Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Cruising the Web

In case we needed any more evidence that Hillary Clinton acted as Secretary of State much as she and Bill did in the White House to use the position to facilitate their electoral success, this new data dump of her daily schedule provides us some more evidence. As a result of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Associated Press waited two years and finally got the information.
As secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton opened her office to dozens of influential Democratic party fundraisers, former Clinton administration and campaign loyalists, and corporate donors to her family's global charity, according to State Department calendars obtained by The Associated Press.

The woman who would become a 2016 presidential candidate met or spoke by phone with nearly 100 corporate executives, Clinton charity donors and political supporters during her four years at the State Department between 2009 and 2013, records show. Many of those meetings and calls, formally scheduled by her aides, involved heads of companies and organizations that were pursuing business or private interests with the Obama administration at the time, including with the State Department while Clinton was in charge.

In addition, at least 60 of those who met with Clinton have donated or pledged program commitments to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. A dozen have been among Hillary Clinton's most reliable political fundraisers, bundling more than $100,000 in donations during her failed 2008 presidential campaign or providing larger amounts to Clinton-allied super political action committees this time. And at least six entities represented in the meetings paid former President Bill Clinton lucrative fees for speeches.

The AP found no evidence of legal or ethical conflicts in Clinton's meetings, in its examination of 1,294 pages from the calendars. Her sit-downs with business leaders were not unique among recent secretaries of state, who sometimes called on corporate executives to aid in international affairs, according to archived documents.

But the difference with Clinton's meetings was that she was a 2008 presidential contender who was widely expected to try again in 2016. Her availability to luminaries from politics, business and charity shows the extent to which her office became a sounding board for their interests. And her ties with so many familiar faces from those intersecting worlds were complicated by their lucrative financial largess and political support over the years — even during her State Department tenure — for her campaigns and her husband's, and for her family's foundation.
She used the State Department to goose donations to her family's foundation. We've known this since Peter Schweizer's book, Clinton Cash, exposed those links. This AP report is just more evidence.

The tally on how many of the emails on Hillary Clinton's private server keeps climbing.
The classification rate for former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s government emails rose again Monday, as the department released more than 5,000 additional messages and deemed at least 6 percent of them to contain information that had to be kept from the public.

All told, some 325 messages in the new batch of emails were deemed “classified,” and one was deemed “secret.” Most of the classified messages were exchanged with fellow State Department employees, but a few of them were between Mrs. Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and others involved Sidney Blumenthal, a controversial confidante of the Clintons.
That moves the tote board almost to 1,000.
The latest batch contains 328 emails deemed to have classified information. According to the State Department, that brings the total number with classified information to 999.

The emails in question were deemed classified before their release by the department – and the former secretary of state has said all along she never sent emails with material marked classified at the time.

But the large number of emails containing now-classified material further underscores how much sensitive information was crossing her private server, a situation her critics have described as a security risk.

The Federalist finds a funny tidbit from the thousands of emails that were released yesterday.

Huffington Post reports on a memo that Hillary Clinton sent Obama before she stepped down recommending that he close Gitmo and bring detainees to the United States. I wonder how popular her position on bringing Gitmo detainees here will play among the electorate.
Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one who can’t name her concrete accomplishments as President Barack Obama’s first Secretary of State. Apparently the State Department can’t list them, either....

The subject of one of the e-mails released in the latest tranche–sent directly to Hillary’s chief of staff by her spokesman, Philippe Reines, and then forwarded on to Hillary herself–is “Achievements,” and the body of the e-mail contains a list with only four bullet points. And what did Reines characterize as Clinton’s major achievements in his January 2013 e-mail to Hillary’s top staff?

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officials within the State Department, we’ll never know:

Hillary’s achievements, as recounted by Reines, were redacted not because they were deemed classified, or because their public release might jeopardize American national security. The list wasn’t redacted because it contained personal information.

No, that information was redacted because redaction officials, citing exemption (b)(5) of the federal FOIA, determined that the information constituted “privileged” agency communications.
So why would they privilege a list of Hillary Clinton's achievements? No one can figure it out.
The State Dept.’s decision to prohibit the release of a January 2013 list of Hillary Clinton’s achievements is especially curious since Clinton left office on February 1, 2013, just two days after Reines sent the “Achievements” e-mail to Hillary’s chief of staff. It strains credulity to assert that these communications consisted of vital data informing ongoing decision-making at Foggy Bottom. In all likelihood, the e-mail was sent only to help burnish Hillary’s legacy, which apparently consisted of only four achievements covering less than one-third of one page.

