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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Cruising the Web

Ed Morrissey ponders what the race would look like without Donald Trump. Trump thinks that the race would become boring and TV ratings would plummet. But that doesn't mean that the other GOP candidates would lose public support.
In the end, voters want elections to focus on their lives. They want to know about solutions to their issues, how their personal and local economies will improve with a particular candidate, and feel as though a candidate has an emotional connection to their situations. Especially in some of the key areas in which the GOP must compete to win the general election, voters want to see a pragmatic problem-solver. Donald Trump is an ideologue. Without him, the 2016 GOP race might be one that actually focuses on the things mainstream voters want to hear.

The bench in this cycle has too much talent to let that desire go unmet for long. A Trump exit might refocus the GOP on the need to win a broader range of voters by focusing on solutions-based governance and optimism about the nation's prospects. That might not be a ratings grabber for the cable news networks, but it would give the Republican Party a better chance to compete in November 2016.

Ilya Somin refutes the fantasies that Donald Trump was peddling about eminent domain being so good for those whose property is taken because they get "a fortune for that property. Those people can move two blocks away into a much nicer house."
that victims of eminent domain get compensated by the government. But Trump’s claim that they get “a fortune” and can then “go buy a house now that’s five times bigger, in a better location” is, in the vast majority of cases, simply false. If it were true, people would be happy to have their homes condemned. It also isn’t true that victims of takings can usually just “move two blocks away into a much nicer house.” Since World War II, urban renewal takings and other condemnations for private development have forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom were left far worse off than they were before.

In reality, owners of condemned property often don’t even get the “fair market value” that the government is required to pay them by law. And fair market value compensation (essentially, the price the property would bring if sold on the open market), itself often systematically undercompensates property owners, because it fails to account for the “subjective value” that many owners attach to their land. Homeowners, renters, and small business people often value their land above its market price because they benefit from the social ties, business connections, and other intangible advantages of living in a particular area. If they really did value the property at only its market price or less, they would likely have sold it long before Trump or some other developer lobbied the government to condemn it. For this reason, numerous economists and legal scholars across the political spectrum have argued that compensation for takings should be increased above market value. Some states have adopted this reform, but most so far have not.

Trump is also wrong to suggest that the use of eminent domain for private projects typically results in “massive development that’s going to employ thousands of people.” In reality, these projects are often pushed through on the basis of grossly inflated estimates of the economic benefits, which then fail to materialize. In the notorious condemnation project upheld by the Supreme Court in the famous case Kelo v. City of New London (2005), the only “development” on the condemned property so far consists of improvised shelters for the feral cats who have settled on the land. Trump himself is no stranger to inflated estimates of the benefits of takings. In 1994, he lobbied the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut to condemn five small businesses so he could build an office and entertainment complex that he absurdly claimed would turn Bridgeport into a “national tourist destination.” In the long run, one of the best ways to promote economic development is to respect property rights, a lesson cities such as Detroit have learned the hard way.
But it's not a surprise that Trump would support a policy that would help his own business. He's all about himself and seems to have no understanding of why people might be attached to their own property beyond just dollars and cents. Maybe if you're the son of a multi-millionaire, you don't grow up having personal attachments to the house you grew up in or where you raised your family, but a lot of people do and don't want to be kicked out of their home just because some company promises the government future profits and an increased tax base.

Jim Geraghty advances the hypothesis that Republicans have very good reasons to be so angry about this president's actions.
Mickey Kaus characterizes the approach as “gaslighting” -- giving your opponent a legitimate reason to get angry, then turning around and pointing to their anger as evidence they’re unhinged, obsessed, incapable of governing responsibly, et cetera.

President Obama made clear he refuses to be a lame duck; instead, the passage of the 2014 midterms only liberated him from worrying about what the public thinks.

An executive-order amnesty, enacting an Iran deal opposed by a bipartisan majority of the Senate, even renaming Mount McKinley -- Obama’s charging ahead with everything that was too controversial before Obama’s reelection campaign or the midterm elections. Two years after negotiating the end of 18 percent of the Bush tax cuts -- about $624 billion -- Obama proposed $320 billion in new tax hikes. The White House later indicated the president was “very interested” in exploring the option of raising taxes through executive action.

Free community college? Hey, it’s never going to become law, so why not propose it and make Republicans look mean for not enacting it? Goofing around with a selfie stick? Go right ahead. Chewing gum at an international summit? Hey, what are they going to do, impeach him?

In this atmosphere, it’s no wonder Republicans are furious. A midterm election victory that was supposed to constrain President Obama’s ability to enact his agenda has only emboldened and liberated him.

Most Republican presidential candidates find themselves caught between their anger at the president’s constant provocations and blatant disregard for the Constitution’s separation of powers and the limited number of acceptable ways to show that anger. The insanely imbalanced media landscape ensures that almost any expression of Democratic anger is portrayed as justified (or ignored if it’s too obviously outrageous) while almost any Republican expression of anger is portrayed as irrational, deep-seated hatred.

If Hillary Clinton compares Republicans to “terrorist groups” or suggests they want to round up people and put them in “boxcars,” it’s a one-day controversy at most.

Meanwhile, if Joe Wilson yells out “you lie” when the president lies during an address to Congress, it’s the only thing anyone remembers about him. When Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mouthed “not true” in response to President Obama’s attack on the decision at the State of the Union Address, the New York Times lamented Alito “broke with decorum.” (Mischaracterizing the Citizens United decision and denouncing the court justices sitting in the front row breaks from decorum, too.)

If anything, President Obama’s denunciation of his opposition is only getting fiercer and more incendiary. Thursday night, as the country recoiled from a horrific shooting at an Oregon community college, President Obama rushed to the cameras to contend that those who opposed with his preferred gun-control laws bore some of the responsibility.

“This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America,” Obama said. “We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.”

Imagine if President Bush’s first address after the 9/11 attacks denounced President Clinton and his supporters for not taking al-Qaeda seriously for the previous years, and that the rise of al-Qaeda was a “political choice” and that the deaths were a result of “our inaction.” (links in original)

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So Hillary totally flipped her position on the Pacific trade agreement. Is this the sort of authenticity that fools Democratic voters?
This is supposed to be the year when voters want authenticity in a candidate, but Hillary Clinton seems determined to test that proposition. On Wednesday President Obama’s former Secretary of State came out against her former boss’s Pacific trade agreement only two days after it was completed.

Mrs. Clinton was asked on PBS’s NewsHour whether the trade deal is “something you could support?”

Her reply: “What I know about it, as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it. And there is one other element I want to make, because I think it’s important. Trade agreements don’t happen in a vacuum, and in order for us to have a competitive economy in the global marketplace, there are things we need to do here at home that help raise wages. And the Republicans have blocked everything President Obama tried to do on that front. So for the larger issues, and then what I know, and again, I don’t have the text, we don’t yet have all the details, I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”

So she hasn’t seen the agreement’s text, and can’t speak to the details, but she’s against the deal because Republicans who haven’t held the White House in seven years haven’t raised wages.

Mrs. Clinton previously called the Pacific pact the “gold standard in trade agreements,” and as recently as her memoir in 2014 she praised it as “important for American workers who would benefit from competing on a more level playing field.” At State she took a leading role in promoting the pact and in January 2013 said that “I think the Trans-Pacific Partnership is one way that could really enhance our relationship” with Japan. She supported Nafta and she backed the trade deal with South Korea, but now she’s had a change of heart—or should we say soul.

Perhaps Mrs. Clinton is anticipating Joe Biden getting into the race and wants to carve out space to his populist left. But she really must think voters are dunces.

It wasn't just the Russians who were targeting Clinton's email server.
Hillary Clinton's private email server, which stored some 55,000 pages of emails from her time as secretary of state, was the subject of attempted cyberattacks originating in China, South Korea and Germany after she left office in early 2013, according to a congressional document obtained by The Associated Press.

While the attempts were apparently blocked by a "threat monitoring" product that Clinton's employees connected to her network in October 2013, there was a period of more than three months from June to October 2013 when that protection had not been installed, according to a letter from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. That means her server was possibly vulnerable to cyberattacks during that time.
So how did all these hackers know about her server when our own government seemed oblivious?

Finally, some good news for Israel.
After Israel complained for years that it was surrounded by oil-rich states but didn’t have a drop within its own borders, it appears there’s a big-time turnaround with the announcement Wednesday that massive oil reserves have been located in the Golan Heights,close to the country’s border with Syria.

Afek Oil and Gas, an Israeli subsidiary of the U.S. company Genie Energy, confirmed the find in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TVbut conceded that until the oil is actually extracted, they won’t be sure of the actual amounts and quality of the oil that has been discovered.

“We are talking about a strata which is 350 meters thick and what is important is the thickness and the porosity,” the company’s chief geologist, Yuval Bartov, explained. “On average in the world, strata are 20-30 meters thick, so this is ten times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities. The important thing is to know the oil is in the rock and that's what we now know.”

“There is enormous excitement,” Bartov said. “It's a fantastic feeling. We came here thinking maybe yes or maybe no, and now things are really happening.”

According to a September 2014 Times of Israel report on the Golan exploration, Genie Energy is chaired by Howard Jonas and counts among its more notable investors the “former US Vice President Dick Cheney, Michael Steinhardt, Jacob Rothschild, and Rupert Murdoch.”

Experts say actually extracting meaningful quantities of oil from the deposits is likely some time away. Some have suggested that while the find could be very significant, the announcement might have as much to do with the share price of the exploration company as the actual certainty that oil will be produced at the site.

The other key consideration in the development of the potential oil feed is its close proximity to the vicious fighting taking place just over the border in neighboring Syria, where ISIS and other jihadi organizations had been battling the Syrian forces of President Assad and his Iran-backed allies Lebanon-based Hezbollah even before Russia’ recent entry into the regional conflict.

