Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cruising the Web

Well, that was depressing. How the people who should be most familiar with Trump's deceptions and peccadillos and crassness could still prefer him is beyond me. But this whole election season has been beyond me. The only consolation is that he's still projected to fall short of 1237. So, we shall anticipate the madness of a contested convention.

John Podhoretz delivers a dismal commentary on the shellacking that Trump gave his opponents yesterday.
John Kasich beat Cruz here. Now, Kasich may be a better fit for New York than the very conservative Texan — indeed, Kasich won in Manhattan — but that wouldn’t have happened if Cruz had come even remotely close to making the sale with Republicans who don’t want Trump to be the nominee.

And there are a lot of them here in New York.

Cruz is running a tight, disciplined campaign focused on maximizing his delegate count through mastery of the rules governing delegates at the state level. But he’s running a mediocre campaign when it comes to winning over masses of voters.

If he continues to lose to Trump with voters in state after state, as it appears he will from Connecticut to Maryland to Rhode Island to Pennsylvania, the melioristic notion many not-Trumpers have entertained that Cruz just needs to wait out the bad states until he can turn to more favorable terrain like Indiana and Nebraska and California may turn on them.

He (and Kasich) may succeed in denying Trump the 1,237 delegates needed to secure a first-ballot victory at the convention in Cleveland. But the idea Cruz can take the nomination away from Trump on the second ballot at the convention if the Texan ends this primary season with a string of defeats flies in the face of everything we know about politics and political psychology.

The more Cruz loses, the more he will look like a loser. He’d better start winning, or he won’t have a case to make, and those private assurances he has of support on the second ballot will remain private and will cease being assured.

Henry Olsen explains how the results in New York demonstrate that there is no such thing as momentum in this year's primaries.
This will inevitably surprise pundits and casual commentators, but it shouldn’t. Careful reading of exit poll data show that candidates reach a relatively fixed share of the vote in each of the party’s major factions quite early in the race. Almost all of the variations we see are due to three factors: demographic and ideological differences in the GOP electorates of different states, candidate departures from the race, and whether a candidate is in his home state.

New York was always going to be difficult for Cruz because its electorate is both less conservative and less evangelical than most other states. Add in the fact that Trump is a New York native and Cruz was always fighting uphill.

Trump’s massive strength should also come as no surprise. He has always been doing better in states with large numbers of non-religious and Catholic voters, and New York’s GOP electorate have large shares of both. He also does much better with moderates and somewhat conservatives than with very conservative Republicans, and New York’s Republicans are decidedly to the left of the national party. Simple demographic analysis would always have suggested he would win with well over 40 percent of the vote; add in the home state advantage and you get the landslide margins that are about to unfold.

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This story about the gay activist who lied about getting a cake from Whole Foods that said "Love Wins" and then claimed that the word "Fag" had been added to the cake as if Whole Foods cake decorators are virulent homophobes is a splendid example of how some Social Justice Warriors are so eager to paint themselves as victims that they'll resort to a hate hoax. Mollie Hemingway has some advice for those planning such future hoaxes as well a list of how many of such hoaxes there have been.
Social Justice Warrior hoaxing is having a heyday. Whether you’re a multi-racial family surreptitiously spray-painting your own home with racist graffiti, a lesbian waitress writing fake anti-gay notes on receipts, an overweight teen falsely claiming a store clerk called you fat, or an activist sending yourself hateful tweets, never has the time been better to advance your cause using a bit of fakery. (Links in original)
One good piece of advice is to pick a believable villain. A Whole Foods in Austin is not the place people will believe are going to employ people so filled with hate that they would add a slur to a cake. As Allahpundit writes,
you mean the cake section at Whole Foods — in Austin(!) — isn’t a hotbed of reactionary anti-gay sentiment?
And pick a better piece of evidence than saying that there was a sticker on the cake that was still intact. Hemingway links to some wonderful comments ridiculing the supposed iron-clad proof that his sticker is.
-“Y’all, he never broke the seal! Cake boxes are impenetrable. I keep all my valuables in an old cake box with some tape over the original price tag.”
-“When I leave home, I actually leave a cake seal across the door so I can tell if anybody entered the premises during my absence. It’s foolproof.”
-“Fort Knox is actually protected by a 3 tier cake seal system. Impenetrable.”
-“But if the seal is slit, you must acquit!”
Also, it is just unbelievable that this guy would pick up a cake in a box with the offending word visible right in the center of the plastic window and not notice it until he got home.

