Thursday, June 04, 2015

Cruising the Web

Josh Rogin explains why it will be hard for Hillary Clinton to run on her record as Secretary of State. John Podesta has stated that that will be the centerpiece of her campaign. He might want to rethink that campaign strategy.
Running on Clinton's signature diplomatic initiatives is fraught with risks because, on closer inspection, most that he mentioned don’t hold up to scrutiny.

“She put together that sanctions package that’s led to at least the possibility of having a deal on the Iran nuclear program,” Podesta told Hunt in the interview, which was aired on PBS's "Charlie Rose" show. “That took very careful and longtime careful diplomacy."

In fact, the State Department under Clinton vigorously opposed almost all of the Iran sanctions passed by Congress while she was in office. Top officials, including Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, openly advocated against many bills, including the sanctions on Iran’s central bank, which dealt the true crippling blow to the Tehran regime. The Senate passed that bill 100-0 and Obama reluctantly signed them into law. The State Department did implement them, but was criticized by lawmakers and advocacy groups for using waivers in the law to exempt several countries, including China and our allies Japan and South Korea.

Clinton can also expect to be pressed during the campaign over her involvement in the secret negotiations that led to the controversial Iran nuclear negotiations now nearing completion. Her deputy, William Burns, and her top foreign policy advisor, Jake Sullivan, held months of clandestine meetings with Iranian officials to set up the talks. In the run-up to her campaign announcement, Clinton was cautiously supportive of the nuclear talks; leaving herself some wiggle room by saying she won’t render a final judgment until the deal is done.

Podesta then went on to say that Clinton "restored America’s place in the world, which had been very badly battered through the previous administration.”

While it’s true that global opinion of the U.S. soared when Barack Obama was first elected president, during Clinton's State Department tenure of 2009 to 2013 there was no measurable upswing in foreigners’ views of America, according to the Pew Research Center’s polling on global attitudes. In most major countries, approval of the U.S. actually went down by the time Clinton left office, including by 11 percentage points in each of France, Germany and the U.K.

Ed Morrissey links to this story from the International Business Times that Hillary Clinton's State Department approved sales of chemical weapons to countries that contributed to the Clinton Foundation and to Bill Clinton for speeches.
As Egyptian democracy protesters massed in the streets of Cairo in 2011, provoking a bloody crackdown from the authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented herself as a champion of human rights. Clinton was “deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters,” she told reporters at the State Department. “Egyptian authorities,” she urged, should not impede “peaceful protests.”

But behind the scenes, Clinton pursued contrasting aims. She cautioned the White House about backing the ouster of President Mubarak, whom she had previously described as a family friend. Her State Department cleared Egypt to continue purchasing arms the U.S. government classified as "toxicological agents,” a broad designation that included chemical and biological weapons, as well as vaccines -- this, at the very moment Mubarak’s forces were unleashing one toxicological agent, tear gas, against protesters demanding his ouster.

The Clinton-run State Department’s approval of chemical and biological exports to the Egyptian government increased in volume just as dollars flowed from Mubarak-linked entities into the coffers of Clinton family concerns. A group closely associated with the Mubarak government paid Bill Clinton a $250,000 speaking fee in 2010, less than 4 months before the Egyptian revolution began. In 2012, a firm with an ownership stake in the company that manufactured the tear gas reportedly used by Egyptian security forces against the uprising paid $100,000 to $250,000 for another Bill Clinton speech.

The approval of American chemical weapons sales to Egypt as Mubarak’s associates were stocking Clinton family interests with cash is but one example of a dynamic that prevailed though Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. During the roughly two years of Arab Spring protests that confronted authoritarian governments with popular uprisings, Clinton’s State Department approved $66 million worth of so-called Category 14 exports -- defined as "toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment" -- to nine Middle Eastern governments that either donated to the Clinton Foundation or whose affiliated groups paid Bill Clinton speaking fees.

That represented a 50 percent overall increase in such export approvals to the same countries over the two years prior to the Arab Spring, according to an International Business Times review of State Department documents. In the same time period, Arab countries that did not donate to the Clinton Foundation saw an overall decrease in their State Department approvals to purchase chemical and biological materials. The increase in chemical, biological and related exports to Clinton Foundation donors was part of a larger jump in overall arms sales authorized by Hillary Clinton’s State Department to foreign governments that gave her family’s foundation at least $54 million, according to a previous IBTimes analysis.
How ugly will this scandal get? Morrissey comments,
Here’s a better way to ask the question in relation to Hillary’s ethics: How could these governments not think they were buying influence with these donations? That’s precisely why we have those ethics and conflict-of-interest standards in the first place — to prevent even the possibility becoming reality. Hillary and Bill Clinton ran roughshod over those standards in order to enrich themselves financially and politically, undermining US policy to do so. It’s corruption, pure and simple, and the Clintons have drenched themselves in it.

