Friday, March 07, 2014

Cruising the Web

Reason has a little video up about the origins of Mayor Bill de Blasio's vendetta against Eva Moskowitz, a leader in the charter school movement in New York City and founder of Success Academy, a network of very successful charter network that serves low income, minority children. Fortunately, Governor Cuomo has come down on the side of the poor children against the mayor and his teacher unions masters. Peggy Noonan writes today about what "a small and politically vicious man New York's new mayor is" as he complains that wealthy people are contributing to charter schools.
It is true that wealthy and public-spirited New Yorkers, out of loyalty to the city and its future generations, give a lot of money, care and time—the last, time, doesn't get noted enough—to create and help run many of the city's charter schools. They should be thanked for this, every day. Again, they do it because they care about children who would otherwise be locked into a public-school system that doesn't work.

But the people who run the public-school system that doesn't work—the one where you can't fire teachers who sexually prey on students and principals who don't even show up for work, which is to say the public schools run by the city's huge and powerful teachers union—don't like the charter schools. And they are the mayor's supporters, a significant part of his base.

The very existence of charter schools is an implicit rebuke to the public schools. It means they are not succeeding, and something new must be tried. That something new won't be perfect—no charter school is, and some are more imperfect than others—but people still line up to get into them. And there's something to the wisdom of crowds. When a school exists for the students, you can tell. When it exists for the unions, you can tell that too.
Then Noonan turns to those liberals who support charter schools, but make excuses for de Blasio.
It is not the job of nice liberals to make excuses for pols who take a good thing from kids just to satisfy a political agenda. It is not the job of nice liberals to forgive a politician acting in a brutish way, throwing poor children from hard circumstances out of good schools.

It's not the job of liberals to explain that away. It's their job to oppose it, because this move against charter schools is an opening feint, a showing of mood, and a sign of things to come

The nice liberals of New York are sounding on this very much like frightened French aristocrats in 1792: "You have to understand, Marat is pretty ideological and we're lucky he's only cutting off our ears and nose and not our heads." No, he came for their heads later.

You say,: "He's not Marat, he's just a slob." That's true. But even slobs need to be opposed now and then.

In this move more than any so far, Mr. de Blasio shows signs he is what his critics warned he would be—a destructive force in the city of New York. When a man says he will raise taxes to achieve a program like pre-K education, and is quickly informed that that program can be achieved without raising taxes, and his answer is that he wants to raise taxes anyway, that man is an ideologue.

And ideologues will sacrifice anything to their ideology. Even children.
The Washington Post pounds more nails into Obamacare's coffin. They report that Obamacare is failing in what is its purported main purpose - getting insurance to the uninsured.
The new health insurance marketplaces appear to be making little headway in signing up Americans who lack insurance, the Affordable Care Act’s central goal, according to a pair of new surveys.
And HHS is not even keeping track of how many people who are gaining insurance through Obamacare didn't have insurance before. Hmmm. Why wouldn't HHS want to collect data to see if Obamacare is accomplishing the goal it was passed to accomplish? National Journal writes about this failure to attempt to measure the program's ability to help the uninsured.
"That's not a data point that we are really collecting in any sort of systematic way," Cohen [the soon-to-be-former director of the main implementation office at the Health and Human Services Department] told the insurance-industry crowd on Thursday when asked how many of the roughly 4 million enrollees were previously uninsured.
That's comforting.Mary Katharine Ham writes,
There is no clearer dereliction of duty for this law. They created an irresponsible reform behemoth, they failed to implement it responsibly, they spent irresponsible amounts of money building a bunch of exchanges that don’t work, and now they’re not even responsible enough to bother checking how much help or damage they’ve done with the most straightforward metric available.

