Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Lawlessness only begets more lawlessness

I imagine there are those out there who will write this off as the usual political squabble, but there’s a larger point here, and if you look closely you’ll see it:

Top White House political adviser David Simas refused again Friday to honor a congressional subpoena, prompting Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to vote to rebuke the administration.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 19-14 to reject the White House’s claim that Simas has absolute immunity from a subpoena from Congress.

Republicans said they were standing up for the principle that no one is above the law, and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa quoted a long list of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who have backed Congress’ right to subpoena top administration officials.

Democrats, led by ranking member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, said they strongly disagree with the White House’s claim of absolute immunity but also strongly disagree with Issa’s push to press the issue, warning it could hurt the institution if they take a case to court.

The White House informed Issa at 7:30 a.m. Friday that Simas would not appear, Issa said. The absence was “not excused,” the California Republican added.

White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston asked Issa to withdraw the subpoena to discuss his late Thursday offer for Simas to give a deposition instead of subpoenaed testimony.

Issa refused to do so.

“We have an absolute right and obligation” to investigate the new White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, he said.

It is about this presidency’s seeming desire to be unlawful.  Screw Congress, screw the law, screw oversight, we (the Executive branch) get to decide what is or isn’t lawful.  And we’ve decided that we have full immunity.

Nice.  And this isn’t even some big agency or the like.  It’s a 4 person office.  It’s about the Constitution and the law:

“This was intended to be a short, and I hope it will be, oversight of a relatively small but in the past controversial office, consistent with our requirement to do oversight even without a predicate of wrongdoing,” he said.

Issa said oversight of the previously troubled political office will help American people be more comfortable and ensure taxpayer dollars are being used properly.

“This is not alleging a scandal at any level,” Issa said of the subpoena. But oversight is still legitimate, he said. ”We are accusing neither the president nor anyone in this four-person office of any wrongdoing.”

Nope … this is just their normal duties.  Oversight.  What a concept.  Make sure that executive agency entities are following the law, spending (or not spending) taxpayer’s money as prescribed by law, etc.

And, as I mentioned yesterday, perception is going to be what?  That they’ve got something to hide.  The optics on this sort of thing are horrible – but they either don’t seem to understand or they don’t care.

There’s no good reason at work here for this president, there’s just arrogance and defiance.  Even the Democrats won’t buy into the total immunity nonsense.

So we sit and watch as this administration continues to thumb its nose at the lawful functions of government and obeying the law.

But why should they?  They haven’t in the past and nothing has happened.  Why should they worry now?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 24 Jul 14

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.1 points to 37.6 in the latest week.

Weekly initial jobless claims fell a surprising 19,000 to 284,000. The 4-week average fell 7,000 to 302,000. Continuing claims fell 8,000 to 2.500 million.

The PMI Manufacturing Index Flash fell from 57.6 to 56.3 in July.

June new home sales fell very sharply to a 406,000 annual rate from May’s 504,000. Prices fell 3.2% to a median price of $273,500.

The Kansas City Fed manufacturing index rose to 9 in July from 6 in June.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $12.5 billion last week, with total assets of $4.411 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose $14.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell $-12.4 billion in the latest week.


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The politics of perception

One of the more surprising things of late, at least to me, is the short memory the left seems to have.  As I’ve observed them over the years, one of the things I’ve noticed is they seem to understand the saying “in politics, perception is reality.” Or at least they did.  And it was why they tried to seize and control the narrative.  If they could fashion the perception of the people to be to their advantage, then the “reality” would follow.  One only has to think back of the 8 years of GW Bush to watch that in action.

But now it seems they’ve either forgotten that point or think they’re immune to it.  Or maybe they’re just better on the offense than the defense.

Take the IRS scandal. They continue to push the line that it is a phony scandal.  But what’s the perception of the people when it comes to the IRS in general?  Well, you’ll find very few who harbor kind thoughts about the agency, even if it has never crossed their path during their lifetime.   The IRS is a tax agency and no one is particularly fond of tax collectors.  So when the agency is implicated in an apparent scandal, the left trots out the “phony scandal” meme expecting that sort of a hand-wave to magically make the scandal disappear off of the public’s radar screen.

However, it hasn’t, has it?  Why? Because the public’s perception of the IRS fully allows what is being said about the agency could be true.  They have absolutely no problem believing that the IRS was used for political purposes. The public’s interest in the scandal has remained high.  So perception being “reality”, the left trying to deny something that the public perceives as being true or at least having some truth to it isn’t a good situation to be in, is it?

