March 6, 2014

President Not-Present

From domestically disastrous to internationally dangerous.

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This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday.

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We now know — even the Associated Press, better described as the Administration’s Press, has now acknowledged it — that President Barack Obama, in AP’s words, “did not participate” in a White House meeting of his national security team Saturday morning “to get updates on the situation and discuss policy options” in reaction to Russia’s invasion and takeover of Crimea and threatened military intervention in the rest of Ukraine. Those who need help getting past AP’s whitewashing need to understand that “did not participate” means “did not attend.”

Last time I checked, the President of the United States was the nation’s Commander in Chief, the person who is supposed to be primarily responsible for the nation’s security and well-being in its relations with the rest of the world. He happens to live in the same White House where the national security meeting was held. PJ Media’s Bridget Johnson has noted that Obama “had no public events on his schedule.”

What Obama apparently chose to miss was not a “3 a.m. phone call.” It was a daytime meeting at his own residence. It concerned a country whose guarantee of security, embodied in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, was confirmed by Obama himself in December 2009.

Congress and the American people should demand to know exactly what could possibly have been more important than Obama’s attendance at that meeting. We all know that if a President Romney or George W. Bush had acted similarly, the press would already be demanding an answer for us, and quite properly so. Instead, we get the AP’s aforementioned indifference.

It gets worse. Obama was briefed after the fact by a “national security team” led by none other than Susan Rice.

Five days after the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi which took the lives of U.S. Libyan Ambassador Christopher Steven and three other Americans, Rice went to the Sunday talk shows to claim that an anti-Muslim video inspired the “spontaneous – not premeditated” attack. Just last week, in the face of overwhelming, irrefutable evidence to the contrary, she contended that “The notion that somehow I or anybody else in the administration misled the American people is patently false.”

Six months after it became obvious that the Senate would not confirm her as the country’s next Secretary of State, Obama rewarded Rice by elevating her to her current perch as National Security Adviser. So the President’s chief informant has every reason to tell Obama things which would further his agenda, which may or may not coincide with an agenda consistent with the country’s security.

Is Obama’s real agenda different? There’s ample justification for believing that’s the case. In March 2012, he was caught on an open mic telling then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with contentious U.S.-Russian issues after that year’s presidential election. Perhaps part of that “flexibility” includes pretending to have a problem with a Russian return to de facto control of Ukraine while doing nothing about it. If so, no wonder Obama was a no-show on Saturday morning. Why bother coming downstairs to sit in on a meeting about something when the result is already a foregone conclusion? Maybe his 90-minute Saturday afternoon phone call with Russian President Vladimir was really a plea: “Slow down, guy, you’re going so fast that it’s making me look bad.”

Obama may also be porting his patented habit of disclaiming responsibility for anything negative that happens in his administration from stateside matters to international affairs.

He has said that he only learned of the IRS’s acknowledged targeting of tea party, conservative, ballot box integrity and prolife groups in press accounts “while watching the news.” That’s a highly suspect copout, because “the Office of the White House Counsel and its head, Kathryn Ruemmler, were told … that ‘a small number of line IRS employees had improperly scrutinized certain … organizations.’” Ruemmler had a clear professional duty to inform Obama of these developments. If she didn’t, and Obama was initially as upset about the scandal as he claimed to be (now he says that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS), why is she still on the job? The more plausible explanation is that Ruemmler did inform Obama, and that he’s really okay with the IRS’s conduct — except for the getting caught part.

He was supposedly as surprised as everyone else at HealthCare.gov’s disastrous rollout, despite gigantic but ignored red flags at Kathleen Sebelius’s Health and Human Services Department, and despite Sebelius’s “active White House presence in the months leading up to the botched rollout,” because “I don’t write code.”

Obama has adopted reducing income inequality as a personal crusade, even as it has worsened since he took office though after holding steady during George W. Bush’s administration. Judgment-impaired energy-loan debacles are just “bad luck.” Record Federal Reserve-funded budget deficits occur because the Republican House won’t pass even more tax increases. It’s the same song and dance with the deadly Fast and Furious scandal, the NSA’s spying on Americans, and Attorney General Eric Holder’s pursuit of journalists as criminals.

Obama’s passive posture and his gutting of the military appear designed to remove the U.S. from having any meaningful role in world affairs. The overwhelmingly likely deterioration in worldwide democratic conditions would then be something he would say he was powerless to reverse.

Along with Russia, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and the Chinese appear to be quite pleased at this. The American public should be extremely alarmed.

No Limits

Filed under: Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:02 am

Those who believe the rule of law still matters under the tyranny (“arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority”) of the Obama administration need to jettison that notion ASAP.

In a CNBC story primarily about the illegal extension granted to individual and small-group plans to comply with Obamacare’s “minimum coverage” rules is another illegal item which I predict the rest of the press will ignore:

the rules gave a financial break to the types of self-insured health plans run by many unions, excluding them for two years from the $63-per-capita “reinsurance contribution” assessed for each enrollee.

Yet those who don’t run the self-insured plans of the “types” typically run by multi-employer union plans still pay the $63.

There is no conceivable legal authority for the administration’s arbitrary action.

But that’s okay, because there is no rule of law.

Initial Unemployment Claims (030614): 323K SA; Raw Claims Down 5% From Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:02 am

PredictionBloomberg — 336,000 seasonally adjusted claims, down from 348,000 (before revision to 349,000 now visible at DOL’s claims history accessible here) last week. Update: Business Insider has a prediction of 338,000.

Seasonal Adjustment Factors:

  • Week Ended March 1, 2014 — 98.2
  • Week Ended March 2, 2013 — 98.7

Raw Claims (before seasonal adjustment):

  • Week Ended Feb. 22, 2014 — 311,481 (after revision to last week already posted)
  • Week Ended March 2, 2013 — 335,680

To meet Bloomberg’s prediction, raw claims will need to be 330,000 or lower (330K divided by 98.2 is 336K, rounded).

I see no reason why raw claims should come any higher than last week, and I think we should consider it a disappointment if they are. So I think that seasonally adjusted claims had better come in a 318,000 or below, or we have a problem. The business press obviously won’t see it that way.

The release will be here at 8:30 a.m.

HERE IT IS (permanent link):

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending March 1, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 323,000, a decrease of 26,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 349,000. The 4-week moving average was 336,500, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 338,500.

… UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 317,183 in the week ending March 1, an increase of 5,702 from the previous week. There were 335,680 initial claims in the comparable week in 2013.

As noted, there’s no good reason why raw claims should have increased at all from last week. But they did, though at least it was relatively nominal.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (030614)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:05 am

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

Positivity: Oscars 2014 — Bill Murray pays touching tribute to Harold Ramis

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Hollywood:

Mar 2, 2014 at 11:12PM

Bill Murray, making a rare Oscar appearance less than a week after the death of Harold Ramis, made a poignant shout-out to his old friend while presenting the award for Best Cinematography. After announcing the nominees, Murray added, “Oh, we forgot one. Harold Ramis for Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day.”

The audience applauded warmly, Murray apologized — needlessly — for stealing the moment, and then the prize was awarded to Gravity‘s Emmanuel Lubezki, who won for the first time after six nominations.

Murray and Ramis knew each other before they were famous, coming up together in the Chicago comedy scene and then working together in New York.

Go here for the rest of the story.