process' Gambit


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is headed back to the Middle East to try and push through a 'grand bargain' between the Israelis and Palestinians that is more than 99% certain not to to succeed, and will lead to war and bloodshed in the unlikely event that it does.

The Obama Administration's policy thus far has been simply to cajole/threaten the Israelis for more and more concessions, while trying to get the Palestinians to make any concessions whatsoever. That sort of thing has its limits, and they've been reached.

The latest big idea has to do with Israeli control of the Jordan Valley, something that is absolutely vital for the small country's security.And an area, by the way, mainly settled and populated by Israel's Jews.

Originally, Kerry's big idea was a UN force like the farcical UNFIL, which sat back and watched while Hezbollah rearmed, moved back into its bases in South Lebanon and refreshed its missile arsenal, all in violation on UN Resolution 1701. The Israelis wisely refused to even consider that suicidal notion. Kerry's next plan involved a gradually diminished IDF presence for ten years, something again that the Israelis were reluctant to consider even after Obama's special envoy Martin Indyk hectored senior IDF generals to ignore their security concerns and persuade a skeptical Israeli public to accept Kerry's plans.

Neither Israel or Jordan want Abbas and the PA to have control of the strategic area, because it will simply become a conduit for terrorists and heavy weapons.So the meeting did not go well, with one Israeli general who attended saying, replace 10 years with 50 years, minimum, and a UN force with the IDF:

The Palestinian Authority is unwilling to consider it either. Mahmoud Abbas has been adamant that not a single Jew will be allowed in his new Palestinian state, let along Israeli soldiers. Since the Arab League has now endorsed that position as well, it's hard to see exactly who Kerry figures he's going to sell this to.

Abbas, to his credit has been clear about his positions from the start, which is that he's unwilling to make any concession to Israel and simply wants all his demands met. He will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, will not allow his 'Palestine' to be demilitarized, will not consider any solution that does not include all of east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state as well as all of Judea and Samaria, of course including the Jordan Valley. He likewise insists on all of the convicted terrorist murderers Israel is holding in its jails be released forthwith.

These conditions are not a recipe for peace, but simply some gains Abbas hopes to pocket to improve his position before continuing the War Against The Jews.That's especially evident now that Abbas and Hamas have once again agreed to join forces.

In response to this, the Israelis are talking seriously about simply annexing the Jordan Valley and taking it off the table, the smartest thing they could do in my opinion.

Kerry has also reduced his leverage with the Israelis by insisting on the release of 106 convicted terrorists to the Palestinians. A lot of Israelis are making the connection between the recent upswing in terrorist attacks on Israel and the release of imprisoned terrorists and they're livid about it. Looking at some of the next batch of killers to be released will give you an idea of the political price Netanyahu has already paid for going along with this.

Kamil Awad Ali Ahmad, who murdered 16 Israelis is tops on the list. He's joined by Yakoub Muhammad Ouda Ramadan and Afana Mustafa Ahmad Muhammad, who stabbed to death 38-year-old Sara Sharon(Hy"D), a mother of seven, in Netanya in January of 1993, Abu al Rub Mustafa Mahmoud Faisal, a PA Tanzim terrorist who murdered Yoram Cohen(Hy"D) in Jenin in September of 1991. There's also Damara Ibrahim Mustafa Bilal, one of the team of  murderers who kidnapped and stabbed Steven Frederick Rosenfeld,(Hy"D) an American citizen to death in 1989 as he went hiking near the city of Ariel.And Abu Mohsin Khaled Ibrahim Jamal, who murdered 76-year-old Shlomo Yahya(Hy"D) in September of 1991 in Moshav Kadima as he came out to work in his garden.

No civilized society would want men like these released, except to act as role models and trainers for the next generation of jihadis. You can imagine how the families of the victims feel.

Oh, as an aside, U.S. Law requires the FBI to investigate any instance in which an American citizen is murdered outside of the US.At this time, there has never been a case in which the US has prosecuted the murderer of an American citizen in Israel, and there have been quite a few of them.

Apparently there are special rules about applying that law when it comes to Jews and Israel.

According to one of my sources inside the PA, Abbas plans to stick to his hardline positions, because he has nothing lose, thanks to the way Kerry and Obama's team have handled things. When the talks collapse in April, he will simply blame Israel, go the the UN, demand Palestinian Statehood along the pre-67 lines and wait to see if President Obama vetoes it. I'm personally guessing he won't, and will probably have the U.S. abstain at best.

