Time to Pull the Plug on Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood has subsisted on government grants and misguided private largesse for too long. It has sunk to an ACORN-like level of corruption. But this is the last straw: a Planned Parenthood staffer in Portland instructs a 15-year-old girl in the niceties of bondage, and worse. You have to see it to believe it:

This is actually one of several such Planned Parenthood videos. Is bondage advice part of PP’s employee training program? One wonders. In any event, the fact that this organization continues to receive funding from governments at any level is a scandal.

Bruce Braley couldn’t be bothered with VA oversight hearings

Rep. Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Iowa, landed in hot water when video emerged of a fundraiser with trial lawyers at which he ridiculed Sen. Chuck Grassley for being an Iowa farmer. Now we learn, via the Des Moines Register, that Braley missed 75 percent (15 of 20) of meetings of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, which provides oversight for the immensely troubled Veterans Administration.

One of the committee meetings Braley missed occurred just a few months before news reports found systemic and shocking problems in patient care. The subject of that particular hearing was the backlog of disability claims and reports of problems with mental health care and stewardship of VA funding — an important subject, one might have thought.

The day of that hearing, Braley attended three fundraisers.

Braley’s staff claims that he missed the VA oversight hearing on the day of the three fundraisers because he went to a congressional hearing on Fast and Furious. However, according to the Des Moines Register’s report, Braley said nothing during that hearing. And the multiple times his seat was within camera view during the hour and a half that the Veterans Affairs committee was in session, Braley wasn’t seated at the Fast and Furious hearing.

Braley did check himself in as “present” for the Fast and Furious hearing, but apparently did not participate in it — and certainly not in a way that would have prevented him from attending at least part of the Veterans Affairs hearing.

Evidently, Braley had places to go and people to meet that day, and those places and people did not pertain to the care and treatment of our wounded warriors. Indeed, given his pattern of skipping VA oversight hearings, it’s fair to conclude that the mental health and medical treatment of military veterans isn’t a priority item for this politician.

By the way, Braley’s opponent, Joni Ernst, is an Iraq war veteran. Ernst just took two weeks off from campaigning to perform her annual service in the Iowa National Guard whose largest battalion she currently commands.

Drafting error vs. drafting miscalculation

Sean Davis, a former congressional staffer, examines the claim that the provision in Obamacare limiting subsidies to those participating in state exchanges was the product of “drafting error.” He finds it laughable.

I discussed what a legislative drafting error looks like here. Davis sees it the same way:

When I worked in the Senate. . .it was not uncommon to find obvious errors in bills and amendments. Sometimes you would see a date written as 3015 instead of 2015. Sometimes a non-existent section would be referenced, or a section number in a table of contents might be wrong. Other times, you might see a dollar figure that had too few or too many zeroes (seriously, that happened).

You might even find a misspelled word or an incorrect line number every now and again. Those were true “drafting errors,” the typos of the legislative world.

The legislative language at issue in Halbig v. Burwell is an entirely different matter:

The deliberate creation of a separate section to authorize a separate federal entity [the federal exchange] is not a drafting error. The repeated and deliberate reference to one section but not another is not a drafting error.

The refusal to grant equal authority to two programs authorized by two separate sections is not a drafting error. The decision to specifically reference section X but not section Y in a portion of a law that grants spending or tax authority is not a drafting error.

Clear evidence that Congress did not commit a drafting error can also be found in the events that followed the passage of Obamacare:

When I witnessed drafting errors that went uncorrected and ended up being codified in law, I saw the same behavior over and over again: recognition of the error, followed by an immediate attempt to correct it. Usually the corrections were done via an uncontroversial “technical corrections” bill. They were almost always drafted and passed within a couple of days or weeks of the original law’s passage.

But that’s not what we saw with this alleged “drafting error.” No attempt was made to rectify the alleged “error.”

The timeline tells it all. Obamacare was signed into law in March of 2010. It wasn’t until August of 2011 that the IRS decided to make tax credit subsidies available to plans purchased on federal exchanges. That’s a span of 16 months—an awfully long time to recognize and address a “drafting error.”

