Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cruising the Web

The headline should be: Donald Trump continues to win in states where Hillary will romp to victory in the Fall.

Politico reports that Donald Trump does not approve of the tactics his new campaign aide, Paul Manafort, has been taking to try and make Trump seem more presidential.
Trump became upset late last week when he learned from media reports that Manafort privately told Republican leaders that the billionaire reality TV star was “projecting an image” for voters and would begin toning down his rhetoric, according to the sources. They said that Trump also expressed concern about Manafort bringing several former lobbying colleagues into the campaign, as first reported by POLITICO.

Now Trump is taking steps to return some authority to Manafort’s chief internal rival, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Neither Lewandowski nor Manafort responded to requests for comment, though Manafort on Sunday during an interview on Fox News blamed Lewandowski’s regime for shortcomings in the campaign’s delegate wrangling operation. Lewandowski’s allies responded by privately questioning whether Manafort has done anything to improve the situation. They grumble that Manafort has spent a disproportionate amount of time on television — just as Trump himself has been avoiding the Sunday morning talk show circuit at Manafort’s urging.

“I think it pisses him off that he was getting free television by going on the shows and now Paul Manafort is out there resurrecting his career,” said one campaign operative. Citing Manafort’s advocacy within the campaign for an expensive advertising push in upcoming states, the operative said Trump is “saying I can get on every show I want for free and you're telling me not to do that and that I should pay for my advertising? That doesn't pass the smell test to me.”
It is quite clear that both Manafort and Lewandowski are leaking to blame the other and position themselves as the one whom Trump really likes.

So it seems that Trump hired Manafort without discussing with him what approach Manafort would be adopting to accomplish the task for which he was being hired. I wonder if Manafort is urging for more of an advertising campaign because, as a consultant, he would get a cut of such advertising. And, in addition, to not ascertaining what the guy he was bringing aboard was going to actually do, it seems that Trump didn't bother to find out what the guy's background is.
Then, later in the week, Trump expressed concern after learning about Manafort’s moves to bolster the campaign by bringing on associates from his lobbying days, as well as his pitch to leery Republican Party leaders.

In leaked audio from a presentation to the Republican National Committee, Manafort suggested that Trump’s bombastic campaign trail rhetoric was just “projecting an image” to win over voters. “The image is going to change,” Manafort said on the recording.

Around the same time, POLITICO revealed that Manafort brought in a handful of operatives who had ties to his lobbying firm, which had developed a niche representing a roster of controversial international clients who have been collectively described as “the torturers’ lobby.”

In particular, multiple sources said Trump was bothered by news stories about Manafort’s representation of Saudi Arabia and for a group accused of being a front for Pakistani intelligence.

“I don’t think he was aware of the extent of the work that Paul has done in foreign countries that have not always been friendly to the United States,” said a Washington operative with close relationships to the campaign.
Didn't he ask for this guy's resume or at least have someone google Manafort's recent political activity? Did Trump know anything more about Manafort than that the guy lives in Trump Tower and that they run into each other in the elevator?
Friends say Manafort hasn’t lived full time in the Washington area for years. He resides, at least part of the time, in Trump Tower in Manhattan, where he has an apartment. He and Trump have met over the years in the lobby and elevators.
Trump keeps telling us that he will be successful because he will be hiring the very best people, but time and again we see that he doesn't seem capable of doing so.

Does this surprise anyone?
And one of the leading figures in Wall Street’s scavenging of the wreckage created by Wall Street is also a big-time backer of Hillary Clinton.

His name is Donald Mullen, and he was once the global head of credit at Goldman Sachs. He was credited with devising the infamous “big short,” by which the firm bet bigger than big that the housing market would collapse even as it was urging customers to invest in it.

“Sounds like we will make some serious money,” he famously emailed colleagues in 2007, at early signs of the impending implosion.

Mullen left Goldman Sachs in 2012 and made some more serious money by becoming one of a number of Wall Streeters who are acquiring and leasing thousands of foreclosed homes.

Mullen embarked on this new endeavor with Curt Schade, formerly a managing director at Bear Stearns, which failed at the start of the financial crisis. Mullen and Schade received a $400 million credit line from Deutsche Bank, which survived thanks to billions of dollars in direct and indirect financial support from the government.
And this guy who has been flying close to the edge in several financial activities is a big-time Clinton donor. Like appeals to like.

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Anne Applebaum knows more than any other American journalist about modern politics in Eastern Europe. And she finds parallels to Donald Trump in that recent history.
Donald Trump’s new campaign manager Paul Manafort returns to U.S. politics after many years spent working for Viktor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine until he fled the country in disgrace in 2014. We don’t really know what, exactly, Manafort did for his Ukrainian client. But we do know how Yanukovych won the Ukrainian elections in 2010, and how he ran the country. Perhaps Manafort can transmit some lessons from his experience for a would-be U.S. president.

