Monday, April 11, 2016

Cruising the Web

Trump keeps losing contests for delegates at the state conventions such as in Indiana and then this weekend in South Carolina and Colorado.
Trump, who handed the reins of much of his campaign this week to strategist Paul Manafort in an effort to shore up his operation before the nomination slips away, was swept out of delegate slots up for grabs at Colorado’s state convention. Adding to his woes, he picked up just one delegate of six on the ballot in South Carolina. The most painful result, though, may have been Trump’s failure to capture two of three slots in his strongest South Carolina congressional district....

Trump’s last-minute organizing effort did not go well. The leaflet his campaign handed out listed a slate of 26 delegates. But in many cases the numbers indicating their ballot position — more than 600 delegates are running for 13 slots — were off, meaning that Trump’s team was mistakenly directing votes toward other candidates’ delegates.

When the balloting results were announced Saturday evening, Cruz picked up the 13 statewide at-large delegates chosen during Saturday’s convention, with the final three appointed automatically by the Colorado Republican Party, giving him all 34 of Colorado's elected delegates (Trump did win six of the 34 alternate spots).

“Cruz had the crowd eating out of his hand when he spoke,” said Kelly Maher, a GOP operative based in Denver.
It really is amusing to see how poorly organized the self-proclaimed master of making deals is. Isn't that the sort of thing that a supposed master businessman should be able to do.

The new head of Trump's delegate-gathering operation, Paul Manafort, was reduced to alleging that the Cruz campaign of using "gestapo tactics."
“You go to these county conventions, and you see the Gestapo tactics — the scorched-earth tactics,” Trump aide Paul Manafort said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

After playing a clip from Trump confidant Roger Stone — where Stone suggested publicizing the hotel room numbers of delegates —NBC’s Chuck Todd asked Manafort whether threatening delegates was fair game.

“It’s not my style; it’s not Donald Trump’s style,” he responded. “But it is Ted Cruz’s style. And that’s going to wear thin very fast.”
Of course, there is no specific allegation of what Cruz is doing that is so terrible except doing better than Trump. In Trumpville, doing better than Trump at something is, by definition, against the rules. And someone who is a long-time associate of Donald Trump is threatening to intimidate delegates who have the temerity to vote their own minds while tweeting out a historically pungent hashtag #Daysofrage. Yet, Cruz is the one who is using the tactics of the Holocaust? Paul Manafort is supposed to be the expert on organizing delegates for a convention since Gerald Ford's victory in 1976. He's the one who supposedly knows the rules. Now using the rules to win is redolent of the Nazis? Please.

Manafort is putting Godwin's Law into operation and that the first person to use a Nazi comparison loses the argument.

In addition to learning Godwin's Law, Manafort could benefit from learning a little history about the 1945 election that Churchill lost at the end of World War II to Clement Atlee. Perhaps the British public might have turned against Churchill anyway, but it didn't help when Churchill gave a speech saying that the socialist Atlee would need "some form of Gestapo" to institute their policies. Comparisons to Nazis has no place in today's politics whether from liberals who detest Trump or Trump people who detest Cruz. Such hyperbole didn't work for Churchill and Trump and his aides didn't just win a world war.

Meanwhile, Trump takes to Twitter to whine about the system that he hadn't made the effort to understand.
Er, it's not the biggest story in politics and it will be allowed. Maybe it would have helped if Trump actually had hired people who knew how the system worked instead of assuming that tweeting and going on free TV was all that was involved in winning the nomination. Sad.

