Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cruising the Web

How funny is it that the leading GOP candidate thinks that Fox News is biased against him. He's saying that he won't do the Fox debate on Thursday because he thinks Megyn Kelly is biased against him. What does he think the rest of the media think about him? If he became president, does he think he'd get favorable coverage from any media outlet besides Fox? I like the response from Fox that supposedly was too much for Trump. .
"We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president," Fox said in a tongue-in-cheek statement. "A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings."
I would expect for Trump to back down yet again as he's done before other debates on CNN and CNBC. Does he really want to risk Fox putting his empty podium up there and have the other candidates repeat over and over that a man who can't take a tough question from Megyn Kelly can't deal with the tough problems facing a president. Or they'll imply that he didn't show up because he knows that he's not a very good debater and doesn't really have much of a handle on the details of policy questions. All he has is his braggadocio. This fuss reminds everyone about his tasteless remarks Megyn Kelly having "blood coming out her wherever" and reminders of the list of ugly thinks he'd said about other women. That little interchange would be played over and over as cable news spends the next two days wondering will he show or won't he. And we'll hear the above quote from Fox making fun of him trying to take on Iran or Russia when he can't take tough questions from Fox. The gall of Donald Trump being the one to be supposedly outraged because someone made fun of him when that is his whole shtick is quite amusing.

Philip Bump reported back in December that Trump's poll numbers have dipped after each debate.
And, contra Mr. Trump above, no candidate has done worse in the 7- and 14-day periods after debates than him.

After the first four Republican debates, Trump has seen a decline of 2.8 points over the ensuing week, on average, and a drop of 2.2 points after another week has passed. That's skewed a bit thanks to the boost he got in the wake of the Paris attacks, which helped put him into positive territory after the most recent Republican debate.
Chris Cillizza writes that Trump hasn't done all that well in the debates except for his one answer on New York values.

At least this new tempest in a teapot would give him an excuse to get out of the debate. He can do his alternative planning on another network and face either tough or softball questions. And maybe that would work. Or maybe the nice people of Iowa would be less than impressed. The more policy-oriented the debate comes, the more he fades away.

I know that I won't miss him at the debate. Cruz won't miss the remarks about his supposed lack of citizenship; Bush won't miss the jabs at his low energy; and Paul won't miss the insults about his low poll numbers. There are too many people on the stage anyway.

Ben Sasse has some questions for Donald Trump. He has some good questions.

These are good questions. Perhaps Senator Sasse can be one of the moderators at the debate.

Speaking of unilateral executive power, according to Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough that seems to be the Obama administration's game plan.
In describing the administration’s intent to pursue “audacious” executive orders, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough stated the Obama administration’s desire that its actions “not be subjected to undoing through [Congress] or otherwise.”

Of course, Americans are accustomed to presidents using executive authority to forward their preferred public policies, especially when the popular will reflected in Congress stymies their agenda. But think carefully about the end goal animating the Obama administration’s upcoming actions, as articulated by McDonough: policy decisions that cannot be undone by Congress “or otherwise,” which seems broad enough a term to encompass the judiciary or any other source of government authority.
We were just discussing a president's informal powers and executive orders specifically today in my AP Government class. One of the elements of executive orders that the students are supposed to understand is that they are reviewable by the judiciary and can be reversed by future presidents. Given that one of Obama's first actions as president was to sign an executive order on closing Guantanamo Bay thus reversing the executive order that Bush signed creating the prison there, he certainly understands that such orders are indeed reversible.

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I'm with PJ Media that this gimmick with Fox News might be the moment when Trump jumped the shark.
Here's a guy who claims he can somehow "cut deals" with America's greatest rivals. Here's a guy who claims that he will somehow "make America great again" through sheer force of will. Yet, when confronted by the skepticism of a 130-pound woman, he turns tail and runs.

That's the drama unfolding before our eyes as Donald Trump announces that he will boycott Thursday's Republican presidential debate, hosted by Fox News, on account of the network's refusal to remove Megyn Kelly as a moderator. "Let's see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me," Trump reportedly said. The candidate later turned to Twitter to poll supporters as to whether he should attend or not.

Is this the kind of leadership we can expect if Trump somehow cons his way into the White House? How is his handling of Megyn Kelly and Fox News anything other than the fulfillment of a personal grudge? What question might Kelly ask, and how might she ask it, that Trump would not be able to answer satisfactorily? This isn't MSNBC we are talking about. There's arguably nowhere in the media that a Republican candidate for president could expect a fairer shake than Fox News.

