Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cruising the Web

Byron York writes that Hillary Clinton is running like she's the incumbent president, particularly in how she deals with the media and uses the Secret Service to keep less favored journalists away from her.

Jonathan V. Last reminisces about the 1992 election while arguing that Occam's Razor would predict that Marco Rubio should be the GOP nominee. You might have forgotten the Democratic 1992 nomination race.
Clinton '92 looks pre-ordained from where we sit today, but it you think back to the primaries, it was a close-run thing. None of the Democrats really contested Iowa because Tom Harkin was running. But even so, Clinton finished with less than 3 percent of the vote! Then he lost New Hampshire to Paul Tsongas by 9 points. Then he lost Maine to Jerry Brown. And South Dakota to Bob Kerrey.

Clinton didn't win a state until Super Tuesday. (In the first four states, he managed to finish in second only once, in New Hampshire.) And on Super Tuesday he only won one state, Georgia. Through the first week of March, Paul Tsongas was absolutely dominating the greatest political talent of the Baby Boom generation.

After that, things turned around for Clinton. He swept most of the south and won nearly the entire Midwest. But even after the race turned decisively toward him, Clinton had to slug it out with Governor Moonbeam all the way through June.

And the truth is, if Clinton hadn't finished second in New Hampshire, he very well might not have been the nominee. It was the second-place finish in New Hampshire that allowed him to remain a top tier candidate and keep fundraising and getting media coverage. If 12,000 voters in New Hampshire flip their votes, the course of American political life swerves in a different direction. There is no Clinton dynasty. No impeachment. Probably no Bush dynasty, either. The 1992 New Hampshire Democratic primary is one of those hinges of history.

Kevin Williamson doesn't pull any punches in his derision for Donald Trump.
The Trump conglomerate is the Argentina of limited-liability companies, having been in bankruptcy as recently as 2009. To be sure, a lot of companies went bankrupt around then. The Trump gang went bankrupt in 2004, too, and in 2001. Before that, Trump was in bankruptcy court back in 1991 when his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City — the nation’s first casino-cum-strip-club, an aesthetic crime against humanity that is tacky by the standards of Atlantic City — turned out to be such a loser that Trump could not make his debt payments.

The closing of that casino has been announced at least twice — it was supposed to shut its doors in December, but it limps on.

Donald Trump, being Donald Trump, announced his candidacy at Trump Plaza, making a weird grand entrance via escalator — going down, of course, the symbolism of which is lost on that witless ape. But who could witness that scene — the self-made man who started with nothing but a modest portfolio of 27,000 New York City properties acquired by his millionaire slumlord father, barely out of his latest bankruptcy and possibly headed for another one as the casino/jiggle-joint bearing his name sinks into the filthy mire of the one U.S. city that makes Las Vegas look respectable, a reality-television grotesque with his plastic-surgery-disaster wife, grunting like a baboon about our country’s “brand” and his own vast wealth — and not see the peerless sign of our times?
Ouch. Trump makes Ross Perot look like the more reasonable billionaire candidate.

Chris Cillizza explains why Trump's campaign is bad for American politics and will be very damaging for the Republican nomination race.
Trump's candidacy is a terrible thing for politics, plain and simple. Here's why: Trump can't and won't be ignored. Ever.

Because he is a well-known name — most people know and don't like him but they do know him — Trump is, at the moment, in the top 10 of national polling among Republicans. That means, according to the rules of the first debate being sponsored by Fox News in August, Trump will qualify to be on the big stage.

Trump on a stage with nine people who are serious about being the Republican nominee against Hillary Clinton is an absolute disaster for the GOP....

People like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee and everyone else on that debate stage will be playing by one set of rules, Trump will be playing by another. Or, more accurately: Trump won't be playing by any rules. He won't be bound by time constraints put on the candidates. He won't be bound by the generally accepted rule that you try to offer policies that might have a chance of becoming law. He won't feel the need to strictly adhere to, well, the truth.

That lack of rule-following (or even an acknowledgment that rules exist) will ensure that Trump is a big part of any story written off of the debates or any other forum where multiple presidential candidates are present. And that's indicative of the bigger problem that Trump presents the media and why he's so bad for this race: He is the car-accident candidate. You know you shouldn't slow down to look but you know you will.
It's never a good sign when someone's candidacy is compared to a highway accident. Though I think Cillizza is exactly right. Trump makes such fun copy that he'll suck up a lot of attention as he babbles along spouting his own version of crazy.

