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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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cruising the Web

Robert Samuelson is exactly right as he bemoans the politicization of the civil service.
Something has gone wrong in our civil service. Consider some recent developments. The IRS was forced to pay the National Organization for Marriage $50,000 for leaking the group’s donor list. Tea-party organizations and donors were much more likely than others to be audited by the IRS. This misbehavior was not the work of a few rogue employees in Cincinnati. In general, the IRS stalled tea-party applications for status as 501(c)(4) groups.

Meanwhile, April Sands, an employee of the FEC, recently pleaded guilty to violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from campaigning at the office. Ms. Sands, who worked in the office charged with enforcing our election laws, recently said, “I just don’t understand how anyone but straight white men can vote Republican.” What business does such a person have in that office in the first place? Somehow the FEC managed to wipe her computer clean, weakening the case against her. Perhaps that answers our question. These cases reflect a larger pattern. Our civil service is putting a thumb on the scale of justice.
We've had a law against this since 1939. But now, as Samuelson points out, we have both a politicized civil service and no way to get rid of these partisans.
Today we have the worst of both worlds: a tenured and partisan civil service. Government employees have civil-service protection and are seldom fired, only for the most egregious of crimes. Yet they lean to one party. From 1989 to 2012, two-thirds of donations from IRS employees, for example, went to Democrats. Even so, our civil servants seem to think that they are politically neutral. Hence the employees at the VA think it is reasonable to spy on (presumptively partisan) congressional investigators, and hard drives mysteriously get destroyed in the IRS scandal. Laws are for the little people, as Glenn Reynolds likes to say.

The rise of the “fourth branch” of government — the administrative bureaucracy — complicates things further. Obamacare was roughly 2,000 pages long when Congress passed it. Bureaucrats have added thousands more. The Hobby Lobby case was about a rule written by bureaucrats, not by Congress. In fact, Congress probably would never have passed such a law. Worse, our tenured partisans sometimes delegate their jobs to activists. Who drafted the EPA’s new greenhouse regulations? The National Resources Defense Council.

Nowadays, in other words, laws are, in effect, written, interpreted, and enforced by the bureaucratic equivalent of made men who are quite well paid. So much for checks and balances. Moreover, our legal code is so complicated that, as Harvey Silverglate notes, most businesses or individuals are probably guilty of breaking some law somewhere. That puts each of us at the mercy of the government.

Obama has found a way to question conservatives' patriotism.
So Barack Obama is again using one of the most contemptible phrases in American politics — "economic patriotism."

There are many credible reasons to despise this rhetorical construct. Patriotism, after all, is the attachment to one's homeland, a nationalistic devotion to one's country and the values that make it great. If a person not only resists things that are "patriotic" but opposes them, then logic dictates that the person is being unpatriotic. So the president is really asking one question: Why do you hate America?

Instead of protecting tax loopholes that let corporations keep their profits overseas, let's put some of that money to work right here in the United States rebuilding America. We can rebuild our airports, create the next generation of good manufacturing jobs, make sure those are made in America.

A politician may rally millions of economic illiterates to his cause with this sort of speechifying, but these are not "loopholes"; they are "business decisions" that companies make when they face high regulatory burdens or high corporate taxes. Seeing as the goal of a business is not to become a more effective tax collector or health care provider, as this administration seems to believe, moving offshore, or tax inversion — which might mean $20 billion less for the Treasury over a decade — is becoming more popular. But either way, a lack of new tariffs and taxes does not "reward companies for moving profits overseas" as much as U.S. tax and regulatory policy is a punishment for their staying. Besides, where we stand on the issue of corporate taxation is no way to measure a person's loyalty to his country.

Actually, logic would also dictate that if you're texting on your Samsung phone while driving your Honda or BMW, you are also complicit in unpatriotic behavior. You are, in most cases, sending your cash to companies that aren't pitching in enough to rebuild our airports. Plenty of companies that normally suck up to the administration — General Electric, IBM, Merck and Microsoft, to name a few — believe that punishing foreign companies for doing business in the United States is a bad idea.