What occurred during these 16 months that caused Democrats to discover the error of their ways? As of August 2011, only ten states had established Obamacare exchanges and 17 had rejected them — that’s what.

The subsidies for those participating in state exchanges were intended to induce states to establish such exchanges. No such incentive was needed to bring about the establishment of the federal exchange; they were mandated by the Obamacare legislation itself.

By August 2011, Team Obama realized that its plan had backfired. The subsidy incentive wasn’t inducing many states to create exchanges, and this meant that subsidies would not widely be available.

To avoid this draconian consequence of Democrat miscalculation, the legislation had to be fixed. Congress wasn’t about to fix it, so the IRS did.

In doing so, the IRS did not pretend it was correcting a drafting error. Rather, as Davis emphasizes, the IRS claimed the opposite: that the text clearly endorsed the IRS interpretation. In its May 2012 announcement of the rule in question, it stated:

The statutory language of section 36B and other provisions of the Affordable Care Act support the interpretation that credits are available to taxpayers who obtain coverage through a State Exchange, regional Exchange, subsidiary Exchange, and the Federally-facilitated Exchange. . . .

Accordingly, the final regulations maintain the rule in the proposed regulations because it is consistent with the language, purpose, and structure of section 36B and the Affordable Care Act as a whole.

The validity of the IRS’s rule must stand or fall on this assertion. And given the clarity of the statutory language, no court acting in good faith could sustain the IRS’s rule.

Absent a drafting error in the true sense, black can only black; it cannot mean white.

The Eternal Spotlessness of the Sunshine Mind

In today’s climate news, those crazy people who are sometimes called “climate skeptics” have from time to time pointed at the bright yellow thing in the sky during the daytime and suggested that maybe it has something to do with the earth’s climate.  Noooooo, say the climatistas—it’s SUV emissions all the way down.  Shut up.  Because 97 percent!

The Los Angeles Times, which proudly announced it would publish no more letters to the editor from climate skeptics (because 97 percent!), today reports on a current puzzle that hitherto only climate skeptics have been asking about: the sun goes through fairly regular epicycles that typically feature a lot of sunspot activity at the peak of the cycle.  And sunspots are thought to play some role in climate variation, albeit probably very small.  But the current “solar maximum” of this epicycle is showing very little sunspot activity.  The Times reports:

So what’s going on here? Is the “All Quiet Event” as solar physicist Tony Phillips dubbed it, a big deal or not?

“It is weird, but it’s not super weird,” said Phillips, who writes about solar activity on his website SpaceWeather.com. “To have a spotless day during solar maximum is odd, but then again, this solar maximum we are in has been very wimpy.”

Phillips notes this is the weakest solar maximum to have been observed in the space age, and it is shaking out to be the weakest one in the past 100 years, so the spotless day was not so out of left field.

“It all underlines that solar physicists really don’t know what the heck is happening on the sun,” Phillips said. “We just don’t know how to predict the sun, that is the take away message of this event.” . . .

“You just can’t predict the sun,” Phillips said.

Yeah, but the sunshine minds of the climatistas can predict the climate 50 and 100 years from now.  Because 97 percent!

RELATED: From the Washington Post yesterday: “How a Solar Storm Two Years Ago Nearly Caused a Catastrophe on Earth.”

Annals of diplomacy

Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met yesterday in Jerusalem and posed for a photo prior to the meeting (below). Israel is engaged in a deathly struggle with a genocidal enemy; Kerry seeks to retard its efforts. Kerry’s presence was — he has now departed to return to Cairo — as we have noted a few times, unwanted. Netanyahu was not thrilled to see Kerry. Our friend Ed Morrissey interpreted the photo, commenting concisely on Twitter: “Someone doesn’t look happy to see someone else.”

If he could have, Netanyahu might have borrowed from Jeremiah Denton’s playbook and communicated his message to the world in Morse Code, blinking his eyes: T-O-R-T-U-R-E!