Most recent rocket strikes into Israel’s Golan territory have generally been declared stray fire by the Israel Defense Forces, but regional experts point out that the potential costs and challenges of protecting future oil fields so close to the war zone, as well as the large target it would provide for enemy fire, could prove challenging should the project indeed come to fruition and provide the Jewish state –where a reported 270,000 barrels of oil are consumed daily - with its own source of ‘black gold’.

A license to drill in the area was initially issued in April 2013 within an area of nearly 98,000 acres -approximately a third of the Golan itself - but a series of appeals to the Israeli courts by organizations such as the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel and Greenpeace, put all development of the site on hold until a December 2014 ruling gave the green light for drilling.
As typical for the region, any good news is tempered by the though of how it might precipitate more violent attacks.

Is this any surprise to anyone about an Obama administration official?
A State Department official closely involved in the Obama administration’s Iran push has been promoting publications from anti-Semitic conspiracy sites and other radical websites that demonize American Jewish groups and Israel, according to sources and documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Alan Eyre, the State Department’s Persian-language spokesman and a member of the negotiating delegation that struck a nuclear deal with Iran earlier this year, has in recent months disseminated articles that linked American-Jewish skeptics of the deal to shadowy financial networks, sought to soften the image of Iranian terrorists with American blood on their hands, and linked deal criticism to a vast “neoconservative worldview.”

Eyre described the one article, penned by the anti-Israel conspiracy theorist Stephen Walt, as having an “interesting thesis.”

Insiders who spoke to the Free Beacon about Eyre’s private postings pointed to a pattern of partisanship and called it a sign that key officials at the State Department are biased against the state of Israel. Such criticism has dogged the team Obama since the early days of the administration.

Eyre regularly briefed U.S. officials at the negotiating table and was responsible for proofreading draft texts of the recent Iranian nuclear agreement.

While Eyre has a public Facebook page officially sponsored by the State Department, screenshots taken from his private personal account obtained by the Free Beacon include content that insiders described as concerning.

In one Feb. 13 posting, when Iran talks were at a critical stage, Eyre disseminated a link to an article praising Iranian Quds Force Chief Ghassem Suleimani, who is directly responsible for the deaths of Americans abroad.

Fox News reports on the claims of a whistleblower who claims that the Obama administration deliberately downplayed facts about terrorism in the Middle East in Obama's first administration in order to paint a rosier picture of how things were going with Obama's policies.

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This is really amazing - Gallup isn't going to poll the primaries and maybe won't poll the general election. I guess they figure that they can't fix the problems that led them to blow the 2012 election so they're just giving up. INstead they'll poll about issues and ask for opinions of the candidates instead of horserace questions. I'm not sure who cares about such questions. But given all the problems figuring out the proper sample at this point, at least they're being honest in admitting they don't know what they're doing or how to fix it. I still half suspect that the polls this time around are going to turn out to have been pretty useless in predicting actual votes since no one can truly estimate who is going to turn out this time to vote. But that won't stop us from poring over each new poll trying to divine what is going on.

Of course, relying on polls becomes even more problematic when the GOP relies on polls to decide who gets into the prime-time debate and who has to debate at the kids' table.
For Republican presidential candidates this year, making it into the primetime debates rather than the undercard events for lower-polling aspirants has been the difference between success or failure. Just ask John Kasich, whose campaign was materially helped by his inclusion in the first debate in Cleveland, or Rick Perry, who was fatally damaged by not making the cut. Even the possibility of a demotion helped end Scott Walker's once-promising and well-funded (at the super PAC level, at least) candidacy.

Republicans needed some way of sorting a field of sixteen or seventeen candidates in a way that would allow for a reasonable exchange of ideas. But the low-polling contenders who complain that the networks' standards seem a bit arbitrary, especially since they are based on national polls rather than surveys of the states that will actually award the delegates, have a point.

Polls that may be getting less accurate are being asked to do more to help winnow the field and influence the process. Even insofar as these polls are right, they are just snapshots in time. The results this early out are subject to change. Just ask Presidents Giuliani, Bachmann and Cain. In Donald Trump, we now have a candidate whose strong performance in the polls is a core part of his campaign stump speech.

Eugene Volokh writes on how there is zero correlation between state-level homicide rates and state gun laws.
Now of course this doesn’t prove that gun laws have no effect on total homicide rates. Correlation, especially between just two variables, doesn’t show causation.

Perhaps there are other confounding factors (such as demographics, economics, and so on). Perhaps even controlling for those factors, there will be other missing factors that are hard to control for — for instance, maybe as the crime rate increases, calls for gun controls increase, so high crime causes more gun restrictions, or maybe calls for more freedom to defend oneself increase, so high crime causes fewer gun restrictions (e.g., liberalized concealed-carry licensing rules). And of course when small changes in the model yield substantial changes in results (e.g., if you calculate the state gun scores differently, the results will likely be different), you know how little you should credit the output. Figuring out the actual effect of government actions, whether gun laws, changed policing rules, drug laws, or anything else, is devilishly difficult.

But since people have been talking about simple two-variable correlations between gun laws and crime, I thought it would be helpful to note this correlation — or, rather, absence of correlation.
Well, why would they give up an argument even if there is no basis in fact?

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James Taranto has a lot of fun ridiculing a Matt Yglesias essay at Vox celebrating Hillary's personal biography of skirting the law because that means she would be a strong dictator of a president willing to ignore a Republican Congress to accomplish liberal goals.
Yglesias imagines that as president, Mrs. Clinton would be a kind of benevolent dictator—in his words, “an iron fist.” With Republicans likely to retain their congressional majorities, “she’ll push executive power in somewhat unorthodox ways in pursuit of an agenda conservatives hate.” (He worries, though, that her foreign policy may be uncongenial to liberals.)

“She truly is the perfect leader for America’s moment of permanent constitutional crisis,” he exults: “a person who cares more about results than process, who cares more about winning the battle than being well-liked, and a person who believes in asking what she can get away with rather than what would look best.”

“One of my longtime rules in politics is that all procedural arguments are insincere, including this one,” as Michael Barone has observed. Those who came of political age in the 1970s and 1980s have at times found it disorienting to see liberals champion executive power at Congress’s expense. Back then, they argued the opposite. But of course then they controlled Congress, while Republican presidents were the norm. They flipped when that did—but then so did conservatives, in the opposite direction. And liberal arguments for a strong executive don’t seem novel at all to anyone who’s studied the Progressive and New Deal eras.

Anyway, Yglesias can’t be accused of hypocrisy. He’s quite clear that it is the left-wing ideological ends that justify Mrs. Clinton’s questionable means. If two years from now he is inveighing against President Rubio’s outrageous power grabs, that will be entirely consistent with his fantasies about Mrs. Clinton.

Yet Yglesias’s argument is dubious even on its own terms. Consider the objectives of those past norm-busting behaviors he lauds: The cattle-futures scam was for her personal enrichment. The 2000 Senate race and 2008 gaming of the nomination process were for her personal ambition. The illicit email server was, by her own account, for her personal “convenience.” Other motives have been suggested—to evade public-records laws, to conceal corrupt dealings between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation—none of which are ideological.

The only example whose objective was ideological was her nepotistic role as chairman of “a policymaking committee in her husband’s White House.” That would be the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, which put forward an ambitious plan. It died in a Democrat-controlled Congress. That is, the effort ended in failure—as, one hardly need mention, did her 2008 nomination campaign.

It’s possible that somebody else would have succeeded in the health-reform effort. It’s probable that New York would have sent a liberal Democrat to the Senate had Mrs. Clinton forgone the race. It’s a fact that a liberal Democrat went to the White House in 2009 (although Yglesias faults President Obama for being too respectful of political norms until recently). On the whole, one could argue that Mrs. Clinton’s efforts have done more to retard than to advance the liberal project.

As for the email decision, Mrs. Clinton herself has repeatedly acknowledged—in what the media erroneously term her “apologies”—that it backfired badly. To say that the consequences for her have been anything but convenient is an understatement. If her purpose was concealment, the result has been more exposure—not to mention the possibility of criminal exposure. If the reports are accurate, she didn’t even succeed in deleting those 30,000 or so “personal” emails to the point of unrecoverability.

If you are the sort who longs to be ruled by a dictator, wouldn’t you at least want it to be a competent dictator?

In addition—and we say this with the caveat that the following observation may be vulnerable to Barone’s dictum—there are costs to violating political norms even when it seems expedient to do so. To take an example from early in Obama’s presidency, the Democrats’ aberrant exertions on behalf of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act produced a legislative victory but not a political one.

Past expansions of the welfare state—Social Security, Medicare, even Medicaid—were passed with popular and bipartisan support and have proved politically resilient even against marginal reforms. ObamaCare could easily fall apart once Obama is out of office. As we noted last week, Mrs. Clinton is already calling for repeal of a key provision, the so-called Cadillac tax on employer-provided benefits.

The yearning for a strongman in the White House is part of the left’s crisis of authority, about which we wrote in a May 2013 column. (As an aside, a parallel observation may be made about the right and its flirtation with Donald Trump.) Authority in a constitutional republic requires not only political power but legitimacy, which rests upon those political norms Yglesias so eagerly traduces. And the liberal project of expanding the scope of government is especially threatened by the undermining of the government’s legitimacy.
I still am enough of a naive civics teacher to be horrified that intelligent people are actually discussing the benefits of an authoritarian president.

Why we should be even more impressed that prison inmates defeated Harvard's debate team.
To prepare for the competition, the inmates, members of Bard’s Prison Initiative, were forced to acquire knowledge the old-fashioned way: Without access to the Internet, according to the Wall Street Journal. In 2015, can you seriously imagine preparing for anything — purchasing a movie ticket, looking up directions or researching basically anything — without going online?

Complicating their challenge, the Journal noted, was the fact that research requests for books and articles had to be approved by the prison administration, something that could take weeks.

