July 10, 2014

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What with the dismal record of schools operated by governments, a for-profit educational enterprise has always looked to be a promising business. That was before this administration and the animus it has brought towards private market solutions. WSJ Editors tell the story of the collapse of Corinthian Colleges.  

The Obama Administration has targeted for-profit colleges as if they are enemy combatants. And now it has succeeded in putting out of business Santa Ana-based Corinthian Colleges for a dilatory response to document requests. Does the White House plan to liquidate the IRS too?

A month ago the Department of Education imposed a 21-day hold on Corinthian’s access to federal student aid because it “failed to address concerns about its practices, including falsifying job placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students.” The funding freeze triggered a liquidity crisis, which has culminated in Corinthian’s decision to wind down or sell its 97 U.S. campuses.

Like the for-profit college industry, Corinthian draws roughly 80% of its revenues from federal student aid. Yet this is a function of its demographics. For-profit schools educate a larger share of low-income, minorities, veterans and single mothers than do nonprofit and public colleges. Eighty percent of their students lack parental financial support. …

… Most of the investigations involve trumped-up charges of misleading job placement rates, which federal law requires for-profits—but not public and nonprofit colleges—to document and disclose. But here’s the rub: There’s no standard definition of “job placement.” …

… Students enrolled in colleges that are to be shut down will be allowed to finish their degrees, transfer or withdraw with a full refund. However, these students may not be able to find the same programs at nearby community colleges or for-profit schools. Students are the collateral damage but the real target of this war on Corinthian are investors in an industry that Democrats don’t like: They can destroy you even before they have any evidence.

 

 

The above makes this a good place for a post from the Mises Economics Blog on intellectuals’ hostility towards free markets.

… The intellectuals are a paradoxical product of the market economy, because “unlike any other type of society, capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.” Like Hayek, Schumpeter described intellectuals broadly as “people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word.” More narrowly, “one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs.” That is, intellectuals do not participate in the market (at least not in the areas they write about), and do not generally rely on satisfying consumers to earn a living. Add to this their naturally critical attitude—which Schumpeter argues is the product of the essential rationality of the market economy—and it is easy to see why intellectuals would be hostile to the market.

In other words, intellectuals are often out of place in entrepreneurial societies. The growth of the intellectual class is not a response to consumer demand, but to the expansion of higher education. Passing through the higher education system does not necessarily confer valuable skills, but it often does convince graduates that work in the market is beneath them: …

 

 

And here comes Kevin Williamson trying to explain why profit has become a dirty word.

People intensely dislike profits. The belief that turning a profit is tantamount to operating some sort of con is disturbingly common. …

 

… The crude version of exchange — which is, unhappily, the common version — is inclined to suspect that there is an objectively correct price for a good, and that profit comes from duping somebody into paying more than the correct price for it. That error is fundamental to Marxism and other anti-capitalist philosophies, and it is implicit in such social phenomena as the anti-advertising movement, “Buy Nothing Day,” and similar political tendencies. …

 

… The Left often tries to explain its objection to free prices and wages in terms of asymmetrical economic power, and that analysis is not without some practical meaning: If you have been unemployed for six months, have $20,000 in debt, and are down to your last $4, then you are in a pretty poor negotiating position vis-à-vis most potential employers. But what is true at the anecdotal level is not true at the aggregate level: …

 

… In the entire history of economic thought, nobody has ever been able to demonstrate that there is an objectively “right” price for anything separate and apart from the subjective valuation that happens in the marketplace. Progressives like speeches about diversity, but they loathe the actual diversity of views and desires, especially the idea that prices should be sorted out according to the billions of subjective valuations in the marketplace through a process that nobody is in charge of. (In Dante’s Hell, the engraving reads: “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.” In Ezra Klein’s Hell, the engraving reads: “Nobody In Charge.”) Implicit in this belief is that most people — consumers and workers alike — are too stupid or too weak for us to allow them to act on their own subjective valuations, that we are compelled by . . . justice, efficiency, expert opinion, whatever . . . to substitute our own judgment for theirs. And then all you need is two government studies and a rent-a-philosopher writing in the New York Times to proclaim that there is some real-world basis for your own preferences as compared to those of the rabble on whose behalf you have just deputized yourself to organize the world. The language of “social justice” is largely a sort of moral minstrel show designed to distract from the real argument, which is: “You’re too stupid to be entrusted with your own life.” …

 

 

Glenn Reynolds writes about the “New Class.” 

Life is hard. It’s harder still when an entire class of people with their hands out stands between you and success.

Unfortunately, that’s increasingly the problem, all around the world. A recent New York Times piece tells the story of a Greek woman’s efforts to survive that country’s financial collapse. After losing her job, she tried to start a pastry business, only to find the regulatory environment impossible. Among other things, they wanted her to pay the business’s first two years of taxes up front, before it had taken in a cent. When the business failed, her lesson was this: “I, like thousands of others trying to start businesses, learned that I would be at the mercy of public employees who interpreted the laws so they could profit themselves.”

This phenomenon isn’t limited to Greece, or even to capitalistic societies. Dissident Soviet-era thinker Milovan Djilas coined the term “the New Class” to describe the people who actually ran the Soviet Union: Not workers or capitalists or proletarians, but managers, bureaucrats, technocrats, and assorted hangers-on. This group, Djilas wrote, had assumed the power that mattered in the “workers’ paradise,” and transformed itself into a new kind of aristocracy, even while pretending, ever less convincingly, to do so in the name of the workers. Capitalists own capital, workers own their labor, but what the New Class owned was political control over other people’s capital and labor. Those Greek bureaucrats’ power didn’t come from making things. It came from being able to make people — like our pastry chef — jump through hoops before they could make things. …

 

 

The College Fix with a post that help explains why colleges have so many ignorant graduates.

Young America’s Foundation has surveyed the required reading programs for incoming college freshmen nationwide and found that, over the past three years, none of the colleges have assigned a conservative-leaning book.

None of them.

Young America’s Foundation surveyed the top 50 schools as noted by Forbes, and “found that many of the ‘required’ books only offered left-wing perspectives on topics such as race, feminism, socialism, inequality, and wealth redistribution.”

Here’s a sample:

Americanah by Chimamanda Nogzi Adichie (required at DukeUniversity and PomonaCollege in 2014) This is a fictional story of a young Nigerian woman and man who immigrate to the United States. Throughout the book, the author delves heavily into concepts of race. Yet, at the same time, she criticizes everyone but the protagonists for their prejudices.

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (required at LafayetteCollege in 2014) This book argues that humanity is causing a sixth mass extinction due to global warming and advocates environmental sustainability.

 

 

And because we need some humor, here’s Andy Malcolm with the late night kind.

Conan: Michelle Obama says she wants Americans to elect a woman president “as soon as possible.” So even she’s had enough of President Obama.

Meyers: A new report says “Brooklyn” is now one of the country’s most popular baby names. Still the least popular baby name, “Staten Island.”

Conan: I’m halfway through Hillary Clinton’s book. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but I bet she kills this guy “Bill.”

July 9, 2014

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The first two items today are from Pickings last December 24th. They are reminders of how bad last year was for the president. And Glenn Reynolds is a proven prescient professor with his call that 2014 would be worse.

John Podhoretz reviews the president’s terrible year.

When Barack Obama sings “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, he will have reason to think back, with a deep sense of nostalgia and not a small amount of regret, on the last time he sang the song.

If he gets a lump in his throat as he recollects that glorious night one year ago, who would blame him? After all, he was riding about as high as a man can ride on New Year’s Eve 2012.

There he was, almost literally the master of the universe — the canny victor of the 2012 election, having run what was instantly regarded as the most brilliant technical campaign in American history. He used that victory to prevail in a “fiscal cliff” showdown with Republicans the last week of December that led to the significant tax increases on the well-to-do he had sought since the beginning of his first term. He had a 53% approval rating; only 40% disapproved.

In a few weeks, he would be inaugurated for a second term and, liberated from the demands of running again and emboldened by his win, he would that day offer the country an unabashedly and unapologetically left-wing vision of the American future toward which he was guiding it.

“Preserving our individual freedoms,” he said in a startling turn of phrase, “ultimately requires collective action.” …

 

 

Glenn Reynolds thinks 2014 will be even worse. Condign punishment is what we say.

