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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Cruising the Web

Remember this poll result the next time that Obama brags about Obamacare.
The vast majority of Americans have not benefited from Obamacare, according to a poll released by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Monday.

56 percent of Americans polled said they don’t believe the Affordable Care Act has directly impacted them. Of those surveyed who said it did have a direct impact, more said health care reform has been overall detrimental rather than positive — coming in at 25 percent and 15 percent respectively.

Kansas and Ohio had the highest percentage of residents to say the law negatively affected their states, with 39 percent in the Sunflower State and 35 percent in the Buckeye State having poor views of Obamacare.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch declined to give any information about the status of the Hillary Clinton investigation and whether or not a grand jury is hearing evidence. I don't think the Obama Justice Department will indict her, but even if they don't it will not look good.
While the FBI has been especially tight-lipped about the scope and focus of its investigation into Clinton's emails, the bureau recently acknowledged the probe has a "law enforcement" component, apparently repudiating Clinton's long-standing argument that it is nothing more than a routine "security review."

Michael Mukasey, former attorney general under President George W. Bush, said there's no such thing as an FBI "security review."

"That designation is unknown to anybody," Mukasey told the Washington Examiner. "The FBI doesn't conduct security reviews. They conduct investigations. They investigate possible crimes."
Isn't that special? The Clinton campaign has made up with an entirely new designation for Hillary. Just imagine what she could do as the head of the government?
Mukasey said the few publicly available facts about the probe point to a thorough criminal investigation involving Clinton.

"If you've got 150 agents on a case, the FBI has acknowledged it's conducting an investigation, how much more real can you get?" he said. "It doesn't get much realer than that."

Charles Lipson, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, said the legal issues underlying the email controversy are problematic regardless of how much Republicans have tried to exploit them for political gain.

Michael Mukasey, former attorney general under President George W. Bush, said there's no such thing as an FBI "security review."

"It is political only because it is a serious legal matter in its own right," Lipson said. "This is not a fake issue. This is a real issue, and that doesn't mean that Republicans who blow it up aren't seeking political gain. They are, but they're doing it on the basis of something that is quite real."

The reality of the situation was thrown into sharp relief at the end of January, when the State Department announced its intention to withhold 22 emails, totaling 37 pages, because they contained "top secret" information. That decision brought the State Department in line with the intelligence community, which had argued since last July that some of the emails may contain information classified up to "top secret."

Since then, Clinton has had to stop saying the controversy is the result of a dispute between bureaucrats over what should be considered classified, as she and her staff have claimed for months.
I suppose the Justice Department could work to keep delaying the investigation. But I bet that there would be leaks from the investigation if the Attorney General were putting fingers on the scales of justice to protect her.

The New York Times takes an in-depth look at Hillary Clinton's role in deciding to bring about the fall of Libya's Muammar Qaddafi.
This is the story of how a woman whose Senate vote for the Iraq war may have doomed her first presidential campaign nonetheless doubled down and pushed for military action in another Muslim country. As she once again seeks the White House, campaigning in part on her experience as the nation’s chief diplomat, an examination of the intervention she championed shows her at what was arguably her moment of greatest influence as secretary of state. It is a working portrait rich with evidence of what kind of president she might be, and especially of her expansive approach to the signal foreign-policy conundrum of today: whether, when and how the United States should wield its military power in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
It's a very long study, but it does illuminate how over her head Hillary was at State. To save you the time, here are some Cliff's Notes on the article from David French.
1. In spite of more than a decade of bitter experience with tribal divisions, charlatan foreign politicians, and the persistence of jihadist ideology, Clinton is remarkably gullible. The report describes her attempts to vet Libyan opposition leaders prior to pushing hard for Libyan intervention, and it’s as if she learned absolutely nothing from Iraq. She was swayed by opposition politicians who said all the right things and answered her questions skillfully but had absolutely zero real-world power to deliver. It’s almost as if the principal lesson she learned from the transitional government in Iraq was that it failed because she wasn’t the talent scout.

2. If she did learn any lessons from Iraq, they were the wrong lessons. After the failures and missteps of the early Iraqi occupation, George W. Bush learned that stability required more American investment, not less. You simply cannot topple a dictator and then create a functioning society easily, quickly, or cheaply. Indeed, you’re far more likely to create a terrorist playground. Clinton seemed to believe that stability requires just enough American involvement to topple the dictator, then so little involvement in the aftermath that jihadists have free reign.

