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Monday, September 26, 2016

Cruising the Web

It's funny how many "advice" columns I've seen in the past week telling Donald Trump what he needs to do in tonight's debate. Basically, they all say the same thing. He doesn't need to wow people with his mastery of policy details. All he needs to do is not be a clown. Come across as serious and presidential. The theory is that the Democrats have done so much advertising and talking about him as a malignant boor so that if he just seems serious people will discard everything they've seen of him from the past on Howard Stern or even in the past year's campaign and view him as a plausible alternative to Hillary. Rich Lowry's advice is typical.
Trump has a built-in advantage in that there is a lower standard for him — not because the media isn't tough enough on him, as all the media mavens agree, but because he is the de facto challenger and candidate of change in a change election. Trump can win by clearing a bar of acceptability, whereas Clinton has to either clearly wound Trump or make a compellingly positive case for herself that has so far eluded her in both 2008 and 2016.

To be sure, Trump will be on treacherous terrain. He can't bully and mock Clinton. Without a teleprompter, message discipline still tends to elude him. The one-on-one format for an hour and a half could make his thin knowledge painfully obvious. And any misstep or outburst that reinforces the idea that he lacks the qualities to be commander in chief would be devastating.

But Trump just needs to seem plausible, and the very fact that he is on a presidential-debate stage, the most rarified forum in American politics, will benefit him. During the Republican debates, the intangibles worked in his favor, and they presumably will on Monday, too. Trump is a big personality with a dominant physical presence. His critics often sneeringly say he is a reality-TV star, but you don't become one without charisma and a performative ability that are major political assets.

Trump will have to stumble badly — and probably sabotage himself — to live down to Hillary's critique of him. She has made her campaign almost entirely about how he is a monstrous madman. Trump doesn't need to mount a convincing, detailed defense of his tax or child-care plan or anything else to invalidate Clinton's critique of him; he just needs to seem a reasonable person.

That is why Trump shouldn't be the aggressor. As long as he's firm and calm, he is implicitly rebutting the case against him on temperament. Then he can look for a big moment or two that will be memorable and drive the post-debate conversation.
Gee, being a serious, firm, and calm guy doesn't seem like too much of a demand for someone running for president. He doesn't even have to come up with a manufactured joke that will win the battle of the sound-bites. Leave that to Hillary because we know what a natural jokester she is. She probably has a dozen comedians writing lines for her. The sad thing for Trump is that no one has any confidence that he can spend an hour and a half being serious and calm on a stage without a teleprompter. His worst and stupidest remarks have come when he's on his own and just says whatever is on the tip of his tongue. I'm sure his campaign advisers have all impressed on him over and over to tone it down. But they'll be on edge all 90 minutes in the fears that he'll just wing it with some snarky remark that either betrays his ignorance or vulgarity.

It must really gripe at Clinton that she will have studied so hard and know her own policy proposals so well plus will have memorized binders full of Trump's own contradictory and obnoxious statements. She can work all those into her answers yet all Trump has to do is come back at her with her own less than honorable past and then pivot back to what he wants to say. Kimberley Strassel has good advice there for what Trump should and shouldn't do.
Mrs. Clinton will also attempt to needle Mr. Trump into an explosion. She must know (who doesn’t?) that nothing drives him to extremes more than personal attacks—on his wealth, Trump steaks, his lawsuits. Mrs. Clinton will attempt to turn the corruption question around on Mr. Trump, to call him out as a con man, but more to deflect attention from her own pay-to-play and email scandals. Once again she will paint him as the biggest rotten apple in that basket of deplorables.

Word is that Mr. Trump isn’t doing a whole lot of debate prep. But his team ought to have at least readied him for what should be the easy response to all the nasty attacks. Mrs. Clinton’s own past is so malodorous, so rife with crooked deals and lies, that Mr. Trump shouldn’t have to do much more than calmly question her credibility and then move on to better subjects.

Mr. Trump’s impulse no doubt will be to take it to her, to hit back, to dwell on Mrs. Clinton’s malfeasance. No doubt a few tough reminders to the audience of her ethical failings are necessary. But everyone already knows Mr. Trump is a scrapper. What he needs to show now is that he has his own optimistic and considered plans for change in America. This is one of his openings. In that same New York Times/CBS poll, 48% of voters felt Mr. Trump could bring about “real change.” Only 36% said that of Mrs. Clinton.

By being positive, Mr. Trump would draw a stark contrast. Mrs. Clinton these days looks perpetually angry and seems to have only one volume setting: yell. The press keeps noting that she is a seasoned debater, but then again she has mostly debated fellow Democrats and been questioned by sympathetic press. Her style is fairly predictable.
He can also point out that all her criticisms of the present-day situation and her proposals for change are a not-so-subtle criticism of Obama's presidency of having failed people. She has to be both an advocate of change and the candidate of maintaining the status quo. That's a hard position for anyone, much less for someone with a reputation of dishonesty and cynical flip-flopping.

So Trump has a relatively easy task for him. Don't match the image of him that so many Americans have of a vulgar buffoon. Stick to his message and don't get taunted into an outburst. Be more optimistic-sounding than his convention acceptance speech. Considering what the job of president entails, Trump doesn't have to do all that much to come across as the winner of the debate. It's rather silly that this 90 minutes could have such a determining effect on this race, but that's what happens when we have two such unpopular candidates running against each other.

It's the doubt that everyone has that he can maintain that persona for 90 minutes that will have such a large audience tuned in. Everyone will be wondering if he will blow it. This is what he signed up for when he came down that escalator. Let's see if he can rise above his own personality for the occasion.

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If you're depressed about the situation for police in the U.S., consider Sweden. Crime is getting worsethere and the so-called "no go" zones are increasing.
In February reported the Scandinavian country has seen a huge surge in crime since the start of the migrants crisis in Europe with a rise in sex assaults, drug dealing and children carrying weapons.

The force’s increased lack of control in the country was revealed in a report by Sweden's National Criminal Investigation Service, where attacks on officers were detailed, including police cars being stoned by masked groups.

At the time around 50 areas were put on a "blacklist" which are then divided into three categories from "risk areas" to "seriously vulnerable".

The figure has now been increased to 55 as the Swedish police force are facing a crisis, with three officers handing in their notice every day.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of the police officers are also considering changing professions, due to lack of funding and support to tackle the increasing levels of crime.
At some point, societies will realize that they can't keep making the jobs of police officers so very difficult and unpleasant that people will leave the profession and few will be ready to take their places. And then it will be too late.

Sean Davis has fun pointing out how Trevor Noah of the Comedy Central's The Daily Show got caught up in his own snark and ended up making the argument against gun control. Noah was making fun of a Minnesota store-owner who had put up a sign outside of his restaurant that said "Muslims Get Out." Here was Noah's ridicule of the storeowner.
You know what’s also strange is this man genuinely thought people who go around blowing people up would be stopped by a sign? You realize you’re talking to terrorists, not vampires. They don’t need to be invited in, alright? Or maybe he’s onto something, because if you think about it, we’ve never tried that. We’ve never actually tried to repel terrorists with signs. Yeah, maybe that’s all the airports need is a sign that says “No Terrorists,” yes? Yeah, and then guys are going to be walking going, “Oh, I was going to blow up the airport, but the rules are rules and they said I can’t come in. They said I can’t. They said I can’t come in.”
Imagine that. People with evil intentions aren't going to be stopped by any laws or signs.
Noah probably doesn’t know it, but he just accidentally made an airtight case against gun-free zones in particular and gun control in general. He is 100 percent correct: people hell-bent on murdering as many people as possible don’t really care about silly signs or laws that tell them not to murder people. A sign that says “No Guns” will no more keep a violent jihadi from gunning down a bunch of innocent people than will a sign that says “Muslims Get Out.” And how do we know that gun-free zones, nearly always marked with signs designating them as such, don’t deter murderous psychopaths? Because mass shootings, rather than happening at gun ranges or in gun stores, keep happening in gun-free zones.

Contrary to Trevor Noah’s snarky assertion that “we’ve never tried to repel terrorists with signs,” our country has fecklessly tried for years to “repel terrorists with signs.”

The Sandy Hook massacre? Gun-free zone. Columbine? Gun-free zone. The Aurora movie theater shooting? Gun-free zone. The shooting last year at an Oregon community college? Gun-free zone. The shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette? Gun-free zone. The attack on a military recruiting center in Chattanooga? Gun-free zone. The Ft. Hood shooting? You guessed it: gun-free zone. The San Bernardino attack? Gun-free zone. And the massacre perpetrated by an ISIS enthusiast at an Orlando night club? Gun-free zone.