Rather than putting the issue of Hillary’s legacy to rest, the redactions raise a troubling question about what she actually accomplished as Secretary of State: if her accomplishments were so obvious and so important, why are bureaucrats at Hillary’s old agency terrified of letting the public know what her own staff thought of her four-year tenure as America’s top diplomat?

Well, there is one Clinton accomplishment that her aides were concerned about - how to jack up the miles of her traveling while Secretary of State.
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s staff carefully plotted how to pad her numbers to make certain their boss broke the record for most countries visited by a secretary of state while in office.

“With 7ish months left, plenty of time to run up the score on total countries,” press aide Philippe Reines advised Clinton and longtime aide Huma Abedin in a June 2012 ­e-mail that was among the latest State Department batch of Clinton e-mails released Monday.

Under the subject line “100 and counting . . .” Reines continued, “110 is a reasonable goal. Here are the 94 countries left to choose from,” he wrote, followed by a list that ran from Andorra to Zimbabwe.

Clinton’s response: “Pls print.”

Clinton ended up hitting 112 countries, breaking the old record of 98 by Madeleine Albright during the Bill Clinton administration. Hillary’s record total wound up generating favorable press coverage.

Meanwhile, in an October 2012 e-mail under the heading “Stupid question,” Clinton sought advice from Reines on how to find a DC cable TV listing — “specifically, what channel number is Showtime?”

Clinton wrote that the reason is, “Because I want to watch ‘Homeland’ ” the channel’s spy hit.
Apparently, she didn't know how to google. It's faster to ask a flunky to research something for her. It's like my students who send me questions that they could have googled in the time it took to email me. Here aides could send her this link.

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Buzzfeed has an excerpt from the new book by its reporter, McKay Coppins, The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party’s Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House. The excerpt they have tells the story of how a whisper campaign has been directed at Marco Rubio for years to hint that he has a "zipper problem." There isn't any evidence that anyone has uncovered of such a problem and lots of journalists have been looking. All there is are whispered rumors from some people in Florida, some of whom are loosely connected to the Jeb Bush campaign. To address these complaints, Rubio hired a firm to do opposition research on himself to see what they could come up with.
Acting on explicit instructions, the research firm investigated the rumors and determined that they lacked concrete evidence, which was enough to give Rubio’s advisers peace of mind. But along the way, the firm encountered enough dishy Miami-Dade politicos hocking titillating gossip to fill the entire newsroom of a supermarket tabloid. The firm concluded that, in many cases, the rumors were being fanned by the same South Florida Republicans who claimed to be Rubio’s supporters.

And unfortunately for him, many of those Miami gossips would, come 2015, join the cutthroat ranks of the Jeb Bush juggernaut.
Read the rest of the excerpt and see what you think. Ed Morrissey reports that the Bush campaign denies having ever "said anything of this nature and doesn't believe it." Hmm. I guess I've been trained by the Clintons to dissect statements of denials by politicians. This statement explicitly says that the campaign hasn't said anything like this. But that doesn't rule out those who are loosely connected to the campaign as this excerpt details. The women named as possible sources deny that they spread rumors. There is no evidence that they have been doing so. So we have rumors without any evidence about Rubio. And we have rumors without any evidence against those connected to Bush. You can decide which evidence-free rumors you want to believe.

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Politico reports that Republican senators are rallying behind Rubio as a way to forestall Ted Cruz's surge in the polls. Somehow, I don't see endorsements from Republican senators being of much help in this season of animosity against Republican senators. They're also pointing out that the Democrats seem to be a lot more worried about Rubio than they are about Cruz.
But congressional Republicans say the truest indicator of Rubio’s strength is the abuse he’s getting from Democrats. They’ve been pounding him daily over missed votes and briefings, while dissecting his policy plans. Cruz, by comparison, has been getting kid-glove treatment, to the extent Democrats mention him at all in opposition dumps from the party apparatus and outside liberal groups.

Democrats for two years have held up Cruz as the de facto leader of the Republican Party, dubbing him "Speaker Cruz" after he prodded former Speaker John Boehner into a 2013 battle over Obamacare that shut down the federal government. Just this month, Democrats annoyed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by insinuating he had agreed to take up a hard-line immigration bill heavily touted by Cruz. The idea that McConnell would take cues from Cruz after the Texas senator’s withering criticisms of the GOP leader was perceived by Republicans as a subtle Democratic attempt at boosting Cruz.

