The hardworking team at BankRate has presented a list of the best and worst cities for retirement. Key criteria were "cost of living, crime rate (violent and property crimes), walkability, health care quality, state and local tax burden, personal well-being for seniors and weather".
And for bitter-clingers stuck to a particular region, they breakdown the results by region. So folks committed to the Northeast are presented with a variety of high-tax, poor weather choices. However, one ray of sunshine brightens our prospective golden years:
Albuquerque, New Mexico! That is lateral thinking, all right - several thousand miles worth. But you can't beat the low taxes and the weather, in the Northeast anyway.
I love this lead from a new story about Hillary's polling woes:
Six weeks after setting her candidacy into high gear, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers are continuing to fall...
Hillary's The One! To be fair, her campaign advisors were shrewd in rejecting "Getting To Know You" as a theme song.
Democrats have been grappling with Hillary scandals for a quarter-century; a few still have some fight left but many would prefer to move on. Especially because she is running in the wrong party - historically it is the Democrats that prefer the latest fresh-faced imagined incarnation of John Kennedy (think Gary Hart, the Duke, Wild Bill, John Edwards, or Obama). It is normally the Republicans that get in line for the been-around-the-track re-treads reminiscent of Ike and Reagan, such as Richard Nixon, Bush 41, Bob Dole, Bush 43 (name only), John McCain, or Mitt Romney.
Well, both parties may flip their scripts this year. That means the legacy media will have to flip their script as well and bloviate endlessly about the importance of experience and the unimportance of a candidate's wealth.
And don't let me bury the good news from the polls:
If the election were held today, Clinton would be tied with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the poll—down from significant leads in a May 28 survey—but would top the current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.
So she can still beat The Donald!
DON'T CRY FOR ME: Like Voldemort, Hillary is inevitable because she is invincible. Once that aura is questioned, the notion of making (North American, federal) history by electing the boss's wife becomes even less appealing.
Nick Kristof describes the pros and cons of the Iranian deal and surprises no one by supporting it. But this tidbit repeats a classic reporter's mistake:
You doves think that a nuclear deal will empower reformers in Iran and turn it once more into the pro-American and pro-Israeli power it was under the shah. But sanctions relief may just give this regime a new lease on life.
Iran’s people are perhaps the most pro-American and secular of those of any country I’ve been to in the Middle East. (On my last trip to Iran, I took two of my kids along, and Iranians bought them meals and ice cream, and served them illegal mojitos.) The public weariness with the regime’s corruption, oppression and economic failings is manifest. I would guess that after the supreme leader dies, Iran will begin a process of change like that in China after Mao died.
Hmm, or maybe instead of the China model they will reform like Russia, that other staunch US ally. But in any case, the classic mistake is this - Kristof forgets that he travels in his own little bubble. It was not "the Iranians" that bought his daughter some ice cream - it was three women in a seemingly conservative city. No pollster and few agenda-driven social scientists would consider that to be an impressive sample.
Is there any reason to think that virulent anti-Americans would seek out Mr. Kristof? Any reason to think that pro-Americans might? My goodness, the odds are excellent that here at home Mr. Kristof's social circle includes no opponents of abortion or gay marriage, even though such people exist even outside of fly-over country. Yet one trip to Iran convinces him that the whole country is ready to stop chanting "Death to the Great Satan" and start up with "USA!"? Please.
FWIW, Pew Research is not doing a lot of polling in Iran, but their year-old global survey of attitudes towards the US included this:
Anti-Americanism is particularly strong today in the Middle East. In Egypt only 10% of the public favor the United States, which long backed the regime of Hosni Mubarak and failed to oppose the military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government that succeeded him. Support is not much higher in Jordan (12%) and Turkey (19%), both countries that are notionally Washington’s allies.
With friends like that it is hard to imagine our enemies are a lot more enthusiastic about us. I doubt that dumping Qadaffi and turning Libya into an obvious quagmire, the red-line dancing in Syria and under-reacting to the rise of ISIS have boosted our popularity.
I have always admired Tom Brady as the Derek Jeter of pro football, and my loathing for the goon squad that runs the NFL has deepened over the years, so even though I think he knows more than he is letting on, Go, Tom!
Some stray thoughts - Hillary can destroy tens of thousands of emails and its all good because she says they were personal, and anyway, a lot of them were captured by government servers on the recipients end. But based on his own statement, Brady had a legal right to withhold his cellphone and, in any case, the clubhouse managers allegedly receiving incriminating texts turned over their phones. Yet we are supposed to be outraged - que pasa?
Secondly, Brady says that:
"As a member of a union, I was under no obligation to set a new precedent going forward, nor was I made aware at any time during Mr. Wells investigation, that failing to subject my cell phone to investigation would result in ANY discipline."
Ok, why should Brady break ranks with the union and waive their protections just to clear his own sorry ass, if in fact turning over his cellphone would have done so? What about solidarity with the many other miscreants in his union?
And if he has a legal right to withhold that evidence, how can the NFL then punish him for withholding it? When a defendant exercises his right to remain silent in his own defense judges bend over backwards to remind jurors that no inferences can be drawn from that. Obviously, this is not a court setting, but still, this is America, and evidence is excluded all the time.
From the NFL statement:
On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone. During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.
Yeah, if my spouse were Giselle-level paparazzi bait I would be tossing my old cell phones in an Iranian nuclear reactor.
I keep thinking I can't despise the NFL more, but they always find a new low, this time involving Junior Seau's daughter and her deceased father's Hall of Fame induction. But come a rainy afternoon in November, I'll be watching the games.
Hillary leads the way with this bold positioning on the Keystone question:
"If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question," Clinton said. "This is President Obama's decision. I'm not going to second-guess him."
Chris Cilizza of the WaPo can't take anymore:
Look. When you are running for president -- whether or not you served in the current administration -- you are going to be asked to take positions on issues that the current president is dealing with. As long as we hold elections that begin two years (or more) before the current president is set to leave office, that's going to be a thing candidates need to contend with. If Clinton's position is that she can't take a public stance on any issue that has some sort of pending business before this White House, then she's not going to be able to take a position on, well, anything.
And she's already shown that on some issues, she is willing to take a position. Clinton came out in favor of the Iran deal, for example, despite the fact that its fate remains up in the air in Congress.
Hmm. My recollection is she waffled for a day until she finally let herself be smoked out by the fact that most Democrats were initially supportive. As a different example, just what is Hillary's position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Last I heard, she was in favor of good trade deals and opposed to bad one. Visionary! Apparently her latest stance is that we can rest easy because no one will be a tougher negotiator. Geez, not even Donald Trump, who for all we know would fire the Japanese Prime Minister?
Back to Mr. Cilizza, who has a layup drill with this topic:
Second, the whole point of a campaign is for voters to get to know the candidates and understand what their respective presidencies might look like....