They don’t care about how much of your money they spend and they don’t care about figuring out if they’re helping people with that money because they might have to admit to not caring about how much of your money they spend. This is why having government tackle complicated problems can be a problem in and of itself.
Megan McArdle continues to argue that Obama will never get around to defending his health care law as he keeps delaying parts of the law to help vulnerable Democrats.
This is President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the program for which he will be remembered. And he doesn’t have the courage to defend it, even when he is no longer facing re-election. If he won’t stand up for the hard choices his law requires, he can’t think that anyone else will either.

Buzzfeed looks at Marco Rubio's great riposte to Tom Harkin's useful idiocy on Cuba as the speech that has relaunched Rubio's presidential hopes.

Ask Harry Reid if these Nevada workers are lying about Obamacare.
Contract negotiations are stalled for thousands of workers at casinos on the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas to the point where they may go on strike — and the sticking point is Obamacare.
On Feb. 20, thousands of housekeepers, porters, cooks, cocktail servers, and others represented by Nevada’s largest union, the Culinary Union Local 226, voted to end a contract extension the workers agreed to last summer. The union wants to maintain its current benefits — including health care coverage at no cost to workers, pensions, and guaranteed 40-hour workweeks.
Rising health care costs due to provisions in the Affordable Care Act could put those benefits in jeopardy, the union says.
Charles Krauthammer ponders the mysteries of how John Kerry and Barack Obama perceive the world stage.
Obama says Putin is on the wrong side of history, and Secretary of State John Kerry says Putin’s is “really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century.”

This must mean that seeking national power, territory, dominion — the driving impulse of nations since Thucydides — is obsolete. As if a calendar change caused a revolution in human nature that transformed the international arena from a Hobbesian struggle for power into a gentleman’s club where violations of territorial integrity just don’t happen.

“That is not 21st-century, G-8, major-nation behavior,” says Kerry. Makes invasion sound like a breach of etiquette — like using the wrong fork at a Beacon Hill dinner party.

How to figure out Obama’s foreign policy? In his first U.N. speech, he says: “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.” On what planet? Followed by the assertion that “alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War” — like NATO? — “make no sense in an interconnected world.”

Apparently, for NBC, being married and having children is an alternative lifestyle. You can't make these things up.

Oh, Bill. What a guy.
Bill Clinton accepted a $225,000 speaking fee from the nonprofit Washington Hospital Center smack in the middle of two big rounds of layoffs in 2012 — one of a number of tax-exempt organizations that have paid big money to hear the former president talk.
Kimberley Strassel ridicules the Democrats' obsession with the Koch brothers.
It's an extraordinary thing, in a political age obsessed with campaign money, that nobody scrutinizes the biggest, baddest, "darkest" spenders of all: organized labor. The IRS is muzzling nonprofits; Democrats are "outing" corporate donors; Jane Mayer is probably working on part 89 of her New Yorker series on the "covert" Kochs. Yet the unions glide blissfully, unmolestedly along. This lack of oversight has led to a union world that today acts with a level of campaign-finance impunity that no other political giver—conservative outfits, corporate donors, individuals, trade groups—could even fathom.

Mr. Reid was quite agitated on the Senate floor about "unlimited money," by which he must have been referring to the $4.4 billion that unions had spent on politics from 2005 to 2011 alone, according to this newspaper. The Center for Responsive Politics' list of top all-time donors from 1989 to 2014 ranks Koch Industries No. 59. Above Koch were 18 unions, which collectively spent $620,873,623 more than Koch Industries ($18 million). Even factoring in undisclosed personal donations by the Koch brothers, they are a rounding error in union spending.

Mr. Reid was similarly heated over the tie-up between outside groups and politicians, by which he surely meant the unions who today openly operate as an arm of the Democratic Party. The press may despise the Kochs, but even it isn't stupid enough to claim they are owned by the GOP. Most outside conservatives groups, including the Koch-supported Americans for Prosperity, back candidates and positions that challenge the Republican line. And in any event, every conservative 501(c)(4) is so terrified of the hay the media and regulators would make over even a hint of coordination with the GOP, they keep a scrupulous distance.

