Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cruising the Web

So the person who bragged that her the enemies she was most proud of were Republicans, now says that she is sick of there being a "Republican and a Democratic team." She can't even be consistent with her pretense at bipartisanship in a single speech.
Appearing to channel Barack Obama’s famed 2004 address about the U.S. not being a nation of “red states and blue states,” she said if something was a good idea, then that made it an American idea.

“Because if it’s a good idea, then by definition, it is an American idea,” she said. “We ought to roll up our sleeves and make sure it works and I’ll tell you, I’m tired of people being on the Republican team or the Democratic team or the red team or the blue team. Let’s be on the American team.”

This came almost thirty minutes after Clinton slammed a protestor for using Republican “propaganda.” She told the protestor that she was entitled to her own opinions, but not her own facts.

She also said earlier in the speech that the 2008 recession was George W. Bush’s responsibility, and it was then handed off to the Obama administration. Clinton has previously compared Republicans to terrorists over women’s rights and said they are “attacking every right we’ve got.”
A better politician would be able to stick to a theme for the space of one campaign appearance.

Kurt Schlichter imagines what will go through FBI Director James Comey's mind as he ponders what to do about his department's investigation of Hillary Clinton. Steve Bolillo refers to it as "Comey's Kobayashi Maru test."

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Gene Healy writes at Cato
about one of the less-discussed aspects of President Obama's legacy.
But the most transformational aspect of his presidency is something liberals never hoped for: as president, Barack Obama’s most far-reaching achievement has been to strip out any remaining legal limits on the president’s power to wage war.

Obama’s predecessor insisted that he didn’t need approval from Congress to launch a war; yet in the two major wars he fought, George W. Bush secured congressional authorization anyway. By the time Obama hit the dais at Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, our 44th president had already launched more drone strikes than “43” carried out during two full terms. Since then, he’s launched two undeclared wars, and—as Obama bragged in a speech last year defending the Iran deal—bombed no fewer than seven countries.

In 2011, what officials called “kinetic military action” in Libya completed the evisceration of the War Powers Resolution by successfully advancing the theory that if the U.S. bombs a country that can’t hit back, we’re not engaged in “hostilities” against them. In the drone campaign and the current war with ISIS, Obama has turned a 14-year-old congressional resolution targeting al-Qaeda and the Taliban into a blank check for endless war, anywhere in the world. Last year, the army chief of staff affirmed that finishing the fight against ISIS will take another “10 to 20 years.”

Jeff Greenfield explains why no one should want to be the vice presidential nominee for either Trump or Clinton.
Imagine yourself as Trump’s vice president. What are your chances of serving as a trusted, respected adviser on politics and policy? Look at the last president who had something like the mixture of massive self-regard and massive insecurity that defines Trump—Lyndon Baines Johnson. Having lived through the hell of being a scorned and shunned vice-president under John Kennedy—“I hated every minute of it,” he later said—he treated his own second, Hubert Humphrey, with equal contempt.

“You are his choice in a political marriage, and he expects your absolute loyalty,” Humphrey later said, but even that was not enough. In 1965, when Humphrey offered Johnson carefully modulated advice about the political costs of escalating the war in Vietnam, he was banished from the inner circle for a full year. And in 1968, Johnson made clear his contempt for his would-be successor (“Hubert squats when he pees,” he said).

Trump’s contempt for rivals, critics and even allies makes LBJ’s bullying look like something out of Mr. Rogers. The video of him curtly ordering endorser Chris Christie to “get on the plane and go home” ought to be fair warning that a vice president under Trump should not expect anything better. Moreover, the idea of loyally supporting a Trump agenda poses a special challenge: That agenda is likely to be amended or abandoned on a moment’s notice. A prospective running mate, asked to declare himself or herself on Trump’s abortion, tax, health care or foreign policy positions, might be tempted to answer: “Which ones?” As for as being “the last voice” offering guidance, Trump has already told us what voice that will be.
Yeah, I can't see how anyone would think that being Trump's running mate would be either a good career move or an enjoyable experience. And, as Greenfield argues, it wouldn't be that much better to be Hillary's running mate.
The challenge is different for a prospective Clinton running mate—and one that no past veep has ever faced. Yes, past vice presidents have found themselves in a battle for the ear of POTUS with key White House aides and Cabinet members. But they’ve never had the challenge of competing with a presidential spouse who also happens to be a former two-term president. Indeed, in many ways, Bill Clinton would be a near-perfect choice to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate. His political skills are unmatched; he knows the dangers that confront any White House as no one else possibly can; he’s even got a track record of working with an opposition Congress—something that neither of his successors can match.
I can certainly see Bill enjoying his role as First Spouse and he would make sure that his voice was always the last one that his wife heard on any issue. She's already promising to put him in charge of revitalizing the economy. Though I bet Hillary would get sick of his patronizing her by reminding her of how much more experience and political talent he has compared to her. It rather seems a sign of weakness that she has to woo voters by telling them that Bill will be in charge of the economy. Most candidates for the presidency don't campaign promising that someone else, particularly a spouse, is going to be the one responsible for one of the most important issues for a president. I know that Bill put Hillary in charge of health care, but how did that work out for them?

