Monday, January 23, 2017

Cruising the Web

When will Trump and his people realize that they don't have to respond to every provocation from the left and the media? He's president now and has achieved what he set out to do when he came down that escalator. Now is the time to focus on what he is going to do that he's in the Oval Office. Instead, the Trumpians, led by his Baghdad Bob of a press secretary, Sean Spicer, called a special press conference Saturday night to attack the media for under-counting the turnout at Trump's inauguration. He was upset that the media and people on Twitter were contrasting photos from Obama's inauguration in 2009 and Trump's on Friday. Why should it be a surprise that more people turned out for President Hope and Change?

If Spicer felt it was necessary to push back, he could have argued that Trump's supporters couldn't necessarily have afforded to come to Washington for the inauguration since he won the votes of those who have suffered in Obama's America, yadda, yadda. Or he could have pointed out that Washington, D.C. voted for Clinton by 91% and Trump only got 4% and is surrounded by Democratic voters in Northern Virginia and Maryland so it was easier for Obama supporters to make it in for the inauguration. Or he could have just been quiet and let the whole thing die down as it would have within a day. But no. Spicer had to call a press conference and make false statements claiming that Trump's inauguration featured the "largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period- both in person and around the globe." This was demonstrably false, but I guess that doesn't matter when one is making claims about Trump. And, of course, this gave the media the opportunity to point out how so much of what Spicer claimed was just not true.

Why bother to lie so obviously about something that could be demonstrated to be a lie? Jonathan V. Last writes,
Crowd size does not matter. At all. It is not correlative with any conceivable marker of presidential success.
Last points to another lie that Spicer told during the campaign about John McCormack, another Weekly Standard writer, a lie that was also demonstrably proven to be a lie. This is not an auspicious start for Spicer's career as presidential press secretary.
Rule #1 for press relations is that you can obfuscate, you can misrepresent, you can shade the truth to a ridiculous degree, or play dumb and pretend not to know things you absolutely do know. But you can't peddle affirmative, provable falsehoods. And it's not because there's some code of honor among press secretaries, but because once you're a proven liar in public, you can't adequately serve your principal. Every principal needs a spokesman who has the ability, in a crunch, to tell the press something important and know that they'll be believed 100 percent, without reservation.
And what is also important is what this episode says about Trump.
What's worrisome is that Spicer wouldn't have blown his credibility with the national press on Day 2 of the administration unless it was vitally important to Trump.

And if media reports about crowd size are so important to Trump that he'd push Spicer out there to lie for him, then it means that all the tinpot-dictator, authoritarian, characterological tics that people worried about during the campaign are still very much active.

You know who obsessed about crowd size? Fidel Castro. You know who did not? George Washington, John Adams, Andrew Jackson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, and every other man to ever serve as president of these United States of America.
Just as Trump can't stop himself from tweeting about an SNL impersonation or what Meryl Streep says about him has apparently inculcated the same thin-skinned attitude in his staff. That is not a good sign.

Ron Radosh explains
why this silly lie about crowd size matters.
How does Trump expect world leaders and Americans to believe him when he says something has happened that needs attention? Lying publicly about such an obvious thing like the crowd size is not going to gain him support when he needs it most.

Trump will undermine his presidency if he continues to resort to “alternative facts” when he doesn’t like something. This is not what Americans want to see in their president.

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Anne Applebaum explains the true facts, as opposed to the "alternative facts" from the Trump team about the feud Trump has had with the intelligence community. Trump has tried to pretend that this storyline was just a fake-news idea that the media came up with. Nope. He has questions intelligence conclusions whenever he didn't like the results. And the evidence is all there on his Twitter feed.
In fact, Mr. Trump repeatedly criticized the intelligence agencies during his transition to office and has questioned their conclusion that Russia meddled in the election to aid his candidacy. He called their assessment “ridiculous” and suggested that it had been politically motivated.

After the disclosure of a dossier with unsubstantiated claims about him, Mr. Trump alleged that the intelligence agencies had allowed a leak of the material. “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” he asked in a post on Twitter.
We might wish that he hadn't attacked intelligence community and he may now wish he hadn't done so, but wishing doesn't make it so. And starting his administration off by lying about inauguration attendance, Metro ridership, the weather, and his relationship with the intelligence community is a sad, and avoidable, way to begin his presidency.

Ed Morrissey writes about those calling themselfs "The Resistance" where the goal is not just to oppose Trump but to deny that he is actually the president.
This grandiose and pretentious appellation insults those who actually have to live under authoritarian regimes, including Cuba, whose oppressed no longer have the promise of expedited asylum if they manage to reach the United States, thanks to the outgoing president’s actions in the final hours of his term.

Those who lose elections in free countries are the opposition, and can fix that by winning the next election. Instead of asking why they lost, the “resistance” decided to pretend the loss of an election amounts to oppression and have adopted the language of revolution to rally themselves.

That incendiary language didn’t just get adopted by a few on the fringe, but by many on the left, including some in the news and entertainment media.
Protesters set out to make attendance difficult at the "DeploraBall" organized for the night before the inauguration by Trump's supporters.
The event was organized by independent groups and didn’t include any incoming Trump administration officials.

Even so, protesters agitated against Trump outside, a demonstration that turned violent when some of them started throwing smoke bombs at police, who had lined up to keep the activists out of the celebration inside.

After two hours of rioting, police finally began using pepper spray to disperse the crowds, but not before some cops got hit with bottles. Some of the demonstrators set fires, while demanding Congress “impeach the predatory president.”

By the next day, the nation’s capital suffered widespread rioting. Hooligans smashed windows, set fires, threw bricks and attempted to block the entrances to the inauguration. More than two hours after the inauguration, a mass of rioters began setting fires on K Street. By 2 p.m., police had already arrested 90 people, and the unrest was growing.

The Daily Beast’s description of these protesters as “anti-fascists” stretches the definition of irony. The protesters weren’t demonstrating against any specific action by Trump, because he had not yet taken office at that time. They were protesting against his election victory and wanted it negated — and at groups like DisruptJ20, they used violence to try to get their way.

Democracy depends on the acceptance of election results. That’s actually a lesson the left insisted on teaching Trump’s supporters after the third debate, when Trump said he’d want to see the results first before accepting them....

American voters elected Trump, along with Republican majorities in the House, Senate and most state legislatures, to give them the chance to govern after eight years of Barack Obama. Whether that turns out to be a wise choice will be soon seen, and there will be plenty of reasons to debate and protest on specific issues along the way.

What we have seen in Washington this week is not a rational or lawful exercise of freedom of speech but a violent temper tantrum by those who will accept no governance other than their own rule, regardless of the expressed will of the electorate. That will be a lesson voters should learn and consider for the next election — and beyond.
One reporter writes about what he observed among the rioters.
Organized by the DisruptJ20 protest group, activists took aim at the alleged sexism and racism of the incoming administration. Practically speaking, that meant blocking security checkpoints, smashing windows, and torching at least one limousine outside the Washington Post building....

When words failed them though, protestors turned to rioting. Wearing black face masks, they smashed the windows of Starbucks, Bank of America, and a Bobby Van's steakhouse a few blocks from Capitol Hill. Private business didn't suffer all the damage, though. Suddenly enemies of public transport, liberal rioters trashed at least one bus stop—an indicator of the aimlessness of the whole thing.
Given that the people whose places of business and jobs they were disrupting were, in all likelihood, Democrats, I'm not sure that their actions achieved much beyond making a lot of people outside of the Beltline to associate anti-Trump activity with violent, purposeless action. Coming to a protest armed with crowbars and "rocks, bottles, flares and unknown liquids" is not behavior geared toward winning over voters.

Roger Simon is not impressed
with the Women's Marches this past weekend.
Excuse me if I don't get it. What exactly was motivating them?

Oh, right, Donald Trump, that vulgar misogynist who bragged about pu**y grabbing (asterisks to dissociate myself from Madonna, even though I'm aging too). I'm going to skip over the obvious - these same women almost all ignored Bill Clinton actually doing (not just mouthing off about) similar activities in the Oval Office, not to mention on numerous other occasions, some of which we know about and some of which we may not. Further, these women didn't have much to say -- no demonstrations, no marches, maybe a few hashtags -- when radical Islamists of various stripes regularly kidnapped large numbers of women (Nigerians, Yazidis, Kurds, etc., etc.) from their homes and took them as sex slaves, often beheading them after they finished raping them. Nor did they even pipe up when honor killings were going on in their own backyard.