And there are people who are willing to provide their own technical expertise to examine the evidence. Some people on the web have taken the words "Love Wins" and the word "Fag" and examined the colors in Photoshop to demonstrate that they are not the same color. Future hoaxers as well as gullible journalists should take heed. And good on Whole Foods for digging up the security video of the guy who purchased the cake to demonstrate that the label was on the top of the box when he bought the cake and on the bottom of the box in his video. And the box is different. Whole Foods is going to file suit against this guy. Excellent.
In a countersuit filed in state district court in Travis County, Whole Foods says Brown “intentionally, knowingly and falsely accused Whole Foods and its employees of writing the homophobic slur… on a custom made cake that he ordered from WFM’s Lamar Store in Austin…”

The suit denies those claims, and accuses Brown of acting “with malice, and he has damaged the reputation and business of WFM.”

The lawsuit seeks at least $100,000 in damages from Brown.
Maybe that will persuade other SJWs not to defame a totally innocent business just because they want to pretend to be victims of a hateful slur.

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Hmmm. Good question. When are Democrats going to return Trump's donations? They are already demonizing Trump, so why do they not return his money?
You would think that means she thinks Trump is so bad he should be radioactive to others in politics, and sure enough, the Democratic message machine has gone to great lengths to paint even Trump’s most determined adversaries within the GOP as the “Party of Trump.” And one of the time-honored political rituals when a political figure is cast as beyond the pale is to demand that the politician give back campaign contributions. Trump himself has pledged to return money from a prominent white supremacist, while Hillary has pledged to refuse donations from the private prison industry, and is under pressure from Greenpeace to return donations from the fossil fuel industry, as well as facing questions about accepting a six-figure donation from Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton (Hillary herself was on the Wal-Mart Board of Directors for six years).

But what about taking money from Trump and his family? Trump, of course, has been a long-time major donor to Democrats, including Hillary, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, and donated $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Trump’s wife Melania donated to Hillary in 2006. Trump’s children have also been frequent Democratic donors.

Politico explains how Bernie Sanders lost New York.
In New York, Sanders finally hit the wall, his winning streak halted by a daily pummeling that forced him on the defensive and stopped his momentum cold. The tabloids dealt him punishing hit after punishing hit. The Democratic establishment, most of it in Hillary Clinton’s camp, piled on harder than the Sanders campaign expected. Caught up in one distraction after another – a quarrel over debate details, a back and forth with Clinton over her qualifications, a trip to the Vatican in the run-up to the election – Sanders never gained his footing or even came close to pulling off the upset victory he once predicted with frequency.

Just two weeks before, on the night of his victory in Wisconsin, everything seemed to be going Sanders’ way. He was flush with cash thanks to his energized small donors and he was riding a wave of momentum after posting six wins in the seven previous contests. His aides had just agreed to the finishing touches of a debate in New York — something Sanders himself wanted after the campaigns had initially agreed to hold it in Pennsylvania. His top staff viewed the increasingly sharp timbre and pitch of the race as confirmation that Clinton herself was frustrated with the direction of things.
Or maybe Clinton was always going to win a state that she purported to live in and represent in the Senate.

Kevin Williamson excoriates our bureaucratic overlords who have put on their jackboots to shut down children's lemonade stands even when they're raising money for charity.
As the idea of selling lemonade for charitable purposes caught on, police around the country and the turbocharged bureaucracies behind them found themselves faced with an unexpected public menace: outlaw lemonade. Alex’s Lemonade stands around the country were shut down by armed men at the behest of city health inspectors, tax collectors, licensing czars — and for-profit competitors. In Philadelphia, police were sent to shut down an Alex’s Lemonade stand for want of a permit and a hand-sanitizing station. (Philadelphia had 320 murders that year.) In the Hamptons, Jerry Seinfeld’s family was visited by police for selling lemonade to support a charity founded by the comedian’s wife. In Wisconsin, vendors resenting the competition demanded a stand be closed, and so it was. New York City insists that Alex’s Lemonade stands be licensed city concessions, like hot-dog stands; do treat your four-year-old to a bedtime reading of “Title 12 of the Rules of the City of New York,” which has 17 section headings and dozens of subsections, every jot and tittle of which must be satisfied.

Your toddler may need a lawyer.