How exactly will liberals and progressives rationalize Hillary’s sale of chemical arms to suppress supposed liberation movements abroad? That should be fun.

Well, this will give us confidence in DHS and the attitude they have towards illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds.
Most of the illegal immigrant criminals Homeland Security officials released from custody last year were discretionary, meaning the department could have kept them in detention but chose instead to let them onto the streets as their deportation cases moved through the system, according to new numbers from Congress.

Some of those released were the worst of the worst — more than 3,700 “Threat Level 1” criminals, who are deemed the top priority for deportation, were still released out into the community even as they waited for their immigration cases to be heard.

Homeland Security officials have implied their hands are tied by court rulings in many cases, but the numbers, obtained by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, showed 57 percent of the criminals released were by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s own choice, and they could have been kept instead
It's stories like that which remove any faith people might have in this administration to keep any side of any grand reform of immigration laws.

The Democratic Party has sure traveled a far distance from the time of Bill Clinton.
To succeed today, Hillary Clinton—like any national Democrat—must win over that wing. But doing so will encourage Republicans to paint her as too beholden to the party's liberal, urban, heavily minority base. If those attacks succeed and she loses, it will be back to the future for the GOP. That line of attack is why Bill Clinton self-consciously sought to ditch the losing liberal policies of the party's previous presidential nominees, such as Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale. Democrats lost five out of the six presidential elections between 1968 and 1988, going 0-for-3 by the time Clinton ran in 1992. There was a lot of talk at the time about the GOP holding a "lock" on the Electoral College. Clinton and other so-called New Democrats thought they could regain voter trust by taking a tougher line on social and spending issues. Hillary Clinton is doing the opposite.

She is being dragged left by younger voters and minority groups, who make up essential elements of today's Democratic coalition and tend to favor federal solutions more readily, according to polls, than older, whiter voters. The party's votes now overwhelmingly come from big cities, territory in which Democratic mayors such as Bill De Blasio in New York and Eric Garcetti in Los Angeles have made addressing income inequality central to their mission through measures such as lifting the minimum wage and building more affordable housing. President Obama, having grown convinced that Republicans intend to give him nothing, responded to the GOP's big victory last fall by making deals with Cuba and Iran and moving left on issues such as immigration, free community college and paid family leave. (Unpaid family leave was one of President Clinton's earliest legislative accomplishments.)

It all shows how far the party, and the Clintons, have come. The most resonant phrases from Bill Clinton's day—aside from the sex stuff—were the exact opposite of any progressive call to arms, such as "end welfare as we know it" and "the era of big government is over." But the era of big government being over—if that chime ever indeed did sound—is long since done. Put aside the expansions of federal programs that took place under Obama and George W. Bush. Although Obama and some other Democrats were willing to entertain thoughts a few years ago of trimming Social Security as part of a bigger budget deal, pledging to preserve or even expand the program has once again become a litmus test for party officials.

As president, Bill Clinton not only signed the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (an act for which he has since repented). He also signed a welfare law that cut off immigrants from receiving many benefits. Legal immigrants. Imagine any national Democrat agreeing to either of those things today. "They've moved left partly because they've won," says Lara Brown, a political scientist at George Washington University. "Parties typically go as far toward their core ideology as they can, as long as they keep winning."
President Clinton did champion many progressive causes, including universal health care (a botched effort run by Hillary Clinton), gun control and expansion of the earned-income tax credit, an anti-poverty program Clinton himself wished had a zippier brand name. But Clinton also argued that by melding liberal principles and conservative ideas, voters who had written off the Democratic Party would again listen to its message, which remained broadly populist on economic matters. Clinton believed Democrats had to shed any lingering hippie image and talk tough on crime. When still the governor of Arkansas, Clinton left the campaign trail in 1992 to preside over the execution of a cop killer who was mentally impaired. He also went out of his way to distance himself from civil rights leader Jesse Jackson—his "Sister Souljah moment."
In addition to her lack of political skills, Hillary Clinton is just no Bill Clinton.

