Friday, August 15, 2014

Cruising the Web

Apparently, being a billionaire trying to influence elections isn't as easy as it sounds. Tom Steyer who was going to spend $100 million to elect politicians who agreed with his environmental agenda isn't having as much luck as one might think a billionaire would.
Mr. Steyer at an Aspen conference this week revealed that little if any of this is happening. The left is as split over energy as it has ever been; the public isn't buying the climate line; and the hedge-fund-manager-turned-activist looks to be regrouping.

The Steyer grand plan began unraveling from the start, when stories about his pledge noted that he might target Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu for her support of the Keystone XL pipeline. Mr. Steyer and his NextGen Climate Action PAC had in 2013 won activist praise for defeating a pro-pipeline Democrat in a Massachusetts primary, and the Louisiana idea was to start his midterm strategy with a similar litmus-test bang. A Landrieu attack would send a message: Democrats who bucked the climate agenda would get beaten, whereas those who embraced it would be rewarded with Mr. Steyer's campaign cash.

Democratic leaders instead flipped out, and quickly schooled Mr. Steyer in the political realities of red states and the magic Senate number of "51." Within days of the pledge, Steyer operative Chris Lehane was tamping down the Landrieu story, insisting Mr. Steyer did not plan to "tea party" Democrats. "We do think it's really, really, really important from a climate perspective that we maintain control of the Senate for Democrats," he explained.

Overlooked was that this single decision wiped Mr. Steyer's operation off most of the electoral map. If the billionaire could not attack pro-Keystone Democrats, he couldn't get them on board his agenda. And if they remained in support of Keystone, there was no way the leader of the anti-pipeline movement could—with any credibility—underwrite them. It's great to have $100 million to blow on midterms; not so great when you can't spend it in Louisiana, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alaska, Montana, Virginia, Kentucky or Georgia—for starters.

Mr. Steyer was left the scraps of a few Senate candidates who do oppose Keystone: Colorado's Mark Udall ; Iowa's Bruce Braley ; New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen. Only to then discover that few would benefit from his help—at least not in a state like Iowa, where support for the jobs-creating Keystone project is thunderous, and where Mr. Braley's opposition is a political liability.

White House reporters aren't impressed with the administration's spin about how open they are. Funny how the one thing that the MSM will get angry over is being denied access.

How's that economic recovery going for Americans?
Adjusted for inflation, the wages of U.S. workers are down 3 percent since 2005. U.S. median income has fallen 5.5 percent. The reason is simple: Although the total number of jobs in the U.S. has finally returned to its pre-recession level, positions now being created in the never-ending recovery pay wages 23 percent lower than those that disappeared in the Great Recession. Low-wage — often part-time — jobs are replacing high-wage, full-time jobs.

This finding, from a 44-page report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, comes as little surprise. It confirms what others have demonstrated elsewhere. The economic expansion promised by President Obama in 2009 has been exceptionally sluggish in comparison to previous recoveries and remains so nearly six years later with this milestone.

The socialized healthcare model isn't doing so well in Europe.
Yet even as the single-payer system remains the ideal for many on the left, it's worth examining how Britain's NHS, established in 1948, is faring. The answer: badly. NHS England—a government body that receives about £100 billion a year from the Department of Health to run England's health-care system—reported this month that its hospital waiting lists soared to their highest point since 2006, with 3.2 million patients waiting for treatment after diagnosis. NHS England figures for July 2013 show that 508,555 people in London alone were waiting for operations or other treatments—the highest total for at least five years.

Even cancer patients have to wait: According to a June report by NHS England, more than 15% of patients referred by their general practitioner for "urgent" treatment after being diagnosed with suspected cancer waited more than 62 days—two full months—to begin their first definitive treatment.

In response the British government has enlisted private care for help, including most recently through the Health and Social Care Act 2012. In May last year, the Nuffield Trust, an independent research and policy institute, along with the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the U.K.'s leading independent microeconomic research institute, issued a report on NHS-funded private care. The report showed that over the past decade the NHS, desperate to reduce its ever-expanding rolls, has increasingly sent patients to private care. The share of NHS-funded hip and knee replacements by private doctors increased to 19% in 2011-12, from a negligible amount in 2003-04.

