Friday, December 19, 2014

Your Sexist, Lecherous President

Apparently, all the male reporters at the president's annual Christmas press conference must have been bad during the last year:   This from The Hill:

News from The Hill

Obama's all-women press conference

By Amie Parnes 
 
"President Obama held a press conference on Friday at the White House, where he did something rare: He took questions from all women reporters.  Obama didn't offer an explanation for the decision, only to say at the start of the press conference that White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest made him a "naughty and nice" list."

Cartoon of the Day Extra


Time To Kill or Drastically Modify No Child Left Behind

There is little question that any agreement that satisfied George W. Bush and the late but still no doubt inebriated Ted Kennedy couldn't have been a good one.   Such was the case  with No Child Left Behind.   With that said, here is an article that comes to us courtesy of The Heritage Foundation and we agree with it fully:

Now’s the time for bold alternatives to No Child Left Behind

 
"Lawmakers already are talking about reauthorizing No Child Left Behind — the George W. Bush-era education initiative. “I’d like to have the president’s signature on it before summer,” challenged Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who will assume chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee when Congress resumes in January.

But lawmakers should be pursuing bold education reforms, not searching out weak legislative compromises that fail to limit federal overreach. Congressional conservatives should take this opportunity to rewrite NCLB in a way that empowers state and local educators, not Washington bureaucrats.

Previous proposals introduced by Mr. Alexander and Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican, would have streamlined NCLB and created some nominal flexibility for states and school districts. But more substantive reforms are in order. The following four policy goals should accompany any reauthorization of NCLB.

First, policymakers should enable states to completely opt out of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind. One such proposal is the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act. Including the A-PLUS approach in a prospective reauthorization of NCLB would let states consolidate their federal education funds and use them for any lawful education purpose they deem beneficial. This would allow states to escape NCLB’s prescriptive and programmatic requirements and use funds in ways that would better meet their students’ needs.

Next, policymakers should work to reduce the number of programs that fall under NCLB. The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — the precursor to NCLB — included five titles, 32 pages and roughly $1 billion in federal funding. By the time ESEA was reauthorized for the seventh time in 2001 as No Child Left Behind, new mandates had been imposed on states and local school districts, and the law authorized dozens upon dozens of federal education programs, a reflection of national policymakers’ tendency to create a “program for every problem.”

In order to pay for the dozens of competitive and formula grant programs funded under NCLB, the annual cost of the federal initiative now exceeds $25 billion. The growth in program count and spending over the decades has failed to improve educational outcomes for students and, as such, should be curtailed.

Policymakers should also eliminate burdensome federal mandates. Accountability and transparency “should be vehicles to reinvigorate the relationship of the American people with their schools rather than merely mechanisms employed by government officials to oversee and hold government schools accountable,” wrote former Deputy Education Secretary Eugene Hickok and education researcher Matthew Ladner in a 2007 analysis of NCLB.

To achieve that goal, Congress should eliminate the many federal mandates within NCLB masquerading as accountability, including Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements, Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) mandates and costly “maintenance of effort” rules, which require states to keep spending high in order to receive federal funding.

Finally, and at a minimum, policymakers should include a state option for Title I funding portability. The $14.5 billion Title I program accounts for the bulk of NCLB spending. It serves one of the 1965 ESEA’s original and primary purposes by channeling additional federal funding to low-income school districts.

However, Title I funds are distributed through a convoluted funding formula which, as researcher Susan Aud has noted, includes “provisions that render the final results substantially incongruent with the original legislative intention.”

To make Title I work for the disadvantaged children it was originally intended to help, the program’s funding formula should be simplified, and Congress should let states make the funding “portable,” allowing it to follow a child to the school of his parents’ choice — public, private, charter or virtual.
During any prospective ESEA reauthorization, Congress should reduce program count (and associated spending), eliminate federal mandates on states and local school districts and create portability of Title I funding. Such an approach represents a first small step toward reform. Bold reforms are needed, including the opportunity for states to completely exit the 600-page regulatory behemoth that is No Child Left Behind."
Originally appeared in The Washington Times

Thought for the Day


Cartoon of the Day


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thought for the Day


Doing Jury Duty

Given the recent grand jury decisions that have attracted such national attention, we thought the following account of serving on a jury made by Stu Rothenberg was instructive.   We find it very difficult to support those who turn these 'racially tinged crimes' or events into reasons to demonstrate and commit more crimes.   Frankly, if you're not sitting in the jury box there is no way you can know all the facts or know what the judge's instructions are to the jury on how to follow the law.  

Here is Stu Rothenberg's account of his recent experience:

"Jury Duty in Today’s America" from "The Rothenberg Political Report"
"While most of America was still talking about what happened in Ferguson, Mo., and turning to law enforcement issues in Cleveland and Staten Island, New York, I spent the better part of the week of Dec. 1 in a courthouse in Rockville, Md.

I never expected to be selected to sit on a jury, let alone one where the defendant was charged with first degree rape. I also didn’t expect to hear some shocking information after the case ended.

No, my case did not involve a racially-charged act that tore apart a community. Though the rape was extremely violent, no lives were lost. There were no videos of the rape or of the police response, no national media attention to the case.

Still, as a member of a jury charged with determining guilt or innocence, I, like most members of juries and grand juries, felt an important responsibility to evaluate the evidence dispassionately and come to the correct conclusion.

Mohamed Mansaray was charged with raping a woman on March 31, 2014. Police concluded he entered her apartment in Silver Spring, Md., and attacked the victim, binding her hands behind her back and putting duct tape around her eyes.

He then dragged her into her bedroom and raped her. Throughout the incident, he talked to her as she sobbed and begged him not to hurt her, according to her testimony on the witness stand as part of the weeklong trial.

Even more shocking, we found out not only did Mansaray know the victim, but he was also her daughter’s boyfriend and the father of the unborn child her daughter was carrying at the time.

The victim testified she thought of Mansaray “like my son,” and she did not (or could not) identify him as the attacker and rapist to investigating officers or on the witness stand. In fact, after calling 911 and her sister, the victim called Mansaray to tell him what had happened.

But the accused had a key to the apartment, which showed no sign of forced entry, and he knew the apartment’s layout. An eyewitness’ description of a young man fleeing the scene seemed to fit Mansaray. The state also had DNA evidence from the woman that confirmed Mansaray was the rapist, as well as a videotaped confession from the 25-year-old native of Sierra Leone.

