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Obama Has No Praise for the Legal System



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Folks on the homepage and the Corner have pretty well covered the appalling violence stemming from Ferguson. Just a footnote that, in neither of his two public statements since the grand jury’s decision, has President Obama uttered a word of praise for the legal system. No comment on its thoroughness, its fidelity to duty, the earnest effort of American citizens both black and white who served on the grand jury to reach a judgment based on facts and not emotion, a process that took weeks and sought out the statements of anyone who claimed to have seen the incident. 

No, not one word for the system that sets us apart from banana republics and autocracies. The best our lawyer-president could do was a grudging acknowledgment that, “we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make.” It was all but a call to question the grand jury’s competence or neutrality, as well as a justification for those who opposed the decision

Instead, Obama shifted his focus to undermining faith in law enforcement nationwide. The president spent his valuable national television time warning local police not to overreact, not to confuse a few bad apples with the whole bunch, entreating all of us to recognize the unfair treatment that rages in our country. All this while the split screen showed dozens of criminals burning down private businesses in Ferguson, most of them minority-owned. Given a do-over on Tuesday, a chance to educate the American public about the grand jury system and try to restore faith in legal process, Obama doubled down on his polemic criticism of law enforcement.

On neither Monday nor Tuesday night did the president use more than a few words from his bully pulpit to castigate, to publicly shame the opportunistic thugs who chose violence for no reason other than their own nihilism. The president said nothing about groups of protesters burning the American flag in Ferguson or D.C. or destroying Christmas decorations in Atlanta. But he took pains to say

So my message to those people who are constructively moving forward, trying to organize, mobilize and ask hard, important questions about how we improve the situation, I want all those folks to know that their president is going to work with them.

The president can choose sides, and clearly has; after all, he identified himself as “their” president. That’s his right. But his subtle and poisonous undermining of faith in our legal system will have consequences for years to come.

The Supreme Court to Hear EPA Case, Just as Agency Proposes New Rules



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The Supreme Court announced yesterday it will consider whether the Environmental Protection Agency should have considered the economic expense while adopting its mercury-emissions rule, which utility companies claim carries a compliance cost of around $9.6 billion each year.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration proposed today to impose even more stringent anti-smog regulations, seeking to lower ground-level ozone to between 65 and 70 parts per billion (ppb), down from the current 75 ppb standard.

These two developments are part of a bigger tug of war over the Obama administration’s ambitious environmental agenda, with Republican lawmakers seeking to counter EPA activism.

The Supreme Court ruling could impact the proposed carbon-emissions regulations, too, estimated to cost as much as $73 billion each year. Even by the EPA’s estimates, the rules could carry costs equivalent to all other Clean Air Act rules promulgated up through 2010 combined.

But as the Wall Street Journal reports, the Supreme Court has generally sided with the EPA:

The high court, in its 2007 ruling, allowed the agency to regulate carbon dioxide and other gases associated with climate change. This June, the court said the EPA overreached in claiming the authority to impose greenhouse-gas controls on small emitters, but it said the agency could require controls at power plants and other large pollution sources.

In another case this year, the Obama administration scored a notable victory when the justices revived an EPA program that sought to limit power-plant emissions blowing across state lines, called the cross-state air pollution rule.

The administration also won an important court victory in April when a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the mercury rules, saying the agency acted reasonably in crafting them.

 — Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

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Cory Booker Is Basically Jesus



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That is the message of Vlad Chituc’s hagiographic piece currently up at the Daily Beast, which chronicles the moral valor of New Jersey’s senator-elect, a vegetarian for two decades, in his decision to go full-on vegan until the end of the calendar year (announced via Twitter last weekend). I have no opinion about the former Newark mayor’s diet (though my opinion of veganism tends toward the Ron Swanson-esque), but in reaction to the choice tidbits interspersed throughout Chituc’s piece one would need a titanium constitution not to retch. An amuse-bouche:

There’s a storybook trajectory to Booker’s mythos, and it practically embodies Americana: from Stanford college football to a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford; from Yale Law School to the city council in Newark; from Newark’s mayor’s office to the U.S. Senate. Each step of the way, Booker has thrived on the philosophy that your actions matter more than what you preach. . . .

Booker is trying to do a better job of living out the principles he already has. There’s an almost Christ-like quality at play: living in a mobile home on one of Newark’s worst drug corners and tweeting with a stripper are only a few steps removed from washing the feet of the poor and accepting perfume from a prostitute.

“A few steps removed”? If by that you mean enormous, bestriding-the-world steps. Because the Gospel According to Cory would likely feature some non-canonical stories — such as that time Jesus took a selfie with each of his disciples. Or when the Son of Man snuck out in the middle of the night to get a mani-pedi.

