Thursday, May 05, 2016

Cruising the Web

With Trump as the presumed nominee of the GOP, Stephen Miller points out something I hadn't thought of, but is just one more reason to be depressed by this week's election news.
In just a few short weeks, Donald Trump will be receiving intelligence briefings and top secret national security information. Trump is the guy who threw out the private cell-phone number of a member of Congress at a press conference, just because he could....

The damage Trump has done to his primary opponents pales in comparison to the very real damage that Trump can do going forward. This is only just beginning.

Bernie Sanders keeps on keeping on. And Donald Trump admits that he's listening to Sanders' criticisms of Hillary Clinton and taking notes so he can use them against her.
Trump frequently cites Sanders' assertion that "something is clearly lacking" in Clinton's judgment.

"Now, he's saying bad things about Hillary. And he's really correct. He says she doesn't have the judgment to be president," Trump said at a campaign rally in New York last month, referring to Sanders.

A liberal makes the case for Donald Trump as perhaps a lesser evil than Hillary Clinton. Walker Bragman writes in Salon that liberals shouldn't worry about Trump's most egregious policy proposals such as building the wall on our border that Mexico will pay for or banning all Muslims from entering the U.S. are all DOA. There is no way they could be enacted. Bragman thinks that 2020 will be a more important election than this year because it is the year that will set up the census and redistricting. So both parties will be most concerned at winning down ballot. And an incumbent Hillary Clinton would be a weak candidate for reelection. So better for Democrats to oppose Donald Trump in 2020 than try to pull Hillary across the finish line one more time.

He adds in why he is not afraid of Trump. He recognizes what other conservatives have been saying - Trump is really a liberal.
Regardless of what Donald Trump has said in this primary, like Hillary Clinton, his past positions and financial ties belie his sincerity. He’s been a consistent ally (and donor) to the Clintons for decades — so similar, he even shares the same Delaware address as they do, to avoid taxes:

In 1999, he supported efforts to eliminate our national debt. In 2000 he supported “tough on crime” policies, called for prosecuting hate crimes against homosexuals, criticized U.S. dealings with China, saying we’re “too eager to please,” and criticized the Communist country for their record on human rights. He has supported the assault weapon ban, waiting periods, and background checks, called for universal health care. and was tentatively pro-collective bargaining, arguing that unions “fight for pay, managers fight for less, and consumers win.” In 2010, he called for government partnering with environmentalists before undertaking “projects.”

Trump has also been consistently to the left of the Clintons on trade. In 1999, he said that the world views U.S. trade officials as “saps,” and in 2000, when Hillary Clinton was still very much pro-NAFTA, he called for renegotiating our trade deals to be more tougher and more fair for American workers.

Even today, Trump is to the left of Hillary Clinton on some issues. He supports medical marijuana, while she says “more research” needs to be conducted. He’s against super PACs — instructing those supporting his campaign to return all the money to the donors. I would not be the least bit surprised to see Trump run to Clinton’s left on economic policy in a general election — especially given the fact that he just announced that he will be using many of Sanders’ attacks on her then. The implications of such a move are a subject for a separate article.

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Ah, so Donald Trump is already working to unify the party.
"I am confident I can unite much of" the GOP, Trump said Wednesday on NBC's "Today Show, as several prominent Republicans said they'd prefer Democrat Clinton over the New York billionaire. In a shot at his critics, Trump added: "Those people can go away and maybe come back in eight years after we served two terms. Honestly, there are some people I really don't want."
Such a statesman. I don't think he understands that he can't win the presidency if he loses in November all the Republicans who don't like him now. He apparently thinks that being all Trumpy will be enough to propel him into the White House.

Jay Nordlinger is musing on how disappointing it is that, at this very moment in politics, the Republicans are throwing away their chances at winning the presidency by electing the most despicable person in politics.
This seems such a strange time for the Republican party to self-destroy. Let me explain.

The GOP has a huge lead in state legislatures. The GOP controls more state legislatures than it ever has before.

