|3:45 PM, Nov 22, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Some 140 million bargain-hunting customers will descend on retailers on Thanksgiving Day, so-called Black Friday, and throughout next weekend -- or at least those who haven’t shopped already or by early next week will head for the shops. Not so long ago most stores remained closed on Thanksgiving Day, on the assumption that families preferred to spend the holiday enjoying uninterrupted togetherness, downing some 46 million turkeys and watching football. No longer. Walmart, Macy’s, and many others are opening their doors on the holiday.
But not all retailers will do the same. Nordstrom’s will remain shuttered, as will Costco, the nation’s second largest retailer after Walmart. Costco is closed because “it is the right thing to do for our employees,” chief financial officer Richard Galanti told the press. Tony Bartel, president of GameStop, a chain of 4,600 stores selling new and used video games and the like, agrees. “For us, it’s a matter of principle….It’s called ‘protecting the family.’” Brave move by a man whose firm’s third-quarter earnings and prospects have disappointed investors and is facing new competition in the used video game market from Walmart, which last month began selling used games in 1,700 of its stores. The 4,600-store Ace Hardware chain took the highest ground of all, announcing it would not open until Friday, “Some things are more important than money.” No list of such things was provided.
No longer is the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday because it was the day that the ink on retailers’ accounts turned from red to black, the peak sales day of the year. Many consumers now get their in-store and online shopping done on or even before Thanksgiving, a phenomenon that took retailers and shippers by surprise last year. Delivery-company shipments in the week immediately after Thanksgiving 2013 jumped 23 percent, more and sooner than UPS, FedEx, and other companies expected, leaving the deliverers playing catch-up during the entire holiday season. Millions of packages sat in loading docks, and on trucks and planes rather than under Christmas trees even after December 25. So FedEx, UPS, and others are adding staff and taking other steps to avoid another fiasco. Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon and other retailers are doing their bit by avoiding one-day sales on Thanksgiving and Friday, instead spreading their discount deals throughout the Thanksgiving-to-Cyber Monday weekend.
Retailers are hoping that the National Federation of Retailers is right in predicting that sales this Christmas season will top last years’ by 4.1 percent. That would mean the tills and swipe machines will be handling a bigger increase than last year’s 3.1 percent, and than the ten-year average of 2.9 percent. Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO of Target, the 1,780-store chain that was sent reeling by hackers who stole customer information last year, implied on national television that the NFR forecast might prove optimistic. But most of his peers are looking forward to a very merry holiday season indeed, and investors are responding by bidding up the prices of many retailers’ shares.
3:03 PM, Nov 22, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The White House pool report notes President Obama is golfing with Derek Jeter and that the White House condemns today's terror attack in Kenya:
Subject: Travel pool report No 3 - golf partners, statement on Nairobi attack
Golf partners, per WH:
Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on the Nairobi-Bound Bus Attack:
The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s horrific attack in Kenya by the terrorist group al-Shabaab against innocent civilians traveling aboard a Nairobi-bound bus. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the 28 individuals killed. The United States stands with our Kenyan partners in the effort to counter the threat of terrorism and affirms our ongoing commitment to working with all Kenyans to combat these atrocities.
But will they vote to stop him?5:59 PM, Nov 21, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
A handful of Senate Democrats are publicly expressing disapproval of the president's executive action on immigration, but it's not yet clear that any of them are willing to do anything to stop him.
"Our immigration system is broken, and I support a comprehensive plan to fix it, but executive orders aren’t the way to do it," Missouri senator Claire McCaskill said in a statement issued late Friday afternoon.
"I am as frustrated as anyone that Congres is not doing its job, but the President shouldn't make such significant policy changes on his own," Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana said in a statement Thursday.
"I’m disappointed the President decided to use executive action at this time on this issue as it could poison any hope of compromise or bipartisanship in the new Senate before it has even started," Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota said in a statement Thursday.
Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, told Politico: "I worry that his taking unilateral action could in fact inflame public opinion, change the subject from immigration to the president. I also have constitutional concerns about where prosecutorial discretion ends and unconstitutional executive authority begins."
Senator Jon Tester of Montana offered more tepid criticism, telling Reuters that he would "prefer" that the issue be handled by Congress. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia told Politico that Obama's move made him "very uncomfortable."
