Monday, December 08, 2014

Cruising the Web

Unbelievably, the same administration that is inching towards a deal with Iran that would leave it able to gain weaponized nuclear power while warning Congress not to say anything about tightening sanctions on Iran is now considering sanctions on our closest ally in the region. And the administration can't even knock down the story that first came out in Haaretz, an Israeli paper. This is just typical of this administration that has always had tougher words for Israel than for any of the supporters of terrorism in the region.
An Israeli newspaper report that the Obama administration is considering sanctions against settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is causing a stir in Congress.

Haaretz reported Thursday, citing senior Israeli officials, that there was a classified discussion at the White House a few weeks ago about the possibility of taking action to stop the construction, rather than just denouncing it. The daily said the discussion was a sign of how far relations have deteriorated between the Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

White House and State Department officials refused Friday to comment on the report, but lawmakers were quick to act.

Jim Geraghty wonders if a Supreme Court decision striking down federal subsidies for states that didn't set up health exchanges could save Democrats from public disgust with Obamacare.
If you’re a Democrat, this is a way to get rid of the political costs of Obamacare without ever having to admit that the law was badly conceived, written, implemented, administered, and so on.

A Democrat who privately thinks Obamacare has turned into a political deadweight for his party but doesn’t want to admit so publicly could even complain loudly about “runaway ultra-conservative judicial activism,” “right wing ideologues in black robes snatching away health insurance from the poor,” and so on. But Obamacare would be gone, and with it, the consequences for Democrats for their vote to pass unpopular legislation that canceled plans, raised premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and so on.

This would allow a lot of Democrats to turn back to their true preferred option, a single-payer system.

Of course, having experienced the mess of Obamacare, Americans are unlikely to yearn for a system with even more government control of the health-care system, and single-payer would go nowhere with a GOP-held U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. But it would put the Democrats back in their comfortable position of touting a hypothetical future plan of government-run health care making everyone happy, instead of defending the current status quo of government-mandated purchases of private health-insurance plans.
Yeah, I can totally picture that happening.

Meanwhile, the unintended bad consequences of Obamacare continue as patients are finding a primary care shortage.
A survey this year by The Physicians Foundation found that 81 percent of doctors describe themselves as either over-extended or at full capacity, and 44 percent said they planned to cut back on the number of patients they see, retire, work part-time or close their practice to new patients.

At the same time, insurance companies have routinely limited the number of doctors and providers on their plans as a way to cut costs. The result has further restricted some patients' ability to get appointments quickly.

One purpose of the new health law was connecting patients, many of whom never had insurance before, with primary care doctors to prevent them from landing in the emergency room when they are sicker and their care is more expensive. Yet nearly 1 in 5 Americans lives in a region designated as having a shortage of primary care physicians, and the number of doctors entering the field isn't expected to keep pace with demand.
Many doctors don't want to be part of the Obamacare exchanges so patients have insurance coverage but no doctor who will accept them.

Kevin Williamson takes the substantive victory of Bill Cassidy over Mary Landrieu in Louisiana's Senate runoff to refute against the standard story of how the South realigned from Democrat to Republican in resistance to the Democrats' stand on civil rights
A few obvious questions: If white Southerners were really so enraged about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and if they switched to the Republican party to express their displeasure, then why did they wait 30 years before making that preference felt in House elections? Why did Dwight D. Eisenhower — a supporter of civil-rights legislation who insisted on the actual desegregation of the armed forces (as opposed to President Truman’s hypothetical desegregation) and federal agencies under his control — win a larger share of the Southern vote in 1956 than Barry Goldwater, the most important Republican critic of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, did two cycles later? Why did Mississippi elect only one Republican governor in the entire 20th century, and that not until 1992? Why didn’t Alabama have a Republican governor until 1987? And why did Louisiana wait 60 years to eliminate its last Democratic senator in favor of a candidate from the party of Condoleezza Rice, Ben Carson, Allen West, Mia Love, Tim Scott, and that not-very-white guy who serves as governor of Louisiana? White supremacy should be made of sterner stuff: Did somebody forget to tell Louisiana state senator and newly confirmed Republican Elbert Guillory that he’s black?

