Monday, August 31, 2015

Cruising the Web

Byron York reports that Trump is about to divide Republicans with his proposal to raise taxes rates on the wealthiest Americans.
First Donald Trump antagonized the Republican establishment with his proposals on immigration. Then he irritated some with his stands on trade and Social Security. Now Trump is preparing a tax proposal that will again set him far apart from the party's powers-that-be.

The problem for the establishment is that Trump's positions on all three issues are more in line with the majority of American voters than the establishment's preferred policies. By using his popularity to force outside-the-GOP-box ideas into the Republican presidential debate, Trump is displaying an uncanny sense of the divisions between voters and the GOP power structure.

Trump has been sending signals that his tax proposal, which he says will be "comprehensive," will include higher rates for some of the richest Americans, a position generally at odds with Republican orthodoxy. "I want to see lower taxes," Trump said at an appearance in Norwood, Mass., on Friday night. "But on some people, they're not doing their fair share."
Just like Democrats like to make Republicans seem out of the mainstream by attacking them for refusing to raise rates on anyone, particularly the rich. I can anticipate that Trump's position will resonate with many Americans even as it infuriates many conservative groups such as Club for Growth or the Wall Street Journal.

Well, now John Kerry is appealing to Iran to release an American Marine veteran who has been imprisoned in Iran for four years. Gee, if Kerry really cared about getting Iran to release Amir, perhaps he could have asked for them to do so while negotiating the Iran deal when our leverage would have been so much greater.

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For all the administration's accusations that Israel has been trying to influence votes in Congress on the Iran deal, there is another country working to influence votes.
Senator Markey has announced his support for the Iran deal that will let the terrorist regime inspect its own Parchin nuclear weapons research site, conduct uranium enrichment, build advanced centrifuges, buy ballistic missiles, fund terrorism and have a near zero breakout time to a nuclear bomb.

There was no surprise there.

Markey had topped the list of candidates supported by the Iran Lobby. And the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC) had maxed out its contributions to his campaign.

After more fake suspense, Al Franken, another IAPAC backed politician who also benefited from Iran Lobby money, came out for the nuke sellout.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the Iran Lobby’s third Dem senator, didn’t bother playing coy like her colleagues. She came out for the deal a while back even though she only got half the IAPAC cash that Franken and Markey received.

As did Senator Gillibrand, who had benefited from IAPAC money back when she first ran for senator and whose position on the deal should have come as no surprise.

The Iran Lobby had even tried, and failed, to turn Arizona Republican Jeff Flake. Iran Lobby cash had made the White House count on him as the Republican who would flip, but Flake came out against the deal. The Iran Lobby invested a good deal of time and money into Schumer, but that effort also failed.

Still these donations were only the tip of the Iran Lobby iceberg.

Gillibrand had also picked up money from the Iran Lobby’s Hassan Nemazee. Namazee was Hillary’s national campaign finance director who had raised a fortune for both her and Kerry before pleading guilty to a fraud scheme encompassing hundreds of millions of dollars. Nemazee had been an IAPAC trustee and had helped set up the organization. (Link via Jeff Dunetz)
Which is more upsetting to most Americans - a politician getting donations from AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, or one getting donations from IAPAC, the pro-Iran lobby?

With Senate Democrats planning to vote to filibuster a vote on the Iranian deal, expect to see Iran as an issue throughout the 2016 election for Democrats across the board. And the Democrats know that their position isn't popular which is probably why DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz blocked a resolution supporting the President's Iran deal.

Matthew Continetti remarks the administration's silence on the anniversary of Obama's attack on ISIA in Iraq.
Obama’s quiet because the war is not going well. Despite the loss of Tikrit earlier this year, the Islamic State’s western boundary is stable, and its eastern boundary now encroaches on Damascus. The president’s air campaign is one of the most limited and desultory America has fought in decades—ranking last in daily averages of strike sorties and bombs dropped. In late July, when the Turks permitted America the use of their air bases to launch attacks on ISIS, a “senior administration official” told the New York Times that the decision was “a game changer.” In the ensuing days the number of airstrikes in Syria actually fell.

