Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cruising the Web

How soon until the Supreme Court becomes the center of protests and threats due to having an image of Muhammad on the frieze that lines the walls of the courtroom in which the justices hear cases? It was the subject of Muslim protests back in 1997. They were agitating for a veil to be chiseled over his face as is done in some other artwork. Chief Justice Rehnquist refused the request back then saying that the sculpture, "was intended only to recognize him, among many other lawgivers, as an important figure in the history of law; it is not intended as a form of idol worship." Yeah, like that will matter if protests heated up. I thought this explanation from the Supreme Court's tourist materials was amusing.
"The figure is a well-intentioned attempt by the sculptor to honor Muhammad, and it bears no resemblance to Muhammad. Muslims generally have a strong aversion to sculptured or pictured representations of their Prophet."
If depictions of him are frowned upon how do the Supreme Court PR flacks know that he "bears no resemblance to Muhamed"?

Even when the murderers loudly proclaimed that they were killing the people at Charlie Hebdo for the glory of Allah and in retaliation for publishing the Mohammed cartoons, there are some French Muslims who prefer their own conspiracy theories. Or they're happy to blame the victims.
“The Kalashnikovs, the identity cards the [killers] supposedly left behind, it was all staged,” said Boular, as his friends nodded in agreement. “It was a conspiracy designed by the Jews to make Muslims look bad. We’d rather just stay where we are.”

No use arguing. No use pointing out that one of the terrorists murdered four Jews. Conspiracy theories have their own unassailable logic, and this is a world apart from the displays of unity in Paris after the carnage of last week. French newspapers reported that some students in these neighborhoods—as well as other heavily Muslim areas near cities like Lille—refused to participate in Thursday’s national moment of silence for the victims of the terror attacks. One teacher said up to 80 percent of his students didn’t want to observe the silence, and some said they supported the attackers. “You reap what you sow,” a student who refused the moment of silence told his teacher in reference to the terrorists’ victims, according to Le Figaro....

Another young man of French-Algerian descent interviewed outside a gas station in the Saint-Denis suburb reacted angrily to a reporter’s presence and demanded to know her religion. “The worst thing is to be atheist,” he said.

The man, who gave his named as “Mohamed,” also said he was a devout Muslim but then changed his demeanor and added, grinning, that he was also “a delinquent.” Then he said he was a drug dealer and without prompting, invited the reporter into the (also very clean) gas station to show an array of hashish for sale in broad daylight on a shelf next to the ATM.

He also called the Paris terrorist attacks “un complot,” or conspiracy, and launched into a lengthy explanation of the “magical Jews” behind it. They were not ordinary Jews, he said, but a “hybrid race of shape shifters” who have extraordinary abilities. “They know how to get in everywhere,” he said. “They are master manipulators.”
Ah, if only Jews could be magical shape shifters. That would have been a big help during the Holocaust. But if these people are willing to believe such nonsense, is it any surprise that conspiracy theories proliferate among them?

French Muslims aren't the only ones searching for someone else to blame for the attacks.
Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda suggests that America is responsible for the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris, France as revenge for President Hollande publicly considering dropping sanctions on Russia. In another example of finding creative culprits to blame from the jihadist attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the West for the attacks while Melih Gökçek, mayor of Turkish town Ankara, claimed Israel caused the massacre.

Pravda’s front page asked their readers “Did the Americans Plan the Paris Terror Attack?” Their proof is from a scientist named Alexander Zhilin.

George Will ridicules Obama's ignorance of basic economics. And the Democratic senators who support such obstruction are also devoid of logic.
The more Obama has talked about Keystone, the less economic understanding he has demonstrated. On Nov. 14, he said Keystone is merely about “providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. That doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.” By Dec. 19, someone with remarkable patience had explained to him that there is a world market price for oil, so he said, correctly, that Keystone would have a “nominal” impact on oil prices but then went on to disparage job creation by Keystone. He said it would create “a couple thousand” jobs (the State Department study says approximately 42,100 “direct, indirect, and induced”) and said, unintelligibly, “Those are temporary jobs until the construction actually happens.” Well.

Obama revealed his economic sophistication years ago when he said that ATMs and airport ticket kiosks cost jobs. He does not understand that, outside of government, which is all that he knows or respects, all jobs are “temporary.”

John Tamny, editor of RealClearMarkets and an editor of Forbes, notes that Borders had 10,700 employees and 399 bookstores until it had none of either, thanks in part to Amazon, whose 150,000 employees have probably participated in enough creative destruction to know that permanence is a chimera. Blockbuster — remember that? Remember late fees? — had 60,000 employees and more than 9,000 stores until rivals such as Netflix appeared.