3. In a two-year span, she committed the unholy trinity of foreign-policy mistakes. She presided over the disastrous American pullout from Iraq, tipped the scales in favor of the disastrous American military intervention in Libya, and then advocated for an American army-and-supply effort in Syria that we now know would have suffered from the exact flaws of her first two failures — namely, placing American national-security interests in the hands of utterly inadequate and poorly vetted local “allies” as a form of bargain-basement interventionism.

4. Moreover, we’re still learning the true dimensions of the Libya debacle. Weapons from the old Libyan military are helping fuel jihad throughout the region, thousands of man-portable surface-to-air missiles have simply vanished, and ISIS has now established essentially a secondary capital in Libya — a short distance from European shores.

While the ultimate responsibility for Libya rests with President Obama, the Times makes it clear that Clinton may well have exercised the decisive influence towards going to war, tipping the scales in a “51–49″ decision. If that’s her key moment as secretary of state — the point where she exercised maximum influence — then her legacy is one of ruinous failure. But don’t just take my word for it. Read the entire Times report — and prepare to be appalled.

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This is just too funny. Trump is furious about ads being run featuring people who complain about being bilked out of money by Trump University. So he called on a Super PAC supporting Rubio, Conservative Solutions, to pull those ads. Just one problem.
"It's no surprise that Donald is desperately afraid of voters learning about how he's fleeced families out of millions through his scam college, but he can't scare us off from sharing his record and his business's D- rating from the Better Business Bureau," said spokesman Jeff Sadosky. "And if the wall he promises is of the same quality as the legal work he gets from his lawyers, it'll crumble in days, as his lawyers missed the fact that THESE AREN'T EVEN OUR ADS!"

The Trump campaign sent out a revised statement about two and half hours later correcting the name of the PAC.
Oh, and by the way, those ads from the American Future Fund scored a rare Geppetto Checkmark for their truthfulness from the Washington Post.

It could be a strange summer along with the national conventions. We could see the Democratic nominee fighting off rumors about what the FBI investigation is finding out about her and whether Obama's Justice Department is protecting her. And the possible GOP nominee will be testifying in a fraud case that he defrauded ordinary citizens with his Trump University.

As David Marcus explains,
the whole Trump University story undermines the entire premise of Trump's strength.
There are three basic legs to Trump’s campaign stool. First, that he is sincere. He claims that, unlike other politicians, he never says anything he doesn’t mean and won’t be cowed by political correctness. Second, he claims he is great manager who will bring in the best people to run the government. Sure, he lacks political experience, but his top men will make up for that. Finally, he says he gets results. Trump points to the great success of his multi-billion-dollar company as proof he can get these done.

Whether or not Trump or Trump University broke the law, the facts of the case put these Trump claims in serious question. He has admitted in court filings that he lied about key elements of the school. He hired people with little experience or expertise to run it. Far from being a great success, Trump University is now all but defunct.
It is political malpractice that no one made a point of this story except some articles that most people didn't read. And voters wouldn't have known Trump's record of hiring foreigners instead of Americans at his Florida resort and illegal immigrants at his Washington construction site. If those stories had received major attention back in the summer, perhaps his fans would have realized that everything that Trump claims as reasons for supporting him were based on lies and deception. Instead we have to wait just days before Super Tuesday before these stories get the attention they deserve. When the autopsies are written about this campaign, there will be a lot of blame to go around and the decisions by his opponents and all those Super PACs to avoid those stories will receive a lot of that blame.

And don't count on the Democrats to demonstrate similar political malpractice. They're already salivating on the ads and attacks that they're going to be able to fun against Trump.
Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party will make that abundantly clear once Trump is the nominee. It won't be hard — they will just set up a camera, sit down with Trump victims and let these ordinary Americans tell the tale of how Donald Trump is a charlatan who enriched himself at the expense of ordinary people.