Assuming that Republican Bill Cassidy wins the Louisiana Senate runoff on December 6, there will be 54 Republican senators in January. If these six Democrats all voted with Republicans to deny the president funding for his executive amnesty, the Senate could overcome a filibuster and put a bill on the president's desk. President Obama would almost certainly veto a bill blocking his executive action, but such a scenario, reports Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, "could have a serious impact on the politics of this fight if and when a government shutdown battle looms" and has caused much concern among Democrats and liberals.
But would any of these Democrats actually vote to deny the president funding to carry out his executive action? "I haven’t given it a thought," Joe Manchin told Politico. Neither have the other Democratic critics of the president indicated how they would vote on such a measure.
4:50 PM, Nov 21, 2014 • By DAVE JUDAY
Under the nation’s biofuels policy known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is supposed to set an amount of biofuels—ethanol, biodiesel, and low carbon advanced biofuels—which are to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. That amount is to be finalized by the EPA on November 30 of the previous year so as to give energy markets a clear signal of what to expect.
Thus, EPA should have established the 2014 volumes by November 30, 2013. Instead, today, nine days short of a year late, EPA has announced that it “will not be finalizing 2014 applicable percentage standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program before the end of 2014.”
It’s not surprising that EPA missed its deadline; it has not been on time since 2009. But this year’s lapse is truly mindboggling. Consider: EPA will set the standards that fuels companies must comply with after the compliance year is over. The best guess now is that the 2014 standards will be set in February 2015, which is also the date the EPA has targeted for proposing the 2015 standards, three months after the statutory deadline for those standards to be finalized.
Earlier in the year, informed speculation was the Obama administration was delaying the announcement to be well-timed to help Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley in his campaign in Iowa. That was back in June when EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy indicated that the volume standards would be issued “soon”—although they were already by then seven months late.
Accordingly, the administration didn’t think it could push up the ethanol totals high enough to give Braley—a champion of the RFS—a political bounce, so it deferred making an announcement. Finally, after the election and a year of waiting, speculation and concern in the markets led EPA to finally say something, and today the agency did, announcing that it would do nothing this year. An EPA spokesman added that the agency does hope to “get back on” an annual standard for 2014, 2015, and 2016 next year.
Ironically, by all accounts the ethanol industry has had a very productive and profitable year—effectively without a mandate in place. Biofuels have found a role in the marketplace, even if one forced by the original biofuels mandate. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, through the second week of November, ethanol production was outpacing last year’s trend when an actual volume mandate was in place.
Indeed, the federal government has proven inept at projecting what fuels markets will do in any given year, which should cast doubt on whether EPA should get back on track for projecting and prescribing biofuel levels in the coming years. What is the purpose of a mandate if it is set after the fact, as it will be this year?
There was a downside to the inaction, however. For a year, speculation and anticipation of EPA’s announcement moved crude oil, gasoline, ethanol, and corn markets, up and down. That imposed a hidden cost on consumers and an added regulatory cost of doing business to companies in all sectors involved. And in the end, all for naught. That is one of the problems with industrial policy like the RFS.
3:01 PM, Nov 21, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
In a 2011 blog post titled "There's a New Sheriff in Town," the White House announced that Vice President Joe Biden was spearheading a new "effort to root out wasteful spending at every agency and department in the Federal Government" called the Campaign to Cut Waste. As if to emphasize the urgency of the situation, another post went up on the White House blog just fifty-six minutes later entitled TooManyWebsites.gov (a tongue-in-cheek title). Then-director of digital strategy Macon Phillips singled out several websites on Sheriff Biden's most wanted list:
As the President points out in this video, our government doesn't need a website dedicated to foresters who play the fiddle. We also don’t need multiple sites dealing with invasive plants (here and here). And I‘m pretty sure the website dedicated to the Centennial of Flight can come down... particularly since the Centennial was in 2003.
