Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cruising the Web

Reuters reports on the decline of the middle class under President Obama.
But for the middle class the scars of the recession still run deep. Federal Reserve survey data show families in the middle fifth of the income scale now earn less and their net worth is lower than when Obama took office.

In the six years through 2013, over the recession and recovery that have spanned Obama's tenure, jobs have been added at the top and bottom of the wage scale, a Reuters analysis of labor statistics shows. In the middle, the economy has shed positions - whether in traditional trades like machining or electrical work, white-collar jobs in human resources, or technical ones like computer operators.
Such coverage is not what he wants as the background for his State of the Union.

Byron York explains how President Obama trashes with a purpose.
"The reason he is being aggressive is that he knows he can generate a response," says a well-connected Republican strategist. "When he does an executive order, what he is trying to do is generate a response so that the entire conversation is about what he did — so that he has defined the agenda."

Likewise, when Obama, facing a newly-empowered conservative Congress, uses his State of the Union speech to propose a tax plan the liberal columnist E.J. Dionne calls "genuinely redistributive," he is trying to dictate the terms of the debate with a powerful adversary. Of course Obama knows his plan is anathema to Republicans, but if they debate the president on his terms, he makes progress.
Since most of his proposals are just pie-in-the-sky ideas that serve more for talking points than actual realistic policy proposals, the Republicans should just ignore them.

Marc Thiessen makes this same point about Obama's State of the Union proposals.
Obama is not delusional. He knows his plan has no chance of becoming law. White House officials, according to Politico, “aren’t holding their breath that Obama’s new proposals will pass Congress now that Republicans control both chambers.” (Which raises the question why, if Obama were serious, didn’t he propose them when Democrats controlled both chambers?) The goal is for “Obama to position himself as a defender of the middle class” and put Republicans in the “politically awkward” position of resisting tax increases on the rich to pay for programs that benefit the middle class.

In other words, Obama’s move is completely and transparently political. He knows Republicans have been working to shed their image as the party of the rich and powerful, with a new focus on helping the poor and the working class. He wants to taunt the GOP into attacking his plan so he can accuse Republicans of fighting for the wealthy. Indeed, within hours of the White House announcement of Obama’s plan, his former speechwriter Jon Favreau tweeted: “I see Obama’s tax plan has already baited Republicans into making the argument that most annoys people about their party.” That is the objective — to bait Republicans.

So what should the GOP do? Not take the bait. Not argue the merits of Obama’s plan. Ignore it and pass proposals of their own to help lower- and middle-income families. The president gets his one night at the rostrum of the House of Representatives to make his case, but Republicans control the House and Senate. They should move forward with serious plans to help those who are struggling in the Obama recovery that do not involve massive new taxes or massive new spending — and then dare Obama and the Democrats to oppose them.
Thiessen then goes on to discuss some of the proposals that Republicans have ready to go that they could use to accomplish their goal of passing bills helpful to both the poor and the middle class without falling into the Obama trap.

Finally Republicans plan some common sense for debates.
Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, says that potential presidential contenders will have to poll above certain levels to earn a spot in the GOP debates.

In a radio interview on the "Hugh Hewitt Show" Monday, the conservative host asked Priebus how the debates would work if there were 20 candidates vying to be heard.

“You can’t,” Priebus said. “You can’t do 20 people. … You have to have certain thresholds in place, so you have to be at 1 percent of the vote in Iowa, and that threshold can move like a slide rule based on the proximity to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primaries, just like it did before.”
Priebus said the thresholds would be determined in coordination between the RNC and the media outlet conducting the debate and that none of the minimum requirements had yet been set.
And they've learned some other lessons as well.
The Republican National Committee has finally grown a brain.

On Friday, the RNC announced it will sanction just nine debates in the 2016 presidential election cycle — and none on MSNBC — as it overhauls a debate policy that proved disastrous in the 2012 campaign.

Fox will get three (with one televised on Fox Business), CNN has two, NBC has two (with one on CNBC), and the other two networks, ABC and CBS, will each get one.

"The committee chose to limit the number of debates, spread the debates across the country by sanctioning no more than one debate per state, allocate the debates over the course of seven months, include a larger conservative media presence and allow campaigns to know and plan for the debate schedule early," the RNC said in a statement.

