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Friday, April 29, 2016

Cruising the Web

Well, this is some good news to start the day.
In a stunning reversal, the U.S. Army decided late Thursday to retain a decorated Green Beret it had planned to kick out after he physically confronted a local Afghan commander accused of raping a boy over the course of many days.

Sgt 1st Class Charles Martland, confirmed the Army's decision to retain him when reached by Fox News, who has been covering the story in depth for the past eight months and first broke the story of the Army's decision in August to kick out Martland over the incident, which occurred in northern Afghanistan in 2011....

As first reported by Fox News, while deployed to Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Martland and his team leader confronted a local police commander in 2011 accused of raping an Afghan boy and beating his mother. When the man laughed off the incident, they shoved him to the ground.

Martland and his team leader were later removed from the base, and eventually sent home from Afghanistan. The U.S. Army has not confirmed the specifics of Martland's separation from service citing privacy reasons, but a “memorandum of reprimand” from October 2011 obtained by Fox News makes clear that Martland was criticized by the brass for his intervention after the alleged rape. Asked for comment in September 2015, an Army spokesman reiterated, "the U.S. Army is unable to confirm the specifics of his separation due to the Privacy Act."

An Army spokesman said Thursday that Martland's status has been changed, allowing him to stay in the Army in a statement to Fox News.
I get that we have to have good relations with Afghanis , but it shouldn't include turning our eyes away from gross abuses. And we shouldn't be punishing our own forces for doing what they've been trained to do - protect civilians.

Scott McKay reviews the politicization of the Obama Justice Department. It's a long list, including outrages that I'd forgotten about.
Seven years into the Age of Obama, we’ve become used to, and in fact now expect, the application of federal law, or lack thereof, to depend on politics. Particularly when it comes to the president’s debauched Department of Justice.

Can there be any doubt about this? It began almost before the president even took office, with the decision to quash the prosecution of the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia on voter intimidation charges arising from the 2008 election, in a case that was about as open-and-shut as one could get and in fact had been won by the Bush Justice Department. Next came the decision to let the unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing case skate.

Then came a whole host of famous scandals in which the administration and its Attorney General not only refused to prosecute its allies for clear violations of federal law but to openly boast no such prosecutions would be forthcoming — Fast And Furious, the IRS persecution of conservative groups, the targeting of Fox News’ James Rosen and the AP as terror suspects, then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s attempts to essentially solicit bribes from the insurance industry in an effort to kick-start the financing of Obamacare, the Pigford scandal, the multiple cases of malfeasance involved with the General Services Administration scandal, Solyndra, the Lisa Jackson-“Richard Windsor” e-mail affair, the violation of the War Powers Act that resulted in the attacks on Libya — and the blowback in Benghazi which resulted in the deaths of American ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in government service there, the Joe Sestak buyoff affair of 2010…

That’s not a comprehensive list, and you wouldn’t expect it to be; after all, federal corruption prosecutions are at a 20-year low — down almost 40 percent since 1995. That’s an awful lot of scot-free crooks.

And we don’t even need to address the Hillary Clinton e-mail case, though it’s the humpback whale in the room. It’s reasonably clear there is a host of federal charges due the former secretary of state for her breathtaking misuse of government documents and reckless negligence in storing state secrets on an unsecured server in a Denver apartment bathroom. How certain are you that a case will be brought before Clinton stands for election in November?

But in the meantime there have been a host of prosecutorial aggressions which have been similarly obnoxious in their political nature. When the president suggested one appropriate use of political power was to “punish your enemies,” he wasn’t kidding.

Just ask Dinesh D’Souza, who had to spend eight months of sleepless nights in a San Diego halfway house populated with rapists, murderers, gang-bangers and other dangerous people, and then in almost Orwellian fashion undergo psychiatric counseling, because he committed the unpardonable crime against democracy of using straw donors to float some $20,000 to Wendy Long, a college friend in a hopeless campaign against New York Senator Kirstin Gillibrand in 2010.

D’Souza may well have deserved some punishment for what he did, which was criminal not only by the letter but more prominently in its stupidity; if he’d just called a lawyer and set up a PAC he could have directly contributed far more to Long’s campaign effort with no trouble at all. But while D’Souza has repeatedly admitted his culpability and repented of the poor judgement which put him at odds with the law, it must be said that his actions were hardly the first of their kind. He’s just the only one who ever lost his freedom for them; usually straw-donor cases, and even ones far, far larger than his, are taken care of through fines. Just ask New York hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, who funneled $180,000 worth of straw donations to Democrat candidates, including Hillary Clinton, and got off with three years’ probation and a fine.
And when Hillary takes office next year, expect this all to continue.

Why not in this day when gender and race are simple social constructs that individuals can manipulate by their own choices, should actual pregnancy be anything else? Katherine Timpf reports on a woman who believes that childless women should get maternity leave.
Foye told the Post that she was 31 years old and working as a magazine editor when she started feeling like it wasn’t fair that the people who had kids got to, like, leave early to pick up those kids and take off time to have them.

“The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe in the value of a ‘meternity’ leave — which is, to me, a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs,” Foye said.
This is the sort of logic that Meghann Foye uses to explain why she should get time off just as parents do.
It seemed that parenthood was the only path that provided a modicum of flexibility. There’s something about saying “I need to go pick up my child” as a reason to leave the office on time that has far more gravitas than, say, “My best friend just got ghosted by her OkCupid date and needs a margarita” — but both sides are valid.

And as I watched my friends take their real maternity leaves, I saw that spending three months detached from their desks made them much more sure of themselves. One friend made the decision to leave her corporate career to create her own business; another decided to switch industries. From the outside, it seemed like those few weeks of them shifting their focus to something other than their jobs gave them a whole new lens through which to see their lives.

While both men and women would benefit from a “meternity” leave after a decade or so in the workforce, the concept is one that would be especially advantageous for women. Burnout syndrome is well-documented in both sexes, but recent research suggests that women may experience it at greater rates; researchers postulate that it’s because women (moms and non-moms alike) feel overloaded by the roles they have to take on at work and at home.
Yes, why shouldn't businesses pay their employees to take time out to figure out if they want to quite their jobs? And, of course, why shouldn't women be privileged over men? And why shouldn't we equate picking up a child be the same as having a drink with a lady's gal-pals to moan about their dates? Businesses should be letting their female employees leave early all the time, because, well, because they're women, darn it. And women need special care.
Bottom line: Women are bad at putting ourselves first. But when you have a child, you learn how to self-advocate to put the needs of your family first. A well-crafted “meternity” can give you the same skills — and taking one shouldn’t disqualify you from taking maternity leave later.
Remember when the feminist movement used to argue that men and women are the same and women didn't need to be treated differently in the workplace because they could do any job a man could do? Now, we've come to a time when a woman is advocating for women to have special time-outs from work just so they can "grapple with self-doubt." Sheesh. I wish we were back to celebrating, "You've come a long way baby" instead of "I need a break from not having had a baby."

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Huma Abedin is one truly devoted Hillary aide. Newsweek profiles Abedin's role as the "body-woman" to Hillary Clinton.
“She was a very, very religious person—she didn’t smoke, drink or swear, always very polite,” recalls one Clinton friend, who, like most people who spoke to Newsweek, asked not to be named. “A lot of times, Hillary would snap her fingers and go, ‘Gum.’ And Huma would fetch it.” Abedin took her duties so seriously, the source recalled, that when she learned that Clinton had once carried her own bag up a flight of stairs in her aide’s absence, Abedin nearly burst into tears.
Awww. Who doesn't want a gofer that you can snap your fingers to fetch you gum and who will tear up at the thought of you carrying your own bag?

Abedin went from fetching gum to becoming deputy chief of staff to the Secretary of State. And she married Anthony Weiner and suffered her own Clintonian sex scandal when his vulgar sexting practices became known. Like Hillary, she stood by her man. And she still is the closest aide to Hillary Clinton and the one that others, even Bill, must go through if they want to talk to Hillary.

How appropriate that Nina Burleigh should be the one providing a generally positive profile of Huma that also scoffs at any possible criticism of Abedin. After all, Burleigh is the one who bragged about her love for Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, claiming, "I'd be happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal." She then wrote an article describing how excited she was when the President ogled her.
"The President's foot lightly, and presumably accidentally, brushed mine once under the table. His hand touched my wrist while he was dealing the cards. When I got up and shook his hand at the end of the game, his eyes wandered over to my bike-wrecked, naked legs. And slowly it dawned on me as I walked away: He found me attractive."

....

"No doubt the President's lawyers and spin doctors would say I wishfully imagined that long, appreciative look, just as all those other women have fantasized their more explicitly sexual encounters with Clinton. But we all know when we're being ogled. The weird thing was that I didn't mind. There was a time when the hormones of indignant feminism raged in my veins. An open gaze like that, at least from a man of lesser stature, would have annoyed me. But that evening, I had the opposite reaction. I felt incandescent. It was riveting to know that the President had appreciated my legs, scarred as they were. If he had asked me to continue the game of hearts back in his room at the Jasper Holiday Inn, I would have been happy to go there and see what happened. At the time, that seemed quite possible. It took several hours and a few drinks in the steaming and now somehow romantic Arkansas night to shake the intoxicated state in which I had been quite willing to let myself be ravished by the President, should he have but asked. I probably wore the mesmerized look I have seen again and again in women after they have met him. The same silly hypnotized gleam was displayed on the cover of Time magazine in Monica Lewinsky's eyes....

"And yet there I was, walking away from a close encounter with the President of the United States, stupefied and vaguely hoping that he'd send an aide over to my hotel room to ask me up for a drink. What is it in some of us, that powerful men make us pliant and willing with a mere glance?...
Ugh. Are we going to have to read more of such fangirldom when Bill is First Gentleman?

Sean Trende put together a Storify of a series of Jay Cost's tweets explaining why Trump is unfit to be president and excoriating those Republicans who are going along with Trump's candidacy. There's not a word I'd disagree with. Cost links to this essay by Jamelle Bouie warning us that we should never get used to the idea of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. Bouie goes through other candidates and presidents who didn't have elected experience or much of a resume to be president. There have been others who were "vapid and ill-informed" or who were outsiders. Others have been racists, nativists, or used violent rhetoric.
No, what makes Donald Trump something new in American political life is that he’s all of these things at once: a racist, nativist demagogue with few ties to government, no experience in public office, no service in the armed forces, and little to no knowledge of anything involving governance, from policy to basic questions like, “What is the Supreme Court, and what does it do?” If you conjured all the ignorance and arrogance in America and gave it human form, you would have Donald Trump, give or take a spray tan.

