Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cruising the Web

Of all the irritating or outrageous things that Donald Trump has said, ridiculing Hillary for playing the gender card while closing her eyes to her husband's philandering and abuse of women working in some ways for him is the least annoying thing he's said. He's exactly right, though somehow I don't find him the best spokesman for treating women right. And he also has his own history of praising Hillary and saying that he thinks "she'd make a great president." But he has a good point about the irony of her campaigning as the great hope of all womankind given how she's facilitated her husband's womanizing. And it is smart politics in the GOP primaries. No Republican is going to be hurt among Republican voters for pointing out Clinton hypocrisy. It's about time that he started targeting Hillary instead of Republicans.

I just don't think it would help him in the general election since all it would do would be to excite sympathy for Hillary. Remember that this is a woman who got elected senator basically because people felt sorry for her as the cheated-upon wife. Before the Monica Lewinsky, she wasn't all that popular. I'm sure she would love to play the victim some more and distract from all her other scandals.

However, even a liberal mouthpiece like Ruth Marcus acknowledges that Trump has a point.
Well, Bill Clinton has a penchant for something. He had a successful presidency — with an ugly blot. “Sexism” isn’t the precise word for his predatory behavior toward women or his inexcusable relationship with a 22-year-old intern. Yet in the larger scheme of things, Bill Clinton’s conduct toward women is far worse than any of the offensive things that Trump has said.

Trump has smeared women because of their looks. Clinton has preyed on them, and in a workplace setting where he was by far the superior. That is uncomfortable for Clinton supporters but it is unavoidably true.

Which leads to the next question: What is the relevance of Bill Clinton’s conduct for Hillary Clinton’s campaign? Ordinarily, I would argue that the sins of the husband should not be visited on the wife. What Bill Clinton did counts against him, not her, and I would include in that her decision to stick with him. What happens inside a marriage is the couple’s business, and no one else’s, even when both halves crave the presidency.

But Hillary Clinton has made two moves that lead me, gulp, to agree with Trump on the “fair game” front. She is (smartly) using her husband as a campaign surrogate, and simultaneously (correctly) calling Trump sexist.

These moves open a dangerous door. It should surprise no one that Trump has barged right through it.

The WSJ is on the same page with Ruth Marcus and Trump. They go further by pointing out that was is past is also prologue. First, she will keep playing the gender card over and over because it's her main qualification for the presidency.
Mrs. Clinton wants to use her gender both as a political sword and shield to win the White House. The purpose is to make male politicians less willing to take her on, while reinforcing her main and not-so-subtle campaign theme that it’s time to elect the first woman President.

So she and her allies will try to spin any criticism as sexist.
The WSJ has a summary of her husband's sleazy sexual history.
Yet no one in American politics better personifies a war on women than Mrs. Clinton’s husband. For readers too young to recall the 1990s, we aren’t merely referring to Trumpian gibes about female looks or “Mad Men” condescension. Mr. Clinton was a genuine sexual harasser in the classic definition of exploiting his power as a workplace superior, and the Clinton entourage worked hard to smear and discredit his many women accusers.
The blame the victim approach that the Clintons used would be considered outrageous by everyone if it had been the behavior or any other politician or business executive. They worked the media and behind the scenes to slime any woman who might have come forward or actually did come forward with tales of Bill's behavior. And Hillary's campaign based on her gender makes all this fair game.
We rehearse all this not merely to reinforce Mr. Trump’s claims of a Clinton double standard. The point relates to the standards that would prevail in another Clinton Presidency. We know from Mrs. Clinton’s emails that Mr. Blumenthal remains a trusted Clinton friend and adviser who is likely to wield considerable influence in or outside a Clinton Administration. And we know from those emails that the Clintons indulge his political conspiracy theories almost as much as he indulged Mr. Clinton’s about Monica Lewinsky.

No wonder that Ruth Marcus, the Washington Post columnist and no conservative, called Bill Clinton’s record with women a fair political issue. At the very least if Mrs. Clinton wants everyone to forget about Bill’s harassment of women, she ought to stop playing the sexism card, or drop Bill as surrogate, or both.
It is the shame of the Democratic Party and feminists that they joined in the efforts to cover up his scandals and condemn the women he harassed. For those of us old enough to remember the sleaze of this couple when they were in the White House, it's worthwhile to ask if we want to endure more of such stories plus all their other corruption and scandals.

Jonah Goldberg has some fun
with Trump's attack on Hillary.

