The NY Times commiserates with its readers:
Shifting Reports on Libya Killings May Cost Obama
By MARK LANDLER
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s shifting accounts of the fatal attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, have left President Obama suddenly exposed on national security and foreign policy, a field where he had enjoyed a seemingly unassailable advantage over Mitt Romney in the presidential race.
Hard to imagine - the Admiistration failed to anticipate terrorist attacks on the anniversary of 9/11,then misled the public about their failure, and this is news?
Unfortunately, this is not just partisan hackery the Times can pooh-pooh:
But the questions are likely to come not just from partisan Republicans. The Benghazi attack calls into question the accuracy of intelligence-gathering and whether vulnerable American personnel overseas are receiving adequate protection. Even allies of the president like Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have petitioned the White House for more information about how the government protects diplomatic installations abroad.
But not to worry- the Times won't be trying too hard to knock down Team Obama's spin. For example, here is this howler, reported without rebuttal:
White House officials dispute that the press secretary, Jay Carney, cited the anti-Muhammad video as the cause of the attack in Benghazi.
MR. CARNEY: In terms of the security at the Benghazi facility or post, I would have to refer you to the State Department for specifics about what security was there. There was a security presence. It was unfortunately not enough to resist the attacks that we saw and resulted in the tragic loss of life. But there was security.
It is also the case that in reaction to this the President has ordered that we review all of our security arrangements for embassy facilities and other diplomatic facilities around the world. But in terms of the specific security that was in place at Benghazi, I’d have to refer you to the State Department.
Q Wouldn’t it seem logical that the anniversary of 9/11 would be a time that you would want to have extra security around diplomats and military posts?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, we are very vigilant around anniversaries like 9/11. The President is always briefed and brought up to speed on all the precautions being taken. But let’s be --
Q But saying you’re very vigilant and being very vigilant are different things.
MR. CARNEY: Jake, let’s be clear, these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region --
Q At Benghazi? What happened at Benghazi --
MR. CARNEY: We certainly don't know. We don't know otherwise. We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack. The unrest we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims find offensive. And while the violence is reprehensible and unjustified, it is not a reaction to the 9/11 anniversary that we know of, or to U.S. policy.
Q But the group around the Benghazi post was well armed. It was a well-coordinated attack. Do you think it was a spontaneous protest against a movie?
MR. CARNEY: Look, this is obviously under investigation, and I don’t have –
Q But your operating assumption is that that was in response to the video, in Benghazi? I just want to clear that up. That’s the framework? That’s the operating assumption?
MR. CARNEY: Look, it’s not an assumption --
Q Because there are administration officials who don’t -- who dispute that, who say that it looks like this was something other than a protest.
MR. CARNEY: I think there has been news reports on this, Jake, even in the press, which some of it has been speculative. What I’m telling you is this is under investigation. The unrest around the region has been in response to this video. We do not, at this moment, have information to suggest or to tell you that would indicate that any of this unrest was preplanned.
What is true about Libya is that -- well, a couple of things. One, is it’s one of the more pro-American countries in the region. Two, it is a very new government; it is a country that has just come out of a revolution and a lot of turmoil, and there are certainly a lot of armed groups. So the fact that there are weapons in the region and the new government is not -- is still building up its capacities in terms of security and its ability to ensure the security of facilities, is not necessarily reflective of anything except for the remarkable transformation that’s been going on in the region.
Well, Mr. Carney stuck to the line that it is under investigation, but to claim that he did not cite the movie as a possible cause is a long stretch. But not too long for the Times to ignore it.
I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. And the answer is enshrined in our laws: Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.
Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. As President of our country and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day -- (laughter) -- and I will always defend their right to do so.
People criticizing the prophet of a great religion, people criticizing Obama - it's all the same, yes? Obama can endure being mocked, so why can't these foks just get over it when someone mocks their religion?
For heaven's sake, very few of us still equate Obama with a prophet. Yes, there are Muslims who might benefit from having a thicker skin, but only a narcissist like Obama could offer his own mighty forebearance as an analogy and counterexample.
And how great is his forebearance, anyway? I don't recall much hue and cry about "Baracka Flacka Flames as Head of State", but how might the President react to a video depicting Michelle as, I don't know, a crack whore, or a depiction of Sasha and Malia as street hookers? I hope never to see such trash, but I would also hope that Obama's response would be Trumanesque.
Well, less abstractly - the US Supreme Court has upheld laws against cross-burning with the intent of racial intimidation, and rightly so. Even US free speech laws consider some types of expression as beyond the bounds of acceptance. That doesn't mean it would be acceptable for a private citizen to assault a cross-burner, but it would be acceptable for the police to arrest him.
The US does not have laws against blasphemy, but that is partly due to the differences in our history. For another example, spray-painting a swastika can be a hate crime in this country - would Obama like to listen to a lecture from an Indian leader about the religious tradition of that symbol in his country? I hope not.
Eventually they will endorse him but right now the NY Times is taking regular shots at Their One. This is from an article on the challenges posed to Obama by the Arab Spring. They even offer veiled praise for (sit down) George W. Bush:
To some, the stark difference between the outcomes in Cairo and Bahrain illustrates something else, too: his impatience with old-fashioned back-room diplomacy, and his corresponding failure to build close personal relationships with foreign leaders that can, especially in the Middle East, help the White House to influence decisions made abroad.
If the president felt a kinship with the youthful protesters, he seems to have had little rapport with Egypt’s aging president, or, for that matter, any other Arab leaders. In part, this was a function of time: he was still relatively new to the presidency, and had not built the kind of cozy relationship that the Bush family, for instance, had with the Saudis.
But Mr. Obama has struggled with little success to build better relations with key foreign leaders like Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
The tensions between Mr. Obama and the Gulf states, both American and Arab diplomats say, derive from an Obama character trait: he has not built many personal relationships with foreign leaders. “He’s not good with personal relationships; that’s not what interests him,” said one United States diplomat. “But in the Middle East, those relationships are essential. The lack of them deprives D.C. of the ability to influence leadership decisions.”
A Lack of Chemistry
Arab officials echo that sentiment, describing Mr. Obama as a cool, cerebral man who discounts the importance of personal chemistry in politics. “You can’t fix these problems by remote control,” said one Arab diplomat with long experience in Washington. “He doesn’t have friends who are world leaders. He doesn’t believe in patting anybody on the back, nicknames.
“You can’t accomplish what you want to accomplish” with such an impersonal style, the diplomat said.
We all remember the former First Nicknamer.
As an aside, apparently Obama plays the race card on himself and continues to enjoy his own Kool-Aid:
Mr. Obama felt keenly, one aide said, the need for the United States, and for he himself, to stand as a moral example. “He knows that the protesters want to hear from the American president, but not just any American president,” a senior aide to Mr. Obama said. “They want to hear from this American president.” In other words, they wanted to hear from the first black president of the United States, a symbol of the possibility of change.
Oh, brother. How did that work with the Chicago Olympics of 2016?
BONUS BASHING: The Times newsromm was riven in the spring of 2008 when the Times got on the wrong side of history and herstory and endorsed Hillary! in the primaries. Years later, some embittered PUMAs exacts revenge:
While U.N. Beckons Clinton, Obama Takes In ‘The View’
President Obama on Monday flew up to New York from Washington, rode in his motorcade to ABC’s studios and sat down for an interview on “The View.” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was not far away, in the Waldorf-Astoria, meeting with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.
