Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cruising the Web

Well, congratulations to all those Alabama Republicans who thought they could send a message to Mitch McConnell for not authoritatively ramming bills through the Senate or whatever it is you guys blamed him for. You managed to nominate the one Republican probably in the entire state who could lose to a Democrat. If the Democrats take the Senate in 2018 by one vote, I hope you guys will be happy. But they aren't the only Republicans to blame for this embarrassing fiasco. Alex Burns of the New York TImes points out all the choices that were before Republicans and how the choices made worked to bring us to yesterday's election.


Unrolled thread from @alexburnsNYT

A lot of coulda, woulda, shouldas in that thread.

One hope from this is that voters will stop looking at Steve Bannon as some sort of deus ex machina who can bring them to a populist Utopia if they'll just vote down electable GOP candidates and support the swamp things that he likes. And maybe Donald Trump will realize that his endorsement isn't golden - he endorsed two candidates in Alabama and they both lost. If he doesn't hold sway in a state like Alabama by over 27%, then where will he have that influence?

Let's retire Steve Bannon as a kingmaker.
“Lesson for the GOP: if there is a bridge too far in Alabama, there is a bridge too far in every other state where Steve Bannon wants to run a fringy candidate,” National Review magazine editor Rich Lowry wrote on Twitter.

At least for now, the upset loss casts doubts over Bannon’s alleged influence and plan to recruit his own candidates in upcoming elections to help enact President Donald Trump’s agenda, as the Alabama loss weakens a sensitive Republican majority in the Senate, despite Trump winning the state by 30 points in the 2016 presidential election.
I wonder how Trump feels about Bannon now.

We can just hope that, after this week, we won't have to hear from Roy Moore anymore. Well, except for all the races in 2018 when Democrats throw his name at other Republicans. But just think how much more toxic that would be if he were in the Senate spewing forth his idiocies on a daily basis.

Perhaps McConnell can convince Doug Jones that, if he wants to ever get reelected, he might not want to vote down the line as the liberal Democrat he so clearly is, but I wouldn't hold out much hope for that. Maybe Joe Manchin can help him see how to be a popular Democrat in a red state. If he has any ambitions to last beyond 2020, he'll realize that his victory was a perfect storm. Without the write-in votes that might have gone to Moore otherwise, Jones could have lost. That should keep him a bit humble. Or he could celebrate with giddy Democrats who are thinking that, if they can win in Alabama, they can win anywhere and so don't need to modify their message at all. Hint to those Democrats - an extreme pro-abortion candidate isn't going to win in the deep South except against such a disastrous candidate as Roy Moore. And Republican incumbents in those states are not Roy Moores. Tyler O'Neil notes some of this Democratic triumphalism.
Indeed, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton seemed to encourage this mindset. She tweeted, "if Democrats can win in Alabama, we can — and must — compete everywhere. Onward!"

Tonight, Alabama voters elected a senator who'll make them proud.

And if Democrats can win in Alabama, we can -- and must -- compete everywhere.

Onward!

— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 13, 2017

Howard Dean, former head of the Democratic National Committee, agreed. "This puts the US Senate in play in 2018. NEVER EVER GIVE UP ON ANY STATE," Dean tweeted.

This puts the US Senate in play in 2018. NEVER EVER GIVE UP ON ANY STATE

— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) December 13, 2017

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Roger Simon has some more on how Bannon is the big loser last night.
No, the big loser Tuesday is Steve Bannon, the sometime movie producer cum finance expert cum political strategist that some claim put Donald Trump in office and then left the White House to better support the president from without, or so he said. In this instance -- purportedly to do that, I guess -- he went against Trump, who originally backed the more establishment candidate Luther Strange, to back one of Bannon's own, Judge Moore.

Why?

Was it indeed to protect the president's agenda? I would bet my house that Strange and Moore would vote the same way in the Senate ninety-nine times out of a hundred, as would just about any other Alabama Republican candidate you can think of. No, it was about power. For Bannon, Strange bore a Scarlet Letter -- the support of Mitch McConnell.

While the mainstream media suffers from TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome), Bannon suffers from MDS (McConnell Derangement Syndrome). He stomped around Alabama convincing anyone he could find that Strange was a shill for McConnell, whom Steve wanted out as majority leader at any cost. And any cost it was, because the result has been a hugely embarrassing and pointless defeat -- with a ton of substantive issues left to suffer for it, the Senate teetering in the balance.

Now I'm not a huge McConnell fan. He has his pluses and minuses like everyone in and outside of Washington. He's accomplished some things (Gorsuch) and failed at others (healthcare). But I'm not even sure the healthcare debacle was entirely his fault. As of now, I blame John McCain.

On the larger issue of the Swamp, yes, it absolutely should be drained. But we have to be careful who's draining it -- otherwise you have a Revolving Swamp, a particularly unattractive ride for some future Disneyland. You might even name that the Robespierre Ride as the revolution spins on and on until your head flies off.

We're not quite there yet, but the tendency exists. The Tea Party had its problems with nominees in the past, that ditzy woman in Nevada who led to the reelection of Harry Reid being a notable example.
Yes, let's not repeat that fiasco. And stop listening to Steve Bannon as if the sole criteria for a Republican is how they feel about Mitch McConnell.
Guys, this isn't how it works. But expect more of such events.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has handed over fake documents which try to smear him with a concocted sexual harassment scandal to U.S. Capitol Police, Fox News has confirmed.

The documents about allegations toward the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate were shopped around to multiple news organizations Tuesday.

“The document is a forged document and every allegation is false. We have turned it over to the Capitol Police and asked them to investigate and pursue criminal charges because it is clear the law has been broken,” Schumer’s spokesman, Matt House, told Fox News. “We believe the individual responsible for forging the document should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to prevent other malicious actors from doing the same.”
Axios has more.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was the victim of a fake news hit on Tuesday, and has turned over to Capitol Police a document that purports to detail lurid sexual harassment accusations by a former staffer.

Why it matters: This was an apparent effort to dupe reporters and smear a senator — both symptoms of an amped-up news environment where harassment charges are proliferating and reporters have become targets for fraud.

The former staffer told me in a phone interview that she did not author the document, that none of the charges ring true, and that her signature was forged.

She said she had never heard of the document before Axios took it to Schumer's office for comment on Tuesday....

A password-protected PDF of the 13-page document was shopped to Axios and other outlets. The document, which is dated 2012 and has the file name "Schumer_Complaint," looks like a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
One of many red flags: No lawyer for the staffer is named.

The woman named in the document was a legislative staffer for Schumer from 2009 to 2012, and is now a career employee of the federal government.

The former staffer said she took the matter to Washington, D.C. police on Tuesday. She said the police told her they were unsure of their jurisdiction in the case. She said she now plans to go to Capitol Police.

She told me in a statement: "The claims in this document are completely false, my signature is forged, and even basic facts about me are wrong. I have contacted law enforcement to determine who is responsible. I parted with Senator Schumer's office on good terms and have nothing but the fondest memories of my time there."

Axios agreed to her stipulation that she not be named, because she said she is the victim of a crime.

A source close to Schumer said the document is full of errors:

"The document contains an allegation of inappropriate behavior on September 16th 2011 in Washington, but Schumer was in New York City."

"It contains an allegation of inappropriate behavior by Schumer on August 25th 2011 in Washington, but Schumer was in France."

The source tells Axios that reporters from the Washington Post, CNN, BuzzFeed, The New Yorker and ABC all inquired about the document Tuesday.

Al Franken now won't have an excuse to hang around the Senate grumbling that, if the Republicans could have Roy Moore, he should be allowed to stay. He must be so bitter about his fellow Democrats throwing him under the bus so they could have more leverage against Moore and Trump on sexual allegations.

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This is a hilarious spoof
of all the sexual allegations against prominent people based on the story of how Karl Marx reportedly slept with his maid and fathered a son whom he then fostered out and ignored the rest of his life.
The father of scientific socialism and an inspirational figure to many leading Democrats, Karl Marx has announced that he is resigning as a seminal thinker and is asking all his followers, especially women, to forgive him and forget his doctrine of class conflict and communist internationalism due to allegations of sexual abuse of his female aide and a criminal conspiracy to cover it up.

In his remarks, the author of the Communist Manifesto stated, "This decision is not about me. It's about the workers of the world. It's become clear that I can't both continue to deal with my history of sexual misconduct (some of which I remember differently) and at the same time remain an effective messianic leader of the oppressed in their struggle against capitalist exploitation."