Trump has emerged as the leader of a personality cult. Like any cult leader, his first and highest priority is denouncing anyone who questions his primacy. He filters a qualitative analysis of any person or institution through one overriding concern: what do they think of me? If they're for him, he's for them. If they're against him, he's against them. It's that simple, and there's no nuance to it. There's no parsing through actions, words, or character. It's a package deal. You're for all of Trump, or you're his enemy. Such unbridled narcissism has no business anywhere near the lowest of public office. The notion that it could occupy the White House should instill terror in all of us.
But then, nothing else he's said has diminished the Trumpian cult. Maybe he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters will still admire his strength. Look he took on Megyn Kelly and dominated the news cycle for a couple more days. That is just what we need in a president.

Steve Berman, writing at the Resurgent, explains why arguments that Trump isn't a conservative aren't going to matter all that much because the voters aren't all that interested in true conservatism. Everyone has some government programs they like and don't want to see cut.
We say we want conservative changes, but we also want our Sugar Daddy Uncle Sam to foot the bill, so we keep running back to first base. Every conservative candidate wants to focus on securing our borders, keeping us safe from terrorists, restoring religious liberty, and dealing with taxes.

Ted Cruz wants to abolish the IRS, but then who will collect federal revenue? When President George W. Bush set up the Department of Homeland Security, there was great fanfare–it’s easy to create new agencies. The EPA, Department of Education, Department of Energy, DHS–none of them existed before 1973, and the government was still big even then.

It will take a generation to kick the habit of agency addiction, and no president can do more than cut some fat and slow the growth. Even that will hurt someone who depends on their fix of federal services. They will have to learn to do without, and when babies lose their pacifiers, they cry. Congress hates crying babies (who vote them into office).

I don’t think the country has the stomach for the kind of change it will take to actually be conservative. I think this is the reason Trump is so popular. He talks about all these things, but he doesn’t really mean it. He makes everyone feel better, but everyone really knows–wink, wink, nod, nod–it’s all just talk.
People might answer surveys or tell each other that they want smaller government, but just let some politician talk about cutting some unnecessary program and the people will rise up in righteous indignation. Every time someone talks about cutting federal spending on public television and let it survive on its own like every other television station, people start whining about Big Bird as if Sesame Street couldn't make it on its own on network TV. It would be snapped up in a minute. And don't tell me that that would commercialize Sesame Street. Have you ever been in a toy store? It was commercialized a long, long time ago. If we can't cut public television, how are we going to cut any program?

Jim Geraghty adds,
Can you recall Trump ever talking at length about making the government smaller? He accused Republicans of “attacking Social Security -- the Republicans -- they’re attacking Medicare and Medicaid” and he praised the infrastructure spending in the stimulus. His health-care plan is, “Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now. I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people. The government’s gonna pay for it.”

Why do we need that in the Republican presidential nominee? We already get that from the Democratic nominee.

A reader noted that the three guys who left the GOP presidential race first -- Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and Bobby Jindal -- were the ones who campaigned most explicitly on smaller government. As I noted when Jindal dropped out, for most of his term, Jindal did exactly what the conservative grassroots say they want their leaders to do -- he cut taxes, he cut spending, he privatized government institutions, he stood up for the state’s right to set policy and against dictates from Washington. He said he wanted any tax increase proposal to be “revenue neutral” -- i.e., offset by a cut somewhere else. Eventually, you cut government in ways people notice. Museums were open fewer days. Student fees at universities were going to go up, later offset by a tax credit -- lots of state legislative Republicans griped about that one.

The donor class doesn’t want smaller government -- and certainly isn’t willing to endure the messy sequester brinksmanship and government shutdowns that are usually required to get cuts of any size. Rural “conservatives” don’t want to give up farm subsidies or ethanol mandates.

The New York Times has an article with an optimistic headline: "A Resurgent Marco Rubio Sprints to the Finish in Iowa" But then you read the article and there is little there there. Mostly it is just reporting that he's campaigning more in Iowa compared to earlier and anecdotal evidence that a few listeners at rallies like what they hear. None of this supposed resurgence is showing up in poll numbers.

Hillary Clinton is becoming more personable as she's losing. How soon before she starts tearing up telling people how much it means to her to help others as she did right before the New Hampshire primary in 2008?

