Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cruising the Web

Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, is not at all impressed with Hillary Clinton's denial that donations to her foundation played any role in the State Department, under her leadership, approving the transfer of 20% of US uraniam to Russia. She says that she had no involvement in the decision. Oh, come on.
The transfer of 20 percent of US uranium — the stuff used to build nuclear weapons — to Vladimir Putin did not rise to the level of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s time and attention?

Beyond being an admission of extreme executive negligence on an issue of utmost national security, Hillary’s statement strains credulity to the breaking point for at least three other reasons.

First, nine investors who profited from the uranium deal collectively donated $145 million to Hillary’s family foundation, including Clinton Foundation mega-donor and Canadian mining billionaire Frank Giustra, who pledged $100 million.

Since 2005, Giustra and Bill Clinton have frequently globetrotted together, and there’s even a Clinton Foundation initiative named the Clinton-Giustra initiative.
But Hillary expects Americans to believe she had no knowledge that a man who made a nine-figure donation to her foundation was deeply involved in the deal? Nor eight other mining executives, all of whom also donated to her foundation?

Second, during her Sunday interview, Clinton was asked about the Kremlin-backed bank that paid Bill Clinton $500,000 for a single speech delivered in Moscow. Hillary’s response? She dodged the question completely and instead offered this blurry evasion.
“The timing doesn’t work,” said Clinton. “It happened in terms of the support for the foundation before I was secretary of state.”

Hillary added that such “allegations” are being “made by people who are wielding the partisan ax.”

The reason Hillary ignored addressing the $500,000 direct payment from the Kremlin-backed bank to her husband is because that payment occurred, as the Times confirms, “shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One.”

And as for her comment that the timing of the uranium investors’ donations “doesn’t work” as a damning revelation: In fact, the timing works perfectly.

As “Clinton Cash” revealed and others have confirmed, Uranium One’s then-chief Ian Telfer made donations totaling $2.35 million that Hillary Clinton’s foundation kept hidden. Telfer’s donations occurred as Hillary’s State Department was considering the Uranium One deal.

Third, Clinton correctly notes in the interview that “there were nine government agencies who had to sign off on that deal.” What she leaves out, of course, is that her State Department was one of them, and the only agency whose chief received $145 million in donations from shareholders in the deal.

Does she honestly expect Americans to believe she was simply unaware that the deal was even under consideration in her own State Department?

Moreover, is that really the leadership statement she wants front and center heading into a presidential campaign? That in the critical moment of global leadership, with the Russians poised to seize 20 percent of US uranium, she was simply out to lunch?
So the three a.m. phone call came from within her own house and she didn't answer it. No on can believe that. Expect to see more of this story in GOP ads in the general election. Schweizer says that the RNC is already testing the potency of the issue and finds it extremely powerful. Just imagine the line in an ad - Hillary approved sending 20% of our uranium to Putin's Russia while her foundation and husband were pocketing big bucks from the investors in the company involved in the deal. I think that the impact of such an ad could have a similar impact as the Willie Horton ad. Her actions just don't pass the smell test and Americans won't be happy to hear about her State Department sending our uranium to Russia. And her defense that she didn't know about it isn't going to make her sound like the leader who will be "fighting" for us. Remember her defense against beefing up security at the Benghazi consulate was that she wasn't aware of complaints that Ambassador Stevens had sent.

Students are doing more writing on tests due to the Common Core. That's fine in principle. I'm all about students learning how to write better. But the problem lies in how it is graded. And it extremely difficult to grade essays on a mass basis and do it quickly and fairly. I know how long it takes me to grade the essays that my students write. Of course, the most time consuming element is writing comments and suggestions on how students can improve. But even without writing comments, I would estimate that it takes me several minutes to grade a page and a half essay. I am mentally exhausted after I've graded one class's set of essays. I can't imagine doing it hour after hour and maintaining focus. But that is what the graders for Common Core exams are doing. The NYT reports on how the testing company Pearson is grading essays from elementary school students. The graders are not even teachers.
There was a onetime wedding planner, a retired medical technologist and a former Pearson saleswoman with a master’s degree in marital counseling. To get the job, like other scorers nationwide, they needed a four-year college degree with relevant coursework, but no teaching experience. They earned $12 to $14 an hour, with the possibility of small bonuses if they hit daily quality and volume targets.
The SAT has stopped using a writing section on the test after it tried about a decade ago to include writing and score the test for 2400 instead of 1600 points. But that turned out to be a big failure. It was a joke among students. They knew what the formula was for acing the writing section. Using big words was one of the recommendations. I heard kids talking about the list of big words they had ready to drop into an essay just to sound impressive. Everyone also knew that the longer the essay, the better the grade. It was much easier for graders to assess quantity rather than quantity. It takes time to discern the student's argument and then go through the essay and see if he or she supported that argument with well-reasoned evidence. So don't be surprised at

