What’s left

Interestingly enough, the far-left site Daily Kos is a good place to find information about the election results, and what few races remain undecided:

  • Arizona 2nd District: Republican Martha McSally has unseated Democratic Rep. Ron Barber. McSally currently leads Barber by 133 votes, with only about 200 to 250 ballots remaining countywide. There will be an automatic recount.
  • California 7th District: Democratic Rep. Ami Bera currently trails Republican Doug Ose by 530 votes
  • California 16th District: Democratic Rep. Jim Costa is down 741 ballots to Republican Johnny Tacherra
  • California 26th District: Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley is up 1,030 votes on Republican Jeff Gorell
  • New York 25th District: Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter leads Republican Republican Mark Assini by 582 votes

The Louisiana Senate race will be decided in a run-off election on December 6th.

The good news? Every one of those remaining seats is currently held by a Democrat, which means that every Republican victory is a net gain.

Number 53

From Fox News:

GOP adds another Senate seat as Sullivan wins Alaska
Published November 12, 2014

Republican candidate Dan Sullivan defeated Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race Wednesday.

The win gives the GOP eight Senate pickups in the midterm elections. The party is also seeking a ninth seat in Louisiana’s runoff in December.

Sullivan ran a confident campaign, ignoring the debate schedule Begich established and setting his own terms.

He pledged to fight federal overreach, talked about energy independence and at seemingly every opportunity, sought to tie Begich to President Barack Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who are unpopular in Alaska.

Begich complained that Sullivan offered little in the way of proposals for what he would do as senator.

Earlier Tuesday, election workers began counting absentee ballots and early indications were Sullivan maintained an 8,100 vote advantage over Begich. It proved to be true later that night.

This was pretty much expected, but Alaska is a huge state with a lot of rural, off-the-grid voters, and getting election results out of the state can sometimes take a long time.

Now all on which we have to wait is the December 6th run-off election in Louisiana.

Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer!

From The New York Times, via The Pirate’s Cove:

Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of Treaty
By Coral Davenport | August 26, 2014

A coal-fired power plant in Kentucky. Coal-heavy states could be economic losers in any climate-change protocol that targets such plants, which are among the largest greenhouse gas emitters. Credit Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.

In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.

“If you want a deal that includes all the major emitters, including the U.S., you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time,” said Paul Bledsoe, a top climate change official in the Clinton administration who works closely with the Obama White House on international climate change policy.

More at the link. But I’m guessing that Alison Lundergan Grimes didn’t like that photo and caption in the middle of her (miserably failed) Senate campaign!

As for your Editor, why he just loves the notion that climate change is just too important for the United States to do something radical like follow our own Constitution. Our esteemed President, why he just plain knows better than those wicked Republicans, and, by God, he’s going to try to just impose this by executive fiat. When the President said that he didn’t do a good enough job selling his ideas and persuading the other side, he apparently meant that he didn’t really need to sell anything or persuade anybody; he’d just do stuff on his own.

The sad part is that there are probably 40% of the people who would support him on this.

Back in 1998, President Clinton had negotiators at the Kyoto meetings, which resulted in the Kyoto Protocols. The Senate was unanimous, voting 95-0, for a sense of the Senate resolution asking the President not to sign the Kyoto agreement without significant changes. President Clinton sent Vice President Gore to Kyoto anyway, to sign the Accords, but declined to submit the agreement to the Senate for ratification, where he knew it would be defeated. President Bush withdrew the United States’ signature from Kyoto, something for which we criticized him on the old site, stating that if he wanted to withdraw from Kyoto he should have submitted it to the Senate for a ratification vote, in which it would certainly have been rejected.

Sometimes Presidents want to do things which are unpopular. In 1977, President Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty, which returned the canal to Panama at the end of 1999. It was met with harsh criticism in the United States, but President Carter had the courage to submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification, and he worked hard to sell it. The Senate ratified that treaty, something which required bipartisan support.

Well, if President Obama is going to commit the United States to economically difficult requirements, requirements which would make our people poorer, he damned well ought to submit it to the normal ratification process. He won’t, which means that the Congress will have to refuse to fund anything having anything to do with that agreement.

We’ve seen this story before

From The Pirate’s Cove:

Failing Ivanpah Solar Plant Wants Federal Grant To Repay Federal Loan
By William Teach | November 9, 2014 – 8:00 am

Unsurprisingly, the “world’s largest solar plant” is struggling, so they want a bailout from US taxpayers to help repay the loan provided on the taxpayers back:

(Fox News) After already receiving a controversial $1.6 billion construction loan from U.S. taxpayers, the wealthy investors of a California solar power plant now want a $539 million federal grant to pay off their federal loan.