The growing number of U.S. advisers—there are now more than 3,300 American military personnel in Iraq—has been unable to repair the damage wrought on the Iraqi Army by sectarian and political purges after our 2011 withdrawal. Even as the administration brags about killing more than 10,000 ISIS terrorists, a number that strains credulity, the Caliphate has become more deeply entrenched in its territory, and inspires attacks abroad.

Meanwhile the congressional authorization that the president sought is dead. One of our most gifted generals predicts the conflict will last “10 to 20 years.” And now comes news that the Pentagon is investigating whether intelligence assessments of ISIS have been manipulated for political reasons. “Analysts,” reports the Daily Beast, “have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is.” This sort of dishonesty helps no one—except a president whose primary concern is leaving office with his reputation for ending wars intact, and the military brass who wish to remain in his good graces.

What’s especially galling about this allegation is that Obama and the Democratic Party have spent years spuriously accusing President Bush of lying the United States into war in 2003. Spend a moment thinking of what the news cycle would be if George W. were still our president and the Pentagon inspector general opened an investigation into whether the bureaucracy was sprucing up intelligence to make it politically palatable: The chorus of “Bush lied, people died” would be deafening, Congress would demand investigations, the national security leak machine would start humming, John Conyers would reconvene his mock impeachment hearing, and the entire controversy would be set against the backdrop of antiwar marches and publicized denunciations of militaristic policy. What have we instead? ABC’s Good Morning America mentioned the Pentagon investigation. No other broadcast network did.

It’s an unanticipated consequence of Barack Obama’s presidency: his immobilization of the antiwar legions, the way his election immediately neutered the zealots who, if a Republican were in office, would be marching against drone strikes and mass surveillance and war in Afghanistan and air war in Libya, Syria, Iraq and proxy war in Yemen. What does it say about the left that the most spirited attacks on Obama national security policy have come from the right: On drones, surveillance, and congressional authorization for war, you are far more likely to hear criticism from Ted Cruz or Rand Paul than from the politicians who rode into office denouncing Bush’s misadventure in Iraq. The protestors who flooded New York in 2004 and fell to the ground at the D.C. “Die-In” in 2007—they either support the president or are too busy with Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter to care.

Obama has thus been allowed to wage a war for more than a year not only without the authorization he called for but also without the accountability that pressure from his left would bring. He’s flying solo, and below him are an endless, inconclusive war, a terrorist state built on sharia law and sex slavery, rampant chemical weapons use, civilian casualties, and a refugee crisis that is causing social, economic, and political instability in Europe. The only thing missing from this picture is outrage—elite fury over the geopolitical and humanitarian results of the president’s evasive policy, of doing only the bare minimum necessary to convince people that you aren’t ignoring the problem.

There’s no outrage because the media, our bipartisan political establishment, and indeed the American people themselves are unwilling to face the scope of the challenge the Islamic State present

The NY Post excoriates Bill Clinton who, it was recently revealed was quite willing to go talk befor bloody tyrants.
If you needed more proof the Clintons aren’t beyond dirty money, newly public e-mails reveal that Bill wanted to give lucrative speeches in North Korea and Congo while Hillary was running the State Department.

North Korea, of course, is perhaps the most repressive country on the planet. Congo’s not quite as bad, but a “mandatory” part of the package there was posing for photos with not one but two dictators — one of them the ruler of the world’s poorest nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nice way to cash in on your cachet as a former president of the United States and hubby of the secretary of state.

The Bill Clinton staffer trying to get State’s OK on the speeches realized it was a stretch — but still pushed in both cases.

On the Congo speech, that involved this plea: “WJC wants to know what State thinks of it if he took 100% for the foundation.”

That is, former President William Jefferson Clinton was thinking it might be OK, so long as the $650,000 payoff went to the family “charity” — the one that covers so many of the Clintons’ bills and employs so many of their longtime aides.

