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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cruising the Web

This is going to make it even more difficult for Hillary Clinton to shrug and joke about her server. The State Department's inspector general has issued a report chastising Clinton for using her personal email server and not complying with the department's policies and security concerns.
The report detailed how some employees who questioned the wisdom of the homegrown setup were told to stop asking questions, and the audit confirmed apparent hacking attempts on the private server.

It's the latest turn in the headache-inducing saga that has dogged Clinton's campaign. While the report concludes that the agency suffers from "longstanding, systemic weaknesses" with records that "go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State,” it specifically dings Clinton for her exclusive use of private email during her four years at the agency.

“Secretary Clinton should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary,” the report states. “At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act."

The report also notes that she had an "obligation to discuss using her personal email account" but did not get permission from the people who would have needed to approve the technology, who said they would not have done so, if they had been asked.
Don't they realize that she is a Clinton and so the rules don't apply to her?

Thus disappears her claim that she didn't have any classified info on her server or that it wasn't vulnerable to hacking. The report notes that other secretaries of state also used personal email but never to the extent that she did and they never had their own personal server.

And it is clear once again that Clinton and her aides feel that they are above the law. This wasn't a Republican investigation, but one ordered by the Obama administration with an Obama-appointed inspector general. But still they tried to squelch all criticisms of how she was evading the law.
Clinton and her top staff did not cooperate with the investigation, which was requested by current Secretary of State John Kerry. She, her former chief of staff Cheryl Mills and top deputies Jake Sullivan and Huma Abedin are among those who declined interviews. Kerry and his predecessors Powell, Madeleine Albright, and Condoleezza Rice, however, did answer questions.

According to the report, some State Department technology staff said they were instructed to not talk of Clinton’s email set-up after they raised concerns about the unusual arrangement. One employee told investigators that he or she "raised concerns that information sent and received on Secretary Clinton’s account could contain Federal records that needed to be preserved in order to satisfy Federal recordkeeping requirements,” the document states.

But they were told to drop it: "According to the staff member, the Director stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further. As previously noted, OIG found no evidence that staff in the Office of the Legal Adviser reviewed or approved Secretary Clinton’s personal system.”
And it is now clear that Clinton and her tech aides knew that there had been attempts to hack into her server.
The report also undercuts many of her campaign’s explanations for her use of the system, dismisses comparisons to her predecessors’ email use, and points to repeated hacking attempts that she failed to report.

After one of the 2011 hack attempts Mrs. Clinton’s tech staffer shut the server down for a few minutes, hoping that would solve the situation, but quickly warned top aides not to send Mrs. Clinton “anything sensitive” after the attempted breach, according to the report, which was obtained by The Washington Times.

After another suspicious attempt Mrs. Clinton said she was scared to open email — but failed to report the matter.

“Notification is required when a user suspects compromise of, among other things, a personally owned device containing personally identifiable information,” the investigators said. “However, OIG found no evidence that the Secretary or her staff reported these incidents to computer security personnel or anyone else within the Department.”

At one point in 2010, Mrs. Clinton’s emails were ending up in subordinates’ spam filters because they were coming from a account. One of her top aides urged her to sign up for an official account or letting everyone in the department know of her address so she could be added as a verified account, but she refused, saying she didn’t “want any risk of the personal being accessible.”
So she was more concerned about trying to prevent the media and Congress from getting access to her records as they should have had if laws were followed than from keeping her information private from international hackers.

As Andrew McCarthy reports in his analysis of the IG report, there is one main reason why Hillary and her aides would have refused to cooperate with the inspector general.
When a government official or former government official refuses to answer questions in a formal government investigation into potential wrongdoing, this in effect is the assertion of a legal privilege not to speak — otherwise, there is no valid reason not to cooperate.

So what conceivable legal privilege do Clinton, Mills, Sullivan, and Abedin have that would allow them to refuse to answer investigators’ questions? Only one: the Fifth Amendment privilege — i.e., the refusal to answer on the grounds that truthful responses might be incriminating.

Just imagine all the laws that she could break if she were sitting in the Oval Office.

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This is the sort of information that the public can find out through the legal application of the Freedom of Information Act:
Judicial Watch announced today released Justice Department documents showing that weapons sent from the U.S. into Mexico as part of the Obama administration’s Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning program have been widely used by major Mexican drug cartels. According to the new records, over the past three years, a total of 94 Fast and Furious firearms have been recovered in Mexico City and 12 Mexican states, with the majority being seized in Sonora, Chihuahua and Sinaloa. Of the weapons recovered, 82 were rifles and 12 were pistols identified as having been part of the Fast and Furious program. Reports suggest the Fast and Furious guns are tied to at least 69 killings.

Fast and Furious was a Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gunrunning” operation in which the Obama administration allowed guns to be sold to Mexican drug cartels in the hope the weapons would be recovered at crime scenes. Fast and Furious weapons have been implicated in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and hundreds of other innocents in Mexico. Prior reports tie Fast and Furious weapons to at least 200 deaths in Mexico alone.
Of course, Attorney General Eric Holder fought for years to let this information becoming public so that he could leave office and hope that the public would lose interest.

It makes one wonder if this is the sort of release of documents that Hillary was trying to prevent by using her own server.

The IG report on Clinton's server just starts what Politico calls Hillary's "Summer of Scandal."
And as many Americans prepare for the traditional Memorial Day kickoff to the summer season, longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills is scheduled to sit for a sworn deposition Friday in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the conservative group Judicial Watch.

Mills’ testimony would be the first known time a member of Clinton’s inner circle has been questioned under oath in the email controversy. Another top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, is set to testify next month. And Clinton herself is awaiting a judge's ruling on whether she should be required to give a deposition.

No matter how that comes out, Clinton also faces an ongoing FBI investigation into the email set up. Some of her aides have already been questioned. She's expressed a willingness to sit down with investigators — something they're expected to take her up on in the next few weeks. Unless it takes place in complete secrecy, such a session would be the highest-profile legal spectacle the former first lady has faced since she testified 20 years ago before a federal grand jury investigating the disappearance and reappearance of Whitewater billing records.

"I think the [Office of Inspector General] report is going to be of interest and the testimony is going to be out there," said Judicial Watch's Tom Fitton. "I think the courts will take action this summer....I don't see any of this going away."

On top of all that, there's an expected House report on Benghazi. And a slew of planned document releases from the State Department that a conservative group is planning to make into a movie.
So we're facing the possibility of one candidate who will be under continual legal investigation based on her actions skirting the law and having another candidate who will be subject to constant lawsuits based on his business decisions. All these investigations and lawsuits may well continue and follow the candidate into the White House. Both Trump and Clinton will have cause to curse Bill Clinton's actions which led to the Supreme Court confirming that a president could be the subject of a lawsuit while in office in Clinton v. Jones. If a president can be sued based on his behavior previous to taking office, I would guess that she could be investigated and prosecuted for breaking the law with her private server even as she serves as president.

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As Daniel Henninger writes, the VA Secretary's comparison of lines waiting for the VA to lines at Disney World is really a metaphor for lots of government services.
Maybe this is just a liberal thing. In New York City, you can see people standing in Disney-size lines to buy a cupcake.

But there was no partisan slant recently to the Disney-like lines at the nation’s airports, as the Transportation Security Administration’s processing of passengers so bogged down that people missed flights and slept on airport floors.

Or how about that wonderful Internal Revenue Service. The IRS Taxpayer Advocate’s 2015 report says that of all calls routed to the tax agency’s customer-service representatives, the IRS “answered only about 38 percent of its calls—meaning about 62 percent of calls simply didn’t get through.”
At the foundation of all these delays are the endless regulations imposed on any government service and then imposed on the rest of us. Henninger recommends the Competitive Enterprise Institute's report of the federal regulatory state, Ten Thousand Commandments. And if we elect Hillary Clinton, expect thousands more.
Mrs. Clinton’s idea of Wall Street reform is to add more detail to a regulatory form that already can take up to 300 hours to complete.

More interesting, though, was the justification for the Clinton approach, expressed by Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget: “There’s some inevitable trade-off here between cost and simplicity. Put me down for, ‘Let’s spend our scarce resources more carefully, even if it means more complexity.’ ”

That statement is a succinct summary of the case for the administrative state and grand-scale planning as designed by Rexford Tugwell for Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

What’s notable about liberalism as represented by Hillary Clinton, much less the socialist Bernie Sanders, is that across nearly 85 years, they never looked back.

They seem never to have revisited the possibility that an argument made for bureaucratic planning in the depths of an economic recession might not be appropriate for the American economy when normal growth resumed. Instead, they stuck unto eternity with the idea that “scarce resources” will necessarily require “complexity.”

But the argument that scarcity mandates complexity is what led to the fiasco called ObamaCare. Even the non-complex funding mechanisms for earlier entitlements, such as Social Security, are grinding toward collapse. The Social Security Trust Fund’s depletion date is 2035.

Unnoticed by them is that their creations have grown into public agencies that have become too big to perform by any politically acceptable measure. (Or more likely the rents earned from being attached to this game mean results don’t matter much.)

The real analogy that the VA’s Mr. McDonald was groping for is France. One hears all the time that the medical care in the welfare states of France or Scandinavia is terrific and worth the long wait, even if some people die waiting for it.

Why should we be France? The problem with the administrative state as endlessly reinvented by Hillary Clinton and the “smart” people she’d bring into government is that it is out of sync with American life.
If Hillary wins, we might find ourselves wishing that we could be France.

Sean Trende explains what liberals seem to constantly forget. The gender gap can can flow both ways. It might mean that women are more likely to vote for the Democrat, but it can also mean that men are more likely to vote for the Republican. Ever since they glommed onto the polls for Ronald Reagan, Democrats have been running to appeal to women and expand the gender gap. But it flows both ways.
In every one of these elections, there has been a gender gap of varying sizes, and Democrats won the female vote in almost every election (2010 is the sole exception, when Republican narrowly won among women). Yet, if anything, a larger gender gap correlates with a worse Democratic performance in House elections (p<.001). Two of the three largest gender gaps on record – 11 points in 1994 and 10 points in 2012 and 2014 – occurred in two of the worst years for Democrats nationally. This happened because Democrats performed horribly among men, winning just 42 percent each time. In fact, if we look at the entire time series, the men’s vote is far more variable (standard deviation = 4.2) than the women’s vote (standard deviation = 2.4).

The numbers on Clinton and Trump seem to be indicating the same sort of gender disparity.