“This is an attempt by very large cash generating companies that have billions on their balance sheet to get a federal bailout, i.e. a bailout from us – the taxpayer for their pet project,” said Reason Foundation VP of Research Julian Morris. “It’s actually rather obscene.”

The Ivanpah solar electric generating plant is owned by Google and renewable energy giant NRG, which are responsible for paying off their federal loan. If approved by the U.S. Treasury, the two corporations will not use their own money, but taxpayer cash to pay off 30 percent of the cost of their plant, but taxpayers will receive none of the millions in revenues the plant will generate over the next 30 years.

The loan itself was at a lower than market rate, and, apparently, Google and NRG have no cash themselves. Despite that almost $11 billion in net revenue Google generated in 2013.

But since [Ivanpah was unveiled in February] the plant has not lived up to its clean energy promise. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the plant produced only about a quarter of the power it’s supposed to, a disappointing 254,263 megawatt-hours of electricity from January through August, not the million megawatt-hours it promised.

It’s failing to generate the promised power? Only 1/4 of what was promised? The hell you say! Here’s a good reminder of the way the different methods shake out.

More at the original.

But, why shouldn’t Google1 and NRG2 ask the government to give them that grant? After all, the worst thing that the government could say would be, “No,” in which case the companies are no worse off than they were before. And, given the silliness of our federal government, who knows, President Obama might have said, “Yes,” and then had some Democratic congressman sneak the grant into a huge appropriations bill, where it wouldn’t get spotted until it had already been passed. After all, no less than a former Speaker of the House once said that we had to pass a bill to see what was in it.

This is where the newly-elected Republican majority has to step in and say not just “No,” but “Hell, no!” The companies indicate that they expect Ivanpah to start to produce energy at quantities much closer to what was promised, which means that they are claiming that the plant will be profitable, while Google and NRG are already profitable as a whole. They received below-market loans to get the place going in the first place, a significant government benefit not available to most companies. And if solar-generated electricity is ever going to be a viable source of a significant percentage of our electricity, it needs to be commercially viable, and able to stand on its own; to have the government arrange subsidized loans, and then wind up giving a grant to pay off part of those loans, is not the path to commercial viability, but simply takes money from the taxpayers to increase profits for a few people.

More, simply making such requests ought to come at a greater cost to companies: making such a request of the federal should generate an immediate, and thorough, audit of all of the requesting company’s books, with the results of that audit being made public, and the promise of prosecution for the company’s officers if wrongdoing is discovered or information concealed. That would stop any company which wasn’t in a precarious situation from making such requests. Of course, if a company was in such a precarious situation already, it would be foolish to prop it up anyway. :)

Your Editor is not a populist by any means; neither is he a corporatist.3 Rather, The First Street Journal holds that government and business ought to be separate as far as possible, with the government neither favoring nor disfavoring any individual legal companies, and that businesses and corporations should be free to succeed, or fail, on their own.

  1. Morningstar currently rates GOOG as a buy at 4.3: 5.0 = buy; 3.0 = hold; 1.0 = sell.
  2. Morningstar currently rates NRG as a buy at 4.3: 5.0 = buy; 3.0 = hold; 1.0 = sell.
  3. Salon has an article stating that the term corporatist ought to be retired, because it has too many, conflicting meanings.

The self-delusion of President Obama

From The Wall Street Journal:

Obama Takes Blame for Party’s Midterm Rout
President Says Administration Has Sometimes Struggled to Sell Its Ideas
By Colleen McCain Nelson | Nov. 9, 2014 10:34 a.m. ET

President Barack Obama, shown in a Nov. 7 photo with congres- sional leaders, takes responsibility for his party’s poor midterm election performance. Click to enlarge. Associated Press photo.

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama took responsibility for his party’s poor performance in the midterm elections and said in a new interview that his administration has struggled at times to sell its ideas and to persuade the other side.

In the aftermath of a Republican romp that saw the GOP take control of the Senate and tighten its grip on the House, the president told CBS that “the buck stops right here at my desk.”

“So whenever, as the head of the party, it doesn’t do well, I’ve got to take responsibility for it,” he said on “Face the Nation.”

In the past, Mr. Obama has been largely reticent to identify specific shortcomings in his administration, but he said in the interview that he must constantly remind himself and his team that good ideas alone aren’t enough.

