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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cruising the Web

Just to save you the time and aggravation, pundits, bloggers, and journalists watched the State of the Union so you don't have to. It's a lot quicker to just read the speech instead of listening to it. I was not one of those. I chose to grade essays and read a novel instead. States of the Union are habitually laundry lists for a presidents to toot their own horns about the great things they've done. So they're not about the state of the union per se, but about the state of a president's perception of himself. And we know that Obama's self-perception is unjustifiably high.
But here are some links to coverage of the SOTU. John Podhoretz thinks that the address was the "most boring speech of his presidency."
In what was arguably the most boring major speech of his presidency, Obama didn’t even attempt to make a consistent argument or prove the case he was making for his presidency and the glorious moment to which he has brought this country...

His fundamental argument Tuesday night was that he’s saved the economy — indeed, he’s done such a bang-up job that he implicitly took credit for the fact that gas is now at $2 a gallon.

Though maybe he does deserve credit, since the Saudis are furiously pumping out oil to make sure Obama’s new buddy Iran can’t make too much money from it as it makes its way to a nuclear weapon down the road....

People who say the economy is worse than it was when he took office, he charged, “are peddling fiction.” And, of course, it’s true that the economy is larger than it was in 2009.

But median wages are lower than they were when he took office, and it’s not a fiction that people know it and don’t like being told they’re somehow wrong for feeling as though something has gone very wrong.

This is not exclusively his doing — median wages have been stagnating for 15 years.

But health-insurance costs that have risen due to ObamaCare, and which have contributed mightily to the pocketbook squeeze, sure are his doing.

Bizarrely, the president then pooh-poohed the threat from ISIS and terrorists around the world by assuring Americans we would wipe them out — and that to think otherwise somehow was dangerous because it empowered the bad guys.

He spent more time and showed more passion lecturing Americans about their conduct toward Muslims. He’s right that behaving badly toward Muslims, or committing a crime at a mosque, is a terrible thing.

But saying that “when a kid is called names . . . we are diminished in the eyes of the world”— is a kind of schoolmarmish bushwah that should force even the most sentimental person to have to restrain himself from throwing his remote through his TV.

Except that his eyes had long since glazed over from the tedium.
Well, SOTU addresses are always boring and usually pretty forgettable. I've read several of them for various history classes I have taken and even Lincoln's SOTUs were dull in places.

A lot of his laundry list was to demand Congress pass bills that he has asked them to do before and they haven't seen fit to grant his wishes. Of course, the speech was packed full of lies and deceptions. Joel B. Pollak lists the top ten lies in the SOTU. It is rather dismaying that, while Americans were being held by Iran even if there were promises that they were to be released, that he wouldn't mention them or the other Americans being held by Iran even when he's bragging about how great his atrocious deal with Iran is despite all the ways they've been deceiving the world for years about their program and thumbing their collective noses at the President ever since. Holding these sailors throughout his SOTU was just one last insult.

Heritage goes through the speech to explain
what Obama got wrong in his SOTU.

The WSJ ponders the Obama legacy since that was what his SOTU was all about puffing up. The economy has not recovered at the rate it has from previous recessions.
The test of economic policy is the pace and quality of the recovery, and this one has been the slowest since World War II.

The jobless rate has fallen to 5%, but in May 2007 under George W. Bush it was 4.4%. Today’s rate has been able to fall as low as it has in part because so many working-age Americans have left the workforce; the labor participation rate of 62.6% hasn’t been this low since 1977. Real incomes for most households have only recently begun to rise above what they were at the end of the recession in June 2009.
That's why Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton spend much of their campaign complaining about how awful the economy is for so many. They don't seem to have gotten the memo about how great Obama has been for the nation's economy.
The President’s defenders blame slow growth on Republican opposition, yet he has achieved most of what he sought on the economy. He passed his “stimulus” and raised taxes. He transformed one-sixth of the economy with ObamaCare and the financial system via Dodd-Frank. He nationalized student loans, has regulated the Internet, and is redoing electricity markets to crush coal. All of this and more have combined to inhibit growth.
We are in a more precarious position in foreign policy than we were when he entered office promising to end two wars.

Obama came to public attention in 2004 in his speech about how there was no red and no blue America.
But as he wraps up his Presidency, the United States is more divided in more ways than at any time since the 1960s. Democrats have moved further left, while Republicans have moved right. Mr. Obama is not solely to blame for this, but much of it is the product of how he has governed.

