Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cruising the Web

Noah Rothman chastises Philip Rucker and Anne Geraan of the the Washington Post for beatifying Hillary Clinton for her response to the horrific massacre in Charleston while ignoring her own family's problematic past with the Confederate flag.
At no point in this piece did the reporters note the Clintons, too, have a complex relationship with the Confederate flag. A Clinton-Gore button from 1992 graced with the Confederate battle flag has led many to wonder if Hillary Clinton’s husband’s campaign endorsed it. But the likely Democratic standard-bearer’s campaign has thus far refused to comment on that matter. How courageous.

There are reasons to believe that Bill Clinton might have embraced this and other campaign buttons that cast him and his Tennessee-based running mate as sons of the South. As governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton signed a bill affirming that one of the stars on his state’s flag would stand in commemoration of the Confederate States of America. Even former Clinton advisor Paul Begala insisted that Hillary Clinton “absolutely” has to answer for standing by her husband’s decision on that matter all those years ago. The Post, however, seems unconcerned with Clinton’s silence on this issue, too.

As narratives go, the Post’s reporters made a conscious effort to embrace one over another equally compelling version of the aftermath of the Charleston shootings. The reporters spent an inordinate amount of time, perhaps reluctantly, noting that Clinton was forced after lagging behind events to praise Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for having the real courage to defy her constituents and demand that the rebel flag be furled forever. Haley is, after all, a Southern Republican governor — a woman and a minority — taking down the flag that was erected first by one of her Democratic predecessors in 1962. Republicans purged the South of the scourge of slavery amid a bloody civil war; Republicans oversaw the dismantling of Jim Crow and the desegregation of the Deep South; and now Republicans, from South Carolina to Mississippi, are flouting some of their more recalcitrant voters and ridding the South of that symbol of rebellion once and for all. The last time Clinton called for the Confederate flag to be lowered in the South was, her campaign insists, 2007. Such bravery.

This narrative didn’t seem to interest the Post’s neutral and dispassionate political reporters. Instead, what captured their imaginations was a speech Clinton gave to a room full of liberal supporters where she lamented persistent racial tensions and gun violence in America. What courage is there to be found in a liberal telling a room full of like-minded fellows what they already believe? It takes an empirical, objective political reporter to see it. For Rucker who was among the many reporters seen celebrating at the wedding of a Ready for Hillary staff member and her campaign’s director for grassroots engagement over the weekend, you would think he would display a bit more decorum. Apparently, modesty and an adversarial relationship with those on whom you are required to report is no longer a value that the nation’s journalistic class is prepared to uphold or enforce with much vigor. Unless, of course, that subject is a Republican.
I remember how the Confederate flag was used to beat up on George W. Bush about not taking a strong stand against the flag in the South Carolina primary in 2000. Yet no one asked Al Gore about the statues commemorating Nathan Bedford Forrest in his home state of Tennessee. Forrest was a notorious slave-trader before the war, a vicious cavalry leader during the Civil War responsible for the massacre of surrendered black soldiers at Fort Pillow and a founding leader of the KKK. There's a bust of him in the Tennessee statehouse and a big statue put up in 1998 that is visible from the highway on private land designed by one of the lawyers for James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King. I was struck then about the double standard of making Bush somehow answerable for South Carolina's flag when he wasn't even from there, but no one seemed to think that Gore should take a stand on the tributes to Tennessee's notorious hometown figure. I also remember the media talking about Gore's dog at the time which was named Shiloh and I wondered if the dog was named to commemorate a Tennessee Civil War battle and why he would have chosen that name. For myself, I don't see why politicians of today should be forced to make symbolic protests against the choices of politicians of another era. But that is the sort of game that is played in racial politics these days. It's just rather notable that those aren't the sort of questions aimed at Democratic politicians when it was Democrats who enacted and celebrated those racist policies in the first place.

Well, not all writers at the Washington Post are as ignorant of how the Clinton-Gore campaign portrayed themselves in the South during the 1992 campaign. Philip Bump reminds us of a couple campaign buttons for Clinton-Gore. One was superimposed on the Confederate flag and another depicted both men in rebel uniforms and called them "Sons of the New South." Bump questions whether either button were official buttons of the Clinton-Gore campaign. But it is true that they played on their image as Southerners to try and win Southern states without which no Democrat up until 2008 was able to win the presidency. Of course, those were the days when Clinton and Gore enjoyed portraying themselves as New Democrats and we know how that is no longer possible for any prominent Democratic politician.