The Israelis could simply head this off by delineating their own borders, annexing all of Area C, the parts of Area B they feel they need and moving any non-Israeli citizens to the other side of that line, but the political realities of dealing with the Obama Administration seem to mandate that this game will continue, and that the ending will be a lot bloodier than it otherwise would have been.

Just as a coincidence, the Palestinian 'elections' with Hamas participating as part of a new Palestinian unity government take place in March or so, right before the deadline. It will be intereesting to see how this plays out.

Turmoil In Turkey; Is Erdoğan Finished?


An important story bubbling under the headlines concerns Turkey's Islamist leader Tayyip Erdoğan, and a huge corruption scandal that contains juicy elements like money laundering using the state-owned bank Halkbank with Iran as a conduit, corruption at high levels of Erdoğan's AKP Party,nepotism, his implication in possible personal corruption, major authoritarian overkill, and major infighting within the Islamist coalition itself.

As you can imagine from just that small taste, this is a very complex story and it's still unfolding, but here's the gist of it.

About ten days ago, police in Istanbul and Ankara carried out a wave of arrests that included powerful,well established businessmen with ties to the AKP, the sons of three cabinet ministers, and the head of Halkbank.The arrests were the result secret corruption investigations that were underway for a year or more, and what is even more interesting is that the investigations were carried out without informing Erdoğan, or even some of supervisors in the justice ministry.

How that happened is a tale in itself.

When Erdoğan and the AKP took over Turkey a decade ago,they pulled off a marriage of convenience with another popular Islamist faction, the Gülenists, headed by Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen. While Erdoğan's AKP has its Islamist roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, the Gülenists are much more nationalistic and Turkic in their outlook.

The Gülenists were willing partners with the AKP over the past decade in turning Ataturk's secular republic into an Islamist state. But as essentially the number two men in an increasingly more dictatorial Turkey, as time went on there was much more pressure on the Gülenists by the AKP. Fethullah Gulen, their charismatic leader (pictured above with Erdoğan) finally fled Turkey in the late 1990s and now lives in exile in rural Pennsylvania. Erdoğan and the AKP opened major hostilities with the Gülenists recently by targeting and ousting Gülenists in power and by seeking to eliminate their dershanes, prep schools that serve as a major source of money and influence for the Gülenists.

Another major flashpoint between Erdoğan and Gülen occurred last July with Turkey's Gezi Park protests. These were major riots and demonstrations against Erdoğan and the AKP government, a movement the Gülenists were active in. Erdoğan was able to quash the protests, but he had to use extreme brutality to do it. That alienated large sections of Turkey's population.

In response, the Gülenists formed an alliance with Turkey's secularists, who simply can't stomach Erdoğan's increasingly autocratic rule and find the Gülenist's brand of more nationalist, Turkic-oriented Islamism much more palatable. They began attacking him and the AKP in the Gülenist-owned media, and it was Gülenists in the security apparatus along with Erdoğan's other enemies who carried out the investigations and leaked them publicly.

What was found was evidence of a huge money laundering scandal involving the trading of oil and gas for gold in violation of the Iran sanctions.

Economy Minister Zafer] Çağlayan’s son was arrested during a corruption operation on Dec. 17, together with the sons of two other ministers; Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar and Interior Minister Muammer Güler. The leaks, possibly from prosecutor’s office and police, to Turkish media claim that those ministers, plus Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış have been involved in facilitating the “business” of Reza Zarrab in Turkey by taking bribes and abusing their offices. The “business” is to transfer Zarrab’s money from gold trade over Turkey to Iran via the government-controlled Halkbank, providing a short-cut to Turkish citizenship to Zarrab (now he is Rıza Sarraf and under arrest) and his entourage, facilitating Schengen visas for them (including Zarrab’s relatives), allegedly from Italian channels, and the amount of the total bribery is reported in Turkish media to be as high as 142 million Turkish Liras, nearly $70 million.

Let's not fail to mention that Erdoğan is one of President Obama's best friends among foreign leaders, and that the Obama administration issued sanctions waivers for Turkey’s business dealings with Iran because it believed that the Turkish government was could be trusted to act in good faith.

