Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cruising the Web

Gee, one of the most difficult jobs out there must be to be Donald Sterling's PR adviser. If there is someone with that challenge must be face-palming right now and thinking, "when I was preparing Donald to go on Anderson Cooper, why didn't I think to warn him that he shouldn't go and say that Magic Johnson is not a good example for the children of Los Angeles because he has AIDS?" Someone who had a mistress 50 years younger than he is whom he brought to games while spouting racist rants in private isn't in a position to say who is and isn't a good role model. And attacking one of the most beloved people ever in NBA history who has built businesses in minority communities probably wasn't on any to-do list for Sterling's PR strategy.

Michael Totten has a must-read story about what life in Cuba is really like. And it's nothing like what all those pro-Castro, leftist tourists want to believe. And it's a total reverse of what life in Cuba was like before Fidel came to power. Here is an excerpt.
e maximum wage is just the beginning. Not only are most Cubans not allowed to have money; they’re hardly allowed to have things. The police expend extraordinary manpower ensuring that everyone required to live miserably at the bottom actually does live miserably at the bottom. Dissident blogger and author Yoani Sánchez describes the harassment sarcastically in her book Havana Real: “Buses are stopped in the middle of the street and bags inspected to see if we are carrying some cheese, a lobster, or some dangerous shrimp hidden among our personal belongings.” Perhaps the saddest symptom of Cuba’s state-enforced poverty is the prostitution epidemic—a problem the government officially denies and even forbids foreign journalists based in Havana to mention. Some Cuban prostitutes are professionals, but many are average women—wives, girlfriends, sisters, mothers—who solicit johns once or twice a year for a little extra money to make ends meet.

The government defends its maximum wage by arguing that life’s necessities are either free or so deeply subsidized in Cuba that citizens don’t need very much money. (Che Guevara and his sophomoric hangers-on hoped to rid Cuba of money entirely, but couldn’t quite pull it off.) The free and subsidized goods and services, though, are as dismal as everything else on the island. Citizens who take public transportation to work—which includes almost everyone, since Cuba hardly has any cars—must wait in lines for up to two hours each way to get on a bus. And commuters must pay for their ride out of their $20 a month. At least commuter buses are cheap. By contrast, a one-way ticket to the other side of the island costs several months’ pay; a round-trip costs almost an annual salary.

As for the free health care, patients have to bring their own medicine, their own bedsheets, and even their own iodine to the hospital. Most of these items are available only on the illegal black market, moreover, and must be paid for in hard currency—and sometimes they’re not available at all. Cuba has sent so many doctors abroad—especially to Venezuela, in exchange for oil—that the island is now facing a personnel shortage. “I don’t want to say there are no doctors left,” says an American man who married a Cuban woman and has been back dozens of times, “but the island is now almost empty. I saw a banner once, hanging from somebody’s balcony, that said, DO I NEED TO GO TO VENEZUELA FOR MY HEADACHE?”

Housing is free, too, but so what? Americans can get houses in abandoned parts of Detroit for only $500—which makes them practically free—but no one wants to live in a crumbling house in a gone-to-the-weeds neighborhood. I saw adequate housing in the Cuban countryside, but almost everyone in Havana lives in a Detroit-style wreck, with caved-in roofs, peeling paint, and doors hanging on their hinges at odd angles.
Jim Geraghty has fun with the House Democrats with their dithering over whether or not to join the House special committee investigating the attack in Benghazi.
Still, with or without Democrats, the House panel faces the steepest of uphill climbs because it’s trying to reintroduce a concept that this administration rejects on a cellular level: accountability. This is the administration where Kathleen Sebelius stays on the job after she blind-sides the president on the condition of Healthcare.gov, IRS employees retire early and go on paid administrative leave, and the four State Department officials most directly responsible for not acting on Ambassador Chris Stevens’ warnings were put on paid administrative leave. For a while. Then they were reinstated. This is an administration where it is commonplace for Cabinet secretaries and other high-profile officials to conduct official business on “alternative” e-mail accounts that somehow never get included in responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. This administration collectively shrugs when they learn that the president spent enormous political capital – and $10.5 billion in taxpayer money – to save a car company that made cars that killed people if their key chains were too heavy. (links in original)
Yeah, Democrats don't really seem to care about accountability.

Isaac Chotiner at the New Republic is not impressed with the supposed authenticity in the anodyne clichés in the excerpts released to the press. And Glenn Thrush of Politico remembers the Hillary he saw during the 2008 nomination fight. She is not a nice person.
Clinton’s campaign disintegrated almost as precipitously—especially after her devastating loss in the Iowa caucuses, which the candidate and her staff blamed partly on a press corps they believed to be in the bag for Barack Obama. The rage was intense, and intensely self-defeating.