I could go on. But those are just, shall we say, a few of the minor inconsistencies mixed with, perhaps, a soupçon of cognitive dissonance. Something more must be motivating these hundreds of thousands of women.

Oh, yes, reproductive rights. Break out your clothes hangers. The Donald is going to bring back the era of backroom abortions

First of all, there is no indication that there would be a majority on the Supreme Court, even with a new Trump appointment, to overrule Roe v. Wade. Also, Trump seems to have come very late to the pro-life position, having been pro-choice all his life.

I have some friends and colleagues as well as a few students who attended the march in Washington. They very sincerely believe that women's rights are threatened in a Trump presidency. I respect their beliefs, but I just don't buy that dark times are descending upon America. I just finished teaching the suffrage movements in both my American and European history classes and was once again struck about how the complaints women have today are so diminished compared to what our forebears suffered. In fact, today it seems to me that it is men who are suffering more. They are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to graduate college, are more susceptible to opioid addiction, are more likely to have lost jobs in the recession, and are more likely to be involved in crime and be incarcerated. Instead, we have phony statistics about an epidemic of rape on college campuses and a wide pay gap between men and women.

As Matt Lewis explains, the celebrity-laden protests aren't going to help win over the voters whom the Democrats lost in November.
During the celebration of the peaceful transfer of power this weekend, we were treated to some crude and irresponsible comments from liberal celebrities: Madonna told Trump voters, “F—k you. F—k you,” and added that she had “thought a lot about blowing up the White House.”

Ashley Judd continued the trend, reciting a poem called “Nasty Woman” that was written by a Tennessee teen. “I didn’t know devils could be resurrected, but I feel Hitler in these streets,” the poem declared. In a tweet, Cher called Trump spokesman Sean Spicer a “bitch.”
Meanwhile, some less famous progressives were getting into the act. “I will not stand idly by while a man named Donald Trump and his team attempt to thrust us back into slavery,” said Trump protester Eric Myers, according to The Washington Times.

Trump Derangement Syndrome is a real thing, and I suspect it will have counterproductive results for a party that might want to win back the White House someday (which would, presumably, require convincing at least some Trump voters to switch sides).

Here’s the problem: The more Hollywood liberals produce condescending videos, the more pretentious and preachy celebs like Madonna (or replace her with Lena Dunham or Meryl Streep… they’re basically interchangeable) lecture us at rallies and awards ceremonies, and the more protesters with signs and placards with the word “p*ssy” on them—the more I find myself liking Donald Trump.

And this is saying a lot. I’ve dedicated the last couple of years to speaking out against Trumpism. But if his adversaries are so odious as to drive me (an infamous Trump critic) into thinking maybe he is the lesser of two evils (or, at least, the less annoying!)―what do you think it is doing to working-class Americans?

Instead of appealing to middle America, progressives are using this opportunity to become more extreme and exclusive. A broad coalition of Americans concerned about the President Trump’s temperament and character might have included a diverse alliance of voices. Heck, I might well have been among them. Instead, pro-life women were disinvited from what was ostensibly a women’s parade.

The dirty little secret is that many on the left seem to believe that Trump was onto something. They believe that being nice and playing by the rules of civility and decency (where truth matters) are obsolete concepts. They believe that persuasion and bringing people together are just slogans.

So they fly their freak flag proudly and continue to alienate the working-class Americans who put Trump in the White House. It doesn’t seem like a smart political strategy.
And, as we'll be doing a lot over the next four years, the contrast to how the media cover a story about Trump to how they covered somewhat similar stories about Obama is startling.
We [the media] cover the massive crowds at a women’s march but not the massive crowds at the March for Life. We raise Cain when an obscure GOP staffer posts something unflattering about President Obama’s daughter, but we barely notice when writers and celebrities mock Trump’s 10-year-old son. Both stories get covered, but one story drives the news cycle.

Let’s take this past weekend as an example. If a liberal Democrat had been elected president and Republicans had staged a counter rally, how might that have been covered?

What if, instead of Madonna talking about blowing up the White House, it had been Ted Nugent saying that about an Obama White House? What if Scott Baio had tweeted about the Obama daughters? The coverage would have been ubiquitous and breathless.
Think of how the media covered tea party protests as if they were dens of fascism and contrast it to anti-Trump marches.

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Ilya Somin, in writing about Obama's Constitutional legacy, points out what he calls "the loaded gun Obama will leave Trump."
Perhaps the most important constitutional legacy of the Obama administration is one that does not get nearly as much attention as it deserves: by starting two wars without the constitutionally required congressional authorization, Obama established dangerous precedents that can be used by Donald Trump and other potentially unscrupulous successors. In the case of both the 2011 war against Libya and the still-ongoing war against ISIS, Obama relied on flimsy legal pretexts to to initiate wars.

To his credit, Obama has since admitted that the Libya intervention was his “worst mistake.” But he still refuses to recognize that it was unconstitutional, or that its dubious legal rationale had any connection to the sorry outcome.

In both the Libya and ISIS conflicts, the Obama administration stopped short of claiming, in the fashion of John Yoo, that the president has unlimited inherent power to start wars. But the rationales they relied on instead are not much better. In the Libya case, for example, the administration advanced the ridiculous theory that the Libya conflict was not a real war (or even a case of “armed hostilities” covered by the War Powers Act) because “U.S. operations [in Libya] do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces.” You don’t have to be a law professor like Obama to understand that launching numerous air strikes for the purpose of overthrowing a government qualifies as war, and certainly as “armed hostilities.” If it does not, all sorts of other large-scale military interventions can be justified on similar grounds. Similar problems arise from the administration’s attempts to stretch the 2001 and 2002 congressional authorizations for the use of military force to cover the conflict against ISIS. These too are holes that Donald Trump – or some other future president – could potentially drive a truck through.

Obama’s actions have, quite literally, left Trump a loaded gun he could potentially fire almost any time he wants to. Actually it’s an entire army of loaded guns, to say nothing of loaded missile launchers and aircraft carriers.
Every year I teach the War Powers Act to my students and they learn about what it says and how no president has acknowledged its constitutionality, but still complied with its provisions. Until Obama, until Obama. But that questionable constitutionality of the War Powers Act isn't why it's important for the president to get congressional approval for military action.
The constitutional requirement of congressional authorization is not just a legal technicality. It also helps protect us against initiating dubious conflicts at the behest of a single man, and increases the likelihood of success in those wars we do choose to fight.

President Obama would have done better to stick to the principle then-Senator Obama stated in 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” We may yet have occasion to lament his failure to live up to his own principles here.

The Obama Education Department basically admitted, as they were on the way out the door, that the billions that they spent on education didn't achieve their goals.
One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.
Sometimes, money just isn't the answer.

The Washington Post has done the research to find that how many new presidents were able to fulfill their campaign promises of reversing the previous president's executive orders.
We used the National Archives’ Executive Orders Disposition Tables to determine how many executive orders were explicitly “revoked” or “superseded” by each of the 12 presidents who have served since Franklin D. Roosevelt. We counted reversals within newly elected presidents’ first 30 days in office. That count was quite low. Nine presidents reversed three or fewer in that time; Obama hit the high, reversing eight previous presidents’ executive orders within 30 days.

When we checked to see how many orders were reversed within a new administration’s first 60 days, the numbers were still relatively low. Six presidents still reversed three or fewer. Gerald Ford took second place, reversing 17, while Ronald Reagan took top place, reversing 22 of his predecessors’ executive orders.

What about over their entire terms? There George W. Bush takes top place, reversing 64 executive orders. The rest reversed 52 or fewer. Their annual averages ranged widely. Bill Clinton reversed 5.5 per year; John F. Kennedy reversed 10.3. Richard Nixon, Ford and George W. Bush each averaged eight or more reversals annually.
We'll have to see how Trump rates in this list. But that such a list even exists indicates that executive orders are not the method for permanent change.