Charles C. W. Cooke points out that Hillary has to deal the Bill card since her poll numbers on the economy aren't great.

I wonder how Barack Obama enjoys hearing Clinton and Sanders campaigning on how awful the economy is while he's been bragging about how his leadership has put the economy into recovery.

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Ross Douthat poses an interesting question.
I like how the left-wing gadfly Fredrik deBoer framed this issue: “What do you owe to people who are guilty of being wrong?” It’s a question for liberals all across the Western world to ponder, given the widening gulf between their increasingly cosmopolitan parties and an increasingly right-leaning native working class.

But as a conservative, I would add another question: What happens if the bigoted sometimes get things right?
It's an intriguing way of framing his thoughts. We tend to think that, if a person holds one position that we find morally objectionable, there should be nothing that this person could say that we could ever accept. But, as Douthat argues, perhaps this isn't so.
For decades following the 1960s, liberals insisted that the Republican Party’s tough-on-crime rhetoric wasn’t really about crime at all; it was a barely coded appeal to racists, a transference of white supremacist politics from “segregation now, segregation forever” to paranoia about Willie Horton.

Tough-on-crime rhetoric did indeed play on racial fears; lots of white bigots did vote for law-and-order Republicans. But the rhetoric also played on fears of the actual immense crime wave sweeping the United States, a wave that liberal governance failed miserably to arrest or roll back. And for a long time, elite opinion was so determined not to give white bigots any aid and comfort, so determined not to take racists’ side in any way, that it ignored or minimized the actual policy problem, the actual crisis at its door....

Likewise with European anxieties about mass immigration, which for decades the major political parties of Europe labored to confine to the political fringe. After all, their thinking went, since the ranks of immigration skeptics included many racists and Islamophobes and crypto-fascists, the fringe is where those ideas belonged.

Unfortunately, some of the anxieties of the nativists proved more prescient than the blithe assumptions of the elite. Mass immigration is now destabilizing Europe’s liberal order, forging Islamist fifth columns and empowering the very nationalism that open-door cosmopolitanism thought it could safely marginalize and ignore.

Ilya Somin marvels at how much of today's politics is based on things that are just not true.
Trump's claim that nations such as China, Mexico and Japan are "killing us on trade" because we have trade deficits with them also relies on ignorance. As economists across the political spectrum recognize, free trade benefits the economy, and a bilateral trade deficit between two nations is no more an indicator of economic failure than is my trade deficit with my local supermarket. Unfortunately, studies show that trade is one of the areas where there is the greatest gap between general public opinion and informed opinion.

Trump is far from the only candidate to exploit ignorance this year, merely the most successful. Bernie Sanders, the "democratic socialist" who has mounted an unexpectedly strong challenge for the Democratic nomination, shares some of Trump's demagoguery on trade.

Like Trump, Sanders has also put forward budget projections that most experts, even in his own party, regard as fantastical. Surveys consistently show that most Americans greatly underestimate the percentage of federal spending devoted to big entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, which are among the largest areas of federal spending. As a result, many voters accept Trump and Sanders' claims that we can not only deal with our serious fiscal problems without reforming them, but also pile on enormous spending increases (Sanders) or tax cuts (Trump). A survey of Sanders supporters by Vox found that the vast majority are unwilling to pay more than a fraction of the tax increases that even Sanders' own projections say would be required to fund the new health care and education programs he proposes. Most likely do not realize the true cost.
Somin argues that people feel that they don't have any real need to learn about public policy since their vote counts for so little. His solution is to move decisions back to the level of government closest to the people as well as removing more issues from government's purview.
There is no easy solution to the problem of political ignorance. But we can at least mitigate it by limiting and decentralizing government. If you are like most people, you probably spend more time considering information when you decide what smartphone to buy than when you decide who to support for president. Similarly, people are far more discerning when they "vote with their feet" to decide what state or local government to live under than when they vote at the ballot box. That is because they realize that individual foot voting decisions are actually likely to make a difference, whereas individual ballots are not.