Marx continued, "As a white cisgendered heterosexual male, I have cheated on my wife, sexually assaulted my subordinate, and otherwise abused my power and privilege to hurt and victimize women. I therefore feel that I no longer have the right, nor the moral authority to defend my philosophy of class victimization, to incite class hatred, provoke violent anti-bourgeois revolutions, and establish proletarian dictatorships."
It's quite funny, but it's also based on the revealing history of how Karl Marx, a man who didn't work but lived off his friend Friedrich Engels' money from his father's manufacturing business, abused his own employee and abandoned his son. But Marx's theories are still regarded as the work of a genius by too many. Even, apparently, Nancy Pelosi according to this satire.
Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tried to defend Mr. Marx by blaming the attacks on Prussia's meddling, adding that "Karl Marx is an icon in our academia." Even if some of it is true, she said, "this episode only shows us how essentially human Marx is. He has the same fears, despairs, and guilts that afflict everyday Americans. That doesn't mean, of course, that we can equate Karl Marx with Donald Trump or Roy Moore."

On Monday, however, more than half of the Democrats in the Senate, including party leadership, called for Marx to step down, fearing that "creepy" evidence of his duplicity and hypocrisy might tarnish their political futures and weaken efforts to unseat President Trump.

"I consider Karl Marx a beacon of progress and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his followers, and he should step down immediately," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement.

In a change of heart, Pelosi later clarified her position. “Zero tolerance means consequences for everyone,” she said at Tuesday’s news conference. "No matter how great the legacy, it is no license to harass or discriminate. In fact, it's even more disappointing."

Oh, geez! This is so 2017. People spent the day arguing on Twitter and in the White House briefing room whether Trump's tweet that Senator Gillibrand would "do anything" for a donation was a sexist slur. Elizabeth Warren called it "slut shaming" which seems a bit as if she's calling Gillibrand a slut and chastising Trump for shaming her. This is what we've come to. Jonah Goldberg argues that it's hard to give Trump the benefit of the doubt since he does say a lot of dumb and insulting stuff on Twitter.
So here’s my middle of the road position: I think it’s entirely possible that Trump had a cheap sexual innuendo in mind, and I think it’s entirely possible he didn’t. He has used somewhat similar language about men in the past.

This is one of the problems with the way many liberals always want to make Trump’s rudeness and crudeness about racism or sexism. I’m not saying such a case can never be made. But the truth is the president is fairly “equal opportunity” in his rudeness and crudeness. He attacks critics and inconvenient people, regardless of their race, creed, sex, and religion. Some attacks may cross certain lines and be particularly offensive (Judge Curiel, Megyn Kelly, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, et al), but the animus pretty much always derives primarily from his ego and not his bigotry, as far as I can tell.
He has said that male politicians and others who have criticized him would "do anything" as this thread indicates. But the man who has said some really nasty sexist things in the past shouldn't whine about people jumping to that conclusion. Just wait until 2020 when the Democrats nominate another woman and every word out of Trump is taken as a sexist slur. It's a game that Democrats have been playing for years with female or minority candidates. With Donald Trump, they have the perfect foil. And, as Goldberg says, even people skeptical of such accusations don't find it unreasonable to think that Trump had sexist motivations in the back of his mind.

The WSJ reports on how out-migration from Illinois continues apace. It turns out that people who can leave are willing to move to lower tax states.
The Prairie State lost a record $4.75 billion in adjusted gross income to other states in the 2015 tax year, according to recently IRS data released. That’s up from $3.4 billion in the prior year. Many of the migrants were retirees who often flock to balmier climes. But millennials accounted for more than a third of the net outflow in tax returns.

While Florida with zero income tax was the top destination for Illinois expatriates, the Illinois Policy Institute notes that Illinois lost income and people on net to all of its neighbors—Wisconsin (6,000 people based on claimed exemptions), Indiana (8,200), Iowa (1,900), Missouri (2,000) and Kentucky (1,100). What’s the matter with Illinois?

Too much for us to distill in one editorial, but suffice to say that exorbitant property and business taxes have retarded economic growth. Illinois’s corporate tax rate is 9.5%, and pass-through business owners pay 6.45%. Though Illinois’s flat 4.95% income tax rate is relatively low compared to its neighbors, Democrats have found other ways to clobber their citizens.

Property taxes in Cook County and Chicago’s “collar” counties are the highest in the country outside of California and the Northeast. The average homeowner who moves from Lake County, Illinois, across the border to Kenosha County, Wisconsin would receive an annual $3,200 annual property tax cut. Taxes may increase as Democrats scrounge for cash to pay for pensions. Fitch Ratings reported this week that Illinois’s unfunded pension liabilities equalled 22.8% of residents’ personal income last year, compared to a median of 3.1% across all states and 1% in Florida.

This helps explain why Illinois’s economy has been stagnant, growing a meager 0.9% on an inflation-adjusted annual basis since 2012—the slowest in the Great Lakes and half as fast as the U.S. overall. This year nearly 100,000 individuals have left the Illinois labor force.
And, as Illinois politicians keep doing the same thing - raising taxes - and expecting a different result, expect more people to flee the state.

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City Journal reports on how provisions of the Affordable Care Act are affecting the quality of medical care patients receive in an emergency.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government adjusts reimbursements to health-care providers up or down based on the quality and cost-effectiveness of their services, as measured by a set of standards established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The standards use metrics such as how long emergency-room patients must wait to be seen and how long it takes heart-attack victims to get stents placed in their blocked arteries. The intention is to encourage savings and sound practices and enhance patient satisfaction.

The problem is that these requirements have not only increased costs but also may promote poor practices. For example, the CMS goal of stenting a blocked coronary artery within 90 minutes of a heart attack has not been shown to decrease mortality. Moreover, rushing a chest-pain patient to surgery to meet an arbitrary time goal may increase the odds of misdiagnosing other life-threatening conditions such as tears in the aorta, the main artery carrying blood from the heart. Before the imposition of the 90-minute rule, doctors routinely took x-rays of patients with chest pain looking for an aortic rupture. Its presence is a contra-indication to the blood thinners routinely given to heart attack victims. Chest x-rays are no longer recommended by some cardiologists because they prolong the work-up by a few minutes, making it more difficult to meet the 90-minute goal. “Sometimes I just need five more friggin’ minutes,” said one presenter at a medical conference.

Said another practitioner, “It is likely that these CMS quality metrics of . . . door-to-balloon times less than 90 minutes have physically harmed patients and dramatically increased costs for unnecessary cath lab initiations.” Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program assumes that hospital readmissions within 30 days are evidence of poor care somewhere in the system and that the hospital should be the responsible party. Hospitals at the top of the curve for readmissions are penalized financially. No allowance is made for underserved areas that generally have sicker populations, with fewer options for outpatient care. “Many readmissions occur because hospitals are extra-vigilant when patients who’ve had scary episodes, such as heart attacks or severe pneumonia, have setbacks and turn up again in the emergency room,” according to a 2016 report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Following introduction of the ACA guidelines, readmissions did go down, but mortality went up, according to a study published in November in JAMA Cardiology.
I thought the point of the law was not to come between patients and their doctors' best judgment for care.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court declined to take a case regarding whether discrimination against someone based on sexual orientation violates federal law. The reason this is surprising is because there have been differing rulings coming out of appellate courts. That's usually a reason for the Court to take a case in order to regularize differences in interpretations of federal law in two regions of the country. The 11th Circuit has ruled against a woman who says that she was fired from her job because of her sexual orientation, saying that federal anti-discrimination laws doesn't cover sexual orientation. The 7th Circuit, however, has said that it does. There is also a case before the 2nd Circuit. Perhaps the Supreme Court is waiting for that case, but I wouldn't think that they'd want to leave a situation where people in one part of the country are regarded as violating federal law, but in another part of the country are not at risk of violating the law.

The estimable Justice Don Willett has advanced to a vote in the Senate. It was shameful that the Democrats all voted against him. All they had against him was their lame attempt to paint some of his tweets as bigoted instead of rather benign Twitter humor. Al Franken chastised him for making jokes that weren't funny. I guess Willett's tweets weren't as funny as pretending to grab a sleeping woman's breasts.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cruising the Web

While we can breathe a sigh of relief, that the attempted terror attack near the subway in New York fizzled out due to the perpetrator's own incompetence, it is still terrifying what could have happened if the bomb had gone off in Times Square and in the subway. We've been seeing how terrorists attacks have changed from the massive attacks attempted by al Qaeda to the sort of individual attempts as we've seen in this attack or in the Tribeca van attack earlier. Both are scary, of course, but I suspect that it is harder to forestall these individual attacks. When a potential bomber can get so close to a major attack today is terrifying. We can't keep depending on the terrorists to be so incompetent.