Are all these companies unpatriotic, as well? Someone should ask the president.
But let's not forget that for Obama, the idea of "economic patriotism" is elastic. The contours of its philosophy are now identical to the president's own policy proposals. Which is curious, considering we're supposed to set aside "politics" to achieve our communal goal. Then again, though you may be knee-deep in politics, our president is guided solely by common sense. Here's how Obama explained economic patriotism on July Fourth:

Of course. Hillary is in favor of limiting freedom of speech if she thinks it might help Democrats. After all, the Clintons didn't think anything of trying to get David Shuster fired because they didn't like the way he referred to how Chelsea was being used in the 2008 campaign. Imagine if a Republican had tried to get a reporter fired.

Well, we knew this. If Elzabeth Warren won the nomination in 2016, she'd be the most liberal candidate since George McGovern.

It's cute how the administration just decided unilaterally exempt U.S. territories from Obamacare.
As recently as last year, HHS instructed the territories that they "have enjoyed the benefits of the applicable consumer protections" and HHS "has no legal authority to exclude the territories" from ObamaCare. HHS said the law adopted an explicit definition of "state" that includes the territories for the purpose of the mandates and the public-health programs, and another explicit definition that excludes the territories for the purpose of the subsidies. Thus there is "no statutory authority . . . to selectively exempt the territories from certain provisions, unless specified by law."

Laws are made by Congress, but all of a sudden last week HHS discovered new powers after "a careful review of this situation and the relevant statutory language." For simplicity's sake, the territories will now be governed by the "state" definition that excludes the territories for both the subsidies and now the mandates too. But the old definition will still apply for the public-health spending, so the territories will get their selective exemption after all.

The White House seems to have an elastic definition of states. In the Halbig case in which a decision is expected any day from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr. Obama's lawyers say the phrase "the 50 states" includes the federal government. But most elastic is its definition of statutes, which apparently mean whatever Mr. Obama says they mean at any given moment. His new dispensation is great for the territories, but awful for the Constitution and rule of law.

Well, if Obama was set to go on Jimmy Kimmel this week, the White House has, apparently, decided that this was one step too far in the President's insouciance tour.

Not even MSNBC hosts are buying the White House attempts to explain away the President's keeping to a steady schedule of fundraisers while crises break out around the world and on our border.

Gosh, Bruce Braley, the Iowa Democratic candidate for the Senate keeps running into problems. He's on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, but he sure has missed a lot of their meetings. That's not going to play well this year.

That vote that Volkswagen employees in Tennessee had earlier this year to reject unionization is now reaping the benefits as VW is going to expand their operations in Tennessee which will add 2,000 more jobs.

The NYT continues its efforts to present a biased picture of what is going on between Israel and Hamas.

The City Journal details the efforts by liberals to water down requirements to get into New York City's elite high schools so that there will be fewer Asians who get in, even those Asians who come from poor immigrant families.

Don't be so eager to have a "Do Something" Congress.

Michael Barone posits that people vote on more than just their perception of how the economy is doing.

These are what the ISIS fanatics are perpetrating in their march through Iraq.
For the first time in 1,600 years, Mass is not being said in Mosul: an ancient culture has been wiped out in a matter of weeks. It's a war crime that, strangely, no one seems to want to talk about.

Mosul is the second-largest city in Iraq and the place where many Christians believe Jonah was buried. Since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) rode into town, their faith has been forced underground. Bells have been silenced, the hijab enforced with bullets. Tens of thousands fled after being offered an unattractive choice: convert, pay a religious tax, or be put to the sword. The levy was unaffordable. According to one local news agency, Isis troops entered the house of a poor Christian and, when they didn’t get what they wanted, the soldiers raped the mother and daughter in front of their husband and father. He committed suicide out of grief.

Having driven away the worshippers, the Isis fanatics are now trying to extinguish the physical legacy they left behind. A centuries-old church has been burned to the ground; Jonah’s tomb has been desecrated. Isis wants to create the Islamic equivalent of Year Zero, a brave new world with no evidence of Christianity, women’s rights, democracy or even that most subversive of instincts, human pity.

