Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Cruising the Web

I can understand that Barack Obama is angry and sad about people who have been killed by gun violence. Perhaps he even feels a bit of responsibility that he did nothing on guns in his first two years when Democrats had an overwhelming majority in Congress. They didn't even bring it up. But pretending that the actions he took on Tuesday would have made any difference in the type of gun violence he's been referencing is just dishonest. Jonathan Adler explains how minor these actions really are.
Taken at face value, the new ATF guidance is thus nothing more than a restatement of existing legal requirements. Put another way, it merely identifies those who are already subject to the relevant federal requirements and does not in any way expand the universe of those gun sellers who are required to obtain a license and perform background checks. In other words, it is — as the document says — a guidance, and not a substantive rule. It has no legal effect.

If the ATF guidelines are nothing more than a guidance — an indication of the sorts of things that might trigger a federal investigation or prosecution, but not a tightening of the relevant legal standard — why would the administration do this? There are several potential answers. First, guidance documents are often useful insofar as they explicate relevant legal standards and (as the name implies) provide guidance to the regulated community. Such documents can help people know when they are subject to specific legal requirements. Further, if there are a significant number of people who should have federal gun licenses but have neglected to obtain them, the guidance document might encourage greater compliance with federal law.

A second potential reason for issuing a guidance document of this sort, as Eugene Kontorovich suggests, could be that the administration hopes to “chill” marginal gun sales. Although a guidance document does not change the relevant legal standard, the issuance of such a document can affect behavior. Individuals who learn they are closer to the relevant legal line than they had realized might be encouraged to comply with the relevant legal requirements, or they may opt to stop selling guns. In this way, a guidance document may help to discourage behavior the government wishes to control but which may lie beyond the government’s legal reach.

A third potential reason for issuing a guidance of this sort is political: to respond to the political demand for action. Issuing a guidance document with substantial fanfare is a way to create the impression of action and satisfy relevant constituencies. To the typical, rationally ignorant voter, it may appear that the administration is doing something significant. (And insofar as Republicans complain and caterwaul about the administration’s actions, this purpose is more fully achieved.)
My vote is on the third explanation. It's a political statement meant to appease liberal supporters. Part of his actions would even have gotten Republican support such as increasing the number of FBI staff who do background-checks and more funds for mental health. For the regulations, the Republicans probably don't really mind so much since Obama's actions fire up their supporters and gun rights has traditionally been a winner for them. And the gunmakers are probably thrilled since Obama has been wonderful for their profit line. The only people who will be unmoved are the actual victims of gun violence for whom these actions will do nothing. Talk to the people of Chicago which has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country and also some of the highest levels of gun violence.

David Harsanyi explains what President Obama's true legacy will be expanding the power of the executive far beyond what the Founding Fathers ever imagined.
But more consequentially — and this may be the most destructive legacy of the Obama presidency — is the mainstreaming of the idea that if Congress “fails to act” it’s okay for the president to figure out a way to make law himself. Hillary’s already applauded Obama’s actions because, as she put it, “Congress won’t act; we have to do something.” This idea is repeated perpetually by the Left, in effect arguing that we live in direct democracy run by the president (until a Republican is in office, of course). On immigration, on global warming, on Iran, on whatever crusade liberals are on, the president has a moral obligation to act if Congress doesn’t do what he wants.

To believe this, you’d have to accept two things: 1) That Congress has a responsibility to pass laws on the issues that the president desires or else they would be abdicating their responsibility, and 2) That Congress has not already acted.
Just imagine if all presidents, even, Horrors!, a Republican behaved this way.
f President Bush had instituted a series of restrictions on the abortion industry — since it has a loud, well-organized, and well-funded lobby that wants to make abortions “effortlessly” available — without congressional input, would that have been procedurally okay with liberals? You know, for the children? I don’t imagine so.

Jim Geraghty ponders
what Obama isn't doing while he's concentrating on miniscule regulations on private sales of guns.
Never mind that he couldn’t get a Democrat-controlled Congress to pass any of these proposals. Never mind that none of the mass shooters got their firearms from a gun show or the kind of casual seller that these regulations target.

Just as the drunk looks for his lost keys under the streetlight because that’s where the light is, Obama focuses his energies where it is easiest.

Never mind that the Sunni–Shia world war is kicking into a higher gear.