Campbell Brown writes in Politico
about how TV journalists paved the way for Donald Trump. Coming from her own experiences at NBC and CNN, she understands how ratings will drive coverage, but how they plumbed new depths in turning television news coverage over to Trump.
I really would like to blame Trump. But everything he is doing is with TV news’ full acquiescence. Trump doesn’t force the networks to show his rallies live rather than do real reporting. Nor does he force anyone to accept his phone calls rather than demand that he do a face-to-face interview that would be a greater risk for him. TV news has largely given Trump editorial control. It is driven by a hunger for ratings—and the people who run the networks and the news channels are only too happy to make that Faustian bargain. Which is why you’ll see endless variations of this banner, one I saw all three cable networks put up in a single day: “Breaking news: Trump speaks for first time since Wisconsin loss.” In all these scenes, the TV reporter just stands there, off camera, essentially useless. The order doesn’t need to be stated. It’s understood in the newsroom: Air the Trump rallies live and uninterrupted. He may say something crazy; he often does, and it’s always great television.
Basically, she alleges, and I agree, that TV news sold their souls over to Trump just for the ratings.
We all know how it started. Early on, even before he was the front-runner, TV news was giving Trump far more attention than other candidates and far more than he deserved. The coverage itself has helped create him, and has exposed those systemic weaknesses in television journalism. Based on data from the Internet Archive’s TV News Archive and analysis by Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen and analytics expert Luke Thompson, Trump gets about six appearances on the major networks for roughly every one his rivals Ted Cruz or John Kasich get. In fact, Trump’s exposure has been three times greater than that of Cruz and Kasich combined. He received 50 percent of the exposure when there were more than a dozen candidates—a percentage that has only grown. Of course, by now, you’ve all also read the figure of close to $2 billion worth of free media the New York Times cited for Trump’s TV bonanza. And that story was back in March. No campaign’s advertising budget can compete.

....It is not just the wall-to-wall coverage of Trump. It’s the openness with which some are reveling in his attention. It’s the effort, conscious or not, to domesticate and pretty him up, to make him appear less offensive than he really is, and to practice a false objectivity or equivalence in the coverage. Here, journalism across all platforms—corporate, as well as publicly funded—is guilty....

It need not be this way. As Trump finally seemed to close in on the nomination this spring, we saw MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and conservative radio host Charlie Sykes really challenge him rather than allow themselves to be props in his act—something Fox News’ Megyn Kelly had been doing for a while, in spite of Trump’s obsessive attacks. The Washington Post editorial board and two New York Times reporters, Maggie Haberman and David Sanger, have used their time with Trump to probe his knowledge of the issues—and expose his ignorance of even basic matters.

They have shown other journalists how, if they don’t cover Trump less, they can at least cover him better. The greatest contribution TV (or any other) journalists can make going forward is to abandon the laziness that too often comes with just playing referee. Use your knowledge and experience to give context; call a misrepresentation just that; and embrace the difference between objective truth and relative truth. You know what it is. Share it. In this campaign, it has never been so important.
Yeah, they'll get right on that...as soon as Trump wraps up the nomination and they need to protect Hillary.

The IRS is indeed omniscient and omnipotent. It thinks it can predict the future of cultural tastes and spending and tax accordingly. The WSJ looks at the question of how the IRS values the estates of dead singers, artists, and writers to tax the worth of their names.
After the doves cry, there’s IRS Form 706.

Estate-tax attorneys for Prince, who died last week, must attempt to put a precise financial value on his name, image and likeness.

That Prince-ness could make him one of America’s top-earning deceased celebrities, and it may be one of his estate’s largest assets—subject to a 40% federal tax.

Prince glyph
Prince glyph
The Internal Revenue Service is used to putting price tags on tradeable assets and is well-trained in taking existing revenue streams and capitalizing them into a value. It is much trickier to divine the worth of a unique niche business—marketing Prince’s legacy—that doesn’t really exist yet.

There is no real precedent for Prince. The closest thing is the Michael Jackson estate-tax battle, headed for trial in the U.S. Tax Court in February.

Mr. Jackson’s estate initially said his image and likeness were worth $2,105 when he died in 2009, near the nadir of a career dragged down by scandal. The IRS, however, said the King of Pop’s posthumous image was worth $434 million.

Mr. Jackson’s total estate, according to court records, tops $1 billion under the original IRS estimate, while the estate first said it was just $7 million. The two sides have resolved some valuation disputes, but the name-and-likeness fight is what the estate-tax bar is following closely.

“This could be very ground-breaking,” said Jonathan Blattmachr, a retired estate-tax lawyer from Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP. A victory for the IRS, he said, could spur celebrities to alter how their estate plans handle their image rights.

Beyond hundreds of millions of dollars for the U.S. government, Mr. Jackson’s case also has tax-planning consequences for any actor, musician, politician or athlete famous enough to earn beyond the grave.

The dilemma has been tripping up celebrity estates since at least 1994, when a federal court decided a dispute involving V.C. Andrews, author of the novel “Flowers in the Attic.” The IRS said Ms. Andrews’s name was worth $1.2 million.

That was based in part on her publisher’s ability to produce ghostwritten books after her 1986 death, discounted for the risk that the ghostwriter would flub the task. The court, looking at what a buyer could have known before the ghostwritten books were successful, set the value at $703,500.

Still, there are virtually no rules for the IRS or taxpayers to follow, said Mr. Blattmachr. He has suggested exempting the value of names and likenesses from the estate tax but taxing future earnings as ordinary income, not capital gains.

“Michael Jackson will be different from Prince who will be different from Madonna,” Mr. Blattmachr said. “It’s horribly speculative as to what the value is.”
That makes so much sense that the IRS, of course, opposes it. They, apparently, know better. As always.

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I always liked Senator Tom Coburn and was sorry that he retired from the Senate. Now he's back speaking truth to power.
Tom Coburn, the former senator currently leading a movement for a Convention of States, unloaded on Congress during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Wednesday.

“America doesn’t trust you anymore. That’s the truth,” Coburn said, appearing alongside the head of the Government Accountability Office during the hearing to discuss duplicative federal programs.

The GAO recently released its annual report, finding the federal government could save hundreds of billions of dollars just by consolidating duplicative programs.

Coburn, making his first appearance before the Senate since his farewell speech when retired in late 2014, pleaded with Congress to take action to reform government, simplify the tax code, and save taxpayers billions of dollars in the process.
And then he went all de Tocqueville on them.
He pointed to Alexis de Tocqueville, quoting at length the French political philosopher’s Democracy in America, to explain the current upheaval in American politics and the presidential race.

“Some of you may have read it, some of you may not have, but it tells me where we are today in our country,” Coburn said. “And having been in 21 states the last year, and 15 already this year, and what I’m hearing, I’m hearing what Tocqueville described back in the late 1700s.”

Coburn cited Tocqueville observations that centralized power of “small, complicated rules, minute and uniform” leads to the “will of man … not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided.”

“Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd,” Coburn said, quoting Tocqueville.
I love it. Imagine if we had a Congress filled with Tom Coburns.

Ross Douthat contemplates Trump's success to explain why voters in the primaries who are usually the activists in a party who should be more focused on choosing a candidate who matches their ideology while also being the most electable person. That is why, in past elections, GOP primary voters might have flirted with some candidates like a Herman Cain or Mike Huckabee, but eventually rejected them in favor of a Mitt Romney or John McCain.
Until Donald Trump blew this model up. Yes, Trump has adopted conservative positions on various issues, but he’s done so in a transparently cynical fashion, constantly signaling that he doesn’t really believe in or understand the stance that he’s taking, constantly suggesting a willingness to bargain any principle away. Except for immigration hawks, practically every ideological faction in the party regards Trump with mistrust, disgust, suspicion, fear. Pro-lifers, foreign-policy hawks, the Club for Growth, libertarians — nobody thinks Trump is really on their side. And yet he’s winning anyway.

Or at least he’s winning a plurality. So perhaps Trumpism can be understood as a coup by the G.O.P.’s ideologically flexible minority against the conservative movement’s litmus tests; indeed to some extent that’s clearly what’s been happening.

But you would have expected such a coup to be carried out in the name of electability, and Trump doesn’t clear that threshold either. Instead his general-election numbers and favorability ratings are so flagrantly terrible that he’d probably put a raft of red states in play. In other word, he’s untrustworthy and unelectable — a combination that you’d normally expect engaged partisans to consider and reject. And yet he’s winning anyway.
Of course, Trumpkins seem to be under the delusion that, contrary to all the polls, Trump can survive his record unfavorable ratings to defeat Hillary who suffers herself from extreme unfavorable ratings.
The reason for this delusion might be the key unresolved question of Trump’s strange ascent. Is it the fruit of Trump’s unparalleled media domination — does he seem more electable than all his rivals because he’s always on TV? Is it a case of his victor’s image carrying all before it — if you win enough primary contests, even with 35 percent of the vote, people assume that your winning streak can be extended into November? Is this just how a personality cult rooted in identity politics works — people believe in the Great Leader’s capacity to crush their tribe’s enemies and disregard all contrary evidence?
Sounds like what we're witnessing now.

The Daily Wire lists five signs that Trump is a member of the establishment from just the past 24 hours. Are all those voters who are so angry with the GOP leadership in Congress happy to see John Boehner talking about his friendship with Trump? Do they enjoy seeing Trump praise Mitch McConnell. Are they happy that John Cornin, Bob Corker, and CBS are saying good things about Trump? Or are Trump's supporters totally indifferent when Trump demonstrates again and again that he doesn't hold the positions or represent the traits that they originally liked about him?