Here's where reality runs smack into fiction, or vice versa. In 2014, National Review's Jim Geraghty released his novel The Weed Agency. His book chronicles the saga of the fictional USDA Agency of Invasive Species, a zombie-like government entity that refuses to quit. In a parallel with Geraghty's book that almost seems like a promotional stunt, the two real-life "invasive plant" websites showcased by the White House more than three years ago as examples of redundancy that we "don't need"... both still exist today (here and here, and pictured below):
As you might imagine, Geraghty wasn't exactly caught flat-footed by this revelation. When asked for comment, he responded:
1:01 PM, Nov 21, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The pro-Hillary Clinton group Correct the Record has released this tribute video encouraging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016:
The video, which looks a lot like a campaign spot, is titled, "The American Dream: Hillary Clinton Writing A New Chapter."
"America needs a president like Hillary Clinton, who will expand opportunity for all Americans. Whether it’s the poor, the sick, the middle class, children or women, Hillary Clinton has given a voice to those who could not speak up for themselves," Correct the Record writes in an email to supporters.
'Demonstrations like these have the potential to spark a sustained and positive national dialogue'12:04 PM, Nov 21, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Ahead of the grand jury in Ferguson announcing whether it will indict a police officer for killing a man in Ferguson, Missouri, Attorney General Eric Holder has released a video announcement telling law enforcement to behave.
"The Justice Department encourages law enforcement officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation," Holder says.
"Over the past few months, we’ve seen demonstrations and protests that have sought to bring attention to real and significant underlying issues involving police practices, implicit bias, and pervasive community distrust. And in most cases, these demonstrations have been both meaningful and responsible, and have brought vital issues to the attention of the public at large," the top cop says in a video.
"I know, from first-hand experience, that demonstrations like these have the potential to spark a sustained and positive national dialogue, to provide momentum to a necessary conversation, and to bring about critical reform."
Here's a transcript of Holder's announcement:
“At the United States Department of Justice, we are committed to ensuring that our local law enforcement partners have the resources they need to effectively serve and protect all members of their communities, particularly when citizens exercise their constitutionally protected rights. To that end, the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services are providing new guidance to law enforcement officers about how to approach maintaining order during First Amendment-protected events. This comprehensive new guide compiles information, tools, and best practices that will help law enforcement officers maintain public safety while safeguarding constitutional rights.
“As we’ve seen, durable relationships between the police and their communities do not develop overnight. But as someone who has spent a career at all levels of law enforcement—and as the brother of a retired police officer—I know the importance of these outreach efforts to ensuring effective neighborhood policing, officer safety, and community health. The Justice Department encourages law enforcement officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation. It is vital to engage in planning and preparation, from evaluating protocols and training to choosing the appropriate equipment and uniforms. This is the hard work that is necessary to preserve the peace and maintain the public trust at all times—particularly in moments of heightened community tension.
11:17 AM, Nov 21, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Hillary Clinton has made several trips to San Francisco in the past year, with all of them costing the city's police department more than $21,000 in extra expenses—including more than $10,000 for a single event with Nancy Pelosi.
A number of public records requests by the GOP opposition research firm America Rising reveal the San Francisco police department incurred extra expenses directly related to speeches given by Clinton in 2014. In April, for instance, the former first lady and secretary of state spoke to the Marketing Nation Summit at San Francisco's Moscone Center. The police reported $4,191.72 in added expenses, including overtime for department personnel. Clinton also spoke at an August summit for software company Nexenta, costing the San Francisco police force $1,539.95.
Clinton returned to San Francisco twice in October, the first time to speak to Salesforce, a cloud computing company. That visit cost the city's police department $5,344.21 in expenses. The CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, and his wife Lynne have each donated the maximum $25,000 to the Ready for Hillary PAC and, according to MSNBC, has "partnered" with the Clinton Foundation in the past.
Her final trip this year to the City by the Bay came in late October, when Clinton headlined a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee along with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. From October 19 to October 20, the day of the fundraising event, the San Francisco police department incurred $10,055.66, including more than $6,000 in overtime expenses.
Read a summary of the public records requests here. It's not clear from the requests how much of these expenses to the city are reimbursed by Clinton's speaking hosts.
10:41 AM, Nov 21, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
George Washington, 1796:
“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are…of fatal tendency. …
“However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion. …
“It is important…that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.”