The GOP has a huge lead in governors: 31. The Democrats have 18 (and there is one independent).

The GOP has an immense majority in the U.S. House — a bigger majority than it has had since the 1920s.

And it has a decent majority in the U.S. Senate.

The Republicans had blow-out years in 2010 and 2014 — blow-outs in their favor, I mean.

True, they lost to Barack Obama twice. And the presidency is the big enchilada. But Obama is not running again. (Thank you, 22nd Amendment.) The element of race — so potent in American life — is absent or diminished this year.

The Democrats’ nominee will be Hillary Clinton: one of the most damaged, disliked, and problematic candidates in ages. Possibly, the FBI will recommend her indictment.

So, the Republicans were poised for something big, I think. And what do they do? Nominate Donald J. Trump. He is their standard-bearer, their representative, the face of their party.

There was a song: “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille.” The Republican party picked a fine time to commit suicide.

Usually, a person commits suicide when he’s flat on his back — despondent, at the end of his rope, without hope. The Republican party was in a remarkably healthy state.

And the hatred of the GOP — the “GOPe” — was so strong in voters, they killed off the party with Trump.
Well done, Trump supporters. Nordlinger also has a fine characterization of Trump: He is the National Enquirer candidate. He even wrote articles touting his own candidacy for the tabloid. His slurs of others seem to come straight from the tabloids, often literally, as he chose the eve of his substantial victory in Indiana to accuse Ted Cruz's father of having been an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald. That was totally baseless and also totally unnecessary. Trump was going to win by a big margin anyway. But he just couldn't stop himself from going there. He doubled down yesterday on bringing up the Enquirer story by saying that he was just repeating a story from a major news outlet [the Enquirer] that had been picked up by other media sources. Of course, it had been picked up in order to be debunked, but that doesn't matter to Trump. He lives by conspiracy-mongering and, as Ian Tuttle writes, his success has mainstreamed conspiracy-mongering. He cheerfully repeats nonsense-conspiracies from the National Enquirer and other well-known conspiracy-mongerers as well as several whom I'd never heard of, but who are, apparently quite popular in some circles, including Trump's.
As Ben Carson might say, the fruit salad of American political life has always had its nuts. And every major candidate has an unsavory individual or two on the fringes of his or her campaign (cf. the Reverend Jeremiah Wright). But Trump’s campaign isn’t just extra crunchy. He’s gathered to his operation every right-wing nut on the continent, like they’re going out of season — and is parading them as confirmation of his excellence. Every quack and kook and conspiracy-monger is riding express on the Trump Train.
Just one more way that Trump has defined lunacy down.

Jim Geraghty outlines the seven key moments or decisions that led to the perfect storm that has brought us Donald Trump.

There was the crowded field which diluted any candidate from being the sole opponent of Trump earlier in the game. They spent their efforts then attacking each other rather than Trump.

There was the choice of prominent conservatives to support the candidacy of someone who is decidedly not a conservative just because they are angry at supposed RINOs in Washington.
For at least a decade, a slew of prominent conservative voices warned their audiences about “RINOs” and sellouts and liberal candidates who only posed as conservatives when needing votes in a primary. How likely was it that these figures, who appeared to prize conservative principles and strong records for years, would suddenly welcome Trump, a longtime Democratic donor who had supported gun control, abortion on demand, higher taxes, TARP, the auto bailout, and described himself as “very liberal when it comes to healthcare”?

How likely was it that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and Matt Drudge would not merely tolerate Trump’s previous liberal views but excuse them or conclude they were irrelevant to the 2016 discussion? How likely was it that they would look at Trump’s recent declarations that he’s pro-life and pro-gun and they would believe him?

The most common defense of Trump was that he, alone, was willing to take on the issue of illegal immigration in the bold, direct way so many Americans wanted. But these same people who declared the supremacy of this issue never seemed bothered by Trump’s past hiring of illegal immigrants, his extensive use of foreign workers, his flip-flopping on H-1B visas, and the “touchback amnesty” aspect of his plan, where illegal immigrants could apply for citizenship after they returned to their own country. If illegal immigration was such a defining issue, why did so few Trump voters want to explore these parts of Trump’s record and plan?

