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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cruising the Web

Gosh, the evil of ISIS knows no bounds.

What a surprise. Businesses aren't paying the Obamacare tax on medical devices. Since so much of the law's requirements have been suspended, these companies must figure that they don't need to pay this tax. And it's a good guess that the tax will eventually be repealed so the government won't be jumping too ugly with them.

Bernard Goldberg writes about the news that is getting ignored while people march, mourn, loot, and posture in Ferguson.
I don’t know what happened in Ferguson, Mo., between the cop and the kid. And neither do you. When I covered hard news, I saw cops who crossed the line and I saw kids who started trouble. So let’s not jump to conclusions.

But what do you think the reaction in Ferguson would have been if the kid who got shot had been black and so was the cop? Or if the kid was white and the cop was black — or white? Do you think there would have been demonstrations and riots and an onslaught of national media?

In a column I recently wrote about the trouble in Gaza, I quoted Victor Davis Hanson (from a piece on NRO) on how the sophisticates in Europe and America wail when Israelis kill Arabs who wage war on them, but are silent when Arabs kill Arabs: “Apparently the West, in racist fashion, assumes that killing one another is what Arabs do best. But when Israelis kill those who wish to kill them, outrage follows.”

It’s pretty much the same when blacks kill blacks, isn’t it? It happens all the time in big cities such as Chicago. No one riots when a black kid kills a black kid. National news organizations don’t show up to do live shots day and night. It’s as if we’re saying: “Blacks killing one another is what blacks do best.” How’s that for racism? Not the old-fashioned KKK kind. No, this is elite-liberal racism, the supposedly softer variety....

Members of the African-American elite, along with many white liberals, have said we don’t put enough value on the lives of young black men. They certainly don’t. Or they would have a lot more to say when a black kid gets shot in the street — by another kid who is black.
This is so true. And so sad.

Even Harry Reid is fed up with President Obama's disengagement. The NYT reports on how many Democrats on the Hill are increasingly irritated with the President. Well, don't count on any major rebellion for any of his policy priorities or nominations. They'll suit up and get in line when it comes to voting. But it is striking how many Democrats were willing to speak both on and off the record.

Fred Siegel details how many of the journalists talking about Ferguson are stuck in the past. No one really knows what went on between Michael Brown and the policeman, but the media are egging on the controversy and doing anything to keep the story going.

Tom Steyer has figured out why so many Americans don't buy into his alarmist views on global warming. It's because 99.5% of the population is not "super-sophisticated."
Adam O'Neal at RCP gives the rundown of which Senate races this year will have immigration as a central issue.

Michael Barone notices how Hillary Clinton is not out campaigning for Democrats this election year. He compares

The trouble with tenure: Everything.

Here's a statistic that is rather eye-opening: "Half of all school employees are not teachers and there has been a 130% increase since 1970"

Check out the 14 craziest McDonald's locations around the world.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cruising the Web

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
When President Obama announced in June that he planned to bypass congressional gridlock and overhaul the nation’s immigration system on his own, he did so in a most public way: a speech in the White House Rose Garden.

Since then, the process of drafting what will likely be the only significant immigration changes of his presidency — and his most consequential use of executive power — has been conducted almost entirely behind closed doors, where lobbyists and interest groups invited to the White House are making their case out of public view.

Mr. Obama’s increasingly expansive appetite for the use of unilateral action on issues including immigration, tax policy and gay rights has emboldened activists and businesses to flock to the administration with their policy wish lists. It also has opened the president, already facing charges of executive overreach, to criticism that he is presiding over opaque policy-making, with the potential to reward political backers at the expense of other interests, including some on the losing side who are threatening to sue.
Great And, as Politico writes, he is supposedly crafting his proposed executive orders to make some big businesses happy.
Obama was initially expected to focus only on slowing deportations of potentially millions of undocumented immigrants and altering federal enforcement policies. Now top aides are talking with leaders in big companies like Cisco, Intel and Accenture, hoping to add more changes that would get them on board.

Representatives for high-tech, agriculture and construction interests have put forward a range of fixes, from recapturing unused green cards to tweaking existing work authorization programs.
The combination of a president looking to exercise his imperial presidential muscles meeting in private with activists and lobbyists should make anyone who cares about our American system very uncomfortable.

Kyle Kondik ponders why incumbents keep getting reelected even if the public isn't all that fond of them and tell polls that they'd like to throw all the bums, including their own, out.

Michael Lind, no conservative, tells his liberal readers at Salon why the indictment of Rick Perry will backfire on Democrats. He thinks that Perry would have been the dream candidate for Democrats to run against in 2016 and, if this indictment harms his chances of gaining the nomination, the election will be that much more difficult for conservatives. And then he points out this irony for how liberals are going to tie themselves into knots.
It gets worse, from the perspective of Machiavellian Democrats (assuming such creatures exist). Stymied by Republican obstruction in Congress, President Obama is trying to use executive action to push through reforms in areas from immigration to the environment. For the most part, progressives have mounted a strong defense of broad executive prerogatives. It may be harder for progressives to argue that inherent executive authority is broad when exerted by a Democratic president to defer action against undocumented immigrants but narrow when used by a Republican governor in a line item veto to cut state funding for the Travis County DA’s office.
And the Democrats will have to be defending a woman who was arrested with three times the legal alcohol level and an open bottle of vodka in the car. But that's what they're going to have to do now because a partisan prosecutor went for, what Mark Pulliam rightly calls a "textbook malicious prosecution."

I was just telling my class that one way to tell who was interested in running for the presidency in 2016 was to see who was showing up in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2014. And sure enough, Hillary and Bill are heading there.

Oops. So this is what solar energy has wrought.
Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one "streamer" every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator's application to build a still-bigger version.

The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group....

The bird kills mark the latest instance in which the quest for clean energy sometimes has inadvertent environmental harm. Solar farms have been criticized for their impacts on desert tortoises, and wind farms have killed birds, including numerous raptors....

More than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect solar rays onto three boiler towers each looming up to 40 stories high. The water inside is heated to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes.