Imagine if Jeb Bush, when asked about the immigration problem in the country, said only: "Look, it's a complex issue. I am not going to say anything about it until I am in the White House." There would be massive outrage -- and rightly so. Bush would be accused of obfuscating for purely political reasons. Which, of course, would be what he was doing.
And, of course, that is what Clinton is doing on Keystone. She knows that no matter what position she takes, she will make a big part of the Democratic party unhappy. Organized labor wants the deal because of the jobs it will create; environmental groups oppose the deal which they argue would do massive damage. It's the same damned if you do, damned if you don't problem that has led the Obama Administration to take such a long time to issue a final ruling on the pipeline. But just because it's politically disadvantageous to take a position doesn't mean Clinton should be allowed to avoid doing just that.
I MAY SWITCH TO ALL BING ALL THE TIME, or, ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER (I HOPE):
My favorite Bing search EVER!
What do I have to do to get Google on board?
It is entirely possible that 80 percent of drivers are, in fact, above average.
I would explain why but Glen Whitman is eight years ahead of me.
NOTE TO SELF: If that link dies, I will need to recreate this logic. Hint to self: "Median" doesn't mean "mean".
Jodi Rudoren of the NY Times pretends to analyze the possible parole of convicted spy Kenneth Pollard:
Spy’s Release Is Unlikely to Assuage Israel on Iran Nuclear Deal
JERUSALEM — The two issues with perhaps the broadest consensus and resonance in Israeli politics are opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and support for the release of Jonathan J. Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy, from a North Carolina prison. Now the two could be tied together, as some in Washington appear to be highlighting Mr. Pollard’s likely parole in November in hopes of quieting the vigorous campaign by Israel and some of its American supporters against congressional approval of the deal.
But while Mr. Pollard has long been bandied about as a potential diplomatic chit the United States might use to force Israeli concessions, analysts said Saturday that such a linkage had little chance of working now, and could instead provoke a backlash.
Oh for heaven's sake - releasing Pollard wouldn't be about changing minds in Israel; it would be about changing votes in Congress. If it provokes an Israeli backlash, then so much the better for Team Obama, which will highlight their own attempts to be reasonable in contrast to increased Israeli intransigence.
In a twenty-two paragraph article, paragraph seven touches briefly in the domestic political implications:
That spin may be aimed not at Israel but at Democratic — and Jewish — lawmakers like Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who has long lobbied for Mr. Pollard’s release and could be among the pivotal votes in Congress on Iran. Even if it does not change either the substance or the tenor of criticism of the nuclear deal, freeing Mr. Pollard would at least remove one item from the lengthy list of complaints about Mr. Obama by Israelis and their backers.
The article does eventually note that as favors go, releasing Pollard now doesn't count for much:
As the clock ticks toward the 30th anniversary of his arrest — at the time, parole was generally mandated after 30 years for federal inmates serving life sentences — the value inevitably drops. Amir Oren, a journalist who has covered the case from its first day, said Israelis would “pocket this gesture; they will not even agree that it’s a gesture, they will say it’s a make-believe gesture because he was going to be released anyway.”
Mr. Pollard will hit the thirty-year mark and be eligible for parole this November. My casual and uninformed impression is that denying him parole would be unusual and not politically astute for an Administration that is straining to put Gitmo terrorists back on the battlefield. But I don't pretend to be smart enough to be a progressive advisor to Obama.
Turkey is on their own side in the all-against-all fray in Syria and Iraq:
Turkey Attacks Kurdish Militant Camps in Northern Iraq
With the centennial of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire approaching, maybe the Turks see an opportunity for a commemorative revival.
Wow, Turkey, our NATO "ally", seems to have switched sides in the battle with ISIS:
U.S. Jets to Use Turkish Bases in War on ISIS
ISTANBUL — Turkey plunged into the fight against the Islamic State on Thursday, rushing forces into the first direct combat with its militants on the Syrian border and granting permission for American warplanes to use two Turkish air bases for bombarding the group in Syria.
The developments ended a longstanding reluctance by Turkey, a NATO member and an ally of the United States, to play a more aggressive part in halting the Islamic State’s expanding reach in the Middle East. American officials said it carried the potential to strike Islamic State targets with far greater effect because of Turkey’s proximity, which will allow more numerous and frequent bombings and surveillance missions.
Turkey, a vital conduit for the Islamic State’s power base in Syria, had come under increased criticism for its inability — or unwillingness — to halt the flow of foreign fighters and supplies across its 500-mile border.
Up to now, Turkey has placed a priority on dealing with its own restive Kurdish population, which straddles the Syrian border in the southeast, and in the toppling of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, whom the Turks blame for creating the conditions in his war-ravaged country for the rise of Islamic extremism.
Turkey took Obama's old and ongoing "Assad must go" talk seriously. Their bad. But its reassuring that, for now at least, Turkey is more worried about ISIS than the rise of a free Kurdish state in the failed areas of Syria and Iraq.
From the Times:
Poll Finds Most in U.S. Hold Dim View of Race Relations
Maybe Hillary can do for gender relations what Obama did for race relations. And why wouldn't she? Obama needed an angry, motivated base and the Bush-led war in Iraq was over (or so he said). Hillary will need angry, motivated women as well as ethnics, so I assume the "War on Women" rhetoric, however ludicrous, will only heat up.
FWIW: The original headline (per the url) was "Poll Shows Most Americans Think Race Relations Are Bad", so maybe there was an overnight improvement.
Congressional Republicans have endured Obama's patronizing lectures for seven long years. Congressional Democrats got a taste during the recent Pacific trade talks. But the good news is, it's nothing to take personally - this is about our First Condescender abroad:
Obama Kenya Trip Sets Off Gay Rights Debate in Africa
JOHANNESBURG — President Obama has not even left for his trip to Africa this week, but he is already getting a lot of advice about what he should — or should not — say about gay rights after he lands.
Some politicians in Kenya have warned against bringing up the topic at all during his visit. Alarmist articles in Nigeria’s news media have argued that Mr. Obama will press the continent to accept same-sex marriage. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president and the current head of the African Union, mockingly said that he would propose to Mr. Obama.
Obama has been down this road before:
On his last trip to Africa in 2013, Mr. Obama was seen as wagging his finger at Africans on gay rights during a news conference with Senegal’s president, Macky Sall.
Mr. Sall swung back, saying that laws governing gay rights were Senegal’s alone to decide. The United States should respect that choice, he added, just as Senegal, which had long abolished the death penalty, respected America’s position on that matter. The comments quickly established the script for other African leaders.
“Obama should talk about it but not the way he did last time, which was too blunt, like a general speaking down to a young soldier,” said Ndeye Kebe, president of Women’s Smile, a lesbian rights group in Senegal.
“There were repercussions all over Africa,” she added, contending that she and many other African activists subsequently faced greater harassment.
At least they didn't bring up gun control. Or closing Guantanamo.
