Many, many bad words — all of them richly deserved.
(H/T, Jim D.)
When Dana Milbank wrote that scathing piece on the President a week or two ago, I ignored it because, as I tweeted to somebody the next day, Milbank was just pivoting to Hillary Clinton. With that in mind, let us turn now to Howard Kurtz reporting on Democrats and the Mainstream Media (but I repeat myself) abandoning Obama:
President Obama has few remaining friends—either in his own party or in the media.
That’s the unmistakable conclusion of two pieces this week in the New York Times. Just about everyone, it seems, is down on his single, solitary nature.
I’ve been saying for a year now that the president’s liberal media allies have soured on him. It started with the ObamaCare debacle and continued through his seeming passivity or slow reaction time in the wake of the VA scandal, the Bowe Bergdahl mess, the military collapse in Iraq and so on. At this point they’re basically Waiting for Hillary.
Waiting, pivoting — it’s all the same.
The Newspaper of Record or Whatevs™ has a pretty decent writeup of the bipartisan frustration with the President puttering while the Middle East burns. But you have to scan nine grads down to get to that oh-so-juicy telling detail:
Mr. Obama has traditionally resisted what he sees as the empty political gesture of abruptly upending his schedule in reaction to the latest crisis. Aides said the golf game did not reflect the depth of his grief over Mr. Foley, noting that the president had just spoken with his parents that morning.
He feels your pain — on the back nine.
So are rates going up or down? Like the 2,200 page law, it’s complicated:
In Arizona, for instance, the average premium increase submitted was 11.2 percent, but rates ranged from a decrease of 23 percent to a spike of 27 percent. In Arkansas, where the average increase was 11.2 percent, some consumers could see their premiums soar by 50 percent.
Defenders of Obamacare argue that rates typically went up annually before the law went into effect.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that it was Obama himself who repeatedly promised that premiums would go down by an average of $2,500 per family. His promise wasn’t that he would overhaul the health care system so that premiums would continue to increase each year, just as they did in the system that existed before he was elected, which he argued was unacceptable.
Additionally, any increases in premiums in 2015 will be on top of the premium increases that occurred during 2014.
For instance, Covered California announced last month that the average statewide increase in premiums would be 4.2 percent in 2015. But the Los Angeles Times reported that the state’s insurance commissioner, Dave Jones, said residents of California have paid between 22 percent and 88 percent more for health insurance in 2014 than they did last year, before Obamacare’s major provisions went into effect.
And the longer-term challenge facing Obamacare is that a number of the measures intended to stabilize the growth of premiums in the early years of the law’s implementation are scheduled to expire after 2016.
You can’t tell the winners and losers even with a scorecard… if the White House would stop hiding the scorecard, that is.
— DrewMTips (@DrewMTips) August 21, 2014
We’re bombing IS/Caliphate which says it’s at war with us, while our State Department denies that they’re at war with us. War, I suppose, is a one way street. So here to clear things up is Charles Krauthammer:
The problem is that the new policy has outgrown the rationale. Our reason for returning to Iraq, explained Obama, is twofold: preventing genocide and protecting U.S. personnel.
According to Obama’s own assertions, however, the recent Kurdish/Iraqi advances have averted the threat of genocide. As for the threat to U.S. personnel at the consulate in Irbil, it too is reduced.
It was a flimsy rationale to begin with. To protect Americans in an outpost, you don’t need an air war. A simple evacuation would do.
Besides, what does the recapture of the Mosul dam, the most significant gain thus far, have to do with either rationale? There are no Christians or Yazidis sheltering there. Nor any American diplomats. So Obama tried this: If the dam is breached, the wall of water could swamp our embassy in Baghdad.
Quite a reach. An air war to prevent flooding at an embassy 200 miles downstream? Well, yes, but why not say the real reason? Everyone knows it: The dam is a priceless strategic asset, possession of which alters the balance of power in this war.
And why not state the real objective of the U.S. air campaign? Stopping, containing, degrading the Islamic State.
Well, if we did that then Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom would have to officially choose sides, which is something he seems loathe to do. I’ll give him credit where it’s due, however. The bombing campaign isn’t as feckless as he indicated it would be a few weeks ago. When Wiggleroom said he was targeting “airstrikes to protect our American personnel,” I took him at his word, and assumed he meant there would be no broader campaign against IS/Caliphate. Instead it’s clear that was just a little white lie told to cover his left flank, and I’m cool with that — anything to kill these murderous mofos before they kill us or many more of our friends.