In response, Mansaray’s attorney sought to discredit the state’s case, primarily by raising questions about the chain of custody of the DNA evidence. Defense counsel also suggested the Montgomery County police had done a shoddy job investigating the case, including failing to follow obvious leads and interview potential suspects.
And the defense attorney sought to explain her client’s confession by arguing Mansaray said what the detectives wanted him to say only after they threatened he would never see his child if he didn’t confess.

Some of defense counsel’s arguments resonated, at least with me.
The first police officer on the scene was terribly green, and the detective investigating the crime seemed to have made up her mind very quickly that Mansaray had committed the rape. In addition, the eyewitness, a young woman still in her teens, never took the stand.

In her closing argument to the jury, defense counsel played the race and class card. She portrayed Mansaray as a “little guy” who was being rolled by a wealthy county and a prosecutor who could fly a witness across the country to testify. And she asserted the state’s allegedly cursory investigation of the crime and potential suspects reflected law enforcement’s lack of concern for the victim, because of her race and class.

The attorney for Mansaray also emphasized her argument that the DNA evidence in the case had been tampered with, leaving no doubt she believed the lead detective investigating the rape was involved in tampering.

In her rebuttal closing, the prosecutor called the tampering argument “beyond preposterous” and countered that defense counsel’s assertion the police and prosecutor “don’t care” a rapist was still at large was “offensive.” And she dismissed with equal zeal the suggestion race or class played any role in the handling of the case.

Jury deliberations proceeded quickly. Most jurors believed the charge of rape in the first degree had been proven, but a few believed second-degree rape was appropriate. After reading the judge’s instructions and the definitions of both first- and second-degree rape, the 12-person jury quickly agreed  the crime of first-degree rape had been committed.

We then turned to the question of who committed the rape. Had the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mansaray was the rapist?

After a brief discussion of the evidence — and of possible holes in the state’s case — we took an initial vote on whether the defendant was guilty of first-degree rape. All 12 jurors believed Mansaray was guilty. The DNA evidence was overwhelming.

During my week in that courtroom, my feelings about being called for jury duty changed completely. I entered the courthouse annoyed at being forced to give up my Monday and praying I would not be impaneled on a jury. By the end of the week I would not have traded my experience for anything.

Since the trial, I have reflected on how my experience with one trial, in one courtroom, fits into the larger national discussion about justice in America and police behavior.
I am convinced all 12 members of our jury had one goal in mind: To evaluate whether the state had proven its case against Mansaray. We didn’t see the case as anything more than that. We certainly did not see it as about class or race.

We were not interested in making a statement about the police, African-American men, rape or the judicial system in America. That wasn’t our job. We simply tried to understand the facts of the case and apply the law.

Maybe we were able to do that because there were no television cameras focused on our courthouse, no news anchors present, and no television hosts/preachers/activists trying to promote themselves and or their political agendas. There also were no professional agitators or ideological activists trying to turn our case and our decision into something bigger than it was.

And, thankfully, we didn’t have the conjecture, half-truths, speculation and spin that come with today’s almost inevitable media frenzy.

After the case ended, we talked with the two attorneys and learned things that explained some of what seemed to be holes in the state’s otherwise overwhelming case.

The Montgomery County detective focused so quickly on Mansaray and didn’t follow the many other potential leads because she knew something the jury did not — he had served time for repeatedly raping an 11-year-old girl in 2008 and was on probation following early release. That was plenty of reason to focus on the accused from the beginning.

We also learned the witness who provided the description of the man fleeing the rape scene was going to school out of state and refused requests from the prosecutor to return voluntarily for the trial.

Many other pieces suddenly fell into place, as well, when we were given details about the accused. (Here is the news story I read once the trial concluded.)

We found Mansaray guilty of rape in the first degree because the evidence took us there. Given what we later learned about the accused, I am grateful we arrived at our verdict.

I don’t know what evidence the grand juries in Ferguson and Staten Island saw, and I certainly don’t believe that every grand jury decision or jury verdict is a just one. But the jurors on my jury took their responsibility very seriously, and while any system is imperfect, my experience has led me to believe that it is far more reasonable to trust jurors than activists who have their own agendas."

"Bo-zo"


Cartoon of the Day


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thought for the Day


Teacher Unions Don't Want School Choice

The following article came to us through The Heritage Foundation.    We think it is of interest for several reasons:
  • It shows the mentality of teacher unions toward educational choice
  • Jeb Bush, who has announced his 'exploratory' committee for the 2016 G.O.P. nomination is a supporter of the program
  • Pete Ricketts, Nebraska's Governor-elect would be a guy that would no doubt like to see a program like this here in Nebraska.
While the article is about the suit that has been filed by the Florida teachers' union, we thought readers would find it instructive given the preceding items.
By: Brittany Corona
"Teachers’ unions in Florida continue to threaten the educational opportunity of thousands of the state’s most vulnerable children.
 
But there is some good news: Leon County Circuit Court Judge George S. Reynolds III granted parents of these children the right to intervene on behalf of their children’s scholarships, which are awarded through the corporate tuition tax credit scholarship program.

“All three [of my] children are excelling academically and socially in their respective schools under the scholarships,” said Cheryl Joseph, a mother of three scholarship recipients and one of 15 parents who were granted a motion to intervene in the lawsuit. Cheryl, like the other parents who filed, will not be able to send her children to their chosen school without the scholarship funding.

In August, the Florida Education Association and allies—including the Florida School Boards Association, the PTA, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and others—filed two lawsuits challenging the state’s 13-year-old Tuition Tax Credit Scholarship program.

The first suit claimed that the scholarship violates the “no aid” clause and the “uniform public schools” clause of the state’s constitution by allowing students to take the aid to private schools, some with religious affiliation.

The second lawsuit argued that the expansion of the scholarship program by lawmakers in June violated legislative procedure because it didn’t pass as a standalone measure; rather, the legislation included a variety of education-related topics—including the passage of Florida’s first education savings account program. However, this lawsuit was dismissed by Leon County circuit court judge Charles Francis in September.

The court found that the unions did not have standing to challenge the law, freeing nearly 1,000 students to begin using their education saving account school choice option (Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts in Florida) and allowing the Tax Credit Scholarship eligibility to expand.
Despite this win for educational choice, the unions continue their attack on Florida’s popular Tax Credit Scholarship option by opposing parents of scholarship students’ motion to intervene and the state’s motion to dismiss.