Meanwhile, in separate interviews with POLITICO and The Huffington Post last month, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) ripped Rubio for his chronic Senate absences and called on him to resign his Senate seat. Rubio's political ambitions, Reid said, reminded him of disgraced former senator and 2008 Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards.
I guess that gives Rubio a slogan: "The Republican candidate the Democrats are most afraid of."

I guess ISIS isn't too intimidated by the climate confab in Paris.
Iraqi government forces advanced further into the center of Ramadi in western Anbar province Sunday after capturing a bridge on the outskirts of the city. The Iraqi soldiers took the Palestinian Bridge after the U.S.-led coalition carried out airstrikes there last week, cutting off a key supply route for the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.
And now they've moved into Libya to build a backup base.

Meanwhile, all this hoopla about the Paris climate conference disguises the fact that experts don't think that any of the commitments that countries are making would change the climate at all.
Unfortunately, though claims of success are already pouring in, the best estimate for that progress is approximately zero.

Here’s how we know. Any improvement must start from a baseline: what emissions and warming were expected before the INDCs? A projection created in 2000 by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), called “A1B,” serves this purpose well. It was designed long before the INDC process began, and scientists worldwide use it as a baseline, as did the U.S. government in its 2014 “National Climate Assessment.”

Under the A1B scenario, different computerized climate models produces varying estimates for how much warming would occur by 2100. The IPCC reports 3.3 degrees Celsius. Other widely-used models produce estimates of 3.4 to 3.8 degrees.

How do the INDC commitments change the picture? Climate Interactive, a partner of the U.S. State Department, calculates that warming by 2100 would be 3.5 degree Celsius. The U.N. Environment Program agrees.

That’s right: forecasts using the acclaimed greenhouse gas commitments are in exactly the same range as what prior analyses, without the commitments, expected anyway.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, using a different approach, reached the same conclusion. Their in-house model found the INDCs reduced warming in 2100 by only 0.2 degrees Celsius. For reference, 2011 was about 0.12 degrees cooler than 2010; 2015 is on pace to be 0.13 degrees warmer than 2014.
And that is based on "commitments." What is the possibility that countries won't fulfill those commitments? And developing countries will be responsible for an estimated four-fifths of the world's emissions aren't making any commitments. China is promising to reduce emissions just what they were already on track to do or even less. India isn't making any commitment. Brazil is promising to cut what it has already cut. Pakistan, Indonesia, and Nigeria aren't making any true commitments. So no agreement from this meeting will do anything and everyone who follows this sort of thing understands that. It's all hot air. The world leaders could have saved the airplane emissions and stayed home. But that would have deprived them of the chance to grandstand. Oh, and to intimidate ISIS. Cue eyeroll.

Bret Stephens writes of liberalism's preference to fight imaginary enemies rather than real enemies such as hunger in America when one of the biggest problems among America's poor is obesity or the imaginary so-called campus-rape epidemic.
Never mind the debunked rape scandals at Duke and the University of Virginia, or the soon-to-be-debunked case at the heart of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about an alleged sexual assault at Harvard Law School. The real question is: If modern campuses were really zones of mass predation—Congo on the quad—why would intelligent young women even think of attending a coeducational school? They do because there is no epidemic. But the campus-rape narrative sustains liberal fictions of a never-ending war on women.
And now we're hearing about the supposed institutionalized racism in our country.
Somehow we’re supposed to believe that the same college administrators who have made a religion of diversity are really the second coming of Strom Thurmond. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that twice electing a black president is evidence of our racial incorrigibility. We’re supposed to believe this anyway because the future of liberal racialism—from affirmative action to diversity quotas to slavery reparations—requires periodic sightings of the ghosts of a racist past.
As Stephens writes there is a pattern to these crises. We get phony statistics and then the demand for more government action. Thus, we have the gathering of world leaders in Paris to say that their presence there is a rebuke to ISIS. It is but to laugh.

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Jim Geraghty's head is exploding at the idea that "dangerous rhetoric" led to the terrible shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. His rant is well worth quoting and reading.
Let me get this straight. In the eyes of the Left . . .

. . . criticism of Planned Parenthood means something like the shooting in Colorado “was bound to happen“ . . .

. . . but chants where people describe police as “pigs” and call for them to be “fried like bacon” don’t lead to attacks on police . . .

. . . when an event by Pamela Geller is targeted by an Islamist shooter, it is “not really about free speech; it [is] an exercise in bigotry and hatred” and the attempt to kill her means she has “achieved her provocative goal” . . .

. . . while at the same time, investigators contend we may never know what motivated a 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez to kill four Marines and a sailor in an attack on Chattanooga’s U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center last July . .