A lot of people are saying that 2013 was President Obama’s worst year. Roll Call headlined, “Subdued Obama Hopes For Better 2014.” The Hill reported, “Obama names health care rollout his biggest mistake of dismal year.” Most people seem to think it was. But I think it was average, in the manner of the old Soviet joke:

Ivan: So how was your day?

Boris: Average.

Ivan: What do you mean, average?

Boris: Worse than yesterday, better than tomorrow. So, average.

Unless something turns around, Obama’s 2013 is likely to be similarly “average”: Worse than 2012, but better than 2014.

It’s true that Obamacare has been a debacle, wrapped in a catastrophe, shrouded in a disaster. But it’s also become clear that it was founded upon a lie: …

 

 

Matt Lewis of the Telegraph, UK has the honors explaining how bad this president is.

The trailers were great, but the movie was horrible.

Six years in, that’s the general consensus on the Obama presidency. Having ridden a wave of “hope and change” to the White House, President Barack Obama has failed to deliver on his huge box office, err, ballot box expectations.

Just how bad is it? Since it is summer “blockbuster” season, I’ll explain thusly: There’s a difference between being bad and being most awesomely bad. You and I probably never even hear of the worst movies made. They are forgotten, not mocked. But the truly disastrous flops – the Water Worlds and Ishtars of the world – are the movies that come with huge budgets and huge expectations.

Obama fits the latter category – extremely talented and hyped, but ultimately, unsatisfying. True, I’ve been making this case for a long time – but now, there’s evidence.

A Quinnipiac poll released in America this week has Obama ranked as the “worst president” since World War II. For various reasons, this may or may not be entirely fair, but considering his competition included Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, this is problematic. And, what is more, a majority surveyed also said “the nation would be better off” had Mitt Romney won presidency. …

 

 

But it gets unbelievably worse. Victor Davis Hanson posts on the presidential trip to Texas yesterday.

Surely reports that President Obama is going down to Texas at the height of the Katrina-like border debacle to raise money at the home of the popular but often polarizing filmmaker and Quentin Tarantino–collaborator Robert Rodriguez are the stuff of right-wing mythology?

No one could be so politically dense as to head south in the direction of this catastrophe only to pull up short to huckster campaign funds — while under a lingering cloud that such special-interest money solicitation in the past typically has taken precedence over national security (cf. the need to retire early on the night of Benghazi in order to prep for an important fundraiser the next day in Las Vegas, where the selfish go to blow their kids’ tuition money).

That the Obama money-raiser is purportedly being hosted by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez also cannot be true. The latter is famous for ultra-violent exploitation films of just the sort that gun-control liberals have insisted glorify (true) assault-weapon violence for profit and influence the deranged to translate such violent fiction into murderous fact. …

 

 

Spectator, UK reviews a book on the survival of Boris Pasternak and the international politics that swirled around the publication of Dr. Zhivago.

… It is natural to wonder how Pasternak survived the Stalin era. This may have been in part because he somehow, perhaps guided by some unconscious instinct for self-preservation, established what one could call a ‘personal’ relationship with Stalin. This began after the suicide of Stalin’s wife in 1932. Thirty-three other writers published a collective letter in the Literary Gazette; Pasternak managed to append a separate message of his own.

Like nearly all Soviet writers, Pasternak joined in some of the public denunciations of the politicians sentenced to death during the show trials of the mid-1930s. He refused, however, to sign a letter calling for the execution of Marshal Tukhachevsky and other senior generals. Ignoring Pasternak’s clear refusal, the authorities included his signature in the published text of the letter.  Pasternak then wrote to Stalin, saying he could not act as a judge of life and death.  He also wrote letters to Stalin about Maya-kovsky, and about the Georgian poets he was translating. The unexpected tone of these letters, their odd fusion of reverence and intimacy, could well have made an impression on a tyrant concerned about his place in history. Whether Stalin truly said ‘We won’t touch this cloud-dweller!’ is uncertain, but there is no doubt that he kept at least one of Pasternak’s letters in his personal archive. …

 

 

Mental Floss has 20 things you don’t know about chocolate.

2. Chocolate Is Actually a Vegetable—Kind Of.

Milk and dark chocolate come from the cacao bean, which grows on the cacao tree (theobroma cacao), an evergreen from the family Malvaceae (other members of the family include okra and cotton). This makes the most important part of the sweet treat a vegetable. …

19. There Are Two Kinds of Cacao.

Most modern chocolate comes from forastero beans, which are considered easy to grow—though the crillo bean is believed to make much tastier chocolate.

20. Chocolate Has a Special Melting Point.

Chocolate is the only edible substance to melt around 93° F, just below the human body temperature. That’s why chocolate melts so easily on your tongue.

July 8, 2014

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John Fund writes on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

… There are sound reasons that so many Americans resist a regime of racial entitlements. Schools now put a race-conscious fist on the admissions scale rather than a thumb and clearly admit students based on race. They aren’t doing these students a favor. Affirmative-action students are 50 to 75 percent more likely to drop out of a science program than are regular admits. At law schools, they are two or three times more likely to fail the bar exam. But students who attend a school where their entering credentials are similar to those of their fellow students are more likely to finish and fulfill their work and life ambitions. We almost certainly now have fewer black doctors, lawyers, and business chiefs than we would have had under race-neutral admissions policies.

In Wounds That Will not Heal: Affirmative Action and Our Continuing Racial Divide, Princeton professor Russell Nieli wrote: “It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that racial-preference policies have lulled substantial segments of the black middle class into complacency and half-hearted performance in our increasingly education-focused world.” That isn’t the outcome that supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 hoped for or promised. It’s time to return to the original vision of civil rights that principled liberals such as Hubert Humphrey and William O. Douglas supported.

 

 

Roger Simon posts on the crossroads faced by the country. 

America is at a crossroads — we always seem to be, but this time we really are.

We are living under the administration of a president that is now the least popular since World War II.  A full one-third  of those polled by Quinnipiac rate Barack Obama the worst president since 1945.  (Reagan is rated the best.)

What accounts for this?  There are dozens of reasons that have been detailed on these pages and many others.  The man has lied to us multiple times — and to himself as well, no doubt — and many people now apparently sense this.  But I think the deepest reason, the motivating cause, stems from a time Barack Obama actually didn’t lie, but told an important truth.

Back on July 27, 2004, a then obscure Illinois senator made himself famous by standing in front of the Democratic National Convention and speaking these words: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is a United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America, a Latino America, an Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Did he believe those words?  Maybe. Once upon a time.  But evidently not very deeply. The fact is he betrayed them completely and almost everything he has done wrong has stemmed from that betrayal.  He has acted in the most partisan and deceitful manner, surrounding himself with a tiny group of yes-women and yes-men,  making a mockery of his self-proclaimed transparency, shamelessly exploiting interest groups in a way that could only divide our society while diminishing America’s place in the world,  and allowing evil forces to grow across the globe. …

 

 

Kevin Williamson says the problem with science is . . .

The problem is that scientific prestige accompanies scientists well outside their fields of expertise. That’s true when they wander into other scientific fields — as I noted in my essay, Carl Sagan authored scientific illiteracies based on long-discredited ideas in the course of arguing for abortion — but the problem is most acute when it comes to the matter of politics. A relatively recent and intensely annoying example of this comes from my alma mater, the University of Texas, which is proud to employ the physicist Steven Weinberg, who was awarded the Nobel prize in 1979. Professor Weinberg is not short of opinions — evangelizing for causes ranging from atheism to Zionism — and is unsurprisingly interested in the question of government funding for scientific research, a subject he explores in his compact essay “The Crisis in Big Science,” recently republished in The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2013. (Yes, I am a little behind on my reading; I also have 54,000 unread e-mails.) Professor Weinberg’s essay is remarkably simple-minded, though it is admirably modest: Offering a potted history of the Standard Model, he mentions the unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces but not the fact that he is one of the men who did that.

I do not get the impression that Professor Weinberg is the grasping sort, but it is worth noting that the man arguing that we need to spend more money not only on science but on most everything government does — he endorses a general increase in tax rates and an equally general expansion of the state — is a 1 percenter among public dependents. More than that: He was, as of 2012, the ninth most highly paid professor ($536,000) in these United States, annually taking home the equivalent of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett’s salary plus Morningstar CEO Joe Mansueto’s salary. His wife is paid an additional quarter-million a year as a tenured professor at the University of Texas law school (the reputation of which is in dramatic decline of late). Some years ago, an administrator at the University of Texas described Professor Weinberg’s professional responsibilities to me in approximately these words: “He has a Nobel prize; he does what he wants.” The Weinberg household is a very significant net recipient of tax dollars. That being written, he seems to be a very productive man, and UT has spent a great deal more money on much less admirable investments: Mack Brown, who led the Longhorns to mediocrity on the gridiron, was paid approximately ten times what Professor Weinberg is.

