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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cruising the Web

The Obama administration has tried to deny that any employer would adjust hiring behavior to make sure it didn't have to provide insurance for its employees. Tell that to the University of North Carolina system.
Starting next year, large employers must provide insurance for all employees who work more than 30 hours a week. The UNC system has 8,586 visiting professors, graduate assistants and others who meet that threshold but don't qualify for coverage under the State Health Plan because they are considered non-permanent employees.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the university system would have to provide insurance to all of those workers. The average cost of state health insurance is about $5,400 per year, bringing the total potential cost to $46.4 million.

"This is an unfunded mandate that's coming down on us," said Charlie Perusse, chief operating officer for the UNC system and a former state budget director.

UNC administrators say they might reduce the hours for many of the temporary workers to fewer than 30 per week to dodge the health care law's coverage requirement.

Joel Kotkin ponders whether dismal employment statistics among young people might help the GOP make inroads with those usually Democrat-leaning voters.
Today even a college degree guarantees increasingly little in terms of social uplift. Tuition debt is nearing $1 trillion; the percentage of 25-year-olds with school debt has risen from 25% in 2004 to close 40% in 2012. Average indebtedness amongst borrowers has grown 70% from $15,000 to nearly $25,000.

A record one in 10 recent college borrowers has defaulted on their debt, the highest level in a decade. With wages for college graduates on a downward slope, one has to wonder how many more will join them.

Over 43% of recent graduates who are employed are working at jobs that don’t require a college education, according to a recent report by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Some 16% of bartenders and almost the same percentage of parking attendants had a bachelor’s degree or higher, notes Ohio State economics professor Richard Vedder.

Besides a tepid economy, the millennials confront paying off huge public debts, much of it due to the generous pensions of boomer public employees. This constitutes what economist Robert Samuelson has labeled “a generational war” in which the young are destined to be losers in the “withering of the affluent society.” As he puts it: “For millions of younger Americans—say, those 40 and under—living better than their parents is a pipe dream. They won’t.”

Not surprisingly, the young, who are traditionally optimists, are becoming far less so. According to a Rutgers study, 56% of recent high school graduates feel they would not be financially more successful than their parents; only 14% thought they’d do better. College education doesn’t seem to make a difference: 58% of recent graduates feel they won’t do as well as the previous generation. Only 16% thought they’d do better.
If the GOP could put forth a message to appeal to those disillusioned young people, they might have a hope of decreasing the numbers identifying as Democrats. Though I would suppose that, if there were movement, it would be, as Kotikin acknowledges, towards voting as independents rather than becoming Republicans. And Kotkin's forecast would assume that young voters would ever see a link between the liberal economic policies they have previously supported and the dismal employment picture. They also might be just as likely to vote for politicians who promise to forgive their college loans and give them more government handouts for being unemployed as they would to support a more conservative solution. And even if the employment picture improved for those young people, they would return to voting mostly on social issues. So I remain skeptical of Kotkin's thesis.

Kay Hymowitz examines the lack of success from the approach taken in Scandinavian countries to try to eradicate all differences in how males and females are treated. Liberals claim that the only reason women choose careers that allow them to work fewer hours so that they can spend more time with their children is because of society's expectations, not due to fundamental differences between men and women. Even with all that these countries do, it is still women who are more likely to work fewer hours.
Consider Sweden, a country where the goal of gender parity is close to a national religion. Swedes have extensive paid parental leave designed so that it has to be shared by mothers and fathers in order for couples to receive the full 13 months off. They have high quality child care, and political party quotas to equalize the number of men and women running for office. Children’s clothes, toy and book companies try to design products to discourage any thoughts of boy or girl stuff. In some preschools teachers say “good morning, buddies” to avoid the offensive “good morning, boys and girls.”