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So why was Trump, while campaigning in New Mexico, attacking the state's governor Susana Martinez? She is not a Democrat and she is a rising star among Republicans as a successful governor of Hispanic descent popular in her state with a large Hispanic population. She's the chair of the Republican Governors Association and would have been on many short lists for vice president. Yet she hasn't endorsed Trump and didn't go to his rally in New Mexico. So Donald Trump started attacking her. Caitlyn Huey-Burns writes about why Trump's attack is a concern for Republicans who have been trying to convince themselves that Trump can be successfully domesticated.
But his decision to go after Martinez, a figure who could help expand his support in the general election, not only threatens party unity, but also signals consequences for Republicans reluctant to board his train--and for candidates hoping to distance themselves from him.

“Trump was sending a message to her and to other Republican elected officials around America that this is what you come in for if you part ways,” says Joe Monahan, who writes a popular political blog in Albuquerque. “There has been a bevy of economic problems in this state that have not received a lot of attention, and Trump put it on her lap, front and center.”

....The idea that Trump would condemn Martinez so forcefully and publicly is perplexing to Republicans who believe she could be a key resource for Trump in helping to expand his reach beyond his core base of support. While strategists acknowledge Trump plays by a different rulebook in politics, they still maintain that he will need to court and retain various constituencies.

“It impacts every Republican, especially incumbents, running for re-election this year,” former House GOP Leader Tom DeLay told MSNBC about Trump’s hit on Martinez. “I have no other word for it: it's just stupid politics ... and it just blows my mind. Where is he going to get his coalition to win?”
For Trump, party unity is secondary to punishing those who don't leap to support him. If Republicans think that, once he got into office, Trump would compromise to work with others to address problems, they might want to notice that he puts loyalty to The Donald above any other quality in those whose help he needs. Those leaders pondering whether they would want to serve in a Trump administration need to take note.

Conor Friedersdorf addresses all those who are worried that Donald Trump would lead to some new fascist era in the United States. If they're truly worried about how he might use the powers of the presidency, they should have also been worried about how their guy, Barack Obama, has expanded those powers. They were willing to criticize George W. Bush expanded those powers, but Bush had nothing on Obama.
Three years ago, in “All the Infrastructure a Tyrant Would Need, Courtesy of Bush and Obama,” I warned that “more and more, we're counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils,” and that come January, 2017, an unknown person would enter the Oval Office and inherit all of these precedents:

The president can order American citizens killed, in secret, without any judicial or legislative review, by declaring them terrorists posing an imminent threat.

-The president can detain prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial.
-The president can order drone strikes at will in countries against which no war has been declared, and drone kill people whose identities are not even known.
-The president can start a torture program with impunity.
-The president can conduct warrantless surveillance on tens of millions of Americans and tap a database that allows metadata archived in 2007 to be accessed in 2017.
-The federal government can collect and store DNA swabs of people who have been arrested even if they are released and never convicted of any crime.

Now, Donald Trump is coming. And many establishment centrists are professing alarm.
Think of all the examples of how Obama has used the power of the presidency to issue his own orders, regardless of Congress, on policies implementing Obamacare or on immigration. He has a pen so he doesn't need the legislative branch. And Democrats have cheered him on. Now suddenly they're discovering how having an all-powerful president ignoring checks and balances might not be such a good thing.
While writing or sharing articles that compare Trump to Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco, few if any have called on Obama or Congress to act now “to tyrant-proof the White House.” However much they fear Trump, however rhetorically maximalist they are in warning against his elevation, even the prospect of him controlling the entire apparatus of the national security state is not enough to cause them to rethink their reckless embrace of what Gene Healy calls “The Cult of the Presidency,” a centrist religion that persisted across the Bush administration’s torture chambers and the Obama administration’s unlawful War in Libya.

With a reality-TV bully is on the doorstep of the White House, still they hesitate to urge reform to a branch of government they’ve long regarded as more than co-equal.

They needn’t wait for the Nixon-era abuses to replay themselves as farce or worse to change course. Their inaction is irresponsible. Just as the conservative movement is duty bound to grapple with its role in a populist demagogue seizing control of the Republican Party, establishment centrists ought to grapple with the implicit blessing they’ve given to the extraordinary powers Trump would inherit, and that even the less-risky choice, Hillary Clinton, would likely abuse.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cruising the Web

Jim Geraghty looks beyond Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald's insensitive remarks on how the VA doesn't look to wait times any more than Disneyland does. There all sorts of other reasons to want to fire McDonald. They're falsifying wait time reports. They're not implementing reforms that the prior VA Secretary had instituted. They went $1.1 billion over the estimates for building a new VA hospital in Colorado. It used to be that the post office or the DMV were used as models of government incompetence. Now, it will be the VA, but it's no joke - people are literally dying because of the VA's structural incompetence and dishonesty.

We can also add in the TSA as a bureaucratic agency that will not inspire confidence in government.
What does it take to get fired from the top ranks of the Transportation Security Agency?

It's hard to tell — because it happens so infrequently.

The agency, under fire for long lines at airport checkpoints, security miscues, high turnover rates, retaliation against whistle blowers and lack of accountability for senior staff, has terminated one executive in the past five years, according to data provided to NBC News by the federal Office of Personnel Management.

By comparison, 6,889 employees who worked under those executives were fired during that time.

That discrepancy became particularly relevant this week, after TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger announced that he had reassigned the agency's head of security, Kelly Hoggan.

Hoggan had become a public face for the security lines crisis — and for deeper problems in the agency. The House Oversight Committee last month questioned a $90,000 bonus he received in small, hard-to-track payments even as he oversaw what the panel called "significant security vulnerabilities."

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Megan McArdle argues
that the biggest reason we should fear a Trump presidency is not that he could become a dictator, but because he could be corrupt and dangerously incompetent.
So the question is not just whether Trump wants to be a dictator, but what the other branches of government will do if he tries to actually become one. I don’t just mean Congress and the courts; I mean “will the bureaucrats of the civil service follow his orders, and will the people with guns agree to go out and arrest his enemies?”

There’s clearly a portion of the electorate that thrills to the more authoritarian and violent parts of his message, and presumably some of those folks are in the military and the civil service. But I’m still fairly confident that the FBI is not, say, going to start tapping journalists’ phones to find out if they’re making fun of President Trump’s comb-over, or disappearing the ones who do.

I worry more about Silvio Berlusconi-style corruption and abuse of regulatory agencies, an impulsive foreign policy that could lead us into open conflict with a nuclear-armed power, and executive-power overreach. I also worry about simple incompetence, given how uninterested Trump seems to be in policy. All-out dictatorship is pretty low on the list, because American institutions do not seem weak enough to allow it.
And, of course, we've seen some dangerous incompetence from other administrations, like the present one. I wouldn't fear Trump making such a dangerous deal with Iran as Obama has done.

As Obama presses forward with his plans to close Gitmo and bases his argument on the idea that it serves as a recruiting tool for terrorists. This is what one Navy commander says about that.
Commander Kirk Lippold, retired from the U.S. Navy, testified in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday, insisting that Guantanamo Bay remain open for business.

“Keeping Guantanamo open is more important now than ever,” Lippold warned....

Gitmo, he argued, has not led to recruiting “anymore than movies caused the Benghazi attacks.”

And speaking of corruption, the Clinton Foundation seems to be an endless source of political sleaze.
A little known Swedish-Canadian oil and mining conglomerate human rights groups have repeatedly charged produces “blood minerals” is among the Clinton Foundation’s biggest donors, thanks to a $100 million pledge in 2007, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation has found.

“Blood minerals” are related to “blood diamonds,” which are allegedly mined in war zones or sold as commodities to help finance political insurgencies or despotic warlords.

When the Vancouver, Canada-based Lundin Group gave its $100 million commitment to the “Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative,” the company had long been cutting deals with warlords, Marxist rebels, military strongmen and dictatorships in the war-torn African countries of Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Even CBS is calling Hillary out for her hypocrisy about refusing a debate with Bernie before the California primary contrary to her criticism of Obama for refusing debates.

Ah, those Clintons. When Bill was running for reelection in 1996, he poll-tested where he should go for vacation. Now we learn that, as Ashe Schow writes, even Hillary's pandering is poll-tested.
Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is a world-class pander bear. While she claimed in a tweet on Monday that she “will not pander to the gun lobby,” she has been very obviously pandering to minorities, the Occupiers, college students, the military and veterans, coal workers (only in West Virginia) and, of course, women.

Throughout her campaign—and career, really—Ms. Clinton has repeatedly reminded people that she is a woman. It has become increasingly worse during her 2016 presidential campaign, to the point where I challenged her to give one speech where she didn’t mention it or pander. She didn’t get the memo, but it didn’t matter, women already weren’t buying her stock as much as she thought they would.

But a funny thing happened recently. Ms. Clinton has toned down her rhetoric about being the “youngest woman president” or the “first woman president.” We, the listeners, are certainly thankful—it was tiresome to hear a presidential candidate who thought we were so stupid we couldn’t remember she was a woman and that no women had ever been president.

The reason for the recent change is that Ms. Clinton can’t and won’t do anything without poll-testing the message first. And in this case, pandering wasn’t popular.

The Associated Press tried to frame Ms. Clinton’s focus on gender issues as Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump. “Trump’s eagerness to make gender a major issue has complicated the delicate balancing act she already faces as the first woman to head a major party ticket,” wrote AP’s Lisa Lerer and Catherine Lucey.

Give me a break. Ms. Clinton’s strategy all along was to focus on her gender. An aide admitted as much back in February 2015, months before Mr. Trump announced his candidacy. To blame Ms. Clinton’s focus on anything other than her own self-interest is dishonest.

The only reason Ms. Clinton has stopped the constant focus is because donors (and voters) were sick of hearing it. And this wasn’t a focus group put together by an independent company—no, it was done by Emily’s List, a group that loves Democratic women so much they spent millions of dollars primary-ing a powerful and popular Democrat just because he’s a man. And even they found that the message was tiresome.

“De-emphasize the ‘first’ talk,” the Emily’s List report found. “[Donors] already know she’d be the first woman president,” the report said, “but we don’t get anything by reminding them.”(See original for links)

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So why has there been a spike in handguns sales and people taking firearms courses?
While not as heavily reported in time past, women are becoming major players in the gun industry and ownership. Contrary to popular belief, women are not stalwarts of gun control politics–they want to protect themselves as any other American. That’s why across the country record numbers of women are lining up to obtain their gun permits. In fact, since 2007, there has been a 270 percent increase in women having concealed carry permits. So, the truth of the matter is that women have always been around guns; it was that no one was catering to their needs, especially when it comes to concealing their firearms. (links in original)
So it's time to ask gun control advocates why they want to prevent women from being able to protect themselves.