As dozens of world leaders gathered for the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly — choking Manhattan’s streets with motorcades and barricades — the contrast between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton could not have been starker.
Mr. Obama, his re-election campaign in full swing, continued to make his pitch to American voters, avoiding for the most part world leaders arriving at the United Nations. The president will address the General Assembly on Tuesday but, breaking with tradition, has no meetings set with his counterparts.
That task he delegated to Mrs. Clinton, who churned through the first of dozens of meetings she will have over the next week. They deal with some of the most pressing foreign policy crises the administration has faced since taking office in 2009, like the deadly protests in the Islamic world and the confrontation between Japan and China over a handful of unpopulated islands.
You've seen one foreign leader, you've seen 'em all. But if you've seen only one Ohio voter, you are just warming up.
A law professor, a Cherokee, and a lawyer walked into a bar. The bartender looked up and said "Hello, Elizabeth!".
Is this a joke? Props to Bill Jacobson, who dug deep to discover that Elizabeth Warren does not seem to have a law license in Massachusetts, Texas, New Jersey, or anywhere else, although she has cashed some huge checks for Federal court work.
If she restricted her practice to arguing before the Federal courts this might be OK. Under the supremacy clause of the US constitution, states can not bar a person from practicing before the federal courts, which set their own rules.
However! Sorting through those rules would take a lawyer (or law professor). I glean this from Wikipedia:
Many federal district courts require attorneys to be members of the state bar where the court sits. This is not necessarily consistent within a state; for example, in Ohio, the Southern District generally requires membership in the Ohio state bar for full admission, while full admission to the Northern District is open to all attorneys in good standing with any U.S. jurisdiction.
An attorney wishing to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States must apply to do so, be admitted to the bar of the highest court of a state, be sponsored by two attorneys already admitted to the Supreme Court bar, pay a fee and take either a spoken or written oath.
Ms. Warren has appeared before the Supreme Court, leaving us wondering which highest court of which state qualified her to do so.
This may even be sorted out before the question of her Indian heritage is resolved, although it will be a dark cloud for Dems if Ms. Warren begins to explain that her mother always told her that she was going to be a lawyer someday.
As to the possibility that Ms. Warren, in her role as leader of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and head cheerleader for the nanny state, is more comfortable writing rules for others to follow than she is in following rules herself, well, time may tell.
FWIW: Earlier this September Ms. Warren officially dropped her NJ law license, thereby moving the whole NJ inquiry process off-line. Will this buy enough time for her to slide this past the election? The suspense mounts!
Mankiw vs. DeLong and Krugman on the CEA’s Real GDP Forecasts in Early 2009: What Might a Time Series Econometrician Have Said?
And from the abstract:
In early 2009, the incoming Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisers predicted real GDP would rebound strongly from recession levels. In a blog post, Greg Mankiw expressed skepticism. In their blogs, Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman sighed. Of course there would be strong growth, they maintained, because the recovery of employment would mandate it via Okun’s Law. Mankiw challenged Krugman to a bet on the issue, but there was no response.
Ahh, who's waxing nostalgic now? Let's go down memory lane to the initial Mankiw post, the sighing from DeLong and Krugman, and the 'feel free to put up or shut up' response from Mankiw.
And why is this all at my fingertips? In part because my mind is an impregnable fortress which no fact can escape (and few enter), but mainly because I chimed in back in 2009 and have engaged in occasional mocking since. Lest you wonder, the proposed wager was on the strength of the US recovery from 2008 through 2013; Mankiw will win handily, which is a bummer for Krugman and the US economy.
In a Sunday shocker, the NY Times criticizes Obama's handling of the wind-down in Iraq. Obama's domestic political goals were repeatedly put ahead of our objectives in Iraq, with gloomy consequences there:
In the case of Iraq, the American goal has been to leave a stable and representative government, avoid a power vacuum that neighboring states and terrorists could exploit and maintain sufficient influence so that Iraq would be a partner or, at a minimum, not an opponent in the Middle East.
But the Obama administration has fallen frustratingly short of some of those objectives.
Let's shift to a bit of light comedy:
The attempt by Mr. Obama and his senior aides to fashion an extraordinary power-sharing arrangement between Mr. Maliki and Mr. Allawi never materialized. Neither did an agreement that would have kept a small American force in Iraq to train the Iraqi military and patrol the country’s skies. A plan to use American civilians to train the Iraqi police has been severely cut back. The result is an Iraq that is less stable domestically and less reliable internationally than the United States had envisioned.
The story of these efforts has received little attention in a nation weary of the conflict in Iraq, and administration officials have rarely talked about them. This account is based on interviews with many of the principals, in Washington and Baghdad.
A nation weary of Iraq and a press wary of criticising Obama has led to this.
Let me cut to the SOFA, the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by Bush which called for all US troops to be out by the end of 2011. It was widely believed that an extension would be sought and agreed, but that didn't happen, and thereby hangs a tale:
As the process of forming a new Iraqi government dragged on, the Obama administration began in January 2011 to turn its attention to negotiating an agreement that would enable American forces to stay beyond 2011.
The first talks the Americans had were among themselves. Pentagon officials had gotten an earful from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, which were worried that the United States was pulling back from the region. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates favored leaving 16,000 troops to train the Iraqi forces, prepare them to carry out counterterrorism missions, protect Iraqi airspace, tamp down Arab and Kurdish tensions and to maintain American influence.
But the White House, which was wary of big military missions and also looking toward Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, had a lower number in mind. At a meeting on April 29, Thomas E. Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, asked Mr. Gates whether he could accept up to 10,000 troops. Mr. Gates agreed.
Concerned that decisions were being made without careful consideration of all the military factors, Admiral Mullen sent a classified letter to Mr. Donilon that recommended keeping 16,000 troops. “In light of the risks noted above and the opportunities that might emerge, that is my best military advice to the president,” he wrote. He added that the recommendation was supported by Gen. Lloyd Austin, the American commander in Iraq, and Gen. James N. Mattis, head of Central Command, which has responsibility for the Middle East.
Admiral Mullen’s letter arrived with a thud at the White House. An angry Mr. Donilon complained about it in a phone call to Michèle A. Flournoy, the under secretary of defense for policy. But she responded that Admiral Mullen had a professional responsibility to provide his independent advice. She did not see her role as ensuring that only politically acceptable advice was provided to the White House. Mr. Donilon declined to be interviewed, and his spokesman insisted that his discussions with the Pentagon concerned military issues, not politics.
Mr. Obama overruled Admiral Mullen, setting the stage for the negotiations over the troops.
So Obama opened with a low bid meant to be popular here in the US. However, even that was eventually scaled back as negotiations with the Iraqis, and within the Administration, dragged on:
The White House, meanwhile, wanted to avoid any perception that it was chasing after a deal to keep troops in Iraq after promising that combat forces would be brought home. By August, White House aides were pressing to scale back the mission and to reopen the issue of how many troops might be needed.
Mrs. Clinton and Leon E. Panetta, who succeeded Mr. Gates as the defense secretary, argued that talks should continue and that the goal, as before, should be to keep a force of up to 10,000.
On Aug. 13, Mr. Obama settled the matter in a conference call in which he ruled out the 10,000 troop option and a smaller 7,000 variant. The talks would proceed but the size of the force the United States might keep was shrunk: the new goal would be a continuous presence of about 3,500 troops, a rotating force of up to 1,500 and half a dozen F-16’s.
