Friday, March 24, 2017

Cruising the Web

One problem that the Democrats have faced with Judge Gorsuch is that he is basically "un-Borkable."
Gorsuch’s credentials are too impeccable, his intellect too keen and his temperament too even to fall victim to the kind of debasement that felled Judge Robert Bork and coined an infamous phrase.

If the Gorsuch confirmation hearings have proven anything, it’s that his opponents have no powder in their guns. Try as they may, there is little in the record of Neil Gorsuch that can be faulted. His rulings have been fair, his legal mind agile, and his fidelity to the law unimpeachable.
It just so happens that we just finished covering the Judiciary unit in my AP Government class. For the past few years, we capped the unit with a mock Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for a fictional nominee. In the past, I picked a student to play the role of a fictional nominee and told the student to just testify as if he or she were basically a clone of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This year, the timing was unbelievably perfect and today we held our hearings with one student in each section of my classes playing the role of Neil Gorsuch. Students played the senators and asked the "Judge Gorsuch" questions about his records, ideology, and views. Then we broke in the middle and pretended to have a panel of activists interviewed on the PBS Newshour about the judge and how the hearings were going. In preparation, the students did a lot of research and many of the kids had really gotten into watching news of the hearing. The students playing the senators told me about watching youtube videos of their senator interrogating Judge Gorsuch. It was such a kick for me to see the kids get so excited about an assignment. It's not every teacher who can hear 10th graders debating Chevron deference.

After debriefing the students about what they thought about the real Judge Gorsuch and how the hearings were going, they all said that, even though many of them are liberals and don't like the idea of originalism, they liked Gorsuch. They felt that he came off as extremely intelligent and patient as well as just a nice guy.

Well, the Democrats have announced that they intend to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination. We'll have to see if they do indeed have 41 votes to sustain the filibuster.

David French nails it.
Let’s put it this way. If the Democrats filibuster a man as qualified as Neil Gorsuch, then the Republicans would be foolish not to exercise the nuclear option — especially when you evaluate the Democrats specious reasons for taking this extraordinary step:
In a Senate floor speech, Schumer said that Gorsuch “was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on Trump. He said later that the judge is “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology. He was groomed by the Federalist Society and has shown not one inch of difference between his views and theirs.”

Wait just a minute . . . didn’t the Democrats in the judiciary committee just spend the last two days hammering Judge Gorsuch in part for his skepticism of executive branch power and his resistance to executive branch authoritarianism? Senate Democrats had wrapped both arms around the so-called Chevron doctrine, which mandates that courts grant great discretion to agency legal determinations. News flash: These agencies are now part of the Trump administration.

Moreover, if the Federalist Society is out of bounds for GOP nominees, I suppose affiliation with liberal academic or advocacy groups will doom future Democrats?
And if the Democrats do indeed get those 41 votes to support their filibuster of such a clearly qualified nominee, it's going to be hard for Republican senators who are sticklers for Senate traditions like John McCain and Lindsay Graham or more moderate senators like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to vote against nuking the whole filibuster rule for the Supreme Court.

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Kimberley Strassel highlights what Senator Schumer is really doing when he threatens a filibuster against Gorsuch.
The slow-rolling nature of the process has nonetheless masked the extraordinary new standard Mr. Schumer is setting, and the damage to the Constitution. He’s saying that every Supreme Court nominee will now require 60 votes to be confirmed. This is a massive shift—a break with the Founders’ vision of advice and consent, and an affront to two centuries of Senate history. It’s a declaration that Democrats will permanently wield the judicial filibuster as a political weapon, robbing the president and the Senate majority of the ability to appoint, and stripping the Supreme Court of a full complement of justices.

What makes the standard suddenly real is that Mr. Schumer can likely enforce it against his members. Never in U.S. history have we had a successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee. In 1968 a bipartisan group of senators filibustered the proposed elevation of Justice Abe Fortas to chief justice, because he was a crook. The left edged nearer the precipice in 2006 with the attempted filibuster of Samuel Alito, but only 25 Democrats joined.

Since then, progressives have lost any fear of the electoral consequences of playing abject politics with the high court. The American Bar Association unanimously awarded Judge Gorsuch its highest possible rating. He floated through this week’s confirmation hearings. Liberal and conservative colleagues alike have praised him to the stars. Yet not a single Democrat—not even vulnerable moderates such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin or North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp—has publicly supported him. Before this week’s drama had even ended, Democratic senators were queuing to oppose him.

Opposing a nominee is not the same as denying him a floor vote. But Mr. Schumer has the power to punish Democrats who don’t follow his filibuster order. And progressive groups are promising that any Senate Democrat who fails to support a filibuster will face a primary challenge. Senate sources tell me there is good reason to believe Mr. Schumer can muster the votes to block the nomination.
THe Democrats who worry about how their support of such a filibuster will play in 2018 are floating their version of a compromise. They say they won't filibuster Gorsuch, but reserve the right to filibuster anyone else Trump nominates. But the Republicans would be fools to buy any such deal. The onus is on the Democrats.
If Mr. Manchin and fellow Democrats want to retain the filibuster for future, justified use, that’s simple. All they need do is refrain from abusing that power against a highly intelligent, perfectly qualified nominee. This is Mr. Schumer’s mess. Either his party can clean it up, or Republicans will do it.
The WSJ recommends that the Republicans respond to a filibuster of Gorsuch by following Harry Reid's example and end the filibustering of Supreme Court nominees. Schumer's excuse for filibustering Gorsuch is that he was "groomed by the Federalist Society." He thinks that, by invoking their name, he's throwing some serious shade on any nominee who had spoken or attended one of their sessions.
You’d think the Federalist Society is some secret society in a Dan Brown novel. In the real world it’s a mainstream group of 60,000 legal minds who run the conservative gamut from Borkean judicial restraint types to Scalia originalists to Randy Barnett libertarians. As far as we know their conferences are public and no torture rituals are involved.

By offering this pathetic excuse for opposition, Mr. Schumer is really saying that no one nominated by President Trump can be confirmed. Mr. Trump relied on Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society in creating the list of 21 potential nominees he made public during the campaign, one of whom was Judge Gorsuch.

Mr. Schumer also says Judge Gorsuch “was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on Mr. Trump, but no one to the right of Justice Ruth Ginsburg would meet that standard. Judge Gorsuch is a principled conservative whose originalism is likely to put him at odds on occasion with more than one President, including Mr. Trump.

Mr. Schumer is bowing to his party’s left that is demanding “resistance” to all things Trump. But this puts Trump-state Democrats like Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Joe Donnelly (Indiana) in a bind, and they’re already trying to squirm free. Some Democrats have been floating a deal to confirm Judge Gorsuch if Republicans agree that the next nominee must get 60 votes.

Some deal. Democrats are offering to confirm a nominee with an impeccable record who appears to have unanimous GOP support in return for Republicans giving Mr. Schumer leverage over any future confirmation.

If Mr. Schumer insists on a 60-vote standard, Republicans should force him to declare a filibuster. If he does, they should then proceed to change Senate rules and confirm Mr. Gorsuch with 52 Republicans and any Democrats who decide for the sake of re-election not to take Mr. Schumer’s dictation.

Democrat Harry Reid set this precedent in 2013 when he changed Senate rules to jam Barack Obama’s nominees onto the appellate courts. Last October Hillary Clinton running mate Tim Kaine vowed that Senate Democrats would do the same for the Supreme Court if Republicans opposed a Clinton nominee: We “will change the Senate rules to uphold the law.”

The Supreme Court was a central issue in 2016, and Republicans won the Senate and the White House. If Mr. Schumer insists on a filibuster, then Republicans have an obligation to respect their voters and confirm Judge Gorsuch anyway.

Dan McLaughlin looks back at the history of Supreme Court nominations in election years to demonstrate why the Democrats' arguments that they should rightly filibuster any nominee by Trump because of how the Republicans denied Merrick Garland a vote. What the Republicans did to Garland is not so anomalous if we regard the history of such nominations.
The Supreme Court confirmation process has been badly broken over the past three decades, and both parties have had a role in that. But the Garland nomination was a rare event in the modern Senate, because he was nominated in a presidential-election year by a president whose party did not control the Senate. Only once in U.S. history (in 1888) has the Senate acted before Election Day to confirm a justice who was nominated in the last year of a presidential term by a president of the opposing party. Three others (in 1845, 1880, and 1957) were confirmed only after the election...

By contrast, the Scalia vacancy was the seventh time that the Senate has held a Supreme Court vacancy open rather than confirm an election-year nominee. Besides Obama, and the Tyler and Hayes cases mentioned above, this happened to John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, and Lyndon Johnson. In all these cases but Hayes’s, the failure to confirm meant that a president of a different party would make the nomination; in all but LBJ’s and Tyler’s, the incoming president would be from the same party that controlled the outgoing Senate. The Republican Congress went even further when Andrew Johnson was president: It eliminated Supreme Court seats as they became vacant, then restored them to be filled by the next Republican president. Johnson had made one nomination to a vacant seat, but the new law nullified it.

By contrast, nine election-year nominees and five post–Election Day nominees have been confirmed by the Senate when its majority was of the same party as the president. Only one president, Lyndon Johnson, has had a nominee rejected in this situation. In other words, as you’d expect, election-year nominations to the Court have usually been resolved on sharply partisan lines.
Election year nominations to the Supreme Court have historically been treated on partisan grounds. It matters if the opposing party to the White HOuse controls the Senate.
So the Senate’s refusal to act on Garland is well within historical norms, and any Democratic effort to obstruct Gorsuch as payback would break new ground and possibly trigger the end of the judicial filibuster in its entirety.
There's a lot of historical data in McLaughlin's analysis over the entire history of Supreme Court nominations, but he uses actual data to refute the outrage the Democrats are demonstrating now because of the Republican Senate blocking Merrick Garland.
The Senate filibuster against legislation exists for good and valid reasons as a sobriety checkpoint for federal legislation. The 2013 abolition of the filibuster for executive nominations is likewise a welcome development, as executive appointees are merely an extension of the president and should not be defeated over mere differences with the executive branch.

