Monday, May 16, 2016

Cruising the Web

The Washington Post worries about Hillary's weaknesses. People just don't like her. Oh, that's such a surprise.
For the most part, it is her qualities as a candidate that keep her allies up at night, not her fitness to be president, which they categorically do not question. They also lament how exposed these flaws have become during a long primary contest against Sanders, who has profited from suspicion and dislike of Clinton among ranks she now must win over.
I've always thought that Sanders' success was less about him than due to Democrats' dislike of Hillary and he was the only vessel for registering that discontent. She's an awful candidate, yet the Democrats crowned her as their great female hope before the campaign even began.
When Democrats assess Clinton, they tend to zero in on her communication skills: She is scripted and thin-skinned, they say. And with a sigh, they acknowledge the persistent feeling among a lot of Americans that they just don’t like her. Polls long have shown that many voters do not trust Clinton and that a majority view her unfavorably.

Hart said being seen as likable is “about the lowest bar” for a candidate, and yet Clinton has lower likability numbers today than she did when the campaign began.

It is cold comfort that Trump’s are worse, several Democrats said.
She has a lot of weaknesses that Trump will surely exploit. Her time at State was not the triumph that she was hoping it would be. Ironically, she would probably be in a much stronger position if she'd stayed in the Senate instead of joining Obama's cabinet. She didn't accomplish much there and her actions on Libya, Syria, and Russia lead to more attacks. And she wouldn't have had the whole private server scandal in the first place if she'd still have been in the Senate. And while her family would likely have not earned as much money, she wouldn't have to answer for the shady connections between the Clinton Foundation and actions she took at State.

Peter Schweizer's book Clinton Cash uncovered the slimy way that the Clintons leveraged her position at State to get money for the Clinton Foundation and for their own personal coffers. There is now a documentary out based on the book which Roger Kimball reviews.
Eye-popping speaking fees for Bill -- $250,000, $500,000, even $750,000 a pop -- and millions upon millions directed to the Clinton Foundation and its offshoots. Where was the money coming from? Did they actually find his "wisdom" that valuable?

No. The money came from multinational corporations that needed a favor. Shady foreign financiers. Dubious state entities in Africa, Saudi Arabia, Russia, South America, and elsewhere.

Are you worried about “money in politics”? Stop the car, get an extended-stay room, and take a long hard look at the Clintons’ operation for the last sixteen years.

The Associated Press estimated that their net worth when they left the White House in 2000 was zero (really, minus $500K). Now they are worth about $200 million.

How did they do it? By “reading The Wall Street Journal” (classical reference)?

Not quite. The Clintons have perfected pay-to-play political influence peddling on a breathtaking scale. Reading Clinton Cash is a nauseating experience.

At the center of the book is not just a tale of private greed and venality. That is just business as usual in Washington (and elsewhere). No, what is downright scary is way the Clintons have been willing to trade away legitimate environmental concerns and even our national security for the sake of filthy lucre.
Think about that. They went from Hillary's claim that they were dead broke when they left the White House to a net worth of $200 million. It's not just Schweizer who has documented how they sold access to all sorts of shady foreign rulers and businesses. Kimball reminds us that it was the New York Times who reported on how Hillary Clinton approved selling 20% of our nation's uranium to a Russian company controlled by Putin while money was going from the Canadian subsidiary of the Russian company into the Clinton Foundation.
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.
And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
The Clintons were lucky that the book and New York Times story came out a year ago. But that doesn't mean that they can't be resurrected. If Trump really wants to wound Hillary, he can stop talking about her acquiescence to her husband's affairs and start zeroing in on the information on how she and Bill racked up all that money by giving speeches to such questionable entities with business before the State Department.
But an inspection by the Examiner and Judicial Watch of donations to the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton's personal financial disclosure forms, and the State Department conflict-of-interest reviews shows that at least $48 million flowed to the Clintons' personal coffers from many entities that clearly had interests in influencing the Obama administration — and perhaps currying favor with a future president as well.

Saudi Arabia, for example, was a key Clinton benefactor. The oil-producing giant has had a relationship with the Clintons dating back to Bill Clinton's time as governor of Arkansas....

