Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Cruising the Web

There are already murmurings among Democrats as they plan for swapping out Hillary Clinton and bringing in Joe Biden.
Smart Democrats began dusting off copies of their Plan B for the 2016 fall campaign this week. They were prompted by a devastating report from Department of Justice inspector general, who found that “significant security risks” were raised by Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a private e-mail server at the State Department.

Democrats know that an FBI report, potentially even more damaging, may be leaked in the coming weeks. Even if Hillary faces no criminal liability, she could find the number of Americans who view her as honest and trustworthy dropping below Donald Trump’s numbers.

Former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, who helped break open the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, told CNN:
Hillary Clinton did not want her e-mails subjected to the Freedom of Information Act or subpoenas from Congress, and that’s why she set up a home-brew server. I think we all know that. People around her will tell you that in private if you really get them behind a closed door.
I spoke to a number of top Democratic officials, and they’re terrified, including people at the White House, that her campaign is in freefall because of this distrust factor. And, indeed, Trump has a similar problem. But she’s the one whose numbers are going south.

“Trump lies about his businesses and changes with the wind,” one former Democratic senator told me. “But if Hillary is found to have compromised national security, that will be viewed as more relevant to the job of president.”

Democrats will carefully watch the polls in the next few weeks. If Hillary stays slightly ahead of Trump or is competitive, she will become the Democratic nominee at the Philadelphia convention. But if her numbers slide, watch for super-delegates now in her camp to consider the possibility of substituting Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate — with the possible addition of Senator Elizabeth Warren as his running mate, as political balm for the party’s not nominating a woman for president.
Hmmm. Isn't there someone who has been running against Hillary the entire campaign season and who has been competitive with her? I seem to remember that there is this Vermont socialist guy who has been very successful in the campaign against Hillary. And yet the talk is about a guy who had several opportunities to jump into the race and passed them up. That would be a popular move to ingore the millions who voted for Sanders in order to substitute in Biden. How ironic that the Democratic Party is the one considering this move when a month ago it was the Republicans trying to figure out a way to deny Trump the nomination and give it to someone who got fewer votes than he did. I guess the Torricelli Option is always there for Democrats.

But they just can't believe that Hillary has had so much trouble putting Bernie Sanders away. Andrew Malcolm marvels at the situation she has found herself in.
The former attorney, former Arkansas first lady, former White House first lady, former senator, former secretary of state and former colossally paid giver of secret speeches to incredibly wealthy investors was supposed to be the easy winner. Just like 2008.

But now, a 74-year-old stubborn, socialist geezer who wants to hike taxes during an economic recovery is harassing her from the left. A convenient Democrat, a lifelong pol, he’s weakening an already weak candidate.

Sanders is draining her money and time while distracting Clinton from her partisan rival, who is already campaigning and fundraising for the general election. Clinton is trying to attack both men simultaneously, tough for even a polished pol.

So we just witnessed the bizarre spectacle of Clinton, architect of the lethal Benghazi mess, now under FBI criminal investigation over national security and her emails, pronouncing the likely GOP nominee unqualified for office....

Sanders’ prolonged campaign has divided Democrats into bitter camps, and by weakening Clinton, he threatens President Barack Obama’s legacy, whatever controversial mess that turns out to be.

“We are in until the last ballot is cast!” shouted a defiant Sanders, who’s having the wild-haired time of his long political life, ignoring increasingly anxious Democratic warnings that his hopeless effort threatens party unity for Nov. 8....

Despite media blather about rigged primaries among the 17 Republican candidates, it’s the charade of unelected establishment super-delegates that has predetermined the Clinton nomination....

Can you say Chicago 1968? Then, Democrat Eugene McCarthy fought a divisive primary campaign against the party establishment. Angry protests against the Vietnam War and lack of party inclusiveness turned that convention into a week of shifting street melees and tear gas that spilled onto national TV with Democrat denouncing Democrat.

As someone in that embattled bastion of Democratic politics, I can report that the mass arrests and images of police horses pushing demonstrators through showroom windows virtually doomed establishment Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s bid for a third straight Democratic administration. And it elected an unpopular Republican named Richard Nixon.