Given all of this, Booker isn’t interested in preaching. “There’s too much judgment out there. Really what we need to be doing is just all of us finding our own paths towards living the best lives we can live as clearly and boldly in accordance with our own personal values. And that’s what I’m trying to do,” he told me.

Shout, Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of T-Bone!

Web Briefing: November 26, 2014

Seeking Love, Obama Admits to Having Rewritten Immigration Laws



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Last night, Barack Obama admitted that he has rewritten the immigration laws of the United States:

As I noted last week, Obama and his team have been playing a rather clever game with this order. When they have been challenged, his apologists have insisted that the action was routine, limited, and legal – merely an exercise of discretion as warranted by the statute itself. Article II, Schmarticle II. When the same people have been selling the measure, by contrast, they have characterized it as a sweeping and heroic change — representing, in the words of Jorge Ramos, “the most important immigration move in almost 50 years.” Being adults, we should not be surprised to see this game being played. Nevertheless, we should perhaps be alarmed to see the president admitting so quickly in public that he has just done what he claims officially that he can not do. Frankly, if I had spent the last two weeks covering for the White House, I’d be more than a little vexed this morning.

Why did he do it? Well, my suspicion is that he couldn’t help himself. From what I can gather, Obama really is as thin-skinned as he seems to be, and he really cannot bear to see those whom he believes he is helping confirming in public that they think ill of him. In consequence, he seems to say whatever he needs to say in the moment to recast himself as the good guy — whatever it does to his broader goals and his messaging. Back in the day, Obama tried to shut down immigration hecklers by casting his opponents as the bad eggs and by making it abundantly clear that he did not have the power to do what he would like to do. “If I were an emperor,” Obama would say, “I’d help you.” Translation: Please love me. Having decided to play emperor after all, he is now shutting down hecklers by reminding them that he just took a constitutionally infamous step on their behalf. “I helped you at great cost to the nation’s system of government,” he seems to be saying, “and you’re still angry.” Translation, again: Please love me.

Much of this is, of course, of Obama’s own making. Having run as a savior who would heal the country and spread hope and change for all mankind, Obama has discovered that politics ain’t beanbag and that free people are diverse and divided for good and long-standing and deep-seated reasons. I daresay that this realization has been deeply upsetting for him and his most devoted followers, and that it is only human to rationalize away your failures and to try to bring back the glory days. Still, it’s no way to run a country.

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Actually, Riots Are Not Good



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Bear with me here. Matt Bruenig has a post on Gawker earnestly making the case that looting and rioting raises the costs of illegal, violent behavior by police and therefore is the economically efficient way to reduce that behavior. He notes that economist Gary Becker’s seminal paper on economics and crime suggests we discourage crime by raising its costs:

However, relying on a colloquy with Cooke (2014), I’ve come to conclude that Bruenig is almost definitely wrong about what rioting does to the costs of aggressive policing.

Here’s Bruenig’s logic:

According to Becker, punishing bad behavior increases the costs of engaging in such behavior and thereby reduces the amount of it. This is the underlying theory of most criminal justice schemes. Rioting that occurs in response to gross police misconduct and criminal system abuses imposes costs on doing those things. It signals to police authorities that they risk this sort of destructive mayhem if they continue on like this. All else equal, this should reduce the amount of police misconduct as criminal justice authorities take precautions to prevent the next Ferguson.

To be sure, burning down AutoZones is not an optimal way to impose costs on state authorities. It would be, as some interviewed Ferguson residents noted, far more effective to target police equipment or other property nearer to criminal justice authorities. But these targets are often difficult and risky to reach, unlike local business interests. Since state authorities are always and everywhere most concerned about capital and business interests, threatening to impose costs on them via rioting should have a similar impact on police incentives.

But a big problem with his case is that net costs of policing do not change, in our situation, the way Bruenig expects. It’s a fairly widely accepted view that “law and order” became a key priority in American politics in the 1960s through the 1990s because of high levels of crime and some specific dramatic instances of urban rioting. Over the long term, citizens get to decide what the government does in response to violence, rather than having to resort to violence themselves, because we live in a democracy. And citizens have chosen more aggressive policing, not less, in response to riots and high crime. 

Matt’s theory might have some validity in authoritarian or exceptionally corrupt states (or, not dissimilarly, the Jim Crow South). But the most powerful determinant, in the long run, of the costs of police violence in America is the employers and funders of the police — voting citizens, who choose more policing, not less, when they get rioting.

There are actually lots of other reasons rioting is a terrible deal even if you think police are racist killers (see Collins and Margo 2004a, Collins and Margo 2004b, e.g.), but for now, QED. 

