Commentary Magazine


Topic: Environmental Protection Agency

Don’t Compare War on Coal to Tobacco

As the negative feedback about President Obama’s new regulations aimed at strangling the coal industry from Democrats as well as Republicans continues to pour in, administration cheerleaders aren’t daunted. Writing off coal producing states is no big deal to the coastal elites who have been push the environmental alarmist agenda that forms the rationale for the coal-killing orders from the Environmental Protection Agency. And if it means losing a few more House seats or the Democrats best chance of stealing a Republican Senate seat in Kentucky, for most liberals that seems a small price to pay for the joy of imposing their warming views on the nation. Though, as even the New York Times noted yesterday, the measures will have little if any impact on the amount of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere, a devastating blow to the nation’s economy is considered an unimportant detail to those who believe the earth is melting.

But contempt for economic concerns isn’t the only factor behind the confidence of climate change extremists. They believe there is a precedent for an elitist campaign directed at a specific industry and the regions that depend on it: tobacco. One of the chief liberal talking points on cable news shows as well as the conceit of a feature in today’s Times, is the idea that coal can be defeated as easily as tobacco was in the 1990s as a wave of regulations cut back on a huge business that was once king in some states as well as on Capitol Hill. If big tobacco could be toppled, why not coal, which can’t depend on the loyalty of millions of addicts and hasn’t been promoted by generations of Madison Avenue execs and their ads?

But though the analogy is exactly what liberals want to be told, the analogy is a false one. The superficial comparisons between a once-unchallenged sector of the economy and another that is in the crosshairs of the Obama administration may seem like sense. But it is based on a fallacy. Americans could be persuaded to stop smoking and to place restrictions on the ability of the tobacco industry to sell or to market their product to minors. But coal is not a symbol of teenage rebellion or an unpleasant personal habit. It is a vital cog in the engine of the American economy that lights homes and keeps factories working. It may be supplanted in part by natural gas (which the warming crowd also hates) but it is not going away any time in the foreseeable future. America needs coal.

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As the negative feedback about President Obama’s new regulations aimed at strangling the coal industry from Democrats as well as Republicans continues to pour in, administration cheerleaders aren’t daunted. Writing off coal producing states is no big deal to the coastal elites who have been push the environmental alarmist agenda that forms the rationale for the coal-killing orders from the Environmental Protection Agency. And if it means losing a few more House seats or the Democrats best chance of stealing a Republican Senate seat in Kentucky, for most liberals that seems a small price to pay for the joy of imposing their warming views on the nation. Though, as even the New York Times noted yesterday, the measures will have little if any impact on the amount of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere, a devastating blow to the nation’s economy is considered an unimportant detail to those who believe the earth is melting.

But contempt for economic concerns isn’t the only factor behind the confidence of climate change extremists. They believe there is a precedent for an elitist campaign directed at a specific industry and the regions that depend on it: tobacco. One of the chief liberal talking points on cable news shows as well as the conceit of a feature in today’s Times, is the idea that coal can be defeated as easily as tobacco was in the 1990s as a wave of regulations cut back on a huge business that was once king in some states as well as on Capitol Hill. If big tobacco could be toppled, why not coal, which can’t depend on the loyalty of millions of addicts and hasn’t been promoted by generations of Madison Avenue execs and their ads?

But though the analogy is exactly what liberals want to be told, the analogy is a false one. The superficial comparisons between a once-unchallenged sector of the economy and another that is in the crosshairs of the Obama administration may seem like sense. But it is based on a fallacy. Americans could be persuaded to stop smoking and to place restrictions on the ability of the tobacco industry to sell or to market their product to minors. But coal is not a symbol of teenage rebellion or an unpleasant personal habit. It is a vital cog in the engine of the American economy that lights homes and keeps factories working. It may be supplanted in part by natural gas (which the warming crowd also hates) but it is not going away any time in the foreseeable future. America needs coal.

The tactics that helped mollify tobacco-growing states aren’t likely to work with coal. Raising the price of tobacco via the imposition of draconian taxes could induce many Americans to quit a nasty habit that could eventually kill them. But as even the Times pointed out:

The government’s method of weaning the nation from each product — by raising the price — has a regressive impact. In the case of carbon emissions, it hits not just the poor who can least afford higher energy prices but also those in rural areas who tend to drive long distances.

The impact of raising the cost of fossil fuels would be broader than taxing tobacco. Smokers, in the end, can quit, difficult as that may be. A Montana rancher cannot give up his pickup truck.

Measures aimed at putting more than 600 coal-fired power plants around the country out of business won’t just inconvenience those who work to mine coal which is, after all, a group that could be retrained or bought off by the government in some way. But cutting back on the availability of power will send everyone’s electricity costs skyrocketing and put more people out of work than can be subsidized by federal largesse.

Moreover, tobacco was already on the way out as demand for the product lessened in the decades after the first warnings about the connection between smoking and cancer as well as other diseases. Environmentalists may dislike coal but it is still a staple of the U.S. economy and doesn’t bring with it the sort of opprobrium that was brought down on smoking as the culture changed.

Though it was once considered not merely socially acceptable but a staple of our culture, tobacco was always a luxury product, not a necessity, let alone a pillar of the economy. Weaning individuals and even regions from dependence on it was hard but not impossible. But though many on the left believe in alternatives to fossil fuels the way toddlers cling to the Tooth Fairy, there is little likelihood that wind or solar or nuclear (which is a viable option but even more politically incorrect than coal) can replace oil, gas or coal. If it is to continue to prosper, America will need coal for decades to come.

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Sacrifices on the Altar of Obama’s Vanity

By ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to enact sweeping new regulations that will transform the U.S. economy by essentially putting hundreds of coal-fired power plants on the road to extinction, President Obama is finally making good on his famous campaign promise that his election would signal “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” The goal of the new regulations that bypass Congress is to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. But in order to do that, hundreds of the more than 600 coal-burning plants will have to close. Though it is impossible to say with any certainty how much damage this will do to the U.S. economy, what Obama is doing with a stroke of a pen will turn the energy industry upside down, send energy prices skyrocketing, and likely send those regions of the country that are dependent on either the coal industry or the plants that use the stuff into crisis.

Though EPA chief Gina McCarthy claimed that the move would actually help the economy and emphasized the plan’s flexibility, that’s the sort of usual empty “green jobs” rhetoric that no one, even on the left, believes anymore. While the more the president wraps himself and his party in the environmentalist flag the better his liberal base and young voters–who have been indoctrinated in the catechism of global warming throughout their education–will feel, Democrats will pay a price for this piece of ideological governance. Embattled red state incumbents may seek to distance themselves from the president, as will Democrat Senate challengers like Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes. But the White House clearly regards Grimes and others like her as falling into the same category as the large numbers of jobs that will be lost by this decision. They are acceptable collateral damage that can be lived with because the main goal here is to burnish the president’s legacy as a leader who took serious steps to stop the warming of the planet.

Liberals are celebrating the decision both for its supposed benefits on climate change and for the sheer exercise of executive power to achieve liberal ends, but even one of the president’s leading cheerleaders admitted that what happened today won’t really do much to fix the environment. As the New York Times reports:

On Monday, Mr. Obama is bypassing Congress and taking one of the biggest steps any American president has ever taken on climate change, proposing new rules to cut emissions at power plants. Yet, by itself, the president’s plan will barely nudge the global emissions that scientists say are threatening the welfare of future generations.

In other words, all the pain that the EPA will cause won’t actually save a single cute polar bear, keep an Arctic ice flow from melting or those pesky oceans from rising, assuming you believe all of the alarmist claims at the heart of the new warming orthodoxy. What, then, is this all about? The answer lies in the gargantuan conceit of the man in the Oval Office.

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By ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to enact sweeping new regulations that will transform the U.S. economy by essentially putting hundreds of coal-fired power plants on the road to extinction, President Obama is finally making good on his famous campaign promise that his election would signal “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” The goal of the new regulations that bypass Congress is to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. But in order to do that, hundreds of the more than 600 coal-burning plants will have to close. Though it is impossible to say with any certainty how much damage this will do to the U.S. economy, what Obama is doing with a stroke of a pen will turn the energy industry upside down, send energy prices skyrocketing, and likely send those regions of the country that are dependent on either the coal industry or the plants that use the stuff into crisis.

Though EPA chief Gina McCarthy claimed that the move would actually help the economy and emphasized the plan’s flexibility, that’s the sort of usual empty “green jobs” rhetoric that no one, even on the left, believes anymore. While the more the president wraps himself and his party in the environmentalist flag the better his liberal base and young voters–who have been indoctrinated in the catechism of global warming throughout their education–will feel, Democrats will pay a price for this piece of ideological governance. Embattled red state incumbents may seek to distance themselves from the president, as will Democrat Senate challengers like Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes. But the White House clearly regards Grimes and others like her as falling into the same category as the large numbers of jobs that will be lost by this decision. They are acceptable collateral damage that can be lived with because the main goal here is to burnish the president’s legacy as a leader who took serious steps to stop the warming of the planet.

Liberals are celebrating the decision both for its supposed benefits on climate change and for the sheer exercise of executive power to achieve liberal ends, but even one of the president’s leading cheerleaders admitted that what happened today won’t really do much to fix the environment. As the New York Times reports:

On Monday, Mr. Obama is bypassing Congress and taking one of the biggest steps any American president has ever taken on climate change, proposing new rules to cut emissions at power plants. Yet, by itself, the president’s plan will barely nudge the global emissions that scientists say are threatening the welfare of future generations.

In other words, all the pain that the EPA will cause won’t actually save a single cute polar bear, keep an Arctic ice flow from melting or those pesky oceans from rising, assuming you believe all of the alarmist claims at the heart of the new warming orthodoxy. What, then, is this all about? The answer lies in the gargantuan conceit of the man in the Oval Office.