More at the original. But perhaps, just perhaps, the President and his minions were not successful in “sell(ing) its ideas and to persuad(ing) the other side” because its ideas were not good ones in the first place. The President had large Democratic majorities in Congress during his first two years,1 during which the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were passed. The ARRA, commonly known as the stimulus bill, was supposed to hold unemployment to a maximum of 8% during the recession; unemployment officially topped out at 10%, after the recession was technically over.2 The official unemployment rate has come down significantly, but only due to the definitions used: if the same percentage of the civilian non-institutionalized population “participated” in the labor force in October of 2014 as did so in January of 2009, when the President assumed office, the official unemployment rate would be 9.8%.3 The “official” U-6 unemployment rate4 is 11.5%, but the professional media never report that!

Of course, statistics are for geeks and policy wonks. The Washington Post noted, on September 25, 2014, that polls indicated that a whopping 72% of Americans believe we are still in a recession,5 and that’s up from 57% in March, and 54% in July of 2013.

If President Obama and his Administration have been unable to sell their ideas as good ones, it is for one very simple reason: when put into actual practice, they didn’t work. The left would have us believe that the majority of Americans are liberals; that’s untrue, but it’s not completely false, in that there is majority support for some of their positions. The right would have us believe that the majority of Americans are conservative; that, too, is untrue, but not completely so, in that there is majority support for some conservative positions. What Americans really are is practical: they like what works, and don’t care for things that don’t work. The Democrats keep trying to tell us that President Obama’s policies have really worked, Stan Merriman of the Delaware Liberal telling us that the Democrats have “the best Presidential record in modern history,” a claim he has made before, but somehow the public don’t see it that way; an economy which keeps discouraging people from even looking for work and stagnant wages for those people who do have jobs seems to have more of an impact on people than a policy wonk’s statistical arguments. For Mr Merriman to claim, as an example, that it’s good news that “Your retirement funds in the stock market. All time high,” kind of rings hollow to those who don’t have jobs, or who are stuck in jobs where promotions are unavailable and raises a thing of the distant past, or who think that they cannot contribute to their 401(k) plans because they can’t afford to cut 5% or so out of their paychecks.6

Had President Obama’s policies actually worked, there would have been no TEA Party movement in 2010; had the Democrats’ policies actually worked, the Republicans would (probably) never have won control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections and the Senate five days ago. But this President, a brilliant, Harvard-educated man, so too myopic — or too egotistical — to see it.

  1. Including several months in which the Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate; there is no filibuster in the House.
  2. Technically, the recession was over after June of 2009, when the economy began to expand.
  3. The participation rate in January of 2009 was 65.7%; in October of 2014 it was 62.8%. Using that participation rate, we would have a labor force of 163,368,000 rather than the current 156,288,000. The current number of employed, 147,283,000 ÷ 163,368,000 = 0.9015, or 90.2% employed, or 9.8% unemployed.
  4. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines U-6 as “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.” Persons marginally attached to the labor force are those who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not currently looking for work. Persons employed part time for economic reasons are those who want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule.
  5. The wonksters at the Post said that the public were wrong about that, but that is a technical argument.
  6. Some of Mr Merriman’s claims are outright lies, hidden in statistics. He claimed that “For you spending hawks, our federal spending is increasing way below 2% per year……lowest since Eisenhower. Way lower than Reagan or “W”‘s + 8% per year,” but President Obama’s own FY2015 budget proposal called for an increase in total federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product from 21.1% (projected) for FY2014 to 21.4% for FY2015. Those percentages are higher than anything ever spent under President Reagan or either President Bush, or any President since FY1946, which included World War II spending. See page 163, table S-1.

From Around the Blogroll

It just couldn’t be that the Democrats are about as inspiring as a pile of cow manure:

Millennials aren’t apathetic: Their vote is suppressed
Voter ID laws target students and the young — it’s an active campaign to keep twentysomethings from the polls
Aaron R. Hanlon

“Voter apathy”—particularly among young people—is a post-midterm election cliché that says more about the audiences the punditry write for than the election results themselves. Following from the already overdetermined master narrative about the entitled millennial, “voter apathy” tells the center-left, median-age white professional exactly what she wants to hear: It’s not your fault we’re stuck with this loathsome legislature; it’s those coddled millennials who couldn’t be bothered to vote.

Millennials, I’ll admit, bear significant responsibility for this impression, not only because our voting turnout is indeed poor, but because our response to poor turnout only reinforces the stereotypes. Mathew Segal and Johanna Berkson’s recent Salon piece, a classic example of the genre of millennial backtalk, argues that poor turnout is the politicians’ fault, because they failed to “inspire” with “bold ideas on some of the most important issues to millennials today.” Segal and Berkson may be right, but perhaps blaming low millennial turnout on the failure of politicians to cater to millennials wasn’t the best rhetorical choice.