While Noah clearly doesn’t grasp the logical implications of his argument, his particular insight — that evil people who want to do evil things will find ways to carry out their schemes regardless of what signs you post or laws you pass — forms the foundation of the entire argument against gun control.

Bad people who want to murder you don’t care about your stupid signs and stupid laws.

New York City, for example, is a pressure cooker bomb-free zone. That mall in Minnesota was most definitely a weaponized knife-free zone. And yet… Terrorists don’t care that terrorism is illegal. They care about killing you. And they’ll kill you with whatever they can, whether it’s a gun, a knife, a pressure cooker, or a box cutter.

“Yeah, but this just proves we need to have stricter gun laws to prevent terrorists from getting guns in the first place,” Trevor Noah might respond. “Gun control is about more than just signs telling people not to do stuff.”

Except it’s not. The entire premise of gun control is that words on a piece of paper somewhere will prevent a terrorist from killing people. What is a law if not a sign that says what you’re allowed and not allowed to do?
I guess such logic is beyond Trevor Noah.

Trump's campaign has been very good for...Trump businesses.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has paid his family's businesses more than $8.2 million, according to a POLITICO analysis of campaign finance filings, which reveals an integrated business and political operation without precedent in national politics.

The GOP presidential nominee’s campaign has paid his various businesses for services including rent for his campaign offices ($1.3 million), food and facilities for events and meetings ($544,000) and payroll for Trump corporate staffers ($333,000) who helped with everything from his traveling security to his wife’s convention speech.

In all, the Trump campaign’s payments to Trump-owned businesses account for about 7 percent of its $119 million spending total, the analysis found.

That’s an unprecedented amount of self-dealing in federal politics. Even the wealthiest of candidates have refrained from tapping their businesses’ resources to such an extensive degree, either because their businesses are structured in a manner that doesn’t legally allow them to do it with flexibility, or because they’re leery of the allegations of pocket-padding that inevitably arise when politicians use their campaigns or committees to pay their businesses or families.

Trump, on the other hand, appears to have structured his businesses in a way that lets the campaign use them without legal restriction. And he certainly doesn’t appear to feel any embarrassment about flouting political norms that typically compel candidates to distance themselves from their businesses during campaigns.

Josh Blackman writes in the Washington Post about how the executive actions of Obama's administration have sabotaged Obamacare.
However, many of Obamacare’s deepest wounds have been self-inflicted. Out of desperation to ensure as many people as possible signed up for health insurance, the Obama administration has arbitrarily suspended onerous mandates, modified coverage requirements and extended enrollment periods. These illegal, ad hoc changes to the ACA — which I’ve referred to as “government by blog post” — have unintentionally, but foreseeably, weakened the exchanges during the pivotal first three years.
According to parameters Obamacare fans should support, the program has been very disappointing. Far fewer people than predicted have enrolled.
In March 2016, the CBO drastically downgraded its forecast by half to 10 million enrollees. As of July 2016, there have been 12.7 million confirmed enrollees on the exchange — beating the revised 10 million figure, but falling significantly short of the expected 20 million. The ACA’s expansion of coverage to 20 million Americans is still far short of even its most conservative estimate of more than 30 million Americans gaining coverage.
Estimates of people paying the penalty for not buying insurance are also far below predictions. If people don't have health insurance, there should be more people paying the penalty. The reason why is the executive actions taken by the Obama administration. Read the rest to get a sense of how the Obama administration has been Obamacare's own worst enemy.

One young man explains why millennials are not signing up for Obamacare. The program needs young, healthy people to sign up to finance the increased costs of covering the sick and elderly covered by the program. President Obama is holding a Millennial Outreach and Engagement Summit tomorrow to encourage young people to sign up for Obamacare. They have all sorts of plans to reach out to young Americans to get them to sign up including using confidential taxpayer information.
Either way, the White House is doomed to fail. Young Americans are avoiding ObamaCare because it isn’t a good deal for us.

Last week I visited to scout out the most-affordable health-insurance plans I could buy for next year. In Arlington, Va., where I live and work, the cheapest option is $200 a month with a $6,850 deductible. Across the Potomac in D.C., the premiums are slightly cheaper but the deductible is still sky-high.

My experience isn’t unique. ObamaCare is plainly unaffordable for many young Americans. We’re at the start of our careers—and the bottom of the income ladder—so paying so much for something we likely won’t use makes little sense. The IRS penalty of $695 or 2.5% of our income is often cheap by comparison. We may be young, but we can do the math.

Nothing the White House says at the summit on Tuesday can change this reality. Young Americans aren’t looking for “outreach” and “engagement” from President Obama. We’re looking for affordable health-insurance plans—and ObamaCare doesn’t offer them.
Remember when Obama derided the Republicans criticizing his tax increases by saying "This is not class warfare -- it's math." Well, perhaps someone can do the math for him to explain why young people are not going to sign up for Obamacare.

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Ben Domenech explains why Ted Cruz reversed himself and endorsed Donald Trump.
What’s really going on here, of course, is that Cruz made a decision to short Donald Trump’s chances in Cleveland. Cruz made a stand on conservative ideology, but couldn’t bring himself to endorse a man who had called his wife ugly and implied that his dad shot JFK. In the time since then, the Trump campaign had – despite Trump’s public comments – put a great deal of pressure on Cruz to endorse and get behind him (I assume one of their chief arguments being that he is the only candidate who can defend the country against the continued threat of skilled assassin Rafael Cruz, who still roams the earth unrestricted).

But the fact is Donald Trump is fundamentally no different than he was in Cleveland as an actual candidate. Sure, he’s modified a few policies and moderated his tone – but all the misgivings Cruz had about Trump as a potential president and Commander in Chief are still in place. What has changed? Two things: Hillary Clinton’s strength as a candidate has degraded significantly, and Cruz’s political standing was damaged far more among his Texas base and among the donor community than he anticipated by the “vote your conscience” stand.
Cruz has really encountered some push-back from those whom he relies on for support.
The real degradation since then, though, came due to those who had been some of Cruz’s most prominent backers. The Mercer family and Peter Thiel played critical roles in elevating Cruz from a virtual unknown in the state of Texas to knocking off a popular Lieutenant Governor in an extremely competitive primary. Now they are prominent backers of Donald Trump, and the threat of a well-backed primary campaign for Cruz in 2018 was increasingly real, with Rep. Michael McCaul and former Gov. and DWTS star Rick Perry showing themselves to be very competitive against him. Cruz’s former media backers had turned on the populist, and the potential for a well-backed challenger against Cruz in Texas was real. Had Trump lost narrowly to Hillary Clinton, as seems the likeliest outcome today, the timing of Cruz’s race would’ve made him public enemy number one among the Trump crew.
Cruz has taken a path that annoys everyone. Those who like Trump won't forget his convention speech and delay in endorsing him. He's made his resistance a bigger story by taking the path he's taken. And he's disappointed those who dislike Trump and saw Cruz as one of the principled #NeverTrumpers remaining. However, Cruz has always been less than principled. He pretended that there was some possibility of getting Obama to reverse himself on Obamacare by grabbing the publicity of the filibuster. That accomplished nothing except for garnering headlines for Cruz. And once he started running last year, he tried to cozy up to Trump supporters in the hopes of garnering their votes if Trump collapsed. He waited a long time before he started taking on Trump. He was all about helping himself back then and he is now. And after three such obvious moves of self-aggrandizement, his story wears thin.

The WSJ writes about "Ted Cruz's Convictions,"
Mr. Cruz’s machinations won’t matter much in November but they are worth keeping in mind after the election. If Mr. Trump loses, the GOP will have to rebuild from the rubble of a third straight presidential defeat. Mr. Cruz is already planning his 2020 campaign and he will try to cast himself as the only true conservative. The Texan’s shape-shifting regarding Mr. Trump reveals his true political character.

Mr. Cruz’s calculations are also relevant for governing in the next Congress. If Mr. Trump loses and Republicans hold the House, they will need to stay united to eke out policy victories in a Hillary Clinton Presidency. Mr. Cruz will make that unity difficult by using his talk-radio and Heritage Foundation echo chambers to claim that any compromise with a President Clinton is an ideological sellout, even if it modestly advances conservative goals.

Republicans of good conscience can differ on the Trump candidacy given his sometimes incendiary comments and his changeable policy views. The way Mr. Cruz has handled the choice is a clinic in political cynicism.

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Ah, this is what matters to those negotiating the debate - how to fool the public into not noticing the height difference between the candidates. Hillary is quite a bit shorter than Trump so she'll have a shorter platform.
It’s not the first time short presidential candidates got a boost for a high-stakes TV audience.