Two Minnesota Men Charged with Aiding ISIS



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Via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Two Twin Cities men accused of trying to join a terrorist organization in Syria were charged with conspiracy Tuesday by federal prosecutors, part of a continuing investigation into a pipeline used to recruit Somali-Americans to fight overseas.

Abdi Nur, 20, of Minneapolis, and Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, of Inver Grove Heights, are charged with conspiring to provide support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Yusuf, who was stopped by FBI agents last May while trying to board a flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, appeared before a U.S. magistrate in Minneapolis Tuesday afternoon and was ordered held in custody pending a detention-bail hearing on Wednesday. Nur, who was able to board a flight bound for Turkey last spring, is believed to be in Syria.

The exodus of Somali-Americans to overseas terrorist organizations is an ongoing problem. Before the rise of the Islamic State, Minnesota’s Somali community (the largest in the country) proffered not-inconsiderable support to al-Shabaab, a terrorist outfit based in Somalia. The Islamic State has mimicked al-Shabaab’s recruiting techniques and utilized the same local resources — primarily mosques — to reach out to susceptible young people.

As I reported in National Review’s dead-tree edition (November 3, 2014), it is having an alarming degree of success. 

Does the UKIP Victory Mean the Tories Are Finished?



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Three opinion polls that are regarded in the trade as scrupulous and fair have been published since UKIP won handily over the Cameron Tories in last week’s Rochester and Strood by-election. Though they show small differences in the levels of support for particular parties, they all show rises for UKIP and Labour, a fall for the Tories, the Greens up slightly, and the Liberal Democrats becalmed in very low water. Lord Ashcroft, introducing his own Ashcroft poll results on the ConservativeHome website Monday, may be taken to speak for all three pollsters:

Labour’s share is up two points since last week at 32 per cent, with the Conservatives down two at 27 per cent, the Liberal Democrats down two at seven per cent, UKIP up two at 18 per cent, the Greens unchanged on seven per cent and the SNP up one point at five per cent.

The only unexpected finding here is that Labour does not seem to have suffered from the mini-scandal in which a Labour front-bencher tweeted a photograph of a house in Strood draped in several flags of St. George and with a white van parked outside it. Since white vans and English flags are symbols of working-class life and attitudes respectively, the tweet was taken to be a snobbish one. The entire political class was convulsed by this episode for three days, and the front-bencher resigned to avoid tarnishing Labour. Plainly, however, the tweet   has not damaged Labour at all. The party is recovering from a slump in the polls that has lasted several months. Otherwise, the three polls suggest that UKIP, given a boost by its victory in Rochester, is continuing its slow but steady rise, mainly at the expense of the Conservatives.

Some commentators hostile to UKIP — notably my good friend Martin Hutchinson in the comments section — argue that this rise is a blip (albeit a dangerous one) likely to fall back sharply when voters make realistic choices on who will govern them in next May’s general election. That may be true, but it is unlikely to shrink to the 3.1 percent UKIP received in 2010. If UKIP’s share of the vote were to fall to half of its current 17–18 percent, it would inflict serious damage on the Tories, as Martin fears. And there is growing evidence that UKIP voters are likely to prove much more “sticky” than previous insurgencies. Polls show more than half of UKIP voters saying they will “definitely” vote for the party in a general election. Its share of the vote in parliamentary by-elections has been rising in a steady progression — coming from nowhere to respectable second places until its two recent outright gains. And a study of local by-election results by Daniel Regan of Cicero Elections shows that it is gaining ground in all parts of England and Wales. Its share of the vote in such elections over the last month has averaged 27.8 percent — much higher than its standing in opinion polls. As Daniel Regan argues, those willing to vote for UKIP apparently outnumber those who say they will do so. None of this is good for the Conservative party.

If we add UKIP’s threat to the fact that the U.K. electoral system is heavily biased against them, the Tories would seem to be finished. Labour should win an absolute majority in Parliament. Not so fast, however. Like the U.S. Fifth Cavalry, two other parties are racing to save them (contrary to their best intentions, of course).

The Scottish National Party has been given a vast boost, paradoxically, by its loss in the referendum on Scottish independence. The SNP won six seats in the 2010 election. But it is now scoring between 43 and 52 percent in Scottish opinion polls which predict that it would win the great majority of Scotland’s 59. Those seats would come mainly out of Labour’s hide since the Lib-Dems have eleven seats and the Tories have only one north of the border. Even in a not-very-close contest, Labour can ill afford to lose those seats.