To oppose the pipeline is to favor more oil being transported by trains, which have significant carbon footprints, and accidents. To do this in the name of environmental fastidiousness is hilarious. The United States has more than 2 million miles of natural gas pipelines and approximately 175,000 miles of pipelines carrying hazardous liquids, yet we are exhorted to be frightened about 1,179 miles of Keystone?

....But note the following, not because [Senator] Coons [D. Delaware] is eccentric but because he is representative of Democratic reasoning: “Keystone means unlocking the Canadian tar sands, some of the dirtiest sources of energy on the planet, and allowing those tar sands to go across our American Midwest and then reach the international economy and our environment.”

No jury would convict Coons of sincerity. Anyone intelligent enough to express that nonsense is too intelligent to believe it. Coons cannot believe that, absent Keystone, Canada will leave vast wealth — the world’s third-largest proven crude oil reserve, larger than Iran’s — untapped. The Canadian oil is going into the international market, and much of it into internal combustion engines around the world, even if this displeases Democratic senators who have demonstrated a willingness to look ludicrous rather than deviate from an especially silly component of today’s environmental catechism.

James Pethokoukis explains why neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can take credit for the rebounding economy.
But let's face facts, Democrats and Republicans: Neither of you gets much credit for the rebound. So who does?

First, there's the Federal Reserve and its recently completed "quantitative easing" bond-buying program. Monthly job growth has been 40 percent higher in the two years after "quantitative easing" started in late 2012 than in the two years previous. Compare U.S. versus eurozone economic performance in recent years. Both suffered economic shocks and fiscal austerity, but the one with the active central bank is the one that's now growing and adding jobs. It's been a powerful and persuasive natural experiment.

Second, you have massive stimulus from the 50 percent decline in oil prices since last summer, due in part to the shale oil revolution.

Third, the Great Recession ended in 2009. That's like eight Marvel superhero movies ago. The passage of time helps. At some point, Americans need to buy news cars, purchase bigger homes for their families, and upgrade their smartphones.

See, politicians, it's not always about you.
But that won't stop them from taking credit.

Seriously, Mike Huckabee? Do you really want to run for president on a platform that includes criticizing the Obamas for how they're raising their children because they're exposing them to the malign role models of Beyoncé and Jay Z? Really? Gabriel Malor explains why this is disqualifying all by itself. Huckabee accused Jay Z for pimping out his wife as a sex object. Apparently, he doesn't consider that Beyoncé is quite capable of making her own creative decisions without being pimped out by her husband.
Second, the suggestion that Jay Z is pimping Beyoncé is abhorrent because it deprives Beyoncé of her own agency. It also gives the impression that Huckabee is such a fuddy-duddy that he actually believes that the woman who co-wrote, um, Independent Women (before Jay Z was on the scene, natch) and, more recently, Run The World (Girls) would let Jay Z exploit her. This is very far from the public impression of Beyoncé or Jay Z, which again suggests that Huckabee does not really know of what he speaks.

Third, the shot at the First Lady reinforces Huckabee’s isolation from mainstream America because it is also far from the public impression of Mrs. Obama, Malia, and Sasha. Both teenagers appear, to the extent we can know, to be happy, well-adjusted young ladies. Malia is also going off to college next year, where she will presumably be able to choose her own music free from parental intervention, in any case....

Huckabee appears also to be unaware that Beyoncé and Jay Z are regularly held out as icons in the music and black communities for their commitment to marriage and monogamy, which is the subject of many of Beyoncé’s hit songs. Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) and the more recent Partition and even Drunk in Love are notable because they don’t lack for Beyoncé’s trademark expressions of female empowerment and the sexuality that Huckabee finds so offensive and because the whole point of these songs is that this female empowerment and sexuality reach their peak within the bounds of marriage. This is a message that religious conservatives have been trying to share with teenagers forever, but Huckabee seems to have missed it. One of the Beyoncé concerts that Mrs. Obama took Malia and Sasha to was in Beyoncé’s Mrs. Carter Tour, which was named, naturally, for her husband. That’s another powerful message for a woman who ordinarily goes by only her first name—why does she need to brag about being Mrs. Carter?—and it’s a message that has apparently escaped Huckabee.