Immigration has the same problem.  While the left would like to characterize what is happening on the border as something like a “children’s crusade” and then damn anyone who is against it as hating children (their usual “got to the extreme” tactic at work), the public perceives this differently.  That’s evident by the protests in various towns where the government is trying to house these illegals.  So again, the left is trying to create a meme the public just doesn’t buy.  They understand what unregulated and uncontrolled access means in terms of cost, disease and many other factors.  Perception?  That Democrats are defending the indefensible and trying to blame the problem on others.  The fact remains that this White House has never seriously addressed meaningful immigration reform … even when Democrats had solid majorities in both houses of Congress and a Democrat in the White House.

A third problem the left faces is an incompetent president.  He seems more and more disengaged, confused, and weak.   The meme the left continued to push during the earlier days of Obama’s term was that those who criticized him were racists.  But the public perception has built over the years has little to do with skin color and a lot to do with character or the lack thereof.  Foreign policy disaster after foreign policy disaster are hard to deny.  Oh Democrats have certainly tried to put a good face on all of it, but it remains a disaster to even the most low information voter.  You can almost literally see America’s power waning as this man remains in the White House.  And the lack of respect he’s shown throughout the leadership of the world points to much more that “race”.

This isn’t a secret to most of the public.  So when the left tries to fight the perception of incompetence and ineptness with “racism”, it sounds incredibly hollow.  Incompetence is usually fairly obvious.  In this case, it is very obvious.  Add to that the strident application of “racism” broadly against anyone who criticizes Obama and it fits most of the population at some point or another.  It’s not an argument meant to persuade, but instead to shame.  And when individuals assess their motives for saying what they said and realize that the left is just flinging poo in an effort to shut them up, “perception becomes reality”.

These certainly aren’t the only problems the left and Democrats face.  But they’re the most obvious.  Perception is being fashioned daily by a president who simply isn’t seen as credible anymore by a very large portion of the population.  And instead of understanding that and attempting damage control, they double down and defend the indefensible.

You have to wonder what the toll of such a defense will be in both the midterms and the next presidential election.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 22 Jul 14

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a 3.7% increase from the previous year. ICSC-Goldman reports a weekly sales decline of -0.4%, and a slow 2.8% increase on a year-over-year basis.

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% in June, but only 0.1% less food and energy. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 2.1% overall, and 1.9% less food and energy.

The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.4% in May, and is up 5.5% on a year-over-year basis.

Existing home sales rose a sharp 2.4% in June, to a 5.04 Million annual rate.

The Richmond Fed manufacturing index rose from 3 to 7 in June.


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The (potential) unravelling of ObamaCare

In the DC Circuit this week:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit delivered a huge blow to Obamacare this morning, ruling that the insurance subsidies granted through the federally run health exchange, which covered 36 states for the first open enrollment period, are not allowed by the law.

The highly anticipated opinion in the case of Jacqueline Halbig v. Sylvia Mathews Burwell reversed a lower court ruling finding that federally run exchanges did have the authority to disburse subsidies.

Today’s ruling vacates the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulation allowing the federal exchanges to give subsidies. The large majority of individuals, about 86 percent, in the federal exchange system received subsidies, and in those cases the subsidies covered about 76 percent of the premium on average.

The essence of the court’s ruling is that, according to the law, those subsidies are illegal. They were always illegal, and the administration never had the authority to offer them. (According to an administration official, however, the subsidies will continue to flow throughout the appeals process.)

Don’t get to excited about this yet.  It was a 3 judge panel. And it will likely go to the Supreme Court. Finally, in a different Circuit (4th) a ruling says the subsidies are legal:

A different circuit court ruled today that subsidies offered through federally run exchanges are authorized on the law. This creates a circuit court split, which increases, but does not guarantee, the chances of an eventual hearing by the Supreme Court. It is also possible, and arguably even more likely, that the circuit split will be dealt with via en banc review.

Bottom line: a heavy shot across the bow of the sinking ship ObamaCare.  If the DC Circuit finding survives the review and an appeal to the Supreme Court, then foundering ship will take the next shot below the water line.  As for the law, it’s not going to get changed anytime soon with a Republican House.

As for the law, the DC Court said it was pretty clear to them:

“We conclude that appellants have the better of the argument: a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’ and [the relevant section of the law] does not authorize the IRS to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal Exchanges,” the decision says.

