Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cruising the Web

Jonah Goldberg has a great column noting how so many Democrats are horrified at the thought of reinterpreting the Constitution concerning birthright citizenship.
Now bear in mind, all of these Democrats oppose justices who believe the Constitution should be read narrowly, according to the original intent or plain meaning of the text. They like justices who worship at the altar of the “living Constitution” — you know, the mythical document that magically provides rights never imagined by the Founding Fathers.

Meanwhile, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, announced that one of her four central goals is to change the First Amendment. She wants to do this on the grounds that we must do anything we can to get rid of “unaccountable money” in our political system.

Never mind that this is a funny position for a woman who plans on raising a reported $2 billion to win the presidency and whose foundation — which is neatly aligned with her political ambitions — is awash in foreign money. If only she hadn’t scrubbed her illicit private email server, I’m sure she could allay any fears that she is tainted by unaccountable money.

And yet, where is the outrage?

It isn’t coming from activist groups like People for the American Way, an organization founded to uphold the First Amendment. It has denounced the Republican effort to tinker with the 14th Amendment as an affront to human decency, but it applauds Clinton’s desire to tamper with the First Amendment as proof of her commitment to democracy.

Some Republicans disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898), which applied the 14th Amendment to immigrants born here. Some Democrats disagree with the court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which says the First Amendment applies to groups of citizens acting in concert. Both, or neither, may be right, but only Republicans are forbidden from acting on their conviction.

Whenever a Republican is asked about potential court appointments, he must swear that he will offer no “litmus tests,” specifically on abortion. But Democrats routinely vow that they will only appoint living constitutionalists who see a right to abortion-on-demand lurking between the lines of the Bill of Rights. Clinton recently added a new litmus test. She’s told donors — accountable ones, no doubt — that she would only appoint justices who would overturn the Citizens United decision.

Don’t strain yourself trying to hear the outrage. Outrage is saved for Republicans.

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Aaron Goldstein contrasts Ben Carson's reaction to the question Megyn Kelly asked him during the debate to the three-week tiff that Trump has been nursing against Kelly. I'd forgotten the question she asked him.
For all intents and purposes, Kelly basically asked Carson if he was an idiot. And yet unlike Trump, Carson didn’t tell Kelly she wasn’t being very nice. Instead, he handled himself with grace and dignity. I’ve had some deep reservations about Carson, but there is something to be said for not becoming defensive when something is asked of you. I’m sure Carson didn’t care for Kelly’s question, but we don’t see him whining about being asked a tough question nearly three weeks after the fact. In which case, perhaps Dr. Carson can give Trump a prescription that will toughen his thin skin.

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Christina Hoff Sommers nails it.
In August 2014, 12 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard charged into 28-year-old artist Atena Farghadani’s house, blindfolded her, and took her to prison.

She had posted a satirical cartoon on Facebook to protest proposed legislation to restrict birth control and women’s rights. Farghadani has since been found guilty of “spreading propaganda” and “insulting members of parliament through paintings.” She has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Farghadani is one of millions of women whose basic rights are being ruthlessly violated. In countries like Iran, Yemen, Egypt, and Cambodia, women are struggling for freedoms most women in the West take for granted.

But American feminists are relatively silent about these injustices — especially feminists on campus. During the 1980s, there were massive demonstrations on American college campuses against racial apartheid in South Africa. There is no remotely comparable movement on today’s campuses against the gender apartheid prevalent in large parts of the world. Why not?

Today’s young feminist activists are far too preoccupied with their own supposed victimhood to make common cause with women like Farghadani.

This past year I visited and spoke at several US campuses, including Yale, UCLA, Oberlin, and Georgetown. I found activist feminist students passionately absorbed in the cause of liberating themselves from the grasp of the oppressive patriarchal order. Their trigger warnings, safe spaces and micro-aggression watches are all about saving themselves from the ravages of the male hegemony.


It’s not that they don’t feel bad for women in places like Iran or Yemen. They do. But they believe they share a similar fate.

And they can cite a litany of victim statistics from their gender studies class that shows their plight. Someone needs to tell them that most of those statistics are specious and that, although the threat of harm is a human constant, they are among the most liberated and privileged — and safest — people on earth.

Because their professors would not tell them, that someone turned out to be me; for this I was furnished with a police escort on more than one occasion.

Samantha Power, the able US ambassador to the UN and human rights champion, recently addressed the graduating class of Barnard College. Instead of urging them to support women struggling against oppression in places like Afghanistan, she congratulated them for waging a parallel struggle on the US campus.

She cited Emma Sulkowicz — a much-publicised Columbia University student who carried a mattress for months to protest her alleged rape by a fellow student — as a symbol of ongoing oppression of US women, and compared her plight with those of young women in Afghanistan struggling for elementary gender justice.

Never mind that a campus discipline committee found the accused not guilty; never mind the questionable basis of Sulkowicz’s public shaming campaign. Sulkowicz lives in a country where laws, institutions, and customs protect her. The women of Afghanistan do not. Afghan women are coping with the Taliban; Sulkowicz is coping with Columbia classmates. The US ambassador to the UN should be able to distinguish the two.

