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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cruising the Web

It's always about him. I used to think that Bill Clinton was our most solipsistic president, but Obama has far out-classed him. The folks at Grabien note how many times that Obama talked about himself in his speech in India this week.
Today in New Delhi, the president of the United States delivered an address to the people of India. Topics ranged from Obama's pride in being the first U.S. president to visit India twice, to the historic nature of his attendance at India's Republic Day Parade, to his grandfather's occupation as a chef, to his graying hair, to his daughters ... to his struggles against political critics back home. If this is starting to sound like the president spoke quite a bit about himself, that's because he did. Somehow in the span of just 33 minutes, Obama referenced himself 118 times. (For those keeping score at home, that's 3.5 Obama references per minute.)

An extraordinary feat, to be sure. (Link via John Hinderaker)
Imagine being a foreign leader listening to Obama rambling on about himself. What must they think? Obama could learn a good lesson by studying his supposed hero, Abraham Lincoln, and how rarely Abraham Lincoln referred to himself in his great speeches.

Of course. The Obama State Department is financing a group which is working to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu. Such interference could actually help Netanyahu in Israel where Obama is so unpopular.

Saudi King Abdullah, whose death our Defense Department is commemorating with an essay contest, has held four of his own daughters in captivity and subjected them to beating. If this is the treatment that princesses receive in Saudi Arabia, think of how ordinary women are treated.

Jonah Goldberg looks at how Oscar Wilde was describing Barack Obama in Wilde's play, Lady Windermere's Fan.
Cecil Graham asks, “What is a cynic?”

Lord Darlington responds, “A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

To which Graham replies, “And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn’t know the market place of any single thing.”

The phrasing is a bit archaic to the modern ear, but the point is terribly relevant as Obama heads into the home stretch of his presidency. Obama is an ideological sentimentalist; he’s great at identifying things of value, terrible at assessing the costs his esteem brings with it.

He likes community colleges. And he should; they do very important work. But his idea to subsidize them via an expanded federal program is blindingly oblivious to the costs — fiscal and institutional — it would impose, particularly given the fact that, as Reihan Salam notes at National Review Online, “net tuition and fees were $0 for [community college] students from households earning $60,000 or less.” That is probably why Obama wants to let students who keep grades above a C+ use Pell Grants and other aid for living expenses.

But such details don’t matter when weighed against the idea of being in favor of “free” community college.

Over the weekend, the same president who boasted about increased oil and gas production days earlier in the State of the Union address — despite doing nothing to make that possible — announced he wants to designate part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a wilderness, in effect taking billions of barrels of oil off the table. He says it’s worth it because ANWR is “pristine.” His interior secretary compares it to Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, neither of which is pristine because, unlike ANWR, millions of people visit them each year.

A president who believed in negotiating might trade a ban on offshore arctic drilling for opening up ANWR, which would be much safer. He might also consult with Alaska’s political leaders, who passionately oppose Obama’s scheme.

If Obama believed in negotiating, he would have used the Keystone pipeline as a bargaining chip. He would trade the higher taxes he (always) wants for tax reform. He would acknowledge that the GOP won an election in 2014 and that its interests matter.

But negotiating requires acknowledging that people who disagree with you have a legitimate point of view. And such concessions to reality would take Obama out of his comfort zone. And anything outside of that is a no-go zone for this president.

Richard Epstein explains the fallacy lying at the heart of President Obama's approach to foreign policy.
Starting on the foreign policy side, Obama’s policies are driven by the flawed proposition that “smarter” leadership lies in building coalitions that “combine military power with strong diplomacy.” This position, he said in his State of the Union, pays concrete dividends: “In Iraq and Syria, American leadership—including our military power—is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.”

It is all wishful thinking. Militarily, it is never enough to stop an advance if it allows the enemy to use the breathing space to entrench itself further in the places that are under occupation. Obama’s word choice of “ultimately” allows for endless equivocation and delay. The odds of putting together an effective coalition without demonstrable leadership are slim to none, for the President’s only firm commitment—not to use ground troops ever against ISIL—signals to our allies that they too can discharge their obligations by flying the occasional sortie against ISIL positions.

The President may think that it has been an accomplishment to reduce over the past six years the number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from close to 180,000 to under 15,000. But to everyone else, the civil disorder attributable to American disengagement signals that America is not an ally to be trusted.

The President therefore grossly miscalculates when he concludes that “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.” Unfortunately, the facts on the ground show the opposite. Right now the President is bogged down in negotiations with the Iranians over their deployment of nuclear weapons. Little visible progress has been made to date.

Charlie Cooke sets up his bracket challenge for the GOP nomination.

The NYT publishes a surprisingly complimentary profile of Megyn Kelly, saying that the "Kelly Moment" has arrived.

Apparently, we've been deriving our statistics on global temperatures from faulty sources that slant the results.
In recent years, these two very different ways of measuring global temperature have increasingly been showing quite different results. The surface-based record has shown a temperature trend rising up to 2014 as “the hottest years since records began”. RSS and UAH have, meanwhile, for 18 years been recording no rise in the trend, with 2014 ranking as low as only the sixth warmest since 1997.

One surprise is that the three surface records, all run by passionate believers in man-made warming, in fact derive most of their land surface data from a single source. This is the Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN), managed by the US National Climate Data Center under NOAA, which in turn comes under the US Department of Commerce.

But two aspects of this system for measuring surface temperatures have long been worrying a growing array of statisticians, meteorologists and expert science bloggers. One is that the supposedly worldwide network of stations from which GHCN draws its data is flawed. Up to 80 per cent or more of the Earth’s surface is not reliably covered at all. Furthermore, around 1990, the number of stations more than halved, from 12,000 to less than 6,000 – and most of those remaining are concentrated in urban areas or places where studies have shown that, thanks to the “urban heat island effect”, readings can be up to 2 degrees higher than in those rural areas where thousands of stations were lost.

Ah, good to know what I should be upset about. The newest front in feminism is fighting the Man about...T-shirts.

Stephen Moore explains why the improvement in the economy is really illusory.
Still, if things are as good as the White House says they are, why do we feel so bad? Why are we collectively so worried about the fragile future of our nation?

One answer is that the conventional statistics of economic conditions for families aren’t measuring the real hardships families are facing today. Is there anyone on this continent, who really thinks that the unemployment rate is 5.6 percent?

But here are a dirty bunch of hidden indicators pointing to an American economy that may be in a lot worse shape than Washington is telling us:

The $1 trillion growth gap. This economic recovery is the slowest in 50 years. If we had had the same pace of improvement since June 2009 when the recession ended as in an average recovery, national output and incomes would be more than $1 trillion larger today. In other words, we would have about $10,000 more income per family than we do.