The law “plainly makes subsidies available only on Exchanges established by states,” the ruling says. “And in the absence of any contrary indications, that text is conclusive evidence of Congress’s intent. To hold otherwise would be to say that enacted legislation, on its own, does not command our respect—an utterly untenable proposition.”

Plain law, literally interpreted and applied.  Certainly not what we’re used too.  So let’s see how convoluted this gets moving up the line.  My guess is it will be unrecognizable after the lawyers begin to redefine terms and words and make their arguments.  By the end of it, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that “federal exchanges” now means whatever the IRS wants it to mean.  But clearly, the way to kill this monstrosity is to starve it.  And the way you starve it is to defund it … even if you have to do it bit by bit.

~McQ

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The problem(s) with the left

This article has been making the rounds.  It’s a list of 10 reasons a person who was firmly ensconced on the left decided they could no longer abide on the left.  You see that on the other side as well. Just think Little Green Footballs and you’re there.

Usually these sorts of articles are all about self-justification as the person tries very hard to justify to themselves and their erstwhile friends on whichever side they’re deserting the reasons for their departure.

But the person who wrote this article does more than that. She manages to actually touch on and articulate things I’ve observed over the years as well. You might say that due to a certain amount of introspection, the scales suddenly fell away from her eyes.

What struck me as genuine was her description of someone we see show up here often and pretty much do exactly this:

Straw men and “In order to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs.”

It astounds me now to reflect on it, but never, in all my years of leftist activism, did I ever hear anyone articulate accurately the position of anyone to our right. In fact, I did not even know those positions when I was a leftist.

“Truth is that which serves the party.” The capital-R revolution was such a good, it could eliminate all that was bad, that manipulating facts was not even a venial sin; it was a good. If you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs. One of those eggs was objective truth.

Ron Kuby is a left-wing radio talk show host on New York’s WABC. He plays the straw man card hourly. If someone phones in to question affirmative action – shouldn’t such programs benefit recipients by income, rather than by skin color? – Kuby opens the fire hydrant. He is shrill. He is bombastic. He accuses the caller of being a member of the KKK. He paints graphic word pictures of the horrors of lynching and the death of Emmett Till and asks, “And you support that?”

Well of course THE CALLER did not support that, but it is easier to orchestrate a mob in a familiar rendition of righteous rage against a sensationalized straw man than it is to produce a reasoned argument against a reasonable opponent.

On June 16, 2014, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank published a column alleging that a peaceful Muslim was nearly verbally lynched by violent Islamophobes at a Heritage Foundation-hosted panel. What Milbank described was despicable. Unfortunately for Milbank and the Washington Post’s credibility, someone filmed the event and posted the film on YouTube. Panel discussants, including Frank Gaffney and Brigitte Gabriel, made important points in a courteous manner. Saba Ahmed, the peaceful Muslim, is a “family friend” of a bombing plotter who expressed a specific desire to murder children. It soon became clear that Milbank was, as one blogger put it, “making stuff up.”

Milbank slanders anyone who might attempt analysis of jihad, a force that is currently cited in the murder of innocents — including Muslims — from Nigeria to the Philippines. The leftist strategy of slandering those who speak uncomfortable facts suppresses discourse and has a devastating impact on confrontations with truth in journalism and on college campuses.

Ironic chuckle bubbling up?  The “omelet/eggs” metaphor is a favorite of whom?  And who is the Don Quixote of straw men, constantly putting them up and whacking them a good one.

Read the whole thing … it’s worth it.  It’s just that particular one of the ten listed reasons hit right on the spot we’ve all witness any number of times right here at QandO with our “visiting professor”.   It’s like she knows him personally down to one of his favorite sayings.

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 18 Jul 14

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about The Malaysian Airlines tragedy, Obama, and aggressive policing.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

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The most important reason the left’s “War on Coal” is wrong

Energy Matters takes a look at the progress of the green energy renewables that were supposed to be saving the day and justifying the “war on coal”:

“So while we can expect that hydro will continue to provide most of the energy generated by renewables for some time to come it isn’t likely to contribute to decarbonizing global energy generation any more than it already has. If decarbonization is to be achieved by expanding renewables the expansion will have to come in wind, solar and biomass. So let’s take hydro out and see how far growth in wind, solar and biomass has carried us along the decarbonization path so far…Clearly they still have a long way to go.”

Ya think?!

~McQ

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