Meanwhile, unnoticed in the background until recently, the Greens have been quietly creeping up the charts. They already have one MP, and they now score a steady 5–7 percent in the polls. That level of support, as well as sucking the life out of the collapsing Lib-Dems, also drains potential voters from the Labour party. So both major parties are reeling from electoral competition on their extremes. Together they get the promised support of only 60 percent of the electorate. The other 40 percent is distributed among political parties that have been born or (as with the SNP) raised from the dead since 1979.

Keep reading this post . . .

Dem. Rep: Opponents of Executive Amnesty Really Opposed to ‘Person of Color in White House’



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Opponents of the president’s executive order halting deportations and providing select documentation to some 5 million illegal immigrants only care because the president is black, says one Democratic congressman.

Appearing on The Joe Madison Show last Friday, Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi declared, “The president, by executive order, which everybody agrees — who has a real brain — that presidents since George Washington have had executive authority privilege to do certain things.”

“He’s not doing anything that the Bushes, the Reagans, the Clintons, and other presidents all the way back to Eisenhower, as it addressed immigration,” Thompson continued. “So but again, this is just a reaction in Bennie Thompson’s words to a person of color being in the White House.”

The reference is to Thompson’s own comments earlier this year, when he said on a New Nation of Islam radio show, “I’ve been in Washington. I saw three presidents now. I never saw George Bush treated like this. I never saw Bill Clinton treated like this with such disrespect.”

“That Mitch McConnell would have the audacity to tell the president of the United States — not the chief executive, but the commander-in-chief — that ‘I don’t care what you come up with, we’re going to be against it.’ Now if that’s not a racist statement I don’t know what is.”

Thompson has represented Mississippi’s second congressional district since 1993.

Via BuzzFeed.

Is Officer Wilson Unbelievable?



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Ezra Klein thinks Officer Wilson’s story is unbelievable.

He makes a couple of big points. Generally, he asks:

Why did Michael Brown, an 18-year-old kid headed to college, refuse to move from the middle of the street to the sidewalk? Why would he curse out a police officer? Why would he attack a police officer? Why would he dare a police officer to shoot him? Why would he charge a police officer holding a gun? Why would he put his hand in his waistband while charging, even though he was unarmed?

Good questions, but you could, in the same spirit, ask why an 18-year-old kid headed to college would shove and then menace a convenience store clerk in the act of robbing his store of cigarillos?

Klein also wonders about this cigarillo hand-off described by Wilson:

I was doing the, just scrambling, trying to get his arms out of my face and him from grabbing me and everything else. He turned to his…if he’s at my vehicle, he turned to his left and handed the first subject. He said, “here, take these.” He was holding a pack of — several packs of cigarillos which was just, what was stolen from the Market Store was several packs of cigarillos. He said, “here, hold these” and when he did that I grabbed his right arm trying just to control something at that point. Um, as I was holding it, and he came around, he came around with his arm extended, fist made, and went like that straight at my face with his…a full swing from his left hand.

This strikes me as very strange as well, but there is no advantage to Wilson that I can see in including this detail, so it’s unclear why he would make it up.

Then, there’s this detail about Brown’s hand in his waistband, which also struck me as odd:

When he stopped, he turned, looked at me, made like a grunting noise and had the most intense, aggressive face I’ve ever seen on a person. When he looked at me, he then did like the hop…you know, like people do to start running. And, he started running at me. During his first stride, he took his right hand put it under his shirt into his waistband. And I ordered him to stop and get on the ground again. He didn’t. I fired multiple shots. After I fired the multiple shots, I paused a second, yelled at him to get on the ground again, he was still in the same state. Still charging, hand still in his waistband, hadn’t slowed down.

Klein’s gloss is that is a detail designed to show that Wilson thought Brown perhaps had a gun:

The stuff about Brown putting his hand in his waistband is meant to suggest that Wilson had reason to believe Brown might pull a gun. But it’s strange. We know Brown didn’t have a gun. And that’s an odd fact to obscure while charging a police officer.

But there is another explanation, which is simply that Brown may have needed to pull up his pants. It’s difficult to tell from the video of the convenience store, but it certainly looks as though his pants are falling down slightly just as he walks around. Also, a witness comes close to describing the same thing as Officer Wilson, albeit tentatively:

I never seen him put his hands up or anything. I can’t recall the movement he did. I’m not sure if he pulled his pants up or whatever he did but I seen some type of movement and he started charging towards the police officer.

None of this, in other words, makes Officer Wilson unbelievable.

UPDATE:

It has been pointed out to me that the cigarillo hand-off is corroborated by Dorian Johnson, and also that Ezra Klein has acknowledged this: 

The idea that Brown stopped punching Wilson just long enough to hand his contraband to his friend struck me, on first read, as beyond belief. But Johnson backs at least part of that account:

While the officer is grabbing ahold of Big Mike, he kind loses grip around his neck, that’s how I knew he had a good grip. He never fully let Big Mike go, now he has a good grasp on his shirt. So now Big Mike’s able to turn different angles while he is trying to pull away. And at a point he turned, now we are face-to-face, and he put his hands like, grab these, Bro. And in shock, I’m so not unconsciously, my hands open to where he could put the rillos in my hand.