Sun rays sent up by the field of mirrors are bright enough to dazzle pilots flying in and out of Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Federal wildlife officials said Ivanpah might act as a "mega-trap" for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays.

Federal and state biologists call the number of deaths significant, based on sightings of birds getting singed and falling, and on retrieval of carcasses with feathers charred too severely for flight.
So are environmentalists going to come out against solar power?

Kevin Williamson takes on Jesse Jackson who is out decrying a supposed national crisis of "urban abandonment and repression."
A question for the Reverend Jackson: Who has been running the show in Newark, in Chicago, in Detroit, and in Los Angeles for a great long while now? The answer is: People who see the world in much the same way as does the Reverend Jackson, who take the same view of government, who support the same policies, and who suffer from the same biases.

This is not intended to be a cheap partisan shot. The Democratic party institutionally certainly has its defects, the chronicle of which could fill several unreadable volumes, but the more important and more fundamental question here is one of philosophy and policy. Newark, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles — and Philadelphia, Cleveland, and a dozen or more other cities — have a great deal in common: They are the places in which the progressive vision of government has reached its fullest expressions. They are the hopeless reality that results from wishful thinking....

For years, our major cities were undermined by a confluence of four unhappy factors: 1. higher taxes; 2. defective schools; 3. crime; 4. declining economic opportunity. Together, these weighed much more heavily upon the middle class than upon the very wealthy and the very poor. In the case of Philadelphia, the five counties in the metropolitan area have had a mostly stable population, but the city itself lost more than a quarter of its population between 1950 and 2000 as some 550,000 people fled to the suburbs or beyond. How many people matters, but which people matters, too: They were the ones with the means and the strongest incentive to relocate. Over the same period of time, Chicago lost a fifth of its population, Baltimore nearly a third. Philadelphia is one of the few U.S. cities to impose a municipal income tax (one of the taxes Mayor Rizzo raised), creating very strong incentives to move across the line into Delaware County or Bucks County. This is sometimes known as “white flight,” but that is a misnomer: In Detroit, the white middle class got out as quickly as it could — and the black middle class was hot on its heels. Upwardly mobile people and those who expect to be — i.e., those with an investment in the future — care a great deal about schools, economic opportunity, and safety. And they know where the city limits are.

Progressives spent a generation imposing taxes and other expenses on urban populations as though the taxpaying middle class would not relocate. They protected the defective cartel system of public education, and the union money and votes associated with it, as though middle-class parents would not move to places that had better schools. They imposed burdens on businesses, in exchange for more union money and votes, as though businesses would not shift production elsewhere. They imposed policies that disincentivized stable family arrangements as though doing so would have no social cost.

Mitch Daniels was always one of my very favorite politicians. I had been hoping that he would run in 2012 and, as things turned out, he would have been a much more appealing candidate than Mitt Romney. But he's probably too sane to want to run for president and he became president of Purdue University and he's taking his approach to cutting spending waste to the university. Mary Katharine Ham links to stories of how he's cutting expenses in ways big and small so that he can freeze tuition for the first time in 36 years and lower dining hall prices for students. And he's put together a neat deal with Amazon to lower text book costs. He's also put together a three-year BA degree which can save students almost $10,000. He's so impressive simply because he takes a common-sense approach to spending and does what he sets out to do. He did the same when he was governor of Indiana and now as head of Purdue. It's rather sad that someone who can take a rational ax to spending is a rare breed indeed.

One place to cut spending at most universities is the money going to student government. This story by Mark Hemingway about how much money that student governments have at their command was so eye-opening. Who knew that, at many universities, students have control of a budget of tens of millions of dollars. It's a long report, but it was worth it to get a glimpse into how these slush funds are being used to fund all sorts of student groups and leftists interest groups and lobbyists.

This is interesting - check out how much a $100 is worth in each state.

When Shakespeare wrote "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" in Henry VI, Part 2, he was not using the line as a dig against lawyers. Apparently, he meant just the opposite, contrary to what all lawyer-haters today would like to believe.
The line comes from Shakespeare's "Henry VI, Part 2" and is spoken by Dick the Butcher, the dopey henchman of rebel leader Jack Cade.

According to the attorneys' interpretation—one supported by many but not all English scholars—Shakespeare's point is to portray lawyers as the guardians of the rule of law who stand in the way of a fanatical mob.

The lawyers may have a good argument, but more than four centuries after the play made its debut, Dick the Butcher's words still haunt the legal profession, enduring as shorthand for frustration with excessive fees, frivolous lawsuits and ambulance chasing. It is plastered on mugs, T-shirts and posters and has popped up in everything from an Eagles song to Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom" cable drama. There are jokes about it going back at least to the 1800s.

"Things with that quote on it always do well," said Matthew Frederick, who manages the Folger Shakespeare Library gift shop in Washington, D.C., which offers a blue T-shirt featuring the line for $19.95. "People are amused with the idea of bashing lawyers." But he adds: "A lot of those people don't really understand the context of it."

....Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens once chimed in with, literally, his own opinion. "As a careful reading of that text will reveal, Shakespeare insightfully realized that disposing of lawyers is a step in the direction of a totalitarian form of government," he wrote in a footnote to a dissenting opinion from a 1985 case.

Most frustrating for the punctilious practitioners is when they hear their own peers quote Dick the Butcher.

"It's revealing that lawyers are so quick to accept the misconception," said Alex Dimitrief, senior vice president and general counsel for GE Capital, who sought to edify readers about Shakespeare's intentions in a recent co-written essay on the topic of hourly billing.

"The misuse of the quote is more revealing than the quote itself. Law is such an unhappy profession."

Mallon A. Snyder, a trial lawyer from suburban Maryland who has served as president of the Bar Association of Montgomery County, said Shakespeare would have gotten a kick out of how there is "so much turmoil over a quote that was supposed to be thought-provoking."
I just thought that was interesting since I haven't read the play and always interpreted the line as a hit against lawyers. When I was growing up, my parents had one room with wallpaper that was made up of quotes from Shakespeare I used to love reading those quotes and one of the ones that really amused me was this one from Henry VI. I'm glad to find out what it really meant.