The Times finds experts on the Iran nuclear deal who question the 24 day devolution of the "anywhere, anytime" inspection requirement:
Provision in Iran Accord Is Challenged by Some Nuclear Experts
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s claim that the Iran nuclear accord provides for airtight verification procedures is coming under challenge from nuclear experts with long experience in monitoring Tehran’s program.
Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz has insisted that Iran would not be able to hide traces of illicit nuclear work before inspectors gained access to a suspicious site. But several experts, including a former high-ranking official at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a provision that gives Iran up to 24 days to grant access to inspectors might enable it to escape detection.
Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director of the agency, said in an interview that while “it is clear that a facility of sizable scale cannot simply be erased in three weeks’ time without leaving traces,” the more likely risk is that the Iranians would pursue smaller-scale but still important nuclear work, such as manufacturing uranium components for a nuclear weapon.
“A 24-day adjudicated timeline reduces detection probabilities exactly where the system is weakest: detecting undeclared facilities and materials,” he said.
David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former weapons inspector in Iraq, also said that three weeks might be ample time for the Iranians to dispose of the evidence of prohibited nuclear work. Among the possibilities, he said, were experiments with high explosives that could be used to trigger a nuclear weapon, or the construction of a small plant to make centrifuges.
“If it is on a small scale, they may be able to clear it out in 24 days,” Mr. Albright said in a telephone interview. “They are practiced at cheating. You can’t count on them to make a mistake.”
This article does not address one point and fails to emphasize another.
First, the point seems to be that traces of radioactive material are hard to fully clean up. However, as a novice bystander, I wonder whether the Iranians could play a "hide in plain sight" game by doing prohibited research alongside declared research in a facility to which inspectors had 24 day access. In that case, detecting radioactive material might only confirm that the declared work had in fact been happening.
Which leads to the more important point - evidence of Iranian cheating will need to be unambiguous, because there are several voting members of the monitoring committee, starting with Iran, Russia, China, and Team Obama, who have powerful incentives to promote this deal as an ongoing success.
So the Iranians will be operating sort of like the Clinton Foundation - they don't need to be above reproach, just not so obviously guilty that an indictment is unavoidable. Does a 24 day clean up period leave room to create semi-plausible deniability? I don't know.
Recent swing-state polling points in favor of my argument that Hillary is the Democratic Party's answer to Richard Nixon - they respect her longevity and resume but have no actual enthusiasm for her:
Poll: Clinton trails top Republicans in battleground states
Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton trails three top Republican presidential candidates in head-to-head matchups in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia, a new survey shows.
The latest Quinnipiac University swing state polling released Wednesday shows the Democratic frontrunner trailing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in each of those states.
The biggest loser, the polls found, is Donald Trump, who has surged to the front of a crowded Republican primary field nationally but is viewed unfavorably, by almost a 2-to-1 margin, by voters in those states.
The results offered more indications that Clinton has a problem: Voters say they don't trust her.
In Colorado, only 34% of voters said they see Clinton as honest and trustworthy while 62% said they don't. In Iowa, the numbers were 33% to 59% -- a drop from 45% to 47% in April. And in Virginia, Clinton did best, at 39% saying they trust her to 55% saying they don't.
Democrats backing Barack in 2008 felt like they were going to a rock concert. Democrats backing Hillary in 2016 feel like they are going to the dentist.
OK, to be fair, the more enthusiastic ones feel like they are taking the car in for an oil change. It has to be done, and you can even give yourself character and responsibility points for doing it. Hillary's the one!
SEARCHING FOR THE UNIVERSAL METAPHOR: Everyone goes to the dentist, or ought to. But changing the oil? How about cleaning the gutters? That has to be a suburban guy thing lacking urban and female resonance. Mowing the lawn is out, for similar reasons. Emptying the diswhwasher? Now we are on the other side of the gender fence. Hmm, we weigh these tough choices every day at JOM, or at least, every now and then...
Oh my goodness - Jeb Bush defended John McCain as a war hero but once upon a time did not similarly defend John Kerry. That prompts Jake Trapper of CNN (who we normally like) to chime in with this:
Washington (CNN)After Donald Trump questioned Republican Sen. John McCain's status as a war hero, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush quickly jumped to McCain's defense.
"Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans - particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration," he tweeted on Saturday.
But that outrage was missing ten years ago, when a political group attacked another Vietnam veteran -- then-Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee who sought to unseat Bush's brother, the incumbent president, during the 2004 election.
Instead, Bush praised Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that lobbed attacks questioning Kerry's service record in Vietnam -- attacks McCain unequivocally criticized in 2004 as "dishonest and dishonorable."
And the real groaner is this presentation of the view from the left as The Whole Truth:
All of the charges were contradicted by official military records and almost all of the men who served with Kerry came out in defense of their former crewmate, praising his courage. Only one of the swift boat critics served with Kerry.
Kerry received several medals for his service in Vietnam, including several Purple Heart medals for injuries he sustained in combat.
The Swift Boat attacks have since been widely discredited and the term swiftboating is now synonymous with lobbing unfair political attacks.
"All of the charges" were contradicted by military records? Just off-hand, what about Kerry's claim, made in a speech on the Senate floor, that he had spent Christmas in Cambodia after an illegal covert border crossing? No military records have been produced to verify Kerry's claim and his spokespeople backtracked. Which means what - all the Swift Boat charges were false except the ones that weren't?
My personal favorite is the charge by Admiral Schachte (ret) that, back when he was a brash young lieutenant and Executive Officer of Kerry's unit, it was Schachte, rather than Kerry, that commanded the three men in a whaler that led to Kerry's first Purple Heart.
The plot twist is this - "everybody" in the legacy media knows that Schachte was not on the boat because two sailors, Zaladonis and Runyon, claim that they were, as does John Kerry. But what they don't know is that Zaladonis and Runyon only came forward with that claim in 2004 when Kerry was under fire. Back in 2003, Zaladonis (who subsequently served on a Kerry Swift boat) was interviewed "repeatedly" by historian and hagiographer Douglas Brinkley. Michal Kranish of the Boston Globe also interviewed Zaladonis. Yet neither of these interviewers elicited from Zaladonis in 2003 the story about Kerry's first combat and first Purple Heart on what later was described by Zaladonis as "one of the scariest nights I've had in my life".
That is either a stunning lapse of interview technique by two different reporters or a strong hint that Zaladonis has a convenient memory. Of course, Brinkley also had access to Kerry's extensive war diary, but never references that source in piecing together the story of Kerry's first big adventure and first medal. All very mysterious, unless one suspects that Brinkley was more interested in propping up his central character than presenting the truth. As to official military records confirming who was on that patrol? Lost to history, sort of like Kerry's diary seem to be.