The push on North Korea was even more hilarious. Cheryl Mills, Hillary’s chief of staff, e-mailed, “Decline it.” But Team Bill didn’t get “ ‘no’ means ‘no’.” It came back asking for “specific concerns” over the speech — because the player trying to set it up was Tony Rodham, Hillary’s brother.
What does it say about the Clintons that they would have been happy to have him give such speeches for money?

Daniel Gallington, who has served in national security positions in both the executive and legislative branches ridicules Hillary Clinton's excuses about how she dealt with classified information.
When I write an op-ed — including this one — I am required to submit a draft to the CIA’s Pre-publication Review Board and also the security officer at the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. This is to make sure that I don’t inadvertently disclose something that I learned when I had access to highly classified information. Actually, I very much respect this process, because it protects me as well as the government.

Anyone who has ever held a Special Intelligence/Talent Keyhole (SI/TK) clearance — which is granted by the CIA — is required to do this for life, and the obligation comes from the agreement one signs in order to be granted access to that category of information. I first signed such an agreement almost 35 years ago and a similar one when I was general counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Why so careful? Simple: SI/TK information is classified by virtue of how it was obtained, or it’s “sources and methods,” which often are far more important to protect than the actual information itself.

Can we assume that Hillary Clinton — certainly when she was secretary of state — signed these same kinds of papers, together with getting a briefing on what SI/TK meant and the obligations accruing from her accesses thereto? Yes, and I have been physically present when Cabinet-level officers have been briefed and signed such papers. Absolutely no one is exempt. It is simply a condition required for access to that category of information — again, no one is exempt.

And in the State Department, as in all other parts of the government, there are special channels for “that category of information,” specific people appointed to have custody of the information, and they must account for every piece of it.

Can we also assume that some of Mrs. Clinton’s closest “handlers” and her “personal staff” also had SI/TK clearances and access to these categories of information? Yes, but it is highly doubtful that they were also the official custodians and accountable for the documents or information themselves — that function is typically performed by information security professionals.

Charles C. W. Cooke, a British immigrant to the U.S. who is deeply attached to our Constitution, has a magnificent rant aimed at all those liberal critics of the Second Amendment. Essentially, he's daring them to bring it. If they so hate gun rights, why aren't they trying to repeal it?
When the likes of Rob Delaney and Bill Maher and Keith Ellison say that we need to get rid of the Second Amendment, they are not speaking in a vacuum but reflecting the views of a small but vocal portion of the American population. And they mean it.

That being so, here’s the million-dollar question: What the hell are they waiting for? Go on, chaps. Bloody well do it.

Seriously, try it. Start the process. Stop whining about it on Twitter, and on HBO, and at the Daily Kos. Stop playing with some Thomas Jefferson quote you found on Google. Stop jumping on the news cycle and watching the retweets and viral shares rack up. Go out there and begin the movement in earnest. Don’t fall back on excuses. Don’t play cheap motte-and-bailey games. And don’t pretend that you’re okay with the Second Amendment in theory, but you’re just appalled by the Heller decision. You’re not. Heller recognized what was obvious to the amendment’s drafters, to the people who debated it, and to the jurists of their era and beyond: That “right of the people” means “right of the people,” as it does everywhere else in both the Bill of Rights and in the common law that preceded it. A Second Amendment without the supposedly pernicious Heller “interpretation” wouldn’t be any impediment to regulation at all. It would be a dead letter. It would be an effective repeal. It would be the end of the right itself. In other words, it would be exactly what you want! Man up. Put together a plan, and take those words out of the Constitution.