. . . a shooting by a diagnosed schizophrenic, who believed that grammar was part of a vast, government-directed mind control effort, is characterized by the Southern Poverty law Center as having views that are the “hallmark of the far right and the militia movement” . . .

. . . while the shooter who opened fire in the lobby of the Family Research Council in downtown Washington in 2012, who planned to target the Traditional Values Coalition next, does not spur any need for a broader discussion or societal lessons about the demonization of political opponents . . .

. . . a California killer, who was treated by multiple therapists and already had police checking on him after posting disturbing YouTube videos, is a reflection of “sexist society” . . .

. . . but there’s little reason to ask whether the Oregon shooter’s decision to target Christians reflects a broader, societal hostility to Christians, or whether it reflects his personal allegiance to demons . . .

. . . when white supremacist Dylann Roof commits an act of mass murder in an African-American church, Salon declares, “White America is complicit” and the Washington Post runs a column declaring, “99 percent of southern whites will never go into a church, sit down with people and then massacre them. But that 99 percent is responsible for the one who does” . . .

. . . but the Roanoke shooter’s endless sense of grievance and perceptions of racism and homophobia in all of his coworkers represents him and him alone . . .

Do I have all that right? And does that make sense to anyone?

Wouldn’t Occam’s Razor suggest that those already driven by a desire or compulsion to kill other people are going to do so, and will merely latch on to whatever “reason,” justification, or excuse is at hand or is most convenient? Isn’t it ridiculous to expect sane people to watch what they say and restrict what thoughts they express in order to prevent a rampage by someone with an inherently illogical, literally unreasonable, not-sane thinking process?

Isn’t “don’t say what you think, because it might set off a crazy person” the most insidious form of censorship, because none of us can really know what prompts a crazy person to go on a violent rampage? (Links in original)
There is something quite despicable about jumping on selected shootings to push a political point. Thus, we get a sort of attack tit-for-tat. So, for example, yesterday the University of Chicago was shut down because a young man called in a threat to shoot "16 white male students and or staff" to match the number of bullets in Laquan McDonald's body. Luckily, the man was found without anyone being shot. But does that mean that the video and facts about the shooting of Laquan McDonald shouldn't have been made public because it might inspire someone to kill other people? Where would this sort of censorship end?

David French writes on this same theme.
If angry political rhetoric bred violence, America would look something like Syria — awash in genocidal conflict. For sheer viciousness the robust debates between politicians and activists often pale in comparison to the “flame wars” on Twitter and Facebook, where arguments quickly become deeply personal. America’s political culture is thoughtful in parts, but it’s also a shouting culture, and anyone who’s looking for angry or extremist rhetoric can find it. It’s everywhere.

And yes, there are some small number of people who are already so vicious, so twisted, and so evil that they will seize on virtually anything to provide the pretext to kill. But the key word here is pretext. People kill because they are evil, not because a television broadcast was provocative, a website used an over-the-top headline, or because a YouTube made them mad. To clamp down on speech (or even self-censor) for fear of bitter hermits and angry lunatics is absurd.

It’s also ultimately self-destructive. Free speech saves lives. Violent civil strife often occurs when masses of people feel that the political system has utterly failed, that they have no hope of achieving political change absent recourse to violence. But a society that respects and cherishes free speech gives its citizens hope. It gives them a chance to build a movement, to topple existing political powers, and to make fundamental reforms. While civility has its place, it’s also true that angry speech can be the most potent — both persuasive and repulsive.

Jay Nordlinger has an article about those students who are struggling to uphold freedom of speech at Brown University. Of course, they have to do so on a secret Facebook forum because freedom of speech isn't so free on college campuses today. He found two students who were willing to go public with their thoughts about the censorship of certain thoughts. Nordlinger reports on a group of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander students feeling that they have been marginalized and oppressed at Brown.
Oppressed! Systemically! I point out to Chris and Marie that Brown students, whoever they are, are among the luckiest people on the face of the earth. “In human history,” says Chris, correctly. What ingrates they are, I continue: to be at this renowned institution, on this beautiful campus, at the tippy-top of American society. Millions of people around the world would trade places with them in a heartbeat! “You can’t marginalize their suffering,” Marie chides me, with a twinkle....

Want some more? A Brown student said this to Judith Shulevitz, about Wendy McElroy, the radical libertarian: “Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people’s experiences.” See what I mean about “invalidate,” along with “erase” and all the rest?

