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The Campaign Spot

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

The Hillary of 2016 Won’t Look Like the Hillary of 2008



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In Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’s new book about Hillary Clinton’s years at the U.S. State Department, HRC, the former secretary’s recent health troubles are mentioned:

At a follow-up examination later that month, doctors discovered that a blood clot had formed inside her skull, in a sinus cavity behind her ear. The clot could have killed her, or caused severe brain damage, if it had gone untreated. Hillary was immediately admitted to New York Presbyterian Hospital. She was placed on blood thinners and remained at the hospital for several days, so doctors could keep an eye on her . . . 

A few pages later:

The X factor [in a future presidential run] was Hillary’s health. Her concussion and the ensuing blood clot were no trifles. Friends who visited with her in the spring and summer of 2013 were struck by how relaxed she was but also how much older she looked after four years at State.

When people discuss the possibility of Hillary Clinton running for president in 2016, certain images come to mind, mostly images of her campaigning in 2007 and 2008. Here are some Facebook graphics from ReadyforHillary.com, an organization aiming to build grassroots support for a 2016 campaign:

Or the image on cover of HRC itself:

But her recent appearances indicate that the Hillary Clinton of 2016 won’t look like the Hillary Clinton of 2008; the aging mentioned by her friends is obvious:

An electorate that judges candidates, particularly female candidates, based upon appearances may not be fair, but it is reality and is likely to be a bigger deal because of those blood clots and genuine questions about the health of a woman who will be 69 on January 20, 2017.

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Another Round of Obamacare Train Wrecks



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Behold, America, the efficient and well-oiled machine that is our nation’s health-care system under Obamacare!

In Texas:

Sheila Lawless is the office manager at a small rheumatology practice in Wichita Falls, Texas, about two hours outside of Dallas. She makes sure everything in the office runs smoothly — scheduling patients, collecting payments, keeping the lights on. Recently she added another duty — incorporating the trickle of patients with insurance plans purchased on the new Affordable Care Act exchanges.

. . . It’s presented a major challenge: verifying that these patients have insurance. Each exchange patient has required the practice to spend an hour or more on the phone with the insurance company. “We’ve been on hold for an hour, an hour and 20, an hour and 45, been disconnected, have to call back again and repeat the process,” she explains. Those sorts of hold times add up fast.

A big issue is whether the patients have actually paid their first month’s premium; the New York Times reported earlier this month that “one in five people who signed up for health insurance under the new health care law failed to pay their premiums on time and therefore did not receive coverage in January,” citing insurance companies and industry experts.

In Illinois, workers’ hours are dropping dramatically — almost as if a new law had given employers a major incentive to have employees working less than 30 hours a week!

In fact, average work hours increased slightly in two of these sectors between 2008 and 2010. But all three sectors (retail trade, food and beverage, and general merchandise) saw dramatic reductions in average work hours after ObamaCare was enacted.

Illinois is far from a unique example. This disturbing trend is becoming more apparent nationally, as well.

Retail employment, which makes up almost one-tenth of the nation’s total nonfarm employment, is seeing similar reductions. In 12 of the 14 states including Illinois where average weekly hours worked are available, non-supervisor workers in the retail trade showed average annual declines in hours worked between 2011 and 2013. In fact, six states saw average hours worked fall to 30 hours or below for that sector.

In Hawaii, the state has spent roughly $27,000 per enrollment.

Yet four months after enrollments began, the Hawaii Health Connector has allocated $120 million while signing up only about 4,300 people for health plans — fewer than any other state. Despite officials’ initial hopes of enrolling tens of thousands of Hawaiians, only 400 employers have applied for plans for their employees.

Maryland looks on in envy at a barely used state exchange that generally works:

Maryland has fired the contractor that built its expensive online health insurance marketplace, which has so many structural defects that officials say the state might have to abandon all or parts of the system.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange voted late Sunday to terminate its $193 million contract with Noridian Healthcare Solutions.

But perhaps Maryland’s mess looks good compared to Oregon, where the accusations of lying are piling up:

Carolyn Lawson, the IT expert who tried and failed to build Oregon’s online insurance exchange, complained to an Oregon Health Authority official that she was forced to leave under false pretenses in an email uncovered by the On Your Side Investigators.

Lawson emailed OHA chief operating officer Suzanne Hoffman in January to complain that a reporter had been given her personal cell phone number, and asked that the state “allow me to move on with privacy and grace,” after one of the worst health-care-exchange website launches in the nation left her career in tatters.

“I have done everything I have been asked to do,” Lawson wrote. “I stuck to the talking points even though I protested . . . that they were not accurate. I walked away quietly when asked to resign. I wrote the resignation letter per the script I was given.”



KATU Investigators recently uncovered major accountability issues on Lawson’s watch, and former Republican state representative Patrick Sheehan told KATU earlier this month that he’d gone to the FBI with allegations Cover Oregon project managers initiated the design of dummy web pages to convince the federal government the project was further along than it actually was.

Sure, most Americans say the law hasn’t affected their lives yet. But among those who have, more say the impact is negative:

While most Americans (54 percent) continue to say they haven’t been impacted by the law one way or another, the share saying they’ve been negatively affected has inched up in recent months (29 percent in February, up from 23 percent last October) and continues to outpace the share saying they’ve personally benefited from the law (17 percent).

And evidence continues to mount that the uninsured have a remarkably resilient capacity to tune out news, information, and details of a massive, complicated piece of legislation that overhauled the entire health-care system in the name of helping them get insurance:

The vast majority of uninsured Americans do not know they must sign up for health insurance by March 31 or pay a fine, according to a new poll.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), in its monthly tracking survey, found that 76 percent of the uninsured are not aware of the looming sign-up deadline.

Tags: Obamacare

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Oh, CPAC. What Are We Going to Do With You?



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Oh, CPAC. What Are We Going to Do With You?

CPAC just wouldn’t be CPAC without some opening controversies, now would it?

Here’s the scoreboard:

Atheists: Previously invited, now disinvited. This was the somewhat surprising news Tuesday morning

American Atheists, an outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, will have a booth at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference.

The atheist institution, which is well known for its controversial billboards and media campaigns, informed CNN of its inclusion on Monday night, and a representative from CPAC confirmed that the group will have a booth at the annual national gathering of conservative leaders and activists in March. American Atheists hopes to use the forum to tap into the conservative movement and bring conservative atheists “out of the closet.”

And by Tuesday afternoon, CPAC had made the decision that the atheist group wouldn’t have a booth after all. Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for CPAC, said in a statement to CNN that “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.”

The rescinding of the invitation did not mitigate the anger of Brent Bozell, who declared, “no conservative should have anything to do with this conference.”