 

 

The Financial Times writes on the antibiotic problem.

There is a mischievous Punch cartoon that depicts a woman and five men sitting round a conference table. The caption reads: “That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.”

Dame Sally Davies must feel like a modern-day Miss Triggs. More than a year ago the chief medical officer for England warned that antibiotic resistance should be ranked alongside terrorism as a national threat. Failing to keep up the medicinal arms race against superbugs, she said, would fling us back to the dark days of the 19th century when a cut finger could lead to a festering death.

Her apocalyptic vision was not much reported – unlike David Cameron’s strikingly similar pronouncement this week that we are entering a post-antibiotics era which will see us “cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again”. The prime minister has ordered a review by economist Jim O’Neill, co-funded by the Wellcome Trust, the UK’s biggest medical research foundation, into why industry has failed to deliver any new antibiotics for decades.

The battalions of bacteria have meanwhile marched on, relentlessly replicating and evolving and spewing out new generations of randomly mutated daughters. Some of these will have genetic mutations that allow them to survive medicinal onslaught, and replicate in ever greater numbers. …

 

 

Ann Coulter has a second part to her soccer slam. Part Deux she calls it.

PARIS — Soccer fans have decided to prove me wrong about soccer being a fruity sport by spending the last week throwing hissy fits. This, in defense of a “sport” where the losing players cry on camera.

The massive and hysterical response to my jovial sports piece proves how right I was. Nothing explains the uniform, Borg-like caterwauling, but that soccer is a game for beret-wearers. Most of the articles attacking me are verbless strings of obscenities, their subject matter identified only in the title

Consequently, I’ve decided to emulate The New York Times, which runs the exact same column, year after year, “Soccer Catches On, Take 27,” by re-running mine on how excruciatingly boring soccer is.

This past week has allowed me to add several new items to my list of grievances.

Further proof that soccer is a game for girls: Since my column came out, a guy from the Paraguay team (Uruguay? Who cares?) was caught biting an opponent in a match. Not punching. Not a cross-body block. BITING! How long can it be until we see hair-pulling in soccer? …

July 7, 2014

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WSJ OpEd shows how North Carolina’s curtailment of unemployment benefits got people back to work. Whad’YaKnow? Stop subsidizing something and it begins to dry up.

A year ago, North Carolina became the first state in the nation to exit the federal government’s extended-benefits program for the unemployed. Facing the prospect of job-killing hikes in payroll taxes to pay back Washington, Gov. Pat McCrory and the state legislature instead reduced the amount and duration of unemployment-insurance benefits, which had been higher in North Carolina than in most states. As a result the state lost its eligibility to participate in the extended-benefits program on July 1, 2013.

National media and liberal activists pounced. Citing the decision and several other “outrages” by the state’s first Republican-led government since Reconstruction—such as adopting a pro-growth flat tax, clearing out the state’s regulatory thicket, and rejecting ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion—left-wing critics subjected the Tar Heel State to months of invective and ridicule. …

… New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called it a “war on the unemployed.” …

… Left-leaning economists may still cling to their demand-side popguns and Keynesian religion. But here in the Tar Heel State, the governor and state legislature have decided to promote growth and opportunity by reducing and reforming taxes, streamlining regulation and improving public education and infrastructure. Given the state’s impressive economic growth rate in 2013—4.2% in total GDP and 4.9% in private GDP, both far exceeding the national average—they are not likely to change their minds soon.

 

 

In a related note, The Corner features Krauthammer’s Take on who won the unemployment debate. Not that being right makes any difference.

While liberals hail new job numbers as a vindication of President Obama’s economic policies, it is conservatives who should feel vindicated, said Charles Krauthammer on Thursday’s Special Report. Citing a recent National Review Online post on The Corner by economist Robert Stein, Krauthammer noted that the sharp drop in unemployment has coincided with the end of emergency unemployment benefits. Obama and the Democrats, who insisted that the benefits be extended, wrongly predicted that their expiration would come as a calamity to the poor. Instead, their end has demonstrably had “precisely the opposite effect.”

“These six months coincide with a decrease in the medium length of unemployment from 17 weeks to 13 weeks — the largest six-month decline in the length of unemployment ever measured,” he said. “Which means the real problem of long-term unemployment was a function of this anomaly of emergency-extended unemployment, which should never have happened, and whose end has contributed to this excellent result. The debate on that extension is over, and the conservatives were right.”

 

 

In one short paragraph Kevin Williamson outlines what is wrong with the present political practitioners of public narcissism; the office holders who get well by “doing good.” And yet, they insist they’re in “public service.” Williamson goes on to say that a culture cannot thrive if its innovators are subservient to its bureaucrats.

Chelsea Clinton, from her $10.5 million perch on GramercyPark, declares that she finds it impossible to care about money. Bill and Hillary Clinton, shuttling between their multimillion-dollar homes — Chappaqua, Washington, the $200,000-a-month rental in the Hamptons — denounce the wicked rich and protest that they are not “truly well off.” A professor of poverty and left-wing activist at the University of North Carolina School of Law is paid $200,000 per annum to teach a single class; anti-inequality crusader Elizabeth Warren was paid $350,000 per annum to teach a single class and thinks deeply about the plight of the little guy in her $1.7 million Cambridge mansion. The city of Bell, Calif., was nearly bankrupted by the very generous salaries its political class secured for themselves: nearly $800,000 per annum for the chief executive of the modest Los Angeles suburb, on his way to collecting a $1 million annual pension. (Several Bell leaders were later charged with misappropriating millions of dollars’ worth of public money for their own benefit.) Philadelphia was paying the feckless chief executive of its violent and defective government schools some $350,000 a year before the mayor got around to firing her, but not before the city wrote her a check for nearly $1 million to make her go away — and then she filed for unemployment benefits. A Philadelphia police lieutenant on an $87,000 annual salary takes home nearly $200,000 after nearly a hundred grand in “overtime” kicks in. The head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal enterprise, was paid nearly $6 million in 2013; the agency’s chief financial officer and chief lawyer were paid $2.1 and $1.9 million, respectively, that same year. The school superintendent in Lubbock, Texas, is paid nearly a quarter-million dollars a year.

Politics pays. …

… No society can long thrive by making its creators and innovators subservient to its pimps and thieves. But agencies with the power to tax or the power to pay themselves out of taxes have the power to command, and, human nature being what it is, it is not surprising that their executives use that power to extort for themselves extraordinary levels of compensation (occasionally through criminal means, as in the Bell case), even as they bore us all to death talking about the sacrifices they have endured on behalf of their careers in “public service.” …

 

 

How’s Hillary doing, you ask? Jennifer Rubin has 10 lessons from Hill’s hellish book tour. 

Hillary Clinton certainly wasn’t expecting a tough go of it when she hit the road on her book tour. After all, her book was devoid of controversy — not to mention new or interesting material — so there wouldn’t be much fodder for the interviewers, right? And besides, her popularity as secretary of state was high and she has come to personify for liberal women (many of those interviewing her) a valiant fighter. Her competence? Beyond question! Her devotion to the little people? Beyond measure!

But things didn’t pan out as Clinton expected, to put it mildly. She has nothing much to say, certainly nothing new, so focus falls on her foreign policy stumbles and her curious obsession with stuffing her bank account. She is in a defensive crouch before she formally announces her presidential run.

Some suspect that Clinton doesn’t want to run but has had to keep up pretenses to sell books and cash in on speaking gigs. These are not so lucrative if you are merely the former secretary of state and not a possible future president. But Clinton certainly didn’t want to bomb on this tour, nor throw away whatever good will she accrued in office. No, this seems to be a situation where her ambitions outstrip her abilities.

For those who are considering a run, the lessons are clear:

1. If you don’t have something new to say, the conversation will be about things you don’t want to talk about. … 

 

 

Ed Morrissey posts on another Hillary Clinton error.

When I first saw this clip earlier today, I was inclined to dismiss it. After all, plenty of people make the mistake Hillary Clinton does in this interview with BBC Radio today. The interviewer asks the former Secretary of State to gauge the strength of the “special relationship” between the US and the UK, and offers a rather insipid answer that applies to nearly all of our allies in the West. But it’s the apparent ignorance of the UK’s political parties from a woman who served for four years as America’s chief diplomat that got the buzz (via TWS and NRO):

BBC: So how special is the special relationship?