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John Fund explains why it's unlikely that Michael Bloomberg could win. It sounds as if he's been in my AP Government class when I explain this to students.
But Bloomberg’s challenge wouldn’t be ballot access, it would be the Electoral College. Even if an independent candidate managed to win 35 percent of the popular vote nationwide, it would be hard to carry a majority of the Electoral College. There hasn’t been an election since 1824 in which no presidential candidate has won a majority of the Electoral College. Should that happen in 2016, the next president would be selected by an insiders’ election in the House, with each state’s delegations casting one vote, and a majority needed to prevail. Right now, Republicans control a commanding 34 state delegations, Democrats have a majority in 14, and two are split evenly. Given that every House member is a Democrat or Republican, an independent’s chances of victory are slim.

Ross Perot set a modern standard of success as an alternative candidate in 1992 when he won 19 percent of the popular vote against Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. But he didn’t win a single electoral vote.
And Bloomberg might well be deceiving himself when he believes that his very moderation would be appealing to voters. The problem with extreme centrist positions is that those positions offend a great number of people on both sides.
No doubt he is sorely tempted to run as an independent given the current chaos in both parties and the rise of Donald Trump, a fellow New York billionaire and a man for whom Bloomberg has contempt. But Bloomberg must know that his eclectic background and diverse positions on issues wouldn’t fare well in a polarized country. Many Democrats would view his extensive Wall Street ties with horror — just look at how Hillary has been harmed by her far more modest ties to the financial community. And Bloomberg’s support for abortion rights, gun control, and nanny-state regulation would hurt him with Republicans. Moreover, despite the knocks pundits have delivered to Ted Cruz over his criticism of “New York values,” Cruz is on to something: the Big Apple just isn’t very popular in the rest of the country, where over 97 percent of the population lives.

Leon Wolf ridicules the argument that disliking Republicans in Congress is a good reason to support Donald Trump.
I hear public figures in the conservative movement – including those who don’t support Trump – say the following thing all the time: “The Establishment caused Trump.” This is a ridiculous non sequitur and I wish people would quit saying it. It isn’t true, and it gives people an excuse to support a man who represents all the worst abuses of the Establishment.

Let me state this as simply as I can: Mitch McConnell’s liberalism is not a good excuse to vote for a liberal. Now let me break it down a little further.

I completely get the anger over the perfidy and spinelessness of Republicans in Congress. But the problem with Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, et al is not that they weren’t insulting enough, or that they weren’t juvenile enough, or that they didn’t have half a dead fox on their forehead.

The problem was that they were liberal. Or more specifically, that their conservatism did not stand up to opposition. More specifically, the argument is that they used their offices to enrich the pocketbooks of themselves and their friends, and protected their own interests ahead of those of the country....

The liberalism and crony capitalism of the Establishment did not cause people to revolt and support… a known liberal recipient of crony capitalism. So stop saying that it did. The evidence of that can be seen in the way that the Establishment is now eagerly embracing Trump in order to prevent even the possibility of a Cruz presidency – and in the way Trump is praising them in return.

The Establishment created Ted Cruz. Lazy and slipshod thinking created Donald Trump.

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Jay Cost explains that the Republican party is not synonymous with conservatism.
Political parties are not coterminous with ideologies. They are big, broad, unwieldy coalitions that contain lots of factions and varying traditions. Oftentimes, these forces are in direct conflict with one another. Conservatives are part of the Republican Party, but so are other forces that—while they might call themselves “conservative”—are actually something quite different.
He goes on to give a brief primer on the history of conservatism and explains how it is a relatively recent ideological phenomenon. The Republican party of the Gilded Age was mostly an advocate of business interests. We see that element in today's GOP. But helping business out with targeted government policies is not really conservatism.

While America's attention on political issues is focused on the election and immigration seems to be the one issue that Republicans want to talk about, Obamacare is, as John Daniel Davidson of the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains, disintegrating.
As the open enrollment period for Obamacare's health insurance exchanges comes to a close at the end of this month, grumblings from insurers indicate that part of the healthcare law is collapsing under the weight of the administration's desire to sign up as many people as possible, even if it means insurers lose money on the deal....

The problem is that customers are gaming the system to avoid the high cost of premiums for Obamacare-compliant plans — a vicious cycle that's driving premiums up as insurers try to make up lost revenue and survive on the exchanges.

