Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cruising the Web

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
When President Obama announced in June that he planned to bypass congressional gridlock and overhaul the nation’s immigration system on his own, he did so in a most public way: a speech in the White House Rose Garden.

Since then, the process of drafting what will likely be the only significant immigration changes of his presidency — and his most consequential use of executive power — has been conducted almost entirely behind closed doors, where lobbyists and interest groups invited to the White House are making their case out of public view.

Mr. Obama’s increasingly expansive appetite for the use of unilateral action on issues including immigration, tax policy and gay rights has emboldened activists and businesses to flock to the administration with their policy wish lists. It also has opened the president, already facing charges of executive overreach, to criticism that he is presiding over opaque policy-making, with the potential to reward political backers at the expense of other interests, including some on the losing side who are threatening to sue.
Great And, as Politico writes, he is supposedly crafting his proposed executive orders to make some big businesses happy.
Obama was initially expected to focus only on slowing deportations of potentially millions of undocumented immigrants and altering federal enforcement policies. Now top aides are talking with leaders in big companies like Cisco, Intel and Accenture, hoping to add more changes that would get them on board.

Representatives for high-tech, agriculture and construction interests have put forward a range of fixes, from recapturing unused green cards to tweaking existing work authorization programs.
The combination of a president looking to exercise his imperial presidential muscles meeting in private with activists and lobbyists should make anyone who cares about our American system very uncomfortable.

Kyle Kondik ponders why incumbents keep getting reelected even if the public isn't all that fond of them and tell polls that they'd like to throw all the bums, including their own, out.

Michael Lind, no conservative, tells his liberal readers at Salon why the indictment of Rick Perry will backfire on Democrats. He thinks that Perry would have been the dream candidate for Democrats to run against in 2016 and, if this indictment harms his chances of gaining the nomination, the election will be that much more difficult for conservatives. And then he points out this irony for how liberals are going to tie themselves into knots.
It gets worse, from the perspective of Machiavellian Democrats (assuming such creatures exist). Stymied by Republican obstruction in Congress, President Obama is trying to use executive action to push through reforms in areas from immigration to the environment. For the most part, progressives have mounted a strong defense of broad executive prerogatives. It may be harder for progressives to argue that inherent executive authority is broad when exerted by a Democratic president to defer action against undocumented immigrants but narrow when used by a Republican governor in a line item veto to cut state funding for the Travis County DA’s office.
And the Democrats will have to be defending a woman who was arrested with three times the legal alcohol level and an open bottle of vodka in the car. But that's what they're going to have to do now because a partisan prosecutor went for, what Mark Pulliam rightly calls a "textbook malicious prosecution."

I was just telling my class that one way to tell who was interested in running for the presidency in 2016 was to see who was showing up in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2014. And sure enough, Hillary and Bill are heading there.

Oops. So this is what solar energy has wrought.
Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one "streamer" every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator's application to build a still-bigger version.

The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group....

The bird kills mark the latest instance in which the quest for clean energy sometimes has inadvertent environmental harm. Solar farms have been criticized for their impacts on desert tortoises, and wind farms have killed birds, including numerous raptors....

More than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect solar rays onto three boiler towers each looming up to 40 stories high. The water inside is heated to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes.

Sun rays sent up by the field of mirrors are bright enough to dazzle pilots flying in and out of Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Federal wildlife officials said Ivanpah might act as a "mega-trap" for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays.

Federal and state biologists call the number of deaths significant, based on sightings of birds getting singed and falling, and on retrieval of carcasses with feathers charred too severely for flight.
So are environmentalists going to come out against solar power?

Kevin Williamson takes on Jesse Jackson who is out decrying a supposed national crisis of "urban abandonment and repression."
A question for the Reverend Jackson: Who has been running the show in Newark, in Chicago, in Detroit, and in Los Angeles for a great long while now? The answer is: People who see the world in much the same way as does the Reverend Jackson, who take the same view of government, who support the same policies, and who suffer from the same biases.

This is not intended to be a cheap partisan shot. The Democratic party institutionally certainly has its defects, the chronicle of which could fill several unreadable volumes, but the more important and more fundamental question here is one of philosophy and policy. Newark, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles — and Philadelphia, Cleveland, and a dozen or more other cities — have a great deal in common: They are the places in which the progressive vision of government has reached its fullest expressions. They are the hopeless reality that results from wishful thinking....