More than any recent President, he has turned the bully pulpit into a battering ram to smash his opponents. He denounced the Supreme Court in the 2010 State of the Union. He all but called Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget un-American. He played the race card to win re-election in 2012. He doesn’t argue with Republicans; he demeans them. In that sense he has made American politics safe for Donald Trump on the right and Black Lives Matter on the left.

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Apparently, the Cruz campaign or a Super PAC supporting him are thinking of how to attack Donald Trump. They're poll-testing some lines of attack in Iowa and a political science professor received the call and took notes to share the questions with Real Clear Politics.
One potential attack noted Trump’s recent remark “to a Christian audience in Iowa that he has ‘never asked God for forgiveness.’” Another depicted Trump as “a New York liberal pretending to have conservative values.”

Two potential attacks targeted the billionaire businessman’s loyalty to the GOP — one noting that he had changed his party ID, the other mentioning his Reform Party candidacy for president in 1999/2000 and his prior financial support for Democrats.

Three other attacks cited Trump’s stances on eminent domain, abortion and single-payer health care, respectively.

Although calls of this nature cannot be definitively traced to a campaign or outside group, the content typically hints at the sponsor. In this case, following the series of potential attacks on Trump, the call posed an open-ended question about Cruz’s support in Iowa, asking whether any message recently has made Cruz more or less favorable to the respondent.
If we see some of these attacks in the near future, we'll be able to figure out which attack poll-tested the best. It will be interesting to see which ones Cruz chooses and how Trump responds. The bromance between Cruz and Trump may be at an end.

Rebecca Berg who reported on the poll questions for RCP, notes that Cruz is already launching one of the attacks from those questions.
Ted Cruz also went on the Howie Carr Show and continued to diss the Donald. Sounds like it's on!

The National Journal explores the question
as to whether Cruz made a mistake by spending so much time pretending to be such an admirer of Donald Trump. It hasn't protected him from Trump's taunts.

Politico has an interesting look at Ted Cruz's time as Texas's Solicitor General.


Leon Wolf wonders
if Marco Rubio is the "real low energy candidate." Expect to see Trump echoing that line in the near future.

The Boston Globe looks at Chris Christie's shifting positions.
Shifting his gaze from a New Jersey audience to a national GOP primary campaign has at times produced some head-snapping turns.

In 2013, Christie strongly defended Common Core, a group of national education standards that are despised by conservatives as federal overreach. He praised Obama and criticized opponents of the standards for adopting politically expedient positions: “Part of the problem in Congress right now, on both sides of the aisle, is that folks care more about their primaries than they care about anything else.”

But last year, as he was preparing to run for president, he pulled an about-face.

“It’s simply not working,” he said in a May 2015 speech. “It has brought only confusion and frustration to our parents and has brought distance between our teachers and the communities where they work.”

In 2010, he advocated for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but last year disavowed that position, too, saying citizenship is an “extreme way to go.”

....And he has waffled on whether to give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a trade deal. In December 2014, he was pushing for such authority, but five months later he said, “I have real concerns about giving this president the ability to negotiate on his own.”
Of course, which candidate hasn't flipped positions? If flip flops were a disqualifier, Donald Trump would have been long gone.


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Robert Tracinski warns how the specter of Islam is haunting Europe.
The most disturbing thing about the Cologne attacks was the prevalence of sexual assault as a weapon, complete with gangs of Muslim men stalking German women through the streets, yelling obscenities at them and threatening them with sexual violence. Note to Western feminists: we finally found real “rape culture” for you. Unfortunately, it is not found primarily among middle-class American college boys, which is what you were hoping for.

This is “normal” — if that word can be applied here — in the Arab and Muslim world. Wherever large crowds gather, unaccompanied women are in danger. (Remember the brutal attack on CBS reporter Lara Logan during the Egyptian revolution.) This is a measure of the extent to which the culture of Islam, as it is practiced in much of the world, deranges and brutalizes its believers, particularly when it comes to their attitudes toward women and sex. This is what has now arrived in the heart of a free, civilized, enlightened Europe.
Tracinski explains the patterns that we can see in the terror attacks Islamic terrorists launched in the past year. First they attack words in their effort to limit language and images of which they disapprove. But that is only one part of their agenda. We need to honestly acknowledge the threat we're facing, but too many leaders, both in the US and in Europe, refuse to recognize what we're dealing with.
And that leads us to the third lesson: we have a president who is resolutely opposed to learning any of the other lessons. Instead, he is focusing all of his efforts on doing what little he can to disarm Americans. Unfortunately, judging from the presidential debates — in which the Democratic participants steadfastly refused to use the phrase “radical Islam” — we’re not going to get any better from the next round of Democratic candidates.

