Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cruising the Web

Jim Geraghty looks beyond Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald's insensitive remarks on how the VA doesn't look to wait times any more than Disneyland does. There all sorts of other reasons to want to fire McDonald. They're falsifying wait time reports. They're not implementing reforms that the prior VA Secretary had instituted. They went $1.1 billion over the estimates for building a new VA hospital in Colorado. It used to be that the post office or the DMV were used as models of government incompetence. Now, it will be the VA, but it's no joke - people are literally dying because of the VA's structural incompetence and dishonesty.

We can also add in the TSA as a bureaucratic agency that will not inspire confidence in government.
What does it take to get fired from the top ranks of the Transportation Security Agency?

It's hard to tell — because it happens so infrequently.

The agency, under fire for long lines at airport checkpoints, security miscues, high turnover rates, retaliation against whistle blowers and lack of accountability for senior staff, has terminated one executive in the past five years, according to data provided to NBC News by the federal Office of Personnel Management.

By comparison, 6,889 employees who worked under those executives were fired during that time.

That discrepancy became particularly relevant this week, after TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger announced that he had reassigned the agency's head of security, Kelly Hoggan.

Hoggan had become a public face for the security lines crisis — and for deeper problems in the agency. The House Oversight Committee last month questioned a $90,000 bonus he received in small, hard-to-track payments even as he oversaw what the panel called "significant security vulnerabilities."

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Megan McArdle argues
that the biggest reason we should fear a Trump presidency is not that he could become a dictator, but because he could be corrupt and dangerously incompetent.
So the question is not just whether Trump wants to be a dictator, but what the other branches of government will do if he tries to actually become one. I don’t just mean Congress and the courts; I mean “will the bureaucrats of the civil service follow his orders, and will the people with guns agree to go out and arrest his enemies?”

There’s clearly a portion of the electorate that thrills to the more authoritarian and violent parts of his message, and presumably some of those folks are in the military and the civil service. But I’m still fairly confident that the FBI is not, say, going to start tapping journalists’ phones to find out if they’re making fun of President Trump’s comb-over, or disappearing the ones who do.

I worry more about Silvio Berlusconi-style corruption and abuse of regulatory agencies, an impulsive foreign policy that could lead us into open conflict with a nuclear-armed power, and executive-power overreach. I also worry about simple incompetence, given how uninterested Trump seems to be in policy. All-out dictatorship is pretty low on the list, because American institutions do not seem weak enough to allow it.
And, of course, we've seen some dangerous incompetence from other administrations, like the present one. I wouldn't fear Trump making such a dangerous deal with Iran as Obama has done.

As Obama presses forward with his plans to close Gitmo and bases his argument on the idea that it serves as a recruiting tool for terrorists. This is what one Navy commander says about that.
Commander Kirk Lippold, retired from the U.S. Navy, testified in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday, insisting that Guantanamo Bay remain open for business.

“Keeping Guantanamo open is more important now than ever,” Lippold warned....

Gitmo, he argued, has not led to recruiting “anymore than movies caused the Benghazi attacks.”

And speaking of corruption, the Clinton Foundation seems to be an endless source of political sleaze.
A little known Swedish-Canadian oil and mining conglomerate human rights groups have repeatedly charged produces “blood minerals” is among the Clinton Foundation’s biggest donors, thanks to a $100 million pledge in 2007, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation has found.

“Blood minerals” are related to “blood diamonds,” which are allegedly mined in war zones or sold as commodities to help finance political insurgencies or despotic warlords.

When the Vancouver, Canada-based Lundin Group gave its $100 million commitment to the “Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative,” the company had long been cutting deals with warlords, Marxist rebels, military strongmen and dictatorships in the war-torn African countries of Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Even CBS is calling Hillary out for her hypocrisy about refusing a debate with Bernie before the California primary contrary to her criticism of Obama for refusing debates.