GOProud: Technically invited but disallowed from having a booth, an agreement that some former board members find to be a sad joke:

One of the founders of GOProud, a gay Republican organization, has resigned from the board after accusing the group’s new leadership of allowing themselves to be used as “stooges” by antigay conservatives.

Chris Barron, who helped create GOProud in 2009, condemned the current directors for touting an agreement that only allowed for limited GOProud participation at the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

In 2010 and 2011, GOProud, which bills itself as a conservative alternative to Log Cabin Republicans, served as a CPAC sponsor. But amid a strong pushback from conservatives who complained about the participation of the gay organization, the relationship splintered and GOProud was not invited back in 2012 and 2013.

The National Journal reported Wednesday that a compromise was reached to permit GOProud to attend this year’s Maryland conference March 6-8, though it would not be a sponsor or have a booth as it had in past years.

In an interview Thursday, Barron mocked the agreement, saying nothing had been achieved since GOProud members were allowed in 2012 and 2013 to attend the event though the organization had no official involvement.

“It’s completely and totally disingenuous to pawn off an unconditional surrender as a ‘compromise’” said Barron, who complained that he was not consulted about the decision as a board member.

Chris Christie: Attending. I don’t mind the invite, but this year’s invitation sure does conflict with the explanation for the lack of an invite last year:

New Jersey governor Chris Christie was not invited to address the Conservative Political Action Conference because of his position on gun control, according to a source familiar with CPAC’s internal deliberations who requested anonymity to speak freely.

Christie has a “limited future” in the national Republican party given his position on gun control, the source tells National Review Online. As a result, the CPAC insider says, the focus of this year’s conference, “the future of conservatism,” made Christie a bad fit.

Christie, the source adds, is simply not a conservative in the eyes of organizers.

So what’s changed since last year? Is Christie now better on Second Amendment issues? Is his future in the national Republican party brighter now?

Last year I wrote that the organizers of CPAC should sit down and try to get a clearer sense of what the purpose of the conference is. “Begin with the end in mind,” as Stephen Covey wrote. What headline does the American Conservative Union want coming out of three days of events? When attendees go home, they should say, “I’m really glad I went because [blank].” Now fill in the blank.

Is it meant to showcase the rising stars of the conservative movement? Or is part of the experience bringing out the “old favorites” like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich?

Is it meant to hash out policies, or is it more of a showcase for the most rousing, rah-rah speakers? After news broke that Donald Trump would be speaking, someone I respect declared that his appearance is “fun and entertaining. If anything, we’d be better off with more of that at CPAC and less debates on tax law.” I don’t know if it’s possible for me to disagree more strongly, but then again, I’m not in charge of persuading people to buy tickets to attend this shin-dig.

Kevin Eder: “Obviously, the real purpose of CPAC is to generate outraged headlines and tweets about CPAC.”

Tags: CPAC

Manufacturers President: 60 Million Americans Will Lose Employer-Sponsored Coverage (UPDATED)



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National Association of Manufacturers president Jay Timmon, in his annual State of Manufacturing address today in Houston, Texas:

The health care law isn’t supposed to affect manufacturers with fewer than 50 employees, but I know one who was affected. Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Dayton, Ohio, which only has 22 employees, saw a 21 percent increase in health care costs last year, and it’s projecting a 91 percent increase this year.

The company’s president made this very obvious statement: “The Affordable Care Act is far from affordable.”

If we don’t do something to fix the law, more than 60 million fewer American workers will have employer-sponsored coverage in 10 years. That will be the new reality for our workforce.

(UPDATE: NAM issued a correction Wednesday morning, suggesting a much lower figure of 6 to 7 million. See below.)

Assume for a moment that Timmon is overstating the impact and overestimating how many companies will choose to pay the fine and leave their employees to shop for insurance on the exchanges; let’s even say that he’s doubling the number of Americans who will lose their employer-sponsored insurance. That would still be an additional 30 million people losing their insurance — and in quite a few of those cases, those Americans probably like their plans and don’t want to change.

He continues:

The law, as implemented, will hurt manufacturers and their employees. Take, for instance, what you are facing in additional fees and costs over the next three years: $22.2 billion. That figure is simply added cost — it won’t get that mom on your assembly line one more pediatrician visit or one more prescription filled for your shop floor manager’s family.

The White House, of course, continues to insist that businesses aren’t suffering under the law:

UPDATE: This morning, NAM issues an epic correction:

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Senior Vice President of Communications Erin Streeter issued the following statement:

“Earlier today, the NAM stated the number of employees with employer-sponsored coverage who would lose plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act. That number should have been between 6 million and 7 million total between the years 2016 and 2024, according to the Congressional Budget Office.”

Tags: Obamacare , National Association of Manufacturers

Oh, Hey, Healthcare.gov’s Cloud Cost More Than Five Times the Original Estimate



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The president promised that Obamacare would bend the cost curve downward.

The cost curve for running the site is bending upward. Dramatically:

The cost of the computer cloud that supports back-end data sharing for HealthCare.gov and state Obamacare marketplaces grew to $60 million, more than five times its original value, by the time the troubled site was declared fully functional on Nov. 30, 2013, contracting documents show.

The government’s contract with Terremark, Verizon’s cloud division, had already quadrupled from $11 million when it was first awarded in 2011 to $46 million at the time of HealthCare.gov’s disastrous launch in October 2013. That included a $9 million adjustment just days before launch when testing revealed the cloud could only support 10,000 concurrent HealthCare.gov users rather than the expected 50,000.

CMS ordered an additional $15.2 worth of cloud services from Terramark between the launch date, when most users were unable to access key portions of the site, and Nov. 30, when officials declared the site was performing at an acceptable level, according to a justification for other than full and open competition document posted on Thursday.

Who could have seen this coming?

There are two compelling explanations for the exploding cost of the contract:

1) The Obama administration didn’t know what it was doing, and had no idea how much a project of this scale costs.

2)The Obama administration knew what it was doing, knew Congress and the public would find $60 million for a web site’s cloud data storage to be an exorbitant cost, and thus downplayed the costs until it was too late to do anything else.

Tags: Obamacare

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Pier-ing Into the Abyss of Cancellation



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A cheery start to the week in the Morning Jolt:

Pier-ing Into the Abyss of Cancellation

Charlie Cooke won’t have Piers Morgan to kick around for much longer. David Carr, media reporter for the New York Times:

There have been times when the CNN host Piers Morgan didn’t seem to like America very much — and American audiences have been more than willing to return the favor. Three years after taking over for Larry King, Mr. Morgan has seen the ratings for “Piers Morgan Live” hit some new lows, drawing a fraction of viewers compared with competitors at Fox News and MSNBC.

