Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cruising the Web

So this is the kind of logic we get when courts start trying to massage the Constitution in order to uphold a law like Obamacare. First we had John Roberts saying that, despite what legislators and the President said at the time, the individual mandate was a tax. Now, a panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that it isn't really a tax. The problem is that pesky Constitution that requires that tax laws originate in the House, but Obamacare grew out of the Senate bill. So now the appellate court has ruled that, despite what John Roberts said, the law doesn't raise taxes to create revenue, but just to increase those people who have health insurance. Take that, John Roberts!

Bret Stephens writes that there is something about Palestinians that just seems to make this administration dumb.
Of all the inane things that have been said about the war between Israel and Hamas, surely one dishonorable mention belongs to comments made over the weekend by Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Interviewed by CNN's Candy Crowley, Mr. Rhodes offered the now-standard administration line that Israel has a right to defend itself but needs to do more to avoid civilian casualties. Ms. Crowley interjected that, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jewish state was already doing everything it could to avoid such casualties.

"I think you can always do more," Mr. Rhodes replied. "The U.S. military does that in Afghanistan."

How inapt is this comparison? The list of Afghan civilians accidentally killed by U.S. or NATO strikes is not short. Little of the fighting in Afghanistan took place in the dense urban environments that make the current warfare in Gaza so difficult. The last time the U.S. fought a Gaza-style battle—in Fallujah in 2004—some 800 civilians perished and at least 9,000 homes were destroyed. This is not an indictment of U.S. conduct in Fallujah but an acknowledgment of the grim reality of city combat.

Oh, and by the way, American towns and cities were not being rocketed from above or tunneled under from below as the Fallujah campaign was under way.

Maybe Mr. Rhodes knows all this and was merely caught out mouthing the sorts of platitudes that are considered diplomatically de rigueur when it comes to the Palestinians. Or maybe he was just another victim of what I call the Palestine Effect: The abrupt and often total collapse of logical reasoning, skeptical intelligence and ordinary moral judgment whenever the subject of Palestinian suffering arises.
The media are especially susceptible to this induced stupidity. They'll accept without reservation the Hamas's own estimates of casualty figures and their placing the blame for those deaths solely on Israel.
The real utility of the body count is that it offers reporters and commentators who cite it the chance to ascribe implicit blame to Israel while evading questions about ultimate responsibility for the killing. Questions such as: Why is Hamas hiding rockets in U.N.-run schools, as acknowledged by the U.N. itself? What does it mean that Hamas has turned Gaza's central hospital into "a de facto headquarters," as reported by the Washington Post? And why does Hamas keep rejecting, or violating, cease-fires agreed to by Israel?

A reasonable person might conclude from this that Hamas, which started the war, wants it to continue, and that it relies on Israel's moral scruples not to destroy civilian sites that it cynically uses for military purposes. But then there is the Palestine Effect. By this reasoning, Hamas only initiated the fighting because Israel refused to countenance the creation of a Palestinian coalition that included Hamas, and because Israel further objected to helping pay the salaries of Hamas's civil servants in Gaza.

Let's get this one straight. Israel is culpable because (a) it won't accept a Palestinian government that includes a terrorist organization sworn to the Jewish state's destruction; (b) it won't help that organization out of its financial jam; and (c) it won't ease a quasi-blockade—jointly imposed with Egypt—on a territory whose central economic activity appears to be building rocket factories and pouring imported concrete into terrorist tunnels.

This is either bald moral idiocy or thinly veiled bigotry. It mistakes effect for cause, treats self-respect as arrogance and self-defense as aggression, and makes demands of the Jewish state that would be dismissed out of hand anywhere else. To argue the Palestinian side, in this war, is to make the case for barbarism. It is to erase, in the name of humanitarianism, the moral distinctions from which the concept of humanity arises.
John Podhoretz mocks John Kerry for getting his feelings hurt when the Israelis say tough things about him. He'll make sure that his spokeswoman chastises the Israelis publicly and he'll call Netanyahu to whine about it. I bet young John was the type of kid who'd go running to the teacher anytime anyone on the playground said something mean to him. He's just that kind of guy.

Ben Domenech explains the skewed sort of accounting that the CBO is using to assess Obamacare spending.
So here’s where we are now: the Congressional Budget Office is making sweeping assumptions about the future costs of Obamacare and Medicare, assumptions which are at odds with the projections of the administration’s own Chief Actuary at Medicare and which have no explained basis. The CBO doesn’t show its work, but you should probably just trust them: what’s a difference of about six trillion dollars between friends?

Could Republicans be about to take over Illinois state governance? After all, how long could that state continue with the corrupt and inept rule of the Democrats that has just run that state into the ground? I won't hold my breath, but there is a good chance that the GOP will, at least capture the governorship and redress some of the imbalance in the state legislature.

Josh Kraushaar explains how difficult it is for red-state Democrats to be authentic as they try to pretend to their constituents that they're much more conservative than they really are. So we see Democratic candidates in red states this year trumpeting their disagreements with President Obama and ducking out of the state when he comes in to fundraise for the money that will be used to help them get reelected. And they try to convince voters that they aren't rubber stamps for Obama or Harry Reid even though they've voted for them straight down the line. Or we see ads like West Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Natalie Tennant running an ad that shows her shutting off the lights at the White House in protest of Obama's policies that hurt the state's coal industry in a move reminiscent of how Joe Manchin won election from the state with an ad showing him literally shooting at the cap and trade bill. The two ads are very similar. but the Republicans have an easy reply. Why vote for a faux conservative who would support Harry Reid's leadership when they can vote for a real conservative whose election might knock the Democrats out of the leadership and thus make it a whole lot easier to block the policies these Democrats say they oppose?

Peter Suderman explains why it is clear that the drafters of Obamacare always thought that federal subsidies would go only to those states that created exchanges as is the basis of the Halbig case. They just didn't think any state wouldn't create such health exchanges.
The same assumption of universal state buy-in also applied with Obamacare's exchanges. When the health law was being crafted, legislators and policy analysts assumed that every state would set up its own exchange. The Joint Committee on Taxation, which scored the law’s health insurance tax credits, did not examine eligibility in federally run exchanges.

The federal exchange system was such an afterthought that the law provided no funding whatsoever to create it. Federal health authorities had to scramble to rewire funding in order to get it built. In contrast, Obamacare provided nearly unlimited funds for states to set up their own exchanges. The thinking was that no state would turn the government down.

The total lack of funding for the federal exchange strongly suggests that Congress didn't intend any subsidies to flow through the federal exchanges, because Congress didn’t really intend for them to exist.

Democrats are getting more and more worried about signs that they're facing a severe drop in Democratic turnout this year. So they'll have to just gin up more accusations of racism and sexism and throw in a few more wild claims about impeachment to scare up some more voters.

Sheila Jackson-Lee is always good for a laugh. She's claiming today that Democrats never sought impeachment of President George W. Bush because he had executive authority to take the actions they didn't like. She's somehow ignoring that she co-sponsored a bill in 2008 to impeach Bush.

As Ed Morrissey shows, bureaucrats are going to fight kicking and screaming any efforts to allow any of their brethren to be fired over the VA scandal. Just like the teachers unions that will go to the mattresses to fight any effort to fire tenured teachers, even those involved in sexual harassment of students, the group set up to rem]present "senior executives" don't want any senior executives in the VA to lose their jobs over the mess that they oversaw.

Well, this surprises no one: the Philadelphia 76ers object to proposed changes to the NBA lottery to discouraging teams tanking. But that's the whole 76ers game plan.

Try it out - is it a real Salon article or a parody? It's tough to tell.