So instead of rearticulating the old clichés about voter apathy—a topic that, at best, is more complicated than either “kids these days…” or “old folks just don’t speak to us”—we should consider the impact of voter suppression on young people.

The midterm election results were predictable in large part because of the widespread effort of states to pass “voter ID” laws that target women, minorities and, of course, young voters, all of whom are more likely to vote for Democrats. The 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision lifted requirements for states with a recent history of race-based voter suppression to get Justice Department approval for voting law changes, which opened the doors for states like Texas and North Carolina (among others) to pass measures that restrict voter registration efforts, voting hours and forms of identification required to vote. In Texas, for example, a concealed handgun license is acceptable ID for voting, but a student ID is not. North Carolina does not accept student IDs either.

More at the original. But the notion that “millennials” lack photographic identification is ludicrous: 67% of them have driver’s licenses, and every state in the union has its Department of Motor Vehicles capable of issuing non-driver’s license photo IDs. Combine that with the “motor voter” law, and anyone in the county who can legally register to vote can do so, at a place which has the equipment to provide a photo ID at the same time. If some people, regardless of age, are simply to lazy to register to vote, then I’m perfectly fine with them not being able to vote; that is on them, and no one else.

Of course, mentioning driver’s licensing also means mentioning cars!

And now, to the blogroll!

Rule 5 Blogging: Joni Ernst

It’s the weekend and time, once again, for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging. Robert Stacey Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as posting photos of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of Nancy Pelosi in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude.

This week we focus on Joni Ernst, Senator-elect from Iowa, who will replace Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the next Congress. She served our country in the Army Reserves, deployed to Kuwait and Iraq, and is now a battalion commander in the Iowa National Guard; she has served 21 years in the Reserves and National Guard. She reported back on duty the day after the election.

Retiring Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) supported Mrs Ernst’s opponent, and tried to tell the voters that they shouldn’t vote for her because she’s attractive. Well, Senator Harkin was right enough in noticing that Mrs Ernst is good looking, but the real reason to have voted for her is that she is tough as nails, and is right on the issues. A company commander who wasn’t afraid to risk her life on the roads around Baghdad won’t be intimidated by Barack Hussein Obama!

Senator-elect Joni Ernst (R-IA), while on duty in Iraq. A Lieutenant Colonel now, she was a captain when this picture was taken. She spent 14 months in Kuwait in 2003-2004 as a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Continue reading ‘Rule 5 Blogging: Joni Ernst’ »

OK, you won. So, now what are you going to do?

We gave, on the old site, excellent advice to the Republicans after they recaptured the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections; regrettably, they chose not to follow it . . . which is unsurprising, since the odds that any of the Republican congressmen actually read CSPT are pretty low:

The Republican wins in Congress give them more power, but the Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. We’ll be told that the House Republicans will have to compromise, but what they will really have to do is present real, solid alternatives.

The first place they can start is to revamp the entire budget process. Right now, the budget of the United States is passed in twelve omnibus appropriations bills, several of which fund more than one federal department. These bills are just plain huge, and, as a consequence, legislators insert controversial items in with non-controversial ones, in appropriations bills which cover so much that they can’t be rejected. The Republicans should pass appropriations in smaller, tighter bills, bills which can be read and understood and which, if rejected by the Senate or vetoed, won’t shut down whole sections of the government, but which will impact the government in smaller, more narrowly tailored ways.

Along with that, by passing appropriations measures every year, the whole budget process gets stacked up and harder to review. The answer is simple: pass half of the appropriations bills for two-year periods, and then, the next year, pass appropriations bills for the other half of the budget for two-year periods. In that manner, each year the Congress will have to pass appropriations for only half of the government, allowing more time for scrutiny and consideration.1

The way we do things now stacks the deck in favor of higher spending: congressmen, Republican and Democrat alike, insert their pet projects, different agencies ask for things they want, special interest groups lobby for things which they think are good, and it all gets pushed into huge bills with far-too-little scrutiny. If the Republicans were to adopt these two simple ideas, they would be well-supported, and really uncontroversial, and the Democrats in the Senate would pretty much have to accept them (for political reasons), but they would reduce the pressure on ever-higher spending.