It’s been an unhappy collision between a British television personality who refuses to assimilate — the only football he cares about is round and his lectures on guns were rife with contempt — and a CNN audience that is intrinsically provincial. After all, the people who tune into a cable news network are, by their nature, deeply interested in America.

Hey, I’m a fairly big fan of foreign news when something dramatic is happening — what used to be CNN’s bread and butter — but it’s not like America doesn’t have enough interesting domestic news stories! The issue wasn’t that Morgan tried to cover British news to an American audience. The issue was that he kept communicating to an American audience why he thought their country was so bad.

CNN’s president, Jeffrey Zucker, has other problems, but none bigger than Mr. Morgan and his plum 9 p.m. time slot. Mr. Morgan said last week that he and Mr. Zucker had been talking about the show’s failure to connect and had decided to pull the plug, probably in March.

“Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarizing, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it,” he said. “That’s run its course and Jeff and I have been talking for some time about different ways of using me.”

Oh, it’s not the accent. Try Charlie Cooke in that time-slot and watch the audience eat up our Beatle.

And he’s up for it!:

This is the perfect moment for ‘Charles Cooke Live.’ . . . ProTip: You should actually like — and seek to understand — the country you talk to, and talk about, every evening.

That puts the finger on Morgan’s real problem. It’s pretty disingenuous for him to suggest that his show’s failure stems from Americans’ being naturally inclined to dislike, distrust, or be disinclined to watch those who hail from the British Isles. We go to James Bond movies, and hand out bunches of Oscars to British actors every year. I own a million T-Mobile phones just because Catherine Zeta Jones told me I should “get more.” Americans went ga-ga for the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, The Who, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, The Police, and the kids are going nuts for One Direction. Every kid these days grows up reading Harry Potter. We on the right revere Margaret Thatcher. Lots of Americans obsess over “Downton Abbey”; I obsess over “Coupling.” We who watch Fox News been conditioned to think of Stuart Varney’s voice as the most authoritative and trusted in economic matters. We’ve even forgiven the U.K. for the Spice Girls.

A few Jolts ago, I noted that every time I get asked, “Can you believe what Piers Morgan said?” my response is . . . 

“Yup.”

Was it something that suggested the Second Amendment shouldn’t exist, or that most gun owners were dangerous, unstable, and a menace? Yeah, he’s said that kind of stuff before. A lot of times, in fact. He’s gotten called out on it many, many times.

That’s just who Piers Morgan is. He’s not going to change.

And he never changed. Instead, viewers changed the channel.

You silly colonies.

Tags: CNN

How Do You Become One of the Richest 1 Percent?



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Doug Ross, among others, had thoughts on this section of yesterday’s Jolt — although I must strongly disagree with his characterization of Ana Marie Cox as inane and dimwitted . . . 

Let’s Get Real About the ‘One Percent’ and How They Got There

There’s a lot to disagree with in Ana Marie Cox’s piece contending the richest one percent are fighting class warfare against the rest of us. Perhaps no argument sticks out more than this point:

Both [billionaire Tom] Perkins and [economist Greg] Mankiw seem to think that the poor (or just the not-rich!) resent the wealthy simply because they have so much. They think we resent the number of zeros in their paychecks. Of course not. We resent that those zeros come out of ours.

Do the “zeros in their paychecks” come out of “our” paychecks?

Earlier this week, James Piereson, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, examined who makes up America’s richest “one percent” in the Wall Street Journal:

In 2010, the latest year for which we have complete data, roughly 119 million households filed tax returns with the IRS, leaving about 1.1 million households in the top 1% of the income distribution. A taxpayer needed a taxable income of $307,000 to enter the top 1% . . . 

According to research on individual tax returns in 2004 and 2005 by Jon Bakija of Williams College, Adam Cole of the Treasury Department and Bradley T. Heim of Indiana University, the top 1% consists primarily of salaried executives at nonfinancial businesses (30%) and secondarily of doctors (14%), people working in finance (13%) and lawyers (8%).

The lawyers among the super-rich get their money from their clients; their clients are always free to choose a cheaper lawyer. Those cheaper lawyers may not be as good, of course.

The doctors among the super-rich get their money from hospitals, patients, and insurers. No one seems to complain about rich doctors, though; when you’ve developed the skill to, say, reach into a person’s skull and brain and cut out tumors without cutting away anything they need, people generally think you’ve earned that big paycheck.

The richest professional athletes, musicians, and actors get their money from teams and tournaments, studios and television networks, record sales and DVD sales and apparel sales and all that. Again, everyone chooses to buy those products.

(Every product purchased in America is freely chosen, with one glaring exception: Health insurance now must be purchased to avoid paying the special taxes under Obamacare.)

There’s an argument to be made about CEO pay and golden parachutes, and how gargantuan pay packages and golden parachutes have pulled away and separated from a company’s performance. This has been a longtime bipartisan gripe; back in 2007 Robert Samuelson, no corporation-hating lefty, said the “the public pounding of CEOs for their lavish pay packages is amply justified.” Debra Saunders called it “the welfare state for CEOs.” In a time when the Great Recession plods on and on and much of the reduction in the unemployment rate is driven by people leaving the workforce, it’s not surprising that a perennial outrage would become more incendiary.

But even here, the outrage is strangely focused on particular figures.

The New York Times’s Steven Davidoff notes that Google chairman Eric Schmidt recently enjoyed a $100 million payday of restricted stock, with few cries or objections, compared to JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon’s $20 million payday. He notes, “Schmidt, by the way, was reported by Business Insider to have a “fabulous life” with a Gulfstream V, a 195-foot yacht and multiple homes across the country including a new $22 million Hollywood mansion.”

I don’t think the 11,500 employees at Gulfstream, the 338,526 workers in the boating industry, or the home builders of that Hollywood mansion are all that bothered by how Schmidt spends his money in his “fabulous life.” Even the greediest CEO helps create jobs in the industries that care to those wishes we find so ostentatious and absurd. To create more jobs, we actually need more conspicuous consumption, not less.

Cox gets closer to the real issue with this question:

The question on most people’s minds is simpler still, and yet somehow too difficult for the CEOs and their enablers to comprehend: Am I so expendable as to be worth such a small paycheck . . . or no paycheck at all?

The short, sad, hard and terrifying answer is basically, yes. More specifically, you are worth a paycheck that someone else is willing to pay, based upon what you do. If you can remove spleens, people will pay you more than if you paint, unless you’re one of those rare painters who creates works that lots of people want to buy. Notice this has little to with whether or not the painting is “good.” The question is whether someone will reach into their pocket and pull out money to buy it. If you accidentally spill paint on a canvas, it may resemble Jackson Pollack’s No. 5, 1948. That painting reportedly sold for $140 million; yours probably won’t.

I’ll make you a good copy for $10,000.

