Friday, October 23, 2015

Cruising the Web

So far it seems that what we've learned from the Benghazi hearing on Thursday is that Hillary is quite willing to mislead the American people. I guess that is her main qualification for the presidency other than her XX chromosomes. There were several little bits of new information that came out or were made more public today than they had been previously.

We learned, just as we'd known previously, that Hillary knew right away that it was a terrorist attack and she told her daughter and the head of Egypt it was a terrorist attack the night it happened. Then she went out and told the families of the victims that the video was at fault. Now she's trying to pretend that she and the administration didn't say that.

I don't see how the left's characterization of Hillary as a wonderful leader can hold up with the questions asked by Congressman Mike Pompeo about why Hillary Clinton did nothing to respond to over 600 requests for enhanced security in Benghazi the State Department received in the year leading up to the attack and she claims that she didn't receive any notification from her underlings that such requests were being made. What does that say about her leadership at State? Especially, when we learn that Leon Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had been aware of those requests.

And when she was asked about one of those requests for buying some of the security items left behind by the British as they wisely abandoned their post in Benghazi, she seemed to find it amusing that her great friend, Chris Stevens, wanted more protection.
During the Benghazi hearing on Thursday afternoon, Hillary Clinton laughed off a question from Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) regarding an email from Ambassador Chris Stevens talking about buying barricades and fortifications from other countries for security.

Clinton claimed that Stevens had a “great sense of humor” and that his requests to buy security equipment from the Brits were merely a joke.

Brooks was referring to an email dated December 15, 2011, in which Stevens had asked an official about security at the Benghazi compound.

Clinton responded: “Well, Congresswoman, one of the great attributes that Chris Stevens had was a really good sense of humor and I just see him smiling as he’s typing this because it’s clearly in response to the e-mail down below talking about picking up a few ‘fire sale items from the Brits.’”

Brooks, failing to see the humor, pointed out that those “fire sale items” were barricades that they were hoping to pick up from other countries.

“They are additional requests for security for the compound,” she said. “Because we weren’t providing enough physical security. Isn’t that right? So they’re picking up a fire sale because other consulates are pulling out, other countries are pulling out?”

Clinton responded, “Well, I thought it showed their entrepreneurial spirit.”
This is a very bizarre exchange and when you watch the video, her smile is so out of place. Ha, ha, ha. He wanted more protection at the compound that he wasn't getting from his own government What an entrepreneur to try to get some of the protection other countries were leaving behind when the woman who sent him to Libya in the first place wasn't interested in getting the information about what our security needs were there.

Kimberley Strassel sums up the conclusion from the hearing that Hillary knew all along that it was a terrorist attack.
Thanks to Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony on Thursday, we now understand why the former secretary of state never wanted anyone to see her emails and why the State Department sat on documents. Turns out those emails and papers show that the Obama administration deliberately misled the nation about the deadly events in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.

Don’t forget how we came to this point. Mrs. Clinton complained in her testimony on Capitol Hill that past Congresses had never made the overseas deaths of U.S. officials a “partisan” issue. That’s because those past deaths had never inspired an administration to concoct a wild excuse for their occurrence, in an apparent attempt to avoid blame for a terror attack in a presidential re-election year....

What that House committee did Thursday was finally expose the initial deception. To understand the willful depth of that trickery, let’s briefly recall the history.

In early September 2012, at the Democratic National Convention, Vice President Joe Biden summarized to thunderous applause the administration’s re-election pitch: “Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.” Translation: The president had revived the economy, even as he had put “al Qaeda on the run,” as Mr. Obama put it. Five days later, four Americans in Benghazi were dead. It appeared the White House had slept through a terror attack on the anniversary of 9/11.

The administration instead immediately presented the attack as a spontaneous mob backlash to an anti-Muslim YouTube video. At 10:30 on the night of the attack, Mrs. Clinton issued a statement about the violence, blaming the video. She repeated the charge in a speech the next day. President Obama gave his own speech that day, referring to the video and refusing to use the word “terrorism.”

The next day, Mrs. Clinton mentioned the video twice more. The day after that, Press Secretary Jay Carney said: “We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.” Mrs. Clinton promised the father of one of the victims that the administration would “make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.” In his weekly address, Mr. Obama talked about the video. When the Libyan president said there was evidence the attack was planned months in advance, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice contradicted him. She instead told five Sunday talk shows—five days after the attack—that “based on the best information we have to date,” the attack “began spontaneously” in response to “this hateful video.” Mr. Obama for two full weeks continued to talk about YouTube.