It is not my view that because women in countries like Iran or Afghanistan have it so much worse, Western women should tolerate less serious injustices at home. Emphatically they should not.

But too often, today’s gender activists are not fighting injustice, but fighting phantom epidemics and nursing petty grievances. Two leading feminist hashtags of 2015 are #FreeTheNipples and #LovetheLines. The former is a campaign to desexualise women’s breasts; the latter promotes stretch-mark acceptance. If the imprisoned women of Iran and Afghanistan were free to tweet, what would they say about these struggles?
It is so very true. And these so-called feminists should be called on their misplaced values at every turn.

Tevi Troy has an interesting column looking at what the 2016 GOP candidates are reading - or claiming to be reading. It gives a look at what they consider important.

Marc Thiessen reminds us of an ominous precedent that should worry Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton likes to point out that she is not the first senior national security official to conduct official business on a home computer system. She’s right about that, but the precedent should not give the Democratic presidential front-runner much comfort.

Former CIA director John Deutch was also found to have stored classified documents — including top-secret intelligence — on computers in his homes in Bethesda and Belmont, Mass., leading to an investigation by the CIA inspector general and a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. Deutch was stripped of his security clearance and ended up reaching a plea agreement admitting to his crimes — but was saved by a last-minute pardon from none other than . . . President Bill Clinton....

On Feb. 18, 2000, the CIA inspector general issued a scathing report in which he found that throughout his tenure as director, Deutch had processed “large volumes of highly classified information” on unprotected home computers. After the computers were seized, he wrote, “a technical exploitation team, consisting of personnel expert in data recovery, retrieved the data from Deutch’s unclassified magnetic media and computers” and found “classified information . . . related to covert action, Top Secret communications intelligence and the National Reconnaissance Program budget.”

Among the classified documents found on Deutch’s hard drive and memory cards were multiple memorandums to the president and vice president that “contained information at the Top Secret/Codeword level.” The specific information was redacted in the inspector general’s public report, but Newsweek reported that it included documents related to Iraq and a 1996 terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. troops.

In one case, the data recovery team discovered that “[t]he files on [a memory] card with the unclassified sticker had been erased; however, the contract network engineer was able to recover data by the use of a commercially available software utility.” He found top-secret information on it.

Another parallel with Clinton: The inspector general found that Deutch had used the same unclassified computers to process both classified information and conduct personal business, which made the “classified information residing on Deutch’s computers . . . vulnerable to possible electronic access and exploitation.”
Not quite a joke, is it - even on Snapchat?

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Robert Tracinski has a typically intelligent column trying to figure out how many of Trump's supporters would follow him if he were to run as an independent candidate. Would he have the impact of a Perot, a Nader, or be more like Ron Paul. Tracinski breaks down Trump's supporters into six different groups and postulates that it depends how large each group is among the Trumpians since each group has a different likelihood of voting for Trump in a three-way race.
1) “Low-information voters” who don’t really know much about Trump or his policies, but hey, he’s a celebrity, so they tell pollsters they’re voting for him.

2) Actual conservatives who like Trump because he’s a tough-talking “fighter” and a businessman who “gets things done.”

3) Disgruntled non-ideological independents who normally don’t vote because “it never makes any difference.”

4) Single-issue anti-immigration fanatics.

5) Archie Bunker types who normally vote Republican because they see it as the party of “identity politics for white people,” the ones who want the country to be run by and for “people like me.” These are the folks on Twitter and in the comments fields of my articles who extol the virtue of “European” immigrants, without realizing that “Hispanic” derives from the word for Spain, and that Spain is in Europe.

6) Outright racists who don’t normally vote because neither party has the guts to embrace White Power.

Obviously, if it’s mostly 1) and 6), we can expect the Trump phenomenon to flame out quickly. Group 1 is large, but their political interest is fleeting and they don’t tend to turn out for actual elections. Group 6 is, thankfully, quite small. And the more Group 1 actually hears about the people in Group 6—say, the guys who were inspired by Trump’s rhetoric to beat up a Hispanic man in Boston, or the guys shouting “White Power” at the Trump rally in Alabama—the more they are going to decide they don’t want to be on this particular bandwagon.
Read the rest. Obviously, we don't really know how large each group is, but Nate Cohn has some analysis in the NYT using Civis polls which polls only from registered voters. This gives us some insight into what fraction of Trump's support comes from people less likely to vote. The Civis poll showed Trump with 16% rather than the 22% which other polls are averaging. Of course, those who are not registered to day could certainly register before primaries begin. But the analysis is certainly interesting in this moment when all we have to go on are polls.

Though, if we're to believe the Huffington Post, Trump is getting ready to promise that he won't run as an independent.

One thing that Trump is extremely good at is garnering media attention. Every day there seems to be another storyline about Trump that monopolizes the media. Nate Silver marvels at Trump's ability to keep himself in the news.
What’s interesting is how Trump seemed to go out of his way after the debate to ensure that he’d remain the center of attention, with his tirade against Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly (a feud that he’s since resurrected). That tended to drown out most of the coverage of whether, say, Fiorina or Kasich had gained momentum after the debate, perhaps preventing them from having the sort of feedback loop of favorable attention that can sometimes trigger surges in the polls.