Enacted in 2001, the tax credit scholarships have enabled nearly 400,000 Florida students to attend a school of choice. This year businesses contributed $357.8 million to non-profit groups providing scholarships to 68,761 children to attend a private school of choice—most of whom are low-income minority children. Eligible children are from households with incomes of no more that 185 percent of the federal poverty line.

Under the recently expanded tuition tax credit scholarship program, families at 260 percent of the federal poverty line, or $62,010 for a household of four, will be eligible for partial scholarships during the 2016-17 school year.

The union suit implies that taxpayers are forced to support parochial education through public funds, but this is not the way tax credit scholarships work.

“Scholarship Tax Credit laws are privately administered programs that rely on the voluntary contributions of corporate taxpayers who receive tax credits in return. As the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, these funds never become public funds because they do not ‘come into the tax collector’s hands,’” writes Cato Institute education policy analyst Jason Bedrick.

In the case of Florida, private corporate donations— not public funds— make up the funding for the scholarships. Businesses receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions to non-profits that administer the scholarship.

A similar suit was filed by the teachers union in New Hampshire last year. But in August, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously upheld the tax credit scholarship, ruling that the plaintiffs did not have standing because the scholarships were funded through private contributions and could not prove any individual harm caused by the scholarships.

The Florida scholarships allow the most economically disadvantaged children to choose an educational environment that best meets their needs. According to Step Up for Students, the non-profit administering the scholarships, 54 percent of the scholarship children are from single-parent households and have an average household income of $24,067.

These children are succeeding with their scholarships. Research conducted by Dr. David Figlio in 2011 found that students enrolled in the scholarship program performed slightly better than their peers in reading and math achievement levels. Other research suggests that the public schools in Florida are improving because of increased competition from the state’s various school choice options.

It is a disappointment that teachers union heads continue to threaten the educational opportunity of Florida’s most disadvantaged students, despite evidence suggesting academic improvement for students in the program and in traditional public schools. The court was right to grant parents of scholarship students the right to intervene in the suit—it is their children’s future that is at stake."

Omaha World-Herald Polling

Seems the Omaha World-Herald is doing some polling.  Victory Processing, a polling firm out of Kansas City is calling and asking respondents their opinions on a number of issues including the firing of Bo Pelini and support for Governor Heineman and Mayor Stothert.  

Probably something for the end of year that the paper can use to 'make news'......

Jeb Bush on Common Core and Education

With his announcement of an 'exploratory' committee yesterday Jeb Bush has obviously decided he's a likely candidate for the 2016 G.O.P. nomination.  We've already asserted our thoughts with an earlier column today.   So now, we have this from The Heritage Foundation on Jeb's embracement of Common Core.   Again, this seems to be a fair and balanced assessment of Bush that says some good things about his efforts in Florida education although it certainly points out his support of Common Core.   We still think that 'one-size-fits-all' national control of education is the wrong way to go.   It will be interesting to see how 'conservatives' across the nation respond to him on this hot-topic issue......We know how we feel.

Jeb Bush’s Common Core Problem

Kelsey Harkness /

Jeb Bush has long advocated for all 50 states to adopt Common Core national standards.
Now that the former Florida governor has all but confirmed his plans to run for president in 2016, the issue threatens to overshadow his likely campaign.

Bush’s name, matched with consistently high polling numbers among potential 2016 Republican candidates, makes landing a seat in the Oval Office feasible. But in order to reach the general election—to perhaps take on Hillary Clinton—Bush must first overcome concerns about Common Core with conservative primary voters.

Bush’s longstanding support for Common Core is no secret: Over a year ago, Frederick M. Hess, an education expert at the American Enterprise Institute, predicted that if he decided to run for president, “Common Core could be his Romneycare.”

What is Common Core?
Common Core standards were created by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal, supported by the Obama administration, was to increase education standards in America.

Among conservatives, however, the issue one of the most controversial. Several politicians have flip-flopped on the issue, pulling their support or even abandoning the standards in their states.
UD-common-core-status-map
The Heritage Foundation is among the organizations that have rallied against Common Core.
The crux of the argument, as laid out by Heritage’s Lindsey M. Burke and Jennifer A. Marshall, is this:
National standards are unlikely to make public schools accountable to families; rather, they are more likely to make schools responsive to Washington, D.C. Furthermore, a national accountability system would be a one-size-fits-all approach that tends toward mediocrity and standardization, undercutting the pockets of excellence that currently exists.
Many of Bush’s deep-pocketed GOP allies—so-called “establishment” Republicans like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—don’t see eye-to-eye with conservatives on the issue.

Federal incentives like Race to the Top grants and No Child Left Behind waivers for states that adopted Common Core topped off what critics call “a national takeover of education policy.”

A reform-minded governor
Bush’s backstory with Common Core standards is two-fold.

During his eight-year tenure as the Sunshine State’s governor, he led one of the most successful education reforms in the country. In fact, his efforts were so effective, education experts are still trying to analyze them to this day.

Schools and districts in Florida are now graded on a straightforward A-to-F scale where parents easily understand that it’s better to have a child in an A-rated school than one that received an F.
Parents also have access to education tax credits, private school choice for special-needs students, virtual education, charter schools and public school choice.

In addition, transparency about school performance enables parents to be well informed, holding schools accountable to parents.

Education experts often argue that no one has a greater, more genuine interest in a student’s education than their parents.

But as Burke, Heritage’s leading expert on education policy pointed out, what worked in Florida might not work on a national scale. She said:
Gov. Bush was a leader on education reform in Florida during his tenure. Florida, in fact, has stood as a model for other states. The challenge for national policymakers is to recognize that what worked well in one state might not work as well in another, and that states need flexibility to find out what works best for the unique students who reside there.
Promoting Common Core
The challenge for national policymakers is to recognize that what worked well in one state might not work as well in another. @lindseymburke
In a 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed co-authored with former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, Bush praised the standards, stating:
The Common Core State Standards define what students need to know; they do not define how teachers should teach, or how students should learn. That is up to each state. And they are built on what we have learned from high-performing international competitors as well as the best practices in leading states.
Over the course of the next three years, Bush, with the Foundation for Excellence in Education, an education policy think tank that Bush founded and chairs, encouraged state legislators to adopt the standards.
For example, in early 2013, Bush and his foundation set out to remind Oklahoma state legislators of the “myths” surrounding Common Core.
commoncoresidebar.png
He sent them an in-depth email, which can be viewed in its entirety here. In it, they wrote:
There is a lot of misinformation flying around about Common Core State Standards. Below is a roundup of recent articles, opinion pieces and posts by policy advisors, debunking Common Core myths and highlighting voices in the transition to these new standards. You’ll also find quotes from teachers weighing in on Common Core and see how state and business leaders are supporting the higher standards.
Bush’s new tone
More recently, Bush has toned down his support.

