Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cruising the Web

My husband tells me to "cheer up; it's only going to get worse." I fear he's right. I can't face waking up on the mornings after primary and caucus days to see Donald Trump progressing toward the nomination. And then, God forbid!, seeing him in the White House! The horror, the horror. I feel like a citizen of a conquered nation taken over by an angry alien force in a science fiction movie. It truly is depressing.

The only way he could be defeated is if everyone got out of the race except Cruz or Rubio. But they won't. Their egos won't let them. I happen to think that Rubio is the more electable, but I can't see Cruz, Kasich, or Carson sacrificing for him. And our country will go down the tubes with either Clinton or Trump as our future president. Gosh, it's depressing.

Matt Walsh has a glorious rant for Trump fans who say they love Trump because he "tells it like it is." They love honesty and frankness unless it involves criticizing their hero and those who support him. So Walsh gets in their metaphorical faces and unleashes his own brand of honesty about them and their idol.
You say you want someone who’s politically incorrect. You’re so desperate for political incorrectness — a supremely ridiculous reason to vote a guy into the Oval Office, but never mind — that your esteem for him only grows when he belittles the disabled, mocks American prisoners of war, calls women dogs, calls his opponents p*ssies, calls for the assassination of women and children, says he’d like to have sex with his daughter, brags about his adultery, etc.

You’re excited by the most vile statements and most cretinous behavior imaginable — not remotely deterred by any of it, no matter how many times he gloats over infidelity, curses his opponents, and publicly ogles his own children — because, you say, it’s politically incorrect. That is how unfathomably desperate you are for someone to come along and just say what’s on their mind, you claim. You’re so fed up with political correctness that you celebrate political incorrectness without distinguishing between the healthy sort and the “LOL I slept with married women and I’m not sorry” sort. It doesn’t matter if you don’t personally agree, you say, you just respect the hell out of someone who’s willing to shoot straight, even when ”shooting straight” means comparing Ben Carson to a child molester, calling the entire electorate of Iowa stupid, and referring to women as “pieces of ass.”

Trump won South Carolina on the support of Evangelical Christians who were so impressed with his alleged straight talk that they overlooked the fact that he’s a crass, cruel, unrepentant philanderer who says he does not need God’s forgiveness, and who praises Planned Parenthood as “wonderful” and his radically pro-abortion sister as a “phenomenal” candidate for the Supreme Court. That’s how much you pretend to admire bluntness in a man. So much that it overrides literally everything else.....

You’ve already melted into a boiling puddle of rage and self-pity, haven’t you? You’re incensed and offended that I could be so “judgmental” and “dismissive” and “critical,” and 100 other qualities you find so orgasmically satisfying when they’re displayed by The Great Trump. You say you want some straight-shooting, honest, politically incorrect tough talk, but that’s simply a lie. If it were true, my inbox would not be filled to capacity with cartoonishly shocked and outraged Trump fans every time I utter a word of criticism in his direction. It shouldn’t matter that my criticisms are sharp and severe; you ought to revere me all the more for it. I thought you were tired of people walking on egg shells?

It turns out you don’t want Donald Trump to walk on egg shells, but you have fortified your own perimeter with a thick layer of egg shells and you expect anyone who comes near it to tip toe with extreme caution. It turns out you want to be coddled and cuddled and pandered to and excused. You’re in favor of whatever Trump says because Trump said it, but when it comes to how people talk about you and him, you expect to be treated like a soft and delicate flower....

Tell it like it is? I’ll tell you like it is: In my life I’ve never encountered a group of people more averse to being told how it is. Of course, you believe you’re entitled to this attitude because you’re “angry.” Your “anger” indulges you with the moral authority to take leave of your reason and your common sense. Your anger, you believe, places you beyond judgment, even as you attempt to drag this country into a future of (more) tyranny and cultism. You believe the rest of us ought to take your supposedly righteous rage into account while you refuse to take anything but your own infatuation with spectacle and celebrity into account. Whatever concerns we raise, including the ones I’m raising now, can be written off in an instant. “WE’RE TIRED OF POLITICS AS USUAL! WE’RE ANGRY!” And that’s supposed to be some kind of rhetorical hall pass, permitting you to do and say what you please unchallenged.

Well let me be the first and perhaps the only to say this out loud, although millions of people share this sentiment quietly: I don’t care about your anger. There’s some more truth for you, friend. There’s some more “tellin’ it like it is.” Two can play at this game, you know. And the only difference is that I’m right.