You are worth what someone is willing to pay you. All the protests in the world won’t change that basic fact, and a minimum-wage hike is a minuscule mitigation of that fact. A minimum-wage hike is the government requiring someone to pay you more as a form of building popularity. Your work has not actually increased in value to your employer, which is really how you earn more.

Something — be it an object or a service, such as a certain amount of time or labor — is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. This is a very hard lesson, and one that people will embrace considerable mental gymnastics to avoid learning.

We bought our house in 2007, as the housing bubble was bursting, and encountered quite a few people who claimed to want to sell their house, but only at that fantastically high number that Zillow.com had given them. Of course, that number was based upon the peak prices of the bubble. Nobody was willing to pay that price, but the alleged sellers weren’t willing to come to terms with that fact. That’s how you see properties on the market for months and months, punctuated by a price reduction of $5,000 or $10,000, followed by more months of no offers.

But for all of my bone-picking, Ana Marie Cox hits on something with this sentence:

Because the wealth of the super-rich is just so damn far away, without any rungs in the ladder between, no assistance for that leap of faith that allows those who struggle to hope their struggles can cease.

This puts the finger on the real problem: a lack of opportunity for advancement to higher levels of income in our modern economy. People don’t worry about how much the rich guy has if they think they can be the rich guy some day. Sadly, way too many Americans look at their current prospects and think the only way they’ll ever enjoy a better life is to win the lottery.

You’ve heard the argument that the lottery is a tax on the stupid, correct? Elsewhere at the Guardian, a columnist argues that the poor play “the lotto because it is one of the only legal opportunities available to them to become rich.” To get rich quickly, yes. But most of America’s rich did not get rich quickly.

How can you become rich in this country? Three avenues are the most common*: have exceptional talent in one of those avenues of the performing arts or athletics, start a business that succeeds wildly, or become skilled in medicine, law, or finance.

Go back to that list of top professions in the richest one percent – business owners, doctors, lawyers, and executives. Those require medical school, law school, and in many cases, an MBA. That’s a commitment of several years, hard work, and additional costs of education. If you don’t study hard, you flunk the medical boards or the bar exam. If you don’t work hard, you don’t get the billable hours and make partner or succeed in your residency. When you see someone wealthy in their 30s and 40s, it’s largely a result of the decisions they made in their teens and 20s.

In short, the folks making those one percent salaries put in more work to get there. And once they’re in the top one percent, they don’t slack off much. This study by the New York Times, from 2012, found that the richest one percent work longer hours, being three times more likely than the 99 percent to work more than 50 hours a week, and are more likely to be self-employed.

Yes, the richest one percent have some genetic advantages in terms of intelligence. Yes, luck can be a factor. Yes, it helps to have connections. But the portion of the one percent who didn’t work hard to get there is fairly small and unrepresentative. (In 2007, wealth transfers (mainly inheritances, but also including gifts) made up, on average, 14.7 percent of the total wealth of the 1 percent.)

* Separate from the path to becoming super-rich, there are a lot of professions that make a pretty good annual salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2012, air-traffic controllers had a mean (average) annual wage of $118,430. Other average wages from the BLS data:

Petroleum engineers: $147,470

Actuaries: $106,680

Aerospace engineers: $104,810

Midwives: $91,070

Sales representatives for technical and scientific products: $85,690

Elevator installer or repairman: $74,140

Dental Hygienists: $70,700

Boilermakers: $55,830

Plumbers: $52,950

The key is that all of these professions require years of study to become qualified to do that work.

Tags: Economics , Jobs , Income Inequality

American Foreign Policy Has Gone on an Extended Hiatus



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Today’s Morning Jolt launches with this . . . 

American Foreign Policy Has Gone on an Extended Hiatus

One of the all-time “dang, I wish I had written that” essays:

Earlier this month while visiting Monticello with a French delegation that included socialist President François Hollande, President Obama was caught in a moment joking about breaking protocol to view the grounds, quipping, “That’s the good thing as a President, I can do whatever I want.” Forget the enormity of the irony; an American President joking at Thomas Jefferson’s home that rules don’t apply to him and give Obama the benefit of the doubt that this was just a casual line.

It was no different than a line Michael Douglas would say in The American President or Kevin Kline in Dave or Martin Sheen in The West Wing, and that’s exactly the point. Obama has become a President of good lines from movies but unable to act like a very real leader.

The reason for the uproar over comments like this from this President is because he never wastes an opportunity to show just how right the absurdness of the social media noise machine is. When Obama jokes about being able to do whatever he wants, then turns around and hits an HBO producer up at a State Dinner for advanced copies of television shows to get him through an extended weekend, how are we as a desperate electorate supposed to react? We tolerate the luxuries afforded to our leaders. Just don’t be a d*** about it.

How is a world currently engulfed in flames of revolution supposed to react?

The problem for a President who makes any excuse to hit up a golf course or admits to watching tons of HBO is there are still events in the world happening outside his windows. People are desperate for American leadership and can’t wait for the killer on True Detective to be revealed.

Nobody in Kiev is interested in the fallout of the Red Wedding.

Nobody in Venezuela cares about the fate of Zoe Barnes . . . 

At the height of violence that erupted with both protests this past weekend, where was he? Hosting a Hollywood premiere style party for #GeorgeClooney and cast of his film #TheMonumentsMen, in private at the White House, simply because he could. Right now in Kiev, historical statues and art are being burned in front of the world. He was content to remain silent and watch a movie about it happening instead. The real world does not interest this President. The set design does.

That essay is so darn good, there’s only a point or two left for me to add. First, particularly on foreign policy, Obama is done. Maybe he gets a trade deal, maybe he doesn’t. Sooner or later the last troops leave Afghanistan, and if the place falls apart like Iraq, with al-Qaeda flags flying over cities, well, that’s their problem. Pivot to Asia? Pshhhht. We don’t even put much effort into our old alliances anymore. The U.K. said they wouldn’t stick with us in any conflict in Syria; we don’t worry about antagonizing the Canadians over Keystone. The Benghazi killers still walk freely.

You can tell what’s important to the president by what he spends his time on, and what issues he returns to again and again. Obama really wants an immigration deal and to preserve Obamacare, and that’s about it. He doesn’t want to touch entitlement reform with a ten-foot pole. He’ll talk about global warming, but he knows the votes aren’t there for it and it’s more useful as a talking point. The deficit has shrunk from the worst ever to the fifth-worst ever, so as far as he’s concerned, the budget is fixed. Year of action? Whatever. The House isn’t getting any more cooperative before January 2017.