The Cruz campaign is so on top of things that they have organized to make sure that the Washington state delegates to the GOP convention will be Cruz supporters. Washington doesn't vote until May 24, but they are choosing their delegates now. And this is what the crack Trump campaign did.
So of course, the Trumpkins are whining about how unfair it is that Cruz is organized a month and a half out and his side couldn't tell the difference between Washington D.C. and Washington state.
“I don’t like what just happened,” said Trump supporter Eric Cowley to KUOW. Cowley did not win one of the delegate slots and explained, “It’s not fair, they should have a representative to be able to go to Cleveland out of my district that stands for Donald Trump. This is an organized thing by Ted Cruz, in my opinion, to steal the nomination and the Republican Party.”
You would think that being smart and well-prepared would be desirable in a presidential candidate, but in Trump world, those are "Gestapo tactics." This is why, as Eliana Johnson writes, what is going on as delegates are being chosen now indicate how a contested convention really favors Cruz.
It’s another illustration of why, as I wrote last month, a contested convention is likely to tilt in Cruz’s favor. Yes, he has a superior ground organization. But, perhaps more importantly, the sorts of people involved in state-party politics at the grassroots level who are running for delegate positions — who understand the machinery of the start party thanks to their involvement in the political process over the years — are simply more likely to be ideological conservatives dispositionally inclined to support Cruz (or even John Kasich) over Donald Trump.

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This story about the the green energy bill demonstrates how spending works in Washington.
Christmas came early last year for green companies looking for Washington handouts after Congress passed legislation extending massive subsides for wind, solar, and other renewable energy companies. Now the Senate is attempting to ensure that Christmas comes again for these same companies by expanding the qualifying sources for green goodies....

Proponents of the subsidies are arguing that they were mistakenly left out of the massive omnibus spending bill that included five-year extensions for the wind production tax credit and solar investment tax credit, as well as $1.00-per-gallon tax credits for biodiesel.

Intentional or not, leaving them out of the bill was a small piece of good news for the taxpayer. Importantly, if the government does not provide preferential treatment to these technologies, the market will force companies to rely on the competitiveness of their product rather than on handouts from the taxpayer. Over the long run, companies will be better off if they can stand on their own two feet.

Americans are continuously told that the costs of renewables are coming down and projected to come down further. If that’s the case and any renewable energy technology is cost-competitive with coal, oil, natural gas, or nuclear, it shouldn’t need special treatment from Washington.
But hey, why allow the market to work when you can spend taxpayer money to help out favored businesses?

Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, writes of how pernicious political polarization has become.
To lift up the next two billion people, advocates for the poor need to work together with people who are passionate about the role of free markets — roughly speaking, the left and the right. This is not an appeal for anyone to abandon his or her political views. But each side needs to recognize that starting the ignition of prosperity in the corners of the world that need it most desperately requires two keys, one traditionally held by each side.

The current polarization in America obstructs this kind of collaboration. So what’s the antidote? I asked the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s experts on bringing people together. He made two points. First, the solution starts not with institutions, but with individuals. We look too much to political parties or Congress to make progress, but not nearly enough at our own behavior.

You can’t single-handedly change the country, but you can change yourself. By declaring your independence from the bitterness washing over our nation, you can strike a small blow for greater national unity....

Rejecting polarization is more than self-improvement; it is an exercise in self-respect. Perhaps you, like me, are close to people who differ in their ideology. When I hear fellow conservatives say that liberals are stupid or evil, I can’t help but remember that they’re talking about my friends and family, and I take that personally.

Next time someone on your side insults people on the other side, think of someone on that side whom you love and respect. You have just been insulted.

The next few months are an opportunity for people who care about politics and policy. Each of us can be one part of the solution America needs to become a more pluralistic, tolerant country, in which differences are part of a competition of ideas, and not a ghastly holy war of ideologies. So ask yourself next time someone says something with which you disagree: Am I about to show a bit of warmheartedness?

At the very least, don’t go dirty. Hey, as a conservative in The Times, I’m dyin’ over here.

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The Washington Post looks at Donald Trump, the charitable donor.
Since the first day of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has said that he gave more than $102 million to charity in the past five years.

To back up that claim, Trump’s campaign compiled a list of his contributions — 4,844 of them, filling 93 pages.

But, in that massive list, one thing was missing.

Not a single one of those donations was actually a personal gift of Trump’s own money.

Instead, according to a Washington Post analysis, many of the gifts that Trump cited to prove his generosity were free rounds of golf, given away by his courses for charity auctions and raffles.