Around that time,I was chatting with a source in Clinton’s campaign headquarters who had retreated to a stairwell with his BlackBerry when his boss stormed through the door and shouted, “Who are you talking to?” The next thing I heard was the thunk-thunk-thunk as the phone bounced down the concrete steps.
“Call you right back!” the official offered gamely, after retrieving his battered device.
But will the media's familiarity with Clinton's intense rage against them affect their proclivity to pump up liberal candidates against Republicans? Oh, stop rolling your eyes, dear readers!

Meanwhile Lucia Graves of the National Journal warns of "the three B's haunting Hillary Clinton." They are: Benghazi, Boeing, and Boko Haram. But hey, she traveled to a lot of countries - surely that trumps anything else.

Check out the difference between California and Texas in one chart. Since 2011, there have been more housing starts in the city of Houston than in the entire state of California.

Here's some helpful advice from Rio de Janeiro's police for tourists traveling to Brazil for the World Cup.
So Rio police have compiled a list of tips on navigating the city’s violence, including asking tourists to refrain from screaming if someone robs them.
“Do not react, scream or argue,” says the brochure, which will be disseminated at Brazilian embassies and other consulates, according to the BBC. Police warn tourists against flaunting valuables to check and make sure no one’s following them. Mario Leite, the director of World Cup security in Sao Paulo says “tourists come mainly from Europe and the United States, where they do not see this crime very often. … There is no use crying over spilt milk.”

Nevada reporter Jon Ralston ponders how Harry Reid will say just about anything, no matter how clearly false, in order to help Democrats demonize their opponents. He says what other Democrats won't say because they might have some qualms about telling lies, but they're happy to allow their leader rant on.

Ken Adelman, arms control director for Ronald Reagan, remembers what went on at Reykjavik when Reagan met Gorbachev and the role of the much-derided SDI proposal in undermining the Soviet Union. He concludes,
Pushing Soviet reforms to the brink of disaster, and over the edge, was the upshot of Reagan’s commitment to SDI. It functioned not as the cause of Soviet reforms, but as an accelerator of them—and, even more, as a stress accelerator, prompting major reactions in an already stressed system. Simply put: SDI was the straw that broke the Communist camel’s back.

Even British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came around to realizing this. During her time in office, she insisted that Reagan’s SDI scheme was undermining nuclear deterrence and undercutting Western security. I was with Reagan and Thatcher several times when she—as her critics were wont to phrase it—“hand-bagged” his aides (but never him) on the dangers of SDI. But in her memoirs, The Downing Street Years, Thatcher, not one to admit to many errors, concedes that because Gorbachev was “so alarmed” by SDI, “it was to prove central to the West’s victory in the Cold War.” “Looking back,” she writes, “It is now clear to me that Ronald Reagan’s original decision on SDI was the single most important of his presidency.”

Its critics would claim that none of this—not Reykjavik, not SDI, not Reagan himself—had anything to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union. This view has some initial appeal: After the stagnation of the Brezhnev era and serial deaths of several Soviet leaders, the U.S.S.R. was in sad shape. Rotten to the core, their argument goes, it simply had to collapse. It is a Marxian approach—one that takes real people out of history.
But Reagan and Gorbachev never thought of themselves as corks bobbing on the Spenglerian tide of history. They never thought that events were being propelled toward a predetermined shore. Both presumed that they were shaping history. And I believe they were.

SDI did not finish off the Soviet Union. Gorbachev and his colleagues did. They could have shrugged it off, gone about reforms more sensibly or even abandoned them, Brezhnev-like. But they didn’t.

Heather MacDonald explains how the Supreme Court has undercut is own ruling that colleges can design admission standards to benefit minorities in order to achieve diversity.
The threshold question for the political-process doctrine is whether a “‘racial’ issue” is involved, which the Washington v. Seattle court defined as one that “inures primarily to the benefit of the minority.” BAMN therefore had to assert that admissions preferences primarily benefited minorities in order to argue that the question of whether to use them was unconstitutionally taken to voters statewide, rather than remaining before the university’s Board of Regents.

But the Supreme Court’s previous justification for admissions preferences under the “diversity” rationale is that they benefit mostly the white majority, whose members would otherwise allegedly be clueless about how to talk to a black person. In fact, if preferences were designed primarily to benefit minorities, they would be unconstitutional under Supreme Court jurisprudence, as Justice Scalia pointed out in his concurring opinion in Schuette. Proposal 2 banned gender preferences as well, thus undercutting the conceit that it constituted an attack by the majority on the political participation rights of minorities—since females are the majority.

Most of the justices ignored these complications. But Justice Kennedy, writing the controlling plurality opinion (joined by Justices Roberts and Alito), noticed something in the political-process doctrine that is even more lethal to the Court’s preference jurisprudence. By requiring courts to determine whether a policy is a “racial issue,” the doctrine makes courts stereotype minorities, Kennedy wrote. The “racial issue” test presumes that all minorities share the same interests and same points of view, he said. But “it cannot be entertained as a serious proposition that all individuals of the same race think alike.”

Uh-oh. There goes the diversity rationale down the drain.