The rise of the Islamic State and its ability to inspire and organize terrorists attacks in the West, combined with the Democrats’ refusal to confront this threat, sets up one of the big questions for 2016, particularly as the Republican primaries actually go to a vote in the next two months. This must now be a national security election, and by that standard the only interesting debate is between Republican candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

I don’t expect our current president to do much of anything about the threat of Islam, or to help the Europeans with it, during his remaining term in office. Instead, we have the rest of this year to decide how we would like the next president to deal with it.

Because the specter of Islam is haunting us all.



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It's become a standard a line in the conservative media to ask, 'what if a Republican did this"? It's often enlightening to ask the question. Today, Noah Rothman asks the question: "What if Hillary were a Republican"? But just to ask it is to clarify how poorly she is doing. For example, Hillary Clinton asserted that she wants to repeal the Hyde Amendment to limits federal funding for abortion providers even though this is a provision that the public generally supports.
If a Republican had struck such an absolutist position on abortion, one that was so obviously out of step with the general public consensus, the nation’s pundit class would commence a harmonized chorus of scolding the aberrant candidate. When Clinton strikes out on a similarly ill-advised course, the commentariat is silent.
Well, not on abortion where the media is on the same page as Hillary Clinton.
The capstone to Clinton’s poorly conceived escapades on Monday came when the issue of immigration was raised. In an effort to forge a path to the left of President Barack Obama on the matter (itself a decision that boggles the mind), Clinton came out in opposition to deportations facilitated as a result of law enforcement raids. That’s right: The president, who is so disinclined to enforce immigration laws that the courts have had to compel him to perform that constitutionally delineated duty, is, for modern Democrats, unduly draconian.

“I do not think raids are an appropriate tool to enforce immigration laws,” Clinton said. “In fact, I think they [are] divisive.” This was no spontaneous expression of anxiety with a president that pro-illegal immigration organizations have dubbed America’s “deporter-in-chief.” Clinton’s campaign released a statement following this assertion in which the candidate asserted that “we shouldn’t have armed federal officers showing up at peoples’ homes, taking women and children out of their beds in the middle of the night.”

The commentary class correctly gauges public antipathy toward unworkable proposals such as those that seek to identify, round up, and deport over 11 million illegal immigrants over a period so short that it presumably dispenses with their right to due process. They instinctively assess that such a policy position is tantamount to throat-clearing aimed at a particularly narrow segment of the electorate. Yet the impracticality of that policy’s mirror image – an unfeasible and constitutionally negligent determination to ignore the enforcement of any existing immigration law – fails to elicit similar condemnations.

The pundit class is doing Hillary Clinton no favors by failing to provide an accurate assessment of the damage she is doing to her political prospects amid an unexpectedly contentious Democratic primary. If she were a Republican, the political caste would be condemning Clinton for winning the primary race at the expense of the general election, but such admonitions are reserved exclusively for conservatives. As a result of the punditocracy’s tepid refusal to maintain a single standard of acceptable conduct for presidential aspirants across the political spectrum, it’s wise to expect many more Mondays like Clinton’s last.

Scott Ott calls out all those people claiming that we need to hear from the Supreme Court before we know for sure if Ted Cruz is a "natural born citizen."
The constitutionality of any particular act or law is determined by the interplay of the words of freedom's charter itself among the people, the states, their federal representatives, and the executive, as well as rulings of the court in particular cases. The Court may weigh in only when two parties clash in a realm over which the Constitution holds sway. Even then, the Supreme Court is not an omnipotent force handing down the eternal word. Congress may write new constitutional law. The People may amend their Constitution. The president may appoint justices who ultimately overturn the ruling.

But our Constitution precedes all of that, and stands on its own, supreme. Its reasonable interpretation is not contingent upon a conflict that forces an issue. The Constitution's words have inherent (and usually obvious) meaning, and you need not suspend your opinion on an issue to await the pronouncement of five ebony-cloaked legal geezers.
If someone were to try to bring a case challenging Cruz, we would still have to see if the courts would recognize that plaintiff's standing to bring a case. Perhaps a candidate who lost to Cruz would have standing, but I don't see that anyone else would. If a state refused to allow Cruz's name on the ballot, he could bring a case, but that isn't happening. But some gadfly just bringing a case to be a nuisance is going to get thrown out of court. But Ott is right. Just because the Supreme Court hasn't ruled, doesn't mean that we can't understand that being born to an American citizen in another country is a natural-born citizen.