In a speech last month at the 2014 National Summit on Education Reform—just one week before Thanksgiving when he pondered a presidential run with his family—Bush argued, “The rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in the classrooms.”

But in the same speech, he also made it a point to acknowledge the disagreement on the issue—something he has been criticized in the past for ignoring.
Even if we don’t all agree on Common Core, there are more important principles for us to agree on. We need to pull together whenever we can. It starts with a basic question: If we were designing our school system from scratch, what would it look like?
I know one thing: We wouldn’t start with more than 13,000 government-run, unionized and politicized monopolies who trap good teachers, administrators and struggling students in a system nobody can escape. 
We would be insane if we recreated what we have today.
So let’s think and act like we are starting from scratch.
Whether his 2016 campaign will try to downplay his support for Common Core or remain true to his position is not yet clear, but one thing is for certain: A Bush on the 2016 presidential ticket will once again bring education to the forefront of the national debate."

A Fair Assessment of Jeb Bush? -- The Name is Still Toxic


The following column by John Podhoretz is probably a fair assessment of Jeb Bush.   We still think for many of the reasons mentioned below that he is still the wrong guy for 2016 (although being 'establishment' Republicans according to some of our readers we'd still support him actively over Hillary) and more than being an issue about monarchy, we think that his name is toxic for the American voter.  

Jeb’s killer flaw — the name, not the ideology


"Jeb Bush is running for president. The brother of Bush 43 and son of Bush 41 said as much yesterday on Facebook.

If you think you know something about Jeb Bush solely based on his name and connections, truth is, you don’t. What he has in common with the two Georges is blood, a last name, time in Kennebunkport and membership in the Republican Party.
Otherwise, they are startlingly different, all three.

George H.W. Bush was the man who became president because he ran beside Ronald Reagan and spent his years in the White House as an ideologically inconstant Republican.

George W. Bush was the man who became president because he forswore his own father’s inconstancy and followed Reagan’s big-picture conservative example instead.

By contrast, Jeb Bush is a gregarious and enthusiastic policy wonk (and a Catholic convert).

His unusually intellectual governorship (from 1998-2006) was, first and last, dedicated to introducing conservative reform ideas on education, health care and budgeting.
He created tough state standards for Florida’s horrific schools, and pushed through the nation’s first full-fledged school-choice program.

He changed the way Florida’s state universities admitted students and basically killed off its ineffective and unjust quota system.

More than a decade before Chris Christie canceled the construction of a Hudson River tunnel that he feared would break the New Jersey budget — the dramatic move that made Christie a star in conservative circles — Bush killed a multi-billion-dollar high-speed-rail boondoggle on his second day in office.

Jeb Bush was, in his time, easily the most fluid and fluent speaker on what would later come to be known as the “conservative reform agenda.”

He knew the policies he was advocating inside and out, and could explain them effectively and push them forward even more effectively.

For this reason, he was generally considered both the best and the most effective conservative governor in the country when his second term ended in 2006. He was not just respected among conservatives, he was beloved.

But it’s about to be 2015, and conservatives now view Jeb Bush with suspicion and distaste.

Some of this is pure ignorance. Many only know him by name and they assume he is an amalgam of father and brother, both of whom activist conservatives (who once loved W.) now view with hostility.

But it’s also due to a sea change in the conservative ranks. Bush was once a darling for his tough and serious approach on education.

But he supports the new Common Core standards, which are anathematic to many conservatives because they seem to have a centralized root.

Bush is similarly out of step on immigration issues; he is broadly supportive of a path to citizenship, both as the longtime steward of a state with a large Latino population and as the Spanish-speaking husband of a Mexican immigrant himself. The party’s base has shifted very far to the rejectionist right on this matter.

Yet he is so intelligent and able a politician that he might find a way to talk about these matters effectively over the course of the next year before he faces voters.
But there’s something else that I doubt he can overcome.

Flash forward to one of the GOP debates next fall. Imagine that Bush is leading in the polls, or close. One rival takes the opportunity to say this:
“Jeb, you were a great governor. You’re a fine man. Your father is a great American. Your brother gave his all to keep America safe and secure.

“But Jeb, we have to face facts. This is a party that needs to convince ordinary working-class and middle-class Americans that we stand with them.

“Look around you. Scott Walker and Ted Cruz are the sons of preachers. Marco Rubio’s father was a bartender and his mother cleaned rooms at a hotel. John Kasich’s dad was a steelworker. Chris Christie’s was a CPA.

“This will be the 10th presidential election since 1980. In all but three of them, a Bush was on the ticket. America isn’t a monarchy, Mr. Bush. That’s not who we are.

“Is this the message we want to send to the American people — that to get a major-party nomination, Democrats need to be named Clinton and Republicans need to be named Bush?”

It may not be fair. But it’s unanswerable."

Cartoon of the Day


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thought for the Day


Government and Politicians Know What's Best-------for you

Former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, now head of The Heritage Foundation has an interesting reflection on Jonathan Gruber wherein he discusses the mentality of many in government that it is their duty to pass legislation for the 'good' of the masses regardless of whether the masses understand that it is good for them, such a case being Obamacare.  

Now, we hate to admit it but this thought process exists not only with those in big government and Liberals but also among conservatives as well.   Transparency seems to be good only when politicians and big government are actually trying to do what the majority of citizens actually 'realize' what they want.     Worth thinking about.

Gruber Reflects the Undemocratic Left

Jim DeMint /

"Key Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber has been under a hot spotlight recently for disparaging comments he made about his fellow citizens.

In a series of videos taken at various conferences and lectures between 2010 and 2013, Gruber claimed that the effects of Obamacare had to be hidden from Americans because of “the stupidity of the American voter.” The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor said that “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” in writing such legislation and likened its critics to “my adolescent children.”
Gruber was echoing a common sentiment among the American Left: You are too stupid to run your own life.
Adding, well, injury to the insult, it’s been discovered that Gruber received almost $6 million in taxpayer dollars for his various services in designing and consulting on Obamacare.