Never mind that ISIS is advancing in Libya. The Syrian regime continues to use chemical weapons from a program that President Obama said had been eliminated:

....For those keeping score at home, we now have allegations of use of sarin, sulfur mustard, chlorine gas, and possibly “Agent 15,” also known as BZ or 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate. There are allegations of chemical-weapons use on about 60 separate occasions.

Never mind that the Chinese markets are crashing, suggesting the world economy is slowing which will eventually mean an economic slowdown here. Economists are suddenly slashing their predictions for growth.

“Plenty” of people who thought Obamacare would fix everything are finding the premiums and deductibles so expensive, paying the penalty looks like a better option.

But fighting ISIS, stabilizing the Middle East, building a prosperous economy, undoing the damage of Obamacare -- all of that stuff’s hard. Obama would much prefer taking a victory lap over his decision to “tweak a few minor rules around the edges” -- our Charles C.W. Cooke’s assessment -- than to actually address any of these serious, worsening problems.

Roger L. Simon notices how Obama dropped into his list of multi-victim shootings both Fort Hood and San Bernadino as if those were similar to shootings at schools or in a South Carolina church.
Two of those mass shootings (Fort Hood and San Bernardino) were perpetrated by jihadis motivated by fundamentalist Islamic ideology -- while the others (not all very mass) were the work of common criminals and/or (to be blunt) nutcases.

Why is this important? It should be obvious that gun control legislation of any sort is absolutely irrelevant to jihadis. As has been demonstrated, they have had no trouble getting arms even in societies like Canada, Australia and France where the gun laws are far more stringent than ours. Indeed, they are able to obtain weapons of all sorts all across the globe. (Of course, criminals in general don't have much trouble getting guns, but jihadis have a world-wide network of the sympathetic at their disposal.)

And yet the president persists in lumping the jihadis together with the nut cases and criminals in the other shootings. His reason couldn't be more obvious. He cannot stand to acknowledge the Islamic basis of terrorism. This is another case where he will do anything in his power to equalize it with other criminal or insane acts, make it banal. It cannot be the work -- organized or not -- of a highly evolved and specific seventh century ideology. Even in the midst of proposing his morally narcissistic gun control regulations he cannot resist trying to transform jihadism into a simple common crime, sort of like a biker gang rumbling at a truck stop and subject, as John Kerry would have it, to local law enforcement.

Obama name-dropped himself 76 times in his gun speech today. Because it's always all about him.

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Allhpundit links to a terrifying story that the German government is trying to keep quiet. If you were watching the news on New Year's Eve, you might have seen stories about German train stations being closed because of a terror threat. And now we're finding out what was going on. The BBC reports about how women were targeted for attacks by organized groups of young men. Groups of young men surrounded women and would grope her while stealing from her.
The mayor of Cologne has summoned police for crisis talks after about 80 women reported sexual assaults and muggings by men on New Year's Eve.

The scale of the attacks on women at the city's central railway station has shocked Germany. About 1,000 drunk and aggressive young men were involved.

City police chief Wolfgang Albers called it "a completely new dimension of crime". The men were of Arab or North African appearance, he said.

Women were also targeted in Hamburg.

But the Cologne assaults - near the city's iconic cathedral - were the most serious, German media report. At least one woman was raped, and many were groped.

Most of the crimes reported to police were robberies. A volunteer policewoman was among those sexually molested.

The pretty Christmas market and medieval setting may look idyllic, but at Christmas and New Year the area around Cologne Cathedral is a notorious danger zone when it comes to pickpockets and theft.

Now the sexual harassment, and in one case rape, of dozens of women has shocked Germany.

What is particularly disturbing is that the attacks appear to have been organised. Around 1,000 young men arrived in large groups, seemingly with the specific intention of carrying out attacks on women.

Police in Hamburg are now reporting similar incidents on New Year's Eve in the party area of St Pauli. One politician says this is just the tip of the iceberg.

And there are real concerns about what will happen in February when the drunken street-parties of carnival season kick off.
The NYT says that the authorities say that the gangs of men had a "North African or Arabic" appearance and did not speak German or English, but say that there is no indication that any of these young men were some of the new immigrants who have just arrived in Germany seeking asylum. And Cologne, where the worst attacks took place, took in more than 10,000 refugees last year. The police say that some of the men are known to them and were not from the group of newly-arrived refugees. Though, as Allahpundit muses, if they're known, why haven't they been arrested yet? The Mayor of Cologne says that "not all of the attackers were newly-arrived refugees." Well, I'm sure that's a comfort to Germans. There are already accusations that the media are trying to cover up the story because they fear a backlash against immigrants. And if there were, reportedly, hundreds of men involved in these attacks, why is it so difficult to arrest some of them? Well, if there were so many victims of these attacks, authorities won't be able to keep a lid on this story. The population will be outraged. And think what this will do to tourism in Germany if women fear that they can't go through the train station without being molested and robbed. And, in just a few a weeks, it will be time for Carnival to be celebrated and that's a big tourist draw in Cologne. So you can understand why the city authorities want to quash this story.