I don’t know whether this was a deliberate strategy on Trump’s behalf. But if so, it’s pretty brilliant. Trump is perhaps the world’s greatest troll, someone who is amazingly skilled at disrupting the conversation by any means necessary, including by drawing negative, tsk-tsking attention to himself. In the current, “free-for-all” phase of the campaign — when there are 17 candidates and you need only 20 percent or so of the vote to have the plurality in GOP polls — this may be a smart approach. If your goal is to stay at the center of attention rather than necessarily to win the nomination, it’s worth making one friend for every three enemies, provided that those friends tell some pollster that they’d hypothetically vote for you.

Is it sustainable? In the long run, probably not. There are lots of interesting candidates in the GOP field, whether you’re concerned with the horse race, their policy positions or simply just entertainment value. Sooner or later, the media will find another candidate’s story interesting. Cruz has a lot of upside potential in the troll department, for instance, along with better favorability ratings than Trump and a slightly more plausible chance of being the Republican nominee.

But there’s not a lot of hard campaign news to dissect in August. Fend off the occasional threat by throwing a stink bomb whenever another story risks upstaging you, and you can remain at the center of the conversation, and atop the polls, for weeks at a time.

John Podhoretz sees parallels between Obama and Trump.
In fact, what Trump is promising is simply a different form of Obamaism, and that is what perversely makes him attractive to so many people.

Obama’s astonishing second-term efforts to do an end-run around the constitutional limits of the presidency have given Trump’s approach peculiar resonance with certain conservatives.

They’ve watched in horrified amazement as Obama has single-handedly postponed parts of the Affordable Care Act; unilaterally installed people in federal jobs (at the National Labor Relations Board) that require congressional consent and announced in November 2014 that he’d cease enforcing certain immigration laws and effectively grant protection to 5 million so-called “dreamers” — when it is his constitutional obligation to enforce existing laws passed by Congress.

Trump is, in effect, promising to be a right-wing Obama, to run roughshod over the rules to fix things Obama and other politicians have broken.

It’s easy to see why this is seductive.
George Will writes on this same theme of noting that conservatives excoriate Obama's unilateral actions, yet seem to desire the GOP to act in the same way.
Some supporters simply find Trump entertainingly naughty. Others, however, have remarkable cognitive dissonance. They properly execrate Obama’s executive highhandedness that expresses progressivism’s traditional disdain for the separation of powers that often makes government action difficult. But these same Trumpkins simultaneously despise GOP congressional leaders because they do not somehow jettison the separation of powers and work conservatism’s unimpeded will from Capitol Hill.

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For conservatives, this is the dispiriting irony: The administrative state’s intrusiveness (e.g., its regulatory burdens), irrationalities (e.g., the tax code’s toll on economic growth), incompetence (Amtrak, ethanol, etc.) and illegality (we see you, IRS) may benefit the principal architect of this state, the Democratic party. This is because the other party’s talented critics of the administrative state are being drowned out by Trump’s recent discovery that Americans understandably disgusted by government can be beguiled by a summons to Caesarism.

Trump, who uses the first-person singular pronoun even more than the previous world-record holder (Obama), promises that constitutional arrangements need be no impediment to the leader’s savvy, “management” brilliance, and iron will. Trump supporters consider the presidency today an entry-level job because he is available to turn government into a triumph of the leader’s will.
I would sure hate to see Republicans embrace the idea that our leaders should act as unilaterally as Obama has, but I'm afraid that they will. Once that elastic of presidential power gets stretched out, it never bounces back to the vision the Founding Fathers had.

Amusingly, Donald Trump had a very different opinion of Megyn Kelly's debate moderating skills back in 2011 when Trump was toying with the idea of moderating a GOP debate.
Kelly asked, “Do you really think you’re a better moderator than I am?”

Trump responded, “No, I could never beat you. That wouldn’t even be close. That would be no contest. You have done a great job, by the way, and I mean it.”

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Politico has a long article about what is going on behind the scenes as Biden weighs running for office. He seems to clearly not have made up his mind. Reportedly, his family is still rather ambivalent.Contrary to some reports, Obama leans to supporting Clinton over Biden.
Obama, according to current and former West Wing officials, is more inclined to support Clinton’s candidacy. Despite her woes, he sees her as a more electable candidate and a more effective keeper of his policy legacy. He’s done everything but endorse her already, putting his vast fundraising network in the hands of Clinton’s super PAC allies. Two of Obama’s top White House aides, John Podesta and Jennifer Palmieri, are running Clinton’s campaign and report regularly to their old West Wing friends — including the president.

But Obama has told people around him to give the vice president “space” to make his decision, and urged his staff not to make Biden feel pressured not to run.
Meanwhile, he can spend the time he's using to make up his mind to keep his name out before the public. As Harry Enten notes how Biden is keeping the media interested, there are still some interesting data about the success of candidates who jump into the race late.

The media used to pride itself on not talking about minor presidential children. But the NYT throws that circumspection out by running an article about how Malia Obama is influencing fashion. She's stepping into the gashonista shoes of her mother whom fashion writers have spent years raving about.