This will involve hard work, of course. You can’t just sit online and preen to those who already agree with you. No siree. Instead, you’ll have to go around the states — traveling and preaching until the soles of your shoes are thin as paper. You’ll have to lobby Congress, over and over and over again. You’ll have to make ads and shake hands and twist arms and cut deals and suffer all the slings and arrows that will be thrown in your direction. You’ll have to tell anybody who will listen to you that they need to support you; that if they disagree, they’re childish and beholden to the “gun lobby”; that they don’t care enough about children; that their reverence for the Founders is mistaken; that they have blood on their goddamn hands; that they want to own firearms only because their penises are small and they’re not “real men.” And remember, you can’t half-ass it this time. You’re not going out there to tell these people that you want “reform” or that “enough is enough.” You’re going there to solicit their support for removing one of the articles within the Bill of Rights. Make no mistake: It’ll be unpleasant strolling into Pittsburgh or Youngstown or Pueblo and telling blue-collar Democrat after blue-collar Democrat that he only has his guns because he’s not as well endowed as he’d like to be. It’ll be tough explaining to suburban families that their established conception of American liberty is wrong. You might even suffer at the polls because of it. But that’s what it’s going to take. So do it. Start now. Off you go.

And don’t stop there. No, no. There’ll still be a lot of work to be done. As anybody with a passing understanding of America’s constitutional system knows, repealing the Second Amendment won’t in and of itself lead to the end of gun ownership in America. Rather, it will merely free up the federal government to regulate the area, should it wish to do so. Next, you’ll need to craft the laws that bring about change — think of them as modern Volstead Acts — and you’ll need to get them past the opposition. And, if the federal government doesn’t immediately go the whole hog, you’ll need to replicate your efforts in the states, too, 45 of which have their own constitutional protections. Maybe New Jersey and California will go quietly. Maybe. But Idaho won’t. Louisiana won’t. Kentucky won’t. Maine won’t. You’ll need to persuade those sovereignties not to sue and drag their heels, but to do what’s right as defined by you. Unfortunately, that won’t involve vague talk of holding “national conversations” and “doing something” and “fighting back against the NRA.” It’ll mean going to all sorts of groups — unions, churches, PTAs, political meetings, bowling leagues — and telling them not that you want “common-sense reforms,” but that you want their guns, as in Australia or Britain or Japan. Obviously, the Republicans aren’t going to help in this, so you’ll need to commandeer the Democratic party to do it. That means you’ll need their presidential candidates on board. That means you’ll need to make full abolition the stated policy of the Senate and House caucuses. That means you’ll need the state parties to sign pledges promising not to back away if it gets tough. And if they won’t, you’ll need to start a third party and accept all that that entails.

And when you’ve done all that and your vision is inked onto parchment, you’ll need to enforce it. No, not in the namby-pamby, eh-we-don’t-really-want-to-fund-it way that Prohibition was enforced. I mean enforce it — with force. When Australia took its decision to Do Something, the Australian citizenry owned between 2 and 3 million guns. Despite the compliance of the people and the lack of an entrenched gun culture, the government got maybe three-quarters of a million of them — somewhere between a fifth and a third of the total. That wouldn’t be good enough here, of course. There are around 350 million privately owned guns in America, which means that if you picked up one in three, you’d only be returning the stock to where it was in 1994. Does that sound difficult? Sure! After all, this is a country of 330 million people spread out across 3.8 million square miles, and if we know one thing about the American people, it’s that they do not go quietly into the night. But the government has to have their guns. It has to. The Second Amendment has to go.
Whew! That was a powerful rant. And he's exactly right. There's a big difference between giving speeches and writing blog posts and actually trying to do what they proclaim they want to do. It will be interesting to see which Republicans will take up Cooke's arguments and challenge to the anti-gun rights crowd.

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John Hawkins says that he likes Donald Trump and imagines him winning the "Whom would you like to have a beer with" question by wide margins. I'm not so sure about that - Ben Carson seems like a much more enjoyable drinking companion than the guy who arrogantly brags about all his money and how smart he is. Those are never qualities I've liked in a friend or drinking companion. Hawkins is surprised by Trump's continued success and puts forth six reasons why his candidacy might collapse.