In the 2012 cycle, Republicans actually did battle in no fewer than 26 debates and forums. Fox and CNN each held six; NBC and CNBC had four (one, at the Reagan Library, was moderated by two liberal news agencies, MSNBC and Politico); ABC had two; CBS did one — and there were seven "forums." The schedule was insane; once, right before the New Hampshire primary, all the candidates did a Saturday night debate, then had to race to another early the next morning.

Kimberley Strassel recommends some family counseling for the GOP.
There is arguably no greater damage the GOP could do to itself, its brand, and its 2016 presidential prospects than to spend two years displaying Republican dysfunction.

One early and simple test: Will the big, conservative House majority take into consideration the reality of a narrower, more constrained Republican Senate? Doing so means applying a baseline test to any bill the House considers sending along: Will its legislation earn the support of nearly all Republican senators? If not, the House is inviting stories about how Republicans can’t agree with Republicans.

Another test: Can members recognize the difference between debate and discord? Discussion and argument are good and make for a healthier conservative movement. But after deliberation and a majority of the party settles on a policy or reform, will the minority gracefully find a way to get to yes? Grandstanding is tempting, but members might remember that there is strength in numbers—against the press, against Democrats and against grumpy radio talk-show hosts.

Republicans are good about meeting in subgroups within their own chambers, but the lack of communication and understanding between the two chambers is outright startling.
It's hard to believe that anyone who has been elected to Congress doesn't understand the basic differences between the Senate and House. My students are getting ready to have a test on just these themes this week. If 10th graders can understand the difficulties in passing bills through the Senate, then surely members of the House can get it. Or do they just care about grandstanding in the media rather than achieving anything? And Strassel has some good advice going forward.
Finally, and perhaps most important, look to see if leadership has a plan—and not just for next week, but for five months from now. Too many recent Republican brawls stemmed directly from a vacuum at the top. Messrs. Boehner and McConnell owe it to their caucuses to listen and be responsive to good ideas, but also to make timely decisions and let everyone know the plan, the marketing and the message.

Everybody already knows what’s coming. There is no real excuse why Republican leaders aren’t already crafting a legislative and message response for the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on ObamaCare subsidies; or finishing a plan to outflank President Obama on immigration; or honing a final strategy for tax reform. They ought to be getting members on board.

Every minute Republicans spend fighting with each other is one less minute they spend fighting against the liberal agenda they claim to oppose. They only win when they are pulling on the same oar.
It's been pretty clear for a while that there was a possibility of the GOP taking over the Senate. McConnell has been thinking about this for much of his professional life. John Boehner was around to see the mistakes made in the Gingrich-Clinton fights. They know that Obama is not going to cooperate with the GOP agenda. So what is their plan? It has to be more than to pass budgets that Obama vetoes and then the Republicans cave after fighting among themselves for a good, long while.

As a good example of how Republicans can operate in spite of Obama's vetoes, Juan Williams explains McConnell's tactics on the Keystone pipeline.
McConnell knows he won’t win on the pipeline. That is not the point. McConnell is a terrific, canny political player. As Senate minority leader for the first six years of the Obama presidency, he set the Republicans’ successful strategy of obstruction. He unified the Republicans on Capitol Hill in opposition to anything with the president’s name on it.
Now he is testing Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) ability as minority leader to hold Senate Democrats together in opposition to a Republican agenda favoring the pipeline, halting immigration reform, lowering corporate taxes, and seeking to destroy ObamaCare.

If significant numbers of Senate Democrats are willing to join with Republicans to force presidential vetoes, McConnell wins. He gains the power to paint himself as the good guy working across political lines. And he will smear the remaining Democrats as members of an out-of-the-mainstream party in the grips of leftist ideologues — Obama, Reid, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and possibly Hillary Clinton....

McConnell sees an opportunity to make the Democrats seem like effete elitists, thwarting people in need of jobs by prioritizing environmental concerns. Since the 1980s and Ronald Reagan’s political rise, the Democrats have struggled to win white working-class voters. The “Reagan Democrats” abandoned unions and the Democrats until a Southern Democrat, Bill Clinton, won them back. Then George W. Bush reclaimed them for the GOP. President Obama has never done well with working-class whites, especially men.