Cruising the Web

This is no surprise. The only surprise is that it has become public.
A Hamas official inadvertently acknowledged on Thursday that the group had strong-armed journalists in Gaza into a reporting style that suited its narrative, keeping many under surveillance and kicking out of the territory those who sought to film the launching of rockets at Israel.

In an interview with Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV on Thursday, relayed and translated Friday by the Middle East Media Research Institute, the head of foreign relations in Hamas’s Information Ministry, Isra Al-Mudallal, complained that “the coverage by foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip was insignificant compared to their coverage within the Israeli occupation (Israel).”

“Moreover,” she said, “the journalists who entered Gaza were fixated on the notion of peace and on the Israeli narrative.” She asserted that the foreign press was focused “on filming the places from where missiles were launched. Thus, they were collaborating with the occupation.” (The Israeli army said last week that 600 of the 3,300 rockets fired into Israel over recent weeks were launched from residential areas, including schools, mosques and homes.)

“These journalists were deported from the Gaza Strip,” al-Mudallal said. “The security agencies would go and have a chat with these people. They would give them some time to change their message, one way or another.

“We suffered from this problem very much,” she added. “Some of the journalists who entered the Gaza Strip were under security surveillance. Even under these difficult circumstances, we managed to reach them, and tell them that what they were doing was anything but professional journalism and that it was immoral.”

On Monday, the Foreign Press Association, an umbrella group representing foreign journalists working in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, issued a strongly worded condemnation of Hamas’s intimidation tactics and its interference with their reporting in Gaza.
If the journalists were honest, they would now go public about the intimidation and manipulation from Hamas to color their coverage.

But then, why shouldn't they follow the model of this White House when it comes to stabbing Israel in the back?
What kind of ally refuses to send you desperately needed weapons when you’re smack in the middle of a war?

Apparently, that’s what the Obama folks did with Israel, which is caught up fighting with Hamas. It’s unforgivable.

The decision came, it seems, after White House officials learned that, unbeknownst to them, Israel had gotten mortar shells and grenade-illuminating rounds from the Pentagon to use against Hamas, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Officials say they were “blind-sided” by the transfer. But it turns out that it was done as a matter of routine: No OK by the president or secretary of state was needed.

Still, the White House suddenly put all future transfers on hold, including a scheduled shipment of Hellfire missiles. And it ordered the Pentagon to consult with the executive branch and State Department before approving any future requests.
Obama folks downplayed the move and claims of a new tiff with Israel. They say reports that they held up missile shipments “does not indicate any change in policy.”

If true, though, what kind of a policy is it?
I guess they're angry that Israel won't keep to a cease fire that Hamas keeps breaking.

Hillary's demands don't augur well for transparency in a Hillary presidency. Laura Myers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has obtained a copy of the contract that the former Secretary of State has with UNLV for an October 13 speech there for a fundraiser.
“It is agreed that Speaker will be the only person on the stage during her remarks,” according to the May 13 contract the Harry Walker Agency signed for Clinton’s keynote address at the Bellagio.

According to her standard speaking contract, Clinton will remain at the event no longer than 90 minutes; will pose for no more than 50 photos with no more than 100 people; and won’t allow any press coverage or video- or audio-taping of her speech.

The only record allowed will be made by a stenographer whose transcription will be given only to Clinton. The stenographer’s $1,250 bill, however, will go to the UNLV Foundation.

The foundation, meanwhile, is prohibited from advertising the event on radio, TV or billboards. Mail and website ads are allowed, although Clinton staffers must approve in writing any promotional material. One unhappy UNLV Foundation official in an email complained of “meddling” after Clinton’s agency edited a description of the annual dinner to “dumb it down.”

And Clinton’s demand for approval of all website material before it hits the Internet prompted a UNLV Web designer to grouse in an email that it seems “assbackwards in my mind.”

The foundation complied with Clinton’s wishes, however.
Given the gaffes that have occurred during her PR blitz for her book, one can understand why she would want such strict control. But this is not an expression of confidence, but one of weakness.

Though UNLV did get to argue Hillary down from her normal price of $300,000 which includes the cost of the private jet to get her there.
Presumably, Clinton will have to pay for her own jet to Las Vegas, presidential suite and other costs she normally charges to events, unless some private donor picks up the tab.
Think of this. She's appearing at a fundraiser for a public university and demanding $225,000 as her fee. Clearly, she cares more about her bottom line than any charity.

Hunter Walker, writing an analyst at Business Insider has glommed onto the simple reason why Hillary Clinton has done so poorly
on her book tour: "Clinton just isn't good at campaigning." People want to excuse her by saying that she's just rusty. But she's never been all that talented, especially when she faces any pushback or competition.
MSNBC producer John Flowers hinted at the possibility of this 2008 déjà vu in June when he tweeted about coverage of Hillary's wealth gaffes. Flowers referenced the movie "Memento," in which the protagonist suffered from amnesia, to express his surprise that people were shocked to see Clinton struggle on the campaign trail.

"Why do people go 'Memento' on the fact that Hillary is a terrible, miserable, never-once-very-good campaigner?" asked Flowers.

The indictment of Rick Perry for abuse of power is a dangerous step in the use of legal action for partisan purposes. Even liberals are casting doubt on the legitimacy of the action. Paul Mirengoff reminds of the Democrats' pattern of using "lawfare" against rising Republicans. Jonathan Chait, no apologist for Republicans, explains why the "this indictment of Rick Perry is unbelievably ridiculous."
They say a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and this always seemed like hyperbole, until Friday night a Texas grand jury announced an indictment of governor Rick Perry. The “crime” for which Perry faces a sentence of 5 to 99 years in prison is vetoing funding for a state agency. The conventions of reporting — which treat the fact of an indictment as the primary news, and its merit as a secondary analytic question — make it difficult for people reading the news to grasp just how farfetched this indictment is.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg — a Democrat who oversees the state’s Public Corruption unit — was arrested for driving very, very drunk. What followed was a relatively ordinary political dispute. Perry, not unreasonably, urged Lehmberg to resign. Democrats, not unreasonably, resisted out of fear that Perry would replace her with a Republican. Perry, not unreasonably, announced and carried out a threat to veto funding for her agency until Lehmberg resigned.
Eugene Volokh here and here) and Patterico take a legal look at the indictment and the statutes involved and totally dismantle the use of the law to go after Rick Perry in this instance. Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog decries the "criminalization of politics."

