Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cruising the Web

Well, we knew this was going to happen we knew that this was coming.
A University of Virginia associate dean of students filed a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone on Tuesday, alleging that the magazine portrayed her as callous and indifferent to allegations of sexual assault on campus and made her the university’s “chief villain” in a now-debunked story about a fraternity gang rape.

Nicole Eramo is seeking more than $7.5 million in damages from Rolling Stone, its parent company Wenner Media and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the investigative journalist who wrote the explosive account of sexual assault on the campus in Charlottesville, Va. The magazine retracted the story after news organizations and the Columbia University journalism school found serious flaws in it.
And I would bet that this won't be the last such case.

Bill claims that he's taking a back seat in his wife's presidential campaign. Unfortunately for her, he's steering from that back seat.
Tonight he will be in New York City for one of David Letterman's final shows. "The guest list has been announced for David Letterman's penultimate week of the "Late Show," and once again, the week features a U.S. president," the Los Angeles Times reported. "Former President Clinton will make his 10th visit to the 'Late Show' to say goodbye to Dave. He made his first appearance as a guest on the show in 2002."

And later this week, Clinton will be in Atlanta at the American Institute of Architects meeting to pay some family bills.

"While Hillaryland wants to keep Bill out of the spotlight, it’s clear he has no desire to reside in the shadows. To be fair to Bill, I’ve never met a political spouse who is comfortable with their significant other being subject to scrutiny and criticism," writes one veteran Republican campaign hand in an email.

"But with Bill it’s different – it’s his legacy that’s at stake. Hillary is breaking from his record, which suggests to voters that his record on many hot topics were failures, that’s got to bug someone like Bill. But Bill is not just assuming the normal defensive spouse role, he’s also acting as an irritated former politician desperate to defend his own record at a time his wife is trying to define her candidacy.

"Bill has spent his whole adult life trying to be powerful, rich, and famous – that’s who he is, that’s who he wants to be, and his actions suggest he isn’t going to change. The question people seem to be asking 'is Bill going to learn from his mistakes in ’08?' I guess that depends on what the definition of 'is' is."

How fun to see Obama turn the vitriol he usually reserves for Republicans and Fox News at his own party.
President Obama’s performance in pushing for approval of fast track legislation of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, in which he’s allied with Republicans and has spent the last week castigating and insulting liberal Democrats, has been one of the most bizarre and ill-advised performances of his presidency.

I spent many years working for senior Democratic Senators such as Lloyd Bentsen and House Democratic leaders beginning with the legendary Speaker Tip O’Neill, and have never seen any president of either party insult so many members of his own party’s base and members of the House and Senate as Mr. Obama has in his weeks of tirades against liberals on trade.

In Mr. Obama’s speech at Nike last week, his comments to Matt Bai of Yahoo over the weekend, and White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s comments to reporters on Monday, Mr. Obama and his White House staff have repeated a string of personal insults directed against prominent liberal Democrats in Congress, liberal Democrats across the nation, organized labor, and leading public interest and environmental groups who share doubts about the TPP trade deal.
But that is how Obama rolls. That's his version of negotiation with someone who disagrees with him.

This is just choice.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown threw a grenade into the ongoing war of words between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and President Barack Obama, a war that reached new heights with Tuesday’s dramatic setback of Obama’s trade agenda in the Senate.

Brown, one of the top Democratic leaders of the uprising against Obama’s trade push, criticized the president for what the senator saw as “disrespectful” comments toward Warren and suggested that Warren’s gender may have played a role.

When asked how Obama was being disrespectful of the Massachusetts Democrat, Brown replied: “I think by just calling her ‘another politician.’” He continued, “I’m not going to get into more details. I think referring to her as first name, when he might not have done that for a male senator, perhaps? I’ve said enough.”
See how fast those accusations of a war on women can be brought out even for a past master of that form of argumentation. Republicans can just sit back and pass the popcorn.

The Clinton Foundation can't stand that a nonpartisan, independent evaluator of charities has put the foundation on a watchlist of questionable charities.
Clinton Foundation executives have been sparring with a nonprofit watchdog over whether the charity should remain on a "watch list" of philanthropies with potential problems.

Charity Navigator, a nonprofit that ranks charities and purports to provide a "guide to intelligent giving," has claimed the Clinton Foundation attempted to "strong-arm" its way off the list by demanding meetings with board members and insisting the watchdog amend its criteria, New York Magazine reported Tuesday.