Here’s what the Benghazi committee found in Thursday’s hearing. Two hours into Mrs. Clinton’s testimony, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan referred to an email Mrs. Clinton sent to her daughter, Chelsea, at 11:12 the night of the attack, or 45 minutes after the secretary of state had issued a statement blaming YouTube-inflamed mobs. Her email reads: “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like group.” Mrs. Clinton doesn’t hedge in the email; no “it seems” or “it appears.” She tells her daughter that on the anniversary of 9/11 an al Qaeda group assassinated four Americans.

That same evening, Mrs. Clinton spoke on the phone with Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf, around 8 p.m. The notes from that conversation, in a State Department email, describe her as saying: “We have asked for the Libyan government to provide additional security to the compound immediately as there is a gun battle ongoing, which I understand Ansar as Sharia [sic] is claiming responsibility for.” Ansar al Sharia is al Qaeda’s affiliate on the Arabian Peninsula. So several hours into the attack, Mrs. Clinton already believed that al Qaeda was attacking U.S. facilities.

The next afternoon, Mrs. Clinton had a call with the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil. The notes from it are absolutely damning. The secretary of state tells him: “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest.” And yet Mrs. Clinton, and Ms. Rice and Mr. Obama for days and days continued to spin the video lie.

In other news Thursday, Judicial Watch unveiled a new cable, sent the day after the attack, from the Defense Intelligence Agency to the State Department Command Center. It explains that the attack was carried out by a “Salafi terrorism group” in “retaliation for the killing of an Al Qaeda operative.”

The cable says “the attack was an organized operation with specific information that the U.S. Ambassador was present.” The cable included details about the group’s movements and the weapons it used in the assault.

Count on the Obama administration to again resort to blaming “confusing” and “conflicting” information at the time for its two-week spin. That was Mrs. Clinton’s flimsy excuse at the hearing. But her own conversations prove she was in no doubt about what happened—while it was still happening.

Democrats on the committee spent most of the hearing complaining that it was a waste of time and money. Quite the opposite. It was invaluable, for the clarity provided by those three emails alone.

Of course, the media seem to be playing the whole story as if nothing came out of the hearing and she held up grandly. They ignore the new facts that came out yesterday.

We knew a lot of this beforehand, but of course that is only if we had paid attention since the attack. The media chose to portray this all as a partisan battle. But somehow we should care that she led such a department where people working for her didn't think that it was necessary to tell her that the people on the ground in Libya, including her dear friend Chris Stevens, would tell her about those requests. But she was willing to listen to Sidney Blumenthal, a man with business connections to Libya. Blumenthal could email her, but Ambassador Stevens could not. And then when the attack happened, she knew it was a terrorist attack and, instead, lied to the families and the American people about it being the result of a video so as to preserve President Obama's reelection claims that he had already devastated Al Qaeda.

In any sane country, a woman who had shown such inept leadership and then lied to the American people while desperately breaking the law about keeping her own communications secret would never be considered a reasonable leader for our country. But in the bizarro world that is our country today, she's considered a great choice and the Democrats are all lining up behind her and, as she thanked the Democrats on the committee yesterday, having her back.

I guess we'll be forced to continually echo Bob Dole's lonely cry from 1996 about the Clintons, "Where's the outrage?"

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Byron York sums up the yawns that will greet the hearing.
The Benghazi Committee has made incremental advances in the public's knowledge of the circumstances of the death of four Americans in Libya on September 11, 2012. But incremental advances — nuggets of information — don't make for dramatic hearings.

In addition, public hearings can become sidetracked, for everyone to see. If one side decides to pitch a fit and bickering ensues, that is what millions of viewers experience. If the questions go off on a tangent, viewers see that, too. In any event, the purpose of the hearing goes by the wayside.

And that is what took place more than once Thursday in Clinton's much-watched Benghazi testimony. Republicans presented some new information. One leading Democrat had a tantrum and started a fight with Gowdy. And some Republicans got tangled up in side issues that didn't tell the public much about the core issues at stake in Benghazi. The result was a marathon hearing that didn't accomplish much.

At this point, there is really only one angle on Benghazi: Americans were in danger in a very dangerous country, security was deteriorating, and the State Department and Secretary of State did little, and in some cases nothing, to protect them.