Ronald D. Rotunda writes in the WSJ about a new movement by liberal legal forces to redefine what assault is.
A group of judges, attorneys and law professors recently voted to make tapping the shoulder of a Muslim woman to ask for directions potentially punishable in a U.S. court of law. This group, the American Law Institute, is an elite private organization that includes the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, the chief judges of the U.S. Courts of Appeal and the highest state courts, most law school deans, some law professors and private attorneys.

Here is the background. The American Law Institute periodically issues “restatements” that attempt to codify the common law—but also shift the law in the direction the institute wants it to go. In 1964, for example, the institute’s Restatement of Torts established the liability of sellers to consumers for defective products regardless of fault. At the time only 16 states had taken this position. Now it is the law everywhere.

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that American Law Institute restatements are law in all subsequent decisions when there is no state statute to the contrary. The U.S. Supreme Court on average cites the institute at least once a month.

On May 20 the American Law Institute approved, by a very close vote, significant changes to the section of its new Restatement of Torts dealing with assault and battery. The changes will have far-reaching, and extremely troubling, social and legal ramifications—including favoring some religious beliefs over others.

The institute’s restatement defines the tort of battery as any contact with another person that “offends a reasonable sense of personal dignity” or—the new addition—contact that is highly offensive to another person’s “unusually sensitive sense of personal dignity, and the actor knows that the contact will be highly offensive to the other.”

To be a battery, the contact or touching must be offensive. That’s to exclude the occasional bumps we experience walking through a crowd. And the law always measured what constituted an offense based on the views of a reasonable person. That way a judge can dismiss a frivolous claim. However, the American Law Institute now proposes that personal contact is a tort if the defendant knows that it will be offensive to someone who is “unusually sensitive.”

This is dangerous. To understand why, suppose a patient tells a hospital, “I don’t want any Jewish doctors or nurses to touch me.” An earlier draft of the institute’s restatement said, “if the patient had demanded that she not be touched by a nurse or doctor of a particular race or religion, the hospital and medical staff have no obligation to respect that preference” because it violates “public policy.” But the final accepted draft eliminates the words, “or religion.”

So if a hospital does not obey a religious bigot’s demand, it risks a lawsuit, jury trial and punitive damages. And insurance does not often cover a battery. Thus if the trial takes place in a community with a significant Muslim population, the hospital will be more likely to settle—an outcome that will encourage religious bigotry.
This is very scary stuff. But in this universe where the University of California is warning professors not to make statements about achievements being based on merit or that America is the land of opportunity, we live in a very topsy-turvy world.

Chris Cillizza is not impressed with President Obama's complaints that he just hasn't been able to accomplish what he would have liked to because...Washington. Obama said that he never told us "Yes, I can," but instead "Yes, we can." Well, not exactly. That's not what he was telling the gullible masses in 2008.
The entirety of Obama’s candidacy was premised on the idea that choosing politicians with familiar backgrounds had gotten us into this mess and that the only way out of it was to choose someone, like him, with a decidedly nontraditional background.

Implicit — and sometimes explicit — in Obama’s pitch to the American public was the idea that he was uniquely able to solve the unsolvable problems that had vexed Washington through Democratic and Republican presidents alike. (Remember that he ran hard against many of the principles that defined the presidency of Bill Clinton, a tactic that drove the former president nuts.)

That unique ability was based in two ideas: 1. Obama’s background — he is the son of a white mother and an African father and was raised by his grandparents in Hawaii — had created a person who understood how to move between various groups, how to talk the talk and walk the walk of the various segments of society. 2. Obama’s entire life — particularly his relatively short time in office — was proof that he could unite un-unitable coalitions and, not for nothing, persuade people far outside of the Democratic base to support him. (He carried Indiana, for Pete’s sake!)
Notice, that neither of these qualifications were based on his actual accomplishments or skills, just on the fact of his being who he was. But he didn't govern that way. Instead he insisted on doing things his way and taunted the Republicans by saying "I won." He didn't need to work with them to get the stimulus or his health care passed. He didn't need to compromise and gosh dang it - that's that way it should always be in his mind. Now he's disappointed and frustrated that he can't ram through everything he'd like to. Perhaps if he'd had a better grasp of American political history and the way our government works he wouldn't have been so arrogant in the first place and wouldn't be so disappointed in America now.

The Washington Post profiles Kirsten Powers and her unique position as a pro-life, evangelical Christian who is also a liberal. Her experience occupying that ideological middle ground while also being a pundit on Fox News is the basis of her new book, The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech.
For Powers’s liberal friends, following her arguments can seem like tracing a winding river, marked by unexpected tributaries and confusing crosscurrents. She supports same-sex marriage but defends those who oppose marriage equality because of “a sincere belief often grounded in a Christian worldview.” She is a Christian herself, but she also chided small-business owners who, in the name of faith, balk at making wedding cakes or providing flowers for gay weddings. Jesus would bake the cake, she says. She opposes abortion rights but supported the Affordable Care Act. She would like immigrants who are in the country illegally to have amnesty. She opposed the Iraq war.