And it's been a pattern in Texas as Democratic DAs went after Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Tom DeLay. The case against Hutchison collapsed on the first day of trial and the conviction of DeLay was eventually overturned. The Texas organization accusing Perry of cronyism is a leftist group that has previously gone after George W. Bush and John Cornyn. There seems to be a pattern here.

This doesn't mean that politicians should be immune from the legal consequences of illegal acts and political corruption. It just means that the political use of indictments in the hands of a partisan prosecutor are extremely dangerous to our system of both politics and law. For example, this story that Nancy Pelosi steered more than a billion dollars to a light rail project in which her husband is a major investor sounds fishy enough to merit legal investigation. But the case in Austin against Perry is a joke.

In my AP Government and Politics class on Friday, we'd discussed possible 2016 candidates and one of the students posted on our class page a link to the story about his indictment on Friday night and asked my opinion of what this did to his presidential hopes. My reply was that I hadn't thought much of his chances to begin with. But, even if these charges are dismissed, the story will remain and soon all people will remember is that Rick Perry had abused power. We saw an example of that in class when we talked about Chris Christie and I asked students what they knew about Christie. In each class there was at least one who knew that he was involved in a scandal involving a bridge. When I asked the students to summarize the scandal for the class, in each of my three classes, the student used almost the same language - that Chris Christie had closed down a bridge for political reasons. They knew the outline of the story, but never learned or remembered the details that it was one of Christie's aides who took that action and that, so far, there has not been any evidence that Christie knew about it or was involved in the closing. (Though hearing that NJ taxpayers are paying the governor's $6.5 million legal bill won't endear him to voters even if he's found totally innocent.)That's the problem with scandals. All that people remember are the broad outlines and they don't pay attention to the details. So, for example, when my students talk about the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which for this year's students happened before they were born, all they seem to know is that he was impeached for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. The fact that he was impeached for obstruction of justice and perjury that he later admitted to is a detail that never penetrated to them. That's why this indictment is so dangerous to Rick Perry's future political hopes. Even if Republicans all believe that he is completely innocent and the charges get thrown out, there will still be a taint attached to his name that Republican voters may well fear would come back to harm him if her were to win the nomination. And after two defeats and facing the Clinton juggernaut, Republican primary voters are going to be especially risk averse.

John Hinderaker goes through the latest smear of the Koch brothers by David Brock's group, American Bridge, and totally eviscerates their claims.

Michael Goodwin wonders when American Jews will be fed up with Obama's attitude towards Israel and Netanyahu.
But Obama’s lack of worry about Israel isn’t limited to his rhetoric, as The Wall Street Journal revealed. The president’s pique at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached a new high during the Hamas conflict, and Obama is now putting a squeeze on military shipments to Israel.

The State Department insists this is routine, nothing to see here, blah, blah, blah. Nonsense.

Even a “review” of American policy is a warning to Netanyahu and an invitation to his political opponents at home that their nation is at odds with its essential ally.

Some American supporters of ­Israel, including Democrats, are furious at Obama. And Israeli media report opposition pols there are blaming Netanyahu for “losing” America.

It is obvious Obama wants a liberal lapdog in Israel, a point underscored by his complaint to the Times’ Tom Friedman that Netanyahu’s poll numbers are very high. “Bibi is too strong,” Obama insisted, saying it insulated him from having to make the decisions Obama wants him to make.

In other words, the Israeli public is also wrong for supporting Netanyahu, and Obama knows what’s best for them. He said that to “preserve a Jewish state that is also reflective of the best values” of its founders, ­Israelis must “find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians . . . You have to recognize that they have legitimate claims and this is their land and neighborhood, as well.”
As a platitude, that could be harmless. But remember the context. In that statement, made during a war that Hamas started, Obama made Hamas a synonym for all ­Palestinians.

It’s not, unless he believes all ­Palestinians, including the relative moderates who govern the West Bank, share the Hamas goal of eliminating Israel.
He’s also undermining the long-standing policy of supporting moderate, peaceful Palestinians with the goal of freezing out the terrorists.

To say, as Obama does, that Israel must recognize that Hamas has “legitimate claims” is to reward it for starting the war. It transfers legitimacy and power from Palestinian moderates to the terrorists.

As one Israeli paper put it, “US livid with Israel? Hamas can’t ­believe its luck.”

So, is this the moment when American Jews realize the Democratic Party has left them?
Short answer: no. Liberal Jews don't vote based on Israel but on the basis of domestic policies. And many of them don't really like Israel all that much either.

Paul Sperry details the sorry history of Obama administration officials deliberately exacerbating racial relations.
Less known, however, is the role of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who’s made incendiary — and shamefully disingenuous — statements about race relations in America.

Last month, for instance, Perez told hundreds of black students in Washington, DC, that school authorities in the South recently had black high-schoolers arrested for infractions as innocuous as fashion faux pas and farting.
He made the shocking allegation during a July 15 speech he delivered at Howard University.

Perez recounted a recent visit to Mississippi, claiming: “I was looking at their feet and every one of them had an ankle bracelet — they were 14 years old — and that’s because they were all in the school-to-prison pipeline.
And I asked them: ‘What are you in for?’ One was, uh, wrong color tie. One was the wrong color socks. One was flatulence.

“I’m not making this up,” Perez insisted. “This is Meridian, Miss., where we still see separate and unequal,” adding, “We thought we had made progress [but] this is America” today.

Only, he was making it up. Meridian Public School District students have never been jailed simply for breaking school dress code, as he implied. That would be false imprisonment.

They have, however, been mildly disciplined for wearing the wrong uniform to school. Meridian, which is mostly black, has a strict dress code to prevent gang violence.

