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Monday, June 22, 2015

Cruising the Web

Kyle Smith examines how the Democrats have moved to the far left and now are criticizing anyone who is not as leftist as they are.
Obama supports a federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. Hillary Clinton has moved far to the left of that, seemingly endorsing a $15-an-hour wage floor in a call to fast-food workers this month. On free trade, which is backed by Obama, was a core policy of her husband’s administration and which she herself has supported many times in the past, Clinton is suddenly silent.

In order to lock down Latino support, Clinton has staked out a position to the left of Obama’s extreme position on immigration, and less than 48 hours after arsonists in Baltimore burned down an innocent CVS store, she said “it is time to end the era of mass incarceration,” marking herself as perhaps the first president ever to run overtly as a friend of the criminal class.

The media often remind us that Democrats and Republicans used to forge bipartisan policy solutions, scolding Republicans for supposedly moving right.

But if the center is becoming a lonely place in American politics, Democrats are walking away from it much more rapidly than Republicans are.

Iowa and New Hampshire politicos are all worried that their electoral contests are going to diminish in importance. One fear is that Fox News' debate will serve the purpose of winnowing down the mass of candidates for the Republican nomination when Iowans and New Hampshirites think that that is their job. Throw in the money from Super PACs and it might be possible now for a candidate to do badly in those two early states but still be able to hang around. I know that those two states think that they were chosen by Providence to be the lead-off states in nomination fights every four years, but they're the only ones that think that.




Maureen Dowd is so fed up with Hillary Clinton that she has dropped the snark and goes for a straight forward condemnation.
As secretary of state, she helped Obama push the Trans-Pacific Partnership that is at the center of the current trade fight. In Australia in 2012, she was effusive, saying that the trade pact “sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.”

Now Hillary says she is unsure about the pact and would likely oppose giving President Obama the special authority to negotiate trade deals for an up-or-down vote in Congress. As a future president, of course, she would want the same authority to negotiate trade deals that Obama is seeking in the messy Capitol Hill donnybrook.

But as a candidate pressured by progressives like Warren and Bernie Sanders and by labor unions, she turned to Jell-O, shimmying around an issue she had once owned and offering an unpleasant reminder of why “Clintonian” became a synonym for skirting the truth.

It depends on what your definition of trade is — and trade-off.
Usually, when Dowd attacks a Democrat, she leavens the criticism with some side swipes at Republicans. But, apparently, Dowd is so disgusted with Hillary that she doesn't even need to bring in a non sequitur blasting Bush or Cheney.



Some of the Dick Cheney papers have been released by the National Archives in response to a FOIA request. The NYT reports on this release under the headline, "In First Batch of Released Cheney Papers, a Peek at a Polarizing Figure." So I read the article expecting to see evidence of Cheney as a "polarizing figure." But they must really be a nothingburger since the NYT can't find anything to justify their headline. All there seems to be in this batch is a series of memos and articles sent to him aides about various stories. Cheney is clever enough not to have written anything on all of these documents sent to him. So the NYT is left to just imagine what his reaction might have been.
In February 2008, an aide sent a news article to Vice President Dick Cheney reporting that former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell might vote for a Democrat for president. Sections were highlighted in yellow, and someone had circled a quotation from Mr. Powell in which he said America had lost “a lot” of prestige around the world.

Mr. Cheney recorded no reaction, but one can imagine some consternation at what the vice president presumably deemed disloyalty to the administration that both of them had served. Mr. Powell had been the vice president’s chief internal adversary during President George W. Bush’s first term and had grown disaffected. An aide clearly understood that Mr. Cheney would want to know the latest.
So the documents don't demonstrate that Cheney was polarizing or much of anything, but, hey, Cheney is always worth a slam from the NYT even if they don't have much of anything to report.



Jay Nordlinger examines what he calls the "even-steven" approach to countries and history.
What Obama is (among other things) is a perfect representative of the even-steven syndrome. I wrote about this syndrome in an essay for National Review a couple of months ago: here.

Everything has to be even-steven: I’m okay, you’re okay. I’m not okay, you’re not okay. Some Third World dictatorship is bad? Well, we’re bad too (or have been). The Nazis were evil? Well, what about our bombing of Dresden? And our atomic bombing of Japan?
What leads Nordlinger to talk about Obama and the "even-steven" temptation was Obama's response to Jeffrey Goldberg's question about the anti-Semitism of Iran's government.
More recently, he was talking to his go-to interviewer, at least on matters Middle Eastern: Jeffrey Goldberg, of The Atlantic. Goldberg asked him about the pending nuclear deal with Iran, in light of the insane anti-Semitism of that regime.

“Well,” said Obama, “the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival.” That’s true, as far as it goes.

Obama went on to say that “there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country” — i.e., America.

Deep strains? By the historical and global standards of anti-Semitism, those strains were mercifully shallow. You had to build your own country club, instead of getting into the established one, and they had a quota on you at Yale.