While we as Americans may really want to tune out the world, life goes on out there, and on a lot of fronts, it’s getting worse. Sooner or later, that translates into trouble on our shores. It may not come in the form of a hijacked airliner next time. Maybe it comes in the form of Chinese and Japanese navies trading fire over a misunderstanding and a resulting economic panic. Maybe it comes in the form of an Iranian nuclear test, but the Iranians will probably just want to drag out negotiations as long as possible to get as far along as possible before revealing they’ve got the bomb. Maybe Syria’s civil war really spreads to Lebanon, Iraq or even Jordan and Turkey in ways that endanger the governments of those countries. Maybe the nut-job running North Korea gets too provocative for anyone to ignore. Maybe it’s a cyber-attack.

Right now, the regimes in Venezuela and Ukraine are cracking down on uprisings, and the reaction from Washington alternates between pro forma denunciations and not much of anything. The world noticed. The world is reacting.

This is why the president gets the level of grief for golf, the movie screenings, and so on. He’s not doing that well at the basics of the job, and the White House wants us to believe everything’s running smoothly.

Tags: Ukraine , Venezuela , Barack Obama

Is This Guy America’s Most Arrogant State Lawmaker?



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Also in today’s Jolt:

A Strong Nominee for the Title of America’s Most Arrogant State Lawmaker

Sure, some of the complaints about Common Core can get overwrought. But Common Core advocates have dismissed parents’ concerns with stunning contempt and arrogance. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sneering about “white suburban moms” was bad enough, but now Duane Lester brings our attention to an even more astounding act of lawmaker condescension and disdain:

[The Missouri] House Appropriations – Education Committee Chairman Mike Lair, R-Chillicothe, found $8 to address a pressing problem. The money is to be used “for two rolls of high density aluminum to create headgear designed to deflect drone and/or black helicopter mind reading and control technology.”

On the summary sheet handed out to lawmakers, the money is slated for “tin foil hats” and was tied to an amendment removing language barring the state from accepting federal grants to implement Common Core standards for public schools.

“If you can’t deal with folks with logic, you use humor,” he said. “This is to stop all the problems from the black helicopters and drones. This is high density foil.”

Take your tin foil and stick it where the sun don’t shine, Chairman Lair.

There are a lot of objections to Common Core, coming from a lot more corners than the conspiracy theorists. If you don’t like Glenn Beck, there’s plenty of Republican state lawmakers. If they’re too righty for you, there’s skepticism and complaints from the NEA, liberal education-reform groups, teacher complaints about the lesson plans, parents of every political stripe . . . Even if you’re a big fan of Common Core, you have to recognize that arrogant dismissal and mockery like Lair’s actions do nothing to reassure skeptical parents and teachers.

Duane helpfully provides a last detail:

UPDATE: James Harris, a family member and supporter of Lair writes in:

Regrettably, his attempt of a joke has spun out of control on social media by some who thought he meant to criticize them, which is not want he meant.

Yesterday, my father in law, Rep. Mike Lair inserted a line item into the Education Appropriations bill for tin foil hats as a humorous statement on a fellow lawmaker’s bill. Rep. Kurt Bahr sponsored HB1490, which would prohibit schools from adopting any Common Core standards and, further, would require the General Assembly to approve any statewide education standards.

Members of the House took it in the spirit it was meant; as something to inject levity into a conversation which has gone past the point of logic and veered well into assumption. It was in that spirit that other members of the House jokingly wrapped his desk in tin foil.

This is true; Abram Messer, executive director of Missouri Family Network, Tweeted out a photo of the tin-foil-wrapped desk.

Harris continues:

Mike had been a history teacher and always has used humor to get people to focus and get to the root of an issue.

Mike has attempted to deal with this issue using logic and research, filing HB1157 (which would protect data gathered from Common Core, ensuring student data would be secure) and HB1158 (which would prevent DESE from mandating curriculum or textbooks at the local level, ensuring local school boards’ power is not infringed upon) to address the two main concerns with Common Core in a logical, pragmatic manner.

Mike supports vouchers, Right to Work, numerous tax cut measures, sponsored 2nd Amendment measures and every tort/civil liability effort. He is consistently ranked as one of the most conservative members.

I understand that you were not in Missouri and did not speak with Mike, so I believe calling him arrogant is inappropriate. Mike is conservative and merely trying to get people to laugh so they could get back to the discussion.

There’s a very simple way to ensure that no one thinks you’ve compared Common Core opponents to tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists: Don’t insert language for “two rolls of high-density aluminum to create headgear designed to deflect drone and/or black helicopter mind reading and control technology” to an amendment restricting Common Core in your education-funding proposal.

Tags: Common Core , Missouri

The Washington Post’s Sudden Interest in Scott Walker



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Today’s Washington Post, above the fold:

The story can be found here; it points out that of the two criminal investigations mentioned in the lead, one “is closed and found no wrongdoing by the governor” but has “the potential to embarrass him.”

One revelation is that “e-mails show he knew county officials were working closely with campaign officials.” Of course, the problem isn’t county officials and campaign officials “working closely” — the public official’s schedule and other matters require communication between the two offices. The problem is when taxpayer dollars are used for campaign purposes, or if public employees work on campaigns on the taxpayer’s dime. One complaint is that the county officials used private e-mail accounts for political communications with the governor, allegedly to “shield political business from public scrutiny.” But if the county officials had used their official work accounts, wouldn’t they be doing campaign work on a taxpayer-funded and supplied e-mail account? The effort to avoid the scandal is being cited as a scandal.

The other investigation is examining “possible illegal political coordination during the 2012 recall election.” Both investigations were begun by Milwaukee district attorney John Chisolm, a Democrat, and it will not shock you to learn there is no investigation of union activity during the recall.

The top of the front page is a fascinatingly prominent placement for what is, to use the term of another Washington Post reporter, a “local crime story.”

Say, did President Obama ever use government resources for his reelection campaign?

“Throughout his administration, but particularly in recent weeks, President Obama has been passing off campaign travel as ‘official events,’ thereby allowing taxpayers, rather than his campaign, to pay for his reelection efforts,” the complaint letter by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus read.

The president gave speeches on college campuses in North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa in front of large crowds of students in which he called on Congress to prevent a hike in federal student loan interest rates. The RNC noted the location of the speeches, the large boisterous crowds and some of the president’s recent rhetoric in its complaint, saying they created a campaign-like atmosphere.

Campaign fundraising videos taped within the White House? No problem. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calling for Obama’s reelection during a taxpayer-funded trip? Yawn. Blatantly political and partisan messages sent through the Department of Defense’s communication system? Shrug. Then of course there’s the IRS’s sudden interest in, and scrutiny and treatment of, conservative groups during Obama’s first term.

The IRS scandal received above-the-fold, page A1 of the Washington Post. The others, not so much.

I guess it isn’t as newsworthy as which e-mail account was used by Walker staffers out in Wisconsin in 2010.