KerryNetanyahu

Taking a break from his work in Jerusalem yesterday, Kerry paid a courtesy call on the parents of Max Steinberg, the 24-year-old Los Angeles native and IDF soldier who was killed in action in Gaza. Steinberg had been a member of Israel’s elite Golani brigade and his funeral elicited a massive turnout.

Kerry appeared at the shiva held that evening to express his condolences. According to the Jewish Journal, “Kerry entered and exited the room swiftly, surrounded by men in black and refusing to take any questions from press.”

For a Secretary of State, Kerry is one weird dude. It’s nice that he appeared at the shiva; his attendance speaks for itself and, I am sure, meant a lot to the family. Yet Kerry seems to lack a certain tact that is common among average Americans. You might even say it comes naturally to them. Where others fall back on conventional expressions of sympathy that ease human interaction under difficult circumstances, Kerry struggles unsuccessfully to simulate normality.

“How’s your day?” Kerry asked as he sat down. Well, they just buried their son, but other than that…

“How’s your day?” Mrs. Steinberg responded.

“My day’s going better than yours,” Kerry allowed. He understands they just buried their son…he just doesn’t know what to say. How about something like: I pray that you will find consolation in your son’s memory. Just for starters.

Kerry didn’t say that, but he added: “I am so honored to be here. I am in awe of your son, truly,” Kerry told the family. “And I think you know, I served in the military, and I have great respect for anybody who… especially puts themself [sic] willingly in harm’s way. And as an American, we’re so proud of the affection that he felt, just the love he felt, and the roots he found in this country.”

Via Washington Free Beacon.

Are The Oceans Warming?

We’re reported previously (here and here, among others) about one of the leading explanations for the current lull in global warming climate change, namely, that the heat is going into the oceans—particularly deep in the ocean, where, convenviently for the climatistas, we have very little data—instead of the atmosphere.  It is a plausible hypothesis, and while there is some data to support ocean warming, it is very incomplete and over a short time scale.

There’s a new paper just out in the Journal of Physical Oceanography by Carl Wunsch of Harvard and Patrick Heimbach of MIT—both prominent figures in the field, neither known as a climate “skeptic”—that is likely to make waves (pun intended).  You can find the abstract here (you can find a manuscript copy of the complete article on Wunsch’s website.) It is typically dense and difficult to follow, and appears to be written cautiously so as not to give direct aid and comfort to climate skeptics.  But this sentence in particular appears significant:

Interpretation requires close attention to the long memory of the deep ocean, and implying that meteorological forcing of decades to thousands of years ago should still be producing trend-like changes in abyssal heat content.

In other words, it would not be unfair to suggest that ocean trends might have much longer-term causes than the emissions from your SUV alone.

And there’s this possibly inconvenient fact:

Parts of the deeper ocean, below 3600 m, show cooling. 

I’d sure like to hear more about what this might mean, but on the surface it would sound like a problem for the conventional climate narrative.

And on p. 22 of the complete manuscript, the authors say this:

Direct determination of changes in oceanic heat content over the last 20 years are not in conflict with estimates of the radiative forcing, but the uncertainties remain too large to rationalize e.g., the apparent “pause” in warming. (Emphasis added.)

In other words, “we don’t know.”  But that won’t stop a lot of climatistas from saying that they do know.  There’s lots more interesting and carefully worded analysis in the paper, which is extremely dense and difficult for a non-specialist to follow, that suggests the climatistas might want to pause in how they assert they know why the temperature has plateaued.

The Democrats Try To Shut Their Opponents Up (Cont.)

We wrote here about the Democrats’ effort to clamp down on 501(c)(4) organizations–the only entities where Republicans raise more money than Democrats–by requiring such groups to disclose their donors. They have proposed the DISCLOSE Act, which would require such disclosure of 501(c)(4)s, but not of 501(c)(3)s–where the Left is strong–or unions.

In the linked post, I wrote about the fact that a hearing on the DISCLOSE Act was scheduled today before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. The scheduled witnesses included Heather Gerken and Dan Tokaji, both of whom are members of 501(c)(3) organizations that do not disclose their donors, and that receive support from the Democracy Alliance, which we wrote about here, and which also does not disclose its donors. I wrote:

The Democrats’ hypocrisy on the subject of “dark money” is important, and one hopes that Republican members of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration will have the wit to point it out.

I think Senator Pat Roberts read my post. This is a transcript of his questioning of Heather Gerken, who testified on behalf of the DISCLOSE Act:

SEN. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, thank you both for coming and giving excellent testimony. Mrs. Gerken, your testimony did not endorse the DISCLOSE Act, or at least that is how I read it. But in terms of your commentary, I think that you support it. Do you endorse it?

HEATHER GERKEN: You know, no one has ever asked me if I endorse anything because I am not a senator, so I do think that 1) we do need more disclosure rules for the 501c4s. I think 2) this act is constitutional, it’s narrowly tailored and sensibly targeted at the right opportunities.

SEN. ROBERTS: Do you support it?

HEATHER GERKEN: I would support it. If I were in your shoes, I would vote for it.

Odd that it took so much effort to get her to endorse the legislation on behalf of which she testified.

SEN. ROBERTS: Okay, well you are not in my shoes. They would be a little different shoes in this chair. You like cowboy boots?

HEATHER GERKEN: I’m a New Englander, we do not wear cowboy boots.

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SEN. ROBERTS: Well, that is part of your problem. Your bio indicates that you were a senior legal advisor to the Obama campaign in 2008, 2012. The president has been criticized for attending fundraisers in the midst of a number of international crises. Last week he was in Manhattan attending a fundraiser for the House Majority PAC. That is a super PAC dedicated to electing a Democratic majority in the House. The House Majority PAC is one of a number of groups that get support from the Democracy Alliance. Another group that gets support from the Democracy Alliance is the Scholars Support Network. You are a member of that. Is that correct?

Roberts’ information came from our post, presumably.

HEATHER GERKEN: That’s right.

SEN. ROBERTS: Following its annual meeting at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago this year, POLITICO reported on a memo to the board of the Democracy Alliance that contained the recommendations on how to respond to media inquiries about the conference and its participants. This is what the memo said: “As a matter of policy, we don’t make public the names of our members. Rather,” the memo goes on, “the Alliance abides by the preference of our members. Many of our donors choose not to participate publicly and we respect that. The Democracy Alliance exists to provide a comfortable environment for our members to collectively make a real impact,” end quote. Why would disclosure make some of the members of this Alliance uncomfortable?

HEATHER GERKEN: So, I actually don’t know the reason for that, I am simply a member of the organization. But I will say this, there is a fundamental difference between many of the organizations that we are talking about here and those that are trying to affect politics with large amounts of money. The reason why Justice Kennedy—

SEN. ROBERTS: Would you agree to this—and I’m sorry to interrupt, but you’ve only got four minutes here although the chairman has been very liberal with his time allowance. Do you agree that this desire to remain comfortably anonymous should be respected?

HEATHER GERKEN: I will say that if you are trying to use large amounts of money to influence politics than you should do what the justice says and have the civic courage to have your name publicly listed. So I am in support of this bill, and if the Scholars Strategy Network tried to start to influence politics with large amounts of money, I would be in favor of disclosure.

SEN. ROBERTS: Does the Scholars Support Network publicly disclose its donors?

HEATHER GERKEN: I actually don’t think it does, but I don’t know the answer to that question. As I said before, it is not trying to influence—

SEN. ROBERTS: Shouldn’t that be respected?

HEATHER GERKEN: It isn’t trying to influence federal elections, and if it were, this bill would ensure that it would in fact disclose all of the donors that were trying to do so. That is the key to this bill. This bill allows for the privacy of a variety of groups engaged in public activities to remain anonymous, but when they try to influence elections, that money is –

SEN. ROBERTS: Got it.

HEATHER GERKEN: …that money must be disclosed, and I support that heartily.

SEN. ROBERTS: Got it. As a 501c3, it is not supposed to engage in any political activities. Is that right?

HEATHER GERKEN: A 501c3 has a variety of requirements about 501c3s, about what it means. But as a general matter, they are not supposed to.

Now the trap springs shut.

SEN. ROBERTS: Then how is it that the Scholars Support Network has been supported by the Democracy Alliance, which stipulates that each organization it supports be politically active and progressive?

HEATHER GERKEN: So the Scholars Strategy Network is a very simple thing, it is designed to do something that academics are very bad at, which is to figure out how to convey their ideas to the broader public and to policy makers. You have thousands of universities across the country generating good idea after good idea by people who barely go outside during the day; who have never talked to a reporter, who have certainly never spoken to a senator and have no idea how to convey their ideas in a broader way. That network takes a bunch of people who are basically nerds and convey their ideas to the world.

SEN. ROBERTS: Sort of a nerd network?

Not clear whether Ms. Gerken realizes that she is being gently mocked. Liberals generally don’t see themselves as partisan left-wingers, they are just nerds and wonks.

HEATHER GERKEN: It is a nerd network. But it is a policy oriented network that helps get ideas that are already in the public arena to policy makers.

SEN. ROBERTS: I have every confidence that the chairman of the committee sitting to my right gets calls a lot from nerds and all sorts of other people. I do, even in Kansas, the University of Kansas, Kansas State, Wichita University, we have a lot of nerds, new England has nerds…I can testify there are nerds in Kansas.

Now Roberts gets serious. What follows comes straight from this post:

What abut the American Constitution Society? At the Chicago conference, it took credit for helping to make possible the Senate rule changes imposed by the Majority Leader that led to the confirmation of quote “progressive” judges to the DC Circuit. You have also been involved with the American Constitution Society, is that correct?

HEATHER GERKEN: Yes, I have.

SEN. ROBERTS: Do they publicly disclose their donors?

HEATHER GERKEN: I don’t believe that they do. However, if the DISCLOSE Act were passed, if they were engaged in using large sums of money to influence politics they would be required to disclose their donors and that would be a good thing for democracy.

This is incorrect. The DISCLOSE Act explicitly exempts 501(c)(3)s from its disclosure requirements. It is remarkable that Ms. Gerken is not very familiar with the statute on behalf of which she is testifying.

SEN. ROBERTS: Well, my point is that you would recognize that the changes to the rule and the appointments to the DC Circuit were somewhat politicized, would you agree with that?

HEATHER GERKEN: You know, in this world almost everything is politicized, I suppose.

It is if you’re a liberal.

SEN. ROBERTS: I understand. Would the DISCLOSE Act apply to 501c3s?

Gerken gets the answer to this question wrong:

HEATHER GERKEN: The act is going to apply to any organization that uses big money to influence politics. If 501c3s are engaged in some politicking then they do something very simple which is they segregate their funds. This is a traditional strategy used by many organizations to keep separate these types of donations. And that means that donors, for example, who want to suppot the American Constitution Society’s general activities can give money without giving to politics. But if they want ACS to use that money to influence politics, the election system, then they have to have a segregated fund. It’s a very simple and elegant solution to the type of problem you are describing here.

A staffer now points out that Gerken is wrong, and the DISCLOSE Act will not under any circumstances apply to 501(c)(3) organizations like the ones to which Ms. Gerken belongs.

SEN. ROBERTS: I don’t know…oh, I have been informed here that it doesn’t apply to c3s—so should it?

HEATHER GERKEN: If a 501c3 would like to start to influence…to start to do things outside of the usual ambit, and it starts to take in large quantities of money that are going to be used to influence elections, then it is going to have to disclose those activities. They would become 501c4s presumably.

SEN. ROBERTS: I think you are talking about a regulatory morass, but anyway, thank you so much for answering my questions.

Why are the Democrats carrying on this selective war against “dark money,” which is itself, ironically, funded almost entirely with dark money? Democrats want to be able to identify conservative donors so that the Obama administration can use federal agencies to take revenge on them; so they can try to get them fired (like Brendan Eich); and so union goons can lead busloads of demonstrators onto their lawns. When liberal ideas have to compete with conservative ideas, they consistently lose. So the Democrats want to intimidate conservative donors in order to have the political field to themselves. There is nothing noble about their selective enmity toward “dark money.”