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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cruising the Web

Sean Davis has 13 foreign policy questions for Hillary Clinton. I'd like to see her get asked these sorts of questions, but don't have any faith that the media will do their job any more for Hillary than they did for Obama. Davis focuses in on the WSJ story that Hillary's tax-exempt foundation is accepting contributions from foreign governments. Just think of the judgment that that demonstrates about the Clintons. Somehow, they think it's just dandy for an organization bearing her name to get donations from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Oman plus foreign lobbying groups.
United Arab Emirates, a first-time donor, gave between $1 million and $5 million in 2014, and the German government—which also hadn’t previously given—contributed between $100,000 and $250,000.

A previous donor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has given between $10 million and $25 million since the foundation was created in 1999. Part of that came in 2014, although the database doesn’t specify how much.

The Australian government has given between $5 million and $10 million, at least part of which came in 2014. It also gave in 2013, when its donations fell in the same range.

Qatar’s government committee preparing for the 2022 soccer World Cup gave between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014. Qatar’s government had previously donated between $1 million and $5 million.

Oman, which had made a donation previously, gave an undisclosed amount in 2014. Over time, Oman has given the foundation between $1 million and $5 million. Prior to last year, its donations fell in the same range.
The Clinton fans will try to pretend that this is just fine because their foundation does such marvelous work. Well,, mostly they hold international conferences. And no one believes that these foreign governments are donating money out of their charitable impulses. It's all about buying influence. And the Clintons have demonstrated that they can be bought. Of course, it's of a piece with a family that rented out the Lincoln bedroom and received donations from overseas donors. And Bill continued to be cozy with the Chinese after he left office. You'd think that with that background and those questions about foreign donors trying to buy influence that the Clintons would try to be more careful, but they seem to have a blind spot over anything that might inhibit their almighty fundraising.

Josh Kraushaar explains how Obama actually just changed his party, not the country.
As a presidential candidate, President Obama expressed his desire to "change the trajectory of America" along the lines of Ronald Reagan, rebuking the legacy of Bill Clinton's pragmatic presidency in the process. Now that his own presidency is winding down, Obama is finding that his main legacy is only half-achieved. He has indeed transformed the Democratic party to his liking, but failed to get anyone else to follow suit.

At the same time, there's no doubt he's successfully pushed Democrats to adopt his favored policies with minimal dissent—and that will have lasting consequences for many elections to come. Despite uneven personal relations with his own party in Congress, there have been very few instances when his party's members have split from his governing course, even on issues where the politics would dictate they should....

President Obama's push for a progressive legacy has cost him control of Congress, losing dozens of moderate Democrats whose support would be valuable in getting his agenda passed. What's underplayed is the other side of the equation—how many remaining Congressional Democrats have been reliably following the president's lead. As long as the president is in office, he will continue to set the direction for his party. But after he's out of office, the largely-liberal group of Democrats remaining will have to decide whether to steer their own course, or maintain their role in Obama's image.

Those are the consequences of pushing through an agenda without compromising and without winning public support. Something's going to give, eventually.

Deroy Murdock tests out the State Department's Marie Harf's thesis about how poverty leads to terrorism by looking to see whether the poorest countries in the world have more terrorism.
The Harf Hypothesis would suggest that Earth’s ten most terrorized nations would be the ten poorest on the planet — or at least, these two lists largely should overlap.

In fact, only Somalia appears on both rankings.

So, let’s give Team Obama this: Their theory is 10 percent correct. This means that the Harf Hypothesis is only 90 percent ridiculous.

Continue the laughter!

Oh, the poor dears:
Ex-members of Congress who have moved to K Street are bristling at a pair of bipartisan bills seeking to strip them of their taxpayer-funded federal pensions....

One of the bills, introduced by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), would make any former member or former congressional staffer who becomes a registered lobbyist ineligible for certain federal benefits, including pensions.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) penned the Revolving Door Pension Prevention Act, which would ban the collection of benefits only if a former member makes $1 million or more from providing services as a lobbyist.