The mayor of Cologne, a woman, blames the victims.
The Mayor of Cologne said today that women should adopt a “code of conduct” to prevent future assault at a crisis meeting following the sexual attack of women by 1000 men on New Year’s eve.

Mayor Henriette Reker attended an emergency meeting with Chief of Police Wolfgang Albers and Wolfgang Wurm to discuss how to deal with the attack, where dozens of women were repeatedly touched and groped, with one case of alleged rape in the center of town.

“It is important to prevent such incidents from ever happening again,” said Mayor Reker, as reported in German by RP Online. “We have heard by now that they [the attacks] have occurred in other cities. This of course is not comforting to us.”

Hamburg also received complaints of sexual assault.

The crisis management team said prevention measures should include a code of conduct for young women and girls, and Mayor Reker said the existing code of conduct will be updated online.

The suggested code of conduct includes maintaining an arm’s length distance from strangers, to stick within your own group, to ask bystanders for help or to intervene as a witness, or to inform the police if you are the victim of such an assault.
That's infuriating. As if any of what was described happening was the result of women's conduct. And she has another plan, besides blaming the victims.
In an effort to prevent further violence, Reker said that city officials would begin working on measures to help young women protect themselves and to explain the city’s attitudes and norms to its many newcomers.

“We will explain our Carnival much better to people who come from other cultures,” she said, “so there won’t be any confusion about what constitutes celebratory behavior in Cologne, which has nothing to do with a sexual frankness.”
So is that what they really think the problem is: women not following a code of conduct and men not knowing that they shouldn't surround a woman and stick their hands in every orifice while stealing the woman's bags? If men don't know that, how will an updated website help out?

Meanwhile, back in the US, some colleges are worried about hugs and neck rubs.

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Donald Trump makes a point+
to raise Cruz's birth in Canada as a "very precarious" issue for the Republicans. Trump, apparently, is fixated about people's birthplaces. Ted Cruz has a nice, light-hearted response suggesting Trump has jumped the shark. I wonder if Trump will fire back twice as hard.

Things are getting very ugly out there. I usually like Rubio, but his attacks on anyone who voted for the USA Freedom Act as allies of ISIS is really despicable. I can't stand when liberals equate Republicans with terrorists, and this is just as egregious. It's fine to disagree with the votes but, as Byron York points out, in his eagerness to attack Cruz, Rubio is also attacking some of his own potential political allies who supported the law such as Chuck Grassley, Kelly Ayotte, Trey Gowdy, and Tim Scott. York concludes,
In the third Republican debate, Rubio memorably smacked down Jeb Bush after Bush clumsily attacked Rubio's Senate attendance record. "The only reason why you're doing it now is because we're running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you," Rubio said to Bush.

Now Rubio is swinging wildly at Cruz, because they're running for the same position and, perhaps, because someone has convinced him that doing so will help him. It seems hard to believe it will.
We now are seeing what a circular firing squad looks like as every Republican candidate, except maybe Ben Carson, is attacking other Republicans. It does seem like all the possible more establishment candidates like Bush and Christie are determined to try to weaken Rubio so that they can overtake him in either Iowa or New Hampshire and become the leader in that lane. It should make the next debate interesting.

Rubio must love this article from David French at National Review: "If Marco Rubio Is ‘Establishment’ Then ‘Establishment’ Has Lost Its Meaning." French points out that Rubio has been reliably conservative in the Senate and was responsible for the one piece of legislation that has weakened Obamacare. However, he helped write and supported the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill and some haven't forgiven him for that. However, others have changed their position on immigration.
But in changing his position and his tone on immigration, how is Rubio different from Donald Trump? One can choose to believe that 2013 Rubio is the “real Rubio” just as one can believe that 2012 Trump is the “real Trump,” but there’s no doubt at all which man has been the more consistent conservative.
So how did Rubio go from being a tea party sort of candidate in contrast to Jeb Bush as the establishment guy in just a few months?
Has Rubio moved left during the primary? No, he’s actually tacked right, especially on immigration. Has he been soft on ISIS? No, it could be argued that his policy has more teeth than Trump’s or Cruz’s, and few men in politics better understand the apocalyptic dimensions of the jihadists’ faith. As if that weren’t enough, he’s made the case for life as well or better than any of his rivals.

