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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cruising the Web

Charles C. W. Cooke summarizes the increasing embarrassment
that the Obama administration is facing in trying to argue that the wording in the Affordable Care Act that limited federal subsidies only to states that established their own exchanges was just a typo. Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist regarded by many as the architect of Obamacare has been making that argument since the Halbig decision. But now video and audio have surfaced from 2012 with Gruber giving speeches telling people that states are going to want to establish their own exchanges because they won't get subsidies.
The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it.
That's just what the lawyers for Halbig have been arguing - that the law was deliberately written to deny subsidies to states without exchanges as a stick to force states to establish those exchanges. It was no typo or grammar mistake; it was deliberate. Gruber tried to defend himself by saying it was a "speak-o" and that he misspoke back in 2012. But apparently, Gruber made that "speak-o" at least twice. He is not a stupid man. This was clearly part of the arguments in favor of Obamacare that he was making in his speeches back then.

I have a suggestion for those people with more time to research this or some journalist who wanted a scoop, but I would recommend people look back to 2012 when governors were making decisions whether or not to set up their own health exchange or to rely on the federal exchanges. There was a period that I remember when one or two governors announced they weren't going to have their own exchanges and then it was like a row of dominos as more and more states made that decision. I suspect that, at some point when these decisions were being made, that people from HHS would have talked to those governors or legislators and reminded them that their citizens weren't going to get those subsidies. This was obviously the plan, as Gruber was speaking about in his speeches. Call those governors and ask them if they received any such communication from HHS or if any Democrats in their state or elsewhere made that point. Maybe no one mentioned that, but it seems to make sense that, if the denial of subsidies was planned as a stick to move the states in one direction, someone would have wielded that stick at some point.

Charles C. W. Cooke explains why all this really matters. It's much bigger than deciding the fate of Obamacare.
Those of us who have been critical of Obamacare’s endless textual invitations to leave the details of national policy up “the secretary” have often referred to the law as an “enabling act” — as a perilous general warrant that transfers the prerogatives of Congress to the executive branch and substitutes for the codified work of citizen-approved legislators the transient whims of a haughty mandarin class. Little did we know just how appropriate our critique would become. There being nothing in America’s constitutional settlement that permits a president to recast the rules if they prove electorally inconvenient for him, the Obama administration’s repeated rewriting of the law has been vexing enough in isolation. Far worse, however, is that in the eyes of the expansionist Left, Obamacare seems not to represent a limited series of binding and meaningful words on a page — there to be implemented within the usual bounds of discretion — but a holistic permission slip for its aims. Increasingly, its defenders’ arguments are boiling down to “but this is a good idea,” an approach that renders Obamacare little more than a shell into which good intentions can be poured without limit and that cannot legitimately be resisted — not by Congress, not by the states, and not even by the courts. “Sure,” the attitude dictates, “it doesn’t say we can do that explicitly. But all right-thinking people believe we should.” “Yes,” say the foot soldiers, “this was fought over tooth and nail and passed in extreme circumstances. But the intent of the good guys should prevail nonetheless.” Meanwhile, anyone who pushes back is met with the same mawkish, manipulative cry: “Are you really going to take away from people what we have now given them?”

The answer to this question should be a resounding “yes.” Yes, if you had no authority to give out favors in the first instance. Yes, if you insist upon behaving with no regard for memory or for history. Yes, if you are determined to hijack the system and ride roughshod over the consent of the governed. “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,” Aldous Huxley once wrote. The rule of law, neither. Reality is not optional, and power is not its arbiter — whatever our celebrated experts might find it convenient to forget.
Kimberley Strassel reports on how the IRS rule came about saying that all the states would get federal subsidies despite what the actual text of the law said. Originally, the IRS had decided otherwise because they, you know, read the law. But then the political appointees in the administration put pressure on the IRS and lo and behold, they changed their minds.
We know this thanks to a largely overlooked joint investigation and February report by the House Oversight and Ways and Means committees into the history of the IRS subsidy rule. We know that in the late summer of 2010, after ObamaCare was signed into law, the IRS assembled a working group—made up of career IRS and Treasury employees—to develop regulations around ObamaCare subsidies. And we know that this working group initially decided to follow the text of the law. An early draft of its rule about subsidies explained that they were for "Exchanges established by the State."

Yet in March 2011, Emily McMahon, the acting assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department (a political hire), saw a news article that noted a growing legal focus on the meaning of that text. She forwarded it to the working group, which in turn decided to elevate the issue—according to Congress's report—to "senior IRS and Treasury officials." The office of the IRS chief counsel—one of two positions appointed by the president—drafted a memo telling the group that it should read the text to mean that everyone, in every exchange, got subsidies. At some point between March 10 and March 15, 2011, the reference to "Exchanges established by the State" disappeared from the draft rule.

Emails viewed by congressional investigators nonetheless showed that Treasury and the IRS remained worried they were breaking the law. An email exchange between Treasury employees in the spring of 2011 expressed concern that they had no statutory authority to deem a federally run exchange the equivalent of a state-run exchange.

Yet rather than engage in a basic legal analysis—a core duty of an agency charged with tax laws—the IRS instead set about obtaining cover for its predetermined political goal. A March 27, 2011, email has IRS employees asking HHS political hires to cover the tax agency's backside by issuing its own rule deeming HHS-run exchanges to be state-run exchanges. HHS did so in July 2011. One month later the IRS rushed out its own rule—providing subsidies for all.