The largest items on the list were not cash gifts but land-conservation agreements to forgo development rights on property Trump owns.

Trump’s campaign also counted a parcel of land that he’d given to New York state — although that was in 2006, not within the past five years.

In addition, many of the gifts on the list came from the charity that bears his name, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which didn’t receive a personal check from Trump between 2008 and 2014, according to the most recent public tax filings. Its work is largely funded by others, though Trump decides where the gifts go.

Some beneficiaries on the list are not charities at all: They included clients, other businesses and tennis superstar Serena Williams....

It reveals how Trump has demonstrated less of the soaring, world-changing ambitions in his philanthropy than many other billionaires. Instead, his giving appears narrowly tied to his business and, now, his political interests.

His foundation, for example, frequently gave money to groups that paid to use Trump’s facilities, and it donated to conservatives who could help promote Trump’s rise in the Republican Party. The foundation’s second-biggest donation described on the campaign’s list went to the charity of a man who had settled a lawsuit with one of Trump’s golf courses after being denied a hole-in-one prize.
Quite the philanthropist, eh? His record of donations is as phony as his business record.

Barack Obama's statement that he wouldn't pull his nomination of Merrick Garland even if a Democrat were to win the presidency in November is a boon to the Republicans. Now they can delay any hearing or vote on Garland until after the election and then confirm him if Hillary wins and forestall her making a nomination of someone even more liberal. It's almost as if Obama wants to ensure that the Republicans don't vote on Garland so that Democrats will be able to use this as a campaign issue in the Fall.

Here's a good rundown of the remaining primaries left on the road to Cleveland.

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William A. Jacobson explains how conservatives had another victory besides Ted Cruz's win in Wisconsin. The conservative judge won because Republican turnout was so much higher.

Anti-Semitism is alive and well on college campuses and one Stanford student writer has a strong editorial against the remarks of a member of the Stanford student senator running for reelection. That student, Gabriel Knight, argued that it wasn't anti-Semitic to question whether Jews control the media and banks. Staff writer in the Stanford Daily, Winston Shi, writes powerfully in rebuke,
Even in the midst of an election year, Mr. Knight’s statement is bigger than party politics. Any American politician who argued that we should even pay lip service to “Jew-truthers” would be drummed out of party politics in a nanosecond. This is not about partisanship: It is about condemning the condemnable.

For liberals and conservatives alike, it’s patently idiotic to ignore the historical context of the “Jews control the media” narrative, and moreover, to phrase it as Mr. Knight did. Perhaps Gabriel Knight is not anti-Semitic. But at best, he was extraordinarily insensitive to raise such a question — and then to double down on it later in the Senate meeting. People who have faced death for the crime of being Jewish will be more than happy to tell you that “Jews run the world” is the oldest trick in the book. It predates the rise of Hitler. It predates the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. As long as Jews have been minorities in the world around them, they have been dealing with this garbage.

I cannot phrase this strongly enough: What Mr. Knight described as “a very valid discussion” are words that have launched pogroms and genocides, destroyed communities for generations and left a tragic stain on the human conscience. Do I think that Mr. Knight intends to recreate the Holocaust? No. Do I think Mr. Knight is responsible for the words he says? Absolutely. It is profoundly unbecoming of an ASSU senator, who is supposed to represent people like you and me, to help perpetuate this myth. It is a statement dredged from the depths of the very worst kind of race-baiting. As a half-Palestinian, it would not be terribly surprising if Mr. Knight had a low opinion of the State of Israel; but to go from the quarrel over the Palestine crisis to “Jews control the media” makes a mockery of logic. Ignorance is not an excuse. Apparently, Mr. Knight did not get the memo.