Overall, the Clinton Foundation has received staggering sums from Saudi benefactors — between $18 million and $50 million. (The foundation's donations are reported in ranges, not specific numbers.)

While Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state, Bill Clinton gave two speeches in Saudi Arabia, earning a total of $600,000....

During Hillary Clinton's time at the State Department, Bill Clinton also gave four speeches in the United Arab Emirates, earning $1.1 million. For two speeches in Egypt, he earned $425,000.

UAE-linked entities also have donated at least $2.7 to $11.5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and Egyptian entities have donated at least $250,000 to $750,000....

In the period after Hillary Clinton signed the ethics agreement, Bill Clinton gave four speeches in China or to Chinese-sponsored entities in the U.S., earning $1.7 million.

By comparison, between 2001 through 2007 — just after he left office, when a former president is normally most in demand — he gave seven speeches in China, earning $1.4 million.

Groups with interests in China also donated between $750,000 and $1.75 million, at a minimum, to the Clinton Foundation.
The list goes on and on. Bernie Sanders shouldn't spend so much time talking about Hillary's speeches to Goldman Sachs and focus on Bill's speeches to foreign entities while his wife was Secretary of State.

Perhaps my older readers will remember the outrage with which the media greeted Ronald Reagan's $2 million speaking tour in Japan after he left office. What outrages the media has certainly dissipated now that it is the Clintons making money.

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Fred Barnes fights back against the myth that Hillary Clinton is actually a centrist at heart whom Republicans dismayed at Donald Trump's success should prefer to support.
This Hillary Clinton is entirely mythical. She doesn't exist. As the Democratic party has lurched to the left, she has lurched with it. While talking up growth, she has proposed no incentives to produce it. She relies on government spending to stir growth, Obama's woeful policy. On tax cuts, she's for boosting the top rate on individual income to 45 percent, the highest in three decades. Under her complicated plan, the tax rate on capital gains would jump from 23.8 percent to 39.6 percent, then to 47.4 percent with surtaxes. The Tax Foundation concluded her tax hikes would cut annual growth by 1 percent and shrink incomes by at least 0.9 percent. That's a recipe for less job creation, more wage stagnation, fewer business startups, and a despondent country.
She doesn't support the positions that made her husband a "New Democrat." He cut capital gains, campaigned for NAFTA and even, after vetoing it twice, signed welfare reform. Hillary wants to raise taxes and is against the Pacific trade treaty that she once supported. She keeps moving left to keep up with Bernie.
Another part of the myth is that she hasn't changed her views significantly to keep up with Sanders and Democratic progressives. "A lesser candidate would have veered to the left," the Economist wrote admiringly in April. She "has largely stood her ground." This is just plain wrong. On the minimum wage, she's flipped twice, first to $12 an hour, then saying she'd sign a bill setting the wage at $15. She answered Sanders's call for free public college with a scheme for debt-free college. She shifted his way on raising Social Security benefits and promises to make "the rich" pay for it. She's taken steps toward a single-payer, government health system, which Sanders favors. To counter his desire to ban fracking, Clinton says she'll create a maze of regulatory roadblocks to make fracking nearly impossible. Either way, the cost of energy will soar, hurting the lower middle class and poor disproportionately.

Her willingness to placate the left has whetted its appetite for Supreme Court nominations to sweep away conservative rulings and expand liberal ones. As president, she could instantly create a lockstep, five-vote liberal majority with her replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia. And no doubt she would. There's already talk of the Hillary Court's elimination of restrictions on abortion, reversing the Citizens United decision liberalizing campaign finance, ending the death penalty, forcing nonmembers to pay union dues, reviving an expansive reading of the commerce clause to justify government interference in the economy, and reinterpreting the Second Amendment to outlaw an individual's right to bear arms. None of this is farfetched with Clinton.
Trump holds many of the positions that Clinton is campaigning on when it comes to taxes and tariffs. She is not the lesser of the two evils.

Jim Geraghty takes a very depressing look at the possibility of holding GOP control of the Senate this year. It was always going to be tough, but it's getting tougher. The Democrats have to win only four seats plus the presidency or five seats if Trump wins. This looks very doable for them, especially if Trump's numbers depress voter turnout among Republican voters. Add on to the weak incumbents and the iffy open seats, three octogenarians incumbents, John McCain, Richard Shelby, and Chuck Grassley. They might have trouble getting reelected.

