PowerLine – Are Low Oil Prices Good or Bad? Yes.
- Are Low Oil Prices Good or Bad? Yes.
- Barack Obama and the Hall of Fame of Straw Men
- Hillary/Democrats in Trouble?
- A note on the hostage deal
- Live from Council Bluffs, it’s Bill Clinton
Posted: 17 Jan 2016 12:35 PM PST
There’s just no pleasing some people.
When oil and gasoline prices at the pump are high, liberals (and Bill O’Reilly) complain that the oil companies are gouging us, even though certified enlightened opinion among environmentalists is that cheap oil and fuel prices are bad because it encourages consumption and makes it harder for their (subsidized) renewable energy unicorns to compete in the marketplace. I still have somewhere the New York Times headline from 1991, the second-to-last time oil prices were this low, that read “Low Oil Prices Are Bad, Some U.S. Experts Say.”
“Experts” would say that. That’s why they’re experts. (Or “top men,” as they’re rightly called in Raiders of the Lost Ark.) Anyway, today top men are saying low oil prices are going to propel us into a recession. Hitherto it was thought that high oil prices would trigger a recession. Economist James Hamilton has assembled the most persuasive evidence (PDF file) for this thesis.
But maybe we’re already in a recession? A lot of people are abuzz about this Royal Bank of Scotland report that says the world economy is about to tank big time. I checked with a couple of my Wall Street pals who said, “I didn’t know the Royal Bank of Scotland was still in business.”
Then there’s this:
More than six years after the economic expansion began, 93% of counties in the U.S. have failed to fully recover from the blow they suffered during the recession.
Nationwide, 214 counties, or 7% of 3,069, had recovered last year to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values, a study from the National Association of Counties released Tuesday found. . .
The reality is slowing population growth and industry shifts mean some parts of the country will likely never fully recover. But by the end of last year, more counties had not recovered on any one of the four indicators, 16%, than had recovered on all of them. . . in 27 states, not a single county had fully recovered.
Funny this news was left out of Obama’s state of the union address.
At this point, the best thing to do is probably to repair to that great quote from Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman: “Nobody knows anything.” I’m going to sit back and watch football now.
Posted: 17 Jan 2016 11:32 AM PST
Barack Obama is famous for the false choice: time after time, he posits only two alternatives, one of which is his preferred course while the other option is an obvious straw man, sometimes a course that has never been advocated by anyone. Today’s statement on the release of four prisoners by Iran (in exchange for our release of captured Iranians) is a classic of the genre.
Obama began by describing a world in which his political opponents are afraid to engage in diplomacy, while he courageously engaged with Iran:
That includes our diplomacy with the Islamic Republic of Iran. For decades, our differences with Iran meant that our governments almost never spoke to each other. Ultimately, that did not advance America’s interests. Over the years, Iran moved closer and closer to having the ability to build a nuclear weapon. But from Presidents Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, the United States has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy with our adversaries. And as President, I decided that a strong, confident America could advance our national security by engaging directly with the Iranian government.
This is fantasy, and Obama knows it. In fact, his predecessor George W. Bush engaged in extended diplomatic negotiations with Iran along with the “six powers.” But the Bush administration, unwilling to make a bad deal that would hurt American security interests, insisted that Iran stop enriching uranium. This, rather than any purported fear of diplomacy, is why there was no nuclear deal during the Bush administration.
As we noted here, Barack Obama, as a presidential candidate in 2008, undermined the Bush administration’s negotiating position by signaling the mullahs that if they waited until he took office, he would cut an easier deal with them.
So the difference between the Obama administration and the Bush administration was not diplomacy vs. no diplomacy, but rather dumb diplomacy (Obama) vs. smart diplomacy (Bush).
Obama went on to suggest that the only alternative to the disastrous course he has pursued with Iran was another war in the Middle East:
And perhaps most important of all, we’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East.
By which he presumably means, a war with Iran. But this is a straw man of epic proportions. Who among American politicians or pundits has urged war with Iran? I am not aware of a single one. Obama had a perfectly good alternative to 1) a lousy deal that enriches the mullahs and makes it easier for them to acquire nuclear weapons, and 2) war with Iran. That alternative was to keep the sanctions in place unless and until Iran agreed to a deal that would actually prevent it from going nuclear. But Obama always prefers to take comfort in a straw man rather than engage with his opponents’ actual arguments.
Posted: 17 Jan 2016 08:59 AM PST
How bad is Hillary as a candidate? This election cycle is the second time the Democratic establishment has tried to clear the field for her, and while her sacking by the uniquely positioned Barack Obama eight years ago is understandable, to see her struggling to overcome the challenge from a glowering grouchy grandfather socialist like Bernie Sanders tells us a lot about how far left the Democratic base has drifted. Liberals like to spout the nonsense that Reagan couldn’t get nominated in today’s Republican Party (but somehow the GOP nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney instead??), but why not ask whether Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis—or Bill Clinton—could be nominated in today’s Democratic Party.