Thomas Sowell scoffs at liberals who are appalled at the idea of holding a new Constitutional Convention as Texas's Governor Greg Abbott is advocating because they suddenly are against "messing with the Constitution."
The irony in all this is that no one has messed with the Constitution more or longer than the political Left, over the past hundred years.

This began with progressives such as Woodrow Wilson, who openly declared the Constitution an impediment to the kinds of “reforms” the progressive movement wanted, and urged judges to “interpret” the Constitution in such a way as to loosen its limits on federal power.

It has long been a complaint of the Left that the process of amending the Constitution is too hard, so they have depended on federal judges — especially Supreme Court justices — to amend the Constitution, de facto and piecemeal, in a leftward direction.

This judicial-amendment process has been going on now for generations, so that today government officials at the local, state, or national level can often seize private property in disregard of the Fifth Amendment’s protections.

For nearly 40 years, the Supreme Court has been evading the 14th Amendment’s provision of “equal protection” of the law for all, in order to let government-imposed group preferences and quotas continue, under the name of “affirmative action.”

Equal rights under the law have been made to vanish by saying the magic word “diversity,” whose sweeping benefits are simply assumed and proclaimed endlessly, rather than demonstrated.

The judicial pretense of merely “interpreting” the Constitution is just part of the dishonesty in this process. The underlying claim that it is almost impossible to amend the Constitution was belied during the very years when the progressive movement was getting underway in the early 20th century.

The Constitution was amended four times in eight years! Over the years since it was adopted, the Constitution has been amended more than two dozen times. Why, then, is the proposal to call a convention of states to propose — just propose — amendments to the Constitution considered such a radical and dangerous departure?
Progressives would rather have five justices take care of changing our interpretation of the Constitution instead of following the procedure that is actually in the Constitution. We would need two-thirds of the states to echo the call for the convention and then three-fourths of the states to ratify the amendments that came out of the convention. That's not easy to do.


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If your child goes to the University of Southern California, the students have a required online course and will not be able to register for classes until they complete the course. Campus Reform reports on some of the questions that students had to answer for the course.
What percentage of your peers do you think has sex (including oral) at least once a month?

How many times have you had sex (including oral) in the last three months?

With how many different people have you had sex (including oral) in the last three months?
Since this has been publicized, USC has removed those questions from the required course. But it is telling that those questions were there in the first place and no one seemed to think that was a problem.

This is what students in New York City can now get away with due to Mayor de Blasio's new policies on school discipline.
A student at the Adlai Stevenson HS complex in The Bronx was caught in October with seven baggies of marijuana — a violation that in prior years would have ­resulted in a criminal summons and a suspension.

Instead, a school safety officer handed the student a “warning card.” It asked politely: “Please bring this card home to your parent(s)/guardian so that you can discuss the matter with them.”

The pot was turned over to the NYPD, but the student’s name was listed as “John Doe.”

This is the brave new world of school discipline in New York City, where unruly kids rule: “They know they can get away with anything,” as several teachers put it.

Under a new discipline code launched by Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Education, inappropriate clothes, profanity and insubordination no longer trigger an automatic boot from the classroom.
Clearly, authorities have no concept of what is necessary to maintain order in a school. It won't take long for kids to figure out that they basically have the green light for any sort of misbehavior that appeals to them. And learning will become even more difficult in classes. I can't imagine having to teach in an environment where the administration has no support for teachers to maintain order.

Wow, this is really taking things too far. Wisconsin is banning negative crowd chants at high school games. Apparently, the "Airball" chant is too damaging to the fragile little egos of Wisconsin high school players.
In an email sent out to students in December, which was obtained by the Post-Crescent, the WIAA banned “chants by student sections directed at opponents and/or opponents’ supporters that are clearly intended to disrespect.”

The following words were reportedly included as examples:

• “Fundamentals”
• “Sieve”
• “We can’t hear you”
• “Air ball”
• “You can’t do that”
• “There’s a net there”
• “Scoreboard”
• “Season’s over” (during tournament play)
They need to toughen up in Wisconsin and stop worrying that a few negative chants will be too harmful for kids playing sports. They're not elementary school students.

This has given Jay Bilas an opportunity to tweet out some great satire of Wisconsin.



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