Friday, December 18, 2015

Cruising the Web

Charles Krauthammer explains how Obama's legacy will be sham agreements that are unenforceable and worth nothing more than self-congratulations, something Obama is very good at. In order to conclude an agreement on the climate that is all noise and means nothing in order to have an agreement that won't need be submitted to the Senate.

Yet the climate deal brought back from Paris by Secretary of State John Kerry turns out to be no deal at all. It is, instead, a series of carbon-reducing promises made individually and unilaterally by the world's nations.

No enforcement, no sanctions, nothing legally binding. No matter, explained Kerry on "Fox News Sunday": "This mandatory reporting requirement ... is a serious form of enforcement, if you will, of compliance, but there is no penalty for it, obviously."

If you think that's gibberish, you're not alone. NASA scientist James Hansen, America's leading carbon abolitionist, indelicately called the whole deal "bulls---."

He's right. The great Paris achievement is supposed to be global "transparency." But what can that possibly amount to when you can't even trust the reporting? Just three months ago, the world's greatest carbon emitter, China, admitted to having underreported its burning of coal by 17%, a staggering error (assuming it wasn't a deliberate deception) equal to the entire coal consumption of Germany.....

What the climate-change conference produced instead was hot air, applauded by 196 well-fed participants. (Fourteen nights in Paris, after all.) China promises to begin reducing carbon emissions 15 years from now. India announced it will be tripling its coal-fired electricity capacity by 2030. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is effectively dismantling America's entire coal industry.
Obama's other major foreign policy 'achievement' - his deal with Iran is a similar exercise in pretense.
Does the American public know Iran's parliament has never approved it? And that the Iranian president has never signed it? Iran is not legally bound to anything. As the State Department freely admitted (in a letter to Rep. Mike Pompeo of the House Intelligence Committee), the deal "is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document." But don't worry. Its success "will depend not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive verification measures" and our "capacity to reimpose — and ramp up — our sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments."

And how is that going?

On Nov. 21, Iran conducted its second test of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile in direct contravention of two United Nations Security Council prohibitions, including one that incorporates the current nuclear agreement — which bans such tests for eight years.

Our response? After Iran's first illegal launch in October, the administration did nothing. A few words at the U.N. Weren't we repeatedly assured that any Iranian violation would be met with vigorous action? No worry, again. As U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power told a congressional hearing last week, "discussions are a form of U.N. action."

The heart sinks.
So the Iranians don't sign the agreement and don't consider themselves bound by it. They ignore it and other agreements from the UN at will and nothing happens. That emboldens them and they violate them more. What do the climate and Iranian agrements have in common? They're fantasies.
It's a legacy of fictional agreements. The proliferators and the polluters are not bound. By our own volition, we are.
Yet the Obama administration keeps telling us how wonderful these two phony agreements are. That tells us a lot about their worldview and their own self-praise. But it doesn't do anything about the climate or Iran.

This is our president, ladies and gentlemen. Obama had an off-the record session with columnists and admitted this:
“did not see enough cable television to fully appreciate the anxiety after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino,”
The man who had time to meet with such journalist notables as the woman who has an online channel showing herself bathing in cereal and milk now is complaining that he hasn't seen enough cable TV and that prevented him from knowing people were worried? The guy who watches ESPN religiously couldn't switch the channel so that he, like Trump, could learn from "the shows." Please. And, of course, that quote has now disappeared from the NYT's original report of the meeting without any statement explaining why. I guess they figured out how terrible that made their guy look.

In response to this idiocy from our President,
Iowahawk has the Tweet of the Day.

Ed Driscoll reminds us that this is not the first time that the NYT has scrubbed its reporting to take out something that made Obama and his administration look bad. Driscoll continues,
As for Obama not watching enough TV — for better or worse, throughout his tenure in office, our semi-retired president certainly appears to be a voracious consumer of at least the entertainment portion of the medium. And as Taranto notes, just imagine George Bush saying something along the lines of not watching enough cable television to fully appreciate the public’s anxiety after two near concurrent major terrorist attacks during his administration.