Gregory Clark tells one of the most disgusting and least known tales from the closing days of WWII:
August 15, 1945, is the much-remembered date of Japan’s surrender in World War II. But that date could have been much later. On a recent visit to Australia, I discovered an act of Stalinist perfidy that could easily have delayed that war end and have left much of Japan subject to Soviet occupation.
This was the fact that in 1945 Soviet leader Josef Stalin was passing on to Tokyo information from unsuspecting Australian sources that would allow the Japanese military to resist the Allied invasion from the south and provide time for a Soviet invasion into Japan from the north.
If the Soviet plan had succeeded, many more Americans, Australians and Japanese would have died as a result, and much of Japan would have come under Soviet occupation or control.
For pure ugliness and perfidiousness it rates with the Warsaw Ghetto affair when Stalin’s refusal to help the 1943 uprising there did much to allow Moscow later to take over the country and impose communist rule.
Thank God, as Paul Fussell wrote, for the atom bomb.
So long Iraq, hello Syria? Maybe:
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria cannot be defeated unless the United States or its partners take on the Sunni militants in Syria, the chairman of the joint chiefs of Staff said Thursday.
“This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated,” said the chairman, General Martin E Dempsey, in his most expansive public remarks on the crisis since American airstrikes began in Iraq. “Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no.”
“It requires a variety of instruments, only one small part of which is airstrikes,” he said. “I’m not predicting those will occur in Syria, at least not by the United States of America. But it requires the application of all of the tools of national power – diplomatic, economic, information, military.”
I remember when Smart Diplomacy™ meant leaving Iraq and staying away from Syria.
Is there any part of this President’s foreign policy that’s working?
The growing power of Sunni Islamic terrorist group ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in the last year has caused the Saudis and Iranians to pause their growing Sunni-Shia feud because both countries have more to fear from ISIL and its rabid brand of Sunni Islamic terrorism than from each other. Signs of this unofficial truce can be seen in several ways. Saudi Arabia has backed off on its anti-Iran propaganda and is quietly cooperating with Iran to deal with ISIL advances in Syria and Iraq. Iran reciprocated when it recently ordered the shutdown of several semi-legal satellite TV channels run by some rabidly anti-Sunni (but high ranking) Shia clerics. The Saudis were not happy with these unofficial satellite TV operations but what prompted the most senior Iranian leaders (the clerics that actually run the Iranian religious dictatorship) to shut these operations down was a complaint from the leader of Hezbollah that this sort of TV programming was making life more difficult for Shia in Lebanon. While Shia Moslems like to believe that their form of Islam is the best one, they also have to live (or die) with the fact that only about ten percent of all Moslems are Shia and 80 percent are Sunni.
My fear isn’t that the IS/Caliphate will take over the Middle East today — and tomorrow the world! But by drawing Saudi and Iranian forces into Iraq as friends today, it does increase the chances of the Saudi and Iranian forces fighting one another in Iraq tomorrow. It becomes very difficult for politicians to give the withdraw order from the second guy’s country when the third guy’s forces are there, too. The Sunni vs Shi’a, Arab vs Persian angles just add to the fun.
Maybe it’s time to rethink the “it’s not a wave year” mantra if this poll becomes a trend:
In the WMUR/UNH survey released Thursday night, Shaheen led Brown by 46 percent to 44 percent, which is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
This latest numbers show a dramatic swing in Brown’s direction from the previous WMUR/UNH poll, which was conducted a month-and-a-half earlier and showed Shaheen leading Brown by 12 points.
According to the latest RealClearPolitics polling average, Shaheen leads Brown by 6.6 points.
National Republicans will be buoyed by the new poll, which indicates that the race is within Brown’s reach.
“Connecting with voters” was never Brown’s strong point. “Being the deciding vote against ♡bamaCare!!!” was. When the Democrats used parliamentary skullduggery to deprive him of that vote, Massachusetts lost its reason for sending him to DC — and everything returned to normal in the following election.
What reason might New Hampshire voters have for sending Brown back?
There are a lot of things in space, but terrestrial sea plankton was not one of them –at least, so we thought. Yet traces of the microorganisms were found on the windows of the International Space Station, as reported by Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency.
Experiments had previously shown that microorganisms such as bacteria are capable of surviving in space, and, further, propagating endospores — but sea plankton is certainly a new discovery, Vladimir Solovyev, chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission, told the news agency.
“The results of this experiment are absolutely unique,” he said. “We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator [window] surface. This should be studied further.”