But there was no agreement. Some experts say that given the Iraqis’ concerns about sovereignty, and Iranian pressure, the politicians in Baghdad were simply not prepared to make the hard decisions that were needed to secure parliamentary approval. Others say the Iraqis sensed the Americans’ ambivalence and were being asked to make unpopular political decisions for a modest military benefit.
Who knows? But by the end, we were asking for so little that it hardly made sense for either side to exert itself.
The Times is a bit gloomy on the result:
The White House insisted that the collapse of the talks was not a setback. “As we reviewed the 10,000 option, we came to the conclusion that achieving the goal of a security partnership was not dependent on the size of our footprint in-country, and that stability in Iraq did not depend on the presence of U.S. forces,” a senior Obama administration said.
It is too soon to fully assess that prediction. But tensions have increased to the point that Mr. Barzani has insisted Mr. Maliki be replaced and Iraq’s lone Sunni vice president has fled to Turkey to avoid arrest.
Without American forces to train and assist Iraqi commandos, the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq is still active in Iraq and is increasingly involved in Syria. With no American aircraft to patrol Iraqi airspace, Iraq has become a corridor for Iranian flights of military supplies to Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, American officials say. It is also a potential avenue for an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations, something the White House is laboring to avoid.
Obama may yet manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq while expanding the quagmire in Afghanistan. Hard to believe the same guy who got lots of the asbestos out of Altgeld Gardens couldn't succeed here.
Despite all the verbiage packed into the ObamaCare bill, Democrats forgot to repeal the law of unintended consequences:
When the federal government began providing billions of dollars in incentives to push hospitals and physicians to use electronic medical and billing records, the goal was not only to improve efficiency and patient safety, but also to reduce health care costs.
But, in reality, the move to electronic health records may be contributing to billions of dollars in higher costs for Medicare, private insurers and patients by making it easier for hospitals and physicians to bill more for their services, whether or not they provide additional care.
So what is going on? Well, on the one hand...
Some experts blame a substantial share of the higher payments on the increasingly widespread use of electronic health record systems. Some of these programs can automatically generate detailed patient histories, or allow doctors to cut and paste the same examination findings for multiple patients — a practice called cloning — with the click of a button or the swipe of a finger on an iPad, making it appear that the physicians conducted more thorough exams than, perhaps, they did.
Critics say the abuses are widespread. “It’s like doping and bicycling,” said Dr. Donald W. Simborg, who was the chairman of federal panels examining the potential for fraud with electronic systems. “Everybody knows it’s going on.”
When Methodist Medical Center of Illinois in Peoria rolled out an electronic records system in 2006, Dr. Alan Gravett, a former emergency room physician, quickly expressed alarm.
He said the new system prompted doctors to click a box that indicated a thorough review of patients’ symptoms had taken place, even though the exams were rarely performed, while another function let doctors pull exam findings “from thin air” and include them in patients’ records.
But on the other hand...
Many hospitals and doctors say that the new systems allow them to better document the care they provide, justifying the higher payments they are receiving. Many doctors and hospitals were actually underbilling before they began keeping electronic records, said Dr. David J. Brailer, an early federal proponent of digitizing records and an official in the George W. Bush administration. But Dr. Brailer, who invests in health care companies, acknowledged that the use of electronic records “makes it faster and easier to be fraudulent.”
I will guess that Medicare does not cast the same keen eye on doctor's bills as the evil private insurers.
In which an earnest young man discovers it is better to be respected than liked; the NY Times ponders Obama's evolution on China. I especially like this:
Mr. Obama’s turn to Asia was not precisely what he had in mind when he entered office. The shift emerged in fits and starts, after a first year in which critics, including the president’s aides, concluded that the United States had been too soft on China. In interviews, a dozen current and former administration officials described a White House that struggled to find the right tone with Beijing.
From his decision not to meet with the Dalai Lama in 2009 to his tightly constrained first trip to China, the president accommodated Chinese leaders in the hopes that the moves would translate into good will on issues like climate change or Iran’s nuclear program.
They did not. China spurned the United States on climate change standards, dragged its feet on efforts to pressure Iran and began bullying its neighbors over territorial claims in the South China Sea. That last development, in particular, persuaded the administration that the time for accommodation had come to an end.
“I certainly think we tested the limit of how far you can get with China through positive engagement,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. “We needed to toughen our line in Year 2, and we did that.”
Fortunately, these lessons have been applied elsewhere in this canny White House:
To some extent, Mr. Obama’s learning curve on China parallels his early outreach to Iran: an initial hope that old adversaries could put aside their differences, followed by a jolting recognition of reality and the ultimate adoption of a realpolitik approach.
I am encouraged that it only took a year or two for Team Obama to stop believing their own BS. Well, some of it.
As the pennant races turn for the homestretch, the question gripping a few dead-enders is this: Can the Mets suck any harder?
SINCE YOU ASK: Late inning lighnting in Tampa as Boston folds up; in the Bronx, the Sleeping Giant continues to pursue a ring for Ichiro. (OK, the Yankees packed his bags in his only Series bid in 2001, so they owe him one.)
Rick Perry's heart is in the right place but he would make an even better impression if he had his facts right.
Check out his "hand-writing" tweet:
And on his hands he provides a memory jog with "$16 trillion".
Unfortunately, $16 trillion is the total national debt; the amount added by Obama is roughly $5.4 trillion, since he came into office with about $10.6 trillion in debt from his predecessors.
Yup, a trillion here and a trillion there and pretty soon you are talking about real money.
Following the blow-up in Benghazi the Administration seems to have created a new category - the "opportunistic" terrorist attack:
(CBS News) The White House called last week's deadly assault on a U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, "a terrorist attack" Thursday, but didn't clarify whether the Obama administration thought the attack was planned in advance.
"It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One Thursday. "Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials. So, again, that's self evident."
Well, a few days ago it was self-evident that a volent mob fueled by outrage over a YouTube video had triggered the incident. Whatever.
On Wednesday, Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told senators that the United States doesn't have specific intelligence that the attack was planned in advance, Reuters reports.
"The best information we have now, the facts that we have now, indicate that this was an opportunistic attack" on the consulate, Olsen said, according to Reuters. "The attack began and evolved and escalated over several hours."
U.S. officials had said since the immediate aftermath of the attack that it originally started as an anti-American protest against an amateurish online video made in the U.S. that insults the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
"At this point, what I would say is that a number of different elements appear to have been involved in the attack, including individuals connected to militant groups that are prevalent in eastern Libya, particularly in the Benghazi area," Olsen said, according to Reuters. "As well, we are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al Qaeda or al Qaeda's affiliates, in particular Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb."
CBS News is reporting that the initial unhappy mobs never existed, which compounds the confusion:
CBS reports this morning that witnesses are saying "that there was never an anti-American protest outside of the consulate [in Benghazi, Libya]. Instead, they say, it came under planned attack. That is in direct contradiction to the administration's account of the incident."
I will add this - the signature of Al Qaeda attacks is multiple targets. Only one US diplomatic outpost came under this type of determined armed assault, which lends a bit of credence to the "opportunistic" concept. On the other hand, if CBS is right and there was no angry mob providing cover and pretext, then the group in Libya created their own opportunity.
It will be interesting to see how much of the Team Obama fog on this is dispersed before November.
But the State Department now faces Congressional demands for an independent investigation of the attacks and any security failures that might have added to the death toll.
“In my judgment, which is informed by numerous briefings and discussions with experts, the attack in Benghazi was not a black swan,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said at a hearing on Wednesday, “but rather an attack that should have been anticipated, based on the previous attacks against Western targets, the proliferation of dangerous weapons in Libya, the presence of Al Qaeda in that country and the overall threat environment.”
And the Tines is either relying upon or backing up the CBS version:
The most significant inconsistency between Libyan and American accounts is whether the attack that night began with a small protest over the trailer of “The Innocence of Muslims,” parts of which were broadcast on Egyptian television. American officials insist there was a protest that began peacefully, only to be hijacked by armed militants. But Libyan witnesses, including two guards at the building, say the area around the compound was quiet until the attackers arrived, firing their weapons and storming the compound from three sides, beginning at 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 11. A witness said that some of those attacking referred to the film’s insults to Islam.
This is tricky - we have dead Americans and a failure to anticipate a terror attack on the anniversary of 9/11. On the other hand, full disclosure might result in both Obama and Hillary lookig inept. It will be interesting to see the press handle this challenge to their belief systems.
Time magazine gushed in 2008 about Barack Obama's
12-year tenure as a law lecturer at the University of Chicago Law
School, saying, "Within a few years, he had become a rock-star professor
with hordes of devoted students."
That may have been true during his first two years, when he ranked first among the law school's 40 instructors, with students giving him a rating of 9.7 out of a possible 10.
But law student evaluations made available to The Washington Examiner by the university showed that his popularity then fell steadily.
Foreshadowing his Presidency, and now they tell us!
In 1999, only 23 percent of the students said they would repeat Obama's
racism class. He was the third-lowest-ranked lecturer at the law school
that year. And in 2003, only a third of the student evaluators
recommended his classes.
His classes were small. A spring 1994 class attracted 14 out of a student body of 600; a spring 1996 class drew 13. In 1997, he had the largest class of his tenure with 49 students. But by then, his student rating had fallen to 7.75. Twenty-two of 40 faculty members ranked higher than Obama.
Yeah, but was Mitt Romney on the roster with an alternative class?
Some former faculty colleagues today describe Obama as disengaged, doing only what was minimally required and almost never participating in faculty activities.
They only say that because golf was not a faculty activity.
Team Obma re-imagines the American flag:
Maybe for the first time in her adult life Michelle is proud of her country's flag. In dealing with these Obamabots, just don't question their patriotism or say anything about a cult of personality.
HOPE, CHANGE, AND THE BENGHAZI CONSULATE: Artistic inspiration can be found anywhere.
Mitt attempts to clarify his remarks:
“The president’s view is one of a larger government; I disagree,” Mr. Romney said in an interview on Fox News. “I think a society based on a government-centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that’s the wrong course for America.”
I think Romney and I are on the same page, even if his 47% formulation is poorly thought through - even as the European model collapses we currently have an American President who grew up believing in that model and whose faith in it is unshaken. And I don't believe it is controversial to note that expanding middle class entitlements has been a goal of the Democratic Party for decades with health care as the grand prize; limiting themselves to being the defenders of welfare and Social Security didn't offer enough votes.
Barack Obama chimed in:
In an appearance on “Late Show” with David Letterman, Mr. Obama accused Mr. Romney of “writing off a big chunk of the country” and said it would be wrong for a politician to “suggest that because someone doesn’t agree with me that they’re victims or they’re unpatriotic.”
Don't question their patriotism! I don't see that in Romney's remarks, but Democrats are always whinging that their critics are evil homophobic racists questioning their patriotism, so whatever. Which brings us back to Newark mayor Cory Booker, who said this at the Democratic Convention:
“When your country is in a costly war, with our soldiers sacrificing abroad and our nation facing a debt crisis at home, being asked to pay your fair share isn’t class warfare. It’s patriotism,” Newark Mayor Cory Booker said, blasting the Republicans’ opposition to reducing the federal deficit by increasing taxes on the top 1 percent earners.
Well, if Democrats would stop questioning the patriotism of those being asked to foot the bills, maybe Romney will stop questioning the patriotism of those asking for more benefits. Maybe!
France enters the ring against the Muslim world:
PARIS — A French satirical magazine on Wednesday published a series of cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, setting off a new wave of outrage among Muslims and condemnation from French leaders amid widening unrest over an amateur video that has provoked violence throughout the Islamic world.
The illustrations, some of which depicted Muhammad naked, hit newsstands across the country on Wednesday and were met with swift rebuke from the government of François Hollande, which had earlier urged the magazine, Charlie Hebdo, not to publish the cartoons, particularly in the current tense environment.
The foreign minister stands up proudly for free expresson in France, when the time is right:
“In France, there is a principle of freedom of expression, which should not be undermined,” Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, said in a French radio interview. “In the present context, given this absurd video that has been aired, strong emotions have been awakened in many Muslim countries. Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?”
In an interview on France Info radio, Mr. Fabius announced that, as a precaution, France planned to close its embassies in 20 countries on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, which has become an occasion for many to express their anger although “no threats have been made against any institutions.” A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the closures would affect French consulates, cultural centers and schools as well.
The BBC has more.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…
“And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49 … he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.”
As a factual matter, this reflects gloomily poor staff work and preparation by Team Romney - roughly 3/4 of non-Federal filers are either retired or the working poor (benefiting from the Earned Income Tax Credit and personal and child breaks). Telling an elderly retiree who spent forty years paying Federal, Social Security and Medicare taxes that they are now a dependent who never took personal responsiblity for their lives is probably not a winning message. Since Romney is positioning himself as a smart guy, he ought to focus on saying smart things.
That said, I am hoping the AllahPundit is right with the notion that if the shoe doesn't fit, people won't wear it:
...my hunch is that Ben Domenech’s right in believing that no one really thinks they’re part of the 47 percent. Everyone thinks they’re a “maker,” not a “taker,” due to whatever little tax they pay, so when Mitt lays into freeloaders, even people who pay no income tax think he’s talking about someone else.
MORE: The WSJ has two pieces on the mysterious 47%; both buttress the point that Mitt cast his net too widely and collected far too many natural Republican voters in his Disorganized Dependent Democrats club.
Let me add this - I am not a tax expert, although I would welcome a chance to play one on television. However, the good folks at H&R Block are experts, and their website includes a quick tax calculator.
I just poked some numbers in quickly - assume a 40 year old man, 40 year old wife, two kids at home. I have them renting (no mortgage deduction) and deducting nothing for state and local taxes, or for charitable contributions (very Bidenesque!).
The fellow earns $45k per year, the wife is at home with no reportable income, and the net Federal tax liability is a bit less than zero -in fact, they are due $279 due (I presume) to the child credits and the EITC. (If his income rises to $50,000 his tax bill rises to $690, a marginal rate of nearly 20%, or $970 on $5,000.)
So, if such a family exists, they have just been denigrated by Romney as dependent and disorganized. Is that really our genius message du jour? Is that the message of a smart guy saying smart things? Is that helping to connect with likely Republican voters?
Well, since such a family is clearly not in the DDD club, we can hope that since the shoe doesn't fit, this guy and his wife won't wear it, and will just assume Romney had some other free-loaders in mind.
As a caveat, even if I have managed to screw up the seemingly simple H&R Block calculation with income of $45,000, it is pretty clear that at some lower but still credible number the tax liability would be zero.
The liberal base springs into action:
Updated, 10:30 a.m. | Dozens of arrests were reported on Monday, the first anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, as protesters converged near the New York Stock Exchange and tried to block access to the exchange.
Broadcasters have a nice study in contrasts available - they can show the so-far peaceful protests agasint the regime here in the US and contrast them with the violent protests overseas. And critics say Obama has not brought the world closer together!
With the Muslim world in flames Nick Kristof uses his space at the Times to assure us that Mitt Romney is a foreign policy fumbler. However, we do note this crack in the facade:
Presidential candidates always have microphones in their faces, and it’s not surprising that periodically they say inane things. President Obama himself blew it a few days ago by mistakenly asserting that we didn’t consider Egypt an ally. But Obama then had the good sense to have the White House clarify that “not an ally” in that context meant “an ally.”
Obvi. Juan Cole and Michael Tomasky are still waving the pom-poms for Obama as a bold diplomatic genius. Uh huh - Obama delivers an utterly implausible threat the US will never carry out without consulting with the National Security Council, State,the Pentagon, or any or our allies. If Bush did that, he'd be a reckless unilateral cowboy; when Obama does it, he's a genius. Got it.
Peering back through the mists of time, I noticed this Obama 2007 contribution to the national laugh track. Try to imagine that Obama once believed this, and try to hope that he no longer does. The context is an interview with the National Journal in which he makes the case for his own Presidency:
Let's start with his wisdom on foreign policy:
I also believe that I can be a more effective agent of change [than Hillary] in the diplomatic sphere in repairing the damage that's been done by George Bush, partly because I haven't fallen in to some of the conventional thinking that Senator Clinton did, which led her to authorize the war in Iraq and to at least give George Bush the benefit of the doubt when it came to his approach on Iran.
Q: But you also mentioned you might change the image of the United States in the world in the talk that you gave tonight.
Obama: Well, and I believe that's true. I think that the day I'm inaugurated, the world will look at America differently. America will look at itself differently. And that's more than just symbolic, that is political capital that can be used to make America safer, and to restore its standing in the world.
And The Once provided some insight on fiscal stewardship:
You know, Senator Clinton says that she's concerned about Social Security but is not willing to say how she would solve the Social Security crisis, then I think voters aren't going to feel real confident that this is a priority for her. And that's the kind of leadership I think that the Democratic Party has to offer in the years to come.
Yeah, Obama has been leading on entitlement reform, all right. Leading over a cliff.
The NY Times was not interested in delving into the possibility that, after three and a half years in office, our President really does not know who our allies are.
The president was not happy; Egypt, unlike Libya, is crucial to American security interests, given its peace treaty with Israel. At 11 p.m., from his hotel suite in Stapleton, Colo., Mr. Obama got on the phone with Mr. Morsi, who began by offering condolences on the American deaths in Libya.
But that was not what Mr. Obama was calling about.
“The president made his point that we’ve been committed to the process of change in Egypt, and we want to continue to build a relationship with the Egyptian government,” said a senior administration official. “But he made it clear how important it is that the Egyptian government work with us to lower the tension both in terms of the practical cooperation they give us and the statements they make.”
Mr. Morsi brought up the American-made video attacking the Prophet Muhammad, which had set off the violent protests, and Mr. Obama said he understood the ire felt by Muslims, but added that it did not justify attacks on the embassy.
Mr. Obama urged Mr. Morsi to publicly and strongly condemn the attacks. He had already signaled his displeasure earlier, saying in an interview on Telemundo that Egypt was not necessarily an “ally,” although White House officials were playing down the remark on Thursday.
“ ‘Ally’ is a legal term of art,” said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman with the National Security Council. “We don’t have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies.”
So Obama was simply signalling his frustration; nothing to see here, move on. Well, I suppose Telemundo and Rachel Maddow are not the traditional route for diplomatic signalling, but in this day and age, maybe that beats a Twitter announcement.
But the Times has left out so much that an eager reader relying on the Paper of Record will never be able to guess that an alternative view - that Obama was simply enjoying the sound of his Magic Mouth and reliving his college campus bullshit sessions - is more likely. Let's cut to this AP Fact Check available at the Washington Post:
WASHINGTON — This week’s storming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo by an angry mob has sent U.S.-Egyptian relations to a new low, prompting President Barack Obama to say he doesn’t see the two countries as allies.
But under U.S. law, they are.
The statement marks an abrupt change from decades when Washington and Cairo were ironclad partners in fighting terrorism, countering Iran’s influence in the region and promoting Arab-Israeli peace.
And while Obama may think Egypt isn’t acting like an ally right now, by U.S. designation it remains one.
The United States designated Egypt as one of the six original “major non-NATO allies” in the 1980s. The status is now enjoyed by 15 U.S. “allies” in total, including Israel, Japan, Australia and South Korea.
Non-NATO allies are granted streamlined defense cooperation, making it easier for them to buy American military equipment and satisfy U.S. export control regulations.
Asked about Egypt’s status, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed Thursday that the administration still considers it a major non-NATO ally of the United States.
Wait - you mean there is a law involved? Our allies aren't just determined by Presidential smiles and frowns?
Well, we remain a nation of laws, and the law in question - 22 USC § 2321k: Designation of major non-NATO allies - requires the President to give Congress 30 days notice before termination of a designation as an ally.
That notice was not given following Egypt's (lawful) transition to the post-Mubarak regime, nor is there any plan whatsoever to cut Egypt loose and put their peace treaty with Israel at risk. Nor does Obama have any intention of listening to "Who lost Egypt?" criticisms before November, if he can avoid them.
Terminating Egypt's status as an ally has not happened, which means the President's ruminations and bloviations about "I don’t think that we would consider them an ally..." are nonsense. Further undermining the notion that this was crafty diplo-signalling is this bit from the Times excerpt above:
“The president made his point that we’ve been committed to the process of change in Egypt, and we want to continue to build a relationship with the Egyptian government,”
We want to build and improve the thirty year relationship but it might all end tomorrow? Was that really how the phone call went?
As to whether this was part of a plan, the Foreign Policy account of the White House backpedaling includes this:
Administration sources told The Cable that Obama's "ally" comment was not pre-arranged or prepared by staff and that the question was not anticipated.
Don't you hate it when the staff throws the boss under the bus?
The WaPo also found the courage to cover this as a news story (buried at one of their many blogs):
White House clarifies after Obama says Egypt not ‘ally’
In an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo Wednesday night, President Obama said Egypt’s relationship with the U.S. is complicated: “”I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.”
In fact, Egypt was declared a “Major Non-NATO ally” in 1989. So White House staff is doing a little clarifying today.
The breadth and depth of those clarifications are more clear in the Foreign Policy piece cited above.
Ed Morrissey noted the shock felt by NBC News' man in Cairo at the notion that Obama was pitching Egypt under the bus.
And the press corps at the State Department briefing hung a huge "No Sale" sign on the idea that Egypt's status as an ally was really in play.
But none of that happened in TimesWorld, where reporters are eagerly awaiting the next Romney statement so they can gaffe-check it.
OBAMA UNPLUGGED: Surely Obama doesn't just talk first and reflect afterwards when he is on the diplomatic stage? Of course he does, and stop calling me 'Shirley'.
In 2008 Obama was free-associating when he told AIPAC he favored an undivided Jerusalem. That one, his advisors couldn't rationalize.
So yes, the Magic Mouth theory is always in play with this guy. Obama has grown up thinking he can BS his way past anything. And hey, that belief has carried him a long way. And with the media in his pocket, it may continue to carry him.
The WaPo notes this about two of the four Americans killed at the American consulate in Benghazi:
On Thursday night, Clinton issued a statement [link] identifying the two others as Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods, both former Navy SEALs who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq and were working as security personnel for the State Department. Clinton said both had “died protecting their colleagues.”
That is not a surprise, since it was well-publicized that in order to bring down the official troop headcount in Iraq the State Department would be protected by private contractors. Presumably similar logic has been applied elsewhere.
But my question, which arises after chaneling my inner Kos - since these two had abandoned the uniform to become mercenaries for hire, is the Kos attitude still "screw 'em", as in the old days of "Bush's war"? I have not had the will to check, and I believe he later distanced himself from himself, but volunteers are welcome.
THEN AGAIN: I have a lot of sympathy for the "Who gives a rat's ass what Kos thinks" position as well.
GOOD POINT: Commenter Sandy Daze notes that "mercenary" is quite a pejorative way to describe Americans who died protecting Americans. I have added "which arises after channelling my inner Kos" to clarify where the mercenary meme came from.
Perhaps thinking ahead to 2016, Jeremy Lott explains that Obama should fire Hillary in light of this weeks diplomatic debacles.
Hmm - Hillary has already announced her intention to step down after the election, and Mitt was never going to reappoint her anyway, so a change in leadership at State is coming soon. As to the idea that Obama will humiliate the wife of the guy who saved his convention just last week, uhh, doubtful. And for Obama to admit that his team is anything other than aces two months before the election? Unimaginable.
Hillary won't be fired. Tarnishing Clarifying her legacy in preparation for 2016 is a great idea, but there is plenty of time for it later. And as a bonus, it will be a lot more apparent in the next few months or years just what her legacy is.
The Greatest Orator in the History of Forever reveals yet again that Bush never had a monopoly on dumb:
GOLDEN, Colo. – Hours after President Obama declared Egypt was neither an ally nor an enemy, the White House on Thursday tweaked that answer to say the strategically important nation was a “longstanding and close partner.”
Downplaying the tension evident in the president’s remarks in an interview late Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama was speaking in the technical terms of diplomacy and that nothing about U.S. policy toward Egypt has changed.
"‘Ally’ is a legal term of art,” Carney said. “We do not have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt, like we do, for example, with our NATO allies. But as the president has said, Egypt is a long-standing and close partner of the United States, and we have built on that foundation in supporting Egypt’s transition to democracy and working with the new government.”
What? Even sitting here in the peanut gallery I can say with confidence that Israel is an ally with whom we do not have a mutual defense pact. Politico pounced:
The State Department affirmed Egypt's legal status as an ally Thursday — an apparent contradiction to what President Obama said in a Wednesday interview.
Asked repeatedly if the State Department still considered Egypt a major non-NATO ally — a designation they were awarded in 1989 — State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said simply: "Yes."
But Egypt was one of the first non-NATO allies designed [sic. designated is better] by the U.S. government along with Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, and South Korea. [link]. While the status does not imply a mutual defense pact, it does confer certain benefits.
Israel, for example, is also a major non-NATO ally without a formal security agreement — and is often called an ally by U.S policymakers and leaders.
Obama has been President for three and a half long years and literally does not know who our allies are. Rachel Maddow was leaning forwrd; let's see if she falls over with the White House clarification:
President Obama described Egypt as neither a friend nor a foe in a televised interview that aired first on The Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday.
"I don't think we would consider them an ally. But we don't consider them an enemy," Obama told Telemundo's José Díaz-Balart. "They are a new government that's trying to find its way."
Obama continued: "They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to respond to this incident, how they respond to maintaining the peace treaty with Israel."
Maddow highlighted the significance of Obama's comment."In diplomacy, at the presidential level, words are chosen very, very carefully," she said. "And those words represent news in terms of the U.S. relationship with a country which had, during the time of Hosni Mubarak, been among America's closest allies in the Arab world."
At the presidential level words are chosen very carefully, except by the President. This puts a twist on the media's attempt to debate whether Romney is ready to be CinC. And let's flash back to Matt Yglesias's spin on Obama's 2007 declaration that he would meet with Iran with no pre-conditions:
...at the YouTube debate on July 23, 2007, when Obama was asked whether he would be willing to meet “without precondition … with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea,” the right answer, conventionally speaking, was a qualified “no.” But Obama answered in the affirmative. Initially, even sympathetic observers like The Nation’s David Corn called this statement a “flub” at best. Hillary Clinton, the quintessence of Democratic establishment thinking, had answered that she would use “high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way,” before holding direct meetings with heads of state.
Few observers believed that Obama genuinely intended to break new ground with his response—his campaign had never articulated any such policy before, and seemed ill-prepared to defend it on the spot. The Clinton campaign dutifully pressed the attack the next day, calling Obama’s statement “irresponsible and frankly naive.” But then a funny thing happened. Obama’s team did not try to qualify (or, in political parlance, “clarify”) his remark, and no one said he misspoke. Instead, the campaign fought back, with memos to reporters and with a speech by the candidate himself, aimed squarely at the sort of “conventional wisdom” that had, in the words of his then-foreign-policy adviser, Samantha Power, “led us into the worst strategic blunder in the history of U.S. foreign policy.”
Rationalize the gaffe - that's a firm foundation for foreign policy! However, by June 2008 when the Greatest Orator itHoFflubbed his lines on Jerusalem, his team's powers of rationalization were exhausted:
(Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama misused a "code word" in Middle East politics when he said Jerusalem should be Israel's "undivided" capital but that does not mean he is naive on foreign policy, a top adviser said on Tuesday.
Addressing a pro-Israel lobby group this month, the Democratic White House hopeful said: "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
The comment angered Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as the capital of a future state. "He has closed all doors to peace," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said after the June 4 speech.
Obama later said Palestinians and Israelis had to negotiate the status of the city, in line with long-held U.S. presidential policy.
If Obama weren't so self-evidently brilliant, people might actually judge him by his words and conclude that he has a pattern of bloviation guided by ignorance and arrogance.
Huh? The Middle East erupts in the sort of rioting that in earlier days Obma would reflexively blame on that hateful cowboy Bush, thereby prompting Molly Ball of The Atlantic to wonder whether this signals the collapse of the Romney campaign. Hmm, a bit more good news - maybe a Euro collapse and an Iraian missile launch towards Israel - might signal the return of the House to Nancy Pelosi. Keep hope alive, Ms. Ball!
Or maybe not - Clive Crook, also of the Atlantic, restrains his mirth manfully but has a few questions, after first excerpting Ms. Ball:
But his comments struck a sour note in light of the fact that the Egyptian embassy's statement condemning those who would attempt "to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims" had long since been disavowed by the administration.
The disavowal makes Romney looks worse? I agree that in his press conference Romney should have acknowledged it--failing to do that was another fumble. But the more important fact, surely, is that the administration did actually disavow the statement. In other words, Romney's criticism had some merit!
Indeed - how dare Romney criticize something Obama was about to criticize. Ms. Ball does conclude her piece with a possily prescient "on the other hand":
Romney's Libya blunder might be just a blip, a single news cycle lost in a campaign that still has nearly two months to go and will surely refocus on the economy before long. There's also the possibility that further developments overseas reflect badly on the administration and somehow make Romney's critique look prescient rather than crass.
I do agree that Romney missed a good opportunity to shut up and let the situation develop and the facts emerge. It will be difficult for some to face but what we are seeing is an administration with an empty Middle East policy and no preparation or appropriate security in Libya. As the public contemplates that over the next few days or weeks it will probably not hurt Romney.