But Supreme Court nominations exist in a gray area, and the importance and permanence of Supreme Court decisions drives each side to disregard norms and act to the greatest extent of its power. Lacking, for now, a workable mechanism to compel both sides to play by the same rules, there is only politics and tradition.

That tradition shows that election-year nominations really are different. Senate Republicans, in stopping the Garland nomination, may have used different tools than past Senate majorities, but they acted in accordance with the dominant Senate tradition in election-year nominations since 1828, and did not “steal” a Supreme Court seat. If Democrats want to break the process further by filibustering Gorsuch, they should be denied the fig leaf of claiming that the Garland precedent supports such a step.

McLaughlin adds
The third and final avenue of attack is to complain that sure, the Senate has spiked nominees without a floor vote before, but they didn’t even give Garland a hearing. But this misunderstands the role and history of hearings. The Constitution says nothing about nomination hearings, which are a relatively modern innovation. No Supreme Court nomination received a public hearing until Louis Brandeis in 1916, and Harlan Fiske Stone in 1925 was the first nominee to appear and testify before the Senate. Harold Burton in 1945 was the last Justice confirmed without a hearing. (John Marshall Harlan II was denied a hearing when nominated after the midterm elections in 1954, although he returned, testified and was confirmed in the following Senate session in 1955.) And as any nominee (including Gorsuch) can tell you, Judiciary Committee hearings aren’t for the benefit of the nominee, they’re for the benefit of the Senators. In 2016, the Senate majority decided to leave the Scalia vacancy open, to be filled after an election they had only slim hopes of winning. No hearing would have persuaded anyone of anything. The Senate wastes enough time on pointless charades as it is.

The Senate’s refusal to consider the Garland nomination was a new packaging of the Senate’s power, and Democrats are right to complain that it was yet another step down the path of that has poisoned the confirmation process. But it was not actually unprecedented in any meaningful way for the party controlling the Senate to decide that an election year Supreme Court nomination should be set aside until after the election.

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Josh Kraushaar writes in the National Journal why Democrats are going to have trouble picking off independent and Democratic supporters of President Trump. He's basing his report off of a focus group done by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg in Macomb County, Michigan.

The full re­port should be read by any Demo­crat in­ter­ested in for­ging a path back to power with Trump in of­fice. For all the anti-Trump sen­ti­ment cours­ing through the coun­try, many will find Green­berg’s find­ings sober­ing. Yes, Demo­crats could win a small slice of Trump voters by ad­opt­ing a more eco­nom­ic­ally pop­u­list mes­sage geared to­wards the Mid­west­ern states. But the cul­tur­al dis­con­nect between Trump’s voters and the op­pos­i­tion is so wide that it’s hard to see Demo­crats mak­ing com­prom­ises with this siz­able, dis­af­fected con­stitu­ency.

...Not a single one of the 35 Trump voters sur­veyed said they had any re­grets about their vote for Trump, des­pite the swirl of con­tro­ver­sies con­sum­ing the White House. They agreed that Trump “gives them hope” when he speaks. “They ac­cept Trump’s ver­sion of the news and facts, and their re­ac­tions to videos of his press con­fer­ences and in­ter­views re­in­forced that point,” Green­berg writes. Trump’s au­then­ti­city—the idea that he is “blunt,” “out­spoken,” and “not afraid to speak out”—is a huge selling point to his base. They view Re­pub­lic­an con­gres­sion­al lead­ers as shifty and ca­ter­ing to the wealthy, but view Trump’s motives as heart­felt.
Greenberg found that Trump's supporters are not so interested in certain economic policies but the general culture in the country.
He quotes ex­tens­ively from voters whose eco­nom­ic in­terests may align with Demo­crats, but who also ex­press a panoply of anxi­et­ies over a chan­ging Amer­ic­an cul­ture. Wor­ries about ter­ror­ism, con­cerns that im­mig­rants aren’t in­teg­rat­ing in­to Amer­ic­an so­ci­ety, and com­plaints about worsen­ing race re­la­tions all dom­in­ate the fo­cus-group con­ver­sa­tions—in­clud­ing among people who backed Obama in the past.
The participants don't really like Obamacare or the Democrats. It's all very interesting, but remember that these are mostly voters who supported Obama. If Trump disappoints them, they can just as easily swing against him. Or just stay home next time.

While House Committee Chairman Devin Nunes erred in rushing to brief the President and then talk to the press about what he'd found about intelligence intercept information involving the Trump transition team being spread throughout the intelligence agencies before sharing the information with the members of his committee, the information he found out is still important. Mollie Hemingway notes how the media spun this story as a nothingburger because it didn't involve Trump's accusation that Obama had had Trump Tower wiretapped. Trump might want to pretend that this news vindicated him, but Nunes's story had nothing to do with what Trump had alleged. But it still is an important story. If you doubt that, play the "imagine if Bush had done this" game.
Imagine that President George W. Bush had listened in on Obama transition team discussions and spread that information throughout the bureaucracy. Can you imagine how outraged the entire press corps would have been? And rightly so! Abusing foreign surveillance machinery to collect and spread information on political opponents is wrong. Selectively leaking that information via a coordinated campaign to a receptive media complex in order to give an unsubstantiated impression that a political opponent is illegitimate or compromised is also not great.

If the laws and regulations guiding the collection of information by spy agencies were violated by the party in power to hurt the opposing party, that’s banana republic stuff. It matters not whether the Trump team were officially the targets, whether the targets were designed to obscure the real targets, or whether it truly was incidental collection. The effect was that members of the Trump team had their privacy invaded, and that the information gathered was disseminated and even leaked to the public by the Obama-led bureaucracy.

While the media might be laser-focused on whether Obama personally wiretapped Trump, as Trump seemed to claim in his tweets a few weeks ago, the American public is not keen on the idea that other techniques or forms of electronic surveillance were used on Obama’s political opponents. Further, the media attempts to deflect and downplay and run interference for Obama officials and other Democrats regarding this significant information reveal a journalistic complex seeking not truth nor protection of civil liberties, but partisan point scoring.

In an interview with the WSJ Thomas Sowell talked about the importance of education reform and the politics involved.
Mr. Sowell has what he calls “my reservations” about Donald Trump, but he gives the president credit for being “the first Republican who’s made any serious attempt to get the black vote by addressing problems that affect most blacks who are trying to do the right thing—such as education, which is such low-hanging fruit.” Republicans have “no reason whatever to be worried about teachers unions, because the teachers unions aren’t going to vote for them anyway,” he says. “They’re spending millions of dollars trying to get Democrats elected.”

But the good that can be done is obvious to Mr. Sowell. “The most successful schools for educating black kids have been a few charter schools,” he says. “There are literally tens of thousands of kids on waiting lists for charter schools in New York alone. You needed somebody who was going to fight to break through these caps that have been put on the number of charter schools.”

Mr. Sowell has stopped swiveling in my chair, and he looks straight at me to make his next point. “You see, in order to get these reforms, you would have to go against the dogmas not only of educators, but of the American intelligentsia in general,” he says. “The teachers unions complain that charter schools really have skimmed off the cream. Of course that’s nonsense, because people are chosen by lottery. In another sense, there’s a point there, because these are the parents who care about what’s going to happen to their kids. These people are just desperate to get into the charter schools. They don’t want to be raising a bunch of little thugs.”

If a Republican could manage to enact school choice, Mr. Sowell says, “he would have some hope of beginning the process of peeling away black votes from the Democrats. It doesn’t have to be a majority of the black vote. If there’s a narrow race for Congress, and you can reduce the black support for the Democrats from 90% to 80%, that could be the difference.”

While many moan about the swamp in Washington or mock Trump for not being able to cut the Gordian knot of partisan gridlock, Charles Krauthammer reminds us that we're witnessing the wisdom of James Madison's argument that ambition must be made to counteract ambition. We're witnessing the checks on power right before our eyes.
The strongman cometh, it was feared. Who and what would stop him?

Two months into the Trumpian era, we have our answer. Our checks and balances have turned out to be quite vibrant. Consider:

1. The courts.

Trump rolls out not one but two immigration bans, and is stopped dead in his tracks by the courts. However you feel about the merits of the policy itself (in my view, execrable and useless but legal) or the merits of the constitutional reasoning of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (embarrassingly weak, transparently political), the fact remains: The president proposed and the courts disposed.

Trump’s pushback? A plaintive tweet or two complaining about the judges — that his own Supreme Court nominee denounced (if obliquely) as “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

2. The states.

Federalism lives. The first immigration challenge to Trump was brought by the attorneys general of two states (Washington and Minnesota) picking up on a trend begun during the Barack Obama years when state attorneys general banded together to kill his immigration overreach and the more egregious trespasses of his Environmental Protection Agency.

And beyond working through the courts, state governors — Republicans, no less — have been exerting pressure on members of Congress to oppose a Republican president’s signature health care reform. Institutional exigency still trumps party loyalty.

3. Congress.

The Republican-controlled Congress (House and Senate) is putting up epic resistance to a Republican administration’s health care reform. True, that’s because of ideological and tactical disagreements rather than any particular desire to hem in Trump. But it does demonstrate that Congress is no rubber stamp.

And its independence extends beyond the perennially divisive health care conundrums. Trump’s budget, for example, was instantly declared dead on arrival in Congress, as it almost invariably is regardless of which party is in power.