Thomas Sowell ridicules
some of the common themes of commencement addresses.
Two themes seem to dominate Commencement speeches. One is shameless self-advertising by people in government, or in related organizations supported by the taxpayers or donors, saying how nobler it is to be in "public service" than working in business or other "selfish" activities.

In other words, the message is that it is morally superior to be in organizations consuming output produced by others than to be in organizations which produce that output. Moreover, being morally one-up is where it's at.

The second theme of many Commencement speakers, besides flattering themselves that they are in morally superior careers, is to flatter the graduates that they are now equipped to go out into the world as "leaders" who can prescribe how other people should live.

In other words, young people, who in most cases have never had either the sobering responsibility and experience of being self-supporting adults, are to tell other people -- who have had that responsibility and that experience for years -- how they should live their lives.

In so far as the graduates go into "public service" in government, whether as bureaucrats or as aides to politicians or judges, they are to help order other people around.

It might never occur to many Commencement speakers, or to their audiences, that what the speakers are suggesting is that inexperienced young graduates are to prescribe, or help to dictate, to vast numbers of other people who have the real world experience that the graduates themselves lack.

It's a shame that this has to be done yet again, but since liberals keep making the same fallacious point so Michael Barone's refutation of the phony statistic that women earn 77 cents compared to the dollar that men earn is worth reading.
It's actually been illegal to pay women less than men for the same work since Congress passed a law to that effect in 1963 -- 53 years ago. Any employer who does so is inviting a lawsuit, which most small businesses can't afford, and courting a negative reputation, which any large business abhors.

Clinton's use of statistics that are misleading (as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler concluded) is in service of an argument that as president she will break down barriers that are holding women back. That's part of her strategy to reassemble Barack Obama's 51 percent 2012 coalition by promising to break down barriers to upward mobility.

The argument is based on an assumption that every identifiable group would be equally represented in every stratum of society, absent the barriers erected by patriarchal white males. Such appeals have the political advantage of being always available. Beyond Lake Wobegon, some identifiable group will always have a tendency to rank lower than average in something....

Which is to say, the gap results not from institutional barriers but from personal choices, which tend to be rooted in biology. Science -- we all respect science, don't we? -- tells us men and women are different. Only women give birth and, it turns out, they're more likely to take parental leave and choose work that requires limited and definite hours, and which, accordingly, pays less.

Note that these decisions are being made by people who grew up when most women worked outside the home and who attended female-majority colleges and graduate schools. Such women know they have choices, and they tend to choose to trade away income for family time. That's a rational choice, even if it means never being CEO.

Hillary Clinton's solutions for equalizing pay -- "flexible scheduling, paid family leave and earned sick days" -- tend to encourage women to take time off from work, which in turn tends toward lower lifetime earnings. That's certainly been the effect in Scandinavia, where such policies have been carried farthest. The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that "many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top."

The fact is that the barriers Clinton thinks are holding women back mostly came down years ago.

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My AP Government students have been working on a post-AP exam project to engage in a moot court hearing of two cases presently before the Supreme Court: Utah v. Strieff and United States v. Texas. Utah v. Strieff is a case concerning the limits to the exclusionary rule to the Fourth Amendment. If the Court were to follow how my three classes of students ruled, Utah is going to lose big. Today we held the hearing on United States v. Texas, the case challenging the President's decision to defer deporting parents of the children brought here illegally and exempted from deportation. In all three of my classes, the vote was as close as predicted for the real Supreme Court. In the two classes with enough students for a nine-member Supreme Court, the vote was 5:4 in favor of Texas. And in the class with only eight students on our mock Supreme Court, the justices tied.

It really is something to hear my students, who are mostly 10th graders, throwing around arguments about the Attenuation Doctrine of the Exclusionary Rule or what qualifies reasonable suspicion plus referring to the Administration Procedures Act or the limitations on standing in a federal case.

The students on the Supreme Court panel had to explain why they ruled the way they did. I noticed something very striking. All the students who ruled in favor of the Obama administration justified their decision based on their opinions on immigration and their desire to legalize these parents. All the students who ruled in favor of Texas based their decision on their concerns on a president's overreach of power or fear that the federal government's action placed undue mandates on the states. Sounds about right for comparing this administration's concept of judicial activism based on their desired policies compared to how conservatives approach to issues based on actual constitutional concerns.

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Are these people trying to elect Donald Trump?
What began as an assembly of about 1,000 peaceful protesters outside a Donald Trump rally at the Albuquerque Convention Center morphed into madness Tuesday evening when mostly young, raucous rioters joined the ranks, hurling burning T-shirts, rocks and bottles toward the police and police horses trying to contain them.

Several Albuquerque police officers were injured by the projectile rocks, and at least one rioter had been arrested by the end of the night, the department tweeted. Protesters finally dispersed from the city’s downtown streets late Tuesday night, hours after the rally ended, when police in riot gear unloaded pepper spray on the dwindling crowd.
And waving Mexican flags while they're rioting is not going to hurt Trump. Someone should explain to them how Richard Nixon rode a "law and order" campaign into the White House in 1968.

This would be one benefit from the disaster that was the GOP nomination fight this past year. The GOP is considering changing the priority given to unrepresentative state.
In a significant shift, Republican officials said it now seemed unlikely that the four states to vote first would all retain their cherished place on the electoral calendar, with Nevada as the most probable casualty.

Party leaders are even going so far as to consider diluting the traditional status of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as gatekeepers to the presidency. Under one proposal, those states would be paired with others that vote on the same day as a way to give more voters a meaningful role much sooner.
I've long thought it was a big mistake to give so much power to Iowa and New Hampshire. Why are those the chosen states? It just developed that way and now their special status has been treated as almost holy writ. I don't think that had anything to do with Trump's success, but it might have helped Cruz to have been able to organize in Iowa and appeal to the state's evangelical population. I don't think caucuses should have such primacy in choosing a nominee. They're limited to only activists and ignore anyone who can't get away for a couple of hours on a winter's night.

One proposal makes no sense to me.
In one possibility that members of the Republican National Committee have floated, the early voting states, also known as “carve-out states,” would retain their special status. But to bring more states into the process earlier, each would be paired with a nearby state that would vote on the same day. So Iowa would still hold the first contest in 2020, but on the same day as Minnesota. New Hampshire would vote next, but on the same day as Massachusetts. And the same-day pairings would change: In 2024, Iowa would be twinned with South Dakota, and New Hampshire with Maine.
Great. double-down on choosing unrepresentative states to have special status. Why give Minnesota and Massachusetts special status? The states are reliably blue states. And then rotate to states with small populations like South Dakota and Maine? It sounds like a Rube Goldberg approach to maintaining something of Iowa and New Hampshire's special status. I'd prefer to have a rotating group of states by region so that one year we would have southern states go first and another year midwestern states could go first.

Another change the Republicans are considering is whether to close primaries to only registered Republicans. That might have limited Trump's rise in the early states.
Many argue that a strictly closed process inhibits the party from appealing to a broader swath of the electorate, while others fear that non-Republican voters dilute conservative voices.

“People forget one thing,” Mr. Kaufman said. “The nomination of the candidates for both parties is not an election. It’s a process. And there are those who believe that process should be determined by people who care about their parties.”

One impediment to any sweeping changes to limit open primaries is the Republican Party’s aversion to dictating to states.

“It has been a pillar of Republican Party philosophy that we give maximum freedom and authority to the states,” said Steve Duprey, the national committeeman for New Hampshire. “And to try to dictate one system would seem to be antithetical to that.”

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Finally, someone comes out and says it - ESPN is turning their sports coverage over to Stephen A. Smith and that is not a good thing. It's gotten so that I automatically turn them off when he comes on.
As much as people like to rail on Skip Bayless, more or less he’s segmented to First Take. It’s easy to opt out from watching him. Unfortunately for those who find Stephen A. Smith equally as grating, you’re going to have to put some effort in avoiding him especially during the NBA playoffs. Quite frankly, SportsCenter with 37 minutes of Stephen A. sucks.
On days like that, I much prefer to get my NBA coverage from the NBA channel. Their analysts are so much less annoying.

Michael Wilbon has a very strange essay about how blacks don't like advance analytics. If a white journalist had written that blacks were more interested in the emotional feel of sports than using numbers, cries of racism from Wilbon and his colleagues would have broken out across the sports world.

And just to demonstrate his total disdain of statistical analysis, Wilbon provides the evidence for his thesis by talking to a bunch of other black sports journalists and black athletes. He doesn't talk to white athletes or white journalists of a similar age and background. Perhaps they don't like analytics either. There would go his whole thesis that blacks have a more emotional connection to sports.

Just what you needed - a list of the TV-acceptable words and phrases to refer to the area of his anatomy where Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cruising the Web

How stupid is the head of the Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, to compare the wait times at VA hospitals to waiting in line at Disneyland?
"When you got to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what's important? What's important is, what's your satisfaction with the experience?" McDonald said Monday during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters. "And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure."

McDonald's comments angered House Speaker Paul Ryan, who tweeted out Monday afternoon, "This is not make-believe, Mr. Secretary. Veterans have died waiting in those lines."
When waiting for appointments imperils the health of veterans, then the length of wait time is a crucial question, sometimes a literal life-or-death question. It's not a measure of customer satisfaction. That McDonald thinks of the problems at the VA in this manner indicates he really doesn't understand the scope of the problem he is in charge of fixing.

Here's a tricky question for Hillary to address:
Is the country better off than it was eight years ago? For Democrats, the answer is tricky.

President Obama and likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have not always been on the same page when talking about the economy, at times sending a mixed message to voters ahead of the November elections.

Obama has emerged as an unabashed cheerleader of the economic recovery during his time in office, seeking to cement a legacy as the president who dug the country out of the Great Recession.
Clinton frequently praises Obama, but she’s more apt to mention that people are still hurting, bowing to the reality that nearly seven in 10 Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.

She has even made comments that are implicitly critical of the performance of the economy on the president’s watch.

The disparity indicates that Democrats face a tough task in presenting a united front on the economy, an issue that voters rank as their top priority.

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Apparently, Newt Gingrich is actively campaigning to be chosen as Donald Trump's running mate. Why not have two blowhard, media manipulators?
Among the similarities between the two men, they share a genius for exploiting mass media. In his 1990s heyday, Gingrich was able to dominate the news cycle by harnessing the newfound power of talk radio, much as Trump has done with television and social media this year. “I don’t know two other people who can command more media attention than Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump,” says Rick Tyler, who served as Gingrich’s campaign spokesman in 2012. For Trump, Tyler says, naming Gingrich vice president would simply be “doubling down on an already successful strategy: keeping your enemies constantly on defense, constantly off balance, constantly explaining themselves. Newt knows how to do that.”