Devolving more issues to the private sector or to the state and local level can enable us to make more of our decisions in a setting where we have strong incentives to be well-informed. Although it is easy to think otherwise in the year of Trump, most of the public is not stupid. They just need better incentives to make smart choices.
Hear, hear.

David French explains all the reasons why today's Supreme Court decision to send the Little Sisters of the Poor case back to the lower courts was really a defeat for the administration and a victory for the Catholic charity.
First, the Supreme Court vacated the lower court ruling holding that the Little Sisters had to facilitate access to contraceptives and denied that the mandate substantially burdened their religion. Speaking as a person who’s argued a few cases in courts of appeal — when the court vacates the ruling you’re challenging, that’s a win.

Second, the Supreme Court provided a roadmap for an excellent resolution to the case — by outlining the accommodation it suggested, the Little Sisters endorsed, and the government reluctantly agreed to....

the Court suggested an accommodation that was far more respectful of the Little Sisters’ religious liberty than the challenged Obamacare regulations, and the government will now have extreme difficulty credibly arguing in lower courts that the Supreme Court’s own suggested compromise should be set aside.

Third, this ruling was unanimous. That means the DOJ should be far from confident that it can simply wait out the new presidential election and pursue its original claims with the same hope for success — especially if it spent the intervening years rejecting a compromise that it already seemed to accept.

Fourth, we can’t forget the context. This the second time a unanimous Supreme Court has turned back the Obama administration’s regulatory efforts to restrict religious freedom (Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC was the first), and it represents yet another setback for the administration’s contraception/abortifacient mandate. The Obama administration has pushed hard against religious liberty — on occasion too hard even for the Supreme Court’s more liberal justices.
The media have portrayed this as the Supreme Court punting the decision, but as French explains, this is actually a better decision than if, as many expected, had decided the decision in a 4-4 tie that would have let the appellate court decision against the Little Sisters stand.

Matt Bowman, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case, thinks that the result of the Supreme Court's decision in Zubik v. Burwell was to call the Obama administration's bluff.
Years of litigation over the Obamacare mandate for coverage of early abortion pills, birth control and sterilization, culminated in seven cases under the title Zubik v. Burwell. All that time, religious organizations like Christian colleges and nuns told the courts that the government could achieve its goals another way, without forcing them to violate their faith.

The government already provides birth control to low income women through a dozen statutes including Medicaid and Title X. Obamacare's insurance exchanges now offer plans covering these same items to people whose employers may have stopped offering health insurance.

Meanwhile, the government allows some major corporations not to comply with the birth control mandate at all, leaving millions of women without it, and the government gives those women no assistance. And after changing its rules multiple times, the government fully exempted church-related organizations and some schools from this mandate.
But somehow the administration figured that they could select certain organizations such as Catholic colleges and charities and consider them less religious than churches and therefore must violate their own religious principles to offer coverage of contraceptives. After the Supreme Court asked each side to submit briefs on whether or not the government could achieve the goal without the involvement of the colleges and charities. And the government had to answer "yes." There went their whole argument. All they had left was their preference for using force.
In the Supreme Court's new unanimous ruling it took the government at its word. If it can deliver the coverage without forcing the religious groups to execute documents ensuring the coverage's delivery, then it should do that.

Significantly, the court insisted that "the government may not impose taxes or penalties on petitioners for failure to provide the relevant notice." This order eliminates the teeth attached to the Obama administration's faux "accommodation" process, which still subjected religious groups to massive fines unless they cooperated in helping provide coverage to which they have a religious objection.

The court then "vacated" seven different lower court rulings which had gone in the government's favor. This wipes the slate clean of most precedential cases that the government was using against religious organizations.
We now have a precedent for such cases. Contrary to what the administration had argued, that only a government mandate could achieve their goal, there were other ways that the goal could be achieved without violating the religious organizations' convictions.

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I've been thinking that the Obama administration's order to schools to allow transgender students to choose the bathroom and locker rooms that they feel most comfortable in was just a form of trolling. It was a great way to get people all riled up and portray conservatives as hidebound bigots. And it distracts from other stories. Andrew Malcolm has the same view.
President Obama’s communications strategists found a perfect tool to distract the public in recent days: Bathrooms. And who can use which ones.