4. The media.

Trump is right. It is the opposition party. Indeed, furiously so, often indulging in appalling overkill. It’s sometimes embarrassing to read the front pages of the major newspapers, festooned as they are with anti-Trump editorializing masquerading as news.

Nonetheless, if you take the view from 30,000 feet, better this than a press acquiescing on bended knee, where it spent most of the Obama years in a slavish Pravda-like thrall. Every democracy needs an opposition press. We damn well have one now.

Taken together — and suspending judgment on which side is right on any particular issue — it is deeply encouraging that the sinews of institutional resistance to a potentially threatening executive remain quite resilient.

Madison’s genius was to understand that the best bulwark against tyranny was not virtue — virtue helps, but should never be relied upon — but ambition counteracting ambition, faction counteracting faction.

You see it even in the confirmation process for Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s supremely qualified and measured Supreme Court nominee. He’s a slam dunk, yet some factions have scraped together a campaign to block him. Their ads are plaintive and pathetic. Yet I find them warmly reassuring. What a country — where even the vacuous have a voice.

The anti-Trump opposition flatters itself as “the resistance.” As if this is Vichy France. It’s not. It’s 21st-century America. And the good news is that the checks and balances are working just fine.

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Joy Pullman writes about a letter written by "30 internationally respected neuroscientists, psychologists, and educators" to advise teachers taht there is no evicence at all that teaching to different learning styles such as audiory, visual, and kinesthetic learners, had any impact to improve learning.
…there have been systematic studies of the effectiveness of learning styles that have consistently found either no evidence or very weak evidence to support the hypothesis that matching or ‘meshing’ material in the appropriate format to an individual’s learning style is selectively more effective for educational attainment. Students will improve if they think about how they learn but not because material is matched to their supposed learning style. The Educational Endowment Foundation in the UK has concluded that learning styles is ‘Low impact for very low cost, based on limited evidence’.

These neuromyths may be ineffectual, but they are not low cost. We would submit that any activity that draws upon resources of time and money that could be better directed to evidence-based practices is costly and should be exposed and rejected. Such neuromyths create a false impression of individuals’ abilities, leading to expectations and excuses that are detrimental to learning in general, which is a cost in the long term.
In the education classes I had to take to get certified and periodically in professional training, the need to teach to different learning styles has been drummed into us. To tell the truth, I haven't changed how I taught in order to target different styles since I started teaching history in 1998. Before that I taught French and Russian in middle school and there were a lot more opportunities to incorporate lessons geared to different styles. But I haven't found ways to incorporate such lesson adaptations into high school A.P. history classes. It's nice to learn that my instincts have been correct. It also goes to show what I've always thought about my education classes - that there was very of use in all those classes I was forced to take.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cruising the Web

Will Baude posts at the Volokh Conspiracy about why Supreme Court nominees refuse to answer questions about issues that might come before the Court at some point in the future. He points out that senators could change this practice.
The reason that nominees do not give more in-depth answers about how they would rule in given cases, or whatever else, may simply be that they have no incentive to do so. In today’s political configurations, there are very few Senators who both 1, will vote against a nominee because he or she didn’t answer enough questions, and 2, would likely vote for that nominee if they got honest answers. In other words, I doubt that the Senators actually care whether nominees answer their questions, or at least they do not care enough to reward nominees they otherwise oppose, or to punish nominees they otherwise support.

I’m quite open to moving to a norm where nominees are expected to tell us much more than they currently do (though perhaps in a different format than the current theater). But if the Senators do not care, who can be surprised that the nominees follow suit?
I still don't think that nominees should say how they would rule on hypothetical cases that might come before the Court. A good judge would decide based on the specific details of any individual case. Do we really want nominees who would give answers as if they have stock responses for a case on issues such as abortion, campaign spending, or religious freedom without caring what the individual details are? I certainly don't.

The senators have enough information looking at how Judge Gorsuch has ruled in the past. There are plenty of cases and opinions out there for them to base their decision on. And let's face it, it would not matter at all how Gorsuch answered any of these specific questions.

Paul Crookston links to Judge Gorsuch's answer
to Dianne Feinstein's question as to whether originalism was in conflict with equal protection of the law. His answer is powerful and demonstrates that he doesn't have to answer on a specific issue in order to let us see what time of character the man has.
It would be a mistake to suggest that originalism turns on the secret intentions of the drafters of the language of the law. The point of originalism, textualism, whatever label you want to put on it — what a good judge always strives to do, and I think we all do — is strive to understand what the words on the page mean. Not import words that come from us, but apply what you, the people’s representative, the lawmakers, have done. And so when it comes to equal protection of the law, for example, it matters not a whit that some of the drafters of the 14th Amendment were racists, because they were, or sexists, because they were. The law they drafted promises equal protection of the laws to all persons. That’s what they wrote. And the original meaning of those words John Marshall Harlan captured in his dissent in Plessy. An equal protection of the laws doesn’t mean separate in advancing one particular race or gender — it means “equal.” And as I said yesterday I think that guarantee — equal protection of the law’s guarantee in the 14th Amendment, that it took a civil war for this country to win – is maybe the most radical guarantee in all of the constitution, and maybe in all of human history. It’s a fantastic thing, and that’s why it is chiseled in Vermont marble above the entrance to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Senator Grassley made a good point
about the hypocrisy of the Democrats who pretend to be so worried that a justice appointed by Donald Trump would be subservient to the president.
Grassley also pointed out it is telling that the same people who have so loudly demanded that Gorsuch demonstrate his independence from President Donald Trump are the ones demanding Gorsuch tip his hand on a whole host of issues that could come before him—such as voting rights, the Second Amendment, abortion, and even the controversial travel order that’s currently being litigated.

The WSJ highlights
what Judge Gorsuch said about freedom of speech.
Rhode Island limelighter Sheldon Whitehouse on Tuesday took to badgering Judge Gorsuch about some $10 million in “dark money” that is being spent on advertising to support his confirmation. He demanded to know if the appellate judge believes these dollars are “corrupting our politics.” Progressives like Mr. Whitehouse want to ban anonymous political spending, the better to harass and intimidate opponents from participating in politics. Recall the IRS attacks on Tea Party groups, or the Wisconsin John Doe raids against conservative activists.

Judge Gorsuch offered the Senator a tutorial on free speech. “The First Amendment, which I’m sworn to uphold as a judge, contains two competing messages,” he explained. On the one hand, Congress has the right to pass legislation requiring more disclosure in political spending. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has an obligation to ensure that such disclosure doesn’t “chill expression.” He cited in particular the 1958 Supreme Court decision, NAACP v. Alabama, that protected donors to the civil-rights group from disclosure in the Jim Crow era.

This is reassuring. In recent decades, the High Court with the honorable exception of Justice Clarence Thomas has been too willing to tolerate mandated donor disclosure, even as evidence mounts that activists and prosecutors have used it to target and shut down political opponents. A return to the NAACP standard would be an enormous boon to free speech and political participation.

Mr. Whitehouse complained that Judge Gorsuch wouldn’t recognize his “simple” point that money in politics is corruption. “I don’t think this is simple stuff at all. I think this is hard stuff,” the judge replied. Justice Thomas may soon have a new ally on the bench.
These days when people lose their jobs if they dared to contribute money to an unpopular cause such as opposing same-sex marriage, it is no small thing for a Supreme Court justice to be concerned about the impact of some financial disclosure of contributions.

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Politico reports that Democrats in the Senate are thinking of trying to get some sort of deal for not filibustering Gorsuch's confirmation.
The deal Democrats would be most likely to pursue, the sources said, would be to allow confirmation of Gorsuch in exchange for a commitment from Republicans not to kill the filibuster for a subsequent vacancy during President Donald Trump’s term. The next high court opening could alter the balance of the court, and some Democrats privately argue that fight will be far more consequential than the current one.

If Democrats move ahead with the plan — it’s still in the early discussion phase — it would require buy-in from some Republicans, but not necessarily Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or his top deputies. At least three rank-and-file GOP members would have to pledge not to vote to unilaterally change the Senate rules through a majority-only vote later in Trump’s term — the so-called nu-style" clear option.
Perhaps there are a few squishy Republican senators who would go along with such a one-sided "Gang of 14-style" deal. Gorsuch is going to get confirmed and the Democrats are going to filibuster the next nominee whoever it is. With their anger over what happened to Merrick Garland, they could well filibuster any Trump nominee for the rest of his presidency. And here is one of the ideas that the Democrats are discussing.
In addition to talk of getting a GOP commitment on the next court vacancy, two other, less realistic options are also being discussed.

One would be an agreement to confirm Gorsuch in exchange for moving all judicial nominees back to the 60-vote requirement. Republicans are unlikely to agree, given that they are in the majority and have more than 100 lower-level vacancies to fill.

Another ambitious possibility: Some Democrats want to confirm Gorsuch only with an agreement that another justice retire and is replaced with Garland. The idea has almost no chance of success. But it’s being pushed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who said that there’s too much “distrust” in the Senate to believe Republicans are willing to make a deal on a future vacancy, so they must make a deal now on Garland.
So would any Republican senators fall for such a "Tails I win; Heads, you lose" proposal. It might be a good sign that they banded together to block Garland's hearings last year. Why would they surrender that advantage this year? And why allow the Democrats to negotiate a return to the filibuster now that there is a Republican president set to make lots of judicial nominations?

It is funny that the Democrats are worried about how their leftist base is going to react to their not doing something to somehow block Gorsuch's confirmation. Having witnessed Congressional Republicans letting the tail wag their dog for years, it's funny to see the Democrats in the same predicament.