So Johnson and Wilson agree: there is a moment when Brown turns to Johnson and hands over the stolen cigarillos. But Wilson tells it as Brown freeing his hands to more effectively pummel Wilson, and Johnson tells it as Brown freeing his hands to better escape Wilson.

Battleground Ohio and the Convention-Site Effect



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If I were the DNC, I would choose Columbus, Ohio, for the 2016 convention, if only to neutralize any statewide advantage that the Republicans stand to gain from holding their convention in Cleveland. Not that it would be a home run for the Democrats. More like a throw to first, to keep the runner honest — and maybe pick him off, which could change the outcome if the score is close. Most wins do not involve walk-off grand slams. It’s a game of inches.

“Election scholars do not find parties more likely to win the states in which they host their nominating confabs, and may in fact do slightly worse than usual in them,” Kevin Williamson writes, but I wonder. He pointed me to this piece by Harry Enten, at FiveThirtyEight, who found on average a 0.4 percent boost going back to 1964.

It’s too small to be significant, according to Enten, but states have swung by smaller margins, and in any case what’s at stake in battleground states, including Ohio, are typically slivers of one or two or three percentage points. In 2012, Obama won Ohio by a hair less than one point, and 0.4 percent would be a sizable chunk of that. The approximately full-point boost that Fred Schwarz found when he crunched the numbers the same way Enten did (Fred looked at conventions going back only to 1988) would be just about enough to flip Ohio to the Republicans in 2016. Enten is correct, though, that his method — which is also Fred’s — isn’t nearly granulated enough to ensure that the tiny figure he arrives at is more than statistical noise.

For an illustration of how resistant the data are to easy interpretation, consider 1980, when the Republicans convened in Detroit and then carried Michigan. The Mitten State went more Republican than the nation did but by a much smaller margin than in 1976. But the Republican candidate in 1976 was a native son, Gerald Ford. This would suggest that the native-son effect is stronger than the convention-site effect, not that the convention-site effect is zero or negative.

By Enten’s reckoning, when a party meets two conditions in a presidential election — it had a good year nationally, improving its performance since the previous election by a wide margin, and it held its convention in a stronghold, a state that last time voted for the party’s presidential nominee by an overwhelming margin — that almost guarantees a score that will indicate, wrongly, that the party’s performance fell off in the convention-site state.

For example: If party R in a presidential year gains ten points nationally, going from from 45–55 to 55–45, it picks up 18 percent of the vote that went to its rival in the previous election — quite a feat. But take a state where party R already got 65 percent of the vote last time. If it it wins over a full 20 percent of that remaining 35 percent, that would register as a gain of only seven percentage points. Enten would subtract 7 from 10 and conclude that party R performed three percentage points worse in that state than it did nationally, but we would come closer to the truth by subtracting 18 from 20 and concluding that the party performed better in the state by two points.

The size of the state and the city’s size relative to it matter, too. A GOP convention in Pittsburgh, for example, could succeed in turning some independents in Wexford from the D to the R side of the fence, while their counterparts in Yardley were untouched by the convention, which from their point of view might as well have been held in Honolulu. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh share a state in the same sense that Brooklyn and Buffalo do. We look for statewide bounces because those are all that matter for the Electoral College, but to identify the specific effect of a convention site, we would have to confine our search for it to the metropolitan area of the city in which the convention was held. Define it as that city’s media market, if you like.

And a small market should be more susceptible than a big market to a convention-site effect. New York? Fuggedaboutit. Don’t think that with a mere convention you could win it over even a little. You wouldn’t even register on its radar. You would on Cleveland’s, though. Cleveland proper, where some precincts went 100 percent for Obama in 2008, will probably not budge from its place at the deepest blue end of the spectrum, but the outer suburbs and the exurbs may be capable of turning a redder shade of purple or darker shade of red.

Schumer and Obamacare



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If you think that Obamacare is a great improvement in public policy — that it is making America a better place — and that there was no more politically attractive way of achieving its objectives, then of course it was worth doing at some political cost. I’ll give that to Senator Schumer’s critics in the Democratic party.