In 2006-07, according to the report, the NHS spent £5.6 billion on private care outside its system. This increased by 55% to £8.7 billion in 2011-12, including a 76% rise in spending on nonprimary care, going to £8.3 billion from £4.7 billion, despite significant reductions in spending on private care attributed to the financial crisis.
And it's not just Britain.
Even in Sweden, often heralded as the paradigm of a successful welfare state, months-long wait times for treatment routinely available in the U.S. have been widely documented.

To fix the problem, the Swedish government has aggressively introduced private-market forces into health care to improve access, quality and choices. Municipal governments have increased spending on private-care contracts by 50% in the past decade, according to Näringslivets Ekonomifakta, part of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, a Swedish employers' association.

Using Paul Krugman's logic against him.

A federal judge slaps down Eric Holder.
Facts have a terrible way of getting in the way of a political narrative. The Obama administration persists in the fiction that a voter ID requirement and a ban on same-day registration in the Tar Heel State will suppress black turnout. But the facts clearly demonstrate otherwise. For one, Federal District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder wrote that much of the harm alleged by the DOJ on future voter suppression of blacks due to voter ID laws relied “largely on racial discrimination that occurred between a quarter of a century to over a century ago. However, as the Supreme Court recently stated, ‘History did not end in 1965.’”

To wit, black voter registration in North Carolina exceeds that of whites—data from 2012 indicates black registration at 95.3 percent and white registration at 87.8 percent. Given that black registration in North Carolina is 7.5 percent greater than among whites, the court was less than convinced that a voter ID requirement would suddenly lead to an unequal access to the polls. Moreover, Holder and the NAACP asserted that the elimination of same-day registration would lead to a decrease in black voter participation—another claim swatted away by the court.

Their expert witness testified in court that without same-day registration the number of blacks would have declined by 3 percent in 2012 and that one could predict similar results in future elections. This claim, too, was batted away when Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, noted: “Plaintiffs have not shown that African-American voters in 2012 lacked—or more importantly, that they currently lack—an equal opportunity to easily register to vote otherwise.

The media sure treated Governor Cuomo's corruption scandal differently from how they blew gaskets over Chris Christie's Bridgegate scandal.

James Lileks explains why conservatives like Uber. I think it's because we support innovation and entrepreneurship that seeks to escape the paralyzing hand of government regulation that favors some people over others.

Here are some statistics on public schools that may surprise you.
The average American public school spends $11,455 per pupil, and that’s is just the average: Washington, D.C., the home of legendarily horrible government schools—among eighth-graders, only 17 percent are proficient in reading and 19 percent proficient in math—spends upward of $18,000 per student. That’s from the U.S. Census Bureau, by the way; after examining the numbers, the Cato Institute estimated that D.C. might spend closer to $25,000 per pupil. Across the board, inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending has tripled since 1970. Test scores have not gone up.

Where does that money go? Well, in 2012, D.C. teachers made an average of $90,681 in salary and benefits. But the real growth in school spending can be found outside the classroom. According to a report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “The Hidden Half: School Employees That Don’t Teach,” non-teaching staff in American public schools spiked 130 percent between 1970 and 2010. Student enrollment for that time period, they note, grew only 8.6 percent. Since 1950, school employees in general—many in “administrative” positions—grew by almost 500 percent.

President Obama will, since becoming president, soon have played more rounds of golf than Tiger Woods.

Do we really want to live in a society where the government can tell religious schools how big their Stars of David or crucifixes can be? That's what Mayor de Blasio thinks NYC's government can do since he wants to expand public preschools but the city can't handle the increased student population so they're contracting with private preschools. But that has led to a series of edicts from the city government about the content of what is taught and displayed in those schools.

Andrew Quinn writes at The Federalist about how the leftist media and Democrats reacted to the program that Paul Ryan put forward to address poverty. Quinn concludes, "The reaction to Paul Ryan's anti-poverty plan is why we can't have nice things."
Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty proposal is a bold and courageous attempt to spark a sorely-needed conversation. If only his critics could match his courage.