Ross Douthat makes a whole lot of sense about the over-protection of children and the criminalization of parents who left their children alone for a short period of time.

The trend of voter turnout in party primaries in off-year elections continues moving downward. This intensifies the clout of activists within parties and pushes candidates more to the extremes.

It's the 25-year anniversary of When Harry Met Sally and the birth of the rom-com.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cruising the Web

We knew this: "Obama aides were warned of brewing border crisis." They either didn't care or wanted the crisis to come. THe health and safety of the children were secondary.

Ah, true diversity. It means something special at the University of Wisconsin.
That framework includes eight essential “working definitions,” among them the already-discussed diversity, as well as others: “compositional diversity,” “critical mass,” “inclusion,” “equity mindedness,” “deficit-mindedness,” “representational equity,” and “excellence.”

Let us take a closer look at one of these working definitions included, namely “representational equity.”

It calls for “proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades.”

We are not told exactly what adherence to this will entail. It appears to mean that directors of programs and departmental chairs will have to somehow ensure that they have a mix of students with just the right percentages of individuals who embody the various “differences” included in the definition of diversity. I cannot see how that is possible and even if it were, how it improves any student’s education.

Suppose there were a surge of interest in a high demand field such as computer science. Under the “equity” policy, it seems that some of those who want to study this field would be told that they’ll have to choose another major because computer science already has “enough” students from their “difference” group.

Especially shocking is the language about “equity” in the distribution of grades. Professors, instead of just awarding the grade that each student earns, would apparently have to adjust them so that academically weaker, “historically underrepresented racial/ethnic” students perform at the same level and receive the same grades as academically stronger students.

At the very least, this means even greater expenditures on special tutoring for weaker targeted minority students. It is also likely to trigger a new outbreak of grade inflation, as professors find out that they can avoid trouble over “inequitable” grade distributions by giving every student a high grade.
And diversity has also moved on to Europe where they're finding that diversity today actually means the opposite of what it literally means.

This makes sense - a custodian is facing charges for starting a fire that burned down an elementary school. But he gets to retire with his full pension.

Jeff Dunetz explains about the Z Street case which will probably be the first of the IRS cases to open up the scandal. What a criminal operation the IRS has been in trying to limit organizations with agendas that annoyed this administration.
The Z Street case has the potential of blowing the IRS scandal wide open. First of all, it is the furthest along, and probably will be decided first. They can put on the stand the IRS employee who said they were being scrutinized because their policy is different than the Obama administration’s, and the lack of terrorism in any of the documents released by Rep. Levin indicates that the TAG manager who said Z Street was being examined because of terrorism in Israel may have been committing perjury

Mitch McConnell's opponent in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes is just not a very good candidate. Her aides have to work full-time to clean up her gaffes.

Kimberley Strassel reminds us of when Democrats believed in suing a president.
About the only thing Ms. Slaughter didn't do in five hours was offer House Speaker John Boehner her litigation notes. For it seems to have slipped Ms. Slaughter's mind—and the press's attention—that a mere eight years ago she was a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by congressional Democrats against George W. Bush. The year was 2006, just as Democrats were, uh, peaking in their campaign to take back the House.

Democrats were sore that they'd lost a fight over a budget bill that made cuts to Medicaid and student loans. They dredged up a technical mistake—a tiny difference between the House and Senate version of the bill. Michigan Democrat John Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, decided to (how did Ms. Slaughter put it?) file a lawsuit against the president brought by half of the Congress. He was joined as a plaintiff by nearly every other then-ranking Democratic member and titan in the House— Charles Rangel, John Dingell, George Miller, Collin Peterson, Bennie Thompson, Barney Frank, Pete Stark, James Oberstar and Ms. Slaughter herself.