Strange that redneck bigots would wait for so many decades to punish the Democrats for giving up cross-burning; my own experience with that particular demographic suggests that its members do not in general have that sort of attention span.

There has, in fact, been a realignment in the party preferences of both black voters and white Southern voters — a trend that dates not to the Democrats’ decision to abandon white supremacy as a plank in their party platform but to an earlier period, namely, the New Deal. By 1946, the majority of black voters in congressional races were pulling the Democratic lever — that is, black voters switched to the Democrats at a time when Lyndon Johnson wasn’t just blocking civil-rights bills but blocking anti-lynching legislation. The last Republican presidential candidate to win the black vote was Herbert Hoover.

Similarly, the migration of white Southern voters to the GOP did not begin after the fight over the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And why would it have? Despite the principled opposition of Barry Goldwater, a lifelong NAACP member who nonetheless believed that the bill gave the federal government too much power over state and local matters, Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at significantly higher levels than the Democrats did, just as Republicans, Goldwater included, had fought for the Civil Rights Act of 1957, passed on Republican votes over Democratic obstruction and signed by a Republican president.

In reality, the Republican party in the South was not the party of peckerwood-trash segregationists; the GOP made its first Southern inroads among relatively affluent, educated, suburban voters, i.e., basically the same people who were Republicans everywhere else in the country, and the Southern voters least interested in segregation. And that began in the 1920s, not the 1960s. But it really picked up during the New Deal, with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s support among Southern white voters diminishing as his Prussian-style command-and-control economic fantasies became more audacious....

The Republicans’ “Southern strategy” — which was not, contrary to the myth, based upon sending secret decoder-ring messages to Southern bigots but was instead oriented toward appealing to working-class white transplants to the South from the Midwest and elsewhere — did not really begin to pay off reliably until years later, when white racism as an organized political issue had long been consigned to the fringes of politics.

So, once again, the evidence is contrary to the fantasy history the Democrats put forward. In 1992, the Democrats hit upon a Southern strategy of their own, the “Double Bubba” ticket of two white Southern men — Bill Clinton, protégé of the segregationist troglodyte William Fulbright, and Al Gore, son of the Tennessee grotesque Senator Al Gore Sr. — and managed a mediocre showing in the South.

It was the 1994 midterm — 30 years after the fight over the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — that announced the real realignment in Southern politics. As with the New Deal, economic issues rather than racial ones were once again front and center. Bill Clinton had had the poor sense to put his wife in charge of a cockamamie project to quasi-nationalize American health care — terrible idea, right? — and Republicans responded with the Contract with America, an eight-point agenda that had zilch to do with race. Only the very finest sensibilities of the dog-whistle detectors at MSNBC could derive a racial agenda out of “require that all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply to Congress,” “cut committee staff by one-third,” or “require committee meetings to be open to the public.” (Go ahead — find the racial subtext; I’ll wait.) It was that election that saw the Southern congressional delegation go Republican for the first time. And while Clinton would still win a few Southern states in 1996, Democratic presidential candidates would subsequently find themselves largely shut out of the South outside of Florida and Virginia.

Is this the week that the media broke? David Weigel argues that it was. The combination of the media overreaction to the Elizabeth Lauten tweets, Rolling Stone's admission that they published a very damaging story without doing the due diligence that any journalist undergraduate knows should be done, and the implosion of the New Republic certainly give the impression that the media is more interested in agenda-driven stories than true reporting.
More recently, I was sitting in a diner in Plaquemine, La., waiting for an interview. It was Monday, and the food came as the evening news came back from commercial. NBC News started in on the Lauten story.