I couldn’t take your anger seriously even if I wanted to. After all, you say you’re angry that people are too afraid to speak their minds, but, as we’ve established, you don’t really want anyone but Donald Trump to speak his mind.

You say you’re angry about the corruption in Washington, but you support a slimy swindler and fraudster who boasts of his bribery schemes and makes no apologies for shamelessly exploiting political corruption for personal gain.

You say you’re angry about illegal immigration, but you rally around a guy who supported amnesty as recently as 2013, employed illegal immigrants, and donated millions of dollars to open borders politicians like Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Hillary Clinton.

You say you’re angry about the establishment, but you worship a candidate who said only a few weeks ago that “you got to be a little establishment” in order to get things done, and who admits he “was the establishment” right until he ran for president.

You say you’re angry that Republicans won’t fight, but you hail as a warrior the same guy who says he’ll happily “work with the Democrats,” which probably explains why Sen. Harry Reid praised him and Jimmy Carter called him “malleable.” It is not uncommon for me to hear from Trump fans that they’re angry at “GOPe” Republicans for “cutting deals” and “compromising” in one breath, and in the very next that they want Trump because he’s really good at cutting deals and compromising.

Right down the list, you are blithely embracing every single thing you say you’re so angry about. Trump is the very embodiment of corruption, deception, cowardice, and elitism. He is precisely the sort of man you supposedly detest. Trump is exploiting America’s frustration with men like Trump. Trump is running against Trump. You are voting for Trump because you hate Trump. You are angry at politicians because they act like Trump and make deals like Trump and go to cocktail parties with men like Trump and look down on the little guy like Trump and possess the integrity of Trump, and so you’re solution is to elect Trump. Your anger at Trump leads you to Trump. Perhaps this explains why you’re so worried about politicians who are “controlled by donors,” but you aren’t at all concerned about a politicians who is the very donor you didn’t want controlling the political process. “I’m sick of these donors influencing the government! I have an idea: let’s make one president!”
Walsh goes on and on and it is all truth. But, of course Trump supporters have their fingers in their ears crying "nyah, nyah.

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I don't put any faith at all in these polls that say that people want the Senate to vote on an Obama nominee for the Supreme Court. Most people have no idea who is on the Supreme Court. They didn't know wh Scalia was. They are not going to vote about this. The Republicans can play all the quotes from the current president, vice president, minority leader, and future minority leader proclaiming why Democrats would not vote for a Republican nominee. Everyone knows that this is pure political hypocrisy. Chuck Schumer doesn't even try to defend the hypocrisy that the Democrats are displaying when asked about his and Joe Biden's previous statements about blocking Republican nominees.
“Look, the simple answer to this, which everyone is saying everywhere is, ‘Do your job.’ It doesn’t matter what anybody said in the past. Do your job. It’s working,” Schumer said. He claims he had not seen Biden’s exact statement but when pressed about it, he repeated, “We should do our job.”
Yeah, that's a defense. I'm sure that will convince everyone. And the White House spokesman just pretends that the hypocrisy doesn't exist.
“We can spend a lot of time throwing quotes back and forth,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
Yes, we can!

The only way the Republicans can hurt themselves is if they cave and vote on Obama's nominee before the election. And Allahpundit, via Roll Call, makes a good point. If Obama makes a more centrist nomination, the GOP can hold it until after the election. If Hillary wins, the Republicans can go ahead and approve the more centrist nominee and deny Hillary the opportunity to make a more leftist nomination. Sounds like a plan.

John Kasich essentially admits that his candidacy is a vanity operation.
John Kasich on Tuesday told supporters he’s not sure whether his purpose is to win the White House.

“I’ve gotta tell you, whether I’m president or whether I am not president, OK, I’m carrying out my mission, don’t you think? Doesn’t it sound like I am? And that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do in life,” Kasich told supporters in a candid moment he said was important to get off his chest before taking questions.

During the town hall in Kennesaw, Georgia, a supporter encouraged Kasich to punch back at his rivals, particularly front-runner Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, in the next debate to carry out his aforementioned mission.
“My question to you is: John Kasich, when are you going to live out your purpose Thursday night when you have the national stage?” the supporter asked. “What are you gonna do to stick it to Trump, stick it to Rubio and live out your purpose?”

“I don’t know if my purpose is to be president,” Kasich responded. “My purpose is to be out here doing what I think I need to be doing, and we’ll see where it ends up.”