n an April 2006 Huffington Post piece titled "Taking the President to Court," Mr. Conyers explained that he was "alarmed by the erosion of our constitutional form of government," and by a president who "shrugged" about "the law." After "consulting with some of the foremost constitutional experts in the nation," he had determined that there was "one group of people" who were "injured" by Mr. Bush's lack of respect for "checks and balances": Congress. So he was "going"—or as Ms. Slaughter might put it, "running"—"to court."
I hadn't realized how many times members of Congress have tried to sue a president.
It was left to Florida International University law professor Elizabeth Price Foley, another witness, to remind Democrats that in fact no fewer than 44 lawsuits in which legislators sought standing had been filed in federal court since Coleman v. Miller. Of the 41 filed by plaintiffs with unified political affiliation, nearly 70% were brought by Democrats. At least 20 of those came since 2000. The GOP might thank Ms. Slaughter for the idea.
Ah, but that was when the president was a Republican. Apparently, then it perfectly fine for individual members of Congress to sue a president. Of course, the Supreme Court has continually denied individual members standing to sue. It's just a cheap way to garner a day's headlines. What we don't know is what will happen when one whole body of Congress sues.

This is how crazy the United Nations is. They are returning rockets to Hamas that they found in a Gaza school.

Political stunts like proposing amendments that everyone knows are going nowhere is a sign of desperation for any party. The Republicans have done their share and now it is the turn of the Democrats.

Charles C.W. Cooke puts his finger on why Obama's behavior on the day that the news of the Malaysian airliner shot down over Ukraine is so jarring.
The criticism here is not that Obama did not immediately spring into action, flying as Superman into the air, safety to escort the air traffic to its final destination. Nor is it that Obama was insufficiently bellicose. Instead, the president’s aristarchs were troubled that a major international incident was treated as a mild irritation — as little more than a brief and unwanted overture to the usual fractious stump speech. I am among those who would like to see a dramatically smaller presidency at home.. Were Obama never to grace my television screen again, I would be in no way vexed. But, in foreign relations, I want someone who seems to be on the ball, who looms large in the international imagination, who recognizes that his primary responsibility is to the national defense and not to the nature of domestic policy, and who understands that there is a time for partisan politics and a time for national unity — especially when it is being widely reported that American citizens have been blown out of the sky. The lattermost is a distinction that this president — a man who famously made his national debut pretending to be a uniter — has never matured into observing.

Having given his infrastructure speech for the umpteenth time, Obama then made his way to a couple of fundraisers. One wonders what it would have taken to shake him off this course. Indeed, as Jim Geraghty points out, insouciance is the standard response. “This,” Geraghty writes, “is the president who didn’t address the country for three days after the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, who gave a “shout-out” to an audience member moments before his first comments on the Fort Hood shooting, and who attended a campaign rally on September 12, 2012, when most Americans awoke to the news of the murder of four Americans in a terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.”

There is a significant grey area between running around waving your hands in the air and appearing uninterested, and, in the realm of international affairs at least, President Obama has never managed to set foot inside it. It would be nice to believe that a missile that stole the lives of 298 souls could also puncture his bubble. But, in all likelihood, it won’t. For the next two years, this is to be our fate. Indifference, drift, diversion, and fatigue. Hello Cleveland! Hello Brooklyn! Goodbye, yellow brick road.

Myra Adams wonders what would have to happen for President Obama to cancel a fundraiser. She has some suggestions.
1. News that Beyonce and Jay Z are divorcing.

2. His favorite golf course was attacked by al-Qaeda.

3. Lebron James unexpectedly retired.

4. Air Force One was hijacked by the Tea Party.

5. A tsunami destroyed his August vacation compound on Martha’s Vineyard.
It's rather striking how illiberal today's liberals are. Michael Barone writes some more on this same theme.

Here's a clear case of a high school censoring the sources of information that students can access to make sure they don't read conservative sites. Apparently, the Vatican's website and other sites were blocked because it was considered "hate speech." One intrepid high schooler was able to catch his school's censorship and document it.
On May 27, shortly before his graduation, Andrew Lampart, an 18-year-old senior at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Conn., set out to research gun control on a school computer in order to fulfill an assignment for a basic law course. He found that the website for the National Rifle Association was blocked, while websites supporting gun control remained accessible.