The Iranian mullahs could tell you about varsity anti-Semitism, as opposed to the JV kind. Our president often seems to be on a high horse of his own — a horse that has been inhaling the fumes of the Choom Gang.
But, hey, why criticize Iran if we are not perfect ourselves. Don't worry about the differences in the imperfections between anti-Semitism in America and that in Iran.

And doesn't this sound like a country that we should be looking to as a partner in peace?
ran's support for international terrorist groups remained undiminished last year and even expanded in some respects, the Obama administration said Friday, less than two weeks before the deadline for completing a nuclear deal that could provide Tehran with billions of dollars in relief from economic sanctions.



Is Hillary playing the "woman card" too early?
So is it smart for Hillary Clinton to play the “women card” this early in the race? She is already talking about the symbolism of her candidacy as a reason why we should support her. As she said in an interview with the Des Moines Register in Iowa on Sunday, “I expect to be judged on my merits, and the historic nature of my candidacy is one of the merits that I hope people take into account.” Well, her campaign can’t be pitched as a third Obama term and her own post-government private sector money hunt erodes her credibility in championing solutions to income inequality. Her record as Secretary of State doesn’t exactly shine. She doesn’t appear to feel particularly strongly about any particular issue. “Fighting for the middle class” isn’t exactly a fresh, bold appeal. Anyway, the operative class is beginning to murmur, and a lot of the pundits cannot seem to discern what her real, ultimate campaign strategy is. Is her strategy just to hunker down, stick to a narrow script and play the “woman card”?

In the absence of anything else to say, Hillary Clinton has felt compelled to remind everybody that she is a woman and offer that fact as a key reason why one should vote for her. And perhaps relying on gender and the historic nature of the first female president would be a viable — if risky — plan for a frontrunner during the last ten days of a campaign, but sustaining this for a full eighteen months before election day will become untenable. She needs to build and maintain appeal for a long stretch ahead, and an overt reliance on her gender will not do the trick.
But what can she do if that isn't all she's got?

John Daniel Davidson demonstrates how poll questions on King v. Burwell are written to achieve slanted results.
According to a new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 7 in 10 Americans have heard little or nothing about King v. Burwell, the U.S. Supreme Court case that will, any day now, decide the fate of Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies for millions of Americans. Yet 63 percent of those surveyed also say that if the court rules against the government, Congress should act to keep those subsidies in place.

Got that? The vast majority of Americans know almost nothing about this case, but 63 percent have an opinion about what Congress should do in response to a ruling that carries certain policy implications. How can this be?
I am very suspicious of any poll questions about some topic that it is obvious Americans know very little about. Such results are useless except for pushing a certain agenda. That is all they're good for. Hmm I wonder if Kaiser has an agenda when it comes to health care?



While the media is all excited about the two killers who escaped from the New York prison and haven't yet be found, here's a scary statistic.
Somewhere out there are an admitted killer who crawled through a Texas prison's ventilation ducts, a murderer who apparently escaped from an Indiana institution in a garbage truck, and a Florida convict who got other inmates to put him in a crate at the prison furniture shop and had himself delivered to freedom by truck.

They're among more than 220 state prison escapees nationwide who are listed as on the loose, The Associated Press found in a coast-to-coast survey.

Most broke out decades ago, meaning the chances of finding them have dwindled dramatically — that is, if they're even alive.

J. Christian Adams wonders if Harvard Law School even teaches law anymore. There are some bizarre classes that they have on their curriculum there.



Obamacare results are getting worse.
In late 2013, when healthcare.gov was a useless, glitchy mess for members of the public, government officials had another, less-noticed problem on their hands.

Everyone knew — many from experience and many from the news coverage — that the website the government had built to connect Americans with subsidized insurance policies did not work very well on the front end for months after its launch. The dirty secret, though, was that the back-end of the site had not even been built — the part that was supposed to make sure subsidies were set properly and insurers received payments on behalf of each customer.

Congress noticed this even then, and asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about it in a December 2013 hearing. She reassured members that it would be up and running eventually, and added, "There's a manual workaround for virtually everything that isn't fully automated yet."

Only now it is becoming clear how inadequate the agency's preparations had been. On Monday, with little fanfare, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services released a damning report on waste in this part of the Obamacare program. The watchdog office found that between January-April 2014, $2.8 billion went out the door without anyone checking amounts, whether the money was going to the right insurer to pay for the correct person or whether the beneficiary was eligible.

As bad as that sounds, it's actually much worse when you consider how large a share that represents of the program's overall spending during the same period. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office expected the Obamacare program to spend just $17 billion on exchange subsidies and "related spending" in all of fiscal 2014 (October 2013-September 2014). Based on some crude back-of-the-envelope math, that means the $2.8 billion dumped out recklessly in those four months might have actually been more than a third of what Obamacare spent during that same period.

It is now ten years since the infamous Supreme Court decision Kelo v. City of New London in which the Court held that a local government could use eminent domain to take private property from private owner to give to another private entity as long as there is some pretense of the taking being for "economic development. Ilya Somin reminds us that Susette Kelo's home was taken in order for Pfizer to build a plant in New London, but that plant was never built and the land now is a trash dump.

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