Daniel Henninger reminds us
of how the Obama administration took actions almost to ensure that there would be leaks of classified intelligence. We know this because of a New York Times story from a few weeks earlier. There are legitimate problems with the Obama administration's actions, but Trump's stupid tweets have overshadowed those actions.
The details of a March 1 New York Times story deserve to be repeated with as much manic intensity as news sites report the repudiation of Donald Trump’s claim that Mr. Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.

Well, he didn’t, but Mr. Obama did plenty else. This is the lead sentence of that Times story:

“In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election—and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians—across the government.”

This is what they did: “At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government—and, in some cases, among European allies.”

Earlier, on Jan. 12, the Times also reported that Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed rules that let the National Security Agency disseminate “raw signals intelligence information” to 16 other intelligence agencies.

That is, the Obama administration put in motion the tsunami of anonymously attributed stories that is engulfing and disabling America’s government today.

They knew the drill. In 2011 the Obama White House leaked details of SEAL Team Six’s assassination of Osama bin Laden within hours of the operation. They politicized the SEALs and commoditized leaking, just as they now have politicized and undermined public confidence in U.S. intelligence agencies.

Mirror No. 2 reflects the face of Donald Trump, who took a legitimate complaint about all this and then, via tweets and public statements, put himself and then his presidency at war with 17 intelligence agencies. The no-surprise result is pretty ugly.

As well, Mr. Trump brought on Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, who’ve built mansions on the foreign-connections swamp, and former Defense Intelligence Agency director Mike Flynn, who fantastically sat at a table in 2015 with Mr. Putin to celebrate RT, Russia’s primary external propaganda arm. No wonder someone took a look.

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Robert Tracinski explains why it is a good thing that Trump's budget seeks to end federal spending on the arts. First of all, we don't need to be funding a lot of the stuff that gets funded through these organizations.
The reason these specific government programs are considered so necessary to the Left—and so repugnant to the right—is actually pretty obvious. Everyone knows it. Government funding for art and ideas is a giant slush fund for the political and cultural left. Nobody has any doubt what political spin PBS and NPR are going to put on their news coverage. (“NPR” is practically a synonym for self-important upper-middle-class liberalism.) The National Endowment for the Humanities is yet another subsidy for the universities, which have become miniature one-party states. And a review of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts reveals numerous examples of politically tinged art that ranges from the tendentious to the downright propagandistic—from the Environmental Film Festival and “climate change-themed public art installations” to a play about anti-gun lesbians.

Needlessly to say, no such funds go to pro-Second Amendment plays or celebrations of traditional marriage or—God forbid!—movies expressing skepticism about global warming. Everybody knows this is how it works, so spare us the hyperventilation. If you make public art partisan, you can’t complain when it becomes a partisan issue.
He reminds us of how artists freed themselves from the limitations imposed on them by wealthy patrons, rulers, and popes. It is not such an awful thing to return to the culture before the LBJ Great Society created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the NEA, and NEH. It isn't as if culture didn't exist before 1965.
Money is not the problem. The problem is the absence of any real conviction that the top achievements of Western Civilization are important enough to pass on. A smattering of federal funding is not going to make up for the death of the highbrow and for things like the mass abandonment of classical music.

In the mid-1950s, “The New York Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday afternoon radio broadcast drew a listenership of 15 million out of an overall population of 165 million.” Today, on selected Saturday afternoons you can go see The Met Live in HD at theaters across the country. I go to them regularly, and I am always disappointed to find that there is hardly another person there under the age of 50, even in a university town.

That may seem a bit like the collapse of Roman civilization, but it didn’t start with Donald Trump, and it has little to do with the flow of federal funds. We are a wealthy and educated society, more so than ever before in our history. Yet too many people treat support for culture the way they treat charity for the poor: not as something they personally need to do, but as something that ought to be done out there somewhere with somebody else’s tax money by a government bureaucrat.

If we wanted to pay for high culture, there could be an enormous market for it and plenty of money for its private support. If that isn’t happening, that’s because our high culture has been abandoned by the supposed cultural elites, who are too busy writing BeyoncĂ© thinkpieces. For them to complain that culture is dying because the feds aren’t doing something about it comes across as crocodile tears.

If we’re concerned about the survival of culture, we don’t need political slush funds like the NEA, the NEH, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We need our own attention and effort. Culture, like charity, begins at home.

Maxine Waters has been making noise about impeaching Donald Trump. Yeah, as if that is going to happen with a Republican-led House. Even beyond that political reality, Waters is not the person who should be the point person on ethics charges.
During the height of the 2008 fiscal crisis, Waters helped arrange a meeting between the Treasury Department and top executives of a bank where her husband was a shareholder. Using her post on the House Financial Committee as leverage, she called Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson personally, asking him to meet with minority-owned banks.

When Treasury followed through, there was only one financial institution present: OneUnited. Had that bank gone under, the New York Times reported, Waters' husband would've lost as much as $350,000. Luckily for the Waters family, OneUnited received a cool $12 million in bailout funds.

After three years of special investigation, the ethics committee eventually ruled that Waters didn't technically break any rules. But that ruling came after unearthing her more than questionable family business practices, like making her grandson, Mikael Moore, her chief of staff.

Officially the committee ruled that Moore went behind the congresswoman's back to continue to lobby for special treatment. At best, that shows that Waters runs a haphazard office. At worst, it suggests she deliberately took steps to avoid prosecution.

Either way, Waters isn't in a position to tweet lectures about the conduct of any politician. Democrats would be wise to avoid her advice.

Glenn Reynolds has a theory
of why Americans are rejecting the advice of experts as argued by Thomas Nichols' book, The Death of Expertise. As Reynolds points out, experts don't have a good track record in a lot of areas.
Well, it’s certainly true that the “experts” don’t have the kind of authority that they possessed in the decade or two following World War II. Back then, the experts had given us vaccines, antibiotics, jet airplanes, nuclear power and space flight. The idea that they might really know best seemed pretty plausible.

But it also seems pretty plausible that Americans might look back on the last 50 years and say, “What have experts done for us lately?” Not only have the experts failed to deliver on the moon bases and flying cars they promised back in the day, but their track record in general is looking a lot spottier than it was in, say, 1965.

It was the experts — characterized in terms of their self-image by David Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest — who brought us the twin debacles of the Vietnam War, which we lost, and the War On Poverty, where we spent trillions and certainly didn’t win. In both cases, confident assertions by highly credentialed authorities foundered upon reality, at a dramatic cost in blood and treasure. Mostly other people’s blood and treasure.

And these are not isolated failures. The history of government nutritional advice from the 1960s to the present is an appalling one: The advice of “experts” was frequently wrong, and sometimes bought-and-paid-for by special interests, but always delivered with an air of unchallengeable certainty.

In the realm of foreign affairs, which should be of special interest to the people at Foreign Affairs, recent history has been particularly dreadful. Experts failed to foresee the fall of the Soviet Union, failed to deal especially well with that fall when it took place, and then failed to deal with the rise of Islamic terrorism that led to the 9/11 attacks. Post 9/11, experts botched the reconstruction of Iraq, then botched it again with a premature pullout.

On Syria, experts in Barack Obama’s administration produced a policy that led to countless deaths, millions of refugees flooding Europe, a new haven for Islamic terrorists, and the upending of established power relations in the mideast. In Libya, the experts urged a war, waged without the approval of Congress, to topple strongman Moammar Gadhafi, only to see — again — countless deaths, huge numbers of refugees and another haven for Islamist terror.

It was experts who brought us the housing bubble and the subprime crisis. It was experts who botched the Obamacare rollout. And, of course, the experts didn’t see Brexit coming, and seem to have responded mostly with injured pride and assaults on the intelligence of the electorate, rather than with constructive solutions.

CNN tackles the big questions facing the country today.
CNN on Wednesday morning aired a segment questioning whether President Trump is "afraid of stairs" and even asked the White House for an answer.

The segment on CNN's "New Day" and reported by national correspondent Jeanne Moos dovetailed on British news outlets and Vanity Fair magazine, which made light of Trump's January White House meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, where the two were seen holding hands in an irregular way.

Moos said she had become "slightly obsessed with watching President Trump watch his step" ever since having heard a rumor that he has a phobia of stairs and ramps.

Moos said CNN asked the White House for comment on the issue and was told by a spokesperson, "No offense, but this is an absurd question."
I have no idea if Trump is afraid of steps or not, but I have sympathy for him if he does. I'm a decade younger than Trump, but there are times when I find myself taking care as I come down steps so that I don't fall. Is that such a bizarre thing for a 70-year old man to do?

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For some mysterious reason Variety has chosen Chelsea Clinton for a "Lifetime Impact" award for philanthropy. Leftists keep trying to make Chelsea a thing. Alan Smithee reminds us of all the jobs and money that Chelsea has received without any apparent accomplishment to deserve any of it. She was hired for $120,000 for her first job at a hedge fund with a $100,000 signing bonus at age 26. Most of her jobs have come from Democratic donors or those who sought to benefit from the connection to her parents. NBC hired her at an annual salary of $600,000 with no background in broadcasting. Why should anyone care about this woman? What has she ever accomplished that wasn't showered on her due to her parents? And now there is talk about her entering politics. Ugh! Are voters really pining for another Clinton?

Ace has the perfect headline for this story.
Nobel Prize Committee: No One Can Top Our Giving the Nobel Prize to Obama For Doing Nothing
Variety Magazine: We'll Take That As a Challenge

This is what liberals think about allowing college students hearing speakers with whom they disagree.
Six professors at Wellesley College sent an email to members of campus imploring the community not to invite controversial speakers who might upset certain students—speakers like Northwestern University Professor Laura Kipnis, the noted critic (and victim) of the Title IX bureaucracy.

The professors' statement is incredible. If their position was accepted by the college, it would demolish the entire foundation of higher education.

"There is no doubt that the speakers in question impose on the liberty of students, staff, and faculty at Wellesley," wrote the professors in their email.