It may seem unnecessary to consider Trump's words the way one would a real candidate, but for what it's worth, Glenn Kessler fact-checks the Donald's speech.
Mr. Trump should know he's doing something right when the malcontents go ballistic in the press!
What' Palin is missing is that quite a few of those ridiculing Trump are conservatives. She then goes on to trumpet his economic success without any acknowledgement of all his failures and the for Chapter 11 bankruptcies that his corporations have filed.

Sarah Palin demonstrates how irrelevant she's become with this bit of faulty logic.

Meteorologists take Bill Nye to school over his claims that global warming is responsible for flooding in Texas and higher temperatures in Alaska.

This is not quite what the Democrats promised us, but it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has followed what happens when government bureaucrats are in charge of something so vast.
The Obama administration is making billions in payments to health insurers under Obamacare without calculating the exact amount companies are owed, according to a federal audit released Tuesday.

Obamacare’s premium subsidies are paid each month directly to insurance companies, to ease the burden of health coverage to eligible customers in the health law’s government exchanges. The payments add up: the federal government doled out almost $2.8 billion to insurers in just the first four months of 2014, when Obamacare launched.

The agency tasked with making the payments hasn’t yet made sure the calculations behind the billions are accurate. An inspector general audit of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has found that the administration did not confirm the exact amount it owed each insurer before paying up, putting the billions in federal taxpayer funds at risk.
Hey, a few billion here and a few billion there - what difference does it make?

Ah, this is how government works in D.C.
Neil S. Rodgers, a former D.C. government official, was sentenced Tuesday for his role in the misappropriation of $110,000 earmarked for D.C.'s Children at Risk and Drug Prevention Fund to cover a deficit for the 51st State Inaugural Ball for President Obama's inauguration in 2009. Rodgers, found guilty of fraud in March, was sentenced to 36 days (served on weekends) plus two years of probation. Rodgers must also repay the entire $110,000 as restitution for his crime.

Jonah Goldberg wonders why we're not seeing more outrage and passion about the Chinese hacking in the Office of Personnel Management's files to get private and security information on millions of federal employees.
The damage is hard to exaggerate. Former NSA counterintelligence officer John Schindler calls it a “disaster” in a column headlined “China’s hack just wrecked American espionage.” Joel Brenner, America’s top counterintelligence official from 2006 to 2009, says the stolen data amounts to the “crown jewels” of American intelligence. “This tells the Chinese the identities of almost everybody who has got a United States security clearance,” he told the Associated Press.

Countless current and past federal employees are now extremely vulnerable to blackmail and even recruitment by Chinese intelligence operatives. Millions are open to identity theft (the files included all of their personal information, including Social Security numbers, and in many cases medical, family, romantic, and substance-abuse histories). My wife, who previously worked for the Justice Department, may have lived a fine and upstanding life, but I don’t relish the fact that some chain-smoking Chinese bureaucrat is going over her personal information.

Many are calling it a “cyber Pearl Harbor.”

And yet, this news took a back seat to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s second announcement that she’s running for president, iPhone footage of a hotheaded cop breaking up a Texas pool party, and the admittedly hilarious revelation that an obscure NAACP official in eastern Washington state isn’t really black.
The media have trouble portraying this sort of news. Goldberg thinks that an actual physical break-in would have gotten a lot more attention than this hacking would have. Tom Cruise provides an example of the new world we're in.
n the first Mission: Impossible movie, Tom Cruise and his team of outlaws break into the CIA to steal the agency’s list of undercover spies around the world (the “NOC list”).

This is the plot device that justified a famous scene — now endlessly copied and parodied in popular culture — in which Cruise descends from the ceiling on a rope to avoid the heat-sensitive floor. In the movie, Ving Rhames plays a computer hacker who provides Cruise with assistance by remote. The scene works dramatically, because it’s dramatic.

In real life, Cruise’s job is a redundancy. Rhames can now do it all. But just because hackers have replaced brazen thieves doesn’t make the theft any less real. It only magnifies the scale of the crime exponentially. If the Chinese had stolen paper documents, they would have needed a convoy of 18-wheelers to haul out the boxes. Similarly, if Clinton had shredded paper records instead of deleting email on her stealth server, I suspect that story would be more compelling as well.