Another thing that the House Republicans could do, on their own, without any need for the cooperation of the White House or the Senate, is to establish what I’d call the [insert slang term for the sphincter here] budget review. The Republicans need to hire a group of [insert plural slang term for the sphincter here] to go over everything in the budget, people who are hard-hearted enough to look at every little item and ask the simple question — so simple it doesn’t get asked often enough — why do we really need this particular thing, with the emphasis on the word “need.”2

The Republicans won yesterday’s election because they promised to fight against the overblown spending of the Democrats and the Obama Administration, and because the public disapprove of the greatly increased spending and deficits. The Republicans did not win due to any particular loyalty to the Republican Party, and if the Republicans in Congress don’t actually deliver what the voters want them to deliver, the odds are that their time in the majority will be short-lived.3

The Republicans must also sit down and figure out how to prioritize, based on what they can and cannot do with the power they have. While most voters disapprove of ObaminableCare, the Republicans, no matter how much they might want to repeal it, can’t repeal it. That would require legislation which would have to pass the Senate, and even if it did that, get past a certain presidential veto.

But they can refuse to fund it! They can simply choose not to pass any of the appropriations to implement ObaminableCare, and neither the Democrats in the Senate nor the White House can compel them to pass it.

The House Republicans should not waste time tilting at windmills. I don’t really think that anyone is seriously trying to impeach President Obama, regardless of what some people might think. And wasting their time on a zillion subpoenas or useless congressional investigations would be just that: wasting their time. The voters have given the GOP a chance, just two-and-four short years after giving Republicans two major electoral bitch-slaps, and the lesson is clear: the voters’ patience is not high, and if the Republicans don’t do the jobs that the voters elected them to do, they’ll be out on their butts again. Time wasted on stuff that they can’t do is time taken away from what they can do. The Republicans can keep the Democrats from passing any new social legislation, but until they win the Senate and the White House, don’t have the power to reverse the bovine feces that has already been passed. And if they don’t do what they can do, there’s little chance that the 2012 elections will give them the Senate and the White House.

Now, four years later, the Republicans have even more power to do what has been suggested, but having more power does not mean that it will be wisely used. There will be a repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act attempted, and perhaps the Democrats in the Senate won’t even filibuster it, but it doesn’t matter; President Obama will veto that, and the Republicans have nowhere close to the number of votes to override a veto. It has to be attempted, because conservative voters demand it, but the GOP should not waste more time on it than necessary. Instead, what parts of it can be defunded should be defunded, because that is something within their power. An obvious and strong step: simply decline to appropriate any money to pay those Department of Health and Human Services bureaucrats who are tasked with overseeing and writing regulations for the wholly-misnamed Affordable Care Act.

But that cannot be done in the context of the huge, Department-wide appropriations bills that are used today; that gives the President the power to shut down whole sections of the government by vetoing one bill. That’s what President Clinton did in 1995, and he was a masterful enough politician to blame his vetoes of Republican-passed appropriations bills, and the subsequent government shutdowns, on the Republicans, and have the public believe him. Even though politically wounded, Republicans should never forget that President Obama is also a masterful politician — a far better politician than President! — and he could do the same thing to the GOP in 2015 as President Clinton did twenty years previously. Far more numerous, and much smaller, appropriations bills take that weapon away from the President.

With control of the Senate now, the Republicans can decline to confirm the worst of President Obama’s nominees, and should do so, but most of his nominees have not been particularly controversial. The President will probably eschew the more controversial nominees now anyway, not wanting to waste time and effort on people who cannot be confirmed, but I’d point out the qualifier I used: probably. With Barack Obama, you just never can be certain.

Big new programs or outright repeal of older ones favored by the Democrats? Those won’t happen, because the Republicans and the President will never agree on them. But, as one of our greatest Presidents noted, it is far more important to refuse to pass bad legislation than it is to pass good things.

The Republicans can get things done, as long as they carefully consider what they reasonably can do. Their greatest weapon is the power of the purse; it should be used strongly and wisely, and, if it is, the GOP stands a decent chance of retaining control of Congress in the next elections, and electing a Republican as our next President.

  1. There is only one constitutional restriction in this, the provision in Article I, Section 8, which says that the Congress has the power “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years.” Such restriction implies that the Framers believed that Congress could appropriate for other things for periods longer than two years.
  2. The Republicans in the state legislatures could stand to do this as well.
  3. Footnote from 2014: Thanks to redistricting, and the heavy reliance of the Democrats on densely-populated urban districts, the Republican Party can be fairly certain that they will retain control of the House of Representatives through the 2020 elections, but the Senate is another matter entirely. The math of 2014 favored the Republicans, as the Democrats had more Senate seats to defend, many in areas which normally would have been expected to elect Republicans. In 2016, Republicans will have to defend the gains from the 2010 election.

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