The raiseless recovery. It’s been 10 years since Americans in the middle class got a pay raise that kept pace with inflation. Median income households today make $1,500 less than they did even since the recession officially ended. The recession really hasn’t ended for half of all families.

The myth that inflation is dead. By looking at what middle-income families have to buy — food, energy, tuition and health care — prices have been running two to three times the official rate. Low gas prices recently are helping, but health costs are rising again — despite the Obamacare promise to bend the cost curve down. Oops.

Inequality is worse. President Obama has made closing the gap between rich and poor his highest priority. Guess what? The Gini coefficient (as measured by the Census Bureau), the left’s favorite measure of income inequality, rose each of Mr. Obama’s first four years in office, breaking all-time highs in both 2011 and 2012, and it remains high.

Where are the new small businesses? According to an analysis by the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, the rate of business creation dipped to just 0.28 percent of all adults in 2013. It’s been since 2001 that business creation rates were this low. The latest available data from the Census Bureau (2012) shows business creation only slightly rebounding from the recession lows.

The American dream goes bust. A 2014 Pew Research Poll found only 34 percent of Americans think their children will be better off than they are. This pessimism contrasts sharply with Mr. Obama’s rosy scenario.

Economists have found that the employment boom we're seeing today is mostly due to ending the unemployment benefits. And, of course, Obama wants to renew extensions of those benefits.
About 60 percent of the job creation in 2014, 1.8 million jobs, they find, can be attributed to the end of the extended-benefits program. That’s a huge amount, and suggests that long-term unemployment benefits, while there’s a good charitable case for them, could have played a big role in the ongoing lassitude of our labor market. (Indeed, an earlier working paper from a few of the same authors argued that extended benefits raised the unemployment rate during the Great Recession by three percentage points; see a summary of that paper here.)

John McWhorter wishes that civil rights leaders would worry about real problems, not phony racism such as worrying about how many Oscar nominations black performers receive.
It isn’t, for example, that Selma got no nominations: It was nominated for Best Picture. But because no actors in the film were nominated, nor was its director Ava DuVernay, racism is ever with us? But for the past 16 years, a person of color has always been nominated for an acting award. Plus, just last year, 12 Years a Slave, produced and directed by a black man, won Best Picture. In recent years, the Academy has granted Oscars to Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker, Halle Berry, Lou Gossett, Cuba Gooding, Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique, Octavia Spencer and Lupita Nyong’o. Try explaining to a child how that body of voters qualifies as “racist.”

If progress has been really happening with the Academy and race, then by sheer logic, the year had to come when acknowledging black achievement became so ordinary and accepted that even a black film ended up being sidelined by matters of glitz and chance. That is, one day black films would start occasionally getting ordinary – and thus imperfect – treatment: think Forrest Gump beating out Pulp Fiction. “Occasionally” had to start with a first time: this seems to have been it.
Actually, I would have voted for Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction which seemed way over-rated to me. But McWhorter is smack on when he contrasts the past 100 years ago and notes that the racist Birth of a Nation came out 100 years ago this year and now the concern is that Selma didn't get enough nominations. He sees a parallel in this sort of, what he calls, "Black Tantrum" with the protests over tests on which black children don't do as well as other children.
And that tantrum is a variation on a theme. For example, the NAACP filed a Civil Rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education in 2012, which continued getting news coverage through last year. New York City bases admission to its most competitive three public schools on a test. Seeing that only 33 out of 3281 of these schools’ students were black in the 2013-4 school year, the NAACP has declared the tests “racist.”

So, Civil Rights, 21st century-style: If black kids don’t do well on a test, the solution is not to see how we can teach them to do better on it, as can be done. Rather, the higher wisdom is to call for the authorities to get rid of it, make it easier, make it optional, or at least make it count for much less.

But just imagine the whites who founded the NAACP in 1909 sagely declaring that black schoolchildren shall not be expected to pass tests. They would be gleefully held up as grand old racists today. How is this new vision of black intelligence any different? Try to pass the test or try to get rid of it? Black Power or Black Cower?

After the weekend's showcases for the GOP candidates in 2016, it seems that Scott Walker came out of the weekend with the most buzz. And now Rush Limbaugh has given Walker a full-throated endorsement, his star will rise even more. Marco Rubio also did well for himself as he appeared at a Koch Brothers event to discuss policy on a stage with Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Republicans shouldn't underestimate Marco Rubio.

This Washington Post headline says it all: "Two weeks after Zuckerberg said ‘je suis Charlie,’ Facebook begins censoring images of prophet Muhammad"

Paul Mirengoff explains the extraordinary claim that the Obama administration has made before the Supreme Court denying judicial review to a government agency filing a lawsuit.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cruising the Web

Philip Bump writes in the Washington Post that Hillary has no strategy to get people excited about voting for her.
No, commenters and people on Twitter, the best president is not the one who has the best ability to invigorate voters. But this is, you may have noticed, a key component of how we pick presidents in an age so thoroughly saturated with marketing. And Clinton, although not without vocal supporters, seems continuously unlikely to be the most energizing candidate. "Ready for Hillary" often seemed less like a grass-roots push born of uncontainable excitement than a sharp strategy from some political consultants looking to align with a winning candidate early in the process. At her book-signing in New York last June, the refrain from those who bought "Hard Choices" was commonly, "Well, she might be president." And those who bought the book were in the stark minority.

How will she overcome this? Reinvent herself, a la Romney in 2012 and Romney in 2016? Learn how to say "secretary of state" in other, more interesting-sounding languages? Clinton is what she is, which serves her very well for locking up the Democratic primary. Then what?

The CBO has figured out how much we're going to be paying for Obamacare. It's not quite the something for nothing that President Obama promised us.
It will cost the federal government – taxpayers, that is – $50,000 for every person who gets health insurance under the Obamacare law, the Congressional Budget Office revealed on Monday.
The number comes from figures buried in a 15-page section of the nonpartisan organization's new ten-year budget outlook.
The best-case scenario described by the CBO would result in 'between 24 million and 27 million' fewer Americans being uninsured in 2025, compared to the year before the Affordable Care Act took effect.
Pulling that off will cost Uncle Sam about $1.35 trillion – or $50,000 per head.