How do customers game the system? Through an array of loopholes and exceptions designed to maximize the number of insured people nationwide. Turns out, Americans are exploiting those loopholes the same way they do on their taxes — and one can hardly blame them, since those shopping on the exchange are most likely subject to the individual mandate.

One aspect of the law, guaranteed issue — prohibiting insurers from denying anyone coverage because of a pre-existing condition — was tried in some states back in the 1990s and resulted in customers waiting to buy coverage until they needed care. This caused premiums to rise and more healthy people to leave the market, a phenomena called "adverse selection" that caused the collapse of individual insurance markets in the handful of states that tried it.

A slightly different version of adverse selection is playing out on the exchanges. Because Obamacare allows individuals who experience some life event, like moving or changing jobs, to sign up for coverage outside the normal enrollment period, healthy customers are waiting until they need care to sign up, and then citing one of many eligible "life event" exceptions that allow them to enroll whenever they want. According to a recent report in the New York Times, lawyers for the federal government said it wasn't easy to find a complete list of exceptions.

This is a huge problem for every major insurer on the exchanges, reports Politico. Aetna claimed a quarter of its exchange customers enrolled this way, and that those patients have higher costs. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association echoed that claim, noting in a letter to the Obama administration that these customers are 55 percent more expensive to cover than those who sign up during the normal enrollment period. UnitedHealth says they are 20 percent more expensive, and that they expect 30 percent of their enrollments next year to come outside the normal signup period.

Another loophole is the 90-day "grace period" that allows customers to keep their coverage even if they've stopped paying their share of the premium. It didn't take long for many customers to figure out they only need to pay for nine months of coverage to stay covered for the year.
Some of these problems arose because of changes that the administration instituted itself.

What a surprise. Obamacare enrollment is way below what the administration has hoped it would be.
Obamacare enrollment is lagging far behind what economists had projected, the Congressional Budget Office said in a new report that cuts the total number of customers expected to buy plans on the exchanges from 21 million down to just 13 million this year.

Of those, 11 million will be getting government subsidies — down from the 15 million the CBO had projected just a year ago.

The updated projections came as part of the CBO’s 2016 budget outlook, and confirm the administration’s own dim estimates of how many people would take advantage of the health exchanges, which are at the heart of President Obama’s health law.

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Clinton aides might soon find themselves in the position that Nixon aides found themselves in. I hope they have money for good lawyers. Now we listen that Cheryl Mills lost her personal Blackberry on which she sent emails with classified information.
Records obtained by The Daily Caller through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show Mills revealed that she lost her Blackberry in a March 20, 2010 email she sent to Bryan Pagliano, the State Department IT staffer who managed Clinton’s private email server.

Some of the emails Mills sent and received on the account contain information that the State Department has retroactively determined to have classified information.

Debra Saunders points out that a fundamental weakness for Hillary Clinton is her greed.
When Bernie Sanders hits rival Hillary Clinton for taking humongous speaking fees from big banks — notably the $675,000 Goldman Sachs paid her for three speeches while she eyed the Oval Office — he struck Clinton’s Achilles’ heel. Both the former secretary of state and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have cashed in since they left the White House in 2000. The New York Times reported last year that the Clintons earned $139 million from 2007 to 2014. The Clintons’ focus on accumulating wealth clouds their judgment.

Start with a basic political fact: Many voters believe Wall Street got off too painlessly for its role in the financial collapse of 2008. Many Democrats blame big banks. So if you know you are going to run for president in the Democratic primary, you probably don’t want financial giants paying you five times the American median household income for one speech. It makes you look beholden to fat cats, because — earth to Hillary — most human beings are grateful when someone gives them six figures for a talk.

“You don’t think they expect anything in return?” Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked Clinton on Sunday. “Absolutely not,” Clinton answered. She said she took on the big banks as a U.S. senator.
Add in all the money that she charged universities to give speeches and all the rather questionable groups that her husband has taken money from to give speeches.
It’s hard to think Clinton understands problems of the middle class when in 2014 as she was crisscrossing the country taking on “income inequality,” she charged UCLA $300,000 for a speech. (A private endowment paid the tab with funds that, I assume, otherwise would benefit students. Team Clinton explained $300,000 was her special “university rate.” Goldman Sachs paid less.)

Defenders are free to mention Republican ex-presidents who charged hefty speaking fees. George W. Bush reportedly fetches $100,000 to $175,000 for a speech. Clinton, however, breaks the mold by cashing in before winning the Oval Office. Check writers are looking ahead, not behind, with a reasonable expectation of friendly treatment.

