Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cruising the Web

The death of Freddie Gray in police custody is tragic and there definitely seems to have been police culpability. It should be investigated and those responsible punished. but the rioting that is going on now has nothing to do with his death. It is wanton destruction that is destroying whatever hope this community had for a viable economy. Burning down a CVS and trashing cars while cutting off a fire hose is all about destruction, not addressing the problems the community faces or the unfortunate and untimely death of Freddie Gray. As Paul Mirengoff notes, this isn't about protesting a white mayor and white-majority police department as in Ferguson. Baltimore's mayor bears some blame for the seeming lack of readiness by the police to face the rioting. What sort of idiot mayor advises the police to give "those who wished to destroy space to do that as well"? Doesn't she understand the difference between rioting and protesting? It's as if she gave the rioters permission to destroy private property.

Heather MacDonald writes in City Journal that it is so hard for liberal elites to recognize how the inner-city poor contribute to their own situations as she reviews the book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, by Alice Goffman.
Goffman’s own material demolishes this thesis. On the Run documents a world of predation and law-of-the-jungle mores, riven with violence and betrayal. Far from being the hapless victims of random “legal entanglements”—Goffman’s euphemism for the foreseeable consequences of lawless behavior—her subjects create their own predicaments through deliberate involvement in crime....

On the Run unwittingly demonstrates why police presence is heavy in black inner-city neighborhoods. Goffman mentions just one fatal police shooting: Anthony had shot at undercover officers in an alley, thinking that they were gang rivals; they returned fire and killed him. Otherwise, and contrary to the claims of the Black Lives Matter movement, her young black men overwhelmingly die at one another’s hands, such as a friend of Chuck’s, shot while exiting Goffman’s car outside a bar. The clean people of Sixth Street do not complain about the police; indeed, Miss Linda’s father, a retired postal clerk, regularly calls the cops on his grandsons and welcomes the heavy police activity in the neighborhood. Even the Sixth Street criminals try to get themselves arrested when the local gang violence becomes too hot; prisons and jails are the only place they feel safe.

Goffman claims to have witnessed officers beating up suspects 14 times in 18 months of daily observation and asserts that the Philadelphia Police Department has an official, if sub rosa, policy of pummeling suspects who so much as put a finger on an officer. She also claims, without a source, that the cops routinely steal cash during drug raids. (She doesn’t mention the alleged deficiencies in the department’s deadly force training, for which it is criticized in another recent Justice Department report, which also noted that black and Hispanic officers were far more likely than white officers to shoot black civilians based on a mistaken perception of threat.) Such brutality and corruption, if true, must be punished and eradicated. (One should note, though, in assessing Goffman’s credibility in such matters, that her loathing of the police is such that she develops a fear of white men in particular, and white people more generally.) But such police misconduct, if it exists—as it did in North Charleston, South Carolina, where Walter Scott was shot to death in wholly unjustified circumstances—does not mean that lawful police activity is any less needed in neighborhoods still plagued by violence and other forms of disorder. Philadelphia’s high crime rate has been a perennial drag on its economy. Data-driven policing and the incarceration buildup that Goffman and her mentors so decry resulted nationally in the steepest crime drop in modern history (especially in New York), saving countless inner-city lives, both clean and dirty. At the end of the book, Reggie and Tim are serving long prison sentences. We have no reason to believe that those punishments were not deserved.

It's pretty bad for the Clinton camp when they've lost Eleanor Clift who came out defending Peter Schweizer against their attacks.
Author Peter Schweizer may be a conservative, but that doesn’t mean his investigations don’t have merit, and his allegations won’t stick.
It’s a mistake for the Clinton campaign to write off conservative author Peter Schweizer as a right-wing hack. It won’t work, and it’s not true. If he were as off-base as the campaign and its allies portray him, would a high-quality publication like The New York Times risk its reputation by partnering with him? And would Common Cause, the gold standard for good-government groups, which is currently chaired by former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, be calling for an independent review that would be made public of all large donations to the Clinton Foundation?

The Clintons have a standard template for pushing back, and they’re going to use it to make questions about their finances seem part of the vast right-wing conspiracy, but character assassination only goes so far. It may work for a while, but if the data in Schweizer’s upcoming book, Clinton Cash, survives the vetting it will get from the mainstream media, Clinton will have to clean up her act. Aside from actual wrongdoing, and there’s no evidence of that, this is about the appearance of conflicts of interest, and in politics, appearances are everything.

And Ron Fournier isn't any happier.
Which reminds me of a nagging question: If, as the White House wants us to believe, President Obama is upset at Clinton for violating his ethics rules, why hasn't he publicly rebuked her? Perhaps he's more concerned about the 2016 elections than good government.

You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to know that foreign companies and countries expected something in return for donating to the Clinton foundation rather than the countless other charities not connected to the U.S. presidency.

You don't have to be a lawyer to know the Clintons violated ethics rules.

You don't have to be a historian to know their ethical blind spot has decades-old roots.

You don't have to be a political scientist to know this behavior contributes to the public's declining trust in its leaders.

But to believe this is just about the actions of a book author, the mainstream media, and the Republicans, it helps to be a Clinton.
She's not just arousing the ire of the right, but the disgust of many in the MSM. That doesn't mean that they won't rally around when it becomes a two-person race, but they'll be holding their noses as they do it.

As Andrew McCarthy writes, is there any real desire to go through all this Clinton mess again?
Plus, it is important to bear in mind that, at the moment, the political dimension of the Clinton Foundation scandal transcends the possibility of criminal or civil legal liability. Right now, the Clinton Foundation provides a stark reminder of the last enterprise these characters ran: the Clinton White House. Remember that one? Campaign finance irregularities, selling influence (remember the Lincoln bedroom?), awarding pardons to fraudsters and terrorists for the purpose of rewarding donors and courting political constituencies, blatant obstruction of justice, and perjury.

You see the Hillary! 2016 campaign launch, you consider what we’re learning about the Clinton Foundation, and you naturally ask yourself: Do we really want to go through this again?

You consider the Clinton Foundation, you think about the State Department — Benghazi, the courting of the Muslim Brotherhood, the secret, unlawful email system, the foreign money pouring into Clinton coffers while Mrs. Clinton was making key decisions about American foreign policy — and you naturally ask yourself:

What has Hillary Clinton ever run that did not turn into a debacle?

Finally, we should also consider the Obama administration’s legal standards. As I’ve recently discussed here at Ordered Liberty, the Justice Department has just filed its indictment of Senator Robert Menendez (D – NJ) on various corruption charges. The prosecution’s theory is that Menendez accepted “things of value” in exchange for using his political influence to benefit a big-time donor. Sen. Menendez counters that he did nothing wrong — i.e., that there is no nexus between, on the one hand, the hefty contributions, private jet rides to ritzy resorts, and other posh gifts he received, and, on the other hand, the use of his office in ways that just happened to favor the donor.

We are still at a very early stage of scrutinizing the Clinton Foundation, but we can already say two things with confidence:

(1) The millions upon millions of dollars the Clinton Foundation has collected from foreign donors and others with significant self-interest in U.S. government policy — during a time when Mrs. Clinton had a key role (and the prospect of an even bigger role) in designing U.S. government policy — makes the gifts to Menendez look like chump change.

(2) To the best of our knowledge, Menendez never withheld his emails from the government or wiped his server clean.

AS IBD writes, the fiction that the Clinton Foundation is a charitable endeavor is being exposed for the fiction it has always been.
The foundation's annual report talks about "improving global health, increasing opportunity for women and girls, reducing childhood obesity and preventable disease, creating economic opportunity and growth, and helping communities address the effects of climate change." And its website is full of photos and stories showing how the great work is being done.

Even the spending looks above-board: $68.3 million in 2013 for "program services expenses," equal to 80% of total expenses, according to its Form 990, which non-profits submit each year to the IRS.

But a closer look at the numbers shows a mere 13% of program expenses — and just 10% of total spending — went for grants and aid. And despite its global pretensions, most of the aid stayed in the U.S. The rest went to salaries, conferences, travel and other overhead costs.

In fact, the Clinton Foundation was more generous to conference organizers than the poor. The IRS filing shows it spent $9 million on conferences, conventions and meetings, compared to $8.9 million in aid.

Compare profligate the Clinton Foundation profligacy to spending by other large, globally focused charities. Doctors Without Borders devoted 90% of program expenses to grants and aid in 2013, almost all directed outside the U.S. Ditto World Vision, which while spending $729 million on grants in 2013 somehow managed to get by on $593,000 on conferences and meetings.

Wasteful charities such as the Clinton Foundation normally end up on lots of "do not donate" lists. So what were those foreign donors after, if not a helping hand from the U.S. government?

Here's a fascinating little look at the English Radical Whig, John Wilkes (after whom John Wilkes Booth was named and the Pennsylvania town of Wilkes-Barre is also named BTW) and his stand for rights that eventually led to our Fourth Amendment. It comes from Senator Mike Lee's book, Our Lost Constitution.

Jay Cost explains why the liberal vitriol about Citizens United isn't really about money corrupting politics.
Suppose a billionaire wants a certain policy enacted and hopes to influence a politician. Under Citizens United, while he can spend as much as he likes, he cannot tell the politician directly how much he intends to spend, how he will spend it, or why he is spending it. Moreover, since he wants to use this money to buy influence, he will have to spend an extraordinary sum in order to claim credibly that his effort made the difference between victory and defeat. As multiple groups on both sides join the fray, the cost of the race goes up, so he must spend even more in order to take credit for a win. And, of course, the candidate might lose. Even if the candidate wins, the billionaire still has to hope that, once in office, he will actually aid the cause. The politician could very well “cheat” on the agreement, especially if the constituents back home oppose the policy. And even if the politician does not cheat, there is no guarantee that the policy will ever become law. After all, the whole effort was dedicated to securing a single vote in Congress.

At best, this is a terribly inefficient way to influence public policy. There are much easier ways to buy a piece of the government. Such methods have been fine-tuned over decades—long before unlimited independent expenditures were allowed. In fact, the biggest donors since Citizens United—the Koch Brothers on the right and Tom Steyer on the left—come across more as patricians than influence-peddlers. They are citizens with an ideological and partisan vision of the good life who choose to promote their public-spirited agenda with their
own money.

From this perspective, Democrats’ opposition to Citizens United looks awfully convenient. It is a way to rail against influence-peddling in politics without actually doing anything about it. Democratic politicians can appear to be above the fray when in fact they are knee-deep in the muck.

Yet conservatives should not be content merely to mock Democratic hypocrisy or dispute the left’s claims about Citizens United. They need to do more. Three points are of high salience here. First, money in politics is a problem, insofar as it is often the medium for quid pro quo transactions that are unethical even when legal. All such transactions are implicitly anticonservative, for their result is that the government does something special for someone or some faction. Conservatives want the government to do less and do it fairly and so have an interest in cutting down the incidence of such deals.

Second, Citizens United is court-made law and thus lacks democratic legitimacy. The people’s representatives never debated or endorsed it. This makes it an easy target for Democrats looking to preen about good government while lining their pockets. Under our system, of course, the Supreme Court has the authority to rule on the meaning of the Constitution. But politically speaking, it is problematic. Congress and the courts have been warring over campaign finance for nearly 50 years, and the result is a hodge-podge of regulations that lacks any sense or broad popular support. So Democrats demagogue.

Third, you can’t beat something with nothing. Where is the anti-corruption agenda of the right? Where are the counterparts to the good-government organizations spearheaded by Ralph Nader? Other than the Center for Competitive Politics, helmed by former Federal Election Commission chairman Bradley Smith, and Take Back Our Republic, a new organization founded by those who helped Dave Brat take down Eric Cantor last year, one is hardpressed to think of conservative entities promoting a vision of good government. Conservatives have spent enormous intellectual capital on issues like education, health care, and taxes—but what about corruption? When Democratic pols rail against Citizens United, what reforms can Republicans counter with?

What would Karl von Clausewitz advise about fighting ISIS?

Seth Mandel looks at how the left is turning on those murdered at Charlie Hebdo because they don't approve of their speech. Some are upset that the PEN American Center is giving its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to Charlie Hebdo.
A couple things jump out. First of all, you knew you were in for trouble when Cole began a sentence with “I’m a free-speech fundamentalist, but… .” Second, does the fact that Charlie Hebdo’s work was of a less elevated literary quality than that of Salman Rushdie mean the former cannot lay claim to the transgression of “blasphemy”? For his part, Rushdie himself correctly points out that Cole et al. have no idea what they’re talking about:
“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”
Indeed. Liberals have apparently graduated from telling Muslims what is and isn’t truly Islamic to telling Muslims (and their victims) what is and isn’t blasphemy. According to the left, blasphemy is not a religious term so much as it just shouldn’t be applied to people who draw yucky pictures. This is, to say the least, a standard that bodes poorly for those who truly do support free speech. Where are their allies going to come from if not from free-speech organizations?

And there’s also something quite hilarious in the don’t-worry-Rushdie-you’re-still-good defensiveness in the anti-Charlie Hebdo group. That may be true today, but for how long will it continue to be true? At what point will the left finally throw Rushdie under that bus? Because that moment is coming, and I suspect everyone knows it.

The other word that jumped out at me from Cole’s statement was “progressive.” He’d rather honor, he said, someone “whose ideals are much more progressive than Charlie’s.” So now to be a martyr for free speech you have to not only be a blasphemer without falling into the ever-changing and elastic category of racism, but you also must be “much more progressive” than a lowbrow satirical French publication.

Salman Rushdie is on the right side of the line–for now. But that line is moving, and not in the direction of free speech.
For some on the left, free speech is only granted to that speech of which they approve.

Meanwhile, Shannen W. Coffin and Michael J. Edney discuss the double-standard that helped the Clintons make millions.
Consider these facts: The chairman of a Canadian company named Uranium One reportedly donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. At the same time the company was seeking U.S. government approval to sell a 51% controlling stake to Rosatom, the state-owned Russian nuclear agency. Meanwhile, a Russian investment bank with close ties to the Kremlin paid former President Bill Clinton a half-million dollars to speak in Moscow.

Anything worth investigating here? Not according to the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer, President Barack Obama, whose spokesman announced Friday that the allegations were little more than the discredited musings of “a conservative author,” unaccompanied by “any evidence” and apparently unworthy of further discussion.

But imagine if similar payments, under similar circumstances, were made by a U.S. company to a charity closely associated with, say, the Nigerian foreign minister. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission would be banging on that firm’s doors, asserting serious violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

That’s the law prohibiting U.S. companies from providing anything of value to a foreign official for the purpose of obtaining a favorable action. It is invoked frequently to scrutinize the overseas operations of American businesses. When federal law-enforcement agents even suspect that it has been violated, these companies are overrun with lawyers investigating every trace of alleged wrongdoing. The investigations often end the careers of the company officials allegedly responsible and culminate in fines and payments totaling many millions. One recent settlement was for $772 million. To avoid that fate, American companies spend huge sums on compliance reviews to prevent even the appearance of impropriety.
So somehow, what is actionable when American businesses are involved is just fine when the Clinton Foundation is at work.