At bottom, Huckabee’s targeting of the Obamas, Beyoncé, and Jay Z on this basis is offensive, ignorant, and shallow. Yes, popular music is sexually explicit—it has been for decades. Knocking other parents for encouraging their children to hear it, though, leads to the obvious question: “why is this your business?” Huckabee’s decision to include it in the book, where it is only an aside, is even more confusing. This cannot be the opening salvo for his 2016 race that he intended to have discussed. But how could he have believed this would not be controversial?
If this faux pas is enough to put an end to the Huckabee boomlet, that would be a good thing for the Republican Party. Republicans probably already have wrapped up the fuddy-duddy vote; they don't need to make themselves ridiculous with such comments. Some other Republican candidates can earn some coolness points by criticizing Huckabee.

Jimmy Carter is as repellently clueless as ever. As usual, he finds a way to blame Israel. Guy Benson has the details and links.
And yet an infamous anti-Israel activist, who also happened to serve as President of the United States for four years in the late 1970s, remains unflinchingly wedded to his preferred fantasy:
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, appearing Monday on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," singled out the "Palestinian problem" as one of the causes of the sort of Islamist terror that struck Paris last week. Asked by Stewart if he didn't agree that religion was a mere "pretext" for such attacks, Carter, a long-time critic of Israel's occupation, said, "One of the origins for it is the Palestinian problem, and this affects people who are affiliated in any way with the Arab people who live in the West Bank and Gaza – what they're doing now, what's being done to them. So I think that's part of it."
I'd love to hear his nuanced explanation of how an Al Qaeda cell's killing spree over the publication of Mohammad cartoons in Western Europe is somehow rooted in "the Palestinian problem." Perhaps this is simply another "larger truth," into which any set of facts can be awkwardly shoe-horned. Carter also asserted that Jews may be safer in France than in Israel, a view emphatically not shared by a prominent victim of the Paris attack, who has decided to join the thousands of French Jews who've fled to Israel from the increasingly fetid breeding ground of anti-Semitism in recent years. According to one poll, many more French Jews are eyeing a similar exit strategy, thanks to a worrying spike in anti-Semitic violence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- who attended Sunday's massive rally in Paris, despite the French government's overt discouragement -- has invited European Jews to seek safe harbor in the Jewish state. He also (unsurprisingly) has a much firmer grip on the realities of radical Islam than Jimmy Carter. (See original for links)
Jimmy Carter never seems to miss an opportunity to blame Israel for the world's woes.

Just in case you had any doubt about the political motivations behind Lois Lerner's efforts before the 2012 election, this newest document obtained by Judicial Watch should clarify things.
New emails obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit show former IRS official Lois Lerner begged her supervisor not to visit the Cincinnati office or ask specific questions related to Congressional inquiries into whether the agency was improperly targeting conservative groups just ahead of the 2012 presidential election. As a reminder, it wasn't until May 2013 when Lerner admitted inappropriate targeting had occurred and plead the Fifth in front of the House Oversight Committee.

NRO explains why Obama's government payments for community colleges is so wrong-headed.
Tuition at community colleges for poor students is already low or nonexistent, making the president’s plan more a transfer program to state governments and middle-class consumers than anything else. A universal free approach to community college would replace a great deal of need-based aid, which would have the merit of eliminating the implicit tax such aid creates for the working poor. And the cost of attending community college does go far beyond tuition — it’s expensive to reduce or forgo work.

But the main problem at community colleges is not cost, or work disincentives, but the appallingly low rates at which their students finish with a useful credential. President Obama’s plan is not going to fix this.
The plan, like decades of federal policy for elementary and secondary schools, proposes to link funding to a push for accountability and best practices at community colleges. Yet we expect this to work as well as it has in the past: It’s no better an idea to try to run Bunker Hill Community College from Washington than it was to try to run Peoria High the same way.

President Obama announced his plan in Tennessee, where Republican governor Bill Haslam has overseen a program providing the same two free years at the state’s community colleges. But Haslam’s program already has a performance-based funding scheme. Such a system never works all that well, and Haslam’s plan has other problems too. But by funding 75 percent of his proposal at the federal level, President Obama would undermine the incentives state governments have to spend money wisely and try to replace them with federal oversight.

There are simpler ways to impose accountability on community colleges than the inevitable web of federal regulations: Force them to provide transparent data to consumers, and consider requiring them to have skin in the game, taking a share of the risk that students won’t graduate and will default on their loans.
But then I don't think Obama's proposal is seriously about creating a new federal entitlement to two years of community college. It is a political ploy to brag to audiences about what he and other Democrats want to do to help them get more supposedly free goodies from the government and then bash the Republicans when the proposal deservedly goes nowhere.