Sweden is no longer the socialist paradise that liberals so admire. Not only does it have one of the highest rape rates in the world. Now the police have announced that they've lost control of the Stockholm train station and other parts of the city.
Swedish police warns that Stockholm's main train station has become unsafe after being ‘taken over’ by dozens of Moroccan street children.

The all-male migrant teen gangs are spreading terror in the centre of the Swedish capital, stealing, groping girls and assaulting security guards, according to Stockholm police.

Members of the gangs, some as young as nine, roam central Stockholm day and night, refusing help provided by the Swedish authorities....

'These guys are a huge problem for us. They steal stuff everywhere and assault security guards at the central station,' one police officer told SVT.
'They grope girls between their legs, and slap them in the face when they protest. All police officers are aware of this.
'I would never let my children go to the central station. No officer would.'

....The gangs are made up of orphans who have grown up on the streets of Casablanca and Tanger in Morocco, where authorities estimate there are around 800,000 homeless 'street children'.
They have all applied for asylum Sweden as unaccompanied minors after travelling through Spain and Germany, a journey which may have taken them years.
But their troubled backgrounds have made them distrusting and wary of adults, and more than one in five have run away from migrant housing and foster families after applying to stay in Sweden.

Swedish migration authorities first reported and increase in Moroccan unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in 2012, when 145 arrived, a number which more than doubled in 2013.

Out of the 505 Moroccan children who applied for asylum in Sweden without any parent or guardian, 20 per cent ran away from provided group housing or foster families, disappearing off the radar.

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When Jerry Falwell, Jr. endorses Trump, does he care at all about Trump's past bragging about sleeping with married women?
In The Art of the Deal, Trump boasted about bedding other men’s wives.

“If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller,” he wrote.
Are those the sorts of Evangelical values that Liberty University supports? Senator Sasse questioned whether Trump has repented such adultery? It sure doesn't sound like it. Other social conservative leaders are starting to speak up.
The fact that Trump-branded casinos have strip clubs is particularly troubling to some, including Penny Nance, who heads Concerned Women for America.

“I think respect for women is very important, and the idea that he profited from strippers and from exploiting women we find very disturbing,” she said.
Why did they wait until now to criticize Trump? Why haven't all those pro-life groups been all over his statement back in August that his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, who is a federal judge would make a "phenomenal" Supreme Court justice. She has a radical record on abortion issues as Ramesh Ponnuru wrote back then.
Maryanne Trump Barry came up in my book The Party of Death for writing one of those heated judicial decisions in favor of giving constitutional protection to partial-birth abortion. She called a New Jersey law against it a “desperate attempt” to undermine Roe v. Wade. It was, she wrote, “based on semantic machinations, irrational line-drawing, and an obvious attempt to inflame public opinion instead of logic or medical evidence.” It made no difference where the fetus was when it “expired.”

So: The right of abortionists to make a child “expire” by partially extracting her from the womb, sticking scissors in the back of her head, vacuuming out her brain, and crushing her skull to complete her extraction, is right there in the Constitution. But let’s please not have any “semantic machinations.”

Laws against partial-birth abortion had strong bipartisan support. They were attempts to mark an outer limit to the abortion right of Roe. If unborn children could not be protected within the womb, could they at least be protected when partway out? That would be illogical, said Judge Barry. But if the location of fetal death does not matter, then it could hardly matter if the child was all the way outside the womb. Laws against infanticide, too, must be dismissed as irrational line-drawing. The intellectual architect of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, Hadley Arkes, mentions Judge Barry’s decision in his book on the origin of that law, explaining that it was in part designed to head off the dangerous implications of such rulings.

The Supreme Court eventually ruled that partial-birth abortion could be outlawed—but it did so by a margin of one.

It’s understandable that Trump would praise his sister. But when candidates praise relatives who have served in public office—whether they’re members of the Bush, Paul, Clinton, or Trump families—voters are entitled to keep those relatives’ records in mind.
I've been waiting for social conservative groups to take on Trump, but they've mostly been silent. I think they are more interested in maintaining their support base and they fear that too many of their supporters like Trump. But can you imagine if a Democrat were praising a judge with such a record? They'd be all over that and using fear of such a judicial nomination to drum up more and more donations. But when it's Trump, they've been mostly silent.

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