Oh, look. In 2016, the establishment’s Hillary Clinton, a Chicago native, must defeat an intransigent insurgent within her divided party in order to seek a third straight Democratic administration. She faces an unpopular Republican named Donald Trump.
As a Republican who has agonized over the state of the GOP nomination campaign and its result, the only enjoyment I've gotten out of politics this year ahs been observing the disorder on the Democratic side. I just wish that my party was putting up a worthy candidate to challenge the horrid one leading the Democrats.

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Democratic operative Douglas Schoen
who worked for Hillary's husband argues that, if Hillary loses in California to Bernie Sanders that she may not get the nomination.
There is every reason to believe that at the convention Mr. Sanders will offer a rules change requiring superdelegates to vote for the candidate who won their state’s primary or caucus. A vote on that proposed change would almost certainly occur—and it would function as a referendum on the Clinton candidacy. If Mr. Sanders wins California, Montana and North Dakota on Tuesday and stays competitive in New Jersey, he could well be within 200 pledged delegates of Mrs. Clinton, making a vote in favor of the rules change on superdelegates more likely.

Another problem: In recent weeks the perception that Mrs. Clinton would be the strongest candidate against Donald Trump has evaporated. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Mrs. Clinton in a statistical tie with Mr. Trump, and recent surveys from ABC News/Washington Post and Fox News show her two and three points behind him, respectively.

Then there is that other crack in the argument for Mrs. Clinton’s inevitability: Bernie Sanders consistently runs stronger than she does against Mr. Trump nationally, beating him by about 10 points in a number of recent surveys.
Schoen writes of "increased rumblings within the party" of plans to swap John Kerry or Joe Biden out for Hillary and Bernie at the convention. I don't know if Bernie's supporters would be appeased by picking Elizabeth Warren as the running mate.

We used to have a tradition that politics stopped at the water's edge and American politicians forebore from criticizing each other while on foreign soil. We saw the end of that tradition during George W. Bush's presidency. And now we have the current president traveling abroad to criticize the Republican nominee.
When looking for support for his foreign policy, President Barack Obama wants Republicans to line up behind him because politics should stop at the water’s edge. But when trying to elect a Democratic successor, Mr. Obama takes politics with him wherever he goes, including to this week’s G-7 Summit in Japan. Speaking at a press conference, he pontificated on the ongoing primary elections, including sharp jabs at Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. While he might think that his attacks on Trump’s “ignorance” and “cavalier attitude” will somehow help former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they in fact diminish not only Mr. Obama and his office, but the country he has traveled overseas to represent....

President Obama’s effort to exploit an international summit for political purposes is dangerous for several reasons. First, whatever he may think of Mr. Trump, politics actually should stop at the water’s edge—otherwise, it will be virtually impossible for the United States to build an effective and sustainable foreign policy without bipartisan support. Even if President Obama has decided to coast through his remaining months in office without attempting to achieve anything important, attacking the likely Republican nominee on an international trip is reckless and disturbing....

The President’s behavior creates other problems too. Whether or not Mr. Obama is accurately conveying what he has heard when he says that Mr. Trump’s comments have “rattled” foreign leaders, he is using those leaders—in this case, our closest allies—as instruments in a political campaign in a wholly inappropriate effort to imply that they endorse Secretary Clinton. This is damaging not only in importing foreign political preferences into U.S. elections (something that many Americans won’t welcome, especially when Donald Trump has suggested that some of the same allies are not paying their fair share for their own defense) but also in complicating U.S. efforts to work with those very leaders if Mr. Trump is actually elected.
Of course, Obama has traveled abroad to instruct the British on how they should vote on Brexit and threatened limits on our trade with them if they voted in a way he disapproved of. And he invited Prime Minister David Cameron to come to the U.S. and lobby Congressmen to support the Iran deal. He is not a man who is concerned with American nationalism so why would he stop from politicking against a political opponent when he's abroad.