It involves everyone. It’s contentious. It’s emotional. So the media laps it up. And as his manipulators know full well, the controversy invites countless other public figures to weigh-in and feed the flames, news cycle after news cycle....

Obama would also like to distract you from the slipping new-job creation rates. Obama Care and its artificial state exchanges are crumbling beneath the weight of their own costs and disincentives. A federal judge last week ruled against a crucial part of that program.

Disturbing reports of the military’s poor readiness mount, including planes being cannibalized for parts to keep half the jets flying. Obama’s sanctions against Russia have failed to change any of its behaviors in Ukraine, Crimea, Syria or the high seas. Another Special Ops member was killed in Iraq where, according to Obama, there are no U.S. boots on the ground, and anyway, they’re not in combat. ISIS has lost territory but none of its deadly car-bomb punch in urban Iraq. And the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, admits those JV ISIS guys will not be curtailed under this president.
It's the Obama equivalent of what Trump does to play the media and make them talk about what he wants them to instead of focusing on his policy ignorance. So look for more of these social justice brouhahas to keep distracting us from other news.

Things are still rotten over at the VA. In fact, they may be worse.
Congress and the VA came up with a fix: Veterans Choice, a $10 billion program that was supposed to give veterans a card that would let them see a non-VA doctor if they were more than 40 miles away from a VA facility or they were going to have to wait longer than 30 days for a VA provider to see them.

There was a problem, though. Congress gave the VA only 90 days to set up the system. Facing that extremely tight time frame, the VA turned to two private companies to administer the program and help veterans get an appointment with a doctor and then work with the VA to pay that doctor.

Although the idea sounds simple enough, the fix hasn't worked out as planned. Wait times have gotten worse — not better. There are 70,000 more vets waiting at least a month for an appointment than there were at this time last year.

The VA claims there has been a massive increase in demand for care, but it's apparent the problem has more to do with the way Veterans Choice was set up. The program is confusing and complicated. Vets don't understand it, doctors don't understand it and even VA administrators admit they can't always figure it out....

Hospitals, clinics and doctors across the country have complained about not getting paid, or only paid very slowly. Some have just stopped taking Veterans Choice patients altogether, and Montana's largest health care network, Billings Clinic, doesn't accept any VA Choice patients.

Not cool, says Sen. Tester of Health Net and other contractors.

"The payment to the providers is just laziness," he says. "I'm telling you, it's just flat laziness. These folks turn in their bills, and if they're not paid in a timely manner, that's a business model that'll cause you to go broke pretty quick."

The VA now admits the rushed time frame led to decisions that resulted in a nightmare for some patients.
But progressives' first choice of solution to any policy problem is to pile on more layers of bureaucracy. Because that has worked so well.

Ah, the delicious irony - Bernie Sanders' wife helped drive Burlington College, where she was the college president, into such bad debt that it has had to close.
At the end of 2010, Ms. Sanders took out $10 million in loans on behalf of Burlington College to purchase a 32-acre swathe of land from the Roman Catholic diocese, which put the land up for sale to help cover the costs of a $17 million sexual-abuse settlement.

As Heat Street reported last month, the college almost immediately fell short on its financial obligations as fundraising pledges and commitments Ms. Sanders cited in the loan agreements never materialized.

Less than a year after leading Burlington College into massive debt, Ms. Sanders resigned, taking with her a $200,000 severance package. By 2014, because of its shaky finances and running deficits, Burlington College found itself placed on probation for two years by the regional accreditation agency.

A Burlington College news release issued this morning called these financial hurdles “insurmountable at this time.”

“We anticipate notice from [the regional accreditation agency] that we have not met the Commission’s financial standard,” the news release said, “and, therefore, our accreditation will be lifted as of January 2017, and the College will not be able to award academic credit after this time.”

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Great minds think alike. Bill Simmons has about the same choice for presidential ticket that I had. He wants a Belichick-Popovich ticket. I wanted Popovich at the top of the ticket and Belichick for press secretary. But I'd be happy to vote for the Belichick-Popovich ticket. The press conferences would be prime time entertainment. The haters would have to leave the country for real this time.

So StubHub has purchased the first ads on NBA jerseys
and the team they chose is...the 76ers. Is there any other NBA team that people want to buy tickets to see less than the 76ers? And if people did, would having a small little stuck-on piece of fabric saying StubHub be all that much of an advertisement? All they are getting is this moment of announcement in the midst of the NBA conference finals when no one is thinking about the 76ers except to wonder how many lottery picks they can get and whether or not that can save them from the abysmal past performances of recent years.