Here is another Brown student, speaking to Emily Shire of the Daily Beast: “I think freedom of speech in general is rhetoric that supports the erasure of minority students.” (Article here.)

Erasure. Invalidation. Marginalization. As in Orwell, there is a language that goes with an ideology — a kind of pseudo-language, a code in a club.
Here's a thought about those who seek to censor opinions with which they disagree.
I’m particularly impressed by another statement of Chris’s — I’ve never quite thought of it this way: “These ideologies rose to power because of the safe haven that the ivory tower afforded them. They were allowed to flourish on campus. Now that the adherents to these ideologies control the campus, they want the rules changed. They don’t want a safe haven for their critics. They climbed the ladder, and now they want to kick it away, before the next person can climb it.”
It is so very disheartening to read story after story about what is going on at college campuses. I just hope that, with all this exposure and ridicule of these students and their cowardly college administrators, the pendulum will start swinging back in the other direction.

I once spend a week at Brown University taking a class with one of my professional heroes, Gordon Wood. And as the other teachers and I traveled around Providence, I was struck at how proud Rhode Islanders are of their heritage. They're actually proud that they were the one state that didn't attend the Constitutional Convention and the last to sign the Constitution. And they are especially proud of their community's founder, the Puritan dissident, Roger Williams. As I read about the efforts to force student at Brown to toe the prescribed oratorical line, I can't help thinking of my favorite quote from Roger Williams. He opposed efforts by other Puritan ministers to use the power of government to oppose religious tolerance. Williams believed in a separation of church and state, writing,
"Forced worship stinks in God's nostrils."
Well. No one wants to be stinking up God's nostrils. If only these students at Brown would practice the same sort of tolerance as Providence's founder. Instead they have more in common with the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay who, as Reverend John Cotton preached, believed that
[Tolerance is] liberty … to tell lies in the name of the Lord,"
Isn't that what we're seeing now? These students' denial of tolerance isn't about how to worship God, but their beliefs are their own sort of religion. John McWhorter recently wrote about how the closed minds we're seeing today on college campuses are the equivalent of a religion. They don't want to discuss questions such as what qualifies as discrimination, cultural appropriation, or aggression. They know what they know and don't want to hear anyone else.
Any insistence otherwise is religious. The term is unavoidable here. When intelligent people openly declare that logic applies only to the extent that it corresponds to doctrine and shoot down serious questions with buzzwords and disdain, we are dealing with a faith. As modern as these protests seem, in their way, they return the American university to its original state as a divinity school—where exegesis of sacred texts was sincerely thought of as intellection, with skepticism treated as heresy.
McWhorter's essay is quite powerful. As a professor at Columbia, he has a plea for university administrators and professors.
But where the protesters’ proposition is “If I am offended, I am correct,” the proper response is, quite simply, “No.” This and only this constitutes true respect for these students’ dignity. It isn’t an easy answer. The naysayer will be called a racist (or self-hating) on social media and on campus for months. However, adults who know that their resistance to mob ideology is based on logic and compassion will survive emotionally. Of course, such people fear for their jobs. But a true university culture will resist sacrificing professors or administrators who are advocates of reason on the altar of convenient pieties.
I hope they'll listen, but I have no hope that most will stand strong.

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Over the Thanksgiving break, my family watched the documentary, Best of Enemies, about the debates between William Buckley and Gore Vidal at the 1968 convention. It was a fascinating look at the animosity between the two men. I hadn't appreciated how odious a man Gore Vidal was. The underlying argument of the documentary is that those televised debates began the sort of acrimoniously partisan arguments we see now on cable TV. I am skeptical that there is a causal connection, but it is a point on that timeline of media history. I heartily recommend the documentary. It would make a nice present during this holiday season.

Andrew Stiles has some fun with Donald Trump's habit of stretching the truth. Here are some other moments in history that Trump knows about despite the MSM's efforts to cover them up.
2. Six of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ were successful real estate developers whose combined assets under management were worth nearly half the total value of the Trump empire, adjusted for inflation. Their private journals included favorable reference to the modern-day concept of eminent domain....

4. Documents seized during the Osama bin Laden raid revealed that al Qaeda had initially planned to target the Trump Tower in Manhattan on September 11, but reconsidered after deciding that destroying a building of such “bikhayr zayn jidan” would be an abomination in the eyes of Allah. The term roughly translates as “majestic chorus of the angels.”

5. Shortly before her death in 1997, Princess Diana told a BBC journalist that, despite having “no regrets” in life, she would “quite fancy a night on the town with Donald Trump.”