Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Cruising the Web

Byron York notices that Mary Landrieu based a lot of her argument for reelection on all the pork she could bring and has brought to Louisiana. And that didn't work. Perhaps, we're starting to move beyond incumbents being able to win votes based on all the goodies they can bring home.
If federal dollars could buy a Senate seat, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu would have been celebrating re-election rather than conceding defeat Saturday night.

Much has been written about the national Democratic Party's decision to abandon Landrieu in her runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. There's been a lot of talk about Landrieu's futile struggle to distance herself from President Obama. And her lonely role as a disappearing southern Democrat.

But there's been less attention paid to something that was absolutely central to Landrieu's re-election bid: Her effort to shower Louisiana in election-year federal largesse. As polls showed her in a difficult race, Landrieu tossed taxpayer dollars right and left, looking to buy enough support to get herself over the finish line one more time.

Landrieu's fundamental argument for her re-election was that she "delivers" for Louisiana. Everybody knew what that meant. And in case they didn't, month after month, Landrieu's Senate website announced the awarding of new federal grants to her constituents.
With Landrieu's loss, we can now say that half of the senators who voted for Obamacare will no longer be part of the new Senate. Sixteen of those Democrats have been replaced by Republicans. Fourteen are no longer in the Senate and were replaced by Democrats.

Remember all those elite media people who told us in 2008 about what a wonderful temperament Barack Obama has in comparison with the very temperamental John McCain. Well, apparently, that is no longer the case as Ann Compton of ABC News now tells us.
The journalist, who retired in August after a 40-year career, revealed to C-SPAN's Brian Lamb: "I have seen in the last year Barack Obama really angry twice. Both were off-the-record times. One, profanity-laced where he thought the press was making too much of scandals that he did not think were scandals.
Oh, gee. If any president shouldn't be complaining about his press coverage, it's Barack Obama.

Politico covers how the Koch Brothers are funding a massive data network that far surpasses what the RNC is putting together. And it sounds like it will rival or surpass what the DNC has.
The Koch brothers and their allies are pumping tens of millions of dollars into a data company that’s developing detailed, state-of-the-art profiles of 250 million Americans, giving the brothers’ political operation all the earmarks of a national party.

The move comes as mainstream Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are trying to reclaim control of the conservative movement from outside groups. The Kochs, however, are continuing to amass all of the campaign tools the Republican National Committee and other party arms use to elect a president.
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The Koch network also has developed in-house expertise in polling, message-testing, fact-checking, advertising, media buying, dial groups and donor maintenance. Add mastery of election law, a corporate-minded aggressiveness and years of patient experimentation — plus seemingly limitless cash — and the Koch operation actually exceeds the RNC’s data operation in many important respects.

Spending more than $50 million in cash over the past four years, i360 links voter information with consumer data purchased from credit bureaus and other vendors. Information from social networks is blended in, along with any interaction the voter may have had with affiliated campaigns and advocacy groups. Then come estimated income, recent addresses, how often a person has voted, and even the brand of car they drive. Another i360 service slices and dices information about TV viewing to help campaigns target ads more precisely and cost efficiently.

GOP campaigns can get less-expensive data through the RNC, but happily pay i360 for its superior profiles. Midterm clients included several of the GOP’s marquee Senate and gubernatorial victors, including Sens.-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Gov.-elect Larry Hogan in Maryland.
This seems like a much better use of money than funding lots of junk mail and spamming phone calls or even TV ads.

Meanwhile, a Democratic group, American Bridge 21st Century, has now released their opposition research on possible GOP candidates for 2016. You can download it here. It's rather generous of them to provide the information for those candidates so they can prepare themselves. And Republican voters has a place for one-stop shopping to figure out which candidate has the fewest weaknesses.

There's Joe Biden admitting an inconvenient truth again.
Over the weekend, Joe Biden, who is still vice president, admitted that talks with Iran over halting its nuclear weapons program have a less than 50% chance of succeeding.

But Biden, who just turned 72 years old, inadvertently admitted the United States' weak bargaining position by expressing fears over calls to stiffen economic sanctions on Iran by congressional Republicans who -- Oh, look! -- take control of both houses of Congress in less than a month.

Speaking at a Brookings Institution forum on U.S.-Israel relations, the vice president attempted the argument that we do not want to get tough with our adversaries for fear they'll walk away. We suggest Biden not go into car sales come 2017.Biden said, ""This is not the time to risk a breakdown when we still have a chance for a breakthrough."
Emily Yoffe has a powerful indictment at Slate Magazine that, in order to address real problems involving sexual assaults and rape of young women on college campuses, the colleges are creating policies that deny civil liberties to the accused young men.
Unfortunately, under the worthy mandate of protecting victims of sexual assault, procedures are being put in place at colleges that presume the guilt of the accused. Colleges, encouraged by federal officials, are instituting solutions to sexual violence against women that abrogate the civil rights of men.
Schools that hold hearings to adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct allow the accuser and the accused to be accompanied by legal counsel. But as Judith Shulevitz noted in the New Republic in October, many schools ban lawyers from speaking to their clients (only notes can be passed). During these proceedings, the two parties are not supposed to question or cross examine each other, a prohibition recommended by the federal government in order to protect the accuser. And by federal requirement, students can be found guilty under the lowest standard of proof: preponderance of the evidence, meaning just a 51 percent certainty is all that’s needed for a finding that can permanently alter the life of the accused.

More than two dozen Harvard Law School professors recently wrote a statement protesting the university’s new rules for handling sexual assault claims. “Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process,” they wrote. The professors note that the new rules call for a Title IX compliance officer who will be in charge of “investigation, prosecution, fact-finding, and appellate review.” Under the new system, there will be no hearing for the accused, and thus no opportunity to question witnesses and mount a defense. Harvard University, the professors wrote, is “jettisoning balance and fairness in the rush to appease certain federal administrative officials.” But to push back against Department of Education edicts means potentially putting a school’s federal funding in jeopardy, and no college, not even Harvard, the country’s richest, is willing to do that.
Some of the outcry todayis based on faulty statistics.
Gillibrand said in announcing the legislation, “We should never accept the fact that women are at a greater risk of sexual assault as soon as they step onto a college campus. But today they are.”

This is one of the frequently made assertions about campus violence, but the evidence to back it up is lacking. Being young does make people more vulnerable to serious violent crime, including sexual assault; according to government statistics those aged 18 to 24 have the highest rates of such victimization. But most studies don’t compare the victimization rates of students to nonstudents of the same age. One recent paper that does make that comparison, “Violence Against College Women” by Callie Marie Rennison and Lynn Addington, compares the crime experienced by college students and their peers who are not in college, using data from the National Crime Victimization Survey. What the researchers found was the opposite of what Gillibrand says about the dangers of campuses: “Non-student females are victims of violence at rates 1.7 times greater than are college females,” the authors wrote, and this greater victimization holds true for sex crimes: “Even if the definition of violence were limited to sexual assaults, these crimes are more pervasive for young adult women who are not in college.” (Links in original)
The accused men are now starting to fight back by filing suits against schools that have had to pay out millions of dollars based on the young men's claims that they themselves were victims of gender discrimination under Title IX. Read the details of the one story that Yoffe tells of the accusation made against one young man at the University of Michigan and you will be horrified. It sounds like the type of experience that could happen to a great many young men in college today.

Yoffe presents some sensible recommendations. One clear change would be to take universities out of the business of adjudicating what are really criminal charges. Universities can provide counselors to help support students who have been victimized, but if the episode involves a criminal violation then the same procedures that would be used with any woman who has been the victim of a sexual assault should be used. Why should this one crime be treated differently if the victim and accused are students than if they were not? Yoffe concludes,
We also need to change the culture of discourse around sexual assault on campuses. To stand up for the rights of the accused is not to attack victims or women. Our colleges, like the rest of our society, must be places where you are innocent until proven guilty. The day after graduation, young men and women will be thrown into a world where there is no Gender-Based Misconduct Office. They will have to live by the rules of society at large. Higher education should ready our students for this reality, not shield them from it.

Chuck Hagel was asked a straightforward question by an Army staff sergeant in Afghanistan.
Given the deteriorated security situation in Iraq, how, if at all does that factor into our current foreign policy in deciding our withdrawal process here in Afghanistan, sir?
Sounds like a good question, right? Read the blather that Hagel produced in answer and your heart will sink about what is to come in Afghanistan.
We help allies all over the world different ways, different situations and different locations. And I think the Iraq-Afghanistan situation is one of those where it’s different. It’s totally different than — I think probably more different than similarities.

