Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cruising the Web

Hillary being a hypocrite? Say it ain't so! But CNN has turned up 45 instances of Hillary Clinton praising the very trade bill that she finally came out and said she has such concerns about that there should be no deal.

And now Obama is threatening to veto the Defense appropriations bills unless he gets what he wants on domestic spending.
resident Obama recognizes the need for more defense funding in principle, but is threatening to veto both the Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills on the grounds that Congress is not also increasing non-defense spending. In other words, the president is holding defense hostage to his domestic-spending priorities.

There is irony in that, because the president condemned congressional Republicans for the same tactic last year when they withheld funding for the Department of Homeland Security as leverage in their opposition to the president’s executive order on immigration.

Congressional Democrats are supporting the president’s position, but they are clearly, and understandably, doubtful. The House and Senate Defense Authorization bills were both voted out of committee with substantial bipartisan support, and the House bill has already been cleared in the full body with a large majority.
Meanwhile, the Democrats blocked an amendment on cybersecurity that the Republicans wanted to attach to the defense bill. But this is a bad week to be voting against a bipartisan proposal to strengthen the nation's cybersecurity.
An attempt by Senate Republican leaders to advance cybersecurity legislation failed Thursday amid a report that the hack attack on federal employees' data revealed last week was worse than first acknowledged.

Senators voted 56-40 to advance the cybersecurity legislation, falling four votes short of the 60 votes needed.

Although the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act has strong bipartisan support, Democrats objected to the measure being tacked on to a sweeping defense bill, which many Democrats oppose and which President Obama has threatened to veto. The cybersecurity legislation would encourage private companies to voluntarily share information about hack attacks with the federal government in an effort to prevent more data breaches.

"I think we all understand how dangerous the hackers are," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. "The cyber issue is so important that we shouldn't deal with it by stapling it to something else."

The legislative impasse occurred as the Associated Press reported that the massive attack on the Office of Personnel Management had compromised the Social Security numbers of every federal employee, according to a government workers' union .

And...it's another day and another Clinton scandal from her time at State.
Now comes news that officials at the State Department's inspector general's office removed damning passages from an audit that highlighted some major problems within the agency. The audit, published shortly before Clinton left the Obama administration, might have been very embarrassing for Clinton if it had been published in the unexpurgated form that has since emerged....

Officials had covered up misconduct by State Department employees and Clinton's security team. For example, a November 2012 draft stated that inspectors learned that high-level State employees "have prejudiced the commencement, course and outcome of [special investigations division] investigations."

An early draft also stated that diplomatic security would sometimes "circl[e] the wagons" to protect "favored" personnel or "rising stars from criminal charges or from embarrassing revelations that could harm a promising career."

In one case, according to the draft, "a Regional Security Officer engaged in serious criminal conduct including sexual abuse of local embassy staff during a series of embassy postings." In another, a senior diplomatic security official "protected some agents on the Secretary's Detail from investigations into misbehavior while on official trips." In still another case, passages were eliminated that suggested that someone in Clinton's office halted an investigation of an ambassador accused of pedophilia. None of this appeared in the final version of the audit.

It would be amusing if we saw more of these street signs around where politicians come for fund raisers.

Not quite the action of a conservative, but then being a governor trying to help out the local NBA team might trump conservative principles.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to send a quarter-billion dollars in taxpayer money to the billionaire owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, who are threatening to leave if they don't get a subsidized new arena.

At the same time, however, presidential candidate Scott Walker wants to convince Republican primary voters nationwide that he is a conservative who can stand up to the special interests.

It's a tough sell.

Walker, together with local Democratic politicians and the billionaire out-of-state owners of the Bucks, has negotiated a deal whereby the state and local governments pay for half the cost of a new $500 million arena for the NBA team. The state would borrow $55 million to build the arena, costing the state taxpayers $80 million over 20 years when interest is included. City and county governments would cover the rest.

The Bucks' current arena is 27 years old, and the NBA has threatened to buy the team from the current owners and move it to a new city if Walker and his friends don't pony up.

Walker argues that the $250 million gift to the owners — billionaire hedge fund managers Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens, who live in New York — will pay for itself. "The price of doing nothing is not zero. It's $419 million," Walker said. "It's not just a good deal. It's a really bad deal if we don't do anything."
Such government spending on sports venues rarely, if ever recoup the money spent.
Walker's defense of the subsidy shows that he's not a student of economics. It's nearly unanimous among economists that stadium subsidies do not pay for themselves, and the research suggests that losing a sports team doesn't hurt a city's economy.