Over the next five days, Lampart spent more time on the web. He discovered that websites supportive of conservative causes and Christianity – including the Vatican web page — were blocked, while sites supportive of liberal causes and Islam remained accessible. The webpage for Republican party of Connecticut, for example, was blocked, but the page for the Democratic party of Connecticut was accessible.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cruising the Web

This seems to be a time of perverse incentives leading to unintended consequences. Time after time, we've witnessed a policy choice by this administration that seems to be based more on wishful thinking than on a clear-eyed vision of what the results would be. And when the policy choices contain incentives for people to act a certain way, the administration has ignored that people will indeed respond to incentives even if that leads them to take actions that weren't the intent of the initial policy.

We're seeing that now with the crisis on the border. President Obama's motives for announcing that he would not deport children who had been brought here illegally might have been based on totally benevolent motives. Who wouldn't sympathize with the situation of people who had been brought here as children now having to face a life in the shadows because of decisions their parents made? However, that announcement did provide incentives for other parents in Central American countries facing a hellish life to roll the dice and gamble that their children would benefit from the President's policy. Scott Johnson links to a report from the El Paso Intelligence Center based on interviews with the immigrants crowding across the border and why they said they came here now.
The EPIC report indicates that the belief among the illegal immigrants that they would receive permisos and be allowed to stay was the driving factor in their choices to come to the United States and that the crisis will continue until 'misperceptions' about U.S. immigration benefits were no longer prevalent . The report also states that the migrants cited Univision and other other outlets as having shaped their views on U.S. immigration policy. Another implication of the report is that family members already in the U.S. are encouraging the minors to come and organizing the travel with smugglers. EPIC is a widely respected intelligence analysis group and was initially staffed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
That was totally predictable and we're seeing the result now.

We also see the effect of perverse incentives in much of how Obamacare is affecting the job market. Robert Samuelson writes about how employers have reacted to the way the law was written to cut back on hiring full-time workers and switching to part-time jobs in order to avoid the requirements of the ACA. As Samuelson writes, it's still a bit early to lay the full blame for the increase in part-time employment over full-time on Obamacare, but the signs are all there.
Still, the economy could be slowly acquiring a part-time bias, as Zuckerman worries. The Great Recession doubled the number of part-time workers who wanted full-time jobs. It’s still more than 3 million higher (almost 75 percent) than in 2007. Moreover, the incentives from Obamacare to hire part-time workers — defined by the ACA as less than 30 hours a week — are powerful; companies with 50 workers or more would have to pay thousands to buy insurance for their workers. The next few employment reports ought to tell us whether June’s figures were a statistical blip — or the start of a part-timers’ boom.
Whenever this disincentive within the law for hiring full-time workers has been brought up, the Democrats have pooh-poohed that employers would think that way. But people do respond to how the government policy pushes them even if that response is not what the policy-makers envisioned. Perverse incentives strike again.

And we also see the result in foreign affairs. When the administration decides not to do much of anything in Syria despite Obama's supposed "red line," the message was received that there would be no penalty for continued brutality. When the administration made it clear over and over again that they'd prefer to negotiate with Iran even though it is clear that Iran is just playing us, why wouldn't Iran continue to pretend to negotiate with us while still pursuing their nuclear goals. As Jim Geraghty writes, there seems to be nothing Iran can do that will make Obama and John Kerry walk away from their negotiations.
If you’re always willing to extend the deadline, then it’s not really a deadline, now is it? On paper, we’re watching negotiations between two parties with diametrically opposed interests — we want the Iranians to have as little of a nuclear program as possible, they want one as big (and easily switched to military applications) as possible. But in practice, we’ve got two parties with the same interest: the Obama administration wants negotiations to continue, so they can claim their approach is working, and the Iranians want negotiations to continue so that their program keeps advancing and those centrifuges keep spinning. So both sides want the talks to go on indefinitely. At this point, we’re negotiating about the conditions for continuing negotiations.