That proposed rule was criticized by dozens of scholars and congressional members, all telling the IRS it had a big legal problem. Yet again, the IRS did no legal analysis. It instead brought in a former aide to Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, whose job appeared to be to gin up an after-the-fact defense of the IRS's actions. The agency formalized its rule in May 2012.

To summarize: The IRS (famed for nitpicking and prosecuting the tax law), chose to authorize hundreds of billions of illegal subsidies without having performed a smidgen of legal due diligence, and did so at the direction of political taskmasters. The agency's actions provided aid and comfort to elected Democrats, even as it disenfranchised millions of Americans who voted in their states to reject state-run exchanges. And Treasury knows how ugly this looks, which is why it initially stonewalled Congress in its investigation—at first refusing to give documents to investigators, and redacting large portions of the information.

Administration officials will continue to use the IRS to try to improve its political fortunes. The subsidy shenanigans are merely one example. Add Democrats' hijacking of the agency to target and silence political opponents. What you begin to see are the makings of a Washington agency—a body with the power to harass, to collect, to fine, to imprison—working on behalf of one political party. Richard Nixon, eat your heart out.
It used to alarm people when they saw a president politicizing the IRS. Now it's SOP for the Democrats.

George Will writes about why the GOP might have a winning Senate candidate in Oregon.

Turnabout is fair play. After two presidential cycles when the Democrats hung antipathy to George W. Bush around the GOP candidates, now Hillary will find herself portrayed as running for the third term of Barack Obama. She is going to have to defend his policies, particularly in foreign policy. She already is getting those questions and having to defend him. She might try to sell herself as the third term of Bill Clinton's presidency, but she won't be able to escape Obama's record. That must really burn her.

Hillary Clinton keeps up her argument that Americans need to do a better job of selling ourselves to the rest of the world. And then she goes to say that George W. Bush's efforts fighting HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa make her proud to be an American. The implication she leaves is that that is no longer true for Americans today. Hmmm. And who was the Secretary of State whose main accomplishment was traveling to more countries than any previous Secretary of State? Why weren't her four years in office that just ended a year and a half ago more successful in selling the image of the United States?

Now who would expect this? People are getting angry when they find out that they're paying more and getting less for their health insurance due to Obamacare.

Chelsea Clinton has tried to have it both ways - refusing to talk to the media sometimes and then trying to get all sorts of publicity and a job in the media other times. And for someone with two advanced degrees in fields in which she never had a job, she seemed to luck her way into jobs with six-figure salaries and for which she had no experience whatsoever. It sounds like the perfect preparation for her to run for high political office.

A plagiarism scandal now hits BuzzFeed. When will people learn how easy plagiarism is to catch these days?

Jazz Shaw points out how the income of Michigan workers has actually risen despite (or because) its becoming a right-to-work state.

This is depressing. Literally. The typical household is now worth a third less than it was a decade ago.

If your movie ticket gets more expensive, blame the ADA and the DOJ. Or just stay home and wait for the movie to come to Netflix.

Dave Barry gives his take on Fifty Shades of Grey. Very funny.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cruising the Web

Now this is the true war on women.
The militant group Islamic State (Isis) has ordered all girls and women in and around Iraq's northern city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, the United Nations says.

The Washington Post editorial board doesn't have the same moral blindness of some other media outlets. They fully recognize how the evil of Hamas has brought this invasion on themselves.
Hamas’s offensive tunnels should not be confused with the burrows it has dug under Gaza’s border with Egypt to smuggle money, consumer goods and military equipment. The newly discovered structures have only one conceivable purpose: to launch attacks inside Israel. Three times in recent days, Hamas fighters emerged from the tunnels in the vicinity of Israeli civilian communities, which they clearly aimed to attack. The ­concrete-lined structures are stocked with materials, such as handcuffs and tranquilizers, that could be used on hostages. Other tunnels in northern Gaza are designed for the storage and firing of missiles at Israeli cities.

The resources devoted by Hamas to this project are staggering, particularly in view of Gaza’s extreme poverty. By one Israeli account, the typical tunnel cost $1 million to build over the course of several years, using tons of concrete desperately needed for civilian housing. By design, many of the tunnels have entrances in the heavily populated Shijaiyah district, where the Israeli offensive has been concentrated. One was found underneath al-Wafa hospital, where Hamas also located a command post and stored weapons, according to Israeli officials.

The depravity of Hamas’s strategy seems lost on much of the outside world, which — following the terrorists’ script — blames Israel for the civilian casualties it inflicts while attempting to destroy the tunnels. While children die in strikes against the military infrastructure that Hamas’s leaders deliberately placed in and among homes, those leaders remain safe in their own tunnels. There they continue to reject cease-fire proposals, instead outlining a long list of unacceptable demands.
Maybe CNN should get the message. At least the Israeli ambassador to the US took on CNN's biased coverage. They must hate when their guest makes a fool of them on TV. Rich Lowry covers the "useful idiots" who are defending Hamas.
Jon Stewart did a controversial bit last week about how Israel has all the advantages in the conflict, what with its warnings via app to its civilians about incoming rockets and its ability to neutralize those rockets with its missile defenses.