To begin with, Yanukovych did undergo a profound “image makeover” strikingly similar to the one that Trump needs right now. Yanukovych was an ex-con, close to Russian-backed business interests in Ukraine. He had, in other words, “high negatives.” But he cleaned up his act, stopped using criminal jargon and presented himself as a “reform” candidate, as opposed to the crooked establishment. Since everybody was genuinely sick of the crooked establishment, he won – despite the fact that he was no more honest than the people he’d said he was trying to beat. This of course, is what Trump is going to try to do: persuade people to support him because he is an outrageous, truth-speaking “outsider,” even though in reality he’s as much of an “insider” as it is possible to be. Manafort, with his deep experience in this particular con trick, can help.

On his way to power, and once in power, Yanukovych also became famous for the use of rented thugs, known as “titushki,” who could be used to intimidate opposition protestors, journalists, or whoever needed to be scared off. These weren’t police, and they weren’t security guards. They were just guys paid by Yanukovych to rough people up and scare them.
It all sounds distressingly familiar. I don't expect Trump to hire thugs, but he's not above insinuating that there will be violence if he doesn't get the nomination and then let his more rabid followers decide what that means.

This is how the media do Trump's bidding. No sooner did he make fun of how John Kasich eats then Politico put up a slide show of John Kasich eating on the campaign trail. Really? Do they need to support Trump's juvenile jibes? As if anyone wouldn't look unappealing if we put up a slide show of them eating.

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The WSJ contrasts how the state of Michigan has taken legal action against those accused of being responsible for the criminal negligence in Flint's water with the lack of accountability in the federal government.
The state charges are a loud contrast with the lack of accountability in cases of federal scandal. Email records reviewed by Congress show that an Environmental Protection Agency employee knew the risks of a blowout at the Gold King Mine, which spewed millions of gallons of wastewater last summer into the Animas River. No one has been prosecuted, and the EPA absolved itself.

Then there’s Veterans Affairs, which fired four low-level employees in connection with manipulating wait times that may have contributed to deaths. Last month former Phoenix hospital VA Director Sharon Helman was finally charged—but merely with failing to disclose $50,000 in gifts from a lobbyist. A VA employee in Puerto Rico charged with armed robbery continues to draw a taxpayer salary. So do a hospital chief-of-staff who prescribed drugs for friends and two senior executives who pushed out subordinates from positions so the executives could transfer locations and collect $400,000 in moving expenses.

Americans looking at all this can be forgiven for concluding that there is one standard for Washington misbehavior, and another for everyone else.

Republican pipe dreams of ever recovering their former strength in California are sinking fast if the new voter registration statistics are any indication.
This skyrocketing registration can be broken out by partisanship, ethnicity and age, and shows some striking differences by group. In a traditional election year, a 65% growth from the same period of last year would be remarkable. But this year we are seeing a doubling of registration growth among Latinos, and a more than 150% increase for some young voters, and a near-tripling for Democrats.

Here is good news for those who value the freedom of speech.
The Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative-oriented nonprofit, has won a victory in its lawsuit against California attorney general Kamala Harris, who is attempting to do with her investigatory powers what Lois Lerner did with the IRS’s: weaponize them for political purposes.

Harris is running for the Senate. She is a Democrat. AFP is associated with the Koch brothers and with any number of public-policy disputes that have left Democrats bruised and defeated. Nonprofits register federally with the IRS, and also with the states in which they are active. Harris, right around the time she decided she wanted to become a senator, also decided that the paperwork AFP and other conservative organizations had been filing for years in California was insufficient, and she demanded — this will not surprise you — a list of major donors.

Democrats have a long and ugly history of abusing such information. The most dramatic recent episode involved the IRS’s intentional leaking of documents belonging to the National Association for Marriage, in order to facilitate harassment of and retaliation against private citizens who had the bad taste to agree with Senator Obama about gay marriage and invest 20 bucks in the pursuit of their consciences. After a long and expensive legal fight, the IRS was forced to admit that it had in fact leaked the NOM documents, and it paid $50,000 to NOM in restitution. Did anybody lose his job over this? Of course not. In fact, Republican members of Congress are in a rage at the moment over the fact that the IRS has rehired hundreds of workers dismissed for improper conduct, including improper handling of private documents.

Harris made no persuasive case that this information was necessary for the enforcement of California tax law; in the event that such information should become relevant, California authorities have the power to obtain donor information via subpoena. The most charitable interpretation would be that this isn’t about investigation of a crime but pre-investigation of a pre-crime — Minority Report as performed in Sacramento — but in this case, charity would lead us astray. This was a straight-up attempt at political suppression.