Gingrich has a reputation for insinuating himself into campaigns by firing off dozens of e-mails brimming with ideas that range from brilliant to insane. While it’s a quality that has irritated previous presidential candidates such as John McCain and Mitt Romney, sources say that Trump has come to value the former speaker’s opinions.

“They talk every day,” says a source familiar with the relationship, who claims that Gingrich e-mails Trump, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “countless times a day.” On Friday, the source says Gingrich sent five messages after lunch, musing on everything from Fox host Megyn Kelly’s interview with Trump to Trump’s recently announced list of potential Supreme Court nominees to ideas for targeting Bernie Sanders’s voters.
Are we ready for the all-septuagenarian ticket?

John Hart, an aide to former senator Tom Coburn, explains why Republicans need more than running against the Clintons to win this year. Republicans, under Gingrich, tried this in the 1990s and it didn't work then.
As an aide to Representative Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, I had a front-row seat to the impeachment process. We recall in Coburn’s 2003 book, Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders into Insiders:
Many Republicans expected that President Clinton’s colossally foolish act of having an affair with a twenty-one-year-old intern, and then lying to cover it up, would cause the public to vote for Republicans in large numbers. Our consultants and leaders reinforced this expectation. In fact, in one meeting of the Republican conference, [Newt] Gingrich told restless conservatives that we did not need to mobilize our base with a bold agenda because Clinton had already motivated our base for us.
The project was a dud. Republicans lost seats in 1998 after the impeachment ordeal. Our base was not “motivated” and Bill Clinton emerged from the confrontation more popular than before. The cautionary tale for today is that scandalism — the politics of exploiting your opponent’s weakness — is no substitute for substance.

The Trump campaign is susceptible to this trap for two reasons. First, Trump lacks substance and has no clear principles, world-view, or policy agenda to pivot to. Second, one of Trump’s chief adviseors, Newt Gingrich, was the architect of the failed anti-Clinton strategy in the ’90s.

Gingrich, no doubt, is a bright and talented person. He’s also been the beneficiary of — as Mark Leibovich and others have observed — our nation’s acceptance of second, third, and even fourth acts in American politics. Newt has gone from insurgent to speaker of the House to exiled philosopher. Newt’s latest incarnation as base whisperer — a great diviner and interpreter of the will of the people — is a bit insufferable for those who recall his failed tenure as speaker.

As Coburn recalled, Newt referred to the Class of 1994 rebels who wanted Republicans to offer an aspirational agenda as “you conservatives” who lacked his tactical and intellectual sophistication. Newt’s strategy for 1998 was to run on scandalism and hope that would distract the base from Republican support of a pork-laden transportation bill and an omnibus spending bill that included seven C-130 transport planes for Newt’s congressional district (the Pentagon had requested only one).

Newt’s senior role in today’s Trumpstablishment illustrates the conceit of Trump supporters who want to dismiss skeptics as out-of-touch insiders. But the record shows skeptics like Coburn, who literally wrote the book on how to be an effective outsider and spent a decade cleaning up Newt’s mess, were much better listeners, tacticians, and policymakers.
He reminds us of the corruption that grew under Gingrich's leadership.
Newt not only tolerated cronyism but also expanded the earmark favor factory and filled the hot tub for Jack Abramoff and future felons like Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s old boss Representative Bob Ney. (Lewandowski urged leniency for Ney when the voter revolt Trump is now harnessing was beginning to form.) Is this what the Trumpstablishment means by “listening” to the base?
It's fine to point out Clinton corruption, but it will not be enough to win the campaign. It just seems that Trump is much more comfortable with running a campaign based on bringing up Bill's past as a sexual predator and Hillary's enabling of his behavior than running on actual issues or even on the Clintons' financial corruption since leaving the White House. There are so many reasons that Hillary would be a disaster as president and Trump should indeed bring those up. But he also needs a positive message. He needs to be more than the candidate who can troll the media and his opposition.
The media would love 2016 to be a race between an alleged playboy-predator (Trump) and an alleged predator-playboy (Clinton) and the women who love and loathe them. But the glare of easy earned media around the Clinton scandals is the event horizon of a political black hole. If Trump presses this case too aggressively, Democrats will employ easy counter-attacks. After all, we’re the party that elevated a child molester to speaker of the House (Dennis Hastert). We’re the party that allowed a hypocritical philanderer (Gingrich) to prosecute a hyper-partisan impeachment. (And, by the way, if Trump was so disturbed by “Rapist Bill” and his enabler wife, why did he donate money to Hillary and allow Bill to put his arm around his wife at a wedding?)

The ’90s showed that voters don’t really care about Clinton scandals. Voters care far more about their own problems. The candidate who focuses on those problems will win.

If Trump wants to win he should tune out Newt and tune in Ryan. It’s fine to try to define Hillary — for now. But he should quickly move on to telling the country what exactly he is for.

Meanwhile, Trump is running ads about Bill and women and he's bringing up Vince Foster's suicide. Why not play into every conspiracy theory from the 1990s even the ones that have no evidence whatsoever? It makes sense that a campaign that was based on whatever Trump heard on "the shows" and was built on what he read in his Twitter feed should pull out whatever he found in the depths of the blogosphere. Because it's much better to run a campaign based on rejected scandals of the 1990s instead of anything about the future. Right? Voters don't actually care about what candidates might be do when they get in office, do they? And the Clinton campaign will retaliate with bizarre or distasteful things that Trump said and did in the 1980s and 1990s. It's not as if there aren't any current problems facing the country and world in 2016.

We're already seeing this as a pro-Hillary super PAC is airing ads in key states using his own words about women.

William McGurn unearths what Donald Trump was saying during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Here’s the kicker: Donald Trump was on the Bill Clinton side of the argument.

For Mr. Trump, this was all much ado about Monica. Mr. Clinton’s mistake, he said, was that he’d lied about the sex instead of sticking with the argument it was irrelevant. In a September 1998 New York Times forum that ran under the headline “Can Clinton Find the Road Back?” Mr. Trump gave this advice:

“Accept complete responsibility for personal failures, be lucky enough to have enemies with their own shortcomings, and hold steadfast to your political agenda. After the initial shock is past, the American people are less interested in sexual transgressions than they are in public achievements.”

Nearly two decades later, Mr. Trump continues to live by this reading of the American people.
That certainly explains why he's so indifferent to criticisms of his behavior with women.
It appears to have escaped the Hillary faithful that Mr. Trump may be winning in good part because he has proved a more steadfast adherent of the Clinton argument of the 1990s than she has.

While at Wellesley, a young Hillary Clinton famously wrote her senior thesis on Saul Alinsky, the community organizer and author of “Rules for Radicals.” The two kept up a correspondence after she entered law school at Yale, and Alinsky is said to have been a great influence on her thought.

But while Mrs. Clinton may have studied Alinsky, Mr. Trump is showing himself the better Alinskyite. Especially with his use of Rule No. 4: Force your opponents to live up to their rules and values.

There’s no better example than the war on women. Mrs. Clinton started out all set to run the standard playbook against what she presumed would be a standard Republican opponent. But Mr. Trump has now turned it on her, putting her in the position of running against her husband.

Whenever Mrs. Clinton brings up women, Mr. Trump throws Bill Clinton right back at her. Indeed, on Monday Mr. Trump released a new attack on Instagram featuring an audio of Clinton rape accuser Juanita Broaddrick over the caption: “Is Hillary really protecting women?”

Mr. Trump is doing all this, moreover, without the slightest apology for his own playboy boorishness. Think of him as Mr. Clinton minus the credible rape and harassment allegations.

The difference is that where Bill lies, The Donald boasts. “Beautiful, famous, successful, married,” Mr. Trump wrote about women in his 2008 book “Think Big.” “I’ve had them all.”

In the 1990s, when President Clinton found himself fighting for his presidency after he was caught in a sexual relationship with an intern, he and his allies relentlessly pushed the idea that a pol’s private life was just that, private, and all that mattered was his agenda.

These many years later, by choosing Mr. Trump, GOP primary voters have given their answer: Message received.
But let's spend time talking about Vince Foster's suicide due to depression because no conspiracy theory should be left untouched. Remember this is the same man who talked about crackpot theories that Ted Cruz's father was connected to Lee Harvey Oswald when he was on the eve of putting Cruz away and wrapping up the nomination.

As Michael Gerson writes,
the whole Trump campaign and phenomenon is fueled by his beliefs in conspiracy theories whether it be vaccines causing autism or "thousands and thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11.
And then there are the black criminals who are responsible, according to a Trump retweet, for 81 percent of homicides against whites. Except that this turned out to be a racist myth from a white supremacist source.

And then there is the death of justice Antonin Scalia. “They say they found a pillow on his face,” responded Trump, “which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”

Does Trump really believe that liberals may have ordered a hit on a Supreme Court justice? Who knows? We do know he finds such ideas useful. Trump emerged in conservative circles by questioning Barack Obama’s citizenship, and thus the legality of his presidency. This required the existence of a conspiracy to hide the circumstances of Obama’s birth. “They cannot believe what they’re finding,” he said of “people that have been studying it.” Having actually discovered nothing, Trump doubled down on a deception.

As a leader, Trump has succeeded by appealing to stereotypes and ugly hatreds that most American leaders have struggled to repress and contain. His political universe consists of deceptive experts, of scheming, of criminal Mexicans, of lying politicians and bureaucrats and of disloyal Muslims. Asked to repudiate David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, Trump hesitated, later claiming a “bad earpiece.” Asked to repudiate the vicious anti-Semitism of some of his followers, Trump responded, “I don’t have a message to the fans.” Wouldn’t want to offend “the fans.”

This is not flirting with the fringes; it is French-kissing them. Every Republican official endorsing Trump should know: This is the company he keeps. This is the company you now keep.
Wise words for Republicans who are now trying to convince themselves that Trump wouldn't be so bad and that they can control him if he became president.

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In a review of the new book by Kim R. Holmes, The Closing of the Liberal Mind: How Groupthink and Intolerance Define the Left, Michael Warren writes in the WSJ about the intellectual history that explains how progressives have grown to believe in coercive measures to enforce their preferred beliefs.
How did liberals become so hopelessly illiberal? In “The Closing of the Liberal Mind,” Kim R. Holmes suggests that “the loss of historical memory as to what liberalism was is actually a key to understanding what it is today.” Mr. Holmes, a scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation, does an admirable job of reminding readers of that intellectual history, drawing a line from the political philosophy of John Stuart Mill to the original progressive spirit of Herbert Croly and Woodrow Wilson to the Third Way liberalism of John Rawls and Bill Clinton that synthesized Wilsonian progressivism with Mill’s classical liberalism. This tradition is communitarian, pluralistic, rational and universal. It idealizes freedom of thought and speech, distrusts institutional power, and believes in the goodness of humanity.

