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Friday, October 03, 2014

Cruising the Web

Chris Cillizza thinks that President Obama today just provided Republicans with fodder for a whole new set of campaign ads.
Here are the four sentences that will draw all of the attention (they come more than two thirds of the way through the speech): "I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them." Boil those four sentences down even further and here's what you are left with: "Make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them."

You can imagine Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas or Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina or Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky grimacing when they heard those 28 words. That trio has spent much of the campaign insisting that this election is NOT about Barack Obama, that it is instead about a choice between themselves and their opponents.
Now there will be a video intro showing the President saying that his "policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them" and that we really are better off now than we were six years ago. And then the ad will cut to a grainy picture of Kay Hagan or Mary Landrieu hugging the President and the voiceover will ask voters if they really want to endorse those policies that have become so very unpopular. And for good measure, the narration can run though a bunch of statistics of how things really aren't better than they were before Obama took office. And the narration will remind voters that a vote for the Democrat is, in Obama's own words, an endorsement of his policies. That isn't going to go over well in all those red states where Democratic incumbents are fighting against the headwinds caused by the President's unpopularity.


Ed Rogers explains why the economy isn't the bright spot on the Obama record that he tried yesterday to pretend it was.
Once again, the president is overstating our country’s economic strength, saying something different than what people can see for themselves. Well, talking points du jour notwithstanding, after six years President Obama’s economic legacy is coming into focus. It is ironic that, when we look back on the Obama era, we will see a weak economy whose bright spots benefited paper traders in the financial markets and the oft-derided “1 percent.” It’s doubly ironic that one of the big success stories of the Obama era will be the oil and gas industry — a sector Obama and the Democrats detest because it fuels an American lifestyle they abhor.

Under Obama’s economic policies, the numbers of billionaires and food-stamp recipients have grown robust, but everything else has been a bust. According to Sentier Research, “real median household income is down almost 4 percent from where it was when the recovery started in June 2009. … During the recession itself, household income dropped only 2.6 percent.” Middle-class families are struggling. Fear, uncertainty and a sense of economic fragility has not abated, real growth has not taken hold and voters do not feel optimistic about the future.
Check out the Obama economy in 11 charts.

Doctor and fellow at the Hoover Institution, Scott Atlas describes in the WSJ the pernicious effect that Obamacare has had on medical innovation in the U.S.
The recent slowdown in R&D spending in the U.S. is in part caused by weak economic growth since the 2008 financial crisis. But the economy's weakness itself has been exacerbated by the negative impact of new taxes and regulations under ObamaCare. According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the new health-care law will levy more than $500 billion in new taxes over its first 10 years to help pay for insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion. These new taxes include significant levies on key health-care industries, such as manufacturers of medical devices and drugs, and their investors.

As a result, small and large U.S. health-care technology companies are moving R&D centers and jobs overseas. The CEO of one of the largest health-care companies in America recently told me that the device tax his company paid last year exceeded his company's entire R&D budget. Already a long list of companies—including Boston Scientific , Stryker and Cook Medical—have announced job cuts and plans to open new centers for R&D, manufacturing and clinical trials overseas.

The bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration are also hindering medical-technology and drug development. According to a 2010 survey of more than 200 medical-device companies by medical professor and entrepreneur Josh Makower and his colleagues at Stanford University, delays of approvals for new medical devices are now far longer in the U.S. than in many other developed countries. In the European Union—not exactly known for cutting through red tape—it takes on average seven months to gain approval for low- to moderate-risk devices. In the U.S., FDA approval for similar devices takes on average 31 months.
We'll never know what marvelous new medical devices will never be developed because of this law. Or how many jobs will never be created in the U.S. because Obamacare will have driven these companies elsewhere.

One young writer describes the aggravation he's suffered by being in Obamacare.

California teachers' union may have to get by without forcing people to be members and pay them dues. It's a whole new world for these unions to contemplate a world in which people have the right not to be forced into their unions.

If it didn't feel like too much of the world was spinning out of control, we get this story:
A cyberattack this summer on JPMorgan Chase compromised the accounts of 76 million households and seven million small businesses, a tally that dwarfs previous estimates by the bank and puts the intrusion among the largest ever.

The details of the breach — disclosed in a securities filing on Thursday — emerge at a time when consumer confidence in the digital operations of corporate America has already been shaken. Target, Home Depot and a number of other retailers have sustained major data breaches. Last year, the information of 40 million cardholders and 70 million others were compromised at Target, while an attack at Home Depot in September affected 56 million cards.

But unlike retailers, JPMorgan, as the largest bank in the nation, has financial information in its computer systems that goes beyond customers’ credit card details and potentially includes more sensitive data.
Yikes.