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Debra Saunders has some advice for young people dreaming about Bernie Sanders' promises of free college tuition. However, it is all the government aid to guarantee loans that have driven up the costs of college.
Who's going to pay for all this? Everyone. Richard Vedder of Ohio University's Center for College Affordability and Productivity co-wrote a pamphlet for The Heartland Institute on higher education reform in 2011, which explored how federal grants and student loans have driven up the cost of college. His report showed the cost of a four-year degree had more than doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1975. College graduates aren't more literate; they have a lower level of reading comprehension than those who graduated a decade earlier. Also, many grads are underemployed. According to federal statistics, 13 percent of American parking lot attendants and 14 percent of hotel clerks have a bachelor's degree or better....

Then there's the big question: "Where are the taxpayers getting the money?" Vedder asked. It's not unfair if college graduates are saddled with student loan debt, because their incomes should be higher than those of adults who didn't go to college.
But the real burden will be on taxpayers in general, many of whom didn't get to go to college themselves. But they'll be paying to fund these loan guarantees.

I never thought much of Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter, but she did exactly the right thing in publishing an open letter to Will Ferrell chastising him for making a comedy about her father and portraying his Alzheimer's for laughs as if he had suffered from dementia while president.
“Alzheimer’s doesn’t care if you are President of the United States or a dockworker. It steals what is most precious to a human being — memories, connections, the familiar landmarks of a lifetime that we all come to rely on to hold our place secure in this world and keep us linked to those we have come to know and love,” she continued. “I watched as fear invaded my father’s eyes — this man who was never afraid of anything. I heard his voice tremble as he stood in the living room and said, ‘I don’t know where I am.’ I watched helplessly as he reached for memories, for words, that were suddenly out of reach and moving farther away. For ten long years he drifted — past the memories that marked his life, past all that was familiar…and mercifully, finally past the fear. There was laughter in those years, but there was never humor.”

Reagan biographers have long debunked the notion that the former president suffered from dementia while in office. However the fictional film “Reagan,” written by Mike Rosolio, takes place during Reagan’s second term, in which an intern must convince the ailing president that he is an actor playing the U.S. president in a movie.

“Alzheimer’s is the ultimate pirate, pillaging a person’s life and leaving an empty landscape behind,” Ms. Davis, 63, wrote. “It sweeps up entire families, forcing everyone to claw their way through overwhelming grief, confusion, helplessness, and anger. Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have — I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either."


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Jonathan Last reminds us
of how the Donald Trump who has been whining and lying about the rigged GOP delegate system, has rigged the system to succeed in business in ways that no average businessman could do.
Let's begin with his bankruptcies. Trump has filed for corporate bankruptcy four times, in 1991, 1992, 2004, and 2009. In a piece revealing how Trump's companies always seem to go broke while Trump the man seems to stay rich, Forbes magazine explained that following his first bankruptcy, where Trump personally lost $900 million, Trump quit backstopping his corporate debts with personal guarantees. His companies might engage in financially risky behavior, but Trump, personally, would never again suffer any consequences. Anyone to whom Trump owed money would get pennies on the dollar, but Trump himself never again lost a single one of his gold-plated toilets.

Needless to say, this is not the experience of most business owners in America. If you own a sandwich shop, or a law practice, your personal wealth is tied closely to the health of your business. You are probably incorporated, so that if your company fails your personal assets are protected—but you do not have access to large pools of capital without providing some security. If your business has to file for bankruptcy once, getting capital again will be difficult. Go bankrupt twice and it will be that much harder, if not impossible, to find vendors and banks willing to do business with you.

The number of business owners in America who could go bankrupt four times and somehow still find banks and vendors willing to work with them is vanishingly small. A man who could accomplish this feat is rigging the system, which Trump forthrightly admitted to Forbes in 2011, saying, "Basically I've used the laws of the country to my advantage."

Next, let's look at Trump's political dealings. Trump has a long history of giving money to Democratic politicians. He has given money not just to Hillary Clinton and other local Democratic pols in New York, who are his friends and neighbors, but to Democrats across the country, including Harry Reid, Terry McAuliffe, Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle, and Rahm Emanuel.

Early in the primaries Trump was attacked for these donations, with his rivals suggesting that they prove Trump is neither a conservative nor a Republican. Trump's defense was that these donations had nothing to do with his political beliefs—he was merely greasing the skids for his business dealings. In 2011, Trump adviser Michael Cohen explained the donations to CNN: "It's irrelevant as to whether or not it's Republican or Democrat. .  .  . There are many business deals he does that that requires."

Trump himself said that same thing to Jake Tapper last June: "I give money to everybody. .  .  . For instance, I've helped Nancy Pelosi, I've helped [Harry] Reid. .  .  . I was in business. I built a great company. They always treated me nicely."

Solyndra was treated "nicely" by Washington, too. Again: Trump's political experience is—by his own admission—one in which he rigged the system by purchasing political influence in order to gain advantage for his business dealings.

Is this sort of thing illegal? Not exactly. But it means Trump himself is one of the people responsible for turning our politics into a crooked enterprise.
Once again, I marvel that those voters who are so upset at corrupt politics are supporting a guy who has bragged about how he has corrupted politics. And, despite all Trump's numerous failures in business, he'll insist we should ignore that and then launch into criticisms of Carly Fiorina's spotty record at HP.

Charles Krauthammer notes the similarities of Trump's approach to foreign policy to both that of President Obama and Bernie Sanders. They're all in favor of "America First."
As did its major theme, announced right at the top: America First. Classically populist and invariably popular, it is nonetheless quite fraught. On the one hand, it can be meaningless — isn’t every president trying to advance American interests? Surely Truman didn’t enter the Korean War for the sake of Koreans, but from the conviction that intervention was essential for American security.

On the other hand, America First does have a history. In 1940, when Britain was fighting for its life and Churchill was begging for U.S. help, it was the name of the group most virulently opposed to U.S. intervention. It disbanded — totally discredited — four days after Pearl Harbor.

The irony is that while President Obama would never use the term, it is the underlying theme of his foreign policy — which Trump constantly denounces as a series of disasters. Obama, like Trump, is animated by the view that we are overextended and overinvested abroad. “The nation that I’m most interested in building is our own,” declared Obama in his December 2009 West Point address on Afghanistan.

This is also the theme of Bernie Sanders. No great surprise. Left and right isolationism have found common cause since the 1930s. Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas often shared the platform with Charles Lindbergh at America First rallies.

Both the left and right have a long history of advocating American retreat and retrenchment. The difference is that liberals want to come home because they think we are not good enough for the world. Conservatives want to wash their hands of the world because they think the world is not good enough for us.
While Obama travels around the world apologizing for past American actions, Trump argues that we shouldn't be wasting our money on these unworthy countries that don't pay their own fair share. That would be one argument, but Trump doesn't stop there. He also guarantees us that he will end ISIS and work to bring peace in the Middle East.
After all, he pledged to bring stability to the Middle East. How do you do that without presence, risk and expenditures (financial and military)? He attacked Obama for letting Iran become a “great power.” But doesn’t resisting that automatically imply engagement?

More incoherent still is Trump’s insistence on being unpredictable. An asset perhaps in real estate deals, but in a Hobbesian world American allies rely on American consistency, often as a matter of life or death. Yet Trump excoriated the Obama-Clinton foreign policy for losing the trust of our allies precisely because of its capriciousness. The tilt toward Iran. The red line in Syria. Canceling the Eastern European missile defense. Abandoning Hosni Mubarak.

Trump’s scripted, telepromptered speech was intended to finally clarify his foreign policy. It produced instead a jumble. The basic principle seems to be this: Continue the inexorable Obama-Clinton retreat, though for reasons of national self-interest, rather than of national self-doubt. And except when, with studied inconsistency, he decides otherwise.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cruising the Web

Well, if Ted Cruz thought that naming Carly Fiorina would serve to change the conversation from Trump's domination on Tuesday, he clearly miscalculated. The response that I saw on the web and TV was to quickly term this a move of desperation that won't do much to move the needle. I'm not sure that that was the change of conversation that Cruz was hoping for. And those analysts are right. It was a move of desperation and I can't see it making much of a difference. Fiorina is a better advocate and more compelling speaker than Cruz is, but I suspect that those people susceptible to what she's saying were already voting #NotTrump. She'll be attacked as an incompetent leader at HP who has never been successful at running anything, and will be connected to outsourcing jobs, an attack that the Trump campaign is already lodging.

I liked Fiorina during the debates, but I still didn't support her candidacy. My first thought when I read a couple of weeks ago that Cruz was vetting her for his running mate was that would unite on a ticket two of the candidates whom I'd been least supportive of back when this all started. And the main reason I'd not supported them was that I thought that neither had a real chance of winning in a general election. I'm afraid that we are seeing that is true.

But hey, sometimes Hail Mary passes work. So if this does, I'll be fully on the Cruz-Carly bandwagon.

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Isn't this just typical of Hollywood? Now they're planning a comedy film starring Will Ferrell as President Ronald Reagan suffering from dementia. My mother died of Alzheimer's. It is one of the cruelest diseases, depriving the victim and the victim's loved ones of everything. It is heartbreaking and should never be the subject of comedy. Yet Hollywood is all set for those yuks.
Having already famously portrayed former President George W. Bush in various comedy sketches, Will Ferrell is now setting his sights on another former commander in chief.

Sources tell Variety Ferrell is attached to star as President Ronald Reagan in the Black List script “Reagan.”

Penned by Mike Rosolio, the story begins at the start of the ex-president’s second term when he falls into dementia and an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander in chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.

The script was so popular following its announcement on the Black List, an annual catalog of the top unproduced scripts in Hollywood, that a live read was done recently done in March starring Lena Dunham and John Cho.
Well, of course. If Lena Dunham was involved in the live read, it must be hilarious, right?

There is something so very heartless in the thought of mining Alzheimer's for comedy gold. Pile on top of that the added joys of ridiculing Ronald Reagan and Hollywood A-Listers must be thrilled with the idea. I only hope that the rest of the country is so turned off by how distasteful this concept is that the movie is a huge flop.

So my first reaction when I saw the story that Bernie Sanders is going to lay off hundreds of staffers was "Whoa, who knew that he had hundreds of staffers?"