But I think that there were several other courses of action open to the Democrats in 2009–10 that would have served both their political and policy objectives better than what they did. The standard liberal response to the critique that Democrats should have done more on the economy is that the only worthwhile initiative, more fiscal stimulus, would be DOA in Congress. But that just seems to me evidence of a failure of imagination. They could have worked on raising the long-term growth rate: making a deal on business taxation, reforming patents, and so forth. They could also have nominated and confirmed doves (or situational doves) to the Federal Reserve, and urged the Fed to commit to bringing spending, or the price level, back to its pre-crisis trendline. None of that would have yielded the direct benefits to the middle class that Schumer has in mind, but they would have shown that Democrats had their eyes on the ball.

Democrats had multiple paths open on health care too. They could, for example, have just pushed a straight expansion of Medicaid, medical-malpractice reform, and some Medicare cost savings. I would have opposed that package, but they would have probably gotten a lot more bipartisan support than, and roughly as much coverage expansion as, they ended up getting.

The Democratic World Has Moved Beyond Obama



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Halifax — At an annual gathering of government, business, academic, and civil-society leaders from democratic nations here, one theme emerged clearly: The world has moved beyond Barack Obama. Whereas debate over Obama and his policies figured heavily in previous gatherings of the Halifax International Security Forum (full disclosure: I am on the Forum’s agenda committee), this year’s sessions were notable for the absence of any real discussion or passion about the American president.

Indeed, a plenary session featuring Senators John McCain and Tim Kaine debating whether America remained the “indispensable superpower” opened with a stark video collage of clips of Obama’s statements implying an American withdrawal from the world, along with his flip-flopping on the reintroduction of U.S. combat troops to Iraq. The president came across as irresolute, overtaken by events, and unrealistically academic about the role that America should play on the world stage.

Yet it was in session after session, on cyber issues, jihadism, Africa, propaganda, energy, and the like, where the dismissal of Obama was stark. There was no hope entertained that Obama had solutions to any of the myriad problems facing the world, no presumption of any new initiatives coming from the Obama White House, nor much interest in supposedly on-going priorities, such as the pivot to Asia or trade pacts such as TTIP or TPP. No one, it seemed, had much interest in the U.S. president, nor much anticipation that he would do anything of note over the next two years.

The only area where Obama-administration policies played any real role was in discussion on the Islamic State. Retired Marine General John Allen, now Obama’s special envoy for a global coalition against the Islamic State, spoke off-the-record on Sunday morning. And, during much of the conference, there was continued discussion about what Obama would do next in the Middle East. Other than that, this participant felt an uncharacteristic vacuum where in past years, the White House would have figured prominently.

Underlying this absence was a palpable sense of resignation on the part of many who once had high hopes for Obama, and a regretful sense of vindication for those who never expected much in the first place. The collective feeling of the 300 participants seemed to be that he had his shot, messed it up, and will be lucky to get out of office without a major catastrophe occurring. Other actors, from Vladimir Putin to Turkey’s Erdogan, emerged as the key global shapers to watch. Given that Halifax was a gathering of representatives from the world’s democracies (or democratic groups within non-free states), that was a sobering realization. Only India’s Narendra Modi was held up as a democratic leader who might make his mark on the global scene. Obama, on the other hand, was now a global lame-duck. In the court of democratic world opinion, it seems, Barack Obama’s time on the world stage is over.

Don’t Get It In Writing



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The New York Times reports today on possible Republican responses to the president’s immigration order:

Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’ ”

I think this would be a bad idea. It wouldn’t raise the political cost to Obama or the Democrats for having rewritten immigration law. It would make Republicans look petty and unreasonable, unwilling even to listen to the president. (Make that “to the black president.” You can write the Maureen Dowd column in your head: “Boehner said his kind wasn’t welcome here . . .”) It would be great to return to the old tradition of written State of the Union reports, but this isn’t the way to do it.

‘The Ferguson Fraud’



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My Politico column today:

The bitter irony of the Michael Brown case is that if he had actually put his hands up and said don’t shoot, he would almost certainly be alive today.

His family would have been spared an unspeakable loss, and Ferguson, Missouri wouldn’t have experienced multiple bouts of rioting, including the torching of at least a dozen businesses the night it was announced that Officer Darren Wilson wouldn’t be charged with a crime.

Instead, the credible evidence (i.e., the testimony that doesn’t contradict itself or the physical evidence) suggests that Michael Brown had no interest in surrendering. After committing an act of petty robbery at a local business, he attacked Officer Wilson when he stopped him on the street. Brown punched Wilson when the officer was still in his patrol car and attempted to take his gun from him.

The first shots were fired within the car in the struggle over the gun. Then, Michael Brown ran. Even if he hadn’t put his hands up, but merely kept running away, he would also almost certainly be alive today. Again, according to the credible evidence, he turned back and rushed Wilson. The officer shot several times, but Brown kept on coming until Wilson killed him.