As the WSJ reminds us
, this is the third attack by an Islamic terrorist in the past 14 months.
On Halloween day this year, Sayfullo Saipov, a New Jersey resident, drove a truck down a lower Manhattan bicycle path and killed eight people. A year before, Ahmad Khan Rahimi, also of New Jersey, detonated a pressure cooker filled with ball bearings on a street in the downtown Chelsea neighborhood. Rahimi planted two other bombs, one nearby in Chelsea and another in Seaside, N.J. No one died but he wounded 30.
And we shouldn't comfort ourselves that such homegrown jihadists will always fail in their desire to kill mass numbers of Americans.
In won’t do to dwell on the New York terrorists’ bomb-detonation ineptitude. That’s dumb luck. The driver who plowed through pedestrians in Nice on Bastille Day last year killed 86, and the United Kingdom’s Manchester Arena suicide bomber this May killed 23 and injured more than 500 people.
The WSJ warns us that we need more surveillance even though the idea offends a lot of people.
After 9/11, two of the most significant terror-related incidents were political disputes about police surveillance. In 2007 Mitch Silber, then the NYPD’s top terrorism analyst, issued a detailed report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.” Mr. Silber and co-author Arvin Bhatt were prescient, but civil liberties groups denounced his report for its “stigmatizing effects” and supposed religious profiling.

Then in 2011 a series by the Associated Press described an NYPD program, the so-called “Demographics Unit,” which surveilled Muslim neighborhoods and mosques for information on where a terrorist might seek a job off the books or a cheap place to stay. Under the same pressure brought to bear on the Silber report, the department shut down this covert surveillance program in 2013.

Though bicycle-path killer Sayfullo Saipov attended the same mosque in Paterson, N.J. surveilled by the NYPD years before, the authorities conveyed to the public after the October attack that his mosque attendance was irrelevant. The NYPD’s current anti-terror specialists insist nothing material has altered their ability to collect information or data about potential attacks.

What a comfort it would be to be confident that this repeated reassurance is true. But the patience of New Yorkers—and of all Americans—is being pressed. After the bike-path attack, Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered more concrete barriers erected, a thumb-in-the-dike gesture that New Yorkers mocked as feckless.

What we know as fact is that homegrown terrorists who lived in Muslim neighborhoods have slipped through the city’s security apparatus three times in just over a year. With all respect to the city’s multiple political sensitivities, we suggest the time to have a debate about expanding surveillance is before a local terrorist kills many more innocent pedestrians or commuters, not the day after.

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Meanwhile, anti-Semitic attacks are increasing in Europe. This past weekend there was a firebombing of a synagogue in Sweden.
More than a dozen men hurled firebombs at a synagogue in Gothenburg in southern Sweden hours after locals marched in the city against the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
There was also a march in Malmo, Sweden in which the marchers chanted "Shoot the Jews." Marchers also called for genocide of Jews. Protesters claim that they are responding to Trump's designation of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. However, this is not new behavior from immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East to Sweden. Patrick Pool links to this series of tweets from Yair Rosenberg who warns people that "If you blame this attack [Gothenburg] on Trump, you haven't been paying attention." No wonder that so many European Jews are increasingly afraid to publicly identify as Jewish or think that it is just not worth it to report anti-Semitic assaults to the police.

Jeff Dunetz
links to a story I hadn't heard before and I pay quite a deal of attention to stories about Israel. Did you know that Russia had recognized West Jeruaslem as Israel's capital earlier this year? So why didn't Putin's recognition trigger the sorts of European condemnation that Trump's did? It's all politics from everyone.

And please, stop saying nonsense like this decision will endanger the "peace process." As Dunetz writes after Abbas bemoaned last week,
Peace process? What peace process? Does the Palestinian mean the videos running on the official Palestinian Authority TV station telling their citizens to kill Jews? Or perhaps he is talking about his government encourages terrorism by paying blood money to terrorists or their families. Maybe he means that everytime the negotiations get close to an agreement the Palestinian side pulls out of talks? Arafat did it and so did Abbas.

No matter how today's election in Alabama turns out, it has been a dispiriting episode. I have noticed that my students, most of whom are 10th graders, are clueless about almost all news stories except this one. They've all heard about Roy Moore and the allegations against him. Sometimes, I wonder how kids today are going to view politicians without total cynicism given what they've lived through in the past couple of years.

Even if someone doesn't believe the allegations against Roy Moore and teen girls, there are still a plethora of reasons to consider him an appalling candidate. Sarah Rose Siskind of Reason has a list of 13 reasons to dislike Moore, reasons that are unrelated to the allegations relating to Moore and teen girls. Moore has an entire history of making racist and bigoted statements. And some of his statements are just appallingly stupid. For example, Jim Geraghty links to an interview that Roy Moore did with the liberal British newspaper the Guardian in which Moore responds to a Reagan quote about the Soviet Union as the "focus of evil in the modern world" by saying that that America can be considered that because "we promote a lot of bad things" such as "gay marriage. And when the interviewer points out that that is what Vladimir Putin says, Moore replies, "Maybe Putin is right. Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know." No matter what anyone thinks about gay marriage, in a world where North Korea has turned its nation into basically a slave labor camp and Venezuela has destroyed its economy, when countries such as Iran support terrorism throughout the Middle East, when ISIS and other radical groups have been kidnapping people and enslaving or beheading them on video, how does anyone think that gay marriage makes the U.s. the focus of evil in the world?

Of course, Roy Moore isn't the only so-called Republican drawing a moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia. Remember this statement this year from Trump:
President Donald Trump's comment equating Russia under Vladimir Putin to the United States has drawn sharply negative reactions from people in both parties.

Trump told Fox News in an interview set to air prior to the Super Bowl on Sunday that he respects Putin.

"I do respect him," Trump told Fox News’ Bill O'Reilly.

When O'Reilly said, "Putin is a killer," Trump responded, "A lot of killers. We got a lot of killers. What, you think our country's so innocent?"
And now we have the leader of the Republican Party and a man who may soon be painted as the face of the Republican Party making such anti-American statements. The mind boggles.

Geraghty then links
to another flabbergasting statement from Moore. This one comes from a rally a few months ago.
In response to a question from one of the only African Americans in the audience — who asked when Moore thought America was last “great” -- Moore acknowledged the nation’s history of racial divisions, but said: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

At the same event, Moore referred to Native Americans and Asian Americans as “reds and yellows,” and earlier this year he suggested the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were divine punishment.
Oh, geez! He couldn't go back to some period for when America was great that wasn't a time of slavery? Who thinks that way? What direction did our country have in the days of slavery? What family strength did we have when slave families could be split up and members could be sold away? The man is simply an idiot!

And the idea that September 11 was divine punishment is hideously offensive.

Add in that this is a man who was thrown off the state supreme court because he thinks that a state judge can defy a decision by a federal court. It makes me wonder how supportive a conservative vote this guy would be in the Senate. Remember his victory in the primary was based on his opposition to Mitch McConnell. He is so wack-a-doodle that who knows how he would vote.

David French explains why Moore's defiance of federal court orders is so dangerous.
For those unfamiliar with Moore’s history, let’s take a quick walk down memory lane. He’s been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court twice. The first time, in 2003, he defied a federal court order requiring him to remove a granite Ten Commandments monument — a monument he’d commissioned — from the Alabama Supreme Court building. The second time, he was suspended without pay after issuing an order to Alabama probate judges declaring that they had a “ministerial duty” not to issue same-sex marriage licenses. He issued this order six months after the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that the Constitution protected a right to same-sex marriage.

There are multiple ways to lawfully protest federal court orders. There are even lawful ways to change or reverse odious Supreme Court precedents. But the very instant that we permit any judge to actively defy the constitutional order simply when he — in his subjective wisdom — believes a superior court has overstepped its bounds is the instant we begin to lose the rule of law.

Ironically enough, those who support Moore because they hate “judicial supremacy” are endorsing the most dangerous form of judicial supremacy possible: a judge who actively defies controlling authority on the basis of his will alone.

Do Moore’s defenders not realize the extent to which religious freedom in this nation depends on a host of progressive judges and government officials complying with lawful court orders? For example, the ability to hire and fire pastors according to the dictates of the church and not the federal government was only recently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. What if some state judge, somewhere, disagrees? If you accept Moore’s behavior on the bench, you must accept that any judge can defy the Supreme Court whenever he sees fit.