As 2012 unfolded, Ambassador Chris Stevens and others in Libya repeatedly told the State Department that threats were increasing. Clinton has said many times that she did not receive those messages from Stevens, that the ambassador followed protocol and sent them to another part of the State Department. But Republicans made the valid point that Clinton friend Sidney Blumenthal had quick, direct access to her — he knew her secret email address — while Stevens had to jump up and down waving his hands trying to get his security needs met.

"Can you tell us why security requests from your professionals … none of those made it to you," Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., asked Clinton. "But a man who was a friend of yours, who had never been to Libya, didn't know much about it…every one of those reports that he sent on to you that had to do with situations on the ground in Libya — those made it to your desk?"

Pompeo and other Republicans cited multiple requests for security, many of them rejected by Clinton's top officials. It might have been instructive to go through a list of those requests, one by one. Did Clinton see this one? That one? Who did? What was done?
But then the whole thing got sidetracked while Congressman Cummings pitched a hissy fit about releasing Blumenthal's testimony.
Of course the transcript wasn't the point. It was all a distraction. The point was to throw the proceedings off track, which Cummings accomplished quite nicely.

Republicans were capable of throwing themselves off track, too, which is what they did with a near-obsession with Blumenthal. His name was mentioned 60 times — before the first questioner had even finished.

Blumenthal, notorious for his role as a Clinton acolyte during the scandals of Bill Clinton's administration, is a provocateur and master of misdirection. He's probably happy to be the villain of the day, to the extent that it ensures Hillary Clinton will not be the villain of the day. But he is not a major figure in the Benghazi affair.

The committee did find some good nuggets about the talking points that the administration used after the attack. Clinton, President Obama, and other administration officials called the attack a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim Internet video, when in fact they knew from the first minutes that it was a planned terrorist assault.

The committee uncovered evidence that on the evening of the attack, Clinton sent an email to daughter Chelsea explaining that the Americans had been killed by "an al Qaeda-like group." And the day after the attack, Clinton told the Egyptian prime minister, "We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film."

The documents were still more evidence that the blame-it-on-the-video story was lies and spin. But the public has known for a while that it was lies and spin. It seems unlikely to strike many Americans as very big news.

So a hearing billed as an epic, High Noon-style confrontation — granted, the hype came from the media, not Republican committee members themselves — instead turned out to be a somewhat interesting look at a few limited aspects of the Benghazi affair. In other words, no big deal. And that is very, very good news for Hillary Clinton.

She had to answer about taking advice from Sidney Blumenthal who was regularly emailing her advice that she was forwarding to her staff. All this while the ambassador to Libya didn't have her email address. Jonah Goldberg reminds us of what a sleaze Blumenthal is.
Representative Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, alleges Blumenthal had significant business interests in toppling the Libyan regime because he was working with a firm seeking contracts with what he hoped would be the new Libyan government. Gowdy claims that Blumenthal disclosed the name of an undercover operative in an e-mail Clinton forwarded over her unsecured server.

Clinton had no choice but to run Blumenthal off the books because the Obama administration banned him. Then–White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel — who in the 1990s nicknamed Blumenthal “G.K.” for “grassy knoll” — knew to keep the conspiracy-minded aide at arm’s length. It probably never occurred to him that Clinton would go to such lengths to keep her factotum on the team.

But what does it say about Clinton that she just can’t do without her pet? Part of the answer is that Blumenthal is a legendary sycophant. But the means of his sycophancy are more relevant. He serves as Clinton’s enabler: a rumor-mongering Wormtongue whispering confirmation of the vast right-wing conspiracy that the Nixonian Clinton sees everywhere. Even as a journalist, Blumenthal played this role. He urged the Clinton administration to craft a dossier on the conspiracy driving negative coverage of the Clintons, including in such right-wing rags as the Washington Post.

When Blumenthal finally landed a job in the Clinton White House, the most frequently told joke in Washington was about how he could finally collect his back pay. One of his chief tasks in the White House was to lie to reporters about the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the independent counsel’s investigation. He infamously claimed that a grand jury had interrogated him about private conversations with journalists. He made it up.

In a chapter in “Government by Gunplay” (defending the Black Panthers), Blumenthal writes of J. Edgar Hoover: “He had a Manichean vision, convinced that all evil emanated from a single source and that all of the devil’s work was of a single pattern.” Elsewhere in the book, he writes, “The guardians of the established order see themselves as the only fit rulers.”

This is precisely how Blumenthal sees the world: a contest between enlightened rulers and evil ones, where power requires making up your own rules. “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself,” observed Hermann Hesse. “What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

And that’s what makes him Clinton’s indispensable man.