Christopher DeMuth lays out an agenda for the Republican Congress to take back some of the authority that Congress has granted to administrative agencies to do what our Congressmen should be doing. Congress has been abdicating his responsibilities for decades as they have delegated more and more authority to the bureaucracy for determine taxing, spending, and regulating policy. DeMuth has some good proposals on how to rein in the administrative state.

The number of states that are legitimate swing states is continually decreasing.

Jillian Kay Melchior explains how the alliance between Barack Obama and Al Sharpton began. Falerie Jarrett was the matchmaker.

Steve Malanga explains how almost all of California's $6 billion tax increase that was supposed to help out the public schools is actually going to pay pensions for retired teachers.
ast June Mr. Brown signed legislation that will require school districts to increase funding for teachers’ pensions from less than $1 billion this year in school year 2014-15, which started in September, to $3.7 billion by 2021, gobbling up much of the new tax money. With the state’s general government pension fund, Calpers, also demanding more money, California taxpayer advocate Joel Fox recently observed that no matter what local politicians tell voters, when you see tax increases, “think pensions.”
This is happening in quite a few other states.
Decades of rising retirement benefits for workers—some of which politicians awarded to employees without setting aside adequate funding—and the 2008 financial meltdown have left American cities and states with somewhere between $1.5 trillion and $4 trillion in retirement debt. Even with the stock market’s rebound, the assets of America’s biggest government pension funds are only 1% above their peak in 2007, according to a recent study by Governing magazine.

Under growing pressure to erase some of this debt, governments have increased pension contributions to about $100 billion in 2014 from $63 billion in 2007, according to the Census Bureau’s quarterly survey of state and local pension systems. But the tab keeps growing, and now it is forcing taxes higher in many places.
For years, Democratic politicians bought support from public employee unions by promising them generous benefits. And the taxpayers are just starting to see what those promises are going to cost them.

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have a good personal relationship now. We'll see how long that friendship lasts.
Although they're hardly buddy-buddy, Boehner and McConnell share a deep trust and closeness that extends down to the staff level. Mike Sommers, Boehner's chief of staff, speaks with top McConnell aide Sharon Soderstrom as much as Boehner does to McConnell. In fact, other House leadership aides have in the past been surprised and dismayed when Soderstrom knows more than they do.

Although Boehner's boyish, country-club Republican exterior could not clash more with McConnell's calculated, procedure-driven character, the two share an abiding respect for the institution of Congress. McConnell is an admirer of Henry Clay, once a House speaker, and Boehner and McConnell often talk in the same terms about returning Congress to regular order.

Sen. Lamar Alexander characterized Boehner as more of a back-slapper, while calling McConnell "a poker player." But the two are both "institutionalists," he said.

"I've watched the Senate and the House for about 40 years, and they get along about as well as any two Republican leaders have in that period of time.... They don't surprise each other, they respect each other, and they both are interested in getting results," Alexander said. "So I think we're very fortunate that they have that chemistry."

Both are students of "the old school," as former Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl put it. They have a similar vision of the way Congress should be—and once was—run that will be key as McConnell, and, to a lesser extent, Boehner, work to change the body.

Meetings between the two leaders during Kyl's time in the Senate were brief and serious, and it appears that little has changed since he returned to Arizona. Kyl argued that although Boehner is "one of the boys, in a sense," the speaker "is pretty much all business" in his work. "And McConnell is pretty much all business at all times," Kyl said, "unless he's talking about Louisville basketball."

Threats on Jewish businesses have come to the United States.
A thriving D.C. business is the target of self-described ISIS militants.

For the past five months a barrage of phone calls and internet postings have threatened employees. The callers vow to carry out mass murder.

ABC7 News is not identifying the business nor any individuals because of the sensitive nature of these threats.

The business is Jewish owned and some of the threats are anti-Semitic while others are racial or homophobic.

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have employees worried.

The owner says D.C. police investigated but handed the case over to Homeland Security, which deemed the threats not credible.

Verizon says the calls are traceable but it needs police to ask it to take action.

The business owner says the detectives tell him they must hear from Verizon first.
Why is there such a run around to try to trace the call making death threats? That seems inexcusable.

