Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cruising the Web

You can tell that Marco Rubio is starting to make waves because Politico has a big piece about how a friend of his from his Florida legislature days, David Rivera, is under investigation for campaign finance corruption in Florida. The two of them even bought a small house together in Tallahassee that has become a major financial loss for both men. This guy Rivera does sound like a sleaze and Rubio is torn between loyalty to his friend and the need to cut all ties to someone with the taint of corruption around him. Rubio also had problems with how he used a state credit card while he was Speaker of the Florida House which he has since paid back. As the Democrats are always fond of saying when there are stories of corruption swirling around one of their candidates - it's all old news. There doesn't seem to be any corruption involved in Rubio's unfortunate purchase of a small house that now can't be sold. The problems concerning Rivera don't seem disqualifying to me unless there is a connection between his former friend's campaign corruption and Rubio.

Hey, if having connections to a corrupt guy and buying house(s) together were disqualifying, then Barack Obama wouldn't be president. And hey, having allowed that corrupt friend who later went to prison contribute money to a politician's campaign didn't seem to hurt Barack Obama when Tony Rezko was the one channeling the money to Barack Obama.
A Politico analysis of campaign finance and court records found Rezko’s fundraising for Obama extended well beyond the confines of the initial list and overlapped with contributions prosecutors plan to highlight in Rezko’s trial in federal court in Chicago.

The review turned up donations previously unnoted by media and Obama’s campaign. And it found a pattern in which, on at least seven occasions, groups of five or more Rezko associates and workers would on the same day write big, often matching checks to Obama’s campaigns, starting with his failed 2000 congressional race.
So I don't expect Rubio's friendship with some guy now in trouble to be too much of a problem. But it's interesting that Politico ran this story just as a new WSJ/NBC poll shows that Rubio tops a poll asking GOP primary voters when asked which candidate they could see themselves supporting. The poll doesn't mean Rubio is the frontrunner, but that he would perhaps be an acceptable second choice for more GOP voters if the guy who is their first choice fizzles out. I have often thought that Walker was the top second choice, but now that Walker has moved to the top, Rubio is filling that role. That's not a bad place to be. After all, it's how Lincoln won the GOP nomination in 1860 when the leading candidates all proved unable to win a majority.

Ah, the most transparent president evah strikes again. And they're doing it on National Freedom of Information Day and amid Sunshine Week. How ironic.
The White House is removing a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act, making official a policy under Presidents Bush and Obama to reject requests for records to that office.

The White House said the cleanup of FOIA regulations is consistent with court rulings that hold that the office is not subject to the transparency law. The office handles, among other things, White House record-keeping duties like the archiving of e-mails.

But the timing of the move raised eyebrows among transparency advocates, coming on National Freedom of Information Day and during a national debate over the preservation of Obama administration records. It's also Sunshine Week, an effort by news organizations and watchdog groups to highlight issues of government transparency.

IBD demonstrates how the Obama administration is playing around with numbers to make it seem like Obamacare has led to a lot more of the uninsured to gain insurance.
Whatever numbers are used, the administration conveniently overlooks the fact that those years of high uninsured rates were also when the economy was in the middle of Obama's jobless recovery.
A better comparison would be with the uninsured rate before the recession, not when it hit its peak during the slow recovery. If you do that, you see the recent drop is likely due to the economy, not ObamaCare.
Gallup's data show, for example, that the uninsured rate was just over 14% in early 2008, which was after the recession had already started, but before the economy began to hemorrhage jobs.
And Census Bureau data show the uninsured rate peaked in 2010 at 15.5% and steadily fell after that. By 2013, it was down to 14.5%. Census data also show that the average uninsured rate from 1999-2007 was 14%.
Also, Census started using a new survey method in 2013, which it claims provides a more accurate measure of the uninsured. This new measure puts the uninsured rate in 2013 at 13.4% (which is very close to where Gallup says it is now). Census won't release its data for 2014 — the first full year of ObamaCare — until this fall.