Democratic super PACs are already lining up Trump's victims for such a purpose, you can be totally sure. That's why any poll numbers suggesting Trump can beat Hillary should be doubted — they don't take into account the brutal campaign Hillary will wage on Trump.
And Trump University will play a starring role in their attack ads. It was a scam set up to take money from people while promising that Trump would handpick real estate experts to impart his secrets for making a bundle from real estate. And the list of such ordinary victims is long.
Due to his serial business failures, Trump's companies have gone bankrupt four times. His bankruptcies all involve him not paying back the people who had trusted him to make good on his bets — and these victims aren't just banks and hedge funds.

Dixie-Narco is a vending-machine maker in South Carolina. It also makes bill-changing machines. Trump had ordered 1,350 machines from the company for the Taj Mahal. Dixie-Narco expected to get paid. When Trump sent the Taj Mahal into bankruptcy, he tried to shed some of his debts to bondholders by giving them an ownership stake in the resort. Part of his pitch to them: "Dixie-Marco's $6 million claim was worthless," as the New York Times reported it back then.
Those businesses lost money because of Trump's businesses bankruptcies.

And this is the story that I think will be the most damaging.
Americans who applied for jobs at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach were turned away, because Trump favored guest workers — foreigners brought in just to work for Trump before they are sent home. "We have hundreds of people in our database that would qualify for a lot of those hospitality jobs," one local recruiter told BuzzFeed News in December.
If I were running one of the Super PACS for Rubio or Cruz, I would be searching for those Americans who didn't get jobs at Trump's resort in Florida and run ads with their complaints. And I would blanket Florida with those ads and with Trump's answers that he basically couldn't get Americans to do those jobs.
“You can’t get help,” Trump told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in September, following a CBSMiami report on guest workers at his club. “Getting help in Palm Beach during the season is almost impossible.”
Tom Veenstra doesn’t see it that way. “We have a lot of people in our database that would be good candidates for a lot of those hospitality positions there,” Veenstra, a senior director for a Palm Beach career services center chartered by the state of Florida to help local workers get jobs, said. His staff met almost three months ago with Mar-a-Lago officials about “what we could do” to help them find workers, he said. “We work with an awful lot of hotels and high-end resorts.”

But so far, he said, Trump’s resort, which features landscaped gardens and an “incredible beach and pool facility,” has used his center to recruit workers for exactly one job, a banquet server. The agency referred four local workers, he said, and Mar-a-Lago hired one.
This story has been out there for months, yet no group or candidate opposing Trump used it to attack Trump on the issue that has been probably his strongest appeal to voters - his stand on protecting Americans from immigrants. That has been a major mistake.

Just read these poll results for how many people have heard of stories such as Trump University or Trump and disavowing the KKK. It just goes to show that there are a whole lot of people who don't follow politics and don't know the stories that are earthquakes on Twitter and other social media. All they know is that Trump is talking about some of the issues they care about and he's rich and seems strong. And the major media, even cable news continue to give him so much free air time. They're all-Trump, all-the-time. The only time other candidates seem to get is when they bash Trump. On the eve of Super Tuesday, [T]heir whole focus, for good or bad, was on Trump.
the networks made it loud and clear that Donald Trump was far and away the most important story to them with over 62 percent of that time spent salivating on how “there’s not much” Trump opponents “can do to stop him from getting the nomination.”

Despite the race being far from over, Trump fetched an astonishing 15 minutes and 19 seconds while his opponents received minuscule amounts with only 51 seconds for Senator Ted Cruz (Tex.) and two minutes and 15 seconds for Senator Marco Rubio (Fl.).
I find all the media tut-tutting about Rubio "getting into the mud" with Trump quite amusing. Such concern trolling. And Les Mooves spilled the beans and the motivation of the networks since Trump declared.
[I]t’s important to note the CBS Chairman and Democratic Les Mooves told the Hollywood Reporter on Monday that while Trump’s candidacy “may not be good for America,” it’s been very beneficial for his network’s news business.
Glad that CBS did well out of promoting the candidacy of Donald Trump. And that is the way it's been all year.
While the liberal media claim to spend endless amounts of time bemoaning Trump’s positions and airing their grievances, the complaints appear to have been far outweighed by their interest in fetching ratings and pushing Trump as the only choice for conservatives and Republicans.

By essentially deleting his opponents from their airwaves, the networks (and cable outlets) have been employing a visible strategy to force the billionaire on GOP primary voters and through to the general election against Clinton or Sanders.