On the other hand, it was nice of Obama to live out the lede of Glenn’s latest USA Today article: “Democrats are supposed to be the party of compassion, but lately a lot of Americans are feeling as if the Obama administration doesn’t much care about them. The reason is terrorism and the way Obama and Hillary Clinton have responded to it.”
How typical that this president couldn't figure out how Paris and San Bernandino would make Americans anxious about terrorism all on his own. Is the only way he understands the public is by watching MSNBC?

Sean Davis links to an analysis by of the changes that the NYT made in its online story and how they changed the headline four times.
The unexplained deletion of that major passage wasn’t the only significant change made to the story since it was first published. New York Times editors also changed the story’s headline four separate times, according to Each headline revision either put Obama in a better light or put the GOP in a worse one.

The original headline when the story was first published was “Obama Visiting National Counterterrorism Center.” Less than two hours later, the headline was “Obama, at Counterterrorism Center, Offers Assurances On Safety.” Then the headline was changed to “Frustrated by Republican Critics, Obama Defends Muted Response to Attacks.” Two hours later, the headline was once again revised to “Under Fire From G.O.P., Obama Defends Response to Terror Attacks.” The most recent headline revision, which accompanied the deletion of the passage where Obama admitted he didn’t understand the American public’s anxiety about terrorism, now reads, “Assailed by G.O.P., Obama Defends His Response To Terror Attacks.”
The NYT issued a statement that deleting the passage that embarrassed Obama was standard practice to trim things down for the paper edition. That doesn't explain why they would take it out of the digital edition. And it doesn't make sense, as Davis points out.
The section that was removed contained 66 words. The section that was added in its place contained 116 words. If the New York Times was indeed “trimming for space” in that particular revision, it will need to explain why its revision to that section added 50 words.
Maybe the NYT is just lying about their motivations so that they could help clean up after Obama said something so embarrassingly revealing.

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Joshua Darr at 538 explains how Rubio is going to be hurt by having such a terrible ground campaign in Iowa.
There’s reportedly a joke going around among Iowa Republicans that Marco Rubio must be running for mayor of Ankeny, the Des Moines suburb where his sole Iowa office is located. Defying Iowa’s tradition of retail politics, Rubio also rarely holds campaign events outside of that area and is choosing to invest in television ads over staffers and offices in the state. Rubio is making a deliberate gamble that Iowans will brave the cold on his behalf this Feb. 1 simply because they saw his advertisements or debate performances on television, not because they have seen him in person or heard from his campaign.

The Rubio campaign particularly disdains field offices, the storefronts of retail politics: brick-and-mortar locations where volunteers assemble, local mailings are coordinated and paid staffers work late nights. Deputy campaign manager Rich Beeson has argued that staff can “set up in a Starbucks with wireless and get just as much done.” The tasks that staff and volunteers traditionally perform in these offices — dividing turf for volunteer canvassing, calling prospective voters and distributing information about the candidate — can now be accomplished using online tools without the cost and hassle of setting up a local presence.
They might be right that they can save the money of setting up a field office and do it all out of a Starbucks, but history seems to counter them.
According to political science research, Rubio avoids the establishment of a ground game at his peril. Field offices work because they provide a location for the coordination and training that make voter contact valuable. Campaigns that can contact supporters personally to encourage them to vote should make every effort to do so. Knocking on doors can increase turnout by nearly 10 percent, and effective phone calls can encourage an additional 4 percent of voters to head to the polls. Without a field office in an area, candidates will find it much more difficult to translate these tactics into victory.

To be fair, neither canvassing nor phone calls technically require a field office. If a campaign’s main goal is merely to contact as many voters as possible, staff members will often spare themselves the time, effort and cost of training local volunteers by hiring professional callers and recruiting canvassers from out of state. But when campaigns take this shortcut, they often pay the price.
But a contracted phone operation is never going to be as effective as one conducted by committed volunteers. Darr's article links to all sorts of evidence from political science research about the positive effect of having local volunteers and local field offices. Of course, most of that research is based on the Obama campaign and that might have been a special case. But it seems so contrary to anything any campaign expert has ever observed to put so much money in Iowa into TV ads, as the Rubio campaign and his supporting super PACs have done compared to spending it on the ground game. No matter how the Iowa race turns out, analysts will be studying what happens there as either a salutary lesson in what mistake not to make or as the moment when political wisdom changed.

This, however, seems like a real mistake on Rubio's part.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) missed Friday’s Senate vote approving a massive $1.8 trillion end-of-the-year spending bill and tax package — a day after he suggested that he would try to slow the legislation down.