To be clear, they are saying that extending a platform to any speaker whose ideas might be disliked by some member of the community is essentially a violation of the member's rights. Remedying this injustice requires not inviting such speakers and ignoring the rights of campus members who might actually like to hear a contrary perspective for once.

The professors go on to lament that the harms to students—"harm" being synonymous with offense in this instance—could have been avoided if only the people inviting controversial speakers had comprehended the likelihood of offense being given, and not moved forward with the invitation on that basis.
Robby Soave at Reason writes about this position which came about after some Wellesley students made a video criticizing Kipnis's talk at their school.
[C]onsider what these professors are doing: they are ceding total power to students who claim to be victimized by opinions they don't like. In their view, it is inappropriate for members of campus to invite a speaker whose views are not accepted by 100% of the student body. It is also inappropriate for a university professor to tell students that they are misguided about something.

If an institution of higher learning actually surrendered on these two issues, there would be no point to continue operating. There would be no point to having classes at all. Students would be paying for their own affirmation, rather than any kind of education.
Kipnis had a very thoughtful response.
"I find it absurd that six faculty members at Wellesley can call themselves defenders of free speech and also conflate my recent talk with bullying the disempowered," Kipnis told FIRE in an email. "What actually happened was that there was a lively back and forth after I spoke. The students were smart and articulate, including those who disagreed with me."

"I'm going to go further and say — as someone who's been teaching for a long time, and wants to see my students able to function in the world post-graduation — that protecting students from the 'distress' of someone's ideas isn't education, it's a $67,000 babysitting bill."

Soave also links to this story from Hampshire College where a student assaulted members of a visiting women's basketball team because they dared to braid their hair in cornrows.
The charges stem from a Jan. 27 incident at Hampshire College’s Robert Crown Center. According to court documents, Figueroa approached members the Central Maine Community College women’s basketball team and ordered them to remove braids from their hair citing “cultural appropriation.”

....When the players did not comply and began to leave the building, Figueroa allegedly initiated a fight towards one of the players. At the same time, another unknown Hampshire College student pulled the hair of a visiting women’s basketball player causing her to fall to the ground, according to court documents.

While the player was on the ground, police allege that Figueroa kicked and stepped on the player causing injury.

Another Maine player attempted to protect her fallen teammate but Figueroa “grabbed her by the head and threw her to the ground,” according to court documents.

The second player suffered scratches and other marks.

As coaches broke up the fight, Figueroa attempted to punch at the Maine students and “was screaming swears and racial slurs,” according to court documents.
Think of this student's behavior - she attacked a player simply because she didn't like the player daring to wear braids. When students feel that violence is a legitimate response to some imagined sin of cultural appropriation, we are indeed in a sorry situation.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cruising the Web

Judge Gorsuch has demonstrated what a quality judge and person he is. When I watched the hearings after I got home from work, I was so impressed with his intelligence, his demeanor, and his ability to have a sense of humor after a long day of questioning. When our nation's leaders are so disappointing, it's a real pleasure to see one person who is so admirable. And conservatives have not had a lot to cheer about in recent years. Donald Trump is not a conservative and not someone conservatives can admire. When he does act in ways we like, it sometimes feel as a pleasant surprise. And the nomination of Neil Gorsuch is one such moment.

In fact, seeing him so calmly and intelligently answer the Democrats' questions should convince them to shut down these hearings because he looked better the longer it went on.

The Democrats have demonstrated that they have nothing legitimate to attack him on except wild accusations that he might not vote the way they would like. His only fault is the man who nominated him. Senator Durbin asked Neil Gorsuch about the accusation by a former law student of his, Jennifer Sisk, that he told students at the University of Colorado Law School in an ethics class that he taught that employers should ask female job applicants whether they plan to have children. Of course, Sisk is a staffer for former Democratic Senator Mark Udall and worked in the Obama administration. As National Review reports, quite a few of Gorsuch's former students, some of whom were in the same class with Jennifer Fisk have written in to say that she totally mischaracterized how Gorsuch taught the class. He was using a socratic method to discuss ethical questions that students might face as a lawyer and taking the role of devil's advocate to explore what students thought. Reading those students' letters, it's clear that Sisk either deliberately lied about what happened in class or just is so full of the victimization ethos that she turned a perfectly reasonable discussion into an accusation of what Gorsuch was saying. For example here is what one student who describes himself as a "liberal feminist Democrat" writes,
I was present in the class at issue and sat directly in front of the accusing student. I recall the hypothetical ethical dilemma discussed in the lecture that day. In that hypothetical ethical dilemma, a female law student, suffering financial hardship, is asked at an interview if she planned on having children and using the firms maternity leave policies. The female student in the hypothetical was planning on having children but nervous to tell the potential employer, for fear she might not get the position. Judge Gorsuch began to lead the class in debate as to what the appropriate course of action should be for the female law student. Judge Gorsuch made compelling points about the numerous issues and subtle discrimination women face in the workplace that many men are oblivious to. In fact, as a man, I had never really considered the extent of pregnancy related discrimination that women face in the workplace until this very class. True to form (and the Socratic teaching style), Judge Gorsuch also presented counterarguments presenting the hardships employers face due to paid maternity leave policies, which I, as a liberal feminist Democrat, as well as the majority of my colleagues rejected.

During Judge Gorsuch’s presentation of such counterarguments, I do not recall him accusing women of taking advantage of paid maternity leave policies, much less espousing such accusations as his personal beliefs. In class and in our conversations outside of class, Judge Gorsuch was always extremely respectful, inclusive, tolerant and open-minded. Additionally, Judge Gorsuch’s never shared his personal views on legal or ethical matters in class and was somewhat of an enigma. Had he made the statements he is accused of making, I would have surely noticed as they would be out of his character and had he said such things, I potentially would have even said something to him concerning these statements. That is not the Judge Gorsuch I know.
Gorsuch's answer to Durbin's question about this demonstrates how ludicrous the student's accusation was.
nd we talk about the pros and the cons in a Socratic dialogue so they can think through for themselves how they might answer that very difficult question. And senator, I do ask for a show of hands, not about the question you asked, but about the following question and I ask it of everybody: ‘How many of you have had questions like this asked of you in the employment environment, an inappropriate question about your family planning.’ And I am shocked every year, senator, how many young women raise their hand. It’s disturbing to me.”

Gorsuch said his mother, lawyer and former EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford, had to wait a year to take the bar exam because of her gender, and also pointed to former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who he said first worked as a legal secretary because no law firm would hire her as an attorney.

Gorsuch told the panel that there is no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge. Well, that's not how politicians look at a Supreme Court nominee.

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Dianne Feinstein has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee for a long time and seen many confirmation hearings. She knows that nominees won't and can't answer specific questions on issues that might come before the Court. They all follow the so-called Ginsburg standard in answering questions.
The modern standard for nominees in answering questions during their confirmation hearings is the so-called “Ginsburg Standard.” During her 1993 confirmation hearing, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg invoked her ethical obligation not to answer questions about cases likely to come before her on the Court. Justice Ginsburg testified, “A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints; for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case, it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.” Over the course of her hearing, Justice Ginsburg refused to answer nearly 60 questions out of concern for maintaining her judicial independence and impartiality. Her reticence notwithstanding, Justice Ginsburg was overwhelmingly confirmed by a vote of 96-3.

Every subsequent nominee has followed the Ginsburg Standard.
Feinstein knows this and hasn't objected when Democrats used Ginsburg's precedent. But still she kept asking such questions of Gorsuch trying to get him to state his political beliefs.
But rather than grill Gorsuch on his former rulings, or ask questions that would reaffirm his impartiality if nominated to the bench, Feinstein used her time to ask questions pertaining to his political beliefs.

Feinstein received nearly identical answers — that Gorsuch strives for impartiality and it would be unfair to future litigants if he revealed his political beliefs — time and time again.

On the Second Amendment, Feinstein asked whether Gorsuch agreed with Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed an individual’s right to possess firearms, or Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissenting opinion.

“Both Justice Scalia and Justice Stevens wrote excellent opinions in that case,” Gorsuch said. But, he explained, a nod in agreement with one opinion or the other would indicate to future litigants that he has already determined the outcome of their cases. “Whatever is in Heller is the law, and I follow the law,” he said.

Feinstein’s follow-up question? Whether Gorsuch agreed with Scalia’s opinion in Heller, specifically regarding his decision that military-style weapons may be banned.

“It’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, senator,” Gorsuch said. “Respectfully, it’s a matter of it being the law, and my job is to apply and enforce the law.”

But Feinstein refused to accept that answer yet again, further asking which opinions by Scalia that he disagreed with. After Gorsuch explained why the question was inappropriate, Feinstein quipped, “Then how do we have confidence in you, that you won’t just be for the big corporations? That you will be for the little man?”

It seems that Feinstein and many of her Democratic colleagues do not set impartiality as a requirement for Supreme Court Justice nominees. Advocating the Democratic party’s agenda, however, is a necessity.

The most Dana Milbank can find to criticize about Gorsuch is that he appears gosh, golly just such a folksy, nice guy. For Milbank, Gorsuch is Eddie Haskell, indicating Milbank's self-assurance that no one with that level of education and credentials and conservative judicial ideology can really be that nice.
It’s a good bet that Gorsuch, once he has charmed the grown-ups and secured confirmation, will, like Haskell, reveal himself to be a rascal and cause all manner of mischief on the court with abortion and gun rights, money in politics and presidential power.
Because in Milbank's view, a conservative who is nice must be putting on a mask just waiting to lull everyone into complacency until he does something dastardly. Does Milbank know any actual conservatives or just see them as objects of ridicule.