Those Schengen visas are another story, and one likely to effect Turkey's hope of entering the EU. They allow the bearers to cross EU borders with only minimal checks, and I'm certain various security officials in the EU are trying to determine exactly who might have crossed their borders and what they were up to.

Erdoğan's reaction was quite typical for him. He refused to remove the four ministers involved, and accused an unspecified international group that he called “the interest-rate lobby” of fabricating the allegations. Oh, by 'interest rate lobby', he almost always means Jews.

“A totally illegal, very dirty, and extremely dark trap is being set under the guise of this corruption case,” Mr. Erdoğan said Sunday in Giresun, on Turkey’s eastern Black Sea coast. “The meaning of the conspiracy that was hatched last week is very clear: disrupting peace and stability….We will destroy these nasty games being played on Turkey.”

A few days ago, he even insulted U.S. Ambassador Frank Ricciardone and threatened to expel him from Turkey because he claimed the Ambassador was allied with his enemies and had told other western diplomats that the "empire (Erdoğan and the AKP) was about to fall.

Within a day after the news surfaced he fired more than 20 high-level police officers in Istanbul and Ankara, including those directly in charge of the units that carried out the raids. There are murmurings that the lead prosecutor supervising the investigations has also been sacked, but what's known for certain is that two new Erdoğan-appointed prosecutors were suddenly (and mysteriously) added to the team conducting the investigation. Most Turks see this as a blatant attempt to bury the evidence and sandbag the investigation, suspicions Erdoğan poured gasoline on when he began making noises about declaring all information about the corruption scandal a 'state secret'.

Meanwhile, pictures were published in the Turkish press showing six huge steel money safes, a money counting machine and a log book with $3 million worth of accounts, which were reportedly found in the house of Barış Güler, the Interior Minister’s son. And $4.5 million in cash was found in shoe boxes in the house of Halkbank’s General Manager Süleyman Aslan, who is also under arrest.

That in itself is a huge change. Turkey has more journalists in jail than any other country, and its a criminal offense to write and publish 'unTurkish' (read, anti-Erdoğan or anti-AKP) materials, so Turkey's journalists have been keeping their heads down. Until now, that is.

And as the investigation continues, it gets closer to Erdoğan personally. One element of the scandal is that the prime minister’s son Bilal, his wife, his in-laws, and some cronies set up a foundation last year for the “education of youth.” The foundation opened a residence for university students. Now it turns out the Foundation didn’t pay for the dormitory, but rather public money from the Fatih district municipality, which is headed by an AKP mayor who's now also been jailed. What Erdoğan’s family did with the money they claimed was spent on the dormitory is an unanswered question.

But wait, there's more

Members of Parliament (and of course, the press) are asking questions about some interesting land transactions that occurred. One of them involved the transfer of some state-owned land free of charge or at a much lower price than the land was worth to the Erdoğan's foundation, TÜRGEV, where Erdoğan's son Bilal sits on the board.

In a written parliamentary question, Umut Oran, a CHP deputy chairman, asked Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan if Erdoğan himself or his son Bilal had acted as a go-between in . Erdoğan's son is a member of the executive board of TÜRGEV.

“Were you or your son involved as an intermediary in the transfer to TÜRGEV of a piece of land in Altunizade [a neighborhood in İstanbul] which the Ministry of Education had asked to have but had been told to drop its claim [for the land]?” Oran demanded to know.

The other questions Erdoğan's enemies in Parliament are asking concerns some land worth $1 billion belonging to the Etiler Police Academy being sold to a company called Bosphorus without a public tender for a giveaway price of $460 million. Members of Parliament want to know exactly who's involved with Bosphorus, if officials from the Turkish Investment Support and Promotion Agency (TISPA) and some well-connected Saudi businessmen were part of the deal, and whether Erdoğan's son is part of the company or acted as an intermediary.

When you consider that one of Erdoğan and the AKP's selling points was clean,transparent government, this has had a major effect.

Is Erdoğan on the way out? Are the Turks finally fed up with Erdoğan and the AKP's brand of authoritatian rule and creeping Islamist fascism? If that's what goes down, this could be a major event in the Middle east involving one of the most important countries in the region.Stay tuned

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Council Has Spoken! This Weeks' Watcher's Council Results


Alea iacta est...the Council has spoken, the votes have been cast, and we have the results  for this week's Watcher's Council match up.