I spent most of my career securing court order after court order protecting the most basic religious-freedom rights for people of faith in the most hostile of environments — places, for example, where government officials believe that Christian student groups are no better than the Klan. I suppose, following the Moore precedent, those officials should be celebrated and promoted if they defied court rulings they despised.

I remember Moore’s first expulsion vividly. I remember Christian talking heads celebrating his grandstanding even as the most serious and most effective Christian lawyers were quietly (too quietly, it turns out) disgusted. With so many critical cases pending in court, were Christians sending a message that the rule of law applied only to our opponents?

Indeed, Moore’s actions as chief justice were so brazen and so egregious that they should disqualify him from the Senate on their own. Yet they don’t even come close to constituting the totality of his sins.
Read the rest.

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Frank Bruni has a column responding to an opinion column in the newspaper of Texas State University in which the author wrote about how he hated white people. His headline addressing whites is "Your DNA Is an Abomination." Bruni rightly wonders how such a column could get published in a school newspaper. We all know that it would not be allowed if the races of the author and those he addressed were reversed. Bruni tells his fellow liberals that this sort of thinking helped pave the way to Trump. And all this ugliness is turning our country into a mess of ugliness as people let their prejudices have full reign over their social media commentary.
Turnabout may be fair play, but it’s foul morality. It’s also foolish politics. Mirroring the ugliness of white nationalists and the alt-right just gives them the ammunition that they want and need.

Which is precisely what some fevered activists at Evergreen State College did when they shouted down a white biology professor and the school’s white president, who stood there as one woman screamed: “Whiteness is the most violent system to ever breathe.” (I deleted the profanity between “violent” and “system.”)

It’s what an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware did with a Facebook post saying that Otto Warmbier — the American student who was imprisoned in North Korea, came home comatose and died soon after — “got exactly what he deserved.” The professor wrote that like other “young, white, rich, clueless white males” in the United States, Warmbier thought “he could get away with whatever he wanted.”

Meanwhile a professor at Trinity College in Hartford used his Facebook page to post an incendiary story about the Republican lawmakers who found themselves under gunfire on an Alexandria, Va., baseball field. Its headline included the language “let them die,” a phrase that the professor also folded into a hashtag accompanying a subsequent Facebook post.

Thanks in large part to social media, which incentivizes invective and then magnifies it, our conversations coarsen. Our compasses spin out of whack. We descend to the lowest common denominator, becoming what we supposedly abhor. I’m regularly stunned by the cruelty that’s mistaken for cleverness and the inhumanity that’s confused with conviction.

A few days ago Neera Tanden, the prominent Democratic operative who presides over the Center for American Progress, took to Twitter to cheer on the incineration of one of Rupert Murdoch’s homes. She linked to the news that the California wildfires had reached his property, and she quipped, “There’s a God. And she’s unhappy.”

A few days before that, a Huffington Post writer, also on Twitter, reacted to Senator John McCain’s 11th-hour support for tax reform by offering “congratulations” to his wife and children for “their upcoming tax-free inheritance.” She seemed to be mocking a man’s brain cancer, and she was actually treading more lightly than the writer who published a commentary on Medium months ago that took issue with McCain’s interventionist politics by saying: “I sincerely, genuinely hope that Arizona Senator John McCain’s heart stops beating.”
Bruni's advice to liberals not to let their animosity to Trump to lead them to go too far in attacking those with whom they disagree is good advice for everyone.

David Harsanyi explains how the media have besmeared themselves and sacrificed the grounds for any sort of sanctimony when it comes to fighting Trump's attacks on them as purveyors of #FakeNews.
“Our record as journalists in covering this Trump story and the Russian story is pretty good,” legendary reporter Carl Bernstein told CNN’s Brian Stelter over the weekend. Pretty good? If there’s a major news story over the past 70 years that American media has botched more often because of bias and wishful thinking, I’d love to hear about it.

This week alone, four big scoops were run by major news organizations — written by top reporters and presumably churned through layers of scrupulous editing — that turned out to be completely wrong: Reuters, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and others reported that the special counsel’s office had subpoenaed Donald Trump’s records from Deutsche Bank. They weren’t. ABC reported that Trump had directed Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials before the election. He didn’t (as far as we know). The New York Times ran a story that showed K.T. McFarland had acknowledged collusion. She didn’t. Then CNN topped off the week by falsely reporting that the Trump campaign had been offered access to hacked Democratic National Committee emails before they were published.

Forget your routine bias, these were four bombshells disseminated to millions of Americans by breathless anchors, pundits, and analysts, all of them feeding frenzied expectations about collusion that have now been internalized as indisputable truths by many. All four pieces, incidentally, are useless without their central faulty claims. Yet there they sit. And these are only four of dozens of other stories that have fizzled over the year.

If we are to accept the special pleadings of journalists we have to believe these were all honest mistakes. They may be. But a person might then ask, why is it that every one of the dozens of honest mistakes are prejudiced in the very same way? Why hasn’t there been a single major honest mistake that diminishes the Trump-Russia collusion story? Why is there never an honest mistake that indicts Democrats?

....Maybe the problem is that too many people are working backwards from a preconception. Maybe newsrooms have too many people who view the world through an identical prism when it comes to the president—which is to say, they believe he stole the election with the help of Russians. And perhaps the president’s constant lashing out at the media has provoked newsrooms to treat their professional obligations as a moral crusade rather than a fact-gathering enterprise.
They like to tout their editorial standards and checking sources. They're so proud of the Washington Post for detecting a clumsy and stupid James O'Keefe attempt to feed them a false story on Roy Moore. But when two sources fed CNN a bad story on someone providing the Trump campaign hacked emails from the DNC before the campaign, CNN got on its high horse and refused to burn those bad sources. They say the reporters shouldn't be punished because they followed the editorial guidelines. Harsanyi has some questions about those pretenses to editorial purity.
First: Do news organizations typically run stories about documents that they’ve never authenticated? If so, what other big stories over the past few years have been run based on unauthenticated documents? Can they point to single story CNN has written about the Obama administration using a similar process? What part of CNN’s editorial guidelines deals with this sort of situation?

Second: Why would two independent sources lie about a date on the email to Trump Jr. if they didn’t want to mislead the public? And how independent could they really be? How many stories regarding the Russian collusion investigation has CNN run from these very sources?

Three: If sources lie to you, why not burn them? Understandably, there are reasons to avoid exposing a dishonest source. For one, other legitimate whistleblowers might not come forward after seeing a news organization revealed someone because, after all, anyone can make an honest mistake. Reporters also must preserve relationships with people like Adam Sch … er, with those in power, because they may help on other stories in the future. And, at the end of the day, you’re in contest for information.

But these people have put your reputation – even your job – in danger. Moreover, they have engaged in a serious abuse of the public trust; abuse of power. Who knows how many of these mistakes, spread over numerous outlets, came from the same sources? This seems newsworthy.
Their disdain for Donald Trump may be deserved, but they showed no such dislike for Barack Obama who truly did threaten media freedoms.
Yes, Trump is a fabulist. His tweets can be destructive. And maybe one day Robert Mueller will inform us that the administration colluded with Russia. What it has not done to this point, however, is undermine the ability of the press to report stories accurately. Trump hasn’t attempted to silence a reporter by accusing them of breaking anti-espionage laws. No one has attempted to pass laws allowing the state to ban reporting or political discourse. Trump didn’t make your activist source lie.
And don't foget the Obama administration's seizing of the phone records from the Associated Press and its journalists without any notice at all.
Federal investigators secretly seized two months of phone records for reporters and editors of The Associated Press in what the news organization said Monday was a “serious interference with A.P.’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”

The A.P. said that the Justice Department informed it on Friday that law enforcement officials had obtained the records for more than 20 telephone lines of its offices and journalists, including their home phones and cellphones. It said the records were seized without notice sometime this year.

The organization was not told the reason for the seizure. But the timing and the specific journalistic targets strongly suggested they are related to a continuing government investigation into the leaking of information a year ago about the Central Intelligence Agency’s disruption of a Yemen-based terrorist plot to bomb an airliner.
That story earned the Obama administration some tut-tutting from the MSM, but then it was all back to the normal praise and acceptance of what the Obama people were selling. And even when Ben Rhodes betrayed his contempt for the media by bragging how the administration had lied to them about the Iran deal, there wasn't any media backlash against either Obama or that awful deal.

It's rather like how the left turn its collective head about Bill Clinton's sexual predations as long as the Clintons were a viable force in politics. The media and the left are still giving Obama a pass on how he treated the media with substantive attacks. Sure Trump's tweets are egregiously stupid and the administration is clumsy in their twisting of stories. But don't act like you've never been lied to before by an administration. And don't forsake your own standards in an eager search for something, anything that can bring him down. It's a pretty sorry state of affairs when we can't trust either our president or the media.