And some students do wear ankle bracelets to school — but only because they broke actual laws and were convicted of crimes by a juvenile judge.

Perez conflated the circumstances, even though he knew better.

Two years earlier, in a speech to the National School Boards Association in Boston, Perez described it much differently.

“I had an opportunity to visit Meridian and listen first-hand to students,” he said. “They told me of serving time in in-school suspension for wearing the wrong color socks. I listened to a panel of eight students, roughly half of whom were wearing ankle bracelets…Regrettably, students of color are receiving different and harsher disciplinary punishments.”

At Howard, Perez made it sound as if Meridian were run by a bunch of white, racist Bull Connors.

What he failed to mention is that the Meridian school superintendent, Dr. Alvin Taylor, and four of the five Meridian school board members are all black. So is the judge running the juvenile court.

Why would this Cabinet official say one thing to an audience of administrators and another to an audience of black students?

There’s only one explanation: To rile young African-Americans up about the specter of a still-racist America. (Requests to Perez’s office for comment went unanswered.)
Remember the argument we heard in 2008 about how electing an African American president would go far towards ending racial tensions in America? Well, that can't happen if his administration sees racial conflict as a partisan tool to help elect Democrats.

George Will takes on the logic of the Democrats' cries that American corporations merging with foreign firms to lower their taxation rate is unpatriotic in a practice known as "inversion.".
Progressives say corporations using inversions are unpatriotic, which is amusing. When the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision stipulated that Americans do not forfeit their First Amendment right to political advocacy when they act together through corporations (including, and especially, incorporated nonprofit advocacy groups), progressives ridiculed the idea that corporations should be treated as people. Now, progressives charge that corporations resorting to inversion are not behaving like patriotic people.

But Democrats believe in recycling even the rhetoric of John Kerry. Campaigning for president in 2004, Kerry denounced as “Benedict Arnolds” those American business executives who moved some operations overseas for competitive advantages. He did this among South Carolinians who work at Fujifilm, Michelin and BMW plants located there by executives who Kerry presumably thought should be despised as traitors by the Japanese, French and German publics.

A publicly held corporation’s responsibility is to its shareholders; its fiduciary duty is to maximize the value of their holdings. If businesses supposedly have other responsibilities, who decides what they are? Presumably politicians such as Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, who must have learned economics from the nursery story “Rumpelstiltskin.”

When the Illinois-based Walgreens retail chain planned an inversion, Durbin sent the company’s chief executive a letter noting that “its stores are a staple in our communities” — as though inversion would have closed the stores. Durbin warned that Walgreens’s “financial success was built on programs and infrastructure provided by the U.S. government,” particularly filling Medicare and Medicaid prescriptions.

This is the progressive premise in action: Because government provides infrastructure (roads, etc.) affecting everyone, and because government-dispensed money flows everywhere, everything is beholden to the government, and more or less belongs to the government, and should be subordinated to its preferences, which always are for more control of the nation’s wealth. Walgreens retreated, costing its shareholders, employees and customers billions.

Inversions strengthen the U.S. economy by increasing the after-tax profits that U.S. corporations have for investment, by increasing the pool of profits available for the wages of U.S. workers and by making the companies’ U.S. shareholders wealthier. Which is why the sensible corporate tax rate would be zero. This is so because corporations do not pay taxes, they collect them, necessarily passing on the burden as a cost of doing business. And studies suggest that corporations’ workers bear a significant portion of the burden.

This should interest Obama and Durbin, who are nothing if not loquacious about wage stagnation, the suffering middle class, etc. But they actually are less distressed by the real distresses of others than they are delighted by the chance to be operatically incensed about the predictable consequences of a tax code they perpetuate.

This illustrates the grandstanding frivolity of the political class. It legislates into existence incentives for what it considers perverse behavior, and then waxes indignant when businesses respond sensibly to the incentives.

Now this is true heroism!
A British Army colonel's life was saved by a US soldier who jumped in front of an assassin's hail of bullets, it has been reported.
The US Army reservist, who normally works for Apple, the Silicon Valley-based electronics company, was shot six times as an Afghan assailant opened fire on a group of high-ranking officers at a military training academy earlier this month, The Sunday Times said.

The reservist, who has not been named, used his body as a shield to literally "take a bullet" for the senior British officer, and was hit twice in the leg and once in the shoulder, with a further three rounds stopped by his bulletproof vest.

Details of the act of heroism were revealed in an American casualty report, the newspaper said.

It describes how the reservist returned fire with both his rifle and sidearm

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cruising the Web

Apparently, being a billionaire trying to influence elections isn't as easy as it sounds. Tom Steyer who was going to spend $100 million to elect politicians who agreed with his environmental agenda isn't having as much luck as one might think a billionaire would.
Mr. Steyer at an Aspen conference this week revealed that little if any of this is happening. The left is as split over energy as it has ever been; the public isn't buying the climate line; and the hedge-fund-manager-turned-activist looks to be regrouping.

The Steyer grand plan began unraveling from the start, when stories about his pledge noted that he might target Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu for her support of the Keystone XL pipeline. Mr. Steyer and his NextGen Climate Action PAC had in 2013 won activist praise for defeating a pro-pipeline Democrat in a Massachusetts primary, and the Louisiana idea was to start his midterm strategy with a similar litmus-test bang. A Landrieu attack would send a message: Democrats who bucked the climate agenda would get beaten, whereas those who embraced it would be rewarded with Mr. Steyer's campaign cash.

Democratic leaders instead flipped out, and quickly schooled Mr. Steyer in the political realities of red states and the magic Senate number of "51." Within days of the pledge, Steyer operative Chris Lehane was tamping down the Landrieu story, insisting Mr. Steyer did not plan to "tea party" Democrats. "We do think it's really, really, really important from a climate perspective that we maintain control of the Senate for Democrats," he explained.

Overlooked was that this single decision wiped Mr. Steyer's operation off most of the electoral map. If the billionaire could not attack pro-Keystone Democrats, he couldn't get them on board his agenda. And if they remained in support of Keystone, there was no way the leader of the anti-pipeline movement could—with any credibility—underwrite them. It's great to have $100 million to blow on midterms; not so great when you can't spend it in Louisiana, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alaska, Montana, Virginia, Kentucky or Georgia—for starters.