 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.- Proverbs 10:18

"We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them.” - George Orwell, 1984

This week's winner, The Noisy Room's  The Silencing of the Ducks is her sharp, well written examination of the recent A&E/Duck Dynasty controversy and what it reveals about the Angry Left's attempt at thought control and the war on America's culture...including traditional Christianity and the right to profess its values. Here's a slice:

I did not start viewing Duck Dynasty until a few months ago. It has since become our favorite show and we can’t get enough of it. Christian values, real people, guns and hunting – what’s not to love? But it would seem that being a Christian and espousing your beliefs in America is now becoming ever more dangerous. As RedState pointed out, ultimately you will care and you will have to take a stand and take sides.

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of Duck Dynasty, just did a GQ interview where he stated his Christian beliefs, which included those concerning Gays. This whole blowup is not so much about the Gay issue, but far more about the Constitution and the First Amendment. In the interview, Phil was asked if he thought homosexuality was sinful:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he told GQ, before paraphrasing the Bible in Corinthians. “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
For telling the truth and stating what he personally believed, A&E put him on indefinite hiatus. They fired him. I would be very surprised if the family did not tell A&E to stuff it. They managed to take THE most popular rated show ever and scuttle it. Phil had told A&E earlier that if they insisted he remove God or guns from his show, they were through:

On May 9, Greensboro, NC country station 93.1 The Wolf reported that after receiving complaints over prayers to God and the frequent use of guns on air, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson said, “God and guns are part of our everyday lives [and] to remove either of them from the show is unacceptable.”

Sarah Palin came to Phil’s defense with the following quote:

Free speech is an endangered species. Those “intolerants” hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.
She’s right and this will backfire on A&E and all the others out there that are anti-Christian. Phil Robertson just became a warrior for God and the Constitution and I am sure he is up to the task. An attack on one Christian, is an attack on all of us. Time to draw our line in the Marxist sand.

Much more at the link.

In our non-Council category, the winner was Victor Davis Hanson with  Pajama Boy Nation submitted by Joshuapundit. It's an examination of the metrosexual Pajama Boy used as a shill fro ObamaCare and what it says about the Left and how they see the country.  This opening paragraphs are a nice taste:

Will Kane of High Noon Pajama Boy wasn’t. Somehow we as a nation went from the iconic Marlboro Man to Pajama Boy — from the noble individual with a bad habit to the ignoble without a good habit — without a blink in between. 

There are lots of revolting things in the Pajama Boy ad. After all, how can you top all at once a nerdy-looking child-man dressed in infantile pajamas while cradling a cup of hot chocolate with the smug assurance that he is running your life more than you his?

Do read it.

OK, so here are this week’s full results. Both the Mellow Jihadi and VA Right were unable to vote this week,but neither was subject to the usual 2/3 vote penalty:

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

See you next week! Don't forget to tune in on Monday AM for this week's Watcher's Forum, as the Council and their invited special guests take apart one of the provocative issues of the day with short takes and weigh in...don't you dare miss it. And don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.....'cause we're cool like that!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Left Wing Commercial Talk Radio Disappears in NY, LA, SF in 2014


Lefty talk radio is set to be purged in 3 major markets in 2014 in what is probably the beginning of a nationwide trend.And they are all solid Blue cities under Democrat rule.

In New York, WWRL 1600 AM is changing its format to to Spanish-language music and talk, which means that Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes, and Alan Colmes are going to be tossed off the air. In Los Angeles, KTLK 1150 will be dumping Stephanie Miller, Rhodes, Bill Press and David Cruz in favor of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. In San Francisco, KNEW 960 is getting rid of Miller, Hartmann, and Mike Malloy.

KTLK's Lefties survived for a very long time because of another station, KFI, which features shows like Rush Limbaugh, John and Ken, Brian Suess and Bill Handle. Both stations were owned by Clear Channel, and for a long time if you bought spots on KFI you also got spots thrown in on KTLK "as an extra". That arrangement appears to have changed.

This isn't just industry consolidation. Lefty talk radio simply doesn't get anywhere near the ratings conservative talk radio does. KTLK was ranked #41 in the market in November 2013, and WWRL's market share in the New York Market is practically non-existent. Even in terminally Left wing San Francisco, KNEW registered just an 0.4 in December 2013, placing it #31 in the market.