Ramesh Ponnuru explains why he's not worrying about the Trump boom going on now.
Trump won’t win the primaries. How do I know?
*Because parties don’t pick nominees who have never run for anything before, unless they happened to be the victorious Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II a few years earlier.
*Because major parties don’t succumb to sudden hostile takeovers.
*Because too many of his supporters are just registering discontent before they make a real decision several months from now -- or have a low likelihood of voting in the primaries at all.
*Because Republicans aren’t going to choose a nominee who wants to raise taxes on the rich. (A lot of Republicans may be fine with that idea, but a lot of opponents care deeply about it.)
*Because Republican elected officials would consolidate behind a consensus choice if Trump started winning delegates.
*Because the decisive Republican presidential primary voters are a pretty sober-minded bunch.
I’ll go further: Not only will Trump not be the nominee; his supporters won’t even determine who the eventual nominee is. Take away the celebrity-besotted, the non-voters, and the single-issue opponents of immigration, and you’re left with a group of conservatives who deeply dislike what they see as a spineless Republican establishment. These voters never determine the nominee, because too many of them waste their passion on hopeless candidates, such as Ben Carson, Michele Bachmann . . . Donald Trump.

In theory, Trump could hurt the eventual nominee even if he loses the primary, either by making a third-party run or by influencing the nominee to take unpopular positions. But a third-party run would happen only after Trump lost the primaries. Leaving aside legal and logistical issues, the successive losses would diminish him -- both because they would inevitably diminish anyone and because Trump in particular makes so much noise about being a huge winner. He’d have to run instead as a sore loser, and spend a lot of money to register in the single digits on Election Day.
I just hope he's right on all counts. But is has been discouraging seeing how many people are so excited about Trump.

On the other hand, I've often noticed how my students' responses to politicians serve as a barometer of the general public. I first noticed this in 1996 when they would start giggling at the mention of Bob Dole's name. That occurred again in 2000 whenever Al Gore's name came up. They were quite unenthusiastic about John Kerry and thought that the Bush campaign ad showing Kerry windsurfing was one of the best political ads they'd seen. They were thrilled with Obama in 2008. While not so thrilled with him in 2012, they were totally unimpressed with Romney. And this year, they are very unimpressed with Hillary. But they all break out laughing when Trump is mentioned. They liked Carson and Kasich from the debate, but Trump both amused and appalled them. Of course, 15-year olds are not the target audience of any politician and their views are shaped more by late-night comedians than the MSM, but I have noticed how closely they often parallel the actual electoral votes.

My AP Government and Politics class will be discussing Democratic rules for choosing delegates to their convention. Students often have a bit of trouble understanding that there are regular delegates and superdelegates. Serendipitously, Hillary Clinton just started talking about her domination among superdelegates this past week when she bragged that she had wrapped up the support of one-fifth of delegates to the convention. I guess that she's hoping to scare off Joe Biden from entering the race. Biden might not be dismayed all that much when he remembers that Hillary had once earned the endorsement of most of the superdelegates in 2008 and then they suddenly changed their minds when Barack Obama started winning state votes. Nothing guarantees that an official who committed to Hillary would remain committed to Hillary if things started going even worse for her. Her touting of her count of superdelegates in August is actually a sign of her worries about how the campaign is going.

Cameron Joseph at the New York Daily News explains how the schedule of the primaries means that black votes will matter even more than usual in the Democratic contest.
A heavy schedule of early-voting Southern states means African-American voters will have a huge influence on who wins the nomination, and the Democratic candidates — especially Hillary Clinton — are ratcheting up their focus on that part of the electorate as they look to win key early support after a year of mounting civil rights activism in the black community....

South Carolina wraps up the early-state primaries for Democrats on Feb. 27 — after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Days later, a number of other Southern states have banded together for a Super Tuesday vote they’re calling the “SEC primary,” a reference to the Southeastern Conference in college sports.

Eight of the dozen states that vote on March 1, a day that will go a long way to deciding the Democratic nomination, are in the South. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia will all vote on Super Tuesday.

Many of those states have large black populations that make up half or more of the Democratic primary vote.
Right now, it seems that black voters seem to be firmly behind Clinton. Who knows if Obama's support of Biden might help transfer their votes over to Biden.