CLINTON: It is so special to me, personally, and I think it is very special between our countries. There’s just a — not just a common language — but a common set of values that we can fall back on. It doesn’t matter in our country whether it’s a Republican or Democrat, or frankly in your country whether it’s a Conservative or a Tory. There is a level of trust and understanding. It doesn’t mean we always agree because of course we don’t.

In case you don’t get the joke, the Tories are the Conservatives in the UK. Their other major political parties are Labour and Liberal Democrats, which means this is another way in which the comparison is a bit inapt. …

 

 

John Lott takes a dim view of the new Freakonomics book.

The Freakonomics franchise certainly has legs. According to legions of admirers, in their best-selling series that includes Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics, and now Think Like a Freak, University of Chicago economics professor Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner have taught us to use economic reasoning to shed light on real-life situations. In the process, they have also shown that economics can be fun.

But the fun quotient is ultimately diminished by the fact that their stock in trade is naive economics. Typically, Levitt and Dubner fail to understand that when a problem arises in a market, it generally provides an incentive for those involved to remedy the problem. …

… Levitt and Dubner also brag in Think Like a Freak about the authors’ “truly original” thesis, presented in Freakonomics, that liberalizing abortion lowered crime rates. Abortion, they argued, lowered the number of unwanted children who would be prone to commit crimes. But again, the authors naively ignored the new set of incentives that legalized abortion offered.

What actually happened when abortion was legalized will sound ironic, but no more so than the unintended consequences of many other changes in laws and regulations. Multiple studies have shown that the availability of legalized abortion increased the incidence of unprotected sex, which led to more unwanted pregnancies, which in turn boosted the number of unplanned births, even offsetting the reduction in unplanned births due to abortion. The net result: an increase in the number of single-parent families who couldn’t devote a lot of time to raising their children, an effect Levitt and Dubner ignored and one that more than offset what they focused on.

It would be nice to believe that Think Like a Freak and its prequels have promoted interest in sound economics. But alas, when you think like a freak, you think superficially, like most freaks probably do in real life.

July 6, 2014

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While Europe was in the dark ages, the Arab world kept civilization alive. The Economist explores Islam’s present dark age.

A THOUSAND years ago, the great cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo took turns to race ahead of the Western world. Islam and innovation were twins. The various Arab caliphates were dynamic superpowers—beacons of learning, tolerance and trade. Yet today the Arabs are in a wretched state. Even as Asia, Latin America and Africa advance, the Middle East is held back by despotism and convulsed by war.

Hopes soared three years ago, when a wave of unrest across the region led to the overthrow of four dictators—in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen—and to a clamour for change elsewhere, notably in Syria. But the Arab spring’s fruit has rotted into renewed autocracy and war. Both engender misery and fanaticism that today threaten the wider world.

Why Arab countries have so miserably failed to create democracy, happiness or (aside from the windfall of oil) wealth for their 350m people is one of the great questions of our time. What makes Arab society susceptible to vile regimes and fanatics bent on destroying them (and their perceived allies in the West)? No one suggests that the Arabs as a people lack talent or suffer from some pathological antipathy to democracy. But for the Arabs to wake from their nightmare, and for the world to feel safe, a great deal needs to change. …

 

 

Victor Davis Hanson corrects Dems on the history of war in Iraq.

So who lost Iraq?

The blame game mostly fingers incompetent Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Or is Barack Obama culpable for pulling out all American troops monitoring the success of the 2007–08 surge?

Some still blame George W. Bush for going into Iraq in 2003 in the first place to remove Saddam Hussein.

One can blame almost anyone, but one must not invent facts to support an argument.

Do we remember that Bill Clinton signed into law the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 that supported regime change in Iraq? He gave an eloquent speech on the dangers of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

In 2002, both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution authorizing the removal of Saddam Hussein by force. Senators such as Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Harry Reid offered moving arguments on the Senate floor why we should depose Saddam in a post-9/11 climate. …

 

 

Jennifer Rubin says the border crisis is just another failure of this president.

… Had Obama not moved unilaterally to protect a group of DREAMers from deportation, it is unclear where he and the immigration debate would stand currently. What we do know is that 1.) it fed the narrative that he is an overreaching executive who can’t work with Congress and 2.) heightened fears that immigration “reform” is going to make borders less, not more, secure. …

… In the larger scheme of things, this becomes one more presidential failure along with Obamacare, his foreign policy debacles and a raft of scandals. With losses at the Supreme Court on recess appointments and the Obamacare contraception mandate, the president seems to be shrinking before our eyes. And now with the border emergency, we have one more vivid example of the federal government’s inability to perform its core functions. We shouldn’t be surprised – all this is par for the course in the second Obama term.

 

 

John Steele Gordon starts our look at the jobs report. 

The employment picture brightened somewhat in June, with 288,000 new jobs (up from a revised 224,000 in May) and a decline in the unemployment rate to 6.1 percent from 6.3. That’s the lowest unemployment rate since August 2008, on the eve of the financial crisis. We have now had job growth above 200,000 for the last five months, the first time that has happened since the very prosperous years of the late 1990s. The number of long-term unemployed (over 27 weeks) declined by 293,000. Unemployment among African-Americans fell from 11.5 percent to 10.7.

But the picture was not all bright. The number of involuntary part-time workers increased by 275,000. Teenage unemployment increased to 21 percent. Among black teenagers it was a horrendous 33.4 percent, up from 31.1 percent in May. One in three black teenagers in the labor force are unemployed. …

 

 

The Washington Post with an extensive article on the growth of part time employment. Maybe instead of president bystander or president petulant, we can call him president part-time. That fits in many ways.

In the new landscape of the American labor market, jobs are easier to come by but hours remain in short supply.

New government data released Thursday showed the economy added 288,000 jobs in June — the fifth straight month gains have topped the critical benchmark of 200,000. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent, down more than a percentage point over the past year.

But there’s a gnawing fear among some economists that the improving data provides false comfort. The number of people in part-time jobs jumped by more than 1 million in June to 27 million, according to the government’s data, making it one of the corners of the labor market that has been slowest to heal. That has led to worries that the workforce may be becoming permanently polarized, with part-timers stuck on one side and full-time workers on the other.

“What we’re seeing is a growing trend of low-quality part-time jobs,” said Carrie Gleason, director of the Fair Work Week Initiative, which is pushing for labor reforms. “It’s creating this massive unproductive workforce that is unable to productively engage in their lives or in the economy.” …

 

 

More from Ed Morrissey.

Binyamin Applebaum delivers the bottom line:

Binyamin Appelbaum         @BCAppelbaum Follow

Bottom line: This labor market is much much weaker than the last time the unemployment rate stood at 6.1 percent.

Indeed. And while the overall job growth is pretty decent, it’s still not high enough to make a dent in the ranks of the chronically unemployed from the last six years.

Update: Plus, there’s this:

Only one month in the past 4+ years has the number of jobs added exceeded the number of people leaving the workforce. Yikes.

 

 

Debra Saunders asks a pointed question about the Hobby Lobby flap.

How did women get birth control before President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act? Before Obamacare, a woman could go to a doctor and get birth control. She often had to pay or make a copayment for contraception. But in the 2014 political lexicon, that means she had no access. …

 

 

You knew this would happen. Video from inside fireworks. There is no sound of the explosions, so they added cheesy music. Shut the sound. It’s better that way.

July 3, 2014

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Roger Simon reviews Blood Feud by Edward Klein.

… And unlike the Times, Blood Feud is a compulsive read.  I dare you to put it down. The book reminds you of nothing so much as an episode of Shonda Rhimes’ television series Scandal — and a particularly excessive episode at that. Even at its most seemingly illogical, Klein’s work has the ring of truth.  He’s on to something, even if he hasn’t hit the bull’s eye.

The main characters here — Hillary, Michelle, Barack, Bill and, to an extraordinary extent,  real “power behind the throne” Valerie Jarrett — read like a group of Borgias set free on today’s Washington, loathing each other and plotting revenge while living a lifestyle even the one percent could barely dream of.

The idea that these people could even utter the words “income inequality” is farcical.  At some point they may have had political ideas of some sort — who knows — but that was in a galaxy far, far away and has been lost forever in the latest round of golf, $200,000 speeches to Arab potentates or spur-of-the-moment trips  to Maui to woo Oprah at her mansion.