The Florida Republican, who is running for president, was the only 2016 contender to miss the vote, which is the Senate's final vote of the year.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), three other presidential candidates, all voted against the the legislation.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a fourth GOP presidential candidate from the Senate, backed the bill.

Cruz announced his opposition to the legislation on Thursday, describing his vote as a “hell no.”

“This is what's wrong with the Washington Cartel,” he told the John Fredericks show. “Republican leadership has proven to be the most Democratic leaders we have ever seen. ...[This] does not honor the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.”

Rubio's missed vote comes after he suggested that he could use procedural tactics to try to slow down the legislation, which he said he opposed.
Doesn't he realize how angry people are about this bill? Was he just weasling around to play both sides and not actually do anything? By not showing up he just made himself more vulnerable to attacks about how he hasn't been showing up to perform the job he was elected to do while providing a poor contrast to Cruz.

John McCormack wonders whether Trump's clear flip-flop on ISIS will hurt him. He denied that he had ever said that the US should stay out of the fight against ISIS.
But on Tuesday night, the only candidate to land a substantive blow against Trump was Jeb Bush, who pointed out that Trump said in September that the United States should stay out of the fight against ISIS. Trump denied he'd ever said such a thing, but that was a lie.

"Syria's a mess. You look at what's going on with ISIS in there, now think of this: we're fighting ISIS. ISIS wants to fight Syria. Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants," Trump said in the September 16 GOP debate.

A frontrunner's flip-flopping on war against genocidal Islamist terrorists ought to have a big impact following ISIS-allied terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. But it's not clear that Bush's hit on Trump will have much effect because the other candidates didn't pile on, and the media will likely take little interest in the issue
Time and again Trump has lied in debates about his past actions or past statements and it doesn't seem to matter in the polls. Maybe those supporting him just don't care or they're not reading the fact-checking that goes on after each debate. McCormack thinks his opponents don't pounce on his misstatements and lies because they're afraid of him. And the media don't make a big deal about it because they also fear his wrath. They want to still get him on their shows because he brings ratings to them.

Matthew Sheffield lays out even more evidence that Ted Cruz supported amnesty for illegal immigrants back in 2013.
Cruz could easily have admitted this and then claimed that Donald Trump helped him see the error of his ways, just like he changed his position on H1B visas for high-skilled workers. It would have been simple to do so and his supporters would surely have accepted the explanation.

Instead of doing that, Cruz has embarked on a shaky plan to deny his own record. Despite his angry pronouncement, the facts indicate that during the debate over the Gang of Eight bill, Cruz offered several amendments to grant legal status but not citizenship and to beef up border protection.
Peter Wehner concludes that "Ted Cruz isn't telling the truth."
Senator Cruz, for reasons of political expediency, now opposes something that two years ago he supported. That’s not admirable, but it’s not unheard of in politics. What makes things a good deal worse for the junior senator from Texas is that he’s dissembling about his record – and then he has the gall to (in the context of a discussion about surveillance) upbraid Rubio, saying “Marco knows what he’s saying isn’t true.” In psychology, what Senator Cruz is engaging in is known as projection – and combining it with dishonesty is a rather troubling mix, particularly for someone who wants to be president.

Whether or not what we saw from Senator Cruz Tuesday night is a habit rather than an unfortunate slip up remains to be seen. But as a general matter, those who excuse deceit in others end up injuring their own credibility, overlooking in those they support what they would never tolerate in those they oppose. It would be a shame if those who claim to be defenders of conservatism decide that they can distort truth and reality to get the man they want. Because the man they want may, in the end, do considerable damage to the principles and virtues they claim to cherish, like the traditional belief that truth exists independent of what we hope for and the political candidates we are drawn to.

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Jonah Goldberg thinks that we live in an anxious age. Liberals and conservatives have different reasons for being anxious, but people just don't trust the government any more.
We live in an anxious age. That anxiety runs like a river beneath the political landscape. Different news events tap into that river and release a geyser of outrage and fear. Right now, mostly on the right, it's terrorism, but before that it was Mexicans illegally sneaking into our country. Sometime before that, there was the freak-out over Ebola and the administration's aloofness about it.