Not all lemonade stands are philanthropic, nor should they be. Those that aren’t run into trouble, too. In Montgomery County, Md., children were fined $500 for operating an illegal lemonade stand outside the Congressional Country Club. In Texas, police shut down two little sisters’ lemonade stand for want of a $150 “peddler’s permit”; the town fathers agreed to waive the $150 fee — but insisted that the girls needed the health department’s sign-off first. In Iowa, men with guns were dispatched to stop a four-year-old girl from selling lemonade during a bicycle race. In New Castle, N.Y., city councilman Michael Wolfensohn dispatched armed men to a local park to stop children from selling unlicensed cupcakes and — horrors! — unregulated Rice Krispie treats.

The phenomenon is maddening in general, but it is particularly galling where the Alex’s Lemonade stands are concerned. Here is Jennifer Hughes of the Montgomery County, Md., Department of Permitting Services: “It wasn’t that we were the big hand of county government trying to come down and squash anything. . . . We were attempting to do what a government is charged with doing, which is protecting communities and protecting the safety of people.” Which is to say: We cannot let these people raise money for children with cancer — somebody might get sick!

We are ruled by power-mad buffoons.
Lemonade stands have been an American tradition teaching young people wonderful lessons about managing a small business and responsibility. Whether kids are raising money for themselves or for a charity, why do we have bureaucrats going out of their way to police these supposed dangers to the public weal? I'm sure that there are all sorts of problems out there in our communities. Children's lemonade stands are not problems.

Apparently, supporters of Bernie Sanders like the idea of getting all sorts of benefits, but don't want to pay for them.
Vox recently conducted a study ,with the help of the polling firm Morning Consult, to determine how much more supporters of the Vermont Senator would be willing to pay in taxes in order to enact his healthcare and college proposals.

The study found that more than half of all supporters would not be willing to pay more than $1,000 annually for his “Medicare-for-All” healthcare, or $1,500 for free college.

The real kicker is that, while many Sanders supporters would be willing to pay a little more for universal healthcare, it is actually less than what they are currently paying to receive employee-sponsored healthcare.

According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average individual spends a little more than $1,000 annually in premiums, while the average family pays nearly $5,000.

Perhaps it is also that many of Sanders’ supporters are unaware of the minute details behind his proposed tax plan, which would call for extraordinary increases in the federal tax rate to pay for all of his government-sponsored programs.

Sanders’ plan for “Medicare-for-All” would increase taxes for most voters by at least $1,000 per year.
Gee, what a shocker that people who are voting for Sanders have no idea what is in his proposals and what those ideas would mean for them. They just think he's offering free stuff that they can enjoy, not that they would have to pay for them. Celina Durgan comments,
The results of this study show that many Sanders supporters don’t actually want socialism, or even a much larger welfare state. They might think socialism is forcing “millionaires and billionaires” to pay for stuff (though confiscating their income entirely would only make a dent in ​paying off our​ current spending) or perhaps forcing people above an arbitrarily selected income bracket to foot the bill. But they don’t think socialism is what it is: a theory of social organization marked by state control of the means of production and often the absence of private property. Under such a system your private property is either abolished or at least completely vulnerable to state confiscation and redistribution in pursuit of the egalitarian ideal. Economic leveling can sound pretty good until you realize that on net, the leveling can come at your expense, scraping more off your share than it adds, if it adds anything worth having.
But notice that Hillary doesn't bother trying to make those points as she has to campaign against Sanders among young people.

Politico explains how
Trump might be costing Democrats donations for their convention.
Republicans have been struggling for months in the shadow of Donald Trump to get corporate sponsors to pony up for their convention. Now Democratic fundraisers are feeling their pain, too.

Several Fortune 500 companies — including Bank of America, Duke Energy and Time Warner —are taking a pass on chipping in for the Democratic convention in Philadelphia or, with just 100 days to go until the event, won't say whether they'll participate. Target, which has had a presence at both parties' conventions in the past, is joining other companies in skipping this summer's events in Philadelphia and Cleveland.

None of the firms are publicly pointing to Trump as the reason they're staying away. But the GOP's more well-documented struggles appear to be taking a toll on Democrats, since many companies prefer to give to both conventions or neither in order to project an image of balance.
Oh, the irony. Though I ca really see why corporations wouldn't want to be associated in any way with the disaster that the GOP convention is shaping up to be. Lots of Republicans don't even want to attend the thing. For example, John McCain, facing a tough challenge for his reelection, has announced that he's skipping the convention.

Once this effort gathers some steam, corporations will be even less willing to associate their names with the Republican convention.
An array of activist groups is organizing a campaign to pressure the companies to refuse to sponsor the gathering, which many of the corporations have done for the Republican and the Democratic Parties for decades.

The pressure is emerging as some businesses and trade groups are privately debating whether to scale back their participation, according to interviews with more than a dozen lobbyists, consultants and fund-raisers directly involved in the conversations.