Consider that for a moment: Weeks, not minutes or even days — and all while attempting to map out a research strategy that hinged upon institutional approval. If debate is equal parts rhetorical flourish and strategy, it’s worth asking whether circumstance forced the prisoners to devise an approach — in which limited resources demanded sharper focus and more rigorous planning — that resulted in superior lines of argumentation.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry speculates at The Week how Ben Carson could actually win the presidency. His advice to Carson is to tone down the crazy, adjust his tax plan, and play up his biography.
Firstly, obviously, Carson's race scrambles the cards in frankly unknowable ways. The big question mark of Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy is whether an old rich white person can hold together Obama's "rainbow coalition" of minorities and downwardly-mobile Americans (with a splash of HENRYs) — an African-American GOP candidate obviously makes that an even trickier situation. Maybe African-American voters will just perceive Ben Carson as the same old Republican package in a new box, especially if Carson's rhetoric on race stays just as conservative, and still pull for the Democratic candidate in such overwhelming numbers. Maybe.

But as writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates have pointed out, there are lots of African-Americans who actually agree with conservative talking points about welfare and black culture and fatherlessness; they vote for the Democratic Party because they perceive the GOP as structurally opposed to their interests, even though they might agree with it more on the merits. What's more, Ben Carson was extremely popular in the African-American community for decades on account of his life story, before he became a Tea Party darling. A Republican candidate doesn't need a majority of African-American votes to make the Electoral College unwinnable for the Democratic candidate, just a large-enough minority. It's not at all crazy to imagine that Carson might pull it off.

Secondly, imagine if Ben Carson had a smart political and image consultant, and imagine if Ben Carson really wanted to run a disciplined presidential campaign that aimed to win, rather than promote his books.

Carson might get a new tax plan and defend it with something like, "I still believe my original tax plan is the best tax plan, and I think it's important to get the conversation moving, but I also realize that I need to get a tax plan that can pass Congress."

More importantly, Carson would understand that presidential campaigns are won with narrative as much as substance, and that even though his substance is out of the mainstream, his narrative is absolute gold. His personal story is, of course, enormously impressive. His religiosity — as long as he doesn't wear it on his sleeve too much or make easily demonizable statements — is an asset. And, as has been noted, the anti-establishmentarian mood extends well beyond the GOP itself, and the contrast between a non-politician and Hillary Clinton, the ultimate insider, who hasn't driven a car since 1996, is easily drawn. If Carson makes the campaign about his own narrative, allying his personal story with the broader one of "we the people" wresting power away from the political elite and the K Street-Wall Street nexus, that is a compelling pitch indeed.

In that case, to circle back to Carson's most out-of-the-mainstream views, he has an easy response to Clinton's predictable lines of attack ("He's too out of the mainstream"; "He's just a puppet of the same old extremist Republicans"); he can simply laugh them off as yet another facet of the same-old Washington politics that he's running to replace. Would that defeat all the attacks? Of course not. Might it blunt them enough to give him an Electoral College squeaker? Possibly!

Political analysts have noted that one of the key factors in Barack Obama's 2012 victory was his "grand bet" to spend inordinate amounts of money in the summer, before the traditional spending splurge in the fall, attacking Mitt Romney as a rapacious, heartless businessman, and thereby defining him in the mind of voters. Carson might pursue the opposite "grand bet": spending inordinate money early to define himself on the basis of his narrative, a narrative conspicuously more attractive than Clinton's narrative of constant lying and shenanigans and careerism.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Cruising the Web

Donald Trump likes to brag that we should put him in charge of the government because the guys in charge now are so stupid and they're the reason for everything bad happening to our country. All we need is him in there taking advantage of his business experience and he'll fix all the problems. He'll make the best deals. Well, this is a story that maybe puts a dent in his bragging about his businesses and how they're run so much better than the government.
Customer credit and debit card numbers may have been stolen at seven Trump hotels after its payment systems were hacked for over a year.

The Trump Hotel Collection said on its website that hackers gained access to its systems between May 2014 and June 2015 at the front desk of those hotels. Hotel restaurants and gift shops were also hacked.

The hotel operator said an independent forensic investigation has not found any evidence of customer's information being misused. The company is offering affected customers a year of free identity theft protection.

The potential thefts occurred at the Trump SoHo New York, Trump International New York, Trump National Doral in Miami, Trump International Chicago, Trump International Waikiki in Hawaii, Trump International Hotel and Tower Las Vegas and Trump International Toronto.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is chairman and president of Trump Hotel Collection and three of his children have executive roles.
I'm not blaming him for the hacking. But this throws a little dust on his claims that he could take care of the Chinese solely with his magnificence.

Jason Riley speaks with former Republican congressman from Connecticut, Gary Franks, about how Republicans need to approach trying to win more of the black vote.
Republicans don’t need to pander, but they do need to lay bare the president’s poor track record with respect to issues that confront blacks. This requires a level of engagement beyond a speech to the NAACP. It means spending time in black communities introducing yourself and your ideas. It means taking full advantage of black social-media outlets in ways that Mr. Romney did not.

“Yes, you’ve got to show up,” Mr. Franks told me, “but it’s more than that. You’ve got to explain that participating in only one half of a [two-party] system doesn’t work. You’ve got to show contrasts between what Democrats have done and what Republicans have done on issues like school choice and faith-based interventions.”

The liberal track record on black unemployment, poverty and urban violence is especially weak. “These things have worsened under Obama,” he said. “Talk about the kids in Baltimore and Chicago being shot. That’s what blacks want to hear about from Republicans. How would you change the situation? Democrats’ response to gun violence is to do something about guns. That’s ridiculous. When blacks were being lynched in the South, was the response to do something about ropes? Everyone knows this is about gangs and drugs and personal behavior.”
Gee, I'd sure like to see a candidate who could make those arguments. And more than just the presidential candidate needs to be doing this. This is something all Republicans up and down the ballot should be doing.

And the Obama administration is lying to us once again - this time about how it is going to screen Middle Eastern refugees before letting them into the U.S.
As the White House prepares to dump another 10,000 Syrian refugees on U.S. cities, it assures us these mostly Muslim men undergo a "robust screening" process. Not so, admits the agency responsible for such vetting.

Under grilling from GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, head of the Senate subcommittee on immigration, the Homeland Security official in charge of vetting Syrian and other foreign Muslim refugees confessed that no police or intelligence databases exist to check the backgrounds of incoming refugees against criminal and terrorist records.

"Does Syria have any?" Sessions asked. "The government does not, no sir," answered Matthew Emrich, associate director for fraud detection and national security at DHS' U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Sessions further inquired: "You don't have their criminal records, you don't have the computer database that you can check?" Confessed Emrich: "In many countries the U.S. accepts refugees from, the country did not have extensive data holdings."

While a startling admission, it confirms previous reporting. Senior FBI officials recently testified that they have no idea who these people are, and they can't find out what type of backgrounds they have — criminal, terrorist or otherwise — because there are no vetting opportunities in those war-torn countries.

Syria and Iraq, along with Somalia and Sudan, are failed states where police records aren't even kept. Agents can't vet somebody if they don't have documentation and don't even have the criminal databases to screen applicants.

So the truth is, we are not vetting these Muslim refugees at all. And as GOP presidential front-runners duly note, it's a huge gamble to let people from hostile nations enter the U.S. without any meaningful background check. It's a safer bet just to limit, if not stop, their immigration.
So the administration is going to admit tens of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis and they have no way of screening those applicants despite their rhetoric about how they plan to do so.

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The Clinton campaign is sending a distinct message to Biden by leaking to the New York Magazine that they're getting ready their oppo research on him. Just in case, you know.
According to a source close to the Clinton campaign, a team of opposition researchers working on behalf of Clinton is currently digging through Biden’s long record in office to develop attack lines in case the vice-president runs. The research effort started about a month ago and is being conducted by operatives at Correct the Record, the pro-Hillary superpac founded by David Brock, which is coordinating with the Clinton campaign. According to the source, the research has turned up material on Biden’s ties to Wall Street; his reluctance to support the raid that killed Osma [sic] bin Laden; and his role in the Anita Hill saga as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The oppo-research project reveals how seriously Clintonworld is taking the prospect of a Biden candidacy. So far, Clinton hasn’t taken any direct shots at Biden herself. But behind the scenes, her loyalists are making moves to blunt Biden's campaign should he run. "Even implicitly his campaign’s argument would be ‘I have integrity and you don’t,'" a Clinton ally said. "If that’s the message, this could be messier than Obama-Clinton '08. At least Obama had the Iraq War vote and could make a case about generational change. This guy" — Biden — "is older than she is and just as conventional."
Oh, they're just turning up this stuff? Come on - that's what I could come up with off the top of my head and that's not even getting into his history of plagiarism. I think she needs some better oppo researchers. And she's going to have trouble going after him for ties to Wall Street, considering the ties the Clintons have.

Trump's claim to have opposed the war in Iraq before it began turns out to be phony. Paul Mirengoff writes,
Trump based his 2014 criticism to a considerable extent on the fact that WMD were not found in Iraq. That’s not prescience. There’s no evidence that Trump said before the invasion that, contrary to intelligence reports, Saddam didn’t have WMD.

Moreover, Trump clearly did not consider the Iraq war to be the epic failure he now says he deems it. President Bush’s decision to launch the war did not stop him from voting to reelect Bush. It’s unlikely that Trump would have voted for Bush in 2004 if he thought that the war was the epic failure he now portrays it to be.

Finally, as a general matter, Trump can hardly claim to be prescient given that he voted to reelect a president he claimed (just three years later) is probably the worst in American history. Why would anyone vote for a presidential candidate who confesses to such bad judgment?

I mean a guy like that might even think that Hillary Clinton is “terrific” and wish her to be the nominee of the party he supported.
He he.