Mr. Steyer was left the scraps of a few Senate candidates who do oppose Keystone: Colorado's Mark Udall ; Iowa's Bruce Braley ; New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen. Only to then discover that few would benefit from his help—at least not in a state like Iowa, where support for the jobs-creating Keystone project is thunderous, and where Mr. Braley's opposition is a political liability.

White House reporters aren't impressed with the administration's spin about how open they are. Funny how the one thing that the MSM will get angry over is being denied access.

How's that economic recovery going for Americans?
Adjusted for inflation, the wages of U.S. workers are down 3 percent since 2005. U.S. median income has fallen 5.5 percent. The reason is simple: Although the total number of jobs in the U.S. has finally returned to its pre-recession level, positions now being created in the never-ending recovery pay wages 23 percent lower than those that disappeared in the Great Recession. Low-wage — often part-time — jobs are replacing high-wage, full-time jobs.

This finding, from a 44-page report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, comes as little surprise. It confirms what others have demonstrated elsewhere. The economic expansion promised by President Obama in 2009 has been exceptionally sluggish in comparison to previous recoveries and remains so nearly six years later with this milestone.

The socialized healthcare model isn't doing so well in Europe.
Yet even as the single-payer system remains the ideal for many on the left, it's worth examining how Britain's NHS, established in 1948, is faring. The answer: badly. NHS England—a government body that receives about £100 billion a year from the Department of Health to run England's health-care system—reported this month that its hospital waiting lists soared to their highest point since 2006, with 3.2 million patients waiting for treatment after diagnosis. NHS England figures for July 2013 show that 508,555 people in London alone were waiting for operations or other treatments—the highest total for at least five years.

Even cancer patients have to wait: According to a June report by NHS England, more than 15% of patients referred by their general practitioner for "urgent" treatment after being diagnosed with suspected cancer waited more than 62 days—two full months—to begin their first definitive treatment.

In response the British government has enlisted private care for help, including most recently through the Health and Social Care Act 2012. In May last year, the Nuffield Trust, an independent research and policy institute, along with the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the U.K.'s leading independent microeconomic research institute, issued a report on NHS-funded private care. The report showed that over the past decade the NHS, desperate to reduce its ever-expanding rolls, has increasingly sent patients to private care. The share of NHS-funded hip and knee replacements by private doctors increased to 19% in 2011-12, from a negligible amount in 2003-04.

In 2006-07, according to the report, the NHS spent £5.6 billion on private care outside its system. This increased by 55% to £8.7 billion in 2011-12, including a 76% rise in spending on nonprimary care, going to £8.3 billion from £4.7 billion, despite significant reductions in spending on private care attributed to the financial crisis.
And it's not just Britain.
Even in Sweden, often heralded as the paradigm of a successful welfare state, months-long wait times for treatment routinely available in the U.S. have been widely documented.

To fix the problem, the Swedish government has aggressively introduced private-market forces into health care to improve access, quality and choices. Municipal governments have increased spending on private-care contracts by 50% in the past decade, according to Näringslivets Ekonomifakta, part of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, a Swedish employers' association.

Using Paul Krugman's logic against him.

A federal judge slaps down Eric Holder.
Facts have a terrible way of getting in the way of a political narrative. The Obama administration persists in the fiction that a voter ID requirement and a ban on same-day registration in the Tar Heel State will suppress black turnout. But the facts clearly demonstrate otherwise. For one, Federal District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder wrote that much of the harm alleged by the DOJ on future voter suppression of blacks due to voter ID laws relied “largely on racial discrimination that occurred between a quarter of a century to over a century ago. However, as the Supreme Court recently stated, ‘History did not end in 1965.’”

To wit, black voter registration in North Carolina exceeds that of whites—data from 2012 indicates black registration at 95.3 percent and white registration at 87.8 percent. Given that black registration in North Carolina is 7.5 percent greater than among whites, the court was less than convinced that a voter ID requirement would suddenly lead to an unequal access to the polls. Moreover, Holder and the NAACP asserted that the elimination of same-day registration would lead to a decrease in black voter participation—another claim swatted away by the court.

Their expert witness testified in court that without same-day registration the number of blacks would have declined by 3 percent in 2012 and that one could predict similar results in future elections. This claim, too, was batted away when Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, noted: “Plaintiffs have not shown that African-American voters in 2012 lacked—or more importantly, that they currently lack—an equal opportunity to easily register to vote otherwise.

The media sure treated Governor Cuomo's corruption scandal differently from how they blew gaskets over Chris Christie's Bridgegate scandal.

James Lileks explains why conservatives like Uber. I think it's because we support innovation and entrepreneurship that seeks to escape the paralyzing hand of government regulation that favors some people over others.

Here are some statistics on public schools that may surprise you.
The average American public school spends $11,455 per pupil, and that’s is just the average: Washington, D.C., the home of legendarily horrible government schools—among eighth-graders, only 17 percent are proficient in reading and 19 percent proficient in math—spends upward of $18,000 per student. That’s from the U.S. Census Bureau, by the way; after examining the numbers, the Cato Institute estimated that D.C. might spend closer to $25,000 per pupil. Across the board, inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending has tripled since 1970. Test scores have not gone up.

Where does that money go? Well, in 2012, D.C. teachers made an average of $90,681 in salary and benefits. But the real growth in school spending can be found outside the classroom. According to a report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “The Hidden Half: School Employees That Don’t Teach,” non-teaching staff in American public schools spiked 130 percent between 1970 and 2010. Student enrollment for that time period, they note, grew only 8.6 percent. Since 1950, school employees in general—many in “administrative” positions—grew by almost 500 percent.

President Obama will, since becoming president, soon have played more rounds of golf than Tiger Woods.