Ah, those Clintons. When Bill was running for reelection in 1996, he poll-tested where he should go for vacation. Now we learn that, as Ashe Schow writes, even Hillary's pandering is poll-tested.
Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is a world-class pander bear. While she claimed in a tweet on Monday that she “will not pander to the gun lobby,” she has been very obviously pandering to minorities, the Occupiers, college students, the military and veterans, coal workers (only in West Virginia) and, of course, women.

Throughout her campaign—and career, really—Ms. Clinton has repeatedly reminded people that she is a woman. It has become increasingly worse during her 2016 presidential campaign, to the point where I challenged her to give one speech where she didn’t mention it or pander. She didn’t get the memo, but it didn’t matter, women already weren’t buying her stock as much as she thought they would.

But a funny thing happened recently. Ms. Clinton has toned down her rhetoric about being the “youngest woman president” or the “first woman president.” We, the listeners, are certainly thankful—it was tiresome to hear a presidential candidate who thought we were so stupid we couldn’t remember she was a woman and that no women had ever been president.

The reason for the recent change is that Ms. Clinton can’t and won’t do anything without poll-testing the message first. And in this case, pandering wasn’t popular.

The Associated Press tried to frame Ms. Clinton’s focus on gender issues as Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump. “Trump’s eagerness to make gender a major issue has complicated the delicate balancing act she already faces as the first woman to head a major party ticket,” wrote AP’s Lisa Lerer and Catherine Lucey.

Give me a break. Ms. Clinton’s strategy all along was to focus on her gender. An aide admitted as much back in February 2015, months before Mr. Trump announced his candidacy. To blame Ms. Clinton’s focus on anything other than her own self-interest is dishonest.

The only reason Ms. Clinton has stopped the constant focus is because donors (and voters) were sick of hearing it. And this wasn’t a focus group put together by an independent company—no, it was done by Emily’s List, a group that loves Democratic women so much they spent millions of dollars primary-ing a powerful and popular Democrat just because he’s a man. And even they found that the message was tiresome.

“De-emphasize the ‘first’ talk,” the Emily’s List report found. “[Donors] already know she’d be the first woman president,” the report said, “but we don’t get anything by reminding them.”(See original for links)

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So why has there been a spike in handguns sales and people taking firearms courses?
While not as heavily reported in time past, women are becoming major players in the gun industry and ownership. Contrary to popular belief, women are not stalwarts of gun control politics–they want to protect themselves as any other American. That’s why across the country record numbers of women are lining up to obtain their gun permits. In fact, since 2007, there has been a 270 percent increase in women having concealed carry permits. So, the truth of the matter is that women have always been around guns; it was that no one was catering to their needs, especially when it comes to concealing their firearms. (links in original)
So it's time to ask gun control advocates why they want to prevent women from being able to protect themselves.

Thomas Sowell ridicules
some of the common themes of commencement addresses.
Two themes seem to dominate Commencement speeches. One is shameless self-advertising by people in government, or in related organizations supported by the taxpayers or donors, saying how nobler it is to be in "public service" than working in business or other "selfish" activities.

In other words, the message is that it is morally superior to be in organizations consuming output produced by others than to be in organizations which produce that output. Moreover, being morally one-up is where it's at.

The second theme of many Commencement speakers, besides flattering themselves that they are in morally superior careers, is to flatter the graduates that they are now equipped to go out into the world as "leaders" who can prescribe how other people should live.

In other words, young people, who in most cases have never had either the sobering responsibility and experience of being self-supporting adults, are to tell other people -- who have had that responsibility and that experience for years -- how they should live their lives.

In so far as the graduates go into "public service" in government, whether as bureaucrats or as aides to politicians or judges, they are to help order other people around.

It might never occur to many Commencement speakers, or to their audiences, that what the speakers are suggesting is that inexperienced young graduates are to prescribe, or help to dictate, to vast numbers of other people who have the real world experience that the graduates themselves lack.