IBD teases out what the CBO report on what would happen if Obamacare were repaired tells us about the impact of Obamacare on the nation's economy.
But what the CBO's latest analysis does is provide three more reasons ObamaCare is a bad deal for the American public.

• It's bad for the economy. President Obama sold ObamaCare as a major boost to the economy. But the CBO says ObamaCare is hurting the economy and that its repeal would boost the nation's GDP by 0.7% from 2021 to 2025. Based on the CBO's own GDP forecasts, that translates into $886 billion. When you account for these economic effects, ObamaCare's impact on the deficit shrinks to just $137 billion.

• It relies on phony accounting. The only way the CBO can claim that ObamaCare would reduce the deficit by any amount is by assuming — as it must — that the roughly $800 billion in Medicare provider cuts all take effect. But that's a fantasy. The Medicare Board of Trustees says these payment cuts aren't realistic over the long term. And Obama just signed a law repealing Congress' last attempt to impose deep cuts to doctors.

• Past forecasts have been wildly wrong. Back in 2011, the CBO said ObamaCare would cut the 2016-21 deficit a total of $109 billion. Now it says it will boost deficits by $109 billion over those same years, once you factor in the harm ObamaCare will do to the economy.

To its credit, the CBO admits its latest forecast should be taken with heaping grains of salt. "All of the resulting estimates," it notes right upfront, "are subject to substantial uncertainty."

Yes, the CBO says that repealing ObamaCare would increase the number of uninsured. But as we've pointed out here many times, there are other, far better ways to boost insurance coverage that won't balloon deficits, wreck Medicare and destroy the economy.

Getting rid of ObamaCare is just the first step.

Kevin Williamson resumes his explanation of why Donald Trump is no statesman.
Whatever Trump’s appeal is to the Right’s populist elements, it isn’t policy. He is a tax-happy crony capitalist who is hostile to free trade but very enthusiastic about using state violence to homejack private citizens — he backed the Kelo decision “100 percent” and has tried to use eminent domain in the service of his own empire of vulgarity — and generally has about as much command of the issues as the average sophomore at a not especially good college, which is what he was (sorry, Fordham) until his family connections got him into Penn.

If it’s not the issues, it’s certainly not the record of the man himself. Never mind that he’s a crony capitalist, he’s not even an especially good crony capitalist: The casino racket is protected from competition by a strict cartel-oriented licensing regime, but Trump, being the type of businessman who could bankrupt a mint, managed to be the biggest loser in Atlantic City, which is no small feat. He is a lifelong supporter of Democratic politicians, including Chuck Schumer and, awkwardly, the woman against whom he is pretending to run: Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is dishonest (“Oh, he lies a great deal,” said architect and collaborator Philip Johnson) and has shown himself to be a bad bet for bankers, business partners, and wives, among others.

Former Fed chief, Ben Bernanke, is appalled at Jack Lew's decision to feature a woman on the $10 bill in place of Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, would qualify as among the greatest of our founders for his contributions to achieving American independence and creating the Constitution alone. In addition to those accomplishments, however, Hamilton was without doubt the best and most foresighted economic policymaker in U.S. history. As detailed in Ron Chernow's excellent biography, as Treasury Secretary Hamilton put in place the institutional basis for the modern U.S. economy. Critically, he helped put U.S. government finances on a sound footing, consolidating the debts of the states and setting up a strong federal fiscal system. The importance of Hamilton's achievement can be judged by the problems that the combination of uncoordinated national fiscal policies and a single currency has caused the Eurozone in recent years. Reflecting on those parallels, as Fed chairman I recommended Chernow's biography to Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank. Mario told me that he read it with great interest.