Today’s postmodern progressives have only superficial similarities with these liberal forebears. They are more accurately the descendants of radical abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison; radical egalitarians, like the utopian socialist communities of the 19th century; and egalitarian anarchists like Lysander Spooner and Benjamin R. Tucker. Like those radicals, postmodern progressives “sanction the use of coercive methods, either through legal means or public shaming rituals, to deny certain people their rights and civil liberties . . . in ways that undermine American democracy and the rule of law.”

Perhaps the fundamental difference between yesterday’s liberals and today’s postmodern progressives is each side’s conception of truth. Liberals believe truth is external and can be determined through reason. A good liberal uses his reason to achieve justice and equality for all. But postmodern progressives are moral relativists. For them, truth is internal, discerned by and specific to particular individuals. Today a good progressive defends the individual’s internal truth—particularly if the person is an “oppressed minority”—against all foes, including reason. Small wonder that the postmodern left has turned on its own.

The competition between individualized truths—“an unending conflict between identity tribes trying to capture the state for their own narrow group interests”—is what Mr. Holmes believes makes postmodern progressivism a cousin of radical libertarianism. But while radical libertarianism tends toward anarchy, postmodern leftism has a totalitarian impulse. The goal of a postmodern progressive isn’t universal truth, which supposedly doesn’t exist, but power, which is presented in the guise of equality and social justice. The left’s quest for power isn’t of the goose-stepping, arsenal-building kind employed by 20th-century dictators, Mr. Holmes takes great pains to insist. But, he allows, progressive liberals are “willing to dip into the totalitarians’ illiberal tool box.”

Look no further than the effort to gain power over language and debate on college campuses, through concepts like microagressions, trigger warnings and safe spaces, which police the expression of ideas. This is done in the name of inclusiveness and diversity, but in reality it’s a demonstration of power over those who think differently.

So how libertarian really is Gary Johnson? It seems that he's willing to endorse government coercion for causes that he approves of. His record as governor of New Mexico was one of increased government spending and gimmicks to appear to have balanced the state budget.

What a bizarre move by Target.
In 2013, Michael Turner saved the life of a 16-year-old girl who had been viciously attacked and stabbed in a Target store in Pennsylvania. And instead of thanking him for protecting its customers and preventing them from being murdered, Target is now suing him for his heroism and alleging he acted irresponsibly.

The attacker, Leon Walls, was convicted of attempted homicide for stabbing then-16-year-old Allison Meadows in 2013.

Security footage from the store shows Walls grabbing Meadows and stabbing her before Turner tackles the knife-wielding perp and chases him out of the store with a baseball bat.

Meadows and her family vehemently disagree with Target’s legal assault on Turner, calling Turner’s actions heroic and crediting them with preventing Meadows’ murder. The Meadows family has sued the store, claiming that the retail company had inadequate security, and alleging that the store, by suing Turner, is just trying to blame someone else for Target’s own refusal to protect the safety and security of its customers.
Is Target really against people saving a young girl from a knife attack?

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Oh, the fun of visiting France during strike season.
France has been hit by a wave of strikes over the past week aimed at pressuring the socialist government of President Francois Hollande to withdraw labour reforms that unions consider unfavourable to workers.

One out of five gas stations in the country were facing fuel shortages, Transport Minister Alain Vidalies told France 2 television. He also said earlier that more than 800 stations, out of a total of 11,500, were totally out of fuel.

Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma points to the hypocrisy of the Obama administration's delayed action in fighting Zika while criticizing the Republicans in the House.
If there was a way to both respond to Zika and prevent new debt spending, wouldn’t it be reasonable to do that? The Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, and International Assistance Programs currently have about $80 billion in unobligated funds.

A small fraction of this could be reprogrammed and redirected to respond to the Zika emergency and not add any additional debt to our nation’s children. This is exactly the type of authority the Obama administration asked for in 2009 during the height of the H1N1 virus scare.

This is not a partisan idea, it is a reasonable one in light of the medical emergency and the financial reality of our nation.

In a floor speech last week, I also shed light on the fact that Congress last December provided the Obama administration with authority to pull money from bilateral economic assistance to foreign countries.

They can use those funds to combat infectious diseases, if the administration believed there is an infectious disease emergency. In the middle of the Zika epidemic, the administration did use their authority to pull money from foreign aid and spend it, but they didn’t use it for Zika.

You might ask—so what did the administration spend the infectious disease money on earlier this year?

You guessed it… climate change.

In March, President Obama gave the United Nations $500 million out of an account under bilateral economic assistance to fund the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund.

Congress refused to allocate funding for the U.N. Climate Change Fund last year, so the president used this account designated for international infectious diseases to pay for his priority.

While I understand that intelligent people can disagree on the human effects on the global climate, it is hard to imagine a reason why the administration would prioritize the U.N. Green Climate Fund over protecting the American people, especially pregnant women, from the Zika virus.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.

The U.N. Green Climate Fund is connected to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an affiliated organization of the United Nations.

The UNFCCC recently accepted the “State of Palestine” as a signatory, which should trigger a U.S. funding prohibition. U.S. law forbids any taxpayer dollars to fund international organizations that recognize “Palestine” as a sovereign state.

So, the administration found a way to offend our ally Israel, delay the Zika response and, if Congress allows him, add another billion dollars to our national debt. That is a busy month.

As American officials celebrate the killing of a Taliban leader, Paul Mirengoff reminds us of how Hillary thought we could negotiate through peace talks with the Taliban.
I believe it’s widely known, though also widely forgotten, that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton orchestrated “peace talks” with the Taliban. Clinton discussed her role in some detail in her book, Hard Choices.

Robert Potts at the American Thinker provided a good summary of Clinton’s involvement, as described by her, in this article. Clinton’s goals were to “shatter the alliance between the Taliban and al Qaeda, end the insurgency, and help produce a more stable Afghanistan and a more stable region.”

The talks were a total failure. They served only to undermine Afghan confidence in the U.S. Clinton seems to believed that the Taliban might end its insurgency and help produce a more stable Afghanistan, but the Afghans never did.

The Taliban’s goal was, of course, to obtain concessions while carrying out its insurgency. It gained some. According to Clinton, “as a first step, we agreed to begin working with the United Nations to remove a few key Taliban members from the terrorist sanctions list, which imposed a travel ban.” The Taliban also wanted to be allowed to open a political office in Qatar. The U.S. permitted this shortly after Clinton left office.

Throughout the period during which the “peace talks” occurred — November 2010 through at least mid-2013 — the Taliban engaged in the worst sorts of terrorism. Potts describes some of it in his American Thinker article.
Of course, peace talks with the Taliban had no more success than her husband's attempt to end North Korea's nuclear armament program by giving them more money or Hillary's "reset" of relations with Russia or Obama's deal with Iran.
I believe it’s widely known, though also widely forgotten, that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton orchestrated “peace talks” with the Taliban. Clinton discussed her role in some detail in her book, Hard Choices.

Robert Potts at the American Thinker provided a good summary of Clinton’s involvement, as described by her, in this article. Clinton’s goals were to “shatter the alliance between the Taliban and al Qaeda, end the insurgency, and help produce a more stable Afghanistan and a more stable region.”

The talks were a total failure. They served only to undermine Afghan confidence in the U.S. Clinton seems to believed that the Taliban might end its insurgency and help produce a more stable Afghanistan, but the Afghans never did.

The Taliban’s goal was, of course, to obtain concessions while carrying out its insurgency. It gained some. According to Clinton, “as a first step, we agreed to begin working with the United Nations to remove a few key Taliban members from the terrorist sanctions list, which imposed a travel ban.” The Taliban also wanted to be allowed to open a political office in Qatar. The U.S. permitted this shortly after Clinton left office.

Throughout the period during which the “peace talks” occurred — November 2010 through at least mid-2013 — the Taliban engaged in the worst sorts of terrorism. Potts describes some of it in his American Thinker article.

In 2012 alone, 341 American military members were killed, along with 92 coalition forces members. American wounded numbered 2,877. More than 2,700 Afghan civilians were killed, with 80 percent of these deaths attributed to the Taliban and other anti- government elements.

According to Clinton, “At the end of 2012 the door to reconciliation remained open, but only part way.” Why only “part way”? Was it because the Taliban’s murderous conduct had soured Clinton on the prospects for reconciliation? No. It was because Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai, having had enough, “effectively pulled the plug” on peace talks in late 2011. Clinton says she “wanted him to reconsider.”

As for Clinton’s goal of “shattering the alliance between the Taliban and al Qaeda,” we know this didn’t happen either. The Guardian, among other sources, has reported that documents found in the house where Osama bin Laden was killed “show a close working relationship between top al-Qaida leaders and Mullah Omar, the commander of the Taliban.” The two groups “frequently discussed joint operations against coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government, and targets in Pakistan.”

Indeed, Steve Hayes said tonight on Fox News’ Special Report that, according to the documents, the Taliban man with whom Clinton was discussing “reconciliation” and the shattering of the Taliban-al Qaeda alliance was one of the leaders with whom bin Laden’s team was working.

Do Muslim terrorist leaders have a sense of humor? If they do, bin Laden’s folks and Hillary’s Taliban negotiating partners must have shared some good laughs.

Hillary Clinton’s record at the State Department is a target rich environment for Donald Trump. Libya seems like the prime target. The Russian reset also comes to mind. And there is the “Clinton Cash” scandal, which fits Trump’s “crooked Hillary” narrative perfectly.

But there may also be room for the Afghan “peace talks.” To me, it’s scandalous that Clinton viewed the Taliban as a potential peace partner in Afghanistan. And if Clinton’s personal negotiating partner was working with bin Laden while negotiations were underway, the scandal may be one the public, aided by Trump, can dig its teeth into.
That would be a much more relevant topic for Trump to explore than excavating Vince Foster's sad history.

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Universities are reaping what they have sowed
on discrimination.
A coalition of Asian-American organizations asked the Department of Education on Monday to investigate Brown University, Dartmouth College and Yale University, alleging they discriminate against Asian-American students during the admissions process.