For years, our major cities were undermined by a confluence of four unhappy factors: 1. higher taxes; 2. defective schools; 3. crime; 4. declining economic opportunity. Together, these weighed much more heavily upon the middle class than upon the very wealthy and the very poor. In the case of Philadelphia, the five counties in the metropolitan area have had a mostly stable population, but the city itself lost more than a quarter of its population between 1950 and 2000 as some 550,000 people fled to the suburbs or beyond. How many people matters, but which people matters, too: They were the ones with the means and the strongest incentive to relocate. Over the same period of time, Chicago lost a fifth of its population, Baltimore nearly a third. Philadelphia is one of the few U.S. cities to impose a municipal income tax (one of the taxes Mayor Rizzo raised), creating very strong incentives to move across the line into Delaware County or Bucks County. This is sometimes known as “white flight,” but that is a misnomer: In Detroit, the white middle class got out as quickly as it could — and the black middle class was hot on its heels. Upwardly mobile people and those who expect to be — i.e., those with an investment in the future — care a great deal about schools, economic opportunity, and safety. And they know where the city limits are.

Progressives spent a generation imposing taxes and other expenses on urban populations as though the taxpaying middle class would not relocate. They protected the defective cartel system of public education, and the union money and votes associated with it, as though middle-class parents would not move to places that had better schools. They imposed burdens on businesses, in exchange for more union money and votes, as though businesses would not shift production elsewhere. They imposed policies that disincentivized stable family arrangements as though doing so would have no social cost.

Mitch Daniels was always one of my very favorite politicians. I had been hoping that he would run in 2012 and, as things turned out, he would have been a much more appealing candidate than Mitt Romney. But he's probably too sane to want to run for president and he became president of Purdue University and he's taking his approach to cutting spending waste to the university. Mary Katharine Ham links to stories of how he's cutting expenses in ways big and small so that he can freeze tuition for the first time in 36 years and lower dining hall prices for students. And he's put together a neat deal with Amazon to lower text book costs. He's also put together a three-year BA degree which can save students almost $10,000. He's so impressive simply because he takes a common-sense approach to spending and does what he sets out to do. He did the same when he was governor of Indiana and now as head of Purdue. It's rather sad that someone who can take a rational ax to spending is a rare breed indeed.

One place to cut spending at most universities is the money going to student government. This story by Mark Hemingway about how much money that student governments have at their command was so eye-opening. Who knew that, at many universities, students have control of a budget of tens of millions of dollars. It's a long report, but it was worth it to get a glimpse into how these slush funds are being used to fund all sorts of student groups and leftists interest groups and lobbyists.

This is interesting - check out how much a $100 is worth in each state.

When Shakespeare wrote "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" in Henry VI, Part 2, he was not using the line as a dig against lawyers. Apparently, he meant just the opposite, contrary to what all lawyer-haters today would like to believe.
The line comes from Shakespeare's "Henry VI, Part 2" and is spoken by Dick the Butcher, the dopey henchman of rebel leader Jack Cade.

According to the attorneys' interpretation—one supported by many but not all English scholars—Shakespeare's point is to portray lawyers as the guardians of the rule of law who stand in the way of a fanatical mob.

The lawyers may have a good argument, but more than four centuries after the play made its debut, Dick the Butcher's words still haunt the legal profession, enduring as shorthand for frustration with excessive fees, frivolous lawsuits and ambulance chasing. It is plastered on mugs, T-shirts and posters and has popped up in everything from an Eagles song to Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom" cable drama. There are jokes about it going back at least to the 1800s.

"Things with that quote on it always do well," said Matthew Frederick, who manages the Folger Shakespeare Library gift shop in Washington, D.C., which offers a blue T-shirt featuring the line for $19.95. "People are amused with the idea of bashing lawyers." But he adds: "A lot of those people don't really understand the context of it."

....Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens once chimed in with, literally, his own opinion. "As a careful reading of that text will reveal, Shakespeare insightfully realized that disposing of lawyers is a step in the direction of a totalitarian form of government," he wrote in a footnote to a dissenting opinion from a 1985 case.

Most frustrating for the punctilious practitioners is when they hear their own peers quote Dick the Butcher.

"It's revealing that lawyers are so quick to accept the misconception," said Alex Dimitrief, senior vice president and general counsel for GE Capital, who sought to edify readers about Shakespeare's intentions in a recent co-written essay on the topic of hourly billing.

"The misuse of the quote is more revealing than the quote itself. Law is such an unhappy profession."

Mallon A. Snyder, a trial lawyer from suburban Maryland who has served as president of the Bar Association of Montgomery County, said Shakespeare would have gotten a kick out of how there is "so much turmoil over a quote that was supposed to be thought-provoking."
I just thought that was interesting since I haven't read the play and always interpreted the line as a hit against lawyers. When I was growing up, my parents had one room with wallpaper that was made up of quotes from Shakespeare I used to love reading those quotes and one of the ones that really amused me was this one from Henry VI. I'm glad to find out what it really meant.