Tags: Scott Walker , Wisconsin

Senate Democrats: Why Didn’t Someone Tell Us Obamacare Would Cut Medicare?



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Senate Democrats: Why Didn’t Someone Tell Us Obamacare Would Cut Medicare?

The National Republican Senatorial Committee points out that North Carolina senator Kay Hagan and other vulnerable Senate Democrats are now whacking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid . . . for enacting changes required by Obamacare. Hey, Senator Hagan, if you want to blame someone, blame the foolish or dishonest lawmakers who voted for the law!

Wait a minute, that’s you!

In 2009, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) promised North Carolinians who depend on Medicare that she was going to “protect Medicare” and that they would “not see a drop in their Medicare coverage.”

But in 2010 Kay Hagan voted to slash Medicare Advantage to pay for ObamaCare. (H.R. 4872, CQ Vote #72: Motion agreed to 56-42: R 0-40; D 54-2; I 2-0, 3/24/10, Hagan Voted Yea)


In North Carolina 463,159 seniors depend on Medicare Advantage plans (28% of all Medicare enrollees).

According to America’s Health Insurance Plans, in North Carolina, seniors on Medicare Advantage plans experienced cost increases and benefit cuts of an estimated $50-60 per month as a result of this year’s 6 percent cut to the program due to ObamaCare.

Now, as North Carolina seniors are being crushed under the weight of ObamaCare and as her own poll numbers plummet, Kay Hagan admits in a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid that she cut Medicare for seniors after promising North Carolinians that they wouldn’t “see a drop in their Medicare coverage”

Hagan’s letter reads: “We write to raise serious concerns about the Medicare Advantage (MA) 2015 rate notice and the impact further cuts may have on the millions of individuals enrolled in the program,” the senators write. “We are strongly committed to preserving the high quality health plan choices and benefits that our constituents receive through the MA program. Given the impact that payment policies could have on our constituents, we ask that you prioritize beneficiaries’ experience and minimize disruption in maintaining payment levels for 2015.”

Senator Kay Hagan, left, with a supporter of Obamacare.

Tags: Kay Hagan , Senate Democrats , Obamacare , Medicare

Checking In on Hillary Clinton’s Recent Appearance . . .



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The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination spoke at New York University late last week:

At the event, she announced the Clinton Foundation’s and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s new partnership to gather and analyze data about the status of women’s and girls’ participation around the world. The above photo is by Max W. Orenstein of the Clinton Foundation.

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Has Anyone Seen Chuck Hagel Lately?



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Then, when President Obama nominated Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense:

In the Senate, I came to admire his courage and his judgment, his willingness to speak his mind — even if it wasn’t popular, even if it defied the conventional wisdom.

Now, in Al Hunt’s column for Bloomberg:

The big four in the cabinet look more like the big three with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel being nearly invisible. Hagel, the former Republican Senator from Nebraska, who won confirmation after a bitter battle a year ago, has kept a surprisingly low profile in what is usually a high-visibility job . . . 

On the major foreign policy issues, such as Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, Hagel doesn’t appear to have a major voice. The Vietnam veteran is personally popular with much of the military but is often seen as lacking clout within President Barack Obama’s administration . . . 

Hagel’s visibility in Washington, other than at required or perfunctory events, remains minimal.

A quiet non-entity may be good by the standards of Obama’s cabinet. But with the Syria deal collapsing, the Iranian deal remaining secret, Ukraine and Venezuela blowing up, the situation in Afghanistan worsening with an erratic Karzai and no clear plan for a U.S. military presence beyond December, the potential loss of drone bases for targets in Pakistan, “al-Qa’ida raising its flag once again in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi,” and, in the words of our intelligence chiefs, al-Qaeda “morphing and — and franchising itself and not only here but other areas of the world” . . . 

. . . maybe this isn’t the right time for a quiet, disregarded cipher to be running the Pentagon?

Have you seen this man? If so, call (202) 456-1111.

Tags: Chuck Hagel , Barack Obama

Democrats Respond to CBO: Nuh-uhhhh!



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Here’s one approach a Democrat can take in response to the CBO finding that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour could eliminate 500,000 or even a million jobs: Ignore it entirely.

From the Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign:

As Kentuckians know, raising the minimum wage would create thousands of good-paying jobs in Kentucky and increase the spending power for tens of thousands of the Commonwealth’s hardworking families. The people of Kentucky are ready to vote out a Washington politician, worth over $25 million, who is asking them to believe that giving 255,000 women a raise will somehow hurt the economy.

Democrats continue to insist that their proposals are all upside and no downside. It’s like arguing with a child. “Nuh-uhhhh!”

Tags: Alison Lundergan Grimes

Ukraine, Syria, Iran . . . America Is Out of the Consequence Business



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Also from today’s Morning Jolt:/p>

Chicken Kiev, Much Worse When Reheated and Served again*

So . . . Kiev is burning. Again.

It’s a bloody mess, and by the time you read this, the numbers are likely to be worse:

Ukrainian riot police charged protesters occupying a central Kiev square early on Wednesday after the bloodiest day since the former Soviet republic, caught in a geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West, won its independence more than 22 years ago. At least 18 people, including seven policemen, died on Tuesday during hours of violence between security forces and civilians who have staged protests against President Viktor Yanukovich since last November.

The administration’s stance remains “Hey, stop it, you guys!

The Obama administration is “appalled” by the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Washington announced no specific new action and did not immediately lay blame for violence that left at least 13 dead, but U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt threatened both sides with sanctions.

The crackdown is awful, but we’re not going to do a darn thing about it. We don’t do much in the world of foreign policy these days. You may or may not have noticed that the deal with Assad’s regime in Syria collapsed. As S. E. Cupp summarizes:

Peace talks have collapsed, Bashar Assad’s murderous regime continues, the rebels have splintered, a mere 11% of Assad’s chemical weapons have been collected and radical operatives aligned with Al Qaeda are settling in nicely.

In response to these events, the Obama administration is quickly and energetically pursuing a new strategy of not dealing with it.

We’re not letting the failure of the Syria deal slow down efforts for a similar deal with the Iranians, even though the Obama administration’s top expert on weapons of mass destruction just told Jeffrey Goldberg that he sees almost no chance of successful negotiations. The text of our deal with Iran remains secret, and the Iranian ground forces commander says the U.S. is facing its “final collapse.” Full speed ahead, guys!

———————–

* For those of you who don’t understand the headline, President George H. W. Bush was accused of delivering a “Chicken Kiev speech” in the early days of the end of the Cold War, throwing cold water on Ukrainian independence:

He flew to Kiev after last summer’s Moscow superpower summit and delivered a speech that, to many, seemed like a tepid U.S. dismissal of Ukrainian aspirations to statehood.