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What a contrast between
how the former Republican candidates commemorated Memorial Day and how the party's presumptive nominee chose to do so. Because he is such a narcissist that everything is always about him. Funny, that's what Republicans have been criticizing Obama since he came on the political scene. And now we're about to nominate someone even more solipsistic than Barack Obama.

In reviewing Joel Kotkin's new book, The Human City, Michael Barone writes about how, contrary to the views of many city planners, cities are not superior to those much-derided suburbs.
That's one of the lessons of Joel Kotkin's new book "The Human City," which takes a wider and longer view. Kotkin shows how cities developed as religious, imperial, commercial and industrial centers. And he shows how what planners disparage as suburbs and sprawl emerged a century ago as natural parts of the city -- and are now the home and workplace of the large majority of American city dwellers.

That's not how planners like to think about cities. Their focus is typically visual, and on the exterior of buildings and cityscape, easily reproduced in glossy coffee-table books, rather than on the interiors where people spend most of their hours. They take their cues from 20th century architects like Le Corbusier, who wanted to knock down all of Paris' historic structures and replace them with a few skyscrapers rising from parkland.

There is an obvious authoritarian thrust here. It is visible in Kotkin's home state of California, where zoning restrictions and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) protests prevent new construction in coastal metropolises. Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing policies that would concentrate new housing in high-rise clusters around mass transit stations, with ready access to bike paths and walking trails but not to streets and roads for private cars. It's a good thing to offer people such a choice. It's a bad thing to deny them any others.

The result is that housing costs in coastal metropolises have skyrocketed far above the level affordable for median-income singles, much less married couples with children. These cities are increasingly the home of the connected rich and the disconnected poor. They have the nation's highest levels of economic inequality and the highest percentage of singles. The central city of San Francisco has 80,000 more dogs than children.

As Kotkin points out, the rationales for confining development in this way don't stand up to scrutiny. It's argued that suburbs, whose residents drive dozens of miles each day, are more wasteful of energy than high-rise central cities. Data don't bear that out. It takes lots of energy to build and maintain the high-rises, more than enough to compensate for less driving.

Central cities are also portrayed as more ethnically diverse. But that's not necessarily true: As Kotkin notes, blacks have been moving to suburbs, and most Asian and Latino immigrants head there directly. Meanwhile, the hippest neighborhoods of San Francisco and Portland, Brooklyn and Boston are increasingly monochromatically white.

And it turns out that tightly packing people from various ethnic backgrounds into small central city neighborhoods doesn't promote harmonious interaction. On the contrary, as Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam found to his horror, it reduces social trust and social connectedness. People hunker down and avoid contact with others.

You get more social connectedness and higher levels of trust in the supposedly dreary and dull suburbs. One reason is that people with children tend to head toward the suburbs, and childrearing encourages participation in school- and church-related voluntary associations.

Another is that suburbs, unlike central cities or university campuses, actually have populations with diverse opinions. On any suburban cul-de-sac you can find people who vote both Republican and Democratic. Good luck trying that in Manhattan or Harvard.

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Northwestern Law School professor, John O. McGinnis writes in the City-Journal about how many liberals seek to criminalize speech with which they disagree.
Once upon a time, liberals pushed free speech at every opportunity. They lauded Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis for protecting unpopular views via the First Amendment early in the last century, for instance. During the 1960s, Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement demanded the right to demonstrate politically on campus—and liberals championed the cause. Similar progressive cheers rang out when the Supreme Court extended the First Amendment to protect inarticulate expression, like nude dancing and flag burning.

But now liberals want to empower the government to put people behind bars for advancing political ideas, come election time. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has declared one litmus test for a Supreme Court justice: a commitment to overrule Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, the 2010 Supreme Court opinion upholding Americans’ First Amendment right to use a corporate form to criticize or praise politicians running for office. (The politician criticized in that case was none other than Hillary Clinton.) Worse still, Democratic senators have introduced a constitutional amendment that goes beyond reversing Citizens United and gives Congress substantial discretion to regulate how electoral debates are conducted.