Nor should we forget the world we, as college students, live in today. At Stanford, despite our administration’s Jewish-inclusive attitude, just last year, the ASSU Senate tried to cut the Jewish Student Association’s budget by two-thirds, giving the JSA just 24 hours to appeal. After JSA leaders took them to task, the Appropriations Committee claimed it had made a mistake — but its “correction” still amounted to a one-third budget cut. The Senate claimed that the cut was made because JSA maintains a cash reserve for exactly this sort of scenario, but the proposed cut was clearly larger than those eventually mandated for groups with similar emergency funds. The ASSU eventually backed down, but throughout the JSA crisis, it was painfully clear that the Senate had demanded cutbacks from JSA which, so far as the final budget proposals indicated, had not been required from any of the other identity groups on campus. I wouldn’t say the ASSU is a hive of anti-Semites, but I also don’t think the Senate has done very much in recent years to put the Jewish community at ease.

Moreover, this is not a question of free speech. Even if the question of whether Jews run society’s institutions were open for discussion, there is no way that it could be debated seriously without devolving into hate speech. To ask the question implies that Jews are a uniform, monolithic entity — one that transcends borders and cultures, becoming a threat to nation-states everywhere. Asking it also implies that it is possible to conceive of an insidious Jewish agenda to dominate the world at others’ expense.
Why would this one student senator think that it was perfectly okay to make such a remark about Jews controlling the media, banks, government and other institutions? Was there something in the milieu of the Stanford student senate that made him think that that was a perfectly acceptable thing to say?

Mary Anastasia O'Grady explains how Donald Trump has betrayed yet more ignorance on his part.
For a guy who brags incessantly about his business acumen, Donald Trump doesn’t seem to know how capital markets work. If he did he never would have sent a memo to the Washington Post detailing a crackpot plan to force Mexico to pay for a Berlin Wall separating our two nations by threatening to block remittances. Even the humblest Mexican farmworker knows that’s not going to work.

The remittance blunder is a reminder that Mr. Trump is far better at issuing ultimatums than crafting thoughtful policy that will advance U.S. interests. For all of his bluster and braggadocio, he comes off to most of the world like a spoiled child in short pants shouting orders at the help.
But Mexico would never pay for the wall so the Trump campaign is asserting that all they have to do is block the remittances that Mexican immigrants working in the United States send back to their families in Mexico.
If Mexico refused to pay, under the Trump plan the U.S. government would invoke the revised Patriot Act to begin prohibiting aliens in the U.S. from wiring money unless they could prove that they are in the country legally.

A rewrite of the Patriot Act is the prerogative of Congress and an attempt by the executive to do it would be challenged in court and probably ruled illegal. But even if it were not, it is absurd to think that it will stop the flow of dollars to Mexico.

The most obvious way around the new provision would be for those who can prove legal residency to send the money for those who cannot. But wire transfers are only one way of moving money. It could also be deposited in a U.S. bank and withdrawn from automatic teller machines in Mexico by intended recipients.

The only way Mr. Trump might inhibit the flow of dollars to Mexico via the formal banking system would be to impose targeted capital controls. But that’s likely to violate U.S. obligations under a variety of international agreements.

It would also place a huge burden on Americans and the American economy. More than one million gringos live in Mexico and another 20 million visit the country every year. Plus, Mexico is America’s third largest trading partner and U.S. manufacturing is highly integrated with Mexico. Capital controls would blow up a production-sharing relationship that has made the North American economy the envy of the world.

Not all migrant workers have access to bank accounts, so even without capital controls the Trump plan would be a jobs program for organized crime. Cartels already specialize in bringing profits from U.S. drug consumption across the border to Mexico. They would no doubt be happy to offer their delivery services to new customers.
What a surprise that a plan that Donald Trump came up with on the fly is totally unworkable and would be very damaging to America. Once again, Trump betrays his ignorance of basic economic thinking or an awareness of the laws of unintended consequences.

But then Donald Trump has a history of saying wild things off the cuff and hoping that no one figures out how crazy those statements are. But now, as the NYT reports, his "trial balloons are catching up with him."
Two weeks ago, Donald J. Trump said he could live with a nuclear-armed Japan and South Korea if it meant they could defend themselves against North Korea without American aid. “I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us,” he said.