"It is one of the few rules that the news media and the mob usually adhere to," said Brian Williams. "Leave children out of the fight."

The waiter at my table rolled his eyes. "This is the news?" he asked. "They want you to care about this so you don't see what's really going on."

Some people are always going to think that. It'd be smart to choose stories, and targets, and reputation-destruction news items, so as not to validate it.
Of course, the media aren't dead. But they are finding it harder and harder to convince people to spend money to buy their product or tune into their stories. If their response is going to be sensationalism and slanted reporting, then they can expect their profit margins to continue to dry up.

And as Megan McArdle writes, the Rolling Stone's journalistic malpractice resulted in doing more harm to victims of actual rapes.
So now the next time a rape victim tells her story to a journalist, they will both be trying to reach an audience that remembers the problems with this article, and the Duke lacrosse case, and wonders if any of these stories are ever true. That inference will be grotesquely false, but it is the predictable result of accepting sensational stories without carefully checking. The greatest damage this article has done is not to journalism, or even to Rolling Stone. It is to the righteous fight for rape victims everywhere.

The NYT ran a story of what Hillary was like as First Lady. The portrait is of a tough woman who supported her husband and who was supported by him, even to their detriment. They both have fierce tempers and blow up at any criticism of the other. And she couldn't take any criticism of her own actions.
But the Clintons were fiercely protective of each other, acting at times as if it were just them against the world. “I remember one time in one of these meetings where she was blowing up about his staff and how we were all incompetent and he was having to be the mechanic and drive the car and do everything — that we weren’t capable of anything, why did he have to do it all himself,” said Joan N. Baggett, an assistant for political affairs.

Mr. Clinton had a similar temper when it came to the arrows hurled at her, and aides learned early on never to question her judgment in front of him. “He really reacts violently when people criticize Hillary,” said Mickey Kantor, the 1992 campaign chairman and later commerce secretary. “I mean he really gets angry — you can just see it. He literally gets red in the face.”

He depended on her more than any other figure in his world. It blinded him to trouble, some advisers concluded, most notably about her ill-fated drive to remake the health care system.

But he rarely overruled her, at least not in ways that staff members could detect. “I can’t think of any issue of any importance at all where they were in disagreement and she didn’t win out,” recalled Abner Mikva, who served as White House counsel....

But the health care effort and its expansion of government involvement in the private sector proved politically toxic and generated deep internal division within the White House. Mr. Magaziner was seen as dismissive and few were willing to confront the president’s wife. “There were a lot of people who were intimidated,” said Leon E. Panetta, the chief of staff.

Ms. Shalala, who had been named secretary of health and human services, was one of the few who tried. “I told Hillary that this thing is just headed for disaster, and she told me I was just jealous that I wasn’t in charge and that was why I was complaining,” Mr. Edelman, who served as Ms. Shalala’s assistant secretary, remembered Ms. Shalala telling him.

Some of the White House economists were dubious and privately called Mrs. Clinton’s health care team “the Bolsheviks.” In return, according to Ms. Rivlin, the economists were “sometimes treated like the enemy.” Their suggested changes were ignored. “We could have beaten Ira alone,” said Mr. Blinder. “But we couldn’t beat Hillary.”

Indeed, the conflict left the president in a bind. “You can’t fire your wife,” Mr. Kantor observed.
This was the one time when she was actually in charge of something and attempted to enact a major and controversial policy. And it was a fiasco. So if she's going to run on a record, she'll have to depend on her time in the State Department, but she and her aides have a tough time pinting to any accomplishment there besides the fact that she took a lot of trips. It might be enough to run on just having been around a long time and being a woman, but it sure seems like a very insubstantial record to run on.

