Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cruising the Web

Oh, this is going to be just wonderful.
One of Hillary Clinton’s top priorities as president would be to use sanctions to pressure North Korea to negotiate limits on its nuclear program, according to Clinton’s top foreign policy adviser. The strategy would mimic the Obama administration’s approach to Iran.
Just dandy. Sell out to North Korea just as Obama did to Iran.
While she was secretary of state, Clinton actually opposed several of the sanctions that Congress passed to increase pressure on Iran, including the sanctions on Iran’s central bank, which are widely credited with crippling Iran’s economy. Clinton actively supported United Nations sanctions against Iran at that time. She often takes credit on the campaign trail for building the sanctions regime that eventually brought Iran to the table.

Clinton and Sullivan [her chief foreign policy adviser] are skeptical that North Korea will ever give up its nuclear weapons program completely. North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests since 2006. The regime is amassing nuclear weapons material and could have enough for 79 nuclear bombs by 2020, according to leading nuclear experts. The Iran deal that Sullivan helped negotiate has been criticized for leaving a significant portion of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact.

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If you've been upset to learn that Beyoncé’s clothing line is being produced in sweatshops in Sri Lanka, just remember that working in a sweat shop there is better than the alternatives available to most Sri Lankans.
The VICE piece ... is based on The Sun’s exposé claiming that workers at the singer’s new apparel company are nothing but “slaves” who earn 64 cents per hour so that Beyoncé’s can buy another yacht. One sewing machine operator says she is unable to survive on the basic wage of 18,500 rupees a month ($126). A seamstress makes $6.23 a day.

It’s a shame that people are still forced to live on such a pittance. Hopefully, with advances in technology and the opening of world markets, their suffering will continue to be mitigated. But until Sri Lanka reaches First World status, it’s important to put Ivy Park and countless other companies like it into proper context.

Until Sri Lanka reaches First World status, it’s important to put Ivy Park and countless other companies like it into proper context.
A gross monthly average income of a Sri Lankan is around 8839 rupees. So the operator, though not living on Jay Z levels of subsistence, is faring better than most of her neighbors. For thousands of her fellow laborers, a Beyoncé job offers a higher salary than the one they’d have to live with if she weren’t ridiculously famous.

This has generally been the case when it comes to “sweatshops” around the world. You may not be old enough to remember the 1996 teary-eyed apology Kathie Lee Gifford offered the nation after lending her name to a Wal-Mart clothing line produced in Honduran sweatshops that also employed underage workers. At the time, the average apparel worker earned $13 per day in the Central American nation, while 44 percent of the population was surviving on less than two dollar a day. Yet, after being confronted, Gifford atoned for her sins by promising to warn America about the misery of foreign factory work.

Here at home, the political angle — including the attack on Gifford, Michael Jordan, and others — was driven by labor unions and their front groups. Soon enough, lazy politicians began advocating for laws that would bar Americans from doing business with countries that allowed sweatshops and child labor. Sure. Because if you stop these companies those poor Central American kids will just return to their idyllic lives in the countryside or head off to one of the top-notch educational institutions in their country.

In 2001, Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman Paul Krugman, whose written some of the most effective defenses of so-called sweatshops — “bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all” — explained why these efforts were insanity
In 1993, child workers in Bangladesh were found to be producing clothing for Wal-Mart, and Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from countries employing underage workers. The direct result was that Bangladeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according to Oxfam, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even worse jobs, or on the streets — and that a significant number were forced into prostitution.