Our New Fear of Flying

Why Am I Moving Left?
Yes, how unfair. Israel invested in systems entirely devoted to protecting its civilian population from unprovoked attack. What dastardliness is the Zionist Entity capable of next?
Dean Obeidallah of The Daily Beast lauds Stewart for this in a piece headlined, “How Jon Stewart Made It Okay to Care About Palestinian Suffering.” It’s more like making it cool to be obtuse about the Gaza war.

Of course there is an asymmetry between Hamas and Israel. There will always be a technological gap between a ramshackle terror force with medieval religious views and a dynamic, liberal society. On Sept. 11, 2001, Al Qaeda had box cutters. We had B-52s. Did that make us the unsympathetic Goliath to Al Qaeda’s David?

Israel might well undertake an indiscriminate, scorched earth campaign in Gaza — if it were run by, say, the Assad regime in Syria, with its taste for chemical weapons and barrel bombs. Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out in The Atlantic that 700 people were killed in Syria last weekend alone, outpacing the total death toll in Gaza so far, but the deaths received almost no media coverage.

....None of this is to deny the very real suffering of Gazans. No rational person interested in their welfare would govern the way Hamas does. Who except a band of fanatics would conclude that what desperately poor Gaza needs is a constant state of war with a much more powerful neighboring state?

Hamas is a miserable excuse for a government. Its technical proficiency is smuggling. Its infrastructure program consists of building tunnels for acts of murder and kidnapping. Its civil defense system is to admonish endangered civilians not to heed Israeli warnings to flee buildings about to be hit. Its peace plan is annihilation of the Jewish state.

It can’t achieve that by force of arms. Its objective is, with support from fellow travelers and useful idiots the world over, to make Israel the new South Africa, to isolate it and morally delegitimize it toward its ultimate destruction. If it takes countless dead Palestinians to do it, so be it.

The "fatwa" issued by the Sunni Muslim fighters would potentially affect 4 million women and girls, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, told reporters in Geneva by videolink from Irbil
But don't expect Democrats to turn from their moaning about Hobby Lobby and complaints about laws forcing abortion clinics to have connections to hospitals in order to mount a real effort to try to change this abomination.

It's probably not a good idea to complain about all the money in politics while you're speaking to a fundraiser asking people to write out some big checks. But then Michelle Obama is so convinced of her own righteousness that she can manage it.

Yup, the problems that Obamacare is facing in the appellate courts is the fault of the Democrats' lousy drafting of the original law.
It’s a lesson, some health care experts say, in why President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats took their chances in 2010 when they passed the Affordable Care Act using a special procedure called budget reconciliation. That allowed the Senate to pass the bill with just 51 votes, because they couldn’t get 60 votes after Republican Scott Brown was elected to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts.

But it didn’t allow Congress to fix simple wording mistakes in the law — an earlier version of which had squeaked through the Senate with GOP support in late 2009. The rules allowed only limited changes with a clear budget impact. It’s a bit like the college student who slaps together a rough draft of a term paper, expecting to clean it up before it’s handed in, only to find suddenly time is up.

The sloppy language stayed — and it came back to bite the Democrats on Tuesday.

“When you pass a bill by any means necessary, you can fix a lot, but you can’t fix everything,” said Thomas Miller, a health care expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “The staff writes it late at night. It’s never reconciled … and they say, ‘Oh well, we’ll fix it after it’s passed.’”

One Israeli writes an eloquent response to those who are sanctimoniously condemning Israel for civilian deaths as they move into Gaza to try to stop the murderous attacks aimed at Israeli citizens.
If anyone doesn’t understand any of the above; if anyone doesn’t get it; if any of my friends are going to post anti-Israel messages in a time where over 500 Palestinians have tragically died in this current conflict yet you remained silent while almost 200,000 Arabs were murdered by Arabs these past few years; if you’re not writing about Assad using chemical weapons against his people; if you’re not writing about ISIS who crucified 8 Christians the other day and who are telling Iraqi Christians ‘convert, pay tax, or die’; if you only have criticism for the State of Israel that is doing EVERYTHING in its power to avoid civilian losses to Palestinians during a war; if you’re going to do nothing but sit wherever you’re sitting and just dish out your anti-Israel dirt while rockets are being aimed at my house, family and friends as our boys are fighting to protect us – and you’re going to dish it out simply because we’re living in this land and you haven’t got a clue as to our connection to it; if you’re going to join the anti-semitic and anti-Israel demonstrations flaring up in the world like we’re seeing in France, Turkey, Berlin, most Arab states and even in the US that have nothing to do with this conflict but are really just expressions of hatred directed at Jews and Israelis (and these expressions will be directed at the host countries soon); if you’re going to stay quiet and just accept, then go ahead and unfriend me from Facebook now because you’re probably no friend of mine.

Know this: when someone tries to end my life, IT IS PERSONAL.
And if you’re adding fuel to the fire by posting crap that in some small way will contribute to my demise, then again - un-friend me now.

Because you can have the hatred, the twisted, the sick and evil and be a part of that – or you can have me. But you can’t have both.