The results are not what anyone could call revolutionary. Yes, women make up 45% of the Swedish parliament compared to a paltry 18% in the U.S Congress. And, yes, Swedish women are more likely to be in the labor force than their American counterparts. (Most of the data that follows comes from the 2012 OECD report “Closing the Gender Gap”). But the difference in labor force participation is not dramatic, and in most respects, Swedish women behave much as sisters do in the U.S.

Like Americans, Swedish women work substantially fewer hours than men; they are 2 times as likely to be part timers. They are the vast majority of social workers, teachers, and child care workers and a small minority of scientists (PDF) and CEO’s (PDF). In fact, Sweden’s labor market is among the most sex segregated (PDF) in the world and their wage gap shows it. Mothers take in only about 20% as men, much the same as in the United States. (links in original)

James Taranto takes on Justice Sotomayor's passionate dissent against yesterday's decision that the Michigan ballot initiative banning racial and gender preferences in public hiring, contracting, and university admissions decisions.
The most quoted part of Sotomayor's opinion is this: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination." This is a rejoinder to Chief Justice John Roberts's assertion, in Parents Involved v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1 (2007), that "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." (Roberts in turn rebutted Sotomayor in a separate concurrence to today's decision, which we're leaving out of our ranking by clarity.)

Robert's statement was trivially true, which means that Sotomayor's defies logic. Her argument amounts to an assertion that a ban on racial discrimination is a form of racial discrimination--that everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. Also Orwellian is her claim that she wants "to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race." Such an assertion is almost always disingenuous. After all, the way to speak openly and candidly is to speak openly and candidly. Declaring one's intention to do so is at best superfluous throat clearing.

And while Sotomayor may be open, she isn't candid. She presents a potted history of race in America in which there is a straight line from Jim Crow segregation through literacy tests to the Michigan amendment, which "involves this last chapter of discrimination"--even though it bans discrimination, and even though Sotomayor acknowledges that its substance is perfectly constitutional.
As John Fund observes, the position taken by Sotomayor and Eric Holder is that we should be fixated on race forever in this country. That is why Sotomayor drew a puzzling line from Jim Crow racists to the Michigan citizens who voted to ban any discrimination on the basis of race. And Justice Scalia, as the Washington Examiner notes, strongly refuted her accusation.
As Justice Harlan observed over a century ago [in his dissent to the Plessy v. Ferguson decision allowing separate but equal public accomodations], '[o]ur Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,'" Scalia concluded, quoting the dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson. "The people of Michigan wish the same for their governing charter. It would be shameful for us to stand in their way."

And then, the Parthian shot: “And doubly shameful to equate ‘the majority’ behind [the constitutional amendment] with ‘the majority’ responsible for Jim Crow,” he added in a final footnote, citing the first two pages of Sotomayor's dissent.

Politico examines how Senator Lindsay Graham was able to maneuver in South Carolina so that he wouldn't be threatened in a primary by Tea Party challenger as Senators Bob Bennett and Dick Lugar were back in 2010. Graham is one Republican who has irritated the party base for his votes with Democrats on several important issues. His success, however, in building a loyal voter base in his state follows the Strom Thurmond model and should be an example to other politicians who want to keep their seats once they're elected.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cruising the Web

These two maps show how ridiculous the objections are as they contrast the part of the proposed pipeline that Obama keeps postponing a decision on with all the pipelines that we already have in the United States.
Now do you get it? The Keystone Pipeline would represent a .04% increase in U.S. pipelines. That’s 4/100ths of 1%, a comparison identical to 2 feet versus 1 mile, or 1 teaspoon compared to 3 1/4 gallons.
I had no idea. It makes the objections even more ludicrous.

Sadly, American universities have imposed their own hegemony over views that are considered anathema to the liberal narrative. Ironically, criticizing the West for its hegemony over other cultures has become the preferred insult of such university thought police; they don't even realize how they are imposing their own hegemony of thought.
Harvard student Sandra Y.L. Korn recently proposed in The Harvard Crimson that academics should be stopped if their research is deemed oppressive. Arguing that “academic justice” should replace “academic freedom,” she writes: “If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?”