AFP convinced the federal district court that Harris’s request served no legitimate purpose and was part of a political campaign by Democrats against conservative organizations. It demonstrated, among other things, that government agencies had “systematically failed to maintain the confidentiality of Schedule B forms” containing donor information and other financial data.

This is not an investigation that would have an incidental chilling effect on free speech and political activism; the chilling effect is the entire point.
Of course, Harris's politicization of her office and the California judicial system won't be considered a negative by Democratic voters. But true supporters of free speech should be horrified by the efforts by so many Democratic officials to criminalize the speech with which they disagree.
From Texas to New York to California to the U.S. Virgin Islands, this country is beset by out-of-control Democratic prosecutors attempting to criminalize dissent. Former Texas governor Rick Perry was charged with two felonies (since laughed out of court) for having vetoed a bill that he had promised to veto, angering Austin Democrats; the libertarian-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute has been subpoenaed for private communication related to its global-warming activism; Harris and her New York counterpart, Eric Schneiderman, are up to their armpits in a scheme to prosecute Exxon for its funding of global-warming activism or, short of that, to shake it down for a large settlement. Democratic activists cooperating with corrupt judges in Ecuador tried the same thing with Chevron. These are, put plainly, attempts to prosecute political opponents for their politics — attacks on the First Amendment and on the very principle of citizen engagement in the democratic process. AFP has won this round, but the fight continues on many other fronts.

The WSJ comes out in support
of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell's appeal to the Supreme Court.
The legal problem is that Mr. McDonnell never provided much of any quo for the quid. Virginia law lets politicians accept gifts, and prosecutors never charged him with violating state law. They charged him under federal law with performing “official acts” to benefit the business, but none of those acts influenced policy or changed a government decision.

Mr. McDonnell was convicted for attending a lunch at the executive mansion where the businessman’s company gave out grants to universities, for attending a reception with the businessman, for asking an aide about research pertaining to the company, and for arranging a meeting with his staff and the man.

This stretches the bribery statutes to criminalize the normal transactions of politics. Public officials routinely act as boosters for local businesses. They also frequently meet donors and introduce them to others. Citizens also have the First Amendment right to petition their elected officials. If arranging a meeting for a benefactor qualifies as corruption, prosecutors will be able to target any politician in the country.

Such as Hillary Clinton. As Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton lobbied governments on issues affecting companies that donated to the Clinton Foundation. Then there are the speaking fees for Bill Clinton paid by companies that had interests before the State Department.

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Don't buy the story that women soccer players (and Hillary Clinton) are trying to sell that they earn 40% less than male soccer players because...discrimination. Each side has a motive for peddling a false story.
This would be outrageous if it were true. But it isn’t. Democrats are using the equal-pay issue to increase the turnout of female voters in the fall. The U.S. women’s soccer players have a different interest: Landing a better labor contract. The women’s national team and the U.S. Soccer Federation have been tangled in a labor dispute, and the players are trying to put pressure on their employer with a yellow card for gender discrimination....

But data released last week by the U.S. Soccer Federation show that the top women’s players make nearly as much as the highest-paid men’s players. Since 2008, six national-team men and six women have earned more than $1 million from the Federation. And according to ESPN, 14 of the 25 highest-earning national-team players over the past four years have been women, whose compensation averaged $695,269. That’s 2.2% below the average for men. Women also receive benefits that men don’t, including maternity leave and severance pay if they get cut from the team. Women get paid if they’re sidelined with an injury; men don’t.

Women on the U.S. national soccer teams aren’t paid less than men. They’re paid differently because the collective-bargaining agreements they have negotiated emphasize income- and job-security. Women players earn annual salaries of $72,000; the men get paid by how many games they play. The men’s roster is more fluid, and the head coach can call players to camp for one game.

Nearly 50 men’s players appeared in games for the U.S. national squad last year, but only three played more than 13 games. The women’s team fields about half as many players.
But it's all complicated to explain so it's easy to demagogue the issue and try to deceive the public about what's really going on. It's the same thing with the perpetual phony story that feminists peddle about women earning 77% of what a man earns without pointing out that they're comparing the aggregate numbers of what each sex earns and not taking into consideration the different jobs that they have or how long they stay in the workforce without taking time off for having a family. It's all so dishonest, but what does honesty matter when there is demagoguing to be done?

Michael Barone has an interesting hypothesis about the ethnic patterns we're seeing in this year's primaries.
Donald Trump got 64 percent of 108,000 Republican votes cast in the five boroughs of New York City. Ted Cruz got 59 percent of the 305,000 Republican votes cast in the four counties of metropolitan Milwaukee. What's the difference? You could sum it up by saying Italians vote different from Germans.

What does that say about the contests still to come? Trump is likely to do well in next week's Northeastern primaries from Rhode Island to Maryland, if only because most Italian-Americans live within 100 miles of New York City.