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Charles Lane laments that both parties seem poised to nominate candidates who won't do anything to reform the doom we're facing from growing mandatory entitlement spending. He lays out what a crisis we're facing.
Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute has come up with an “Index of Fiscal Democracy” to express this vast, automatic commitment of resources, and the preemption of actual political choice it represents. The higher the index, the more possibilities we have for actually governing ourselves.

At present, the index stands at 19.7, which is the percentage of federal receipts left over after mandatory spending and interest, according to data compiled by Steuerle’s collaborator Caleb Quakenbush.

By 2026, however, the index will sink to 1.7, absent reforms. That’s the sliver of money we’ll have to pay for research, natural disasters, defense and everything else. By contrast, in 1962, the index stood at 65.3; in 2007, 34.3.
I was just covering this subject in my AP Government classes and the kids were so dismayed as they came to understand what they would be facing when they are in their earning years. I pointed out that no matter what their political leanings, there are certain categories of discretionary spending that they want from the federal government and that there just wouldn't be any money left for whatever spending they liked whether it was disaster relief, grants for medical research, defense and homeland security spending, paying air traffic controllers, assistance for college spending, or whatever they valued. And they asked plaintively what could be done. And my answer was to ask the hard questions of the people they voted for about how those candidates would address entitlement reform to bring down growing mandatory spending and then vote exclusively on those answers. I know that that will never happen. Young people just don't think along those lines and they have no history of voting on those issues in contrast to older voters who will vote in large numbers solely on the basis of preserving entitlement spending.

Well, as Charles Lane points out, neither Trump nor Hillary will do anything to address mandatory spending.
Republican Donald Trump has long believed it was political suicide for Republicans to advocate “cuts” to Social Security and has campaigned accordingly. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ran on “telling it like it is” about entitlements and laid out a plan including a higher retirement age. He was last seen grinning obediently at Tuesday night’s victory party for The Donald, whom the defeated Christie has endorsed.

Democrat Hillary Clinton has pledged not only to oppose reductions in Social Security benefits and cost-of-living adjustments but also to expand benefits for widows, paid for by higher taxes on high-earners.
Hillary fully supported Obamacare and vows to preserve it. She just wants to make the problem worse.

Annie Lowrey writes in the NYT
to ask "Where did the government jobs go?"
That’s the way it is across much of Louisiana. The state has added 80,000 new jobs since the Great Recession officially ended in 2009. But at the same time, jobs have been shrinking at every level of government, with local offices losing 10,600 workers, the state government 31,900 and the federal government 1,600. Louisiana is an exaggerated case, but the pattern persists when you look at the country as a whole. Since the recession hit, private employers have added five million jobs and the government has lost 323,000. The country has recovered from the recession. But public employment has not.

The public sector has long been home to the sorts of jobs that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. These are jobs that have predictable hours, stable pay and protection from arbitrary layoffs, particularly for those without college or graduate degrees. They’re also more likely to be unionized; less than 7 percent of private-sector workers are represented by a union, while more than a third of those in the public sector are. In other words, they look like the blue-collar jobs our middle class was built on during the postwar years.

The public sector’s slow decimation is one of the unheralded reasons that the middle class has shrunk as the ranks of the poor and the rich have swollen in the post-recession years. This is certainly true in Louisiana, where five of the 10 biggest employers are public institutions, or health centers that in no small part rely on public funds. In Rapides Parish, which includes Pineville, the biggest employer is the school district.

Across the country, when public-sector workers lose their jobs, the burden disproportionately falls on black workers, and particularly women...
Because that is what the government should be - a jobs program.

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While Donald Trump certainly had a triumph on Tuesday, there are still some dismal indications from those results.
TURNOUT. Yes, Trump won big on Tuesday. But he did so with a relatively small GOP turnout. In the six northeastern states that voted during the last eight days, the Republicans who bothered to cast ballots averaged only 9.9 percent of the voting-eligible population, according to data cited by FiveThirtyEight. By contrast, in the New Hampshire primary Republican turnout was 27.8 percent of the voting-eligible. In Wisconsin the comparable number was 25.6.

Why the drop? One theory: Lots of anti-Trump Republicans are discouraged and not bothering to go to the polls.

“The #NeverTrump voters might not be voting for Trump, but they might be staying at home,” writes FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver.

DIVISION. It’s just one state, but Pennsylvania produced an exit poll result that “might give GOP consultants the night sweats,” according to NBC.

Sixty-nine percent of Democrats said that the competitive primary on their side was “energizing” their party, according to NBC data. Republicans did not make a similar judgment. Fifty-eight percent of GOP voters said the primary process was “dividing” their side....

We’ve been very wrong about Donald Trump’s electoral prospects in the past. When he jumped into the presidential race, he had high unfavorable ratings – but that did not turn out to be a barrier, given how close he’s come to the nomination. It’s possible that once (if) he’s actually the nominee, the party will rally around him. Parties generally do.

It’s also possible that his takeover of the GOP is a hostile one, and that many of the captives are sullen and uneager to work for his election in the fall. Right now that seems the more likely scenario.

What struck me most in Trump's foreign policy speech was that, using a teleprompter, he used the phrase "America First." I have to assume that he used that phrase on purpose and not just because it relates well to his "Make America Great" slogan. But what does it say that he would evoke the arguments of those who resisted involvement in World War Two? I suppose it makes sense in some way. I can well imagine that Trump would have been aligned with those like Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford who opposed any involvement in Europe's bloody war and wouldn't have been bothered at all about the elements of anti-Semtism in that movement. This is a man who refused to disavow David Duke and the KKK's support for his candidacy. Why would any of that bother him? So why not borrow their slogan?

Heather Wilhelm discusses the contradictory platitudes in Trump's foreign policy speech yesterday.
He called for a consistent and “reliable” United States that would also be “unpredictable.” He envisioned a “peacemaker” state that would avoid excessive intervention abroad, yet still find a way to save Middle Eastern Christians—and, as a simple side project, save “humanity itself.” Under Trump, we were told, America will easily destroy ISIS (exactly how is a secret, so don’t ask) and magically reverse the giant sucking sound of NAFTA, repopulating our states with solid 1950s manufacturing jobs, half of which don’t even exist anymore.

Sen. Jeff Sessions found the speech “electrifying.” Newt Gingrich called it “a serious foreign policy speech” “worth reading and thinking about.” Radio host Laura Ingraham labeled it “one of the most consequential foreign policy speeches since 1981.” Media gadfly Ann Coulter, not to be outdone, called it the “GREATEST FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH SINCE WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL ADDRESS,” because she’s not crazy at all.
She then goes on to examine the upside of this weird election year.
We can all feel better about ourselves. Many Americans enjoy watching reality TV because the characters tend to be slightly insane people with an amazing lack of self-awareness. Well, cheer up, America: Watching the presidential debates will be just like that! They will run scant on policy, of course: Donald will accuse Hillary of being a shady potential felon with ill health, rightly pointing out that if she weren’t a woman she’d be lucky to get 5 percent of the vote; Hillary will accuse The Donald of being a woman-hater and charlatan and a sociopathic monster, and mudslinging and havoc will rule the day. “Hey,” you might say to yourself, munching on popcorn. “I’m not that bad. Maybe I could run for president some day!” National catharsis, plus ratings gold!

We’ll see how far the national train of logic goes. Hillary Clinton has an easy answer to pretty much any attack Donald Trump can throw her way: “Why did you donate to me then, Donald?” Trump fans seem to believe “Because you can be bought, Crooked Hillary!” serves as an adequate answer, ignoring the fact that this logically entraps Trump into the Clinton web of unprincipled establishment corruption. Will anyone make the link, or even care? We’ll see how that one plays, along with Hillary’s second obvious comeback to any attack: “Donald, I can’t be that bad. Didn’t you pay to have me at your wedding?”
And this point speaks to me.
Limited government types might finally realize that they’re the weirdos, not everyone else. For years, fans of limited government—I include myself here, by the way—have soldiered on, complaining incessantly about the GOP, all while secretly believing that almost everyone else agrees with them, at least deep down, on things like tax cuts and abolishing the Department of Education and occasionally reading F.A. Hayek. Well, if this election doesn’t cure that illusion, nothing will.
As I move through the stages of political grief, I'm still bouncing around somewhere among anger, bargaining, and depression. I am thinking that when I reach acceptance, I'll just have to spend more time enjoying sports and other entertainment and try not to care about the fate of the country. But it's hard, dang hard.




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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cruising the Web

The headline should be: Donald Trump continues to win in states where Hillary will romp to victory in the Fall.

Politico reports that Donald Trump does not approve of the tactics his new campaign aide, Paul Manafort, has been taking to try and make Trump seem more presidential.
Trump became upset late last week when he learned from media reports that Manafort privately told Republican leaders that the billionaire reality TV star was “projecting an image” for voters and would begin toning down his rhetoric, according to the sources. They said that Trump also expressed concern about Manafort bringing several former lobbying colleagues into the campaign, as first reported by POLITICO.

Now Trump is taking steps to return some authority to Manafort’s chief internal rival, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Neither Lewandowski nor Manafort responded to requests for comment, though Manafort on Sunday during an interview on Fox News blamed Lewandowski’s regime for shortcomings in the campaign’s delegate wrangling operation. Lewandowski’s allies responded by privately questioning whether Manafort has done anything to improve the situation. They grumble that Manafort has spent a disproportionate amount of time on television — just as Trump himself has been avoiding the Sunday morning talk show circuit at Manafort’s urging.

“I think it pisses him off that he was getting free television by going on the shows and now Paul Manafort is out there resurrecting his career,” said one campaign operative. Citing Manafort’s advocacy within the campaign for an expensive advertising push in upcoming states, the operative said Trump is “saying I can get on every show I want for free and you're telling me not to do that and that I should pay for my advertising? That doesn't pass the smell test to me.”
It is quite clear that both Manafort and Lewandowski are leaking to blame the other and position themselves as the one whom Trump really likes.

So it seems that Trump hired Manafort without discussing with him what approach Manafort would be adopting to accomplish the task for which he was being hired. I wonder if Manafort is urging for more of an advertising campaign because, as a consultant, he would get a cut of such advertising. And, in addition, to not ascertaining what the guy he was bringing aboard was going to actually do, it seems that Trump didn't bother to find out what the guy's background is.
Then, later in the week, Trump expressed concern after learning about Manafort’s moves to bolster the campaign by bringing on associates from his lobbying days, as well as his pitch to leery Republican Party leaders.