Abraham Lincoln, 1838:
9:07 AM, Nov 21, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The U.S. State Department recently awarded a contract worth $541,250 to a foreign research firm to conduct public opinion surveys as part of an "Arab omnibus study" in at least eight foreign countries beginning this month. Significant portions of the justification documents were redacted, including the name of the firm awarded the contract (additionally, one entire page of the document is blacked out). According to the documents, the award was a "sole source" contract as market research found that no U.S. or other foreign firm could handle the assignment at a competitive cost.
The surveys are to include 1,000 adults and will be conducted in three waves. The first two will include six countries in November 2014 and April 2015, and the third will cover eight countries in July-August 2015. The survey results are to include twenty unique data sets. The documents do not details the nature of the questions to be asked, and the State Department did not respond to an inquiry about the questions to be asked and the countries where the surveys are to be conducted.
Although the State Department has not disclosed the exact nature or location of the studies, testimony given by Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary, bureau of Near Eastern affairs, to a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee in 201,1 includes this passage that appears to mirror the type of survey revealed in the above contract:
The continuous coverage of the Assad regime’s brutality in the pan-Arab media has decimated Assad’s standing on the Arab street. A recent poll by the Arab American Institute suggests that Assad has become a pariah in the Arab world. The poll, conducted in early October surveyed over 4,000 Arabs in six countries. Just three years ago, a region-wide poll of the same six countries asked respondents to name a leader, not from their own country, that they most respected. Bashar al Assad scored higher than any other Arab head of state. Today, however, the overwhelming majority of Arabs side with those Syrians demonstrating against the government (with support for them ranging from 83% in Morocco to 100% in Jordan). When asked whether Bashar al Assad can continue to govern, the highest affirmative ratings he receives are a mere 15% in Morocco and 14% in Egypt, with the rest in low single digits.
8:41 AM, Nov 21, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Ed Gillespie, writing in the New York Times:
MANY political analysts were surprised by how close I came to winning the Virginia Senate race earlier this month. I received more than a million votes running on a five-point plan for economic growth, and the first point was a specific proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.In a purple state like Virginia, I could not have gotten so close to defeating Mark R. Warner, a popular incumbent, by talking only about “repeal.” But while I wasn’t elected to the Senate, those who were might find these reforms worthy of their support, in part because they were well received in a swing state of considerable importance in the Electoral College.My plan, based on one developed by a public policy group called the 2017 Project, enabled me to rebut the charge that all I wanted to do was go back to things as they were before. Although Obamacare is unpopular, a plan that takes us forward is essential.We need to get rid of Obamacare instead of attempting to fix it because it is fundamentally flawed, cleverly designed to lead us over time to a single-payer system. This will become clearer when the employer mandate provisions kick in next year, with their incentives for companies to dump workers from their employer plans into government-run exchanges. As the exchanges swell and become more costly to taxpayers, we’ll be told that a government monopoly would be more cost-effective.
Whole thing here.
6:31 AM, Nov 21, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former White House spokesman Jay Carney admitted on CNN that President Obama has indeed flip-flopped on executive amnesty--and that the actions he's taking now are ones he previously called unconstitutional. Here's video:
CNN host Anderson Cooper asks, after playing a montage wherein Obama calls executive amnesty unconstitutional, "So, I mean, other than his frustration, what has changed? I mean, he's a constitution scholar. What has changed that allows him to do this?"
"Well, here's what I say," said Carney. "I think if he could have those words back, especially the first clip where he specifically talked about suspending deportations--that is literally what he is doing today. In later instances including when I was there he would speak carefully about what he could not do as president. He can't change the law. He can't provide a path to citizenship."
Carney stepped down from his White House post earlier this year.
'Extremely Tense'10:53 PM, Nov 20, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Sean Hannity reported tonight that Ferguson, Missouri is "already in an uproar":
A possible indictment of the police officer who killed Michael Brown over the summer has "yet to be handed down," according to Hannity, "but Ferguson, Missouri is already in an uproar. Now last night our cameras captured this violent clash between protesters and law enforcement officials right outside the local police station. And during the altercation many demonstrators were hurling, well, derogatory chants at the officers and obstructed traffic in the middle of the street -- arrested by cops dressed in full riot gear."
Hannity went on to call it an "extremely tense situation on the ground."
10:14 PM, Nov 20, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A group of immigration activists gathered outside the White House after President Obama's speech tonight. CNN played a clip of the activists' celebrating:
Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard