Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cruising the Web

So, let's get this straight. We're about to free up over $100 billion in frozen funds for Iran which they'll use to keep funding terrorism and build up their military. They've shown their disrespect for the U.S., Obama, and the West by shooting off ballistic missiles in violation of agreements. They have kept Americans in prison on trumped-up charges. They just treated American sailors as POWs and, in violation of the Geneva Convention, forced them to go on TV to apologize, while airing video of them kneeling with their hands behind their heads in surrender. They forced the one female sailor to wear a headcovering. They kept the sailors in captivity through the President's State of the Union as a final insult to demonstrate what they think of Obama. And our Secretary of State makes a public statement of gratitude to the Iranian government for their "appropriate response" during the incident. There seems to be nothing this administration won't do to abase themselves in order to stay on Iran's good side. As Allahpundit writes,
This supposedly simple naval misunderstanding, which even the Revolutionary Guard claims was the result of a “mechanical problem” with one of the American boats, seems to involve a lot of gratuitous humiliation by Iran. Which raises the question: Why did Kerry feel compelled to make this statement publicly? He’d already issued a written statement thanking Iran for their cooperation, as noted by Ed. Why compound the embarrassment by thanking them again on camera after they’d made a spectacle of the sailors? This cuts to the fundamental problem with the nuclear agreement — in the end, we need the deal more than Iran does. They have the leverage and both sides know it. We’re days away from lifting $100 billion in sanctions, which should have made Tehran very eager to resolve the situation with the sailors as quietly as possible. Instead they turned them into propaganda because they know the White House has no choice but to spin hostile behavior by Iran as no big deal. I think Kerry’s goal in speaking publicly was, surreally, to try to claim this incident as proof that diplomacy is working because, after all, no one on either side ended up dead. In reality, I think it operates as reassurance to Iran that yes, even in a humiliating situation like this, Team Hopenchange will continue to go to the mat to protect cordial relations, even if that requires America’s top diplomat to embarrass himself in front of the country.
I can understand downplaying all this while our sailors were in custody, especially as it seemed that it would work out peacefully. But there is no need to pretend that Iran acted in an appropriate manner. If you doubt that, just ask yourselves what a truly friendly nation would have done if two of our boats had wandered by mistake into their territorial waters.

It's as if John Kerry said, "Thank you Imans, may I have another?"

As David French writes,
In less than twenty-four hours, the Iranians succeeding in capturing two American boats, forcing American sailors to their knees, blindfolding them, recording copious amounts of propaganda footage, searching the boats, confiscating GPS equipment, and recording a classic POW “apology” video.

Given that the military’s code of conduct requires prisoners to resist providing propaganda statements, I’m curious as to how Iran was able to secure a rather abject apology so quickly. There is much we don’t yet know, but one thing is certain — the administration simply isn’t telling the truth when it says that Iran followed “standard nautical practice” for sailors in distress.

Does this statement by Josh Earnest make sense to you?
White House spokesman Josh Earnest used the ongoing incident involving two U.S. Navy boats being held in Iranian custody as further justification for President Obama’s pursuit of the Iran nuclear deal.

Iranian aggression over the past few decades is “precisely” why Obama made the deal with the rogue nation a priority, Earnest said.
Say what? Iranian aggression is the reason why we're ending sanctions and giving them over $100 billion in frozen funds? Gee, what would we give them if they actually had a nuclear bomb or if they sponsored even more terrorist attacks?

Mark Steyn reminds us
that almost the same scenario played out back in 2007 and again in 2004 when British Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines sailed into Iranian waters and were interviewed on TV. And what he wrote in 2004 applies to today's story.
If pictures had been unearthed of some over-zealous Guantanamo guards doing to our plucky young West Midlands jihadi what the Iranian government did on TV to those Royal Marines, two thirds of Fleet Street (including many of my Spectator and Telegraph colleagues) would be frothing non-stop.

Instead, they seem to have accepted the British spin that there's been no breach of the Geneva Convention because the Marines and sailors weren't official prisoners of war, just freelance kidnap victims you can have what sport you wish with.
Just like today.
Which is marginally less insane than the Biden-Kerry line that illegally seizing foreign sailors, forcing them to their knees and to submit to the dress codes of someone else's religion, using them for propaganda videos and making them issue public apologies testifies to how the new Iranian-American friendship is just peachy and going gangbusters.

In fact, the Iranians are doing exactly what they've always done. They got their nuclear deal, and it's business as usual. The only difference is that, a decade ago, they did it to America's allies but they never quite dared to do it to America itself.

Now they do.

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Gee, who couldn't have predicted this? With the new mandates that health insurance companies cannot refuse anyone, regardless of pre-existing condition, health insurance, sick people are signing up for a policy, getting medical care, and then stopping their insurance. And why not do that? They know that they can always sign up again if they get sick.
Obamacare customers are gaming the system, buying coverage only after they find out they’re ill and need expensive care — a trend insurers warn is destabilizing the fledgling health law marketplaces and spiking premiums for everyone.