In 1988, Michael Dukakis stood on a sloping platform that was hidden behind his lectern to be better matched with the taller George H.W. Bush.

Jimmy Carter argued the “belt buckle rule” to debate negotiators in his 1976 match-up with Gerald Ford, who was 3 ¹/₂ inches taller. Ford’s lectern reached 2 ¹/₂ inches above his belt, under the agreement, and Carter’s 1 ¹/₂ inches.

“The differences were derived by measuring the inches between the floor and the taller candidate’s belt buckle and then splitting the difference,” according the book, “Presidential Debates: The challenge of creating an informed electorate.”
The funny thing is that the two candidates come together to shake hands so it's not as if anyone was fooled into not noticing the height differences. And the whole idea that the taller candidate wins was broken when George W. Bush won against Kerry and Obama won against Romney. But what would campaign negotiators have to do if they weren't measuring belt buckles?

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Clarice Feldman wonders why the people in the streets of Charlotte were called protesters.
In Charlotte they have regularly referred to the thugs as “protestors” and failed to fully publicize how awful their behavior has been. Here are some examples you won’t see on your news programs: Rioters attacked an elderly homeless man and beat a helpless man in parking garage and pulled off and stole his pants to further humiliate him.

Reports are in of stealing and looting on a significantly large scale, hijacking cars and trucks and terrifying their occupants, blocking streets and threatening to spread the mayhem outside the city limits. BLM would in a lawful society be subject to criminal racketeering and conspiracy charges, Instead, Attorney General Loretta Lynch defended the demonstrators as people exercising their constitutional rights to peaceful protest to create change. “We hear your voices and we feel your pain."
She links to a story about how George Soros has been funding protests such as the ones in Ferguson.
Soros-sponsored organizations helped mobilize protests in Ferguson, building grass-roots coalitions on the ground backed by a nationwide online and social media campaign.
Other Soros-funded groups made it their job to remotely monitor and exploit anything related to the incident that they could portray as a conservative misstep, and to develop academic research and editorials to disseminate to the news media to keep the story alive.

The plethora of organizations involved not only shared Mr. Soros‘ funding, but they also fed off each other, using content and buzzwords developed by one organization on another’s website, referencing each other’s news columns and by creating a social media echo chamber of Facebook “likes” and Twitter hashtags that dominated the mainstream media and personal online newsfeeds.

Buses of activists from the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference in Chicago; from the Drug Policy Alliance, Make the Road New York and Equal Justice USA from New York; from Sojourners, the Advancement Project and Center for Community Change in Washington; and networks from the Gamaliel Foundation — all funded in part by Mr. Soros — descended on Ferguson starting in August and later organized protests and gatherings in the city until late last month.

All were aimed at keeping the media’s attention on the city and to widen the scope of the incident to focus on interrelated causes — not just the overpolicing and racial discrimination narratives that were highlighted by the news media in August.
So is it any surprise that the police report that 70% of the people arrested in Charlotte were from out of state?

Feldman links to this post by Zero Hedge fighting back against the idea that this was a protest in Charlotte.
-Stealing and looting cash registers from local businesses is not a legitimate form of protest
-A “protester” shooting another “protester” is not a legitimate form of protest.
-Physically attacking reporters is not a legitimate form of protest.
-Throwing rocks off bridges at passing vehicles full of families is not a legitimate form of protest
-Beating up innocent people in parking lots because they’re white is not a legitimate form of protest.
-Smashing up apartment windows where black people live to “protest” in favor of ‘Black Lives Matter’ is not a legitimate form of protest.
-Trashing your own neighborhood is not a legitimate form of protest.
-Looting the Charlotte Hornets team store so you can steal basketball merchandise is not a legitimate form of protest
-Attempting to hijack cars and terrify their innocent occupants is not a legitimate form of protest.
He posts this graphic to show what blacks should really be protesting, but what seems to get so little notice.
How come we don't see George Soros doing something to fight the real cause of so many black deaths? Don't those black lives matter?

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Cruising the Web

Sometimes, it is what is legal that is the most disturbing. The Daily Beast reports that there is no legal block to Trump running his company from the Oval Office. And nothing would prevent Hillary from keeping active in the Clinton Foundation.
Whether it’s President Trump or President Clinton, both would bring major potential conflicts of interest to the Oval Office if elected—between a large international corporate empire and a global foundation, respectively. And there’s no law that requires them not to engage in self-dealing—something that even senior lawmakers are unaware of.

Senior government officials in the Executive Branch are barred from participating in any matter that has a financial benefit for the official or the official’s immediate family, to include their spouse or child. But the same rules that restrain, say, the secretary of defense, doesn’t apply to the president.
And neither candidate is being all that reassuring about their plans if they should get elected.
The gap between what Clinton promised for transparency with the Clinton Foundation and what actually occurred remains a stain on her reputation. The State Department was not always formally notified when a foreign government contributed to the foundation, as promised, and the organization fell short of its promise to annually publish the names of its contributors.

But Trump’s conflict of interests as a businessman with international investments are a magnitude more complicated than Clinton’s Foundation. His business dealings are attached to locations all around the world, and his daily decisions as president could impact his company’s financial prosperity. And while Trump says that he will not participate in his business while in the White House, he has also been known to change his mind on a whim.

“Trump is a very different beast. His holdings span the globe, with many holdings shared with other governmental officials and some invested in countries with which the U.S. does not have good relations. I have a hard time imagining how Trump could ease his many, many conflicts of interest,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist at the left-leaning consumer rights group Public Citizen. “Though, to repeat, it need not be done under the law.”
It would be nice if Congress would pass a new law to block such conflicts of interest in the future president, but don't hold your breath.

Matt Latimer has written an analysis of Trump's gaffes throughout the campaign. Time after time he's said something that everyone assumed would finish him off. And time after time, he survived.
This defies all the rules of public life as we’ve come to understand them. For decades, a single spontaneous outburst (John Kerry’s “I was for it before I was against it”), a pompous proclamation (whatever Al Gore intended to say about his role in the Internet), a cuckoo pronouncement (George Romney’s claim to have been “brainwashed” about the Vietnam War), or even an embarrassing misspelling (Dan Quayle’s infamous attempt to correctly write the word “potato” on a blackboard), caused irreparable, often campaign-ending damage. Trump has done all these things—some of them multiple times in the same day. The gaffe hasn’t destroyed Trump; it’s made him stronger. The reasons for this are instructive, and they will change the way politics is practiced forever.

At one level, Trump’s survival, so far, is less a testament to his shrewdness—though it is a disservice to claim he hasn’t been shrewd—than it is to Washington’s studied cowardice. Trump is not only making gaffes, he’s brashly owning them, daring the political gods to smite him in what has become an epic rebuke to the dull, predictable, cautious political culture that everyone outside the Beltway has learned to recognize and abhor. In terror of the gaffe, candidates have increasingly immersed their true selves behind carefully vetted talking points, anodyne scripts, and cynical consultants, all with the primary purpose of suffocating in its cradle anything approaching a cavalier statement, never mind a surprising or provocative thought.

The culmination of this effort is before us: the enthusiasm-starved campaign of Hillary Clinton, who over her decades in politics has perfected the talent of making even the most cutting-edge idea immediately sound like a cliche. Set against this apotheosis of safe, gaffe-free politics, millions have delightedly embraced a man who seems to recognize their appetite for something recognizably real, even if it’s vulgar and offensive. His gaffes aren’t a sideshow: they’re integral to his pitch. For this cohort, a vote for Trump is a vote to make the safe, protected, consultant-scripted lives of everyone in D.C. miserable every single day, because they’ve earned it.

The larger explanation for the Trump phenomenon is even more unsettling for Washington’s political class, especially the media. They have lost their power. Only a decade or two ago, the media world was confined to a group of people in D.C. and New York—a group that largely knew each other, mingled in the same places, vacationed in the same locales. The most influential members of the group routinely defined what constituted a gaffe, others echoed that view, and it became the conventional wisdom for the rest of America. In the age of the Internet, with bloggers spread out across the nation, and multiple platforms across the political spectrum, that’s no longer possible. The growing divergence between these “insiders” and the new “outsiders” has played to Trump’s benefit, every single time he made what was once conceived as a “game-changing” error.
And sometimes he'll just deny what he is on video saying. And he gets away with it. What an upside down political moment we're experiencing. I have a feeling that this election will be a lot more enjoyable to think about 8 or 10 years from now. Then we will be able to see if Trump is sui generis or are we seeing a sea change in how politicians can survive gaffes.