Byron York looks to see who does and does not like Hillary Clinton.
First, men don't like her. Among men, Clinton's unfavorable rating is 58 percent, while her favorable rating is just 38 percent — a 20-point negative gap. Among women, Clinton is on the favorable side, with 54 percent having a favorable opinion of her, and 42 percent having an unfavorable view — a 12-point positive gap.

White people don't like her. Among whites, 59 percent have an unfavorable impression of Clinton, while 38 percent have a favorable one — a 21-point negative gap. Nonwhites, on the other hand, like Clinton a lot: 65 percent have a favorable impression of her, while 31 percent have an unfavorable impression — a 34-point positive gap.

Young people like her. In what might seem to be a counterintuitive result, the only age group with a favorable impression of Clinton is Americans 18 to 34. Among that group, 55 percent have a favorable impression of Clinton, while 38 percent have an unfavorable opinion — a 17-point positive gap. In every other age group, a majority has an unfavorable opinion of her: 54 percent unfavorable among people 35 to 49; 55 percent unfavorable among people 50 to 64; and 56 percent unfavorable among people 65 and older. The negative gaps get bigger with increasingly older age groups: nine percent among people 35 to 49; 13 percent among people 50 to 64; 14 percent among 65 and older.

People who make more than $50,000 a year don't like Clinton. Among that income group, 56 percent have an unfavorable opinion of her, while 42 percent have a favorable one — a 14-point negative gap. Among Americans making less than $50,000 a year, the gap is reversed, although not as big: 53 percent have a favorable impression of Clinton, while 42 percent have an unfavorable impression — an 11-point positive gap.
I think we can see the makings of the Clinton campaign right in these statistics.

Jim Geraghty reports on how bizarre, satirical internet posts now require GOP candidates to spend time knocking down stuff that just didn't happen, but social media users believe.
Have you noticed your liberal friends on Facebook spotlighting some unbelievably shocking comments from Republican presidential candidates lately?

Comments like Ted Cruz declaring on May 22, “While there may have been an age difference, Josh Duggar’s transgressions are far less an affront to God than what gays do to each other.”

Or Dr. Ben Carson saying on May 10, “Mother’s Day is a sad, lonely day for women who aborted their babies. Even if they have a living child, they focus on the one they murdered. It’s why suicide rates are so high on Mother’s Day.”

Or Marco Rubio asking on May 26, “Why wouldn’t I trust Josh Duggar to babysit my children? I’d rather leave my daughters alone with him than with Beyonce or Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift.”

Of course, all of these quotes are fake. They come from a “satirical” Facebook page, “Stop the World, the Teabaggers Want Off.” But that hasn’t stopped more than a few liberals from enthusiastically sharing graphics featuring the imaginary incendiary comments, and stirring themselves into the attendant froth of outrage. The site declares itself to be “for entertainment purposes only,” and that may be true — if you’re the kind of person who devours made-up, outrageous quotes from conservative politicians for fun. But there’s nothing funny about it from the perspective of the politicians’ presidential campaigns, who are starting to see the fake quotes and positions permeate the world of actual news.

“It’s obviously frustrating for any campaign, because the point of these sites is not to inform the public, it’s to cause trouble,” says Brian Phillips, director of rapid response at Cruz for President, who deals with these sorts of stories all the time. “There’s a whole industry of anti-conservative reporters or sometimes just folks on the Left who don’t really care about reporting the truth, who have another agenda to make a candidate look extreme.”

....It’s an open question as to how much fictional stories like these sway votes, but they do tend to stick in the minds of partisans. A Zogby poll, commissioned by John Zeigler after the 2008 election, found that about 87 percent of self-identified Obama voters believed Sarah Palin said, “I can see Russia from my house.” The line was uttered by Tina Fey impersonating Palin during a Saturday Night Live sketch; during an interview, Palin had said, “you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”

Cruz appears to be a particular target of the phenomenon. Shortly after his presidential campaign launch, he declared to a crowd of supporters in New Hampshire that “the world is on fire!” A three-year-old girl in the audience asked, “The world is on fire?” Cruz said, “You know what, your mommy’s here, and everyone’s here to make sure the world you grow up in is even better.” The video makes clear it was an amusing moment, but more than a few outlets such as Gawker and New York reported that Cruz had terrorized the toddler.

The mother of the girl later went out on local radio to emphasize that no, the senator hadn’t terrified her daughter.