Apple, Google and Walmart are among the companies assessing their plans for the convention, which will be held July 18 to 21 in Cleveland.

In addition to Mr. Trump’s divisive politics, there is the possibility that protests, or even violence, will become a focus of attention at the convention. Mr. Trump has suggested that there will be “riots” if he is not chosen as the party’s nominee, and the city of Cleveland recently sought bids for about 2,000 sets of riot gear for its police force.

A reduction in support from major corporations would be worrisome for Cleveland, which celebrated the awarding of the convention last year as a symbol of the city’s rebirth. The host committee is seeking to raise about $64 million for the event.

If your perceptions is that Trump appearances dominate Fox News, your perception is correct.
According to analysis from the right-leaning media watchdog Media Research Center, over the past four weeks, Trump spent a total of 178 minutes being interviewed by Fox. Ted Cruz spent 120 minutes on the network, while John Kasich spent 84 minutes.
When candidate surrogates are added into the mix, Trump’s team spent 397 minutes on air for Fox, Cruz’s crew spent 164 minutes in total and Kasich and his allies spent 105 minutes.

Trump’s time spent on Fox is drastically higher than his time on CNN (106 minutes) and MSNBC (43 minutes.) But Cruz spent more time on CNN (133 minutes) and just 35 minutes on MSNBC. The Ohio governor was close on all of his times, registering 106 minutes on CNN and 100 minutes on MSNBC.

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How convenient.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s husband bought up to a quarter million dollars of stock in a now financially troubled green energy company just weeks before it announced a major 2014 acquisition that sent stock prices soaring, public records show.
But I'm sure that it was just a total coincidence.

And now UnitedHealthcare has left Obamacare.
If you like your UnitedHealthcare Obamacare plan, that doesn’t mean you can keep your UnitedHealthcare Obamacare plan. That's because the nation's largest health insurer is bailing on the central policy initiative of the Obama presidency.

On a call this morning with analysts, UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Hemsley said that UnitedHealth is pulling out of almost all of the Obamacare exchanges: "Next year, we will remain in only a handful of states, and we will not carry financial exposure from exchanges into 2017."

Hemsley explained, "The smaller overall market size and shorter-term, higher-risk profile within this market segment continue to suggest we cannot broadly serve it on an effective and sustained basis." In other words, sick people are signing up for "insurance" and then dumping it once they've gotten somebody else (the "insurer") to pay for their health care, while younger and healthier people won't buy Obamacare-complaint insurance because the legislation's expensive and onerous mandates have led to high premiums and narrow doctor networks. And yet four of the five remaining presidential candidates either support Obamacare's preexisting-conditions mandate (Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump) or else have actively worked to expand Obamacare (John Kasich).
Gee, who would have predicted that young, healthy people wouldn't buy Obamacare or that sick people will sign up for the insurance and then dump the policy once they got their care? Just anyone who thought a few minutes about how this would work.

And don't underestimate the impact of UnitedHealth's withdrawal on Obamacare.
UnitedHealth is not the largest insurer within the Obamacare marketplace. But the loss of even just this one insurer, which currently covers only about 750,000 Obamacare customers — about 7 percent of the national total — will sharply reduce competition in several states' insurance marketplaces. One study suggests that it could cause premiums to rise by $100 per month in some states before any other factors come into play.

And UnitedHealth isn't the only insurer losing money, either. Bigger Obamacare insurers remain committed to the system for now — perhaps holding out for the insurer bailout for which they are now lobbying.
And if Democrats take over Congress and the White House, we'll be bailing out those insurance companies.

Meanwhile, contrary to all of Obama's promises, millions and millions of purchasers of health insurance will see their premiums and deductibles rise. It turns out that it costs more for insurance companies to insure the disproportionately sick and old because...economic reality.

Will Bunch, no right-wing shill, connects the dot
s with people's outrage at the nexus of money and politicians which was substantiated by the news of the Panama Papers which revealed all sorts of politicians and other biggies stowing their money in a tax haven in Panama. And, unsurprisingly, quite a few people with connections to the Clintons were involved.
There's nothing illegal about the Clintons' close ties to these various international money-stashers, but it's a reminder of how much of their recent life has been spent hobnobbing with the 1 Percent, and sharing their intimate concerns. Indeed, it's important to note that tax havens, by and large, are not illegal, because the most serious graft is almost always the legal kind -- like the tax codes written by the billionaire-backed politicians that have enabled the massive, kleptocratic upward flow of wealth. At the time the Panama Papers story broke, U.S. tax experts said there was no need for Americans to hide wealth in places like Panama when we have havens right here in places like...Delaware.