This rolling disgrace culminated Tuesday in a particularly stern hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which gave the penitent Gruber a thorough dressing-down.

Ouch.

While I hate to disagree with the formidable Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.,  I think Gruber should be given a medal for honesty!

Don’t get me wrong: Gruber’s erstwhile opinions about his fellow Americans are despicable. But he was only echoing a common sentiment among the American Left: You are too stupid to run your own life. It’s just rare that they tell us directly.

The attitude of the Washington political establishment in general—and liberal elites in particular—is that Americans aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions. The public must be cajoled, misled, threatened and flat-out lied to in order to achieve the greatest good.

Take, for example, Gruber’s assessment of the tax/fee argument at the heart of Obamacare’s passage and later Supreme Court fight:
This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Ok, so it was written to do that.
This is absolutely true. Everyone in Washington—on both sides of the aisle—knows that this was a key maneuver in getting Obamacare passed. The scandalous thing here is not what Gruber said, but that he dared to admit it.

He follows in a grand tradition of progressives who posture themselves as champions of the common man, only to realize that the common man doesn’t necessarily share the same goals. Thus, regular Americans must be duped into acting a certain way. It’s for their own good, don’t you know!

This is a profoundly undemocratic mindset but all too common amongst those in power. Earlier this year the Associated Press recognized the Obama administration as the least transparent in history. This administration has prosecuted whistleblowers, attacked journalists and had the IRS put the squeeze on activist groups. It excuses this behavior with a “father knows best” attitude.

If you assume that your political opponents merely “cling to guns or religion” out of bitterness, it’s much easier to rationalize impinging upon the First and Second Amendments. If you’re convinced that folks couldn’t possibly live a healthy lifestyle on their own, you end up micromanaging their lunches or downsizing their beverages.
You might even be tempted to mandate their healthcare options.

Thinking you know what’s best for the American people—better than they do, in fact—leads to a far greater violation of their best interests: taking away their freedom to decide for themselves.

Unfortunately, there are a lot more people in government who think like Jonathan Gruber."

Cartoon of the Day


Monday, December 15, 2014

No Need for Another Obamacare Style Program of Early Education

As if Obamacare isn't bad enough, your empty-suited excuse for a president would like to take the child out of your home at birth and 'educate' him until it comes time for the public school system to continue his indoctrination in kindergarten.  And it's not just him.   No, many of your state senators (liberals) in Nebraska advocate much the same believing in their ignorant statist mentality that there simply isn't enough involvement in educating your child from birth.  

With that commentary, we thought we'd share with you a different point of view courtesy of our friends at The Heritage Foundation:

The Preschool Mirage 

By Lindsey M. Burke and Rachel Sheffield
 
The Obama administration has just announced a new $1 billion initiative ($750 million in federal grants and the remainder from private funding) to enroll more children in government preschool programs. The new measure is being announced formally at the White House Summit on Early Education this morning.

The push comes on the heels of President Obama’s speech on women and the economy, recently delivered at Rhode Island College. In that speech the president suggested that parents’ only child-care options are unaffordable day care, “cheaper” (by which he appears to mean “poor-quality”) day care, or no day care at all. As a result, Mr. Obama said, “someone, usually Mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make” (emphasis added).
This was no ad lib. The statement was in the president’s prepared remarks. Surely he didn’t intend to imply that parents who stay home with the kids are making an unfortunate, if not irresponsible, decision, yet his remarks hit many an ear — and many good sensibilities — that way. Millions of moms do want to stay at home with their children. Indeed, only 23 percent of married mothers say that working full-time is their ideal scenario, according to the Pew Research Center.
Most women prefer to work less than full-time and view staying at home with their children as the best choice they could make. And more and more women are making that choice. Since 1999, the percentage of women opting to stay at homehas increased by 6 percentage points.

Pew found that 67 percent of mothers overall prefer to work either part-time (47 percent) or not at all (20 percent). Another Pew survey found that married mothers who are able to cut back at work are happier on average. And although many mothers need or want to work, policies shouldn’t create disincentives for families to care for their own children.

The Obama administration, however, along with some in Congress, sees the creation of federally funded universal preschool as long overdue. “By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool,” Obama urged during his speech, echoing his administration’s oft-repeated goal of building a “cradle-to-career” education system. And Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged support for the president’s $75 billion federal-preschool proposal on a conference call yesterday: “The fact is like three in ten four-year-olds have access to state-funded programs, which means frankly we are not close.”

Notice the operative word there: state-funded programs. The administration and other government pre-K advocates typically ignore the fact that when all preschool options are counted — including enrollment in private programs and home-based care — 74 percent of four-year-old children are already enrolled in preschool.

Although child-care costs can certainly be problematic for low-income families, many receive subsidies to defray those costs. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 90 percent of employed mothers have a regular child-care arrangement. Among those with regular arrangements, 42 percent use a relative to provide care for their kids. When it comes to looking after infants, grandparent care is nearly twice as popular as center-based care. It’s not until children hit preschool age — when the costs are far lower than they are for infant center-based care — that center-based care becomes more prevalent.

By that time, the vast majority of families have already found preschool options that work for them. That calls into question the wisdom of creating another large-scale federal program. The 74 percent enrollment rate mentioned above suggests that new state and federal efforts to expand government preschool programs would duplicate existing options and function as an unnecessary subsidy for middle- and upper-income families.

Besides, maybe there’s a reason families prefer relative care to government programs. After nearly half a century, Head Start has compiled a distinctly rocky track record. Consequently, parents and taxpayers have a pretty clear notion of what big-government preschool looks like. According to scientifically rigorous evaluations by the Department of Health and Human Services, Head Start has had no long-term impact on the cognitive abilities of participating children, has failed to improve health, has failed to improve their behavior and emotional well-being, and has failed to improve the parenting practices of parents.

State programs don’t fare much better. Vanderbilt University, for example, released an evaluation in August 2013 demonstrating that children who went through Tennessee’s voluntary pre-K program (TN-VPK), which advocates often tout as a “high quality” model of state pre-K, actually performed worse on cognitive tasks at the end of first grade than did the control group.