It's a shame that this has to be done yet again, but since liberals keep making the same fallacious point so Michael Barone's refutation of the phony statistic that women earn 77 cents compared to the dollar that men earn is worth reading.
It's actually been illegal to pay women less than men for the same work since Congress passed a law to that effect in 1963 -- 53 years ago. Any employer who does so is inviting a lawsuit, which most small businesses can't afford, and courting a negative reputation, which any large business abhors.

Clinton's use of statistics that are misleading (as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler concluded) is in service of an argument that as president she will break down barriers that are holding women back. That's part of her strategy to reassemble Barack Obama's 51 percent 2012 coalition by promising to break down barriers to upward mobility.

The argument is based on an assumption that every identifiable group would be equally represented in every stratum of society, absent the barriers erected by patriarchal white males. Such appeals have the political advantage of being always available. Beyond Lake Wobegon, some identifiable group will always have a tendency to rank lower than average in something....

Which is to say, the gap results not from institutional barriers but from personal choices, which tend to be rooted in biology. Science -- we all respect science, don't we? -- tells us men and women are different. Only women give birth and, it turns out, they're more likely to take parental leave and choose work that requires limited and definite hours, and which, accordingly, pays less.

Note that these decisions are being made by people who grew up when most women worked outside the home and who attended female-majority colleges and graduate schools. Such women know they have choices, and they tend to choose to trade away income for family time. That's a rational choice, even if it means never being CEO.

Hillary Clinton's solutions for equalizing pay -- "flexible scheduling, paid family leave and earned sick days" -- tend to encourage women to take time off from work, which in turn tends toward lower lifetime earnings. That's certainly been the effect in Scandinavia, where such policies have been carried farthest. The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that "many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top."

The fact is that the barriers Clinton thinks are holding women back mostly came down years ago.

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My AP Government students have been working on a post-AP exam project to engage in a moot court hearing of two cases presently before the Supreme Court: Utah v. Strieff and United States v. Texas. Utah v. Strieff is a case concerning the limits to the exclusionary rule to the Fourth Amendment. If the Court were to follow how my three classes of students ruled, Utah is going to lose big. Today we held the hearing on United States v. Texas, the case challenging the President's decision to defer deporting parents of the children brought here illegally and exempted from deportation. In all three of my classes, the vote was as close as predicted for the real Supreme Court. In the two classes with enough students for a nine-member Supreme Court, the vote was 5:4 in favor of Texas. And in the class with only eight students on our mock Supreme Court, the justices tied.

It really is something to hear my students, who are mostly 10th graders, throwing around arguments about the Attenuation Doctrine of the Exclusionary Rule or what qualifies reasonable suspicion plus referring to the Administration Procedures Act or the limitations on standing in a federal case.

The students on the Supreme Court panel had to explain why they ruled the way they did. I noticed something very striking. All the students who ruled in favor of the Obama administration justified their decision based on their opinions on immigration and their desire to legalize these parents. All the students who ruled in favor of Texas based their decision on their concerns on a president's overreach of power or fear that the federal government's action placed undue mandates on the states. Sounds about right for comparing this administration's concept of judicial activism based on their desired policies compared to how conservatives approach to issues based on actual constitutional concerns.

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Are these people trying to elect Donald Trump?
What began as an assembly of about 1,000 peaceful protesters outside a Donald Trump rally at the Albuquerque Convention Center morphed into madness Tuesday evening when mostly young, raucous rioters joined the ranks, hurling burning T-shirts, rocks and bottles toward the police and police horses trying to contain them.

Several Albuquerque police officers were injured by the projectile rocks, and at least one rioter had been arrested by the end of the night, the department tweeted. Protesters finally dispersed from the city’s downtown streets late Tuesday night, hours after the rally ended, when police in riot gear unloaded pepper spray on the dwindling crowd.
And waving Mexican flags while they're rioting is not going to hurt Trump. Someone should explain to them how Richard Nixon rode a "law and order" campaign into the White House in 1968.