In May the campaign moves west. Indiana, which votes May 3, was first settled in the north by Yankees and the south by Southern-origin Butternuts. Ethnically it resembles downstate Illinois and Missouri, where Cruz narrowly trailed Trump and where Trump ran behind the total for Cruz and Rubio.

Most contests that follow are in states -- Nebraska, Oregon, Washington, South Dakota, Montana -- with heavily German and Scandinavian ancestry. Such voters have proven relatively resistant to Trump's appeal.

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Former senator Jim Webb took to the Washington Post recently to defend Andrew Jackson. Perhaps his admiration for Andrew Jackson stems from Webb's well-regarded history of the the ethnic group from which Jackson sprang, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. But Webb took too generous a view of Jackson's policies supporting Indian removal and his veto of the National Bank. Jay Cost corrects Webb's characterization of Jackson's actions.
Moreover, it is not fair to equate Jackson's policy toward the Native Americans with that of his predecessors, especially Quincy Adams. Granted, there was a broad view that it would be amenable for the Native Americans to move to the west, but Jackson forced the issue whereas others did not. In fact, Quincy Adams sent a federal attorney to warn Georgia against making moves against the territory of the Creek nation, which was protected by a treaty with the federal government. Jackson, on the other hand, told the Native American tribes that he was powerless to stop the states from breaking the treaties.
As Cost points out, Jackson was not so deferential to state actions when it came to the South Carolina nullification crisis. There he was firm against their rejection of the Tariff of Abominations. But the crisis was resolved more from Henry Clay's deft actions to find a compromise than from Jackson's tough rhetoric. Cost also points out that Webb's characterization of the corruption of the Second National Bank is a bit overblown. The truth is more nuanced.
What about Jackson and the Second Bank? To be clear, the Second Bank had a spotty history. Terribly mismanaged under its first president, William Jones, it had become a clearinghouse for corruption and incompetence. Its bad behavior probably facilitated the Panic of 1819, and the credit contraction that it implemented as a consequence gravely damaged the reputation of the institution. But under the management of Nicholas Biddle, it made a remarkable turnaround. Biddle's Second Bank was probably the most advanced financial institution in the world up to that point in time. Biddle secured a relatively uniform currency, facilitated domestic and international exchange, expanded lending to the south and west, and brought the wildcat state banks into respectability. So broadly popular was the Second Bank that it was overwhelmingly approved for a recharter in 1832, with testimonials pouring in from all across the country to Congress about the benefits it provided. Biddle, it must be admitted, was known to grease a few palms—including prominent congressmen like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, and a few well-placed newspapermen—but his Second Bank was hardly the bugaboo Jackson made it out to be in his veto message.

Moreover, one of the main opponents of the Second Bank was none other than Wall Street itself. New York City by this point was well on its way to becoming the overwhelming commercial and financial center of the country, yet the Second Bank was located in Philadelphia, and its stock owned primarily by Philadelphians. New York City banks did not appreciate having their operations regulated by a bunch of outsiders. Moreover, because the Second Bank housed federal tax revenues, the extensive collections from the Port of New York were not actually controlled by New York bankers. The Empire State provided crucial votes against the renewal of the Second Bank, and operating behind the scenes were well-connected insiders like Thomas Olcott of the Farmers & Mechanics Bank of Albany. That bank already controlled state tax revenue, and Olcott and others owned a major stake in several Wall Street firms. With the Second Bank out of the way, they stood a chance of dominating the nation's financial system.

This is not to excuse any of the Second Bank's bad behaviors. It was a disgrace under Jones. Moreover, Biddle—in response to Jackson's removal of federal funds from the institution—instituted an aggressive credit contraction for political purposes that looks awful in historical retrospect. The point of this discussion, rather is twofold: Webb is wrong to offer such a Manichean view of the Second Bank; and on balance under Biddle it was a benevolent institution that helped distribute credit responsibly to the farthest quarters of the nation, and in so doing it advanced the general welfare. As Webb writes, "Far too many of our most important discussions are being debated emotionally, without full regard for historical facts." Indeed, but plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, for Jackson's veto message was mostly an emotional appeal without full regard for the facts. Historian Bray Hammond—whose Banks and Politics in America remains a genre-defining classic—hit the nail on the head when he called Jackson's veto message "an unctuous mixture of agrarianism and laissez faire."

Jackson deserves praise for many actions he took—for instance his stand against the South Carolina nullifiers. But his veto of the Second Bank was hotly disputed in its day, and in historical perspective is difficult to justify at all. Same for his treatment of the Native Americans. Controversial in its day, it has not worn well with age. A sober and even-handed assessment of the Jacksonian period should list both of these as severe knocks against his reputation.