How unbelievably dumb are people in this administration? The Pentagon is holding a "research and essay competition to honor Saudi King Abdullah. Are they also going to celebrate the crushing of all criticism and opposition in Saudi Arabia? What about all the Saudi women who are forbidden from traveling, marrying, or gaining a higher education without approval of the male in their family? What about the treatment of the millions of migrant workers in the country? Or how about blogger Raif Badawi who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes for supposedly insulting Islam? Is this the kind of record on human rights that our Pentagon should be sponsoring essay contests about?

How convenient that Obama's 2012 field manager is running a campaign to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu's reelection.
The Obama White House has aggressively worked to defeat allied leaders it has not liked and to elect or re-elect foreign leaders it does like. As the Times of Israel recently reported, the list of Obama Administration meddling in foreign elections is a long one.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Merkel, an Obama Administration ally, was hosted at the White House prior to recent German elections. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the left wing Labor Party visited 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, not once, but twice prior to British elections. Those were won by Conservative party leader David Cameron, who himself visited Washington last week at Obama’s invitation to lobby the U.S. Congress against adopting a new sanctions measure to help confront Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program. Oddly, that’s the very issue Obama and the mainstream media now roundly condemn John Boehner for involving himself in.
And Clinton hosted prime minister Shimon Peres a month ahead of his 1996 election when Peres's poll numbers were falling.

Thomas Sowell's "Random Thoughts" columns are always interesting. Here are some of this thoughts from today.
Who says President Obama doesn’t promote bipartisanship? His complicity in Iran’s moving toward nuclear bombs has alarmed some top Senate Democrats enough to get them to join Republicans in opposition to the Obama administration’s potentially suicidal foreign policy.....

If not a single policeman killed a single black individual anywhere in the United States for this entire year, that would not reduce the number of black homicide victims by one percent. When the mobs of protesters declare “Black lives matter,” does that mean all black lives matter — or only the less than one percent of black lives lost in conflicts with police?

Scott Conroy explains why we should not pay as much attention to Iowa.
In the 2012 caucuses, for example, only 122,255 of the 614,913 eligible Republican voters participated—good enough for a record turnout but one that amounted to a mere 19.8 percent participation rate.

Only the most passionate and committed Iowa Republicans—who collectively are older, whiter and more devoutly conservative than the national GOP electorate as a whole—are willing to give up an hour or more of their time on a cold January night to take part in the tradition.

Therefore, the easiest way to stand out in a crowded field in courting their support is by doling out heaping portions of the kind of red meat rhetoric that wows the conservative crowds but also fills national Democratic strategists with visions of President Hillary Clinton dancing in their heads.

Ben Stein asks why President Obama doesn't tell the truth. So much of his State of the Union was pure fantasy.
I have been observing President Obama for a few days and a number of questions have occurred to me:

1. In the President’s State of the Union address, he bragged about how U.S. oil production has surged thanks to shale drilling. Question for Mr. Obama: Does he not recall that he and his followers have been fighting and harassing the oil companies that are finding and producing all of that oil? Does he believe he deserves any credit at all for acts and successes done by people against whom he has waged war since he was a child?

2. In his SOTU, Mr. Obama bragged that the USA now has the highest high school graduation rate in its history. Roughly 80 percent of entering high school freshmen now graduate.

Questions: Is Mr. Obama aware that in the city where he gave his speech, Washington, D.C., only about 53 percent of high school students graduate? Is he aware that in this country the high school graduation rate in predominantly black cities is on average roughly twenty percentage points lower than for whites? Is Mr. Obama in possession of any data that shows whether the students who receive those high school diplomas actually know anything useful?

Mr. Obama boasted repeatedly about his successes fighting terrorists, not some of whom, all of whom are Islamists. Questions: Did he at any point use the word “Islamic” or “Islamist” in referring to terrorists in his speech? Why not? Who is he afraid of? Why can’t he tell the truth?

Is he aware of the near takeover of the strategically key nation of Yemen by Islamic fanatics? Is he aware of any major setbacks to date for the Islamist terrorists in the Middle East or in Nigeria? If he is, would he make them known? Is there anything stopping the Boko Haram from dominating Nigeria? Is he doing anything to stop them? The Islamic State is presently in the approaches to Baghdad. In what way does this show success in the fight against them?

Five years ago, there were dictators in power through the Middle East. They were awful people but their countries were fairly calm. Now, from Algeria to Pakistan, with the exceptions of Israel and Egypt, much of the Arab world is in chaos and has returned to primitive times in terms of the absence of law.

Question: In what way does this show success for Mr. Obama?

Mary Katharine Ham explains why cynicism is the proper response to President Obama.

Ed Lasky has a recommendation for Congressional Republicans needing a strategy to deal with President Obama.
No, as usual. It’s you, America, not him.

His self-conception is of a man who is simultaneously nearly all-powerful and utterly stymied at every turn by the very smallest of routine disputes of American politics. Like the ignorant omniscience I’ve written about before, this impotent power absolves him of all responsibility while he congratulates himself for what he could have accomplished if not for you, America.

If indeed a benevolent and intelligent executive like Obama (as he sees himself) is unable to turn the clumsy machine of the federal government to righteous action, if the great uniter is indeed unable to bring about anything close to a new kind of politics, why is he surprised that Americans wonder then how much of their welfare should be put into the hands of this clumsy machine and its inept managers? The vision he proffered was that his presence would change things, and when that visions did not materialize, of course right people lost some faith in him and the institutions he’s constantly pitching as the solutions to our problems. That is how it should work....

This section of Obama’s State of the Union makes it clear this is still the plan for most everything the president would like to accomplish. Announce Plan _____ would be super-keen and make everyone happy, make no plans for accomplishing Plan _____, subjugate success of Plan _____ to day-to-day political considerations, give speeches about how Plan ____’s awesomeness is being foiled by everyone else’s cynicism.

Frankly, I think the American public is far too easy on the federal government and its ability to accomplish anything well. We are a friendly people bent toward optimism even when it’s nearly ridiculous. Despite that, during Obama’s administration, faith in public institutions has fallen to all-time lows.

And, if this is what President Obama is offering in year six of this odyssey, the American people are right to respond with skepticism. That, and its more malevolent cousin, cynicism, are what he deserves.

Along those same lines, Seth Mandel ponders Obama's imaginary world.

The director of the EPA chose the wrong week to warn about global warming could lead to shortages of snow for the sporting industry. Powerline notes that global warming alarmists used to warn us how global warming would lead to decreased snow storms, but now they've changed their analysis to day that global warming is causing increased snow storms.
Only it turned out that–heh–the current decade is the worst ever recorded for major impact snowstorms on the East Coast, with 14, even though it is only half over. So now the alarmists are changing their tune, and blaming snowstorms on global warming. (The same thing is going on in Germany.) This is a perfect illustration of why global warming alarmism is not science. If you are doing science, you come up with a theory and you identify implications of that theory–if the theory is correct, then what facts will be observable? If those facts are not observed, the theory has been proved wrong. When no state of affairs can ever be deemed inconsistent with a theory, then the theory is not a scientific theory at all, but rather a religious or spiritual belief. Or possibly just a hoax.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cruising the Web

John Fund examines the winners and losers from this past weekend's Iowa Freedom Summit. And Byron York finds 12 keys to the 2016 race. He points out that those who have run before, including Mitt Romney, aren't as in as strong a position as they might think they are. The same might be true for Jeb Bush.

The Washington Post wonders if Rand Paul will be hurt by the wackiness of his father. Ron Paul spent the weekend talking about secession - not exactly a winning message for a potential presidential candidate.
Rand, 52, is contemplating a presidential run — at its heart, an act of optimism. He is moderating some hard-line positions and introducing himself to donors and voters. At the same time, Ron, 79, has embraced a role as libertarianism’s prophet of doom, telling his supporters that the United States is headed for catastrophes — and might actually need catastrophes to get on the right track

Which puts Rand Paul in the unusual position of trying to win over the country while his father says it is going down the tubes.

Sarah Palin might say she's interested in running for 2016, but she's not ready for prime time. Let's see if she drops her position on Fox News and then start talking about her. Otherwise, she's just one more distraction.

Uh, oh - the worst news for Marco Rubio: Eleanor Clift likes his chances.

Obama's presidency "now redolent of a banana republic."
Fact is, the president's priority was the permanent campaign — playing Hollywood celebrity with three D-list Internet stars. They included a green-lipstick-wearing artiste called GloNell Green, whose stunts include sitting in a bathtub filled with Froot Loops and milk and scarfing down junk food to get attention.

As American Thinker's Thomas Lifson pointed out, the "interview" with Green was done from specially constructed sets, signaling a president with a lot of money and time for playthings and not much interest in anything else.

It's not that we haven't seen such unseriousness before. A dead ambassador and burning U.S. consulate in Tripoli were trumped by a fundraising trip to Las Vegas. The beheading of a U.S. journalist by the world's worst terrorist group wasn't reason to cancel a golf outing. And a demonstration by 44 world leaders and 3 million people after a terrorist massacre in a Paris newsroom lost out to a need to watch the football playoffs.

These things pile up and come to define the Obama presidency in all its ennui, cupidity and childishness even as crises build in the rest of the world.

The week also saw the president snub Bibi Netanyahu in a fit of pique after the Israeli leader was invited without White House permission to address the House of Representatives. For good measure, Obama's sophomoric minions leaked there would be payback.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, in the same week as the brazen political assassination of a special prosecutor who had fingered Iran as a terrorist state with vast networks in our hemisphere, Obama named his new envoy: a Hollywood political-donation bundler with no knowledge of that country.

All this continues to suggest a president with no real interest in the job, just a ceaseless appetite for celebrity adulation and high-school backbiting.

Carl M. Cannon explains once again that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Too bad our president doesn't understand that concept.
There are other problems with the president’s “free lunch” approach to governance. Here are three:

First of all, the president doesn’t have this money to spend. He’s borrowing it. The day Obama took office, the national debt was $6.3 trillion. Today, it stands in excess of $13 trillion, which is what happens when you run annual budget deficits averaging $1 trillion a year. The president is happy that the 2014 deficit is “only” $483 billion. I’m happy, too, but that number would still be larger than any other deficit in U.S. history—even adjusting for inflation—except for during George W. Bush’s last year in office.

Yes, Obama inherited a fiscal mess, no doubt. But acting like there’s a pile of found money lying around is disingenuous. Future generations of Americans will foot that bill because voters are being promised more goodies than their politicians are making them pay for.

The second problem is one of federalism. By what rationale should workplace salaries be mandated from Washington? States and counties with traditional manufacturing might mandate time-and-a-half for hourly employees. States and counties with many seasonal agricultural jobs might not. And when it comes to the minimum wage, the folly seems obvious. Do entry-level workers in Lincoln, Nebr. (median housing price $146,000) need to be paid exactly the same as those in San Francisco (median housing price $769,000)?

Most states are managing this issue pretty prudently, U.S. Department of Labor data suggests. Only five—all of them in the South—lack a minimum wage law. Fourteen others have laws tying their minimum to the federal standard. A majority of states exceed the federal minimum.

Third, when the president says he wants to mandate sick leave and raise the minimum wage—and underwrite “free” community college by raising capital gains taxes—he continues to send a message of hostility to business. Over the years, many Democrats have exhibited an odd duality about business: they venerate jobs, but not employers. Obama takes this to new levels, while cheerfully spending Other People’s Money.

In his State of the Union, Obama didn’t try to explain why business owners launching a startup or trying to keep a small business afloat should welcome federal laws governing their pay scales. Instead, he taunted Congress: “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.”

This was effective theater, but also a reminder how easily Obama’s populism slips into business-bashing. In his 2012 campaign, he said, “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” He meant somebody in government. It was also in 2012 that most Americans learned that the Affordable Care Act included a requirement that employers pay for “free” birth control.

Here, folk wisdom about free lunches comes full circle. “Free Lunch” originally was not a metaphor; it was an advertisement. Saloons, mainly in the American West, offered free lunch with the stipulation that patrons purchase at least one drink. Only the most naïve would deem this lunch truly free, so the extrapolation to government came naturally. The earliest known reference came in a 1938 editorial in an El Paso, Texas, newspaper unearthed by “Yale Book of Quotations” editor Fred Shapiro.

Called “Economics in Eight Words,” it’s a fable about a king who asks his advisers for a brief economic textbook. Instead, they produce 87 volumes of 600 pages each—thicker than Obamacare’s statutory language and regulations—which results in their execution. Finally, the last remaining economist says he can distill the dismal science into eight words: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

One young man tells the story of how Obamacare has punished him.
My experience perfectly highlights the insanity of the Affordable Care Act. It forced me — a paying, insured, well-educated, healthy American — out of the coverage I’d had, then tried to push me into Medicaid.

The program wouldn’t let me pay more when I offered to pay a higher rate to stay out of Medicaid, and it provided only one other option: paying the highest rate available for insurance I didn’t use once in 2014.

Rather than take the easy route and enroll in Medicaid, I paid my own way with a private plan of my choosing. Now, instead of being rewarded for saving taxpayer money, I’m being punished with a fine of at least $95. What a country!

Glenn Reynolds explains how Obama is proposing to come after the savings that millions of Americans have made for their children's education.
Why would the White House even consider such a thing? As McArdle observes: "The very fact that we are discussing taxation of educational savings — redistributing educational subsidies downward — indicates that the administration has started scraping the bottom of the barrel when seeking out money to fund new programs. Why target a tax benefit that goes to a lot of your supporters (and donors), that tickles one of the sweetest spots in American politics (subsidizing higher education), and that will hit a lot of people who make less than the $250,000 a year that has become the administration's de facto definition of 'rich'? Presumably, because you're running out of other places to get the money."

When a government is desperate for cash, it goes after the middle class, because that's where the money is. Yes, the rich are rich, but the middle class is far more numerous. And this has raised other fears. As McArdle also notes, if 529 plans aren't sacrosanct, what about Roth IRAs? People have worried for a while that the government might go after retirement accounts as another source of income — to the point that there have even been calls for Congress to make such grabs explicitly off limits. But, ultimately, no one is safe, as what is enacted by one Congress can be repealed by another.

The truth is, in our redistributionist system politicians make their careers mostly by taking money from one group of citizens that won't vote for them and giving it to another that will. If they run short of money from traditional sources, they'll look for new revenue wherever they can find it. And if that's the homes and savings of the middle class, then that's what they'll target.

For the moment, Americans are safe. With both houses of Congress controlled by the GOP, Obama's proposals are DOA. But over the long term, the appetite for government spending is effectively endless, while the sources of revenue are limited. Keep that in mind as you think about where to invest your money ... and your votes.

Ross Douthat explains how ludicrously western leaders have responded to the death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.
HE Western response to the death of Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, king of Saudi Arabia and custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, followed two paths. Along one, various officials and luminaries offered the gestures — half-mast flags, public obsequies — expected when a great statesman enters the hereafter. John Kerry described the late monarch as “a man of wisdom and vision” and a “revered leader.” Tony Blair called him a “modernizer of his country” and a “staunch advocate of interfaith relations,” who was “loved by his people and will be deeply missed.”

Along the other path, anyone outside Western officialdom was free to tell the fuller truth: that Abdullah presided over one of the world’s most wicked nonpariah states, whose domestic policies are almost cartoonishly repressive and whose international influence has been strikingly malign. His dynasty is founded on gangsterish control over a precious natural resource, sustained by an unholy alliance with a most cruel interpretation of Islam and protected by the United States and its allies out of fear of worse alternatives if it fell.

Was he a “modernizer”? Well, there were gestures, like giving women the vote in elections that don’t particularly matter. But Abdullah’s most important recent legacy has been counterrevolutionary, in his attempts to rally a kind of axis of authoritarianism against the influence of the Arab Spring.

Did he believe in “interfaith relations”? Sure, so long as the other faiths were safely outside Saudi territory, where religious uniformity is enforced by the police and by the lash.
The man ran a dictatorial government that violently punished anyone not deemed to have behaved appropriately as a Muslim and which sponsored some of the more radical imams across the globe.

Michael Goodwin notices the difference in how this administration refers to any leader in the Middle East compared to how they refer to Bibi Netanyahu.
With their gutter sniping failing to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned March speech before Congress, White House aides are unloading their full arsenal of bile.

“He spat in our face publicly, and that’s no way to behave,” one Obama aide told an Israeli newspaper. “Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”

It is pointless to say petty threats do not become the Oval Office. Trying to instruct this White House on manners recalls what Mark Twain said about trying to teach a pig to sing: It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

Still, the fury is telling. It reminds, as if we could forget, that everything is always about Obama.

How dare Israel be more concerned with the existential threat of Iranian nukes than with Obama’s feelings? And what do members of Congress think they are, a separate branch of government or something?

Yes, the presidency deserves respect, even when the president doesn’t. Although Obama routinely ignores lawmakers and their role in our constitutional system of checks and balances, there is an argument afoot that Congress should have taken the high road and consulted him before inviting Netanyahu.

The argument has a point — but not a compelling one. To give Obama veto power over the visit would be to put protocol and his pride before the most important issue in the world.

That is Iran’s march to nuclear weapons, and Obama’s foolish complicity. His claim at the State of the Union that “we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material” would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. The claim earned him three ­Pinocchios, with four being an outright whopper, by The Washington Post.

Outside the president’s yes-men circle, nobody believes the mad mullahs will voluntarily give up their quest for the bomb. International sanctions made life difficult for the regime, especially with oil prices cratering, but Obama ­relaxed restrictions with nothing to show for it except negotiations where he keeps bidding against himself.

He is desperate for a deal, and the Iranians know it, so they want to keep talking. They are gaining concessions and buying time, which means a reversal of their weapons program becomes much harder to achieve.

The ticking doomsday clock is what led to the remarkable comments by Democrat Robert ­Menendez. After Obama warned that more sanctions, even if they would not take effect unless the talks collapsed, could scare off the Iranians, the New Jersey senator said Obama was repeating talking points that “come straight out of Tehran.”

That’s a zinger for the ages — and has the added advantage of being true.

Any deal that leaves Iran with a capacity to make a nuke in weeks or months will ignite a regional arms race. As I have noted, American military and intelligence officials believe a nuclear-armed Iran will lead to a nuclear exchange with Israel or Arab countries within five years.

Israel has the most to lose from an Iranian nuke, and ­Netanyahu can be expected to articulate a forceful argument against Obama’s disastrous course. That’s why House Speaker John Boehner invited him, and it’s why the president is so bent out of shape and refuses to meet with Netanyahu. He doesn’t want Americans to hear the other side.
It is rather difficult to realize which is the leader of a national ally.

Deb Saunders compares two trips: Nancy Pelosi going as Speaker of the House to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during Bush's presidency with Netanyahu's trip to speak before the Congress.
The irony here is that Pelosi was in a similar position in 2007 when she met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace,” Pelosi told reporters.

Given that insurgents were crossing from Syria into Iraq to fight U.S. troops, President George W. Bush considered Pelosi’s adventure in diplomacy “counterproductive.” But with public approval of the Iraq war in the toilet, the San Francisco Democrat’s visit was popular with the liberal base. Pelosi’s Damascus sit-down was good politics, if dubious policy.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill finds any analogy between Boehner’s Bibi invite and Pelosi’s Syria trip to be nonsense. Pelosi didn’t blindside Bush. Foggy Bottom helped plan the trip. Besides, the White House failed to criticize three Republicans who went to Damascus a week earlier, which in Hammill’ view makes Pelosi’s detractors “hypocrites.”

Former East Bay congresswoman and Obama Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher agrees with Pelosi’s “hubris” assessment. Kerry is involved in negotiating a “six-handed deal” among world leaders and Iran, Tauscher noted. If there is no deal for the Iran Nuclear Talks by June 30, then tougher sanctions will return. Instead of applying pressure and engaging in “mischief making,” Tauscher believes Boehner should be quiet and give diplomacy a few more months. It is in America’s national-security interest to coax Iran toward the light.

“My criticism of Speaker Boehner is that this smacks of partisan politics and trying to embarrass the White House,” quoth Tauscher. (Sounds like Pelosi’s Syrian trip to me.)

Fly in the ointment: This isn’t right versus left. Some Democrats do not trust Tehran. At a recent hearing, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., scolded Obamaland for spewing out “talking points” that sound like they “come straight out of Tehran.”

Now the politics favor Boehner. Schake believes that a Netanyahu speech could increase the number of senators who, like Menendez, would support a bill to pressure Tehran to stop stalling. If you’re a D.C. pol, do you want to be on the side that believes in the honest intentions of Tehran or on the side that advocates for tough measures à la Bibi? And what are Democrats going to do — flip off pro-Israel constituents by boycotting Netanyahu’s speech? Hammill tells me Pelosi plans to attend.

If a majority in Congress is ready to buck the president on a foreign policy initiative, Schake told me, it’s a sign the administration is pushing a bad policy or has failed to lay the groundwork to sell it.

One more thing: In 2007, Syria was abetting Sunni insurgents. Israel is our ally.

Jack Kelly reflects on how the Obamas and other liberals look for any opportunity to exploit race and gender.
When People magazine asked Michelle Obama last month about her “personal experience” with racism, she cited a 2011 visit to a Target store in Virginia.

“The only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf,” the first lady said. “Because she didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life.”

Why is it “racist” for a short white woman to ask a much taller woman (Ms. Obama is 5 feet, 11 inches) who happens to be black to get a box of detergent for her from a high shelf?

Racism and sexism are nearly as rampant in America today as half a century ago, some liberals suggest. The first lady’s anecdote illustrates how difficult it is to find evidence to support this charge....

The growth and impoverishment of the black underclass in cities governed for decades by Democrats is our greatest domestic tragedy. Blaming it on mostly mythical white racism obscures the real causes, prevents solutions.

But if liberals acknowledged the progress that’s been made, more blacks might wonder why all the “help” they’ve gotten from Democrats has done them so little good. So they pretend every year is 1963.

Half a century ago, career opportunities for women pretty much were limited to nursing, teaching, the secretarial pool. Women today are doctors, lawyers, corporate CEOs, generals and admirals.

The pay gap has all but disappeared for women who work in the same fields as men and have done so for just as long. Young women in urban areas earned about 8 percent more than their male peers, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report in 2009.

Holly Lynne, my granddaughter, born Dec. 23, will be able to do pretty much whatever she wants to do and likely will be paid more for doing it than will boys her age.

Workplace equality wouldn’t be on the cusp of achievement were it not for the efforts of early feminists. But feminism died as a civil rights movement when “the sisterhood” embraced President Bill Clinton despite his serial abuse of women.

Hillary Clinton, who got to start at the top because she’s Bill’s wife, is a feminist heroine, despite having orchestrated smear campaigns against the women who accused him of sexual misconduct. So are Elizabeth Warren, who obtained appointment to the faculty of Harvard Law School after claiming, falsely, to be of Native American descent, and Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, fired for incompetence by the family firm (she says she was “downsized”).

But the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, the first female Hispanic governor, the first African-American woman to be secretary of state aren’t feminist heroines because they’re Republicans.

To be a feminist today is to be a dishonest shill for Democrats. To deny progress, they push their definition of “sexism” ever further into the realm of absurdity. Lately, feminists in New York City are having hissy fits over “man-spreading,” the tendency of male subway riders to sit with their knees apart.

Nothing in politics is more despicable than sowing race and gender discord for partisan advantage.

Michael Walsh explains how Obama has conducted a Being There presidency.
There is one thing, and one thing only, to like about him. And that is his complete and utter contempt for his domestic political enemies and the high-handedness with which he treats them. And why shouldn’t he? As the beneficiary of the Being There presidency, he must retire to the family quarters of the White House each night laughing his head off at the electorate and yet at the same time being utterly convinced of his own rightness. After all, he won, didn’t he? Twice! If he’s so dumb… how come he’s president?

As Yuval Levin noted in a post over at NRO after the State of the Union speech, Obama acts as if the electorate had not just delivered his party a crushing rebuke in an election in which he said quite clearly that while he may not have been on the ballot, his policies most certainly were. (Not that he cares about what happens to the Democrats after he retires to a live of Secret Service-protected, taxpayer-supported, think-tank enriched utter indolence.) But he appears to be living in a fantasy land of his own device, one in which he, Barry, remains beloved by the masses who didn’t bother to show up at the polls.

More bad news about how Obamacare is affecting small businesses.
"A key goal of the bill," explained ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber, "was to leave those who are happy with their employer-sponsored insurance alone."

But a survey by Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., adds further evidence that this promise was completely bogus.

The survey focused on companies in the southwestern region of the state that have 50 or fewer full-time employees. Companies this size don't face the ObamaCare employer mandate, but were supposed to be helped by the law's ban on medical underwriting and the competitive small business insurance markets it promised to unleash.

The survey found the opposite. A quarter of firms that that had offered insurance to their employees last year were canceling their health plans this year, and another 25% said they planned to do so next year.

More telling is the fact that 68% of those dropping coverage this year are directing their employees to the website to buy coverage on their own.

In other words, these companies are shifting their health insurance costs onto taxpayers. That's the very outcome ObamaCare architects like Gruber said wouldn't happen.

Wait, there's more.

Nearly half of the firms surveyed say they've limiting or reducing new hires because of the law — presumably to avoid coming up against the employer mandate should they go over 50 workers. And 28% said they are considering cutting back their overall workforce because of the law.

Christina Hoff Sommers has a powerful report at The Daily Beast about how the media has made the rape culture on college campuses seem worse than it is. And the Obama administration has exacerbated the situation by mandating that colleges should become their own investigators into rape and assault allegations rather than the police. In the process, facts become less important than the allegations. She lays out the faulty claims that have led us to this moment. The only question is whether a more responsible administration could eve walk back what the Obama administration has wrought.