Andrew McCarthy explains why he's glad that Barack Obama skipped out on the Paris march.
Obama is so preternaturally averse to acknowledging jihadist terrorism that he absurdly rebranded the War on Terror as “Overseas Contingency Operations.” His administration refused to acknowledge that the Fort Hood Massacre, in which a brazen jihadist mass-murdered thirteen American soldiers, was jihadist terrorism, insisting, instead, on the ludicrous label of “workplace violence” — belittling the heroism and ultimate sacrifice of those who were about to deploy to battle terrorists in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, when Afghan Muslims rioted and murdered over the accidental destruction of Korans, Obama . . . apologized to Afghanistan.

The president and his underlings purged information about Islamic supremacism and its instigation of terrorism from materials used to train intelligence, military, and law-enforcement personnel. Instructors who lectured on these materials were terminated, as were others who refused to conform to the administration’s delusional, counter-historical, counter-commonsense smiley-face jihad.

Consistent with the administration’s undermining of the First Amendment in the Istanbul process, the Justice Department refused to rule out proposals to criminalize speech unflattering to Islam. In congressional testimony, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to utter the words “radical Islam,” much less to concede the nexus between Islamic-supremacist doctrine and terrorist attacks by Muslims. Even this weekend, after the jihad mass murders in Paris made it politically impossible to resist the word “terrorism” and the discussion of Islam’s connection to it, Holder rejected the phrase “radical Islam” – blathering, instead, about how terrorists “use a corrupted version of Islam” to rationalize their attacks (while conveniently omitting mention of the authoritative scriptures and mainstream sharia jurists endorsing jihadist terror).

For consultation on national security and to fill top policy positions, the Obama administration has turned to Muslims with intimate ties to Islamic-supremacist groups and extensive histories of condemning American counterterrorism efforts — not just controversial practices like waterboarding but civilian terrorism prosecutions in which Muslim radicals have been convicted, often based on overwhelming evidence. The administration ran roughshod over federal antiterrorism law in issuing a visa to a member of a notorious Islamic terrorist organization in order to consult with him on developments in Egypt. It has similarly consulted with sharia jurists who endorsed terrorist attacks on American military personnel in Iraq. President Obama reversed course in Libya, backing anti-American jihadists in the ouster of a regime that was cooperating with our government against those very jihadists — a coup that has left Libya in ruins while enabling the jihadists to raid Qaddafi’s arsenal.

The Obama administration has abused government power to project support for sharia’s repression of speech critical of Islam. In the aftermath of the Benghazi massacre, the president and his subordinates did not stop at fraudulently blaming an obscure anti-Muslim video for the carnage — thus implying that rioting was an understandable response to offensive expression. They proceeded to trump up a prosecution against the video producer, while Obama and Clinton condemned the video in public-service messages broadcast in Muslim countries. Obama exploited the administration’s “blame the video” fraud as the backdrop for his infamous declaration at the U.N. that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

And, let us not forget, the Obama White House castigated Charlie Hebdo magazine for publishing cartoons that derided Islamic supremacism. The president’s then-spokesman Jay Carney upbraided the publication not merely as “deeply offensive” but also potentially “inflammatory.” This accords with the administration’s pattern of rationalizing jihadist violence as an understandable reaction to verbal or artistic rebukes of Islam — a pattern of blaming speech rather than barbarism that Obama’s lip-service condemnations of the violence cannot camouflage.

If President Obama had attended the Paris march on Sunday, he would have been demonstrating in favor of the very free-speech principles he has assiduously worked against for six years. He would have been demonstrating against the same appeasement of Islamic-supremacist extortion that has been the hallmark of his presidency.

It would have been an epic exercise in hypocrisy. I’m glad he didn’t do it. As between Islamists and me, I’d rather know where my president’s sympathies lie. And I do.

As President Obama flies around the country bragging about the new regulations he wants to impose, it is worthwhile to look at how much government regulations are burdening the American economy.
President Obama hasn’t given much credence to the idea that America is suffering from overregulation, and his policies have proven that. Late last year, he debuted a new EPA rule that has been called “the most expensive regulation ever.” “Economically significant” regulations have exploded in the Obama era. The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Wayne Crews has done exhaustive work cataloging regulation in America, and his new report on regulation for 2015, Tip of the Costberg, is an eye-opener.

Crews estimates that regulation will cost the American economy $1.882 trillion in 2015. This is a staggering figure and, as you might have guessed, more expensive than 2014. It’s larger than the entire GDP of all but 11 countries in the entire world – ahead of major developed nations like Australia and South Korea. Official government estimates, like those done by the Office of Management and Budget, only come out in the hundreds-of-billions range, which Crews says is an exercise in disastrous undercounting. Those official government statistics are, unsurprisingly, very friendly to government policy.