Shalom, motherf****r.
In the same vein the Israeli Justice Minister responded to the ridiculous UN Human Rights Council's announcement that it would be investigating Israel for war crimes. Weaselzippers uses Google translate for this message:
I have [four] words to say about the decision of the UN human rights council – see if I care!
We will keep on making decisions for the safety of Israeli citizens according to our moral compass, the IDF will fight the terror and keep on doing the most to avoid harming innocents, and you [written plural] will keep on encourage the terror – because that is exactly what your decision is doing.

How President Obama gets us to pay for his fundraising. Other presidents have done this, of course. Now this is a campaign loophole that can be closed up.

Just in case you thought that Andrew Cuomo was serious about rooting out corruption in New York politics, think again. He's not interested in exposing corruption if it leads back to him.

Now, that takes chutzpah - to sue the employees of a pizzeria who stopped you from robbing the place.

The Des Moines Register is catching Iowans up on the evidence that Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate for senator was at fundraisers instead of going to meetings of the Veterans Affairs committee looking into long wait times for veterans at VA hospitals.

Josh Kraushaar assesses the possibility that 2014 will be a GOP wave election.

Ron Fournier issues a strategy memo to reporters to fight back against the way that the White House is putting them in a strait jacket so that they can't perform their jobs.
Remember, a spokesman gets paid to get his or her point of view in your story. They need you. Don't cede that leverage for anything less than the terms you need to serve your readers. Write a tough story, and they'll call back demanding an update with their point of view. That's when you politely remind them that they're on the record.

What can the media do about the explosion of "background briefings"? Anytime you think one should be on the record, stand up (or speak up) at the start of the briefing and politely inform whoever's in charge that the event in "on the record." Don't ask. Tell them.

I did this a few times, most memorably during the 2004 presidential campaign when Democratic nominee John Kerry wanted to chat with reporters aboard his plane. He wanted it to be "off the record," which means whatever he wanted to say could never be reported. Years ago, I agreed to similar terms aboard Air Force One with President Clinton, and watched in horror as competitors violated the terms. My editor wasn't happy with me. With that memory, I politely told Kerry that I would be taking notes and filing.

Kerry had a choice. He could chat with us on my terms (a "win-win") or walk away. He stormed back to his cabin, and I got back to writing an analysis of his flailing campaign.
Too many reporters seem content to be poodles for the White House instead of using the leverage that Fournier reminds them that they have.

Stuart Rothenberg explains some behind-the-scenes shenanigans by Democratic pollsters to make it look like the Montana Senate race was tightening up. They didn't fool him and it is all probably moot now as the Democrat, John Walsh, is now facing all sorts of embarrassing stories about his plagiarized Master's thesis and his explanation that he was suffering from PTSD which led him to not cite the sources that he borrowed from.

Megan McArdle looks ahead to what might happen to the insurance industry if the Supreme Court were to agree with the D.C. Circuit and strike down federal subsidies to those states that don't have health care exchanges.
Here the administration’s reliance on administrative fixes to paper over problems with the law really begins to hurt it. If it looks as if a Republican might be in the Oval Office come 2017 -- or even if there’s a Republican Senate in 2015 that can start forcing Democrats to take a series of embarrassing votes on the subsidies the administration has been funneling to insurers -- then insurers may start getting a mite nervous, by and by.

If Halbig goes against the administration, the risk corridors are winding down, and the possibility of a Republican president looms, how hard will insurers work to keep the program going? I can tell the story either way: that they’re desperate to make it work before the Oval Office turns over, or that they finally just give up and leave the White House to wallow in a big mess. Or maybe a bit of both, with different strategies state by state. This remains the most important unknown, and interestingly, the one the fewest people are talking about.

In the end, some states will probably create their own exchanges, and many probably won’t. That wedge between the states with subsidies and the states without would leave an unstable fault line at the heart of the law, one that might cleave at any moment and destroy the whole thing.

Charles Krauthammer explains his theory on Obama's passivity in the face of all the foreign crises he's faced during his presidency. Obama is just waiting for the "arc of history" to wreak havoc on those who are "on the wrong side of history."
Of course, in the long run nothing lasts. But history is lived in the here and now. The Soviets had only 70 years, Hitler a mere 12. Yet it was enough to murder millions and rain ruin on entire continents. Bashar al-Assad, too, will one day go. But not before having killed at least 100,000 people.

All domination must end. But after how much devastation? And if you leave it to the forces of history to repel aggression and redeem injustice, what’s the point of politics, of leadership, in the first place?

The world is aflame and our leader is on the 14th green. The arc of history may indeed bend toward justice, Mr. President. But, as you say, the arc is long. The job of a leader is to shorten it, to intervene on behalf of “the fierce urgency of now.” Otherwise, why do we need a president? And why did you seek to become ours?

George H.W. Bush lets us know his approach to wearing socks. You can even enter his competition for designing socks. As someone who buys her socks from Little Miss Matched, I heartily approve. Socks should be fun!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cruising the Web

Daniel Henninger writes on the President's seeming insouciance about what is going on around the world.
As the world burns, the president spent this week fiddling at fundraisers in the living rooms of five Democratic Party fat cats in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. As White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri famously explained, changing the president's fundraising schedule "can have the unintended consequence of unduly alarming the American people or creating a false sense of crisis."