This would be one benefit from the disaster that was the GOP nomination fight this past year. The GOP is considering changing the priority given to unrepresentative state.
In a significant shift, Republican officials said it now seemed unlikely that the four states to vote first would all retain their cherished place on the electoral calendar, with Nevada as the most probable casualty.

Party leaders are even going so far as to consider diluting the traditional status of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as gatekeepers to the presidency. Under one proposal, those states would be paired with others that vote on the same day as a way to give more voters a meaningful role much sooner.
I've long thought it was a big mistake to give so much power to Iowa and New Hampshire. Why are those the chosen states? It just developed that way and now their special status has been treated as almost holy writ. I don't think that had anything to do with Trump's success, but it might have helped Cruz to have been able to organize in Iowa and appeal to the state's evangelical population. I don't think caucuses should have such primacy in choosing a nominee. They're limited to only activists and ignore anyone who can't get away for a couple of hours on a winter's night.

One proposal makes no sense to me.
In one possibility that members of the Republican National Committee have floated, the early voting states, also known as “carve-out states,” would retain their special status. But to bring more states into the process earlier, each would be paired with a nearby state that would vote on the same day. So Iowa would still hold the first contest in 2020, but on the same day as Minnesota. New Hampshire would vote next, but on the same day as Massachusetts. And the same-day pairings would change: In 2024, Iowa would be twinned with South Dakota, and New Hampshire with Maine.
Great. double-down on choosing unrepresentative states to have special status. Why give Minnesota and Massachusetts special status? The states are reliably blue states. And then rotate to states with small populations like South Dakota and Maine? It sounds like a Rube Goldberg approach to maintaining something of Iowa and New Hampshire's special status. I'd prefer to have a rotating group of states by region so that one year we would have southern states go first and another year midwestern states could go first.

Another change the Republicans are considering is whether to close primaries to only registered Republicans. That might have limited Trump's rise in the early states.
Many argue that a strictly closed process inhibits the party from appealing to a broader swath of the electorate, while others fear that non-Republican voters dilute conservative voices.

“People forget one thing,” Mr. Kaufman said. “The nomination of the candidates for both parties is not an election. It’s a process. And there are those who believe that process should be determined by people who care about their parties.”

One impediment to any sweeping changes to limit open primaries is the Republican Party’s aversion to dictating to states.

“It has been a pillar of Republican Party philosophy that we give maximum freedom and authority to the states,” said Steve Duprey, the national committeeman for New Hampshire. “And to try to dictate one system would seem to be antithetical to that.”

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Finally, someone comes out and says it - ESPN is turning their sports coverage over to Stephen A. Smith and that is not a good thing. It's gotten so that I automatically turn them off when he comes on.
As much as people like to rail on Skip Bayless, more or less he’s segmented to First Take. It’s easy to opt out from watching him. Unfortunately for those who find Stephen A. Smith equally as grating, you’re going to have to put some effort in avoiding him especially during the NBA playoffs. Quite frankly, SportsCenter with 37 minutes of Stephen A. sucks.
On days like that, I much prefer to get my NBA coverage from the NBA channel. Their analysts are so much less annoying.

Michael Wilbon has a very strange essay about how blacks don't like advance analytics. If a white journalist had written that blacks were more interested in the emotional feel of sports than using numbers, cries of racism from Wilbon and his colleagues would have broken out across the sports world.

And just to demonstrate his total disdain of statistical analysis, Wilbon provides the evidence for his thesis by talking to a bunch of other black sports journalists and black athletes. He doesn't talk to white athletes or white journalists of a similar age and background. Perhaps they don't like analytics either. There would go his whole thesis that blacks have a more emotional connection to sports.

Just what you needed - a list of the TV-acceptable words and phrases to refer to the area of his anatomy where Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams.