The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Greenpeace, Trampling History in a Publicity Stunt


If you’re having trouble getting your Morning Jolt e-mail, contact [email protected].

Also in today’s Jolt:

Greenpeace, Joining the Ranks of Indiana Jones Villains

Greenpeace. I hate these guys.

Peru will seek criminal charges against Greenpeace activists who it says damaged the world-renowned Nazca lines by leaving footprints in the adjacent desert during a publicity stunt.

“It’s a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred,” said Luis Jaime Castillo, the deputy culture minister, after the action by the environmental group on Monday, at the famed drawings etched into Peru’s coastal desert, a UN world heritage site.

He said the government was seeking to prevent those responsible from leaving the country while it asks prosecutors to file charges of attacking archaeological monuments, a crime punishable by up to six years in prison.

The activists entered a “strictly prohibited” area beside the figure of a hummingbird, the culture ministry said. They laid big yellow cloth letters reading: “Time for Change! The Future is Renewable.” The message was intended for delegates from 190 countries at the UN climate talks being held in Lima.

Castillo said no one, not even presidents and cabinet ministers, was allowed where the activists had gone without authorisation and anyone who received permission must wear special shoes.

The Nazca lines are huge figures depicting living creatures, stylised plants and imaginary figures scratched on the surface of the ground between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago. They are believed to have had ritual functions related to astronomy.

Claiming to promote the preservation of the environment, Greenpeace did damage to the environment. It belongs in a museum!

Michael Rubin:

Beyond the sheer stupidity of the Greenpeace activists’ actions, a broader question — not addressed by the New York Times or much of the press — was what the purpose of the Greenpeace action was. Certainly, perpetrators said on video that they were motivated by the fight against climate change, but it seems so often that Greenpeace stunts are motivated far more by a desire to promote Greenpeace than do anything for the environment.

Naidoo and other Greenpeace executives cannot plead ignorance, for they embraced and encouraged the behavior that led to the vandalism at Nazca . . . 

So, Greenpeace trained the activists whom it later sent to vandalize the UNESCO site.

What happened in Peru symbolizes not only the hypocrisy of some in the environmentalism industry, but also exposes international NGOs for what they are. No longer are groups like Greenpeace motivated by a desire to heal the world. Instead, they scam well-meaning donors to fund for plush executive lifestyles, overhead, international travel, and an endless quest for publicity to grease further fundraising. Not all NGOs are the same, but Greenpeace seems, increasingly, like the rule rather than the exception among some of the biggest and best-known organizations.

Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an extremist group with an apocalyptic, faith-based ideology and no regard for dissenting views or outsiders trashing major historical landmarks of other cultures and faiths in the name of their holy cause. We’re just used to seeing this from the Taliban and the Islamic State.

Too bad the Hovitos don’t know you the way we do, Greenpeace.

Tags: Greenpeace , Environmentalism

Recalling Hillary’s Call to ‘Empathize With Our Enemies’ Perspective’


Hillary Clinton, earlier this month:

This is what we call smart power: using every possible tool and partner to advance peace and security, and leaving no one on the sidelines, showing respect, even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible empathize with their perspective and point of view — helping to define the problems, determine the solutions, that is what we believe in the 21st century will change. Change the prospects for peace.

Which enemies should we be empathizing with? Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Hillary Clinton didn’t mean ISIS; he said, “there’s no question in my mind she was referring to those out there with whom we are not actively fighting or engaged in a war but who are behaving in ways that are clearly opposed to our interests,” and later mentioned Russia.

Wasn’t the “reset button” an attempt to “show respect, even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible empathize with their perspective”? How did that work out?

Do our problems with our enemies really stem from our lack of empathy to their perspective? Or is it a lack of effectively countering their provocation and aggression?

Tags: Hillary Clinton , John Kerry


Dissension in the Ranks at the Post-Ferguson Protests


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Organizational Meeting for Anarchists Ends in Chaos

Let’s start with a fascinating story about division in the ranks in the post-Ferguson protests, flaring up at the “Justice for All” March in Washington, D.C., this weekend:

Though there were moments of great emotion during Saturday’s Justice For All March — particularly when the families of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Jonathan Crawford, III, Amadou Diallo, Brown and Garner, voiced their gratitude for [Al] Sharpton and the sea of supporters who have kept their loved ones names alive — the criticism that has followed the event largely proved to be true and young protesters all the way from Ferguson, Mo., made sure to let the world know it.

Johnetta Elzie, 25, an activist on the ground in Ferguson and St. Louis who has emerged as a leading voice in the movement, stormed the stage with other young organizers after [National Action Network] officials reportedly denied them access.

When I caught up with Elzie via phone after the march she said that they came to participate in a protest, not be denied access to a “VIP section.”

“When we first got there, two people from NAN told us that we needed a VIP pass or a press pass to sit on the ledge,” said Elzie in disbelief, the frustration still resonating in her voice. “If it is a protest, why do you need to have a VIP pass?”

According to Elzie, once she finally did get a chance to speak, they cut her microphone.

“I was glad to get the support of the some in the crowd who chanted, ‘Let them speak, let them speak.’ One lady in the crowd said that I was being disrespectful. I think it’s disrespectful that black people are being killed every 28 hours. So what they’re telling me does not matter. It’s not our job to convince them that all black lives matter.”

>Does this complaint represent Al Sharpton taking credit for the work of younger activists and refusing to share the spotlight? Or are the young activists presumptuously claiming the right to address the crowd at a rally that Sharpton and his organization organized? We’re always hearing the chant, “The people . . . united . . . will never be defeated” — but who really speaks for “the people”?

To score a point for the young protesters, they’re starting to explicitly make the case that Al Sharpton is not an authentic, convincing, or idealistic representative of their cause, as this spectacular Tweet from one of the young protesters illustrates:

On the other hand, at a rally or protest with speakers, somebody’s got to decide who holds the microphone and when. Otherwise, the privilege of addressing the assembled is dominated by whoever can grab the microphone first and hold off everyone else the longest.

Most large, organized protests target those in positions of authority (politicians, police, business owners) and a key element of their argument is that those who are in power do not have legitimate authority over others. Now the young post-Ferguson protesters are starting to regard the self-appointed or self-proclaimed leaders of the movement with the same skepticism and lack of trust or respect previously reserved for official authorities. Either one of two things will happen: a leader with the trust of the young protesters will emerge, or the movement will try to advance without anyone in any position of authority and capable of deciding who speaks and how. The last movement to so explicitly reject the notion of a leader with authority over others was . . . Occupy Wall Street?

Tags: Al Sharpton , Ferguson , protests

It’s Time for Regime Change in Christmastown


Today’s Jolt closed out with a cheerier note . . . hopefully a funnier assessment of a Christmas classic:

It’s Time for Regime Change in Christmastown

The latest edition of my pop-culture podcast with Mickey White goes up today. I discuss a Christmas television special that our family watches every year — and I was unnerved to see that James Lileks also wrote about the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special as well. Luckily, the two of us headed in different directions in our assessment. He wonders how today’s Left would re-edit it, while I lament that for all of the warm feelings it stirs . . . this children’s classic makes almost no sense.

First, I get that this is a parable about tolerance of those who are different, and appreciating “misfits” who “don’t fit in.” Perhaps that was a particularly powerful message in 1964. But the story’s need for an intolerant society to depict means that a lot of previously-beloved characters associated with Christmas get turned into absolute quasi-fascistic villains.

Donner, Rudolph’s dad, is one of the worst. He’s horrified by his son’s shiny nose, literally from the moment of his birth. Everyone just accepts that because of the shiny nose, Rudolph will never be able to pull the sleigh. Nobody ever explains why. They treat this as some sort of horrible genetic mutation. In the entire story, no one in Christmastown other than Clarice and Rudolph’s mother — who never even gets a name! — can tolerate it. Everyone else instantly reacts with shock, horror, and disgust.

Santa comes across as even worse. He’s a jerk who doesn’t care about the elves’ musical number. The first sign of snow — in the North Pole, where he really shouldn’t be that shocked — and he’s ready to cancel Christmas. He’s got one job!

Finally, when Rudolph is exposed at the reindeer games, Santa tells Donner, Rudolph’s dad, he should be ashamed of himself. For what? His son’s nose? A birth defect? For polluting the gene pool? Is this Nazi Christmastown?

Why is Hermey being a dentist considered to be this unthinkable option in this society? By the end, we’ve established that the elves have teeth and they have bad teeth.

By the time Rudolph runs away, it’s clear Santa is a horrible dictator. By comparison, the griffin who’s running the adjacent monarchy, King Moonracer, actually seems to have his head on straight. He’s got a castle, he treats his guests with kindness . . . he’s even got functional border security. The moment Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon Cornelius land on the Island of Misfit Toys, Charlie-in-a-Box pops up and says “Who goes there!” If only we had such a solid, reliable system on our borders.

Speaking of the Island of Misfit Toys, aren’t the misfit toys made wrong by the elves? Why don’t the elves take responsibility for their defective creations? What, they can’t put round wheels on a caboose? They can’t put water in the water gun? One of the toys is a doll that, as far as we can tell, has nothing wrong with her. It’s as if the mass exile of the undesirables swept up the normal doll by accident, and the bureaucratic police state of Christmastown has no time or concern for justice.

And the Misfit toys go from “no child would ever want us” to being on Santa’s distribution list literally overnight for no discernable reason. Yes, I realize everyone in Christmastown now realizes that Rudolph’s nose is useful, and regrets their mockery. Maybe they’ve reevaluated their attitudes on a lot of things.

“Wait, Rudolph’s nose is useful! This completely changes children’s tastes in toys immediately!”

Ha! One last point: Yukon Cornelius HAS A GUN. He could have shot the Bumble any time he wanted. Bumbles bounce? No, Yukon. Bumbles drop when you hit center mass.

Take the shot, Yukon! Take the shot!

Tags: Something Lighter

The Violent Threat Near UVA that Rolling Stone Downplayed


There is one more bitter, tragic irony to Rolling Stone’s erroneous coverage of allegations of gang rape at the University of Virginia. Evidence is mounting that young women on the campus indeed faced a violent threat for a long time. It just didn’t come from fraternities or the student body.

On September 13, 18-year-old University of Virginia student Hannah Graham disappeared; authorities recovered her remains from a rural part of Albemarle County, Va., on October 18. Police arrested Jesse Matthew Jr. on September 25, and he was charged in the disappearance of Graham.

What’s astounding is how many young women disappeared in such a short period of time around the University of Virginia’s campus:

Hannah Graham is the fifth young woman in five years to vanish within a few miles of Route 29, the main highway which runs through Charlottesville.

Nineteen-year-old Samantha Ann Clarke, who vanished after leaving her Orange County town house in September 2010, 19-year-old DaShad Laquinn Smith, who disappeared in Charlottesville in November 2012, and 17-year-old Alexis Murphy, who was last seen near Lynchburg, Va. in August of 2013 and whose car was found in Charlottesville, remain missing. . . . Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, disappeared from the University of Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena while attending a rock concert in October 2009. collected 13 cases of women disappearing from central Virginia since 2009 — some young, some old, some white, some black. It is far from clear that they are all the crimes of the same perpetrator, but there are unnerving similarities in several of the cases.

Then there’s this chilling detail:

Sources confirm that at least two local cab employees informed federal and state investigators that Jesse Matthew Jr. — the man behind bars for the abduction of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham — was working as a cab driver the night murdered Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington disappeared.

What is the one thing everyone says when a young woman has had too much to drink? “Call her a cab.”

In the Rolling Stone article, there’s a brief reference to Graham and Matthew, attempting to shoehorn the crime into the article’s established narrative about a “rape culture” on campus:

Suspect Jesse Matthew Jr., a 32-year-old UVA hospital worker, will be charged with Hannah Graham’s “abduction with intent to defile,” and a chilling portrait will emerge of an alleged predator who got his start, a decade ago, as a campus rapist. Back in 2002, and again in 2003, Matthew was accused of sexual assault at two different Virginia colleges where he was enrolled, but was never prosecuted. In 2005, according to the new police indictment, Matthew sexually assaulted a 26-year-old and tried to kill her. DNA has also reportedly linked Matthew to the 2009 death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who disappeared after a Metallica concert in Charlottesville. The grisly dossier of which Matthew has been accused underscores the premise that campus rape should be seen not through the schema of a dubious party foul, but as a violent crime — and that victims should be encouraged to come forward as an act of civic good that could potentially spare future victims.

Jesse Matthew Jr. does not “fit the narrative” of the article’s spoiled, entitled, privileged, out-of-control frat boys:

This is one more consequence of “narrative journalism”: When you set out to write the evil-fraternities story, you end up missing the serial-killer-stalks-campus story.

Tags: Rolling Stone , UVA , Crime


The Political Press, Turning into Mitt Romney’s Mood Ring


Just how much “what mood is Mitt Romney in this month?” coverage does the political world need?

While some people close to Romney insist he hasn’t moved from saying he has no plans to run, the 2012 Republican nominee has sounded at least open to the idea in recent conversations, according to more than a dozen people who’ve spoken with him in the past month.

Allahpundit loves the traffic and the comments sections bursting into flame, Quin Hillyer loves the idea of multiple “Establishment” candidates beating each other up in the 2016 primaries, and the former Mitt Romney team probably loves the status that comes from being connected to a potential contender.

But whether you love Mitt Romney or hate him — and I think quite well of him — do we really need these monthly updates on how he feels about running for president again? Let us know when he decides! We don’t need regular readouts on his conversations with friends. “He put syrup from New Hampshire on his pancakes this morning, which I think is a key indicator.”

Separately, Romney’s enthusiastic fans are misreading the current warm feelings towards the former nominee. Right now, the vast majority of Republicans think Mitt Romney is a good man, a flawed candidate, and a man who would have been an exponentially better president than Barack Obama. The contrast with the current president, and his cavalcade of second-term failures, is what really drives conservatives who had some lingering doubts about Romney to intensely wish they could magically reverse 2012’s results.

If Mitt Romney runs in 2016, the moment he announces he’s running, a lot of that goodwill dissipates. At that point, Romney’s not the alternative to Barack Obama — a preferable alternative to every Republican. He’s the alternative to (possibly) Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum . . . In other words, Romney goes from the guy you wish had won to the guy who could beat one of the options you currently prefer or find intriguing.

Tags: Mitt Romney

We’re Now in ‘The Guy Is Toast’ Territory for Rolling Stone


Quite a few folks enjoyed this section of the Morning Jolt today:

The Rolling Stone University of Virginia Story Explodes

Gentlemen, start your lawyers.

In their first interviews about the events of that September 2012 night, the three friends separately told The Post that their recollections of the encounter diverge from how Rolling Stone portrayed the incident in a story about Jackie’s alleged gang rape at a U-Va. fraternity. The interviews also provide a richer account of Jackie’s interactions immediately after the alleged attack, and suggest that the friends are skeptical of her account.

“Diverge” is a gentle word, considering the circumstances:

They said there are mounting inconsistencies with the original narrative in the magazine. The students also expressed suspicions about Jackie’s allegations from that night. They said the name she provided as that of her date did not match anyone at the university, and U-Va. officials confirmed to The Post that no one by that name has attended the school.

Since Friday, the question on lots of minds has been whether the account of the victim in Rolling Stone was a gross exaggeration of a genuine but less dramatic traumatic event or a wholesale hoax.

Here’s where things get really problematic for our victim:

And photographs that were texted to one of the friends showing her date that night actually were pictures depicting one of Jackie’s high-school classmates in Northern Virginia. That man, now a junior at a university in another state, confirmed that the photographs are of him and said he barely knew Jackie and hasn’t been to Charlottesville for at least six years.

Here’s where things get really, really problematic for Rolling Stone:

The friends said they never were contacted or interviewed by the pop culture magazine’s reporters or editors. Though vilified in the article as coldly indifferent to Jackie’s ordeal, the students said they cared deeply about their friend’s well-being and safety. Randall said that they made every effort to help Jackie that night.

How in the name of Tawana Brawley can Rolling Stone quote people without contacting them?

Shattered Glass is a pretty good film depicting the real-life tale of The New Republic’s serial fabulist, Stephen Glass. Adam Penenberg, the reporter who ultimately exposed the lies, lays out the twists and turns of the investigation in a great personal essay here. There’s a moment during Penenberg’s first confrontation with Glass, in front of both men’s editors, where it becomes clear that Glass’s story cannot possibly be true. Penenberg whispers, “The guy is toast.”

We’re now in “the guy is toast” territory for Rolling Stone.

Here’s where Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely may be getting into Stephen Glass/Jayson Blair territory:

The Rolling Stone article also said that Randall declined to be interviewed, “citing his loyalty to his own frat.” He told The Post that he never was contacted by Rolling Stone and would have agreed to an interview. The article’s writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, did not respond to requests for comment this week.

We have now veered past shoddy journalism to writing things that didn’t happen. The only scenario in which Erdely isn’t putting words in people’s mouths is if the victim — do we refer to her as an alleged victim now? — sent e-mails on behalf of Randall and her friends, i.e., an elaborate hoax that involves impersonating other people.

Here’s the one piece of evidence contending the victim’s story is not made up out of whole cloth:

“She had very clearly just experienced a horrific trauma,” Randall said. “I had never seen anybody acting like she was on that night before and I really hope I never have to again. . . . If she was acting on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, then she deserves an Oscar.”

By the way, here’s the University president, Teresa Sullivan:

On Greek life, Sullivan said she is working “collaboratively” with fraternity leaders. “The students have brought forward some great ideas,” she said. But she said a suspension of social activities would remain in place until Jan. 9.

One extremely dubious allegation in a national magazine prompted the suspension of all Greek activities for the semester. They’re teaching those kids a lesson — unfortunately it’s a lesson about collective punishment and modern academia’s increasing lack of interest in the rights of the accused.

Ace observes: “It’s an interesting, and I’m sure entirely unrelated, quirk of history that Sabrina Rubin Erdley was a colleague of Steven Glass’ on the Daily Pennsylvanian newspaper. Both were UPenn, Class of ’94.”

Tags: Media , Rolling Stone , University of Virginia

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Making the NSA Jealous


Ernest Istook kindly mentions my book in his Washington Times column today:

Truth is stranger than fiction in Washington D.C. Every satire about government has a real-life counterpart. Much like the runaway bureaucracy in a great recent novel, President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is growing like a weed, while CFPB officials are busy snooping on our household finances.

In “The Weed Agency,” Jim Geraghty of National Review spins the tale of the fictitious Agency of Invasive Species within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Created by Jimmy Carter to protect America from weeds, the tiny agency hires bureaucrats who create their own empire with mega-budgets, bloated payrolls and make-believe accomplishments. They interact, Forrest Gump-style, with genuine Washington personalities and events.

The novel works because its comic fiction sounds like truth — a federal agency devoted to protecting us from weeds. Its counterpart is a real-life runaway agency, the still-new Consumer Financial Protection [Bureau]. The board’s charge is to protect consumers from greedy businesses (a term treated as meaning any business).

My fictional master bureaucrat would envy the CFPB’s funding system:

Rather than having to ask Congress for money, the CFPB siphons off part of the Federal Reserve System’s earnings before they are deposited in the U.S. Treasury. The agency’s spending has accelerated like a dragster, from $161.8 million in FY 2011 to $583.4 million for FY 2015.

Here’s an easy slam-dunk for congressional Republicans next year: Repeal the law funding the CFPB through the Federal Reserve and make it part of the traditional appropriations process. Make Obama veto it.

Also, if America is wary of the amount of personal data the NSA is collecting on them, how do they feel about the CFPB becoming a functional backup system?

In the name of protecting us, the CFPB also snoops on us. First it purchased millions of individual credit histories. Now it is establishing, in tandem with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, a “National Mortgage Database Program” to help regulators “better understand” consumer finance.

According to the Federal Register, this massive database will cover home mortgages going back to 1998 and include your name, address, telephone numbers, birth date, race/ethnicity, gender, language, religion, Social Security number, education records, military records, employment records, bank account numbers and balances, your financial history, recent events in your life, your other assets, mortgage details, credit card balance and payments, details about who lives in your household, the size of your home, number of bedrooms, etc., and even the name of your neighborhood, among other personal data.

The bureaucrats assure us that this treasure trove of personal information is safe from hacking and theft by identity thieves. That puts the CFPB on equal footing with Sony, Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, the U.S. Postal Service, the Veterans Administration and all the others who claimed their titanic data systems would never hit an iceberg.

At some point the NSA will get jealous of the CFPB’s ability to gather data on Americans.

The same administration that introduced a “Privacy Bill of Rights to Protect Consumers Online” is also collecting tons of information on you . . . in order to protect you from violations of your privacy.

Tags: NSA , Consumer Financial Protection Bureau , Ernest Istook

Wrong Subsidy Payments Mean 2015 Tax Season Will Be a ‘Disaster’


From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obamacare: The ‘Success’ Story Continues

An Obama supporter takes to the Washington Post to lay out how the promises of the Affordable Care Act just weren’t kept:

“If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance — this law will only make it more secure and more affordable,” President Obama promised in 2012.

The fact that this wasn’t true would be our biggest disappointment. In November 2013, Jim learned his small-business policy would be canceled because it didn’t comply with the new mandate to cover pediatric dentistry and maternity care. So Jim went to Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, to look for coverage for his employee and himself.

He found that the cost of his employee’s individual “bronze” plan monthly premiums went up 13 percent, and that his own new individual “silver” plan was also more expensive. In 2014, Jim was individually paying $82 more a month in premiums. The deductible (the amount you have to pay before the insurance company starts footing the bill) did go down — from $5,000 to $2,000 for each individual insured. But if you added together 12 months of premiums, the deductible, and the new policies’ out-of-pocket maximums, we were potentially on the hook for $13,260 — rather than the $11,024 from 2013 — if Jim got very sick.

She details having to change doctors because they weren’t accepting their new insurance – remember “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”? – and the outlook for the future is pretty grim:

What Obamacare hasn’t eliminated is worry: We’re deeply concerned about our ability to get quality medical care from doctors we trust. The day may soon come when we can’t afford the plans our doctors accept, or we’ll have to wait hours to seen. Will the best doctors flock to a cash-only model? How long can a good doctor be satisfied with the $39.75 the insurance company paid her for my annual check up a few months ago?

We had thought that our work and businesses had paid us enough to live on in these older years — but we’re discovering we didn’t account for such dramatic increases in health care costs. Medical expenses already gobble up 20 percent of our income. In 2015, if we keep the same plans, our premiums will rise $95 a month. We have no choice to opt out of the required pediatric dentistry or maternity coverage we’ll never use, so we’ll eventually have to settle for less generous policies, with higher deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

Just wait until they get their tax bill for next year!

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was head of the CBO from 2003 to 2005 and is currently president of the American Action Forum, said Dec. 5 that the Affordable Care Act’s subsidy payments made for 2014 are unlikely to have been accurate, which means some people will have to reimburse the government for over-payments. Holtz-Eakin spoke at a forum sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research on what the next Republican Congress will do on health care.

The 2015 tax filing season “is going to be a disaster,” he warned, adding that the result may be more traction in Congress for major changes to the law.

At least enrollment is okay, right?

May 1:

The latest enrollment data filled out the demographic small print that was lacking in President Barack Obama’s mid-April announcement that enrollment in the exchanges had passed 8 million — exceeding goals and expectations for an open enrollment season that got off to a disastrous start.

When no one was paying attention, enrollment dropped 16 percent.

CNBC today:

Just before open enrollment began, there were about 6.7 million people enrolled in Obamacare plans nationally.

HHS overcounted . . . twice.

Tags: Obamacare , Taxes

Gruber Showcases Democrats’ Own ‘47 Percent’ Philosophy


From the midweek Morning Jolt:

Gruber Offers a Look at Democrats’ Own ‘47 Percent’ Philosophy

Take a good look, America. If you can’t stand that smug twerp Jonathan Gruber, refusing to tell you directly about how much money he’s made from his contracts with the White House and state governments even when questioned under oath . . . you have to realize this is perfectly fine with the philosophies of Barack Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. This is not some bolt out of the blue, some unbelievable turn of events causing things to go wrong in progressive liberal governance.

The only thing that really went “wrong” in their mind is that Gruber was particularly explicit and publicly stated their shared contempt for voters, voters’ facile understanding of Obamacare and their naïve belief in the promises used to sell it.

Americans, you got really upset about Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment. It’s understandable; you figured that the candidate was saying something nice about the voters as a whole when in public, and writing off a lot of voters as hopeless and hapless when behind closed doors.

That is exactly what Jonathan Gruber did. Over and over again.

“It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter,” Gruber said at the Honors Colloquium 2012 at the University of Rhode Island.

At the University of Pennsylvania in 2013 (which you can see here), Gruber said, “If you had a law which said healthy people are going to pay in — if you made it explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed, OK? Just like how people — transparent — lack of transparency is a huge advantage. And basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever. But basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

At Washington University at St. Louis in 2013, Gruber said, “they proposed it and that passed, because the American people are too stupid to understand the difference.”

This is not a gaffe. This is not a “speak-o,” as he called one of his earlier statements that later proved deeply inconvenient to the Obama administration’s legal arguments. This is who the guy is. And the only thing unique about Gruber is that he says out loud, and in public, what most elected Democrats think.

Stop buying what they claim about how they care about the little guy.

Somehow, Jonathan Gruber had the cojones to claim you’re not entitled to know how much he had been paid by taxpayers.

“Gruber testified and did not disclose he was being paid by the Obama administration. That is deception at its highest form,” yelled Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). “Give me a dollar amount. You’re not going to answer the question? You’re under oath and you’re not going to answer the question.”

Gruber, consulting with someone in the audience at least twice, said his written financial disclosure was a matter committee staff should broach with his legal team.

“I’ve been informed by counsel that my disclosure is in compliance with the House committee rules,” Gruber said.

Another member of the committee, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), called for a subpoena to get documents related to Gruber’s contract work.

“We only received $100,000 in disclosures, which were three grants,” Issa said. “In other words, the gentleman’s disclosure is incomplete.”

Gruber replied that he was only required to provide details from this fiscal year and the previous two.

When a guy won’t tell you how much he’s being paid by state agencies, it’s because the number is really embarrassing to somebody.

Tags: Jonathan Gruber

Todd’s Book: Reid Encouraged Obama, Hillary to Leave the Senate


If you’ve ever wondered why the Democratic congressional leadership is so old, and why the party is led by so many figures whose biggest distinguishing characteristic is that they’ve been in Washington for a long time, this passage from Chuck Todd’s The Stranger illuminates a lot:

Initially [Hillary] Clinton was skeptical of taking the job in Foggy Bottom. She would be working for someone else, executing his policies, and leaving behind a Senate career that still had promise. There were moments when Clinton saw herself as the logical successor to Ted Kennedy, the next liberal lion of the Senate. But Obama’s appeal to her sense of patriotism was a strong pitch. And behind the scenes, Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, was making another thing clear: the Senate still worked on a hierarchical system, and a junior senator with little more than a single term under her belt shouldn’t be comparing herself to Ted Kennedy just yet. Reid had no interest in seeing Hillary become the biggest star in his Senate. Such were the ironies of Washington: it was easier for Barack Obama to become president than to become leader of the Senate, and easier for Hillary Clinton to enter the cabinet than to somehow take over running the Senate, or even step into leadership.

So Clinton would have returned to the Senate much as she’d left it — as a senator who made headlines but who had little real power in the committee system, not exactly a backbencher but somewhere in the middle, and certainly not someone who had any real chance of climbing the leadership ladder, especially not when Reid and Clinton’s senior colleague, New York’s Chuck Schumer, were still around. Without a piece of actual Senate real estate to run, she would be relegated to become either a White House Senate ally or one of its chief critics in order to fulfill her own ambitions. Leaving the Senate started to have a lot more appeal.

The Democratic Senate leadership in January 2009: Majority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Majority Leader/Majority Whip Richard Durbin, Conference Vice Chairman Chuck Schumer, Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan, and Chief Deputy Whip Barbara Boxer.

Starting in the next Congress, the leaders of the Democrats in the Senate will be . . . Minority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Minority Leader/Minority Whip Richard Durbin, Conference Vice Chairman Chuck Schumer, who will also be the policy committee chairman, and Chief Deputy Whip Barbara Boxer.

Sure, the Senate has operated on seniority for a long time, and it’s easiest to build relationships with the rest of the caucus if you’ve served a long while. But with leadership posts in the Senate so dominated by the greybeards, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see first-term senators running for president. This cycle we may get Senator Rand Paul, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz, and perhaps Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Why do so many senators look in the mirror and see a potential president staring back at them? Because they can’t see a potential majority leader in the reflection.

Tags: Harry Reid , Chuck Todd , Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton

Did ‘Narrative Journalism’ Help Ferguson Store Owners or UVA Women?


From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

‘Narrative Journalism,’ Leaving Wreckage, Pain and Tragedy in Its Wake

I appeared on “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren last night, discussing my contention that “narrative journalism” ends up hurting the causes it claims to support. I’m not so sure how well I laid out my points in the limited time, so if you saw it, pretend I said this instead . . . 

What makes “narrative journalism” different from, say, factual journalism is that narrative journalism is determined to tell you a very simple, one-sided morality tale with a hero and a villain, or a victim and a villain.

Trayvon Martin was a good kid walking home with Skittles, and George Zimmerman was Yosemite Sam.

Michael Brown was a “gentle giant” and Darren Wilson was a racist, trigger-happy cop.

The Rolling Stone story featured a young girl and these monsters at a fraternity, and those callous, heartless university administrators.

And anything that gets in the way of that narrative gets ignored or downplayed. And the audience or readership comes to believe that this is a slam dunk, that it’s obvious what happened.

The difference is that life isn’t a one-sided narrative. At some point, that other side of the story either comes to light or impacts events. Inside a jury room, all of those contrary pieces of evidence get aired. Grand jurors see a very different story than the folks who watch Al Sharpton’s show. And thus they come to a decision that to that audience is absolutely unthinkable.

(Is this what happened in the Garner case on Staten Island? Perhaps. But because anyone can see what happened at the time on video, the public at large may be more skeptical of the grand jury’s decision to not indict.)

The Rolling Stone article portrayed University of Virginia administrators as unbelievably unconcerned about a series of organized ritualistic gang rapes by fraternities. Doesn’t that look a little different now? If indeed the victim’s story has changed and doesn’t align with available evidence, doesn’t the fact that no one has been arrested make a little more sense?

By the way, in the middle of what is indisputably a shoddy piece of journalistic work, that Rolling Stone article raises a key question that’s being echoed left, right, and center, and probably deserves more discussion: Why on earth are universities being trusted to investigate and prosecute major crimes like rape?

Like many schools, UVA has taken to emphasizing that in matters of sexual assault, it caters to victim choice. “If students feel that we are forcing them into a criminal or disciplinary process that they don’t want to be part of, frankly, we’d be concerned that we would get fewer reports,” says associate VP for student affairs Susan Davis. Which in theory makes sense: Being forced into an unwanted choice is a sensitive point for the victims. But in practice, that utter lack of guidance can be counterproductive to a 19-year-old so traumatized as Jackie was that she was contemplating suicide. Setting aside for a moment the absurdity of a school offering to handle the investigation and adjudication of a felony sex crime — something Title IX requires, but which no university on Earth is equipped to do — the sheer menu of choices, paired with the reassurance that any choice is the right one, often has the end result of coddling the victim into doing nothing.

I’m sure MSNBC would tell you their “narrative journalism” was meant to serve the interests of the African-Americans in Ferguson . . . and then some members of that community had their businesses looted and burned down. Rolling Stone would tell you their “narrative journalism” was meant to serve the interests of young women at the University of Virginia . . . and now those women will probably encounter even greater skepticism and doubt after reporting a sexual assault.

Tags: Journalism , Media , Ferguson , Higher Education

If You’re Not Getting Your Morning Jolt . . .


The folks who understand the technical side of NRO’s newsletter operation* inform me that we’re making some changes to the Rube Goldberg–designed system of pipes and pneumatic tubes used to distribute the Morning Jolt, Goldberg File, and our other newsletters.

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Tags: Morning Jolt

The Latest Potential GOP 2016 Candidate Is . . . Bill Haslam?


Joshua Clinton and John Geer, two Vanderbilt University professors, make the case that Republicans should consider Tennessee governor Bill Haslam as a presidential contender:

Gov. Bill Haslam, may well become an increasingly visible part of these presidential sweepstakes. The November 2014 Vanderbilt Poll suggests why this may be the case. According to our data, Gov. Haslam stands at 70 percent approval among registered voters in the state. This is a very high number. Politicians, in fact, dream about such approval numbers…

Among self-identified Democrats in our recent poll, he garners 57 percent approval — numbers that most Democratic governors would relish! Such approval from members of the opposition party is quite amazing in this era of polarized politics — especially because this support has not cost Haslam the backing of his base. Consider that 76 percent of self-identified tea partiers approve of the job the governor is doing.

Of course, a successful presidential bid requires more than just high approval numbers in a candidate’s home state. Ask Rick Perry.

The governor told The Tennessean newspaper that he’s tougher than his “nice guy” image suggests:

The national political magazine labeled him the “anti-Christie,” in comparison to outgoing RGA leader and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and questioned whether he was “too nice” to lead the organization.

Haslam laughed when asked about the article, saying that Christie “had an opinion about that,” although he didn’t elaborate. Haslam acknowledged he doesn’t go out of his way to find political battles, but said he isn’t scared of them.

“I don’t go looking for a fight just to have a fight. And again, I don’t think that produces anything,” Haslam said. “But if there is a hard decision to make, I think we have shown we can make those.”

“If there’s something to be gained by drawing a line, you draw a line. But you don’t draw a line just to draw one.”

Here’s a recent video of Haslam touting his state’s economic momentum:

The problems for Haslam are the same ones facing Ohio Rob Portman, who recently chose to not run for president. The 2016 Republican field appears set to have a bunch of big names with large personalities, large fundraising bases, distinct national profiles and the beginnings of a national organization: Probably former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Dr. Ben Carson, perhaps Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Ohio Gov. John Kasich… And then there’s possibly Mitt Romney coming back.

Even if half that list chooses not to run, the 2016 Republican primary voters are going to be looking at a crowded debate stage. If you’re not a really charismatic, standout figure with a unique ability to win people over, you’re going to get lost on that stage.



Tags: Bill Haslam , 2016

Democrats Can Reveal Their Loathing of the South Again


Michael Tomasky responds to Mary Landrieu’s defeat in Louisiana by assuring Democrats that they don’t need to win anywhere in “almost the entire South” because “practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment.”

Because if we’ve seen anything in the news lately from Berkeley, Calif., Ferguson, Mo., and New York City, it’s that the rest of the country doesn’t have much “choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment.”

He goes on to argue that Democrats might need Florida.

And Virginia.

And perhaps North Carolina.

And he’s optimistic about what the demographic changes in Georgia and Texas mean for Democrats.

But other than that!

The question will be whether, in two, four, or six years, Tomasky resists the siren call of the Democrats’ Great Rural Hope candidates. Because right now, after Democrats have lost in the Southern states, Tomasky and his friends can and will dismiss them as irredeemable racist backwaters full of violence, hatred, and poverty. (Wait, weren’t the Democrats the compassionate ones, who cared about the impoverished?)

In another two years, we’ll probably get another crop of Democratic Great Rural Hope candidates, posing in their pink sneakers and cowboy boots: Another Wendy Davis, another Alison Lundergan Grimes, another Jim Webb, another John Edwards. And then Tomasky’s denunciation of the region will be forgotten. All of the political press in New York and Washington will journey to the South and write their glowing profile pieces about how these new moderate, sensible, populist Democrats can win in Republican-leaning states.

Tags: Mary Landrieu , South , Democrats

Obama, Holder, and de Blasio, Still Trying to Pose Like Outsiders


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Obama, Holder, and de Blasio, Still Trying to Pose Like Outsiders

The Great Rush Limbaugh discussed one of last week’s items on his show Friday, contemplating whether the progressive-leaning “narrative journalism” ultimately harms the causes it aims to advance — the notion being that one-sided, half-accurate-at-best storytelling gives its adherents a false sense of what’s actually going on and likely to happen:

You’ve been watching CNN and you are convinced that the Gentle Giant had his hands up and said “don’t shoot” and was trying to surrender, and then the grand jury and the facts come out and you are not prepared to deal with it because you have yet to hear the facts because you’ve been watching CNN, what do you do? It’s contrary to everything that you’ve been told. So what do you do? You get mad. You get ticked off. And Geraghty’s point is that the left is actually hurting their own causes.

I disagree with him on this, by the way. ‘Cause I think they want this chaos. I think they need all of this. They need to be victims. They need the perception to be that the government is a majority, white government stacked deck against African-Americans and Hispanics. They need that. That’s what fuels them. That’s what propels people to the polls. What is playing the race card on Election Day, what is playing the race card? It’s the same thing we’re getting here in so-called reporting out of Ferguson, or Staten Island with Eric Garner.

So the idea that they’re hurting their own cause, I mean, in one sense, yeah, they’re hurting their own cause because they’re not right, and it’s being vividly demonstrated that they’re not right. But they’re misleading. I mean, they don’t look good at the end of the day. And so — (interruption) well, I’m gonna get to that. I’m gonna get to that. But the only way that they can then survive being wrong is to place themselves as victims as well, victims of an unfair country, victims of unfair society.

The thing that nobody’s talking about in all this, the thing that really, really, really needs to be talked about here is what is all of this doing to our country? This is tearing up our country. This is tearing up our society and our culture. It is tearing it up. It is on the verge of destroying the things that provide order and respect. What they are doing is creating a bunch of people who are going to end up having no respect for anything or anybody or gonna be constantly, perpetually angry and on the verge of blowing up. They are destroying the fabric of our culture with this. And to what end?

I wouldn’t disagree too much with Rush on this, other than to point out that we may be reaching the point where the progressive Left’s interest in perpetual public outrage over claims of racially motivated police abuse is working against the interests of President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, incoming nominee Loretta Lynch, and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Because progressives like Obama, Holder/Lynch, and de Blasio are in charge now, ostensibly in charge of both police forces and the investigation of those police forces when there are allegations of abuse. If there are indeed horrific abuses of police power, targeting African-Americans, occurring like clockwork, and never with any serious consequence . . . all of this is happening on their watch.

You particularly have to wonder if the president likes hearing about violent protests against police in Berkeley, Manhattan, shutting down highways in Washington, Long Island and Miami and elsewhere. No one at those protests is chanting, “Way to go, Mr. President.” For Obama, we’re about to enter the seventh year of an eight-year presidency. It’s getting late. Walking into America’s poorer minority neighborhoods, are things significantly better or worse than they were on January 19, 2009, the day before Obama took office? Are the schools performing any better? Are there more job opportunities? Are there fewer people struggling with addiction? Are there clearer paths to success? Have the crime rates changed dramatically? Is the relationship between the citizens and the police forces any better?

Think about it. The Rodney King riots occurred in 1992, sharing a lot of similar elements of the Garner case — a group of white cops in a big city accused of violently mistreating a black man accused of a crime, caught on videotape. And other than wearable video cameras, a lot of the recommended solutions discussed today are the same ones discussed 22 years ago: more community outreach by police forces, recruitment of minority police officers, a review of police tactics and the amount of force appropriate when dealing with suspects . . . How long until we’re told it’s time for another “national conversation on race”?

We’ve seen it all before. Very little changes. At least in 1992, progressives could blame the problems on whites and conservatives in positions of authority. Progressivism, at least in the realm of electoral politics, tells the electorate, “you need us in charge so that outrages like this don’t happen.” Expect that right now, the progressives are already in charge.