Since then he has changed his tune. After Japanese and South Korean officials raised fears of an Asian arms race, and President Obama ridiculed his remark, Mr. Trump began to say he did not actually want the two countries to obtain nuclear weapons — but that, because of American weakness, “at some point it could happen anyway.”

It was not the first time Mr. Trump has hastily added deflating caveats to his headline-grabbing trial balloons.

In a debate a month ago, he declared himself in favor of torture if it would extract information from terrorists, then issued a statement saying he would respect the law, then followed it up by saying that the law must be changed.

In a television interview on March 30, he suggested that women who have illegal abortions should face “some form of punishment,” then reversed himself in another carefully worded statement, then suggested in an interview that abortion should remain legal, then effectively clicked “undo” with another written statement.

In each case, Mr. Trump appeared to be seeking a sort of shelter somewhere between his original remark and the wave of objections it set off.

None of this seemed to matter much until recently. But the Trump style — long on gut instincts, short on briefing books — has taken a toll. His opponents have called him reckless and unfit to be commander in chief. Mr. Obama has said Mr. Trump “doesn’t know much about foreign policy, or nuclear policy, or the Korean Peninsula, or the world generally.”

....As Japanese and South Korean officials objected to his comments, Mr. Trump may have begun to recognize that the idea of letting the two countries defend themselves against North Korean threats flew in the face of another of his stated goals: avoiding proliferation. Arms control experts pointed out that if Tokyo and Seoul sought nuclear weapons, they would violate their commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

What made Mr. Trump’s statements most remarkable was that the bedrock principles of American security were being debated at all. For the better part of 60 years, no major candidate has suggested expanding the number of nuclear-armed states, which stands at nine.

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Betsy McCaughey and Michael B. Mukasey explain
how the provision in the Constitution that the Senate be the body to confirm a president's nominee to the Supreme Court came about at the Constitutional Convention.
The wording of the Constitution and the decisions they made in the summer of 1787 show they wanted the Senate to control the confirmation process, free to consider or ignore a nomination. The Constitution directs that the president “shall nominate,” but he may appoint only with the advice and consent of the Senate. There is no direction that the Senate “shall” provide its advice and consent, no corresponding obligation on legislators to act.

At the Constitutional Convention, the framers considered several different ways for judges to be selected: by the House of Representatives, the Senate, or the president. On July 18, 1787, delegate Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts proposed allowing the president to appoint, provided that the Senate consented by majority vote. This replicated a provision of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 that Gorham used as a model.

Delegate James Madison, who favored a strong presidency, objected. He proposed instead allowing the president’s appointment to become effective “unless disagreed to” by the Senate within a specified number of days. Under Madison’s proposal, inaction was equivalent to approval. But Madison was outvoted. A majority of the framers wanted the Senate to control the fate of a nominee, not the president.

George Mason, another Virginia delegate, explained why the framers were so reluctant to put the president in charge of appointments, calling it a “dangerous prerogative.” Mason warned about a “false complaisance” that would make Senators reluctant to oppose a nominee if that meant openly sparring with the president. Ultimately, the convention approved Gorham’s proposal.

That is why, over the last two centuries, 33 nominees to the high court have failed to win confirmation. Of those, five were simply ignored, which is what the Democrats fear might happen to Merrick Garland....

President Obama says Merrick Garland will “help to burnish the sense that the Supreme Court is above politics.” Wishful thinking: The framers knew that politics would play a role in judicial nominations, and it didn’t take long. Both George Washington and James Madison made nominations that were deep-sixed for political reasons.

We should disregard claims by either side that the other is shirking its constitutional duty. The appointment of justices always has been infused with politics.
But of course, our former-instructor-of-constitutional-law-turned-president doesn't seem to know that history.