“Freedom is not the same as independence,” Bush told Zayets and the rest of Ukraine’s legislature on Aug. 1. “Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.”

Shorn of rhetorical niceties, the American position seemed to be: Moscow and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev know best. Although the legislature here was dominated by Communists still opposed at that time to secession, Bush’s speech “went down about as well as cod-liver oil,” one Kiev-based diplomat remarked.

This time around, it’s not clear the Ukranians will get their own speech from the U.S. president.

Tags: Foreign Policy , Barack Obama , John Kerry , Syria , Iran , Ukraine

Why Unions Hunger for a Job-Killing Minimum Wage Hike



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

CBO: Obama’s Primary Economic Proposal Would Eliminate 500,000 Jobs

This is pretty consequential, no?

Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option [for the minimum wage] would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects (see the table below). As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers.

So, best guess is a half-million jobs eliminated, maybe as many as a million jobs?

Richard Berman:

The Center for Union Facts analyzed collective-bargaining agreements obtained from the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. The data indicate that a number of unions in the service, retail and hospitality industries peg their base-line wages to the minimum wage. . . . The two most popular formulas were setting baseline union wages as a percentage above the state or federal minimum wage or mandating a flat wage premium above the minimum wage.

And now you see why raising the minimum wage is such an intense priority for Democrats. A higher minimum wage means higher wages for union workers, which means higher union dues, which gives unions more money to spend during campaign season.

Time to use one of my favorite illustrations of union . . . er . . . hunger for political victory:

This Wisconsin AFL-CIO photo shows AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, left; a Green Bay Packers mascot; and, on the right, Wisconsin AFL-CIO president Phil Neuenfeldt, who made $108,526 in 2010, according to the union’s 990 form.

Tags: Minimum Wage , Unions

Group Pushes for Delay in South Carolina’s Primary Runoff



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As noted in today’s Morning Jolt, Bruce Carroll, Ben Howe, and the guys at Carolina Conservatives United are challenging the existing schedule for the South Carolina primary.

Currently, South Carolina holds its primary election on June 10. If no candidate reaches 50 percent, there is a runoff, currently scheduled for June 24. The group filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, contending that the existing system violates the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, passed in 2009, which “requires states to transmit validly-requested absentee ballots to service members no later than 45 days before a federal election, when the request has been received by that date, except where the state has been granted an undue hardship waiver approved by the Department of Defense for that election.”

Ben Howe elaborates:

We believe we’ve found an iron clad way to extend the run-off period in the South Carolina primary. Right now it is at a paltry 2 weeks and we believe we’ve discovered something that will extend that to 60 days . . . we believe there is a hope that the time for South Carolina voters to pick, the time needed for candidates to up their game, could be longer than anyone had expected. And that could be a game changer.

A 60-day window would put the runoff on August 12 or so.

This is all aimed at two-term senator Lindsey Graham, of course. Graham faces at least three significant challengers at this point: State senator Lee Bright, Richard Cash, and Nancy Mace. Graham is likely to take the largest share on primary day, but he could easily end up with less than 50 percent and the top challenger would face the difficult task of unifying the anti-Graham factions — a task easier to achieve in two months than in two weeks.

Tags: Lindsey Graham , South Carolina

Sebelius: ‘Absolutely No Evidence’ of ‘Any Job Loss’ Related to Obamacare



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Of course:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says there is “absolutely no evidence” that the Affordable Care Act will drive down employment, despite a report from the Congressional Budget Office released Feb. 4 predicting fewer people would be working. “There is absolutely no evidence, and every economist will tell you this, that there is any job-loss related to the Affordable Care Act,” Sebelius told reporters in Orlando, Fla., on Monday.

Because if there’s anything we’ve learned in recent months, it’s that Kathleen Sebelius is completely on top of all the details of Obamacare, that she always knows how the rollout is progressing and informs the president and the public about it, and she is always honest when discussing it.

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius

Identity Politics, Coming to the NFL Draft



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Identity Politics, Coming to the NFL Draft

Good luck, Michael Sam.

Those of us who are sports fans are going to have a fascinating couple weeks ahead, as the national political and cultural media insists upon interpreting the events of the National Football League draft through the lens of identity politics. They will attempt to shoehorn events into a made-for-TV movie storyline about Michael Sam, defensive end for the University of Missouri, and aspiring NFL player.

Our media used to writing one kind of identity politics story: a person comes out of the closet and becomes the first openly-gay person to achieve a particular goal, gets saluted for bravery, is elevated to hero status, and then spends the next few years going to black-tie awards dinners and being the subject of overwrought documentaries.

Ellen DeGeneres represents a good, early example of this. She was a fairly successful comedienne back in the 1990s, excelling in stand-up with an awkward, nervous, why-did-I-just-say-that persona and starring in what was, in retrospect, painfully ironic romantic comedies like “Mr. Wrong.” She came out, her sitcom character of the same name did so shortly thereafter, and . . . no one remembers much after that, because the sitcom was never that good.

The Onion’s AV Club dissects the breakout episode, and notes in passing:

“The Puppy Episode” drew 42 million viewers and won a Peabody Award, but it also, in the short run, caused more turmoil than it solved. Ellen lost its identity as its storylines became dominated by gay issues, and was canceled the following year. . . . My husband and I were fans of DeGeneres’ comedy and had watched Ellen from the beginning; it was painful to watch her simultaneously stand up for herself and lose her way.

Ellen DeGeneres deserves all the success she’s enjoyed with her much more popular daytime talk show, but let’s not pretend that her old sitcom was ever particularly standout or a ratings smash.

You may recall Jason Collins was invited to the State of the Union, and you may recall references to “NBA star Jason Collins.” The term “journeyman” is more accurate, as he played for six teams, four since 2009. His career averages are 3.6 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, .9 assists per game, .5 steals per game. Undoubtedly, you have to have talent to play 12 seasons in the NBA and play 713 games in those seasons, starting about two-thirds of them. He averaged 20 minutes per game (an NBA game is 48 minutes). He’s good, but not a star. Collins was a free agent when he came out of the closet, and no team has signed him since. Some will insist that reflects league-wide homophobia, but that interpretation neglects the fact that age 35 is the end of the shelf life of an NBA center. But “journeyman NBA player discloses his sexual orientation at end of his career” is a less dramatic story, and so most of the media deemphasized those aspects of the story.

The NFL Draft comes with its own movie-ready drama. Unlike the Super Bowl or any other sports championship, the draft is a major annual event that involves every team, as every almost every team has a first-round draft choice. (Sorry, Washington Redskins fans.) There’s a near-complete reversal of fortune, as the league’s worst team has the first and most consequential choice, making a selection that could ignite a quick turnaround back to respectability or be remembered as one of the all-time flops. Every fan of every team has a reason to tune in, to see who their team picks, hoping to have gotten a future star. The NFL draft is one of those rare high-drama sporting events with no real losers.