Well, water over the dam. But Jake Tapper ought to know better than to announce that all these questions were answered. And perhaps, if all the charges were answered, we can learn why it was that back in 2006 Kerry was promising to fight hard and fully debunk his critics. That business remains unfinished.
Carly Fiorina takes to Buzzfeed to reach out to America's yutes on the topic of women in the workplace. Amy Miller of Legal Insurrection and Asche Schowe of the Washington Examiner have a problem with this, as does the InstaPundit. From Ms. Miller:
Carly is funny, engaging, and smart—but she used that power for evil. She walked into a young, modern, progressive venue, and threw her own womanhood under the bus in an effort to pander to a base that will never vote for her.
Fiorina has defined herself as a businesswoman, CEO, and force to be reckoned with; she should not have to—and should never (NEVER)—have to play into the hands of liberals who work every day to manufacture divides in our society.
This isn’t effective outreach; it’s Stockholm Syndrome.
Hmm. People won't listen to your solutions if they don't think you "get" the problem. And the divisions Ms. Fiorina exaggerates for comic effect haven't been "manufactured" - they are real.
Presumably Ms. Fiorina's message is yes, there are challenges, but I overcame them and so can you. Without a lot of progressive legislation.
Showman, provacateur, and Presidential pretender Donald trump goes out of bounds while trolling for protest and anti-Washington votes:
AMES, Iowa -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump slammed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a decorated Vietnam War veteran, on Saturday by saying McCain was not a war hero because he was captured by the North Vietnamese.
"He's not a war hero," Trump said. Sarcastically, Trump quipped, "He's a war hero because he was captured." Then, he added, "I like people that weren't captured."
People howled, as well they might. With attention back where he wants it, Trump then shifted gears:
There will be more people who read this when it is not Saturday morning than those who do.
People looking for a reason to give John Roberts a micro-burst of affection might thank him for stiffening spines in the White House and delivering a less-deplorable deal with Iran. This is from the NY Times hagiography of the Iran negotiators:
But the talks dragged on. The Iranians appeared to think they could exploit a deadline for submitting a finished accord to Congress for a 30-day review. The deadline was July 9. “It was working against us,” one diplomat said. “The Iranians saw that deadline and they were convinced we would give in on key details to avoid the longer review.”
At the White House, Mr. Obama, monitoring the talks every few hours, was getting concerned about a narrative that he and Mr. Kerry wanted a deal too much — three mornings in a row Mr. Obama reminded his aides, “I don’t need this.” They were not certain what he meant, but they had a theory: After big victories in the Supreme Court on health care and the gay rights, he could afford to be patient.
Well, I don't know what he meant either, but Obama's acolytes need to coordinate their spin a bit better. Elsewhere in the account we have this:
As Mr. Obama made clear again Wednesday, the alternative he saw to the deal was a steady slide toward another war — perhaps, aides thought, in just a year or two as Iran’s nuclear abilities accelerated.
Well, yes - Obama cried havoc and loosed the strawmen of war at his recent press conference:
With a better deal impossible, Mr. Obama said that the only viable alternative to the negotiated settlement his administration had presented was war. And he challenged critics of the deal to acknowledge that what they really wanted was a military solution.
“And if the alternative is that we should bring Iran to heel through military force, then those critics should say so, and that will be an honest debate,” Mr. Obama said.
I would be curious to see Team Obama square the notion that Obama doesn't need this deal with the apocalyptic vision that the only alternative was war (just thinking out loud here, but another alternative to nudging the Iranians closer to our position might have been the credible threat of war, but that was never on the table with Obama and Kerry). If this deal avoids a war Obama doesn't want, then presumably he needs it. Or, if he doesn't need it, then war is an acceptable alternative. Baffling.
Or maybe "I don't need this" meant that Obama didn't need to hold the review to thirty days because with the Supreme Court victories under his belt he had so much oxygen that he could handle a sixty day review? My goodness - I hope he wasn't weighing the next decade of US and global security against a quick blip in his approval rating.
Given his recent track record in the Middle East - describing ISIS as the junior varsity, pulling out US troops in 2011 to leave a "sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq", overthrowing Qadaffi and creating a failed state in Libya that has become a new haven for terrorists and a crossroads for refugees to Europe, promoting Yemen as a model for US-backed counterinsurgency until the Iranian-backed insurgents overthrew them, moving the idea of arming moderate Syrian rebels from "fantasy" to policy, and drawing/erasing red lines with Assad in Syria (who still must go, per Obama, but has yet to oblige) - I hope Obama and his national security team have a bit of humility about their judgments and understand why some of the rest of us may be a bit skeptical as well.
Bet they don't.
DEAR JOHN: Did everyone know John Kerry served in Vietnam? Did anyone forget? From the account of the fraught diplomacy:
Finally, on Tuesday, the agreement was announced.
When the photo ops were over, the seven foreign ministers who had negotiated it met for the last time. Each spoke briefly about the importance of the moment. Mr. Kerry spoke last, but then added a personal coda. Choking up, he recalled going off to Vietnam as a young naval officer and said he never wanted to go through that again. He emerged committed, he said, to using diplomacy to avoid the horrors of war.
War was not an option. Geez, I wonder if the Iranians had guessed that earlier.
Lest you are having trouble finding problems with the new deal with Iran, consider this passage on sanctions relief, as reported by David Sanger of the Times:
Mr. Obama is essentially betting that once sanctions have been lifted, Iran’s leaders will have no choice but to use much of the new money to better the lives of their long-suffering citizens. He has told his aides that he expects relatively little to be spent to finance terrorism or the emerging corps of Iranian cyberwarriors, a group now as elite as Iran’s nuclear scientists.
We are talking about over $100 billion of frozen Iranian foreign accounts. Back in 2010 the Pentagon estimated that Iran was prividing Hezbollah with $100-$200 million of aid per year. Other analysts have similar figures.
Of course, Iran is supporting other assymetric operators, such as the Houthi in Yemen, Assad in Syria, Hamas, and the Taliban. But a billion dollars could go a long way, and would represent a mere 1% of the new sanctions relief. Would Obama describe that as "relatively little"? I bet he would.
JUST HERE TO HELP - From elsewhere in the Sanger piece:
Little in the deal announced on Tuesday eliminates Iran’s ability to become a threshold nuclear power eventually — it just delays the day. To Mr. Obama’s many critics, including Henry A. Kissinger, the architect of the China opening, that is a fatal flaw. It does nothing, Mr. Kissinger wrote recently with another former secretary of state, George P. Shultz, to change “three and a half decades of militant hostility to the West.”
I've read that twice, so if you are unsure - "three and a half decades of militant hostility to the West" refers to the mullahs, not Obama.
CAN OBAMA GO TO TEHERAN, METAPHORICALLY: Enough already with the Nixon-to-China comparisons. Nixon was a confirmed Cold Warrior whose willingness to unleash the US military had been amply demonstrated in Vietnam; his opening to China was intended to prevent China from emerging as a permanent wingman to the USSR. Obama is a 'give peace a chance' pacifist whose renunciation of the threat of force is utterly within character and who is balancing Iran against nothing other than his desire to get out of the Middle East.