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Apparently, Chuck Schumer went back on his word to have Pompeo's nomination to the CIA to be approved on Inauguration Day. He had protested the scheduling of six nomination hearings held on the same day. He negotiated with McConnell to postpone Pompeo's hearing one day in exchange for the promise to approve him on the first day. This led to an acrimonious confrontation between Tom Cotton and Chuck Schumer.
The Senate reconvened after the inaugural ceremonies on Friday, with Pompeo's nomination set to come up at 4:50pm. Cotton angrily confronted Schumer about his broken promise. According to witnesses, Schumer told Cotton to lower his voice and asked him move off of the Senate floor to an adjacent hallway for a private discussion. "We need to take this out into the hallway," Schumer said. Cotton walked with Schumer but loudly rejected his first request. "Don't tell me to lower my voice!" he shouted, with an additional salty admonition tacked on for emphasis. Burr and Cornyn were present, as was Senator Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and several aides.

Schumer told Cotton that the Senate had never previously confirmed a CIA director on Inauguration Day and if Cotton had been around eight years earlier, he'd know that Republicans didn't extend that courtesy for incoming president Barack Obama. "Eight years ago, I was getting my ass shot at in Afghanistan," Cotton snapped. "So don't talk to me about where I was 8 years ago."

Cotton asked Schumer why he'd gone back on his word. Schumer claimed that he'd only been speaking for himself when he promised to let Pompeo through. "I said that I would not block him," Schumer said, emphasizing the personal pronoun, according to sources who witnessed the exchange. "I never said that I could speak for 47 other Democrats."
Schumer is now pretending that he doesn't speak for his entire caucus. So now the Republicans are saying they can't trust Schumer's word. I guess no one trusts anyone now in Washington.

This is an interesting story
about how two mathematicians back in the late 1950s figured out whether Madison or Hamilton had written the Federalist Papers whose authorship were disputed. They were able to apply textual analysis to figure out certain linguistic choices peculiar to each writer. And they did all this before the use of more modern computers to quickly count word frequencies. For example, Madison was more likely to use the preposition "by" than Hamilton while Hamilton was more likely to use "upon."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Cruising the Web

Well, Inauguration Day is finally here. What a surreal moment.

I happened to be flipping around last night and caught the fireworks display at the Lincoln Memorial to "Battle Hymn of the Republic." That actually looked neat. I love the Lincoln Memorial and used to live a few blocks from there. Seeing it with all the fireworks and hearing that song was rather chilling. Then seeing the Trump family there in front of Lincoln...well, again, it's just surreal. But I don't know how anyone can be there and read the Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural chiseled onto the walls and not be moved.

Seeing Lincoln's statue is a reminder that, for all the partisan division in Washington today, there was a time when the country was even more divided. Some Democratic congressmen boycotting the the Inauguration seems rather? mild compared to states that seceded because they objected to the guy who won the election. In the long run, will anyone care that a bunch of congressmen that most people haven't heard of, weren't there?

For Democrats depressed about the Republicans taking the levers of both the Legislative and Executive Branches, and perhaps the Judicial Branch, Jay Cost has some heartening thoughts. Our political system doesn't tend remain static. Partisan control will swing back and forth. Remember how just eight years ago it seemed that the Democrats would control the federal government for the foreseeable future.
Second, our system makes parties look like governing failures. The Constitution carefully distributes governing authority across multiple institutions—the presidency, two chambers of Congress, the courts, state governments. It is hard to induce these disparate entities to coordinate their efforts to deliver on the bold promises candidates make on the stump. This is a feature, not a bug, of our system, which typically requires a broad and durable consensus before big changes can be made. Candidates rarely endeavor to manage expectations when they're electioneering—and that leaves the victors on the hook when the government does not deliver what they promised on the stump. And, of course, the opposition is always eager to tell voters that only they can make the government work.

Third, exogenous shocks to our polity are common. Wars, recessions, scandals, domestic crime waves, messy foreign entanglements—history is replete with instances when events such as these totally altered the political playing field. Sometimes, events strengthen a party's governing hand, as was the case with JFK's assassination and the 9/11 attacks. But more often than not, voters blame the party in charge for the new problem. The most frequent culprit is the business cycle. Ruling parties get the blame for recessions, which tend to recur every 5 to 10 years.
Given that history would predict sinking support for the Republicans over the next few years, Cost recommends that Republicans try to take advantage of their control now because there is no guarantee it will last.
So Republicans would do well to make hay while the sun shines, for sooner or later it is going to set. Ironically, nobody furnishes a better example of how to make use of a fleeting majority than Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. Blessed with a supermajority during 2009-2010, they implemented many sweeping policy changes with impressive alacrity—as if they knew that the moment would soon pass. Indeed, it did. This one will, too. Republicans should make the most of it while it lasts.

Ramesh Ponnuru wonders Democrats really mean when they say that Trump's presidency isn't legitimate.
Are the liberals who deny Trump’s legitimacy saying that they will not treat laws signed by him or regulations promulgated by his appointees as valid? Will they stop paying taxes to the federal government that they believe he illegitimately heads? Will they ignore Supreme Court decisions whenever his appointees were decisive to the outcome? Will Representative Lewis be filing a motion to impeach Trump?

Anyone who truly believes that Trump holds his power illegitimately would at least have to consider such steps. But if anyone who is questioning his legitimacy is prepared to follow their premises to such conclusions, I haven’t heard of it.

It could be that all Lewis means is that he will not cooperate with Trump and will not defer to his wishes. But the congressman has not said that he will refrain from working with Trump even when the two men agree. And he need not call Trump “illegitimate” to refrain from working with him when they disagree; the disagreement itself is enough to justify opposition.

Or perhaps Lewis just means that he will refrain from showing Trump any respect and will look for ways to snub him. Again, though, the rhetoric seems disproportionate to the action. Why aren’t you going to the inauguration? Because Trump is an illegitimate president. And what are you going to do about the usurper in the White House? Things like not going to his inauguration.

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Mollie Hemingway lists four media stories from the past week that exemplify why so many people have lost all confidence in the media. Yesterday's NYT story slamming Rick Perry with a phony quote about how Perry didn't know that the Energy Department oversees nuclear energy is a prime example.
The New York Times ran a story by Coral Davenport and David E. Sanger that claimed, without any sourcing or substantiation, that Rick Perry thought the secretary of Energy job he was about to take was as “a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry” but then he “discovered that he would be no such thing.” The reporters claimed, again with zero evidence to substantiate their claims, that he only then learned “he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.”

These odd allegations went on and on, followed by a vague quote from an energy lobbyist who may have been around the transition for the first few days, but was apparently let go nearly a month before Perry was even named, saying that Perry cared about energy advocacy and is now focused on the challenges of the nuclear complex. To be clear, Perry was nominated on December 13, 2016. The man with the boring quote in The New York Times piece speaking to Perry’s knowledge was let go by November 18.

That this guy and his quote are the source for that incendiary lede is utterly and completely disqualifying for Davenport and Sanger.
The guy they were quoting is claiming that the newspaper didn't accurately portray what he'd said.
Ian Tuttle also explains why this whole story was unlikely.
To anyone with even a passing familiarity with the subject matter, the Times’ claim should have been an occasion for skepticism. Perry spent 14 years as the governor of Texas, and the state’s Panhandle region is home to the Pantex Plant, the United States’ “primary facility for the final assembly, dismantlement, and maintenance of nuclear weapons” (in the words of Pantex’s website). It’s overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration, an Energy Department agency. The plant was established in 1942. Rick Perry is supposed to have been completely oblivious to all of this?

In addition, it turns out that Perry had spoken about "guarding our nuclear arsenal" in the remarks he made upon being nominated. So the whole point of the story was bunk. Observing reaction on Twitter to this story was quite amusing. Liberal journalists kept retweeting the story and making fun of Perry for supposedly not knowing what his job would be at Energy while conservatives on Twitter were immediately casting doubt on the story. But the NYT is standing by their story.
“We stand by our story, which accurately reflected what multiple, high-level sources told our reporters,” a spokesperson for the Times told POLITICO.
Ian Tuttle comments,
So the Times’s explanation for its dubious reporting goes something like this: “We stand by calling Rick Perry an ignoramus based on conversations with multiple high-level sources we cannot name, and whose existence we didn’t even bother to allude to in our original reporting.”