As I prepare to teach JFK's presidency this week, it's startling to read this analysis from Patricia Miller in Salon about how white Catholic voters, usually a swing demographic, have now swung decidedly to the Republican column.
It’s one of the central contradictions of American politics: that there’s no such thing as the “Catholic vote,” yet the Catholics vote still matters.

There’s no “Catholic vote” in terms of Catholics representing an electoral bloc that votes according to what their bishops tell them, or in lockstep with the tenets of their religion. Yet winning Catholic voters has been essential to almost every presidential victory in modern times. And the defection of Catholics voters has played a role in some of the most consequential congressional turnovers in recent history — from 1994 to 2014 — making Catholics the ultimate swing voters. And for Democrats, that could be bad news.

While Catholics have been swing voters since Richard Nixon’s second term, white Catholics are now identifying as Republican by historic margins. According to the most recent polling from the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of white Catholics now favor the GOP, versus 39 percent who favor the Democrats—the largest point spread in the history of the Pew poll. And for the first time, white Catholics are more Republican than the voting group usually considered the ultimate Republicans: white Protestants (a designation that includes both mainline and evangelical Protestants).

These are ominous signs for the Democrats, evincing a new and growing allegiance with the Republican Party that has long-term implications.
That's quite a change from when Catholics turned out to support JFK in 1960.

This is unsurprising, but still dismaying.
The government paid out $124.7 billion in potentially bogus payments last year, the government’s chief watchdog said Monday, blaming a controversial tax credit for the poor as well as increased bad payments in Medicare and Medicaid.

One major problem is tracking when Americans die — the Social Security Administration admitted last week that its rolls are filled with names of more than 6 million folks who are listed as 112 years of age or older.

The Government Accountability Office said Social Security has trouble maintaining the Death Master File, and other agencies have difficulties in getting the information to update their own files and halt payments to those no longer alive to collect benefits.

At the same time, being improperly listed on the Death Master File can cause nightmares, said Judy C. Rivers, a woman who has twice been erroneously listed, leaving her denied for jobs, rejected for apartments and forced to live in her car.

At one point she spent an hour haggling with a bank that was refusing to open an account for her but wouldn’t tell her why. Eventually the manager told Ms. Rivers her Social Security number had been listed by the federal agency as deactivated “due to death.”

“The Death Master File has been like a propagating hydra underlying all my problems,” she told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Thomas Sowell ponders what a disaster so-called compassionate government can be.
It is fascinating to see brilliant people belatedly discover the obvious -- and to see an even larger number of brilliant people never discover the obvious.

A recent story in a San Francisco newspaper says that some restaurants and grocery stores in Oakland's Chinatown have closed after the city's minimum wage was raised. Other small businesses there are not sure they are going to survive, since many depend on a thin profit margin and a high volume of sales.

At an angry meeting between local small business owners and city officials, the local organization that had campaigned for the higher minimum wage was absent. They were probably some place congratulating themselves on having passed a humane "living wage" law. The group most affected was also absent -- inexperienced and unskilled young people, who need a job to get some experience, even more than they need the money.

It is not a breakthrough on the frontiers of knowledge that minimum wage laws reduce employment opportunities for the young and the unskilled of any age. It has been happening around the world, for generation after generation, and in the most diverse countries.

It is not just the young who are affected when minimum wage rates are set according to the fashionable notions of third parties, with little or no regard for whether everyone is productive enough to be worth paying the minimum wage they set.
But who cares what the consequences of such laws might be if the legislators can pat themselves on their backs for how compassionate they are?

Ronald Rotunda explains the law that Hillary Clinton may well have broken by destroying emails from her server when there was a good chance that those emails were eventually subpoenaed by Congress and subject to FOIA requests that the State Department couldn't fulfill because they didn't have access to those emails.
The law says that no one has to use email, but it is a crime (18 U.S.C. section 1519) to destroy even one message to prevent it from being subpoenaed. Prosecutors charging someone with obstruction don’t even have to establish that any investigation was pending or under way when the deletion took place. As T. Markus Funk explained in a journal article for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the prosecutor “need only prove that the defendant shredded the documents, at least in part, to make life more difficult for future investigators, if and when they eventually appear.”

Legal commentators call this “anticipatory obstruction of justice,” and the law punishes it with up to 20 years imprisonment. The burden of proof is light. The Justice Department manual advises that section 1519 makes prosecution much easier because it covers “any matters” or “’in relation to or contemplation of’ any matters.” It adds, “No corrupt persuasion is required.”

In addition, rules governing the practice of law forbid attorneys from anticipatory obstruction of justice. These ethics rules are drafted by the American Bar Association, but they are also reflected in real law. Virtually every state court adopts them, and violation can lead to disbarment. Rule 3.4 (which has been around for many years) provides that an attorney shall not unlawfully “conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value.” Mrs. Clinton is a lawyer governed by these rules. So are any attorneys who advised her to delete her emails.

When the Senate Watergate Committee discovered that President Richard Nixon had a very extensive inventory of White House tapes, both the committee and the special prosecutor subpoenaed them. At the time, some wondered why Mr. Nixon, a lawyer before entering politics, didn’t simply destroy the tapes. The answer was that doing so could have led Mr. Nixon to an indictment for obstruction as well as disbarment.

At the time, I was assistant majority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee, so I remember that period well. Mrs. Clinton should remember it too: She worked on the House Impeachment Committee, which warned Nixon not to destroy the tapes.

Here’s another reason Mrs. Clinton should know about obstruction: Congress enacted section 1519, making the crime easier to prove, in 2002, as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. As senator, she voted for the law.

Liberal writer and substitute-MSNBC anchor, Jonathan Capehart now admits that the whole "Hands up, don't shoot" uproar about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson was built on a lie.

Byron York explains how not having a Democratic opponent weakens Hillary's candidacy. Her somewhat limited political skills will atrophy even more without competition. And it will be hard for her generate news while the Republicans are fighting it out from state to state. Of course, those Republicans fighting with each other might end up so wounding the eventual winner that he will emerge beaten and bowed from the fight.

Perhaps the yearning for an ABC (Anyone But Clinton) candidate explains why Ezra Klein has put out a plea imploring Al Gore to run against Hillary. Yeah, that would carry that "new car smell" Obama tells us the American people want.

And of course, Klein is closing his eyes to all the reasons why Gore would rival Hillary with what an awful candidate he would be. Do Americans really see the guy who just got millions from Al Jazeera as a future president. James Taranto writes,
Vox.com’s Ezra Klein tries to throw some cold water on the idea. “The problem with a Gore candidacy, to be blunt, is Gore,” Klein observes. He notes that the former vice president is a “wooden,” “aging” candidate with a “challenging” relationship to the press. He has “complicated” finances, though Klein doesn’t tell us exactly what that euphemism means, except to note that Gore “made an insane sum of money by selling his cable network to Al Jazeera.”

There’s more: Gore poses as an environmentalist but is in fact “a jet-setting, Davos-attending mansion dweller,” wealthier than Mitt Romney, according to a 2013 Politico report. That opens him to charges of “rank hypocrisy.” And “his personal life isn’t the storybook it once was,” thanks to his 2010 separation from wife Tipper. (Klein says they’re divorced, but at least as of last June, according to London’s Daily Mail, they were still legally married.)

Klein sums up the matter: “I don’t think it particularly likely that even if he did run for president, he would win.” He also notes that “there’s no sign that Gore has even a scintilla of interest in running for president.”

So who’s in favor of a Gore candidacy? Ezra Klein. He makes the case in that very same Vox article, which is titled “Al Gore Should Run for President.”

....Gore is Vox’s perfect candidate: He’s someone who knows he’s right about everything and never tires of explaining why. He wouldn’t be the first president to fit that description, but Barack Obama was young and cool.