In leaked audio from a presentation to the Republican National Committee, Manafort suggested that Trump’s bombastic campaign trail rhetoric was just “projecting an image” to win over voters. “The image is going to change,” Manafort said on the recording.

Around the same time, POLITICO revealed that Manafort brought in a handful of operatives who had ties to his lobbying firm, which had developed a niche representing a roster of controversial international clients who have been collectively described as “the torturers’ lobby.”

In particular, multiple sources said Trump was bothered by news stories about Manafort’s representation of Saudi Arabia and for a group accused of being a front for Pakistani intelligence.

“I don’t think he was aware of the extent of the work that Paul has done in foreign countries that have not always been friendly to the United States,” said a Washington operative with close relationships to the campaign.
Didn't he ask for this guy's resume or at least have someone google Manafort's recent political activity? Did Trump know anything more about Manafort than that the guy lives in Trump Tower and that they run into each other in the elevator?
Friends say Manafort hasn’t lived full time in the Washington area for years. He resides, at least part of the time, in Trump Tower in Manhattan, where he has an apartment. He and Trump have met over the years in the lobby and elevators.
Trump keeps telling us that he will be successful because he will be hiring the very best people, but time and again we see that he doesn't seem capable of doing so.

Does this surprise anyone?
And one of the leading figures in Wall Street’s scavenging of the wreckage created by Wall Street is also a big-time backer of Hillary Clinton.

His name is Donald Mullen, and he was once the global head of credit at Goldman Sachs. He was credited with devising the infamous “big short,” by which the firm bet bigger than big that the housing market would collapse even as it was urging customers to invest in it.

“Sounds like we will make some serious money,” he famously emailed colleagues in 2007, at early signs of the impending implosion.

Mullen left Goldman Sachs in 2012 and made some more serious money by becoming one of a number of Wall Streeters who are acquiring and leasing thousands of foreclosed homes.

Mullen embarked on this new endeavor with Curt Schade, formerly a managing director at Bear Stearns, which failed at the start of the financial crisis. Mullen and Schade received a $400 million credit line from Deutsche Bank, which survived thanks to billions of dollars in direct and indirect financial support from the government.
And this guy who has been flying close to the edge in several financial activities is a big-time Clinton donor. Like appeals to like.


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Anne Applebaum knows more than any other American journalist about modern politics in Eastern Europe. And she finds parallels to Donald Trump in that recent history.
Donald Trump’s new campaign manager Paul Manafort returns to U.S. politics after many years spent working for Viktor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine until he fled the country in disgrace in 2014. We don’t really know what, exactly, Manafort did for his Ukrainian client. But we do know how Yanukovych won the Ukrainian elections in 2010, and how he ran the country. Perhaps Manafort can transmit some lessons from his experience for a would-be U.S. president.

To begin with, Yanukovych did undergo a profound “image makeover” strikingly similar to the one that Trump needs right now. Yanukovych was an ex-con, close to Russian-backed business interests in Ukraine. He had, in other words, “high negatives.” But he cleaned up his act, stopped using criminal jargon and presented himself as a “reform” candidate, as opposed to the crooked establishment. Since everybody was genuinely sick of the crooked establishment, he won – despite the fact that he was no more honest than the people he’d said he was trying to beat. This of course, is what Trump is going to try to do: persuade people to support him because he is an outrageous, truth-speaking “outsider,” even though in reality he’s as much of an “insider” as it is possible to be. Manafort, with his deep experience in this particular con trick, can help.

On his way to power, and once in power, Yanukovych also became famous for the use of rented thugs, known as “titushki,” who could be used to intimidate opposition protestors, journalists, or whoever needed to be scared off. These weren’t police, and they weren’t security guards. They were just guys paid by Yanukovych to rough people up and scare them.
It all sounds distressingly familiar. I don't expect Trump to hire thugs, but he's not above insinuating that there will be violence if he doesn't get the nomination and then let his more rabid followers decide what that means.

This is how the media do Trump's bidding. No sooner did he make fun of how John Kasich eats then Politico put up a slide show of John Kasich eating on the campaign trail. Really? Do they need to support Trump's juvenile jibes? As if anyone wouldn't look unappealing if we put up a slide show of them eating.


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The WSJ contrasts how the state of Michigan has taken legal action against those accused of being responsible for the criminal negligence in Flint's water with the lack of accountability in the federal government.
The state charges are a loud contrast with the lack of accountability in cases of federal scandal. Email records reviewed by Congress show that an Environmental Protection Agency employee knew the risks of a blowout at the Gold King Mine, which spewed millions of gallons of wastewater last summer into the Animas River. No one has been prosecuted, and the EPA absolved itself.

Then there’s Veterans Affairs, which fired four low-level employees in connection with manipulating wait times that may have contributed to deaths. Last month former Phoenix hospital VA Director Sharon Helman was finally charged—but merely with failing to disclose $50,000 in gifts from a lobbyist. A VA employee in Puerto Rico charged with armed robbery continues to draw a taxpayer salary. So do a hospital chief-of-staff who prescribed drugs for friends and two senior executives who pushed out subordinates from positions so the executives could transfer locations and collect $400,000 in moving expenses.

Americans looking at all this can be forgiven for concluding that there is one standard for Washington misbehavior, and another for everyone else.

Republican pipe dreams of ever recovering their former strength in California are sinking fast if the new voter registration statistics are any indication.
This skyrocketing registration can be broken out by partisanship, ethnicity and age, and shows some striking differences by group. In a traditional election year, a 65% growth from the same period of last year would be remarkable. But this year we are seeing a doubling of registration growth among Latinos, and a more than 150% increase for some young voters, and a near-tripling for Democrats.

Here is good news for those who value the freedom of speech.
The Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative-oriented nonprofit, has won a victory in its lawsuit against California attorney general Kamala Harris, who is attempting to do with her investigatory powers what Lois Lerner did with the IRS’s: weaponize them for political purposes.

Harris is running for the Senate. She is a Democrat. AFP is associated with the Koch brothers and with any number of public-policy disputes that have left Democrats bruised and defeated. Nonprofits register federally with the IRS, and also with the states in which they are active. Harris, right around the time she decided she wanted to become a senator, also decided that the paperwork AFP and other conservative organizations had been filing for years in California was insufficient, and she demanded — this will not surprise you — a list of major donors.

Democrats have a long and ugly history of abusing such information. The most dramatic recent episode involved the IRS’s intentional leaking of documents belonging to the National Association for Marriage, in order to facilitate harassment of and retaliation against private citizens who had the bad taste to agree with Senator Obama about gay marriage and invest 20 bucks in the pursuit of their consciences. After a long and expensive legal fight, the IRS was forced to admit that it had in fact leaked the NOM documents, and it paid $50,000 to NOM in restitution. Did anybody lose his job over this? Of course not. In fact, Republican members of Congress are in a rage at the moment over the fact that the IRS has rehired hundreds of workers dismissed for improper conduct, including improper handling of private documents.

Harris made no persuasive case that this information was necessary for the enforcement of California tax law; in the event that such information should become relevant, California authorities have the power to obtain donor information via subpoena. The most charitable interpretation would be that this isn’t about investigation of a crime but pre-investigation of a pre-crime — Minority Report as performed in Sacramento — but in this case, charity would lead us astray. This was a straight-up attempt at political suppression.

AFP convinced the federal district court that Harris’s request served no legitimate purpose and was part of a political campaign by Democrats against conservative organizations. It demonstrated, among other things, that government agencies had “systematically failed to maintain the confidentiality of Schedule B forms” containing donor information and other financial data.

This is not an investigation that would have an incidental chilling effect on free speech and political activism; the chilling effect is the entire point.
Of course, Harris's politicization of her office and the California judicial system won't be considered a negative by Democratic voters. But true supporters of free speech should be horrified by the efforts by so many Democratic officials to criminalize the speech with which they disagree.
From Texas to New York to California to the U.S. Virgin Islands, this country is beset by out-of-control Democratic prosecutors attempting to criminalize dissent. Former Texas governor Rick Perry was charged with two felonies (since laughed out of court) for having vetoed a bill that he had promised to veto, angering Austin Democrats; the libertarian-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute has been subpoenaed for private communication related to its global-warming activism; Harris and her New York counterpart, Eric Schneiderman, are up to their armpits in a scheme to prosecute Exxon for its funding of global-warming activism or, short of that, to shake it down for a large settlement. Democratic activists cooperating with corrupt judges in Ecuador tried the same thing with Chevron. These are, put plainly, attempts to prosecute political opponents for their politics — attacks on the First Amendment and on the very principle of citizen engagement in the democratic process. AFP has won this round, but the fight continues on many other fronts.

The WSJ comes out in support
of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell's appeal to the Supreme Court.
The legal problem is that Mr. McDonnell never provided much of any quo for the quid. Virginia law lets politicians accept gifts, and prosecutors never charged him with violating state law. They charged him under federal law with performing “official acts” to benefit the business, but none of those acts influenced policy or changed a government decision.

Mr. McDonnell was convicted for attending a lunch at the executive mansion where the businessman’s company gave out grants to universities, for attending a reception with the businessman, for asking an aide about research pertaining to the company, and for arranging a meeting with his staff and the man.

This stretches the bribery statutes to criminalize the normal transactions of politics. Public officials routinely act as boosters for local businesses. They also frequently meet donors and introduce them to others. Citizens also have the First Amendment right to petition their elected officials. If arranging a meeting for a benefactor qualifies as corruption, prosecutors will be able to target any politician in the country.

Such as Hillary Clinton. As Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton lobbied governments on issues affecting companies that donated to the Clinton Foundation. Then there are the speaking fees for Bill Clinton paid by companies that had interests before the State Department.

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Don't buy the story that women soccer players (and Hillary Clinton) are trying to sell that they earn 40% less than male soccer players because...discrimination. Each side has a motive for peddling a false story.
This would be outrageous if it were true. But it isn’t. Democrats are using the equal-pay issue to increase the turnout of female voters in the fall. The U.S. women’s soccer players have a different interest: Landing a better labor contract. The women’s national team and the U.S. Soccer Federation have been tangled in a labor dispute, and the players are trying to put pressure on their employer with a yellow card for gender discrimination....

But data released last week by the U.S. Soccer Federation show that the top women’s players make nearly as much as the highest-paid men’s players. Since 2008, six national-team men and six women have earned more than $1 million from the Federation. And according to ESPN, 14 of the 25 highest-earning national-team players over the past four years have been women, whose compensation averaged $695,269. That’s 2.2% below the average for men. Women also receive benefits that men don’t, including maternity leave and severance pay if they get cut from the team. Women get paid if they’re sidelined with an injury; men don’t.

Women on the U.S. national soccer teams aren’t paid less than men. They’re paid differently because the collective-bargaining agreements they have negotiated emphasize income- and job-security. Women players earn annual salaries of $72,000; the men get paid by how many games they play. The men’s roster is more fluid, and the head coach can call players to camp for one game.

Nearly 50 men’s players appeared in games for the U.S. national squad last year, but only three played more than 13 games. The women’s team fields about half as many players.
But it's all complicated to explain so it's easy to demagogue the issue and try to deceive the public about what's really going on. It's the same thing with the perpetual phony story that feminists peddle about women earning 77% of what a man earns without pointing out that they're comparing the aggregate numbers of what each sex earns and not taking into consideration the different jobs that they have or how long they stay in the workforce without taking time off for having a family. It's all so dishonest, but what does honesty matter when there is demagoguing to be done?

Michael Barone has an interesting hypothesis about the ethnic patterns we're seeing in this year's primaries.
Donald Trump got 64 percent of 108,000 Republican votes cast in the five boroughs of New York City. Ted Cruz got 59 percent of the 305,000 Republican votes cast in the four counties of metropolitan Milwaukee. What's the difference? You could sum it up by saying Italians vote different from Germans.

What does that say about the contests still to come? Trump is likely to do well in next week's Northeastern primaries from Rhode Island to Maryland, if only because most Italian-Americans live within 100 miles of New York City.

In May the campaign moves west. Indiana, which votes May 3, was first settled in the north by Yankees and the south by Southern-origin Butternuts. Ethnically it resembles downstate Illinois and Missouri, where Cruz narrowly trailed Trump and where Trump ran behind the total for Cruz and Rubio.

Most contests that follow are in states -- Nebraska, Oregon, Washington, South Dakota, Montana -- with heavily German and Scandinavian ancestry. Such voters have proven relatively resistant to Trump's appeal.

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Former senator Jim Webb took to the Washington Post recently to defend Andrew Jackson. Perhaps his admiration for Andrew Jackson stems from Webb's well-regarded history of the the ethnic group from which Jackson sprang, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. But Webb took too generous a view of Jackson's policies supporting Indian removal and his veto of the National Bank. Jay Cost corrects Webb's characterization of Jackson's actions.
Moreover, it is not fair to equate Jackson's policy toward the Native Americans with that of his predecessors, especially Quincy Adams. Granted, there was a broad view that it would be amenable for the Native Americans to move to the west, but Jackson forced the issue whereas others did not. In fact, Quincy Adams sent a federal attorney to warn Georgia against making moves against the territory of the Creek nation, which was protected by a treaty with the federal government. Jackson, on the other hand, told the Native American tribes that he was powerless to stop the states from breaking the treaties.
As Cost points out, Jackson was not so deferential to state actions when it came to the South Carolina nullification crisis. There he was firm against their rejection of the Tariff of Abominations. But the crisis was resolved more from Henry Clay's deft actions to find a compromise than from Jackson's tough rhetoric. Cost also points out that Webb's characterization of the corruption of the Second National Bank is a bit overblown. The truth is more nuanced.
What about Jackson and the Second Bank? To be clear, the Second Bank had a spotty history. Terribly mismanaged under its first president, William Jones, it had become a clearinghouse for corruption and incompetence. Its bad behavior probably facilitated the Panic of 1819, and the credit contraction that it implemented as a consequence gravely damaged the reputation of the institution. But under the management of Nicholas Biddle, it made a remarkable turnaround. Biddle's Second Bank was probably the most advanced financial institution in the world up to that point in time. Biddle secured a relatively uniform currency, facilitated domestic and international exchange, expanded lending to the south and west, and brought the wildcat state banks into respectability. So broadly popular was the Second Bank that it was overwhelmingly approved for a recharter in 1832, with testimonials pouring in from all across the country to Congress about the benefits it provided. Biddle, it must be admitted, was known to grease a few palms—including prominent congressmen like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, and a few well-placed newspapermen—but his Second Bank was hardly the bugaboo Jackson made it out to be in his veto message.

Moreover, one of the main opponents of the Second Bank was none other than Wall Street itself. New York City by this point was well on its way to becoming the overwhelming commercial and financial center of the country, yet the Second Bank was located in Philadelphia, and its stock owned primarily by Philadelphians. New York City banks did not appreciate having their operations regulated by a bunch of outsiders. Moreover, because the Second Bank housed federal tax revenues, the extensive collections from the Port of New York were not actually controlled by New York bankers. The Empire State provided crucial votes against the renewal of the Second Bank, and operating behind the scenes were well-connected insiders like Thomas Olcott of the Farmers & Mechanics Bank of Albany. That bank already controlled state tax revenue, and Olcott and others owned a major stake in several Wall Street firms. With the Second Bank out of the way, they stood a chance of dominating the nation's financial system.

This is not to excuse any of the Second Bank's bad behaviors. It was a disgrace under Jones. Moreover, Biddle—in response to Jackson's removal of federal funds from the institution—instituted an aggressive credit contraction for political purposes that looks awful in historical retrospect. The point of this discussion, rather is twofold: Webb is wrong to offer such a Manichean view of the Second Bank; and on balance under Biddle it was a benevolent institution that helped distribute credit responsibly to the farthest quarters of the nation, and in so doing it advanced the general welfare. As Webb writes, "Far too many of our most important discussions are being debated emotionally, without full regard for historical facts." Indeed, but plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, for Jackson's veto message was mostly an emotional appeal without full regard for the facts. Historian Bray Hammond—whose Banks and Politics in America remains a genre-defining classic—hit the nail on the head when he called Jackson's veto message "an unctuous mixture of agrarianism and laissez faire."

Jackson deserves praise for many actions he took—for instance his stand against the South Carolina nullifiers. But his veto of the Second Bank was hotly disputed in its day, and in historical perspective is difficult to justify at all. Same for his treatment of the Native Americans. Controversial in its day, it has not worn well with age. A sober and even-handed assessment of the Jacksonian period should list both of these as severe knocks against his reputation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cruising the Web

Our long, national nightmare shall continue. Whoever wins the presidency in November will already be probably the most unpopular president to ever be inaugurated since Abraham Lincoln. And none of the leading candidates have a fraction of the political skills or character of Lincoln.
Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, has accomplished an unprecedented feat: More than two-thirds of voters say they can't stand him. In the same unpopularity contest, Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, is runner-up: more than half the voters don't like her. Ted Cruz, who still has a shot at the GOP nomination, is almost as unpopular as Clinton....

And that has troubling implications for the next president, no matter who he or she turns out to be. After an election, presidents must bridge the partisan divide to get much done. But no need to wait for inauguration day 2017. We already know how this is going to turn out: We're pre-polarized.

It's easy to forget, but in 2009 Obama arrived at the White House with a massive 68% positive rating in the Gallup Poll, including 41% of Republicans. Eight years earlier, the newly elected George W. Bush enjoyed a 63% positive rating, including 37% of Democrats.

The honeymoon didn't last, but the numbers meant that these presidents at least had the benefit of the doubt from most independent voters and a significant minority in the other party. They both had a base of popular support from which to negotiate with Congress. But that's unlikely to happen this time.
Expect gridlock and partisan ugliness from the get go. I wish I didn't care about politics and could just ignore it, but I can't bring myself to be indifferent.

Hillary Clinton is trying
to have it both ways on the Second Amendment.
What does Hillary Clinton really believe on guns? This year, she is running to the left of Bernie Sanders. In 2008, she ran well to the right of Obama, arguing against any kind of federal “blanket rules.”

On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton gave an address at Philadelphia’s St. Paul’s Baptist Church. With a nod to Pennsylvania’s high rate of gun ownership, she declared: “There is a Second Amendment, there are constitutional rights. We aren’t interested in taking away guns of lawful, responsible gun owners.”

But in New York City in the fall, she told donors: “The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment, and I am going to make that case every chance that I get.” In Maryland last Thursday, Chelsea Clinton reiterated that point, promising that her mom would appoint to the Supreme Court justices who would overturn past decisions that struck down local and state gun-control measures. Given that the only laws that the Supreme Court has objected to are complete gun bans or laws that made it a crime to chamber a bullet, one wonders what “constitutional rights” Clinton was talking about preserving in Philadelphia.
I suspect that she changes her position based on which voters she's targeting. Hypocrisy is no barrier to Hillary - hypocrisy is her basic MO.
Senator Bernie Sanders often defends his positions on guns by arguing that what makes sense for one part of the country might not make sense for another, such as his home state of Vermont. Clinton has gone so far as to suggest that his argument is racist: “There are some who say that [gun violence] is an urban problem. Sometimes what they mean by that is: It’s a black problem. But it’s not. It’s not black, it’s not urban. It’s a deep, profound challenge to who we are.”

Clinton is being hypocritical. She made Sanders’s exact argument in April 2008, when she was running against Obama in Pennsylvania: “What might work in New York City is certainly not going to work in Montana,” she said. “So for the federal government to be having any kind of, you know, blanket rules that they’re going to try to impose, I think doesn’t make sense.”
I imagine that she will move to the right on guns or drop the issue altogether in the general election as she tries to appeal to those voters clinging to their guns and religion.



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Marc A. Thiessen identifies
Obama's most enduring legacy - the failure of Obamacare and how it has devastated the insurance industry.
So what happens now? Because commercial insurers are not going to keep bleeding cash to prop up Obamacare, they have three choices: 1) scale back coverage, 2) raise prices or 3) get out of the exchanges entirely. More and more are going to choose option 3.

Does this mean that Obamacare is finally entering its “death spiral”? Not exactly. As my American Enterprise Institute colleague Scott Gottlieb explains, while commercial insurers are starting to leave Obamacare, they are being replaced by Medicaid health maintenance organizations (HMOs) offering skimpy plans that mirror what they offer in Medicaid — our nation’s emergency health insurance program for the poorest of the poor.

This is a catastrophe for people stuck in Obamacare. According to a 2014 McKinsey survey, about three-quarters of those in the exchanges were previously insured on commercial plans, either through their employers or the individual market. They were doing fine without taxpayer-subsidized insurance but were pushed into Obamacare. They now face rising premiums and smaller provider networks — and as commercial insurers flee, they will increasingly be stuck in horrible, Medicaid-style plans.

This is not what the president promised when he sold Obamacare to the American people.

The president promised Obamacare would provide “more choice, more competition, lower costs.” Instead, Americans have less choice, less competition and higher costs. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, if UnitedHealth “were to leave the exchange market overall, 1.8 million Marketplace enrollees would be left with two insurers, and another 1.1 million would be left with one insurer.” As more commercial insurers do the same, there will be even less competition — and higher premiums.

The president promised “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” But commercial insurers who stay in Obamacare are responding to massive losses by narrowing provider networks, with fewer doctors and hospitals to choose from. And those that quit are being replaced by Medicaid HMOs with even less doctor choice.

The president promised Obamacare would “lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year.” But insurers are raising premiums instead to cover the massive losses, and even Marilyn Tavenner — the former Obama administration official who ran Obamacare — has predicted premiums will rise even further next year.

As they do, young, healthy individuals will be priced out of the exchanges — and the only people who will be able to afford Obamacare will be high-risk patients who qualify for federal subsidies. Without enough healthy people in the exchanges to pay for the sick ones, taxpayers will be stuck with more and more of the costs over time — a situation that is unsustainable in the long run.
As Thiessen points out, the result is an increased distrust in the government - not quite what Barack Obama came into office aiming to do. By vastly increasing the role of the federal government and failing so abysmally, Obama has poisoned the well for further expansion of the federal government's role.

It shouldn't surprise anyone to learn who is really behind the efforts on college campuses attacking Israel. Jeff Robbins of the Boston Herald details how a Harvard Law student stood up at a public discussion there featuring former Israely Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a Palestinian supporter in Harvard Law got up and asked this question:
“How is it that you are so smelly?...A question about the odor of Tzipi Livni, she’s very smelly, and I was just wondering.”
The fact that a student at perhaps the most prestigious law school in the country would feel able to ask such an anti-Semitic question in public and do so with impunity tells us a lot about the atmosphere on college campuses today.
The gross, anti-Semitic slur directed at a respected Israeli leader at Harvard coincided in depressing fashion with some unsurprising congressional testimony last week about the individuals responsible for promoting and funding anti-Israel activities on American campuses. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst for the Treasury Department, detailed the way former employees of organizations prosecuted, sued or shut down for financing the terrorist enterprise Hamas have simply moved over to the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel in academia.

“In the case of three organizations that were designated, shut down or held civilly liable for providing material support to the terrorist organization Hamas,” Schanzer told Congress, “a significant contingent of their former leadership appears to have pivoted to leadership positions within the American BDS campaign.”
And students are buying into their ugly propaganda.

Remember when Democrats had fits about Mitt Romney having money in offshore accounts in Cayman Islands? Obama ran an ad against Romney about that. Well, it turns out that John Kerry and his billionaire wife have also taken advantage of the tax breaks in the Cayman Islands as we now learn from the Panama Papers.
Secretary of State John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz have invested millions of U.S. dollars through family trusts in at least 11 offshore tax havens, according to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.

The revelation comes on the heels of the release of the Panama Papers, a treasure trove of 11.5 million legal and financial records documenting how some of the world’s richest and most powerful people have used offshore bank accounts to conceal their wealth and avoid taxes.

Since the release of the papers, no American politician has been identified as using the secretive offshore accounts.

But a DCNF investigation has confirmed that the former Massachusetts Democratic senator and his billionaire wife, using an elaborate set of Heinz family trusts, have invested “more than $1 million” each into 11 separate offshore accounts — mainly hedge funds in the Cayman Islands.

The investments were made during both Kerry’s tenure in the Senate and in his present position as the nation’s chief diplomat.

The trusts funneled millions of dollars over the years into various offshore investment vehicles through a Heinz trust called the “Heinz Family Commingled Alternative Investment Fund.”

Two other trusts appear to have been set up by the Heinz family since Kerry was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013 to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
I don't think that there is anything illegal about minimizing one's tax burden, but Obama hasn't been so tolerant. And, of course, John Kerry will argue that it's his wife's money, not his, and that the money is controlled by an independent trust.
Obama recently lashed out at U.S. citizens who use tax havens.

On April 5, a few days after the Panama Papers were released, the president said the rich “have enough lawyers and enough accountants to wiggle out of responsibilities that ordinary citizens are having to abide by.” He said they were “gaming the system.”

Harley said the president might not be pleased with some of his cabinet members investing in tax havens: “Given what the president has said, it doesn’t sound like he would be in favor of that kind of behavior as far as people in his cabinet.”

For its part, State Department Spokesman Adm. John Kirby told TheDCNF Kerry is not a beneficiary of the investments and does not own them.

“Secretary Kerry has no offshore investments. He is not, nor has he ever been a beneficiary of Heinz Family and Marital Trusts and he has no decision-making power over them since they are entirely controlled by independent trustees,” said Kirby.
We all know that those excuses would be derided if it had been Mitt Romney about whom we are learning this.

Just imagine what Trump would have to go through with all his various businesses if he were actually to win the presidency. He says that he would just have his children run everything. I would like to know if there are any laws about what public officials must do with their money when they're in office. Is it enough to have family members manage the money or do they have to use a blind trust? Or is it just left up to the individual?

The Washington Post editorializes today about the fact that Trump hasn't released his tax returns.
Meanwhile, the real estate developer has stalled, puzzlingly declaring that his tax returns are “very beautiful” while offering laughable excuses for refusing to share them with the public.

Mr. Trump’s primary defense is that the Internal Revenue Service is auditing his tax submissions. This presents no obstacle to him releasing earlier returns. There is also nothing stopping Mr. Trump from disclosing his preliminary tax documents even while the government is reviewing them. The differences pre- and post-audit could be illuminating. So could many other details. Maybe the returns would provide evidence that Mr. Trump’s business dealings are not generating as much profit as one might expect. Perhaps they would demonstrate that he does not give much to charity, as reporting from The Post’s David A. Fahrenthold and Rosalind S. Helderman suggests. Maybe there would be other surprises.

Mr. Trump claims that tax returns do not show all that much. This argues for releasing more information, not less. Presidential candidates have in the past gone beyond releasing personal tax returns. Mitt Romney, for example, disclosed tax information from the Tyler Charitable Foundation, the entity that handles his charitable giving, during the 2012 campaign. True, information on Mr. Romney’s generosity tended to paint him in a positive light. But if the story Mr. Trump has told voters is true, shouldn’t releasing information about his business dealings help him? The GOP front-runner has made his business prowess central to his campaign. Along with his personal tax returns, he should release more hard information about the performance of his private ventures so that voters can judge whether he is the business genius he claims to be.


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Ah, so this is the new presidential style of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump introduced Hillary Clinton's physical appearance into his presidential campaign for the first time on Monday, asking a rally audience in suburban Philadelphia if she looks 'presidential.'

The move indicates that Trump is looking past the July Republican National Convention to a general election campaign – and that there will be no holds barred if he faces the former secretary of state.

'Do I look like a president? How handsome am I, right? How handsome?' a preening Trump asked nearly 5,000 supporters during a rally at West Chester University. 'Somebody said, "He really does look good, but you know, I don't know if he's presidential".'

'And I'm looking at this stage of people – my competitors,' he pivoted, landing squarely on Clinton.

'Does Hillary look presidential?' he asked. 'No!' came the audience's response.
I'm not sure what looking presidential means, but he sure doesn't sound presidential. And then there was this.
Donald Trump on Thursday played the grace card against John Kasich, by saying Kasich is too disgusting an eater to become president.

"He has a news conference all the time when he's eating," Trump said to a crowd in Rhode Island. "I have never seen a human being eat in such a disgusting fashion."

Trump said he used to warn his kids about behavior like that, when his kids were smaller.
Of course, Ted Cruz is not acting exactly presidential in his focus on attacking Trump over the North Carolina's bill banning transgendered individuals from using bathrooms of their chosen gender in public buildings with this crack:
If Trump dresses up as Clinton, he still can’t go to the girls’ bathroom,” Cruz quipped at a Sunday night event.
Charming. Apparently, transgender bathroom rights is a big issue in Pennsylvania. I guess it polls well in Cruz focus groups to attack Trump over transgenders and bathrooms, but it sure isn't the issue on which I want to see us choosing our president.

Noah Rothman detects a pattern in the Trump message - convince people that their misfortunes are all someone else's fault. And now he can use that same message when he pretends that he's a victim of a "rigged" system that is denying him delegates that he was too incompetent to obtain himself.
It is the central conceit of the Trump campaign’s pitch to his supporters. He contends that their woeful lots in life are not of their own making. They have been sold out by selfish politicians in Washington, displaced economically by unfair competition from China and cheap labor from Mexico, and marginalized by a culture that values “political correctness” above “telling it like it is.” It only makes sense that Trump would ape the sense of victimization he encourages in his supporters....

rump has simply been outmaneuvered. As metaphors go, this is an especially apt one. Even as Team Trump tries to correct for their early errors, they continue to behave in a self-defeating manner. Ahead of Delaware’s primary on Tuesday, the Trump campaign’s delegate outreach coordinator was apparently so threatening and heavy-handed that he created antipathy toward Trump among local GOP officials that did not previously exist.
Gee, if only there were someone in the Trump campaign who knew the art of the deal and could use that to get delegates.

And if only voters realized that the GOP primary system has been rigged in favor of Donald Trump.
Trump is right, in a way. The process is rigged; it’s rigged to favor the system’s winners. This is why it is Trump who controls 49 percent of the bound delegates so far despite winning just 38 percent of the popular vote. A movement that believes that 40 percent is a majority, or that they are being robbed out of their due because they don’t understand the process is – and there is no way to put this delicately — paranoid.