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Glenn Reynolds has a proposal
for Republicans as they plan a tax reform package. Why not cut some tax benefits from Democratic constituencies.
It's no coincidence that much of the Democrats' base doesn't have to worry about taxes much, either because they work for nonprofits and public entities that don't pay taxes, or because they live off government benefits, or because they work in industries -- like the motion picture and recording industries -- with a long history of shady accounting and favorable tax treatment. Republicans, if they're smart, can nonetheless teach them that tax increases do, in fact, hurt.

They should head into the next budget battle with a list of proposals for tax increases that will sting Democratic constituency groups, but which will seem eminently fair to voters.

The first such proposal would be to restore the 20 percent excise tax on motion picture theater gross revenues that existed between the end of World War II and its repeal in the mid-1950s. The campaign to end the excise tax had studio executives and movie stars talking like Art Laffer, as they noted that high taxes reduced business income, hurt investment and cost jobs....

For extra fun, they could show pictures of David Geffen's yacht and John Travolta's personal Boeing 707 on the Senate floor. You want to tax fat cats? I gotcher "fat cats" right here! Repeal the Hollywood Tax Cuts!

Another valuable proposal would limit the ability of tax-exempt organizations to escape scrutiny and hoard funds. To limit foundations' role as perpetual-employment agencies for cause-oriented Lefties (and it's mostly Lefties), Congress might require them to spend at least 10 percent of their endowment each year, with no wiggle room. Why should rich people be able to go on influencing the culture, tax-free, for decades after they die? (Or, perhaps more accurately, why should foundation apparatchiks be free to pursue their own goals tax-free with other people's money?)

Limits on the charitable deduction might be worth considering: Perhaps a $50 million lifetime limit, which should surely be enough for anyone; perhaps a $1 million to $5 million annual limit. Why should fatcats like Warren Buffett be able to get millions in tax deductions that average Americans can't?
I'm not fond of the idea of designing a tax policy to target one's political opponents, but Reynolds' ideas are intriguing.

Politico has a story
about how a friendly alliance has grown up between Ted Cruz and Trump. Reportedly, The Trump team felt Cruz out about a Supreme Court nomination, but Cruz declined. I guess he wants to run for president again.

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post looks back on the biggest whoppers that Obama told us.

According to The Hill, the Trump team is planning to do what they can to cut back on the size of the federal bureaucracy.
The changes they propose are dramatic.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition.

Similar proposals have in the past won support from Republicans in the House and Senate, who believe they have an opportunity to truly tackle spending after years of warnings about the rising debt.

Many of the specific cuts were included in the 2017 budget adopted by the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), a caucus that represents a majority of House Republicans. The RSC budget plan would reduce federal spending by $8.6 trillion over the next decade.
More power to them. There will be screaming and yelling, but it's about time that the trend in the size of the federal government starts going the other way. Each one of the proposed agencies to be cut has a constituency who will scream and yell about it, but for many of them there is no need for the federal government to have that responsibility. And if, as a recent survey is anywhere near the truth, things should become more possible. Jazz Shaw links to a survey that more than a quarter of federal workers are seriously considering quitting their jobs when Trump is president.
Less than two-thirds of the federal workforce is firmly committed to staying on the job following the election of Donald Trump as president, according to a new survey.

More than one in four federal workers, or 28 percent, will definitely or possibly consider leaving their jobs after Jan. 20 when Trump is sworn into office and becomes leader of the executive branch, according to a new Government Business Council/ poll. Sixty-five percent of feds say they will not consider ending their federal service.

About half of those who will consider leaving are eligible for retirement and would do so earlier than they originally planned, while another 37 percent said they would seek another job outside of federal government. Just 1 percent said they would quit and figure out their next step at a later time, while an additional 12 percent said they were not sure what they would do. Federal employees considering leaving government have not backed off those threats now that a Trump presidency has moved beyond the theoretical; in October, 27 percent of civil servants were considering retiring or finding a new job.
And here are the reasons they are giving for their decisions.
For those who opt to leave government, their jobs could remain vacant for an extended period of time as Trump has vowed to freeze hiring across agencies immediately upon taking office. Just 15 percent of feds said they hold a positive view of that proposed policy, while 67 percent expressed a negative view. A smaller majority -- 51 percent -- said they oppose Trump's proposed requirement that federal agencies eliminate two existing rules or regulations for every new one they create, while 23 percent said they support it.
Jazz Shaw comments,
So let me get this straight. You object to Donald Trump’s plan to reduce the federal workforce, so you’re going to protest that policy by… reducing the federal workforce for him?
We'll see how many actually do leave. I'm starting the unit on the presidency and bureaucracy on Monday. One of the themes in the past has been about how difficult it is to either control or trim the bureaucracy. We'll see if Trump is another in a long line of presidents who come in claiming they'll be cutting "waste, fraud, and abuse" and go out having done little while the size of government increases.

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Chris DeMuth looks at the ways in which the Trump administration could and may well reform our administrative state.
In regulatory policy, his administration will be ambitious and results-oriented. It will focus on dramatic reductions in energy, environmental, and labor market controls; on easing permitting restrictions on transportation, pipeline, and other infrastructure projects; and on reforms to financial regulation to encourage business lending.

The Trump administration's initial regulatory steps will be executive actions, while Congress begins with tax and Obamacare legislation and perhaps Dodd-Frank reform. President Trump is likely to do some immediate things on his own, such as approving the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. These will be akin to President Reagan's instant decontrol of petroleum prices in January 1981, demonstrating his personal resolve and differences from his predecessor. He will issue a passel of new executive orders, one of them beefing up the review of agency regulations by the Office of Management and Budget under a cost-benefit standard and adding a requirement that agencies withdraw two existing rules for every new one they impose. There will be directives to the regulatory agencies to postpone the effective dates of late-term Obama administration rules, and to review these and other inherited rules with an eye toward revision or rescission.

At the agencies, the new managements will take immediate aim at the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, the Labor Department's overtime rule, and others that are legally dubious, at odds with President Trump's economic goals, or both. They will mount a concerted effort to liberalize federal permitting, environmental impact statements, and restrictions on energy exploration and development. Several Obama-era initiatives lying outside the immediate jobs-and-growth agenda will be caught in the initial sweep. One hopes these include the Education Department's rules to maintain control over K-12 schools in defiance of the 2015 Every Child Succeeds Act, and the havoc its Office for Civil Rights has wreaked through intimidating "Dear Colleague" letters to college administrators and school boards.

In these endeavors, the Trump administration will be aided by a feature of American government that conservatives have been complaining about for years—Congress's delegation of expansive lawmaking authority to executive agencies. Most of the regulatory measures President Trump has already telegraphed are well within the bounds of existing statutory authorities (some will pull back Obama administration rules that actually exceeded the statutes, such as its Clean Power Plan). Current statutes afford many further opportunities for executive actions that would profoundly improve economic performance.
Once again, cue the screaming which will be accompanied by the implication that any federal regulation instituted by the Obama administration should somehow now be a permanent part of our government. DeMuth goes on to say that there will be limits to these sorts of pull-backs of regulation that Trump can achieve. And administrators such as Scott Pruitt at the EPA will be hamstrung by a very hostile workforce there. But there is still some action that the Republicans can accomplish.
And no matter how well he masters the bureaucratic ropes, he will still be dealing with decades-old, badly outmoded statutes, such as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, which greatly limit the possibilities of constructive reform. The same is true of the energy, labor, interior, and transportation agencies and statutes.

In these circumstances, the Trump administration's regulatory relief ambitions will eventually require legislative collaboration. The Gingrich-era Congressional Review Act (CRA) may be used to dispatch a few Obama "midnight regulations" but is of little use beyond that. There is interest on Capitol Hill in enacting something like the REINS Act, which passed the House twice in recent years and again in early January—but REINS, like CRA, is designed for blocking regulatory excesses rather than empowering positive reforms. The Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which sets the framework for agency rulemaking and judicial review, is due for a major upgrade—but that will not help with the immediate priority of revising embedded regulations. Something more is needed for the task at hand.
DeMuth has some criticisms of the REINS Act and suggestions to improve it. I like the sound of all this, but it would still have to gain eight Democratic senators' votes. I don't see that happening. They're too invested in the overreach of the administrative state.

Timothy Carney examines Obama's "corporatist legacy."
Obama and Geithner's bailouts and regulations helped widen the moat that protects the big guys from competition, and helped make the big banks more or less immortal. It would be easy to call it Wall Street cronyism, but financial corporatism is more precise.