Charles Krauthammer advises the Republicans that it is enough to run in 2014 on a message of blocking President Obama. That's okay in a midterm election.
In midterms, it’s all right to be the party of no. The 2010 election, for example, was a referendum on the liberal overreach of the first two Obama years. Result? A Democratic “shellacking,” said President Obama. The massive stimulus, (the failed) cap-and-trade and Obamacare created a major backlash that cost Obama the House and, with it, the rest of his ideological agenda. It’s been blocked ever since.

That’s the power of no. And Republicans should not apologize for it. The role of the opposition is to oppose. With the welfare state having reached the outer limits of its competency and solvency, it is in desperate need of restructuring and reform. With an ideologically ambitious president committed instead to expanding entitlements, regulation and government itself, principle alone would compel the conservative party to say “stop.”

“Stop” was more than enough in 2010. With the president in decline and his presidency falling apart, it will be enough in 2014. Those complaining that Republicans haven’t come up with a national agenda are forgetting that we don’t have a parliamentary system. We don’t have an organized hierarchical opposition with a shadow prime minister and shadow Cabinet. We’ve got 500-odd local political entrepreneurs running under the same Republican banner but offering distinctly independent takes on its philosophy.
But if the Republicans do indeed win the Senate, they'll have the opportunity to pass a wide swath of bills that Harry Reid has kept from the Senate floor in order to protect his party's senators from having to take a different vote. That would end with the Republicans in charge.
Winning control of the Senate would allow Republicans to pass a whole range of measures now being held up by Reid, often at the behest of the White House. Make it a major reform agenda. The centerpiece might be tax reform, both corporate and individual. It is needed, popular and doable. Then go for the low-hanging fruit enjoying wide bipartisan support, such as the Keystone XL pipeline and natural gas exports, most especially to Eastern Europe. One could then add border security, energy deregulation and health-care reform that repeals the more onerous Obamacare mandates.

If the president signs any of it, good. If he vetoes, it will be clarifying. Who then will be the party of no? The vetoed legislation would become the framework for a 2016 GOP platform. Let the debate begin.

The risk-averse will say, why take chances? Why not just run against the Obama legacy in 2016?

The GOP should and will. What has happened to economic growth, social cohesion and America’s standing abroad will be a significant drag on Democrats. But it could very well not be enough.

Obama won’t be on the ticket. Hillary Clinton, now rapidly distancing herself from the administration she served, would be running on a different legacy, that of her husband and the holiday-from-history 1990s.

Moreover, for winning the presidency to mean something, you need a mandate. Ronald Reagan understood this. He could have coasted to victory in 1980 on mere opposition. But he had a platform, much of which he successfully enacted precisely because he ran on it.

Memo to the GOP: Win the Senate, then enact an agenda and dare the president to veto it. Show the country what you stand for. Then take it to the nation in 2016.
Sounds very good to me.

This is an unbelievable story.
Audrey Hudson, an award-winning journalist most recently at the Washington Times, told The Daily Signal she was awoken by her barking dog around 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 6, 2013, to discover armed government agents had descended on her property under the cover of darkness. The agents had a search warrant for her husband’s firearms. As they scoured the home, Hudson was read her Miranda rights.

While inside Hudson’s house, a U.S. Coast Guard agent confiscated documents that contained “confidential notes, draft articles, and other newsgathering materials” that Hudson never intended for anyone else to see. The documents included the identities of whistleblowers at the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard is part of Homeland Security.

At the time, Hudson was investigating and reporting on Homeland Security, specifically its Federal Air Marshal Service and the Transportation Security Administration.

It wasn’t until weeks later that Hudson discovered the documents were missing—and even then only because a federal law-enforcement official told her she could pick up the files. Hudson notified the Washington Times, which took the government to court for violating the Privacy Protection Act.
What would give the Coast Guard the idea that they could behave this way towards a reporter? Or anyone? This should be a major scandal.

Ace links to this story from Breitbart reminding us that in 2010 President Obama scrapped proposed quarantine rules that the Bush administration had proposed to deal with the avian flu.
In April 2010, Politico reported the administration “quietly dumped quarantine rules that would have required air passengers to submit more information to airlines and strengthened the government's authority to detain travelers suspected of carrying disease.”
Politico initially reported in August of 2009 that the Obama administration examined Bush administration 2005 quarantine regulations, which were criticized by civil liberty advocates.

“The proposals to limit liberty represent a dangerous precedent to constitutional theory, particularly when there’s almost no evidence it will matter... It wouldn’t surprise me if they try to sneak this past in August, when people are away,” said Wendy Mariner, a professor of law and public health at Boston University of the Bush proposal, which would have required airlines and cruise lines to store additional data about domestic and international travelers, like e-mail addresses, traveling companions, and return flight information. However, giving the information would have been voluntary for the passengers.