Rich Lowry has some advice for the media whose new standard seems to be "Too anti-Trump to check."
If the press had less faith that Mueller is on the verge of bringing the Trump presidency to its knees, it might exercise a little more discrimination. When your only frame of reference for the Mueller investigation is Watergate, everything looks like a proverbial smoking gun.

When for professional reasons (the story of the century) and perhaps partisan ones (a hated Republican kicked out of the office) you’re rooting for the worst, you let your guard down.

Needless to say, the errors in the Russia reporting are a bonanza for President Trump. The worse the reporting is, the better for his campaign to brand the mainstream media Fake News. He’d be happy if an outlet of the mainstream media tanked the markets with a flagrantly wrong dispatch every day.
It must be galling for journalists that every mistake they make is amplified into a national scandal by the president, while Trump is willfully careless about facts himself. It must be infuriating to be berated as Fake News, when the White House tried to obfuscate the truth about a Don, Jr. meeting with Russians during the campaign, uncovered by good, dogged reporting.

But none of this is going to change. The press can work even harder to exhibit fairness and accuracy under Trump’s withering fire. Or it can play to type. The last week is more evidence that it prefers the latter option, to its own institutional detriment.

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PETA has now declared war
on....macaroni and cheese. It's all part of their campaign against milk and dairy products the origins of which PETA equates with cow rape. This comes after their claim that milk was a symbol of white supremacy. If they weren't so ridiculous, they might be more successful in their efforts to protect animals.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cruising the Web


Guy Benson has a round-up
of all the lies that the Democrats have been making about the Republican's tax plan.
This reality, and the resulting assignment of an avalanche of 'Pinocchios,' comes as no surprise to our readers -- who've been kept abreast of Democrats' never-ending onslaught of falsehoods, misinformation, fear-mongering and distortions about the GOP's tax reform bill. Fact-checkers have been working overtime to correct the record in an exhausting game of anti-lie whack-a-mole, with the Washington Post's team dishing out 11 Pinocchios to three top Democrats on the ridiculous "private jet tax break" fairly tale alone. This nonsense is still floating around, promoted by the DNC chairman (See original for links).
Even Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, has fought back against that lie. While the Democrats keep pretending this bill is going to "Armageddon" for the country, let's remember what the real problem is. Benson links to this post by Michael Tanner that exposes how ludicrous all this sky-is-falling rhetoric is coming from Democrats.
“Armageddon,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned, calling it “the worst bill in the history of Congress,” as it apparently surpasses the Alien-Sedition Acts, the Fugitive Slave Act, the Indian Removal Act, Prohibition, and the Gulf of Tonken Resolution, among others. Liberal journalist Kurt Eichenwald agreed that “America died tonight,” urging, “Millenials: move away if you can. USA is over. We killed it.” And disgruntled former Republican strategist Bruce Bartlett decried the bill for “raping” middle America.

Maybe not.

Start with the debt. It is wonderful that Democrats, who previously considered the national debt somewhere below lawn mold on their list of priorities, have now been reborn as deficit hawks. And there is reason to be concerned that the tax bill will add to the debt. But to keep things in perspective: Under current law, the federal government is expected to collect $43 trillion in taxes over the next ten years, while spending $53 trillion. That will increase the national debt to $30 trillion by 2028. If this tax bill passes, the federal government will collect $42 trillion in taxes over the next ten years, while spending $53 trillion. That will increase the national debt to $31 trillion by 2028.

Worse? Absolutely, like a drunk asking for one more drink. But it would be nice if everyone got this worked up about the first $30 trillion.

In fact, even after this tax cut, the federal government will be collecting 17.6 percent of GDP in taxes, more than the post-war average of 17.4 percent. The problem is that we will be spending 22.2 percent of GDP, considerably more than the 20.3 percent that we’ve averaged since World War II. We don’t tax too little — we spend too much.
We have to reform entitlements. Washington, particularly the Democrats have been putting that task off for far too long. Remember all the bile shoved George W. Bush's way when he tried to tackle reforming Social Security? Remember how Paul Ryan was pictured throwing Granny off a cliff for trying to reform Medicare. Sooner or later, Congress will try once again to tackle mandatory spending. And be prepared to hear the Democrats howl that the necessity for doing so is all due to their tax plan. Tanner concludes,
Ultimately, we should recall that taxes, even if a necessary evil, reduce people’s choices and autonomy. Every dollar that the federal government takes from people to spend the way it wants is one less dollar that individuals have to spend the way that they want. As Frédéric Bastiat put it in his parable of the broken window: If the shopkeeper with the broken window hadn’t had to pay to replace it, “he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes or added another book to his library.” Or to put it in today’s context, he might have purchased health care, saved for his retirement, or donated to charity. He might have started a business or hired workers. Or he might have spent it entirely on frivolities. Whatever he might have done, he is now deprived of that choice.

Giving some of that money back falls a little short of Armageddon.
But when Republicans talk about tax reform or tax cuts, the Democrats are automatically programmed to cry "Armageddon." They can't stop themselves from dialing the outrage meter up to a 11.

Jonah Goldberg has a handy primer
to understand when deficits are truly bad.
In Washington, when you hear people complain that this or that piece of legislation will “explode” the deficit, what they are really telling you is that they don’t like the legislation.

It’s really that simple. Good legislation, like good food, movies, novels, and pretty much everything else except for dogs (they’re all good), is in the eye of the beholder. A politician or partisan who thinks a proposal is worth doing will think it’s worth doing even if it increases the deficit. If he thinks a proposal is bad, he might argue that it’s bad on the merits. But you can be sure that if it also increases the deficit, he will cite this fact as a major reason why it is bad.

That is the role deficits — and the national debt — play in our politics. Anti-debt talk serves as a dye marker for some more fundamental objection.

Almost everyone thinks deficits are bad in the abstract, but that their badness should only be a problem for the other side. In 2008, for example, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said that the $4 trillion in debt rung up under George W. Bush was “unpatriotic.” But his actual complaint wasn’t about the debt but what that money was spent on — the Iraq war and tax cuts.

Under Obama, the national debt soared from $11 trillion to just under $20 trillion, but that deficit spending was justifiable, according to Democrats, because it went to combating the financial crisis and paying for various other domestic programs.
Goldberg argues that the difference between how Republicans and Democrats regard deficits lies in their attitude toward the federal government.
As a matter of economic policy, conservatives believe that the people themselves are better at spending their money than the government is. Cutting taxes and regulations drives economic growth. Liberals, meanwhile, believe that the government is the prime, or at least an indispensable, driver of economic growth.

This is why liberals tend to talk about spending on everything from infrastructure to education as an “investment.” The Obama stimulus was sold as an investment that would pay huge dividends, thanks in part to Keynesian “multipliers” — the idea that every dollar of government spending results in more than a dollar in economic growth. Obamacare, we were told, would reduce the deficit by cutting health-care spending and improving economic growth.

Conservatives make similar arguments about tax cuts. Over the weekend, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News that the tax cuts would yield more than enough economic growth to make up for the deficit the bill creates on paper.

On the philosophical side, there’s an even starker conflict of visions. Liberals tend to start from the assumption that the government is entitled to as much revenue as it needs, and so tax cuts amount to giving people money.
They always ignore the uncomfortable reality that the money that supposedly being given to people was their money to begin with.
Earlier this year, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a budget that would add at least $21 trillion to the debt over a decade. But when the Senate passed the GOP tax bill, he tweeted, “Historians will look back on Dec. 1, 2017 and conclude this was one of the great robberies in US history because Republicans are looting the Treasury.” For Sanders, letting people keep more of their own money is theft — because it’s really the government’s money.

Conservatives, on the other hand, start from the assumption that money belongs to the people and businesses who earn it. Letting people and businesses keep more of their money isn’t a handout or giveaway, never mind a robbery: It’s fairness.

The ultimate problem is that everyone says they care about the deficit, but few people care about it enough. Democrats think spending is more important than the deficit, and Republicans think cutting taxes is more important. And that’s why the national debt is more than $20 trillion, and growing.