President Obama went on Chris Wallace's show and said some interesting things regarding Hillary Clinton's use of a private server. The WSJ writes,
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace rolled a clip from October of Mr. Obama saying that “I can tell you this is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.” Mr. Wallace then cited the 2,000 or so emails we have since learned contained classified information, including 22 that included “top secret” information, and he asked: “Can you still say flatly that she did not jeopardize America’s secrets?”

Mr. Obama replied: “I’ve got to be careful because, as you know, there have been investigations, there are hearings, Congress is looking at this. And I haven’t been sorting through each and every aspect of this. Here’s what I know: Hillary Clinton was an outstanding Secretary of State. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy.”

Mr. Wallace pressed further on the jeopardy angle, and Mr. Obama responded again: “I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America’s national security. Now what I’ve also said is that—and she has acknowledged—that there’s a carelessness, in terms of managing emails, that she has owned, and she recognizes.”

Hold on there, big fella. That is one loaded apologia. A more scrupulous President would have begged off the question by claiming that he can’t comment on an ongoing investigation in a department he supervises. So saying anything was bad enough.

But even more notable was Mr. Obama’s use of the word “intentionally” regarding Mrs. Clinton’s actions. As a lawyer, the President knows that intent is often crucial to determining criminal liability. And he went out of his way—twice—to suggest that what Mrs. Clinton did wasn’t intentional but was mere “carelessness, in terms of managing emails.”

Why would Mr. Obama discuss the emails in those terms? He certainly isn’t helping Attorney General Loretta Lynch or FBI Director James Comey, who must decide how to assess Mrs. Clinton’s actions. If they now decide not to prosecute based on a judgment that Mrs. Clinton was merely careless, President Obama has opened them up to reasonable criticism that they were publicly steered by his comments.

Mr. Obama was at pains to “guarantee” to Fox’s Mr. Wallace that there will be “no political influence” from the White House over the email probe. But if you’re trying to send a message to the FBI or Justice, it’s probably shrewder to do it publicly by apologizing for Mrs. Clinton’s “carelessness” than it is to say something specific in a private meeting that could leak to the press. Mr. Obama can say he never said a word to either one, while those two take the heat if they give Mrs. Clinton a legal pass.

Our own view of the public email evidence is that Mrs. Clinton’s actions go far beyond mere “carelessness.” She knew she was setting up a private server in violation of State Department policy, she did it deliberately to prevent her emails from becoming public if she ran for President, and she knew classified information was bound to travel over that server.

As former Attorney General Michael Mukasey has written on these pages, “gross negligence” in handling classified information related to national defense is enough for criminal liability. That Mr. Obama would issue such a public defense, and use such legally potent words, suggests that there’s more culpability than he cares to admit.

James Taranto has some fun with the claim by Hillary Clinton's allies and even her candidate that she is "the most qualified candidate in the history of our country."
C’mon, that’s the kind of ludicrous boast Donald Trump would make. Mrs. Clinton served as a U.S. senator and secretary of state. By our count 15 past presidents, from John Adams to George H.W. Bush, also had prior service both in Congress (including the Continental Congress) and a high-level administration position (vice president or cabinet secretary).

Add Washington, Grant and Eisenhower—each a key general in one of America’s most important wars—and you have 18 presidents who were at least as qualified on taking office as Mrs. Clinton is now. And this method of assessing qualifications gives no points for service in state government, so that it leaves out 11 presidents who’d served as governor, including both Roosevelts, Reagan—and Bill Clinton.

Remember, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign doesn’t claim only that she would be the most qualified president but that she is the most qualified candidate in history. Eat your hearts out, Henry Clay, Thomas Dewey, Bobby Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Al Gore—that list, too, could go on.

Take this quiz and see how much of a bubble you live in. I found that I live in quite a bubble. I'm saved from a very low score by the fact that I have friends among my colleagues who are of a different political ideology than I am and that my husband and I eat at some of the restaurants that, apparently, upper middle class people don't usually eat at. Otherwise, I inhabit the sort of bubble that Charles Murray was writing about.

SNL's Kate MacKinnon does a deadly impersonation of Hillary Clinton. But then again, there is so much to ridicule.