The Vanderbilt evaluation is the most sophisticated done to date. As Russ Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution notes, randomized trials of state-funded pre-K programs are nonexistent, “much less randomized trials with long term follow-up into adulthood.” David Armor, professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason University, notes that “the most methodologically rigorous evaluations find that the academic benefits of preschool programs are quite modest, and these gains fade after children enter elementary school.”

Scholarly agreement that government preschool has severe limitations is so strong the Wall Street Journal called it “about as close to an intellectual policy consensus as Washington gets.” So instead of applying Obamacare-esque levels of bureaucracy and federal meddling to the education and care of the youngest Americans, let’s move toward policies that respect the preferences of mothers and strengthen the economy.

A stronger economy would give more families a choice as to how they divide work and family responsibilities. Unfortunately, policies enacted since the recession have created impediments to job growth. The Obamacare employer mandate and minimum-wage hikes, for example, discourage businesses from hiring more employees. Policy should encourage job growth, rather than stifle it.
Stronger families would also foster economic growth and work flexibility for individuals. Married parents tend to have greater financial resources. They also benefit from being able to divvy up both work and family responsibilities. Yet marriage rates have declined drastically. Today over 40 percent of children are born to single mothers. Strengthening marriage is crucial to helping both adults and children thrive. The president shouldn’t presume that government programs like universal pre-K can replace the benefits that a strong family provides.

Families, not universal preschool, matter most for children’s well-being. Parents are a child’s primary educators and are critical to children’s positive development. Ideally, families would have the opportunity to choose the work–family balance that best fits their needs and wishes, and a stronger economy would give more families the opportunity to do so.

— Lindsey M. Burke is the Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy and Rachel Sheffield is a policy analyst in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation.

Thought for the Day -- Melton Friedman

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”  --  Melton Friedman

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thought for the Day


New Regulations Reinforce Common Core

Once again President Obama and his Department of Education are about to further endanger the education of our children through their hidden Common Core initiatives and rules promulgation.   The following commentary by Donna Garner is a pretty good synopsis of this:
 
“Obama Launching Control over Higher Ed”
by Donna Garner
11.26.14
 
"Now that the Obama administration through its carrot-and-stick Race to the Top/Common Core Standards Initiative (CCSI) has gained control over Pre-K through Grade 12 in our nation’s schools, the Administration is launching further federal control over teachers’ colleges.
 
The words “Common Core Standards Initiative” are never mentioned in the 11.25.14 proposed rules issues by the U. S. Department of Education (as shown in the article from EdWeek posted below), but the tentacles of Common Core are definitely there. 
 
Under the new rules, teachers’ colleges would be ranked based upon how well their teacher graduates do in raising their students’ scores on the Common Core assessments.
 
Those teachers’ colleges whose graduates do not fall in line with Common Core would lose their federal funding for TEACH grants.  
 
TEACH grants provide “$4,000 a year to support the preparation of teachers in high-need subjects who commit to four years of teaching in low-income schools. About $100 million annually is available under the program.” 
 
Higher ed institutions that are not rated as “effective” two out of three previous years would lose their TEACH grants.
 
A report card grade issued by the USDOE would have to be posted “prominently and promptly” on each higher-education institution’s website.  No college/university wants to post a “bad grade” on its website!
 
The phase-in plan for this new USDOE takeover of our nation’s colleges and universities would begin in 2015-2016.
 
Heretofore, states have been in control of evaluating their teachers’ colleges; but if these USDOE proposed rules are put in place, states would cede that control over to the federal government. 
 
Instead of teachers’ colleges being evaluated on solid evidence of having taught students a solid knowledge-based foundation, they would be evaluated on a workforce development accountability plan set up by the federal government based upon Common Core Standards. 
 
Common Core Standards, curriculum, and assessments emphasize the social justice agenda and are highly subjective.  
 
No research anywhere indicates that Common Core Standards will raise students’ fact-based, academic achievement; but there is much evidence to indicate that Common Core indoctrinates students’ minds and weakens their foundation of core knowledge.
 
Please read: 11.26.14 – “U. S. Sect. of Ed. Ignores Thousands Gathered in CA To Oppose Common Core” -- by Dr. Susan Berry – Breitbart -- http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-Texas/2014/11/26/US-Secretary-of-Education-Ignores-Thousands-Gathered-to-Oppose-Common-Core
 
My advice to the public would be to reach out to the U. S. House members. After all, the House holds the power of the purse.  They have the power to cut funding to the USDOE for particular initiatives. 
 
The U. S. House refused to cut funding for Race to the Top and for the Common Core Standards Initiative, probably because they were coalesced by the power of Bill Gates’s money and by prominent Republicans who are making money out of Common Core (etc., Jeb Bush).
 
Hopefully with the addition of many new House and Senate members sent there by highly enraged grassroots citizens whose children and grandchildren are being harmed by Common Core, Congress will do its job and protect our K-16 schools from any further intrusion by the Obama administration.  
 
Donna Garner"

Cartoon of the Day


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Obama Rewrites the Bible

It appears that the president's knowledge of the Bible is about as strong as his knowledge of the number of states (57).    Yes, in his latest effort to quote scripture he once again made up an inaccuracy which of course only we 'conservatives' Bible-thumpers will catch.   Certainly, the mainstream media has no desire to hold him accountable.

This from our friends at The Patriot Post:

Barack Obama, Biblical Scholar

"Speaking on the subject of immigration, Barack Obama once again turned to his translation of the Bible for inspiration. He last abused God's Word by paraphrasing Exodus in his speech announcing his amnesty executive action. This time, he quoted a verse that doesn't exist: "The good book says don't throw stones in glass houses, or make sure we're looking at the log in our eye before we are pointing out the moat in other folks' eyes." Unfortunately, the Bible never says anything about glass houses, and he's also a bit muddled with logs and moats. Undeterred, Obama continued the Sunday school lesson, saying, "If we're serious about the Christmas season, now is the time to reflect on those who are strangers in our midst and remember what it was like to be a stranger." If he's referring to Mary and Joseph as strangers in Bethlehem, well, that was Joseph's ancestral home -- which might not be the best analogy to today's illegal immigration."

Thought for the Day


Sabato's 2016 Senate Thoughts

Gosh, we just finished one election and now we're thinking about 2016?   Yes.   With that acknowledgement we thought we'd share with you our friend Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball analysis of what might happen in the United States Senate come the 2016 election.   Actually, given the fact that Republicans have to defend 24 seats verses the Democrats' defense of only 10, things don't look quite as bad as one might think barring a 2016 presidential landslide for a Democrat.    With that said, we wanted to share Sabato's take which actually makes our somewhat pessimistic team a little bit more optimistic.