The official explanation for the gap between the president’s rhetoric and the actual impact of the EPA’s dictates is that what the president wants is to start moving the country in “the right direction.” That’s a sobering thought if you consider that what is happening here is a massive government intervention in the private sector to achieve an ideological rather than an economic goal. Anyone inclined to accept the EPA’s new role riding roughshod over both Congress and the economic interests of the country should think long and hard about the prospect that this is merely the first of a new series of rulings from Washington that could hamstring any hopes of a real recovery in the coming years.

More than that, though, is the fact that what Obama really wants here is to show the international community that he means business about restricting the ability of America to do business. The real audience for this spectacle isn’t so much in blue states where any bow in the direction of environmentalism is applauded as it is abroad where other nations are watching to see if the U.S. is really going to walk the walk on climate change rules that could do damage to the American economy. The president wants the Chinese to see that the U.S. will handicap its own industries in order to set a good example for the Communist nation that almost certainly will do little if anything to cap their own growing carbon emissions.

Why would the U.S. hurt itself merely to take the high ground in negotiations with the Chinese and other developing countries even when the move will do very little to solve the climate problem?

President Obama has sorely missed the international adulation that greeted his election in 2008 but which quickly evaporated when most of his foreign fans began to rightly perceive him as nothing more than a left-leaning garden variety U.S. politician rather than the revolutionary figure they applauded. Obama’s various foreign-policy initiatives have largely failed to garner much interest, let alone cheers, abroad. But by recapturing that moment when perhaps many on the left actually believed his boast about turning back the oceans, he hopes to reestablish himself as the prince of hope and change.

Seen in that light, the large numbers of Americans who will be the losers in this exchange are nothing more than human offerings on the altar of Obama’s vanity. He may not heal the planet or even save his party’s chances in the midterm elections as he slides inevitably into lame-duck status. But as long as he can pose as a new messiah, there is no limit to the number of friends, foes, and innocent bystanders that he will sacrifice.

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Can SCOTUS Curb Obama’s Imperial Presidency?

In June 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court had a chance to derail a vast expansion of government power by the Obama administration. But the court wound up ruling that ObamaCare was constitutional, even if the rationale provided by Chief Justice John Roberts for his deciding vote contradicted the opinions of the four liberal justices who joined with him to form a 5-4 majority as well as the arguments of the government on behalf of the law. But next week the Court will have yet another opportunity to brush back the president’s fast and loose approach to the Constitution when it will hear arguments concerning the president’s use of executive orders.

The case concerns the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to use existing laws in order to give itself the power to regulate emissions from power plants even though the legislation in question says nothing about the federal government having such a right. But more than the proper interpretation of the Clean Air Act will be at stake when the justices vote. As important as efforts to restrain the EPA’s desire to act as a benevolent dictator may be, the crucial point here is whether the president can, as he boasted he would do in his State of the Union address last month, ignore Congress and govern by the use of executive orders. If, as was the case with the court’s perplexing ObamaCare decision, the president gets a pass to do as he likes, the consequences may affect a wide range of topics beyond the contentious debate about the White House’s obsession with climate change.

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In June 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court had a chance to derail a vast expansion of government power by the Obama administration. But the court wound up ruling that ObamaCare was constitutional, even if the rationale provided by Chief Justice John Roberts for his deciding vote contradicted the opinions of the four liberal justices who joined with him to form a 5-4 majority as well as the arguments of the government on behalf of the law. But next week the Court will have yet another opportunity to brush back the president’s fast and loose approach to the Constitution when it will hear arguments concerning the president’s use of executive orders.

The case concerns the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to use existing laws in order to give itself the power to regulate emissions from power plants even though the legislation in question says nothing about the federal government having such a right. But more than the proper interpretation of the Clean Air Act will be at stake when the justices vote. As important as efforts to restrain the EPA’s desire to act as a benevolent dictator may be, the crucial point here is whether the president can, as he boasted he would do in his State of the Union address last month, ignore Congress and govern by the use of executive orders. If, as was the case with the court’s perplexing ObamaCare decision, the president gets a pass to do as he likes, the consequences may affect a wide range of topics beyond the contentious debate about the White House’s obsession with climate change.

As I noted here yesterday, the president has already begun making good on his SOTU pledge by announcing his intention to issue executive orders regulating emissions from large trucks that will mandate large-scale and expensive changes in that industry. But the EPA’s decision to give itself the power to regulate existing power plants makes that power grab look like small change.

As the New York Times explains, the details of the case are complicated and confusing. Suffice it to say that although the courts have upheld the EPA’s right to regulate carbon emissions, in order to be able to acquire the right to license all power plants for such activity it has been forced to twist the text of the Clean Air Act into a pretzel:

The agency said its regulation of tailpipe emissions also required regulation of emissions from stationary sources under two permitting programs. The Clean Air Act says those programs cover all sources that can annually emit 100 or 250 tons of the relevant pollutant, a threshold that works tolerably well for conventional air pollutants like lead and carbon monoxide. But that threshold, applied to greenhouse gases, which are emitted in far greater amounts, would require the regulation of millions of sources of pollution.

All sides agree that requiring permits at the statutory thresholds would impose enormous burdens. “We’d be regulating mom-and-pop stores,” said Peter S. Glaser, a lawyer for the Washington Legal Foundation, which filed a supporting brief opposing the regulations.

Applying the law as written would increase the number of covered sources under one program from fewer than 280 to more than 80,000, reaching commercial and residential sources and subjecting them to expenses averaging almost $60,000, according to the appeals court. A second program would reach six million sources, subjecting them to expenses of more than $20,000 each. The cost of the programs would rise to $21 billion from $62 million.

What’s happened here is that by giving the EPA this power, the court has set in motion a process that could create a regulatory process that would cause massive economic dislocation. In order to avoid such an “absurd result,” the administration is therefore selectively enforcing the law. But, as with other such selective policies, what this means is that essentially the government has given itself the right to act as both legislature and executive to decide what the law means and how it can be enforced.

Given other court decisions that have given the EPA vast powers, it’s far from clear that even a setback for the administration will halt its campaign to overhaul the economy in order to comply with the president’s beliefs about climate change. But the impact of a precedent that would allow him to act as a benevolent dictator to force industries to obey his “green” marching orders means more than just the possible shutdown of hundreds of coal-firing power plants around the nation. It would mean a decisive shift in the balance of power between Congress and the executive branch that could shelve the notion of checks and balances that have enabled our constitutional republic to function.

Over the years both Congress and the courts have often acquiesced in a process whereby the executive branch has grown by leaps and bounds to assume the sort of influence and power that would have been unimaginable to the founders. But so long as the legislative and judicial branches retain the power to write and then interpret the laws, even the federal leviathan can be held in check. But if Justice Roberts and the Supreme Court allow President Obama to get away with not only selectively enforcing laws but also re-writing them on the fly, our system of government will have been fundamentally altered for the worse.

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Now the Environmental Protection Agency

Fox News has reported that nearly three-dozen Republican congressmen have accused the EPA of “apparent bias” against conservative groups seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act. Government agencies charge fees for producing the requested documents and these fees can be very substantial, sometimes upwards of $100,000. But the fees can be waived if the agency thinks the information will serve a public purpose. According to Fox:

The allegations were first made by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank. It claimed the EPA was not being fair as it weighed whether to charge fees to groups seeking information via Freedom of Information Act requests.

Its research showed liberal groups have their fees for documents waived about 90 percent of the time, while conservative groups are denied fee waivers about 90 percent of the time.

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Fox News has reported that nearly three-dozen Republican congressmen have accused the EPA of “apparent bias” against conservative groups seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act. Government agencies charge fees for producing the requested documents and these fees can be very substantial, sometimes upwards of $100,000. But the fees can be waived if the agency thinks the information will serve a public purpose. According to Fox:

The allegations were first made by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank. It claimed the EPA was not being fair as it weighed whether to charge fees to groups seeking information via Freedom of Information Act requests.

Its research showed liberal groups have their fees for documents waived about 90 percent of the time, while conservative groups are denied fee waivers about 90 percent of the time.

This is not surprising. While the IRS is staffed by bureaucrats and bureaucrats tend, naturally, to favor the party of big government, the EPA is staffed with ideologues out of the environmental movement. That is a movement that, in the guise of protecting the environment, is virulently anti-commerce and anti-free market. I would guess that at least 90 percent of those who call themselves “environmental activists” voted for Obama.

This is a classic example of “regulatory capture,” where a government regulating agency ends up staffed by people who come out of the thing being regulated. The very first federal regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission, created in 1887 to regulate the railroad industry, was soon full of railroad men who, after all, had the expertise needed. The ICC quickly evolved into a cartel mechanism that eliminated competition in the industry and guaranteed profits. The result was a long, slow decline of the railroad industry until the 1970s, when the ICC’s rate-setting powers were eliminated.

If there is systemic bias against conservative organizations in both the IRS and the EPA it seems unlikely that it stops there. What other parts of the Obama administration are using the powers of government for illegitimate political purposes?

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EPA: Hiding One’s Light Under a Bushel

The Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970, a few months after Earth Day had demonstrated to even the most obtuse politician that the American population wanted the environment cleaned up. So what has happened to the American environment in the 42 years that the EPA has been leading the cleanup effort? The environment has improved markedly.

In 1970 31 million tons of sulphur dioxide, a prime contributor to smog, was emitted into the atmosphere. In 2008 it was 11 million tons. In 1970 34 million tons of volatile organic compounds were emitted. In 2008 it was 16 million. In 1970 204 million tons of carbon monoxide; in 2008 it was 72 million. The EPA recently declared carbon dioxide a pollutant (which means we pollute the atmosphere every time we exhale). And the only major country in the world where carbon dioxide emissions are declining? The United States. We emitted less CO2 in 2012 than in 1992. Water pollution has similarly abated. Unhealthy air days in major U.S. cities these days are a rarity. Even Los Angeles had only 18 in all of 2011. Manhattan had exactly none.