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The ACLU, contrary to their supposed mission to protect all civil liberties, are much less interested in religious liberty, especially that of Catholics. The ACLU is angry that Catholic hospitals won't perform abortions. They don't seem to care about the vast numbers of patients that such hospitals treat throughout the country. All that matters is that they should be forced to offer abortions even if such procedures are contrary to the religious beliefs of those hospitals.
There were nearly 20 million emergency-room visits, more than 100 million outpatient visits and more than 5 million admissions last year to these institutions.

They employ almost 800,000 workers. They save more lives, release patients sooner and have better overall patient-satisfaction ratings than non-religious facilities. They demonstrate significantly better results than for-profit and government hospitals on patient safety, length of stay and patient satisfaction.

Oh, and their dedication to the common good leads them to offer services that are distinctly unprofitable.
While the ACLU has "Civil Liberties" in its title and its mission, religious liberty must take a back seat to abortions. The response is to sue those hospitals.
Although the ACLU claims to support the right of religious persons to practice their faith without government interference, it’s rabidly against Catholic health providers doing the same, demanding that all hospitals and health-care professionals put their consciences, morals and ethics aside. They must be made to perform abortions or give up government support and nonprofit benefits.

Besides the hypocrisy of claiming to stand for civil liberties while disdaining the conscience rights of health providers, the ACLU doesn’t seem to understand that the government supports the efforts of religious institutions in charity and hospitals because they are cost-effective and successful.

The ACLU acts as though there are hundreds of strictly secular, ACLU-thought-compliant institutions waiting to step in and give the sick the top-notch compassionate care they are getting at all these Catholic hospitals.

That’s simply not true. If Catholic hospitals and charities are forced out of helping the sick and poor by actors like the ACLU, it will be the sick and poor who lose.
Choice doesn't seem to mean much of a choice if one chooses the wrong position.

For all those progressives who believe that the experts in government do better at running every aspect of our country better than anyone else could, I'd like to know what they think about the head of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson's nonchalance about the increased waiting time to go through TSA at the airport.

The euphemism administration strikes again. They no longer want students applying to college to be asked if they have been convicted of a crime. And don't think about calling such people "criminals." Instead, the Obama Education Department refers to them as "Justice-involved individuals."
[Education Secretary] King notes that when you ask college applicants about whether they brutalized, mugged or otherwise committed outrages against their fellow human beings, the ugly specter of “disparate impact” arises. The black crime rate is higher than the white crime rate, so the “Are you a criminal?” question is bound to do injury to blacks, or so goes the reasoning.

Obama is fighting the war for criminals to get closer to you on several fronts. Last month, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he went after landlords, threatening them with penalties if they barred criminals from living in their buildings.

In November, Obama unilaterally ordered federal agencies to strike the box asking applicants whether they had committed crimes and referred to criminals as “folks.” This would be the same president who on Oct. 25, 2010, referred to Republicans as “enemies” and suggested voters should “punish” them. Convicted rapists? They’re just “folks.”
It's a bit ironic that, in this age, when students request trigger warnings before they can study Greek mythology or object to a law professor speaking of "an assault on the Constitution," and when the administration worries about a "rape culture" on campus, universities are being urged not to ask if an applicant has been convicted of a crime. Don't the non "justice-involved individuals" have an interest in knowing if their new roommate has been convicted of assault or robbery?