Alarmed? Who's alarmed? What false sense of crisis? Vladimir Putin's masked men in eastern Ukraine shot Malaysia Airlines Flight 17's 298 people out of the air just about the time Israel and Hamas commenced their death struggle, not long after the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham occupied a third of Iraq within seven days. Now ISIS is cleansing Mosul of its Christians.

If news coverage defined reality, you'd think the civil war in Syria was over. There just isn't space to fit it all in. The homicidal Islamic fanatics of Boko Haram may soon establish statelike control of northern Nigeria, as ISIS has in Iraq. Last week the April kidnappers of the world's now-forgotten "our girls" gunned down another 44 Nigerians, then days later killed 100 more in villages abandoned by the Nigerian army. After Boko Haram grabbed a German citizen in Gombi, Germany's foreign ministry said it was "aware of the case."

On Monday, Barack Obama showed up on the White House lawn to make clear that he, too, is aware of what's going on. Addressing the war in Gaza for about three minutes, Mr. Obama urged "the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting." He said, "I have asked John,"—that would be our squirrel-on-a-wheel secretary of state—to "help facilitate" that. That is a foreign policy whose arc begins and ends with the phrase, "stop the killing."

More revealing, though, was what Mr. Obama said on the airliner shoot-down and Russia's role. "If Russia continues to violate Ukraine's sovereignty," he said, and if it still backs the separatists who are becoming "more and more dangerous" not just to Ukrainians "but the broader international community," then "the costs for Russia" will increase.

What does this mean? Mr. Putin will really be in hot water with the U.S. president if one of his proxies does something worse than shoot a passenger jet out of the sky?

Here's what it means. It means that "the situation," as the White House routinely euphemizes all the world's chaos, is going to get worse. It means in the next two years many more people are going to die, and not necessarily in the places where they are dying now. Why should it stop?
And Hillary Clinton's response isn't much better.
On Sunday, another telling event slipped in. Bosnian Muslims buried 284 bodies recently found in a mass grave from the Balkans war in the 1990s. That war was a genocide taking place on post-World War II European soil, which didn't stop until the U.S. acted to end it. Now with Dutch bodies strewn across Ukraine, president-in-waiting Hillary Clinton ludicrously says, "Europeans have to be the ones to take the lead on this."

As a White House veteran of the Milosevic slaughters in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, Mrs. Clinton knows Europe won't act until the U.S. leads. Europe today mainly wages war on Google, Microsoft, and Intel. Its leaders won't do much more than hope nothing like a Flight 17 happens one morning in the subways or on the streets of their capitals. Hope alone won't protect them or us.

This week the original 9/11 Commission put out an update on global terrorism. The report says the "complacency" that led to 9/11 "is happening again."

How, then, to explain someone who claims he can run the country and a troubled world out of his back pocket while he flies from fundraiser to fundraiser? Barack Obama is the most provincial U.S. president in at least a century. The progressive Democrats who displaced the Clinton machine in 2008 and came to power with Mr. Obama have no interest beyond consolidating political and electoral power inside the U.S. Not even the White House of Lyndon Johnson, the ultimate pol, was so purely politicized.

The fundraising is a frantic effort to protect this new Democratic voter machine. The world doesn't vote, so the world doesn't matter. Unless, of course, the American people in November decide that a world defined by events like Flight 17 does matter.

And this isn't an example of competence in foreign affairs:
Obama refused ‘repeated requests’ since August 2013 for drone strikes against ISIS

But, as Jim Geraghty writes, there is just no rest for President Obama.

David Horovitz writes in the Times of Israel about the terrible cost that Israel is paying as their soldiers fight through Gaza to find and destroy the tunnels through which Hamas has been using and was planning to use for terror attacks against Israeli civilians. They've built tunnels targeting an Israeli Kindergarten.
But Israel is paying a heavy price. Soldiers have been killed in booby-trapped buildings. Six, maybe seven died when their armored personnel carrier was hit by an anti-tank missile in Shejaiya. They are fighting off kidnap attempts. They report being charged by Gaza children as young as 13 wearing suicide-bomber belts laden with explosives. The losses are mounting. “We’re in a war,” said Col. Uri Gordin, commander of the Nahal Brigade, on Tuesday.

Hamas is using every dirty trick in the book. Everybody now knows what Israel has said for years — that Gaza’s terrorist government hides its rockets in schools, fires from next to mosques, buries its ammunition under homes, sets up its command and control centers in hospitals. We all now also know that when its rockets are found in schools run by UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), UNRWA gives them back to Hamas (and the US keeps on funding UNRWA).

Most despicably, Hamas warned civilians in Shejaiya not to heed Israeli pleas to leave the area — from where over 150 rockets have been fired, and numerous tunnels dug — ahead of the bitter fighting that has raged there since Saturday night; hence the awful scale of civilian casualties. The Hamas fighters, meanwhile, were lying in wait underground, preparing to ambush the Israeli ground forces.

Hamas is still resisting calls for a ceasefire. Why would it stop, when its popularity is high among Gaza residents for its “resistance” to hated Israel, and when it cares not a whit for the fate of those self-same Gazans? A hundred dead Israelis, even at the price of thousands of dead Gazans, would constitute victory in its eyes. Why stop, when it is being urged on by tens of thousands of demonstrators around the world — some suffering a surfeit of passion and a deficit of common sense, some consumed by hatred for Israel?