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The Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970, a few months after Earth Day had demonstrated to even the most obtuse politician that the American population wanted the environment cleaned up. So what has happened to the American environment in the 42 years that the EPA has been leading the cleanup effort? The environment has improved markedly.

In 1970 31 million tons of sulphur dioxide, a prime contributor to smog, was emitted into the atmosphere. In 2008 it was 11 million tons. In 1970 34 million tons of volatile organic compounds were emitted. In 2008 it was 16 million. In 1970 204 million tons of carbon monoxide; in 2008 it was 72 million. The EPA recently declared carbon dioxide a pollutant (which means we pollute the atmosphere every time we exhale). And the only major country in the world where carbon dioxide emissions are declining? The United States. We emitted less CO2 in 2012 than in 1992. Water pollution has similarly abated. Unhealthy air days in major U.S. cities these days are a rarity. Even Los Angeles had only 18 in all of 2011. Manhattan had exactly none.

And this despite the fact that the population of the country has doubled, the GDP has more than tripled in real terms, and the number of cars and trucks hugely increased.

You would think that the EPA would want to highlight the tremendous progress that’s been made over its bureaucratic lifetime. But try to winkle the statistics out of its website. They either aren’t there, or they are hard to find, or they are incomplete, or they hard to compare with each other.

Why would this be? Simple: Bureaucracies want to manage problems not solve them. Solving the problem a bureaucracy was created to handle might have an adverse impact on its funding, and bureaucracies measure their prestige by the size of their budgets. So success, in effect, is bad news for bureaucrats.

Likewise, the various environmental organizations are at great pains to not tout how much progress has been achieved. That might cause people to put away their checkbooks.

As a result, one of the great American success stories of the last 40 years—just how clean the American environment is getting—is hidden from sight.

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That Ominous Haze Over Kabul

I’m in Kabul now where two facts are evident every time you step outside.

First, security here is good — most days go by without a single insurgent attack in the capital, knock on wood. The streets are bustling. Movement is pretty unrestricted. This is nothing like Baghdad during the dark days of the Iraq war. Even Baghdad today remains less secure.

Second, the air quality is beyond terrible. I grew up in Southern California in the 1970s-80s, when smog was a fact of life. But seldom have I seen smog as bad as it is here. An ominous haze hovers over the city, and many people go around with a hacking cough. Turns out this is not just a quality-of-life problem — it’s a life or death issue.

Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Office (who knew that such a thing even existed?) claims that 3,000 people die annually from air pollution in Kabul — more than are killed in insurgent violence in the entire country. That’s not counting, of course, the dubious air quality in other parts of the country, which no doubt takes a serious toll as well. I have no idea if this statistic is accurate or not, but it’s clear that Afghanistan needs to act not just on the security front but on the environmental front as well.

Back home, I’m hardly a green activist, but spending time breathing the fumes of Kabul is enough to turn me into a fan of the EPA.

I’m in Kabul now where two facts are evident every time you step outside.

First, security here is good — most days go by without a single insurgent attack in the capital, knock on wood. The streets are bustling. Movement is pretty unrestricted. This is nothing like Baghdad during the dark days of the Iraq war. Even Baghdad today remains less secure.

Second, the air quality is beyond terrible. I grew up in Southern California in the 1970s-80s, when smog was a fact of life. But seldom have I seen smog as bad as it is here. An ominous haze hovers over the city, and many people go around with a hacking cough. Turns out this is not just a quality-of-life problem — it’s a life or death issue.

Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Office (who knew that such a thing even existed?) claims that 3,000 people die annually from air pollution in Kabul — more than are killed in insurgent violence in the entire country. That’s not counting, of course, the dubious air quality in other parts of the country, which no doubt takes a serious toll as well. I have no idea if this statistic is accurate or not, but it’s clear that Afghanistan needs to act not just on the security front but on the environmental front as well.

Back home, I’m hardly a green activist, but spending time breathing the fumes of Kabul is enough to turn me into a fan of the EPA.

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Less than Meets the Eye — Again

The thing about Obama is that there is always less than meets the eye. He went to Copenhagen twice, each time with spinners expecting the fix was in and Obama could deliver a huge political win; but there was no game plan; there was no Chicago Olympics or global-warming deal. Obama intends to sweep away Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but not really. There is no executive order. There will be a long study and maybe, sometime, there will be congressional action. Obama had a plan for Iran: prove his bona fides by engagement, pivot to crippling sanctions, and hold military force as an option. Instead, he’s been meandering around in engagement and coming up with mini-sanctions. No cleverly devised plan after all.

Now we hear that the proposal to regulate CO2 by bureaucratic fiat is being whittled down to a mini-gambit that won’t go into effect until after 2010, when, by gosh, we’ll have a new Congress:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge Monday to move slowly on the implementation of upcoming greenhouse gas rules may give cover to some Capitol Hill Democrats to vote against blocking climate rules entirely, according to lobbyists and activists.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to a group of Senate Democrats on Monday that upcoming rules to limit emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities won’t take effect in 2010. She also told the eight Democrats — who mostly hail from coal-producing or coal-reliant states — that the rules will initially be narrower than EPA had planned.

On one level, this is another exercise in cynicism. You see, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has a plan to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But the Hill reports, “One environmental lobbyist said EPA’s action ‘absolutely’ gives Democrats cover to vote against [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s plan by providing time for work on climate legislation.” On the other hand, it’s evidence that the Obami aren’t really equipped to push through much of their radical agenda, so they must resort once again to delay, misdirection, and half-measures to avoid wigging out their base. Still, the EPA’s newest mini-gambit isn’t enough to win over some Democrats, especially those from energy-producing states:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who led the letter to EPA from the eight Democrats, is preparing a bill that would temporarily prevent EPA rules while Congress works on a broader climate and energy bill. He praised EPA’s action but said it hasn’t changed his mind. “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation into the future — this is good progress, but I am concerned it may not go far enough,” Rockefeller said in a prepared statement.

The environmental lobbyists are squawking about the need to “defend science from politics, defend our children’s future from polluters, and defend our economy from the stranglehold of special interests.” Maybe that sort of thing worked better before Climategate, record unemployment, and Obama’s ratings collapse. But now, it reinforces the chasm between Obama’s agenda and his accomplishments. It is further proof that the Obami have a lot of bark and no bite when it comes to reinventing America or putting in a New Foundation, or whatever they call it these days. That’s very good news indeed.

The thing about Obama is that there is always less than meets the eye. He went to Copenhagen twice, each time with spinners expecting the fix was in and Obama could deliver a huge political win; but there was no game plan; there was no Chicago Olympics or global-warming deal. Obama intends to sweep away Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but not really. There is no executive order. There will be a long study and maybe, sometime, there will be congressional action. Obama had a plan for Iran: prove his bona fides by engagement, pivot to crippling sanctions, and hold military force as an option. Instead, he’s been meandering around in engagement and coming up with mini-sanctions. No cleverly devised plan after all.

Now we hear that the proposal to regulate CO2 by bureaucratic fiat is being whittled down to a mini-gambit that won’t go into effect until after 2010, when, by gosh, we’ll have a new Congress:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge Monday to move slowly on the implementation of upcoming greenhouse gas rules may give cover to some Capitol Hill Democrats to vote against blocking climate rules entirely, according to lobbyists and activists.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to a group of Senate Democrats on Monday that upcoming rules to limit emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities won’t take effect in 2010. She also told the eight Democrats — who mostly hail from coal-producing or coal-reliant states — that the rules will initially be narrower than EPA had planned.

On one level, this is another exercise in cynicism. You see, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has a plan to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But the Hill reports, “One environmental lobbyist said EPA’s action ‘absolutely’ gives Democrats cover to vote against [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s plan by providing time for work on climate legislation.” On the other hand, it’s evidence that the Obami aren’t really equipped to push through much of their radical agenda, so they must resort once again to delay, misdirection, and half-measures to avoid wigging out their base. Still, the EPA’s newest mini-gambit isn’t enough to win over some Democrats, especially those from energy-producing states:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who led the letter to EPA from the eight Democrats, is preparing a bill that would temporarily prevent EPA rules while Congress works on a broader climate and energy bill. He praised EPA’s action but said it hasn’t changed his mind. “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation into the future — this is good progress, but I am concerned it may not go far enough,” Rockefeller said in a prepared statement.

The environmental lobbyists are squawking about the need to “defend science from politics, defend our children’s future from polluters, and defend our economy from the stranglehold of special interests.” Maybe that sort of thing worked better before Climategate, record unemployment, and Obama’s ratings collapse. But now, it reinforces the chasm between Obama’s agenda and his accomplishments. It is further proof that the Obami have a lot of bark and no bite when it comes to reinventing America or putting in a New Foundation, or whatever they call it these days. That’s very good news indeed.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Is the NSA helping Google fix its cyberhole? “After Chinese hackers tore Google a new cyberhole in December, the tech titan reportedly looked to an unlikely source for help: the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, better known for tapping phones than patching security holes for private companies. The connection has raised the antennae of Internet privacy experts, who now are warning of the possible risks posed by the close and as-yet undefined ties between the world’s top cybersurveillance agency and a corporate behemoth that has amassed more sensitive data about its users than most personal diaries.” If this were the Bush administration, the ACLU would be going nuts, not just writing letters to Google’s CEO.

Democrats are waking up to just how economically destructive the Obami’s gambit on CO2 is: “Eight Democratic Senators from coal states are mounting a serious challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark ruling that CO2 is a pollutant and demanding a delay in enforcing anti-global warming regulations against polluters.” Hey, they could introduce a bill, get lots of GOP support, and put an end to this.

Independents in Iowa are waking up, too: “A sharp drop in approval for President Barack Obama from Iowa’s political independents has pushed the Democrat’s approval further below 50 percent in the state and below the national average, according to the latest Iowa Poll. Approval among Iowa independents has dropped 10 percentage points since November, to 38 percent. Independents in Iowa helped Obama win the leadoff nominating caucuses in 2008 and later carry the state in the general election.”