The Centers for Disease Control sent the new rules forward for formal approval in June, 2009, despite the criticism.

“It’s important to public health to move forward with the regulations,” CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson told Politico. “We need to update our quarantine regulations, and this final rule is an important step.”
Sounds like some rules that we'd like to have in place now, doesn't it?

So it seems that both the Republicans and Democrats behaved in a sleazy fashion in Virginia. What a surprise.

Paul Mirengoff describes how Leon Panetta has removed whatever fig leaf of an excuse that Obama might have thought he had about why we left Iraq without any residual force left behind.

Matthew Continetti lays out a rational case for panic.
Over the last few years the divergence between what the government promises and what it delivers, between what is says is happening or will happen and what actually is happening and does happen, between what it determines to be important and what the public wishes to be important—this gap has become abysmal, unavoidable, inescapable. We hear of “lone-wolf” terrorism, of “workplace violence,” that if you like your plan you can keep your plan. We are told that Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration, that al Qaeda is on the run, that the border is secure as it has ever been, that I didn’t draw a red line, the world drew a red line, that the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups involved not a smidgen of corruption. We see the government spend billions on websites that do not function, and the VA consign patients to death by waiting list and then cover it up. We are assured that Putin won’t invade; that the Islamic State is the jayvee team of terrorism; that Bowe Bergdahl served with honor and distinction; that there is a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia.

While the public remains pro-Israel, our government negotiates with Israel’s enemies. While the public wants to reduce immigration, the preeminent legislative objective of both parties is a bill that would increase it. While the public is uninterested in global warming, while costly regulations could not pass a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate, while the scientific consensus behind the green agenda is, at the very least, fraying, the president says that climate change is the greatest threat to the United States. While Americans tell pollsters their economic situation has not improved, and that things are headed in the wrong direction—while even Democratic economists acknowledge the despondent state of the middle class—the president travels to Chicago to celebrate his economic recovery.

These disjunctions and confusions, these missteps, scandals, and miscalculations, have hurt Obama’s approval numbers. They endanger the Democratic Senate majority, contribute to the widespread sense of disorder and decay, shatter trust in government and in public institutions. They have put into stark relief a political class dominated by liberal partisans, captured by ideas and interests removed from those of ordinary Americans. The stories of ineptitude or malfeasance that appear in the daily newspaper are more than examples of high ideals executed poorly. They are examples of the pursuit of ideas—of equality and diversity and progress and centralization and environmentalism and globalization—to absurd and self-destructive limits.

It is precisely the intersection of Ebola and globalization that worries me. The only response to a virus this deadly is to quarantine it. Stop flights, suspend visas, and beef up customs and security. It can be done. If the FAA can cancel flights to Israel, why can’t it cancel flights to and from the West African countries whence the outbreak originated?

Simple: because doing so would violate the sacred principles by which our bourgeois liberal elite operate. To deny an individual entry to the United States over fears of contamination would offend our elite’s sense of humanitarian cosmopolitanism. For them, “singling out” nations or cultures from which threats to the public health or safety of the United States originate is illegitimate. It “stigmatizes” those nations or cultures, it “shames” them, it makes them feel unequal. It’s judgmental. It suggests that America prefers her already existing citizens to others.

Such pieties endanger us. They are the reason we were slow to contain the influx of Central American refugees, the reason we do not follow-up on illegal immigrants who fail to show up for hearings, the reason we remain unable to strip jihadists of U.S. citizenship, the reason that a year after two Chechen refugees bombed the Boston Marathon, America is preparing to expand resettlement of Syrian refugees. The imperatives of the caste, the desire to make actual whatever is rattling around Tom Friedman’s brain at a given moment, take precedence over reality.

Watch the "best political ad of the season."
Think of the leverage that black voters would have if they didn't vote so overwhelmingly for Democrats and could thus play the parties off against each other. If they did, we'd start seeing some more stories like this one of a black coalition deciding to endorse a Republican candidate for St. Louis County executive because they don't feel they've gotten enough action from the Democrats.
The coalition members have all signed a declaration that pledges to “end the political forces that have never recognized our humanity, nor cared about our welfare.”

John Fund marvels at the continued influence of the person known as Obama's Rasputin.

“There is no group more important to the viability of the St. Louis County Democratic Party than the African American community,” the declaration states. “Yet, there is a total absence of any political consideration for the African American community, whether it is in the party leadership, the development and support of candidates for elected office or advocating for public policy solutions that speak to the needs of the African American community in St. Louis County.”

Michael Kelley, former executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party, attended the press conference and spoke with reporters afterwards. Kelley was shaking with outrage at the coalition’s move, saying that it goes against Democratic morals. He said Stream is an extreme conservative that has moved to cut minimum wage and who also led the fight to try and keep President Barack Obama off the ballot.

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