Heather MacDonald details how both multi-multiculturalism and the trangender movement now trump feminism. Gender theory has made it out of the college classroom to federal policy. She traces how even such a feminist icon as Ruth Bader Ginsburg denied that the Equal Rights Amendment would require co-ed bathrooms. But in the space of about a year, opposing transgenders in bathrooms makes one on a par with a supporter of Jim Crow laws.
There are several corollary take-aways to the present moment. First, we have learned that the trans movement trumps feminism, just as Europe’s reaction to the mass Muslim sexual assaults this New Year’s Eve revealed that multiculturalism trumps feminism. Given the constant caterwauling about “rape culture” by campus feminists, one would have thought that feminists would have opposed allowing males’ use of facilities frequented by unclothed or otherwise vulnerable females. But apparently the claim that college campuses are awash in serial “rapists” waxes and wanes in salience depending on context. It now becomes merely another sign of redneck bigotry to suggest that a heterosexual male (i.e., a rapist in waiting) or a sexual pervert may take advantage of the new trans rules. Wellesley and Smith colleges have twisted themselves into knots deciding whether the “trans” category trumps the favored status of females. They concluded that being trans cancels the disability of being male and in fact elevates the trans “female” to the highest rank on the victim totem pole.

Second, we have learned that all academic High Theory bears watching. The conceptual roots of gender theory lie in 1970s-era deconstruction and post-structuralism, with their pretense to having obliterated the traditional categories of Western epistemology and metaphysics. From Jacques Derrida’s purported “deconstruction” of the privileging of the spoken word over the written sign, and of presence over absence, it turned out to be not so big a step to the alleged dismantling of the biological difference between male and female.

Third, we notice that all colleges matter when it comes to the generation of corrosive High Theory — not just the Ivy League. The University of Iowa, for example, jumpstarted the field of queer studies in 1994 with a conference on queerness.

Finally, we see that narcissistic students are now co-equal drivers with their professors when it comes to rapidly evolving victim theory. By one count, there are now some 60 categories of gender identity, many of those developed by students desperate to find some last way to be transgressive in an environment where their every self-involved claim of victimhood is met by fawning attention and apologies from the campus diversity bureaucracy. How those 60 categories will play out for public policy remains to be seen.

The ultimate agenda here, however, is to destroy any last shred of female modesty that might stand in the way of the total normalization of casual promiscuity, in obedience to the sexual-liberation movement of the 1960s. Many girls are embarrassed to be seen naked by other girls. Now, however, they are being told to swallow their inhibitions if a boy is in their bathroom or locker room. This can be achieved only by adopting a stance of utter indifference to the powerful, primal taboos around nakedness and sex — in other words, to adopt the sad sexual crudeness of the stars of Sex and the City or of Lena Dunham. And according to the Obama administration, any parent or school official who disagrees is standing in the way of moral progress. One shrinks to contemplate what the academy is cooking up next.
What I resent is that, by issuing a federal diktat, the Obama administration has removed the possibility of school officials to work with students and parents on a case-by-case basis to figure out the best solution to painful situations and forced a uniform solution that, as MacDonald says, puts the interests of one trans child over those of other students. I didn't have much of a strong feeling on the issue when it purported to be about bathrooms, but I feel differently about locker rooms. Maybe that is because I was one of those teen girls who felt embarrassed to undress and shower in front of other teen girls. When I went to school, the shower was one big room and there was no privacy. I don't know what the norm is now, but I do know that many schools will now be forced to spend money on private stalls if this continues to be an issue. Money that won't be spent on academic needs will go toward retrofitting showers and bathrooms because of a federal mandate, not a local school decision. It's just this sort of federal overreach that makes so many conservatives object to the federal takeover of education.

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W. James Antle puts forth the hypothesis that Trump might not be a conservative of the sort that conservative pundits or politicians like Paul Ryan want to support. He has little in common with Ronald Reagan despite his attempts to latch onto Reagan's switch from being a Democrat to a Republican to provide cover for Trump's own switch. Instead, in many ways, Antle argues, Trump is reminiscent of Nixon's appeal.
But in other ways, Trump is also a throwback to pre-Reagan Republicanism — if not Richard Nixon, then Spiro Agnew. His supporters wave signs identifying themselves as part of the "silent majority." They are pro-American but not ideological, traditionalist but not always Christian right-style social conservatives, pro-business not consistently for free markets or limited government.

Nixon didn't just go to China. He imposed wage and price controls. When William Buckley, Jr. and other conservative elites suspended their support for Nixon, it didn't stop him from winning re-nomination or re-election in a 49-state landslide.

Not a lot of government-cutting, but some hippie-punching.