Do we really want to live in a society where the government can tell religious schools how big their Stars of David or crucifixes can be? That's what Mayor de Blasio thinks NYC's government can do since he wants to expand public preschools but the city can't handle the increased student population so they're contracting with private preschools. But that has led to a series of edicts from the city government about the content of what is taught and displayed in those schools.

Andrew Quinn writes at The Federalist about how the leftist media and Democrats reacted to the program that Paul Ryan put forward to address poverty. Quinn concludes, "The reaction to Paul Ryan's anti-poverty plan is why we can't have nice things."
Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty proposal is a bold and courageous attempt to spark a sorely-needed conversation. If only his critics could match his courage.

Amicus briefs in the case of Michael Mann v. the National Review has put in question of what freedom of the press really means. Can people make fun of a global warming activist or is that now going to be beyond the pale.
On Monday, The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press -- along with 26 other groups including The Washington Post, Bloomberg and Fox News -- filed an “amici curiae,” or “friend of the court,” brief with the D.C. Court of Appeals. An amici curiae is a brief submitted to a court to raise additional points of view to sway a court’s decision.

“While Mann essentially claims that he can silence critics because he is ‘right,’ the judicial system should not be the arbiter of either scientific truth or correct public policy,” the brief states, adding that “a participant in the ‘rough-and-tumble’ of public debate should not be able to use a lawsuit like this to silence his critics, regardless of whether one agrees with Mann or defendants.”

The suit was originally filed after Rand Simberg at the Competitive Enterprise Institute wrote a piece referring to Mann as “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science” because he “molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.”

CEI eventually took down the statements but not before National Review writer Mark Steyn picked them up and took it a step further by calling Mann’s research fraudulent.

Mann responded by suing CEI, National Review and the authors of the pieces.

But others in the media and think tank circuit are using the case to draw a line in the sand. Also coming to their defense are The Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, Individual Rights Foundation and Goldwater Institute. The policy groups filed their own brief in support of CEI and National Review.

“Public figures must not be allowed to use the courts to muzzle their critics,” Cato's Ilya Shapiro wrote on the group's website earlier this week.

Cato argues that under the First Amendment, there must be room for “the marketplace of ideas to operate.” Shapiro voiced concern that the court could try to judge the defendants' opinions as false by weighing them against EPA findings.

“The point in this appeal is that courts should not be coming up with new terms like ‘scientific fraud’ to squeeze debate over issues impacting government policy into ordinary tort law,” Shapiro said. “Dr. Mann is not like a corner butcher falsely accused of putting his thumb on the scale or mixing horsemeat into the ground beef. He is a vocal leader in a school of scientific thought that has had major impact on government policies.”

So Obama has declared the efforts to help the Yazidi against ISIS a success and he's ready to begin pulling out our armed forces. Doesn't the understand how his rush to get out of the region is what led to the strength of ISIS in the first place. Jennifer Rubin writes,
That is it. Apparently the U.S. military is now a highly sophisticated branch of the Red Cross. No mention of the ongoing threat from the Islamic State. No explanation for why it is in the interest of the United States to stop an Islamist state from setting up shop in the center of the most volatile region on the planet. If ever Hillary Clinton wanted to express her more hawkish thinking and show she is more than a cipher, now would be a good time to speak up....

Obama won’t drop his willful indifference to the Islamist threat because he cannot accept error for past inaction and because it would require robust action now, and neither he nor his base will tolerate that. He risks, of course, catastrophic results in the region and worse, God forbid, another 9/11 style attack on the U.S. homeland.

Given the president’s willingness to ignore such an obvious and huge threat to the United States from revived jihadists, is it any wonder that he and his White House cronies convinced themselves and tried to convince us that the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists’ attack on Benghazi, Libya, was some sort of fluke? It had to be explained away by some trivial and random event; otherwise it would mean terrorism was on the rise and all that ending-wars rhetoric, slashing defense and chest thumping about killing Osama bin Laden were grossly reckless.

More than one conservative national security guru has e-mailed me in the last few days that Obama critics may be willing to concede Hillary Clinton had the right instincts on Iraq and Syria, but if she gave up challenging the White House, refused to quit, kept praising the do-nothing Syria policy (as she did when the president refused to bomb Syria) and didn’t spell out the Iraq debacle even after leaving office and still spins nonsense (like the Bush administration made us get out of Iraq) what good is she? She’s already proved she doesn’t have the stomach for leadership and will blow whichever way the political winds carry her. We are supposed to be impressed she knew better all along that the president was endangering U.S. security, in essence ignoring reams of intelligence and the advice of senior foreign policy advisers?

Jay Cost details the difficulties that Hillary has taking both sides of a question.

John Podhoretz outlines how the U.S. was working to undermine Israel in the recent conflict.

John Hinderaker links to information on how wind power requires 700 times as much land as fracking does. And it doesn't kill birds the way that wind farms do.

The NYT has a fascinating graphic to see where people come from in each state.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cruising the Web

John Podhoretz advises President Obama to prepare himself for many more occasions when Hillary hammers him in a desperate attempt to distance herself from his increasing unpopularity.
Last year, when it looked like Obama might maintain his popularity, Hillary was ready to run as his confidant, adviser and friend.

Now, as the world comes crashing down upon him, along with his poll numbers and the increasingly disastrous prospects for his party in the November midterms, Mrs. Clinton has laid a bet.

She is betting she has two years to set herself up not as Obama’s natural successor but as his sadder-but-wiser replacement — the one who saw it go wrong, the one who watched as the mistakes were being made, the one who sought to mitigate or reverse those blunders to no effect, the one best able to take inspiration from a more successful, more centrist Democratic presidency.

Mrs. Clinton’s political judgment is not to be trusted. She allowed Obama to eat her lunch in 2008 in part because she was overconfident and tacked too far to the center too early. She may well be doing it again.

But she has made her choice. If Obama stumbles, she’ll be there — with her ankle turned out, to trip him up still further and then, with a sad smile, claim credit for having known that the obstacle had been there in his path all along.

