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Posted on December 13, 2013 by Ruth O’Brien

Gotta love the Friday New York Times.  I used to read the art section for the reviews.  Now I read the front page, the national news, but not until after I’ve digested the business news, which lets me know what is actually happening.  Ignoring budgets (the Paul and Patty budget show) or Obamacare, I found it pleasing, alarming, and then soothing to see how the Obama administration might, just might, get some areas of American governance back on track.

There’s an end-of-the-year holiday giveaway as Obama gets to wield his executive-action powers as “Executive-in-Chief.”  But don’t be dual-minded: It’s not about regulating the private or the public spheres in the United States.  For good or for bad, it’s all about regulating that all-encompassing social sphere (globalism and globalization — the good and the bad).   In Out of Many, One I went so far as to title a chapter “The Prius President” in honor of Obama’s introduction of the “hybrid” state.

Today’s hybrid produces four crosscutting results:

1st, Dodd-Frank, Wall Street, and consumer reform. It looks like we’ll be getting presents, as Treasury will finally regulate or attempt to regulate the insurance industry (federal-state regulation).  The big present is the increasing territory the Obama administration is taking over, as its hybrid regulates cross-cutting executive domains — crop failures, flooding, and terrorism (read agriculture, anything climate- or weather- or emergency-related, and just about anything international).

2nd, the lumps of coal are for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s possiblefederal regulations on creating “quiet airplanes.” Folks don’t like being forced to listen (or eavesdrop) sitting next to others yapping on cell phones on planes (unlike the federal government).  But what happens as the federal government or other governments start scooping up our data when we’re 10,000 feet above ground and not over our own friendly (or formerly friendly) domestic soil?  And why would Obama’s advisory committee think that phone-data collection should continue?  Where’s public outrage when you need it?

3rd, let’s go underwater to discover the international hybrid.  I don’t have a clue if it’s a good idea for our nukes to be put so many leagues under sea.  Japan’s meltdown makes this awfully compelling, but the idea of international standards could be calming. Spending $226 million to explore safety sounds like money well spent.

4th and finally, the bigger hybrid international news is that in certain areas, the Obama administration does care about global health. The United States’ puritanical perspective about smoking (anti-smoking) has really taken hold since the Clinton administration.  And perhaps the international community’s protests about tobacco being dumped on the shores of the less prosperous nations will lead to the United States signing a treaty stopping Big Tobacco from “intimidating low and middle income countries” into accepting their bad products. Will the U.S. get to sign a global public-health treaty, for once?