I know that those Trump supporters being polled don't give a hoot about his rejection of conservative principles, but his joyful support of eminent domain taking a person's private property away from them just to give it to some private entity like Trump Industries should appall everyone. He thinks eminent domain is "wonderful."
Trump stated, “I think eminent domain is wonderful, if you’re building a highway, and you need to build, as an example, a highway, and you’re going to be blocked by a hold-out, or, in some cases, it’s a hold-out, just so you understand, nobody knows this better than I do, because I built a lot of buildings in Manhattan, and you’ll have 12 sites and you’ll get 11 and you’ll have the one hold-out and you end up building around them and everything else, okay? So, I know it better than anybody. I think eminent domain for massive projects, for instance, you’re going to create thousands of jobs, and you have somebody that’s in the way, and you pay that person far more — don’t forget, eminent domain, they get a lot of money, and you need a house in a certain location, because you’re going to build this massive development that’s going to employ thousands of people, or you’re going to build a factory, that without this little house, you can’t build the factory. I think eminent domain is fine.”

Trump was then asked for his past support for the Supreme Court’s ruling on eminent domain in Kelo v. New London, he stated, “Eminent domain — number one, a person has a house, and they end up getting much more than the house is ever worth. You know, eminent domain is not like you — they take your house.”

He added, “if you have a road or highway, you gotta do it. If you have a factory where you have thousands of jobs, and you need eminent domain, it’s called economic development.”
Note how he inserts a private company like a factory into the mix. He loves the Kelo decision. He has a long history of using eminent domain to get property to benefit his businesses, except for the one elderly woman who was able to stop him from taking her house.
A decade and a half ago, it was fresh on everyone’s mind that Donald Trump is one of the leading users of this form of state-sanctioned thievery. It was all over the news. In perhaps the most-remembered example, John Stossel got the toupĂ©ed one to sputter about how, if he wasn’t allowed to steal an elderly widow’s house to expand an Atlantic City casino, the government would get less tax money, and seniors like her would get less “this and that.” Today, however, it takes a push from the Club for Growth to remind us of Trump’s lack of respect for property rights.

The problem dates back to at least 1994. That year, Trump promised to turn Bridgeport, Conn., into“a national tourist destination by building a $350 million combined amusement park, shipping terminal and seaport village and office complex on the east side of the harbor,” reported the Hartford Courant. “At a press conference during which almost every statement contained the term ‘world class,’ Trump and Mayor Joseph Ganim lavished praise on one another and the development project and spoke of restoring Bridgeport to its glory days.”

The wrinkle? “Five businesses and the city-owned Pleasure Beach now occupy the land,” as the Courant put it. The solution? “The city would become a partner with Trump Connecticut Inc. and obtain the land through its powers of condemnation. Trump would in turn buy the land from the city.”

Here’s how the story concluded: “The entire development would cost the city nothing, Trump said, and no private homeowners would be affected because there are no dwellings on the land. Trump would own everything.”

That brings us to the story of the aforementioned elderly widow in Atlantic City, which starts at about the same time. The woman, Vera Coking, had owned property near the Trump Plaza Hotel for three decades, and didn’t want to move. Trump thought the land was better suited for use as a park, a parking lot, and a waiting area for limousines.

He tried to negotiate, at one point offering Coking $1 million for the land. But she wasn’t budging. So New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority filed a lawsuit, instructing Coking to leave within 90 days and offering compensation of only $251,000.

Perhaps the only upside to this story is that in neither case did Trump succeed. The Bridgeport plan fizzled. Coking fought in court, and — in part because these were the days before Kelo was decided, no doubt — she was lucky enough to win. In 1998, a judge threw out the case.

In 2005, however, Trump was delighted to find that the Supreme Court had okayed the brand of government-abetted theft that he’d twice attempted. “I happen to agree with it 100 percent,” he told Fox News’s Neil Cavuto of the Kelo decision.

Can Republicans support someone with so little regard for the property of others? Let’s hope not.

Stuart Rothenberg has an interesting post analyzing that, at this point in an election cycle, polls of Iowa have been more predicative than national polls. If so, the most recent NBC/WSJ poll must strike terror into the heart of the Clinton campaign. Among registered voters her favorable/unfavorable ratings are 35/59. Ouch. Jeb Bush's and Donald Trump's numbers aren't much better. The poll also shows Hillary losing to Bush, Trump, and Fiorina, but Bernie Sanders does a lot better in those match-ups. I don't know why those are the only Republicans they put in their match-up polls.

While we're waiting around for Joe Biden to make his mind up, it's time for liberals to imagine how Bernie Sanders could actually win.

Meanwhile, Sarah Westwood ponders the chances that Hillary Clinton can recover.
Pundits argue that Clinton can lose Iowa and New Hampshire and still win the Democratic nomination handily, highlighting Sanders' weaknesses as a general election candidate and the uphill battle Biden might face with such a late entry into the race.

But the only narratives emerging to replace the email controversy involve a pair of humiliating primary defeats at the hands of a candidate once regarded as a joke and the implications of a white-knight challenge from a sunny and widely liked vice president.
Meanwhile, by federal court order, there will be monthly releases of her emails through January. So there will be more of that steady drip-drip-drip.

And now the question before a judge in a FOIA suit is who, if anyone, approved Hillary's private server.

Michael Tomasky bucks up Democrats by arguing that they should not be freaking out at the idea of running against Marco Rubio. Short answer: more war on women rhetoric.
Clinton and the State Department have repeatedly declined to respond to press questions about whether the email arrangement was approved by management, record-keeping or security personnel at State. Clinton has said the practice was "permitted" under State Department rules, but she has not publicly detailed whether officials there helped set it up or maintain it.

In what amounts to a mixed blessing for Clinton’s presidential bid, Sullivan ordered up legal filings in the case that could extend the dispute into February of next year. If he decides to allow Kennedy's testimony, it could well come in the heart of the Democratic primary season. It’s also possible Kennedy could be asked or required to testify in one or more of the nearly 40 FOIA lawsuits pending in front of 17 different federal judges in Washington.

Kennedy, a 42-year veteran of the State Department known for his mastery of the agency’s bureaucracy, has played a pivotal but also mysterious role in the Clinton email saga. He served as State’s point person for the initial written request that Clinton return copies of her work-related emails and has since exchanged a series of letters with Clinton and former aides about their records.

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American leftists love to praise the Cuban health care system. OF course, they've just seen the Potemkin parts of Cuban health care. One Argentinian journalists looks behind the curtain.
Three out of the hospital’s four stories were closed. Only the ER was operational.

“We have been waiting for an ambulance for four hours,” yelled a man wearing green scrubs, who seemed to be a doctor. I sat on one of the four plastic chairs in the waiting area. My friend kept still and gestured to let me know I should remain silent and listen to the patients and their relatives.

Twenty minutes went by, and still no ambulance. The man in green scrubs remained at his mother’s side on an improvised stretcher, trying not to lose his patience. They looked like characters from the play Waiting for Godot.

The scarce equipment available gave the building the appearance of a makeshift medical camp, rather than a hospital in the nation’s capital.

I stood up and continued my tour. Two nurses stared at us but didn’t say a word as we entered an intensive-care unit, where the facility’s air-conditioned area began.

My guide — a taxi driver for tourists who don’t get to see this part of town — told me that all the doctors working the night shift are still in school. Indeed, none of them appeared to be older than 25.

Without an adequate staff on site, relatives must push hospital stretchers themselves.

The only working bathroom in the entire hospital had only one toilet. The door didn’t close, so you had to go with people outside watching. Toilet paper was nowhere to be found, and the floor was far from clean.

I saw biological waste discarded in a regular trash can. The beds had no linen, and the only equipment around was the bag of IV fluids hanging above them. All doctor’s offices had handwritten signs on the doors, and at least four patients waited outside each room. The average wait time for each was around three hours.
It sounds a lot like the descriptions of Soviet health care system.

Oh, such a shocker: "U.S Probes Alleged U.N. Bribe Scheme."
Federal law-enforcement authorities are investigating an alleged bribery scheme involving payments to officials at the United Nations to gain support for real-estate development in Macau, people familiar with the matter said.

The arrests last month of a Macau real-estate mogul and his assistant are connected to the alleged scheme, said those familiar with the matter. Additional charges are expected to be announced as early as Tuesday against a number of other people, including current or former U.N. officials.

The investigation, led by the office of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, centers on alleged bribery by Chinese businesspeople, they said. Some of the alleged bribes flowed to U.N. officials from the Caribbean, they said. How the alleged scheme worked wasn’t immediately clear.
Corruption at the U.N.? Who could imagine such a thing?

John Podhoretz explains how the Hillary campaign is using Kevin McCarthy's stupid words about how the Benghazi committee lowered her poll numbers to rally liberal support.
McCarthy’s remark was not only politically stupid and in some sense shockingly cynical, it was also untrue. In fact, the only role the Benghazi committee has played in Hillary’s poll problems was an inadvertent one.

As a matter of routine, it issued subpoenas for government documents. It was in the course of that routine behavior that the world discovered Hillary Clinton had been maintaining a private e-mail server while she was a government official. And that she destroyed tens of thousands of e-mails she had no right to destroy. (Or . . . did she?)

What has harmed Mrs. Clinton has been her own response to her own behavior — the lies she told about the server, the lies she told after the first lies were revealed and the various efforts to cover her tracks and derail the story when it became clear she had knowingly mishandled classified information.

Charles Krauthammer called the McCarthy comments “the gaffe of the year,” and it’s hard to argue — but it’s the gaffe of 2015, not of 2016. And in October 2015, the foes Hillary has to fear aren’t Republicans but Sanders and Biden — or the voters who might be looking elsewhere after nine months of what is unquestionably the worst major political campaign . . . since the last time she ran for president.
Hillary is using the McCarthy gaffe to remind Democrats just how hated she is by Republicans. She’s taking them on the trip down memory lane back to the 1990s and the days when she rallied Democrats against the “vast right-wing conspiracy” she condemned the week after the story of her husband’s sexual misconduct in the Oval Office appeared on the Drudge Report.