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The Washington Post looked at an episode that seems to have disappeared from public discussion - the attack on Senator Rand Paul by his neighbor. They explore the possible reasons why his neighbor, Rene Boucher, might have attacked Paul. Those on Boucher's side, especially his attorney, claim that there was nothing political in why Boucher tackled Paul, without warning and when Paul was mowing his lawn and had earplugs in. Of course, that is in Bouche's interest since there are federal charges that could be filed for attacking a U.S. senator for political reasons. They want us to believe that he attacked Paul simply over differences in landscaping care. Neighbors of the two men seem to be divided on whether to believe that the attack was motivated by landscaping differences. It's all a bit he said/he said. But James Freeman raises an interesting observation.
For good reason, nobody is asking if Gwyneth Paltrow or Ashley Judd did something to annoy Harvey Weinstein. But the crack staff at Jeff Bezos’ newspaper thinks it’s perfectly appropriate in the Paul case to suggest that the assault victim might have had shortcomings in the area of lawn maintenance.

This column has heard from various other residents of the Rivergreen community who say the Pauls are excellent neighbors who have no such shortcomings. But even if they did, a violent assault would hardly be justified.

Readers will note that Mr. Boucher’s attorney is not denying that his client attacked Sen. Paul. And as the Post notes, according to police on the day of the attack Mr. Boucher did not deny it either, even though he has since pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge....

Like various other media outlets, the Post has been happy to publish the speculations of Paul critics on what he might have done to precipitate the attack. Is there any other assault victim—in Hollywood, in Washington, or anywhere else—for whom the Post would regard such coverage as acceptable?
As Rand Paul's wife, Kelley, has written,
This was not a “scuffle,” a “fight” or an “altercation,” as many in the media falsely describe it. It was a deliberate, blindside attack. The impact left Rand with six broken ribs, three displaced, pleural effusion and now pneumonia. This has been a terrible experience; made worse by the media’s gleeful attempts to blame Rand for it, ridiculing him for everything from mowing his own lawn to composting.

Robert Tracinski explains
why the CFPB employees who are determined to resist any diminution of their powers are not Dumbledore's Army and, instead, are much closer to Dolores Umbridge. First there is the problem of simplistically adopting metaphors from children's literature and don't seem to understand that those fighting for liberty in kidlit are not the same as bureaucrats who want to give more power to the national government.
They like to play around with symbols of the heroic fight for freedom and of individualistic resistance against authority, then turn around and impose rigid codes of conformity and demand a big, intrusive government staffed by exactly the kind of power-hungry bureaucrats they just told us they were against.

Maybe it’s a form of overcompensation. The more they advocate tyranny, the more they have to cosplay as freedom fighters. They play at being the Resistance to keep from having to recognize that they are loyalists of the Empire. Or they play at being Dumbledore’s Army to avoid looking in the mirror and seeing Dolores Umbridge.
Those rebellious bureaucrats are angry because Republicans want to limit their power.
ake the case of the CFPB. Its resistance to Mick Mulvaney began when he was appointed as their acting director in place of the successor outgoing director Richard Cordray had chosen. Since when did an executive agency head get to pick his own successor? Since Congress created the CFPB with legislation that tried to give the bureau its own little island of authority with no accountability either to Congress or to the chief executive. President Trump had to assert the overriding law—and the constitutional structure of government—in order to insist on his own appointment for the agency’s head. But bureaucrats don’t like that, so they’re trying to undermine the policies of the elected head of the executive branch.

This has been something of a pattern since the last election, with mid-level bureaucrats doing things like starting rogue Twitter feeds for various government agencies, or setting up networks where they discuss policy by way of encrypted messaging apps to avoid the scrutiny of their superiors, as well as congressional oversight and Freedom of Information Act requests. That’s the symbol of the Resistance: the rogue federal bureaucrat fighting to reassert policies the permanent administrative state favors over those voters have chosen. It is rule by and for mid-level bureaucrats, by and for Umbridge and her equivalent.

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Add in another congressman using taxpayer money to settle a lawsuit against him for sexual harassment - Representative Alcee Hastings, Democrat from Florida. Roll Call reports,
The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, according to documents obtained by Roll Call.

Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked.

Hastings has called Packer’s charges “ludicrous” and in documents said he never sexually harassed her.

“Until this evening, I had not seen the settlement agreement between the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and Ms. Packer,” the congressman said in a statement Friday night. “This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made.”

Hastings said that the lawsuit that Packer filed against him and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee were ultimately dismissed.

“I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer,” he said.

The 2014 payment to settle the case involving Hastings was not apparently included in a breakdown of payouts to settle discrimination complaints against House lawmakers from the past five years released last month by the Office of Compliance, which approves the payouts. That total included only one payment to resolve a sexual harassment claim — $84,000 paid to settle a complaint against Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold.
So what are we supposed to believe about this fund and the payments it's made if there are other payments that went out from some other funds? And how convenient that they made the settlement without, apparently, talking to Hastings. But I'm always wary of trusting anything that comes from Alcee Hastings. Remember that he was once a federal judge who was impeached and thrown off the bench for accepting bribes to lessen the sentences of two felons and lying under oath about it. The Senate threw him out of office but didn't bar him from seeking federal office and so he ran in 1993 and has been in the House ever since. And who knows exactly what happened. Not this conclusion from Roll Call.
Packer sued under a federal statute that allows individuals to seek damages against federal officials for violations of civil rights. But Hastings was dropped from the lawsuit in 2012, after he argued that the law didn’t apply to a member of Congress. The suit continued against the commission.

The House Ethics Committee closed its investigation in December 2014. It interviewed eight witnesses and concluded that the most serious allegations against Hastings were “not supported by evidence” although he “did admit to certain conduct that was less than professional.”
How typical that a law was passed that didn't apply to members of Congress. Wo what was "less than professional" conduct he admitted to? Why did this Commission decide to pay a settlement if he was so innocent that he persuaded the House Ethics Committee?

This is the newest way to survive in socialist hellhole Venezuela.
Crisis-wracked Venezuela has become fertile ground for what’s known as gold farming. People spend hours a day playing dated online games such as Tibia and RuneScape to acquire virtual gold, game points or special characters that they can sell to other players for real money or crypto-currencies such as bitcoin. The practice, which has previously cropped up in other basket-case economies such as North Korea’s, has become so popular with Venezuelans that they’re now spreading inflation inside the virtual worlds.

“We’ve never made this much before,” says Efrain Peña, 29, who plays seven days a week at the Mona Pizza cybercafe to support his wife and child. Most Venezuelan gold farmers make the equivalent of a couple of dollars a day, but in many ways they’re better off than salaried workers, because their earnings are indexed to Venezuela’s black-market dollar exchange rate. “What job can match what we’re making now?” says the onetime graphic designer.

Inflation has spiraled into quadruple digits. The bolívar has shed almost all of its value against the dollar this year and was trading at 108,279 on the black market on Dec. 4. “It’s shameful. I never thought game currency would be worth more than that of our country,” says Enegebe Sención, 30, an out-of-work computer programmer who for the past five months has played Tibia to support his family.

As CNN has had to retract its breathless scoop that someone had shared the WikiLeaks dump on hacked DNC emails before that information was posted publicly only to later have to acknowledge that their sources had made a mistake on the date and that sharing took place after the information was already posted, there are lots of questions as to why CNN first made the mistake and now won't make public who were the sources who gave them false information. Glenn Greenwald, no conservative, calls it the media's "most humiliating debacle in ages." He chastises the network for first airing the information when it had never even seen the email and had only had it described to them.
All of this prompts the glaring, obvious, and critical question — one which CNN refuses to address: how did “multiple sources” all misread the date on this document, in exactly the same way, and toward the same end, and then feed this false information to CNN?
He points out that the news spread far and wide throughout Twitter as countless people tweeted and retweeted out the story. The retraction didn't get anywhere near the play that the original story did. And CNN waited hours before acknowledging their mistake.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how many people were deceived — filled with false news and propaganda — by the CNN story. But thanks to Democratic-loyal journalists and operatives who decree every Trump/Russia claim to be true without seeing any evidence, it’s certainly safe to say that many hundreds of thousands of people, almost certainly millions, were exposed to these false claims.

Surely anyone who has any minimal concerns about journalistic accuracy — which would presumably include all the people who have spent the last year lamenting Fake News, propaganda, Twitter bots and the like — would demand an accounting as to how a major U.S. media outlet ended up filling so many people’s brains with totally false news. That alone should prompt demands from CNN for an explanation about what happened here. No Russian Facebook ad or Twitter bot could possibly have anywhere near the impact as this CNN story had when it comes to deceiving people with blatantly inaccurate information.