What would it take for President Obama, John Kerry, and the rest of his administration to conclude, “These guys aren’t serious about a deal, they’re stalling for time, we’re playing into their hands by continuing these negotiations”?

It seems that as long as the Iranians don’t reach across the table and behead the other negotiators, this administration is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I’ve gotten spam offers that seem
And when there was such a weak response to Russia's incursions into Ukraine and their military support for the Russian separatists from both the U.S. and the rest of Europe, why wouldn't Putin continue to send arms to those separatists and give them free rein in their fight. We saw the tragic result of Putin's policies today. Remember how one of Obama's first actions regarding this area of the world was to end plans put in place by the Bush administration to place a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. What if he had gone ahead with those plans and then extended that same defense technology to Ukraine. Or if there had just been a viable threat that we would send that technology to Ukraine. Who knows how things might have been different today?

Who knows if Putin would have been less willing to supply the separatists in Ukraine with the technology to shoot down airliners if he'd encountered more of a pushback when this all started. Or if it would have been possible to have brought European nations on board with stricter sanctions. But it is clear that the very limited response from the U.S. and Europe did nothing to stop him. And today's tragedy is the result. Some reset, huh? And yet another example of how people, even national leaders adjust their behavior according to what they perceive the incentives or disincentives are for their actions. And the incentives in both domestic and international policy have led to some perverse results.

Somehow, seeing the President taking a few seconds to comment on the downing of the Malaysian airliner in between another photo op and still more fundraisers doesn't convey a real sense of gravitas. Contrast the response of Ronald Reagan when the Soviets shot down Korean Airline 007. Watch that speech and try to imagine Barack Obama making a similar speech. And, in addition to a tough address to the American people, we took definite actions to respond to the Soviets. The Russian government has as much culpability in the attack today as the Soviets had back in 1983. They sold those missiles to the Russian separatist militants. But today, President Obama went out to buy burgers in Delaware and to fundraisers in New York. Quite a contrast.

When I first started teaching A.P. U.S. history, in the chapter on the 1980s, the textbook had a rather derisive paragraph about Reagan's plan for SDI and talked about how it was ridiculed as Star Wars and how experts all said it was impossible. And that was it. Well, that interpretation of SDI is now outdated. And we're seeing the real impact in the real world today as Israel uses their Iron Dome technology to protect their citizens from incoming missiles. As the Washington Examiner writes, Reagan's vision has been vindicated.
Three decades after Reagan's landmark proposal, the technical issue is moot. This week, the world has watched Israel's Iron Dome system -- partially funded by the U.S. and incorporating U.S. technology -- perform remarkably well against more than 1,000 Hamas rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. When rockets are launched, Iron Dome calculates almost instantly whether they are headed for populated areas, then intercepts them as needed. The Israeli military says Iron Dome has been 87 to 90 percent effective and is the key reason why there's been only one Israeli civilian fatality....

Regardless of what one thinks of the long-term conflict, Israel's response in Gaza or the Israeli willingness to make concessions, Iron Dome has deprived Hamas of missile terrorism against random civilians as diplomatic leverage -- just as SDI threatened to stop the Soviets from using international nuclear terror for diplomatic leverage against America. How is this bad? If there can be no negotiation without constant threats of random, lethal attacks on civilians, the conditions for fruitful negotiation likely don't exist.

For the same reason, President Obama erred in 2013 with his decision to scrap -- in response to Russian objections -- a planned system in Europe to defend against missile threats from the Middle East. Obama won no good will from the Russians, even as he forfeited an important opportunity to strengthen U.S. allies against future threats. Missile defense allows strong nations to defend themselves against weaker enemies without resorting to terrorist tactics or fighting bloody wars. This is a win-win, except for terrorists like Hamas and national rulers bent on aggression against neighbors.
By the way, in newer editions of that textbook, the tone of that paragraph on SDI has been edited and the tone is much more neutral.