“And if it’s not this crusade it’ll be another one, and maybe it’ll be a really small one somewhere in my kids’ school,” he continued. “Who knows? Because it doesn’t matter the size of the crusade. It’s the fact that you are in a crusade.”
Huh? I can't even parse that. I guess his purpose is to stay in the race so he can prevent support consolidating around a candidate who could defeat Donald Trump. I hope that will comfort him when Trump wins the nomination.

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Ted Cruz likes to portray himself as the one candidate who is the principled conservative. But now that he's facing bad electoral news since the vote in South Carolina, he's changed a previous position that he used to have rejecting the idea of mass deportations of those who are here illegally.
Just five weeks ago, he explicitly rejected the idea of a “deportation force” of the sort proposed by Trump, who has unabashedly called for the federal government to actively round up people in the country illegally.

“I don’t intend to send jackboots to knock on your door and every door in America. That’s not how we enforce the law for any crime,” Cruz told CNN’s Jake Tapper in Iowa.
But now he's changed his position.
Ted Cruz said Monday night that he would use federal immigration officers to round up and deport all 12 million people in the country illegally — a markedly tougher stance than he has struck in the past.

“Yes, we should deport them,” Cruz told Fox host Bill O’Reilly. “That’s what ICE exists for. We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws, that apprehends them and deports them.”

The toughening stance comes after a disappointing, if narrow, third-place finish in South Carolina on Saturday, with immigration hard-liner Donald Trump strengthening his grip on the race.
I don't think that switching his position to be more like Trump is going to help him one bit and expect Rubio to jump all over him for his switch.

Bruce Walker performs a nice thought experiment. What if Trump had run as a Democrat which he might well have done since his proclivities are basically liberal. It's a fun daydream of how he would have shaken up the Democratic race.
If Trump's goal is to transform the calamities our nation faces today, why did he run as a Republican? Why did he not, instead, run as a Democrat? He has praised Democrat politicians in the past, and he has given money to their campaigns. Trump, by his own acknowledgment, is much more socially liberal than Republicans generally, which would allow him room to maneuver in the Democratic Party.

Moreover, considering the absolutely pathetic performance of the only Democrat running for the Democrat nomination and the shellacking she is getting from an old Vermont Socialist, Trump might well be able to win caucuses, the primaries, and even the nomination. Is there any doubt at all that Trump would outperform both Hillary and Bernie in the debates?

With his bankroll, Trump could have guaranteed a first-class campaign, and if Trump had been as brash attacking Hillary's ghastly malfeasance with her email server and the Clinton Foundation malodorous machinations, then Trump could have performed the vital national service Bernie has avoided like the plague: exposing the moral horror of the Clintons in government and politics.
I feel like one of those old-time movies when there would be some spooky music and the picture would fade to the alternate reality. And then it would all fade back to the dismal reality we're facing instead.

Ross Douthat proposes
what is actually happening this year.
I guess Donald Trump would take the James T. Kirk approach and just say that he doesn't believe in a no-win scenario because Trump is all about winning.

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"Jeff Selingo, former editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, exposes the mythologies behind politicians like Bernie Sanders who promise free college by looking at state programs that have given out scholarships. Evidence shows that a lot of that money went to middle class families. And many will get the scholarships for college when they're not actually ready the level of work necessary to succeed at that level. But the real problem is that such scholarships will actually go to increase the cost of tuition.
Perhaps the biggest problem with state scholarship programs is that they didn’t put a lid on tuition. The cost of college continued to rise; someone else just footed the bill, mostly those who played the lottery.

In some states with the scholarships, the legislature sets tuition. To rein in the increasing cost of the awards, lawmakers in some states agreed to cap tuition. That led colleges in those states to look elsewhere for revenue from students, so they increased fees and other charges that the scholarships didn’t cover. There is nothing in the Sanders plan to stop institutions from following the same pricing strategy.

In other states where colleges controlled tuition rates, the cost of the scholarships became unsustainable over time as tuition prices continued to rise and lottery revenues didn’t keep pace. So states started to trim the program’s benefits — paying for partial tuition, limiting the number of semesters students could get the awards, or shifting the grade requirements needed to keep the scholarship.

[Why the price tag of a college degree continues to rise]

As Andrew Kelly, of the American Enterprise Institute, has written about free college at the federal level, capping tuition at zero “limits college spending to whatever the public is willing to invest. But it does not change the cost of college.”

The idea of free college might sound great to students and their parents worried about the staggering cost of a degree, but the experience of a dozen states during the past decade shows that free tuition fails to change the college-going patterns of low-income students and quickly becomes an entitlement for those students who need it the least.