Ira Stoll examines the differences between Bill Clinton's proposal to deal with student loan debt with what Elizabeth Warren is proposing now.
So it will be illuminating to watch for the details of Mrs. Clinton’s student loan program. Back in 1992, Bill Clinton was for income-based student loan repayment, or for loan forgiveness in exchange for national service. If Mrs. Clinton comes out in favor of a more generous plan — say, loan forgiveness or modification based on no repayment or without any national service — it says something about how the Democratic Party has moved to the left over the past 23 years, or about the ideological differences between the more centrist Mr. Clinton and his more left-of-center spouse. In Kennedy-esque terms, Bill Clinton was asking what you can do for your country, while Hillary Clinton may be offering what your country can do for you. Bill Clinton was offering a tradeoff, while Hillary Clinton may be offering a handout.
Senator Warren's proposal is to allow students to declare bankruptcy so they can shed their debts from college.
There you have it. The Democrats have gone from Bill Clinton’s encouragement of loan repayment or national service to Elizabeth Warren’s encouragement of bankruptcy and indebted students declaring themselves as fraud victims.

None of this is to say that college affordability isn’t an issue. But where’s the justice in telling parents who sacrifice to save for college, or students who finance their studies with ROTC scholarships, that families who make less prudent choices will get a free ride? And what will federal loan forgiveness do to the incentives of entrepreneurs who are trying to use technology to reduce the cost of higher education?

Just in case you had any sense of optimism about our nation's fiscal situation, here are four charts that demonstrate how bad our budget outlook is.

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post has read the AEI report on Deflategate done by Kevin Hassett and Stan Veuger [Full disclosure: one of my daughters used to work for Kevin Hassett] and she thinks that their study is completely devastating to the Wells report.
The NFL paid millions for a fundamentally flawed report by lawyer Ted Wells that made Brady and the Patriots out to be slam-dunk guilty, based on more than 100 pages of mathematical analysis of ball pressurization . . . that turns out to be erroneous. The AEI’s report totally rejects the finding that the footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC championship game had a significant drop in air pressure compared to those used by the Colts. But the truly damning sentence is this one, buried in its erudite phrasings and equations: “The Wells report’s statistical analysis cannot be replicated by performing the analysis as described in the report,” the AEI concludes.

Basically,the math didn’t add up. It’s a standard principle in science: If you can’t replicate a set of results, then there is a problem with them. A flaw or a fraud is at work. Either you made a mistake, or you made it up.

When the AEI analysts looked more closely at how such a mistake could have been made, what they found “astonished” them, says the report’s co-author Stan Veuger. The Wells report “relies on an unorthodox statistical procedure at odds with the methodology the report describes.” Translation: The Wells report said it would use one equation, but then used a different (and weird) equation to arrive at its numbers.

“It was really clumsy,” Veuger says. “It’s the kind of mistake you’d see in freshman statistics class.”

Another phrase possibly applies to all of this:

Falsifying results.
So now the question is whether Roger Goodell will cling to the Wells report and ignore all its problems or reverse the penalty that his own underlings imposed on Brady.
Goodell is now in a truly interesting and awkward position. In one week he will hear Brady’s appeal. He has said, “I very much look forward to hearing from Mr. Brady and to considering any new information he may bring to my attention.”

Well, here is a boatload of very inconvenient new information.

Does Goodell stand by the conclusions of the Wells report, dig in and refuse to budge — thus establishing that he’s incapable of fairly considering evidence and is a serial abuser of his powers? Does he try to parse and sidestep the AEI analysis, by claiming that the scientific evidence is just a small part of the case against Brady? Trouble with that is, more than half of the Wells report’s 243 pages is taken up by pressure gauges and pounds-per-square-inch analysis — all of which must be thrown out according to AEI. If the balls weren’t deflated, then what’s left? One e-mail exchange, in which Brady complained that some game balls against the New York Jets were ludicrously overinflated. Is this evidence of ill intent? Hardly. Brady’s solution to the over-inflation was to suggest the refs check the rulebook. Not the act of a cheater.

Or does Goodell do the right thing and rescind Brady’s suspension on the basis of the new info in the AEI report — thus admitting that the league spent millions on a railroading farce? There is trouble for Goodell in this option too, because it suggests that the league office under Goodell’s leadership is either incapable of executing a proper investigation, or unwilling to.
Or both.