One common explanation for the anxious age we are in is that the economy is undergoing a profound transformation that is leaving a lot of people on the sidelines. It seems obvious to me there's a lot of merit to this explanation.

But I don't think that economics explains everything. Seventy percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. Many of those people are doing just fine economically.

No, I think the missing piece of the puzzle is the fact that Americans -- on the left and the right -- think that the folks running the country have an agenda different from theirs. The left has a much richer vocabulary for such claims, given its ancient obsessions with greed and economic determinism. They see big corporations and the so-called "1 percent" pulling strings behind the scenes. (Watch literally any Bernie Sanders speech on YouTube to learn more.) Paranoia about the influence of big money in politics has inspired the Democratic front-runner to make revising the First Amendment a top priority.

But while there are a great many people on the right who also complain about crony capitalism and special interests, such concerns don't get to the heart of the anxiety, at least not for conservatives.

Let's go back to where we started. Christie says, "We have people across this country who are scared to death." No doubt that's true. But for a great many of them, I suspect, the fear is not so much a fear of the Islamic State but a fear that our own government, starting with the president, just doesn't take terrorism seriously. We now know he was very late in taking the Islamic State seriously.

I suspect most conservatives think that if America marshaled the sufficient will to defeat the Islamic State, we'd make short work of it. Obama has no interest in such an undertaking. He reserves his passion for attacking Republicans or pushing his other priorities, such as climate change, which persistently remains a very, very low priority for most Americans.

But the president himself is a symptom. The whole system seems to have lost its mind. That there's even a debate about whether security officials should be allowed to look at the social media posts of immigrants is a sign that our bureaucrats have such open minds their brains have fallen out. We should have seen this coming five years ago, when we learned that Obama told the new head of NASA to make one of his top priorities outreach to the Muslim world.

Terrorism is a big concern, but this sense that the political system is unresponsive, unaccountable and operating on its own self-interested ideological agenda is bigger. It is the ur-complaint that explains everything from enduring outrage over the lies that greased Obamacare's passage to fury over illegal immigration, disgust over corruption at the IRS and VA, the immortality of the Ex-Im Bank and countless other outrages du jour.

The failure of credible politicians to address this anxiety created an opportunity for Donald Trump. At least he's willing to say Washington is stupid.

This is the sort of story that makes Americans anxious about the ability of our government to keep us safe.
The Obama administration cannot be sure of the whereabouts of thousands of foreigners in the U.S. who had their visas revoked over terror concerns and other reasons, a State Department official acknowledged Thursday.

The admission, made at a House oversight hearing examining immigrant vetting in the wake of major terror attacks, drew a sharp rebuke from the committee chairman.

“You don’t have a clue do you?” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Michele Thoren Bond, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Bond initially said the U.S. has revoked more than 122,000 visas since 2001, including 9,500 because of the threat of terrorism.

But Chaffetz quickly pried at that stat, pressing the witness about the present location of those individuals.

"I don't know," she said.
Add in the fact that this administration declined to examine the social media postings of those applying for visas. All we have are pilot programs.
"If half the employers are doing it in the United States of America, if colleges are doing it for students, why wouldn't Homeland Security do it?" said Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass. "We don't even look at their public stuff, that's what kills me."

DHS did launch three pilot programs specifically aimed at reviewing social media postings as part of the immigration vetting process.

"There is less there that is actually of screening value than you would expect, at least in small early samples, some things seem more ambiguous than clear," Rodriguez told lawmakers Thursday. He said foreign alphabets frequently used in social media posts were a challenge to translate.
Now that there has been a big deal about the social media postings, I expect that potential terrorists will be smarter about what they post online. The question might come down to public vs private settings on Facebook. I can imagine that Facebook will not willingly allow the government to read the private postings of visa applicants. Or those who support terrorism will post on other sites that we won't be aware of. I don't think that anything that DHS decides to change as a result of San Bernardino is going to be enough to keep those with evil intentions out of the country. It's more of an indication of how the Obama administration let fears of bad public relations and their concern over political correctness outweigh concerns over security.

This is what Obama's ideas about free community college could cost states.
A new study estimates that President Obama’s $60 billion initiative for free community college could cost states about $4 billion combined.

To cover those costs, state spending would need to increase by about 5 percent on average, though some states would require double-digit increases, according to the study from the American Action Forum.