Most people here, however, feel that Israel cannot countenance a ceasefire either — unless it can be assured that Hamas would be unable to rearm, reorganize, rebuild those tunnels, research and develop rockets that can outwit Iron Dome, and dream up who knows what other strategies for killing us. And who can give us that assurance?

Israel certainly wants to put a stop to the loss of life — but the goal that Netanyahu set at the outset of this war, ensuring sustained quiet, can only be achieved through the long-term weakening of Hamas or its ouster. If there is no viable political solution, that means Israeli military action – bolstered by our fortunately burgeoning security partnership with Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s Egypt, preventing the influx of weaponry and materials into the Strip. (One fervently hopes there’s a great deal of Jerusalem-Cairo coordination going on right now.) Israel needs Gaza demilitarized, and the UN, US, EU et al are no more capable of ensuring that than the international community was capable of disarming Hezbollah in south Lebanon.
Even the EU seems to understand the evil tactics of Hamas. But the U.S. State Department still seems to regard the situation as one in which both sides are culpable. The administration seems to forget that Israel had already agreed to a cease-fire but Hamas turned it down.
It’s a sad day when, while the EU continues to regard Israel as safe for European citizens, the State Department issues a travel warning for US citizens against non-essential trips to Israel.

It’s a sad day, too, when the best that the administration can manage is to tell us we have “the right to self-defense,” rather than leading a global diplomatic offensive that champions Israel’s obligation to protect itself, and that musters any and every means to help its sole dependable Middle Eastern ally in that mission.

And it’s just a farcical day when we watch the US lead the abandonment of Israel by foreign airlines — a capitulation to terrorism that is simply not justified by the asserted security risk. This is the same United States leadership that is angry with us for failing to place our faith in high-tech security guarantees that, Secretary of State John Kerry swore blind, would assure our safety if we were to follow our withdrawal from Gaza with a similar full departure from the West Bank. Rather than simply cutting Israel off from American civilian flights, why have the US authorities not at least redirected flights to neighboring Jordan, where surely American security procedures could ensure the safe transfer of passengers on a short bus journey to Israel?

I hadn't realized this. I thought we'd have to wait for the Halbig case to go through an en banc hearing before it could be appealed to the Supreme Court, but since the side arguing against the federal subsidies lost in the Fourth Circuit in King v. Burwell, the lawyers for King could request an expedited appeal so that the issue could be settled without waiting the probably two years we might have to wait if Halbig goes to a full court hearing. As the WSJ writes everyone would benefit from an expedited appeal so that we could get this cleared up one way or another. And it would be an added plus to thwart Harry Reid's nuclear option shenanigans.
The Supreme Court could wait for another appellate conflict to emerge. Yet the delay could last two years or more and compound the policy harm if the Administration's ObamaCare rewrite is ultimately vacated. The sooner the Administration has to ask Congress to fix its mistake, the better for the country.

A fast Fourth Circuit appeal would also do a public service by spoiling the Administration's strategy of packing the D.C. Circuit to guarantee an en banc ruling against Halbig. Last year the White House and Senate Democrats rushed to junk the filibuster in order to add three judges to the D.C. Circuit precisely to block these big cases from getting to the Supreme Court. The circuit has long been a way station for large cases but now is likely to turn into a somewhat less wacky version of the liberal Ninth Circuit.

Eric Holder is now saying that amnesty for illegal immigrants is a "civil and human right." How absurd is that? John Hinderaker explains why this makes no sense.
If you don’t believe in national sovereignty, if you don’t believe that a country is entitled to have a border, then it makes sense to say that a non-citizen has a civil (i.e., legal) right to enter the country and remain forever, regardless of any laws to the contrary. Otherwise, Holder’s proposition–which I think accurately reflects the thinking of the Obama administration–is nonsensical.
The NYT reports that the Democrat who was appointed to be Senator from Montana to fill Sen. Baucus's seat plagiarized the paper that he wrote to get his Master's Degree from the Army War College.
The breadth of Mr. Walsh’s apparent plagiarism, however, is rivaled by few examples in recent political history. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, was found last year to have presented the work of others as his own in a newspaper opinion article, a book and speeches. And Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. dropped his 1988 presidential bid when it was revealed that in campaign speeches he had used language similar to that of the British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock without attribution.

Mr. Walsh appears to have gone considerably further.

About a third of his paper consists of material either identical to or extremely similar to passages in other sources, such as the Carnegie or Harvard papers, and is presented without attribution. Another third is attributed to sources through footnotes, but uses other authors’ exact — or almost exact — language without quotation marks.

The senator included 96 footnotes in his paper, but many of them only illustrate this troubling pattern. In repeated instances, Mr. Walsh uses the language of others with no quotation marks, but footnotes the source from which the material came. In other cases, the passages appear in his paper with a word or two changed, but are otherwise identical to the authors’ language.

For example, in the first paragraph of his paper, Mr. Walsh writes of George W. Bush: “During the 2000 presidential campaign Bush and his advisors made it clear that they favored great-power realism over idealistic notions such as nation building or democracy promotion.”