One of Gorsuch's biggest critics in the Senate is Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. Kathleen Parker reminds us of why no one should allow Blumenthal to be the one to say who has enough integrity to serve on the Supreme Court.
Gorsuch’s stubborn (and ethical) refusal to offer opinions on precedent spoke directly to his independence. To express an opinion, he said, would damage his credibility and perception of fairness with future litigants. It didn’t seem that there was any question that would throw Gorsuch off, which is what usually happens when one is secure in the truth and confident of one’s convictions.

But, importantly, all got to make their points, including the repellent Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), whose own record, frankly, should disqualify him as an arbiter of judicial integrity. Here is a man who committed one of the most craven betrayals of his generation — not sex with an intern, nor trafficking with prostitutes, but stealing valor.

How does a man who embellishes his military career — implying that he fought in Vietnam when, in fact, he received five deferments before serving stateside — consider himself worthy to prosecute the qualifications of one of the nation’s most brilliant jurists? When he did serve in the military, Blumenthal was able to secure a cushy position in the Marine Corps Reserve (which is not to impugn his ability to meet the Corps’ rigid physical requirements), where he was given such jobs as refurbishing a children’s campground and running a Toys for Tots drive.

Not that those aren’t important.

Blumenthal did issue a public apology in 2010, saying he had meant that he had served during the war, which was and is nonsense. Blumenthal, nonetheless, has found the courage to hit the airwaves and bray his intention to become Gorsuch’s fiercest opponent by promising to filibuster.

Gorsuch’s hearing should reassure Americans that there are still grown-ups around who are willing to serve. It was also heartening to hear him say that “no man is above the law, no man.”

Ronald Cass explains why the Democrats' attacks on judges for ruling in favor of a corporation against "the little guy" in a specific case is such a dangerous standard.
Despite the cartoon-version descriptions of a judge who "has sided" with the wrong people, the judge’s job isn’t to choose David vs. Goliath, to stand up for the little guy, to smack down the big guy.

The way little guys get protected isn’t to have a judge who votes on his or her gut sympathies. Instead, it’s to have a legal system that functions according to rules, legitimately enacted by constitutionally appropriate bodies and procedures, enforced in principled, predictable ways by judges who read the law carefully and apply it as written, no matter what the judge feels about the people on either side of the case.

Despots want judges who make decisions based on who is helped or hurt. Making decisions on the basis of principles, fixed in law and knowable in advance, is the exact opposite — and the essence of the rule of law. As Justice Antonin Scalia often said, a judge who’s always happy with who wins and loses is doing something wrong.

Beyond having the wrong goal for judging, there’s a bit of flimflam in Warren’s attack. Of course, among the thousands of cases Gorsuch has voted on, he inevitably has decided for employers, and against them; for corporations, and against them; for insurance companies, and against them. But he hasn’t decided consistently or inappropriately for or against anyone, any group, or any class....

The “wrong side” argument also mistakenly assumes that a rule that helps one group necessarily hurts another, big guys or little guys. That is completely wrong. For instance, adherence to fixed, clear rules on contracts helps rich investors such as Warren Buffett — and also helps poor investors whose life savings go into the same sort of funds.

Constant, unsubstantiated and ill-considered assertions of judicial misbehavior have become part of the standard attack on nominees. But the claim that Gorsuch has sided with the wrong sort of litigant is so patently misguided, so obviously wrong and so at odds with the essence of the rule of law, that even aspiring political stars should consider taking it out of the arsenal.

The Democrats know they don't have any way to shake Gorsuch, so they kept asking specific questions about issues that might come before the Court one day that they knew he couldn't and wouldn't answer and then blasted him for not answering those questions.
Despite the cartoon-version descriptions of a judge who "has sided" with the wrong people, the judge’s job isn’t to choose David vs. Goliath, to stand up for the little guy, to smack down the big guy.

The way little guys get protected isn’t to have a judge who votes on his or her gut sympathies. Instead, it’s to have a legal system that functions according to rules, legitimately enacted by constitutionally appropriate bodies and procedures, enforced in principled, predictable ways by judges who read the law carefully and apply it as written, no matter what the judge feels about the people on either side of the case.

Despots want judges who make decisions based on who is helped or hurt. Making decisions on the basis of principles, fixed in law and knowable in advance, is the exact opposite — and the essence of the rule of law. As Justice Antonin Scalia often said, a judge who’s always happy with who wins and loses is doing something wrong.

Beyond having the wrong goal for judging, there’s a bit of flimflam in Warren’s attack. Of course, among the thousands of cases Gorsuch has voted on, he inevitably has decided for employers, and against them; for corporations, and against them; for insurance companies, and against them. But he hasn’t decided consistently or inappropriately for or against anyone, any group, or any class.

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Jonathan S. Tobin refutes
the assumption that some people seem to have accepted that Russia stole the election. There is nothing to support such a belief. Yes, Russia did interfere in the election. But that is different from saying that that interference led to Trump's victory.
But despite the seriousness of the administration’s predicament, it is still worthwhile pointing out that one key element of the Democratic narrative about Trump and Russia is still utter nonsense. The notion that Russian efforts succeeded in stealing the presidential election from Hillary Clinton has no basis in fact.

As both Comey and Admiral Michael Rogers of the National Security Agency affirmed, there is no doubt that the Russians undertook activities designed to undermine faith in American democracy. It is equally true that the Putin regime preferred to see Trump rather than Clinton elected president of the United States. But the notion that these dots must somehow connect in a plot between Trump and Putin to steal the election requires faith in the sort of discredited claims (such as the Steele dossier) and conspiracy theories that Democrats laughed at when they were put forward by the far Right against Obama.

Yet Democrats are making progress toward achieving a more realistic goal: casting doubt on the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency by claiming, as almost all Democratic members asserted during the Comey hearing, that it was Putin’s intervention that put him over the top.

As with the collusion scenarios, there is a certain superficial logic to that assertion. Since Trump won a majority of Electoral College votes by virtue of some close victories in swing states — a mere 80,000 votes flipped from Trump to Clinton in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin would have handed her the presidency — it’s possible to claim that any one of a number of factors proved decisive. But even if we concede that to be true, the idea that the Russians were one such factor requires not merely a leap of imagination but a case of amnesia about events that took place only a few months ago.

When Democrats speak of Russian intervention working to defeat Clinton, they are referring to only one thing: the WikiLeaks documents dump. If the Russians did try to hack into the vote counts or to actively sabotage Democratic campaign work, including the Clinton camp’s sophisticated get-out-the-vote and micro-targeting efforts, they failed. But they were able to purloin the e-mails of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton-campaign chairman John Podesta.

The release of those e-mails was embarrassing, but Democrats forget that there was very little in any of them that was directly tied to Clinton
Do Democrats really believe that anyone voted differently because of what they learned about Debbie Wasserman Shultz or John Podesta? Putin wasn't the one who forced Hillary to set up a server in her house.
If voters didn’t trust Clinton, it was not because of anything WikiLeaks revealed but was rather the result of the Democrat’s unwillingness to tell the truth — or even keep her story straight — about her e-mail scandal or claim that the terror attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was the work of angry film critics. It was not WikiLeaks that gave her a reputation for mendacity but rather the revelations in Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash and subsequent follow-ups by the New York Times and Washington Post about the conflicts of interest involving Clinton Foundation donors and her work at the State Department.

More importantly, it must also be remembered that the stories about WikiLeaks document dumps were repeatedly overshadowed by Trump’s scandals. In particular, the publication of Podesta’s e-mails were almost immediately overshadowed by the discovery days later of the Entertainment Tonight video in which Trump was heard to boast of behavior that amounted to sexual assault. Nothing that WikiLeaks put out got a fraction of the coverage during the campaign as that video did. The same can be said for the way Trump’s insult of a Gold Star family knocked earlier WikiLeaks dumps out of the news.
Democrats can't admit that their candidate was such an awful candidate that she lost to Donald Trump.

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Rich Lowry looks
at how Trump is undermining his own presidency with his silly tweets.
Every administration gets knocked off its game early on by something. What makes the furor over President Trump’s wiretapping claims so remarkable is how unnecessary it is. The flap didn’t arise from events outside of the administration’s control, nor was it a clever trap sprung by its adversaries. The president went out of his way to initiate it. He picked up his phone and tweeted allegations that he had no idea were true or not, either to distract from what he thought was a bad news cycle, or to vent, or both.

The fallout has proved that there is no such a thing as “just a tweet” from the most powerful man on the planet. Trump’s aides have scrambled to find some justification for the statements after-the-fact and offended an age-old foreign ally in the process (White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested it was British intelligence that might have been monitoring Trump); congressional leaders have become consumed with the matter; and it has dominated news coverage for weeks. Such is the power of a couple of blasts of 140 characters or less from the president of the United States.

The flap has probably undermined Trump’s political standing, and at the very least has diverted him and his team from much more important work on Capitol Hill, where his agenda will rise or fall. In an alternative and more conventional universe, the White House would be crowing over Judge Gorsuch’s testimony before Congress. Instead it is jousting with the FBI director over wayward tweets.
The man is 70 years old. Apparently, he is unable to learn a lesson and change his behavior.

As the WSJ writes, it matters that the president of the United States is a person of credibility.
If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.

The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago that he had “found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory” on Election Day. He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence.

Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims. Sean Spicer—who doesn’t deserve this treatment—was dispatched last week to repeat an assertion by a Fox News commentator that perhaps the Obama Administration had subcontracted the wiretap to British intelligence.

That bungle led to a public denial from the British Government Communications Headquarters, and British news reports said the U.S. apologized. But then the White House claimed there was no apology. For the sake of grasping for any evidence to back up his original tweet, and the sin of pride in not admitting error, Mr. Trump had his spokesman repeat an unchecked TV claim that insulted an ally.