3. Trump’s friends in conservative media embraced him and refused to let go, even when it was clear many other conservatives found him repulsive on an ideological and character level, and when Trump did things that would embarrass any right-thinking person. Mark Levin stopped giving Trump the benefit of the doubt after the mogul started arguing that Ted Cruz was a Canadian ineligible for the presidency.

How likely was it that Trump’s friendly voices would stand steadfast and simply ignore Trump’s more ridiculous arguments, such as that the guy who rushed the stage was ISIS, that Justice Scalia was murdered, that he knew a two-year-old who instantly developed autism from a vaccine, that if elected he would “find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center,” the tweet about Heidi Cruz, or Tuesday’s accusation that Cruz’s father consorted with Lee Harvey Oswald?
Would things have been different if the last guy standing was the generally unlikable Ted Cruz instead of the more likable Marco Rubio or Scott Walker?

As the WSJ writes, Ted Cruz helped make Donald Trump's victory possible.
The reasons for this crash go back to Mr. Cruz’s strategy to run for President that began from his earliest days in the Senate in 2013. He calculated he couldn’t stand out in the presidential pack if he merely attacked President Obama and Hillary Clinton. So he and his allies at the Heritage Foundation and the Mark Levin talk-radio right put together a strategy to inflame populist resentment against the GOP Congress and catapult Mr. Cruz to the White House.

In the narrative they contrived, true conservatives are forever betrayed by the corrupt leaders of what Mr. Cruz called “the Washington cartel.” Thus they set up impossible feats of strength like the ObamaCare government shutdown, or phony tests of political purity on drones and gun control. Mr. Cruz also saw immigration as a wedge for the base and made it his signature.

The strategy raised Mr. Cruz’s profile among conservatives, but one price was to stigmatize all other GOP candidates as “establishment,” even conservative Governors. Another was to set the stage for Mr. Trump, who co-opted the rebellion.

The billionaire became the more effective and polarizing outsider. He called for mass deportation and making Mexico pay for the wall. He doubled down on protectionism. Mr. Cruz tried to move further to the right on nativism and trade, including the spectacle of renouncing his endorsement of trade promotion authority the day before the vote, but he could never outflank Mr. Trump.

Far from challenging the New Yorker, Mr. Cruz helped to normalize Mr. Trump’s message. In July 2015, Mr. Cruz told Sean Hannity that “Donald” is “a friend of mine. . . . He’s bold and brash and he’s willing to speak the truth.” In another interview that month, he added that “the Washington cartel supports amnesty and I think amnesty is wrong and I salute Donald Trump for focusing on it.”

As late as December he tweeted that Mr. Trump is “terrific,” declining the “cage match” with Mr. Trump that Mr. Cruz claimed the establishment wanted. The Trump love-in caucus, with Mr. Cruz and conservative media celebrities as members, enhanced the New Yorker’s credibility. Mr. Cruz’s praise also undermined the moral case against Mr. Trump’s politics.
What Cruz underestimated was that, once it was just Ted and Donald going at each other, voters weren't that fond of Ted. And Trump was able to turn on him and make up stories about Lyin' Ted that were as deadly as the attacks Trump had previously made on Jeb and Marco. By then, Cruz just didn't have the ability to extend his appeal beyond the most conservative wing of the party.
The conservatives aghast at Mr. Trump should appreciate the irony that even as Mr. Cruz hoped to produce a new conservative era, he helped wreck the best chance for conservative reform in years.

Dana Milbank plans to eat his newspaper column as he promised to do if Donald Trump won the nomination.

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Yet another unintended consequence of Obamacare.
An influx of employers are getting rid of health benefits by shrinking their full-time workforce and hiring freelancers in 2016 due to the increase in costs caused by the Affordable Care Act according to a study released Tuesday.