REMEMBERING ANDREW SULLIVAN: Let's reprise his full facial from 2007:
Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.
Anyone who voted for Obma on that basis may be feeling shortchanged. Or is blaming Bush.
Let's note that the current protestors and rioters aren't focused on the median American, or even the views of 80% or 90% of Americans. One or two, or a handfull of folks denouncing Mohammed is enough to set them off against our entire country. Why this is news to Andrew we do not know, since he seemed well aware of the challenges faced in Europe by Muslim intolerance.
After running all the numbers under conditions that were very, very favorable to Mitt Romney’s tax plan, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center concluded that there was simply no mathematical way for Romney to fulfill all his promises simultaneously.
Revenue neutral tax refomr means that there must be losers to offset the winners. If "the rich" get a net tax cut, then the non-rich must be lookign at a tax hike. Hence the "matematically impossible".
However! Princeton prof (and former Bush I and Bush II economist) Harvey Rosen begs to differ, noting that the TPC analysis relied on conventional "static scoring", where overall economic activity is not affected by the incentives or efficiency of the tax code. That is hardly helpful for a tax simplification and reform specifically intended to improve incentives and efficency and thereby increase growth.
Prof. Rosen presents numerous scenarios, but let's focus on one - with 3% "new" income growth, folk earning over $200k are not getting a net tax cut - their tax bill rises due to their higher income. Since they are not getting a tax cut, the lower earners needn't face a tax hike. Suddenly, the Romney miracle has become mathematically possible.
The TPC justifies their static scoring by citing sources explaining that improving tax efficiency doesn't really increase economic activity; Prof. Rosen cites other sources arguing that it does. Here is a puzzler from the TPC:
In the context of revenue-neutral tax reform, any positive growth effects are likely to be small. While the lower tax rates under the reform would strengthen incentives for employment and savings, the base broadeners would increase the portion of income that is subject to tax and have incentive effects in the opposite direction. As Brill and Viard note “lowering statutory tax rates while broadening the income tax base generally does not reduce work disincentives because it leaves the relevant effective tax rates unchanged” (Brill and Viard 2011).9 Moreover, analysis by the CBO and JCT suggest that the revenue effects arising even from rate cuts that were not accompanied by base broadening would be small (CBO 2003, 2005; JCT 2005).
Are Brill and Viard telling us that economic incentives are guided by average tax rates rather than marginal ones? Breakthrough stuff. Well, you could look it up, but I lack the time.
As part of their Fashion Week coverage, or perhaps in defiance of the new CW that sex no longer sells, the NY Times trolls for front page traffic with a featured video on the exploitation of teen-age models in Siberia. If casting calls filled with lean and hungry fourteen year old girls in lingerie and bikinis are your thing, the Times is your paper!
FWIW, the video concludes with shots of the girls modeling in jeans and t-shirts, lest there be any doubt whether the skin shots are gratuitous.
Oh, well - All The News That's Fit To Print is now All The News That's Fit To Uncover. Whatev.
Jake Tapper takes on the politics of the debacle in Egypt and Libya. Team Romney seems to have been far too quick off the mark, giving the media an excuse to make Romney the story. Sitting tight and letting Obama say something useless while others made the obvious Carter comparisons could have been a better course (he said with 50/50 hindsight). [Obama's statement.]
And the Israel/Iran suspense builds as well, with a recent blow-up between Netanyahu and Clinton/Obama.
FWIW: Lest Obama look for relief at home, the Chicago teacher's strike is a minefield for him, and this Census Bureau report about declining income is neither surprising nor helpful.
Talk about Red faces! The DNC tribute to veterans turned out to be a tribute to Russian veterans:
On the last night of the Democratic National Convention, a retired Navy four-star took the stage to pay tribute to veterans. Behind him, on a giant screen, the image of four hulking warships reinforced his patriotic message.
But there was a big mistake in the stirring backdrop: those are Russian warships.
Odd that the DNC would tip their hand that way.
I don’t use troll in the pejorative sense. Actually, I may be trying to craft a neutral meaning of troll where none previously existed. The term, in its modern Internet usage, refers to people who want to start fights online to bring the universe into an argument on their terms. It comes not from Grimm literature, but from a fishing technique in which multiple lines are baited and dragged to haul in the maximum amount of cold-bloods.
When the conventional liberal media give endless coverage to one stupid comment by a Republican Senate candidate, that's endless, headline making news. Obvi. And when conservative media do something similar with something as self-evidently meaningless as the Democratic Party platform, that's trolling. Whatever.
The head cheerleader for the left exhorts the faithful (aka, the few, the proud, the oblivious) to ignore the latest jobs report:
The headline number came in a bit below expectations, but that’s probably just the noisiness in the data. The best hypothesis about the US economy this past year and more is that it has been steadily adding jobs at a pace roughly fast enough to keep up with but not get ahead of population growth. Today’s report was consistent with a continuation of that story. Nothing to see here.
These aren't the alarming stats you've been looking for.
But Krugman delivered the real comedy gold in his previous post, where he explained that Obama's speech sounded like Soviet-era science fiction, and that was a good thing. I kid you not:
A while back I mentioned, in a quite different context, an essay by Isaac Asimov (?) on Soviet science fiction, in which he argued that the two main themes of Western sci-fi — “what if” and “if only” — were ruled out; instead, writers wrote on the theme “if only this goes on”.
And that was the theme of Obama’s speech last night. And you know what? That was perfectly fine.
Debt and deleveraging: Uneven progress on the path to growth
Safely reducing debt and clearing the way for economic growth in the aftermath of the global credit bubble will take many years and involve difficult choices, as MGI’s 2010 report showed.
Two years later, major economies have only just begun deleveraging. In only three of the largest mature economies—the United States, Australia, and South Korea—has the ratio of total debt relative to GDP fallen. The private sector leads in debt reduction, and government debt has continued to rise, due to recession. However, history shows that, under the right conditions, private-sector deleveraging leads to renewed economic growth and then public-sector debt reduction.
The deleveraging episodes of Sweden and Finland in the 1990s are particularly relevant today. They show two distinct phases of deleveraging. In the first, households, corporations, and financial institutions reduce debt significantly over several years, while economic growth is negative or minimal and government debt rises. In the second phase, growth rebounds and government debt is reduced gradually over many years.
In short, the government becomes the borrower of last resort while private borrowers reduce their leverage.
In a recent post, Krugman cites this notion as the surest sign that the US economy is on the mend:
But is the economy being cleaned up?
The best case for that proposition, I think, comes if you believe that excessive household debt was at the core of the issue. Obviously this is a view I like; Gauti Eggertsson and I have done some formal modeling (pdf), and Atif Mian and Amir Sufi (pdf) have provided strong empirical evidence.
And if that’s what you think the problem is, we have in fact made significant progress. Here’s the ratio of household liabilities to GDP:
Between debt repayment, defaults, and — since recovery began in mid-2009 — rising income, the US has made a lot of progress in deleveraging.
Hmm, per McKinsey (January 2012), "Two-thirds of household debt reduction is due to defaults on home loans and consumer debt." Then I guess one-third is due to repayments and rising income.
In any case, an obvious implication is that tax cuts for individuals that are saved rather than spent still are helpful in restoring the economy because they reduce household debt, with an offsetting increase in government debt. What, then is Krugman's current objection to tax cuts as non-stimulative?