Why Lefty talk radio gets such horrid ratings is apparent if you ever listen to it for awhile.

When Air America first debuted in my local area, I was actually looking forward to it. I expected that there would be the same spirit of debate and give and take you find on Limbaugh, Hannity or Mark Levin's shows, and I wanted to see how the likes of Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes and the others of that genre would express and defend their ideas.

Instead, what I got was a deadly dull echo chamber repeating Leftist talking points and in Rhodes' case, actual calls in her abrasive Brooklyn bray for our troops in Iraq to desert and for President Bush to be treated like Fredo in the "Godfather"..."you take him out fishing and badda bing,badda boom, it's all over."

And yes, I actually heard her say these things on the air personally. And neither one got her fired or even suspended,nor did the media go crazy over them. It took her calling Hillary Clinton a whore to do that.
A FOX host talking like that about shooting Barack Obama would not only have been thrown off the air but brought up on felony charges.

And Ed Schultz makes Rhodes look positively genteel.

There wasn't any give and take of the sort that makes conservative talk radio sparkle,and you would never see a guest from the other side on these shows, let alone an intelligent caller who disagreed allowed in. Even Stephanie Miller, who used to have a really funny talk show long ago that combined satirizing politics in general with her own brand of racy humor succumbed to the boring, monotonous tone, either because her ideas changed or because she wanted the gig really badly.

So apparently the market place is speaking.What's left is MSNBC if they can manage to get a spot or government-sponsored NPR and Pacifica in a lot of major markets. I suppose you can decide for yourself if it's the ideas, the toxic personalities or a blend of both.

(h/t, Truth Revolt)

The New ObamaCare Taxes And Fees Coming In2014


Come the New Year, our Dear Leader has a number of taxes and fees hidden deep in the ObamaCare law and the accompanying HHS regulations scheduled to affect your insurance premiums and income-tax bills.

Here are just a few of the things our president has planned for you:

  • The new taxes and fees have a 2 percent levy on every health plan, whether you have a waiver or not or whether you're one of the lucky ones with employer provided healthcare. That's expected to net about $8 billion for ObamaCare in 2014 and increase to $14.3 billion by 2018.

    Then there’s also a $2 fee per policy that goes into a new medical-research trust fund called the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

    Your insurer is going to pass that on to you in the form of higher premiums,deductibles and co-pays.

  • Then there's this beauty. Under ObamaCare, An individual taxpayer earning more than $200,000 and a married couple earning more than $250,000 will get hit for an added 0.9 percent Medicare surtax on top of the existing 1.45 percent Medicare payroll tax. They’ll also pay an extra 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, such as investment dividends, rental income and capital gains. That term 'unearned income' is a real insult, since this money was already taxed once as income before it was invested. What we're talking about here is double taxation.

    But wait, there's more. There's no threshold on these taxes for inflation. This means that unless there's a fix of some kind or ObamaCare's repealed, more and more people will be subject to these taxes as inflation boosts incomes.

  • Starting in 2014, your employer (and, of course, that means you since it will be passed onin one form or another) will begin paying a fresh new $63 annual ObamaCare fee, to cover the extra cost of insuring other people’s pre-existing conditions.The money will go into a fund administered by the Health and Human Services Department and is supposed to be used to cushion health insurance companies from the costs of covering uninsured people with medical problems. Under the law, insurers will be forbidden from turning away the sick as of Jan. 1, 2014.

    Since the president has now torpedoed the individual mandate, expect both the amount of people waiting until they get sick to apply for insurance as well as the amount of this fee to skyrocket.

  • Things as diverse as your kid's braces, hip and knee replacements and even veterinary bills are going to be affected by a brand spankin' new 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices. Lefties don;t realize that businesses don't pay taxes and fees, they simply build them into the prices they charge consumers.

    Of course, when it comes to prostheses and hip and knee replacements, you may not be able to get them at any price if you're not deemed worthy by the The Independent Payment Advisory Boards, AKA Death Panels.

  • The threshold for Medical Itemized Deductions gets raised from 7.5% to 10% of AGI. Currently, those of you who paid high medical expenses not reimbursed by your insurance are allowed a deduction if those expenses exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). The new provision imposes a threshold of 10 percent of AGI.