A lot of the book too reads like a companion piece to Hillary’s latest — well, not exactly, since no one appears to be interested in that door stopper –because most of the leaks appear to be from people anxious to differentiate Hillary from Obama. POTUS, as we know, is not exactly popular these days and anyone seeking the presidency would be well advised to separate herself from him as far as possible. This accounts for much of the amusing dish in the book, Hillary even dropping the F-bomb in front of some of her amazed old classmates from Wellesley when referring to Obama’s undeniable executive incompetence. …

… Barack Obama’s brand of narcissism seemed quite attractive to many early on with all its soaring talk of hope and change. Voters had no idea this man had only scant interest in the nitty-gritty task of governing. And the person they were really electing, as Blood Feud makes abundantly clear, was someone almost none of them had then heard of and most still haven’t — President Jarrett.

 

 

In another hint the media have had enough of Hillary’s money grabs, WaPo with a story on the almost $2 million she has sucked out of universities in the last nine months.

At least eight universities, including four public institutions, have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hillary Rodham Clinton to speak on their campuses over the past year, sparking a backlash from some student groups and teachers at a time of austerity in higher education.

In one previously undisclosed transaction, the University of Connecticut — which just raised tuition by 6.5 percent — paid $251,250 for Clinton to speak on campus in April. Other examples include $300,000 to address UCLA in March and $225,000 for a speech scheduled to occur in October at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

The potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate also has been paid for speeches at the University at Buffalo, ColgateUniversity and HamiltonCollege in New York, as well as SimmonsCollege in Massachusetts and the University of Miami in Florida.

Officials at those five schools refused to say what they paid Clinton. But if she earned her standard fee of $200,000 or more, that would mean she took in at least $1.8 million in speaking income from universities over the past nine months.

Since stepping down as secretary of state in early 2013, Clinton has given dozens of paid speeches to industry conventions and Wall Street banks. But Clinton’s acceptance of high fees for university visits has drawn particularly sharp criticism, with some students and academic officials saying the expenditures are a poor use of funds at a time of steep tuition hikes and budget cuts across higher education. …

 

 

More on administration foreign policy errors from Mary Anastasia O’Grady. This time we learn how our ambassador has insulted Canada.  

President Obama once promised to remake America’s image around the globe. He has kept that promise—only not in the way many voters who backed him had hoped.

Mr. Obama’s latest step in the image makeover is to tell Canada—the U.S.’s largest trading partner, largest supplier of energy and most loyal ally in war and peace—that its long-nurtured special relationship with the U.S. is not so special after all. To carry out the mission, Mr. Obama has sent a new U.S. ambassador to Ottawa.

Bruce Heyman, a former Goldman Sachs banker based in Chicago and a top Obama campaign bundler in both 2008 and 2012, may have deserved an ambassadorship for his services. But that’s what all those tiny islands in the Caribbean are for. Appointing Mr. Heyman—who is diplomatically challenged, to put it diplomatically—his top representative to Canada says a lot about what the president thinks about his northern neighbor.

Mr. Heyman made his debut in Ottawa earlier this month with a dinner speech at the National Gallery followed by a Q&A with former Canadian ambassador to Washington Frank McKenna. Mr. McKenna used the event to raise what Canada sees as troubling “irritants” in the bilateral relationship. Mr. Heyman used it to explain to Canadians how insignificant they are in the eyes of Washington. …

 

 

In 2008 the editors of the Billings, Montana paper endorsed the man who has become president petulant. They did this to show they can be just as insufferable as the bien pensants out East. At least the Billings people have come to see the error of their way and have recanted.

… The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal polls show that Americans are giving Obama lower marks than in 2006 when Iraq was going poorly for Bush and a tepid response to Hurricane Katrina sunk Bush’s ratings.

It’s not that popularity polling should be the final or even best measure of a president. There is that old saw that points out there’s a difference between doing what is right and what is popular.

For us, though, it’s the number of bungled or blown policies in the Obama administration which lead us to believe Obama has earned every bit of an abysmal approval rating.

Let’s recap some of the mistakes:

- Maybe the worst and most widespread invasion of privacy occurred when the Obama administration continued a controversial National Security Agency program of spying on millions of citizens culling their phone records to intercepting online information. The administration has done nearly nothing to safeguard civil liberties or put in safeguards to protect our Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

- The Obama administration has continued to ratchet down on emissions from coal-fired power plants while giving consumers little new innovation to replace the power supply. Meanwhile, Obama continues to thwart other energy projects that might be helpful to the economy, like the Keystone XL pipeline. The war on carbon might not be so bad if indeed it was being counterbalanced by true innovation.

- Iraq was an inherited quagmire from the Bush administration. But six years later, Obama has to own the current situation which, as this is being written, looks perilously close to civil war and a complete breakdown of government in Iraq. …

 

 

Hugh Hewitt slams the Presbyterian Church’s Middle East foolishness.

Prominently featured at the website of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is an “An Open Letter of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to our American Jewish Interfaith Partners” which is signed by the denomination’s three senior officials and which begins:

We are reaching out to you after our General Assembly’s action, by a 310-303 vote, to recommend to the Presbyterian Foundation and the Board of Pensions to divest from three North American corporations following extensive corporate engagement. The assembly concluded that further engagement would not bring an end to their pursuits that further the Israeli occupation in Palestine.

Read the whole thing at pcusa.org. It is gibberish, nonsense of the worst sort: deeply disingenuous double talk intended to skim over the biased proceedings which produced it. Now the PCUSA, as its members call it, has taken an official position against Israel and so I, as an elder in the PCUSA — no longer a “ruling” elder in my congregation, having wrapped up my second such stint last year — have to take a position for or against the PCUSA based on it.

Many PCUSA congregations across the country are already engaged in the process of “discerning” whether to remain within the splintering denomination, and this new assault on Israel and the virulent language employed — “occupation” — will no doubt make that process much easier for hundreds of thousands of us. If their congregations don’t leave, they will. They will not be part of the American intifada against Israel. …

 

 

An article from Andrew Malcolm sounds like bringing coals to Newcastle. Seems someone is pooping in the hallways of federal offices.

… On Wednesday, McCarthy informed the House Oversight Committee that, doggone it, a whole bunch of emails sought by Congress have just up and disappeared.

Quite a coincidence given the strange timing of a half-dozen crashed and trashed hard-drives over at the Internal Revenue Service containing subpoenaed evidence.

Fortunately, at least one EPA email survived and Government Executive’s Eric Katz found it. In the message to Denver employees, EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Howard Cantor described several damaging incidents of inappropriate bathroom behavior, including toilet sabotage and disturbing deposits of human fecal material in adjacent hallways.

He said such material presented health hazards to fellow employees. Managers consulted with a workplace violence expert who warned that such anti-social behavior was not only unhealthy and unsafe but likely to escalate to something.

“Management is taking this situation very seriously,” Cantor wrote, “and will take whatever actions are necessary to identify and prosecute these individuals.” He asked EPA workers with any information on suspected hallway poopers to alert their supervisor.

An Environmental Impact Statement on the incidents is expected within a couple of years.

July 2, 2014

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James Kirchick says this administration is worse than Carter’s.

… rather than respond to the collapsing world order by supporting our allies and undermining our adversaries, the Obama administration dithers. It is an indication of just how worrisome the situation is that many in Washington are pining for the resolve and fortitude of Jimmy Carter.

For months, the beleaguered Ukrainians have requested the most basic of military aid. The administration sends Meals Ready to Eat. Even hard-hitting, “sectoral” sanctions aimed at the Russian economy are viewed as too provocative.

Last year, Obama declared a “red line” on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. Assad’s deployment of such weapons, the world was told, would constitute the sort of breach of international law and norms requiring an American response.

When Assad did use such weapons, Washington allowed itself to be co-opted into a farcical deal — proposed by that most altruistic of world leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin — that saw the purported removal of Assad’s chemical arsenal. The message from Washington to Assad: You can continue murdering your people en masse and destabilizing the entire Middle East, but just do so using conventional weapons.

But even that solution was full of holes. Days ago, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that evidence it has gathered from the field “lends credence to the view that toxic chemicals, most likely pulmonary irritating agents such as chlorine, have been used” against civilians. Two senior administration officials working on Syria, special advisor for transition Fred Hof and Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, resigned their posts rather than continue participating in this charade.