Insurers blame the problem on lax rules that allow more than 900,000 people to sign up for coverage outside the standard enrollment season — for instance, when they change jobs or move — without sufficient proof they are eligible. No one knows precisely how many might be manipulating the system, but the plans say they run up much higher medical bills and then jump ship, contributing to double-digit rate increases and financial losses.

Health plans also complain some customers are exploiting a three-month "grace period" — when they can keep getting subsidized coverage even if they’ve stopped paying their share of premiums.
Both those trends make the risk pools skew toward sicker, costlier customers — and under Obamacare, plans can no longer deny coverage to those with expensive medical conditions. That problem has been exacerbated by the large numbers of healthier people who are choosing to stay uninsured rather than shell out money for coverage.
Of course, all sorts of economists and conservative analysts predicted this while the bill was being crafted. But, apparently, the Democrats don't believe in the laws of economics and didn't believe that people would make such rational choices in their own best interest. And the result is that insurance companies are losing even more money than they anticipated.

And we're all losing money. The WSJ reports on a study showing that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Shocker, right? In this case, one of the more popular aspects of Obamacare - allowing parents to keep their children on their insurance until age 26 - is not cost-free. Someone has to bear the cost and it's other workers.
We find evidence that employees who were most affected by the mandate, namely employees at large firms, saw wage reductions of approximately $1,200 per year,” the researchers observe. As a wave of young adults hit the employer-based insurance rolls, the cost of coverage inevitably climbed and businesses were obliged to dial back cash wages as a share of overall compensation to accommodate the influx. Large businesses were a particular casualty because before ObamaCare they were largely exempt from state-level mandates.

The study also found that the costs of the adult-kid mandate weren’t “only borne by parents of eligible children or parents more generally.” They’re spread over all workers including other young people, the childless and late middle-aged.

No study is definitive, though the authors are careful about their methods and assumptions. The eternal lessons are that no alleged government benefit is free and people should be allowed to make the trade-offs for themselves. Another is that the next President has plenty of running room to improve the American economy, if he cares to make better decisions.

As the IBD points out,
enrollment in Obamacare is not worth bragging about as the administration does. The number is about 9 million.
And they will be a far cry from the 20 million that the Congressional Budget Office had been expecting, and far fewer than insurance industry experts say are needed to keep the ObamaCare insurance pools stable.

The administration also brags that ObamaCare exchanges attracted 2.5 million new customers to its site. But that's significantly fewer than the 4.7 million new customers it got last year. Most businesses would look at that trend with concern, not pride.

Meanwhile, the young and healthy continue to avoid ObamaCare. The administration says 26% of enrollees are 18 to 34 years old. That's the same share as last year at this time and lower than the 28% in ObamaCare's first year. And it's well below the 40% that the administration had said was needed to keep the ObamaCare insurance markets stable.

And by the way, Gallup's report on the uninsured — which the administration happily paraded about when it showed the number going down — finds that it climbed to 11.9% at the end of last year, the second quarterly increase.

As IBD's Jed Graham aptly put it: "The Obama administration has shifted expectations about ObamaCare to such an extent that the latest enrollment data were, quite remarkably, reported as good news.

It's one thing for the White House to put a high gloss on these unhappy numbers, but it's an indictment of the mainstream press that it's willing to swallow it whole.

This is the Obama administration's view of its own power. White House chief of staff Denis McDonough explained their attitude toward executive actions that Obama plans to take.
“Process is your friend, but process also dictates what you can do,” McDonough said. “And we do want to make sure that the executive actions we undertake are not left hanging out there, subject to Congress undoing them.”

In addition to gun control, the White House has expressed interest in further unilateral actions on immigration reform, and in working around Congress to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay. But McDonough said the White House is considering executive action on any and all issues, and that the main question President Obama plans to ask himself is “Why not?”

“And so that’s the spirit through which we’ll approach this last year,” McDonough said.
How exactly do they plan that these actions will not be subject to Congress undoing them? Don't they understand how our system works? Congress has always had the power to undo executive actions. They'll have to wait for another president, preferably not a Democrat, to do so, but just as Obama campaigned on undoing as many Bush executive actions as possible, Congress and/or a future president can undo Obama's actions. That is the way our system works. He is not an emperor, much to his dismay

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And didn't you know this was going to happen?
The Al Jazeera America board has made the decision to phase out its struggling TV channel by April 30. According to Neilson Ratings, the network was only available in about 60 million American homes.

CEO Al Anstey wrote in an email that the “decision by Al Jazeera America’s board is driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace.”
How about that Americans just don't want to watch Al Jazeera. But, hey, at least Al Gore made beaucoup out of the experiment.

James Taranto takes on Barack Obama's self-serving complaints about how divisive our nation has become.
There’s a glaring disconnect in Obama’s characterization of partisan “rancor and suspicion” as being among his “few regrets.” What he’s saying is that he does not regret his actions, only their inevitable consequences. In his 2008 campaign he aspired to unify the country, but he also aspired to “transform” it, “fundamentally” no less. Transformation turned out to be the priority.