Hamilton also played a leading role in creating U.S. monetary and financial institutions. He founded the nation's first major bank, the Bank of New York; and, as Chernow points out, Hamilton's 1791 Report on the Mint set the basis for U.S. currency arrangements, which makes his demotion from the ten dollar bill all the more ironic. Importantly, over the objections of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Hamilton also oversaw the chartering in 1791 of the First Bank of the United States, which was to serve as a central bank and would be a precursor of the Federal Reserve System.
Bernanke acknowledges that it is hard for government to reverse a decision once made. I hope that Lew will pay attention to the criticism his decision has made and change it.
I was in government long enough to know that decisions like this have considerable bureaucratic inertia and are accordingly hard to reverse. But the Treasury Department should do everything within its power to defend the honor of Jack Lew's most illustrious predecessor.
I have no confidence of anyone in this administration acknowledging that they made a mistake in a policy decision and reversing it. Have they ever done that?

Even John Oliver is amused at the proposal to add a woman to the $10 along with Alexander Hamilton.

Variety looks at what makes Megyn Kelly so successful. They seem amazed that she's fair and just as tough on conservatives as she is on liberals.

It's 10 years after the infamous eminent domain case, Kelo v. City of New London was decided. And this is what has happened with the land that the government took from families since then.
But the land where their homes once stood remains vacant, now a decade later.

The city spent $78 million bulldozing the homes and preparing the area for development, but so far, all plans have fallen through.

“They put in infrastructure and roads to nowhere, sidewalks to nowhere with always the thought that they were going to have this redevelopment plan where a hotel would come, a health club, cafes, restaurants and stuff like that that never came to be,” Kelo told The Daily Signal.

And for Kelo and Michael Cristofaro—who grew up in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood and whose father was one of the plaintiffs in the case—the wounds from their battle with New London haven’t yet healed.

“If you look out, this is what the city of New London wanted,” Cristofaro told The Daily Signal, standing in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. “This is what they took our homes for—this vast amount of land. This is what the U.S. Supreme Court said that the city of New London was justified in taking our homes—an empty field. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an empty dream.”

Sean Trende has an interesting analysis of which justices have not written as many majority opinions yet this term to try to figure out which justice will be writing the opinions on the remaining cases. I remember such analysis back in 2008 while waiting for the decision in D.C. v. Heller, the gun rights case. Court observers concluded that Scalia was the one justice left to write an opinion and predicted that he would be writing that decision. And so it happened. So Trende's analysis is quite intriguing. Here are his predictions. We can refer back to this and keep score.
To summarize, there are only a handful of people who really know how these cases are going to turn out. But, given the evidence, the best tentative conclusions are probably as follows:

The FHA case: Almost certainly an opinion authored by Kennedy, probably finding the FHA does not allow for a disparate impact claim.

The Arizona redistricting case: Most likely Roberts or Kennedy, probably striking down the commission. The chances that Ginsburg writes this opinion, however, are not insubstantial.

The Obamacare subsidies case: Either Roberts or Kennedy. This is a “pick ’em” on the outcome. If they do find for the government, expect federalism concerns to play a large role.

The EPA case: Scalia seems like the most likely author, which would almost certainly be a setback for the EPA. Kennedy could be writing this, however, especially if Ginsburg writes the Arizona redistricting case.

The ACCA case: This is probably Ginsburg, unless she has the Arizona redistricting case. If she does not write this opinion, anyone other than Breyer (or Scalia, if he does author the EPA case) is a likely candidate.

The Oklahoma death penalty case: This seems likely to go to a conservative justice. Under our rubric, Alito and Thomas are the only conservative justices who don’t have an opinion for this sitting (and who haven’t written eight opinions). But again, oral argument isn’t always clearly indicative of how things turn out, and we might be incorrect in our assumptions about how things play out in the other cases.

Marriage equality: This opinion will probably be authored by Kennedy. The real question is just how far he is willing to go.