Few take America, least of all Secretary of State John Kerry, at its word anymore. Earlier this week, Kerry demanded that Russia urge separatists in Ukraine to disarm “within the next hours, literally.”

Or what? This empty threat followed months of similar reprimands from Washington. … 

 

 

John Fund posts on Kirchick’s article.

As someone who actually lived through the dreary declinism of the Carter era, it’s hard to imagine a president could put in a weaker and more spineless performance in foreign policy.

But James Kirchick of the Foreign Policy Initiative lays out the case that Barack Obama has taken the trophy of incompetence abroad from Jimmy Carter.

A particularly pungent quote

Global instability is on the rise and faith in America’s stabilizing presence is on the decline, and all we have from Washington are empty, millennial-friendly buzz phrases. “Leading from behind” was how one, too-clever-by-half administration official termed Obama’s global strategy. Hitting “singles” and “doubles” is Obama’s own, jocular assessment of his foreign policy. And now, “Don’t do stupid s—” is the mantra being repeated throughout the halls of the White House and State Department.

“Don’t do anything at all” seems more apt a description of this administration’s approach. …

 

 

Jennifer Rubin calls it a “perfect storm of foreign policy incompetence.”

… Convinced al-Qaeda was dead, insistent we could retreat from the world and determined to treat terrorism as a series of criminal justice matters, the White House’s perfect storm of foreign policy incompetence has made for a far more dangerous and unstable Middle East than the one they found in 2009. And those who helped implement or cheered these moves and misjudgments will have a lot to answer for. It remains to be seen whether and at what cost (human and financial) we can reverse the terrorists’ momentum and re-establish U.S. influence in the region.

 

 

Foreign policy failures are perfectly matched with domestic failure. Joel Kotkin posts on the alliance between government and the 1%. Of course this is not what the president had in mind. He said he wanted to punish the 1% with taxes to pay for middle class benefits. But, since the government always f**ks up achieving goals, the exact opposite is the result. 

Thanks to their cozy relationship with the Obama administration, a new class of super-wealthy oligarchs keeps getting more powerful while the country’s middle class shrinks.

When our current President was elected, many progressives saw the dawning of a new epoch, a more egalitarian and more just Age of Obama. Instead we have witnessed the emergence of the Age of Oligarchy.

The outlines of this new epoch are clear in numerous ways. There is the diminished role for small business, greater concentration of financial assets, and a troubling decline in home ownership. On a cultural level, there is a general malaise about the prospect for upward mobility for future generations.

Not everyone is suffering in this new age. For the entitled few, these have been the best of times. With ever more concentration of key industries, ever greater advantage of capital over labor, and soaring real estate values in swanky places such as Manhattan or San Francisco which , as one journalist put it, constitute “vast gated communities where the one percent reproduces itself.” The top hundred firms on the Fortune 500 list has revenues, in adjusted dollars, eight times those during the supposed big-business heyday of the 1960s.    

This shift towards oligarchy well precedes President Obama’s tenure. It was born from a confluence of forces: globalization, the financialization of the economy, and the shift towards digital technology. Obama is not entirely to blame, it is more than a bit ironic that these measurements have worsened under an Administration that has proclaimed income inequality abhorrent. …

 

 

In an article titled “Barney Fife Meets Delta Force,” Charles Cooke reports on the military equipment finding its way to public safety goobers.

… Historians looking back at this period in America’s development will consider it to be profoundly odd that at the exact moment when violent crime hit a 50-year low, the nation’s police departments began to gear up as if the country were expecting invasion — and, on occasion, to behave as if one were underway. The ACLU reported recently that SWAT teams in the United States conduct around 45,000 raids each year, only 7 percent of which have anything whatsoever to do with the hostage situations with which those teams were assembled to contend. Paramilitary operations, the ACLU concluded, are “happening in about 124 homes every day — or more likely every night” — and four in five of those are performed in order that authorities might “search homes, usually for drugs.” Such raids routinely involve “armored personnel carriers,” “military equipment like battering rams,” and “flashbang grenades.” …

July 1, 2014

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Andrew Malcolm posts on the Clintons’ hard choices.

… Ever the gallant husband, Bill Clinton was defending Hillary’s oopsey-do claims on her book tour that the couple was “dead broke” in 2001, struggling just like ordinary Americans to get mortgages on their two mansions and finance Chelsea’s private school. It wasn’t easy, Hillary said in that flawed interview with ABC News.

Like hell it wasn’t.

They walked out of the White House into multi-million dollar book contracts and fees for a single speech that exceeded several years’ earnings for most Americans. Terry McAuliffe, their political money man who’s now Virginia governor, put up more than a million as bridge loan for one house down-payment.

Hillary and Bill both boast of having millions in debts when entering private life. Which is true. But where did those debts come from? Well, uh, mountainous attorney fees for numerous actual and alleged wrongdoings while occupying the Oval Office and other rooms.

One of the more humorous evergreen characteristics of Democrats in politics is their genetic need to claim humble beginnings and to apologize for being rich beyond the wildest dreams of the little people they claim to so devotedly defend. …

 

 

Hillary Clinton’s defense of a child rapist in 1975 gets the Continetti treatment. And you can listen to newly unearthed tapes with Hillary laughing about her defense strategy.

The facts are these. In 1975, before she married Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham defended a child rapist in Arkansas court. She was not a public defender. No one ordered her to take the case. An ambitious young lawyer, she was asked by a friend if she would represent the accused, and she agreed. And her defense was successful. Attacking the credibility of the 12-year-old victim on the one hand, and questioning the chain of evidence on another, Clinton got a plea-bargain for her client. He served ten months in prison, and died in 1992. The victim, now 52, has had her life irrevocably altered—for the worse.

Sometime in the mid-1980s, for an Esquire profile of rising political stars, Hillary Clinton and her husband agreed to a series of interviews with the Arkansas journalist Roy Reed. Reed and Hillary Clinton discussed at some length her defense of the child rapist, and in the course of that discussion she bragged and laughed about the case, implied she had known her client was guilty, and said her “faith in polygraphs” was forever destroyed when she saw that her client had taken one and passed. Reed’s article was never published. His tapes of the interviews were later donated to the University of Arkansas. Where they remained, gathering dust. …

 

 

 

Jennifer Rubin says Hillary was part and parcel of the administration’s Iraq policy.

As I have written, the Obama/Hillary Clinton cover story that Iraq wouldn’t let troops stay behind (or even more outlandishly that the George W. Bush administration put Bush’s successor in a position where the United States “had” to get out) is at odds with reality.

A reader points out the Obama/Clinton cover story was recently blown up by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Graham, along with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), had gone to Iraq on behalf of the administration trying to secure a stay-behind force. Take three minutes to listen to Graham’s blow-by-blow account. Three things are clear:

The principal Iraq leaders all agreed to a stay-behind force and warned the administration not to bring the issue up with its parliament.

When Graham asked Gen. [Martin] Dempsey in the discussion how many forces we would have, he had no clear answer.

The number of troops was reduced not by Iraq, but by the White House.

Obama then insisted he had to go to parliament and without its approval (which wasn’t forthcoming) it was impossible to leave troops –  any number — behind. In all of this, Graham points out that the administration “got the answer they wanted.” Remember this was a campaign promise — to get all the troops out. Obama was to run for reelection as the guy who ended wars and had decimated al-Qaeda. (Recently Obama decided — with his policy in shambles — that parliament didn’t need to vote on an immunity deal for our 300 advisers.) …

 

 

Peggy Noonan writes on Hillary and her book.

… Mrs. Clinton seems to have a peculiar and unattractive relationship with money. She wants it and she doesn’t want you to know. She also appears to think she’s entitled to it, as a public servant who operated at high levels. But public servants now are less like servants than bosses.

When an interviewer compared her to Mitt Romney in terms of wealth, she got a stony look. That is a “false equivalency,” she said. You could see she feels she should not be compared to a wealthy Republican because she’s liberal and therefore stands for the little guy. So she can be rich and should not be criticized, while rich people who have the wrong policies—that would be Republicans—are “the rich” and can be scorned and shamed. This is seen by some as hypocrisy but is more like smugness. …

… As for the book, it is actually the first I have encountered that was written so a politician could say, “I wrote about this at length in my book.” It exists to offer a template for various narratives and allow her to suggest she’s already well covered the issue at hand, which the interviewer would know if he were better informed.