It worked then. Democrats could have abandoned Bill Clinton, which would have ended his presidency, but they did not do so in large measure because they hated the Republicans more.

But that was 17 years ago. It’s likely her campaign has long since banked the value of her standing as Hillary-the-victim-of-evil-Republicans. She already enjoys the support of those who will vote for her because of the 1990s. What she hasn’t done is given Democrats who are not sold on that aspect of her political story much reason to vote for her in 2016.

“The Clinton folks believe DEEPLY that this is a game changer for them,” tweeted Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post. Given how poorly she and her campaign have been reading the national mood, the fact they think they have a “game changer” on their hands likely means it’s nothing of the kind.

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This is how much leftists hate Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister adopted a rescue dog and he gets compared to Hitler.

Every time there is one of these terrible mass murders, we seem to spend all the time afterwards discussing gun control. As Lee Habeeb writes, perhaps we should be discussing the role of media coverage. If it bleeds it leads. But somehow, that causes there to be more blood.
The media are co-conspirators in these mass murders whether they like it or not, delivering attention that these deranged men long for — and bank on.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for the media to examine their own complicity. They prefer to spend endless hours blaming the Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association, running endless segments about responsible gun ownership and gun control. But there is little talk about the First Amendment, responsible media ownership, and media self-control.

The media are not particularly well regarded these days. Public trust of media institutions is at a historic low. Millennials, according to a recent study, rank the media as more untrustworthy than Congress.

And there are lots of reasons why. Take Ferguson. With little in the way of a factual record, and little in the way of evidence, the media descended on the small town in Missouri. A local incident, not yet resolved, had become an international story, and why? Because the media decided it was symptomatic of a larger narrative about police and the lives of African Americans.

RELATED: Does the Media Encourage Mass Shootings?

At some point during the unrest on the streets of Ferguson, journalists on the streets seemed to outnumber the protesters. When the fires erupted and chaos ensued, many in the media seemed excited about it, as if they were rooting for a city to burn. Ironically, the presence of the mass media just might have been the reason a city nearly burned.

One thing is certain: A city aflame is a great story. And gets great ratings.

The protests eventually died down, and the reporters who descended on the St. Louis suburb in the name of helping the people there were off to chase the next sensational story in some other American town. The people of Ferguson were left to clean up the mess the media made — a mess from which it will take years to recover....

This is not some obscure theory, the idea that the media are playing a part in these mass-shooter suicides. Back in 1987, four teenagers in the small town of Bergenfield, N.J., made a suicide pact. They entered a car in a garage, started the engine, and died minutes later of carbon monoxide poisoning. Two more young people in the town attempted suicide the next week. The national media descended on that town in full force.

I remember it because my dad was the superintendent of schools of Bergenfield at the time, and the media’s appetite for gruesome details seemed insatiable. Within weeks, there erupted a rash of suicides nationwide that resembled those suicides in Bergenfield, leading the New York Times to run a front-page headline that put media coverage itself in the crosshairs: “Pattern of Death: Copycat Suicides among Youths.”

’”Hearing about a suicide moves those teen-agers at risk closer to doing it themselves,”’ David Shaffer, then head of the Suicide Research Unit at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, told the Times. “The news coverage of teen-age suicides can portray the victims as martyrs of sorts, and the more sentimentalized it is, the more legitimate — even heroic — it may seem to some teen-agers.”

This tendency of disturbed young people to imitate each other’s highly publicized suicides has a name, the “Werther Syndrome,” a reference to the hero of Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. In the novel, Werther kills himself to resolve what he saw as a hopeless love triangle. The book was banned in some European countries because of a rash of suicides by young men who’d read it.

”Teen-agers are highly imitative, influenced by fads and fashions in general,” David Phillips, a sociologist at the University of California at San Diego, told the Times. In a series of studies, Phillips found a significant rise in suicides after a well-publicized case. The rise was greatest among teenagers. “Hearing about a suicide seems to make those who are vulnerable feel they have permission to do it,” Phillips said.
Remember that some of these mass murderers are committing "suicide by cop." By giving such wall-to-wall coverage to every one of these shootings, the media might be inspiring some other troubled young men. It's a theory at least worth talking about as much as gun control measures. And that is especially true when they talk about reforms such as closing the "gun show loophole." Hillary claims that she would use executive authority to reclassify anyone who is selling firearms so that they would be subject to federal laws on background checks. Except there is no such thing. Sean Davis explains,
For starters, the federal government already has the statutory authority to define who does and does not qualify as an individual “in the business of selling firearms.” It derives that authority from 18 U.S. Code § 921.

....Contra Hillary Clinton’s campaign, “high-volume private vendors” cannot legally exist under current law. Under the ATF’s existing definition, it is impossible to sell high volumes of firearms without triggering the definition of a dealer in firearms. The “repetitive purchase and resale of firearms” makes you a dealer, not a private individual. Anything other than “occasional sales” makes you a dealer, not a private individual. Unlicensed dealing is against the law. Refusing to conduct background checks as a dealer (licensed or not) is against the law.

Now, if you read through the ATF regulations or the statutes from which they derive their authority, you’ll notice something missing: any mention of gun shows or the Internet. Does that mean gun shows are unregulated, as Clinton and her allies dishonestly imply? Does it mean that Internet sales are unregulated? Not at all. In fact, it shows the exact opposite.

There is zero protection enshrined in law for transactions that happen to occur at a gun show or over the Internet. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The so-called “gun show loophole” simply does not exist. Nor does any sort of Internet gun sale loophole. Federal gun laws are directed at the entities engaging in the manufacture or distribution of firearms, not the mere venues where those activities happen to take place. If you are an FFL who sells guns at a gun show, you are required by law to either process a background check prior to the sale of a gun, or you must confirm, usually by examining a concealed carry permit or a purchase permit (both of which require background checks), that a buyer is not legally prohibited from purchasing or possessing a gun.

In the same vein, there’s no Internet gun sale loophole, either. You can’t legally buy a gun off the Internet from some random guy ten states away and have it show up on your doorstep the next morning. It’s against the law for a private individual to ship a gun across state lines to a non-FFL. Any firearm purchased from another state must be processed through an FFL in the state in which the buyer resides. That FFL is required to process a background check before providing the gun to you.

The only federal background check exemption that exists is for transactions between private, non-FFL individuals who reside in the same state. That’s it. There’s no Internet exemption. There’s no gun show exemption. The only exemption is for transactions with zero federal nexus: no federal firearms license, and no purchase or sale across state lines.

Now, if Hillary thinks Congress should pass a law regulating private transactions between private individuals who reside in the same state, that’s her prerogative. But she should at least be honest about what she’s doing and about what authority the president has to do it. The president cannot by fiat eliminate the existing exemption. It can be done only by Congress. Obama tried to do so in 2013, but failed. Rather than making up gun control fairy tales to comfort her supporters, perhaps Hillary Clinton should explain to them how she’ll get a majority of the U.S. House and 60 U.S. senators to sign on to her gun control plan.

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Jonah Goldberg explains how Obama would rather politicize an issue rather than trying to engage in actual politics.
But ultimately Obama was just paying lip service to an ideal he does not live by. He's not about to try building consensus on gun violence among people of good faith. He'll take the same approach he's taken throughout his presidency: I mean he'll delegitimize opponents of his sweeping agenda as irrational, self-interested, enemies of decency and progress.

As the Washington Examiner's Byron York recently noted, Obama has a long history of trying to shut down disagreement by accusing his critics of politicization. He accused Republicans of trying to politicize abortion, the U.S. relationship with Israel, the Iran deal, Benghazi and the scandals at the IRS and the VA. Just last week he insinuated that Hillary Rodham Clinton's disagreements with his Syria policy (or lack thereof) are influenced by the fact she's running for office.

The common denominator in all of these cases is Obama's unimpeachable certainty that he has a monopoly on all the good arguments and all the best motives. Now he even claims the exclusive right to politicize issues when it suits him.

In his remarks, he repeatedly insisted that all he wants are common-sense reforms that would stop mass shootings, as if the people who disagree with him are in favor of such slaughter....

Obama's comments on Thursday highlighted the problem with his approach to politics. He would rather go for everything he wants and get nothing, but keep the political issue, than make progress on common ground.

Virtually none of the proposals on his gun-control wish list — more comprehensive federal background checks, closing the gun show "loophole," etc. — would help bring down the homicide rate. It's not just a tautology to note that most gun crimes are committed by criminals — with guns bought illegally. Enforcing existing laws or restoring stop-and-frisk policies in big cities would save more lives than shuttering gun shows.

Nor would his proposals have prevented the deaths at Umpqua Community College. Typically, mass killers don't buy guns at gun shows. And a CNN analysis found that a comprehensive background check system wouldn't have prevented any of the "routine" killing sprees Obama referred to, save one: The Virginia Tech shooter should have failed a background test but didn't.

That murderer — like the Tucson, Sandy Hook and, most likely, Umpqua killers — had serious mental health problems.

After the Sandy Hook slaughter, there was a bipartisan consensus that more needed to be done on the mental health side. But Obama, fresh off reelection, rejected a piecemeal approach, largely preferring to go for a "comprehensive" solution. He ended up with nothing at all.
Just the result Obama must want since he rarely tries to work for a compromise. I am covering Andrew Jackson's presidency this week in my AP U.S. History class. We'd talked about the dislike between Henry Clay and Jackson so when it came to talk about how Clay orchestrated a compromise to defuse the Nullification Crisis over the Tariff of Abominations, several of my students asked about why Clay would have done that given how much he disliked Jackson. It was as if they couldn't comprehend a politician acting for the greater good of the country even if he disliked the sitting president. Is it that unfathomable to have leading politicians who would work for the greater good of the country instead of hoping that the president would experience a terrible crisis.