At the end of this sentence, which Mr. Walsh included without quotation marks, he footnoted a reference to a 2003 article in Foreign Affairs by Thomas Carothers, a prominent foreign policy expert. The only difference between Mr. Walsh’s paper and Mr. Carothers’ essay is that Mr. Walsh wrote “advisors” rather than “advisers” and did not use “had.” In other instances, Mr. Walsh swaps a synonym for a word in the original document.

He writes on his second page: “There are deep disagreements about the appropriate theoretical framework, about whether democracy is simply an institutional arrangement for choosing rulers or an end in itself, about how to measure and evaluate democracy, and about the importance of prerequisites for democracy.”
Oh, dear. I spend every year trying to teach high schoolers what plagiarism is and why they shouldn't do it. It doesn't help when our nation's leaders are doing it.

Senator Walsh also plagiarized a bill he proposed.

Chris Cillizza had a post the other day positing that "It's virtually impossible to be a successful modern president." James Taranto has a great analysis ripping apart each part of Cillizza's argument. One of Cillizza's main points is that we're more polarized today than ever before. Those claims always amuse me because it seems so ahistorical. Things were even uglier in the 1790s or during the 1850s and the Civil War. Taranto links to a post by Steven Hayward to remind us of how liberals also thought that the U.S. was too difficult to govern in 1980. Hayward has quote after quote of people in the media and elites in academia were claiming about the weaknesses and difficulties of the presidency. Then Reagan became president and they forgot all about those complaints. And I'd remind Mr. Cillizza that President Obama was quite powerful in the first two years of his presidency. He was able to push his agenda through Congress despite not garnering any support from Republicans. Of course, his policies have had deleterious effects on the economy and employment plus the mess he's made of health policy. So he was clearly able to accomplish what he wished. The problems of partisanship blocking policy arose only when they lost the House in 2010. Gosh darn it! It is clearly just too difficult if a Democratic president should have to face divided government. Our Founders couldn't have wanted that to happen, could they? Oh, wait...

Democratic members of the FEC are pondering whether they have the power to regulate books published by politicians in election years. That's truly scary.

Gosh, everything the experts tell us about health seems to change. Eggs were bad for us; now they aren't. Fat was bad; now it isn't. Wine was bad; now it isn't. Carbs were good for us; now they aren't. And now they're saying we should get seven, not eight hours of sleep a night. I guess it will be like having Daylight's Saving Time every day. Of course, most nights during the school year, I'm happy if I get five hours.

For those of you who suspect you might have sleep apnea, you can now test yourself at home.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cruising the Web

Michael Cannon, who has been arguing that the Obamacare subsidies violated the actual text of the law, as a two to one panel on the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled today, explains how winners outnumber losers if the subsidies are struck down.

Of course, if the D.C. Circuit should hear the Halbig case in an en banc review, we'll see the impact of Harry Reid's nuclear option as it put a majority of Democratic appointees on the court. That might get today's decision reversed, but this case is going to go to the Supreme Court. And, while the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of the administration today, there are still two district courts in Indiana and Oklahoma that need to rule on this issue. So we'll have to wait until this goes before the Supreme Court. John Roberts will get another crack at a creative interpretation of the nexus of the IRS and Obamacare.

What is clear, no matter how this ends up, is that this was a terribly written law. This is what happens when Congress ignores legislative process and cobbles together a bill in backrooms without any input from the other party or really from anyone else. Then, due to Scott Brown's election to the Senate thus ending the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority, the Democrats had to push through the bill without any changes possible in a conference committee as would normally have been done. We've seen all sorts of problems with how the law was written thus making Nancy Pelosi's prediction that we had to pass the law to find out what was in it. It is humorous that the Democrats are basing their argument in this case on legislative intent. How can we discern their intent when none of them read the bill before they voted on it?

I deeply wish that this could be the absolute last time that Congress pushes through a bill skipping regular process, but I know it won't be. Both parties are guilty and the results are almost always bad.

Paul Mirengoff explains the difference between a drafting error in a law and poor draftsmanship. Obamacare was clearly the latter. Andrew McCarthy explains why the mistake at the basis of the Halbig decision today was a feature, not a bug. It was no error.
The Left now claims that this was the result of a drafting error. Even if that were true, Obamacare advocates would lose, assuming we are still governed by the rule of law. Only Congress can fix Congress’s drafting errors — judges, much less presidents and executive branch agencies, do not get to do this.

But this was not a drafting error at all. The point was to coerce the states into setting up exchanges, and the Left’s premise in structuring Obamacare as it did was its assessment that Obamacare, and especially its subsidies, would be popular. Obamacare turned out to be unpopular, however, and state governors and legislators did not suffer any political blow-back for refusing to help implement it. There was no ministerial drafting mistake; there was a mistaken assumption that the public would rally behind the policy, creating political pressure on state governments. Because statists think Obamacare is a good idea, they figured everyone would be brought around to that conclusion.
Ramesh Ponnuru also makes this point.
Yet nobody disputes that the law allowed states to refuse to expand Medicaid, which also frustrates that goal. The law as enacted tried to get the states to go along with the expansion by denying all Medicaid funds to holdouts. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not use such a blunt instrument: It could withhold some Medicaid funds but not all of them.