Hillary called Obama yesterday to assure him nothing in the interview was meant to be critical of him. Well said, Iago.
Chris Cillizza also shakes his head at Hillary's ineptness in trying to triangulate a position in foreign policy.
But, the sturm und drang of the past 72 hours proves two things: 1) The kumbaya story that the Obama and Clinton teams tell about their relationship isn't the whole story and 2) Clinton's attempts to distance herself from some of the less-popular policies of the Obama Administration will be more difficult than her team may have realized.
If anyone had truly believed that Hillary and Obama had become good friends, they were being truly naive. I believe more in a friendship between Bill Clinton and both Bush presidents than I do between Obama and Clinton. I'm sure she never forgave him for taking away her annointment as the Democratic nominee in 2008. And he never liked her even if he did term her "likable enough."

Ed Driscoll has an interesting interview with Daniel Halper, author of Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine. Find out, for example, how Hillary is actively undermining Bill's legacy.

And, as Philip Klein writes, she is going to have trouble to distance herself from his policies taken while she was serving in his administration while still running on the basis of her supposed foreign policy experience.
But the more she tries to argue that she recommended a different policy approach than the one that was actually pursued, the more she comes across looking like a figurehead who had no real influence within the administration — thus undermining her "experience" argument.

As Timothy Carney reports, his administration is chock full of the lobbyists he once vowed would have no place in his administration.
McGrath finds 119 former lobbyists in the Obama administration. The administration employs former in-house lobbyists from Microsoft, Fannie Mae, insurance giant Wellpoint, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Monsanto, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Raytheon, and Goldman Sachs. Obama has hired from the ranks of K Street firms Cassidy & Associates, Covington & Burling, Heather Podesta & Partners, Akin Gump, Arnold & Porter, Winston & Strawn, Timmons & Co., and others.

How did so many lobbyists get in under Obama's supposed "lobbyist ban"? McGrath walks through the exceptions, technicalities, waivers, and apparent disregard for the rules.

But then hypocrisy is never a surprise from this White House as Bloomberg reports on how Obama accepts campaign donations from the very firms that he's bashing.
President Barack Obama won’t return campaign donations to executives, advisers and directors who have profited from offshore mergers that reduce corporate taxes using a technique he has called “unpatriotic.”

Responding to a Bloomberg News report that described connections between more than 20 Obama donors and the tax-cutting transactions, White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the president will keep the cash.
Why not have it both ways? It's just politics.

It's quite a list of media groups and free-apeech advocates supporting the National Review in their fight against climate advocate Michael Mann.
In an amicus brief filed Monday, the ACLU and news organizations urged the court to reverse a lower court ruling that the statute didn't apply in this case. They argued that it would be a blow to freedom of the press should Mann prevail:
While Mann essentially claims that he can silence critics because he is "right," the judicial system should not be the arbiter of either scientific truth or correct public policy. While amici may not necessarily agree with the content of defendants’ speech, they believe that, if left to stand, the decision below will chill the expression of opinion on a wide range of important scientific and public policy issues, and therefore urge that it be reversed.
The ACLU was joined in the brief by the Washington Post, Fox News, NBC Universal, USA Today publisher Gannett Co., Bloomberg, Time, the Tribune Publishing Co., the Seattle Times and various professional organizations including the American Society of News Editors, the National Press Club, and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others.

Is Obama still interested in "engagement" with Iran even after they executed two gay men? Shouldn't that be the last straw?
Despite Iran’s state anti-Semitism, the recent arrest of U.S. journalists, and the continued oppression of women, the Obama administration has been attempting a rapprochement with the Iranian regime. Fending off Iran hawks in Congress and the D.C. punditocracy, the administration has argued for a policy of constructive engagement, pursuing diplomacy over military action to halt Iran’s nuclear program. The execution of two gay men, while it may not be surprising, certainly doesn’t make that “engagement” any easier.
Their brutality should be a hinge that could serve to unite conservatives and liberals in a refusal to "engage" with Iran.

So is the French foreign minister knocking Obama?
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has a message about Iraq for Barack Obama: Get back to the White House and do something.
'I know it is the holiday period in our Western countries,' Fabius told a radio interviewer Tuesday in France,' but when people are dying, you must come back from vacation.'

Full-time workers in France are guaranteed a whopping five weeks of paid vacation every year, making his plea all the more urgent.
Obama is on a family and golfing holiday in a ritzy neighborhood of Martha's Vineyard but says he will come back to Washington briefly on Tuesday before returning to fun, sun, and more golf.
I'm sure that he was just criticizing other European leaders, but it still applies to Obama.

What happens when one environmentalist ideal meets another environmentalist ideal? Hypocrisy.
The state [California] would exempt Tesla Motors Inc. from some of its toughest environmental regulations as part of an incentive package being discussed with the automaker to build a massive battery factory in California, a key state senator said.

As Mark Leibovich writes, every bad thing you've ever thought about what is involved in running for public office is true. It's even worse than you thought as he looks at the leaked memo by campaign strategists for Michelle Nunn running for the Senate from Georgia.
Suspicion: Campaigns believe that large portions of their electorates are simple-minded idiots.

Confirmation: The memo includes a handy calendar of dates that Team Nunn might consider planning excellent activities around. For instance, May would have been a good time for a fun Michelle event around “Jewish-American Heritage Month, National Stroke Awareness Month and National Bike Month.” The campaign was also prepared to reach potential supporters who celebrate Flannery O’Connor’s birthday (March 25), Flag Day (June 14) or the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (began sundown June 3).

Josh Kraushaar explains how Harry Reid's behind-the-scenes maneuvering has done more to endanger the Democratic majority. Reid was behind Montana's newest senator, John Walsh's position as Max Baucus's replacement for Baucus to become ambassador to China. And now John Walsh has had to step back from running for election this year when Walsh's plagiarism of a paper leading to his Master's Degree came to light. The Democrats have to scrape around to find a replacement candidate. Meanwhile, Reid's PAC was involved in trying to interfere in Republican primaries this year to stave off stronger GOP candidates. And on top of all his failed meddling, Reid has become the posterboy for Republicans seeking a way to rally Republican voters who might have been less enthusiastic about their own candidates except for their deep desire to make Harry Reid into the Senate Minority Leader.