Stanley Kurtz writes of the NYT story,
This reminds us that Hillary was the Elizabeth Warren of her day, the leader of the left wing of the Democratic Party. I don’t think much beyond Hillary’s rhetoric has changed. Today’s Times profile shows Hillary approving the strategy of Bill running for the White House from the middle. I think Hillary’s been running a White House campaign for herself from the middle ever since she stood for the Senate. And just as happened in 1993, a run from the middle will swiftly turn into an attempt to govern from the left. With today’s Democratic Party, the real question is whether Hillary can sustain even a run from the center, much less an attempt to govern.
The story does make clear, that Bill Clinton's positioning as a New Democrat in 1992 was for political benefit and not out of any ideological conviction as Hillary's efforts in health care soon made clear.

Andrew Ferguson is a very perceptive and very witty writer. He has noticed one of President Obama's favorite tropes - telling us who the American people are.
Perhaps you too have been wondering why it is that President Obama is always, always telling us who we are as Americans and who we are not. Obviously, why he does this is a complicated question. And I guess “always” is an exaggeration. Frequently, though—he does it very frequently.

To pull one little item from the Google hopper: He was asked earlier this year about football players and the concussions they always (frequently) seem to be getting. There are few subjects the president won’t comment on.

“We have to change a culture that says you suck it up,” the president said. At the same time, he went on, football will continue to be, even after we stop sucking it up, “fundamental to who we are as Americans.” Boola boola.

The little clump of words about who we are as Americans pops out of the president’s mouth so often it’s easy to miss it, even when he says it twice on the same occasion, a few sentences apart, as he sometimes does. It’s not necessarily annoying. Often when he tells us who we are the phrase has a nice, friendly lilt to it, as though the president were giving us a pat on the back. You hear him at the 9/11 museum saying, “Nothing can ever break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans,” and you think, Thanks, Obama!

Unfortunately, Americans might also get confused about who we are, assuming we’re paying attention to our president. It’s easy to lose track.

“That’s who the American people are—determined, and not to be messed with,” the president said again last summer. So, number one, we’re bad ass. This is probably related to our being football fundamentalists. But make no mistake: We have a gentler side. All the Christmas parties, Seders, and Muslim religious ceremonies the president hosts at the White House “are an affirmation of who we are as Americans.” So, number two, we’re religious, without overdoing it.
There are quite a few examples. Whenever Obama wants to assert that some action he is taking is good, he tells us it is because that is who Americans are. And when he doesn't like something opponents are saying, well, guess what - that is not what Americans are about.
“Who we are” serves other purposes. It allows the president’s followers to absorb the jingoism of less sophisticated people—all those vulgar crowds chanting USA! USA!—and refine it into the moral vanity they more highly prize. (Self-flattery is who they are.) Democrats have been bedeviled for decades by the canard that they are somehow less patriotic than conservatives. “Who we are” allows them to turn the tables, so long as who we are is Democrats. If, for example, you think that 99 weeks of unemployment insurance payments is about all we can afford, then you’re not just wrong, you’re un-American. You’re not who we are. It’s super-patriotism for the passive-aggressive. If we still had a House Committee on Un-American Activities we could rename it the House Committee on Activities of People Who Are Not Who We Are as Americans.

Indeed, not who we are is as important to the president as who we are. Lately he has been using his word clump in a negative formulation. When Ebola briefly became the crisis of the decade a while ago, the president stood tall. “I put those on notice who think that we should hide from these problems,” he said. (It’s not clear who those people were—I’d need to see some direct quotes.) But the president made it clear who we were not: “That’s not who we are.” And people who oppose large subsidies for windmills and solar energy—maybe they think they’re Americans. No: “That’s not us. That’s not who we are.” Same goes for all those people who want to “eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor and elderly or disabled” just so they can give tax cuts to rich people—though again, I’d like to see a show of hands from the people who want to do this. Anyway: that’s who we are .  .  . not.