It is written in the style of the current Ladies’ Home Journal in that it patronizes even as it panders. It is an extended attempt to speak “their language,” the language of a huge imagined audience of women. There are silver linings of defeat. She brims with ideas, advocates, gets to yes, chooses her own team. There are clear-eyed assessments and daunting challenges. The State Department neighborhood is known as “Foggy Bottom.” She proudly quotes a speech she gave in 2008. “You will always find me on the front lines of democracy—fighting for the future.”

Ladies and gentleman, that is the authentic sound of 2016. Shoot me now.

Why do Democratic politicians talk like this about themselves, putting themselves and their drama at the ego-filled center, instead of policy ideas, larger meanings, the actual state of the country? In this she is just like Barack Obama.

 

 

Free Beacon reports UNLV students incensed over Hillary Clinton’s speaker’s fee.

The University of Nevada-Las Vegas is set to host Hillary Clinton on October 13 as their speaker for their UNLV Annual Foundation Dinner. Clinton will be paid $225,000 to address attendees at the fundraiser. Her sky-high speaking fee has raised eyebrows and caused a stir on the UNLV campus.

UNLV student government leaders expressed their outrage at the university’s decision to pay the former Secretary of State such a hefty fee. “We really appreciate anybody who would come to raise money for the university, but anybody who is being paid $225,000 to come speak- we think that’s a little bit outrageous. And we would like Secretary Clinton, respectfully, to gracefully return the money back to the university or to the foundation,” Daniel Waqar, Public Relations Director for the UNLV Student Government, told Jon Ralston on Ralston Reports.

UNLV Student Body President Elias Benjelloun agreed and weighed in on Clinton’s controversial speaking fee. “We’re excited that Hillary Clinton would come to the university to fundraise on behalf of our university. We’re excited anyone wants to come to UNLV and fundraise on our behalf. When we heard $225,000, we weren’t so thrilled…We’d hope that Hillary Clinton…returns part or whole of the amount she receives for speaking,” he said.

 

 

Carl Cannon posts on the 15 most annoying political phrases.

… 2. “AT THE END OF THE DAY” When Bill and Hillary Clinton arrived on the national scene, they brought pizazz to politics. They also popularized this unfortunate phrase. “At the end of the day” is simultaneously addictive and grating. Its first usage can be traced to 1826, although it really caught on in the 1990s. In Britain, it so offended BBC host Vanessa Feltz that she issued a fatwa against the phrase, which she rescinded when no guest was able to speak aloud without using it. In this country, it quickly spread beyond the Clinton circle. Everyone says it now: Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, baseball players, football coaches, prosecutors, bartenders, movie stars. In 2004, an organization called The Plain English Campaign surveyed its members in 70 countries and pronounced it “the most irritating phrase in the English language.”

1. “FOLKS” U.S. presidents love this word, which they find, well, folksy. It’s been invoked by our chief executives some 4,400 times since Herbert Hoover occupied the Oval Office. Bill Clinton loved “folks” so much he used it publicly eight times during his last month in office. But it’s proliferating. George W. Bush used it 21 times in his first month as president. Then he started misusing it. His most discordant example was his reference to “al-Qaeda, the very same folks that attacked us on September the 11th.” There must be something in the White House water supply because Obama matched Bush’s January-February 2001 record by saying “folks” 21 times in only two debates with Mitt Romney. The first time he used it in the Oct. 22, 2012, debate was the most jarring. Discussing military intervention in Syria, Obama said he wanted to make sure “we’re not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or allies in the region.” At least he didn’t say, “Look, frankly, at the end of the day—as Ronald Reagan knew—Syria is a no-brainer.”

June 30, 2014

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Glenn Reynolds posted on the two Watergate-era heroes who died last week;

Howard Baker, who famously asked “what did the President know and when did he know it?” and Johnnie Walters, the IRS Commissioner who refused to go along with Nixon’s efforts to target his enemies. Both were Republicans who stood up for the rule of law.

Where are the Democrats willing to stand up for it under this Administration?

 

 

More on Johnnie Walters from Jim Taranto.

In the scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS commissioner refused to play along with a corrupt administration, the New York Times reports. A White House aide handed him a list of 200 political “enemies” the president wanted investigated. In response, the commissioner asked: “Do you realize what you’re doing?” Then, he answered his own rhetorical question: “If I did what you asked, it’d make Watergate look like a Sunday school picnic.”

The White House aide’s reply was “emphatic,” according to the Times: “”The man I work for doesn’t like somebody to say ‘no.’ ”

The commissioner went to his boss, the Treasury secretary, “showed him the list and recommended that the I.R.S. do nothing.” The secretary “told him to lock the list in his safe.” Later, he retrieved the list and turned it over to congressional investigators.

It’s enough to restore your trust in the government–except that it happened more than 40 years ago. The corrupt order was delivered by John Dean in September 1972. The commissioner, Johnnie Walters, eventually “testified to various committees investigating alleged Nixon misdeeds,” the Times reports. “He left office in April 1973.” He died Tuesday; the Times article we’ve been quoting is his obituary. …

… Four decades ago, during a Republican administration that was brought down by corruption, the IRS turned out to be a bulwark of government integrity. Today the possibility remains that the IRS itself is the source of the corruption. As we’ve repeatedly argued, that would be even worse than an IRS that follows corrupt orders from the president. A corrupt administration can be replaced, as Nixon’s was. It’s harder to see what can be done if a vital and permanent institution of the administrative state has been corrupted.

 

 

Even the liberals on the Supreme Court cannot countenance presidential power plays. John Fund posts on the 12th and 13th unanimous ruling in the last two and a half years.  

Did you know the Obama administration’s position has been defeated in at least 13 – thirteen — cases before the Supreme Court since January 2012 that were unanimous decisions? It continued its abysmal record before the Supreme Court today with the announcement of two unanimous opinions against arguments the administration had supported. First, the Court rejected the administration’s power grab on recess appointments by making clear it could not decide when the Senate was in recess. Then it unanimously tossed out a law establishing abortion-clinic “buffer zones” against pro-life protests that the Obama administration argued on behalf of before the Court (though the case was led by Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley).

The tenure of both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder has been marked by a dangerous push to legitimize a vast expansion of the power of the federal government that endangers the liberty and freedom of Americans. They have taken such extreme position on key issues that the Court has uncharacteristically slapped them down time and time again. Historically, the Justice Department has won about 70 percent of its cases before the high court. But in each of the last three terms, the Court has ruled against the administration a majority of the time. …

 

 

Kimberley Strassel writes on the president’s enablers.

… In the history of this country, there was one thing on which Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, could regularly agree: Nobody messes with Congress’s powers. Political parties were happy to rally votes for a president’s agenda, to slam his opponents, to excuse his failings. But should that president step on Congress’s size 12 toes, all partisan bets were off. …

 

… Name a prominent Democrat—name any Democrat—who has said boo about the president’s 23 unilateral rewrites of ObamaCare. Or of immigration law. Name any who today are defending constituents in their districts against the abuses of the Obama IRS. A few congressional Democrats got their backs up with the White House over possible Syria action, but they are dwarfed by the majority who’ve gone silent over Mr. Obama’s national-security policies—which they once berated George W. Bush for pursuing as an “imperial” president.

The main culprits here are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Ms. Pelosi, who’ve put themselves and their caucuses at the disposal of the White House. Winning political battles—sticking it to the GOP—is their priority, not constitutional balance. Mr. Reid has made himself White House gatekeeper, sitting on thorny votes, earning Congress public scorn for dysfunction. His members are meanwhile happy for Mr. Obama to pervert the law, since it saves them taking tough votes.

It hasn’t helped that much of the institutional memory of the Democratic Party has retired or died this past decade. Nearly half of today’s Democratic Senate was elected with or since Mr. Obama and has never known institutional leadership. …

 

 

Philip Klein explains how the recess appointments ruling bolsters Boehner’s suit for presidential usurpation.

A unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court on Thursday invalidating three of President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board bolsters House Speaker John Boehner’s effort to sue Obama over his abuse of executive power.

Liberals have consistently dismissed as political posturing any charges by Republicans that Obama has violated the U.S. Constitution by frequently bypassing Congress. But the decision in the NLRB v. Noel Canning case shows that there’s more to the GOP’s claims than liberals care to acknowledge.

The case goes back to January 2012 when Obama, frustrated by his inability to get his pro-union nominees to the NLRB confirmed, made three appointments to the board tasked with adjudicating labor disputes – even though the U.S. Senate said it was still in session.