This is a terrible tragedy. It isn’t a metaphor for police brutality or race repression or anything else, and never was. Aided and abetted by a compliant national media, the Ferguson protesters spun a dishonest or misinformed version of what happened—Michael Brown murdered in cold blood while trying to give up—into a chant (“hands up, don’t shoot”) and then a mini-movement.

Obama to the American Worker: Happy Thanksgiving, Sucker



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You’ve been working hard to support your family, paying taxes — including Social Security and Medicare taxes — for nearly 20 years.

Now you find out that the 5 million illegal aliens the president legalized with a stroke of a pen will be eligible for Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits – you know, the programs you’ve been supporting with your tax dollars your entire working life.

The plant you’ve been working at most of your career is considering lay-offs and benefit cuts due to the cost of new regulations imposed by bureaucrats who’ve never run so much as a pop stand, and who know absolutely nothing about your business. So your employer is forced to hire cheaper labor and is interviewing (formerly) illegal aliens to replace some of your co-workers (and maybe you) because the company won’t have to pay the $3,000 Obamacare penalty on such illegal aliens for not providing health-care coverage.

So, to keep your job, you try to make yourself more valuable to the company by getting additional training and skills at the nearby college. But the school, supported by your tax dollars, rejects your application in favor of an illegal alien under the  admissions office’s affirmative-action program that makes it 170 times more likely a preferred minority will be admitted over you. He’ll even get in-state tuition rates, as well as a grant funded, in part, by your tax dollars. And so what if that may be unconstitutional? Indeed, you feel a bit chastened when one of the school’s professors suggests you might be racist for thinking this all somewhat unfair.

You thought that, if push came to shove, you could always get a job at your brother-in-law’s tool-and-die shop over on West Plymouth. But it got burned down when the  elected officials — to whom you’ve remitted  tens of thousands in tax dollars to protect property (as well as dictate your toilet’s water flow), failed to deploy sufficient law-enforcement personnel to control the rioters the very same elected officials helped to inflame.

Well, no worries. You’re pretty sure that, much like your preternaturally serene neighbor Julia (who never seems to have worked a job in her entire life), you’ll be able to access a variety of social benefits to keep your family afloat. At least for awhile. Admittedly, you became a little nervous upon learning that the newly “legal” immigrants could drain the treasury of nearly $2 trillion dollars. But hey, all the smart people in academia, Hollywood, and Washington say this is all good for America. The Fundamentally Transformed States of America.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last Call for Applications for NRI’s 2015 Regional Fellows Programs in D.C. and NYC



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The National Review Institute is now accepting applications for its 2015 Regional Fellows programs in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Twenty applicants in each city will be selected to participate in a series of eight dinner seminars on the foundations of conservative thought and the principles of a free society. Fellows will consider and discuss select texts from Burke to Buckley. Each dinner seminar is led by one of today’s top conservative thinkers, including some of National Review’s own.

An ideal candidate has at least ten years of full-time work experience and does not currently work in politics or policy, but all are welcome to apply. For more information about the program and applying, go here. The deadline to submit application materials is Monday, December 1, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. EST.​

Will No-one Think of the Children (1981 Edition)?



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May 20 1981: Labour MP George Foulkes:

I beg to move, ‘That leave be given to bring in a Bill to empower local authorities to control by licensing and through the grant of planning permission space invaders and other electronic games in all premises to which the public have access with or without payment; and for connected purposes.’ The Bill seeks to control “space invaders”—of the terrestial kind—and other electronic games. The motivation is not any whim of mine, but the fact that some months ago the head teacher of Cumnock academy, in my constituency, drew to my attention the increasingly harmful effects on young people of addiction to “space invader” machines. Since then, I have seen reports from all over the country of young people becoming so addicted to these machines that they resort to theft, blackmail and vice to obtain money to satisfy their addiction. I use the word “addiction” not in its increasingly common misuse, as being generally fond of something, but in its strictly correct sense of being so attracted to an activity that all normal activity is suspended to carry it out.

That is what is happening to our young people. They play truant, miss meals, and give up other normal activity to play “space invaders”. They become crazed, with eyes glazed, oblivious to everything around them, as they play the machines. It is difficult to appreciate unless one has seen it for oneself. I suggest that right hon. and hon. Members who have not seen it should go incognito to an arcade or café in their own areas and see the effect that it is having on young people.

The machines that have a target of the highest previous score obtained particularly attract a youngster to play them again and again in an effort to beat the previous record. There is little hope of the craze fading…

h/t: Alex Massie

Update

From Wikipedia:

As an MP, Foulkes introduced the first-ever proposal… for a smoking ban in public places…

(and, yes, it’s true).

Connect the dots.