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Dan McLaughlin goes through various explanations that analysts have put forth for why Hillary Clinton is having trouble winning over younger voters. There are theories out there to blame the media, liberals' insufficient attacks on George W. Bush, ignorant millennials who don't know what Gary Johnson stands for, and Bernie Sanders. And McLaughlin wonders if everyone is just overthinking this.
People like Chait and Beutler, secure in their high opinion of the wisdom and erudition of every Democratic voter, assume that the only possible reason why younger Democrats could reject Hillary after favoring Obama is that nobody has told them the truth yet about the issue stakes or the nature of the candidates. But I wonder if the answer is simpler: Barack Obama was young (by politician standards), and tall, and cool, and cocky, and trash-talking, and black, and Hillary is none of those things. She doesn’t have a commanding physical presence, and didn’t even when she was younger, even by the standards of female politicians. Her laugh is grating, her sense of humor (when it appears) is painfully corny. She’s old and compromised in the ways adults often are. She seems like somebody’s grandmother, because she actually is a grandmother. She seems like a corporate lawyer who would sit on a Board of Directors, because she actually is a corporate lawyer who sat on a Board of Directors. She seems like she thinks she should be cooler than she is, because 25 years ago everybody thought her husband was cool, and the cool rock stars of the day wanted to hang with the Clintons - but to a 22 year old, Fleetwood Mac is “Dad rock.” Maybe there isn’t much more than that, for a lot of young, liberal-leaning voters who don’t follow the news very carefully.

The great false conceit of liberal punditry is not that a share of Right-leaning voters are dumb or bigoted or tribalist or that Republicans sometimes pander to those base instincts. The great false conceit of liberal punditry is that these things are not also true of Left-leaning voters and their party, when all of American history cries out with counterexamples.

Liberals dined out for eight years on being the cool kids. Then they nominated an uncool candidate, and wonder why the cool kids don’t think she’s the same thing.

Speaking of cool kids, Ross Douthat diagnoses a problem with the Democrats. They are being crammed down our throats by cultural elites.
The culture industry has always tilted leftward, but the swing toward social liberalism among younger Americans and the simultaneous surge of activist energy on the left have created a new dynamic, in which areas once considered relatively apolitical now have (or are being pushed to have) an overtly left-wing party line.
But leftist ideology and the pro-Democrat tilt has just gone a bit too far. Late-night TV has become one big echo chamber.
It isn’t just late-night TV. Cultural arenas and institutions that were always liberal are being prodded or dragged further to the left. Awards shows are being pushed to shed their genteel limousine liberalism and embrace the race-gender-sexual identity agenda in full. Colleges and universities are increasingly acting as indoctrinators for that same agenda, shifting their already-lefty consensus under activist pressure.

Meanwhile, institutions that were seen as outside or sideways to political debate have been enlisted in the culture war. The tabloid industry gave us the apotheosis of Caitlyn Jenner, and ESPN gave her its Arthur Ashe Award. The N.B.A., N.C.A.A. and the A.C.C. — nobody’s idea of progressive forces, usually — are acting as enforcers on behalf of gay and transgender rights. Jock culture remains relatively reactionary, but even the N.F.L. is having its Black Lives Matters moment, thanks to Colin Kaepernick.

For the left, these are clear signs of cultural gains, cultural victory. But the scale and swiftness of those victories have created two distinctive political problems for the Democratic Party.

First, within the liberal tent, they have dramatically raised expectations for just how far left our politics can move, while insulating many liberals from the harsh realities of political disagreement in a sprawling, 300-plus million person republic. Among millennials, especially, there’s a growing constituency for whom right-wing ideas are so alien or triggering, left-wing orthodoxy so pervasive and unquestioned, that supporting a candidate like Hillary Clinton looks like a needless form of compromise.
She can move left, but it will never be far enough for the leftists on the far range of the spectrum. And there is a reaction by those of us who just don't find these cool kids all that entertaining any more.
At the same time, outside the liberal tent, the feeling of being suffocated by the left’s cultural dominance is turning voting Republican into an act of cultural rebellion — which may be one reason the Obama years, so good for liberalism in the culture, have seen sharp G.O.P. gains at every level of the country’s government.

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Heat Street links to a report from Citizens Audit that purports to demonstrate how David Brock, Hillary Clinton's favored shill, has been laundering money through his network of pro-Clinton organizations while skimming a 12.5% commission off each transaction to another organization that he heads up, the Bonner Group. This is how it works.
1. Media Matters would receive your $1,062,857 donation

a.The Bonner Group would earn a $132,857 commission

b. Media Matters would retain $930,000

2. Next, Media Matters would give what’s left of your entire donation, $930,000, to the Franklin Education Forum

a. The Bonner Group would ‘earn’ a $116,250 commission

b. The Franklin Education Forum would retain $813,750

c. The Franklin Education Forum would then forward the remaining $813,750 to The Franklin Forum

a. The Bonner Group would ‘earn’ a $101,718 commission

b. The Franklin Forum would retain $712,031

In the end, Brock’s solicitor would have pocketed $350,825, almost a third of your initial donation! That’s a far cry from the advertised 12.5% commission.
Pretty sneaky, eh? And how handy that Brock is chairman of each of these organizations and they all share the same phone number. Isn't it typical that the Clintons attract slimy operatives like Sidney Blumenthal and David Brock?

After the terror attacks in Manhattan, New Jersey, and Minnesota this past weekend, liberals had a variety of targets to blame. They blamed Trump for rushing to call it a bombing and Hillary actually blamed Trump as "giving aid and comfort to our adversaries." The Obama administration blamed our inability to control the narrative. And that is also Trump's fault.
What’s the strategy here? The same strategy Democrats have rolled out since the end of World War II: attempting to demonize Republicans as the true threat to the republic, a greater threat even than foreign adversaries. During the Cold War, Democrats routinely pilloried Republicans as the real risk to American freedoms — LBJ suggested that Barry Goldwater would usher in an age of nuclear war, and Jimmy Carter argued Ronald Reagan would do the same. For two generations, the Left argued that militant conservative anti-Communists were a greater danger to Americans than Communists. Conservatives, meanwhile, argued that the greatest danger to America lay in the Soviet Union.

In the post–Cold War era, liberals have continued to argue that conservatives pose a threat to freedom and peace. Republicans, they say, are the true enemy: They want to take away your free stuff and your sexual freedom, reverse the racial progress we’ve made. On foreign policy, the Left’s true area of political vulnerability, progressives make the same argument with regard to ISIS they once made with regard to the Soviet Union: We have little to worry about from ISIS per se — after all, they’re not an “existential” threat to the United States — but we do have to worry that right-wing rhetoric will turn the entire Muslim world against us, provoking World War III. Donald Trump supposedly represents the tip of that spear. He will lose us the narrative war.

Meanwhile, Trump argues that gormless leftism cripples the West in its fight against Islamic terrorism, and voters buy it. It’s difficult for Americans to stomach talk of the dangers of right-wing Islamophobia when one Muslim terrorist attack after another dominates the news. Nobody in their right mind fears Donald Trump’s rhetoric generating terrorism more than ISIS’s setting kettle bombs in trash cans. Trump isn’t as scary as ISIS, no matter how much effort the media and Hillary Clinton put into persuading us he is.

That’s why Trump seems to benefit in the court of public opinion in the wake of terrorist attacks. The Democratic argument that Trump is the Scariest Man in the World only works in a universe where ISIS isn’t scary. And that means downplaying the threat ISIS poses, pretending that all is well when it plainly isn’t.

Jim Geraghty reminds us of how the media likes to glom on to strange conspiracies as long as they make Republicans look bad.
When presented with a conspiracy theory that depicts Republican skullduggery or Democrats as unfairly victimized, however, the media is prone to give it a respectful hearing.

The New York Times credulously reported on claims that the word “rats” in a 2000 George W. Bush campaign ad was a “subliminal attempt to discredit Mr. Gore.” Salon and others asked if George W. Bush wore a communications device during a presidential debate. Democratic congressman John Conyers conducted his own investigation into the “abuse and manipulation of electronic voting machines” in the 2004 election in Ohio, and The New Yorker reported that John Kerry believed “proxies for Bush had rigged many voting machines.” Harry Reid claimed that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid his taxes, and The New Yorker speculated that Romney’s (eventually released) tax returns hid “politically explosive investments.”

As for the notion of a fringe theory representing a party’s mainstream, in 2006, a survey found 50.8 percent of Democrats believed that “the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.”

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And finally, take this Roger Goodell.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cruising the Web

As we learn that Rahami, the man arrested for the New Jersey and New York bombing plots, was reported to the police by his own father for suspected ties to terrorism, but after investigating, the FBI didn't go further, the WSJ argues we need to adjust our laws on surveillance of suspected terrorists.
the Rahami case raises troubling questions about whether U.S. law enforcement and intelligence are gathering, analyzing and acting on the information they need to detect and disrupt threats before they happen. Mr. Rahami, who came to the U.S. in 1995 with his family of Afghan asylum seekers, was arrested in 2014 for stabbing his brother, and his father told the police then that his son was involved in terrorism.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened an “assessment,” which is a risk review short of a full criminal probe that includes interviews and cross-checks of federal terrorism and criminal databases. Mr. Rahami was cleared, though he travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan several times over the last decade, including a year in the Taliban hothouse of Quetta.
So what can the FBI do with such information? Now, after the fact, family and friends are speaking up that he returned from those trips radicalized. What else could the authorities known about him if they'd had him under surveillance. Would they have found out that he ordered the components for his IEDs online? As the WSJ points out, there have been other terrorists in the United States who eluded FBI surveillance.
The 2015 San Bernardino killers, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, weren’t in the terror database. But they spent a year planning and maintained an extensive digital correspondence about jihad and martyrdom. Malik was born in Pakistan and spent time in Saudi Arabia before marrying Farook.

The FBI also kept a file on the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston Marathon bombers, after receiving a tip in 2011 that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a dangerous Islamic radical. The G-men missed his trip to a Muslim region in Russia near Chechnya. The voyage registered on a Homeland Security travel monitoring system when he left, but the listing somehow lapsed by the time he came back and no one was alerted. Similar failures have also been documented after the separate attacks on two Tennessee military bases and in Garland, Texas in 2015.
The authorities seem to be doing the best they come under the parameters they have to operate. They claim to have thwarted over 90 terrorist attacks within the U.S.
Yet Americans are right to wonder about the erosion of intelligence collection in the post-Edward Snowden period, even as the terror danger has increased to a post-9/11 high. Islamic State isn’t the al Qaeda of 2001. ISIS is a creature of modern technology, and across social media and the “dark web” they have a wide reach to disseminate propaganda and training materials. Unlike al Qaeda, they encourage random people to self-radicalize and carry out attacks.

To find the terror signal amid this noise, U.S. counterterrorism operations need the same or better technological tools as ISIS. Yet last year Congress and President Obama panicked over the Snowden disclosures and limited several surveillance programs with the USA Freedom Act....

As for surveillance, about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day—digital traces from social media, consumer purchases, call logs and smartphones. Google, social networks, credit-card companies, banks, retailers, academic researchers and many others analyze this information with algorithms to make money, innovate or learn about society. Politicians use data mining to target voters. The irony is that Hillary Clinton’s campaign probably knows more about individual citizens and their behavior than Mrs. Clinton could know if she becomes Commander in Chief.

If someone pledges allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook, travels to the Syro-Turkish border, buys pressure cookers on Amazon and then pays the toll at the Holland Tunnel, algorithms can integrate this information and flag authorities. This is “profiling” only in the sense of searching for associations and statistical probabilities. As for privacy, algorithms are less intrusive than searches, wiretaps and undercover operations.

This is the antiterror debate we should be having but aren’t. Donald Trump is focusing on immigration, but Mr. Rahami was a naturalized citizen who came to the U.S. as a child. “Extreme vetting” wouldn’t have stopped him or most of the others mentioned above. Mrs. Clinton says any profiling that includes Muslims makes Mr. Trump a “recruiting sergeant for the terrorists,” which dodges the Islamist reality.

America’s terror fighters need better tools to uncover the ideological and material links that could pre-empt another ISIS-inspired mass murder on U.S. soil. The next bomber may be more murderously successful than Mr. Rahami.
It sounds like a debate well worth having and then acting on. Don't we have a political debate coming up in a few days? I'd like to hear the answer to a question about how to improve our surveillance of those already here instead of the candidates devolving back to their stands on immigration.

It seems notably peculiar that the Justice Department chose not to include Ahmad Rahami's clear connections to ISIS in their indictment of him for the planned terror attacks in New Jersey and New York this past weekend.
Pages from the bloody journal of the New York and New Jersey bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami show he was a follower of Al Qaeda as well as the Islamic State terror group, yet federal investigators made no reference to ISIS in their complaint charging him on Tuesday.

At least two pages include references to Anwar al-Awlaki -- the American-born Muslim cleric who was killed in a 2011 drone strike and whose preaching has inspired acts of terror linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda. Federal investigators mentioned Awlaki in the complaints.

However, the journal also appears to reference Abu Muhammad al Adnani -- the ISIS spokesman killed by coalition forces in August after he called his followers to attack non-believers in their homelands.

"I looked for guidance came Sheikh Anwar, Brother Adnani, Dawla. Said it clearly – Attack the kuffar (non-believer) in the back yard," one section read. Page 12 of the complaint references this section without naming Adnani.....

Fox News has asked the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice to explain why Rahami wrote about ISIS in his journal, but unlike the other terrorists he cited, there was no reference to ISIS in the complaint.
As Patrick Poole at PJ Media has pointed out, the Justice Department followed a similar pattern with Omar Mateen, the murderer in the Orlando nightclub.
This is reminiscent of the released transcript of Orlando mass killer Omar Mateen's pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State as he was conducting the terror attack that killed 49 this past June. The statements were made in a phone call to a local Orlando TV station during the attack.

As readers might recall, all ISIS references from Mateen's statements were noted with [omitted]. When called out by the media on the censoring of the transcript, the Justice Department first defended their omission, and then quickly relented and released the unredacted transcript showing Mateen's pledge of allegiance to ISIS.
There doesn't seem to be a legal reason not to include the ISIS connections in the Rahami indictment. They included other terrorist connections. Surely, the connection to ISIS would strengthen the indictment. It just seems a pattern of trying to downplay the dangers from ISIS here in the United States.

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Michael Barone ponders what would happen to the Democratic Party if Hillary should lose.
The shock for Democrats will likely to be more severe than for Republicans if Trump loses. "Imagine the best candidate in your party losing to the weakest candidate in the other party," speculates Dan McLaughlin at, "after years of telling yourself that your party had unlocked the demographic code to a permanent majority."

One option for Democrats would be to moderate their policies, as the New Democrats urged in the 1980s and Bill Clinton did in the 1990s. After all, that proved pretty successful. But the current Democratic electorate has little stomach for going back to that strategy....

Some Democrats will blame a Clinton loss on her particular problems — lies about her illicit secret email server, doubts about her health — and if she loses it's not likely she'll run again at age 73. So who will?

One lesson of recent presidential primaries is that Democratic voters are transfixed by identity politics, having elected the first black president and chosen the first woman presidential nominee. Another is that there's a large constituency for left-wing candidates

What they haven't been interested in is cisgendered white male liberals. The largely forgotten John Edwards fell by the wayside quickly in 2008, and Martin O'Malley, with credentials similar to those of Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis, attracted zero support in 2016.

That leaves them with no obvious choices if Clinton loses this year. Their most visible and attractive left-wingers, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, will be over 70 in 2020. Prominent black and Hispanic officeholders tend to represent overwhelmingly Democratic constituencies and have made few of the bows to moderation that made Barack Obama a plausible national candidate in 2008.

It's possible that a post-2016 Democratic Party could look like Britain's Labour Party, which abandoned the New Labour posture of Tony Blair after it produced three landslide victories in 1997, 2001 and 2005, and which under its current far-left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn seems headed for landslide defeat in 2020.

On the other hand, one GOP insider sees a bright side for a Clinton victory this year. It might set the Republicans up for heavy victories in 2018.
Sure, a Trump defeat would lead to bloodletting, but Benjamin L. Ginsberg, who ran George W. Bush's bid to win the 2000 Florida recount, and thus the election, is predicting a big midterm election victory for Republicans.

And, he told a Council on Foreign Relations audience last week, that it also would likely help pack Republicans into governor's offices key in the upcoming congressional redistricting.

"If Hillary Clinton is president, and not Donald Trump, we will gather in a circular firing squad of incredible ferocity for about six months. And there will be a bloodletting," Ginsberg said.

But then, he said, the off-year election will arrive in 2018 and if history repeats, Republicans would score major victories.

"If you are going to look at off-year elections, in a Hillary Clinton presidency, Republicans are going to do quite well, including in the governor's races, the 36 governors races in 2018, that will have a great say in the redistricting that will last for the next decade," said the partner at the Jones Day law firm.

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This is how corruption works in our federal government.
Days before a January 2016 trial on whether Diana Rubens should keep her job, charges against her deputy were dropped, thus ensuring the subordinate couldn’t provide public testimony bolstering evidence of serious misconduct by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) senior executive.

The charges were dropped against Lucy Filipov by VA officials who were former Rubens subordinates. They did so despite an internal VA board’s recommendation that Filipov be fired for overseeing manipulation of data; shredding of official documents; double-paying benefits; abusing federal employment for financial gain; and terminating a whistleblower. Official action to fire her began in July 2015.

Not only did VA withdraw its firing of Filipov in December 2015 after she threatened to force a public hearing, the department also paid her lawyer, gave her blanket immunity, and created a work-from-home job for her. She agreed not to file complaints with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) or other judicial panels.

Complaints before the MSPB result in public hearings where sworn testimony would delve into who at VA did what, just when the fates of Rubens and another top VA executive, Kim Graves, hung in the balance.
So much for all the promises from the Obama administration to end the problems at the VA and punish those responsible.

Has Donald Trump every had a history class? I used to wonder that about Barack Obama, but Trump is plumbing new depths.
Speaking in North Carolina, the Republican nominee claimed African-American communities "are absolutely in the worst shape that they've ever been in before, ever, ever, ever."
Has he ever heard of slavery? Jim Crow? It goes to show how his vaunted outreach to African Americans does not come from a man who has ever thought deeply about the issues facing the black community.

Jonah Goldberg compares Obama's trolling of Republicans with Trump's tactics.
One of the central insights of both the Obama campaign and administration (the difference is subtle but real) is that Obama benefits when his critics overreact. In 2008, then-political adviser David Axelrod coined the phrase “no drama Obama” to describe not only his client’s personality but his messaging. By seeming unflappable in the face of criticism, Obama comes across as presidential. The more heated the criticism, the more presidential he seems.

The thing is, Obama often intentionally provokes the conservative base. As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman put it in January 2015, Obama “seems to come up with a new idea every couple of weeks to drive [the GOP] up a wall.” That makes him a master at trolling.

RELATED: The Legacies of Barack Obama

For those still not up to speed with the lingo, “trolling” is an Internet term for saying outrageous things in order to elicit an even more outraged response. Or, as Urban Dictionary defines it, “The art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly pissing people off.”

For instance, although ideology and policy no doubt play a role in Obama’s frequent refusal to use the phrase “Islamic terrorism,” he also seems to enjoy watching his critics shriek about it.

In late 2014, when Obama announced that he was going to unilaterally block the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants in the country — after insisting for years that the Constitution wouldn’t allow him to do anything of the sort — many writers on the left and the right recognized that at least part of his strategy was to bait Republicans. Obama could have changed the policy quietly, without much fanfare. Instead, he sought to incite as much right-wing anger as possible.

Tellingly, the White House didn’t give the exclusive to Univision or MSNBC, but to Fox News. As liberal writer Bill Scher put it in Politico, “Operation Epic Troll” was a “smashing success.”

Obama played a similar game with his birth certificate and the whole birther craze. He could have released his birth certificate as early as 2008, when the Mephistophelean Clinton henchman Sid Blumenthal was whispering in reporters’ ears. But Obama didn’t for years — in part because he knew the conspiracy theory would galvanize his base. It not only confirmed everything liberals wanted to hear about the Right, it also provided Obama with an endless supply of one-liners. And for a long time that worked well for Obama; he got to mock birthers and play the dignified victim.
And now we have Trump.
Trump’s claim last week that he was doing a public service by “ending” the issue Clinton “started” was itself a brilliant bit of trollery. He was trying to have it both ways, simultaneously saying that the birther movement was nefarious and illegitimate from the beginning, and that he was some kind of statesman for relentlessly pushing the birther story.

None of that matters now. Like Obama, Trump exploited birtherism for his own advantage, worming his way into the GOP. Obama allowed the issue to fester in the fever swamps of the Right, and now he’s facing the real possibility that he will be replaced by the Swamp Thing.

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Isn't this cozy? This is what cronyism looks like.
The wife of a prominent U.S. Senator used her position as head of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASB) to boost her daughter’s EpiPen sales, according to recent reports.

EpiPen, short for epinephrine injection, is a life-saving auto-injection device for those with serious allergies that cause anaphylactic shock.

CEO Heather Bresch of Mylan, the company that makes EpiPen’s, caught flack last month after reports revealed Bresch raised the price of EpiPen’s 461 percent since acquiring the drug in 2007.

Mary Williams Walsh reports in the NYT on what states are doing to hide the debts they've piled up with public pensions.
It turns out that Calpers, which managed the little pension plan, keeps two sets of books: the officially stated numbers, and another set that reflects the “market value” of the pensions that people have earned. The second number is not publicly disclosed. And it typically paints a much more troubling picture, according to people who follow the money.

The crisis at Citrus Pest Control District No. 2 illuminates a profound debate now sweeping the American public pension system. It is pitting specialist against specialist — this year in the rarefied confines of the American Academy of Actuaries, not far from the White House, the elite professionals who crunch pension numbers for a living came close to blows over this very issue.

But more important, it raises serious concerns that governments nationwide do not know the true condition of the pension funds they are responsible for. That exposes millions of people, including retired public workers, local taxpayers and municipal bond buyers — who are often retirees themselves — to risks they have no way of knowing about.

Michael Judge has chosen some of William Shakespeare's best lines about politics to show how relevant those lines seem to today's politics.
1) “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (“Hamlet”)

2) “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” (“Hamlet”)

3) “I am a man more sinned against than sinning.” (“King Lear”)

4) “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.” (“Macbeth”)

5) “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” (“Richard II”)

6) “Plain and not honest is too harsh a style.” (“Richard III”)

7) “The commonwealth is sick of their own choice.” (“Henry IV, Part II”)

8) “Virtue is choked with foul ambition.” (“Henry VI, Part II”)

9) “He doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs, and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves.” (“Julius Caesar”)

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The infantilizing of college students continues apace.
Students at the California State University–Northridge sat around in a big ball pit (which they a called a “vent tent”) and talked about hurtful words and their feelings as part of a school-sponsored inclusive language campaign.

According to video and documents obtained by Heat Street, the campaign lasted for a week, was put on by the University Student Union (USU), and cost more than $1,000 in student fees. It’s not clear exactly how much of that money was spent on the ball pit rental, or if there is any research supporting the idea that sitting in a ball pit while having a discussion provides any educational and/or therapeutic benefits....

Other features of the campaign included a spinning wheel with offensive words, which students would spin and then discuss whether they found the language offensive, and a board where students could write for themselves which words they considered to be harmful. According to Heat Street, one student apparently wrote “When I hear the word ‘edgy,’ it makes me feel triggered,” but it’s not clear exactly just what in the fresh hell that student was talking about, or what people on campus are going to be expected to do about it. After all, “edgy” is pretty universally seen as a harmless word. Should people on campus be expected to suddenly stop using it because one random person considers it offensive for some random reason? I feel like the answer there is pretty clearly “no.”
But have an activity based around America? That is not permitted.
Students at Ramapo College in New Jersey wanted to host a bipartisan BBQ event with a straightforward theme: “America.” It was to be co-hosted by College Democrats and College Republicans.

The event could not proceed as planned, however, after college administrators decided the “America” theme was “offensive.”

After being informed that the current theme was unacceptable, the president of College Republican asked a residence hall adviser for an explanation. The adviser wrote back: “To be honest, I’m not sure. I think it was administrative.”

Apparently, some of the planned advertisements for the America-themed BBQ incorporated the classic World War II “I Want You” recruitment featuring Uncle Sam. This administration, according to the residence hall adviser, considered the displays to be too “military and recruitment-oriented.”

Anthony Weiner is even more disgusting than we knew. The Daily Mail has obtained photos of Weiner's messages with a 15-year old girl. She told him openly how old she was and, instead of shutting the communication down like any rational man would do, he responded by telling her in explicit terms how he'd like to have sex with her. He sounds like a sexual predator. His response to the paper is to admit that he has "repeatedly demonstrated terrible judgement about the people I have communicated with online." Ya think?

Now the NYPD Special Victims Unit is investigating Weiner.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cruising the Web

The Washington Post has been going to town examining Trump's foundation and his rather meager charitable giving. Now they've uncovered potentially illegal actions to use money from his charity to settle his own legal disputes.
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
That's in addition to using the foundation's money to buy portraits of himself and to tout his own businesses.
The other expenditures involved smaller amounts. In 2013, Trump used $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group. And in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 of the foundation’s money for a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser.

Or, rather, another portrait of himself.

Several years earlier, Trump had used $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a different, six foot-tall portrait.
So sleazy and so typical.

It's hard to pick whose dealings with their charitable foundations was sleazier. But Hillary's depredations take the prize because she was dealing with a public office at the time. Here is yet another example of her actions to repay donors.
Hillary Clinton placed dozens of her donors on State Department advisory boards between 2009 and 2012, federal records show.

The former secretary of state's agency appointed 194 donors who had given either to her family's foundation, her political campaigns, or both, or were affiliated with groups that had.

Those donors represented nearly 40 percent of the 511 advisory appointments the State Department made during Clinton's tenure.

Atlantic Magazine provides a handy cheat sheet of Trump scandals. It goes with their primer on Clinton scandals. Or you can use this cheat sheet. I just finished covering Washington's presidency in my US History class. How dismal it is to turn from that subject to today's politics.

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It's just a short jump from using her position at the State Department to reward donors to the family foundation to promising taxpayer funds so she can convince key constituencies to vote for her. Isn't that basically what Hillary is doing when she tries to motivate young people to come out and vote for her by promising them government payment of their college debts?
Hillary Clinton, campaigning Monday at Temple University, told college students - many of whom are drowning in debt - that she's the candidate to address their needs.

Hillary Clinton told students that she is the candidate to speak to their needs, such as student debt levels. Slideshow icon SLIDESHOW
Clinton offers Temple students debt relief, urges them to vote

Clinton stresses 'resolve' on terror; Trump promises to get 'tough'
Trump tax plan may cost $1.5 trillion more than he says
Politicos say they'll use Uber to offer 'free rides' to the polls Election Day
"No one will work harder to make your life better," Clinton said, promising to give young people a say in White House decision-making.

Clinton told the crowd of 300 at Mitten Hall that she has a plan that would offer debt-free public college for everyone, apprentice programs for those who opt to not go to college, and high-quality child care for every family. The pitch was part of her campaign's push to get millennials involved and committed to voting for her in November.
Of course, that is just what Trump does when he promises a new entitlement to new mothers to give them maternity leave. It's off-putting for each of them and any other politicians to basically bribe voters using taxpayer funds.

Obama went to the United Nations yesterday to explain how the world is not living up to his expectations. Russia just isn't acting in its own best interests. Can't Putin understand that? The WSJ writes,
“In a world that left the age of empire behind, we see Russia attempting to recover lost glory through force,” Mr. Obama scolded. “If Russia continues to interfere in the affairs of its neighbors, it may be popular at home, it may fuel nationalist fervor for a time, but over time it is also going to diminish its stature and make its borders less secure.”

This is another expression of Mr. Obama’s now familiar progressive faith that the world’s bad guys are doomed to fail because, well, they are doomed to fail.

Meanwhile, in the real world, U.S. officials were telling the press Tuesday that U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russian jets conducted the strike that targeted a humanitarian aid convoy in Syria on Monday. This is the same Russia that Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been beseeching to stop aiding Bashar Assad as he seeks to crush his domestic opposition.
And now this latest ceasefire that Kerry struck with Russia has broken down. And, surprise, surprise, the ceasefire involved us giving up something to get nothing.
Mr. Kerry, another man of eternal progressive hope, had struck his latest cease-fire with Russia earlier this month. The deal includes sharing intelligence and targeting information with the Russian military, despite objections from the Pentagon. American officers worry that the info-sharing will give Russia’s military—which is testing NATO in Europe—insight into U.S. capabilities.

Mr. Assad and the Russians don’t appear to be honoring their cease-fire commitments, which was predictable given that they have most of the military leverage. Mr. Putin is busy establishing facts on the ground, while Mr. Obama lectures at Turtle Bay.
In addition to explaining to Russia the mistakes they're making, he also couldn't resist one last opportunity to knock the U.S. and others.
Yes, in America, there is too much money in politics; too much entrenched partisanship; too little participation by citizens, in part because of a patchwork of laws that makes it harder to vote. In Europe, a well-intentioned Brussels often became too isolated from the normal push and pull of national politics. Too often, in capitals, decision-makers have forgotten that democracy needs to be driven by civic engagement from the bottom up, not governance by experts from the top down. And so these are real problems, and as leaders of democratic governments make the case for democracy abroad, we better strive harder to set a better example at home.
So says the guy who rammed Obamacare down the nation's throat after protests around the country demonstrated that people didn't want that sort of top-down decision making. Jim Geraghty writes,
Yes, we know, America is flawed. But could our own president go out and give a speech that didn’t discuss our national flaws for once? Is it too much to ask?

Obama has been going around the world with humility and blunt honesty, even harsh criticism, of his own country for nearly eight years now. Has it diffused anti-Americanism? Has it placated those who hate the United States? Has it denied oxygen to vehement anti-American jihadism? Has all of this self-flagellation really helped us? Or have America’s critics mostly just turned around and said, “See, even Barack Obama admits…”

Yes, we know, Mr. President. We stink. We’ve made lots of mistakes. Everything was terrible until you arrived. “In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world.” “I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time.” “All too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight.” “Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors.” Chrisians need to get off their high horse because of the Crusades. Your wife wasn’t proud of this country in her adult life until 2008. On and on and on…

It’s pretty insufferable for the guy who raised a billion dollars for his reelection campaign to lament “too much money in politics,” and for President “I won” to lament the entrenched partisanship. In this speech, Obama denounced, “religious fundamentalism; the politics of ethnicity, or tribe, or sect; aggressive nationalism; a crude populism — sometimes from the far left, but more often from the far right,” which was widely interpreted as a slam of Donald Trump.

So Obama takes a shot at the opposition party and follows it up by lamenting “entrenched partisanship.”

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Michael Gerson points to Obamacare as a drag on the Democrats this year even more than it has been previously. And Donald Trump may be the beneficiary.
If Trump succeeds in essentially turning out the midterm electorate in a presidential year — whiter, older, angrier — the main motivating issue may be the restriction of immigration. But the general atmosphere of contempt for government that helps Trump — of disdain for the weakness and incompetence of the political class — is due to the Affordable Care Act.

More than six years after becoming law, the proudest accomplishment of the Obama years is a political burden for Democrats. A recent Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans disapprove of Obamacare. The larger concern for Clinton and her party comes deeper in the numbers. Only 18 percent of Americans believe the Affordable Care Act has helped their families; 80 percent say it is has hurt or had no effect. A higher proportion of Americans believe the federal government was behind the 9/11 attacks than believe it has helped them through Obamacare.
Wow. 18% think it has helped their families.

Mark Hemingway explores how the MSM is covering up Sidney Blumenthal's role in pushing the Obama birtherism story back in 2008.
Ultimately there's no paper trail that establishes Blumenthal was pushing the birther rumor explicitly. It's [ former Washington bureau chief for McClatchy] Asher's word against Blumenthal's.

Except that Blumenthal's word is worthless, and there are absolutely no comparable reasons to doubt Asher. Blumenthal is an entirely discreditable political operative. In 2008, other Democrats reported in 2008 that Blumenthal was spreading rumors of similar dubiousness as the birther accusations regularly. "They aren't being emailed out from some fringe right-wing group that somehow managed to get my email address," wrote Occidental professor Peter Dreier in 2008. "Instead, it is Sidney Blumenthal who, on a regular basis, methodically dispatches these email mudballs to an influential list of opinion shapers — including journalists, former Clinton administration officials, academics, policy entrepreneurs, and think tankers."

And yet, the media have been awfully quick to ride to Blumenthal's defense, as well as buy the Clinton campaign spin. According to this remarkably defensive report from CNN, Blumenthal's smears of Obama can't be pinned on Clinton because "some 2008 staffers told CNN that Blumenthal was not officially part of the Clinton campaign, and a CNN check of Federal Election Commission records shows no payment to Blumenthal from the campaign." The Los Angeles Times says, "There is no evidence that Clinton or her campaign ever raised that question, and her campaign fired one aide in Iowa who did circulate an email raising the issue." According to McClatchy, "The Clinton campaign has denied any role in the birther conspiracy." Politico inches toward something more definitive, reporting Blumenthal was "playing an informal advisory role during the 2008 campaign."

The problem here is that Blumenthal seemed to think his own role with the campaign was something more definitive. According to Blumenthal, it even came with the title "senior adviser." That doesn't seem terribly informal.
This doesn't quite fit in with Peter Beinart's applause for what he calls the "death of 'he said, she said' journalism." He's very happy that journalists have given up reporting what one side said in a controversy and then how the other side answered it. He prefers that journalists now put their thumb on the scale to say who is really telling the truth. That's what the MSM has done with Blumenthal's denials that he was pushing the birther story. They're accepting his denial and acting like we just have to decide whom to believe: McClatchy's former Washington bureau chief who has no reason to lie or Sidney Blumenthal who has a history of sleazy dealings and every reason to lie. So I guess that the "death of 'he said, she said' journalism" only kicks in when it's time to challenge a Republican.

This abandonment of journalistic neutrality is a long way from Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings saying that they wouldn't warn American soldiers if they knew that there was going to be an ambush in which Americans would die. Read through James Fallows' description of Wallace and Jennings' answers and a Marine's angry response as an explanation of "Why We Hate the Media."

Look back at five times that Hillary in 2008 tried to "otherize" Obama. It was definitely something that they were trying to do back then.

Scott Walker's plan in Wisconsin to require able-bodied citizens to work in order to get food benefits is working.
Wisconsin has announced that significant reforms of its statewide food benefits program have led to nearly 15,000 gaining meaningful employment, joining a national trend toward putting more food stamp recipients to work.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker led a campaign to require able-bodied adults without dependents who participate in FoodShare, the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to work at least 80 hours a month or risk limits to their benefits beginning in April 2015.

The existing FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program was redesigned last year to help participants meet the federally mandated criteria while providing them free resources they need to enter the job market so that they can be weaned off government benefits.

Fifteen months after the program's approximately $60 million recreation, Walker announced that Wisconsin Department of Health Services data shows that 14,400 FSET participants, 38 percent of those eligible, have found employment, averaging $11.99 per hour and working a little over 32 hours a week, which is significantly more than the state's minimum wage and the minimum requirement to keep food benefits.
Amazing what adding in a work requirement will do. Now if we could only apply this on the federal level. Wisconsin led the way with welfare reform in the 1990s and they can do it again with reform of food benefits programs.

Salena Zito, who has been doing some of the most interesting reporting on the election has an article exploring why lifelong Democrats in western Pennsylvania are voting for Trump. It's not quite the story we've been hearing about for why people support Trump. These are mostly employed people who have been Democrats all their lives as have their parents and grandparents. Their concerns are about their communities and what they worry might happen to them.
Democrats in these small communities want to hold on to their way of life; they feel their communities have as much value as those of their more-cosmopolitan Democratic cousins, and they cannot reconcile themselves to a national Democratic Party that they feel is working against them. They are the voters whose simple motivation to vote outside of the party they were born into has fallen under the radar of the national press and the polls.
Part of their concerns are that they work in the energy industry and they feel that the Democrats are hostile to the coal and oil industries.
“Sheik” Shannon, 55, a 17-year employee at the company, believes the political class fundamentally misunderstands what this election cycle is all about. “They think it is the celebrity of Trump. It’s not. They think we’ve all gone mad. We’ve not,” he said, emphasizing each sentence with passion. “Communities like where I live do not need to shutter and die. We lead solid, honest lives, we work hard, we play hard, we pray hard … we love where we are from, and we feel a duty to make sure that it is here for generations.”
And many of these people would not pass the screen in polls as likely voters.
Paul Sracic, a Youngstown State University political scientist, believes there are two categories of voters rallying to support Trump. “First, there are people who don’t normally vote,” he said. “Nearly half the voting-age population was either not registered to vote, or was registered and decided not to vote in 2012. And if even 10 percent of that group was to show up and vote this year, it could easily change the outcome in the important swing states.”

Sracic—who frankly admits he obsesses over opinion polls—wonders whether these voters are even represented in the endless presidential surveys: “If people aren’t registered voters, they won’t be picked up by most polls. If they are registered voters but don’t normally vote, they may be eliminated by ‘likely voter’ screens pollsters use.”
Zito names 10 key counties in Pennsylvania which she's watching to see if the results tally with what she has found with her reporting. I was traveling this summer through a lot of this region as we toured Gettysburg and then drove to southwestern Pennsylvania to see Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Falling Water. Then we spent a few days in Pittsburgh and then drove up to Niagara Falls and then traveled through the Finger Lakes of NY to Hyde Park. A lot of this driving took us on two-lane roads through small towns instead of on the interstate. And we were struck by how many Trump signs we saw, even in the summer before the election. It's quite a different scene than from what I see here in Raleigh. I don't spend time in small-town America as Zito just did, but her article did give me some insights into how people are thinking there. I'm not sure how Trump would actually help them, but they seem to believe that he has their backs.

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Nate Cohn writes of an interesting experiment about polling that he conducted. He gave four pollsters the same raw data of a poll of likely Florida voters. After analyzing the same data they came up with four different results.
Well, well, well. Look at that. A net five-point difference between the five measures, including our own, even though all are based on identical data. Remember: There are no sampling differences in this exercise. Everyone is coming up with a number based on the same interviews.

Their answers shouldn't be interpreted as an indication of what they would have found if they had conducted their own survey. They all would have designed the survey at least a little differently – some almost entirely differently.

But their answers illustrate just a few of the different ways that pollsters can handle the same data – and how those choices can affect the result.

So what’s going on? The pollsters made different decisions in adjusting the sample and identifying likely voters. The result was four different electorates, and four different results.
The pollsters had to make decisions about how to adjust the sample to make it representative. They had to define likely voters. As Cohn writes, these are good pollsters, but they made different decisions.
• You can see why “herding,” the phenomenon in which pollsters make decisions that bring them close to expectations, can be such a problem. There really is a lot of flexibility for pollsters to make choices that generate a fundamentally different result. And I get it: If our result had come back as “Clinton +10,” I would have dreaded having to publish it.

• You can see why we say it’s best to average polls, and to stop fretting so much about single polls.
Polling is more of an art than a science despite its pretense at precision. And, to tell the truth, no one really has a great grasp on what the turnout will look like in this election. He's right about looking at the average of polls, but for some states there just hasn't been that much polling and it's been conducted over several weeks so it's hard to grasp where the race is at this point. We might just have to wait until election night, the old-fashioned way.

Over at Huffington Post, they've done a premature finger-pointing analysis to explain why Hillary lost just so they're ready in case she does indeed lose.
If Donald Trump does sack the fortress, no one who lost the battle will want to admit it was Hillary Clinton’s fault. It will have had nothing to do with, say, “transparency” or calling bearded villagers “deplorables” or the Iraq War vote or the simple fact that middle-of-the-road Clintonism ran out of gas as a public philosophy.

No, other individuals, groups and forces will have to be blamed. In fact, they already are, pre-emptively. If Trump wins, we’re all going to be too busy moving to Canada to read the postmortems (or write them), so we offer them to you now:
From first to ninth, they rank their targets of blame: the media, the Russians, millennials, Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, sexists, Obama's people, James Comey, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC. Hmmm. How about the Democratic Party rolling over and supinely nominating one of the worst and most dishonest politicians of the modern era? It's not as if they didn't know the type of person she was before the primaries started. Do you think Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren would be facing the same unfavorable numbers that Hillary is?

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If you're like me, you're still having dreams of having to take a final exam in a class you never attended. For me, it's always a math class. I don't know why since I really haven't taken a math class since high school. Sometimes, I have a variant where I have to teach a class in a subject I'm totally unprepared for. Again, it's math. And I'm always left thinking in my dream - why did I sign up for this? Why didn't I prepare for this - I always prepared for classes in school and, as a teacher, I usually prepare all summer and am ready weeks in advance. Well, it's nice to know that these dreams are very common.
Gemma Marangoni Ainslie, an Austin psychoanalyst, agrees. The final exam, she says, “is likely representative of an occasion when the dreamer feels he or she will be tested or measured, and the anxiety is about not measuring up. The dreamer’s task in ‘awake life’ is to translate the final exam to a situation he or she is facing that stirs up concerns about potential failure.”

But why school? Why don’t we dream about current pressures — grant proposals that are due, impending legal briefs or oral arguments, or newspaper deadlines?

“Emotional memories and impressions made during high-stress experiences are particularly strong, and are further strengthened each time they are recalled and become the place the brain goes when the emotion is evoked,” Willis wrote in an email. “Since each new stress in the current day is ‘new,’ there is not a strong memory circuit that would hook to it in a dream. But there is that strong neural network of previous, similar ‘achievement’ stress. Since tests are the highest stressors. . . [it] makes sense as the ‘go-to’ memory when stressed about something equally high stakes in the ‘now.’ ’’