In a 9-0 decision authored by liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, the court held that, “the Senate is in session when it says it is” and thus, Obama “lacked the power to make the recess appointments here at issue.” …

 

 

WSJ reports we’ve been voting for butter.

Changing views of nutrition are turning butter into one of the great comeback stories in U.S. food history.

Americans this year are expected to eat an average of 5.6 pounds of butter, according to U.S. government data—nearly 22.5 sticks for every man, woman and child. That translates to 892,000 total tons of butter consumed nationwide, an amount not seen since World War II.

Americans in 2013 for the third straight year bought more butter than margarine, spending $2 billion on products from Land O’Lakes Inc., OrganicValley and others, compared with $1.8 billion on spreads and margarines, according to IRI, a market-research firm.

The revival flows in part from new legions of home gourmets inspired by celebrity chefs and cooking shows with butter-rich recipes. Butter makers have encouraged the trend, using food channels and websites to promote what they say is their products’ natural simplicity. …

June 29, 2014

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Kevin Williamson writes on the children’s free libraries in the Kansas City suburbs and the reaction from government creeps on the zoning board.

Funny how words change over time: “To be attached to the subdivision,” Edmund Burke wrote in Reflections on the Revolution in France, “to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.” The phrase “little platoon” remains current among conservatives, who are mindful that the small, local, voluntary associations of civil society — and not Leviathan — are the real building blocks of our common life. But “subdivision” now means something entirely different, calling to mind the petty dictatorships of local zoning boards and the like. Nine-year-old Spencer Collins of Leawood, Kan., was trying to make his contribution to his little platoon when he ran up against the ham-fisted tyranny of the subdivision.

There is a charming phenomenon known as the “little free library,” in which private citizens, very often children, build modest little birdhouse-like structures, fill them with books, and offer them to their neighbors on a take-a-book/leave-a-book honor system. The practice is popular in the Kansas City suburbs where the Collinses reside, but they have been built from coast to coast. The business of America being business, there are even entrepreneurs who build ready-made little free libraries for those insufficiently handy or not inclined to build their own. Children engaging their communities in a generous, civic-minded activity dedicated to books: You could hardly improve on that.

Unless you are the local zoning board. And then you might have some ideas. …

 

… From the suburbs to the capital, we are governed by fools.

 

 

 

Kevin Williamson reminds us how delicate our democratic government is.

… freedom, self-rule, and prosperity are extraordinarily delicate things. The natural state of the human animal is not security and plenty, but terror and privation. When the Romans overthrew Tarquin, they swore they’d never have another king. Soon enough, they had an emperor, a word deriving from the Latin imperator, which, some of my conservative friends would do well to remember, means “commander-in-chief.”

We Americans venerate our Constitution as the English venerate their Magna Carta (which is our Magna Carta, too), but it isn’t our laws or our documents that keep us free. The United States and the United Kingdom have very different forms of government, and there are many contradictory and incompatible laws, institutions, health-care arrangements, etc., across the countries of the Anglosphere. What keeps us free is our civilization and our culture, and our tenacity in defending the best aspects of them.

As John Fund points out, 13 times since 2012 the Supreme Court has felt itself obliged to unanimously stop Barack Obama from doing violence to the Constitution and the law in the service of aggrandizing his own power. The president’s most recent defeat, in the matter of his attempting to make recess appointments when the Senate is not in recess, was a naked power grab, ugly and vicious enough that even Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, whom President Obama named to the Court, both felt obliged by duty to blow the whistle on his transgression. But even the mighty Supreme Court can be overcome: …

 

 

 

Kevin Williamson posts on the unfortunate series of events that have overcome the IRS. Says it must be “the unluckiest agency in the history of the federal government.”

You may recall that when the IRS political-persecution scandal first started to become public, the agency’s story was that the trouble was the result of the misguided, overly enthusiastic actions of a few obscure yokels in Cincinnati. That turned out to be a lie, as we all know. But the IRS made a similar case successfully in the matter of its criminal disclosure of the confidential tax records of the National Organization for Marriage, whose donor lists were leaked to left-wing activists in order to use them against the Romney campaign. The IRS admitted that an employee leaked the information, but said it was an accident, that it involved only a single employee making a single error, etc., and the court agreed that NOM could not show that the leak was the result of malice or gross negligence.

Truly, the IRS must be the unluckiest agency in the history of the federal government. Oops! It’s leaking confidential taxpayer information to political activists. D’oh! It’s improperly and illegally targeting conservative organizations for harassment and investigation and misleading Congress, investigators, and the public about the scope and scale of that wrongdoing. Dang! It cannot produce the emails that investigators have demanded as part of the inquiry into its actions. Rats! Its employees are openly campaigning for Barack Obama’s reelection while on the IRS’s clock, using IRS resources, and holding taxpayers hostage. And, who could have seen it coming? The IRS violated the Federal Records Act by refusing to archive relevant documents. With a string of bad luck like that, sure, accidentally releasing NOM’s confidential taxpayer information to left-wing activists seems right at home. …

… The alternative and much more likely — undeniable, to my mind — explanation is that the Internal Revenue Service is engaged in an active and ongoing criminal conspiracy to misappropriate federal resources for political purposes, to use its investigatory powers, including the threat of criminal prosecution, for purposes of political repression, and to actively mislead Congress and the public about the issue;  that the Justice Department is turning a blind eye to these very serious crimes for political purposes and is therefore complicit in the cover-up; that these crimes were encouraged if not outright suborned by Senate Democrats; and that the White House is at the very least passively complicit, refusing to lift so much as a presidential pinkie as the IRS runs amok.

And, apparently, there’s nobody in Washington with the power and the inclination to do anything about it.

 

 

Kevin Williamson thinks we need a boring president.

As I was lunching with a few conservative political types earlier this week, the subject turned, as it does, to the 2016 field. When the name of a highly regarded former governor came up, the judgment was unequivocal: “He’s just so . . . boring.” That was not intended as an endorsement.

It should be.

Barack Obama has been anything but boring. “May you live in exciting times” may be a fake Chinese curse, but the wisdom communicated therein is real. …

… The most boring president of the modern era probably was Dwight Eisenhower, whose administration was marked by relative peace, prosperity, and confidence in the effectiveness and integrity of our institutions. The most boring president ever surely was Calvin Coolidge, who pinched pennies and kept at his plow, more or less leaving the country free to go about its own business, which turned out to be an excellent economic program. Our most exciting recent presidents? John Kennedy, who was privately corrupt and publicly inept; Richard Nixon, who was privately corrupt and publicly corrupt; Bill Clinton, who combined the worst features of Kennedy and Nixon, adding a distasteful dose of sanctimony to the mix.

What greeted Barack Obama during his ascent was excitement that bled into reverence — it is easy to forget, with the demigod in his now diminished state, that his admirers were literally singing hymns to him. Exciting, in the same way that a head-on collision in a speeding Cadillac is exciting — it’s a shame J. G. Ballard, the poet laureate of car crashes, was not around to write about this wreck. …

 

 

One of the most disturbing trends in contemporary life is the animus towards free markets coming from parts of the Catholic Church and other organized religions. Guess who has comments? That’s right; Kevin Williamson once again.

Something strange happened in Washington last week: A panel of Catholic intellectuals and clergy, led by His Eminence Oscar Andrés Maradiaga, was convened to denounce a political philosophy under the headline “Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case against Libertarianism.” The conference was mainly about free-market economics rather than libertarianism per se, and it was an excellent reminder that the hierarchy of the Church has no special grace to pronounce upon matters of specific economic organization. The best that can be said of the clergy’s corporate approach to economic thinking is that it is intellectually incoherent, which is lucky inasmuch as the depths of its illiteracy become more dramatic and destructive as it approaches coherence.

The Catholic clergy is hardly alone in this. There is something about the intellectually cloistered lives of religious professionals that prevents them from engaging in anything but the most superficial way with the 21st-century economy. Consider Tricycle, the American Buddhist review, which periodically publishes hilariously insipid economic observations — e.g., the bracingly uninformed writing of Professor Stuart Smithers of the University of Puget Sound religion department, whose review of Conscious Capitalism by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and Raj Sisodia contains within it a perfect distillation of fashionable economic antithought. Like Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, he writes about the “structural” problems of capitalism, but gives no evidence at all that he even understands what that structure is. Unfortunately, relatively few do. …