Some liberal activists doubt her allegiance to progressive causes and call her a turncoat, while conservative commenters on her Facebook page love to tease her. One posted: “You’ve lost that liberal feelin’ . . . Whoa that liberal feelin’.”

Powers describes the reaction to her commentary bluntly, the way she describes everything: “I’m perpetually confused. Just the fact that I’m on Fox News means that somehow I’m not a liberal? I can’t figure out if it’s just ignorance or if there’s something more nefarious about it. Wouldn’t you determine whether I’m a liberal based on what my views are?”
She gets flack from both sides, but only one side seems disbelieving that someone like her can actually exist when she's probably more in alignment with many Americans than either those on the extremes of either ideology.

Conservatives love to bash Mitch McConnell, but today Bob Dole and Trent Lott pay tribute to what McConnell has been able to accomplish in just six months as Majority Leader. The contrast to Harry Reid is remarkable.
In only six months, the progress has been dramatic. Committees are up and running. Senators in both parties are debating and amending bills. Since January, the Senate has passed 30 bipartisan bills, a feat that required skillful leadership and real consensus-building. Not only is legislation now passing, bills are actually making their way to the president’s desk.

The very first bill of the new Congress was a bipartisan proposal to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. In one week senators voted on more roll-call amendment votes to Keystone than they had voted on in all of last year, a welcome development that has been rightly cheered by Republicans and Democrats alike. After President Obama ultimately vetoed the bill, even an unsuccessful attempt to override the veto was bipartisan, with eight Democrats joining in.

Following an important but frustrating debate over the president’s unilateral actions on immigration from last fall, and a skirmish over a human-trafficking bill that eventually passed unanimously, Mr. McConnell helped shepherd through the Senate’s first budget in years.

Already, the Senate has resolved a thorny Medicare reimbursement issue that bedeviled both parties for years. The Senate also passed the Iran Nuclear Review Act, allowing crucial congressional oversight of any nuclear deal the administration strikes with Iran.

This month the Senate turned to the annual appropriations bills six months earlier than in recent congresses. And the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) made it to the Senate floor after intense scrutiny from both parties in committee and an overwhelming bipartisan committee vote of approval that foreshadowed a robust debate on the floor.

Indeed, the Senate considered more amendments on this year’s NDAA, passed with a significant bipartisan vote last week, than it had during debates over the same bill in the past two years.

When the Senate almost assuredly gives the president final fast-track approval this week, it will be an important step toward the successful negotiation of free-trade agreements that will give a boost to U.S. economic growth while enhancing national security....

There was never a lot that a Republican-led Senate would be able to agree on with President Obama, but Mr. McConnell has been wise to identify the handful of matters where agreement is possible, and he has been tenacious in ensuring that the legislation earned bipartisan support. He said his Senate would focus on results, and it has. That’s a sign of real progress—not only for the public but for our politics as well.
And meanwhile, the President whines that he hasn't been able to accomplish those things that he wants to do and acts as if nothing has been accomplished by Congress since the Republicans took over the Senate. He would have done better to have learned from McConnell's example.

Awww. Nino and the Notorious RBG are still very good friends.

Say it ain't so, Whole Foods!
Rip-off on aisle four.

The city [New York city] has launched a probe of Whole Foods Markets after investigators nabbed the upscale food purveyor for routinely overcharging customers on groceries during dozens of inspections dating back to at least 2010, the Daily News has learned.

The most recent spate of violations came during a sting operation the Department of Consumer Affairs conducted in the fall that specifically checked the accuracy of the weight marked on pre-packaged products.

Inspectors weighed 80 different types of items at Whole Foods’ eight locations in the city that were open at the time. They found every label was inaccurate, with many overcharging consumers, agency spokeswoman Abby Lootens told The News....

Whole Foods, according to the city, wasn’t the only bad apple. The sweep included 120 grocery stores citywide, and 77% were hit with one or more violations.

But the notoriously pricy chain was the most egregious offender — leading DCA to open a full-blown investigation of its pricing practices last year, said Commissioner Julie Menin.

"Our inspectors told me it was the worst case of overcharges that they've ever seen," Menin said.

The overcharges ranged from 80 cents for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a container of coconut shrimp, Lootens said.