It seems that he’s now the “establishment” candidate mainly because a number of establishment figures and donors have defected to him after their preferred candidate — perhaps Bush, Christie, or Kasich — failed to gain traction. But if the standard for establishment status is simply whether establishment figures have chosen to support you after their first-choice candidate fails, then every single GOP contender is either establishment or establishment-in-waiting. After all, if Rubio falters, mass numbers of establishment politicians and donors will rush to back Cruz over Trump. And if Cruz falters, those same people will presumably back Trump over Hillary.

Here’s the reality: In the battle — launched in 2010 — between the tea party and traditional GOP powers, the tea party largely won. The contest between Rubio, Cruz, and Trump is a fight between Tea Party 1.0, Tea Party 2.0, and classic American populism. And each one of these candidates would need traditional Republican or “establishment” support in the general election.

If Rubio is “establishment,” the term has lost any real meaning. He’s a consistent conservative whose positions and ideology largely align with whomever his critics prefer, Cruz included. He’s a tea party champion who effectively expelled Charlie Crist from the Republican party and dealt a serious blow to Jeb Bush. For the most part, a fight between Rubio and Cruz is a fight over matters of tone and style, not substance. A fight between Rubio and Trump is a battle between a conservative and a populist. Unless something dramatic happens between now and the New Hampshire primary, the establishment has already lost this cycle. Only the insurgents remain.

Nick Gillespie scoffs at the idea that Ted Cruz is a libertarian despite taking some libertarian positions such as condemning the silly ethanol mandate. In a lot of controversial issues, Cruz takes the easy out for conservatives who want to earn the socially conservative vote without offending others by saying that he just wants to leave issues such as gay marriage up to the states.

What is really stupid is for Cruz's opponents to attack his religion. Trump, Huckabee, and even Ben Carson have questioned his faith because they want to weaken his appeal among evangelical Iowans. Gosh, that's sleazy. There is no place for questioning anyone's faith.

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Robert Tracinski is amused that this is the year when "the politically correct chickens came home to roost." Liberals have finally noticed how their support of political correctness is coming back to bite them and some of their liberal icons such as Woodrow Wilson or Thomas Jefferson. Professors and comedians have finally realized that they no longer have a safe space to teach or amuse.

The New Yorker has more on the details of Donald Trump cutting off the medical benefits to his desperately sick grand-nephew. This is really horrific behavior of Trump, who was extremely wealthy at this time in 2000, to punish a terribly sick infant because he was mad that the nephew was suing the family over his father's will.
According to Evans’s account, the baby, William Trump—whose father, Fred Trump III, is Freddy’s son—had been diagnosed with “infantile spasms, a rare disorder that can lead to cerebral palsy or autism and a lifetime of care.” (The Times article notes that William did develop cerebral palsy.) This chronic illness required round-the-clock nursing care and frequent visits to medical specialists and emergency rooms. Twice in the first eight months of his life, William stopped breathing. At that stage, fortunately for the baby and his family, he was being covered under a medical plan paid for by a Trump family company.

The situation changed in March, 2000, after Fred III and his wife, Lisa, filed suit in Queen’s Surrogate Court, claiming that Fred, Sr., who died in June, 1999, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and that his will had been “procured by fraud and undue influence” on the part of Donald, his brother Robert, a New York businessman, and his sister Maryanne, a federal judge in Newark, New Jersey. The will had divided most of their father’s estate, which was worth somewhere between a hundred million and three hundred million dollars, between the families of his surviving children, leaving considerably less to Freddy’s descendants than to other siblings’ children.

Trump and his siblings insisted that the will accurately reflected their father’s wishes. After the challenge, it didn’t take them long to retaliate. On March 30th, Fred III received a certified letter telling him that the medical benefits provided to his family by the Trump organization would end on May 1st. The letter prompted Fred III to return to court, this time in Nassau County, where a judge ordered the Trumps to restore the health coverage until the dispute was resolved. “I will stick to my guns,” Fred III told Evans. “I just think it was wrong. These are not warm and fuzzy people. They never even came to see William in the hospital. Our family puts the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional.” Fred III’s sister, Mary, told Evans, “William is my father’s grandson. He is as much a part of that family as anybody else. He desperately needs extra care.”