Rich Lowry ridicules Obama's desire to act without Congress.
The lawsuit against the president undertaken by House Speaker John Boehner targets the serial delay of Obamacare’s employer mandate, just one of a number of seat-of-the-pants delays and alterations in the law. According to the text of the Affordable Care Act, the mandate was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. The administration nonetheless delayed it for an entire year via a Treasury Department blog post in July 2013.

Before his adoring audiences, the president says he has to act because Congress won’t. In this case, Congress was happy to act. In fact, the House passed a bill to delay the mandate until Jan. 1, 2015. President Obama threatened to veto it.
Last February, the administration delayed the mandate yet again. It made a distinction between employers with 50 to 99 workers (the mandate won’t apply to them until 2016) and employers with 100 or more workers (the mandate will apply to them beginning in 2015) that has no basis in the law, and layered on additional rules also created ex nihilo.

All of this is indefensible. Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor and Obamacare supporter, wrote in a piece for The New England Journal of Medicine in May that the various ACA delays “appear to exceed the scope of the executive’s traditional enforcement discretion.” Even the forceful liberal pundit Brian Beutler of The New Republic concedes that, if the Boehner suit were to clear (formidable) procedural hurdles, the unilateral delays “would be hard for the Obama administration to defend.”

The left’s reaction to the Boehner suit has been to rip the speaker for, in effect, suing to achieve the complete and expeditious implementation of a law he opposes. It is also pointed out that, even if the suit goes forward and rockets through the courts, there is unlikely to be a resolution before the employer mandate goes into effect anyway. All of this is true, but it suggests that Boehner is trying to vindicate a principle, not achieve a policy outcome.

The principle is rather obvious. As Bagley writes, “the Obama administration’s claim of enforcement discretion, if accepted, would limit Congress’s ability to specify when and under what circumstances its laws should take effect. That circumscription of legislative authority would mark a major shift of constitutional power away from Congress, which makes the laws, and toward the President, who is supposed to enforce them.”
If the next president accepts Obama’s modus operandi, we will witness the effective institutionalization of a chief executive unmoored from the laws. So I sympathize with the impetus behind the Boehner suit, even if I am lukewarm on the suit itself.
That's about where I am on the suit. I hate the idea of going to the courts to decide what is, fundamentally, a political question. But it seems that the Constitution was never meant to allow the executive branch to repeatedly trample on the prerogatives of the legislative branch. Every year I teach about the structure of our government with its formal and informal checks and balances. In class we list what the President and Congress can do if they're in conflict. In recent years, we've had to add to the list of the tools available to the Executive that he can simply ignore laws and do what he wants. So in one part of the curriculum I can talk about what it means to say that we have a system that respects the rule of law and the principle that no one is above the law when we do the unit on the Constitution. Then a couple of units later, we're talking about how simply ignoring the law has now become a distressingly common tool used by the president. How discouraging this is.

Charles Krauthammer delineates the moral clarity there is regarding the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Actually, Netanyahu summed up the situation in one sentence.
“Here’s the difference between us,” explains the Israeli prime minister. “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”
Krauthammer adds,
Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity. Yet we routinely hear this Israel-Gaza fighting described as a morally equivalent “cycle of violence.” This is absurd. What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting? Everyone knows Hamas set off this mini-war. And everyone knows the proudly self-declared raison d’etre of Hamas: the eradication of Israel and its Jews.

Apologists for Hamas attribute the blood lust to the Israeli occupation and blockade. Occupation? Does no one remember anything? It was less than 10 years ago that worldwide television showed the Israeli army pulling die-hard settlers off synagogue roofs in Gaza as Israel uprooted its settlements, expelled its citizens, withdrew its military and turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinians. There was not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli left in Gaza.

And there was no blockade. On the contrary. Israel wanted this new Palestinian state to succeed. To help the Gaza economy, Israel gave the Palestinians its 3,000 greenhouses that had produced fruit and flowers for export. It opened border crossings and encouraged commerce.