Obama's stimulus, in his second month, was a giant raft of subsidies for everyone from the concrete pourers to the computer makers to the solar-panel peddlers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed this massive spending bill.

Obamacare was another exercise in corporatism. Hammered out in the back room with the drug lobby and the hospital lobby, Obamacare directly (and perhaps deliberately) has driven consolidation among hospitals and insurers. The law includes subsidies for hospitals, mandates to buy private insurance, plus protections and subsidies for drug companies. No wonder the drug lobby celebrated the law's passage and pledged money to re-elect Democratic senators who voted for it. No wonder insurers and hospitals defended it in court.

Charles Krauthammer reflects on Obama's outrageous commutation of Chelsea Manning's sentence and how this one action will endanger future American actions abroad.
The cables were embarrassing; the military secrets were almost certainly deadly. They jeopardized the lives not just of American soldiers on two active fronts — Iraq and Afghanistan — but of locals who were, at great peril, secretly aiding and abetting us. After Manning’s documents release, the Taliban “went on a killing spree” (according to intelligence sources quoted by Fox News) of those who fit the description of individuals working with the United States.

Moreover, we will be involved in many shadowy conflicts throughout the world. Locals will have to choose between us and our enemies. Would you choose a side that is so forgiving of a leaker who betrays her country — and you?

Even the word “leaker” is misleading. Leak makes it sound like a piece of information a whistleblower gives Woodward and Bernstein to expose misdeeds in high office. This was nothing of the sort. It was the indiscriminate dumping of a mountain of national-security secrets certain to bring harm to American troops, allies, and interests.
The contrast to the outrage over the WikiLeaks release of the private conversations of Democrats is notable.
What makes this commutation so spectacularly in-your-face is its hypocrisy. Here is a president who spent weeks banging the drums over the harm inflicted by WikiLeaks with its release of stolen materials and e-mails during the election campaign. He demanded a report immediately. He imposed sanctions on Russia. He preened about the sanctity of the American political process.

Over what? What exactly was released? A campaign chairman’s private e-mails and Democratic National Committee chatter, i.e. campaign gossip, backbiting, indiscretions, and cynicism. The usual stuff, embarrassing but not dangerous. No national-security secrets, no classified material, no exposure of anyone to harm, just to ridicule and opprobrium.

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Rob Long has some funny tongue-in-cheek thoughts on how Hollywood can help America adapt to President Trump because their business if full of Trumpian characters.
President Donald J. Trump is the insane director you hired so you could get the actor you wanted, and you’re just waiting and hoping that the footage you’re seeing from the location can somehow, in editing, get stitched together into something usable. President Trump is the movie star you need to get the money for the project, but the movie star has decided to rewrite the script over the weekend, and the reports you’re getting back about the new pages are alarming. President Trump is the actor starring in your series who is going to make your life miserable for the next four years. President Trump is what you get when you put the talent in charge.

I mean, he’s probably going to be worse than that, but it’s not like he’s utterly outside of the Hollywood context. Petty, emotionally unstable behavior isn’t exactly unknown in the 818, 310, and 323 area codes. Score-settlers, braggarts, and braying egomaniacs are almost certainly within arm’s reach of you right at this minute. Look around you. If you’re a working professional in the entertainment industry and you don’t think you have a Donald J. Trump in your life, I’ve got bad news: You do, and you’re it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cruising the Web

Best of wishes to former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush who are both in the hospital. President Bush is i the ICU based on problems stemming from pneumonia. Gosh, pneumonia in a 92 year-old is truly dangerous. In the world of contemporary politics, George H.W. Bush's courtly dignity and honorable character is such a contrast. I had just been listening to Bill Kristol's conversation with Andrew Ferguson (one of my favorite writers). They talked about Ferguson's time working as a speech writer for the senior Bush. That had gotten me to thinking about Bush's presidency and how his reputation has risen, perhaps as contrasted with his successors. I certainly hope that they both recover and are sent home in good health. President Bush's note to Trump about having to miss the inauguration was a sign of the man's true class.

Oh, yuck. Barack Obama has so little self-awareness that he told the media in his press conference yesterday that they shouldn't be sycophants. Oh, now that he's leaving he's suddenly against journalists who write hagiographic coverage? Ed Morrissey writes,
File this under Advice We Could Have Used Eight Nine Ten Years Ago.
Morrissey also wonders if Obama would have made that comment if Hillary Clinton were being sworn in on Friday.

Obama said this with a straight face as journalists invited him to talk about how wonderful his legacy is framed as questions.

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Noah Rothman reminds us
of how angry Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were about the leaks that Bradley Manning made at the time. And Rothman revisits how damaging the information was especially for those who had helped us in other countries.
Some of that which was released by WikiLeaks included the revelation that the late Saudi King Abdullah urged the U.S. to strike Iranian nuclear targets and that the U.S was keeping bombers at the ready to attack al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. Cables released by Manning to WikiLeaks also revealed that Zimbabwean opposition figures were in contact with U.S. diplomatic officials, allowing Robert Mugabe’s dictatorial government to discredit them.

“China made ample use of the WikiLeaks cables to incite a witch-hunt against every academic and human rights activist named in the cables–and of course many who were not–for passing information to Washington. This applied especially to Tibetans and Muslim Uyghurs,” wrote the U.K.-based columnist Kyle Orton. As the Associated Press reported at the time, prosecutors produced an “uncontested written statement that former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden asked for and received from an associate the Afghanistan battlefield reports that WikiLeaks published.”

Manning’s far-left defenders have latched onto the contention established at trial that no one was killed as a direct result of the WikiLeaks dump, but this is a tendentious assertion. At issue is the claim that members of the Taliban killed a tribal elder terrorists alleged had been outed by Manning’s revelations, but that claim was rendered dubious because the murdered individual’s name was not on the list of U.S. informants in those documents. Because it could not be firmly established, the court sustained a defense objection and struck the matter from the record. That does not mean, as Manning’s credulous devotees insist, that this killing was unrelated to these leaks. It very likely was.

Witnesses at Manning’s trial testified in detail to the ways in which America’s mission in Afghanistan had become more difficult as a result of the leaker’s actions. They outlined the extent to which individuals who worked with Americans were forced to go into hiding as a result of Manning’s leaks. Government prosecutors brought such a strong case that they secured not only a theft and espionage conviction but the longest prison sentence ever imposed on a leaker of state secrets.
Here's a proposal for future presidents when it comes to pardons and commutations - don't do them at the last minute as you're going out the door. If you won't make them before the election because it might generate bad publicity for your party's candidate, don't make them.

William A. Jacobson
links to a Ballotpedia analysis that Donald Trump could, especially if the Senate remains in the Republicans' hands, could replace over 50% of the federal judiciary.
The analysis shows that Trump will inherit 108 vacancies, representing roughly one in every eight life-term federal judicial positions (12.41%). Not since President Bill Clinton has a president had the opportunity to fill so many vacancies in the federal courts at the start of his first term. After breaking down the data by circuit court and district court to compare percentages, the report finds that Trump has the third-highest percentage of circuit court vacancies and the second-highest percentage of district court vacancies among recent incoming administrations.

In this analysis, Ballotpedia also sought to find out what possible vacancies might occur throughout Trump's first term by examining the number of current judges who are eligible for senior status on their respective courts. Overall, in addition to the 108 current Article III vacancies that Trump will inherit, another 172 judges will be eligible to take senior status by January 20, 2017, and an additional 47 judges will be eligible in the 2017 calendar year. Counting existing vacancies and judges who could possibly take senior status, there could be as many as 438 vacancies by December 31, 2020, representing more than half (50.3%) of the 870 life-term Article III judicial positions under current law. The analysis shows that the majority of both circuit and district judges who could take senior status during the next four years were GOP nominees.
Of course, not all the judges eligible for senior status would decide to do so. But there will still be a large number of vacancies that Trump will have the opportunity to fill. And the Republicans have Harry Reid to thank for the ease with which Trump will be able to nominate those judges.

Salena Zito points
out that there is really nothing Trump could have done with his company that would have satisfied people worried about his conflicts of interest.
If he were to divest, wouldn't that create a bigger conflict?

Imagine the outcry if someone were to buy his empire. It would be seen by some as a bribe. And remember, he has real estate whose value is in the eye of the beholder. So wouldn't divestiture cause more conflicts? And cash in his pocket?