"Our conclusion," write economists Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys, "and that of nearly all academic economists studying this issue, is that professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city's economy."

David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, collected this and similar quotations in a recent article on Walker.

For instance, economist Ray Keating wrote: "The lone beneficiaries of sports subsidies are team owners and players."

One reason is the substitution effect: Milwaukeeans who have a basketball team will spend less money on other types of leisure. The money spent in and around the fancy new arena wouldn't have just sat under mattresses.

Here's a question for the media members who so despise the Citizens United decision.
Like any self-respecting liberal outfit, The New York Times thinks the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United was an atrocity. The case revolved around whether the government could forbid an incorporated group, Citizens United, to broadcast a movie critical of Hillary Clinton in the days leading up to an election.

Given the obvious free-speech implications — could the government also ban a book? yes, said the government’s lawyer — the high court ruled that the law being challenged violated the First Amendment. Even dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens conceded “we have long since held that corporations are covered by the First Amendment,” but he thought the campaign finance law being challenged should take precedence.

That law was the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which prohibited “electioneering communications” — those supporting or opposing political candidates — by corporations and labor unions 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. But it contained a whopping exception for the media, by exempting electioneering communications “appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial.”

The exception amounts to a confession of what those who condemn the influence of money in politics deny: that campaign-finance laws infringe on freedom of speech and the press. After all: If they did not do so, then there would be no need for an exception. Proposals to amend the Constitution to overthrow Citizens United also contain specific exceptions for the media.

The question is: why?

....The New York Times has an answer: Because we’re special. “It is not the corporate structure of media companies that makes them deserving of constitutional protection,” the newspaper proclaimed in a 2012 editorial. “It is their function — the vital role that the press plays in American democracy — that sets them apart.” Unlike dirty little interest groups and super PACs, the media are the lofty facilitators of a grand national conversation. They are, as the High Court said in New York Times v. Sullivan, the embodiment of America’s “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open.”

Contending that open debate requires shutting down all non-media corporate voices is an oxymoronic non sequitur. But never mind that. The Times’ recent story on Rubio’s traffic tickets exposes how very un-special media companies are.

The newspaper simply used its megaphone to parrot a talking point crafted by a liberal interest group. Its functional role was no different than the role played by American Bridge. Both of them shared information that might shape voters’ opinions about a presidential candidate....

Other media — from Salon to National Review — are proudly partisan, and can have just as big an impact on elections. Remember: It was the left-wing Mother Jones that released the infamous video of Romney talking about the “47 percent.” How did it obtain the video? According to a subsequent tick-tock, “Early on in the election season, Mother Jones had made a decision to look closely at Mitt Romney’s record as a businessman” — and, well, one thing led to another.
So Mother Jones was digging up dirt on politicians to share with the public, just like other media and political organizations. It also released the 47-percent video on Sept. 17, 2012, well within the 60-day cone of silence imposed by campaign-finance laws. In short, it did exactly what the group Citizens United wanted to do with its Hillary Clinton video.
Nobody has been able to articulate a logically coherent reason to explain why some corporations should be allowed to spread information about a candidate while others cannot.
A good point.

And this is what we've come to.
The Washington Post has published a guest article by a California teacher arguing that American high school students shouldn’t read Shakespeare because he’s a dead, white man.

Dana Dusbiber, who teaches English in Sacramento, says she avoids Hamlet and all the rest because her minority students shouldn’t be expected to study a “a long-dead, British guy” (Dusbiber herself is white). And while Shakespeare is widely regarded as the premier writer of the English language, able to timelessly portray themes central to the human experience, Dusbiber says he only is regarded that way because “some white people” ordained it and he can easily be replaced.

The Washington Post has published a guest article by a California teacher arguing that American high school students shouldn’t read Shakespeare because he’s a dead, white man.

Dana Dusbiber, who teaches English in Sacramento, says she avoids Hamlet and all the rest because her minority students shouldn’t be expected to study a “a long-dead, British guy” (Dusbiber herself is white). And while Shakespeare is widely regarded as the premier writer of the English language, able to timelessly portray themes central to the human experience, Dusbiber says he only is regarded that way because “some white people” ordained it and he can easily be replaced.
A teacher from a South Carolina rural high school writes in to disagree.
So what Shakespeare wrote 450 years ago is not applicable to her teaching today? Ethnically diverse students don’t foolishly fall in love and over-dramatize every facet of that experience? Or feel jealousy or rage? Or fall victim to discrimination? Or act desperately out of passion? To dismiss Shakespeare on the grounds that life 450 years ago has no relation to life today is to dismiss every religious text, every piece of ancient mythology (Greek, African, Native American, etc.), and for that matter, everything that wasn’t written in whatever time defined as “NOW.” And yes– Shakespeare was in fact a white male. But look at the characters of Othello and Emila (among others), and you’ll see a humane, progressive, and even diverse portrayal of the complexities of race and gender.