Peter Baker of the Times finds other comparisons:
“Part of our goal here has been to show that diplomacy can work,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times. “It doesn’t work perfectly. It doesn’t give us everything that we want.” But, he added, “what we can do is shape events in ways where it’s more likely that problems get solved, rather than less likely, and that’s the opportunity we have now.”
Still, there are many examples in which diplomacy did not achieve what it intended to, especially in cases where one of the parties has been less committed. An agreement reached by President Bill Clinton to constrain North Korea’s quest for nuclear weapons fell apart when the country was caught cheating. It now has at least 10 nuclear bombs.
More recently, Russia joined not one but two agreements to bring peace to Ukraine, but the first collapsed and the second is widely expected to do the same as the West accuses Moscow of violating its terms. The United States also recently accused Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan.
Hmm. Putin will be holding Iran's uranium and voting on whether or not that Iran has cheated on this deal. I don't foresee any problems...
Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic takes a first pass at the deal with Iran:
The Single Most Important Question to Ask About the Iran Deal
The theocratic regime that rules Iran—a regime that is a committed and proficient sponsor of terrorism, according to John Kerry’s State Department—will be more powerful tomorrow than it is today, thanks to the agreement it has just negotiated with the Obama administration, America’s European allies, and two U.S. adversaries as well.
This sad conclusion is unavoidable. The lifting of crippling sanctions, which will come about as part of the nuclear deal struck in Vienna, means that at least $150 billion, a sum Barack Obama first invoked in May, will soon enough flow to Tehran. With this very large pot of money, the regime will be able to fund both domestic works and foreign adventures in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere.
But here is the most important question to ask going forward: Does this deal significantly reduce the chance that Iran could, in the foreseeable future (20 years is the time period Obama mentioned in an interview with me in May), continue its nefarious activities under the protection of a nuclear umbrella? If the answer to this question is yes, then a deal, in theory, is worth supporting.
Or, to adopt the phrasing of Reason's Shikha Dalmia, "Obama's Nuclear Deal with Iran is the Worst Option, Except for all the Others".
But here is the terrifying passage from Mr. Goldberg:
If the plausible case can be made that this deal actually pushes Iran further away from the nuclear threshold—and we’ll have time, over the next 60 days, to test this case—then Israel will be better off with this deal than it would be without it. Unlike many proponents of this deal, I take the Iranian regime’s threats to exterminate Israel seriously. (I’m not sure, based on my last conversation with Obama, that he fully understands the depth of the regime’s anti-Semitism, in part because the regime’s anti-Semitism is so absurdly offensive and illogical that the hyper-rational Obama might not believe that serious people actually think the way certain Iranians think.)
Hmm, might Obama have a hard time grasping the mindset of the mullahs? Obama can't even grasp the mindset of right-wing Republicans and their bitter-clinger supporters. Obama understands like-minded progressives and no one else.
DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS AT HOME: Yeah, you try blogging from the duck-and-cover position...
And how can we doubt the wisdom and judgment of the man who described ISIS as the "junior varsity"? Who assured us in December 2011 that in withdrawing US troops he was leaving behind a "sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq"? Who held up Yemen as a model of US backed counter-insurgency, until the Iranian-sponsored rebels overthrew the government? Who famously said in 2011 that Assad of Syria must go, although with continued Iranian backing, Assad hasn't? Who agreed to overthrow Qadaffi in Libya, with no credible plan to win the peace?
I suppose supporters of this deal can argue that Obama can't be wrong about everything, but I think he is on a roll.
On the afternoon of July 4 in Washington DC, a teenager with a knife boarded a crowded metro train and attacked a 24-year-old man, Kevin Joseph Sutherland, stabbing him 30 or 40 times and kicking his head repeatedly until he was dead. No one tried to stop him.
The Washington Post reports that “passengers trapped in the moving train huddled at both ends of the car and watched in horror” as the attack took place. There were about ten people on the car, but no one intervened. They just watched Sutherland get beaten and stabbed to death right in front of them.
OK, ghastly, and its easy to sit here in my suburban home and opine that the men on that train should have rallied. (FWIW, I did break up a subway scuffle in the late 80's, but it was between two unarmed women, and other passengers promptly stepped in alongside me.)
That said, I strenuously object to this:
This is essentially the opposite of the spirit of United Flight 93—the heroic selflessness that prompted a group of courageous passengers on 9/11 to attack their hijackers, forcing them to crash the plane in a Pennsylvania field. Once they heard about the attacks in New York and the Pentagon, and knew many more would die if they failed to act, they knew what they had to do—no matter what happened to them.
Well. I have the utmost respect for the heroism of the United 93 passengers. However, they were aware of the suicide attacks on the Pentagon and WTC, so I think they understood that they had to regain control of the plane in order to have any chance at all of survival. Understanding reality, overcoming denial, and moving ahead with a grim, improbable plan takes incredible courage. However, for the passengers in the Metro car, huddling in the back and engaging in denial and delay was a live option. Not an admirable one, but one that is easy to rationalize.
Per the NY Times, we have a pope that knows that capitalism is the scourge of civilization, although he has no suggestions as to how to replace it.
ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the “dung of the devil.” He does not simply argue that systemic “greed for money” is a bad thing. He calls it a “subtle dictatorship” that “condemns and enslaves men and women.”
Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order.
Re climate change - does he recall the levels of pollution in communist-controlled Eastern Europe? Does our pope imagine that China, now Number One with a bullet in the production of greenhouse gases (in total, not per-capita), is a typical example of a free, capitalist society?
As to raising people out of poverty, Michael Tanner of NRO rebutted the Occupy Wall Street people a few years ago with the same sort of statistics that would probably come as news to the pope:
Las Vegas party girls make a lot of money but are expected to look hot - who knew? Fortunately, the NY Times is ready to go where The Onion forgot to tread, exploring the legal gender discrimination issues in a hard-hitting guest piece by Brittany Bronson, an English instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who doubles as a restaurant server. What, you expected legal insights from a lawyer or law professor? Well, Ms. Bronson does quote some, and includes this devastating revelation:
“I do believe that in another city,” Professor McGinley said, “a woman could win one of these suits. Here in Vegas? I’m not sure.”
I'm pretty sure. But one must have a heart of stone to mock these oppressed victims of their own hotness, forced to earn six-figure incomes for a few months work:
“There are days when you don’t feel like being in a bikini, you don’t want to spend two hours getting ready for work,” she said, “but you have to.”
Weird, because everyone else in the world feels exactly like leaping out of bed and going to work, every damn day.