Apparently, using the bully pulpit has little effect on a president's ability to move public opinion.
Though going public seemed to be an effective strategy, its efficacy wasn’t explicitly tested until 2003, when Texas A&M political scientist George Edwards III found presidents have little ability to meaningfully change public opinion through outward appeals. Edwards pointed specifically to Ronald Reagan’s efforts on Nicaragua, Bill Clinton’s push on health care and George W. Bush’s efforts on tax cuts, education and the Iraq War.

In addition to the examples Edwards provided, more recent scholarship — on Obama’s health care push and Bush’s attempt to reform Social Security — confirms it is difficult for presidents to effectively change people’s minds.
But while a president can't change public opinion, he can raise an issue and put it on the agenda of public conversation. And with 24-hour cable news that needs something to fill the void, that seems to be one of the main functions of presidential appeals to the public. So Obama can try to appeal to the public to pressure the Senate to approve his nominee to replace Justice Scalia, but it won't necessarily work.

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What one word comes to mind to describe HIllary Clinton? Gallup asked respondents and the results were not good for her.
Phrases and descriptors questioning her honesty and integrity amount to a clear plurality, followed by personal dislike. In total, clearly negative responses outweigh positive ones by a margin of 40 percent to 26. (For what it's worth, free responses on Bernie Sanders were more diffuse, with the top responses being Socialist and old). When you couple this data with numbers from a recent Quinnipiac poll, a picture emerges of a gravely flawed candidate. This is the woman the Democratic establishment is stacking the deck to nominate:
The only other candidate with similar unfavorable ratings to Hillary Clinton was...Donald Trump. Guy Benson concludes,
Just to put a finer point on it, Hillary Clinton can absolutely be defeated, and there may be only one potential Republican nominee who is unpopular enough to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
It's funny. When I talk politics with my liberal friends, they're as depressed by their party's candidates as I am about my party's leading candidate. As Noemie Emery writes, both parties are facing a leading nominee that no one likes.

Documents show that the State Department set up a classified email account
for her to handle classified information. She just chose not to use it and decided to use her own personal email account on her private server instead.

The emails that we're now seeing between Hillary Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal are exposing the anti-Israel approach of Blumenthal and how Clinton endorsed those views.
A number of columns have been written exposing how Mr. Blumenthal sent articles to Ms. Clinton from his son Max, one of America’s most notorious Israel haters. Ms. Clinton responded very favorably to them. Some of these writings would later be the basis for Max’s anti-Semitic Goliath, whose book launch was thrown by Sid at his own home. The disgraceful writings compare Israel to the Nazis, call for the expulsion of the Jews from Israel and whitewash Palestinian terrorism. For good measure Max also compares the Israel Defense Forces to the SS.

The emails thus released show that Mr. Blumenthal sent 19 articles written by Max, most of which contained deep anti-Israel sentiment.

What is truly unsettling is Ms. Clinton’s glowing praise for Max’s work. On numerous occasions she forwarded the articles to her staff with the words “Pls print,” and a number of times she asked for multiple copies so that she could hand them out to her staff and discuss them.
Is this all that surprising? She was never that friendly with Israel while Secretary of State and the released emails demonstrate that.

So it's no surprise that her aides tried to pick the nominee for the inspector general for the State Department. They probably didn't foresee all her emails being investigated and made public, but they probably sensed that it would be a good thing to have their choice in charge of investigating her conduct at State.

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Jim Geraghty laments the misconceptions about why Republicans want to reform entitlement programs.
Why do people think Republicans want to reform entitlement programs? Because we’re mean? Because we like taking things away from people? No, because the programs are unsustainable. Down the road, too much money goes out, and not enough money comes in. We’re proposing these ideas because these programs have to be saved for the people who really need them to get by. Trying to solve the whole problem through tax hikes on a shrinking workforce would be a formula for economic disaster.

(Notice our friends on the Left insist we need to make far-reaching, sweeping changes to prevent a two-degree change in temperature in the year 2100, but they refuse to consider means-testing, raising the retirement age, or private retirement accounts to prevent Social Security from using up their funds of money in 2034.)

Conservatives – at least certain factions of this philosophy – are usually trying to persuade people to think ahead and contemplate the long term. Have a decent savings rate and a rainy day fund. (Revel in the wonders of compound interest!) Stay in school. Get married and raise children. If you want peace, prepare for war.

The problem is that human beings aren’t great at long-term thinking, and the dominant culture of the United States in the year 2016 seems particularly bad for it.
Geraghty points to a CNN poll that demonstrates how ignorant the public is about the federal budget. People have little idea about what we actually spend money on so they labor under the misapprehension that there is lots of easy money to cut. Unfortunately, there isn't lots of easy money spent on unpopular policies available for cutting.
Let's start with international assistance. Sixty percent of people we questioned say they'd like to put foreign aid on the chopping block. So would that make a dent in the deficit?