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This is a great parody of the Washington Post's Fact Checker giving Carly Fiorina three Pinocchios for saying that she went from being a secretary to being the CEO even though they acknowledged that her statement is factually true. I guess they would have given Abe Lincoln three Pinocchios also.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Cruising the Web

Oh, this explains a lot about Joe Biden - Politico is reporting that Biden himself was the one who leaked the story of his son's death wish that he run for president.
Joe Biden has been making his 2016 deliberations all about his late son since August.

Aug. 1, to be exact — the day renowned Hillary Clinton-critic Maureen Dowd published a column that marked a turning point in the presidential speculation.

According to multiple sources, it was Biden himself who talked to her, painting a tragic portrait of a dying son, Beau’s face partially paralyzed, sitting his father down and trying to make him promise to run for president because "the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.”

It was no coincidence that the preliminary pieces around a prospective campaign started moving right after that column. People read Dowd and started reaching out, those around the vice president would say by way of defensive explanation. He was just answering the phone and listening.

But in truth, Biden had effectively placed an ad in The New York Times, asking them to call.

Before that moment and since, Biden has told the Beau story to others. Sometimes details change — the setting, the exact words. The version he gave Dowd delivered the strongest punch to the gut, making the clearest swipe at Clinton by enshrining the idea of a campaign against her in the words of a son so beloved nationally that his advice is now beyond politics. This campaign wouldn’t be about her or her email controversy, the story suggests, but connected to righteousness on some higher plane.
I guess he is running then. Of course, we all suspected that the leak came from the top since only family members presumably were at the scene. Would any other member of the family have leaked the story to Maureen Dowd without Joe's approval. He must have decided to get his name out there as a possible savior for the Democrats as Hillary's polls slid. Why else use his dying son as a campaign opener?

Stories like this in the Washington Post, "How Hillary Clinton kept her wealthy friends close while at State Department," will help to entice Biden into the race.
The note to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton from liberal financier George Soros demanded “urgent attention from the highest levels of the U.S. government.” Clinton swiftly alerted a top aide to what she described as a “very forceful message which is good — and needed.”

The e-mail exchange, in which Soros warned of growing unrest in Albania, illustrates how Clinton interacted with major donors to her family’s causes during her tenure at the State Department, staying in touch with her political network before her 2016 run for the Democratic presidential nomination. And they show how these donors, some of them with interests before the U.S. government, gained high-level access to press their policy concerns inside the Clinton-led State Department.

Soros, a top contributor to the Clinton Foundation, was one of several major donors whose messages were disclosed by the State Department last week as part of the ongoing release of the former secretary’s e-mails. Other exchanges included references to entertainment mogul Haim Saban, who has said he would pay “whatever it takes” to propel Clinton to the White House in 2016, as well as other major Clinton Foundation donors such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates, fashion industry executive Susie Tompkins Buell and Ukrainian steel magnate Viktor Pinchuk.

The e-mails that mention donors — numbering a few dozen out of the thousands of pages of messages released so far — do not show that financial supporters were able to alter policy decisions. But the dynamic points to one of the unusual aspects of Clinton’s record at the State Department. Because she and her family have raised so much money over the years from wealthy individuals and major corporations — for political campaigns as well as the sprawling global charity founded by her husband, former president Bill Clinton — her public business as secretary inevitably brought her in contact with private interests that helped boost her family’s philanthropy and income....

The e-mails show that, in some cases, donors were granted face-to-face contact with top officials.

Soros secured a meeting with Clinton in 2010 to discuss U.S. government funding for the American University of Central Asia, an educational institution that Soros helped support in the former Soviet Union.

Pinchuk, who has pledged more than $10 million to the Clinton Foundation in recent years, met with a top Clinton aide to speak on behalf of Ukraine’s strongman president and to try to soothe tensions with Washington over that country’s human rights record and its growing closeness with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin while resisting Europe.
But I'm sure all this coordination with donors to her family's charities is just a coincidence, right?

For what it's worth, Ed Klein's new book on Hillary, Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary, has the story from several anonymous sources about Hillary working on Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative fund raising while at the State Department. I take a lot of Ed Klein and anonymous sources with a dose of salt, but these sorts of stories swirling around Hillary have to increase the temptation Biden is feeling to run.

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Glenn Reynolds argues that Barack Obama's actions to politicize the shooting in Oregon is going to hurt his party.
So after last week’s mass shooting in Oregon, President Obama chose to go on TV right away, even before all the facts were in about what had happened. Then he issued a bold call: It was time, he said, to “politicize” the tragedy, in service of getting rid of guns. He chose Australia — which implemented draconian gun confiscation in the 1990s — as a model of where America should be heading.

This sort of presidential action doesn’t happen by accident. For Obama to have stepped forward on this issue, at this moment, means that he and his advisers think it’s helpful to him. (Even though, in 2008, Obama told voters: “I believe in people’s lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away.”) But how, exactly, is it helpful?

After all, no significant gun legislation — and certainly nothing like Australia-style confiscation — is going to make it through a Republican Congress. And gun control isn’t especially popular anymore anyway: As a Pew poll released last year demonstrated, more Americans support gun rights than gun control, representing a dramatic change over the situation a few decades ago.
Maybe Obama is back to worrying about how those small town boobs are clinging to their guns and religion. But Obama's focus is not going to help Democrats. But it might help Obama.
It's a bad electoral issue for Democrats. Obama knew that in 2008 when he promised not to go after people’s guns. And today, Republicans are hoping that Obama goes there. The Washington Free Beacon's Sonny Bunch wrote last Friday, “If you want to guarantee that Hillary Clinton loses, liberals, press her to call for stricter gun laws and hint that you want to take their Glocks from them.”

So if the issue is a loser for Obama and the Democrats, why make a big deal about it? Well, the answer is, that when we’re talking about guns, a bad issue for Obama, we’re not talking about other things that pose worse issues for Obama. And the list of those is long.

In Syria, Putin is making Obama look weak, ordering U.S. planes out of the sky, bombing CIA-supported rebels, and allying with Iranian troops. Obama has no real response, leading to The Economist headline, "Putin Dares, Obama Dithers.”
The list of problems facing this administration go on and on. No wonder Obama likes the distraction of talking about laws that won't get passed, but allow him to look firm and angry. And Hillary can talk about what she'll do if she gets elected. She seems to be worrying more about getting the nomination than how she would fare in a general election. So now she's talking about how she would take executive action to close the "gun-show loophole." So, as Allahpundit observes, she wants to take the same approach that Obama has taken to everything he wanted to do but couldn't get through Congress.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because Obama took the same attitude towards executive amnesty. Either Congress could give him what he wanted by legalizing illegals or he’d give himself what he wanted by legalizing illegals unilaterally. The president no longer loses in our system of (giggle) separation of powers, at least if he has a complacent caucus from his own party in Congress that’s willing to defend him on every power grab at their branch’s expense. Hillary’s building on that precedent now, in the middle of a surprisingly tough primary campaign, to stroke one of the few political erogenous zones that excites the left more than open borders does.
This is what we can look forward to now that Obama established the precedents and got away with them. We no longer have a system of limited government with the executive checked by the Congress.

And, of course, it doesn't matter that anything Hillary is talking about would have done anything to have stopped the Oregon shooting.
When was the last time a degenerate responsible for a mass shooting used the alleged “gun-show loophole” to buy his murder weapon? The nut in Oregon owned 14 guns, every one of which turned out to be traceable to a federal firearms dealer. To the extent that today’s Hillary proposal is designed to capitalize on public horror over yet another massacre on an American campus, it’s an exercise in “gesture liberalism,” a feelgood do-something measure that doesn’t actually address a major problem. In fact, even the way this supposed problem is framed is a lie: As many of you already know, the “gun-show loophole” that supposedly allows anyone to sell an arsenal of weapons to a buyer without a background check is nothing of the sort. Where the sale occurs doesn’t matter, as Sean Davis explains. Whether at a gun show or anywhere else, if you’re selling weapons to the public repetitively and in any kind of volume, you’re a dealer for purposes of the law and are required to perform a check of the buyer. The “loophole” that permits sales without a background check effectively only covers sales between two private individuals who live in the state and only if the seller isn’t selling guns regularly. Think “dad selling his pistol to his son,” not “guy in a booth selling AR-15s to dozens of strangers at a gun show.”

Again, though: As with the “assault weapons” ban, this is less about Democrats trying to solve a glaring problem than about (a) signaling to the left that they’re on the team and (b) moving the Overton window, however marginally, towards greater federal regulation of guns. Which raises a good question from Greg Sargent. If Hillary thinks this is worth doing as president, even if just to polish her liberal cred, how come President Overreach hasn’t done it already himself?

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Bret Stephens rightly characterizes this president's approach to all ideas that are not his own and are not in line with his preferred policies.
David Petraeus testified last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Regarding Syria, the former general and CIA director urged a credible threat to destroy Bashar Assad’s air force if it continues to bomb its own people. He also recommended “the establishment of enclaves in Syria protected by coalition air power, where a moderate Sunni force could be supported and where additional forces could be trained, internally displaced persons could find refuge, and the Syrian opposition could organize.”

But Barack Obama does not agree. At his Friday press conference, the president described such views as “mumbo-jumbo,” “half-baked ideas,” “as-if” solutions, a willful effort to “downplay the challenges involved in the situation.” He says the critics have no answers to the questions of “what exactly would you do and how would you fund it and how would you sustain it.”

America’s greatest living general might as well have been testifying to his shower drain for all the difference his views are going to make in this administration.