Nearly one-third of companies intend to work towards “eliminating” healthcare benefits because of the ACA, the study found, and 60 percent of companies intend to hire more freelance employees than full-time employees
Imagine that. If the government requires that businesses with 50 or more employees must offer health insurance plans, employers will find ways to make sure that their workforce is fewer than 50 people. But liberals seem to not understand that people respond to incentives and disincentives and adjust their behavior.

Fox News had an interview
with the Romanian hacker who calls himself Guccifer and claims to have hacked Hillary Clinton's server.
The 44-year-old Lazar said he first compromised Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal's AOL account, in March 2013, and used that as a stepping stone to the Clinton server. He said he accessed Clinton’s server “like twice,” though he described the contents as “not interest[ing]” to him at the time.

“I was not paying attention. For me, it was not like the Hillary Clinton server, it was like an email server she and others were using with political voting stuff," Guccifer said.

The hacker spoke freely with Fox News from the detention center in Alexandria, Va., where he’s been held since his extradition to the U.S. on federal charges relating to other alleged cyber-crimes. Wearing a green jumpsuit, Lazar was relaxed and polite in the monitored secure visitor center, separated by thick security glass.

In describing the process, Lazar said he did extensive research on the web and then guessed Blumenthal’s security question. Once inside Blumenthal's account, Lazar said he saw dozens of messages from the Clinton email address.

Asked if he was curious about the address, Lazar merely smiled. Asked if he used the same security question approach to access the Clinton emails, he said no – then described how he allegedly got inside.

“For example, when Sidney Blumenthal got an email, I checked the email pattern from Hillary Clinton, from Colin Powell from anyone else to find out the originating IP. … When they send a letter, the email header is the originating IP usually,” Lazar explained.

He said, “then I scanned with an IP scanner."

Lazar emphasized that he used readily available web programs to see if the server was “alive” and which ports were open. Lazar identified programs like netscan, Netmap, Wireshark and Angry IP, though it was not possible to confirm independently which, if any, he used.

In the process of mining data from the Blumenthal account, Lazar said he came across evidence that others were on the Clinton server.

"As far as I remember, yes, there were … up to 10, like, IPs from other parts of the world,” he said.

With no formal computer training, he did most of his hacking from a small Romanian village.

Lazar said he chose to use "proxy servers in Russia," describing them as the best, providing anonymity.

Cyber experts who spoke with Fox News said the process Lazar described is plausible. The federal indictment Lazar faces in the U.S. for cyber-crimes specifically alleges he used "a proxy server located in Russia" for the Blumenthal compromise.
Of course, we don't know if the claims this guy is making from his jail cell about getting into Hillary's server are true. We know he got into Blumenthal's and he published emails from Blumenthal. He was extradited from Romania on those charges. Experts say that Guccifer's description of how he got into Hillary's server sounds plausible. He could be trying for a plea bargain to try to get a lesser sentence by turning over information on hacking Hillary's emails. If he put Blumenthal's emails on the web, I would wonder if he had copies of what he got from her server. If, however, his story bears out, it says a lot about how vulnerable Hillary's server was, if a kid in a Romanian village was able to figure out how to get in. Just imagine what Russian or Chinese government hackers could have done. And then ponder a Secretary of State who left her emails so vulnerable just so she could hide them from the public in contravention of federal laws.

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Apparently, Marco Rubio has found a way to enjoy being in the Senate. Maybe things are better when you're not focused on fulfilling your personal ambitions. Unfortunately, he still is stepping down thus putting that seat in jeopardy for the Republicans.
Rubio called the idea that he hated the Senate “false” and said he would have taken Reid’s advice if it were so.

“Just because you run for president doesn’t mean you hated the Senate,” Rubio said.

Rubio’s renewed involvement in the day-to-day business of the chamber has his colleagues wondering what might have been. As he showcases his effectiveness as an eloquent and strategic senator, it’s become harder for them to watch him go.

“He spends a lot of time studying these issues. I don’t think people have observed that,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “He’s a real player here, and I’m going to miss him.”