The wiretap tweet is also costing Mr. Trump politically as he hands his opponents a sword. Mr. Trump has a legitimate question about why the U.S. was listening to his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and who leaked news of his meeting with the Russian ambassador. But that question never gets a hearing because the near-daily repudiation of his false tweet is a bigger media story.
Trump continues to shoot himself in his own foot because he can't admit that he made an error so he just doubles down on stupid.
All of this continues the pattern from the campaign that Mr. Trump is his own worst political enemy. He survived his many false claims as a candidate because his core supporters treated it as mere hyperbole and his opponent was untrustworthy Hillary Clinton. But now he’s President, and he needs support beyond the Breitbart cheering section that will excuse anything. As he is learning with the health-care bill, Mr. Trump needs partners in his own party to pass his agenda. He also needs friends abroad who are willing to trust him when he asks for support, not least in a crisis.

This week should be dominated by the smooth political sailing for Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and the progress of health-care reform on Capitol Hill. These are historic events, and success will show he can deliver on his promises. But instead the week has been dominated by the news that he was repudiated by his own FBI director.

I thought they told us that there is no voter fraud. But then we get a story like this.
The debate over noncitizens voting was a hot topic a few years ago in Frederick County, a prosperous Maryland suburb wedged between Washington’s urban metropolis and the state’s rural western gateway to the rest of America.
Conservative activists went to court to show that noncitizens were registering fraudulently to vote. A court employee met their request by turning over pages of residents’ names disqualified from jury duty because of alien status.
When those lists were compared with voting records for just three years — 2007, 2008 and 2011 — nearly 180 noncitizens were found to have registered to vote. Of those, 63 had voted, some in multiple elections. The 180 registered votes came from 1,400 disqualified noncitizens in those three years, a rate of 12.8 percent.
That is one county in one state. With the 2000 election settled by 537 votes in Florida, suddenly such numbers don't seem so insignificant.

ESPN has the back story of how Tom Brady's jersey was tracked down to a Mexican journalist who had, apparently, also stolen Brady's 2015 jersey and Von Miller's helmet.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cruising the Web

If Trump hadn't recklessly tweeted an accusation that Obama had his campaign wiretapped, think of what the focus would have been after yesterday's Intelligence Committee hearing would have been. Trey Gowdy's interrogation about leaks about Michael Flynn's conversation with the Russian ambassador would have had more prominent billing. With all the speculation about connections between Trump's campaign and Russia, those leaks are the only law broken that we know about at this moment. We'd hear from Comey that they are investigating connections between the campaign and Russia, but that is mostly old news. And we'd also hear from Comey that Russia's meddling in the election actually had more to do with hurting Hillary's reputation because they thought she was going to win.
FBI Director James Comey repeatedly referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal animus to Hillary Clinton as one of the major motivations in Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election during congressional testimony Tuesday.

Comey described how Putin “hated Hillary Clinton so much” he developed a preference for President Donald Trump. Comey deployed a sports metaphor, saying, “I hate the New England Patriots, and no matter who they play, I’d like them to lose.”

His statements echo the main findings of the Jan. 6 U.S. intelligence community’s report on Russian attempts to undermine the 2016 election. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,” the report’s key judgement found.

Comey’s statement and the report’s key judgement contradict major media reports that Putin’s primary aim was to help the Trump campaign, and discount the role of Putin’s feelings regarding Clinton. The FBI director in part deployed his New England Patriots analogy to walk back such accusations.

Comey described how Putin’s campaign to denigrate Clinton accelerated after Trump won the Republican presidential nomination, an assertion which is also found in the Jan. 6 report, “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

Former President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Russia Michael McCaul confirmed he shared this feeling to NBCNews in December, saying that Putin “has had a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, that has been known for a long time because of what she said about his elections back in the parliamentary elections of 2011.”

Russia’s government did not even believe Trump would win the election, by the intelligence community’s own admission, and focused the latter part of its influence campaign towards undermining Clinton’s future presidency.
So, to sum up, we learned that the FBI is investigating links between some people connected to the Trump campaign and Russia and that someone illegally leaked that news to the media. We learned that Putin's interest in the campaign wasn't to help Trump but to damage a future President Clinton. That is the story, but it got sidetracked into the cul-de-sac of Trump's tweets.

Instead we heard over and over again about how there was no evidence for Trump's stupid tweets about Obama taping Trump Towers. And since Trump will never, ever back down and admit he made a mistake, this story will go on and on. How many news cycles have been lost for Trump due to baseless accusations on Twitter? We're now over two weeks after Trump's first early-morning tweet and there has been absolutely no evidence to support his accusation. The most Trump had was a public reference to Andrew Napolitano's speculation that British intelligence was involved in spying on Trump. So the Trump administration repeated that speculation even though there was no evidence to back up the allegation. But Trump didn't seem to think that there is any problem making baseless charges against an ally's intelligence agency.

As Jim Geraghty writes, this was a "self-inflicted wound."
By refusing, over and over again, to back down from Trump’s original, farfetched charge, his administration has inflicted a lot of completely unnecessary damage upon itself, and even upon the so-called special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. This is what happens when the White House prioritizes winning the daily news cycle above all else. This is the natural result of an amazingly shortsighted approach to governing.
Of course, if Trump really thought this was true, there are things he could do since he is, you know, the President of the United States.
At any moment he can call the FBI Director, the NSA director, or anyone else into his office and ask, “What is the meaning of this?” He can declassify anything he likes — logs, records, transcripts — particularly if it exposes criminal behavior by government officials. When he made his shocking charge, he was in the best possible position to back it up.
Geraghty is rightly appalled that Trump doesn't seem to realize that the president of the United States can't just go making unfounded allegations against a former president and another country's intelligence agencies.
Maybe during his decades as a star of the New York tabloids, Trump came to believe that he could get out of trouble by making outrageous counter-accusations against his tormentors. Maybe in that realm, his belief was well founded. But the rules are different when you’re president. The commander in chief cannot publicly accuse anyone, much less his predecessor, of criminal wrongdoing and expect that the accusation won’t be investigated. The White House press secretary cannot suggest that an allied intelligence agency spied on American citizens for political reasons and expect that the rest of the world won’t sit up, take notice, and demand proof.

With every such unsubstantiated accusation, the administration loses a bit of credibility that it will need when it makes an accurate charge. Unless it wants to spend the next four years perceived as the boy who cried wolf, the White House should show more regard for the truth going forward.

The Democrats did a lot of grandstanding at the opening of Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearing yesterday. It was clear that they had nothing against him specifically. They're angry about the treatment that Merrick Garland received. But that's not Gorsuch's fault. And Dianne Feinstein made a statement about how troubled she is about "originalist judicial philosophy," which she doesn't seem to understand and thinks it's about evaluating "our constitutional rights and privileges as they were understood in 1789." Well, there have been amendments added to the Constitution since then. We didn't have the Fourteenth Amendment in 1789 or even the entire Bill of Rights. She's all about the Living Constitution.
At no point did Feinstein articulate constitutionally codified rights as timeless. Also ignored were legal options for change via constitutional amendment or the passage of constitutionally-compatible legislation.

Feinstein implied that slavery was abolished as a result of judicial perceptions of the Constitution as a “living document." She made no mention of the Civil War, preceding and subsequent abolitionist movements or the Reconstruction Amendments. The Supreme Court, she continued, should engage in ongoing constitutional reinterpretation in accordance with contemporary perceptions of Supreme Court justices.

Governmentally sanctioned and enforced racial discrimination (i.e. Jim Crow), and the burning of women accused of witchcraft (i.e. Salem witch trials) would still be ongoing, suggested Feinstein, in the absence of fluid constitutional reinterpretation (emphases added):

I firmly believe the American Constitution is a living document intended to evolve as our country evolves. In 1789, the population of the United States was under four million. Today, we're 325 million and growing. At the time of our founding, African-Americans were enslaved. It was not so long after women had been burned at the stake for witchcraft, and the idea of an automobile, let alone the internet, was unfathomable. In fact, if we were to dogmatically adhere to originalist interpretations, then we would still have segregated schools, and bans on interracial marriage. Women wouldn’t be entitled to equal protection under the law, and government discrimination against LGBT Americans would be permitted.

So I am concerned when I hear that Judge Gorsuch is an originalist and a strict constructionist.”
And this woman is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She's apparently clueless about Constitutional history and hasn't heard of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery. She is unaware of how the First Amendment has been used in cases involving the internet. Of course, this is a woman who thinks that Roe v. Wade is some sort of "super precedent."

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There is a long tradition in Senate judicial confirmation hearings, going back at least to Turgood Marshall, that nominees will not answer questions based on specific issues that might come before them on the Court. But the Democrats seem to want Judge Gorsuch to ignore such impartiality in order to agree to vote as they would like.
Vermont Senator Pat Leahy said last week he would “insist on real answers from Judge Gorsuch.” At Monday’s opening day of Senate hearings, Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal told Judge Gorsuch that while the committee might ordinarily respect a nominee’s reticence on cases, ordinary rules don’t apply for President Trump’s nominee. “If you fail to be explicit and forthcoming,” he said, the committee would have to assume his views were in line with Mr. Trump’s.

That’s wildly inappropriate since Judge Gorsuch can’t know the facts or the law of future cases that would come before the Court. If he were to speak out extensively on any case at the confirmation hearing, his comments could require his recusal.

Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor didn’t have to meet this open-kimono standard. Neither did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said at the time of her confirmation hearings in 1993 that “[a] judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints; for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case, it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.”