Trump, for his part, was unapologetic about his actions. “Why should we give him medical coverage?” he told Evans. When she asked him if he thought he might come across as cold-hearted, given the baby’s medical condition, he said, “I can’t help that. It’s cold when someone sues my father. Had he come to see me, things could very possibly have been much different for them.”
Think about that sick baby suffering seizures in the hospital that would eventually lead to cerebral palsy the next time you hear Trump bragging about what a great guy he is.

Ron Fournier is beginning to think he threw out his "Clinton-Women" sex file too soon.
Per­haps the cri­ti­cism will back­fire and gen­er­ate sym­pathy for Hil­lary Clin­ton, which is what happened two dec­ades ago. Nobody knows.

But seni­or Demo­crats tell me there are sev­er­al reas­ons why they worry that the old al­leg­a­tions will gain new legs.

1. Hil­lary Clin­ton threw the first punch. Voters might think that Trump has the right to de­fend him­self.

2. While voters my age baked the scan­dals in­to their opin­ions of Clin­ton years ago, mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans have not had a chance to lit­ig­ate the is­sue. As NBC’s Chuck Todd tweeted Monday: “Just a re­mind­er about how long ago the 90s really were re: Bill Clin­ton. Nobody un­der the age 38 has ever seen Bill’s name on a bal­lot.”

3. In the last two dec­ades, the pub­lic has be­come less tol­er­ant of sexu­al ab­users, in­clud­ing power­ful men who have af­fairs with young em­ploy­ees, and more crit­ic­al of people who at­tack sexu­al-ab­use vic­tims. Voters might re­coil at the memory of how bru­tally the Clin­ton team dis­missed charges that proved to be true. “If you drag a hun­dred dol­lar bill through a trail­er park,” James Carville in­fam­ously said, “you nev­er know what you’ll find.”

4. In the post-In­ter­net era, polit­ic­al cov­er­age is more fo­cused on per­son­al­it­ies and per­son­al lives. A power couple whose mar­riage has long been the source of curi­os­ity must tread care­fully in this boom mar­ket for in­tim­acy.
5. The cul­ture has coarsened in 20 years. Trump him­self gives people li­cense to say ter­rible things in pub­lic that they had long kept to them­selves. Trump and oth­er Clin­ton crit­ics must be won­der­ing how low they can go.

6. Changes in the me­dia land­scape weakened the me­dia “gate­keep­ers”—people like me who in­vest­ig­ated scores of al­leg­a­tions about Clin­ton, but only shared in­form­a­tion that could be con­firmed.

In the old days, sa­la­cious ru­mors and wild al­leg­a­tions got filed un­der “Clin­ton-Wo­men”—and dumped with oth­er garbage.

Now every­body is a pub­lish­er, nobody trusts the pro­fes­sion­al me­dia, and facts are dis­pos­able. Lord knows what stink will be aired in this environment.

Hillary Clinton can't define the difference between a Democrat and a socialist. She and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have that in common.

Derrick Wilburn, a black conservative, analyzes "the nastiest insult" to be used against conservatives such as himself to indicate that they're not acting like real blacks. It is quite revealing what his critics want to assume about blacks.

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Michael McCann, who comments on legal issues in sports, discusses what the NFL should and should not do based on the Al Jazeera report accusing Peyton Manning of using HGH. There are a lot of reasons for the NFL not to investigate the allegations, but the NFL is also in an uncomfortable position given how they went all out to investigate Tom Brady over scientifically iffy allegations about balls that were only a bit underinflated. McCann then discusses how Manning might sue for defamation, but that is very tough for a public figure. He' have to prove that Al Jazeera knew that the allegations were false and went ahead and published the story anyway.

Jeffrey Toobin explains how the case against Bill Cosby may well revolve around whether the prosecution will be able to introduce evidence from all the other women claiming that he acted toward them in a similar way to the way he's accused of acting against the woman in this case. Without that evidence of prior-bad-acts, the case is pretty weak.

This is great. The Warriors unearthed an old Burger King ad featuring Dell Curry back when he was an NBA player and a young Steph Curry talking about how he wants to be a basketball player when he grows up. It's just too cute for words. Burger King should shell out some money to Dell and Steph and start re-airing an update of the ad.