Well, in his recent model of the household debt effect he introduces a new variation on his opposition to tax cuts for the rich:
Also note the middle term: in this model tax cuts and transfer payments are effective in
raising aggregate demand, as long as they fall on debt-constrained agents. In practice, of course, it’s presumably impossible to target such cuts entirely on the debt-constrained, so the old fashioned notion that government spending gets more bang for the buck than taxes or transfers survives. And the model also suggests that if tax cuts are the tool chosen, it matters greatly who receives them.
Conceptually, I am sure there were some people so well off that none of the financial turbulence of the last few years affected their likely consumption/savings decisions in a way that would have been significantly altered by a tax cut.
However, Obama wants to raise taxes on "the rich" starting at $250,000 per year, which is not really the land of private jets and Cayman accounts. Is Krugman really sure that most small business owners netting $300,000 per year have not had any trouble getting a small business loan in the last few years?
And how about high-earning lawyers and financiers whose incomes have fallen (if they kept their job) and whose home is no longer a ready financial backstop by way of a second mortgage - are they really not debt constrained at all as they pack their kids off to college or private school, put their parents in nursing homes, and do all the other hateful things "the rich" do?
People who want to base our national tax policy on the lifestyle of Donald Trump and Warren Buffet are making a mistake.
But is this animated .gif actually Ben Bernanke in action or David Axelrod redeploying Obama's ad budget?
Nonfarm payrolls grew by a seasonally adjusted 96,000 in August, well below estimates and down from 141,000 jobs in July.
[Adding to the sense of weakness, the Labor Department’s payroll count for June and July was revised lower by a cumulative 41,000. Payrolls rose by a revised 45,000 in June and by 141,000 in July.]
The payrolls growth came in weaker than the 125,000 increase expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch. See comprehensive MarketWatch economic calendar with consensus forecasts.
The nation’s unemployment rate fell to a seasonally adjusted 8.1%, down from 8.3% in July, according to a separate survey of households.
Economists had been expecting the jobless rate to hold steady at 8.3%.
The decline wasn’t particularly good news, however, because it reflected 368,000 people dropping out of the labor force. While unemployment dropped by 250,000 to 12.5 million for August, employment also fell, dipping 119,000 to 142.1 million. Read full government report.
The NY Times headline highlights the risky new path scheme emphasized by Obama in his convention speech:
Obama Makes Case for 2nd Term: ‘Harder’ Path to ‘Better Place’
Oh, please, saddle up the unicorns! A harder path to a better place, led by a guy who has never accomplished anything other than getting himself elected President (but got lots of the asbestos out of Altgeld Gardens!)? Is that really the bet someone wants me to take?
And isn't Obama's vision of this "new place" pretty much the Europe of the last forty years? Big busted bets on alternative energy, crushing taxes, unaffordable health and pension promises, absurd over-regulation of everything, lackluster job creation, no ability to absorb immigrants - I know that emulating Europe was the fashion in his Columbia days, but has anyone alerted Obama that the world has changed a bit and Europe is no longer widely viewed as a roaring success? That said, as late as January 2010 Nobel Laureate and laugh track contributor Paul Krugman was declaring that "Europe is an economic success", so maybe Obama has missed the latest.
Joe Biden assured us Obama is the man for the job:
“Bravery resides in the heart of Barack Obama,” he said. “This man has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart and steel in his spine.”
That's so great - Obama has all the qualities of the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man. Hmm, maybe he really can get us to Oz.
THE BUCK STOPS WHERE? Obama picked an interesting time to make his speech about something other than himself:
So you see, the election four years ago wasn't about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens -- you were the change.
Sports teams typically fire the manager because it isn't practical to fire all the players. But now we learn that, in keeping with the Dem notion that we are all in this together, it wasn't Obama that failed, it was us. Gee, thanks for sharing, but I still want to fire the manager.
I should add that David Brooks liked that passage, which does not exactly change my mind.
“We believe ‘we’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own,’ ” Mr. Clinton said.
Since "We're all in this together" is immediately followed by Democratic cries to tax the rich, a more complete explication would be "We're all in this together... and someone else is buying!"
I may have been wrong about the Democratic Convention - you could pay me to watch this entertainment.
Pushed by Obama, Democrats Alter Platform Over Jerusalem
By MARK LANDLER
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama, seeking to quell a storm of criticism from Republicans and pro-Israel groups, directed the Democratic Party on Wednesday to amend its platform to restore language declaring Jerusalem the Israeli capital.
The change, approved in a voice vote that had to be taken three times because of a chorus of noes in the arena, reinstated the line “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” in a section that describes Mr. Obama’s policy toward the country. That sentence was in the 2008 platform, but the Democrats removed it this year, saying that they wanted to spotlight other elements of Mr. Obama’s policy and that the platform should reflect a sitting president rather than a candidate for office.
After a day of protests, however, and the prospect of an onslaught of Republican attack ads, the president and the Democrats abruptly reversed course. The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, said in a statement that the change was made to “maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the president and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008.”
So Obama, devout politician and stalwart friend of Israel that he is only became bothered by the Jerusalem and 'God' issues when Republican read the platform and mocked it. And this is the leadership the Dems have on offer for the next four years? Is there any reason this wasn't taken care of weeks or months ago, or was Team Obama too busy comparing golf scores?
The Times explains the Obama answer to the famous "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" question. The short version - things could suck even harder. Hmm, let's go to the long version:
But if Mr. Romney believes the “Are you better off?” question will be political kryptonite for President Obama, he will have to reckon with an economic scorecard that is more mixed than he and other Republicans are claiming on the campaign trail. American voters, too, have more complicated feelings about their fortunes, and those of their children, than they did when Mr. Reagan first posed the question.
“People are not better off than they were four years ago, in the sense of where the economy is today compared to where it was,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard, ticking off statistics from the unemployment rate to housing prices. “But certainly, things could have been a lot worse. You can decide whether the glass is half-empty or half-full.”
The half-full argument, which the Obama campaign will promote at the Democratic convention here this week, holds that the economy is far stronger than it was at the depths of the recession in early 2009 when it was bleeding 800,000 jobs a month.
“We avoided falling into the abyss, and it was an open question whether we would,” said Lawrence H. Summers, who was Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser until the end of 2010. “It may not be easy to explain, but it’s right. It’s the truth.”
Uh huh - the car has settled at the bootom of the ravine, it has quit rolling, and it has not burst into flames. Exhale! But no, we are not better off than before the car went over the cliff.
Eventually the Times re-connects with reality:
Voters, though, seem squarely on the half-empty side. Only 20 percent of those surveyed think their financial circumstances are better now than four years ago, while 39 percent think they are worse off, according to a CBS News poll conducted in August. That is just as pessimistic as during the financial meltdown a month before the 2008 election.
Moreover, 47 percent of those polled in April by The Times and CBS News think things are likely to get worse rather than better for the next generation of Americans, while only 24 percent think things will improve. That is also worse than when Mr. Obama took office, when 32 percent said the future would be worse.
But on the other other hand, a bit of pessimism is par for the public:
But, as pollsters note, Americans have consistently expressed pessimism about the future, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican was in office. In three decades of polling by The Times and CBS News, only during the last year of Bill Clinton’s presidency did a solid plurality — 44 percent — of people voice optimism about the next generation.
Even in the final year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, in July 1988, 59 percent of people said the future would be “bogged down” by troubles rather than brighter.
"Vote Obama! It Could Have Been Worse!" has quite a ring to it.