Why Obama Is Finding It Hard to Get a New Defense Secretary



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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s dismissal was so sudden that President Obama didn’t have a replacement ready when the two men went before the cameras on Monday. Yesterday, the search for that replacement became more complicated when Michèle Flournoy, a former Pentagon official viewed as the front-runner, took herself out of contention for the Cabinet post. Flournoy had previously served as undersecretary of Defense for policy from 2009 to 2012, and had been seen as a candidate to become the first female defense secretary.

Another often-touted possibility for defense secretary is Rhode Island senator Jack Reed, but he’s staying put too. Why the unwillingness to take the top Pentagon job? Too many people view it as a job not worth having in an atmosphere where the White House micromanages everything.

It’s well known after Secretary Hagel’s clashes with White House staff that anyone who takes the Pentagon job will be butting heads with Susan Rice, the National Security Council adviser who exercises an iron grip on key aspects of foreign policy. Not to mention Valerie Jarrett, the influential presidential counselor who seems to have both hands in every pie at the White House. “Why should anyone put up with those headaches and not even have full command of your department?” asks one leading Democratic defense analyst I spoke with. He said the White House’s need to micromanage the national-security apparatus is notorious in Washington.

Larry Korb, a former Pentagon official and senior member of Obama’s 2008 campaign team, told Defense News that “there’s no doubt” Obama and the White House have a trust deficit with the Pentagon and other security agencies. 

“I think that hurts policymaking,” Korb said. “I really do. I think Obama probably was dumbfounded when he came into office . . . that everyone in the government didn’t do what he wanted right away. . . . So the reaction is to look for Obama loyalists.”

Defense News also interviewed Aaron David Miller, an adviser to six secretaries of state and now vice president of the Wilson Center. He said Obama “dominates [and] doesn’t delegate. . . . [Obama] is probably the most controlling foreign-policy president since Richard Nixon.”

The problem is that Obama shows no signs of having Nixon’s skill in foreign policy. As his policies fail to produce the results he seeks, Obama’s instinct is to listen to loyal White House aides and push away dissenting voices. Hagel is the third defense secretary to suffer that fate.  

Robert Gates and Leon Panetta “didn’t toe the party line, so the White House people weren’t happy,” Korb tells Defense News. “So pushed out is what they got. Now, this is what Hagel got, too.”

Thanksgiving links



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Thanksgiving miscellany: Mark Twain, science, WKRP, Cicero and the best turkey fryer PSA ever.

10 Thanksgiving Words With Bizarre Origins.

For the kids, a virtual field trip to the first Thanksgiving.​

Buffy Thanksgiving episode: “Ritual sacrifice, with pie.”

Christopher Walken and John Madden: The First Thanksgiving.

In 1939, the U.S. celebrated Democrat Thanksgiving and Republican Thanksgiving.

A bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a pig: the TurBacon Epic.

What’s a Wishbone, and Why Do We Crack It? Related, Tyrannosaurus Rex Had a Wishbone.

This Man Made the First Canned Cranberry Sauce.

Benjamin Franklin’s account of the First Thanksgiving.

How Much Stuffing Would It Take to Stuff Your House Like A Turkey?

8 Thanksgiving Flowcharts.

How Turkey Got Its Name.

Why Do The Lions & Cowboys Always Play On Thanksgiving?

For those of us born between the 22nd and 28th and have always wondered, here’s how it works: Thanksgiving Birthday Pattern.

Thanksgiving in 1810, 1910, and 2010.

Dave Barry Thanksgiving columns from 199619982004… feel free to add more in the comments.

Hostile Protests Continue in Ferguson



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The second day of protests over the grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson grew violent in Ferguson, Mo., when night fell on Tuesday. For the second evening in a row, protesters set a police car on fire and threw various objects at cops. Protesters swarmed the street in front of the Ferguson Police Department and made it difficult for traffic to pass through.

The protesters continued to prevent cars from passing and began harassing law enforcement stationed at the police department. Soon, the protesters turned on media gathered on South Florissant Road too. Several angry protesters surrounded CNN’s Chris Cuomo and repeatedly shouted ”F*** CNN” in order to make it difficult for him to do his job. Warning: This video contains foul language.

Law enforcement officials wasted little time pushing back against the mob, which had also hurled flaming objects at cops. Police moved in and cuffed some of the offending protesters.

But law enforcement’s efforts still proved incapable of preventing violence in Ferguson overnight. The protesters smashed windows and set a police car on fire again late on Tuesday. The vandalism in Missouri coincided with protests taking place across the country in 37 states. Whether other protests are characterized by the violence on display in Ferguson remains to be seen, but the protesters who gathered outside the police station last night did not appear prepared to demonstrate peacefully.  

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