In other words, the Left is deluded: “With Obama’s top agenda item, health care legislation, near ruins and congressional Democrats on the defensive heading into this year’s midterm elections, much of the sweeping liberal agenda some of Obama’s supporters hoped for and his enemies feared has been deferred. … And yet in a surreal twilight, issues live on, fed by a kind of mutual dependency between the liberal interest groups that exist to advance them and the conservatives for whom opposing them is a potent rallying force. There is, say liberal leaders who suffered through the drought of the Bush years, no point in giving up.”

When Republican candidates in state Senate races run against Nancy Pelosi, it’s not a good sign for the Democrats: “[Jim] Higdon, a Republican from Kentucky, won a state Senate seat in December in a largely Democratic district with an unlikely strategy: He nationalized his race, warning of one-party rule by featuring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pictures in his television advertisements and campaign literature. Higdon, who was outspent by a 4-to-1 ratio, is glad she’s so unpopular. … Expect the GOP to replicate the strategy in political races around the country this year.”

Bill Bennett explains what was wrong with Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech. A sample: “The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are. There is a difference between morning and night. There is a difference between drunk and sober. And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.” Worth reading in full.

Whatever Obama is doing doesn’t seem to be working: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. The Approval Index has been lower only on one day during Barack Obama’s thirteen months in office.”

Sen. Ben Nelson declares, “I don’t know if there’s a happy ending for health care.” Two-thirds of the country would be happy, but Nelson and the voters (especially in his state) don’t see eye-to-eye on health-care reform. It may well be that Nelson blew up his career for nothing.

Is the NSA helping Google fix its cyberhole? “After Chinese hackers tore Google a new cyberhole in December, the tech titan reportedly looked to an unlikely source for help: the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, better known for tapping phones than patching security holes for private companies. The connection has raised the antennae of Internet privacy experts, who now are warning of the possible risks posed by the close and as-yet undefined ties between the world’s top cybersurveillance agency and a corporate behemoth that has amassed more sensitive data about its users than most personal diaries.” If this were the Bush administration, the ACLU would be going nuts, not just writing letters to Google’s CEO.

Democrats are waking up to just how economically destructive the Obami’s gambit on CO2 is: “Eight Democratic Senators from coal states are mounting a serious challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark ruling that CO2 is a pollutant and demanding a delay in enforcing anti-global warming regulations against polluters.” Hey, they could introduce a bill, get lots of GOP support, and put an end to this.

Independents in Iowa are waking up, too: “A sharp drop in approval for President Barack Obama from Iowa’s political independents has pushed the Democrat’s approval further below 50 percent in the state and below the national average, according to the latest Iowa Poll. Approval among Iowa independents has dropped 10 percentage points since November, to 38 percent. Independents in Iowa helped Obama win the leadoff nominating caucuses in 2008 and later carry the state in the general election.”

In other words, the Left is deluded: “With Obama’s top agenda item, health care legislation, near ruins and congressional Democrats on the defensive heading into this year’s midterm elections, much of the sweeping liberal agenda some of Obama’s supporters hoped for and his enemies feared has been deferred. … And yet in a surreal twilight, issues live on, fed by a kind of mutual dependency between the liberal interest groups that exist to advance them and the conservatives for whom opposing them is a potent rallying force. There is, say liberal leaders who suffered through the drought of the Bush years, no point in giving up.”

When Republican candidates in state Senate races run against Nancy Pelosi, it’s not a good sign for the Democrats: “[Jim] Higdon, a Republican from Kentucky, won a state Senate seat in December in a largely Democratic district with an unlikely strategy: He nationalized his race, warning of one-party rule by featuring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pictures in his television advertisements and campaign literature. Higdon, who was outspent by a 4-to-1 ratio, is glad she’s so unpopular. … Expect the GOP to replicate the strategy in political races around the country this year.”

Bill Bennett explains what was wrong with Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech. A sample: “The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are. There is a difference between morning and night. There is a difference between drunk and sober. And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.” Worth reading in full.

Whatever Obama is doing doesn’t seem to be working: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. The Approval Index has been lower only on one day during Barack Obama’s thirteen months in office.”

Sen. Ben Nelson declares, “I don’t know if there’s a happy ending for health care.” Two-thirds of the country would be happy, but Nelson and the voters (especially in his state) don’t see eye-to-eye on health-care reform. It may well be that Nelson blew up his career for nothing.

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Forget the Democracy, They Have a Planet to Save

Diane Ravitch of NYU and Brookings writes that she is bothered by “the idea that President Obama has pledged to join the other advanced nations in paying billions to corrupt and despotic regimes to help them become green. Will he borrow billions from China so we can afford to pay China to become green? Will we finance the kleptocrats in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and other regimes? How much of the billions will go for greenness and how much for Mercedes, BMWs, and other baubles for the despots?”

Well, that’s unfortunately what the Green agenda looks like — a racket for the third world, which now uses questionable science to advance its money-grabbing schemes. And with the $100 billion in funding the Obama team was willing to pony up in Copenhagen, it seems as though they have a friend in the White House amenable to this sort of thing. It also is likely to further turn off the American public, which already was not too keen on the hysterical Green agenda.

But watch out: the Green racket is about to get serious. The trial lawyers are now moving in to get their share of the scam. No, really. This is no joke:

Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that’s not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under “nuisance” laws. A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

At least the states’ lawyers are candidly revealing that they are in the hold-up game, seeking to “compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature.” Just in case you thought that important policy decisions had to be passed by elected leaders. (“The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.”)

All of this is refreshing, in a sense, to those who have been skeptical all along as to the motives and tactics of the environmental busybodies. Cold hard cash seems to be a big objective here — moving it from the private to public sector and from developed to third-world countries. And as the public’s resistance mounts, those peddling the agenda are showing their true, quite anti-democratic tendencies. International deals (which the president hoped would box in the U.S. Congress), an EPA edict on carbon emissions, and a barrage of lawsuits all aim to one degree or another to evade the normal process of lawmaking and the sticky business of gaining popular consent for radical policy initiatives. Makes one miss the days when the Green hysterics felt compelled to scare the public into supporting their agenda.

Diane Ravitch of NYU and Brookings writes that she is bothered by “the idea that President Obama has pledged to join the other advanced nations in paying billions to corrupt and despotic regimes to help them become green. Will he borrow billions from China so we can afford to pay China to become green? Will we finance the kleptocrats in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and other regimes? How much of the billions will go for greenness and how much for Mercedes, BMWs, and other baubles for the despots?”

Well, that’s unfortunately what the Green agenda looks like — a racket for the third world, which now uses questionable science to advance its money-grabbing schemes. And with the $100 billion in funding the Obama team was willing to pony up in Copenhagen, it seems as though they have a friend in the White House amenable to this sort of thing. It also is likely to further turn off the American public, which already was not too keen on the hysterical Green agenda.

But watch out: the Green racket is about to get serious. The trial lawyers are now moving in to get their share of the scam. No, really. This is no joke:

Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that’s not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under “nuisance” laws. A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

At least the states’ lawyers are candidly revealing that they are in the hold-up game, seeking to “compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature.” Just in case you thought that important policy decisions had to be passed by elected leaders. (“The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.”)

All of this is refreshing, in a sense, to those who have been skeptical all along as to the motives and tactics of the environmental busybodies. Cold hard cash seems to be a big objective here — moving it from the private to public sector and from developed to third-world countries. And as the public’s resistance mounts, those peddling the agenda are showing their true, quite anti-democratic tendencies. International deals (which the president hoped would box in the U.S. Congress), an EPA edict on carbon emissions, and a barrage of lawsuits all aim to one degree or another to evade the normal process of lawmaking and the sticky business of gaining popular consent for radical policy initiatives. Makes one miss the days when the Green hysterics felt compelled to scare the public into supporting their agenda.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Among the dopier things written about the health-care debate is this rant accusing the Senate Republicans of wimping out on health care. Other than running a filibuster during a snow storm. . . oh wait, they did that . . .  trying to filibuster a defense bill  . . . oh wait, they did that . . . and making every conceivable argument before voting unanimously to oppose the bill, it is hard to imagine what 40 senators could have done differently. But maybe it’s a fund-raising gambit or something.

Turns out that the savvy Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got something for easing up on the final vote schedule: “One, come early January, they’ll be able to get a vote on giving TARP money back to the Treasury. Two, they’ll be able to get a vote on Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions. Both of these votes will come before the president’s State of the Union address.”

Meanwhile Jane Hamsher does something useful: goes on Fox (where the viewers are) to call for the defeat of ObamaCare.

Jim Prevor finds restaurant regulations buried in the health-care bill: “When did we have the national debate that disclosures with our tuna-salad sandwiches from the supermarket deli are urgently required? When did we discuss that diverting resources to pastrami-on-pumpernickel is prudent — and if the health-care bill deals with such minutiae, what else is hidden in its pages? And how could any ‘leader’ worthy of the name risk voting for it before we know what is even in the bill?”

Good thing we don’t have a problem with hiring and economic growth: “Companies are alarmed at potentially costly provisions in the Senate health-care bill, many of which they hope will be scrapped during a final round of negotiations early next year.” Oh, wait, that’s right: “Across the spectrum, businesses worry that a series of new taxes and fees to pay for expanding health-care coverage will push up premiums, particularly for smaller employers.”

In the Brave New World of terrorist criminal law, Major Nadal Hasan’s lawyer crabs that his client can’t speak from his jail cell to outsiders unless an interpreter is present to hear what he is saying. Well, “isn’t Mr. Hasan, like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?”

I think this will be in a campaign ad or two: “News from the Obama re-alignment watch: Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith announced yesterday that he plans to switch parties and become a Republican. At a press conference, the oncologist-turned-politician said he could not continue to align himself with a Democratic Party pushing a health-care bill that is ‘bad for our doctors . . . bad for our patients, and . . . bad for the young men and women who are considering going into the health-care field.’ Other than that, how do you like the bill?”