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John Hinderaker points to this strange fact that Hillary stated yesterday. She stated that she didn't have a computer in her office at the Department of State. Can you imagine any head of any business or government office in today's environment who wouldn't have a computer. She couldn't receive any emails at work. Think about that for a minute. That is why Ambassador Stevens couldn't write her with his requests. And, as Hinderaker points out, a reporter asked the State Department spokesman if it was usual for the Secretary to not have a computer and the spokesman had to give an incredibly lame answer.
It’s – I mean, unusual – I mean, look. I mean, we’ve only had – email’s a relatively new beast, shall we say, and – or a new creation. And so I think each secretary’s a little bit different in how they get information. And certainly that evolves as technology is developed over time. And frankly, it’s one of the more central aspects of the whole email FOIA requests that we talk about a lot, which is – as we developed along these – and get a clear understanding of how secretaries are communicating and how that’s changing with technology, that it raises all kinds of questions that we’re trying to deal with in terms of record keeping and that kind of thing.

So I’m not – it’s hard for me to say whether that’s unusual. There’s – I would have to refer you to previous secretaries.
Yeah, it was strange or, as Hinderaker says, "In other words: it is totally bizarre."

But, she did have a computer. It was just her home-brew computer that was open to hacking from all sorts of people and by which she could conduct business with someone the White House had told her not to employ. And she could try to evade FOIA laws by keeping it secret. It is shameful.

As the WSJ argues, the Benghazi story matters because of what it tells us about Hillary Clinton's character.
All of this is no mere game of gotcha. Mrs. Clinton’s private-public contradiction goes to the honesty of a public official whose obligation was to protect Americans and who now wants a promotion to the Oval Office. It shows that her first instinct even on a matter of life and death was to help the Administration conceal the nature of the Benghazi attack—at least until more facts came out about the terrorist assault and the video story became indefensible.

With Joe Biden’s departure from the race this week, Mrs. Clinton has the Democratic Party nomination all but wrapped. Only some new disclosure or a criminal action by the FBI and Justice Department can prevent it. That was clear enough from the behavior of Democrats on the Benghazi committee as they sought to form a protective shield around her. They know she’s all they’ve got.

The media cover these hearings mainly as a public show about who won or lost, and Mrs. Clinton will get points for her cool.
Instead, think of what we learned yesterday about her inadequate leadership in protecting our people on the ground and then her deliberate misleading of the families and American people about the cause of the attack. She is a dishonest woman and always has been back to the time when William Safire called her a "congenital liar." Nothing we've learned about the woman has changed since then. Safire had a much smaller sample size of her lies back in 1996 than we have today. Yet she's the best the Democrats can come up with.

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The Free Beacon has an answer for those Democrats whining about how much money the Benghazi committee has cost.
The amount of taxpayer funding that has gone toward the investigation into the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, is less than the amount the federal government has invested in “Origami condoms” and studies on why lesbians are obese.
It is only when the incompetence and lies of Democratic officials is being exposed that Democrats compare about spending.

Well, is this surprising?
In an interview with the Daily Beast, the movie’s writer, Bob Gale, added his own excitement to Wednesday when he lobbed a bit of a political bomb: In “Back to the Future Part II,” Biff Tannen—the movie’s oafish, tireless, and very loud villain—was loosely based on current GOP poll leader and presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“We thought about it when we made the movie! Are you kidding?” he said. “You watch Part II again and there’s a scene where Marty confronts Biff in his office and there’s a huge portrait of Biff on the wall behind Biff, and there’s one moment where Biff kind of stands up and he takes exactly the same pose as the portrait? Yeah.”

Ouch. In “Back to the Future Part II,” Biff, once a humble 1950’s-style bully—“butthead” is his favorite word, and his most cherished hobby involves knocking relentlessly on people’s heads while shouting “Hello! Hello! Anybody home?”—has transformed himself into a mega-wealthy, mega-tasteless casino owner. Thanks to a sports almanac from the future, some convenient time travel, and a penchant for betting, Biff amasses endless piles of money, running a terrifying, nightmarish alternate 1985. In Biff’s world, random fires smolder on street corners, gangs and vandalism run rampant, and evil, more often than not, wins the day.

Is the comparison over the top? Absolutely. Yet, in the movie, there’s power-hungry, sordid Biff, bragging about how he buys off the police; in reality, one might remember Mr. Trump proudly describing his own ability to buy off cash-poor politicians in the first Republican debate. In the movie, there’s Biff bending whatever’s left of the law to exploit hapless victims; in reality, there’s our friend Donald Trump, a man with a proud past of targeting elderly Atlantic City widows using the government’s power of eminent domain.

“A decade and a half ago,” as Robert VerBruggen noted in National Review, it was still “fresh on everyone’s mind that Donald Trump is one of the leading users of this form of state-sanctioned thievery.” Today, Trump is better known for his Biff-like verbal bombast than anything else. Unfortunately, his fans tend to ignore the fact that his riffs are filled with prescriptions that would require equally bombastic uses of government power.

I've blogged about the shameful efforts to have a separatist entity established in Hawaii for those determined to have Hawaiian ancestry. I was irate about this back in 2006 when Senator Akaka was pushing it. It's truly shameful. J. Christian Adams describes how the Obama administration is supporting these efforts.
On Friday, a federal judge in Hawaii will rule whether a racially discriminatory election that only allows one race to participate may take place in November. The Obama administration filed a brief as a friend of the court saying that the racially discriminatory election should take place.

Hawaii passed a law to empower the “native Hawaiian” movement by establishing a government-run voter registration roll that only allows “native Hawaiians” to register to vote. The law’s purpose “is to provide for and to implement the recognition of the Native Hawaiian people by means and methods that will facilitate their self-governance.”

The law allows for an election to select delegates to a convention, which would then draft the “governance documents” of a Native Hawaiian entity. The “roll of qualified Native Hawaiians” will result in “a convention of qualified Native Hawaiians, established for the purpose of organizing themselves.”

The authors of the law seem to have never heard of Appomattox....

Instead of opposing racial classifications and racial division, the Obama administration is doing what it does best: taking sides against American traditions of equality and unity.

In a brief filed by the Department of the Interior, the Obama administration squarely takes the side of the racial classifications and those defending the separatist election.

The Obama administration characterizes the nativist movement in Hawaii as akin to an Indian tribe recognized as such by Congress, which it isn’t.
As explained below, in accordance with Federal law, tribes in the continental United States routinely limit voting in tribal elections, including constitutional referenda, to members, while excluding non-Natives. There is no principled basis for treating the Native Hawaiian community differently.
No principled basis? Here’s a start: Congress never passed a law to treat native Hawaiians like an Indian tribe like that pesky Constitution requires. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 clearly gives Congress alone the power to answer questions related to the status of an Indian tribe. Congress has repeatedly rejected efforts to treat native Hawaiians like good old fashioned stateside Indians.

Only in the Obama administration would a lawyer file a pleading with a court saying there is “no principled basis” when the Constitution itself provides a principled basis.

Thomas Sowell explains what Democrats really mean when they talk about "paying your fair share."
What a “fair share” of taxes means in practice is simply “more.” No matter how high the tax rate is on people with a given income, you can always raise the tax rate further by saying that they are still not paying their “fair share.”

Advocates of higher tax rates can get very specific when they want to. A recent article in the New York Times says that raising the tax rate on the top one percent of income earners to 40 percent would generate “about $157 billion” a year in additional tax revenue for the government.

This ignores mountains of evidence, going back for generations, showing that raising tax rates does not automatically mean raising tax revenues — and has often actually led to falling tax revenues. A fantasy expressed in numbers is still a fantasy.

When the state of Maryland raised its tax rate on people with incomes of a million dollars a year or more, the number of such people living in Maryland fell from nearly 8,000 to fewer than 6,000. Although it had been projected that the tax revenue collected from such people in Maryland would rise by $106 million, instead these revenues FELL by $257 million.

There was a similar reaction in Oregon and in Britain. Rich people do not simply stand still to be sheared like sheep. They can either send their money somewhere else or they can leave themselves.

Currently, there are trillions of dollars of American money creating jobs overseas, in places where tax rates are lower. It is easy to transfer money electronically from country to country. But it is not nearly so easy for unemployed American workers to transfer themselves to where the jobs have been driven by high tax rates.
....Contrary to the way some people on the left conceive of the world, neither rich people nor poor people are inert blocks of wood, to be moved about like pieces on a chess board, to carry out some grand design from on high.

Even outright confiscations of people’s wealth, including whole industries in some countries, have failed to spread prosperity, and have even led to collapsing economies.

But politics is not about what happened in the past. That is left for historians. What politicians are interested in is what they can get the public to believe in the present and to vote on in the future. Plans to “soak the rich,” who are not paying their “fair share,” have worked politically, time and time again — and may well work yet again in the 2016 elections.