Reminding people of Bill Clinton’s treatment of women, and not just Monica Lewinsky, is not good for the Clinton campaign. Having Hillary Clinton tagged as a hypocrite for crying sexism about everything and anything while (1) defending her husband’s predations and (2) laughing about getting a plea bargain for a child rapist seems entirely fair game. Trump has a gift for getting unpopular things into the national conversation. Having reporters asking Bill Clinton whether his sexual escapades are “fair game” is preferable to having them gush over his retail political skills, which is their default approach to covering Bill.

Normally, these sorts of attacks would be left for surrogates, given the sordidness of the whole thing. But Trump has no reluctance to be his own mudslinging surrogate, and in this case, that’s fine by me.

That said, I do have to laugh at all his counter-attacking on the “sexism” charge. If you recall, when he and I first started going after each other on Twitter, Trump insisted that National Review fire me because of my sexism. I said he was “relentlessly tweeting like a 14-year old girl.” He responded:It’s just another example of how Trump really isn’t anti-PC, he’s just anti-PC when political correctness is inconvenient to him. He’s perfectly happy to shout sexism if he thinks that will work for him — just like Hillary.

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I just really don't want to see the 2016 campaign against Hillary revolving around what Bill did or did not do 18 years ago. There is so much more for Republicans to use to attack Hillary.

For example, Politico lists "6 moments that could haunt Hillary Clinton." This is a woman who said "We now finally are where we need to be" on ISIL. That could bit of optimism could come back to bite her. Talking about Republicans being her enemies will hurt her claims that she can work with Republicans in Congress to get things done. Her position on guns and charter schools are also weak points. And no one likes her trying to appeal to Hispanics by saying she's like their abuela.
6) Not My Abuela: A quick attempt by Clinton’s campaign to turn one of her favorite topics — being a grandmother — into an appeal to young Latino voters recently took a negative turn. Just before the holidays, the Clinton campaign posted a lighthearted list of “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela,” a listicle illustrated with GIFs and a reminder that even entertainer Marc Anthony has endorsed her campaign.

The list went viral, but not the way the campaign might have hoped. #NotMyAbuela began trending on Twitter, with comments like: “#NotMyAbuela because she didn't have to live in poverty with 14 kids and suffer because over half were separated over a border.” Clinton’s campaign, which is counting on Hispanic votes to win a general election, was accused of “Hispandering” — and she can’t afford to alienate those young voters by seeming out of touch or pandering.
Add in all her own personal corruption scandals and the fact that most Americans just don't trust her and she has plenty of weaknesses without talking about Bill's sexual history.

Oh, and here is yet another special consideration for the Clintons.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz pressed the Office of Government Ethics last week for an explanation of its decision to exempt Clinton from laws compelling public officials to disclose all forms of income.

"Earlier this year, press reports indicated that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband failed to disclose millions of dollars in paid speeches over the past thirteen years under the belief they did not have a duty to report that because the speeches were delivered on behalf of the Clinton Foundation, and not in the Secretary's or the President's personal capacity," Chaffetz wrote.

The Utah Republican cited "at least five speeches" for which Clinton routed her speaking fee to the philanthropy between 2014 and 2015. She did not list that income on her disclosure form as the law typically requires.

The ethics office's spokesman, Vincent Salamone, had issued a statement in May arguing public officials did not need to disclose payments if they are made directly to an organization, as was the case with the Clinton Foundation speaking fees.

However, Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, struggled to explain the statute behind Salamone's assertion during a hearing Dec. 16, simply arguing it was a "very long, very detailed" rule.

Pressed later in the hearing to cite the exact statute, Shaub pointed to a rule that actually outlined requirements for officials to report income paid to a charity.
Isn't that convenient that they decided to make up a rule just to help Hillary.

Timothy Carney explains how 2015 is the year that "the Democrats fully embraced corporatism."
Democrats have long been purveyors of patronage and corporate welfare, but forever they've gotten away with pretending to be populists. In 2015, that charade ended.

No doubt Hillary Clinton, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will keep play-acting as anti-corporatists, but after the show their party put on over the past twelve months, only the most credulous and inattentive observer will believe it.

Pelosi's party carried the ball for Boeing and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and led the fight to save and later revive the Export-Import Bank, a corporate welfare agency conservatives this summer sent into liquidation. Democrats fought, but failed, to save an insurance bailout that was part of Obamacare. Hillary led the Democratic presidential field in defense of the indefensible ethanol mandate.
They did their best to channel money to Boeing through rechartering the Ex-Im bank. Obama has bragged that he's the best salesman for Boeing other than their CEO. The Democrats could no longer depend on Republicans to push through such corporate cronyism while the Democrats bashed them.
So in 2015, Democrats seem to have realized that if they want their corporatism — and they do — they need to do the heavy lifting themselves.