In other words, Korn would have the university cease to be a forum for open debate and free inquiry in the name of justice, as defined by mainstream liberal academia.

Unfortunately, this is already a reality in most universities across America, where academics and university administrators alike are trying, often successfully, to discredit and prohibit certain ideas and ways of thinking. Particularly in the humanities, many ideas are no longer considered legitimate, and debate over them is de facto non-existent. In order to delegitimize researchers who are out of line, academics brand them with one of several terms that have emerged from social science theory.
Read the rest.

John Crudele details the ongoing "pattern of falsifying statistics" of the Census bureau particularly when it comes to the unemployment data. He's been writing about such fraud for months and now some official investigations have begun. If any of what he has heard from anonymous sources is borne out, it is a true scandal and Crudele should receive a Pulitzer.
The data fabrication takes a number of forms.
My Midwest source says it is not unusual in that region for 800 out of roughly 2,000 interviews for the Current Population Survey (which is used to get the unemployment rate) to be incomplete, called “refusals,” on the last day of the monthly collection period.
Then, magically, only 100 will be unfinished when results are turned in next day to headquarters, which surveys for the Labor Department. “It’s statistically impossible,” my source says, “to complete the number of refusals we have in the last few hours.”
So supervisors are either filling out the surveys themselves or lying that houses are vacant — which also counts as a completed survey. Either way, any kind of falsification would obviously give a misrepresentation as to whether or not people in the household have a job.
And in an obvious conflict of interest, the wives of two of the supervisors in this Midwest region, according to my source, have been hired to check the results.
Up to 25 percent of the thousands of surveys that go into the jobless report may be fake, this source estimates. Falsification practices, obviously, also include field representatives like Buckmon who fill out the whole survey themselves (called at Census “curbstoning”).
How peculiar is it that NBC hired a "psychological consultant" (or as the network now prefers after being ridiculed for this tidbit, a "brand consultant") to talk to David Gregory and
his family and friends to try to determine whether there is some reason why Gregory's control over Meet The Press has coincided with a steep ratings drop? Did their consultant's conversations with Gregory's family and friends reveal that Gregory often comes across as an arrogant ideologue? That might hurt his ratings, but such a finding would involve caring about what many conservatives think of Gregory, an opinion they didn't hold about Tim Russert.

Did you know that the U.S. border guards are protecting us from anyone bringing in a certain brand of chocolate Easter eggs?

Rick Moran warns us: "Forget 'You can keep your doctor': try finding one first."

Ed Morrissey highlights what he calls the "best campaign ad of the cycle."

Oh, the irony. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is warning that we and our allies may "adjust" the timing of installing antimissile systems in Europe. Of course, those are the systems that were developed from Ronald Reagan's SDI program, the one that was ridiculed as "Star Wars" because it would be impossible to construct.

Oh, the hypocrisy. After excoriating President Bush for signing statements, Obama keeps on making them, just as he did last week on the measure to prevent Iran's new UN ambassador from entering the U.S.

Ron Fournier compares Obama's handling of Russia to how he handles Republican lawmakers. Obama came into office thinking that he could craft a new partnership with Putin since it was obviously just Bush's ham-handedness in diplomacy that had blocked such a partnership. But now he's concluced that Putin is just not worthy of such a partnership.
The turnaround on Russia is no more remarkable than the pivot Obama took after the 2008 election, when he abandoned his post-partisan brand at the first sight of Republican intransigence and forced the Affordable Care Act through Congress without GOP backing. Once poisoned, the well went dry: The candidate who had the "audacity to hope" for a new kind of politics surrendered to the toxic culture he promised to change. Obama wrote off Republicans. He said House Speaker John Boehner can't or won't bargain on the budget, then wrapped the white flag of surrender around the debt, gun control, tax reform, immigration, and other issues. Obama stopped looking for compromises, and then expressed outrage when he couldn't find them.
Why would using chlorine gas on Syrian civilians not be considered a violation of the agreement that the Obama administration made with Assad's government last year to stop using chemical weapons against civilians? If it was a poison gas in World War One, why wouldn't it be one today? It says something about the value of that agreement that chlorine gas doesn't qualify.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cruising the Web

Gosh, people don't seem so eager to belong to a union when they are no longer forced to pay for membership by the government. Such a surprise, no?