Amicus briefs in the case of Michael Mann v. the National Review has put in question of what freedom of the press really means. Can people make fun of a global warming activist or is that now going to be beyond the pale.
On Monday, The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press -- along with 26 other groups including The Washington Post, Bloomberg and Fox News -- filed an “amici curiae,” or “friend of the court,” brief with the D.C. Court of Appeals. An amici curiae is a brief submitted to a court to raise additional points of view to sway a court’s decision.

“While Mann essentially claims that he can silence critics because he is ‘right,’ the judicial system should not be the arbiter of either scientific truth or correct public policy,” the brief states, adding that “a participant in the ‘rough-and-tumble’ of public debate should not be able to use a lawsuit like this to silence his critics, regardless of whether one agrees with Mann or defendants.”

The suit was originally filed after Rand Simberg at the Competitive Enterprise Institute wrote a piece referring to Mann as “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science” because he “molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.”

CEI eventually took down the statements but not before National Review writer Mark Steyn picked them up and took it a step further by calling Mann’s research fraudulent.

Mann responded by suing CEI, National Review and the authors of the pieces.

But others in the media and think tank circuit are using the case to draw a line in the sand. Also coming to their defense are The Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, Individual Rights Foundation and Goldwater Institute. The policy groups filed their own brief in support of CEI and National Review.

“Public figures must not be allowed to use the courts to muzzle their critics,” Cato's Ilya Shapiro wrote on the group's website earlier this week.

Cato argues that under the First Amendment, there must be room for “the marketplace of ideas to operate.” Shapiro voiced concern that the court could try to judge the defendants' opinions as false by weighing them against EPA findings.

“The point in this appeal is that courts should not be coming up with new terms like ‘scientific fraud’ to squeeze debate over issues impacting government policy into ordinary tort law,” Shapiro said. “Dr. Mann is not like a corner butcher falsely accused of putting his thumb on the scale or mixing horsemeat into the ground beef. He is a vocal leader in a school of scientific thought that has had major impact on government policies.”

So Obama has declared the efforts to help the Yazidi against ISIS a success and he's ready to begin pulling out our armed forces. Doesn't the understand how his rush to get out of the region is what led to the strength of ISIS in the first place. Jennifer Rubin writes,
That is it. Apparently the U.S. military is now a highly sophisticated branch of the Red Cross. No mention of the ongoing threat from the Islamic State. No explanation for why it is in the interest of the United States to stop an Islamist state from setting up shop in the center of the most volatile region on the planet. If ever Hillary Clinton wanted to express her more hawkish thinking and show she is more than a cipher, now would be a good time to speak up....

Obama won’t drop his willful indifference to the Islamist threat because he cannot accept error for past inaction and because it would require robust action now, and neither he nor his base will tolerate that. He risks, of course, catastrophic results in the region and worse, God forbid, another 9/11 style attack on the U.S. homeland.

Given the president’s willingness to ignore such an obvious and huge threat to the United States from revived jihadists, is it any wonder that he and his White House cronies convinced themselves and tried to convince us that the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists’ attack on Benghazi, Libya, was some sort of fluke? It had to be explained away by some trivial and random event; otherwise it would mean terrorism was on the rise and all that ending-wars rhetoric, slashing defense and chest thumping about killing Osama bin Laden were grossly reckless.

More than one conservative national security guru has e-mailed me in the last few days that Obama critics may be willing to concede Hillary Clinton had the right instincts on Iraq and Syria, but if she gave up challenging the White House, refused to quit, kept praising the do-nothing Syria policy (as she did when the president refused to bomb Syria) and didn’t spell out the Iraq debacle even after leaving office and still spins nonsense (like the Bush administration made us get out of Iraq) what good is she? She’s already proved she doesn’t have the stomach for leadership and will blow whichever way the political winds carry her. We are supposed to be impressed she knew better all along that the president was endangering U.S. security, in essence ignoring reams of intelligence and the advice of senior foreign policy advisers?

Jay Cost details the difficulties that Hillary has taking both sides of a question.

John Podhoretz outlines how the U.S. was working to undermine Israel in the recent conflict.

John Hinderaker links to information on how wind power requires 700 times as much land as fracking does. And it doesn't kill birds the way that wind farms do.

The NYT has a fascinating graphic to see where people come from in each state.