The whole idea was to establish the model for two states living peacefully and productively side by side. No one seems to remember that, simultaneous with the Gaza withdrawal, Israel dismantled four smaller settlements in the northern West Bank as a clear signal of Israel’s desire to leave the West Bank as well and thus achieve an amicable two-state solution.

This is not ancient history. This was nine years ago.

And how did the Gaza Palestinians react to being granted by the Israelis what no previous ruler, neither Egyptian, nor British, nor Turkish, had ever given them — an independent territory? First, they demolished the greenhouses. Then they elected Hamas. Then, instead of building a state with its attendant political and economic institutions, they spent the better part of a decade turning Gaza into a massive military base, brimming with terror weapons, to make ceaseless war on Israel.

Where are the roads and rail, the industry and infrastructure of the new Palestinian state? Nowhere. Instead, they built mile upon mile of underground tunnels to hide their weapons and, when the going gets tough, their military commanders. They spent millions importing and producing rockets, launchers, mortars, small arms, even drones. They deliberately placed them in schools, hospitals, mosques and private homes to better expose their own civilians. (Just Thursday, the U.N. announced that it found 20 rockets in a Gaza school.) And from which they fire rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
He goes on to ask why Hamas is sending missile after missile into Israel when they get shot down time after time? What could they possibly hope to accomplish?
It makes no sense. Unless you understand, as Tuesday’s Post editorial explained, that the whole point is to draw Israeli counterfire.

This produces dead Palestinians for international television. Which is why Hamas perversely urges its own people not to seek safety when Israel drops leaflets warning of an imminent attack.

To deliberately wage war so that your own people can be telegenically killed is indeed moral and tactical insanity. But it rests on a very rational premise: Given the Orwellian state of the world’s treatment of Israel (see: the U.N.’s grotesque Human Rights Council), fueled by a mix of classic anti-Semitism, near-total historical ignorance and reflexive sympathy for the ostensible Third World underdog, these eruptions featuring Palestinian casualties ultimately undermine support for Israel’s legitimacy and right to self-defense.

In a world of such Kafkaesque ethical inversions, the depravity of Hamas begins to make sense. This is a world in which the Munich massacre is a movie and the murder of Klinghoffer is an opera — both deeply sympathetic to the killers. This is a world in which the U.N. ignores humanity’s worst war criminals while incessantly condemning Israel, a state warred upon for 66 years that nonetheless goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid harming the very innocents its enemies use as shields.

It’s to the Israelis’ credit that amid all this madness they haven’t lost their moral scruples. Or their nerve. Those outside the region have the minimum obligation, therefore, to expose the madness and speak the truth. Rarely has it been so blindingly clear.
And sadly, the evil of Hamas is rewarded every time people talk of the conflict as if there was some sort of moral equivalence between the two. Krauthammer is absolutely correct. It is Kafkaesque.

Sadly, Jon Stewart is one of those people who just doesn't get it. And some of the faculty of Brandeis are guilty of real anti-Semitism along with their anti-Israel bias. The Free Beacon has more examples of some really ugly, anti-Semitic emails that some of the faculty have been sending out about Israel and the former university president. you can go over there and read what they've been writing.

We'll see what the response from the university will be. Presumably, they'll talk about the freedom professors have to express their opinions in their emails no matter how vitriolic and anti-Semitic the slurs used are. And Donald Sterling had a similar right to express his opinions of African Americans in a private conversation. But everyone was appalled when that tape was released and the demand that the league do something to take away his ownership of the Clippers were loud and practically unanimous. Will anti-Semitic slurs from professors at a university that was founded as a Jewish-sponsored secular university be be met with yawns and platitudes about academic freedom? Or will students respond with the sorts of protests that we all know would be the result if it came out that professors had made similar slurs against almost any other group? Would the university be as deferential if these professors had made such comments about blacks or gays or Muslims? Would the students be indifferent? I think we know the answer to that. We know how the school's administration caved when Ayaan Hirsi Ali was to receive an honorary degree from the university and the members of this same listserv angrily responded in protest. We'll have to see what the reaction is when students come back on campus this Fall. I'm not optimistic.