“Thank goodness we had her mother come out,” Phillips says. “It shows the importance of pushing back on this stuff. They would have loved to paint a picture of Ted Cruz with horns, scaring little children.”
I'm sure that there are similar memes that make their way around the conservative blogosphere claiming bizarre things about Obama or Hillary. And I can imagine that this will soon become standard ops among campaigns to ridicule and denigrate their opponents, especially among younger and poorly informed voters.

This is what affirmative action has wrought.
Brian Taylor is director of Ivy Coach, a Manhattan company that advises families on how to get their students into elite colleges. A number of his clients are Asian American, and Taylor is frank about his strategy for them.

“While it is controversial, this is what we do,’’ he says. “We will make them appear less Asian when they apply.”

That a hard working, high achieving Asian-American student would want to appear less Asian on a college application may seem counterintuitive. But Asian-American students already make up a disproportionate percentage of the student body at many select schools, compared to their share of the general population.

And that’s the problem.

Some call it “the bamboo ceiling” of racial quotas, telling stories of Asian-American students with perfect SAT scores and GPAs turned down by elite colleges who limit the number of Asians they will admit, effectively forcing them to face a higher bar for admissions than other racial groups, including whites.
Because being excellent and involved in extracurriculars while coming from an immigrant family where English is not the language spoken at home is just not enough if a student is Asian, they have to find ways to downplay their Asianness.
“The admissions officers are seeing a bunch of people who all look alike: high test scores, high grades, many play musical instruments and tend not to engage in more physical sports like football,” Chen says.

If students come to him early in high school, Chen will direct them to “switch to another musical instrument” or “play a sport a little bit out of their element.”

And for the college essay, don’t write about your immigrant family, he tells them: “Don’t talk about your family coming from Vietnam with $2 in a rickety boat and swimming away from sharks.”

One of Chen’s New York clients is a girl who attended a top public examination high school in the city, where more than half the class is Asian. She got a perfect score on her SAT, was valedictorian, class president, and captain of the badminton team.

Her father, who asked that the family not be identified, told the Globe that he contacted Asian Advantage when his daughter was a sophomore. He and his wife emigrated from China, and their daughter was born here. “In general, we have the impression that it’s not easy for Asian Americans to apply to college,” he said.

Chen said that he worked with the teenager to “deemphasize the Asianness in her resume.” She played the piano, but he encouraged her to participate in musical theater. Badminton was a no-no on her college app: Too many Asian students play racquet sports. Ditto for Asian Club. And she was to avoid saying that she was interested in biology or wanted to be a doctor.

“She put down social sciences,” Chen says.

She was accepted early admission into Harvard.

Just in case you weren't aware of how many lobbying groups there are in D.C., just think of this - there are over 1,100 lobbying groups just for food products.
“There’s 17 beef organizations here in Washington," Drutman says. "We’ve got the Center for Beef Excellence, U.S. Premium Beef, Beef Products Incorporated…”

You get the idea. Every single thing on our plates had somebody representing it on Capitol Hill. Sometimes lots of somebodies. For rice, seven associations. Ditto for shrimp.

Some of the trade associations are pretty obscure. Like the International Natural Sausage Casing Association, or the American Dehydrated Onion and Garlic Association.
What a sign about the scope and reach of the federal government.

Check out the breakdown of professions by political parties. It's about what I would expect for high school teachers.

Clearing up some myths about Reagan's presidency.

PJ Media links to this story out of St. Paul, Minnesota where chaos now seems to reign in the schools. The focus now seems to be on decrying white privilege and limiting teachers' ability to impose discipline and order in the classrooms. It's truly horrifying what has become of the schools even beyond the hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been spent on questionable practices.
In 2010, the St. Paul school district began a contractual relationship with the Pacific Educational Group, a San Francisco-based organization that tries to help public schools deal with achievement and disciplinary issues involving black students.

PEG packages and sells the concept of victimization, for a very high price.

It claims that the American education system is built around white culture, tradition and social norms – aka “white privilege” – to the unfair detriment of black students.

PEG believes that black students will only achieve if school curricula are customized to meet their cultural specifications. It also rejects the concept of using suspensions or expulsions to discipline black students.

The relationship with PEG has been costly for the St. Paul district, in more ways than one....

Not long after PEG started working with St. Paul school officials, crucial policy changes were made, according to various news reports.

Special needs students with behavioral issues were mainstreamed into regular classrooms, a position openly advocated by PEG.

Student suspensions were replaced by “time outs,” and school officials starting forgiving or ignoring violence and other unacceptable behavior, according to various sources.