Jeff Greenfield tells the stories of the moments when FDR, Eisenhower, and Reagan almost didn't win their party's nomination.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cruising the Web

I must confess that I've been much more interested in Deflategate and Coach K's hunt for his 1000th victory this week than public affairs. As a Patriots fan, I'd been hoping that there would emerge some information clearing the team of malfeasance. Nothing that has happened yet has removed that suspicion. My response from Brady's press conference is the same as Andrew McCarthy's - the NFL doesn't want to find out what happened. It was amazing to hear that they hadn't spoken to Tom Brady yet. What does it mean to say they're conducting an investigation if they haven't talked to him?
This is simply mindboggling. Because of the way footballs are handled pregame, the quarterback would be the most essential source of information in the event irregularities occur. Brady is thus the first person the NFL should have spoken with if the league really wanted to get to the bottom of what happened.

One now has to be suspicious that the league would rather not know at this point. Why? Because we are just ten days from the Super Bowl and there is very strong evidence of cheating. If the league quickly learns who is responsible, it would have to suspend the cheater(s) from the big game or be mercilessly ridiculed for turning a blind eye. The NFL obviously does not want to suspend star players or coaches from its showcase event.

But now, the league will be mercilessly ridiculed anyway. There are very few people who handle the balls or might influence how they are handled between the time they are chosen and the time they are used in a game: the starting QB, the equipment manager, the ball boy(s), the referees, and the coaches. That means a competent investigation to get to the bottom of this growing controversy could be completed in a few hours – meaning, it should have been done by now.
Whatever you might think happened in Deflategate, we can all agree on despising the NFL's leadership this past year.

Here's one scientist's explanation of how deflating the balls could be accomplished without any tampering with the footballs after they were checked. It sounds like a loophole in the NVL's rules and procedures. And guess which NFL coach is very good at exploiting loopholes?

By the way, I was talking before school with my students about this and told them about this physicist's explanation and their reaction was that there should be no penalty if the Patriots were just smarter about physics than the NFL and other teams.

David Adesnik explains how wrong-headed Obama and Hillary's concept of "smart power" is.
Don’t get me wrong — I fully supported the surge in Afghanistan and the intervention in Libya. My problem is with the president’s failure to finish the wars he started. But regardless of whether you were for or against those decisions, you might find it troubling that such a smart president can’t come up with a rationale that can account for his own choices. Or that such a smart president admitted several months ago that he had no strategy for dealing with the Islamic State. For some reason, this president can’t apply his brilliance to the actual challenges in front of him.

The root of the problem may be a persistent misunderstanding of what it means to be smart. For this president, being smart always seems to correlate with withdrawal of American troops, resistance to using force, and attempting reconciliation with the most oppressive and hostile regimes. For some reason, this president couldn’t recognize that it might have been smart to keep enough troops in Iraq to prevent its implosion or to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition before Islamic extremists hijacked the anti-Assad movement.

Ironically, the president’s complete confidence in his own intelligence has made his foreign policy less decisive and less coherent. Despite his determination to avoid conflict, the president has often found himself in situations where getting tough seems to be necessary, whether it is with the Islamic State, Iran, or Vladimir Putin. Under pressure, the president then moves to a stronger position, but hesitates to follow through. Being tough still doesn’t feel smart, so Obama begins to bend.

After promising to destroy the Islamic State, Obama has presided over a lackluster military campaign. Tonight, he patted himself on the back for “stopping ISIL’s advance.”

After a failed reset with Russia, Obama responded to the invasion of Ukraine with a parade of threats. In the end, Obama and his European partners only imposed pinprick sanctions. Tonight, Obama bragged about Russia’s diplomatic isolation, but the Kremlin’s proxy army hasn’t loosened its grip on eastern Ukraine, where thousands have died.

After Ayatollah Khamenei rejected Obama’s friendly overtures in 2009, the White House went along with a congressionally driven strategy of imposing harsh sanctions. With its economy ailing, Tehran agreed to talk about abandoning its drive for nuclear weapons. Even though Tehran is just stalling for time, Obama has threatened to veto bipartisan legislation that threatens to impose new sanctions if Tehran doesn’t negotiate a disarmament deal by July 1. Tonight, the president re-issued his veto threat.

He may be smart, but he just never learns.
Charles Krauthammer explains how Iran is winning in the Middle East, most recently in Yemen where the government that has been working with us against terrorism was just overthrown.
Why should we care about the coup? First, because we depend on Yemen’s government to support our drone war against another local menace, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It’s not clear if we can even maintain our embassy in Yemen, let alone conduct operations against AQAP. And second, because growing Iranian hegemony is a mortal threat to our allies and interests in the entire Middle East.

In Syria, Iran’s power is similarly rising. The mullahs rescued the reeling regime of Bashar al-Assad by sending in weapons, money, and Iranian revolutionary guards, as well as by ordering their Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to join the fight. They succeeded. The moderate rebels are in disarray, even as Assad lives in de facto coexistence with the Islamic State, which controls a large part of his country.

Iran’s domination of Syria was further illustrated by a strange occurrence last Sunday in the Golan Heights. An Israeli helicopter attacked a convoy on the Syrian side of the armistice line. Those killed were not Syrian, however, but five Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and several Iranian officials, including a brigadier general.

What were they doing in the Syrian Golan Heights? Giving “crucial advice,” announced the Iranian government. On what? Well, three days earlier, Hezbollah’s leader had threatened an attack on Israel’s Galilee. Tehran appears to be using its control of Syria and Hezbollah to create its very own front against Israel.

The Israelis can defeat any conventional attack. Not so the Gulf Arabs. To the north and west, they see Iran creating a satellite “Shiite Crescent” stretching to the Mediterranean and consisting of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. To their south and west, they see Iran gaining proxy control of Yemen. And they are caught in the pincer.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is pulling out all the stops to block a Congressional effort to impose economic sanctions if Iran doesn't agree to give up its nuclear program.
Which makes all the more incomprehensible President Obama’s fierce opposition to Congress’s offer to strengthen the American negotiating hand by passing sanctions to be triggered if Iran fails to agree to give up its nuclear program. After all, that was the understanding Obama gave Congress when he began these last-ditch negotiations in the first place.

Why are you parroting Tehran’s talking points, Mr. President? asks Democratic senator Bob Menendez. Indeed, why are we endorsing Iran’s claim that sanctions relief is the new norm? Obama assured the nation that sanctions relief was but a temporary concession to give last-minute, time-limited negotiations a chance.

Twice the deadline has come. Twice no new sanctions, just unconditional negotiating extensions.