So it is with this president. It’s not enough for him to stake and defend his positions. He wants you to know that he thinks deeper, sees further, knows better, operates from a purer motive. His preferred method for dealing with disagreement is denigration. If Republicans want a tougher line in Syria, they’re warmongers. If Hillary Clinton thinks a no-fly zone is a good idea, she’s playing politics: “There is obviously a difference,” the president tut-tutted about his former secretary of state’s position, “between running for president and being president.”

You can interpret that jab as a sign Mr. Obama is urging Joe Biden to run. It’s also a reminder that Mr. Obama believes his Syria policy—the one that did nothing as 250,000 people were murdered; the one that did nothing as his own red lines were crossed; the one that allowed ISIS to flourish; the one that has created the greatest refugee crisis of the 21st century; the one currently being exploited by Russia and Iran for geopolitical advantage—is a success.

That’s because the president’s fundamental conviction about American foreign policy is that we need less of it—less commitment, less expense, less responsibility. Winston Churchill once said that the U.S. could not be “the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes.” Mr. Obama sees it differently. He is the president who would prefer not to. He is the Bartleby of 21st century geopolitics.
Whoo, that's a great line - "the Bartleby of 21st century geopolitics." Stephens reminds us of the success of establishing a no-fly zone for northern Iraq where now there is an Iraqi Kurdistan. Without that zone in the 1990s, we might well have seen Saddam Hussein massacre those Kurds.
There’s a view that staying out of Syria is the best way to get bad guys on all sides to fight their way to mutual extinction. But the lesson of the Syrian war is that chaos does not annihilate the forces of jihad. It turbocharges them.

“It is frequently said that there is no ‘military solution’ to Syria,” Gen. Petraeus said in his testimony. “This may be true, but it is also misleading. For, in every case, if there is to be hope of a political settlement, a certain military and security context is required—and that context will not materialize on its own.” Is this, too, mumbo-jumbo?

In the meantime, note what Vladimir Putin, lectured by Mr. Obama for getting Russia “stuck in a quagmire,” is achieving in Syria.

For a relatively trivial investment of some jet fighters and a brigade-sized support force, Moscow extends its influence in the eastern Mediterranean, deepens a commercially and strategically productive alliance with Iran, humiliates the U.S., boosts Mr. Putin’s popularity at home, and earns a geopolitical card he can play in any number of negotiations—Ukraine, gas contracts, Mr. Assad’s political future, you name it. If things don’t work out, he can pull up stakes within a week without much loss of money, lives or prestige. It’s a perfect play.

I spent some time staring at press pool photos of Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin at their recent encounter at the United Nations. The Russian seems to gaze at the president the way a good chess player approaches an inferior opponent—somewhere between delighted and bored by the intellectual mismatch. We’ve got 16 more months of this to go.

Robert Merry is troubled about how much of our politics is now being determined by polls and the media rather than by people actually voting.
Apolitical revolution is taking place in America. The process of selecting party presidential candidates has been transformed in the last two or three election cycles. Now we have the early debates designed to drive poll numbers and tell us who’s “ahead” and who’s “behind,” who’s “gaining” and who’s “dropping.” Yet not a single vote has been taken, not a single voter has pulled a lever in a voting booth or gone to a single caucus.

And yet candidates are being winnowed out. Take, for example, Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Is he out because he couldn’t get any voters to vote for him? No, few voters have even bothered to focus on the race thus far with any intensity, much less actually vote. It’s because his debate performances proved lackluster, which sent his poll numbers down, which led to a sharp decline in his ability to raise money. He lost in a contest that was extra-electoral.

So who’s running the show? First, the cable networks, which host and hawk the debates. Second, the campaign media, particularly the selfsame cable shows, that then go wild in their coverage and analysis of who won and lost. Third, the pollsters, who rush out to assess opinion in the wake of the debates, thus giving the impression that the race has actually begun when in fact their polls reflect nothing more than a “snapshot” look at political sentiment months before it actually congeals into something meaningful. Fourth, the money guys, who absorb all the drama perpetrated by the cable provocateurs, the political reporters and the pollsters, and then direct or withhold their dollars based on that superficial drama.

Is this not a push toward oligarchy? Here we have crucial matters of state, nothing less than the selection of our elected leaders, more and more residing in the hands of a well-positioned few who manage to influence the outcome, perhaps even effect an outcome, before the voters get into the game.
That's true at this point, but once people start actually voting, those votes will count more than the polls. Think of how countries from Britain to Greece have surprised pollsters this past year. The problem here is that our election just goes on too dang long. Add in that we have an open presidency so that both parties will be struggling to figure out who their nominee will be. That led so many Republicans to jump in the race. They had to be winnowed down. In older days, that number would have been winnowed down by party leaders who would have decided who the most likely candidates would be. Those same party elites are relatively unimportant this time around.

Somehow this doesn't seem like a winning tactic for Trump bring down Marco Rubio.
Donald Trump delivered a new dig in his ongoing feud with Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday: a 24-bottle care package with the label “Trump Ice Natural Spring Water.”

The set of bottled water was sent to the Rubio campaign’s Washington office on Monday. The package also had two towels with the “Make America Great Again” Trump campaign slogan, Trump campaign bumper stickers, and a note that said “Since you’re always sweating, we thought you could use some water. Enjoy!” according to CNN.

It’s a jab at Rubio who awkwardly reached for a bottle of water right in the middle of his 2013 State of the Union rebuttal to President Barack Obama. It’s also the latest attack in the squabbling between Trump and Rubio. Both candidates have been delivering strong poll numbers in the Republican primary field, sparking tensions.
During a recent debate, Trump poked Rubio for being sweaty.

“Rubio, I’ve never seen a young guy sweat that much,” Trump said during a recent appearance in South Carolina. “He’s drinking water, water, water, I never saw anything like this with him with the water.”
Yes, because the one thing that we certainly don't want is a president who regularly hydrates.

Rubio can just point to all the stories of Democrats saying that Marco Rubio is the candidate they fear the most. The most recent was Patti Solis Doyle, Hillary's 2008 campaign manager.

Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry explain why Donald Trump is such a mistaken choice for real conservatives.
That Trump has a long history of liberal positions that extends even into the fairly recent past should not by itself be disqualifying. Conservatism has always welcomed converts. But conservatives have also expected some demonstrated commitment to their principles, some action that advanced their causes, before seeking to elevate a convert to high office. When Mitt Romney ran for the Senate in 1994, for example, he tried to distance himself from Reagan-era conservatism. He later moved right. But even on his least conservative day, Romney was arguing for a smaller government and lower taxes (and for an end to Ted Kennedy’s career). Trump, by contrast, has done essentially nothing for any conservative cause prior to deciding to run for the Republican presidential nomination.

For that matter, the evidence that Trump is actually a convert — that he is today a conservative — is scant. In part this is because he is so cavalier in describing what he would do as president. Usually he simply assures us that he will have the best people working on an issue, that they will come up with terrific plans, and that the results will overjoy us. In itself this patter suggests that he respects neither the presidency nor his supporters. But it’s also telling that he rarely specifies that these great people will be conservatives, or that conservative principles (assuming he can name any) will guide them. Even the suggestion that Americans would be freer, or their government smaller, for his efforts is absent from his shtick. His contempt for the political class is rooted in conceit, not conservatism: They haven’t governed well because they’re supposedly not as smart as he is. Other candidates denounce crony capitalism as a betrayal of the national creed. Trump tells us how good he is at it.

Even on immigration, Trump cannot be trusted to maintain a position over the span of a day. He wants native-born Americans to get high-tech jobs, according to his “white paper”; he wants to import high-skilled immigrants to do them, according to his interviews. He wants to build a wall, he says, unlike other Republicans; he might erect a bunch of barriers instead, he says, just like everyone else. His policy document doesn’t mention mass deportation; he can’t stop talking about it. And he has never even sought to explain how he went from blasting Romney after the 2012 election for being too harsh toward Hispanics to suggesting today that a lot of Mexican immigrants are rapists.

Which brings us to another reason Trump would be a disastrous champion for conservatives: He taints and discredits the important cause of controlling immigration, and would do the same to conservatism generally in the unlikely event that he became the nominee. Deterring illegal immigration and reducing legal immigration would serve the rule of law, promote national cohesion, and help both native-born and immigrant low-wage workers. This agenda is routinely dismissed, however, as an expression of nostalgia for a whiter country — or worse. Every time Trump suggests that people who have come here from Mexico are mostly drug runners and murderers, he makes it easier to think that legitimate conservative concerns about immigration are tantamount to racism.

Trump’s discarded wives and his habit of making gross sexual insults of women also make it easier for liberals to campaign against Republicans’ supposed “war on women.” Perhaps one or two of Trump’s comments were not as disgusting as they have generally been taken to be: Maybe he didn’t mean to suggest that Fox anchor Megyn Kelly asked him tough questions because she was menstruating. But look at the whole pattern — his repeated attacks on her as a “bimbo,” his slam of Carly Fiorina’s face, his description of other women as pigs — and it’s clear that these bits of ugliness are not gaffes so much as a way of life.

Trump responds to this kind of criticism by casting himself as a brave dissenter from political correctness. Here, too, he discredits a worthy cause. Conservatives and some honorable liberals have stood up against the oversensitivity and censorship of legitimate political viewpoints that has spread from college campuses over the last three decades. Trump appears to confuse simple decency with PC. Republicans should not embrace this confusion by cheering him on.

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Reason points to how sad recess has gotten. In Minnesota, schools are hiring "recess consultants" to figure out planned activity because they can't have kids developing their own free play. The schools don't want kids making up games or playing tag which now must be banned. What happened to the desire to encourage children to exercise their own creativity?

FIRE links to an editorial in the Middlebury Campus protesting against federal courts insisting on due process for a student accused of sexual misconduct. The student newspaper insists that the school should be able to prosecute the accused and expel him without his having access to legal representation. They don't care about the facts; all they care about declaring someone guilty just because an accusation has been made. I'm old enough that I can remember when students used to care about due process rights for the accused.