Brendan Bordelon reports from the DNC summer meeting. Apparently, the Democratic operatives are not enthusiastic about a Biden run.
The letdown was doubtless due in part to Biden’s conspicuous absence from the proceedings. But it also illustrated just how thoroughly Clinton’s camp has already locked up the Democratic establishment’s support. Her partisans were a proud, highly visible force throughout the three-day conference. And if the Draft Biden team was trying to sow seeds of doubt among the delegates, few seemed to notice.

After a sharp climb to the top of the GOP heap, Walker has been falling back down. Suddenly, having a lack of charism seems more of a problem than it did before Trump entered the race. And his waffling on immigration and abortion hasn't helped his straight-shooter image.
On Monday, August 17, Walker said in a Fox News interview that his position on immigration is “very similar” to Donald Trump’s. When asked by an MSNBC reporter later that day if he thinks birthright citizenship should be ended for the children of illegal immigrants, Walker replied, “yeah, absolutely, going forward.” But by Friday, after a week of negative headlines and criticism from some donors, Walker declared of birthright citizenship on CNBC, “I’m not taking a position on it one way or the other.”

Two days later, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Walker if he supported the Fourteenth Amendment’s provision that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States .  .  . are citizens of the United States.” Walker replied: “Well, I said the law is there, we need to enforce the laws, including those that are in the Constitution.” The satirical newspaper the Onion published a story the next day with the headline: “Out-of-Control Scott Walker Injured After Wildly Careening Between Stances on Immigration.”

Even when he isn’t trying to mimic Trump, Walker has had a difficult time delivering a clear and consistent message. The governor has a strong pro-life record, but during his 2014 reelection campaign he wouldn’t say if he’d sign legislation protecting unborn children after the fifth month of pregnancy. He again declined to specify any actions he’d take to protect the lives of unborn children in a March 1 interview on Fox News Sunday. Two days later, under pressure from pro-life leaders, Walker said he would sign the popular bill banning abortion after the fifth month of pregnancy. He made good on that promise in June.

But in the August 6 GOP debate, with 24 million people watching, Walker staked out a very unpopular position on the issue. When Fox News’s Megyn Kelly asked Walker if he’d “really let a mother die rather than have an abortion,” Walker replied, “that unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that will also protect the life of that mother.” In a post-debate interview with Sean Hannity, Walker called the question a “false choice.”
Walker needs to be more deft in answering such questions and then quickly swiveling to attack the extremist positions that Democrats like Hillary have when they support Planned Parenthood's aborting fetuses in such a way to maximize the body parts that can be sold. That is not a position that the majority of American people are going to support or find that Republicans are terrorists for wanting to defund.

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So now Mount McKinley is going to be Mount Denali. I guess that Alaskan natives will be happy about the change because this was clearly the most important thing President Obama could do for them. Once again, the question remains - where did Obama get the power to do this? There was legislation before Congress to do so and it hadn't passed. Obama seems to believe that he has the power to do what he likes if Congress hasn't already done so. That's not the way the system is supposed to work, but the Constitution has never been a document that Barack Obama cares about to preserve, protect, and defend.

The Daily Beast reports that Fox News' Ed Henry is really getting under Hillary Clinton's skin just as he annoyed George W. Bush.

Orin Kerr exposes a very misleading attack on Clarence Thomas by the New York Times.

Andrew Klavan speaks truth about the media.
Here is the first rule of “mainstream” news coverage in America: Whenever the prejudices and illusions of left-wingers are confirmed by an individual incident, the incident is treated as representative; when those prejudices and illusions are contradicted, the incident is considered an aberration — and treating it as representative is deemed hateful.

Cathy Young details how political correctness has taken over science fiction and the Hugo awards.

Comedians can be a good barometer of how politicians are doing. They couldn't find anything to ridicule about Barack Obama and still have trouble even now. However, comedians must be praying for a Trump versus Hillary Clinton contest. The possibilities for humor are seemingly endless. Check out Jimmy Kimmel's riff on some poll results on Clinton, Trump, and Bush.