Unions, as 501(c)(5) organizations, are technically held to the same standards against coordination with political parties. Yet no Democrat or union official today even troubles to maintain that fiction. Hundreds upon hundreds of the delegates to the 2012 Democratic convention were union members. They were in the same room as party officials, plotting campaign strategies. The question therefore is how much of that $4.4 billion in union spending was at the disposal of the Democratic Party—potentially in violation of a bajillion campaign-finance rules?

As for Mr. Reid's complaint that some "rig the system to benefit themselves," that was undoubtedly a reference to the overt, transactional nature of union money. Nobody doubts the Kochs and many corporations support candidates who they hope will push for free-market principles. Though imagine the political outcry if David or Charles Koch openly conditioned dollars for a politician on policies to benefit Koch Industries?

In the past months alone, unions demanded an exemption to a tax under ObamaCare; the administration gave it. They demanded an end to plans to "fast track" trade deals; Mr. Reid killed it. They wanted more money for union job training; President Obama put it in his budget. Everybody understands—the press matter-of-fact reports it—that these policy giveaways are to ensure unions open their coffers to help Mr. Reid keep the Senate in November. The quid pro quo is even more explicit and self-serving at the state level, where public-sector unions elect politicians who promise to pay them more. If the CEO of Exxon tried this, the Justice Department would come knocking. The unions do it daily.

Democrats hope to make a campaign theme out of conservative "dark" money, something else Mr. Reid knows about. In addition to other spending, unions have been aggressively funneling money into their own "dark" groups. One of these is the heavyweight 501(c)(4) Patriot Majority USA. Patriot Majority doesn't disclose its donors, though a Huffington Post investigation found it had been "fueled" in 2012 by $2.3 million in union donations. Amusingly, Patriot Majority used its undisclosed money on a campaign to expose the Koch brothers' "front" groups. Oh, and Patriot Majority is run by Craig Varoga, a former aide and close ally of . . . Harry Reid.

The unions have had a special interest in funding attacks on conservative groups, since it has led to the IRS's regulatory muzzling of 501(c)(4) speech. Under the new rule, conservative 501(c)(4)s are restricted in candidate support; unions can do what they want. Conservative groups are stymied in get-out-the-vote campaigns; unions can continue theirs. Conservative outfits must count up volunteer hours; not unions.

So now, in addition to a system in which organized labor spends "unlimited money" to "rig the system to benefit themselves" and "buy elections," (to quote Mr. Reid), Mr. Obama's IRS has made sure to shut up anyone who might compete with unions or complain about them.

Supporters of campaign-finance rules never want to acknowledge that their maze of regulations serve primarily as a tool for savvy politicians to manipulate and silence opponents. For proof, they need only listen to Mr. Reid—who is pretty savvy, and who didn't misspeak after all.
Eva Moskowitz fought back with this picture in a full-page New York Times ad defending their school and with this picture of the students whom de Blasio is targeting.

James Taranto captures the ridiculousness of the White House trumpeting that they consulted with vulnerable Democratic senators such as Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen, and Mark Udall before announcing the latest delay in Obamacare.
So we now have the administration trying to protect senators by crediting them with influencing the administration to violate a law they voted to pass. If lawmakers were doing their job, of course, they'd be repealing or modifying the law.
I don't think it is going to be much of a defense for such Democrats to say "hey, vote for me because, even though I voted for a law that you hate, I recognize how awful it is going to be for so many people that I'm willing to delay those effects until after my reelection campaign."

This won't do much to support the Obama administration's efforts to pretend that they've negotiated peace in our time with Syria and Iran.
he Israeli navy seized a ship in the Red Sea on Wednesday that was carrying dozens of advanced Iranian-supplied rockets made in Syria and intended for Palestinian guerrillas in the Gaza Strip, the military said.

Obama's former budget director, Peter Orszag is working hard to hide what a big payout he's raking in from Citigroup now that he's left the Obama administration.