Mr. Leahy told nominee Ginsburg at the time that he “certainly” did not want her “to have to lay out a test here in the abstract which might determine what your vote or your test would be in a case you have yet to see that may well come before the Supreme Court.” At the 1967 hearings for Thurgood Marshall, then Senator Edward Kennedy called it a “sound legal precedent” that “any nominee to the Supreme Court would have to defer any comments on any matters which are either before the court or very likely to appear before the court.”
But such traditions don't mean anything when there is political posturing to be done.
If Democrats want genuine insight into how Judge Gorsuch would rule, they can always look at his extensive record on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Of the 789 opinions he wrote, only 15 had dissents from other judges. Progressive groups claim Judge Gorsuch will rule against women but that doesn’t hold with his record on gender discrimination. According to Harvard Law and Policy Review, employees win fewer than 11% of gender discrimination cases. Judge Gorsuch was more likely to rule in favor of the employees—in some 25% of cases.

The Democrats’ Trump disavowal standard is especially disingenuous. They want him to declare his independence from the executive, but in doing so he would be making himself more dependent on Congress for the sake of confirmation. As a judge under Article III of the Constitution, he owes Congress and the White House only such deference as the Constitution dictates, no more or less.

What’s really going on here is that Democrats are grasping for a reason, any reason, to justify a vote against Judge Gorsuch. Their liberal supporters are demanding opposition—you know, “the resistance”—and if they can’t find something on the record they’ll invent something that isn’t on the record.

Carrie Severino has listened
to statements by Democratic senators about Judge Gorsuch and notes how many times there were references to Donald Trump rather than to anything Gorsuch has said or done. She contrasts the attitude that Gorsuch should have a higher bar to jump over because of the president who nominated him with questions that weren't asked of previous nominees.
“Judge Ginsburg, the president who nominated you has been accused of carrying on a 12-year affair with Gennifer Flowers and in an 60-minutes interview admitted he had caused ‘pain in his marriage.’ How do you square your role as a defender of women’s rights with the many reports of his infidelity?”

“Judge Breyer, earlier this year President Clinton was sued for sexual harassment by Paula Jones and has been engaged in a smear campaign against his accuser. I want to give you the opportunity to distance yourself from this scandal-ridden administration – would you like to comment?”

“General Kagan, President Obama ignited controversy at this year’s State of the Union address by publicly taking the Supreme Court to task for a decision he disagreed with. Do you feel it’s appropriate for a sitting President to use the authority of his office to criticize decisions with which he disagrees?”

If you don’t have a vivid recollection of any of those questions, it’s no surprise. Those types of explorations of a Supreme Court nominee’s commentary on political questions and debates have never actually come up because they are entirely inappropriate during the confirmation process. Many presidents have said and done controversial things in the past, but never have their judicial nominees been called to account for them.

Until now.
Such questions of Gorsuch would be an inappropriate politicization of the confirmation hearing. And it is especially ironic that Neil Gorsuch is the vehicle for those attacks since he has a history of opposing overbroad deference to the executive branch and desiring limits on government's power.
But even if these attacks were not so silly in light of Gorsuch’s own record, they should be universally rejected as inappropriate for a judicial hearing. A sitting judge should not be asked to wade into the political swamp. The focus of this week’s hearings should be his record, and he shouldn’t be asked to weigh in on criticism of President Trump any more than he should be asked his opinion of Obama’s thinly-veiled threats against the Court or Bill Clinton’s sexual exploitation of Monica Lewinsky and his subsequent character assassination of the intern he seduced.

Cheers to Nikki Haley for her speech as to why the U.S. is going to boycott the noxious UN Human Rights Council.
America is boycotting a weeklong session at the UN Human Rights Council that started Monday, and is pressuring others to oppose five related resolutions expected to be raised on Friday, at the end of that session.

As US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley pointed out Monday, only one country is subjected to regular scrutiny and condemnation in each of the three annual sessions of the 47-member Geneva-based human-rights body.

Guess which one.

“It’s not Syria, where the regime has systematically slaughtered and tortured its own people,” Haley said.

“It’s not Iran, where public hangings are a regular occurrence. It’s not North Korea, where the regime uses forced labor camps to crush its people into submission.

“It’s Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”

The council was established in 2006 to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission. It was widely hailed by UN supporters as major “reform,” but it turned out that this rose by another name smelled just as rotten.

The George W. Bush administration didn’t buy it and refused to join in.

Then President Barack Obama’s State Department, while admitting the council was still obsessed with Israel, argued that by joining, America could effect change from the inside.

Team Obama forced the adoption of resolutions about North Korea, Syria and other areas of concern. But the fundamental nature of the council remained.

According to the group UN Watch, in the decade since its inception, the council condemned Israel 68 times, compared to 67 condemnations of all other countries combined.

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Jim Geraghty wonders if Republicans are now feeling a bit of what Democrats felt through Clinton's presidency.
It’s easy to think of the 1990s as just a rollicking good time, a roaring dot-com economy, salacious sex scandals and a comforting if illusory sense that the world was at peace. Certainly, our recent experience with the Obama presidency probably persuaded some Republicans that Bill Clinton was not the worst Democratic president of our lifetime and in fact there’s a good chance he was the best, depending on how long your life has been. Welfare reform, a budgetary surplus, crime dropping – in a lot of ways, times were good.

But there was this nagging problem of Bill Clinton lying habitually and breaking the law pretty regularly. The Lewinsky scandal is remembered the most, but there were plenty: firing the White House travel-office staffers, the “accidental” access to the FBI files of prominent Republicans, the suspicion of financial misdeeds and fraud in the Whitewater Development Corporation, Paula Jones, the Chinese money in the 1996 campaign, the de facto renting out of the Lincoln Bedroom, the bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan . . .

Even when there was no crime proven, things looked odd and troubling and highly unusual for the White House. Vince Foster was the highest-level government official to commit suicide since Secretary of Defense James Forrestal in 1949. (And as with Foster, there was a lot of speculation that Forrestal’s death wasn’t a suicide.)

During all this time, when Republicans objected to the behavior ranging from tawdry to illegal, most Democrats and plenty of apolitical Americans would just shake their heads with a smile and sigh, “Oh, that rascal! Our president is just incorrigible!” It’s not that they applauded much of that behavior; they just didn’t think it was worth getting upset about. If the economy was rocking and rolling, and everything else seemed to be going well, then we could all “compartmentalize” the way the president did and disapprove of him as a man but approve of the job he was doing.

There aren’t a lot of conservatives who like Trump making a shocking claim of illegal wiretapping and offering no supporting evidence. They just don’t see it as something worth getting that upset about. Trump is a vessel to enact their goals, and everybody knows this is the way he operates. The Red Sox used to say, “That’s just Manny being Manny.” This is just Trump being Trump. He’s karma for all the times figures on the Left told lies and the fact-checkers were asleep at the switch.

Is this a good way to think of our leaders? Back in the 1990s, we were told that sophisticated Europeans didn’t worry about the character of their leaders; they simply focused upon results. At this moment, Democrats will scoff that character is destiny (let’s all pause to let Bill Bennett wipe the coffee from his screen) and there’s no comparison between the Clinton economy and the Trump economy.
Republicans claimed that Clinton's character was important and his performance as president shouldn't be separated from his character flaws. They shouldn't now decide all of a sudden that character doesn't matter.

A man wears a "Make America Great Again" hat to walk around New York City and reports on the reactions he received. It reminds me of the video of ten hours of a woman walking around New York City and the catcalls she received. This guy should have taped his experience. It would have had more impact than just writing an article about it.

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Who knew that our world maps were promoting social inequality all these years? It's all due to the Mercator projection maps.
For almost 500 years, the Mercator projection has been the norm for maps of the world, ubiquitous in atlases, pinned on peeling school walls.

Gerardus Mercator, a renowned Flemish cartographer, devised his map in 1569, principally to aid navigation along colonial trade routes by drawing straight lines across the oceans. An exaggeration of the whole northern hemisphere, his depiction made North America and Europe bigger than South America and Africa. He also placed western Europe in the middle of his map.

Mercator’s distortions affect continents as well as nations. For example, South America is made to look about the same size as Europe, when in fact it is almost twice as large, and Greenland looks roughly the size of Africa when it is actually about 14 times smaller. Alaska looks bigger than Mexico and Germany is in the middle of the picture, not to the north – because Mercator moved the equator.

Three days ago, Boston’s public schools began phasing in the lesser-known Peters projection, which cuts the US, Britain and the rest of Europe down to size.

The newest outrage du jour comes from feminists who are upset that Wonder Woman shaves her armpits. Seriously.
The newest trailer for Wonder Woman just came out last weekend and was met with mostly positive reception, but now there is another controversy surrounding the titular hero. Fans of the iconic Amazon Princess have noticed a particularly strange moment in the trailer, which is at the 1:41 mark. Here Gal Gadot raises up her arms and it appears that she does not have any armpit hair at all. This is making lots of fans upset. Here are some notable criticisms:

"Is this seriously still happening in 2017," stated Slate Magazine.

Refinery29 called for a time where Wonder Woman could "prove that women - even those who are superheroes - don't have to cater to beauty standards that are meant to make them more attractive to men."

....Critics of Wonder Woman's lack of armpit hair say that it would only make sense for an Amazonian to have lots of body hair, including armpit hair. These critics are also saying that Gadot's armpits were digitally altered in post-production, and they blame the studio for being afraid of showing women with armpit hair. Gal Gadot has yet to comment on this #Armpitgate controversy.
I guess that is yet another indication that feminism has achieved all its goals if people are now being outraged over a comic book movie heroine's pits.

Well, our long national mystery is over. We now apparently know who stole Tom Brady's Super Bowl jersey. And it was a member of the Mexican media. And the guy also had Brady's 2015 jersey and Von Miller's helmet. It's amazing that he wasn't found until now considering that there are video cameras in these locker rooms. I guess that Roger Goodell is glad that this is one attack on Brady of which he's innocent.