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Jim Geraghty got some quick action. He wrote yesterday morning that we're still waiting for Donald Trump to release the list of proposed Supreme Court nominees that he previously promised to release. And Trump seemingly responded by releasing his list of possible nominees. The response from most conservatives has been generally positive, though there is concern that Trump left himself some hedge room by saying that his nominee would "most likely" come from this list. Dan McLaughlin points out that, while pulling his list from a Heritage Foundation list and suggestions from Hugh Hewitt who has been urging Trump to release such a list, Trump also found ways to build bridges to certain prominent conservatives.
Second, it’s interesting to consider who the people on the list are connected to. Willett was appointed by Rick Perry, who has come out in support of Trump after fiercely resisting him throughout the primaries. Eleventh Circuit judge Bill Pryor is an ally of Jeff Sessions, one of Trump’s few vocal supporters in the Senate, and was (like Sessions himself in an earlier era) the subject of a high-profile confirmation battle under George W. Bush. But it also includes Utah supreme court judge Thomas Lee, the brother of conservative senator and Ted Cruz ally Mike Lee, as well as Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Sykes, the ex-wife of Wisconsin talk-radio host and prominent “Never Trump” figure Charlie Sykes. (Judge Sykes was frequently mentioned on the short lists for the Supreme Court vacancies ultimately filled by John Roberts and Samuel Alito). The presence of Lee and Sykes on the list suggests that whoever wrote it up was either trolling or trying some fairly targeted pandering.

What I'm still awaiting is for Donald Trump to understand what the Supreme Court does.
Second, he gives little indication he’s spent more than a few minutes thinking about who would make a good pick for the Court, or about the role of the judiciary in our government. In late March, he suggested that one of his key criteria for a nominee would be how harshly they viewed Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal:

“I’d probably appoint people that would look very seriously at her e-mail disaster, because it’s a criminal activity, and I would appoint people that would look very seriously at that to start off with,” Trump said in a phone interview with ABC’s Good Morning America. “What she’s getting away with is absolutely murder. You talk about a case — now that’s a real case.”

But the Supreme Court rarely makes direct determinations of guilt or innocence in criminal matters; it considers whether a law or government action violates the Constitution. In other words, if the Department of Justice decides to prosecute Clinton for breaking U.S. laws in her handling of classified material, the case will be heard in a criminal court, not the high court. Trump appears not to understand the basic structure of our legal system — something most of us learned as kids, watching Schoolhouse Rock — and that should be worrisome to anyone who cares about America’s future.
Remember during the debate when Trump talked about judges signing bills when he defended his sister's liberalism on the bench.
“Excuse me, she’s a brilliant judge. He’s been criticizing — he’s been criticizing my sister for signing a certain bill,” Trump said. “You know who else signed that bill? Justice Samuel Alito, a very conservative member of the Supreme Court, with my sister, signed that bill. So I think that maybe we should get a little bit of an apology from Ted. What do you think?”
I might not be surprised if one of my tenth-grade students said something like that, but from a presidential candidate? Oh, lordy. We can just hope that he'll learn to keep his mouth shut on judicial matters and continue to take advice from Heritage.

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Of course, our present president, a former teacher of constitutional law, continues to mislead or outright lie about the Supreme Court. Carrie Severino at National Review has compiled a list of "13 falsehoods about the Supreme Court" from Obama's interview to BuzzFeed. He is lying about precedents for not approving a Supreme Court nominee and how long previous nominees have had to wait. And he is simply lying when he says that the Constitution requires the Senate to hold a hearing and vote on his nominee.
Moreover, Obama has never repudiated the Biden Rule, the Schumer Rule, or even his own efforts to deprive Justice Samuel Alito of a confirmation vote. His concern with future Republican presidents being caught in a “tit for tat” is a bunch of filibusters-for-thee-but-not-for-me malarkey, since he helped create the oppositional norm that he is now complaining about.
And Obama just makes stuff up and figures no one will call him on it. The media probably will let him a free pass and it doesn't really matter because the impression is left from Obama's lies and the truth doesn't have time to get its boots on.
President Obama also claimed that Garland has “more experience on the federal bench than many of the folks who are currently on the Supreme Court.” That’s only true if by “many” you mean “two” (John Roberts and Elena Kagan, since all of the others were appointed to the federal bench before Garland) and you ignore that it was Senator Joe Biden himself who is responsible for Roberts’s late arrival to the bench. Remember that he killed Roberts’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit in 1992 without holding a hearing or vote on the nominations of Roberts and 31 others.
And then Obama totally ignores the reality of what his party does and what they continue to do.
Pretended to Rise Above Fellow Democrats: In professor mode, President Obama tells the reporter that we shouldn’t “start thinking about the courts in terms of ‘How will they come out on this particular case?’”, but both of the Democratic presidential contenders have promised to appoint justices who will overrule Citizens United.