In short, how is Trump supposed to handle this in a way that does not cause conflicts? There really is no perfect answer. You cannot say, "Oh put it in a blind trust and no one in your family can have anything to do with it," because it is a family company and the last time I checked, a family company is as American as it gets....

Now this does not mean Trump has done the right things in trying to deal with the potential conflicts of interest. But there is not one answer that would be perfect.

Selling it off would not be perfect, neither is declaring that his adult children — who have devoted their entire adult careers to building this brand — should not continue their careers just because their father was elected president.

No child should have to take it in the shorts just because a parent was elected president. Remember, they did not run for president, he did.

We have never had a president with this type of private sector business. We also have never held any other president's adult children to a standard that tells them that their careers must end.
I agree that there is no optimal solution. What I'm struck by is how little coverage all this got during the campaign. He was allowed to blithely talk about leaving his children in charge and the issue just disappeared. Maybe it was swallowed up by talks of what might or might not be in his tax returns. I wonder if Trump hadn't really thought about the whole issue because he didn't think he had a chance of winning so he didn't think he needed to confront the whole question.

Betsy McCaughey demonstrates how the Obama administration is lying with statistics about how many Americans with pre-existing conditions are being covered by Obamacare. Obama claims the number is 133 million. She claims it's 500,000.
For starters, half of Americans get their insurance through an employer, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Another 34% are on Medicaid or Medicare. For all these people, pre-existing conditions are no barrier to coverage.

Pre-existing conditions mattered before ObamaCare only in the individual market, but even there few were affected. In 2010 Rep. Henry Waxman, then the Democratic chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, issued a report on the individual market. It stated that the four largest insurers— Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealth and WellPoint—declined to issue policies to about 250,000 people a year because of their medical histories. A 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office found a similar number.

The Waxman memo also explains that insurers also sometimes issued policies with “riders” to exclude certain coverage. The four big insurers refused to pay about 70,000 claims a year because of pre-existing conditions.
Many of these people, about 225,000, were covered before Obamacare by high-risk pools in 35 states.
But some states did not operate high-risk pools. Others, including California and Florida, had patients on waiting lists or capped enrollment. So in 2010 the Obama administration opened a temporary nationwide high-risk pool to serve that unmet need. Enrollment peaked at 115,000 in March 2013, Kaiser reported.

Adding together these figures indicates that around 500,000 people with pre-existing conditions would need protection once ObamaCare is repealed. That’s a minuscule fraction of Mr. Obama’s 133 million. The president’s number is from a misleading report produced by his own Department of Health and Human Services, which vastly exaggerates the health problems serious enough to result in a coverage denial. For example, the report counts 46 million people with high blood pressure. Even more deceptively, the report includes people covered by employer plans or Medicaid.

Not even ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber says that the ban on [refusing to cover] pre-existing conditions expanded the ranks of the insured. An October article for the New England Journal of Medicine, co-written by Mr. Gruber, attributes 63% of the gains in coverage under ObamaCare to the expansion of Medicaid and 37% to the subsidies for buyers with low incomes. The individual mandate, the paper states, had “no significant effect.” Pre-existing conditions aren’t even mentioned.
If the numbers aren't so vast, the solution didn't have to be as vast as tearing up our entire health insurance market and replacing it with a convoluted, government-run system that is raising costs on everyone and pricing businesses and customers out of the market. A more targeted solution could help these people and lower insurance costs for everyone else.
High-risk pools would also subdue premium increases for healthy buyers by removing the largest costs from the insurance pool. The sickest 5% of Americans account for 50% of health-care spending, according to Kaiser. The healthy can see that paying the same price for insurance as the sick is a bad deal. That’s why ObamaCare enrollment skewed older and sicker than expected, causing insurers to lose $2 billion a year. UnitedHealth, Aetna and others have fled the market or dramatically raised premiums. Funding high-risk pools for the sickest Americans—and doing it soon, as part of this month’s budget reconciliation—could avert a market collapse.

That’s what Alaska did last June. State officials acted on their own to stave off a 40% increase in ObamaCare premiums by paying for the sickest people with $55 million in taxpayer funds. It worked, keeping premium growth to single digits. Congress can do the same for the entire nation. It will mean improved coverage for people with serious illnesses and a fair deal for the healthy.

That beats scaring the nation with phony numbers and fake news about pre-existing conditions.

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David French rants about liberals who oppose school choice.
pend much time with wealthy, well-educated liberals and you’ll be astounded at the sheer amount of time they spend thinking about and agonizing over their kids’ education. In some locations they battle for admission to the best preschools. I’ve seen families send three different kids to three different schools simply because the “culture” or the “philosophy” suits each child’s unique temperament. If a child isn’t thriving socially or academically, they’ll yank them out of one school and place them elsewhere, seeking just the right fit.

I can’t imagine telling those parent they can’t do what they believe is best for their child because some study, somewhere says the chances of test score improvement aren’t great.... They’d tell you their choice isn’t just about achievement tests, or that other children’s scores aren’t relevant to their kid, or that they’re choosing the school because it’s the best social environment.

But take this same progressive parent and talk to them about school choice for poor kids, and they’ll shake their head and say, “Well, I read on Vox that peer-reviewed studies are showing minimal improvement or even some slight regression in median test scores in schools participating in voucher programs. Choice isn’t good for the poor.”

The bottom line is that moms and dads want choices for their kids. Many states and cities have the resources to provide those choices without raising taxes or straining the present school financing system. But the liberal elite says no — no to moving children who fail to thrive, no to moving children who are being bullied, no to moving kids who seek a chance at better scores, no to moving kids for the sake of the very “fit” they crave for their own children.

To be clear, though I find parental education obsessions annoying, I don’t resent another family’s decision to spend a single dime of their resources to make their own choices. What I do find ridiculous is the notion that when it comes even to revenue-neutral reforms, many of those same families will actively work to prevent the poor from enjoying even a fraction of the options the progressive elite takes for granted.

Avik Roy explains
what's wrong with the CBO's recent projection of what the repeal of Obamacare would cost. For example, it doesn't allow for there to be any replacement and it "massively overestimates the impact of Obamacare's individual mandate." And, as Roy points out, the CBO has a very bad track record on estimating the numbers covered by Obamacare.
It’s worth noting that CBO is far from omniscient. Indeed, its estimates of Obamacare’s effects have historically been more optimistic than reality. In 2010, CBO estimated that 21 million people would be enrolled in Obamacare’s exchanges; the actual number was less than 12 million.

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At Kellogg Community College students in Young Americans for Liberty were arrested for passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution because this, according to the school, violated the school's Solicitation Policy.
The students allege in their federal lawsuit that campus administrators and security approached them and told them they were violating the school’s Solicitation Policy because they were passing out the Constitutions without prior approval. They were also informed they could not engage in such activity at that particular location.

The students allege that an administrator told them that “engaging [students] in conversation on their way to educational places” violated the Solicitation Policy because it was an “obstruction to their education” to ask them questions such as “Do you like freedom and liberty?”

This administrator also, according to the lawsuit, told the YAL members that students from “rural farm areas … might not feel like they have the choice to ignore the question.”

When Gregoire, Withers and the others said they would not leave, KCC’s chief of public safety arrested them and charged them with trespassing.
And now the students are suing the college. It sounds like the college behaved stupidly and was deliberately trying to stop the students from organizing their club and speak to students about their mission to promote freedom and liberty. Was having these students arrested and thrown in jail really worth this?

Bethany Mandel
notes this Washington Post story that what the government has been advising parents for years to avoid giving small children peanuts because it might trigger dangers allergies was exactly wrong. Studies now show that exposing your child early to peanuts "might prevent them from developing an allergy." The results of the faulty federal advice have not been inconsequential.
The guidelines come at a terrifying time for new parents in terms of allergies. The number of American children with nut allergies has quadrupled in the past 13 years, and peanut allergies are now estimated to affect 2 percent of them. Most schools now ban foods with peanuts, and manufacturers are required to label major allergens. The soaring price of EpiPens, which are used to treat a severe allergic reaction and retail for up to $650 for a two-pack, has become a hot political topic.
The reversal came about out of an Israeli study.
Anthony S. Fauci, NIAID director, said in an interview that the new thinking on peanut exposure grew out of observations of Israeli children in Israel versus Israeli children in Britain. In the former, he said, parents as part of their culture often give various types of peanut preparations such as paste or nuggets in the very earliest days of a child's life. Scientists noted that the incidence of peanut allergies in Israeli children in Israel is lower than in Israeli children in Britain and wondered whether the two things could be related.