  • And by the way, the HHS regulations allow Secretary Sebelius to raise most of these fees and taxes 'at the secretary's discretion.'

    The results of ObamaCare are going to be pretty self evident unless it's totally repealed fairly quickly.We're already seeing the signs.

    Healthcare is going to be rationed extensively, especially on the middle class who don't qualify for subsidies.Do not be surprised if, ultimately,it is used as a political weapon against th eregimes's perceived 'enemies' just as the IRS was.

    The 28 hour work week will slowly become the standard work week (four 7 hour days), as people settle into more government dependency and lower expectations and income for themselves and their children. In fact, birth rates will lower, especially among people with the middle class idea of actually being able to support their own offspring before having them.I've already seen examples in my own life of married couples who simply decided they couldn't afford to have children and maintain even a lower middle class lifestyle. Often, it amounted to a series of postponements that ended when the woman involved simply became too old for childbirth.

    Businesses will be increasingly more difficult to start, and a lot less people will have the ambition or be able to raise the capital to do so.That will affect both employment and income.  Most small businesses get their start up money not from bank loans, but from an individual's savings or personal credit line. Less income means less business startups.

    Expect a Soviet-style 'black market'  economy based on barter, off th ebooks employment and under the table cash sales to develop as well.

    Working two or more jobs to pay the bills will become extremely common for many people with families to support or any ambitions for themselves or their children. Others will happily fall into what amounts to a permanent dependent class. The massive increases in people on what amounts to permanent disability and in food stamp payouts are indicators of what will become a growing trend. After all, if it's a choice between becoming the payer or the payee, the screwed or the beneficiary, a lot of people are gong to opt for that second option.

    Unless it's repealed, ObamaCare is going to transform our national character into something very different. We can still turn things around, but the hour gets late.

    Wednesday, December 25, 2013

    Afghanistan: U.S. Embassy Hit, No Agreement With Karzai And The Last Oz Troops Leave


    An interesting Christmas in Afghanistan...

    The U.S. Embassy in Kabul was fired on today just before dawn, with two rounds of what was referred to as 'indirect fire' hitting the compound. 'Indirect fire' usually means rocket attacks, RPG's or mortar rounds.

    No Americans were reported as casualties, but the fact that our enemies were able to get close enough to target and fire heavy weapons at our heavily fortified embassy in what is supposedly a safe zone says quite a bit.

    The Taliban claimed responsibility, but given the attacks on Americans by our supposed 'allies' among the Afghan forces, that's a pretty wide range.

    Afghan police were targeted in two bombing incidents, one on a roadside restaurant in Puli Alam, the capital of Logar province some 35 odd miles east of Kabul that killed six and wounded 13 and a second attack in east Kabul that wounded three Afghan policemen.

    As we retreat and draw down, they're getting a lot bolder. Winter used to be something of a lull for the most part in Afghanistan because of the weather and topography. Not anymore.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai is still refusing to sign a security agreement with the U.S. that would leave some American troops in his country. He is still insisting on a ban of airstrikes,raid and the entry of U.S. forces into Afghan homes, is demanding the U.S. broker a peace with the Taliban and is still insisting that any new treaty should be signed by his successor after the next Afghan elections in the spring. Translation - Karzai, his brother and their families want to make sure they have a secure way out of the country before the Americans leave, and they won't sign on to anything until they get that guarantee.

    Karzai reiterated this, interestingly enough, at a three day conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with whom Karzai has signed a security agreement. Afghanistan does share a small border with India, and the Indians have a vested interest in making sure that their border is secure and that a potential flashpoint with either the Taliban or more likely Pakistan is checkmated.

    And finally, today is the day the Diggers left.


    The Australian forces represented the largest non-NATO contingent in AfPak, and as usual, they came in because they're one of the best allies we have and to them, that's what allies do. Every report I've heard of their performance in AfPak marks them, along with the Canadians, as some of the most useful and resourceful non-U.S. troops in the theater, miles ahead of most of the motley crew supplied by our European allies. They were always willing to mix it up with the jihadis, never shirked the hard jobs, and lost 40 of their mates in AfPak as their share of the sacrifice involved.

    They left for Oz today from Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province, Australia's main base in the country and I don't blame them one bit. With President Obama giving the Taliban a set in stone withdrawal date, the Australians realize that there's no reason to hang around. And PM Tony Abbot underlined that today:

    "This war is ending, not with victory, not with defeat, but with hope that Afghanistan is a better place and Uruzgan in particular is a better place for our presence," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. "I firmly believe that to be the case." 

     When one of your best allies takes a look at your strategy and at your commander-in-chief and realizes that there's no sense hanging around anymore, that says something.

    Around 400 of the Australian military are committed to remain in Afghanistan through 2014 to train the Afghan military in Kabul and Kandahar. Whether that holds good if the U.S. completely bugs out as President Obama is threatening to do if no security arrangement gets signed by Karzai is doubtful.

    Fair dinkum.

    Watcher's Council Nominations - Christmas Day Edition


    Ah, Christmas...a time for warmth and family, as the Dropkick Murphys remind us:

    No worries Ken..we know you're just funnin'...

    But also, on more serous note, a time for faith:



    At this time, our thoughts and prayers need to go out for Christians under siege in the Middle East and elsewhere, where, with the exception of Israel, the one country in the Middle East where the Christian population is actually growing, they are systematically being ethnically cleansed by Muslims.

    This shares something with the Holocaust, because once again there is an obscene conspiracy of silence and cowardice by the West to avoid confronting the perpetrators and protecting or at least providing a haven to the victims.For instance, President Obama, who likes to remind us that he is a Christian just sent troops to the new country of South Sudan because of tribal unrest there between the government and a rival tribal faction. He never saw fit to do anything like that to protect these people from assault by the Arab Islamist government of the Sudan and the orgy of rape, torture and murder perpetrated on Black Christians by the Muslim Janjiweed militias in South Sudan and Darfur. Nothing.

    At this time of year, I urge all of us to pray for these beleaguered Christians and to raise holy you-know-what to demand that our respective governments to put these Christians' lives and well being ahead of appeasing Islam. I run a serious risk of operating outside my pay grade here, as our president would say, but I flatter myself in thinking that I think it's what Jesus would expect... not only of Christians but of all of us.

    OK, rant over. Sorry about that.

    Welcome to the Watcher's Council, a blogging group consisting of some of the most incisive blogs in the 'sphere, and in our second decade the longest running group of its kind in existence. Every week, the members nominate two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council.Then we vote on the best two posts, with the results appearing on Friday morning.

    Council News:

    Today is not only Christmas Day, but additionally special in that it is the birthday of our friend and colleague Dave Schuler, of The Glittering Eye.

    Ordinarily, I pick out a cake and some liquid libation for these celebrations, and this is no exception.

    German chocolate, I think:


    And perhaps chilled Veuve Cliquot to drink...brut, of course.


    Dave and I have known each other for some time now. In fact, he predates me on the Council. When I first got the nod from the original Watcher, I replaced a blog called New Sisyphus, if memory serves me, and I remember he wrote something to the effect that he had enjoyed New Sisyphus but was going to wait and see on this Joshuapundit fella. I hope I've lived up to his expectations...certainly he's lived up to mine. I have never ceased to appreciate his wide range of interests, his clarity of thought, his dry sense of humor or the friendship and collegiality we've shared.

    Many, many happy returns Dave.

    This week
    , Ask Marion , Right Truth, The Independent Sentinel, and The Pirate's Cove took advantage of my generous offer of link whorage and earned honorable mention status.

    You can, too! Want to see your work appear on the Watcher’s Council homepage in our weekly contest listing? Didn’t get nominated by a Council member? No worries. Here's how to bring something you want considered to my attention.

    Simply head over to Joshuapundit and post the title a link to the piece you want considered along with an e-mail address ( which won't be published) in the comments section no later than Monday 6PM PST in order to be considered for our honorable mention category. Then return the favor by creating a post on your site linking to the Watcher’s Council contest for the week when it comes out Wednesday morning

    Simple, no?

    It's a great way of exposing your best work to Watcher’s Council readers and Council members. while grabbing the increased traffic and notoriety. And how good is that, eh?

    So, let's take a look at what we have this week....and our heartfelt wishes to all of you for a joyous and blessed Christmas from the Watcher's Council:

    Council Submissions

    Honorable Mentions

    Non-Council Submissions

    Enjoy! And don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us Twitter..'cause we're cool like that!