The 2016 election is shaping up as a contest defined by a working class that is discontent with low wages and rising income inequality. Even with the economy doing well, sinking gas prices and unemployment lower than it was before the start of the recession, there is populist anger over income inequality.

Scott Walker doesn't have a college degree...and that probably isn't much of a problem if he runs for president.

John McCormack notes the problem that the Charlie Hebdo massacre present Hillary Clinton. It all goes back to her original blaming of Benghazi on an anti-Muslim video.
What seems most likely is that Clinton has remained silent in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in order to avoid scrutiny of her own failure to defend free speech in the face of Islamist violence.

John Fund reports that there are Republicans in Congress who are getting ready practical proposals to put forward if the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies for states that didn't establish their own exchanges. Good.

Arizona had instituted a civics test for high school graduates. That isn't so different, but what is a bit different is that students will have to take the same test that immigrants have to pass to become citizens. The test isn't hard. I bet my students would love to substitute this test for one of mine.

Ah, this is what we get from a Soros-backed group of racism mongers.

So with the news that the Israelis just killed an Iranian general who had been aiding Hezbollah terrorists in Syria, how do we conclude an agreement with Iran that is simply based on Obama's trust in Iran? Well, that's easy for Obama, but it is going to be a lot more difficult for Congress to go along with ending all sanctions on Iran just because Obama trusts them to stop work to achieve their nuclear ambitions. As the WSJ writes today, Obama's policy today on Iran is the exact opposite to the assertions that he made over a year ago when he was promising that he would stop giving them relief on sanctions if Iran didn't meet its commitments on Iran. And now, over a year later, he's threatening to veto any Congressional effort to reimpose sanctions on Iran if the latest series of sanctions fail.
What seems to exercise Mr. Obama is a Congress that holds his Administration to its word. “The United States and our partners will not consent to an extension merely to drag out negotiations,” wrote Secretary of State John Kerry in a Washington Post op-ed last summer. Yet two deadlines to finalize a deal have come and gone. The next one expires in June.

The Administration’s latest argument is that a sanctions bill would be interpreted as a hostile act by Tehran, potentially provoking retaliation while spoiling the diplomatic mood. The Administration also frets that it would disrupt unity among the so-called P5+1, referring to the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, while the West would be blamed if negotiations fail.

These are remarkable claims about legislation that would penalize Iran only after the current deadline expires and if Iran does not come to terms. The bill that is likely to emerge after the Senate Banking Committee holds hearings Tuesday will be a revised version of last year’s bipartisan Kirk-Menendez bill, named after sponsors Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois and Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey. It would reimpose the sanctions Mr. Obama suspended when he signed the interim deal, impose visa bans and asset blocks on top Iranian officials, and further tighten oil and financial sanctions.

Passing the bill now could help persuade Iranian negotiators that they cannot string the West along indefinitely without paying a price. Would that cause Iran to walk away from negotiations? That’s a strange argument coming from an Administration that boasts that Iran agreed to the interim deal thanks to the bite of strong sanctions....

Mr. Obama’s real reason for opposing the bill may be that he knows it is also a message to him not to strike a bad deal. The talks have already devolved from a demand that Iran give up its nuclear program to how much of a “window” Iran will have to build a bomb. Mr. Kerry wants at least a year, as if Iran couldn’t disguise its progress.

In any case this boils down to negotiating the terms of how easily Iran can violate the deal it is supposedly pledging not to violate. That is the measure of how much Iran has gained in these talks so far.
The news out of Argentina of the murder of an Argentine federal prosecutor who had been gathering information to present about Iranian involvement in the 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish community center there. He had just been ready to present his report that connected the Kirchner government with covering up the connection of Iran to that murderous attack, which killed 85, in order to conclude trade deals with Iran.
Police sentries guarded the federal prosecutor’s luxury high-rise building. His door on the 13th floor had been locked from the inside, and a gun with a spent cartridge was found on the floor near his body. There was no suicide note.