It was a similar story on bailing out health insurers. Obamacare included a subsidy called "Risk Corridors," which went to struggling insurers. In late 2014, Marco Rubio passed a measure capping Risk Corridor payouts to struggling insurers, thus protecting taxpayers. This year, Republicans insisted on extending that cap, over the administration's objections.

This forced Democrats into the position of angrily calling for taxpayer bailouts of the very companies they had spent years pretending to attack.
Let's see how these issues play out in the general election as Democratic incumbents and Hillary will have to defend the corporate welfare that they always pretended to despise.

There are things to criticize Rubio for, but his record of missing votes is not a big deal. Sure, he's missed a higher percentage of votes than the other senators running this year. But he also has missed a lower percentage of other senators running this century. U.S. News has the stats.
But Rubio does far better against the voting records of the senators who ended up on the tickets in the elections of 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, each of which featured at least one member of the Senate.

In the year leading up to their respective elections, all the presidential or vice presidential candidates who were serving in the Senate at the time of the election had worse records than Rubio did this year.

Meanwhile, Jim Geraghty refutes the idea that Marco Rubio isn't a real conservative just because he is the reputed "establishment" favorite.
But if Rubio really represents the new GOP “establishment,” then the fight is over and the conservatives won. Despite infuriating many grassroots conservatives by pushing the failed Gang of Eight immigration-reform bill and advocating a path to legalization, Rubio has an indisputably conservative record as a senator.

This is a man who has a lifetime ACU rating of 98 out of 100. A man who has a perfect rating from the NRA in the U.S. Senate. A man who earned scores of 100 in 2014, 100 in 2013, 71 in 2012, and 100 in 2011 from the Family Research Council. A “Taxpayer Super Hero” with a lifetime rating of 95 from Citizens Against Government Waste. A man Club for Growth president David McIntosh called “a complete pro-growth, free-market, limited-government conservative.”

Across the board, Rubio’s stances, policy proposals, and rhetoric fall squarely within the bounds of traditional conservatism.
Geraghty goes dwon Rubio's positions on social, economic, and foreign policy issues and he is quite conservative on those issues. I appreciate that he is the one who successfully pushed blocking a government bailout of insurance companies and that he ran for the Senate talking about reforming Social Security. That was a gutsy thing to do in Florida. Geraghty concludes,
Why do so many people see Rubio as some sort of squishy moderate if his voting record and proposals are so thoroughly conservative?

Peter Beinart argues that the Florida senator uses a warm, empathetic tone to promote conservative policies: “Rubio has mastered the same technique Barack Obama used so effectively when he was seeking the presidency,” Beinart writes. “When faced with a controversial issue, he doffs his cap to the other side, pleads for civility and respect, insists that it’s a hard call — and then comes out exactly where you’d expect him to come out.”

Judging from the number of people calling Rubio a RINO, squish, establishment, etc., perhaps Rubio is a victim of his own golden tongue. If the perception that Rubio is too moderate costs him the GOP nomination, it will reveal a great deal about what defines a conservative in 2016. Sadly, the label no longer has much to do with actual policy positions, ideas, or governing philosophies.

If Rubio is no longer conservative, then conservatism is now primarily a matter of aesthetics.
My impression is that he is disliked as a moderate squish solely based on his efforts on immigration in the Gang of Eight bill. Geraghty does point out that, even while advocating for that bill, Rubio did push for stronger border enforcement procedures. But it seems today that there is a large group within the conservative electorate for whom immigration is the single issue on which they'll decide. And Rubio just can't win over those voters.

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Ah, yes. Wouldn't you know it that the one country that Obama has kept spying on even after revelations about spying on friendly countries and his vow to stop doing so would be Israel? And now the WSJ reports that the spying on Israel captured conversations that Israeli leaders had with members of Congress.
President Barack Obama announced two years ago he would curtail eavesdropping on friendly heads of state after the world learned the reach of long-secret U.S. surveillance programs.

But behind the scenes, the White House decided to keep certain allies under close watch, current and former U.S. officials said. Topping the list was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The U.S., pursuing a nuclear arms agreement with Iran at the time, captured communications between Mr. Netanyahu and his aides that inflamed mistrust between the two countries and planted a political minefield at home when Mr. Netanyahu later took his campaign against the deal to Capitol Hill.

The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and officials also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. That raised fears—an “Oh-s— moment,” one senior U.S. official said—that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.