Ann Althouse isn't too impressed with Obama's analogy of Republican resistance to Obamacare as going through the Kübler-Ross model for dealing with dying.
The stages Obama failed to enumerate are: 3. bargaining, 4. depression, and 5. acceptance. Maybe he didn't want to say bargaining, because he doesn't want his party to have to bargain with the other side. He just wants the GOP to get over it. The analogy to dying is, once again, terrible. Because in the stages of death scenario, the dying person seeks to avert death by somehow finding a way to make a deal, perhaps with God. Obama doesn't want to talk about deal-making. He wants the Republicans to give up and die already.

As for depression, I guess he's hoping the GOP will reach that point, but that's unlikely in this election year, and clearly he knows it. Ditto acceptance. But let's not talk about "all that stuff."

By the way, the Kübler-Ross model isn't too scientific. And to tell someone who's angry and unaccepting of a political situation that they should go away until they've accepted what is being done to them sounds to me like taunting and bullying. There's absolutely no reason why they should back down because some of their emotions correspond to Kübler-Ross's (bogus) stages. You're saying if someone doesn't believe that a political cause is dying or feels angry at the idea that it's dying, all you need to do is wait out the process, because bargaining and depression need to occur and then you win because finally there will be acceptance. Infuriating nonsense! It only intensifies and justifies the anger. Your opponents aren't just going through a "stage," and you sound inert and supercilious talking about them that way.
Well, yeah, but then superciliousness is one of the stages Obama does best.

Just another story that I'm sure Harry Reid and Barack Obama would call a lie about how one woman with a neurological disorder has found that, because of Obamacare, she can neither keep her doctor nor get her medications.
Figueroa — who has a neurological disorder — said she enrolled in a new EmblemHealth insurance program in February as required under the Affordable Care Act. And that’s when her problems began.

After paying her premium, she received a temporary ID card. But when she went to order medication, the pharmacists said her name wasn’t in the system. And she said her doctors were not included in her new medical plan.
“They just don’t have enough doctors. Two of them are full to capacity, and the others aren’t even in my radius. There are some who don’t even speak English,” the Arden Heights resident said during a press conference with Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm.

“Now I have to find a whole new set of doctors. The doctors I had were familiar with my condition. I’ve had my neurologist for years. You want to stay with someone who’s been in your brain and knows what’s going on.”
Not having a regular doctor has put her in a Catch-22: A patient can’t get medication without a prescription from a doctor.

Figueroa takes five different medications a day, including 60 milligrams of morphine.
“I’ve been sick. I’ve had chills, a lot of vomiting. The pain is unbearable. I’ve had insomnia. I lost 23 pounds,” she said. “Who’s going to write the scrips if I don’t have a primary-care doctor? They’ve been giving us the runaround.”

Hillary Clinton, apparently, approved a change in U.S. policy to waive restrictions on who could receive U.S. aid in Afghanistan. The result was that millions of U.S. aid went to corrupt cabinet officials in the Afghan government. Her defenders are now saying that she wasn't really involved even though the memo instituting the policy change stated that the decision had been "reaffirmed by Secretary of State Clinton." I guess this was just like she never saw the memos asking for more security at our consulate in Benghazi. But, don't forget, she was the best Secretary of State evah! I guess that saying it is so over and over makes it so.