Web Chief Joshua Topolsky to Leave Bloomberg as Staff Tensions Surface
Earlier this year, after Michael Bloomberg reasserted control over the company he founded and began to scrutinize its online operations, he suggested in a meeting that perhaps Bloomberg — which makes the overwhelming majority of its money from desk terminals that provide financial data — did not need to have a website.
Joshua Topolsky, the founder of a prominent technology website who had been hired to oversee a glossy reintroduction of Bloomberg’s web properties, responded sarcastically, making fun of the suggestion, according to three people with knowledge of the exchange, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Hmm. I don't know any multi-billionaires, nor any ex-mayors of the Greatest City in the World, but my suspicion is that mocking such people in public and to their face may be a sub-optimal strategy; just off-hand, I don't think Ed Koch, David Dinkins or, heaven help us, Rudy Giuliani would deliver the old har-de-har in similar circumstances.
Bloomberg's reaction may have surprised his subordinate, but not me:
Mr. Bloomberg, who often challenges subordinates with provocative questions, has grown accustomed to deference, the people said. He was furious, and his relationship with Mr. Topolsky subsequently deteriorated to the point that both decided it was better if Mr. Topolsky left.
Maybe Mr. Topolsky thought Bloomberg would leave, and rename the company on his way out the door? I guess not.
Via Matt Drudge:
Oh, please. This doesn't advance any Obama narrative, not even the war on women. That said:
MEGYN KELLY: Breaking tonight, the young woman gunned down by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco was just laid to rest, surrounded by friends and family. It does not appear at this hour that anyone from the Obama administration was in attendance. Welcome to The Kelly File, I'm Megyn Kelly. Funeral services were held this evening for 32-year-old Kathryn "Katie" Steinle.
Her loved ones remembering her as an avid traveller who loved connecting with people until her life was cut short a week ago. That's when Kate was shot and killed while in her father's arms. Police say by this man, Francisco Sanchez, an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times from this country and had rapped up a string of felonies while in the U.S.
The San Francisco sheriff had Sanchez in custody as recently as April but released him pursuant to San Francisco's "sanctuary city" policy where they have rules against handing over anyone to the feds who might be deported. This sheriff, himself a convicted criminal, says he stands by the city's policy.
Kate's murder has since exploded into a national debate on illegal immigrants, sanctuary cities and crime. With the White House ducking the issue of its own acquiescence in these cities' decision to flout the federal immigration laws which were duly enacted. When asked repeatedly this week to speak to this case, White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to weigh in other than to refer folks to the Department of Homeland Security.
A stark contrast to what we saw after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson. A man we know was attacking a police officer at the time of his death. His funeral saw three Obama officials in attendance, his death drew comments from President Obama personally and his administration also sent in the DOJ and 40 FBI agents dispatched to Missouri after Michael Brown was killed. Where is the swarm of agents in San Francisco?
Then there was Freddie Gray in Baltimore, a repeat drug offender who was killed in police custody. Here again his funeral was attended by three Obama administration officials and again the President spoke personally to Freddie Gray's death. And again sent the DOJ in to investigate. When Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida, the president spoke to his death which was later ruled to be in self-defense. But Katie Steinle, nothing. No comments, no swarm of FBI agents, no DOJ investigation, nothing. Why?
South Carolina strikes the flag:
When Ms. Haley signed the bill Thursday, she praised lawmakers and declared that the flag’s removal should be seen as a historic moment. “I am very proud to say that it is a great day in South Carolina,” she said.
And back in Washington, Nancy Pelosi successfully ambushed the Republican leadership. The issue is complicated, but the Times buries the nuance and opens with celebration:
Republicans Yield as Confederate Flag Issue Roils Congress
WASHINGTON — The anguished national debate over the future of the Confederate flag exploded on the House floor on Thursday as Democrats, led by black members from the South, beat back a push by Republicans to allow Confederate symbols at national cemeteries.
Coming less than 24 hours after the South Carolina House voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the capitol grounds in Columbia , the spectacle of the United States House pressing for its continuing display was an embarrassment Republican leaders could not accept, and they withdrew the bill from the floor.
“There’s not any room on federal property for the display of the Confederate battle flag,” said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, a leader of the civil rights movement who in 1965 was nearly beaten to death at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., by club-wielding police officers, some of whom had Confederate flags painted on their helmets. “It represents the dark past as a symbol of separation, a symbol of division, a symbol of hate.”
As a matter of substance, the Republican amendment was modest. It would have permitted displays of the flag in federal cemeteries on one day a year, Confederate memorial day, which is celebrated in nine states. It would also have allowed the sale of the flag on souvenir items that conform to National Park Service guidelines.
At first read, a ban on the display of the Confederate battle flag on federal property doesn't seem unreasonable, especially when set in the context of the South Carolina decision. But much later in the story, we are presented with some nuance:
But the Southern Republicans stood their ground on displaying the flag at national cemeteries. Representative Mick Mulvaney, Republican of South Carolina, said he strongly supported removing the flag from the State House grounds in Columbia, but, he said, “This is very, very different.”
“Spending taxpayer money on the flag, and displaying it on a public monument, may be one thing; preventing private citizens from doing it on graves is very different,” he said.
Hmm. Unless I have missed something since Virginia v. Black (and why does Virginia get the cool case names?) this is not a complicated free speech issue at all - if cross burning can be tolerated when it is symbolic (but not directly threatening) free speech, surely the Confederate battle flag should be legal for an individual to display. On their own property.
But the government can set limits on speech on government property:
The freedom of speech protection provided by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows people to fly the confederate flag on their own property. However, the Government is not required to permit all forms of speech on public property. The legality of flying a confederate flag in public areas depends upon whether the area is designated as a public forum, limited public forum, or nonpublic forum.
Traditional public forums include public streets, sidewalks, and parks, while limited or designated public forums include public auditoriums or theaters. The Government may restrict speech in these forums if the restriction is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest. Nonpublic forums include areas such as airports and cemeteries; the Government is allowed to restrict speech in nonpublic forums so long as the restriction is reasonable and not an effort to suppress expression because public officials oppose the speaker’s view.
Multiple courts have upheld restrictions prohibiting confederate flags from being displayed in cemeteries, while courts in some states (such as South Carolina and Alabama) have approved the display of the confederate flag atop state buildings. Although a person is free to fly a confederate flag at their own home, one could potentially be restricted from doing so in a public place.
And a key case seems to be Griffin v. Dept. of Veteran Affairs. A federal judge ruled in favor of an ongoing, privately sponsored display of the battle flag at Point Lookout Cemetery, a Civil War cemetery. An appeals court reversed in favor of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs rules, which allowed the flag to be displayed two days a year.
Which means that when the fiery John Lewis says "There’s not any room on federal property for the display of the Confederate battle flag”, he would be on safe ground in barring any federally sponsored display of the flag, and that could reasonably extend to gift shop displays. But if a citizen walks into a federal cemetery wearing a denim jacket with a battle flag on the back, or carrying a battle-themed handbag, will they be subject to arrest? I would be surprised. And if they place a flag on an ancestor's grave, what then?