That’s especially true because Rubio’s departure has put the Florida seat very much in play for Democrats this fall — in a year when one state could decide which party controls the Senate next year. Republicans openly admit he’d make their job much easier if he were to run again.
I wish he'd change his mind. He doesn't seem to know what he'll end up doing when he leaves. I would guess that he'd go to work at a university or a think tank. He's ruling out being a lobbyist and has said that he doesn't plan to run for governor of Florida in two years. It would be a shame to see the end of such a political talent in politics. I've always liked him and, in another political climate, would have been successful.

Eugene Volokh analyzes the crazy directions that the Justice Department is giving universities to mandate that they investigate and prevent basically anything that anyone says of a sexual nature that might be unwelcome to anyone else. The overreach is astounding.
This is not limited to material that a reasonable person would find offensive. Nor is limited to material that, put together, creates a “hostile, abusive, or offensive educational environment.” (I think even speech codes that would have these requirements are unconstitutional, but the speech codes that the government is urging would in any event not have these requirements.) Every instance of such speech of a “sexual nature,” under the government’s approach, would be “sexual harassment,” and would have to be investigated when a complaint is filed, and prevented for the future. And the same logic, if accepted, will likewise extend to racially themed speech that some people find offensive, plus probably also anti-gay speech and the like.
The courts have found that such college speech codes are unconstitutional. But the Justice Department doesn't care. They have, on their own, determined that any language which might be sexually offensive is sexual harassment creating a hostile environment and thus not protected by the First Amendment. All of a sudden people are going to wake up and find that their children are being charged with sexual harassment and expelled from school because they told a dirty joke or had a sexually explicit picture in their possession or sent a link to a website that has pictures "of a sexual nature." And with what we've witnessed already about the lack of due process rights for students charged with rape or sexual assault on campus, don't expect any fair hearing for your children now that the Obama DOJ has taken up the cause of making sure that no one hears or sees anything of a sexual nature remotely capable of offending them. We're in scary times.

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The intimidation is beginning at George Mason University to block the law school from being renamed after Justice Scalia. The opposition comes from the university's faculty, not from the faculty of the law school. Lloyd Cohen, a law professor there, relates how the typical liberal rejection of reasoned argument has been used to attack the deceased justice.
As a member of the faculty senate, I attended this meeting and took the opportunity to defend the late justice from scurrilous and defamatory statements made against him by some of my fellow senators. They claim that the late justice made derogatory comments pertaining to race, gender and sexual orientation. In my own speech, I noted that they cited no specific examples despite Justice Scalia’s 30 years on the bench, and I read from his most-recent dissent, in the Obergefell v. Hodges case on same-sex marriage. Much to my surprise, several of my faculty colleagues interrupted me by calling for me to be prevented from speaking, a sad commentary on their tolerance for open debate and intellectual inquiry.

Despite the utter lack of evidence, the faculty senate swiftly moved forward with a nonbinding resolution condemning the renaming on the grounds that it would fail to create “a comfortable home for individuals with a variety of viewpoints.” This resolution could hardly be more ironic. In the name of academic discourse, the resolution’s authors seek to expunge from the university the name of a distinguished jurist whose legal opinions they disapprove of. The truth is that what motivates them is not high-minded principle but an illiberal demand for ideological conformity.

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My daughter and I were emailing back and forth discussing whom we should write in now for president. She suggested Coach Pop. I thought that was an excellent choice and the press conferences would be epic.
She suggested Bill Belichick for press secretary. I'd love that. Then I suggested Coach K for vice president and we started to work on putting together our all-Haters administration. We could have Christian Laettner for Secretary of State to stomp out terrorism. We'd have a real shot at victory then. We could then have Gerald Henderson for Deputy Secretary of State to give the Russians a bloody nose. Shane Battier could be Secretary of Defense because he was just so darn good at defense. And we'll create a new position for Wojo to be Secretary of floor-slapping. That would rile up all our nation's opponents.

I'm sure we could go on and on. It is a lot more fun than the reality of our politics.