Life, as Dr. Ian Malcolm says, finds a way.
Right now, three Dolphin II-class submarines are under construction at Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems shipyards in Kiel. Once the submarines complete their trials and head towards the Mediterranean, they will become the most powerful Israeli submarines ever.
More than 225 feet long, the diesel-electric Dolphin II class is part attack submarine, part nuclear strike ship and part commando taxi.
They’re also painted in an unusual combination of black, blue and green colors. That’s “meant to make the ship less visible, and thought to be especially effective in Mediterranean waters,” Defense News noted after recently publishing new photographs of the fat, oddly-shaped boats in dry dock and on sea trials.
The most serious part comes further down in the story:
Although not admitted by the Israeli government, the Dolphin II is widely believed to soon possess nuclear-tipped Popeye Turbo cruise missiles. The submarine’s armament includes non-nuclear anti-ship Harpoon and anti-helicopter Triton missiles.
That’s a lot of hurt for the bad guys packed into one boat — and Israel is buying three of them.
Borrowers with shaky credit histories? A rush to fill out paperwork to facilitate loans for them? Bundling pools of those loans and selling them to investors? No, this is not the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008. This is the sub-prime auto loan business of 2014. Since 2009, total auto loan securitizations have surged 150 percent, to $17.6 billion last year. And the securities contain loans made to consumers with sub-prime credit.
Now the other shoe may have dropped. Credit reporting service Experian reveals that delinquencies and repossessions are rising, primarily driven by borrowers who would be classified as subprime and deep subprime. While Experian says this uptick is to be expected as the industry sells more vehicles, some are already saying a bubble in subprime auto loans may already be here.
The broke will be forced to bail out the incompetent for lending to the insolvent — again.
Thomas Sowell on Ferguson:
We all know what has happened since then — and it has been a complete disgrace by politicians, the media and mobs of rioters and looters. Despite all the people who act as if they know exactly what happened, nevertheless when the full facts come out, that can change everything.
This is why we have courts of law, instead of relying on the media or mobs. But politics is undermining law.
That’s been precisely the goal for a very long time.
Read the whole thing.
What the coach of the losing team in the Little League World Series said to his players after their tough loss — just click it and read it already.
It’s time to accept that the Syrian Arab Republic established in 1946 is no more. In its place totter small regions with constantly fluctuating communal and geographical boundaries. Within those temporary enclaves, some leaders attempt to maintain or expand influence by force and ideology; others try to do so by bringing safety, food, shelter, and fuel to people caught up in havoc. Rebels of disparate religious, political, and ethnic shades—some backed by Saudi and Gulf Arab money, others inspired by nationalistic ideologies—shuffle the conflagration and the persons caught up in it back and forth as they fight to the bitter end against the Syrian army and militias like Hezbollah, who are buttressed by Iranian and Russian resources. Yet all sides are losing, for stability is gone in Syria and from there instability is rippling outward.
Anybody with eyes and the willingness to look could see this coming. Here’s what I wrote last year concerning a book I read in the last last century:
Although the same nations still officially exist along the crescent from Marrakech to Baghdad, those borders mean less than they once did. The place we still call Syria might soon devolve into more political entities than are now extant in the entire region. Not too far away, Somalia is already three places, one of which is barely a place. Neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea went their separate ways in the ’90s, but still haven’t been able to figure out who gets the house and who gets the kids. Sudan is now Sudan and South Sudan — and yet the fighting over the new border hasn’t stopped. West Africa was never as tidy as it appears on the map, and is getting messier all the time.
It’s true the Black Africa and Arab Africa are special cases, with borders drawn decades ago by outsiders, with zero acknowledgement of “facts on the ground.” But now that these centrifugal forces have been set loose, they’re becoming more and more difficult to control.
IS/Caliphate is one of the results of those centrifugal forces. Whether it can survive the chaos it feeds on and also helps create remains to be seen.
Edward Lazear writes that while the job market has “improved significantly” since the end of the Great Recession, it’s also “far” from recovered:
Reductions in employment during recessions come about primarily because the hiring rate declines, not because layoffs pick up. It is easy to cut employment to recession levels simply by a freeze in hiring for a month or two. It is the number of hires that tells us how close we are to getting back to pre-recession levels.
The data released last week showed that hires reached 4.8 million in June, the highest since February 2008.
This is good news. During the recession and first three years of the recovery, hires averaged about 4.2 million per month.