“They thought that perhaps we should try the counterintuitive approach of feeding peanuts to babies early on rather than withholding them in order to protect them,” Fauci explained.

That theory was put to a test in the much-praised Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study, a randomized trial led by Gideon Lack of King's College London involving 640 infants considered at high risk of developing peanut allergies. The results, published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that children at high risk who regularly consumed peanuts as infants had an 81 percent lower chance of developing a peanut allergy by age 5.
This is great news for parents, but why did it take the government eight years to reverse themselves? That study came out in 2008.Reading this story, I was also struck by the thought of all those leftists as well as the whole BDS movement who want to ban any Israeli scientist from being able to participate in academic conferences and to boycott Israeli universities and academics. If they had their way, this study on peanuts could not have been done. Would the world really have been better off without the results from these Israeli researchers?

These students are beyond parody.
Concerned that some of its students might suffer long-term emotional distress from prolonged proximity to Donald Trump’s inauguration, Georgetown University is offering a restorative safe space with Legos, stuffed animals, juice boxes and snacks.

The event, called “Self-Care Night,” is sponsored by GUPride, the school’s LGBT organization, and is designed to help students who spend time protesting this weekend to reconnect with their “inner children,” and de-stress.

“Join GUPride for a night of relaxation, recovery, and rest after a long week,” an email invitation sent to Georgetown’s student body states. “There will be Legos and stuffed animals and coloring books—come to embrace the inner child and hang out with people:)"
These are college students in the heart of the nation's capital at a prestigious university. And they need Legos and stuffed animals and coloring books to cope with the Trump presidency? Georgetown was founded by the Jesuits. I think of Jesuit missionaries who traveled around the world to places where natives often wanted to kill them or where they had to endure harsh conditions to survive and fulfill their self-appointed mission to convert people to Catholicism. It wouldn't have been something I advocated, but it did take guts to do what they did. And now these students are approaching the presidency of someone they dislike with coloring books! Pshaw!.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Cruising the Web

So WikiLeaks is now the good guys? It's all so confusing. So now leaking national security secrets that led to the Taliban killing people is now worth a presidential commutation? I guess that the Obama administration doesn't care so much anymore. about leaking.
The act of clemency could be seen as a reversal, at least in part, of the Obama administration’s unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaking: The administration has brought charges in about nine cases, about twice as many as under all previous presidents combined.

At the same time that Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Ms. Manning, a low-ranking enlisted soldier at the time of her leaks, he also granted a pardon to Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of the highest-ranking officials ensnared in the leak crackdown.

General Cartwright had pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with reporters when questioned by F.B.I. agents in an investigation into leaks of classified information about cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
Thomas Joscelyn linked back in 2013 to this AP report on how al-Qaeda reacted to the leaks that Manning released.
l-Qaeda leaders reveled in WikiLeaks’ publication of reams of classified U.S. documents, urging members to study them before devising ways to attack the United States, according to evidence presented by the prosecution Monday in the court-martial of an Army private who leaked the material.

“By the grace of God the enemy’s interests are today spread all over the place,” Adam Gadahn, an American member of the terrorist group, said in a 2011 al-Qaeda propaganda video. The video specifically referred to material published by WikiLeaks, according to a written description of the propaganda piece submitted at the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning. The evidence, which both sides agreed was factual, was read into record by lead prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein.

Prosecutors also submitted excerpts from the winter 2010 issue of al-Qaeda’s online magazine “Inspire,” which said “anything useful from WikiLeaks is useful for archiving.”

The government presented another uncontested written statement that former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden asked for and received from an associate the Afghanistan battlefield reports that WikiLeaks published. The material was found on digital media seized in the May 2011 raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Fein said. Bin Laden was killed in the raid.
What sort of message is Obama sending to our troops that are fighting now in the field: that leaks that endanger national security and lives of our troops and those who help us in the field are not that bad, but that leaks that make the DNC and Hillary's campaign manager are true threats to our country? I wonder what the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff thought about this. What about the CIA chief?

Jake Tapper summarized how contradictory Manning's commutation is to Obama's previous stands on the dangers of the documents that Manning leaked.
Tapper pointed out that Obama has used the Espionage Act to go after leakers a great deal more so than presidents past, and now for him to commute the sentence of “one of the most notorious leakers… certainly contradicts the last eight years of policy in terms of leaking.”

He recalled that when the WikiLeaks dump happened a few years ago, the Obama administration was “so outraged” and angry and they were worried about U.S. personnel being endangered as a result.

And then following in the pattern of Bill Clinton who pardoned 16 Puerto Rican terrorists from FALN who set off bombs that killed six Americans, Obama commuted the sentence of another Puerto Rican terrorist.
In addition, Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar López Rivera, who was part of a Puerto Rican nationalist group that carried out a string of bombings in the late 1970s and early 1980s; the other members of that group had long since been freed.
Matthew Hennessey writes in the New York Daily News about why Obama shouldn't have commuted Rivera's sentence.
During the 1970s and 80s, López Rivera's FALN placed more than 130 bombs in American cities. Their goal was to destabilize what they called the "Yanki capitalist monopoly" and achieve Puerto Rican independence. Their method was terrorism.

In 1974, the FALN began planting booby-trap bombs around New York. While most of these early explosions caused only property damage, the group's clear intention was to kill and maim. In December 1974, an NYPD officer responding to a report of a dead body in an abandoned building on 110th St. was seriously injured by an FALN incendiary device.

In January 1975, a 10-pound dynamite bomb killed four people and injured dozens at Fraunces Tavern. The powerful blast was felt blocks away. In an eerie foreshadowing of 9/11, dust-covered victims staggered through downtown streets. The FALN quickly took responsibility for the deadly deed.

When a Chicago apartment serving as the FALN's bomb-making factory was raided in November 1976, authorities learned the names of the group's leadership. López Rivera and several associates became fugitives.
There were several other attempts to kill people in the U.S. by FALN that ended up killing one young man.
When López Rivera was arrested in 1981, the FBI found six pounds of dynamite and four blasting caps in his Chicago apartment along with numerous fake IDs. He was convicted in federal court of seditious conspiracy, violation of the Hobbs Act, illegal weapons possession, and interstate transportation of stolen motor vehicles.

In 1988, his original sentence was extended 15 years after authorities disrupted an escape plot that included a plan to murder prison guards.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton offered to commute the sentences of 16 imprisoned FALN members. Most accepted, but López Rivera choked on the condition that he renounce his terrorist past. In 1998, he'd told a reporter, "The whole thing of contrition, atonement, I have problems with that."

López Rivera's supporters claim he is a political prisoner, in jail for his beliefs rather than his actions. They say there is no evidence that he personally killed anyone — which could also be plausibly said of Osama bin Laden and Al Capone.
So why is Obama commuting the sentence of an unrepentant terrorist?

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Another person whose sentence was commuted was the four-star general who is alleged to have leaked to the media the story of how the Stuxnet virus was used against Iranian nuclear facilities. Certain leaks to the press are not equal to others. The administration went hammer and tongs after the media for other leaks. As Jake Tapper said three years ago, the Obama administration used the 1917 Espionage Act to go after more whistleblowers who leaked to the media "than all previous administrations combined." The administration seized phone records for AP reporters and gone after the phone records and email exchanges of other journalists. Here is a report from 2013.
Even before the FBI conducted 550 interviews of officials and seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters in a leak investigation connected to a 2012 article about a Yemen bomb plot, agents had sought the same reporters’ sources for two other articles about terrorism.

In a separate case last year, FBI agents asked the White House, the Defense Department and intelligence agencies for phone and email logs showing exchanges with a New York Times reporter writing about computer attacks on Iran. Agents grilled officials about their contacts with him, two people familiar with the investigation said.

And agents tracing the leak of a highly classified CIA report on North Korea to a Fox News reporter pulled electronic archives showing which officials had gained access to the report and had contact with the reporter on the day of the leak.