His signature “achievements”—we’re thinking here of ObamaCare and the Iran deal—were won by bullying doubters in his own party, shutting the other party out entirely, and, crucially, ignoring overwhelming public opposition. He’d have accomplished a lot more had the country been on his side, but had the country been on his side, there would be no need for fundamental transformation. He seldom evinces any doubt that he is right and his detractors—even if they include the large majority of the American people—are wrong.

So encouraging that we're in such good hands.
Just months after reports that someone was hacking CIA Director John Brennan's personal email, a U.S. intelligence official is confirming that online personal accounts linked to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also have been hacked.

DNI spokesman Brian Hale said Tuesday that Clapper's office is aware of the hacking and has reported the incident to appropriate authorities. He declined to provide other details.

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I'm sure that this is all a coincidence.
Hillary Clinton has forcefully denied reports that the FBI is expanding its investigation of her private email network to include allegations of "public corruption" involving the Clinton Foundation.

But thousands of emails made public by the State Department between May of last year and Friday indicate donors to the Clinton Foundation were often given personal meetings, generous contracts or special consideration that was seemingly not afforded to the same number of private groups that had not written checks to the charity.

Nothing to see here, move along.

And just ignore how the State Department has conveniently not been able to find some of the Clinton emails on Benghazi and now suddenly found them.
The Department of State recently discovered “thousands” of previously unreviewed documents that relate to Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi attack, according to a watchdog group that has been suing the department to release public records from Clinton’s tenure.

The State Department disclosed the existence of the additional records in a court filing on Friday and asked the judge for further time to search and review the documents.

The watchdog group Judicial Watch has been suing the State Department for years to turn over public records related to Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation, the employment arrangements of Clinton’s top aides, and her response to the Benghazi attack.

According to the State Department, the newly found records are likely to include information relevant to Judicial Watch’s requests. Officials said they would need until at least Feb. 1 to review the documents.
What do you bet that they try to delay until after the election?

No wonder Joe Biden is so deeply regretting that he chose not to run against Hillary Clinton. So he's mischievously praising Bernie while dissing Hillary.
Vice President Joe Biden just took Hillary Clinton out at the knees.

“Bernie [Sanders] is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real,” Biden told CNN’s Gloria Borger. “And that is the absolute enormous concentration of wealth in a small group of people, with the middle class, now being shown, being left out.”

When Borger pointed out that, “Hillary’s been talking about that as well,” Biden was undeterred.

“It’s relatively new for Hillary to talk about that,” he said. “Hillary’s focus has been on other things up to now, and that’s been Bernie’s — nobody questions Bernie’s authenticity on those issues. . . . I think they question everybody’s who hasn’t been talking about it all along, but I think she’s come forward with some really thoughtful approaches to deal with the issue.”

You don’t say this sort of thing if you’re enthusiastic about Clinton being the Democratic nominee in 2016. Either the vice president wants to ensure that Sanders gets a fair shot at the nomination, or he’s itching to reverse his own decision not to run in 2016.

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To be evenhanded, this "inadvertent" Ted Cruz error seems mighty convenient.
Sen. Ted Cruz says that his failure to properly disclose a low-interest loan he received from his wife's employer, Goldman Sachs, for his 2012 Senate campaign amounts to an "inadvertent filing error."

Questions about the loan came up as Cruz was on the presidential campaign trail in Dorchester, South Carolina. While he was talking to voters there, the New York Times published a report revealing that Cruz received low-interest loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank, for as much as $1 million total, while he was running to represent Texas in the Senate. He did not, however, report the loans to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), as required.

Betsy McCaughey explains
why the teachers' union case that the Supreme Court heard this week could be disastrous for public employee unions, but a blessing for taxpayers. If the Court rules in the workers' favor, public employees, based on other examples could cut in half or more their dues to public employee unions.
What’s bad news for the unions could be good news for John Q. Taxpayer. Unions have been major players in state and local politics, almost always on the side of big-spending Democrats.

Here in New York state, an astounding 72 percent of public workers are unionized — the highest such share in the nation.

Their leaders have a chokehold on politics. The teachers unions are “the key reason why our school spending, at nearly $20,000 per pupil, is highest in the country and roughly 85 percent above the national average,” says Empire Center President E.J. McMahon.

Public-sector unions in New York and many other states have pushed wages and benefits higher than what comparable private-sector jobs pay and demanded work rules that inhibit efficiency. The result is a massively inflated cost of government, borne by taxpayers.

With less money to spend after the Friedrichs ruling, unions will have less influence on state lawmakers and budgets.

Oh, sweet relief! It’s the average Joe, not the millionaires, who gets clobbered by the over-the-top spending compelled by unions.

Democratic politicians in New York are so committed to the costly, pro-union status quo that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City’s corporation counsel, who are supposed to work for all the people of the state, filed briefs in this case defending mandatory public-union payments.

They’re in the pocket of the unions — here and in many other states. Thankfully, that may change if the Supreme Court rules in favor of workers’ rights — and taxpayers.