Second, the “multiple sources” who fed CNN this false information did not confine themselves to that network. They were apparently very busy eagerly spreading the false information to as many media outlets as they could find. In the middle of the day, CBS News claimed that it had independently “confirmed” CNN’s story about the email, and published its own breathless article discussing the grave implications of this discovered collusion.
MSNBC also published the story. The reason why CNN is protecting those sources who disseminated false information suggests that they are protecting people with high-level access to secret information and who have been sources of leaks to them before so they want to protect those sources. Greenwald suspects what a lot of people are suspecting.
Think about what this means. It means that at least two — and possibly more — sources, which these media outlets all assessed as credible in terms of having access to sensitive information, all fed the same false information to multiple news outlets at the same time. For multiple reasons, the probability is very high that these sources were Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee (or their high-level staff members), which is the committee that obtained access to Trump Jr.’s emails, although it’s certainly possible that it’s someone else. We won’t know until these news outlets deign to report this crucial information to the public: which “multiple sources” acted jointly to disseminate incredibly inflammatory, false information to the nation’s largest news outlets?
The public should be allowed to judge what happened, but it can't while CNN, CBS, and MSNBC protect these rogue sources.
Thus far, these media corporations are doing the opposite of what journalists ought to do: rather than informing the public about what happened and providing minimal transparency and accountability for themselves and the high-level officials who caused this to happen, they are hiding behind meaningless, obfuscating statements crafted by PR executives and lawyers.

How can journalists and news outlets so flamboyantly act offended when they’re attacked as being “Fake News” when this is the conduct behind which they hide when they get caught disseminating incredibly consequential false stories?

The more serious you think the Trump/Russia story is, the more dangerous you think it is when Trump attacks the U.S. media as “Fake News,” the more you should be disturbed by what happened here, the more transparency and accountability you should be demanding. If you’re someone who thinks Trump’s attacks on the media are dangerous, then you should be first in line objecting when they act recklessly and demand transparency and accountability from them. It is debacles like this — and the subsequent corporate efforts to obfuscate — that have made the U.S. media so disliked and that fuel and empower Trump’s attacks on them.
Mollie Hemingway poses 18 reasonable questions CNN should answer about what went wrong. For example,
2. Does CNN believe it’s ethical to write about a document and not let readers and viewers know up front that reporters and editors haven’t seen the document?

3. If CNN didn’t see the email, who told CNN about it?

4. Why did CNN believe these sources?

5. Were they Democratic Members of Congress on the House Select Committee on Intelligence leaking information from this week’s testimony?

6. Were they staff of these members?

7. Are these sources independent or in the same office or otherwise related to each other?

8. What other stories have these individuals sourced for CNN and what dates were they published?

9. What is being done to check these stories out for inaccuracies?

10. How many of these stories related to the Russia investigation?

11. How many other stories has CNN reported where it never actually saw the documents it reported as fact?

12. Can CNN point to another big story anchored to documents that its journalists haven’t authenticated?
So far, they've been stonewalling on all of them. The Daily Caller reminds us of seven times CNN messed up in its reporting this year. Amazingly, all the mistakes leaned the same way in how they reported or spun stories about Trump. Trump does enough idiotic things on his own; why do they need to make up stuff is beyond me. But their actions help to explain why Trump gets so much traction when he decries #FakeNews.

Of course, Fox News isn't pure when it comes to reporting fake news. For example, when one of Roy Moore's accusers admitted on Friday that she had added the date and place of Moore's inscription in her yearbook, Fox News twisted that story to make it seem that she had admitted forging the entire inscription.
On Friday, Fox News claimed that one of Roy Moore’s accusers forged some of a yearbook inscription which had previously been used to substantiate Moore’s connection with the alleged victim.

Fox News tweeted that, “Roy Moore accuser admits she forged part of yearbook inscription attributed to Alabama senate candidate.” (Fox later deleted the tweet without explanation.)
There is a big difference between admitting that she wrote in the time and place and saying she forged the whole thing. How many Alabamians saw the first tweet and took it as one more reason not to believe the accusations against Moore? That is irresponsible journalism.

By the way, how incompetent is Gloria Allred as a lawyer that she allowed her client to put this yearbook inscription out there without clarifying this point in the first place? And then she stonewalled for a month while people discussed how the handwriting in the original inscription didn't match the rest of it. Hint to women making accusations against powerful men - do not hire GLoria Allred or her daughter, who once defended Harvey Weinstein's predatory behavior, to defend you.

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Andrew McCarthy reminds us that, Trump really wanted to get to the truth on whether the FBI used the Steele dossier to get a FISA warrant or whether Obama officials were improperly unmasking the names of Trump campaign officials, all Trump would have to do is order that information made public or, at least, turned over to the proper investigative committees in Congress. But he hasn't done so. All he's done is bluster about what might have happened. Could it be that Trump knows that the information released wouldn't be to his benefit? It's an interesting question.
In the unmasking controversy, it seems Trump was more interested in politically exploiting the specter of abusive unmasking than in ordering the disclosure of what actually happened. Is the same thing true of the dossier? I don’t know why the FBI and Justice Department are stonewalling the Intelligence Committee. Suffice it to say, however, that the president could order disclosure if he wanted to. He hasn’t. If he persists in that posture, we have to assume he would prefer that we not know what the FBI told the FISA Court.

This episode should
be in Diplomacy for Dummies of what not to do as an ambassador.
The French ambassador to the United States used Pearl Harbor Day as an occasion to bash America’s position on World War II in the 1930s.

“In this Pearl Harbor day, we should remember that the US refused to side with France and UK to confront fascist powers in the 30s,” Gérard Araud wrote Thursday night in a now-deleted tweet.
How smart is it for the ambassador to the U.S. to bash us on Pearl Harbor Day. And does he want to open up a discussion of France's and Britain's appeasement of Germany in the 1930s? The U.S. wasn't the one closing its eyes to Hitler's move into the Rhineland. The U.S. didn't meet at Munich to hand Czechoslovakia over to the Germans.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Cruising the Web

So Al Franken has made it official with a bitter resignation, or planned resignation speech. He pointed to the irony that he is resigning but Trump is president and Roy Moore might be elected to the Senate. I can understand why that is making him furious. He's accused of crass and unacceptable behavior to women, but so is Trump. And Roy Moore is accused of even worse behavior. But then he also basically called the women accusing him of being liars.
"I think that [resigning] was the right thing to do," he added. "I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven't done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true, others I remember very differently."
Hmmm. How does he remember those events? He just keeps repeating that vague phrase but won't say what that means. He says that he "wanted to be respectful" of the broader national conversation about sexual harassment "because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously." But then said these women were not telling the truth. So he's respectful of women's experiences except when they accuse him. And not that there wasn't any apology or contrition in his speech. In fact, Steven Hayward wonders if Franken deliberately set his resignation for "the coming weeks" just in case Moore gets elected and then he could rescind his resignation when the attention shifts to Moore and the accusations against him. That's a bit more cynical than I am. It could be that he just wants to wind down his office and keep his aides on the payroll in the weeks before Christmas. And he can stay around and vote on the budget and tax bill.

But if, as he claims, he's innocent, why resign? He says that he can't pursue the Ethics Committee process and still be effective as senator. Why not? As the WSJ points out, plenty of senators have gone through Ethics Committee investigations and still serve as senator.
Yet plenty of Members of Congress have endured an ethics investigation while conducting normal business. And if Mr. Franken really did nothing wrong, he is doing Minnesota voters a disservice by letting himself be run out of the body half way through the term they elected him to serve. By defending himself he would also be helping others, in Congress and out, who are accused unfairly.

The truth is that Mr. Franken is being run out of town by fellow Democrats in large part for their own political purposes. They want him banished so they can claim to have cleaned their own stables so they can attack Republicans who support Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and Donald Trump. Mr. Franken is political ballast who had to go.

We’d even have a little sympathy for him had he not chosen the disingenuous exit of claiming innocence but resigning anyway.

Meanwhile, we can expect more such resignations. Prepare to say good bye to another Republican representative.
Congressman Trent Franks announced his resignation from Congress Thursday evening, saying he was unwilling to undergo an Ethics Committee investigation into conversations about surrogacy he had in recent years with two female staffers.

Franks said that he and his wife had struggled with infertility, and had twins through a surrogate in 2008. Later, when they wished to have another child, Franks apparently broached the topic with members of his staff.

“Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others,” Franks said. “I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress."

Franks, who has served in Congress since 2003, categorically denied that he had ever made sexual overtures to anyone in his office.
If that's all, I'm not sure how that qualifies as inappropriate sexual conduct. I wonder if this is just one part of the allegations against him and that he decided to resign to keep more from coming out. But if we're believing that Franken's behavior was just inappropriate and unfortunate, as some of his supporters are suggesting, then asking a young woman if she wants to be a surrogate doesn't seem like harassment. She can say no and that should be the end of it. Maybe there is more behind the story. Roll Call is implying that there is, because that's where we're at these days - when respected publications report the rumor that there are rumors.
One Arizona Republican said there had been rumors of inappropriate behavior. The Republican said the congressman had apparently been making plans to run for Senate in 2012, but abruptly canceled those plans.

“There’s been rumors swirling around him for years, at least in 2012,” the Republican said. “And if this turns out to be true, there won’t be that many people who are surprised.”

Buckle up. It's going to be a long, bumpy ride.


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Representative Luis Gutierrez has announced that he's resigning. His family budget is going to take a hit.
Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), who announced last week that he will not seek reelection after spending 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, will no longer be able to pay his wife hundreds of thousands of dollars from campaign funds once he officially departs from Congress.

Soraida Gutierrez, his wife, has collected more than $430,000 from Gutierrez for Congress, Luis's campaign committee, since 2010. Soraida is the top recipient of expenditures this year.
Isn't that convenient that he could put his wife on his payroll? Just one of those congressional perks.
Members of Congress have been allowed to place family on campaign payrolls since a 2001 Federal Election Commission opinion requested by former Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (Ill.).

After the FEC gave the green light for federal politicians to pay relatives from their committees, Jackson Jr. went on to pay his wife's firm hundreds of thousands of dollars from his committee.

Jackson and his wife later pleaded guilty to using $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

Just a little more crazy from Roy Moore.


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Michael Rubin warns not to be fooled by days of rage in the Arab world in response to Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It's all public theater.
But make no mistake: Whatever happens, it will not be spontaneous. Spontaneous protests are a rarity in the Middle East.

When I lived in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1990s, students and state workers talked about being bussed to supposedly spontaneous “Death to America” protests. Likewise, when I first visited Iraqi Kurdistan in 2000, Iraqis visiting from regions controlled by Saddam Hussein talked about going to supposedly spontaneous anti-American demonstrations for the free kabobs and ice cream, luxuries while living under sweeping sanctions.

In 2000, then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, a site holy to Jews and Muslims, sparking rioting which would escalate into the Second Intifada, or uprising.

But was the violence spontaneous? Consider Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader subsequently imprisoned for terrorism: He quipped at the time that the "explosion of violence would have happened anyway," that "it was necessary in order to protect Palestinian rights, but Sharon provided a good excuse." Meanwhile, Palestinian Communications Minister Imad al-Faluji told Palestinian radio that Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat had ordered the second Intifada months earlier after the Camp David II summit collapsed. So much for spontaneity.

The list goes on. Remember those Danish cartoons which spread protests across the Middle East? Planned in advance, they occurred months after the cartoons were published. Pernille Ammitzbøll, a journalist with the Danish paper which first published the Muhammad cartoons, and Lorenzo Vidino, a terrorism analyst, traced the story in the Middle East Quarterly as Saudi-funded Danish imams racked up frequent flier points meeting with officials from the Arab League, al-Azhar University in Cairo, and Al Jazeera in order to put all the pegs in place.

Then, of course, there is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has become the master of mob rule. He planned his 2009 Davos shouting match in advance, and carefully planned a spontaneous rally to meet him upon his return to Istanbul.
Rubin goes on to point out that these nations are dictatorships. Such dictators don't like spontaneous demonstrations unless they're the ones organizing them.

Ari Fleischer comments,


And just think of this:

Interestingly, as Shadi Hamid reports, the Saudi Crown Prince is proposing a peace plan that is "more tilted toward the Israelis than ever embraced by the American government." The NYT reported on this earlier this week.
The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
And that is coming from an Arab nation. Hamid concludes,
In effect if not in intent, few are as indifferent to Muslim life as Arab countries are. It may be hard for Arabs to admit, but Israel, for all the suffering it has inflicted on the Palestinian territories, has proven—in relative terms—more respectful of Muslim life than most Arab regimes. Nothing Israel has done, or probably could do, can compare to the ongoing Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, which has been roundly condemned as a moral and humanitarian catastrophe of unusual proportions.

No one, then, should fall under the illusion that declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital will harm America’s alliances with most, or even many, Arab nations (Jordan being a notable exception). The fact that most Arab countries are autocracies, though, complicates the matter, since unelected, unaccountable regimes do not generally reflect popular sentiment, particularly when it comes to the Palestinian conflict. Arab leaders have been content to use Palestine and Palestinians for rhetorical effect and to absorb or deflect popular anger over their own failures and missteps. But for Arab populations, Palestine still matters, even if primarily on a symbolic level (and if we’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s that symbols matter).
Then he goes on to worry about the Arab street or how moving the embassy to Jerusalem will exacerbate anti-American feelings. Dictators like manipulating that opinion so as to distract from how poorly their own people are living. You can decide for yourselves how much you think an American president ought to cater to such practices.

Matthew Continetti knows where he stands.
There is no peace process to wreck. The conflict is frozen. And the largest barriers to the resumption of negotiations are found not in U.S. or Israeli policy but in Palestinian autocracy, corruption, and incitement. Have the former Obama administration officials decrying Trump's announcement read a newspaper lately? From listening to them, you'd think it would be all roses and ponies in the Middle East but for Trump. In fact, the region is engulfed in war, terrorism, poverty, and despotism; Israel faces threats in the north and south; its sworn enemy, Iran, is growing in influence and reach; and the delegitimization of the Jewish State proceeds apace in international organizations and on college campuses. I forget how the Obama administration advanced the cause of peace by pressuring Israel while rewarding the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Maybe someone will remind me.

One of the reasons the Middle East persists in its decrepit condition is that it has been, for decades, a playground of magical thinking. Whether it is believing that poverty is the cause of terrorism or that the Ayatollah Khamenei is a good-faith partner, whether it is imagining that Assad will go just because we tell him to or that ISIS is akin to a terrorist "JV team," liberal internationalists have all too eagerly accepted an alternative picture of the Middle East that is much more flattering than the actuality. A similar form of doublethink is present in our discussions over Jerusalem. Every Israeli knows Jerusalem was, is, and will remain his capital. Every recent president has agreed with him. And the U.S. consensus has been bipartisan. The last four Democratic platforms have said the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. The Senate voted 90-0 only six months ago urging the embassy be moved to the ancient city. Were we to take seriously neither these platforms nor that vote? Was it all virtue-signaling, a bunch of empty gestures in the kabuki theater of U.S. diplomacy?

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Sounds like one crooked South American leader is going to face justice.
An arrest warrant has been issued for former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner after she was accused of covering up Iran's involvement in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center that killed 85.

Years after the attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), Kirchner was accused of having struck a deal with Iranian officials to grant those responsible for the bombing immunity in exchange for oil, the Telegraph reports. She has called the treason case against her "an absurdity" in the past and said it is part of an international conspiracy against her.


Daniel John Sobieski explains
what was behind Bill Clinton's 1996 declaration that he was making 1.7 million acres of Grand Staircase-Escalante a national monument. I hadn't realized that there was extremely valuable low-sulfur coal there that Clinton's designation blocked from mining. And who benefited from that? - a name that you might have forgotten from Clinton scandals.
Bill Clinton's unilateral land grab in Utah declaring 1.7 million acres a national monument and placing off-limits to an energy starved United States up to 62 billion tons of environmentally safe low sulfur coal worth $1.2 trillion that could have been mined with minimal surface impact was in fact a political payoff to the family of James Riady.

James Riady was the son of Lippo Group owner Mochtar Riady. Young James was found guilty of and paid a multi-million dollar fine for funneling more than $1 million in illegal political contributions through Lippo Bank into various American political campaigns, including Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential run. Connect the dots. Riady’s relationship between the Clintons, would be long and corrupt, even extending to donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton took off the world market the largest known deposit of clean-burning coal. Who owned and controlled the second-largest deposit in the world? The Indonesian Lippo Group of James Riady. It is found and strip-mined on the Indonesian island of Kalamantan.

The Utah reserve contains the kind of low-sulfur, low-ash, and therefore low-polluting coal the likes of which can be found in only a couple of places in the world. It burns so cleanly that it meets the requirements of the Clean Air Act without additional technology.

“The mother of all land grabs,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said at the time. Hatch has called what was designated as the Grande Staircase of the Escalante National Monument the “Saudi Arabia of coal.”
And Clinton's move also hurt the children because the schools of Utah were going to receive as much as a $1 billion over 50 years because a trust fund had been established in the 19th century to have money from the region go to a fund for children. So was Clinton's action for cynical reasons to help a big donor? Is there anything in the Clinton record that would cast doubt on such a view of Clinton's motives?