Nevertheless, before the 2007 recession began, hiring peaked at 5.5 million per month and averaged 5.1 million a month from 2000 through 2007.
The labor force is larger now, so more hires are needed, specifically about 5.2 million in the average month. We are just past the halfway point in getting hiring back to normal levels.
After five years of “recovery.”
Most encouraging Star Wars news I’ve read since George Lucas sold his franchise:
As if videos from the set of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars movie featuring live-action alien costumes and full-scale X-Wing Fighters haven’t been enough of a clue, Rian Johnson, who will pick up the franchise after Abrams, says Star Wars: Episode VII will feature more practical, traditional effects.
“They’re doing so much practical building for this one. It’s awesome,” Johnson said on the latest Girls in Hoodies podcast. “I think people are coming back around to [practical effects]. It feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back toward it. I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick.”
This goes right back to a conversation we had in this space just last May:
Up until, and I guess including Jurassic Park, Hollywood could drop our jaws with only the special effects. Something really new might come along every once in a great while like the wire work from The Matrix, but once the computers took over we became jaded pretty quickly. We used to marvel at practical special effects, because some smart and talented people had to figure out a means to make something jaw-dropping happen, really happen, in front of a camera. Now the computer artists just draw it, if you’ll allow me to oversimplify the amazing work that they can do. But we’ll never again wonder, “How did they do that?”
Maybe Star Wars will bring back some of the wonder.
In which I bring together Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians and conspiracy nuts and the White House and pretty much everybody who doesn’t suck.
From buckling sidewalks to potholed thoroughfares to storm drains that can’t handle a little rain, the infrastructure that holds the second-largest U.S. city together is suffering from years of deferred maintenance. Bringing pipes that deliver water to 3.9 million people up to snuff could cost $4 billion — more than half the city’s annual operating budget. The bill for repaving streets will be almost that much, according to estimates from a city consultant, and patching or replacing cracked sidewalks will require $640 million.
City Council members recently gave up on a proposal to ask voters for a sales-tax increase to finance street and sidewalk repairs, and Mayor Eric Garcetti has ruled out raising water rates anytime soon to upgrade pipelines.
“We’re in trouble,” said Jack Humphreville, the budget advocate for L.A.’s advisory neighborhood councils. His estimate, based on figures provided by the city, is that getting public works into good shape will take $10 billion to $15 billion. “This is no different from debt.”
Councilman Mitchell Englander added, “We can’t tax our way out of this,” since Los Angeles already has one of the highest sales taxes in the nation, and that’s on top of the state’s income tax, which is also among the nation’s highest.
California has trouble keeping the water inside the pipes, but they’ve got the money to build high-speed passenger rail connecting Palmdale to Merced.
Bad governance sucks.
Local reporters are making hay about the former SecState’s royal ways. Here’s Jon Ralston in Las Vegas:
We don’t have kings and queens in America, or at least we shouldn’t. But when I see the red carpet UNLV is rolling out for Hillary Clinton in two months I start to wonder. Unless you’re a mindless partisan, the details of that contract with the UNLV Foundation should disturb you. They were uncovered, as I said by the RJ’s Lara Myers, and published over the weekend. The contract reads as if Hillary is being given the, yes, royal treatment. Now it is bad enough that the UNLV Foundation folks agreed to that outrageous $225,000 fee as students struggle to make ends meet.
Hillary can’t seem to decide if she’s running against President Obama or with him, and her behavior indicates she might not be running — or that she’s entirely too out of touch to be running at all.
Most celebrities have a limited shelf life. A few do manage to age with as much grace and glamour as they began with — I’m thinking now of some of the old school greats like Lauren Bacall and Cary Grant. Kevin Costner is sticking mostly with age-appropriate roles, as is Helen Mirren. Neither is allowing their personal lives to detract from their public personas. There are other examples, but you get the idea.
They’re the exceptions though. Some stars get too weird (Michael Jackson) to keep their shine. Tom Cruise, despite being well into his 50s, keeps starring in increasingly-ridiculous sci-fi action flicks, when he ought to be letting some gray show through — and showing guys my age how to do it right. Superstars like Madonna reach a place where they can’t be told No, and cease being recognizable as fellow earthlings. Others burn out, some fade out.
Others — I’m thinking again of Madonna — have so much money and they just won’t go away no matter how much we’d like them to. Lady Gaga would like to go down that road, but she’s probably already past her shelf life.