Doesn’t Mean A Thing He Says, Part I: On the one hand, President Obama said that he was “looking for a judge who will play it straight,” but then seconds later took it all back, saying that he is looking for someone who is “not just always going to be looking out for the most powerful in society, but they are going to be thinking about ordinary people and how the law’s impacting them in a practical way.” And later he flopped back once more, saying that justice “doesn’t favor one group or another.”

Doesn’t Mean A Thing He Says, Part II: Late in the interview, President Obama claimed that the way to preserve the American rule of law is actually about making sure that nomination disputes should “minimize the politics[.]” In almost the same breath, he called on people to “put pressure on your senators, to say, ‘do your job.’” Which is it, counselor?
And don't Democrats all have a litmus test that a judge must support abortion rights? They are as likely to have predetermined positions they will demand for prospective nominees as conservatives are. But for Obama, everything is "Do as I say and not as I do."

Donald Trump also has a "Do as I say and not as I do set of principles," USA Today has analyzed Trump's financial disclosure forms to find that he has invested in many of the same businesses that he bashes from the campaign trail. I guess that falls in the same category as hiring foreign workers at his Florida club in place of American citizens who would have liked those same jobs.

USA Today also notes
some potential landmines in Trump's financial history.
While Donald J. Trump refuses to release his federal tax returns, saying his tax rate is “none of your business,” a USA TODAY analysis found Trump’s businesses have been involved in at least 100 lawsuits and other disputes related to unpaid taxes or how much tax his businesses owe.

Trump’s companies have been engaged in battles over taxes almost every year from the late 1980s until as recently as March, the analysis of court cases, property records, and other documents across the country shows. At least five Trump companies were issued warrants totaling more than $13,000 for late or unpaid taxes in New York state just since Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015, according to state records. This spring, as Trump flew to campaign rallies around the country aboard his trademark private jet, the state of New York filed a tax warrant to try to collect $8,578 in unpaid taxes from the Trump-owned company that owns the Boeing 757. The company has since paid that tax bill.

As recently as last week, Trump said he was “willing to pay more” taxes personally and that “taxes for the rich will go up somewhat” if he becomes president. But the lawsuits and other tax-related disputes show a different reality for his businesses. They illustrate a pattern of systematically disputing tax bills, arguing for lower property assessments, and in some cases not paying taxes until the government takes additional action. At least three dozen times, Trump companies’ unpaid tax bills have forced the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to go to local courts to get liens against his properties to try to collect overdue bills. New Jersey also had to go to court for a lien to collect a Trump company’s unpaid tax bill. Eventually, those disputes were resolved, and his companies paid some amount of taxes....

USA TODAY’s examination of Trump’s track record as a business taxpayer found not just court actions, but dozens of additional tax disputes with local authorities that didn’t reach the courthouse in states including New York, Nevada, Florida and New Jersey. In some cases, Trump’s businesses have disputed tax assessments; in others, they have simply not paid the tax bill until after the government took additional action.
Think about how these lawsuits will continue to pester him throughout the campaign and if he were to be elected. We'd have the ludicrous situation of a sitting president being prosecuted by the IRS and state tax authorities for nonpayment of his taxes. USA Today's discussion of the many tax problems from Trump's businesses is very detailed and quite long. No wonder he doesn't want to release those tax records. And Republicans should be very wary about nominating him with all this out there.