Turns out that Congress stiffed the Obami on funds to convert Thomson Correctional Center into the new, domestic Guantanamo. “The federal Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the center, which would cost about $150 million. Several weeks ago, the White House approached the House Appropriations Committee and floated the idea of adding about $200 million for the project to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, according to administration and Congressional officials.But Democratic leaders refused to include the politically charged measure in the legislation. When lawmakers approved the bill on Dec. 19, it contained no financing for Thomson.” Now they need to cut off funds for KSM’s trial.

Among the dopier things written about the health-care debate is this rant accusing the Senate Republicans of wimping out on health care. Other than running a filibuster during a snow storm. . . oh wait, they did that . . .  trying to filibuster a defense bill  . . . oh wait, they did that . . . and making every conceivable argument before voting unanimously to oppose the bill, it is hard to imagine what 40 senators could have done differently. But maybe it’s a fund-raising gambit or something.

Turns out that the savvy Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got something for easing up on the final vote schedule: “One, come early January, they’ll be able to get a vote on giving TARP money back to the Treasury. Two, they’ll be able to get a vote on Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions. Both of these votes will come before the president’s State of the Union address.”

Meanwhile Jane Hamsher does something useful: goes on Fox (where the viewers are) to call for the defeat of ObamaCare.

Jim Prevor finds restaurant regulations buried in the health-care bill: “When did we have the national debate that disclosures with our tuna-salad sandwiches from the supermarket deli are urgently required? When did we discuss that diverting resources to pastrami-on-pumpernickel is prudent — and if the health-care bill deals with such minutiae, what else is hidden in its pages? And how could any ‘leader’ worthy of the name risk voting for it before we know what is even in the bill?”

Good thing we don’t have a problem with hiring and economic growth: “Companies are alarmed at potentially costly provisions in the Senate health-care bill, many of which they hope will be scrapped during a final round of negotiations early next year.” Oh, wait, that’s right: “Across the spectrum, businesses worry that a series of new taxes and fees to pay for expanding health-care coverage will push up premiums, particularly for smaller employers.”

In the Brave New World of terrorist criminal law, Major Nadal Hasan’s lawyer crabs that his client can’t speak from his jail cell to outsiders unless an interpreter is present to hear what he is saying. Well, “isn’t Mr. Hasan, like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?”

I think this will be in a campaign ad or two: “News from the Obama re-alignment watch: Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith announced yesterday that he plans to switch parties and become a Republican. At a press conference, the oncologist-turned-politician said he could not continue to align himself with a Democratic Party pushing a health-care bill that is ‘bad for our doctors . . . bad for our patients, and . . . bad for the young men and women who are considering going into the health-care field.’ Other than that, how do you like the bill?”

Turns out that Congress stiffed the Obami on funds to convert Thomson Correctional Center into the new, domestic Guantanamo. “The federal Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the center, which would cost about $150 million. Several weeks ago, the White House approached the House Appropriations Committee and floated the idea of adding about $200 million for the project to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, according to administration and Congressional officials.But Democratic leaders refused to include the politically charged measure in the legislation. When lawmakers approved the bill on Dec. 19, it contained no financing for Thomson.” Now they need to cut off funds for KSM’s trial.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

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But What About the Voters?

It seems as though the gap between liberal elites and American voters has never been so great. The Left’s two top-agenda items are climate control and health-care reform. The electorate has other ideas. On global warming, the latest poll from Rasmussen tells us:

Public skepticism about the officially promoted cause of global warming has reached an all-time high among Americans. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 50% of adults now believe that global warming is caused primarily by long-term planetary trends. Just 34% say climate change is due primarily to human activity, even as President Obama and other world leaders gather at a UN summit to limit the human activity they blame for global warming.

Americans are increasingly skeptical of the hype and even more so of the “cure” — massive taxes and regulation.

The plunge in support for health-care “reform” is now becoming another inconvenient truth for the Democrats. Whichever survey you look at, the conclusion is the same: the public doesn’t want this monstrosity. The solution to this unfortunate lack of public support? Rush it through so voters don’t get the chance they had in August to impress upon their elected leaders how angry they are. Sen. Mitch McConnell took to the floor today to explain:

They know Americans overwhelmingly oppose it, so they want to get it over with. Americans are already outraged at the fact that Democrat leaders took their eyes off the ball. Rushing the process on a partisan line makes the situation even worse. Americans were told the purpose of reform was to reduce the cost of health care. Instead, Democrat leaders produced a $2.5 trillion, 2,074-page monstrosity that vastly expands government, raises taxes, raises premiums, and wrecks Medicare. And they want to rush this bill through by Christmas — one of the most significant, far-reaching pieces of legislation in U.S. history. They want to rush it.

It takes a remarkable degree of hubris to insist on pushing a radical agenda without popular support. The Obami have resorted to bureaucratic fiat (e.g., the EPA carbon-emission edit) and the Senate is hiding the bill until it can be sprung and sped to a vote on Christmas Eve. Democrats seem to believe they operate in a world devoid of accountability. But we have elections to sort this out. In eleven months the 60 percent or so of voters who don’t want ObamaCare and the millions who want jobs, not energy taxes, can express their views. Democrats may not believe it now, but the voters always get the last say.

It seems as though the gap between liberal elites and American voters has never been so great. The Left’s two top-agenda items are climate control and health-care reform. The electorate has other ideas. On global warming, the latest poll from Rasmussen tells us:

Public skepticism about the officially promoted cause of global warming has reached an all-time high among Americans. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 50% of adults now believe that global warming is caused primarily by long-term planetary trends. Just 34% say climate change is due primarily to human activity, even as President Obama and other world leaders gather at a UN summit to limit the human activity they blame for global warming.

Americans are increasingly skeptical of the hype and even more so of the “cure” — massive taxes and regulation.

The plunge in support for health-care “reform” is now becoming another inconvenient truth for the Democrats. Whichever survey you look at, the conclusion is the same: the public doesn’t want this monstrosity. The solution to this unfortunate lack of public support? Rush it through so voters don’t get the chance they had in August to impress upon their elected leaders how angry they are. Sen. Mitch McConnell took to the floor today to explain:

They know Americans overwhelmingly oppose it, so they want to get it over with. Americans are already outraged at the fact that Democrat leaders took their eyes off the ball. Rushing the process on a partisan line makes the situation even worse. Americans were told the purpose of reform was to reduce the cost of health care. Instead, Democrat leaders produced a $2.5 trillion, 2,074-page monstrosity that vastly expands government, raises taxes, raises premiums, and wrecks Medicare. And they want to rush this bill through by Christmas — one of the most significant, far-reaching pieces of legislation in U.S. history. They want to rush it.

It takes a remarkable degree of hubris to insist on pushing a radical agenda without popular support. The Obami have resorted to bureaucratic fiat (e.g., the EPA carbon-emission edit) and the Senate is hiding the bill until it can be sprung and sped to a vote on Christmas Eve. Democrats seem to believe they operate in a world devoid of accountability. But we have elections to sort this out. In eleven months the 60 percent or so of voters who don’t want ObamaCare and the millions who want jobs, not energy taxes, can express their views. Democrats may not believe it now, but the voters always get the last say.

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Thanks, Mr. President

The first year of the Obama administration has been a demonstration of the unworkability of the Left’s domestic agenda. In this regard, Obama has done an immense favor to the conservative movement, which was wheezing ideologically and declining politically just a year ago.

The Obami have proved once again that Keynesian spending schemes don’t “create” jobs. Their ultra-Leftist agenda has fanned the public’s intolerance for massive government spending. And by pushing government-centric reform, they have seen a substantial majority coalesce in opposition to a takeover of health care. Obama has been reduced to pleading at the Brookings Institute for tax cuts, albeit tiny ones, and arguing that he really does understand where the jobs come from. (“Job creation will ultimately depend on the real job creators: businesses across America.”) He hasn’t given up on his big-government power grabs on carbon emissions or on health care yet, but he’s gone a long way to demonstrating how unpopular those ideas are and how inept at job and wealth creation the federal government is.

Moreover, Obama has few excuses. Democrats have been in control of all the levers of power and enjoy a compliant media. Yet still, even in a recession that they convinced themselves would discredit free-market capitalism, they were unable to convince the public, let alone governing majorities in the House and Senate, of the wisdom of the Left’s agenda. Card check? Nope. Cap-and-trade? Not unless the EPA can blackmail Congress. A government takeover of health care? Not unless Harry Reid hypnotizes 59 of his colleagues. We’ve gotten to December and virtually none of the Left’s agenda has been enacted. Who’d have imagined it?

The poll numbers in survey after survey reflect a sea change in public opinion away from the Democrats and their liberal agenda. Conservative critiques of the Obama agenda are resonating with independent voters, and a deep skepticism about government’s ability to micromanage complex problems, from carbon emissions to health care, has set in. That’s a remarkable achievement, something that left to their own devices, conservatives may not have been able to achieve on their own.

Obama may still get some version of health-care “reform,” and as the economy revives, however sluggishly, he may recover lost ground with wary independent voters. But along the way, he will have proved that his undiluted ultra-liberal agenda turned out to be economically unsuccessful and politically unpopular. He has in that regard been a boon to the conservative movement.

The first year of the Obama administration has been a demonstration of the unworkability of the Left’s domestic agenda. In this regard, Obama has done an immense favor to the conservative movement, which was wheezing ideologically and declining politically just a year ago.

The Obami have proved once again that Keynesian spending schemes don’t “create” jobs. Their ultra-Leftist agenda has fanned the public’s intolerance for massive government spending. And by pushing government-centric reform, they have seen a substantial majority coalesce in opposition to a takeover of health care. Obama has been reduced to pleading at the Brookings Institute for tax cuts, albeit tiny ones, and arguing that he really does understand where the jobs come from. (“Job creation will ultimately depend on the real job creators: businesses across America.”) He hasn’t given up on his big-government power grabs on carbon emissions or on health care yet, but he’s gone a long way to demonstrating how unpopular those ideas are and how inept at job and wealth creation the federal government is.