The withholding of tax credits from states without exchanges could similarly have been meant to induce them to establish them. In that case the lawmakers just overestimated how powerful an inducement it would be, and eventually the administration, facing a disaster for its policy and political ambitions, used the IRS to nullify the inducement altogether. The states called the feds’ bluff.

Well there goes one cover-up story.
Top IRS officials told congressional investigators that Lois Lerner's hard drive -- the one containing emails that could shed light on the IRS targeting scandal -- was irreparably damaged before it was destroyed completely in 2011. But now, investigators have had a chance to talk to the technical experts inside the IRS who actually examined Lerner's computer, and the experts say the hard drive in question was actually just "scratched," and that most of the data on it was recoverable.

The IRS computer experts also told the committee that they had recommended seeking outside help in recovering the data from Lerner's computer — something IRS management declined to do.

So why did the State Department issue a travel warning for Israel yesterday? Why is it more dangerous this week when rockets sent into Israel have declined due to Israel's ground invasion than it was in the previous two weeks when there were many more rockets being sent into Israel? Noah Pollak has an idea about this strange timing.
The answer may be that the Obama administration is using the travel warning to exert pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire. It could be a shot across the bow – a deniable but very real signal to Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Obama administration’s support for Israel’s operation in Gaza has come to an end, and that there will be consequences for its continuation. And at the same time the State Department was delivering a blow to the Israeli tourism industry, Kerry was showing solidarity with Gaza by announcing a $47 million aid package, much of which is slated to be administered by UNRWA, the corrupt and terror-linked UN agency that has been in the news for storing Hamas rockets in one of its schools.
Typical of this State Department and administration.

Just as a reminder, this is how Hamas acts to endanger its own civilians.
They hid at the El-Wafa hospital.

They hid at the Al-Aqsa hospital.

They hid at the beach, where children played football.

They hid at the yard of 75-year-old Muhammad Hamad.

They hid among the residential quarters of Shujaya.

They hid in the neighbourhoods of Zaytoun and Toffah.

They hid in Rafah and Khan Younis.

They hid in the home of the Qassan family.

They hid in the home of the poet, Othman Hussein.

They hid in 84 schools and 23 medical facilities.

They hid in a cafe, where Gazans were watching the World Cup.

They hid in the ambulances trying to retrieve the injured.

They hid themselves in 24 corpses, buried under rubble.

Noted anti-capitalist Michael Moore owns nine houses. Of course.

The Senate race in North Carolina this year is going to be a tight one. Neither side can be complacent, but don't put all that much faith in the recent PPP poll showing Kay Hagan up seven points against Republican Thom Tillis. And don't buy Nate Cohn's argument that the Republican wave has died down. Jay Cost explains why.

Byron York summarizes the difference between Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren.
Clinton is offering Democrats her resume. Warren is offering them a plan.

Does this surprise anyone? The GAO has found that it's not all that difficult for people with fake identities to get subsidies under Obamacare.

Ted Cruz responds to a plot line on HBO's "True Blood" in which vampires murder Texas Republicans at a Cruz fundraiser while the show uses some some really ugly language about Cruz and his supporters..
Well, I’m sorry to have lost the vampire vote, but am astonished (and amused) that HBO is suggesting that hard-core leftists are blood-sucking fiends….

Jeff Jacoby observes the increasing anti-Israel feeling among Democrats. It's a real change from how the Democratic Party used to support Israel.
But on the left, the Israeli-Arab dispute itself has been redefined. Liberals used to see the stakes with no illusions: A small Jewish democracy, an outpost of liberal Western values, was surrounded by brutal Arab dictatorships that denied its very right to exist. That moral clarity has eroded, partly because of facts on the ground over years of conflict — but ultimately through a skillful war of ideas, first launched on the radical left, to reframe the conflict by making Israel the villain and casting Palestinians, who had never been considered a nation, as an oppressed underdog seeking independence.

This intellectual assault began, as Muravchik details, when the Soviet Union, angered by Israel’s defeat of its Arab clients in 1967, engineered a propaganda campaign to delegitimize Zionism. Moscow embraced the PLO, assiduously promoting its significance to the global “anti-imperialist struggle.” The campaign was fought on many fronts, from academia to the United Nations to the media. Over time the anti-Israel narrative gained such traction that the Jewish state, though still a humane and liberal democracy, became one of the world’s most reviled nations.

Needless to say, Israel’s policies are always a legitimate target for honest criticism, as Israelis themselves — often among their government’s harshest critics — would be the first to assert. But critics ought to acknowledge that Israel’s choices are made by a democratic government confronting relentless security threats from an enemy sworn to its destruction. To fail to recognize that moral context is to miss what matters most — to be blind to the conflict’s essence.

Yet wherever the left holds sway, Israel is seen through jaundiced eyes. There has been an unprecedented moral inversion, illustrating the power of a noxious idea to seep from the ideological fringe to the mainstream.

President Obama can't seem to get his rear-covering stories straight. Time and again, we've been told that he didn't know about the problems in the VA or with the IRS or Fast and Furious or that his Justice Department was spying on reporters until he heard the reports on the news. But last night he told a fundraiser something different.
Mr. Obama told supporters that he doesn’t watch the news because, “Whatever they’re reporting about, usually I know.”
I guess that's all part of his "I'm smarter than anyone else around" image, but he needs to remember his own CYA stories.