Neither has picked up a co-sponsor to date.

After leaving Capitol Hill, the amount of a congressional pension varies based upon how many years the lawmaker served and may not exceed 80 percent of his or her final year’s salary, among other stipulations.

Watchdogs have long decried the “revolving door” between the government and the advocacy world, which they say undermines public service by allowing individuals to cash out and use their Rolodex in the private sector.

Jobs at lobby firms can pay in the upper-six-figures for former members, but trade associations sometimes offer higher salaries.
Sounds like a great idea. Or at least maybe put a limmit that they wouldn't receive their pension for a period of time after they leave office and go to K Street.

Democrats are bracing for another Obamacare backlash. As well they should Over and over.

Andrew McCarthy notes that Eric Holder said the other day that w'ere "not in a time of war." However, Holder has used us being in a state of war as a legal justification for ordering aerial attacks and targeted killings abroad.
If Holder no longer believes the nation is at war, is he saying this legal advice he gave to the president, which applies the law of war on the assumption that the nation is at war, no longer applies? And if that is the case, what is the attorney general’s legal justification for the president’s continued use of lethal force?

Blame the South for failure of the emerging Democratic majority to emerge.

Holman Jenkins examines the corruption of the environmentalist movement and its connection to the downfall of Oregon's governor.
In the end, the Kitzhaber-Hayes conflict-of-interest scandal may prove small potatoes (organic), but a general point needs to be made. In our republican system of government, we don’t assume virtue. We insist on checks and balances. We require competitive bidding and similarly transparent procedures to reduce discretion and the chances of corruption. We subject regulations to cost-benefit analysis to make sure the public is really being served.

In Kitzhaber World, there is no need for any of this—because everyone involved is a credentialed environmentalist! It doesn’t matter if his fiancĂ©e was lobbying for private environmental clients, Mr. Kitzhaber said, because all are on the same team pursuing the same selfless goals....

Only in the decades after the 1970s and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency has the cause become progressively unlinked from demonstrable human benefits here and now, in favor of a more eschatological outlook. Mr. Obama advances his environmental claims in the cadences of a preacher invoking the miracles of Moses, describing his own advent in biblical terms as the “moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

And look at the swelling corps of handout-seeking billionaires and corporations who have perfected “green” self-interest. Not just wind and solar and ethanol impresarios, but even one of the world’s biggest oil companies, BP , pronounced itself “beyond petroleum” in the 1990s while expanding its petroleum footprint by acquiring Amoco and Atlantic Richfield.

This is how absurd college sensitivity to charges of rape have become.
A student at a liberal-arts school in Oregon was reportedly banned from going anywhere on campus that a fellow student would be — because he looked like the person who had raped her, according to Harvard Law professor Janet Halley.

In a piece for Harvard Law Review, Halley wrote that she had “recently assisted” a student who had been “ordered to stay away from a fellow student (cutting him off from his housing, his campus job, and educational opportunity) — all because he reminded her of the man who had raped her months before and thousands of miles away.”

The accused also had to endure a “month-long investigation into all his campus relationships, seeking information about his possible sexual misconduct in them,” which she called an “immense invasion of his and his friends’ privacy.”

And (believe it or not!) it gets worse. Even after this invasive investigation completely cleared him of any wrongdoing, he still wasn’t allowed to go anywhere where the student would be without risking punishment from the school.

“The stay-away order remained in place, and was so broadly drawn up that he was at constant risk of violating it and coming under discipline for that,” the piece continues.

According to Halley, the only way the accused student eventually learned of the source of the complaint against him at all was “by accident and off-hand.”

It’s devastating to think of a student being unable to walk around campus without having to risk being traumatized by reminders of her rape. But restricting a totally innocent student from walking around campus because he looks like the person who raped her is obviously unacceptable.
What sort of administrator could even contemplate such idiocy and unjust treatment of a totally innocent student?

Speaking of idiocy, Charles C. W. Cooke has this story.
I did break the law — to my shock,” Gordon Van Gilder tells me over the phone. He sighs. “Legally, they’re right.”

The “they” in this equation is the state of New Jersey. The “I” is Van Gilder, a 72-year-old retired schoolteacher from the town of Millville. And that “law-breaking”? Well, that could be extremely costly indeed. For transporting a 300-year-old flintlock pistol without a concealed-carry license, Van Gilder has been charged with a second-degree felony — specifically, with “unlawful possession of a handgun” — and he is facing a maximum of ten years in state prison. This, he suggests, is “unbelievable.”

Van Gilder’s ordeal began last November, when the car he was traveling in was pulled over by police. At the time, he and a friend were on their way back from a meeting with an antique dealer. “I’m very interested in the 18th century, both here and in Britain,” he tells me over the phone. “I’ve collected a lot of 18th-century items. I have some things from the Continental Army, including some personal documents — letters and so on. But I’m more interested in the things they made. My house is full of 18th-century furniture. I have little spoons, glassware. It’s an obsession of mine. I’m not a gun collector per se, but I think they’re interesting.”
The gun in question, Van Gilder says, “was probably made about 1765 in Belgium — for the British market.” A dealer found it in Pennsylvania, and held it for him. “I paid $800 for it. It’s a boxlock pistol, so there’s no hammer. It’s beautiful.”

Having picked the gun up, Van Gilder and his friend first went to lunch, and then they headed home. “My friend was driving because my arm is shot,” Van Gilder recalls. On the way home, the pair were pulled over by a local sheriff. According to Van Gilder, the detaining officer told him that he wanted to search the car, and threatened him with dogs if he refused. “I didn’t mind,” he tells me, but he wanted to make sure that the officer knew that there was a flintlock pistol in the glove compartment, and that he had just purchased it. “Oh, man,” Gilder says. “Immediately, he wanted to arrest me. But when he called the undersheriff, he was told, ‘No, it’s a 250-year-old pistol; let him go.’”

The officer did as he was told, and gave the pistol back. The next morning, however, he came back — “with three cars and three or four sheriffs.” Van Gilders says, “He told me, ‘I should have arrested you last night.’” So he did. “They led me away in handcuffs” and, at the station, “chained me by my hands and feet to a cold stainless-steel bench.”

....The federal government, Nappen notes, “doesn’t even consider this gun a weapon.” (By the terms of the 1968 Gun Control Act, few firearms manufactured prior to 1898 are subject to federal law.) “This is an original flintlock that predates the founding of the country, and was made before New Jersey’s laws were passed. But they’re treating it the same as if it were a .44 Magnum.” The idea that he was breaking a law, Nappen concludes, “never crossed Van Gilder’s mind. It’s an antique. He had no intention of shooting it. It wasn’t loaded. There was no flint, no powder, and no ball.”

Of late, New Jersey seems to have been working overtime to solidify its reputation as the silliest state in the union. Last year, wild-eyed prosecutors in Atlantic County attempted to put a single mother of two in prison for ten years after she crossed the border from Pennsylvania in possession of a concealed weapon and a carry license that she thought was accepted nationally. After a public outcry and a good deal of pressure from the media, that case was all but dropped. Later, the prosecution rules were altered, too. But the victory was undoubtedly bittersweet for the woman at the center: 27-year-old Shaneen Allen, who had no criminal record and no intention of breaking the law, and who nevertheless spent six months in fear of losing her liberty, her livelihood, and her children.

Putting to one side the myriad problems with New Jersey’s preposterously illiberal laws, Allen’s ordeal was so perplexing because it need never have been brought about in the first instance. In her case — as, now, in Van Gilder’s — the prosecuting authorities had absolute discretion. Then, as now, they did not use it.
The lack of common sense and discretion seem to be a continuing problem in this country when elementary school students are suspended for drawing a picture of a gun or brining a toy gun to school. Now it extends to police departments.

This is the next step for selfies: 3-D selfies.

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