GOP’s map daunting, but Democrats recently thrived despite starting in similar spot
By Kyle Kondik
Managing Editor, Sabato's Crystal Ball

"After playing offense in 2014 and netting nine Senate seats to set up a 54-46 majority in the
 114th Congress, Republicans will mostly be playing defense in 2016. That probably
means the GOP will end up losing seats, but recent history suggests that we should
not be certain about that.

Heading into the 2016 Senate cycle, Republicans find themselves in a position similar
 to the Democrats going into 2012, with a Senate map dotted with vulnerabilities created
 by victories won six and 12 years prior.

In 2012, many observers, including us, thought the Republicans were primed to net at
least a few Senate seats in large part because the Democrats were defending 23 Senate
seats to just 10 for the Republicans. That Democratic exposure was created by the party’s
solid wins in 2006, when they netted six Senate seats, and 2000, when they netted four
seats. Two straight big elections on the same Senate map suggested the Democrats were
in line for losses.

Republicans find themselves in almost the same position Democrats did four years ago,
when the 2012 election cycle was taking shape. The GOP is defending 24 seats, while
the Democrats only need to protect 10. The 2016 map is also the product of not just one
previous big Republican victory, but two. In 2010, the last time this Senate class was
contested, Republicans netted six seats. And six years before that, in 2004, Republicans
netted four seats.

Map 1, the current occupants of the 34 Senate seats that make up 2016’s Senate Class
Three, shows the obvious Republican challenge.

Map 1: 2016’s contested Senate seats


All 10 current Democratic seats are in states that President Obama won in 2012
by at least five points, and only two of those states -- Colorado and Nevada -- are
swing states in a competitive presidential election.

Meanwhile, of the 24 states the Republicans are defending, Obama won seven in
2012: Florida, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Additionally, Republicans are defending North Carolina, which Obama won in 2008
and only lost by two points in 2012.

This somewhat mirrors 2012, too. Going into that election, Democrats were defending
five seats in states that Mitt Romney would eventually win, convincingly, in that year’s
presidential election: Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and West Virginia,
and they also had to protect incumbents in swing states like Florida, Ohio, and
Pennsylvania, as well as what became open seats in New Mexico, Virginia, and
Wisconsin. Republicans, meanwhile, were defending just three seats in Obama states,
Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada.

That election ended up working out for the Democrats. Despite their overextended
defenses, Democrats eventually ended up netting two seats to win 25 of the 33 seats
on the map in 2012. A combination of Obama’s reelection victory, strong Democratic
performances, weak challengers, bad primary results, retirements, and other factors c
onspired to sink Republicans that year.

Might something similar happen in 2016, to the Democrats’ detriment? Sure. But at
this early point in the campaign, there’s not much evidence to suggest it will -- which
of course is the same thing we would have said at the start of the 2012 cycle.

With that, take a look at Map 2, the initial Crystal Ball Senate ratings for 2016.

Map 2: 2016 Crystal Ball Senate ratings

Democratic defense

Let’s start with the Democratic seats, because there’s far less to say about them.
None of these seats start as Toss-ups, although there’s a big caveat in one.

The most vulnerable Democratic senator going into 2016 is the party’s leader in the
Senate, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. The unpopular Reid had a very difficult campaign
in 2010, but he survived thanks to his hapless, foot-in-mouth opponent, Sharron
Angle (R), and a tremendous ground operation. Assuming Reid runs again --
indications are that he will but he could change his mind -- we’re going to give him
 the benefit of the doubt and start the race as Leans Democratic. However, that will
shift if Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) decides to run. Sandoval is so formidable and
popular that his entry into the race would make Reid an underdog. We would move
the rating to Leans Republican.

As it stands now, Sandoval seems somewhat unlikely to run, according to Nevada
political expert Jon Ralston. The state’s two current GOP House members, Reps. Joe
Heck and Mark Amodei, have said they are not running. Nevada now has a newly
stocked Republican bench thanks to a statewide sweep this November, but there’s
not an obviously great alternative behind Sandoval.

The other vulnerable Democrat is Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, and his race
starts as Leans Democratic. Sen.-elect Cory Gardner (R) just won an impressive victory
in the state’s other Senate seat versus outgoing Sen. Mark Udall (D), but despite running
what was probably the best Senate campaign in the country, Gardner got less than 50%
and won by just two points. There’s not a candidate as widely regarded as Gardner
waiting in the wings to challenge Bennet. A GOP presidential win in the Centennial
State is probably a prerequisite for a Senate win, and even then that might not be enough.

That could be it as far as plausible Republican Senate targets. There are eight other
Democratic Senate seats on this map: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland,
New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Obama won all these states by at least
12 points in 2012, and so long as the next presidential race is close, they should all
remain Democratic strongholds. With the right candidates, or retirements, maybe
Oregon, Washington, or one of these other states becomes competitive. But for now
all eight of these seats are Safe Democratic.

Republican defense

The most obvious Democratic Senate targets are three first-term Republicans elected
from states that have all voted Democratic in at least the past six presidential elections:
Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Ron Johnson of
Wisconsin. These races start as Toss-ups.

Johnson might start as the most vulnerable, especially if former Sen. Russ Feingold (D),
whom Johnson beat in 2010, decides on a rematch. The incumbent has done little to
moderate his image in the Badger State, which despite Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI)
three victories in the past four years (two generals and one recall) is still at least a
slightly Democratic-leaning state in presidential years. Johnson also has not raised
much money, but he is wealthy and has the ability to self-fund.

Kirk’s profile is a better fit for Illinois, but the state is still clearly the most Democratic-
leaning in the Midwest. In an age of polarized, straight-ticket voting, Kirk might be this
cycle’s Mark Begich, the recently ousted Alaska Democrat who ran a strong race focused
on local issues but was unable to overcome his state’s inherent partisanship. There is a
long line of potential Democratic contenders for Kirk’s seat, including Attorney General
Lisa Madigan and some members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Toomey, a former president of the conservative Club for Growth and a one-time primary
challenger to the late moderate Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, is an
odd fit for the Democratic-leaning Keystone State. However, Toomey has tried to stick
to the center on some issues, such as gun control, realizing that he would be a one-termer
if he is perceived as a very conservative senator. Like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania could
also feature another rematch, as former Rep. Joe Sestak (D) appears intent on running.
The state’s Democratic establishment, perhaps still smarting from Sestak’s successful
primary challenge against the party-switching Specter in 2010, appears to prefer a
candidate named “someone else,” but it’s not clear that they have a better alternative.