While the population of college age Asian-Americans has doubled in 20 years and the number of highly qualified Asian-American students “has increased dramatically,” the percentage accepted at most Ivy League colleges has flatlined, according to the complaint. It alleges this is because of “racial quotas and caps, maintained by racially differentiated standards for admissions that severely burden Asian-American applicants.”
Of course, this Education Department will bury the complaint. But anyone who knows anything about college admissions know that this is true.
The complaint filed Monday by the Asian-American Coalition for Education, which consists of more than 100 organizations, makes many of the same points as the previous complaint against Harvard. It charges that the number of Asian-Americans at the three schools is capped and a special “just-for-Asians admissions standard” is in place. Admissions officers “often treat Asian-American applicants as a monolithic block rather than as individuals, and denigrate these applicants as lacking in creativity/critical thinking and leadership skills/risk taking.”

In an accompanying petition, the group said it filed this complaint because even if it hits a legal wall it will generate social and political pressure. After the Department of Education started investigating Harvard in 1988, its admission rate of Asian-Americans jumped to 16.1% in 1991 from 10.8%. After students filed a complaint against Princeton in 2006, its admission rate increased to 25.4% in 2014 from 14.7% in 2007.
And while the top schools are limiting qualified Asian-American students, here is a trend that has to worry many college administrators. Suddenly, it seems that the influx of foreign students whose tuition payments have been bolstering colleges' bottom lines might be bottoming out.
U.S. colleges have lured a wave of foreign students in recent years to boost tuition revenue and offset state budget cuts. The influx of students paying two to three times what locals do has brought controversy, with some Americans complaining that slots for U.S. students are becoming harder to get, while some of the international students, particularly from Muslim countries, can face a hostile reception.

But these cash cows are exposing schools to a slew of new business challenges, including foreign-currency fluctuations, the ups and downs of far-flung economies and even competition from burgeoning university systems in the students’ home countries.

China supplied nearly one-third of the record 974,926 foreign college students in the U.S. in the 2014-15 school year, according to the latest data from the Institute of International Education. But China has been building its own education infrastructure to keep students at home, while students from India, another top source of applicants, remain vulnerable to currency volatility that can put an American education out of reach.

So U.S. colleges turned to what seemed like two other safe bets, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, which both had robust, government-sponsored international study programs. Saudi Arabia quickly rose to the No. 4 country of origin for foreign students in the U.S.

Pinched by shrinking oil revenue—crude prices fell by more than half since their summer 2014 peak—the Saudi government has turned its student pipeline down to a trickle. And Brazil, facing economic and political crises, hasn’t decided whether to renew its program.

The relatively abrupt changes have “laid bare schools’ naive strategies,” said Rahul Choudaha, chief executive officer at DrEducation, a higher education research and consulting firm.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Cruising the Web

Republicans are getting a bit poll-happy about Trump's recent poll numbers putting him on a par with Hillary and even ahead of her in some polls. Perhaps this is an auspicious augur for his campaign. However, I would offer some caveats. He, remarkably for where we were about a month ago, has wrapped up his nomination. She is still battling with Bernie in an increasingly acrimonious end to their campaign. So Trump is doing a bit better at working to solidify the Republican base than she is at this moment.

Unless she is indicted, she'll eventually wrap up her nomination and work out some peace treaty with Sanders. And then the Democrats will start to coalesce. Just as Hillary has served as a unifying factor among Republicans, Donald Trump will be a big factor to unite the Democrats against him. After that happens, we'll see what the numbers look like. We'll see if those Sanders voters move to Hillary, decide to stay home, or gravitate to Trump. I've long thought that a good part of the Sanders vote was just a protest against Hillary rather than an endorsement of Bernie. Nate Silver warns that Hillary might have a hard time winning over those voters.
According to the most recent YouGov poll, 61 percent of Sanders voters have an unfavorable view of Clinton, against just 38 percent with a favorable one. YouGov has been tracking these numbers for several months, and they’ve gradually gotten worse for Clinton
Silver goes on to point out that a lot of those Sanders voters are self-identified independents who tend to vote in the Democratic primaries.
Thus, citing Clinton’s reasonably strong general election numbers among self-identified Democrats — she had the support of 87 percent of Democrats in a recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll in her matchup against Trump, for instance, and 83 percent in a Fox News poll that showed her behind Trump nationally — may miss her problems among liberal-leaning, Sanders-voting independents. In the Fox News poll, only 30 percent of independents went for Clinton, and in the SurveyMonkey poll, just 36 percent did. But both surveys showed a large pool of undecided independents, potentially the Sanders voters that YouGov identified.

If Clinton wins over those voters, she’ll gain a few percentage points on Trump in national and swing state polls, and the race will potentially look more like it did in March and April, with Clinton having a fairly comfortable lead over Trump. If not, the general election could come down to the wire.
As Politico points out, Hillary's unfavorables have been growing.
Trump’s solidification of the Republican vote is only half the story, however. The Gallup data show Clinton sliding among Democrats: She dropped four points in the week between Gallup's two most recent surveys.

Both candidates remain historically unpopular among the broader pool of all Americans: The Gallup data show Trump with only a 34-percent favorable rating among all adults, compared to 39 percent for Clinton. Majorities have unfavorable opinions of both.

Among independent voters, Trump's numbers have improved since he vanquished his remaining GOP rivals in the Indiana primary on May 3.

“His number among Republicans certainly is getting better. And that’s going to be a key, holding that vote,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in New Jersey. “But, right now, independents are looking at this populist message, and it’s resonating a little, at least while Democrats are fighting among themselves.”

As the WSJ writes, Democrats have to realize that Hillary's problem is not Bernie Sanders, but Hillary herself.
We’d humbly suggest that these Democrats are looking through the wrong end of the campaign telescope. Bernie’s continuing string of victories is the symptom of the political demand for change after eight years of Democratic rule. The real Democratic problems this year are the Obama record and the Clinton candidacy....

A major chunk of the Democratic base is showing buyer’s remorse at Mrs. Clinton’s looming coronation and is encouraging Mr. Sanders to fight to the bitter end. Few Bernistas will vote for Mr. Trump, but some might decide to demonstrate their unhappiness at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia or stay home in November.

Democrats can blame themselves for much of this political alienation. President Obama was only too happy to indulge the Occupy Wall Street movement when it served his purposes against Mitt Romney in 2012. He and his fellow Democrats played up resentment against “the 1%,” which Mr. Sanders and his voters have decided to take seriously and use as a cudgel against Mrs. Clinton.
Just as liberal professors have been shocked to see students protesting against them instead of the conservative targets that liberals have always thought were just fine to protest, Democratic politicians are startled to have minorities protesting against them instead of Republicans.
Democrats are especially sore at Mr. Sanders for the blowup last weekend at the Democratic state convention in Nevada, which included some ugly protest scenes. But most Democrats have also been happy to celebrate the Black Lives Matter movement despite its periodic calls to violence.

No less than Mr. Obama praised the group at his recent commencement address at Howard University. “It’s thanks in large part to the activism of young people like many of you, from Black Twitter to Black Lives Matter, that America’s eyes have been opened—white, black, Democrat, Republican—to the real problems, for example, in our criminal justice system,” Mr. Obama told the graduates.

No one should be surprised if this same politics of grievance and confrontation is now being aimed at Democrats too. All the more so when the party’s presumptive nominee represents the very heart of the “rigged” political system that Mr. Sanders and the progressive left have long been describing.

Hillary and Bill Clinton have used politics to become members of the richest 0.1%. She and her husband are walking conflicts of political interest—see the Clinton Foundation and its foreign donors with business before the State Department. And Mrs. Clinton represents big money and Wall Street—see her Goldman Sachs speeches.

Above all Mrs. Clinton represents the policy status quo that for seven years has failed to deliver on its central promises of 2008 and 2012. Health-care costs haven’t fallen, wages have barely risen, income inequality has worsened, and whites and blacks say that racial tensions have increased. This is the reality that the Sandernistas are implicitly rejecting when they say the system has failed them.
And SNL will continue to have fun with the Hillary/Bernie show as long as they have Larry David to tear it up as Bernie Sanders. Check out the opening from Saturday Night Live as Hillary and Bernie share beers at a bar. They have certainly glommed on to how unlikable Hillary is.

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It just goes to show that a strategy of delay and obfuscation works for Democrats when a scandal breaks out. It worked for Bill Clinton when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke and it's worked for Obama and Hillary over Benghazi. And it really worked for them with the Fast and Furious scanda. As Paul Sperry writes, no one in Washington talks about that anymore.
The deadly-but-forgotten government gun-running scandal known as “Fast and Furious” has lain dormant for years, thanks to White House stonewalling and media compliance. But newly uncovered e-mails have reopened the case, exposing the anatomy of a coverup by an administration that promised to be the most transparent in history.

A federal judge has forced the release of more than 20,000 pages of emails and memos previously locked up under President Obama’s phony executive-privilege claim. A preliminary review shows top Obama officials deliberately obstructing congressional probes into the border gun-running operation.

Fast and Furious was a Justice Department program that allowed assault weapons — including .50-caliber rifles powerful enough to take down a helicopter — to be sold to Mexican drug cartels allegedly as a way to track them. But internal documents later revealed the real goal was to gin up a crisis requiring a crackdown on guns in America. Fast and Furious was merely a pretext for imposing stricter gun laws.

Only, the scheme backfired when Justice agents lost track of the nearly 2,000 guns sold through the program and they started turning up at murder scenes on both sides of the border — including one that claimed the life of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

While then-Attorney General Eric Holder was focused on politics, people were dying. At least 20 other deaths or violent crimes have been linked to Fast and Furious-trafficked guns....

The program came to light only after Terry’s 2010 death at the hands of Mexican bandits, who shot him in the back with government-issued semiautomatic weapons. Caught red-handed, “the most transparent administration in history” flat-out lied about the program to Congress, denying it ever even existed.

Then Team Obama conspired to derail investigations into who was responsible by first withholding documents under subpoena — for which Holder earned a contempt-of-Congress citation — and later claiming executive privilege to keep evidence sealed.
But Eric Holder, with the support of Obama, fought against letting any of the information out and what should have been a horrific scandal just faded away.

Politico looks at what those groups paying out the big bucks got for their money when they paid to have Bill Clinton come speak before them.
A transcript of a private, $285,000 paid speech Bill Clinton delivered last year at the “China-U.S. Private Investment Summit” in Austin, Texas, obtained by POLITICO, offers a glimpse behind the curtain of the Clintons' controversial paid speaking gigs — and some insight into how the former president holds court out of sight of the press.