This process was designed to facilitate the ascension of a Mitt Romney-type candidate to the nomination in a manner that allowed the nominee to avoid a prolonged primary fight. If Trump had invested the time and capital necessary to create an organization aimed at securing the nomination at the earliest stages of this process, that nomination would have already been his. Even without the architecture of a real campaign, Trump may only just narrowly be prevented from winning the delegates necessary to secure the nomination outright. For this set of circumstances, Donald Trump has only one person to blame. But he, like his supporters, have declined the opportunity to engage in some rather unforgiving introspection.

Only Donald Trump has a pathway to the nomination now prior to a second ballot on the floor of the Cleveland convention. Unless Cruz or Kasich intend to concede the nomination to Trump, they only have one way to force that outcome, and that is to coordinate their efforts. If that engenders in Trump supporters an even more aggravated sense of alienation and victimization, then so be it. Neither Trump nor his supporters are entitled to a particular outcome in this life – they must work for and earn their achievements. Conservatives used to understand that.


Peter Spiliakos explains
how Cruz is being hurt by Trump's attacks - he's being taken off topic and isn't talking about anything that people truly care about.
I watch politics pretty closely and, from Cruz’s Wisconsin win to the middle of last week, I haven’t heard a single news report where Cruz has said one thing that would impact the life of a voter. Cruz is always sampled talking about the nomination rules and the delegate-selection process. He broke through a little bit at the end of the week by talking about transgender people using bathrooms....

Cruz talks in the coded language of political junkies. He talks about religious liberty and partial-birth abortion, but large swaths of his hearers have no idea what he is talking about. This leads to a bifurcation of public opinion about Cruz. Political obsessives like the people reading this post could tell you Cruz’s opinion on just about anything. The regular person couldn’t tell you anything, because Cruz might as well be speaking a foreign language in his prepared speeches and in his paid media. I also suspect that this is why Cruz does better in low-turnout contests. It isn’t just better organization. Highly ideological conservative activists (not to be confused with Republican-party hacks) are the people who speak his language. There are not enough of those people.
A successful candidate finds away to talk to voters about what they care about and explain how his policies will address those issues. Spiliakos's point is right on target. If Cruz wants to improve his appeal to voters, he needs to find a way to connect his ideas to average people's concerns.

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Newsweek has discovered the newest outrage against women in America today is "period shaming"?
While Newsweek breathlessly told of women hiding their tampons in their sleeves as they walk to the bathroom and of ad agencies using blue liquid to “sanitize” the experience of having a period, if these experiences are what pass for “oppression” these days, it’s safe to say American women are getting along just fine.

Hillary is already setting a quota for her cabinet - she is promising that 50% of her cabinet will be female. For her, chromosomes trump ability. Her husband had a similar idea insisting that his attorney general must be a woman. That's how we got Janet Reno.

Politico portrays a man who sued Donald Trump and won.
This was March of 1990. Roffman was a veteran securities analyst. He had focused on the gaming industry in Atlantic City since the first casinos opened in 1978. He knew the market as well as anyone and had watched closely as Trump made a typically bold entrance with Trump Plaza and Trump’s Castle in 1984 and 1985. Now the New York real estate tycoon was about to open his third casino, by far his biggest, most lavish and most shakily financed one yet, the Trump Taj Mahal. Roffman was skeptical. He told a reporter from the Wall Street Journal the Taj would fail.

What happened next was straight out of Trump 101. The “people I don’t take too seriously,” he had written in 1987 in The Art of the Deal, “are the critics—except when they stand in the way of my projects.” Roffman was in the way. Trump bombarded him with invective, threatened to sue his employer, demanded his firing and then publicly assailed him some more. The fact that Roffman’s assessment was grounded in reality—that he would prove to be right—didn’t stop Trump from attacking Roffman. It was the reason for it.

Three days after the quote in the Journal, Roffman was fired. What happened after that, though, was unusual. In the long history of the leading Republican presidential candidate’s use of disparagement, intimidation and forceful warnings of litigation, there is no person quite like Roffman. He filed a lawsuit against Trump and won a clear victory—a fat check drawn on a Donald Trump account.

How does one beat Trump? For Roffman, it took time and money, gumption and conviction. Trump v. Roffman was a noisy, blustery harangue in the court of public opinion. Marvin B. Roffman v. Donald J. Trump and Trump Organization, Inc., on the other hand, was a longer, fact-based slog in an actual court.
That's the Trump way - a man gives his honest, professional assessment of a Trump business venture and Trump gets him fired. And, of course, Trump was totally wrong about the success of the Taj Mahal and Rothman was exactly right. This incident tells us a lot about how Trump would govern, using every power at a president's command to shut down criticism. He's already mused about changing libel laws.

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Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated, who has had some of the most penetrating analyses of Deflategate legal issues, explains the long odds facing Brady's options for appeal. However, one event that could help Brady is if Adrian Peterson wins his unrelated appeal.
Brady could benefit if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit were to rule in favor of Adrian Peterson. A decision in the Peterson case is expected any day now. In February 2015, U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled in favor of Peterson, who was punished under a new domestic violence policy for conduct that took place during a previous policy. If the Eighth Circuit affirms Judge Doty’s ruling in the face of the NFL’s appeal, it could present a conflict between the Eighth Circuit and the Second Circuit on how the NFL interprets Article 46 in resolving disciplinary matters and more specifically how issues of notice and consistency are evaluated. So-called “circuit splits” increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court will agree to hear a case. While the Brady and Peterson cases are different in many ways, Peterson winning would clearly be good news for Brady’s team if it were to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sally Jenkins argues in the Washington Post today
that the lawyers for the NFLPA made the mistake of arguing about the scope of Roger Goodell's powers instead of arguing Tom Brady's innocence. That put them on the weakest ground because courts will defer to the the agreement in existence between the union and the league.
As Deflategate wore on, the lawyers representing Tom Brady forgot to do something essential. They forgot to argue their client’s innocence. Instead Jeffrey Kessler and the NFL Players Association got so lost in pushing their interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement and trying to trim the powers of Commissioner Roger Goodell that they failed to drive home the essential point: How can a player be suspended for “conduct detrimental” when there was no conduct to begin with?

To date, we are still looking for a single shred of credible evidence that any human hand deflated the footballs in that AFC championship game. Where is the conduct? Much less the conduct detrimental?

Somehow this point was missed in the many briefs and oral arguments. Consequently, three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit missed it, too, ruling 2-1 in favor of the NFL and reinstating Brady’s four-game suspension. Even chief judge Robert A. Katzmann, whose water-clear dissent left Brady some faint hope, missed it. Katzmann believes Goodell indeed invented “his own brand of industrial justice,” and if the chief justice thinks so, then perhaps a full 2nd Circuit panel will too, should Brady seek a stay and appeal. If he does, this time around his lawyers should emphasize the only truly salient point of the entire case. As New York Law School professor Robert Blecker put it, “What happened to the deflate part of Deflategate?”
As Jenkins advises Brady and other players, they should realize that their interests are not the same as the Players' Association's interests.
According to the judges, there is only one very narrow ground for overturning arbitration: if the arbitrator is “guilty of misconduct” and “violates fundamental fairness.”

Goodell was guilty of misconduct: This was the point to be hammered. Yet Kessler seemed reluctant to reargue any points of the case against Brady. He even tried to tell the judges that they weren’t supposed to reconsider the facts, only to consider the process and whether it was reasonable.

Yet facts and process are to a certain extent inextricable. As Katzmann’s dissent recognized, Goodell employed “a shifting rationale for Brady’s discipline.” Goodell strayed far from common sense and from any previous penalty for ball tampering, such as receivers using stickum. There was “a lack of any meaningful explanation in the Commissioner’s final written decision.” The punishment was “unprecedented and virtually unexplained.” Goodell’s powers are broad, but they shouldn’t be “limitless.”

Yet even Katzmann stopped short of acknowledging what really happened here: Goodell simply made things up as he went along. There is evidence that the Wells Report manufactured or twisted facts to make Brady seem guilty. And lately we have evidence that the NFL has suppressed information that might exonerate him. This season, the NFL spot-checked inflation levels of footballs, and then refused to make the data public. There is only one conceivable rationale for not releasing it, and that’s because it makes the specious Wells Report look even more specious, and supports the account of the Patriots and consensus of mainstream scientists: The deflation level of the footballs was because of cold, wet weather and the effects of the Ideal Gas Law.

There was no conduct. Much less detrimental conduct. If Brady appeals, this is the point of the case, not the vague language in a bad deal.
Here is another hole in my knowledge. Perhaps lawyers among my readers can enlighten me. Can an appeal be based on a totally different argument other than the one brought up in the original case? I wouldn't think that an appellate court would allow in a trial based on the facts other than what was established in the original trial, would they? It may well be that that avenue is already closed to Brady unless he wants to sue the league for defamation.
Under Massachusetts law, Brady has three years from the date of alleged defamatory statements to file a defamation lawsuit against the NFL and Goodell. While a successful defamation lawsuit would only lead to monetary damages awarded to Brady—who is reportedly worth in the ballpark of $130 million—and would have no impact on whether the NFL can suspend him, Brady could (as suggested by MIT professor John Leonard) donate any monetary damages awarded to charity. Brady may see a successful defamation lawsuit as a way to restore his image and perhaps get the “last laugh” against the NFL.

Nevertheless, defamation lawsuit is unlikely. As a public figure, Brady face a higher legal bar in a defamation lawsuit than would an ordinary person. He would need to show “actual malice,” meaning the league intentionally or knowingly made untrue and damaging statements about him. This is often a high bar. The NFL would also argue, as it argued in Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against Goodell over Bountygate, that a defamation lawsuit is “preempted” by the CBA’s language expressing that player-league disputes must be resolved through internal league procedures and that players thus cannot obtain alternative relief through courts. A federal judge agreed with the NFL about preemption in the Vilma case and it’s possible the same result could occur for Brady.

Steven Hayward celebrates the 40th anniversary of what he calls "the greatest play in baseball history."