They studied one official’s entrances and exits from the State Department, obtained his Yahoo email information and searched his hard drive for deleted files, documents unsealed this month showed.

The emerging details of these and other cases show how wide a net the Obama administration has cast in its investigations into disclosures of government secrets, querying hundreds of officials across the federal government and some of their foreign counterparts.
Do the media have any memory from just a few years ago about the administration's efforts to root out leaks and the methods they used to access the records of journalists? And now two of the most prominent leakers - Chelsea Manning and General Cartwright have their sentences commuted. Of course, this nonchalance toward certain leakers is of a part with the entire administration. Remember how they briefed the media on the supposedly secret mission to kill Osama bin Laden. And then there was their attitude toward Hillary Clinton and how her private server endangered classified information. When it was in their interest, they weren't so concerned about keeping secret information secret. And now Obama has waited until the last days of his presidency to demonstrate his real attitude.

One irritating, if inconsequential, aspect of Obama's presidency was his constant appearances on sports and entertainment events. I particularly disliked turning on to sports events or ESPN and seeing Obama - I just want a politics-free zone for sports. Alas, no. And now it seems that Trump plans to continue this annoying precedent from Obama.Ugh! Who wants to see either of them during the Super Bowl?

The Washington Examiner explains
why Trump's tweets and approach to NATO are so wrong. Trump seems to be concerned that our allies aren't paying their full share. He's right that the U.S. does carry about 70% of the cost of the alliance. But the importance of the alliance goes beyond the costs.
But what of its strategic interest? Eastern Europe is increasingly threatened by the dirigiste ambitions of Putin, who has rolled his tanks into Georgia, annexed Crimea, occupied eastern Ukraine and daily threatens Russia's "near abroad," rattling his sabre at Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

These countries' sovereignty depend on NATO, and Trump is fooling himself if he believes America could watch disinterestedly from the vastness of the western hemisphere while Russia engulfed Eastern Europe. Signaling to Putin that Washington is backing away from NATO increases rather than decreases the chances of further hostilities in Eastern Europe that would suck this country in.

NATO's central premise, that an attack on one member is an attack on all, worked from 1945 onwards to check Moscow's imperial ambitions. NATO demonstrated peace through strength, and it needs to continue to do so, for although the Soviet Union is no more, Putin is acting to reconstitute it to the extent that he can. The former KGB officer lamented the fall of the communist empire as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.
Instead of calling the alliance obsolete, Trump should be concerned about shoring up the alliance as Putin threatens the Baltic countries and works to reconstitute as much of the Soviet empire as he can.

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Ian Tuttle offers the evidence to demonstrate
how flimsy are the conflict-of-interest charges alleged against HHS nominee Tom Price. When I first heard the allegation that he'd bought shares in a biotech company, Zimmer Biomet, days before introducing a law that would have delayed the implementation of legislation that would have hurt that company's business, I thought it sounded bad, but I needed to know more details. Now we have the story. First of all, the stocks were purchased by an investment adviser who handles his portfolio without Price's input. They informed him and he filed the report that members of the House have to file.
There is no suggestion that Price’s legislation would significantly benefit Zimmer Biomet even if it passed (which it hasn’t), so there is no likelihood that the stock will accrue to Price’s benefit anytime soon. Has he really staked his congressional career on $3,000 in biotech stock? Or the $1,000 campaign contribution Zimmer Biomet gave him? And, of course, Price’s investment has been a matter of public record for eight months. Yet it’s only become a dire matter now?

Nor is the legislation itself particularly suspicious. In mid 2015, CMS proposed the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model, a new payment model for lower-extremity joint replacement procedures. In response, Price co-authored a letter with 60 other members of Congress requesting that the proposed January 1, 2016, effective date be postponed, on the grounds that “the CMS proposal represents a significant change to our healthcare delivery system which could have a negative impact on patient choice, access and quality.” That letter was delivered September 1, 2015. Consequently, implementation was delayed until April 1, 2016. The HIP Act was introduced on March 23, 2016. Predictably, the language of the bill introduced after the stock purchase closely reflects the language of the letter penned long before it, which stands to reason: Preserving “patient choice” in the face of attempts by the federal government to institute various health-care mandates has been a central plank of Price’s decade in Congress.
If you pay attention to the dates, Price was informed Morgan Stanley had bought the stock on April 4, 2016. There is no evidence that he was informed earlier. He signed on to the letter on September 1, 2015 and introduced the HIP Act on March 23, 2016, almost a week and a half before he knew about the stock purchase. That's the story, but, of course, it's not the facts that matter, just the allegation. Throw the mud out there and see if it sticks.

As Tuttle points out, there are more serious allegations of conflicts-of-interest against prominent Democrats.
Compare this to potential conflict-of-interest cases across the aisle, and it becomes clear just how flimsy is the charge against Price. In 2008, then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi purchased 5,000 shares of Visa stock at $44 a share, just as legislation targeting credit-card companies was introduced in the House. Two days later, the shares were trading at $64 apiece, a $100,000 gain. (Pelosi’s conflict of interest was so blatant, and her disavowal on CBS’s 60 Minutes so transparent, that it is commonly cited as an inspiration for the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, or STOCK, Act.) In 2010, while supervising the congressional panel overseeing the $700 billion bank bailout, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren took $90,000 to testify in a class-action lawsuit brought by retailers against several of the banks being bailed out. And, unsurprisingly, it turns out Schumer himself has profited from convenient holdings — such as the bonds he purchased from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2002 and redeemed in 2008 and 2009. All together, the bonds netted Schumer at least $46,000. (Links in original)

If the Democrats are so upset about Russian interference in our election, Nick Gillespie wonders how they have felt about the U.S. interference in other countries' elections.
There's at least one more reason why John Lewis' comments about Russian meddling or "hacking" is problematic, though this time in a good way. It should force all Americans to ask whether our nation (well, our government, which is not the same thing) similarly "participates" in foreign elections and whether that's legitimate or not. The plain fact of the matter is that the United States absolutely involves itself in elections all over the world, and on a regular basis. According to research done Carnegie-Mellon's Dov Levin, between 1946 and 2000, U.S. government actors tried to influence foreign elections at least 81 times in 45 countries. This doesn't include covert and overt military actions or even U.S.-supported coups (such as the one in Honduras abetted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009). Here's how Vocativ's Shane Dixon Kavanaugh summarizes Levin's work:
He defines an electoral intervention as "a costly act which is designed to determine the election results [in favor of] one of the two sides." According to Levin's research, that includes: peddling misinformation or propaganda; creating campaign material for preferred candidates or parties; providing or withdrawing foreign aid, and; making public announcements that threaten or favor certain candidates. Often, it also includes the U.S. covertly delivering large sums of cash, as was the case in elections in Japan, Lebanon, Italy, and other countries....
Much of this activity took place during the Cold War and Levin also documents that the Soviets did similar things, though because they had more direct control of satellite nations, they actually had less work to do. But even with the collapse of the Cold War and the start of a new century, the United States is still working to influence elections abroad (indeed, Clinton's actions in Ukraine are supposedly the cause of Putin's deep-seated hatred of her, despite the "reset" with Russia she attempted as secretary of state).
Even after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the U.S. continued its interventions abroad, including elections in Isral, former Czechoslovakia, and even Russia in 1996, Levin found. Since 2000, the U.S. has attempted to sway elections in Ukraine, Kenya, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, among others.

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So who knew? Emojis, especially the yellow smiley face, are signs of white privilege. Ask Ashley Judd. She's figured it all out.

Now we can see why Putin and Trump like each other - they sound alike. Putin came out to deny that Russians have a file on Trump's supposed scandalous behavior while in Moscow.
Trump is “a grown man, and secondly he’s someone who has been involved with beauty contests for many years and has met the most beautiful women in the world,” Putin said. “I find it hard to believe that he rushed to some hotel to meet girls of loose morals, although ours are undoubtedly the best in the world.”
Putin's bragging that Russia's prostitutes "are undoubtedly the best in the world" has to be the Trumpiest statement ever made by a non-Trump world leader. Will Trump soon tweet out that American prostitutes are better than Russian ones? It sounds like something from the Onion.

Yesterday was the 100-year anniversary of the Zimmermann Telegram and the BBC reports on how Britain came to intercept the message and used it to help bring the U.S. into WWI. It's a fascinating story.