But there are indeed big winners. For the players, draft day is their real graduation day, where they stop practicing their craft to ensure the prosperity of a university and finally cash in on their years of effort with, in most circumstances, a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract. Guys who grew up with next to nothing bring their mothers and their whole families to New York City, where they learn where they’ll be living for the next few years, pursuing their dream of stardom. Genuine tears of joy flow. At age 20 or 21 or so, these young men have achieved their childhood dreams.

I suspect most fans’ biggest question about Michael Sam is, ‘if my team drafts him, how much better will our pass rush get?’ NFL fans care about the off-the-field behavior of their favorite team’s players to a certain degree; nobody likes rooting for a thug and a player prone to off-the-field trouble represents a higher risk of getting himself suspended or in legal trouble someday. But it’s hard to believe that NFL fans who can come to terms with a one-man population explosion at cornerback or shrug off drug busts, assault charges, DWIs, public intoxication, and all kinds of other misbehavior will stop rooting for a team with a gay defensive end.

A large chunk of the media will insist upon interpreting every triumph and setback for Michael Sam through the lens of his homosexuality and their belief that he’s a flashpoint in a battle between “tolerance” and “intolerance.” But the career of an NFL player can rise or fall on a thousand different factors and twists of fate. Do the coaches use him correctly? How complicated is the defensive system, and how quickly can he pick up the signals, terminology, and strategy? Is he in a system designed to showcase his natural skills, or are the coaches trying to use him in a new or different role that takes time to learn? How good are the other players on the team at his position? Does he twist an ankle or tear an ACL? Sam seems to have a good head on his shoulders, but how does he handle the pressures of being a professional athlete?

Nobody really knows the answers to any of these questions until the players put on uniforms and start playing. In 1998, coaches and scouts deemed two quarterbacks to be potential superstars. Peyton Manning lived up to all the hype and more; Ryan Leaf is remembered as one of the all-time flops. Fourteen of 20 general managers rated Leaf the more promising prospect.

Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated watched game tapes of Sam and saw a player with definite potential for the NFL, but by no means a sure thing:

There’s no question that Sam had major production this season, as he led the SEC in sacks and tackles for a loss (which includes sacks). This is probably why he was named SEC defensive player of the year by the media, and co-DPOY (with Alabama linebacker C. J. Mosley) by the coaches. However, you have to look at the circumstances of his production. Namely, most of it came in three games of a four-game stretch against inferior competition: Arkansas State (three sacks), Vanderbilt (three sacks) and Florida (three sacks). Sam had a total of a half-sack in his final six games, until he made a huge play on basically the final play of the Cotton Bowl . . . 

So basically in his final five games plus 40 snaps against Oklahoma State — the best competition Sam faced all season — he had no splash plays. The right tackles he faced (as a left end he didn’t go against Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews, a projected top-10 pick) in that stretch were more of what he will see in the pros. The right tackles he beat up to gain his production likely wouldn’t be on NFL training-camp rosters. Four of his sacks came with lesser opponents desperate and behind by large margins in the fourth quarter, in obvious passing situations. In addition, Florida’s offensive line was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Lastly: Sam’s sack against South Carolina in overtime was on an unblocked stunt . . . 

To me, Sam looked below average against the run. He can’t get off blocks when engaged, and I saw him get cut several times by offensive linemen. For that reason it’s tough to see him as a 4-3 end. Against Auburn, a premier team, Sam was often blocked, and effectively, by a fullback. That’s a bad sign if Sam is going to have to convert to standup linebacker in the NFL. Plus, rookies in the NFL most often have to be special-team stalwarts, and those are most often very good athletes. The marginal athleticism that I saw will be a problem in Sam’s fight to earn a roster spot.

Bedard concludes that while it’s possible some team sees more potential in Sam than he does, he thinks Sam grades out to a mid- to late-round pick, or he could go undrafted. (There are seven rounds of the NFL draft, and players who aren’t drafted are free to sign with any team that offers them a contract.)

If that scenario occurs, we’ll hear a lot about the rampant homophobia and culture of hate within the NFL — regardless of whether or not it reflects the facts of what actually happens.

Tags: Sports

Greens, Rarely That Upset About the ‘Most Serious Environmental Sin’



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Lefty readers reacted to today’s post on Secretary of State John Kerry’s gargantuan CO2 emissions with their usual rage and ALL CAPS and profanities. To the extent they summoned an argument, it was this: “CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL!!!!! 111!!”

That’s really a separate argument. If you genuinely believe, as John Kerry claims, that climate change is “the greatest challenge of our generation” and “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” then air travel is a problem; the New York Times recently labeled it the “most serious environmental sin” for most people:

Though air travel emissions now account for only about 5 percent of warming, that fraction is projected to rise significantly, since the volume of air travel is increasing much faster than gains in flight fuel efficiency.

If you believe climate change is a real phenomenon driven by human activity that generates CO2, you have to be troubled by a self-professed environmentalist’s schedule of air travel that, in one week, generates as many carbon emissions as the average American does in seven months or so. You have to see the irony and moral complications if the aim of that trip is to urge others to reduce their carbon emissions.

But for some reason, self-proclaimed environmentalists never seem to get that upset about Democratic lawmakers who have large mansions with large electric bills, multiple luxury homes, fly around a lot and get driven around in SUVs. They can even make $100 million or so by selling their television networks to the Qatari government, which, of course, built its fortune on fossil fuels.

Instead, self-proclaimed environmentalists get much more upset at conservatives who point out those . . . inconvenient truths.

More inconvenient truths, from a op-ed I wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Whether the phenomenon is exaggerated or whatever the cause, the uncomfortable fact is that very few climate scientists believe that the process is significantly reversible, and certainly not by unilateral U.S. action. As the Heartland Institute’s James Taylor noted in Forbes, data released by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year indicate that even if the United States and the entire Western Hemisphere immediately and completely eliminated all carbon dioxide emissions, the growth in Chinese emissions alone would likely render this action moot within a decade.

Anyone who suggests that the climate will go back to “normal” — whatever that is — if Congress passes a certain bill or if you drive a different car is trying to sell you something. The current debate is mostly an excuse for those who make certain consumer choices (Priuses, reusable shopping bags, buying “carbon offsets”) to talk about how much more responsible and sensitive they are than others, and for those who choose differently to urge them to put a sock in it.

Greens fume about Americans who are skeptical about climate change, but they never look that hard at why people might think environmentalism was just an expensive pose.

Tags: John Kerry , Environmentalism , Air Travel

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