Sooo. Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 Americans at Fort Hood was only perpetrating "workplace violence," but supporters of Cliven Bundy are domestic terrorist. The Democrats have strange priorities.

John Hinderaker reports on "the epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer," the billionaire who is planning to spend $100 million on green Democratic candidates who oppose the Keystone pipeline.
Steyer claims to be a man of principle who has no financial interest in the causes he supports, but acts only for the public good. That is a ridiculous claim: Steyer is the ultimate rent-seeker who depends on government connections to produce subsidies and mandates that make his “green” energy investments profitable. He also is, or was until recently, a major investor in Kinder Morgan, which is building a competitor to the Keystone pipeline. Go here, here, here, here, here and here for more information about how Steyer uses his political donations and consequent connections to enhance his already vast fortune.

But Steyer’s hypocrisy goes still deeper. Today, he is a bitter opponent of fossil fuels, especially coal. That fits with his current economic interests: banning coal-fired power plants will boost the value of his solar projects. But it was not always thus. In fact, Steyer owes his fortune in large part to the fact that he has been one of the world’s largest financers of coal projects. Tom Steyer was for coal before he was against it.(See original for the links.)
Of course, yet another delay in making a decision on the pipeline allows Democrats to have their cake and eat it too.
The real reason for the delay is Democratic politics. Mr. Steyer and the party's liberal financiers are climate-change absolutists who have made killing Keystone a non-negotiable demand. But the White House doesn't want to reject the pipeline before November because several Senate Democrats running for re-election claim to favor it. We say "claim" because Louisiana's Mary Landrieu and others can't even get Majority Leader Harry Reid to give them a vote on the floor.

So Senate Democrats get to have it both ways. They can benefit this year from the riches of Mr. Steyer, who pronounced himself well pleased by the delay. But they can also run in support of the XL pipeline and the thousands of new jobs it would create. Then President Obama can formally nix it next year.
And as a further mark of hypocrisy, they can whine over and over about the Koch brothers while pocketing the contributions from Steyer. Isn't being a Democrat wonderful?

All the discussion about income inequality ignores one of the most important factors driving such inequality - single-parent families.

Is your doctor spending only 10-15 minutes with you? Such rushing has become common, due to Medicare regulations, and is about to become a whole lot more common. Blame Obamacare.

John Kerry trumpets that he is "the first Catholic Secretary of State in 33 years." And this matters why?

This is amazing. The Netherlands had charged Holocaust survivors for back taxes on their property while they were in concentration camps and the Nazis were occupying that property.

Mollie Hemingway ponders why feminists are insecure.

Ed Driscoll interviews James Delingpole, author of The Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism: The Left’s Plan to Frighten Your Kids, Drive Up Energy Costs, and Hike Your Taxes!

John Hawkins has a series of 10 "guess the bigot" questions.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cruising the Web

So the President had another victory-lap press conference yesterday to announce that Obamacare is a success and the debate is over, done with, kaput. Has anyone ever had so many victory laps trying to convince the public what a success something has been? Of course, he had to mislead people right from the beginning was to say that 35% of the sign-ups were under 35. That might have been a truly meaningful statistic since it represents a big jump from previous estimates of how many young people were signing up, but, as Guy Benson points out, that number also includes children who are not paying into insurance coffers. But isn't it impressive that they have such specific information on the age of those signing up, but couldn't be bothered to collect information on how many of those signing up didn't have insurance before Obamacare. Then there was Obama's strident ridicule of Republicans for daring to continue to criticize and campaign against Obamacare.
Finally, in response to one of the aforementioned terrible questions, the president recommended that his party robustly defend Obamacare, while simultaneously averring that it's time to "move on" and deal with other issues. A telling contradiction. We love Obamacare and will defend it passionately, but it's imperative that we change the subject! The American people, he said, are more interested in more jobs, a growing economy, and improving wages than re-fighting the Obamacare battle. Perhaps he's unaware that the latter is empirically impeding the former litany of goals he laid out. Perhaps not. The important message is that Obamacare is working, resistance is futile, and we ought not waste our energy on it anymore.
Just remember that all the horror stories being told about people losing their coverage or being lost in the paperwork involved in Obamacare are probably all just lies.