If Ms. Dusbiber doesn’t want to teach Shakespeare or doesn’t like Shakespeare or thinks Shakespeare is too hard for her students, then fine…let that be her reasoning. Any teacher, myself included, has made decisions to switch out texts based on any number of factors.

What she really seems to be saying is that no one should read anything that isn’t just like them, and if that’s her position as an English teacher, then she should maybe consider a different line of work....

Also–where does it say that we can’t teach Shakespeare AND oral African tradition? In fact, why not work to draw links between the two? And should we only read authors that look like us and have experiences like us? Or for that matter, does a commonality in skin color mean a commonality in experience? I teach at a rural South Carolina school with a mostly white population—should I only teach white authors? Will all of my white students feel an immediate kinship to Faulkner or Hemingway to Twain? Will all of my female students see themselves perfectly in the characters of Flannery O’Connor? Will all of my black students read A Raisin in the Sun and immediately connect to the desperation and inner turmoil of Walter Younger? Obviously not.

Ms. Dusbiber’s argument is largely reductive, and it turns the English classroom into a place where no one should be challenged or asked to step out of their comfort zone, where we should not look beyond ourselves.

I, however, think English class is the perfect place to push and prod and even piss off students sometimes, and I can’t do that if I’m only ever holding up a mirror. Windows are good, too.
Hear, hear.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, co-author of Disinherited: How Washington is Betraying America's Young, analyzes a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll that concludes that 25% of college women are sexually assaulted every year. 25%!! Think of that number.
Yet if parents really thought that their daughters had a 25 percent chance of being assaulted when they went off to college, they would not place them in such danger. Living at home during university years would be more prevalent and single-sex colleges such as Bryn Mawr or Smith would be more popular than Yale or Harvard. Instead, women flock to coed universities, where they are awarded 58 percent of BA and MA degrees.
She makes the same point that I've often thought. We know that number isn't nearly close to being true just based on the behavior of America's families. As the mother of two daughters, I know that, if we had had any fear of such a high probability that they would be sexually assaulted in college, we would not have been so blithe about sending them off to school. At the very least, we would have had them enrolled in extensive self-defense courses. Futchgott-Roth goes on to explain all the problems with the poll. Unfortunately, the conclusion of the poll will become the only thing that people hear and will become one of those phony statistics that gets cited without people ever realizing the problems lying behind the claim.

Here's a handy guide to the Supreme Court cases remaining that haven't been decided yet this term.

Bill Clinton stretches the truth yet again. Now he's claiming that Hillary had to engage in so much economic diplomacy because there was on Commerce Secretary during her term as Secretary of State. Er...not quite.

Disgraced NBA referee, who was thrown out of his job and went to prison for betting on NBA games, now has a new business. He handicaps NBA games based on the referees for the games.
Donaghy himself only makes picks for the NBA, using his knowledge of the officials for each game. “I’m the only handicapper in the country who bases his picks on the refs,” he says. He’s successful roughly 60 percent of the time — that’s about five points higher than most professional gamblers, which means that in the world of sports gambling, the name Tim Donaghy is gold. In the real world, that name is mud. Donaghy is usually referred to in the media with a prefix, like a tail pinned to a donkey: “disgraced referee” Tim Donaghy.....

These are the kinds of plays Donaghy focuses on, trying to determine whether the ref made the right call, blew it accidentally, or blew it for a reason — a vendetta against a coach, say. If the ref just blew the call accidentally, then the next game he might feel compelled to give that team a few extra calls, he says. If he blew a call on purpose, then Donaghy figures he’ll do that whenever he faces that coach again.

Of course, the NBA denies that its referees are influenced in this way, or that they’d ever feel obligated to give a team a makeup call (though the idea is so common that television announcers invoke it to explain confusing calls). The great insight of his operation is that refs are petty creatures at the center of an extremely high-stakes environment. Donaghy says refs are paid in the low-to-mid six figures, plus expenses and a few hundred dollars per diem. “We’re on the road 27 days a month during the season,” he says, “which is fine, if you’ve got a bad marriage.” He says refs are small-minded men with big egos “who resent the fact they don’t get the recognition the players do. They think the fans come to see them. So they hotdog it, like Joey Crawford.”
It's an interesting article.