My colleague Rich Noyes brilliantly highlighted this very problem as it was evident for months with the month of January seeing Trump be bequeathed 60 percent of the total GOP race airtime on the network evening newscasts (with Cruz well behind at 30 percent and Rubio at four percent).

The Media Research Center’s Bias the Minute writer Mike Ciandella outlined the same pattern on CNN in an even shorter window as between August 24, 2015 and September 4, 2015, Trump was the topic of discussion in over 77 percent of their primetime election segments. For reference, Jeb Bush came in second for this study but only attracted roughly 12 percent.
Whole Trump rallies are broadcast live as if he's already president. They really have been shameless. Just imagine a counter universe where he was treated the same way as the other 16 GOP candidates.

George Will writes that those Republicans like Chris Christie who end up supporting Donald Trump will never recover their reputations.
Trump, the thin-skinned tough guy, resembles a campus crybaby who has wandered out of his “safe space.” It is not news that he has neither respect for nor knowledge of the Constitution, and he probably is unaware that he would have to “open up” many Supreme Court First Amendment rulings in order to achieve his aim. His obvious aim is to chill free speech, for the comfort of the political class, of which he is now a gaudy ornament.

But at least Trump has, at last, found one thing to admire from the era of America’s Founding. Unfortunately, but predictably, it is one of the worst things done then — the Sedition Act of 1798. The act made it a crime to “write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people.” Now, 215 years after the Sedition Act expired in 1801, Trump vows to use litigiousness to improve the accuracy and decorousness of public discourse.

The night before his promise to make America great again through censorship, Trump, during the Houston debate, said that his sister, a federal judge, signed “a certain bill” and that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito also “signed that bill.” So, the leading Republican candidate, the breadth of whose ignorance is the eighth wonder of the world, actually thinks that judges “sign bills.” Trump is a presidential aspirant who would flunk an eighth-grade civics exam.

More than anything Marco Rubio said about Trump in Houston, it was Rubio’s laughter at Trump that galled the perhaps bogus billionaire. Like all bullies, Trump is a coward, and like all those who feel the need to boast about being strong and tough, he is neither.

Unfortunately, Rubio recognized reality and found his voice 254 days after Trump’s scabrous announcement of his candidacy to rescue America from Mexican rapists. And 222 days after Trump disparaged John McCain’s war service (“I like people that weren’t captured”). And 95 days after Trump said that maybe a protester at his rally “should have been roughed up.” And 95 days after Trump re-tweeted that 81 percent of white murder victims are killed by blacks. (Eighty-two percent are killed by whites.) And 94 days after Trump said he supports torture “even if it doesn’t work.” And 79 days after Trump said he might have approved the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. And 72 days after Trump proved that he does not know the nuclear triad from the Nutcracker ballet. And 70 days after Trump, having been praised by Vladimir Putin, reciprocated by praising the Russian murderer and dictator. And so on.

Rubio’s epiphany — announcing the obvious with a sense of triumphant discovery — about Trump being a “con man” and a “clown act” is better eight months late than never. If, however, it is too late to rescue Rubio from a Trump nomination, this will be condign punishment for him and the rest of the Republican party’s coalition of the timid.

“Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide, / In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side.” So begins James Russell Lowell’s 1845 poem protesting America’s war with Mexico. The Republicans’ moment is here.



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Chris Rock's monologue at the Oscars was well done. He pulled back the curtain to expose how Hollywood's self-congratulatory liberalism is not actually doing anything for anybody. I loved his line about Hollywood being "sorority racist." As David French writes,
Conservatives should never stop noting that the three primary targets of contemporary race protests — big cities, universities, and Hollywood — are staffed top-to-bottom with leftists and have been for decades. And in each of them we can see a common thread — racial justice is cool mainly when there’s something in it for the white liberal activist. The progressive elite gets to have its cake and eat it every day. They live at the top of the cultural food chain, their children inherit their wealth and connections, and they get to feel simply awesome about their politics and world view. Because they hashtag. Because they vote the right way. Because they’re good at condemning other white liberals on command. It’s the greatest activist gig in the world.
What I liked was that he punctured the arguments of the activists that, somehow, they're suffering such terrible racism by pointing out that there was a time when blacks were being lynched. There seems to be so little sense of perspective in those who act like America is this ugly hotbed of racism today. Mary Katharine Ham comments,
2. Not everything is an outrage.

“Everything’s not sexism, everything’s not racism,” Rock proclaimed at the end of his monologue, begging American society to laugh with him and giving us license to chill the heck out.

Social-justice-warrior Twitter exploded in a frenzy of carping. Regular-people Twitter exploded in a frenzy of “YASSSS, PREACH.”

Rock is no stranger to the slings and arrows of the PC police. He told Vulture last year he stopped playing college campuses because “they’re way too conservative. Not in their political views…but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody…You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.”

3. More speech is more fun.

Outrage mongers love to shut people up when they don’t agree with them. Rock’s mere presence at the Oscars disproved their thesis that if one is not an #OscarsSoWhite activist one cannot care about race issues. Showing up did not make Rock a sell-out racist, and his presence likely reached more people than Smith’s conspicuous absence.

His commentary was more effective and more nuanced than the deadly dull earnestness of the Academy’s (first African-American!) president promising the audience they’d make things better, or Lady Gaga’s Greek chorus of sexual-assault survivors, or Leonardo DiCaprio’s decision to perform a Tumblr post on climate change instead of an acceptance speech.

Rock made clear he thinks Hollywood has its problems, but he refused to conform to the approved outrage model. And that was more fun for all of us.
I certainly thought that all the white-bashing and glorifying of black actors and actresses and fretting about race went on way too long. The whole #OscarsSoWhite protest was silly to begin with, but I did enjoy seeing all that wealthy, self-satisfied liberal Hollywood crowd have their noses rubbed in their own supposed genteel racism and have to applaud and laugh at themselves on international TV as if to say, "Yes, we're awful and we acknowledge all our collective guilt for not voting for a token black actor. We'll be sure to do better next time." And whoever those black actors and actresses are who get nominated next year will always feel like some affirmative action candidate who got into an Ivy League with a B average and middling test scores.

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What is it about Donald Trump that he keeps getting support from vile human beings?
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has praised Donald Trump for signaling that he wouldn't be controlled by Jews as president.

At a sermon in Chicago over the weekend, Farrakhan praised the Republican presidential front-runner as part of an anti-Semitic tirade.

Farrakhan said, Trump "is the only mem­ber who has stood in front of Jew­ish com­mu­nity, and said I don't want your money. Any time a man can say to those who con­trol the pol­i­tics of Amer­ica, 'I don't want your money,' that means you can't con­trol me. And they can­not afford to give up con­trol of the pres­i­dents of the United States."

However, Farrakhan declined to fully endorse Trump.

"Not that I'm for Mr. Trump, but I like what I'm look­ing at," the religious leader said.

In addition to his pro-Trump comments in his speech, Farrrakhan blamed Jews for the Iraq War and the 9/11 attacks.

I'd never watched John Oliver's show before, but he had a great take-down of Donald Trump on Sunday's show.
Ridicule seems the strongest weapon against Trump. It might not do anything for his supporters, but such satire might help with those still on the fence. Chris Cillizza thinks that Oliver touched on something with this bit.
"That may be because he has spent decades turning his own name into a brand synonymous with success and quality, and he's made himself the mascot for that brand -- like Ronald McDonald or Chef Boyardee," Oliver said. "And that is who we have seen in 'The Apprentice' or 'Wrestlemania' or 'Home Alone 2.'"

There's a lot of truth to this. Trump's brand is so ingrained in American culture -- thanks to his own efforts, I would stress -- that there is this backdrop against which his entire campaign has run. Trump's wealth and success started out as givens, and it has been up to Trump's opponents to disprove them.

Oliver continues: "But if he's actually going to be the Republican nominee it's time to stop thinking of the mascot, and start thinking of the man."

Call it a "mascot" or call it what you want, but Trump is symbolic of something many Americans find appealing, and until someone seriously calls into question the validity of his brand -- which I don't think has been accomplished, despite the bankruptcy stories, etc. -- his supporters will continue to give him the benefit of the doubt. Combine that with a healthy distrust of the mainstream media, and it's a recipe for Trump's Teflon.

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