No - but try telling that to the American public. According to the poll, on average, Americans estimate that foreign aid takes up 10 percent of the federal budget, and one in five think it represents about 30 percent of the money the government spends. But the actual figure is closer to one percent, according to data from the Office of Management and Budget from the 2010 fiscal year's $3.5 trillion budget.

OK. Let's try more low-hanging fruit - funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Our survey indicates nearly half of all Americans would like to see major cuts.

According to our poll the public estimates that the government spent five percent of its budget last year on public television and radio.

Not even close. The real answer is about one-tenth of one percent.
The list goes on and on of how people overestimate what percent of the budget is spent on various programs. And they are firm that they don't want to cut the entitlement programs that so threaten our budget. Every year when I teach the unit on economic policy-making, I do this exercise with my students by giving them the broad categories of federal spending and have them estimate what percent of the budget is spent on each category. They usually are amazed at how off they are on their guesses of what our federal budget spends money on. Then I have them do some budget simulations to find their own ways to try to balance the budget as if they were the president. I tell them to only make choices that they think they could get through Congress and that wouldn't destroy their chances of being reelected. They quickly find out how impossible that is to do. Then I let them to go ahead and do whatever they wish without regard to the politics of their choices. Senior citizens would be very worried if they could watch these teenagers gleefully make drastic cuts to Social Security and Medicare. A few indulge their inner idealism and eliminate almost all spending on the military. When they're done, they may have indeed balanced the budget, but they recognize how impossible their choices would be. They walk out of that class very depressed at what the federal budget will look like when they're adults. Unfortunately, the effect wears off. A few weeks later, I have them fill out an ideology survey that they had filled out the first week of classes. And they usually are just about where they started. They still support government aid for all sorts of programs. And when I ask them what happened to their worries about the federal budget that they had a few weeks earlier, they just shrug. They still love the idea of big federal programs. And they just don't care even about the budget anymore. So if this is what happens with kids who aren't even receiving those federal benefits, imagine how impossible it will be to cut spending for senior citizens.

Where are the oligarchs running our country when we need them? Politico reports that the wealthy, donors who have funded Super PACs before just aren't pulling out their checkbooks to fund ads targeting Trump.
The reasons for their reluctance, according to interviews with donors and operatives, seem difficult to overcome at this stage of the race, particularly if Trump notches a few more primary and caucus victories.

The donors cite the lack of success of the few super PAC attacks that have already targeted Trump as evidence that such attacks have not ― and cannot ― halt his momentum. And they worry that, if they fund higher-profile attacks, they could come under attack from Trump, who this week fired a warning shot at one of the few major donors to the anti-Trump efforts, Marlene Ricketts, tweeting that her family “better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”

They've also concluded that big-money attacks could play right into Trump's hands, reinforcing his claims that he’s independent from donors and moneyed interests who he claims control his opponents. And, if the attacks do get traction, they could ultimately help Democrats in the increasingly more likely event they find themselves pitted against Trump in the general election.
Here is a statistic that will get more examination when this election is over and its history is being written.
Some major donors have expressed frustration at the relatively paltry spending on Trump attacks by the super PACs created to boost Trump’s Republican rivals. They had raised a combined $320 million through the end of January, but have spent only $2.1 million on ads that primarily target Trump, according to the analysis.
Those super PACS spent more money going after the other candidates rather than taking on the Big Kahuna.

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Josh Blackman and Ilya Shapiro explain why it should be no big deal for the Supreme Court to operate with only eight justices.
Due to death, retirement or resignation—or recusal in individual cases—the high court has often been short-handed. Since World War II there have been 15 periods when the court had eight justices, and each time the court managed its docket without a hitch.

Even in the rare cases when eight justices split evenly, 25 times the court affirmed the lower-court judgment without opinion (or precedential value) and 54 times the court set the case for reargument. The former approach allowed the issues to be raised again in similar future cases. The latter allowed for proper resolutions once the ninth justice joined—and only 25 of those cases ended up 5-4, meaning the new justice made no difference in over half of the reargued cases.

In other words, rather than making the judicial system grind to a halt, a Supreme Court vacancy merely delays rulings in a small number of cases. A study of the past 60 years of eight-justice rosters reveals that today’s Roberts court can easily handle the current vacancy, however long it lasts.