“The disciplinary changes came out of meetings with an organization called Pacific Educational Group, a San Francisco-based operation that has been consulting with the district dating back to 2010,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

The result has been general chaos throughout the district, with far too many students out of control because they know there are no real consequences for their actions.

A local publication called CityPages recently told the story of Becky McQueen, an educator at St. Paul’s Harding High School.

“Last spring, when she stepped into a fight between two basketball players, one grabbed her shoulder and head, throwing her aside,” the CityPages article explained. “The kid was only sent home for a couple of days.

“In March, when a student barged into her class, McQueen happened to be standing in the doorway and got crushed into a shelf. The following week, two boys came storming in, hit a girl in the head, then skipped back out. One of them had already been written up more than 30 times.

“Yet another student who repeatedly drops into her class has hit kids and cursed at an aide, once telling McQueen he would “fry” her ass. She tried to make a joke of it — ‘Ooh, I could use a little weight loss.’ Her students interjected: ‘No, that means he’s gonna kill you.'”

McQueen now has her students use a secret knock on the classroom door, so she will know who to allow in, the article said.

“There are those that believe that by suspending kids we are building a pipeline to prison. I think that by not, we are,” McQueen told CityPages. “I think we’re telling these kids you don’t have to be on time for anything, we’re just going to talk to you. You can assault somebody and we’re gonna let you come back here.”
It's truly sad when the obvious need for discipline in schools is ignored because of some faddish racial theories.

National Journal explains how senators choose which seats they will have on the floor of the Senate. Once I was with a group of teachers visiting Congress and Senator Arlen Specter took us on the floor of the Senate and we could sit in anyone's seat. I sat in Senator McCain's seat and peeked inside his desk. He just had a bunch of miscellaneous papers and a book of the collection of JFK's speeches. Then, on the way out, I went over to sit in Senator Judd Gregg's seat because I had once read that he had the desk that had been Daniel Webster's and I wanted to be able to say I'd sat where Webster had once sat. I still get a bit of a chill from that.

George Will pooh poohs the supposed independence of Bernie Sanders.
Does any stricture of journalistic propriety or social etiquette require us to participate in Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’s charade? Is it obligatory to take seriously his pose of being an “independent” and a “socialist”? It gives excitable Democratic activists a frisson of naughtiness to pretend that he is both. Actually, he is neither.

“Independent”? He caucuses with Senate Democrats and attends their policy lunches, his committee assignments count against the Democrats’ quotas, he reliably votes with Democrats, and he is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He is a Democrat.

If he is a “socialist,” who isn’t? In olden days, socialism meant something robust — government ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. Then, voters and reality being resistant to such socialism, the idea was diluted to mean just government ownership of an economy’s “commanding heights,” principally heavy industries, coal mines, railroads, etc.

....Does any stricture of journalistic propriety or social etiquette require us to participate in Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’s charade? Is it obligatory to take seriously his pose of being an “independent” and a “socialist”? It gives excitable Democratic activists a frisson of naughtiness to pretend that he is both. Actually, he is neither.

“Independent”? He caucuses with Senate Democrats and attends their policy lunches, his committee assignments count against the Democrats’ quotas, he reliably votes with Democrats, and he is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He is a Democrat.

If he is a “socialist,” who isn’t? In olden days, socialism meant something robust — government ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. Then, voters and reality being resistant to such socialism, the idea was diluted to mean just government ownership of an economy’s “commanding heights,” principally heavy industries, coal mines, railroads, etc....

While medical and retirement payments to the elderly swallow the federal budget, Sanders proposes increasing Social Security benefits (a regressive transfer to the most affluent age cohort, the elderly). He would pay for this by increasing the amount of income subject to payroll taxes. Campaigning in 2007, Clinton denounced such an increase as “a trillion-dollar tax increase on the elderly and on middle-class workers.” Under pressure from Sanders, her thinking about this may “evolve.”

Sanders, who thinks European social democracies are exemplary, evidently thinks America should be more like Greece. Clinton’s other opponent, former Baltimore mayor and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, thinks America deserves more of what has made Baltimore so exciting — the unimpeded, full-throttle application (in Baltimore, for 48 years) of Democratic policies. Why should Clinton interrupt her reticence while her rivals are making her seem (relatively) sensible?

Oh, joy. Now Lincoln Chafee is in the race for the Democratic nomination. He has been a Republican, an Independent, and now a Democrat. Just think. If he, by some miracle, won the nomination, he could choose Charlie Crist as his running mate and they could be united in their ideological and partisan slipperiness.