But yes, some similar threats: terrorism. Some of the same factors, some of the same organizations that wanted to do everything they can to destroy the United States as well as Western values and Western civilization.

So there are common interests. There are common challenges. But how we work and cooperate with other countries is always — is always a little different. And I think that in this case that’s the case.

So Lena Dunham and her publisher, Random House, have now caved in to a threatened lawsuit for her story of being raped or possibly raped or something by a young conservative man at Oberlin named Barry by finally saying that Barry was just a pseudonym. John Nolte did extensive research to demonstrate that no man existed at Oberlin at the time Dunham was there that fit the description of the man she alleges raped her. Eugene Volokh explains why this makes Dunham and Random House even more open to a successful libel suit from an actual conservative student at Oberlin named Barry. They've now admitted that they knew that the supposedly factual statement about Barry was false yet didn't clarify that in the text of Dunham's book as they did for other people whose names she changed. Glenn Reynolds comments,
As Wilford Brimley’s character said in Absence of Malice, “Wonderful thing, subpeenees.”
Ah, one of my favorite movie scenes

Greg Sargent details the major problem the Democrats are facing if they want to ever win back the House. And they can't blame it all on gerrymandering.
But even if Democrats were to get something approaching neutral maps in these big states, Wasserman estimates, it could result in just a couple more seats in each state — adding up to a total of maybe 10 additional House seats for Democrats. That would obviously help, but it would still be short of the 30-seat edge Republicans currently hold. Democrats would still have to post pretty big victories in the next few cycles to get close to the majority. In short, beyond the problem of redistricting is the even more serious problem (for Democrats) of population distribution.

“If Democrats were to get neutral maps drawn by God in all 50 states, they would still fall well short of winning back the House,” Wasserman concludes. “What Democrats really need is a massive resettlement program.”
Their problem is that their voters are too centered in urban areas and not distributed evenly throughout the country.

Bret Stephens ridicules Hillary Clinton's statement that smart power involves us empathizing with our enemies' perspectives and points of view. He's right. This quote will be the stuff of attack ads in 2016. For example, take her approach to Putin. Sure, George W. Bush was idiotic when he said that he was able to look into Putin's eyes and "get a sense of his soul." Does Hillary come off any more perceptive in her comments?
In April 2005 Vladimir Putin said the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” In 2006 a Russian dissident in London was poisoned by polonium—a nuclear attack in miniature—leading to a breakdown in relations between London and Moscow. In 2008 Russia invaded Georgia. That same year, educational manuals for Russian social-studies teachers took the view that Joseph Stalin was “the most successful Soviet leader ever.”

What about the Great Terror of the 1930s, in which millions of Soviet citizens were killed by Stalin’s henchmen? That, according to the manual, happened because Stalin “did not know who would deal the next blow, and for that reason he attacked every known group and movement.” Commenting on the Terror, Mr. Putin allowed that the killing was terrible “but in other countries worse things happened.”

Such was the man Mrs. Clinton had every reason to “understand” when she arrived at the State Department in 2009. What conclusions was she supposed to draw about someone whose core ambition was to restore the reputation, and the former borders, of the old Soviet Union? That the time had come to clink glasses and announce a reset?
And in contrast, like her boss, President Obama, she didn't see to do much to empathize with Israel.
Here’s another question: If Mrs. Clinton is at least prepared to attempt a show of empathy for the Putins and Khameneis of the world, why so little empathy for American allies? In March 2010 a minor Israeli official announced the approval of some additional construction in a Jerusalem neighborhood, mischaracterized as a “settlement,” when Vice President Joe Biden was in the country. It was an ordinary bureaucratic bungle by the Israeli government.

So what did Mrs. Clinton do? She called Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to yell at him. “I told the Prime Minister that President Obama had viewed the news about East Jerusalem as ‘a personal insult to him, the Vice President, and the United States,’ ” as she recounts in her memoir.
If you watch Hillary give these remarks, this was not an off-the-cuff remark, this is part of her speech. She planned to say that. It is what she believes. This is not an approach to foreign policy that we should continue.