I guess it hinges on the meaning of "display" - is a flag atop a thirty foot flagpole sending a different message from a small flag adorning a grave? One might argue that the former requires cooperation from the park owner, since that flagpole didn't just grow there. On the other hand, a flag on a grave could easily be construed as a private, non-state sponsored moment of expression. On the third hand, if the currently controversial amendment was allowing display just one day a year, that suggests it is already against the rules the rest of the year, so completing the ban ought to be within the government's scope. And on the final hand, a flag on Confederate Memorial Day might be "obviously" commemorating the war dead in a way that would be less obvious on other days.
And what rules do these Democrats envision for Civil War re-enactors? Gettysburg is a national park - what flag do they suggest for the folks re-enacting Pickett's charge? (Outwaiting the re-enactors may be the easy way out).
I can see why Boehner wants to punt:
Republican leaders realized that they did not have the votes to pass the amendment reinstating flag displays, or the votes to pass the spending bill without the amendment. So they were left to pull the underlying bill from consideration.
Mr. Boehner then called for an informal working group to review all Confederate symbols at the Capitol, such as on flags and statues and in paintings, and beyond.
“We all witnessed the people of Charleston and the people of South Carolina come together in a respectful way to deal with, frankly, a very horrific crime and a difficult issue with the Confederate flag,” Mr. Boehner said. “I actually think it’s time for some adults here in the Congress to actually sit down and have a conversation about how to address this issue.”
If the adults in Congress are meeting they won't need a large room.
Ian Morris of Stanford has a guest column in the Times on the history of income inequality:
Everyone on earth was a forager 15,000 years ago, surviving by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants. These methods had low yields and worked best when people lived in tiny bands and moved around a lot. Foraging also made it difficult to accumulate wealth and power: There was no room for kings and aristocrats. Foragers tended to be very poor but very equal. (By one calculation, the typical hunter-gatherer’s standard of living was equivalent to about $1.10 in 1990 values.)
This all changed, though, about 11,000 years ago with the beginning of farming. Because more food could be produced, the human population exploded. There were roughly 6 million foragers in the world in 10000 B.C., but by 1 B.C. there were about 250 million farmers. Big social groups that stayed in one place, working their fields, flourished at the expense of smaller, less sedentary ones. Between 9000 B.C. and A.D. 1800, almost all foraging societies went extinct.
Farmers were typically richer than foragers, with average living standards equivalent to $1.50-$2.20 per day. Farming society needed more complicated divisions of labor than the foraging world. Some people became aristocrats or godlike kings; others became peasants or slaves. And economic inequality surged.
Anthropological studies of foraging societies suggest that their Gini coefficients for income and accumulated wealth both averaged around 0.25. In farming societies, however, the average income inequality almost doubled, to 0.45. The Roman Empire scored around 0.43, England in 1688 about 0.47, and France on the eve of the Revolution an eye-watering 0.59.
But then everything changed again with the industrial revolution. Fossil fuels released a flood of energy, with steam and electricity powering machines that vastly augmented human and animal labor.
Leaving us where? Well, it's complicated:
If the twists and turns of economic history over the last 15,000 years and popular will are any guide, the “right” level of post-tax income inequality seems to lie between about 0.25 and 0.35, and that of wealth inequality between about 0.70 and 0.80. Many countries are now at or above the upper bounds of these ranges, which suggests that Mr. Piketty is indeed right to foresee trouble.
At the same time, the patterns of the past tend to reveal new questions just as much as they answer old ones. Farming swept away foraging and fossil fuels swept away farming; today, there are signs that the fossil fuel world, in turn, is coming to an end. New energy sources, technologies that break down boundaries between mind and machine, and shifts toward living in virtual rather than physical spaces all threaten to make the 21st century the biggest rupture in history, dwarfing the agricultural and industrial revolutions.
If so, then we should learn another lesson from history: that what works well in one age can fail completely in another. It’s quite possible that a century from now worrying about the right level of inequality for a fossil fuel society might seem as irrelevant as worrying about the right level of inequality for Neanderthals does today.
After celebrating going an entire vacation with no news as a good thing - now I'm starting to catch up.
Maybe I'm crazy, but among the headlines I'm seeing - almost literally no news out there right now is good.
Greece collapsing, China all of a sudden trying to beat them to it, Iran getting everything they want from nuclear negotiations, our strategy to defeat ISIS is a (not ha-ha) joke and the execution is glacial, NYSE shuts down, United Airlines shuts down, an illegal immigrant kills an innocent woman in San Francisco - using a gun belonging to a federal agent - because the federal government won't protect our border nor enforce our immigration laws.
I need another vacation.
Wait. Here's something. According to TripAdvisor I live in the city with the best hamburger restaurant in America. So I got that going for me, which is nice.
The vacation was almost entirely news-free. It was spectacular. I'm not exactly ready to catch up, either. I'm in this kinda mood, courtesy of Cyanide and Happiness:
Yup, when I say I'm ready - I mean ready for an open thread.
Here is the NY Times headline for one of the slowest news days of the year:
Health Insurance Companies Seek Big Rate Increases for 2016
And how big was it?
WASHINGTON — Health insurance companies around the country are seeking rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more, saying their new customers under the Affordable Care Actturned out to be sicker than expected. Federal officials say they are determined to see that the requests are scaled back.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans — market leaders in many states — are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota, according to documents posted online by the federal government and state insurance commissioners and interviews with insurance executives.
The Oregon insurance commissioner, Laura N. Cali, has just approved 2016 rate increases for companies that cover more than 220,000 people. Moda Health Plan, which has the largest enrollment in the state, received a 25 percent increase, and the second-largest plan, LifeWise, received a 33 percent increase.
Why? Let's bottom-line this:
Federal officials have often highlighted a provision of the Affordable Care Act that caps insurers’ profits and requires them to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care and related activities. “Because of the Affordable Care Act,” Mr. Obama told supporters in 2013, “insurance companies have to spend at least 80 percent of every dollar that you pay in premiums on your health care — not on overhead, not on profits, but on you.”
In financial statements filed with the government in the last two months, some insurers said that their claims payments totaled not just 80 percent, but more than 100 percent of premiums. And that, they said, is unsustainable.
At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, for example, the ratio of claims paid to premium revenues was more than 115 percent, and the company said it lost more than $135 million on its individual insurance business in 2014. “Based on first-quarter results,” it said, “the year-end deficit for 2015 individual business is expected to be significantly higher.”
But this is a post of hope and I've got some good news, listen: if you are talking to your family about ObamaCare this weekend, remind that not to worry about the premiums - they are probably spending other people's money!
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, said that federal subsidies would soften the impact of any rate increases. Of the 10.2 million people who obtained coverage through federal and state marketplaces this year, 85 percent receive subsidies in the form of tax credits to help pay premiums.