White House officials believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign. They also recognized that asking for it was politically risky. So, wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold, officials said. “We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ ” a senior U.S. official said. “We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’ ”
This demonstrates just how far the administration was willing to go in order to push through the unpopular and unwise Iranian agreement. Remember that this is an agreement that a majority in Congress and the public opposed. I wonder if they're spending as much effort to spy on Iran as they are on Israel. It's also interesting that this story got leaked to the press.
This account, stretching over two terms of the Obama administration, is based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former U.S. intelligence and administration officials and reveals for the first time the extent of American spying on the Israeli prime minister.
Perhaps some of these officials just weren't comfortable with such spying on an ally and picking up conversations with American politicians and Jewish leaders. There is something a bit sickening about the NSA spying on conversations that include members of Congress even if, as the article states, the agency redacted the actual names of the congressmen before giving the information to the White House.

Miriam Elman at Legal Insurrection details how violent the anti-Israel BDS movement has gotten in Scotland. She links to the story of an anti-Israel activist who threw acid in the face of a young woman selling Israeli cosmetics. This is all part of an effort to ban Israeli businesses from Scotland and violently attack Israelis.
Last spring BDS activists affiliated with the SPSC pressured a prominent British photography gallery in Edinburgh to cancel its co-sponsorship with the Israeli embassy in London of an exhibit featuring Israeli multimedia artist Yael Bartana. The Stills gallery reportedly returned the 1,300 British pounds that the embassy had contributed to the show after multiple threats were lodged against it by the SPSC. The SPSC reportedly threatened to “mount non-stop demonstrations outside the gallery for the three-month duration of the exhibit if the Israeli embassy’s sponsorship was not cancelled”.

Ironically, Bartana’s work is well-known for its “critical treatment of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians”. That was obviously an irrelevant factor for SPSC Israel haters though.

The blackmail brought to bear on the Stills gallery last year isn’t a one-off incident.

There’s actually a long track record of similar episodes involving SPSC pro-Palestinian activists acting to shut down Scottish Jewish events that involve Israeli groups and Israeli involvement in Scottish cultural events.

Here’s another illustrative example: Back in April 2013 the SPSC prevented the University of St. Andrews’ Jewish Society from holding a charity ball after the venue’s staff reportedly received a slew of “threatening emails and calls” from SPSC activists. The hotel canceled due to “health and safety concerns for staff and hotel guests”.
How in this era, does a western country allow such violence to triumph against Jews?

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Every day there seems to be another scary hacking attempt story. Now we learn that ISIS is trying to be able to hack US government and civilian computers.
Though crippling attacks for now remain beyond the reach of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL, its hackers have tried to penetrate computers that regulate the nation’s electricity grid, U.S. officials say. On shadowy Internet forums, ISIL sympathizers post photos and videos of airplane cockpits and discuss wanting to crash passenger jets by hacking into on-board electronics. Fellow extremists debate triggering a lethal radiation release by sending rogue commands to nuclear power plants, according to the New York-based threat intelligence firm Flashpoint.

To date, a lack of world-class expertise has limited ISIL and its supporters to defacing websites, including that of an organization for U.S. military spouses, and pranks such as commandeering the Twitter feed of the U.S. military command directing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In September, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told Congress that the danger of a catastrophic attack from any cyber adversary was “remote.”

But Islamic State adherents have made no secret of their desire to acquire lethal capabilities, says Alex Kassirer, a Flashpoint terrorism analyst, who monitors conversations on extremist forums.

“The capability’s not there and that’s why we’re seeing these low-level attacks of opportunity,” Kassirer said. “But that’s not to say it’s going to be that way going forward. They’re undoubtedly working on cultivating those skills.”
I just worry that, even though they might not be able to hack the governmental computers, they'll find that they can hack into civilian and business networks and do some serious damage. We know that China and Russia have already successfully hacked our government and private networks. And I'm sure that there are other countries out there trying to do the same sort of thing. Perhaps ISIS doesn't have the capability to hack into our systems yet, but they might be able to hack into some other country's systems. These are scary times, scary times.

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We have a new definition of microagression - trying to persuade someone to like the Beatles.
A professor at Notre Dame de Namur University in California wrote a piece published by the Huffington Post claiming that his white friend trying to convince him to like the Beatles was basically a microaggression against him.
Psychology professor Adam J. Rodriguez, who is Puerto Rican, explained that his friend was part of “the dominant culture” that makes people Beatles fans — and the fact that he dared to criticize Rodriguez for not being one was insensitive and meant he just didn’t recognize the “power and privileges” he had as a white dude that Rodriguez did not have.
Oh, geez. Get over yourself.