Theologians used to speak of the Via Negativa—a philosophical method that tries to define God by ticking off all the things he isn’t, in a process of elimination. It turns out that even the president’s positive affirmations of “who we are” are essentially negative. The president and his supporters have embarked on their own via negativa, defining true Americans by eliminating, rhetorically, the ones who disagree with him. It’s an odd mission for a man who as a candidate told us there was no blue America or red America, only the United States of America. But that’s not who he is as a president.
Isn't saying that a position that his critics might take is "not who we are as Americans" just another way of saying that it is un-American? And isn't that a characterization that liberals find despicable? Funny how this president keeps using it.

Heather MacDonald explains how Mayor de Blasio has further poisoned police relations with the public with his immediate racializing of the tragic death of Eric Garner. The Mayor spoke out on the announcement that there would be no indictment of the policeman involved by saying that "black lives matter" and that "centuries of racism" have brought us to this moment.
It is not clear precisely who or what de Blasio means to indict with his “centuries of racism” accusation, a phrase that he was bandying about before the jury decision and has continued to use since then.

But one thing is clear: There is no institution in New York more dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter than the NYPD.

Every commander in a high-crime neighborhood is under daily, relentless pressure from top brass to save black lives. The weekly crime analysis meetings at One Police Plaza, known as Compstat, focus intensely on what precinct commanders are doing to prevent victimization in their jurisdictions, victimization that takes its greatest toll on blacks.

Thousands of minority males are alive today who would have been dead had homicide rates remained at their early 1990s highs. New York homicides plummeted thanks to the NYPD’s proactive efforts to stop crime before it happens.

These facts — crucial ones, that should be the starting point of any discussion about crime and policing — rarely frame the conversation when de Blasio is leading it.
Read the rest of her powerful indictment of the Mayor's slandering of his city's police force.
Perhaps de Blasio meant that “centuries of racism” lay behind the NYPD’s enforcement of quality-of-life laws on Staten Island. Garner was accosted for selling untaxed loose cigarettes, an offense for which he had been arrested numerous times previously, along with arrests for other petty offenses such as marijuana possession and driving without a license.

Was it racist to enforce such laws? Some anti-cop activists are saying so now, a dangerous argument should it prevail.

But when officers pulled back on misdemeanor policing in the Staten Island neighborhood where Garner was killed, crime and disorder skyrocketed, leading to complaints from business owners and residents about police inaction.

In fact, there is not a single precinct commander in a low-income jurisdiction who doesn’t hear constant demands from his constituents to crack down on quality of life offenders, including illegal vendors. And according to department records, officers used force (which often merely means putting hands on a subject) in only 0.6% of quality-of-life arrests (or 21 times) in the first half of 2014, suggesting how anomalous the Garner incident was.
De Blasio clearly prefers to heighten racial tensions for his own moral preening than to defuse a tense situation and present a defense of what police do every day to protect the lives of those in his city.
But de Blasio’s embrace of the conceit that law enforcement is racist in the way it does its job will set back the cause of better community relations. De Blasio should have put the facts about the NYPD into the public realm, facts that show that it is easily the most restrained, professional big-city department in the country.

Instead he chose urban myth. Young minority males are now reinforced in their belief that they face a predatory police force, a belief that results in more resistance to lawful arrest.

Since taking office, the mayor has maintained an uneasy détente between the needs of the city regarding public safety and the demands of his base. With his response to the Garner verdict, he has thrown the city overboard and fully returned to his activist's identity.

And the cops, hearing from the mayor that they represent “centuries of racism,” may decide that it is simply not worth enforcing the law in high-crime areas. If they do, thousands of law-abiding residents of those areas who support and need the cops will suffer the most.

Paul Mirengoff labels his post "Not a Parody" as he quotes from a message by the dean of Columbia Law School offering students an extension to take their final exams if they are so traumatized by the non-indictment of the policeman involved in the arrest of Eric Garner and events in Ferguson. He's right. It does sound like a parody. These students are training to be lawyers, for gosh sake! Are they going to get extensions from judges because they're traumatized by current events?