Hillary can explain all this next summer.
TO WHICH I MIGHT ADD: Federal subsidies of a product can bring down total cost if (IF!) the subsidies carry the producer past the problems of achieving economies of scale and progress on the learning curve. Of course, the manufacturers often absorb that - the first new model car, or Boeing jet, or solar panel to roll off the production line costs a lot more than the thousandth.
But is that happening in health care, or higher education? Doubtful. In which case, the subsidies merely transfer costs, rather than reduce them. And, in the case of health care, raising demand for services without increasing the supply (e.g., relaxed licensing requirements or expanded professional scope for Registered Nurses) ought to lead to price increases.
Or, if you favor pith and humor, try Cafe Hayek.
Megan McArdle takes a long look at the recent study which generated this sort of headline:
I would say, read it all - some of the "right wing terror" may not be and some jihadists (specifically, the Beltway Sniper) may have been inappropriately omitted. Her most important point is this:
The most obvious thing to note is the choice of start date: Sept. 12, 2001. That neatly excludes an attack that would dwarf all those homegrown terror attacks by several orders of magnitude. Ah, you will say, but that was a one-time event. Sort of. It is no longer possible to destroy the World Trade Center, but we can't be certain to never again have a large-scale terror attack that kills many people. If you have high-magnitude but low-frequency events, then during most intervals you choose to study, other threats will seem larger -- but if you zoom out, the big, rare events will still kill more people. We don't say that California should stop worrying about earthquake-proofing its buildings, just because in most years bathtub drownings are a much larger threat to its citizens.
Yes. But let me add two related points. First, we are looking at fatal outcomes NET OF preventative measures. What is the mix of resources devoted to stopping jihadists, versus stopping right wing nutjobs? Just for example, why are we standing in airport lines with our shoes off?
Over their chosen time period 302 individuals have been arrested for jihadist plots while 183 non-jihadists have been arrested. If Team Obama can measure jobs created or saved, can't these researchers measure lives saved? OK, probably not - as an poor, out-of-timeframe example, this 1997 "plan" (with a possible KKK link) to blow up a Mitchell Energy natural gas plant might have killed thousands. Or not. Or what about the Times Square bomber, whose failed bomb might have killed thousands? Of course, these prospective casualty estimates come from law enforcement officials - the day may come when the FBI announces they have foiled a plot the consequences of which would have been trivial, but that day has not arrived.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT ANSWERS: The fool who posted that he was "putting wings on pigs" and then drove from Baltimore to NYC to gun down two police officers is not presented in this study as an example of ideologically motivated domestic terror. Why not? I can only guess.
This is from the intro to the report:
We examine both those individuals motivated by Jihadist ideology, understood as those who worked with or were inspired by al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, as well as those motivated by other ideologies that are non-Jihadist in character, for example right wing, left wing, or idiosyncratic beliefs.
Even if the cop-killer doesn't fit their right wing profile, there ought to be room for him under "left-wing" or "idiosyncratic".
A shocker from Frank Bruni of the NY Times:
The Sunny Side of Greed
In the dire prophecies of science-fiction writers and the fevered warnings of left-wing activists, big corporations will soon rule the earth — or already do.
Fine with me.
They’ve been great on the issue of the Confederate flag. Almost immediately after the fatal shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., several prominent corporate leaders, including the heads of Walmart and Sears, took steps to retire the banner as a public symbol of the South; others made impassioned calls for that.
And when Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor, said that the Confederate flag at the State House should come down, she did so knowing that Boeing and BMW, two of the state’s major employers, had her back. In fact the state’s chamber of commerce had urged her and other politicians to see the light.
Eli Lilly, American Airlines, Intel and other corporations were crucial to the defeat or amendment of proposed “religious freedom” laws in Indiana, Arkansas and Arizona over the last year and a half. Their leaders weighed in against the measures, which licensed anti-gay discrimination, and put a special kind of pressure on politicians, who had to worry about losing investment and jobs if companies with operations in their states didn’t like what the government was doing.
And if it were up to corporations, we’d have the immigration reform we sorely need. Early last year, the United States Chamber of Commerce publicized a letter that urged Congress to act on “modernizing our immigration system.” It was signed by 246 enterprises large and small, including Apple, AT&T, Caterpillar, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, McDonald’s, Marriott and Microsoft.
Are these companies acting in their own interests? Absolutely. They’re trying to make sure that laws and local customs don’t prevent them from attracting and retaining the best work force. They’re burnishing their brands in a manner that they hope will endear them to customers.
Not all good things come from government? This is breakthrough stuff. Someday he may discover that, just for example, the drugs discovered by Big Pharma save lives, including gay ones.
OK, then maybe one day he will discover the 'regulatory capture hypothesis' and learn that Big Business often co-opts Big Government. It is a matter of suspense as to whether he will conclude that the solution is Bigger Government.
Just a few days back as a flurry of controversial decisions were announced Andrew McCarthy of NRO railed against the left-wing voting bloc on the Supreme Court:
In case after case, including blockbusters on same-sex marriage and President Obama’s health care law, the court’s four-member liberal wing, all appointed by Democratic presidents, managed to pick off one or more votes from the court’s five conservative justices, all appointed by Republicans.
They did this in large part through rigorous [rigid] bloc voting, making the term that concluded Monday the most liberal one since the Warren court in the late 1960s, according to two political-science measurements of court voting data.
“The most interesting thing about this term is the acceleration of a long-term trend of disagreement among the Republican-appointed judges, while the Democratic-appointed judges continue to march in lock step,” said Eric Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago.
Many analysts credit [blame] the leadership of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the senior member of the liberal justices, for leveraging their four votes. “We have made a concerted effort to speak with one voice [stifle dissent] in important cases,” she said in an interview last year. [Uhh, the cases are not all important? They made it to the Supreme Court!]
The court’s conservatives, by contrast, were often splintered [nuanced], issuing separate opinions even when they agreed on the outcome. The conservative justices, for instance, produced more than 40 dissenting opinions, the liberals just 13.
Ok, fun's fun but this next is a 'to be fair' paragraph which, to be fair, may be making an important point:
The divisions on the right, Professor Posner said, may have occurred in part because the mix of cases reaching the court has invited a backlash. “Conservative litigators who hope to move the law to the right by bringing cases to the Supreme Court have overreached,” he said. “They are trying to move the law farther right than Kennedy or Roberts think reasonable.”
When the administration ended up on the losing side, it was often because it took a conservative position, particularly in criminal cases, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“The administration most often lost the court because it couldn’t hold the liberals,” Professor Winkler said. “The administration’s positions in the Supreme Court were too conservative. Shockingly, the Supreme Court may have been more liberal than the Obama administration this term.” This was so, he said, in cases involving drugs, guns, searches and threats posted on Facebook.