Ross Douthat writes that, for purposes of honest debate over Obamacare, we should agree on what the standards for success should be.

If you've been dismayed by the story of the Census changes, the WSJ finds another suspicious element in the whole story. For comparison purposes, it would be smart to run both the old and new questions concurrently for a few years so researchers would be able to judge the impact of the change and find a way to smooth out statistical comparisons pre- and post-changes. It turns out that there are other question changes concerning income and poverty in the new Census proposed questions. And the Census Bureau plans to run the old and new questions concurrently for several years. But they are deliberately not doing that for the health insurance questions.

President Obama will go into the record books as the president who added more regulations to the federal government than any other president. And such statistics explain our sluggish economic growth.
Drawing largely on government statistics, Mr. Crews estimates that the overall cost of regulatory compliance and its economic impact is about $1.9 trillion annually. This means that the burden of complying with federal rules costs roughly the annual GDP of Australia, Canada or Italy.

This regulatory tax makes U.S. businesses less competitive, but it also burdens every American because it is embedded in the prices of all goods and services. Mr. Crews estimates that "U.S. households 'pay' $14,974 annually in regulatory hidden tax," or 23% of the average income of $65,596.

All of this is the fruit of ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, and the manifold other expansions of government that have marked the Obama years. By far their greatest and most tragic cost has been slower economic growth, which has meant fewer jobs, lower incomes and diminished economic possibilities for tens of millions of Americans.

Boy, it sure says something about the MSM that even President Obama's press secretary thinks that the toughest interview Obama got in 2012 was from Jon Stewart.

Kirsten Powers exposes how Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been treated by many liberals for her criticisms of how Islam treats women compared to how novelist Anne Rice was treated when she criticized Christianity.

Sean Trende explores how Democrats might actually pick up seats in the Senate this year.

Before the President takes credit for a smaller deficit as reported by the CBO, he should thank the House Republicans for forcing him to accept automatic sequester cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in 2011.
Many conservatives don’t appreciate how much spending has actually fallen. It hit nearly 25 percent of GDP in the first year of the Obama stimulus but is now close to 21 percent. More than half of that cut came out of defense, but the programs that liberals care about — green-energy subsidies, foreign aid, job training, and transit grants — have also been whacked.

Entitlements haven’t been touched, of course, and Obamacare is the biggest expansion of the entitlement state since the 1960s. But the best way to force Democrats to modernize these programs is by draining funding for everything else.

The key now, as Mr. Boehner tells me, “is to hold the line on those spending caps and don’t let Barack Obama slip out of them. It’s our best leverage right now.” Obama wants a $100-billion-plus infrastructure bank, but, sorry, Mr. President, the spending caps you agreed to make that a non-starter.

The worry is whether Republican appropriators can live within the discipline that the Budget Control Act of 2011 imposes. Spending restraint is the best way to hold the line on taxes and debt, and if we can get the economy growing at 4 percent — where it should be — the spurt of revenue from more people working could produce a balanced budget over the next several years.

So who brought the budget deficit down? The much-maligned tea-party movement and the people they put in control of Congress back in 2010 to right the ship. The April budget update from the CBO is a reminder of how the tea partiers helped save the country in those dark early days of the Obama presidency. They deserve to take a bow.
If the Republicans weren't so inept at publicizing their policy successes, they would be getting this message out there.

Even Hillary Clinton doesn't know what her accomplishments were as Secretary of State.

Now sharing a picture of one's daughter practicing yoga while wearing a T-shirt with a quote from "Game of Thrones" got a professor at Bergen Community College suspended on forced to meet with a psychiatrist. Why do so many educrats have absolutely no common sense?