Just one day earlier, on Saturday, the prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, said, “I might get out of this dead.”

From the moment 10 years ago when he was assigned to investigate the 1994 suicide bombing of a Jewish center here that left 85 people dead, Mr. Nisman, an even-keeled lawyer, became entangled in a labyrinthine plot that he traced to Iran and its militant Lebanese ally, Hezbollah.

But it was only in the past week that Mr. Nisman, 51, leveled explosive accusations that top Argentine officials, including President Cristina Fern├índez de Kirchner, had conspired with Iran to cover up responsibility for the bombing as part of a deal that would supply Iranian oil to Argentina. Now, the mystery has deepened with the discovery of Mr. Nisman’s body on Sunday — the day before he was to testify before lawmakers about those accusations.

So what was Politico thinking in their chosen photo to illustrate a story on Joni Ernst giving the response to the State of the Union? Mollie Hemingway has some thoughts. It's a real contrast to all those pictures of Obama with a saintly halo around his head.The Kirchner government is rushing to call his death a suicide. No one is going to believe that.

Britain is also facing a possible mass exodus of its Jews just as France is. Mark Steyn read the story and noted a comment from a reader.
Poor woman. Why is beheading always in the news, is this really 2015?
You can chop some people's heads off, and it wouldn't make any bloody difference, because there's nothing up there. The foolish assumption behind that comment helps explain why our civilization is sleepwalking off the cliff: Oh, my! How can beheading be "always in the news" if this is "really 2015"?

This reader assumes that societal development only goes in one direction: it advances.

But that's not true. If you're as careless with our inheritance as we are, society can go backwards, and get worse. Much worse.

Why is beheading in the news if it's really 2015?

Answer: It's because it's really 2015 that beheading's in the news. If this was Britain in 1975 or 1955 or 1925 or 1885 or 1835, it wouldn't be in the news. But it's 2015 and beheading's on the upswing.

Beheading was introduced to England by William the Conqueror after 1066, but was generally reserved for the highest of the high - men of noble birth, for whom execution by decapitation was felt to be the closest thing to death in battle - and for the lowest of the low - traitors. So the last person to be beheaded in Britain was Lord Lovat in 1747, and the last corpses to be beheaded were those of the Cato Street Conspirators in 1820, who had their heads severed posthumously by axe.

And that was it until the 21st century, when for the first time soldiers were beheaded on the London streets in broad daylight, and octogenarian widows in the privacy of their gardens, and now unfortunate ladies with intemperate husbands. Unless you're prepared to do something about your immigration policy, get used to more decapitation. It's 2015, and beheading is just one strand in the vibrant tapestry of the multicultural utopia. (Link via Ed Driscoll)

Wow. Who says that American ingenuity and entrepreneurship is dead?
n Silicon Valley, it's never too early to become an entrepreneur. Just ask 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee.

The California eighth-grader has launched a company to develop low-cost machines to print Braille, the tactile writing system for the visually impaired. Tech giant Intel Corp. recently invested in his startup, Braigo Labs.

Shubham built a Braille printer with a Lego robotics kit as a school science fair project last year after he asked his parents a simple question: How do blind people read? "Google it," they told him.

Shubham then did some online research and was shocked to learn that Braille printers, also called embossers, cost at least $2,000 - too expensive for most blind readers, especially in developing countries.

"I just thought that price should not be there. I know that there is a simpler way to do this," said Shubham, who demonstrated how his printer works at the kitchen table where he spent many late nights building it with a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit.

Shubham wants to develop a desktop Braille printer that costs around $350 and weighs just a few pounds, compared with current models that can weigh more than 20 pounds. The machine could be used to print Braille reading materials on paper, using raised dots instead of ink, from a personal computer or electronic device.

"My end goal would probably be having most of the blind people ... using my Braille printer," said Shubham, who lives in the Silicon Valley suburb of Santa Clara, just minutes away from Intel headquarters.

After the "Braigo" - a name that combines Braille and Lego - won numerous awards and enthusiastic support from the blind community, Banerjee started Braigo Labs last summer with an initial $35,000 investment from his dad.
And now he has venture capital from Intel.