“Once I got a cartoon in the mail when I was fighting out that Whitewater business,” he reminisced in front of about 60 Chinese investors and 150 American business people gathered to discuss bilateral investment opportunities in late March 2015 — two weeks before Hillary Clinton officially declared her candidacy. “And Jiang Zemin and I are sitting together at a state dinner, and in the first frame, I say to President Jiang, I said, ‘You know, you're doing great economically, but our country has more human rights.’ And he looked at me and he said, ‘Yes, and if you were the leader of China, Ken Starr would be in prison making running shoes.’”

A self-deprecating Clinton admitted of those scandal-tarred days of his presidency: “I saved that cartoon for a long time. I must say there were days when I wondered who had the better model.”
Those Clintons - they just love trying to stifle criticism and investigations of their own behavior. And to Bill, it's just a joke. That's worth more than a quarter-million dollars to hear.

It may well be that we're about to see the end of Ben Carson. He's been a totally awful surrogate for Trump and it seems that Trump has lost all interest in having Carson play a major role in his campaign.
Ben Carson has the ability to say everything he shouldn’t at exactly the wrong time.
Since the former neurosurgeon has taken up the role of working on Donald Trump’s vice presidential team, he has suggested that the candidate may pick a Democratic running mate, dropped she-who-must-not-be-named Sarah Palin as a potential pick and earlier generally questioned a number of the presumptive nominee’s habits from his Twitter use to lack of pragmatism.

So he was off the VP team in a hurry.

Last week, Armstrong Williams (his business manager and close confidant), told The Daily Beast that Carson left the team of his own volition. Carson had bigger and more important things to do, according to Williams, like preparing Trump for his meeting with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

But three sources close to the Trump campaign said Carson didn’t leave on his own. He was pushed.
Why anyone would have thought that the former neurosurgeon would have the skills to head up the selection team for the vice presidential nomination is beyond me. Trump keeps bragging about his ability to put the best people in place to accomplish great things and then keeps demonstrating a total inability to pick the best people to run his campaign.

Apparently, the Clinton campaign needs some remedial lessons in how to make a Venn diagram.

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Economic historian Deirdre McClosky, author of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, the third book in her insightful trilogy, The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce and Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World, has an essay in the WSJ giving her explanation of how the world got rich. Her explanation is the liberty given to average people so that they could work for their own economic improvement.
If capital accumulation or the rule of law had been sufficient, the Great Enrichment would have happened in Mesopotamia in 2000 B.C., or Rome in A.D. 100 or Baghdad in 800. Until 1500, and in many ways until 1700, China was the most technologically advanced country. Hundreds of years before the West, the Chinese invented locks on canals to float up and down hills, and the canals themselves were much longer than any in Europe. China’s free-trade area and its rule of law were vastly more extensive than in Europe’s quarrelsome fragments, divided by tariffs and tyrannies. Yet it was not in China but in northwestern Europe that the Industrial Revolution and then the more consequential Great Enrichment first happened.

Why did ideas so suddenly start having sex, there and then? Why did it all start at first in Holland about 1600 and then England about 1700 and then the North American colonies and England’s impoverished neighbor, Scotland, and then Belgium and northern France and the Rhineland?

The answer, in a word, is “liberty.” Liberated people, it turns out, are ingenious. Slaves, serfs, subordinated women, people frozen in a hierarchy of lords or bureaucrats are not. By certain accidents of European politics, having nothing to do with deep European virtue, more and more Europeans were liberated. From Luther’s reformation through the Dutch revolt against Spain after 1568 and England’s turmoil in the Civil War of the 1640s, down to the American and French revolutions, Europeans came to believe that common people should be liberated to have a go. You might call it: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

To use another big concept, what came—slowly, imperfectly—was equality. It was not an equality of outcome, which might be labeled “French” in honor of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Piketty. It was, so to speak, “Scottish,” in honor of David Hume and Adam Smith: equality before the law and equality of social dignity. It made people bold to pursue betterments on their own account. It was, as Smith put it, “allowing every man to pursue his own interest his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice.”

Ben Casselman of 538 explains why Bill Clinton shouldn't be regarded as someone who knows how to "fix the economy."
The bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, and the subsequent recession, revealed that the 1990s boom was, at least to some degree, a mirage, the result of cheap money and, in then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s famous phrase, “irrational exuberance.” The recession that followed the tech bust, however, was relatively mild. If that were the worst consequence of the Clinton era, it might seem a small price to pay for a decade of solid growth.

But the Clinton boom, and even some specific Clinton policies, also helped sow the seeds for the far more severe Great Recession of the late 2000s. Mortgage-backed securities and subprime loans weren’t invented in the 1990s, but they expanded greatly during the period, part of a broader “financialization” of the U.S. economy that contributed directly to the severity of the Great Recession. Critics on the right argue Clinton-administration policies promoting increased lending to low-income and minority applicants contributed to the subsequent bubble; critics on the left, including Bernie Sanders, argue that Clinton’s deregulation of the banking industry paved the way for the crisis.

Bill Clinton deserves, at most, a small sliver of the blame for the financial crisis. But he probably doesn’t deserve much credit for the late-’90s boom, either. The reality is, presidents have at best limited influence over the economy. Clinton’s economic policy was determinedly centrist: modest tax increases, free trade (including the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement) and limited government regulation and spending (the latter due in part to the Republican Congress). Those policies no doubt affected the economy, for good or bad. But their impact pales in comparison to that of forces beyond Clinton’s control: the rise of the internet, the entrance of the baby boomers into their peak earning years, the “peace dividend” that came from the fall of the Soviet Union.

It is a stretch, then, for Hillary Clinton to argue that her husband — or anyone else — “knows how” to ensure a good economy. But there are still lessons to take from the late 1990s.
I just wish that some politicians would campaign saying that they know they can't fix the economy, but that they know enough to get out of the way and let the entrepreneurial spirit of average Americans reap benefits for the entire the economy. But any policies that seek to continue and expand the regulations that the Obama administration has put on the economy will keep economic growth reined in and negatively affect employment numbers. I'd like to see more of a return to the spirit of liberty leading to an age of Enrichment as Deirdre McCloskey is talking about. For example look to the Labor Department's new regulations on expanding who qualifies for overtime pay.
The scope of the change is huge: The Labor Department says the policy will extend overtime to an additional 4.2 million workers; other estimates put the number much higher. But no matter the number, workers shouldn’t necessarily expect a big boost to their paychecks. Some companies, no doubt, will raise pay (either by paying overtime or by raising workers salaries above the new threshold), but many more will likely rein in employees’ hours so they don’t work more than 40 hours a week.

In the short-term, the new policy likely means more free time for workers and perhaps also more jobs for the economy, as companies hire additional employees to do the work formerly done using unpaid overtime. Over the longer run, many companies will likely adjust wages to account for the new overtime requirements — paying a lower base salary in order to offset overtime costs, leaving workers with pretty much the same take-home pay as before. But the new rule will definitely mean one big change for millions of workers: no more working long hours without getting paid for it.
But if they're out of a job, what good will that do them?

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Michael Walsh makes the contrast that I made a few days ago between the reaction to Ronald Reagan's $2 million payday for speaking in Japan after his presidency with the yawns with which the general media has greeted the money that the Clintons have made from their speeches.
Ronald Reagan was severely criticized in 1989 when, after he left office, he was paid $2 million for a couple of speeches in Japan. “The founding fathers would have been stunned that an occupant of the highest office in this land turned it into bucks,” sniffed a Columbia professor.

So what would Washington and Jefferson make of Hillary Rodham Clinton? Mandatory financial disclosures released this month show that, in just the two years from April 2013 to March 2015, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state collected $21,667,000 in “speaking fees,” not to mention the cool $5 mil she corralled as an advance for her 2014 flop book, “Hard Choices.”

Throw in the additional $26,630,000 her ex-president husband hoovered up in personal-appearance “honoraria,” and the nation can breathe a collective sigh of relief that the former first couple — who, according to Hillary, were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001 with some of the furniture in tow — can finally make ends meet.
So who has been paying Hillary for her speeches. A lot of them have been Wall Street and banking institutions. Drug and health-care companies are also eager to hear her insights. And then there are the foreigner despots who like to have the Clintons come talk to them.
They’ve sucked up vast sums of “contributions” from some of the most unsavory folks on the planet, including Nigerian dictators and Kazakhstani despots.

But it’s their parlaying of “public service” by two career “civil servants” into personal enrichment that’s shameless.

Bill Clinton’s speaking fees skyrocketed just days after Hillary’s nomination as secretary of state in 2009. Corporations, such as TD Bank, that had never paid a dime to hear him speak suddenly bellied up to the bar, waving fistfuls of cash. Coincidentally, TD Bank was the largest investor in the Keystone XL pipeline, which needed approval from the new secretary of state. Hillary dodged and weaved and Obama later nixed it, — but the Clintons kept the cash. It makes sense to make friends with the woman who might just be the next president. But what does that say about what the office has become?

As Obama has shown, there’s now essentially no limit on the president’s power: He can dictate overtime wages (via executive decree), the forcible integration of the suburbs (via HUD) and even sexually integrate bathrooms (under Title IX). No wonder private companies want to cozy up to the White House. Your business is now the president’s business, if he or she wants it to be.

But, should Hillary attain the White House, you ain’t seen nothing yet. For the Clintons, who once rented out the Lincoln Bedroom, too much doesn’t even approach being enough.
They were corrupt when they were in the White House. Why should their behavior have changed when they were out?

David Boaz is amused
at Ruth Marcus calling Donald Trump a "stonewaller, shape-shifter, liar." Then she wrote another column trying to explain why these words apply uniquely to Trump and not to Clinton. Sure, Marcus thinks that Clinton is not pure, but Trump is just in a class by themselves. For Marcus, Clinton's lies are not really lies, just misstatements. After all, Glenn Kessler and PolitiFact have fact-checked what she said on Benghazi and just can't determine if she actually lied. Boaz isn't buying it.
Sure, she stonewalls and keeps secrets. But in many cases, she eventually comes clean. Like, you know, with her private-server emails and her Benghazi correspondence.

And yes, she’s flipped 100 percent from her previously firm positions on same-sex marriage (against, then for) and the Pacific region free-trade agreement (for, then against). Yet, Marcus writes, “voters, agree or disagree, can have reasonable confidence about Clinton’s basic worldview and where she stands on issues.” Really? Just where does she stand on trade? For TPP or against it? For a trade agreement with Europe or against it? Unless Marcus is psychic, she’d surely have to admit that Clinton stands firmly with her finger to the wind. (Admittedly, that might be better than Trump’s adamant support for protectionism.)