Thus you end up with Mayor de Blasio offering pablum like this:

The problem of police-community relations and civil rights is not just an issue for people of color — or young people — or people who get stopped by police. This is a fundamental issue for every American who cares about justice.

All of us must work together to make this right — to work for justice — and to build the kind of city — and nation — we need to be.”

What do you mean, “all of us must work together to make this right”? How is this partially our fault? You and I were just sitting here, far from Staten Island, when it happened.

All of us out here have no authority over the New York City Police Department, its tactics and methods, its leadership, philosophies, and culture. You do, Mr. Mayor.

Tags: Barack Obama , Eric Holder , Bill de Blasio , Police

Cassidy Wins; GOP Now Holds All Statewide Offices in Louisiana


In one of the least surprising results of the 2014 election cycle, Republican Bill Cassidy won 55.9 percent of the vote to Senator Mary Landrieu’s 44.1 percent.

(This post could have been written in November.)

Landrieu may take some solace — perhaps several molecules’ worth — that she performed a few points better than the polls suggested she would. But otherwise, the Louisiana Democratic party is in the worst shape in recent memory:

Landrieu’s seat was the last to fall and now the GOP controls all U.S. Senate seats, governors offices and state legislatures in the Deep South. Cassidy is just the second Republican in Louisiana elected to the Senate since Reconstruction, the first being Sen. David Vitter in 2004.

Republicans now hold every statewide elected office in Louisiana. Landrieu’s seat has been a top priority for them since she was first elected in 1996. Each election she supposed to lose, yet she managed to pull out the victory. Except for Saturday, of course.

Republicans now control 54 seats in the U.S. Senate and have a modest cushion of four seats to keep control of Senate in the 2016 cycle.

Above: Senator Mary Landrieu, appearing with a political liability earlier in her term.

Tags: Bill Cassidy , Mary Landrieu

Rolling Stone and Its Objection to a Cultural Mix of Sex and Violence


You’ll forgive the shocking images in this post…


Expanding upon these Tweets…

Maybe performers like Lady Gaga, a show like “True Blood,” or a movie like “Grindhouse” are your cup of tea, maybe they aren’t. There’s a difference between fiction and non-fiction, and fantasy and reality. But if we really want to argue that the problem of rape on college campuses or anywhere else is not a matter of individual criminal acts but instead reflects a pervasive ”rape culture” — i.e., an atmosphere where nonconsensual sex isn’t considered criminal and wrong — then it’s very hard to contend that products in popular culture that depicts images that mix sex and violence have nothing to do with that culture. (I haven’t even gotten to Rolling Stone’s articles glamorizing musicians, rappers, and professional athletes accused of sexual assault.)

Of course, Rolling Stone doesn’t mind those sorts of images on the cover because they’re good for newsstand sales, they reinforce the editors’ self-perception that they’re shocking and edgy, and they upset “the squares.” For a magazine to unleash the hounds on an alleged “rape culture” at the University of Virginia, and then offer cover images of sexualized violence on a semi-regular basis suggests that their mentality towards this “rape culture” is that art contributing to those attitudes aren’t so bad as long as a celebrity does it.

After all, Rolling Stone raved about the video for “Turn Down for What.” I cannot write a content warning big enough for that one.

Tags: Media

It’s Been a Bad Couple of Years for Republics


I feel genuinely sad for the fans of The New Republic who see the institution changing suddenly, and seemingly for the worse, under new ownership. It sends a chill down a writer’s spine to hear about a chief executive who finds the product boring and who doesn’t like to read long articles, and it’s got to be gratuitously humiliating to read in another publication that you’ve been replaced as editor, and to have to call your boss to learn that the report is indeed true. You can learn a lot about someone from how they treat other people — maybe all you really need to know. Hopefully everybody over there lands on their feet, and they get a chance to create a new publication or adapt an existing one that restores the unique qualities that are being lost under the new regime.

For fans of TNR and its contributors, who feel like they’re watching a beloved institution with an unparalleled history and place in their lives get taken over by a bunch of irresponsible, arrogant, smug, habitually dishonest radicals with more money than good sense, who don’t appreciate the institution’s tradition, greatness, or place in history, who are convinced they know best, who disregard all criticism, ignore all warning signs, and are running the place into the ground . . . 

. . . millions of Americans know exactly how you feel.

Tags: Media

New Jersey Democrats: Oh, Hey, Christie Wasn’t Involved in the Lane Closures


This will be the big story on MSNBC for the next three weeks, right?

A report summarizing a yearlong investigation by the legislative panel examining the George Washington Bridge lane closures found no evidence of Governor Christie’s involvement but concluded that two of his allies acted “with perceived impunity” when they gridlocked Fort Lee’s streets apparently for political reasons.

The committee’s 136-page report, drawing off sworn testimony, private interviews and thousands of subpoenaed documents, also highlights the unsuccessful efforts by a now-shuttered arm of Christie’s office to court the Fort Lee mayor’s endorsement, finding that the closures were “motivated in part by political considerations.”

The attorney who prepared the report for the state legislature was Reid Schar, a former U.S. Attorney who was the lead prosecutor in both corruption trials of former Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois.

The lane closure was indeed a scandal, and some may argue that the fact that Christie’s staffers acted so maliciously and with such impunity reflects badly on his administration and judgment in the people he hires and trusts. But whether you love Christie or hate him, it’s hard to dispute that most of the media — particularly MSNBC’s obsessive coverage — tore his reputation to shreds based upon the faulty assumption that Christie had a hand in the lane closures.

Of course, Ahab will keep chasing his . . . wait, that metaphor could be perceived as a slam at Christie. Let’s just point out that New Jersey assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat, told CNN, “We are not done by any means.” He announced the beginning of his investigation of the matter back on October 2, 2013.

Tags: Chris Christie


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