Moreover, Obama has few excuses. Democrats have been in control of all the levers of power and enjoy a compliant media. Yet still, even in a recession that they convinced themselves would discredit free-market capitalism, they were unable to convince the public, let alone governing majorities in the House and Senate, of the wisdom of the Left’s agenda. Card check? Nope. Cap-and-trade? Not unless the EPA can blackmail Congress. A government takeover of health care? Not unless Harry Reid hypnotizes 59 of his colleagues. We’ve gotten to December and virtually none of the Left’s agenda has been enacted. Who’d have imagined it?

The poll numbers in survey after survey reflect a sea change in public opinion away from the Democrats and their liberal agenda. Conservative critiques of the Obama agenda are resonating with independent voters, and a deep skepticism about government’s ability to micromanage complex problems, from carbon emissions to health care, has set in. That’s a remarkable achievement, something that left to their own devices, conservatives may not have been able to achieve on their own.

Obama may still get some version of health-care “reform,” and as the economy revives, however sluggishly, he may recover lost ground with wary independent voters. But along the way, he will have proved that his undiluted ultra-liberal agenda turned out to be economically unsuccessful and politically unpopular. He has in that regard been a boon to the conservative movement.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

COMMENTARY contributor Abe Greenwald catches Obama going neocon and observes: “As evil is now part of Barack Obama’s war lexicon, he must make this point, and he must speak of victory. For once evil is invoked, compromise is off the table. Evil demands defeat.”

Harry Reid’s Medicare “deal” may be falling apart: “Senate moderates who are the linchpin to passing a health care reform bill raised fresh worries Thursday about a proposed Medicare expansion, complicating Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hopes of putting together a filibuster-proof majority for the legislation in the coming days.”

There is “quite a bit of data confirming that Republicans, after hitting bottom, are on the rebound, while Democrats are feeling the heat as the party in power.” It seems that saying no to bad policies is a good strategy after all.

The assistant attorney general for civil rights smears the Justice Department attorneys who were on the trial team in the New Black Panther Party voter case. This is not a smart thing to do while subpoenas seek these same attorneys’ testimony about political interference by Obama appointees.

Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren slams J Street: “This is not a matter of settlements here [or] there. We understand there are differences of opinion. … But when it comes to the survival of the Jewish state, there should be no differences of opinion. You are fooling around with the lives of 7 million people. This is no joke. … I think it’s very important that you be up-front with them and say why these policies are outside the mainstream and why they are inimical to Israel’s fundamental interests.”

Kentucky Democrats blame a loss in a state-legislature race on the national political environment: “Notably, the GOP focused the race on the Democrats’ healthcare proposal and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).”

Charles Krauthammer explains the “shakedown” in Copenhagen: “Socialism having failed so spectacularly, the left was adrift until it struck upon a brilliant gambit: metamorphosis from red to green. The cultural elites went straight from the memorial service for socialism to the altar of the environment. The objective is the same: highly centralized power given to the best and the brightest, the new class of experts, managers and technocrats. This time, however, the alleged justification is not abolishing oppression and inequality but saving the planet.”

Kim Strassel thinks the EPA’s threat to regulate carbon emissions by bureaucratic fiat blew up in the Obami’s faces: “At least some congressional Democrats view this as breathing room, a further reason to not tackle a killer issue in the run-up to next year’s election. Mr. Obama may emerge from Copenhagen with some sort of ‘deal.’ But his real problem is getting Congress to act, and his EPA move may have just made that job harder.”

COMMENTARY contributor Abe Greenwald catches Obama going neocon and observes: “As evil is now part of Barack Obama’s war lexicon, he must make this point, and he must speak of victory. For once evil is invoked, compromise is off the table. Evil demands defeat.”

Harry Reid’s Medicare “deal” may be falling apart: “Senate moderates who are the linchpin to passing a health care reform bill raised fresh worries Thursday about a proposed Medicare expansion, complicating Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hopes of putting together a filibuster-proof majority for the legislation in the coming days.”

There is “quite a bit of data confirming that Republicans, after hitting bottom, are on the rebound, while Democrats are feeling the heat as the party in power.” It seems that saying no to bad policies is a good strategy after all.

The assistant attorney general for civil rights smears the Justice Department attorneys who were on the trial team in the New Black Panther Party voter case. This is not a smart thing to do while subpoenas seek these same attorneys’ testimony about political interference by Obama appointees.

Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren slams J Street: “This is not a matter of settlements here [or] there. We understand there are differences of opinion. … But when it comes to the survival of the Jewish state, there should be no differences of opinion. You are fooling around with the lives of 7 million people. This is no joke. … I think it’s very important that you be up-front with them and say why these policies are outside the mainstream and why they are inimical to Israel’s fundamental interests.”

Kentucky Democrats blame a loss in a state-legislature race on the national political environment: “Notably, the GOP focused the race on the Democrats’ healthcare proposal and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).”

Charles Krauthammer explains the “shakedown” in Copenhagen: “Socialism having failed so spectacularly, the left was adrift until it struck upon a brilliant gambit: metamorphosis from red to green. The cultural elites went straight from the memorial service for socialism to the altar of the environment. The objective is the same: highly centralized power given to the best and the brightest, the new class of experts, managers and technocrats. This time, however, the alleged justification is not abolishing oppression and inequality but saving the planet.”

Kim Strassel thinks the EPA’s threat to regulate carbon emissions by bureaucratic fiat blew up in the Obami’s faces: “At least some congressional Democrats view this as breathing room, a further reason to not tackle a killer issue in the run-up to next year’s election. Mr. Obama may emerge from Copenhagen with some sort of ‘deal.’ But his real problem is getting Congress to act, and his EPA move may have just made that job harder.”

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Expectations

For some time, the Wayne and Garth school of Obama punditry (“We’re not worthy!”) was in fashion to explain why Obama was apparently not living up to expectations. He was too intellectual for us and wouldn’t play the usual partisan games. He was beyond our base nationalistic allegiances. “A sort of a god” was, like the real one, shrouded in mystery and beyond the ability of mere mortals to fully appreciate.

Now along comes a Politico column by Lisa Lerer explaining that the real issue is that we expect too much from the One. At Copenhagen:

But it will be almost impossible for Obama not to disappoint the world when he arrives here next week — in large part because the world keeps ratcheting up the expectations on him. When Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it was declaring global warming a danger to human health, the administration might have hoped it was merely providing a catalyst — a sense of U.S. commitment — on the first day of two weeks of talks here. But leaders from the United Nations and the European Union insist that the EPA endangerment finding is something bigger — proof positive that Obama must have another rabbit to pull from his hat.

“Another rabbit”? I must have missed the Middle East peace accord, the agreement by Iran to give up its nukes, or some other small-mammal miracle. For Obama, of course, has yet to accomplish much of anything, either internationally or domestically (which is why, regarding the latter, we see Son of Stimulus in the works, which now brings guffaws from Jon Stewart).

But the American media and international elites are, if nothing else, dogged in their desire to help Obama succeed — both have invested so much in raising expectations to the dizzying heights they now decry. So now those expectations must be lowered:

Of course, no one expects this round of talks to lead directly to an actual treaty — a more realistic goal is a political agreement that might lead to a treaty down the road. But even that goal seems elusive, with a draft text from Danish negotiators sparking a minirevolt Tuesday from developing nations who say it would give too much power to rich countries. Some experts attributed the draft to a desire to accommodate the United States in the talks. “My sense is that the Danish text is an expression of a tactical mistake; they tried to make an agreement or a proposal that fit with what they believed was the American position,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of World Wildlife Fund’s global climate initiative.

The American people are slowly figuring out that there is no there there. He is, as Lisa Schiffren aptly describes, an “inexperienced, excessively ideological, and weak man who is naïve about the world and uncomfortable exercising American power during a time of war.” And while it is becoming increasingly obvious that he is “not an exceptional, or even particularly competent, leader … because so many politicians, interest groups and factions have an interest in his continued presence, no one is ready to reveal the man behind the curtain just yet.”

Far better, then, to decry the “expectations” of mere mortals than to hold Obama to account for his own actions and failures. Instead, he seems to be making the expectations game worse (“instead of staying home from Copenhagen and sending a message that the United States will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices, the president has upped the ante”) and has done nothing to “restore science to its rightful place.” Well, that would entail restoring him to his rightful place within the cosmic order. And there’s no sign that he or his followers are ready for that.

For some time, the Wayne and Garth school of Obama punditry (“We’re not worthy!”) was in fashion to explain why Obama was apparently not living up to expectations. He was too intellectual for us and wouldn’t play the usual partisan games. He was beyond our base nationalistic allegiances. “A sort of a god” was, like the real one, shrouded in mystery and beyond the ability of mere mortals to fully appreciate.

Now along comes a Politico column by Lisa Lerer explaining that the real issue is that we expect too much from the One. At Copenhagen:

But it will be almost impossible for Obama not to disappoint the world when he arrives here next week — in large part because the world keeps ratcheting up the expectations on him. When Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it was declaring global warming a danger to human health, the administration might have hoped it was merely providing a catalyst — a sense of U.S. commitment — on the first day of two weeks of talks here. But leaders from the United Nations and the European Union insist that the EPA endangerment finding is something bigger — proof positive that Obama must have another rabbit to pull from his hat.

“Another rabbit”? I must have missed the Middle East peace accord, the agreement by Iran to give up its nukes, or some other small-mammal miracle. For Obama, of course, has yet to accomplish much of anything, either internationally or domestically (which is why, regarding the latter, we see Son of Stimulus in the works, which now brings guffaws from Jon Stewart).

But the American media and international elites are, if nothing else, dogged in their desire to help Obama succeed — both have invested so much in raising expectations to the dizzying heights they now decry. So now those expectations must be lowered:

Of course, no one expects this round of talks to lead directly to an actual treaty — a more realistic goal is a political agreement that might lead to a treaty down the road. But even that goal seems elusive, with a draft text from Danish negotiators sparking a minirevolt Tuesday from developing nations who say it would give too much power to rich countries. Some experts attributed the draft to a desire to accommodate the United States in the talks. “My sense is that the Danish text is an expression of a tactical mistake; they tried to make an agreement or a proposal that fit with what they believed was the American position,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of World Wildlife Fund’s global climate initiative.

The American people are slowly figuring out that there is no there there. He is, as Lisa Schiffren aptly describes, an “inexperienced, excessively ideological, and weak man who is naïve about the world and uncomfortable exercising American power during a time of war.” And while it is becoming increasingly obvious that he is “not an exceptional, or even particularly competent, leader … because so many politicians, interest groups and factions have an interest in his continued presence, no one is ready to reveal the man behind the curtain just yet.”

Far better, then, to decry the “expectations” of mere mortals than to hold Obama to account for his own actions and failures. Instead, he seems to be making the expectations game worse (“instead of staying home from Copenhagen and sending a message that the United States will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices, the president has upped the ante”) and has done nothing to “restore science to its rightful place.” Well, that would entail restoring him to his rightful place within the cosmic order. And there’s no sign that he or his followers are ready for that.

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Could They Just Stop?

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

If at first fiscal stimulus doesn’t succeed, spend, spend again. That’s the motto President Obama embraced yesterday, even if he didn’t use the word “stimulus,” which has managed to set a political record in the speed with which it has become unpopular with voters. This time, the spending is being called “Proposals to Accelerate Job Growth and Lay the Foundation for Robust Economic Growth.”

But wasn’t that also supposed to be the point of last February’s $787 billion stimulus, or for that matter of the Nancy Pelosi-George W. Bush $165 billion stimulus of February 2008?

Yes, there are a few trinkets for conservatives, but they are so small and limited as to be meaningless (a capital-gains tax rate of zero for small business for a year, allowing businesses to expense certain investments up to $250K), particularly in the face of gigantic, anti-growth, anti-jobs initiatives like cap-and-trade (or the more noxious just-cap via EPA edict), hundreds of billions in new taxes in the guise of ObamaCare, and the massive tax hikes that will come when the Democrats allow the Bush tax hikes to expire.

Most of what Obama is talking about, however, is spending, spending, and more spending — turning TARP into a “revolving line of Democratic political credit.” After all, if you’re going to allow the EPA to legislate emission output when even Congress won’t, why not ignore the language and intent of Congress and use the bailout money for whatever the administration likes? The Obami don’t allow constitutional or statutory niceties get in the way. Moreover, as Sen. Judd Gregg explains, it’s fiscal silliness on stilts:

“It’s a huge shell game to try to give political cover to the fact that he wants to create a new stimulus program of about $200 billion,” Gregg said. “And it’s all going to be borrowed money, which means it’s all going to go on the deficit, and it’s all going to go in the debt, and it’s all going to be paid for by our kids. And they really can’t afford it because we’re already giving them enough deficit and debt.”

Gregg added: “I don’t think adding another $200 billion of debt here and claiming that you’re wrapping it around TARP makes any sense at all, because actually, you’re not doing anything relevant to TARP. All you’re doing is borrowing more money.”

None of this will sound very enticing to employers and investors, I suspect. They’d rather see the big-ticket job killers and tax hikes taken off the table and some realization that public spending must be curbed. The Journal‘s editors have it right: “If Congress won’t reduce taxes, the best stimulus now would be for Congress to stop scaring private job creators by promising to help them. Just do nothing at all.” We should be so lucky.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

If at first fiscal stimulus doesn’t succeed, spend, spend again. That’s the motto President Obama embraced yesterday, even if he didn’t use the word “stimulus,” which has managed to set a political record in the speed with which it has become unpopular with voters. This time, the spending is being called “Proposals to Accelerate Job Growth and Lay the Foundation for Robust Economic Growth.”

But wasn’t that also supposed to be the point of last February’s $787 billion stimulus, or for that matter of the Nancy Pelosi-George W. Bush $165 billion stimulus of February 2008?

Yes, there are a few trinkets for conservatives, but they are so small and limited as to be meaningless (a capital-gains tax rate of zero for small business for a year, allowing businesses to expense certain investments up to $250K), particularly in the face of gigantic, anti-growth, anti-jobs initiatives like cap-and-trade (or the more noxious just-cap via EPA edict), hundreds of billions in new taxes in the guise of ObamaCare, and the massive tax hikes that will come when the Democrats allow the Bush tax hikes to expire.

Most of what Obama is talking about, however, is spending, spending, and more spending — turning TARP into a “revolving line of Democratic political credit.” After all, if you’re going to allow the EPA to legislate emission output when even Congress won’t, why not ignore the language and intent of Congress and use the bailout money for whatever the administration likes? The Obami don’t allow constitutional or statutory niceties get in the way. Moreover, as Sen. Judd Gregg explains, it’s fiscal silliness on stilts:

“It’s a huge shell game to try to give political cover to the fact that he wants to create a new stimulus program of about $200 billion,” Gregg said. “And it’s all going to be borrowed money, which means it’s all going to go on the deficit, and it’s all going to go in the debt, and it’s all going to be paid for by our kids. And they really can’t afford it because we’re already giving them enough deficit and debt.”

Gregg added: “I don’t think adding another $200 billion of debt here and claiming that you’re wrapping it around TARP makes any sense at all, because actually, you’re not doing anything relevant to TARP. All you’re doing is borrowing more money.”

None of this will sound very enticing to employers and investors, I suspect. They’d rather see the big-ticket job killers and tax hikes taken off the table and some realization that public spending must be curbed. The Journal‘s editors have it right: “If Congress won’t reduce taxes, the best stimulus now would be for Congress to stop scaring private job creators by promising to help them. Just do nothing at all.” We should be so lucky.

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EPA Power Grab Ought to Overshadow Copenhagen Talkfest

While the attention of the world is focused on the global-warming jamboree in Copenhagen, an announcement made in Washington yesterday may well overshadow that international talkfest in its significance. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator Lisa P. Jackson issued a final ruling that greenhouse gases pose a danger to the environment and human health. This will, as the New York Times noted, pave “the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories, refineries and other major sources.”

As if to put an exclamation point on the way that the governmental and media establishments have utterly rejected the significance of Climategate and other sources of skepticism, Jackson dismissed any criticisms of the environmentalist groupthink on the issue and said that her agency would not allow anything to stop it from going ahead with a plan that has the potential to create a vast expansion of government.

The impact of this ruling cannot be overestimated. Because carbon dioxide is everywhere and produced by just about any sort of economic activity, the door is opened for a new era of complex governmental regulations that will impose enormous costs across the board.

Jackson made little attempt to hide the real agenda here. Cap-and-trade legislation that would attempt to do the same thing is going nowhere in Congress. The prospects of going into an election year by imposing a gargantuan new bureaucracy on the country via a massive, though hidden, tax increase in the middle of an economic downturn is a formula for certain defeat for the Democrats. But why bother dealing with the messiness of democracy when you can impose a command-and-control economy run from Washington via an EPA ruling? As the Times editorial page helpfully points out today, Jackson’s fiat has the ability to completely bypass the Congress and possibly get the same result:

There is one obvious way to keep the E.P.A. from having to use this authority on a broad scale. And that is for Congress to pass a credible and comprehensive bill requiring economywide cuts in emissions. No one would be cheering louder than Ms. Jackson, who has neither the resources nor the ambition to regulate what would amount to 70 percent of the American economy. If Congress fails to act, she will have no choice.

I’m not so sure about the lack of ambition for central control of the economy on the part of the Obama administration, though the prospect of Jackson’s merry band of government bureaucrats being given that much power ought to send a chill down the spine of any sensible person. So should the prospect of having such a draconian measure shoved down the collective throats of our democracy by executive fiat. While the show in Copenhagen may be unlikely to produce any binding international agreements to advance the environmental alarmist position, this EPA power grab may prove to be an even more troubling measure that will cripple the U.S. economy without the voters or their representatives having a say in any of it.

While the attention of the world is focused on the global-warming jamboree in Copenhagen, an announcement made in Washington yesterday may well overshadow that international talkfest in its significance. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator Lisa P. Jackson issued a final ruling that greenhouse gases pose a danger to the environment and human health. This will, as the New York Times noted, pave “the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories, refineries and other major sources.”

As if to put an exclamation point on the way that the governmental and media establishments have utterly rejected the significance of Climategate and other sources of skepticism, Jackson dismissed any criticisms of the environmentalist groupthink on the issue and said that her agency would not allow anything to stop it from going ahead with a plan that has the potential to create a vast expansion of government.

The impact of this ruling cannot be overestimated. Because carbon dioxide is everywhere and produced by just about any sort of economic activity, the door is opened for a new era of complex governmental regulations that will impose enormous costs across the board.

Jackson made little attempt to hide the real agenda here. Cap-and-trade legislation that would attempt to do the same thing is going nowhere in Congress. The prospects of going into an election year by imposing a gargantuan new bureaucracy on the country via a massive, though hidden, tax increase in the middle of an economic downturn is a formula for certain defeat for the Democrats. But why bother dealing with the messiness of democracy when you can impose a command-and-control economy run from Washington via an EPA ruling? As the Times editorial page helpfully points out today, Jackson’s fiat has the ability to completely bypass the Congress and possibly get the same result:

There is one obvious way to keep the E.P.A. from having to use this authority on a broad scale. And that is for Congress to pass a credible and comprehensive bill requiring economywide cuts in emissions. No one would be cheering louder than Ms. Jackson, who has neither the resources nor the ambition to regulate what would amount to 70 percent of the American economy. If Congress fails to act, she will have no choice.

I’m not so sure about the lack of ambition for central control of the economy on the part of the Obama administration, though the prospect of Jackson’s merry band of government bureaucrats being given that much power ought to send a chill down the spine of any sensible person. So should the prospect of having such a draconian measure shoved down the collective throats of our democracy by executive fiat. While the show in Copenhagen may be unlikely to produce any binding international agreements to advance the environmental alarmist position, this EPA power grab may prove to be an even more troubling measure that will cripple the U.S. economy without the voters or their representatives having a say in any of it.

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Let’s Not Be Stupid

David Brooks observes:

The economy seems to be stabilizing, and this has prompted a shift in the public mood. Raw fear has given way to anxiety that the recovery will be feeble and drab. Companies are hoarding cash. Banks aren’t lending to small businesses. Private research spending is drifting downward.

He makes a number of good suggestions, ranging from lowering the corporate tax rate to passing real education reform (something Obama seemed to have been interested in but isn’t much anymore, it appears). And he warns the Obami not to be “stupid” (“Don’t make labor markets rigid. Don’t pick trade fights with the Chinese. Don’t get infatuated with research tax credits and other gimmicks, which don’t increase overall research-and-development spending but just increase the salaries of the people who would be doing it anyway.”) But the list of stupid things that are likely to retard innovation, growth, hiring, and investment and act as a drag on a robust recovery is longer than that. Honestly, it includes the key priorities in Obama’s domestic agenda.

What could stifle hiring more than a bevy of new taxes and cap-and-trade regulations (coming from either Congress or the EPA)? What’s likely to stifle medical innovation and new drug development more than federal panels of “experts” dictating treatment options and taking a whack out of pharmaceutical companies? Really, the entire point of the Obama agenda is to drain resources from the private sector, where jobs, innovation, creative destruction, and growth come from, and dump them into the public sector, where the wealth can be mushed around and spread to favored constituencies. It’s hard to be supportive of the Obama agenda and a dynamic free-market economy. After all, the former is at odds with the latter.

Brooks has one thing right: we shouldn’t be “stupid.” Obama and the Democratic Congress, however, have other ideas.

David Brooks observes:

The economy seems to be stabilizing, and this has prompted a shift in the public mood. Raw fear has given way to anxiety that the recovery will be feeble and drab. Companies are hoarding cash. Banks aren’t lending to small businesses. Private research spending is drifting downward.

He makes a number of good suggestions, ranging from lowering the corporate tax rate to passing real education reform (something Obama seemed to have been interested in but isn’t much anymore, it appears). And he warns the Obami not to be “stupid” (“Don’t make labor markets rigid. Don’t pick trade fights with the Chinese. Don’t get infatuated with research tax credits and other gimmicks, which don’t increase overall research-and-development spending but just increase the salaries of the people who would be doing it anyway.”) But the list of stupid things that are likely to retard innovation, growth, hiring, and investment and act as a drag on a robust recovery is longer than that. Honestly, it includes the key priorities in Obama’s domestic agenda.

What could stifle hiring more than a bevy of new taxes and cap-and-trade regulations (coming from either Congress or the EPA)? What’s likely to stifle medical innovation and new drug development more than federal panels of “experts” dictating treatment options and taking a whack out of pharmaceutical companies? Really, the entire point of the Obama agenda is to drain resources from the private sector, where jobs, innovation, creative destruction, and growth come from, and dump them into the public sector, where the wealth can be mushed around and spread to favored constituencies. It’s hard to be supportive of the Obama agenda and a dynamic free-market economy. After all, the former is at odds with the latter.

Brooks has one thing right: we shouldn’t be “stupid.” Obama and the Democratic Congress, however, have other ideas.

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Who Needs Congress?

Even for the Obami, it’s a bit shocking. Climate-change legislation is going nowhere, a victim to the realization that its costs vastly outweigh any supposed benefits. But that’s not slowing down the Obama team:

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

What, you think this smacks of anti-constitutional arrogance and imperiousness? Well, some agree, and the backlash, quite apart from the years of court challenges, may be swift in coming:

“The stick approach isn’t going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate,” said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). “They could stop the funding, and they could change the law.”

Anticipating EPA action, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried unsuccessfully in September to prevent the agency from spending money to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories, for one year. Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Monday that the endangerment finding was “a blunt instrument that will severely hamper our attempts to bolster the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe says it’s “regrettable” — practically a meltdown for her. And the most endangered senator, Blanche Lincoln (already on the hot seat for failing to oppose health-care reform that her constituents hate), is perturbed as well.

Aside from the issue of subjecting American business to a regime of new mind-numbing regulation and fines just at the moment the science of global warming is under attack, the statist impulse and abject disregard for constitutional governance is breathtaking, but perhaps not startling. The Obami crowd brought us czarmania and newly elastic incarnations of executive privilege. They declared war on insufficiently deferential news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce. So they’re certainly not going to be slowed down by lack of congressional action or, more properly said, the refusal of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to micromanage the entire U.S. economy. It should be sobering to those on both sides of the aisle who think that ours is a government of checks and balances and separation of powers.

Even for the Obami, it’s a bit shocking. Climate-change legislation is going nowhere, a victim to the realization that its costs vastly outweigh any supposed benefits. But that’s not slowing down the Obama team:

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

What, you think this smacks of anti-constitutional arrogance and imperiousness? Well, some agree, and the backlash, quite apart from the years of court challenges, may be swift in coming:

“The stick approach isn’t going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate,” said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). “They could stop the funding, and they could change the law.”

Anticipating EPA action, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried unsuccessfully in September to prevent the agency from spending money to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories, for one year. Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Monday that the endangerment finding was “a blunt instrument that will severely hamper our attempts to bolster the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe says it’s “regrettable” — practically a meltdown for her. And the most endangered senator, Blanche Lincoln (already on the hot seat for failing to oppose health-care reform that her constituents hate), is perturbed as well.

Aside from the issue of subjecting American business to a regime of new mind-numbing regulation and fines just at the moment the science of global warming is under attack, the statist impulse and abject disregard for constitutional governance is breathtaking, but perhaps not startling. The Obami crowd brought us czarmania and newly elastic incarnations of executive privilege. They declared war on insufficiently deferential news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce. So they’re certainly not going to be slowed down by lack of congressional action or, more properly said, the refusal of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to micromanage the entire U.S. economy. It should be sobering to those on both sides of the aisle who think that ours is a government of checks and balances and separation of powers.

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Crime without Punishment

On Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced that China had agreed to drop twelve sets of industrial subsidies that encourage exports and discourage imports. The subsidies cover about 60 percent of Chinese manufactured exports. “This outcome shows that President Bush’s policy of serious dialogue and resolute enforcement is delivering real results,” Schwab said in a statement. “This outcome represents a victory for U.S. manufacturers and their workers.”

Is this agreement with China really a “victory” for “dialogue”? It was a victory all right, a victory for Beijing. These subsidies are clearly a violation of WTO rules. They should have been eliminated on December 11, 2001, the day China joined the global trading body. The U.S. did not file a WTO complaint about them until February of this year. What were we doing for more than a half decade? Worse, the Schwab agreement does not compensate American companies and workers for the injury suffered since 2001 because of the patently illegal incentives. This agreement permits China to escape punishment for more than five years of crime.

The concession is also smart politics for Beijing. The Chinese were going to lose on these subsidies at the WTO, and they undoubtedly figured they might get some good publicity, especially ahead of the third round of the Strategic Economic Dialogue, which is scheduled to begin in Beijing on the 12th of this month. The SED, initiated last year, has been a dismal failure for friendly dialogue. It has resulted in the loss of crucial time and a diversion of our energy. Yet we keep trying: Paulson will be taking with him to the Chinese capital an “entourage of high-level talkers” including Schwab, three cabinet secretaries, the head of the EPA, and a score of other officials.

Americans believe that, if we are friendly to Chinese leaders, they will be friendly back. Decades of dealings with them, however, have shown that they are ruthlessly pragmatic. They are not impressed by gestures of friendliness. They respect strength. If we want fair trade with the Chinese, we will have to file WTO cases and treat them like they treat us. They need America more than America needs them.

Let’s stop talking. After all, there’s nothing more to discuss. China needs to comply with its WTO promises now. End of discussion.

On Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced that China had agreed to drop twelve sets of industrial subsidies that encourage exports and discourage imports. The subsidies cover about 60 percent of Chinese manufactured exports. “This outcome shows that President Bush’s policy of serious dialogue and resolute enforcement is delivering real results,” Schwab said in a statement. “This outcome represents a victory for U.S. manufacturers and their workers.”

Is this agreement with China really a “victory” for “dialogue”? It was a victory all right, a victory for Beijing. These subsidies are clearly a violation of WTO rules. They should have been eliminated on December 11, 2001, the day China joined the global trading body. The U.S. did not file a WTO complaint about them until February of this year. What were we doing for more than a half decade? Worse, the Schwab agreement does not compensate American companies and workers for the injury suffered since 2001 because of the patently illegal incentives. This agreement permits China to escape punishment for more than five years of crime.

The concession is also smart politics for Beijing. The Chinese were going to lose on these subsidies at the WTO, and they undoubtedly figured they might get some good publicity, especially ahead of the third round of the Strategic Economic Dialogue, which is scheduled to begin in Beijing on the 12th of this month. The SED, initiated last year, has been a dismal failure for friendly dialogue. It has resulted in the loss of crucial time and a diversion of our energy. Yet we keep trying: Paulson will be taking with him to the Chinese capital an “entourage of high-level talkers” including Schwab, three cabinet secretaries, the head of the EPA, and a score of other officials.

Americans believe that, if we are friendly to Chinese leaders, they will be friendly back. Decades of dealings with them, however, have shown that they are ruthlessly pragmatic. They are not impressed by gestures of friendliness. They respect strength. If we want fair trade with the Chinese, we will have to file WTO cases and treat them like they treat us. They need America more than America needs them.

Let’s stop talking. After all, there’s nothing more to discuss. China needs to comply with its WTO promises now. End of discussion.

Read Less




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