And then there’s, well, the lying. Marcus cites two fact-checkers who conclude that there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove that Clinton lied about the Benghazi attack. Not beyond a reasonable doubt, anyway. Marcus even praises Clinton’s wildly inaccurate and repeated statements about coming under sniper fire:

Clinton’s handling of another “lie” is instructive. At several points during the 2008 campaign, Clinton described “landing under sniper fire” in Bosnia in 1996; video debunked that account. But confronted with conflicting evidence, Clinton acknowledged that she “misspoke.” Has Trump ever backed down from his bevy of demonstrably false statements?
Sorry, counselor, this is not “misspeaking.” It would be misspeaking if she said she came under fire in 1998, when it was really 1996. We might even credit her with misspeaking if she said it happened in Bosnia when it really happened in Kabul; she’s traveled a lot. But in this case, she made a claim about her own experience, and repeated it many times over several years with great detail (as a video with 7 million views illustrates), that was completely at odds with the facts. It’s not a stumble. It’s more like the false claim of Joe Biden that he came from a long line of coal miners, or the false claim of Sen. Richard Blumenthal throughout his political career that served in Vietnam, or indeed the false claim of historian Joseph Ellis that he too served in Vietnam. In every case these claims served to make the teller seem more experienced and even heroic than he or she actually was — helpful in building a political persona, but absolutely false.

And that doesn’t even get us to statements at odds with known facts on such points as whether she was “dead broke” upon leaving the White House, why she was named Hillary, whether her grandparents were immigrants, and whether she tried to enroll in the Marines or how and why she voted for the war in Iraq.

My low regard for Donald Trump is pretty well known. But I don’t see how any honest assessment can dismiss the low levels of honesty that Hillary (and Bill) Clinton have displayed for 25 years now. (Links in original)

Robert Tracinski argues that Venezuela has given us a real-world example of John Lennon's idealistic vision in his song, "Imagine."
Venezuela has some of the world’s largest supplies of oil, with more proven oil reserves than Saudi Arabia. But about 15 years ago, the late president Hugo Chavez set out to impose a socialist revolution, making a particular point about his great munificence in providing free health care for everyone. In pursuit of this revolution, Chavez crushed every industry outside the oil sector and brought the state-owned oil company under his control. The result has been a long spiral into poverty and oppression. Now we can see the results: socialism literally kills babies.

It began by imagining no possessions. Private property and private businesses and private profit were supposedly the source of everyone’s problems, so the Venezuelan government set out to get rid of them, with Chavez issuing a notorious set of 49 decrees in 2001 that gave him vast power over the economy. He used this power to seize private factories and expropriate foreign owners of Venezuelan firms—ensuring that no foreign investors would want to put a single dollar into the country for the foreseeable future.

A clueless 2009 article in a socialist magazine specifically hailed Chavez’s interventions in agriculture, quoting his assurance that “There is a food crisis in the world, but Venezuela is not going to fall into that crisis. You can be sure of that. Actually, we are going to help other nations who are facing this crisis.” The socialist reforms included redistribution of land, the nationalization of whole sections of the agriculture sector, the formation of socialist agricultural “cooperatives,” generous subsidies and price supports, and the creation of a vast chain of government-subsidized, government-run grocery stores.

When it all started to go wrong, the regime doubled down, blaming private retailers for “hoarding” and “speculation” and prosecuting them for waging an “economic war” against the people. Their solution was to impose price controls, which naturally made things worse, leading Venezuelans to protest by flooding the Internet with photos of empty store shelves.

The failure of this system was papered over by draining the country’s remaining oil profits, loading up on massive borrowing, and imposing a surreal system of currency controls. All of it reads like a vast experiment designed to find out what happens to an economy when you put it under the control of crazy people. But it’s actually what happens when you hand over the economy to people with a fervent belief that government decrees can change the laws of economics and coerce everyone into prosperity.
The result is a Hobbesian life for Venezuelans with looting becoming one of the only ways to feed one's family.
So much for “no hunger.” What about the “brotherhood of man”? Not only is looting soaring in Venezuela, but so are all forms of crime. It has gotten so far out of control that mobs of vigilantes are burning people alive in the streets over petty thefts. It turns out then when people are starving, there’s not a lot of brotherhood. Instead, they fight like dogs over a bone.

Before you judge Venezuela’s looters, consider what you would do if your children were starving.

Now for the part about “no greed.” If there’s one thing the history of socialism teaches us, it’s that government officials can always find a way to live like kings while the people starve. So in Venezuela we see rampant corruption, with Hugo Chavez’s daughter amassing a fortune estimated in the billions.

The NYT examines the term "Redskins" and decides that it really is a racist slur despite what the Washington Post poll found. It could perhaps be that the meaning behind the word has changed or that it has become a "reclaimed epithet," whose meaning has changed from when it used to be pejorative. However, there are "experts" whom the NYT can find who think that it is a no-brainer that the word is a slur and who just don't accept any poll telling them otherwise.
But Tara Houska, a tribal lawyer and a member of the Couchiching First Nation in Canada, along the Minnesota border, pointed out that during the American Indian Movement of the 1960s, tribal leaders across the country cited mascots and team names like the Redskins and the Cleveland Indians as racist and dehumanizing.

“This goes back long before I was born,” said Ms. Houska, 32, who helped organize a protest in Minneapolis in 2014 against the appropriation of Indian culture for team names and mascots.

She questioned the methodology of the Post poll — which mirrored the results of a poll conducted in 2004 by the Annenberg Public Policy Center — saying that a survey of 504 people could hardly represent the feelings of 5.2 million Native Americans.
While there may or may not have been problems with sampling in this particular poll, having only 504 people questioned is not the problem. Statisticians regularly sample about 800-1200 people to represent the opinions of 200 million Americans. So 504 for 5.2 million Native Americans is a very reasonable number. The question is whether this is a random sample. What does seem clear is that activists and leaders of Native American groups are upset with the word. But a lot of other Native Americans, as demonstrated by the respondent interviews with those in the Washington Post poll think that there are so many other problems facing their communities that the focus on one word is just misplaced.
However, interviews conducted with poll respondents may hold the context for why the majority of Native Americans polled differently about the term than the general public.

In one of the Post’s profiles of 12 poll respondents, Rusty Whitworth from Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, who identifies as Confederated Salish and Kootenai, remarked: “Let’s start taking care of our people and quit worrying about names like Washington Redskins.” According to the Post, he was one of many who commented that other community challenges such as substandard schools, substance abuse and unemployment were more urgent issues than the NFL team name debate.
It's a lot easier to demonize Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins, than address the poverty, unemployment, incarceration rates, and alcoholism among Native Americans.

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Now that it's clear that Jackie, the woman who initiated the whole phony University of Virginia rape story in Rolling Stone totally made up her story, Cathy Young asks if feminists, or as she calls them "Fauxminists" will admit their mistake.
Indeed, the NOW officials vehemently objected to the argument made by Eramo’s [the UVa dean suing Rolling Stone for smearing her reputation by accusing her of ignoring Jackie's complaints] lawyers that Jackie was not entitled to the privacy protections afforded sexual assault victims because of overwhelming evidence that her claims were false. According to the letter, “It is exactly this kind of victim blaming and shaming that fosters rape culture, re-victimizes those brave enough to have come forward, and silences countless other victims.”

In other words: fake victimhood should shield you from exposure because exposing it as fake means blaming and silencing victims. The “logic” here rivals killing your parents and asking for mercy on the grounds of being an orphan—only that one was actually a joke.

This is hardly the first time NOW has embraced dubious rape claims. Back in 2006, then-NOW president Kim Gandy condemned defense lawyers’ portrayal of Duke lacrosse rape complainant Crystal Mangum as a mentally unstable liar, decrying it as a “nuts and sluts” defense. (The case was later dismissed as a hoax, and Mangum is now in prison for the murder of her boyfriend.) Two years ago, the New York chapter of NOW gave a Susan B. Anthony Award to “mattress girl” Emma Sulkowicz—who is not a proven hoaxer like Mangum or Jackie, but whose credibility has been severely undercut by changing stories and by her behavior following the alleged rape.

Feminists are concerned about misogynist stereotypes of the vindictive or crazy woman who “cries rape.” Yes, such stereotypes were once common, and they still exist in unsavory corners of the Internet. But just because it’s noxious to generalize bad behavior to an entire group doesn’t mean no members of that group are guilty of such behavior. We can acknowledge that some men commit rape without slandering all men as rapists or presuming that every man accused of rape is guilty (unless we’re radical feminists). So why should recognizing that some women “cry rape” be equated with treating all women, or all rape complainants, as liars? In fact, feminist groups that advocate for victims would have far more credibility if they didn’t champion faux survivors.
Of course, these fausminists are always willing to believe the victim unless the accused is Bill Clinton.

And while feminists are so exercised by imaginary insults to American women, they ignore the true suffering of women around the world such as in Iran where women are now resorting to dressing like men so that they won't be harassed in public by the morality police.
A number of women have shared photos of themselves in public with their hair uncovered on Instagram and other social media.

The women have cut their hair short in some images and in others are dressed in clothes more typically associated with men.

The hijab is becoming an increasingly contentious issue in Iran as women step up their campaign against it and other oppressive, gendered laws. In recent months, women have been filmed walking through Tehran with their hair uncovered and activists have urged Western tourists to violate laws by refusing to wear the hijab during their visits to the Islamic republic.

But the response from authorities to this resistance has been severe.

A politician was disqualified from Iranian parliament after photos purporting to show her in public without a headscarf emerged, despite her insistence they were fake.

This week, eight models were reportedly detained for posting "vulgar" pictures on social media with their hair uncovered. One was pictured apparently making a public apology on state TV.
While our country seems to be in a tizzy over transgenders in bathrooms, Iranian women fear going to a football game or out in public without covering themselves.

Aww. Paul Pierce got a different sort of gift for his daughter's fifth birthday - a llama. Just what every five-year-old needs.

A couple of weeks ago, some of the leading members of the quiz bowl team I coach competed in and won a local quiz show for high schoolers. This past week, the announcer of the show came out to give the students some swag. The kids did an awesome job and I'm very proud of them.
Here they are posing in front of the collage I have in my classroom of Newsweek and Time covers. I started collecting Newsweek covers back when I started teaching history in 1998 and switched over to Time when Newsweek stopped as a newsweekly. You can see some more of my classroom in the photo slideshow. I'm a firm believer in having a lot of stimulation on the walls so students can learn even when they're drifting out of focus on what is going on in the class. And the kids are marvelous themselves. You can watch their championship win here. It was a great come-from-behind victory! I'm so very proud of them.