"Agnew really tapped into the alienation of Middle America," former Nixon speechwriter and veteran conservative columnist Patrick Buchanan told the Washington Examiner, calling him the "Robespierre of the great silent majority."

Both Agnew and Nixon "picked up on feedback from their audiences," Buchanan added," saying it helped them identify issues like the "radicalization of campuses" that other Republicans missed, and Trump has that ability too.
It's no coincidence that Buchanan supports Trump. In many ways Patrick Buchanan's run in 1992 presaged Trump's run.

If not Nixon, then perhaps we can see Trump as simply a shape-shifter who adopts whatever positions will sell best.
"We need to stop looking at Trump as either a product of something structured or based on a more organized philosophy," Republican strategist Kevin Madden told the Examiner. "He is a political amorphous who will take whatever shape he needs to take, ungoverned by policy principles. It's a mistake to try and classify Trump by labeling his ideas because he really doesn't have any. It's probably better to instead assess it through a study of selling. He is a salesman. He sells attitude, not ideas."

Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist who has emerged as an interesting if unconventional pro-Trump polemicist during this campaign, says much the same thing. "Trump literally takes both sides of the issues whenever he can," he wrote on his website. "As a candidate, he's a human Rorschach test."

Even so, Adams connects Trump and Nixon through Norman Vincent Peale, a pastor and friend to both men's families who wrote the book The Power of Positive Thinking. There might not be much Road to Serfdom in Trump's thinking, but maybe there's more than The Art of the Deal.
Somewhere I read that Trump had spent a lot of time watching talk shows on TV and listening to talk radio to figure out what issues would appeal the most to Republicans in the primaries and then came out with just the statements the most likely to win their votes. This makes a lot of sense to me. He has a talk-radio host's bombastic appeal with only a very shallow understanding of the issues, the depth that be gained if all he knows is what he saw on the "shows." The not-so-silent majority that he's appealing to are the people he's heard calling talk shows for the past few years worried about jobs, the culture, the government, immigration, terrorism, and the deterioration of the United States. It turned out that it was more important for a candidate to have listened to those callers than to have read policy white papers or talked to experts in any field or conservative writers.

Kimberley Strassel explains how Trump's "money games" will come back to bite him. First, she reminds us that about three-fourths of the money he's spent so far come from him, but come in the form of a loan to his campaign so he expects to be paid back at some time. Now that he's said he'll accept donations, don't be surprised if those donations go first of all to pay back his personal loan. And a lot of experts guess that his wealth is not all that liquid so he doesn't have the sort of money to put into what a general election campaign costs these days.
The bigger liability of the self-funding pose was its shortsightedness. Mr. Trump has presumably long known that even bargain-basement general-election presidential campaigns these days run at least $1 billion. It was ludicrous to think he ever intended to cover such a phenomenal number—even if he could have afforded it.

....If that’s the case [that is wealth is not liquid], and yet he stuck to his self-funding line, it was sheer political malpractice. Candidates spend years building donor networks, collecting names and numbers of prospective supporters. Their national parties depend on the information to hone their databases for fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts. An essential role of primary races is identifying best-prospect voters.

Mr. Trump’s indifference to harvesting the information or dollars of his supporters is all the more extraordinary because many of them are first-time or occasional voters who wouldn’t otherwise exist in the Republican National Committee data. The other day, Mr. Trump said he thinks voter data is “overrated.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton has raised more than $213 million. Her super PAC has banked another $67 million. She started a joint campaign fund with the Democratic National Committee more than eight months ago, which has already raised $60 million. Mr. Trump is just starting, and he still hasn’t fully blessed a super PAC effort. Many major GOP donors remain on the sidelines. And it’s nine weeks to the Republican convention.

Yet Mr. Trump needs that cash, like, yesterday. The Clinton campaign is already lambasting him. One of Mitt Romney’s biggest mistakes was sitting silent early in the 2012 general election, partly for lack of money, while the Obama campaign pounded him as a craven capitalist. By the time the Romney campaign engaged in the fall, it was too late.

Mr. Trump coasted through the primaries on an estimated $2 billion in free media, but he shouldn’t count on such helpful coverage now. With a Democratic presidency at stake, reporters will feel a duty to finally start digging into his past.

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