In the second half of the 20th Century we had our first celebrity-presidents, starting with JFK, formalized by Reagan, and perfected by the Clintons. The Obamas are a whole new ballgame, taking the White House from mere celebrity to superstardom.
Hillary seems determined lately to follow that example, but she also seems to have too much of Madonna’s brittle remoteness to make it work.
Is the (lame) party almost over for the US economy? Jim Pethokoukis has a definite-maybe on that question:
What could go wrong? Well, a lot. Wall Street certainly has worries aplenty. The advance of the militant group ISIS in Iraq and Syria threatens important oil exports, which could jack up global oil prices. The eurozone economy isn’t growing at all and risks a triple-dip recession with knock-on effects here. Then there’s the Fed. It’s winding down its “quantitative easing” bond-buying program and is expected to begin raising interest rates at some point next year.
Now, none of those things is necessarily an existential threat to the recovery. But with slow-growth expansions — of whatever age — you just never know what’s going to screw them up. They’re just really fragile.
The good news is that this weak recovery doesn’t leave us all that far to fall.
The bad news is that the good news is a lie.
At the Daily Beast, Stuart Stevens wants to know what happened to that “hopeful, eloquent man we elected in 2008.” Read:
Six years into the Obama presidency, it’s still true that no problem confounds America like black-white relations. In the country that defines itself by an assumption that no challenge is beyond our grasp, the quest for a post-racial society is like the elusive cure for an ever-transmuting disease. Great effort and time has produced grudging improvements in quality of life, but the sickness defies a cure. It is always there, ready to strike without warning.
Could Obama have done more to help heal the trauma of Brown’s death? He’s played a healing roll well in the past. If the president had stepped in early and reassured the Brown family, Ferguson, and the world that a fair and impartial investigation was under way, it is difficult to imagine it not helping. That would have required putting his personal credibility on the line as president and, yes, as our first African American president.
But clearly this president is uncomfortable in this role. For a political leader propelled to the heights by his ability to speak of race in transforming terms, he seems to have lost faith in his own voice.
The hope was a sham and the eloquence was scripted. Confronted with the realities of six years of bad policies and vindictive governance, I might conveniently lose my voice, too.
Guess who’s lecturing us on how to deal with violent protestors? Egypt:
Egypt on Tuesday urged U.S. authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with racially charged demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri – echoing language Washington used to caution Egypt as it cracked down on Islamist protesters last year.
So it turns out that “California Comeback” was based on smoke and mirrors. IBD has the numbers:
This time last year, liberals around the country were trumpeting the big fiscal comeback of the Golden State in the wake of Jerry Brown’s giant tax increase — Proposition 30.
That initiative was passed by voters on Nov. 6, 2012, and it raised the personal income-tax rate on taxpayers making over $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for married couples to as high as 13% — which is the heaviest tax penalty on working and investing in the nation outside of New York City.
What was especially devious is that the tax hit was made retroactive to January 2012. Sacramento was so desperate for money that nobody seemed to mind this after-the fact taxation is really a form of confiscation.
In the short term, it worked and revenues climbed a whopping 21% because California’s top 2% had to pay taxes twice in 2013 — once on their current-year income and a supplemental check to pay for the retroactive tax on income from the year before.
And today? Sacramento’s personal income tax collections declined 11.1% last quarter, indicating that California is all out of tricks for disguising its serious spending problem. Besides, they can only hike taxes retroactively one time, right?
Michael Barone explains the former SecState and presumed 2016 contender’s absence from the campaign trail:
As Patrick Buchanan shows in his recent and characteristically vividly written book, “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority,” Nixon campaigned tirelessly for Republican candidates in the 1966 midterm elections.
That election produced big Republican gains, including 47 House seats (contrary to the obituaries written for the party after Barry Goldwater’s 1964 defeat), and helped elect Nixon president in 1968.
So why isn’t Clinton following Nixon’s example? For reasons as clear-eyed as her takedowns of Obama. First, she is in a stronger position to win her party’s nomination today than Nixon was 48 years ago.
Second, she, unlike Nixon in 1966 and like most sober-minded observers this year, doesn’t see this as a good year for her party.
The explanation might be simpler still. She could either Gulfstream her way to pre-scouted Presidential Suites in five-star hotels to give a brief speech for a quarter of a million dollars, or show up for hours at a grubby fundraiser hosted by some second-string candidate in one of those third-tier flyover states where the hotel has “Holiday” or “Comfort” in the name.
For a woman of Clinton’s stature, it’s a no-brainer.