Meanwhile, this is a statistic that should make it clear why due process rights are so crucial to preserve.
It turns out the "one-in-five number" is correct, but it's not the one-in-five the media are reporting. Harvard University released its sexual assault statistics as part of federal regulations, and it turns out 18.1 percent of reported rapes on campus are "unfounded," defined by Harvard police as "any report of a crime that is found to be false or baseless."

If this number is reported anywhere in the media that's so eager to report every faulty survey purporting to show 20 percent of women are sexually assaulted in college, you can bet they will add in all the caveats they leave out in reporting incidences of sexual assault.

For example, this is an extremely limited report — it's just one campus. That might fly when trying to claim there's a national epidemic of campus sexual assault, but it really means nothing. Harvard could be an outlier. It could be the norm. What the report does have going for it is that it is based on evidence (actual reports) and not vague descriptions of sexual acts determined to be assault by biased researchers searching for a crisis.

Carol Tavris, co-author of Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me), writes in the Los Angeles Times about how our definition of sexual assault has changed.
The Justice Department and the FBI have expanded the definition of rape that existed decades ago. Today, it is defined as forced penetration of any orifice with any part of the body or an object. Under that definition, rates of rape are about 3% to 4% of college women and a slightly higher percentage of women not in college. If you add "attempted rape," the number goes up.

But if you add all of the behaviors now considered sexual assault — which include any unwanted acts such as "forced kissing," "fondling" and "rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes" — the number rises to that now-famous 20%. That's the figure President Obama used in his news conference launching the Justice Department's crusade against the campus rape "epidemic." It is also close to the number reported in the Assn. of American Universities' latest survey of sexual assault on U.S. colleges.

On one level, numbers shouldn't matter: Rape is ugly, it's serious and can have devastating consequences for its victims. But if numbers are being used to generate a national panic or to institute university policies that may cause more harm than good, then we need to assess them as dispassionately as possible, without being accused of being "rape cultured" or supporting perpetrators.

Should young women be encouraged to believe that a clumsy act of fondling or kissing is the same thing, emotionally or physically, as forced penetration? For people who believe that misogyny and sexual violence are widespread and entrenched, the answer is yes; 20% seems like the right number for the percentage of assault victims. The culture today, they argue, encourages young men to feel sexually entitled to take advantage of women who are inebriated or otherwise unable to consent; look at those frat guys chanting, "No means yes."

For others, 3% or 4% feels like a more accurate number, supporting their argument that claims of rape are exaggerated in a political climate that supports any allegation a woman makes, and that invites women to turn unpleasant or regretted sexual encounters into assault charges. The culture today, they say, encourages women to avoid taking responsibility for their part in sexual encounters. Look at the language we use when we blame men for "getting a woman drunk." "Getting"? What is she, an empty vessel with no ability to say she's had enough?
And should young men be expelled from college and have their lives changed forever for a clumsy kiss? Or should the male carry all the blame for a sexual encounter when both participants are inebriated? Shouldn't women have some responsibility for their own behavior? It seems so wrong to extend these definitions so far that the horror of a forcible rape is counted just the same as a drunken hook up that the woman clearly welcomed at the time but just regretted later. The situation today is conflating too many different situations under the umbrella of sexual assault.
By far, the most well-traveled pathway from uncomfortable sexual negotiations to honest false testimony is alcohol. For some women, alcohol is the solution to the sex decision: If they are inebriated, they haven't said yes, and if they haven't explicitly said yes, no one can call them sluts. But for both parties, alcohol significantly impairs the cognitive interpretation of the other person's behavior. Men who are drunk are less likely to interpret nonconsent messages accurately, and women who are drunk convey less emphatic signs of refusal. And alcohol severely impairs both partners' memory of what actually happened.

When trying to reduce sexual assault, labeling all forms of sexual misconduct, including unwanted touches and sloppy kisses, as rape is alarmist and unhelpful. We need to draw distinctions between behavior that is criminal, behavior that is stupid and behavior that results from the dance of ambiguity.

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This is an unlikely biographical entry for an aspiring politician.
A Florida man running for a U.S. Senate seat as a Libertarian admitted Monday to sacrificing a goat and drinking its blood in a pagan ritual two years ago.

According to a report, Augustus Sol Invictus, a 32-year-old lawyer, performed the ritual after walking from central Florida to the Mojave Desert in California, where he spent a week fasting and praying.

"I did sacrifice a goat," Invictus said in an Associated Press story posted in the Orlando Sentinel. "I know that's probably a quibble in the mind of most Americans. I sacrificed an animal to the god of the wilderness ... Yes, I drank the goat's blood."

The WSJ cheers politicians like Marco Rubio and Democrat Michael Bennet for going after the accreditation racket for universities and colleges.
These quality-assurance teams evaluate colleges periodically by asking questions such as: How many books does the library house? There’s no useful benchmark on what students learn, and by the way, a majority of four-year college graduates don’t learn enough to compare viewpoints in newspaper editorials, according to Education Department research.

Nothing but the accreditor’s up or down verdict is available to the public, but we know it’s harder to flunk than a sex-education course. In 1987 Southeastern University posted a 42% student-loan default rate, but the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools didn’t revoke its accreditation until 2009. The six agencies that approve more than 1,500 four-year colleges have in the past 15 years revoked accreditation for, wait for it, 18.

Then there’s grade inflation. Faculty and administrators from neighboring institutions perform the visits. They know the staff at the school they’re evaluating might soon check up on them, and so there’s a disincentive for intensive review. Add to this self-dealing that colleges pay dues to their accrediting organization—again, the one that decides if an institution qualifies for federal subsidies.

What do students get? Higher tuition, as colleges plow time and money into the process and pass on the costs. Stanford University said it spent $850,000 in 12 months of a multiyear process, and Duke University reported blowing $1.5 million over two years. Accreditors recommend changes—trimming faculty course loads, hiring more Ph.D.s—that drive up expenses without improving educational outcomes.

Most pernicious is that the cartel stifles innovation. Students can’t use federal aid at colleges that aren’t accredited, yet a school usually must serve students for years before winning approval. Accreditation amounts to monopoly enforcement, which is why in 2013 the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools swatted down an online program at Tiffin University.
There are new ways to learn and why should the federal government be facilitating a method of blocking innovation?

Thomas Sowell rightly ridicules the idea that the predominance of one group over another in some profession is a sign of discrimination.
One of the many painful signs of the mindlessness of our times was a recent section of the Wall Street Journal, built around the theme "What's Holding Women Back in the Workplace?"

Whenever some group is not equally represented in some institution or activity, the automatic response in some quarters is to assume that someone has prevented equality of outcomes.

This preconception of equal outcomes requires not one speck of evidence and defies mountains of evidence to the contrary. Even in activities where individual performances are what determine outcomes, and those performances are easily measured objectively, there is seldom anything resembling equal representation.

For 12 consecutive years — from 2001 through 2012 — each home run leader in the American League had a Hispanic surname. When two American boys whose ancestors came from India tied for first place in the U.S. National Spelling Bee in 2014, it was the seventh consecutive year in which the U.S. National Spelling Bee was won by an Asian Indian.

We all know about the large overrepresentation of blacks among professional basketball players and especially among the star players. The best-selling brands of beer in America were created by people of German ancestry, who also created China's famed Tsingtao beer.

Of the 100 top-ranked marathon runners in the world in 2012, 68 were Kenyans. The list could go on and on.
Although blacks are overrepresented among professional football players, even the most avid National Football League fan is unlikely to be able to recall seeing even one black player who kicked a punt or a point after touchdown.

Should there be an article titled: "What's Holding Black Kickers Back in the NFL?" Could it be that blacks are more interested in playing positions where there is more action and — not incidentally — more money?

Should there be an article titled: "What's Holding Back Whites in the National Basketball Association?"

Or an article titled: "What's Holding Back Non-Asian Indian Kids from Winning the Spelling Bee?"

Lawsuits claiming discrimination have been won on the basis of statistical disparities far smaller than these.
Among the many reasons for gross disparities in many fields, and at different income levels, is that human beings differ in what they want to do, quite aside from any differences in what they are capable of doing or what others permit them to do.

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Stephen Moore pays tribute to what the Tea Party movement has helped achieve.

Democratic presidents whitewashing Iran's record on terrorism is, apparently, nothing new.
Bill Clinton’s administration gathered enough evidence to send a top-secret communique accusing Iran of facilitating the deadly 1996 Khobar Towers terrorist bombing, but suppressed that information from the American public and some elements of U.S. intelligence for fear it would lead to an outcry for reprisal, according to documents and interviews.

Before Mr. Clinton left office, the intelligence pointing toward Iran’s involvement in the terror attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen and wounded hundreds was deemed both extensive and “credible,” memos show.

It included FBI interviews with a half-dozen Saudi co-conspirators who revealed they got their passports from the Iranian embassy in Damascus, reported to a top Iranian general and were trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), officials told The Washington Times.

The revelations about what the Clinton administration knew are taking on new significance with the recent capture of the accused mastermind of the 1996 attack, which has occurred in the shadows of the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran.

Ahmed al-Mughassil was arrested in August returning to Lebanon from Iran, and his apprehension has provided fresh evidence of Tehran’s and Hezbollah’s involvement in the attack and their efforts to shield him from justice for two decades, U.S. officials said.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh told The Times that when he first sought the Clinton White House’s help to gain access to the Saudi suspects, he was repeatedly thwarted. When he succeeded by going around Mr. Clinton and returned with the evidence, it was dismissed as “hearsay,” and he was asked not to spread it around because the administration had made a policy decision to warm relations with Tehran and didn’t want to rock the boat, he said.

“The bottom line was they weren’t interested. They were not at all responsive to it,” Mr. Freeh said about the evidence linking Iran to Khobar.

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