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Noah Rothman notes the double standard among the media when it comes to talking about a candidate's divisiveness.
These Republicans have watched the President of the United States refer to them as “crazies,” the “enemies” of Latino voters, and skinflints who would rather “tank the entire economy” than see the uninsured receive health care. This is a president whose senior advisors have compared congressional Republicans to suicide bombers, arsonists, and hostage takers. This is a party led in the U.S. Senate by a lawmaker who called private citizens with whom he disagreed “un-American” from the floor of the upper chamber of Congress. This is a party led in the House by a figure who insisted that racism among her Republican colleagues is all that stands in the way of a consensus solution to the issue of illegal immigration. Meanwhile, even obscure Republicans who make ill-advisedly controversial observations about abortion rights, Medicaid benefits, or the president’s daughter’s style of dress at public events are pilloried and often forced to resign after they become the subject of national media attention. (Many links in the original)

Katherine Timpf laughs at California State University students who have set up a safe space to help them recover from a speech that very few of them actually heard.
I mean, really, kids? You’re suffering “immense hurt and trauma” and dealing with “emotional, mental, and physical effects” from a speech that happened sort of near you three months ago that you didn’t even attend? You need “healing” from that?

Oh boy. I’ve got to say, good luck. If you are suffering from “trauma” from that, then there is no way you are going to handle the real world.

Now, the event description also claims that students were “shoved” and “abused” because of the speech. But according to Lutz, there’s a real kicker on that one, too: The students who were doing the shoving were the protesters to the Shapiro event, not the people who came to hear him speak.

Do liberals ever think about the consequences of their actions? Yesterday's overtime rule that the Obama administration unilaterally imposed is going to hurt the very people that they purport to want to help. Paul Ryan is absolutely correct in his characterization of the results of that action.
n a statement, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called the overtime rule an "absolute disaster" for the economy.

“This regulation hurts the very people it alleges to help,” he said. “Who is hurt most? Students, nonprofit employees, and people starting a new career. By mandating overtime pay at a much higher salary threshold, many small businesses and nonprofits will be unable to afford skilled workers and be forced to eliminate salaried positions, complete with benefits, altogether.”
Add in all the people that the Democrats want to bring in by expanding legalization of immigrants who came here illegally. Add in all the regulations from Obamacare that create incentives for businesses to have fewer than 50 workers. Add in the efforts throughout the country endorsed by both Hillary and Bernie to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The cumulative effect of all these policies will be to make it more difficult for workers to find jobs.

The WSJ explains why these overtime rules are really a "chimera."
The White House says the higher threshold will quintuple the share of salaried workers who qualify for overtime to 35%, but few will likely see a raise. Most small businesses don’t have piles of cash lying around, so they will redistribute the money they have available for employee salaries. The National Federation of Independent Business notes that the Labor Department’s analysis even forecasts that the average pay rate of a newly covered salaried worker will decline by about 5.3% in 2017.

Some employers will bump up the salaries of workers who earn just below the threshold to avoid the mandate. But in return these workers may receive fewer benefits and bonuses, only 10% of which count toward the threshold.

A National Retail Federation study estimates that the rule will cause employers to shift about a third of salaried retail and restaurant workers to hourly status. One in 10 salaried employees—including many managers—will see their hours reduced. Some employers will hire more temps and part-time workers. And Democrats complain about the uncertainty of the “gig” economy?

Vice President Joe Biden all but conceded this point this week by suggesting that workers would benefit if their hours are scaled back since they would have more time with family. The Obama Administration used a similar argument to defend the ObamaCare means-tested subsidies. Most salaried workers would prefer the extra pay, thank you very much. The irony is that salaried workers will enjoy less personal flexibility once they have to record their hours, and those who become hourly wage hands will receive even less.

Meantime, businesses will have to divert money from wages or investment to redesign their compensation plans, implement timekeeping systems and educate workers on how to track their hours. Many local governments and nonprofits opposed the rule because of these costs....

Expect Democrats to run on their “middle-class raise” this fall while bludgeoning Republicans who oppose the overtime rule. You can bet labor unions will also amplify their campaign for a $15 minimum wage. But if President Obama could mandate a wage increase, voters should ask why they’ve had to wait seven years for one.
But what does reality matter when politicians can demagogue about the chimerical benefits they've produced?

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In honor of the NBA draft lottery, you can revisit the Sports Illustrated story about the initial 1985 NBA draft lottery that sent Patrick Ewing to the Knicks. It's still controversial.