None of these three Republicans is a certain loser, but all are highly vulnerable
to start.

The next best Democratic targets are four Republicans who reside in states that are likely
to be key pieces of the Electoral College map in 2016: Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida,
Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Rob Portman
of Ohio.

Rubio is a possible presidential candidate, so perhaps he will not run for reelection. It’s
also not impossible to imagine him passing on both a presidential run and a reelection
bid. If Rubio runs again for the Senate, he might merit a better rating than just Leans
Republican, and if the seat is open, Republicans have a very deep statewide bench.
Democrats, on the other hand, don’t have a long list of potential challengers, although
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D, FL-18) has won rave reviews for his performance on the
campaign trail, though he’s just 31 and will only be starting his second term.

Burr is not particularly well known even as he approaches the end of his second term,
and he is not sitting on a giant war chest (he has less than $1 million cash on hand,
generally much less than other vulnerable senators who have upcoming races). Burr
says he is running again, and he has always put together competent campaigns and
outperformed the early polls on Election Day. His top potential challenger might be
outgoing Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), who just narrowly lost to Sen.-elect Thom
Tillis (R) in November.

The victory by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in the Granite State last month in a rotten
environment might be an indication that this state, so famous for its political gyrations,
might slowly be becoming more like the rest of the Northeast, which is very Democratic.
So perhaps Ayotte, who has had a relatively high profile in her first term, might still be
in more trouble than one would otherwise think, particularly if Gov. Maggie
Hassan (D-NH) decides to challenge her. New Hampshire elects its governor every
two years, so Hassan might figure that if she’s going to have to run anyway in 2016,
she might as well try to move to Washington. Hassan appears to have the right of first
refusal, but if she passes, there are many other Democrats who might be interested in
a challenge to Ayotte.

In Ohio, the ultimate presidential swing state, the Democrats just suffered a statewide
wipeout for the fifth time in six elections: In 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010, and again last
month, the Republicans won all five state elected executive offices (governor, attorney
general, auditor, secretary of state, and treasurer). A generation of losing has left
Democrats with a very thin bench from which to field a credible candidate against
Portman, who recently announced he was running for reelection instead of mounting
a long-shot presidential bid. The top Democratic possibility appears to be former
Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who was elected in the lone Democratic state election in
the last two decades (2006). However, Portman would have a lot of ammo against
Strickland given that he was governor during the 2008 national economic collapse,
and the incumbent could simply repackage the attack ads focusing on job losses Gov.
John Kasich (R) ran against Strickland in 2010. That’s one key reason why Strickland
ultimately decided against a rematch with Kasich in 2014 even though the opportunity
was his if he wanted it. Another Democratic possibility is outgoing Columbus Mayor
Michael Coleman, who is well-liked in the state’s biggest city but unknown beyond
it. Rep. Tim Ryan (D) is often mentioned as a statewide contender, but we’ll believe
he’s running when he actually announces, and not a second before. Portman,
meanwhile, is popular amongst the state’s elites and in Washington Republican circles,
but he is not a universally-known political force like the two prior occupants of this
seat, former Sens. George Voinovich (R) and John Glenn (D). If the Democratic
presidential nominee carries Ohio, it's not impossible to imagine that coattails could
carry even a mediocre Democratic challenger over the finish line in an upset, but
Portman starts as the clear favorite in both the primary (where he may face a more
conservative opponent because of his support for gay marriage) and the general
election.

Four other seats, all rated as Likely Republican, merit quick mentions.

If he’s on the November ballot, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will cruise, but maybe he
retires or loses a primary. Missouri is often competitive even though it is trending away
from being a presidential swing state, but Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) looks well-positioned
in both a primary and a general election. After winning as write-in following her 2010
primary defeat, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) needs to decide whether she will run in
the GOP primary this time or just give it another go as an independent. Finally, Sen.
Dan Coats (R-IN) probably can have another term if he wants it, assuming he doesn’t
face trouble from a GOP primary electorate that threw out long-time Sen. Richard
Lugar (R) in 2012, a decision that allowed Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) to grab the seat.

The common thread: If all four of these senators are on the November ballot, it’s
hard to see any of them losing reelection.

One more Likely Republican seat is Louisiana, which may become open if Sen. David
Vitter (R-LA) is elected governor next fall. If that happened, Vitter would appoint his
own replacement, who would then have to run for a full term in 2016. There’s a lot of
uncertainty but presumably the Republicans would be well-positioned to win in a
presidential year no matter who the nominee is.

Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) both start as safe assuming
they don’t change their minds about their announced intentions to run for another term.
So does the Senate seat in Kentucky, no matter what happens with Sen. Rand Paul
(R-KY) and his likely attempt to run for both reelection to the Senate and president
despite the apparent inability to do so under state law.

The remaining Republican seats up this year also start as safe: Alabama, Arkansas,
Idaho, Kansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.
We’ll save a look at potential primaries in these or other seats for another time.

Conclusion

Republicans really helped themselves by running up the score last month in the Senate.
The importance of netting nine seats in 2014 as opposed to, say, seven or eight, is clear
when one looks at the 2016 contests. If the Republicans were at only a 52-48 edge -- a
net gain of seven -- then Democrats could get to a 51-49 majority in 2016 just by holding
all of their own seats and winning the three Toss-ups, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and
Wisconsin. The chances of that combination happening wouldn’t be 50-50, but they
would be fairly close to even, and control of the Senate would be very much up in the
air to start.

But because the Democrats need to net four or five seats to take control, depending
on the party of the next vice president, the Democrats’ opening odds to win the
majority are significantly less than 50-50. In order to capture the Senate, Democrats
will have to put some currently leaning or likely Republican seats in play, along with
winning their own seats and the three GOP-held Toss-ups. That’s certainly possible,
but the GOP starts with a clear edge as the cycle begins. However, our opening
assessment is that Democrats are well-positioned to end the cycle with more seats than
they will hold starting in January (46, including the two independents who caucus with
the Democrats).

Of course, history -- very recent history -- raises questions about even that modest
opening evaluation."