In fact, you'll be shocked (OK, probably not shocked) to learn that when Bill and Hillary Clinton found themselves in private life and making the real dough, the couple was involved in the creation of five Delaware corporations -- three related to the Clinton Foundation non-profit, one for Bill's "consulting" fees, and one for a $5.5 million Hillary book advance. Why take advantage of the low tax rates and limited public-disclosure laws of the American Cayman Islands? I guess that's what Delaware offered.

Of course, this whaddya-gonna-do shrug extends from the world of personal wealth from the millions in campaign dollars that the Clintons raise from their moneyed friends. Hillary Clinton's reliance on the investor class to underwrite her campaign has caused her to disappear from the trail at strange times, like when she vanished from the heated Iowa caucus to duck into a Philadelphia fundraiser organized by Franklin Square Capital Partners, an inventment fund that has made a huge bet on fossil fuels....

The defenders of the Clintons say they money doesn't matter as long as her opponents can't demonstrate a quid pro quo. First, the weeds can get pretty quick, but take a second to read this, or this, stories that raise serious questions of a conflict of interest. Second, these self-proclaimed progressives seem to have forgotten the first rule of political graft, which is that the appearance of corruption is just as bad as demonstrable corruption itself.
Of course, all of this could be a big issue for Hillary in the general election if the Republican front-runner weren't a guy who has bragged about buying politicians including Hillary.

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What a surprise! The guy whose campaign is so disorganized that they didn't realize the importance of getting their people chosen as delegates, hasn't bothered to renew the registration of his private jet in which he travels around the country.
Over the past several months, Donald J. Trump has crisscrossed the country making dozens of campaign stops in places like Sioux City, Iowa, and Jackson, Miss., often in his sleek Cessna jet. There is just one hitch: The plane’s registration is expired.

Records kept with the Federal Aviation Administration show the aircraft’s registration lapsed on Jan. 31. Laura J. Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, confirmed that the plane’s registration was not in good standing and said the owner had not renewed it.

With few exceptions, aircraft must be registered in order to fly. Mr. Trump’s plane could be grounded for days, or even months, while the issue is sorted out. In the event of an accident, the company that insures the jet could cite the lapsed registration to decline any claims.
I'm sure he'll just blame the employees who were supposed to take care of these things for a busy billionaire. But isn't he the one who is flying around in that jet to promise voters that he'll hire the "best" people to run the government because he is a businessman who knows how to do that?

Guy Benson reports on a video clip o
f Trump testifying against Reagan's 1986 tax reforms.
It's not especially remarkable that House Democrats once summoned fellow liberal Donald Trump to Capitol Hill to testify about the alleged adverse effects of Ronald Reagan's 1986 tax reforms. What is somewhat remarkable is that this clip wasn't dug up by a conservative opposition research team, but rather by Trump's own campaign -- which proceeded to blast it out into the public bloodstream as evidence that "Mr. Trump" is an all-caps EXPERT on economic matters. And what conclusion did his "expertise" produce? I'll let Trump answer that question in his own words. Again, this comes via Trump's social media director, who -- ta da! -- can't vote for his boss today because he's not a Republican:
In his testimony, he complains about the tax cuts saying that it meant that "we're no different right now than the Soviet Union" and that the cuts were "an absolute catastrophe for the country." He wanted rates raised.
He added that slashing the top rate to 25 percent was a "disaster." Say, under Donald J. Trump's current (fiscally incoherent, deficit-exploding) tax plan, is he proposing to reduce the top income bracket tax rate, perchance? He is, as a matter of fact -- to, ahem, 25 percent, while also pushing nonsense spending cuts, insisting on "building up" America's military (while also cutting defense spending), and rejecting entitlement reforms that are mathematically necessary to curb the biggest drivers of our long-term debt. But Mr. Trump believes in tax cuts now, which is all that matters, Trump defenders will argue. Except he just got through ripping Scott Walker for not raising taxes in Wisconsin in order to close a non-existent deficit.

People are welcome to believe that Trump has claimed the Reagan mantle (even as he misstates 1980 polling lessons) and would govern as a reliable conservative. But that leap requires a blind faith that ignores his long history of liberalism on virtually every major issue. Remember, if Trump had gotten his way, Reagan would never have been president in the first place -- so those "catastrophic" tax cuts wouldn't have been instituted. Anyway, there's your frontrunner, Republicans. (Lots of links in the original)