Our regional allies — Saudi Arabia, the other five Gulf states, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel — are deeply worried. Tehran is visibly on the march on the ground and openly on the march to nuclear status. And their one great ally, their strategic anchor for two generations, is acquiescing to both.

And Hillary Clinton is going to have a tough time defending her time as Secretary of State.
She stupidly scorned the foreign policy wisdom in the long-headed Farewell Addresses of Presidents George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower. They warned against entanglements abroad and the influence of the military-industrial complex towards objectless wars.

Clinton, however, championed a virtually lunatic “humanitarian” conflict against Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi, and a military entanglement to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that would strenghthen the Islamic State or the equally terrorist-minded Al-Nusra Front.

In pre-war years, Libya’s Gaddafi had renounced support for international terrorism, abandoned weapons of mass destruction, and paid compensation for the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. He was an ally in opposing al- Qaeda and radical Islam. He was unthreatening to the United States. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified that Libya was not a “vital interest.”

Even a school child could see that to overthrow Gaddafi would steel Iran and North Korea against renouncing their nuclear ambitions; would open his stockpile of conventional weapons to Islamic radicals throughout the Middle East; and, would cause chaos and strife to ensue among tribal, ethnic, sectarian, or secular militias enabling penetration of Libya by al-Qaeda or the Islamic State.

Clinton’s memoir Hard Choices shows that she was clueless as to the Pandora’s Box that would be opened by overthrowing Gaddafi, like a child ignorant of the dangers of a Kalashnikov rifle. The multiple adversities that should have been foreseen have come home to roost.

Iran has refused to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for a relaxation of economic sanctions. North Korea has enhanced its nuclear arsenal and delivery vehicles. Gaddafi’s conventional arms have fallen into the hands of our enemies. Libya splintered into hundreds of ethnic or tribal-based militias or terrorist groups and was left without a functioning government.
Just where in the catalog of Hillary Clinton's record on foreign affairs do we see an argument that this woman should again be the leader of our nation's foreign policy?

As usual, despite the rhetoric about taxing only the rich, Obama's proposed tax changes would hit middle-class savings plans for college.
President Obama is pitching his new tax plan as a way to help the middle class at the expense of the rich. But middle-class savers are bound to notice if he achieves two of the White House’s stated goals—to “roll back” tax benefits of 529 college savings plans and “repeal tax incentives going forward” for Coverdell Education Savings Accounts.

Both plans allow parents, grandparents or anyone looking to help fund a kid’s education to contribute after-tax dollars into accounts that grow tax-free. There is also no tax when the money is withdrawn, provided it is used for qualified educational expenses such as tuition, fees, books, room and board.

Mr. Obama wants to allow the IRS to tax as income any withdrawals from future 529 contributions. This would make them less attractive. The White House goal seems to be to discourage private thrift, and encourage greater use of government benefits, when paying for college.

Alan Abramowitz at Sabato's Crystal Ball analyzes how Obama's approval rating may affect the 2016 presidential election.

Peggy Noonan is quite tired of Obama posing as if he's still concerned only with purple America, not red or blue Americans.
After forgetting to be gracious to the victors of the 2014 election, or even to note there’d been a significant election, he referred to his relations with Congress. “Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different,” he said. “A better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.” It is instead one “where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.” Well, OK, but before this sweet hectoring he had sternly threatened to veto Republican-backed legislation. (CBS News’s Mark Knoller counts nine veto threats since the new Congress was sworn in Jan. 6.) Somehow Mr. Obama’s olive branch always looks like a blunt instrument. He has spent the past six years blaming Republicans when he wasn’t ignoring or dissing them, and despite some nice touches in the speech, his essential disrespect for his political adversaries shone through.

He hates them. They hate him back.

Kevin Williamson writes about liberal protesters have erased the concept of private lives as exhibited by recent protests invading restaurants where people were eating Sunday brunch.
The message these protests send is that there is no private space — and, therefore, no private life — so far as this particular rabble is concerned. It’s the familiar Trotsky conundrum: You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.

That the people at brunch have no real direct connection to the events motivating the protesters is beside the point. They were targeted on racial grounds: These were detestable “white spaces,” and the people there were to be punished for being white — even if they were not, in fact, white, their presence in “white spaces” makes them guilty by association. That the protesters were themselves largely white goes without saying: Protests of this sort are a prestige performance for stupid white college kids, mainly. If you want to see a genuinely “white space,” a protest is your best bet....

Such was the case in San Francisco’s Castro district, a prominent gay neighborhood, when 300 protesters shut down its main street to protest the fact that the neighborhood “is a space dominated by white middle-class men, and is symbolic of the racial divide within the LGBT community and gentrification in San Francisco in general,” as one local dope put it. Their demands were for “all mainstream LGBT organizations to take concrete action in support of black lives,” and they provided a list of organizations to which they would like to see local organizations offering donations.

Which is to say, they’re running a protection racket.

That’s historically been a pretty good business for the Left. Jesse Jackson, surely one of the wealthiest Baptist preachers without a congregation, has had a very successful career at that, and he’s smarter than the “black brunch” gang. He isn’t in New York complaining that Manhattan brunch spots are too white; he’s in Silicon Valley complaining that the C-suites and boardrooms of gazillion-dollar tech companies are too white. You don’t get paid leaning on brunchers; you get paid leaning on Google, a company in which whites are slightly underrepresented but Asian Americans are wildly overrepresented, constituting about 30 percent of its employees. When it comes to “people of color,” you can be sure that the Reverend Jackson has a favorite crayon in his diversity pack. Practically every affirmative-action debate in California, whether on corporate diversity or college admissions, is silently, guiltily concerned with the fact that it is not whites who are overrepresented in positions of prestige but members of a minority group, one whose interests there is not much juice in defending. When it comes to politics, all the money is in dysfunction, and Asian Americans are relatively short on that.
Sensible people would tell these pathetic bullies to mind their own business, but minding your business — and Google’s business — is literally Jesse Jackson’s business. (Literally, Mr. Vice President.)

The Senate under a brief three weeks of Republican leadership has now allowed more votes on amendments to bills than the Democrats allowed all last year. And Democratic senators are quite happy about this.

President Obama inadvertently gave his view of the media a couple of days ago.
"I mean, we have an entire industry that's designed to sort us out," said Obama, as recorded by C-SPAN and officially transcribed by the White House. "Our media is all segmented now so that instead of just watching three stations, we got 600. And everything is market-segmented, and you got the conservative station and the liberal stations. So everybody is only listening to what they already agree with."
599 to 1. That's the ratio that Obama just gave us when he indicated that each station has an ideology and there is only one conservative one. Sounds about right.