"We had previously evaluated this organization, but have since determined that this charity's atypical business model can not be accurately captured," Charity Navigator wrote of the Clinton Foundation, which it reportedly added to its list of suspicious philanthropies March 13.

David French wonders how liberals would react if a President Ted Cruz did some of the things that Obama has done. Just imagine the outrage.
The year is 2023, and President Ted Cruz is ending the second of his contentious terms in the Oval Office. While his policies have been controversial — for example, undoing major social legislation (Obamacare) without a single Democratic vote — his administration’s continual expressions of hostility toward dissent have finally proved intolerable to millions of Americans.

Liberal grievances date back to 2017, the first year of Cruz’s administration, when his Department of Homeland Security issued a report declaring that fears about economic stagnation and inequality combined with liberal hatred of a conservative Latino could foster left-wing extremism. Specifically, failure to achieve comprehensive immigration reform could lead to violence. According to DHS, left-wing “extremist groups’ frustration over a perceived lack of government action on illegal immigration has the potential to incite individuals or small groups toward violence.”

And since it was known even during the Obama administration that returning vets were having trouble integrating into their communities but were instead “ready to do battle,” the Cruz administration feared that left-wing extremists would find willing recruits in the ranks of former soldiers: Left-wing extremists “will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.”

Facing a firestorm of criticism from liberal activists who reminded the administration that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism,” DHS Secretary Allen West stood firm: In his statement Wednesday, West defended the report, which says “left-wing extremism” may include groups demanding immigration reform and amnesty, as merely one among several threat assessments. But he agreed to meet with the head of La Raza, who had expressed anger over the report, when he returns to Washington next week from a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Concerns only deepened as periodic reports surfaced of Army briefings that list La Raza,, and the Southern Poverty Law Center as “extremist” organizations similar to Hamas, the KKK, and al-Qaeda. DHS-funded reports even went so far as to redefine mainstream leftist concerns about income inequality and climate change as “extremist,” essentially labeling tens of millions of Americans as suspect.

Conservative critics labeled liberals as “paranoid” to be concerned over the DHS reports and Army briefings, but liberals countered that Vice President Rubio himself had accused Democratic lawmakers of acting “like terrorists” during the Democrat-triggered government shutdown in 2021.

In addition, Democrats noted that President Cruz had turned the federal bureaucracy into an engine of intolerance, with the IRS launching systematic audits of the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and other liberal nonprofits, costing them millions of dollars in legal fees and bringing their fundraising to a near halt. At the same time, reports surfaced that the Cruz Department of Justice was attempting to “piece together” prosecutions of liberal nonprofits while — locally — conservative district attorneys were launching terrifying pre-dawn raids on the homes of liberal activists in swing states.

Even the military hasn’t been immune to President Cruz’s crackdown on dissent. His purge of generals — long noted in left-wing blogs — spilled over into the mainstream with a second-term feature story in Politico called “Cruz vs. the Generals.” Americans of all ideological backgrounds continue to express confidence in the rank-and-file soldiers, but increasing numbers of Americans believe that the top leadership has been drafted into the president’s ideological crusades.
French then goes on to remind us of the outrage and conspiracy-mongering that we constantly heard when Bush was president. He's right that such paranoia would return if a Republican were elected. So is it that odd that some conservatives today are freaking out about a military exercise in Texas?

And yet another scandal tying Hillary Clinton's actions as Secretary of State to donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Traveling abroad on official business as secretary of state, Clinton often visited Boeing facilities and made a pitch for the host country to buy Boeing jets. During one visit to Shanghai in May 2010, she boasted that "more than half the commercial jetliners operating in China are made by Boeing."

A sales plug in Russia in 2009, though, may have proved especially fruitful. While touring a Boeing plant, Secretary of State Clinton said, "We're delighted that a new Russian airline, Rossiya, is actively considering acquisition of Boeing aircraft, and this is a shameless pitch."

In 2010, Boeing landed the Russian deal, worth $3.7 billion. And two months later, the company donated $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

This chain of events is raising new questions for Clinton, and Boeing, as the former secretary of state launches her 2016 presidential campaign. The Boeing deal only adds to a growing list of business deals involving Clinton Foundation donors now coming under scrutiny....

But the financial connections don't end there. Boeing also paid former President Bill Clinton $250,000 for a speech in 2012. It was a speech that was approved by the State Department's Ethics Office -- which according to an Associated Press report often approved the ex-president's speaking engagements within days.

And in another potential trouble spot, Boeing's chief lobbyist and former Bill Clinton aide Tim Keating hosted a fundraiser for Ready for Hillary, the political action committee raising money to help fund a run for the White House. Boeing took no issue with Keating doing so.
Remember when Democrats used to warn us about the appearance of corruption? Hey, remember when Hillary Clinton used to talk about it? Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, explains why the crony capitalism he describes in his book should matter. He demonstrates how her family's actions violate the very standards she supposedly supported against corruption.
As Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton made combatting corruption by foreign actors “a major focus of U.S foreign policy,” as her spokesperson at the time put it. More specifically, she pledged her support for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) “anti-corruption agenda.” So, how does the OECD define bribery?

Their comprehensive definition extends to the transfer of funds even “when someone other than the official who was bribed receives the illegal, benefit, including a family member, business partner, or a favorite charity of the official.”

The latter part of that definition holds serious consequences for American corporations who steer money to legitimate foreign charities in the hopes of currying favor with foreign government officials, thereby violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Just ask pharmaceutical company Schering Plough. In 2002, they settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over charges they funneled $76,000 to the “Chudow Castle Foundation” in Poland, a legitimate charity that helps restore castles in an effort to preserve Polish cultural heritage. The SEC, however, said the gift was an effort to sway a Polish government health official who sat on the charity’s board. During her tenure as Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton declared she was “unequivocally opposed to weakening” the FCPA and supported its aggressive enforcement.

And therein lies a core concern for those opposed to corruption: charities, despite their noble exteriors, frequently come under financial scrutiny and should. This is especially true of the Clinton Foundation; its operational structure and principals offer the ideal back-door method—especially when sweetened with speaking fees for Mr. Clinton—for foreign entities that cannot legally contribute to U.S. political campaigns to instead circumnavigate election laws in an effort to curry favor with the Clintons.

Throughout Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as Sec. of State, Mr. Clinton received enormous speaking fees, some of which were funded by foreign money. Mr. and Mrs. Clinton’s family foundation also received considerable sums from foreign donors.

So, were rules broken?


....What is clear is that progressive and conservative concerns about the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of contributions from foreign governments, entities, and individuals are warranted. Unlike political campaign contributions that are illegal for foreign executives and governments to donate to, a U.S. politician’s charity can capture all foreign donations, with no restrictions. Such financial pass-throughs run afoul of the longstanding American tradition that opposes the infiltration of foreign money into U.S. politics.

The onus is on Mrs. Clinton to demonstrate that this standard has remained inviolate.

Jonah Goldberg sees parallels between Hillary's candidacy and that of Bob Dole. They're both old, boring, entitled, and bad campaigners.
The GOP picked Dole with a weird sense of inevitability; it was his turn. Everyone I knew back then said, “Is this really the best the Republicans can do?” And “how is this happening?” We’re witnessing pretty much the exact same thing with Hillary.

Sure, she has advantages Dole didn’t have. The media will take its shots but will eventually rally around her. She’s a woman (something we will be reminded of a lot). But she has disadvantages too. She’s more boring than Bob Dole and only a little younger than he was when he ran in 1996. The economy isn’t going to be the asset it was for her — again incumbent – husband in 1996. And, while people didn’t trust Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton could talk his way out of that problem. Hillary Clinton becomes less trustworthy every time she opens her mouth. The idea that she can convince people not to worry about the fact they don’t trust her — or her husband — hinges on her having a gift she does not have and cannot be taught.

She may still win, of course. Almost anyone with her resources would be formidable. But the fact that her supporters are already finding solace in the tale of Bob Dole is not a sign of confidence — it’s a symptom of doubt.

Last weekend's SNL comedy skit in which game show contestants on a Pictionary sort of game show are paralyzed by terror when told to draw Mohammed was a tad funny. At least they somewhat tackled the controversy. The punchline is that, without drawing anything, the other team member figured out that it was Mohammed. Well, now it seems that SNL plagiarized the idea from a Canadian comedy show. It's almost the exact same skit.

Jonah Goldberg comments on Mark Halperin's insulting interview with Ted Cruz in which Halperin pressed Cruz to answer questions about his Cuban heritage.
Imagine it’s 2007 and a prominent journalist is interviewing then-Senator Barack Obama. “Senator, people are really interested in you and your identity. I just wanted to ask you as a historical matter, when you filled out your application to Columbia, to Harvard Law School, did you list yourself as an African American?”

Imagine he pressed further. Do you have a favorite traditional black food? Who’s your favorite African-American performer?

It’s a safe bet that journalist would be lucky to have a job today as a greeter at Wal-Mart.

Mark Halperin isn’t in danger of losing his job — nor should he be — even though he did pretty much question Texas senator Ted Cruz that way last week.
As Goldberg writes, it wasn't bigotry that motivated Halperin's approach to his interview; it was partisanship.
The assumption that Democrats are “prolier-than-thou” is only part of the problem. There’s a widespread assumption that racial, ethnic, and sexual authenticity is bound up in support for liberal policies. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has one of the most poignant life stories of any African American in public life, but he’s routinely belittled as a sellout because he’s conservative. Ben Carson, a child of an illiterate single mom in inner-city Detroit who became a world-renowned brain surgeon, has also gotten the “Uncle Tom” treatment.

Feminists love to play this game, treating conservative women as if they aren’t real women. Naomi Wolf sniped that former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote like “a woman without a uterus.” Gloria Steinem called Kirkpatrick a “female impersonator.” After John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, University of Chicago professor Wendy Doniger wrote that Palin’s “greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.”

Although Halperin’s snideness was gratuitous, I’d still rather live in a world where the media treated all politicians with similar skepticism. Instead, female and minority Democrats are uncritically celebrated while Republicans are treated like traitors to their race or gender simply because they don’t think the way they’re “supposed” to. That, not anti-Latino animus, is Halperin’s real bias.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had the practice that they do in Britain whereby politicians who have been overwhelmingly defeated in an election just resign from politics and get out of our faces.
How foreign this is to American voters! British politicians actually apologize, admit bitter defeat, and, most importantly, resign from leadership. That final point is worth pondering.

American politicians never seem to resign. Ever. Most are political careerists who treasure power more than integrity. American politicians only seem to resign when facing incessant media mockery or legal indictments. In Britain, losing an election is sufficient for a politician to bow out of his party's leadership. Actually, it's not uncommon in many countries for prime ministers to resign if they lose key votes in parliament.

In stark contrast, American politicians often hold onto power until it's pried out of their cold, rigor mortis-stricken hands. For instance, it is absolutely stunning that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid -- both of whom had their clocks cleaned in 2010 and 2014, respectively -- are still leading the Democratic party. Due to their lust for power, they haven't the decency to step aside to allow a colleague to steer the ship in a new direction. Such self-centeredness would not stand in Britain. It is not honorable.

The aftermath of the British general election should serve as a model for American politicians. It should also serve as a reminder that the country from which we revolted nearly 240 years ago still has a thing or two to teach us about government.

This is no surprise.
State Department officials gave speedy and sometimes only cursory consideration to potential conflicts of interest when approving former President Bill Clinton's lucrative speeches to global companies and foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Again and again, the ethics office responsible for vetting his appearances hurriedly signed off on them, even in cases where questions had been raised about the behavior of organizations hiring Bill Clinton to appear.

It approved at least 330 requests for the former president's appearance at speeches, dinners and events. More than 220 of those were paid events that earned the family nearly $50 million, according to AP's review of State Department documents and Hillary Clinton's financial disclosure forms.

The ethics office's standard response: "We have no objection."

Now, as Hillary Clinton moves forward with her presidential campaign, the ease with which her husband was repeatedly cleared to address companies and governments around the world highlights potential ethical complications that are likely to intensify in her campaign and if she becomes president.

Yup, the Obama White House and Congressional Democrats are already tired of being asked to defend Hillary.
He later had to use all the rhetorical tools in his arsenal to avoid commenting on Clinton’s push to set up a deferred action process for the parents of “DREAMers,” who brought their children to the United States illegally years ago, so they can avoid deportation.

Reporters asked if an expansion of Obama’s executive actions would be legal. “That will be something for future presidents and ultimately future courts to decide,” Earnest replied.

What about Clinton’s plan? “I’m not a judge and I didn’t go to law school, so I’m not going to be in a position to render a legal opinion …” he said.

But the White House has already issued its legal opinion that the president went as far as he could go.

The strategy seems to be: When in doubt, refer to Clinton’s team.

“I’ll let Secretary Clinton and her campaign describe exactly what steps they envision taking, and I’ll allow them to make the case about why it’s legal,” Earnest said.

Senators on Capitol Hill face a similar dynamic, with DREAM Act sponsor Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., claiming ignorance as to what might be possible with executive orders when asked whether he agrees with the president’s assertion he has done everything he can — or if he agrees with Clinton there’s room to go further.

Then there are the missing Clinton emails and foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of State.

Earnest — and Obama — have done their best to keep the presidential campaign at bay, aided by a Clinton campaign that, until very recently, had been sandblasted of anything approaching serious policy proposals. (Her website still doesn’t have an issues page.)

The White House has even kept meetings Obama has held with Clinton — and former President Bill Clinton — off the public schedule.

That’s only going to get more awkward as the campaign gears up and Clinton starts laying out an agenda, which necessarily will include either new items or recycled Obama proposals that failed to launch (universal pre-school, anyone?).

The president can expect a lot of “Why didn’t Obama do that?” questions. If the White House simply blames Congress — a standard fallback — that would undercut Clinton’s ability to claim she’ll get things done. Unless, of course, she and her team were to join in on the chorus of criticism about Obama’s congressional relations.
Some of the necessary twisting in the wind that we'll be witnessing over the next year and a half could be quite entertaining.

Are you ready for the Harriet Tubman $20 bill? I'm fine with taking Jackson off the bill. Despite how much my students enjoy learning about him, I've never felt that he was deserving of commemorating on our currency. I'm even fine with Harriet Tubman. The runners-up from the organization trying to get a woman on the $20 bill were Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller. I recognize that there is a desire to commemorate a notable Native American female leader. But can you imagine if there were a man whose last name was Womankiller and, no matter how noble he might have been, no one would nominate him to be placed on currency.

And this is what decades of Democratic governance has accomplished.
Moody's downgraded Chicago's credit rating down to junk level "Ba1" from "Baa2."

The announcement, which the ratings agency released Tuesday afternoon, cited a recent Illinois court ruling voiding state pension reforms. Moody's said it saw a negative outlook for the city's credit.

Following that May court decision, Moody's said it believes that "the city's options for curbing growth in its own unfunded pension liabilities have narrowed considerably."

Now that a liberal Australian philosopher has pondered the deep inequities resulting from some parents taking more care of their children than other parents and whether we really should encourage parents to read to their children since that might give some children advantages over other children whose parents don't read to them, what is next? Here are some suggestions.
4. Stop Raising Them
If Billy’s parents are more loving than Joey’s, we should acknowledge that Billy has an unfair advantage over Joey. But if Joey’s parents are more existent than Suzie’s, we should also acknowledge that Joey has some non-orphan privilege to check. Just as we should be willing to die of smoke inhalation to prevent a lady firefighter from feeling bad about not being able to carry us on her back, we should also be willing to abandon our children in order to make kids who have already been abandoned feel less socially ostracized.

Granted, there’s a good chance that a nation full of parentless children will quickly become a hellish wasteland of sorrow and brutality that would give the zombies on “The Walking Dead” nightmares. But the important thing is that our lives would all be equally abominable, and achieving such equality would certainly make it worthwhile to duck out of the hospital right after the umbilical cord was cut.

Male-only clergy rosters and religious freedom bills are certainly enemies of equality that must be destroyed. But the sins of the Church and the bigotry of the GOP pale in comparison to the greater threat that comes from a natural world that inexplicably gives women smaller biceps than men, callously refuses to let gay couples procreate, and, above all, perpetuates unfairness by making children smarter just because their parents read them “Go Dog Go” instead of Jerry Springer transcripts. However, if we all commit to keeping our children dumb, smelly, unhealthy, untactful, and emotionally shattered, nature won’t be able to stop us from creating that glorious egalitarian paradise where no one is unfairly disadvantaged because everyone is equally miserable.

On another note, I've been spending my evenings watching the NBA playoffs - quite a break from politics. This ad with Kevin Durant playing a lawyer for Sprint runs about every hour.
It's cute. But after enjoying its conceit that Kevin Durant is a trial lawyer, I started thinking about the underlying premise of the set-up of the ad. Its message is rather insidious. A woman has signed a presumably legal contract for her wireless service. Kevin Durant then says that it isn't right that someone should have to pay such high rates to call her mother and then rips the contract in half while the jury applauds. Think about that - should we just rip up legal contracts because people think that one person has to pay too much money. Isn't that the argument we're hearing from the mortgage crisis or the looming student loan crisis? Do we really want to applaud the populist principle that contracts can be torn up just because the populace thinks the little guy got a raw deal? Even if Kevin Durant is the lawyer? I know it's just a commercial, but compete on prices and quality; don't imply that the legal system would support tearing up contracts just because one participant doesn't want to pay what she contracted to pay. Such a practice would mean the end of our commercial system. No business could rely on any contract to base their decisions if the populace could force them to tear up contracts whenever they felt like it.