That would be a hard sell politically. “Since the recession began, a majority of states have cut their per-student higher education funding by more than one-fifth,” The Washington Examiner noted.

The Obama administration and its supporters argue that, as college costs trend ever upward and student loan debt mounts, free community college would help students avoid debt. However, just as the federal student loan program has failed to keep college costs low, free tuition does little to reform the higher education system.
But what do all the bad effects matter when Obama can claim to have initiated some grand program to give people free stuff?

Peggy Noonan contrasts
the rambunctious GOP contest with the Democrats. All we need to know about the Democrats is that they scheduled a debate for the Saturday night before Christmas. The last thing they want is viewers seeing Hillary going against Bernie.
This week, about 18 million people watched the fifth Republican debate on CNN. It was the third-most-watched primary debate of all time. The first debate, on Fox News in August, broke all records with about 25 million viewers. All the debates in between were heavily watched. All featured fisticuffs, argument, real to-and-fro.

The Democrats in that time had two debates, with little fanfare, with a vibe of “please don’t watch.” It was less like public officials running for president than people in the witness protection program accidentally strolling onto a stage. In the second debate the stage was almost empty—front-runner Hillary Clinton, an aged Vermont socialist with Einstein hair, and a fit young heartthrob with nothing to lose and nothing to say.

The Republicans are out there on every show and get cuffed about. They expose themselves to the scrum every day and take all comers. Mrs. Clinton considering interview requests is like a queen pointing at necklaces arrayed on a jeweler’s pillow: “I’ll take that one, not that one. I’ll think about that one.”

The Republicans are finally, fitfully fighting out real issues—ISIS, privacy. Mrs. Clinton is forced to fight no one, makes pronouncements and glides on.

The Republicans draw censure with their big, bodacious brawl. The Democrats should draw it for not struggling, grappling. The Republican Party was told to make Jeb king. No, they thundered. When the Democratic Party was asked to do a coronation, they pulled on their forelocks, bowed and said, “Yes, sire, may I do anything else?”

This is not like the Democratic Party! It was once a big brass band marching through the streets—loud, dissonant, there. “I’m not a member of any organized party,” Will Rogers famously said. “I’m a Democrat.” For generations Democrats repeated that line as a brag. They knew disorganized meant vital, creative, spontaneous, passionate—alive.

Now that party acts like this tidy, lifeless, fightless thing, a big, gray, dead-hearted, soul-killing blob. “I have the demographics,” it blobbily bellows, “I have the millennials.” Maybe it doesn’t have as much as it thinks. It is no honor to the Democratic Party that it is not fighting things through with a stage full of contenders this epochal year.

The Republicans are all chaos and incoherence, it’s true. But at least they’re alive. At least they’re fighting as if it matters.
For the Democrats, their nominee wasn't chosen by the voters, but by the elites who anointed Hillary and funded her campaign while discouraging anyone else from running. It's almost how nominees were chosen 50 or 60 years ago rather than in the modern world.

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Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball blog has an interesting post on the "10 factors that will determine the next president." Obviously it matters who the Republicans pick for their nominee. Hillary Clinton is a very flawed nominee and she is vulnerable, but only against a nominee who can win over those who find Clinton unappealing. There are other factors they discuss, but I'm not sure how much they matter if the GOP pick Donald Trump.

Obama's job approval numbers will cause her problems unless they increase. It will be important what the state of the economy is going into the election. And of course, if there are any more terrorist actions to scare people ahead of the election or foreign policy crisis, that could have a big effect on the election.

By the way, Hillary has admitted that Obamacare provided perverse " incentives that discourage full-time employment." That was a feature of Obamacare that conservatives warned about. And Hillary actually wanted a worse plan that would have great increased the "unfortunate incentives" that she is now telling us about.
The provision that creates the incentive for businesses to hire people part-time instead of full-time is the employer mandate, which requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer health insurance to full-time employees (those working 30 or more hours per week). To avoid having to provide health insurance, some employers have cut employees' hours so it is below that threshold.

In 2007, Clinton actually proposed the mandate apply to employers with just 25 or more full-time employees. Clinton is also a long-time proponent of Obamacare.
Thanks, Hillary.

So Trump won the Putin primary
and thinks "it is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond." Great.