I’ve already mentioned that Slow Joe Biden’s recent comments appear to be calculated to keep the door open for a last minute run if Hillary is indicted or suffers some other kind of collapse. The Washington Post reported a couple days ago that the Democratic establishment is “anxious” about Hillary’s apparent weakness:
Some leading Democrats are increasingly anxious about Hillary Clinton’s prospects for winning the party’s presidential nomination, warning that Sen. Bernie Sanders’s growing strength in early battleground states and strong fundraising point to a campaign that could last well into the spring. . .
On Capitol Hill and in state party headquarters, some Democrats worry that a Sanders nomination could imperil candidates down the ballot in swing districts and states. Others are expressing a sense of deja vu from 2008, when Clinton’s overwhelming edge cratered in the days before the Iowa caucuses.
Ah, but demographics will save the Democrats, right? Not so fast says lefty author John Judis, one of the co-authors of the thesis popular 15 years ago that demographics were tilting massively in the Democrats’ favor—a prediction that seemed to have been borne out in 2008 and 2012. Judis now says Democrats are in trouble on the demographic front:
“The Republican party is in a death spiral,” Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg warns in his new book America Ascendant. It is in a “pitched fight” with what Greenberg calls the “new American majority,” which is composed of “African Americans, Hispanics, Millennials,” who “will constitute 54 percent of the electorate in 2016.” If one includes “seculars with no religious affiliation,” then this group amounts to 63 percent of the electorate that is sympathetic to the Democrats.
Greenberg’s claim is merely the latest version of an argument that Celinda Lake and other Democratic pollsters as well as analysts from the Center for American Progress have been making for the past three or four years. The heart of the argument is that the groups in the population that are likely to vote for Democrats are growing, while those that are likely to vote for Republicans are shrinking as a percentage of the electorate. As a result, Democrats will inevitably win political majorities.
This argument is at least half-wrong. . .
From here Judis walks through a number of different demographic trends that look to favor Republicans going forward (including one trend that shows Republicans gaining strength with some Hispanics), and concludes:
By sheer demographic calculation, you can’t plausibly predict which party will capture Washington over the next decade or two. What finally makes the difference in overall election results is not demographics but politics. . .
Imagine that! Candidate quality and ideas matter! Hillary is short on both accounts.
Judis, who is, remember, a lefty, worries that Democrats are once again lurching off the edge of the planet on social issues:
Democrats have also suffered when they have become identified too closely with the social or cultural agenda of groups within their coalition. . . Democrats’ identification with Black Lives Matter protests against the police — no matter how justified — could also cost them in the coming election. In a special election last May in a Staten Island and Brooklyn congressional district that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, where Democrats enjoy a 16-point edge in voter registration, the Republican district attorney who had failed to secure an indictment against the cop who killed Eric Garner routed a Democratic opponent who had been critical of his handling of the case.
In these instances, Democrats have lost votes not simply because they backed measures favored by their base, but because they became identified primarily with those measures to the exclusion of a more generalizable appeal on economics and national security — the kind that got Bill Clinton elected in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008.
Posted: 17 Jan 2016 07:35 AM PST
Reader Don Burden writes to comment on one of the convicted Iranians released by the Obama administration in exchange for the four or five American hostages who are returning home. Mr. Burden writes, he says, because “this is something I have a lot of personal knowledge about” as a result of business litigation his software company is pursuing. Mr. Burden’s note seems to me to add an important dimension missing from reports on the price we paid for the release of the American hostages involved in the deal. Analyze this:
One of the seven Iranians the United States is sending back to the Islamic Republic of Iran is the convicted hacker Nima Golestaneh. He was convicted in December 2015 on a guilty plea to various charges of hacking in what must have represented some sort of plea bargain. I believe his formal sentencing had not been set yet. He would likely have been sentenced to a substantial term.
He hacked/stole software from a Vermont “aerospace/defense” company (the name of the company is one of several things that is difficult to find out from the prosecutors who pursued the charges against him). He was the subject of a massive manhunt a couple of years ago when he stole this software. The CIA, FBI, Interpol and the Turkish police all cooperated in setting up a sting operation in Turkey by offering to buy this software for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Golestaneh was captured in Turkey and held until last spring when he was finally extradited to the United States (one can only imagine what was involved there) after about a year-and-a-half or more. While being held by the Turks, he actually escaped and was recaptured at the Iranian border. Now wouldn’t you think that this would be somewhat of a coup for the administration and a great story, unless of course what he stole and how he did it would be of great embarrassment to the current administration?
Golestaneh is an Iranian national but has been working in Germany, possibly Sweden, and possibly the United States. Why is he high on the Iranian want-back list? It is hard to believe that he doesn’t have a copy of that “Vermont” software some place where he can recover it. How long do you think it will be before the Iranians have a copy of that software? One or two days?
He also seems to know quite a bit about hacking into American defense companies. Why would we let someone this capable return to the Iranians? Even if he doesn’t shoot people up or finance terrorism he can obviously do great long-term damage. So just because the State department whitewashes these guys doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous and capable of enormous harm to the United States.
Then of course maybe he has Hillary’s e-mails.
UPDATE: The Vermont company hacked by Golestaneh was Arrow Tech, whose site indicates it has developed software for:
Design and simulation of Projectiles, both guided and unguided
Extraction of the Drag coefficient and Roll Damping from radar data
Reduction of spark range data
System lethality simulation
Mr. Borden asks: “Do you think maybe there is a slight chance that the Iranians might be interested in software like this????”
Posted: 17 Jan 2016 04:55 AM PST
Nebraska attorney David Begley has reported for us on the appearances of the presidential candidates in Iowa over the past several months. The Iowa caucuses will take place on February 1. Dave anticipates that this may be his last Iowa report for us this cycle as the Des Moines Register calendar notes no further scheduled appearances of candidates in western Iowa before the caucuses. If this is his last report for us this time around, Dave is leaving on an appropriate note with his sighting of the ineffable Bill Clinton in Council Bluffs yesterday. The Omaha World Herald report is here. The report of Omaha’s WOWT News is here. Dave’s is below:
Former President Bill Clinton appeared Saturday morning at the Wilson Middle School gym in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Chairs were placed to the the half-court line and small bleachers on the side and standing room were filled. A far cry from the 11,000 at Baxter Arena earlier in the week for the current President.
It is easy to see why he is still the greatest political talent of his generation. His stump speech was way, way better than Hillary’s. If she wants to win she should dump her current stump speech and adapt his for her own use. And if her numbers remain weak, she would be smart to use him more to fire up the base. Just sayin’.
Mika Brzezinski asked Madam Hillary what her “core message” was and, as Scott Johnson wrote, she fumbled the question. Her husband, however, helpfully formulated and repeated a core message. It was a variation on Reagan’s “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” and Obama’s “Hope and change.” The Hillary Clinton “core message” according to Bill is that she is a change maker who will make people’s lives better and will enable people to make their own lives better. Restated, he asks whether people are better off when you quit than when you started.
His opening was – dare I say – slick. He established his bona fides as the successful former president. Clinton learned something from the Jesuits at Georgetown about rhetoric. Since he no longer has Air Force One at his disposal, he now flies the shuttle between DC and New York. He reported that a stewardess thanked Bill for signing into law the Family and Medical Leave Act which allowed her and her husband (a jazz musician) to care for their sick parents (“FMLA saved us.”) Of course, the evil malefactors of wealth opposed this humane legislation despite the GOP’s profession of family values. Slam dunk with his first possession.
He then asked a couple and their two children to stand. He stated that their third child had died as a result of autism and that the couple had spearheaded a fight to cover autism under health insurance. The mom carried a letter from Bill Clinton with her as a sort of talisman. They were in tears. Hillary has a position paper on autism. The audience stood and applauded when the former president said that their effort was “what America was about.” We need “to reach common ground and not divide and run each other down.”
After this start only Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life would not be moved. But I suppose Mr. Potter is the typical GOP voter in the minds of the Dems.
Clinton then moved to the cleverest part of his speech and, boy, was it smart. Bill said he has adopted Dorothy Rodham’s habit of watching FOX News at least one hour a night. He saw Frank Luntz’s focus group after the South Carolina debate unanimously agree on the impeachment of Barack Obama. Stated reason? Obama didn’t “roll over” to the GOP congress. Unstated message number one: He’s black. Unstated message number two: And by the way I was the last guy Congress impeached and that was wrong too. Unstated message number three: The GOP is just nasty and out to divide and destroy the country to impede progress for everyday working Americans.
He covered some current small beer proposals that Hillary has made but he really focused on her alleged record of getting things done. According to Bill: She acted as a “tester” for the Children’s Defense Fund to stop the tax exempt status of private academies in the South. It worked. She did the hard work to get a new school standards bill in Arkansas. Arkansas is no longer number 49. She adopted from Israel a program that prepared children for school where parents are teachers and it is now used by 26 states. It worked. She started Legal Aid in Arkansas.
And in case you didn’t know, it was Hillary who put New York City “back together” after 9/11. President Bush “kept his word” and signed Hillary’s legislation. As if George Bush wouldn’t have signed the bill. Ridiculous.
Iran sanctions were supposedly put together by Hillary. No mention of how Obama gave away the store and $150 billion in return for worthless future promises from the mullahs.
Bill was the champion against “trickle down” economics and Hillary will fight that too.
Clinton spoke out of both sides of his mouth when he expressed concerned about “climate change” but conceded dismay about the loss of jobs in coal country.
He rattled off some income statistics to show that the lower and middle classes improved while he was president but have been flat since then. Barack Obama, however, has been president for seven years and apparently he’s not responsible for economic stagnation. Both Hillary and Bill attribute the current national debt to the Republicans despite the fact that it exploded under Obama. He used one line I recall from Hillary’s stump speech: the GOP “is impervious to evidence.”
Message: Life will be better if Hillary is elected president.