This dramatic shift suggests that liberals have lost faith in their arguments—above all, at the ballot box. If you hold sway over the media and the academy and yet still fail to convince a majority of voters with your views, suppressing speech that counters those views can start to seem like a constitutional imperative.
Fortunately the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Roberts has ruled to support political speech.
Consider how the Roberts Court has treated the mantra beloved of reformers who want paid political communications curbed at election time: “Money is not speech.” Outside campaign regulation, the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence has banned any restrictions of expenditures that pay for expression. A government-imposed limit, say, on the amount of money a newspaper could spend for investigative reporters would be obviously unconstitutional, as would regulation restricting how much a publishing house could pay for a manuscript. Why, if neutral principles are adhered to, should money spent on political campaigns be any different? As Jud Campbell notes in a forthcoming issue of Stanford Law Review, when the government regulates by reference to particular expressive activity (political ads, for instance), it is restricting speech that it doesn’t like—and targeting certain kinds of speech for special regulatory burdens is what the First Amendment was intended to prevent.
In the eyes of the Founders, political speech would have been the speech most important to protect from government limitations. We are lucky that a slim majority on the Supreme Court has ruled to enshrine protections for political speech in several cases.
Or take a central issue in Citizens United of whether the right to express views about candidates in a political campaign extends to corporations; the Court found, embracing neutrality once more, that it did. Here again, the Court’s reasoning relies on earlier First Amendment cases, in which landmark decisions have upheld the rights of corporations to talk about politics. In New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), the Court ruled in favor of the Times (a corporation), strengthening First Amendment protections against libel suits by public officials—quite the irony, given that newspaper’s incessant complaints about Citizens United.

The First Amendment’s text, in fact, supports corporate speech: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” As set down by the Framers, the right isn’t limited to particular kinds of speakers but bans the government regulation of speech, period. And if the First Amendment protects an individual’s right to speak, why shouldn’t a group of individuals, banded together in a partnership or other association, also enjoy that right? And if an association has that right, why would it lose it when it takes corporate form?
But the justices on the left, they are perfectly fine in limiting political speech.
Breyer, writing for all four dissenters in McCutcheon, argued that the Court should not apply the scrutiny typical of First Amendment cases but instead rely on legislators’ judgment about what best serves the public. His premise is that members of Congress are uniquely knowledgeable about how to design the rules for their campaigns. But he ignores the substantial interest that politicians have in protecting their incumbency.
For anyone who has studied the history of campaign finance reform, it is clear that the laws protect incumbents who have higher name recognition against challengers who need to spend more just to get their name in front of the public.
Breyer is even willing to rethink the meaning of the First Amendment, arguing that it’s best understood as in part a “collective right,” with a goal of connecting the nation’s legislators to the true sentiments of the people. In this revised understanding, the First Amendment’s purposes are advanced when the government cracks down on speech (such as political donations from the wealthy) that may mislead lawmakers about where popular opinion stands on a given issue. Breyer’s argument actually turns the First Amendment on its head. The First Amendment wasn’t designed to empower the majority, acting through the federal government, but, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, to limit the majority’s federal power. Through the long-settled doctrine of incorporation under the Fourteenth Amendment, moreover, this limitation on government power has been extended to state governments.

Yet Breyer has found ample support in the legal academy for a First Amendment that allows the subordination of the individual voice to the collective will.
There is a lot at stake in the line of cases concerning political speech and the First Amendment stands at a crossroads with the death of Justice Scalia.
A regime of heavy regulation of political campaigns means that government increasingly shapes social discourse, which inexorably leads to the centralization of power. By contrast, applying ordinary free-speech protections to electoral expression ensures that government will still depend on the back-and-forth of open debate, generated by free citizens in all their variety. Thus, what’s ultimately at stake in the battle over campaign regulation is the First Amendment’s empowerment of civil society over the prerogatives of the state, a virtue—central to our constitutional republic—that liberals once defended heroically.
It should be frightening to more than conservatives that so many Democrats are determined to limit political speech. I always find it mordantly humorous that Hillary Clinton is so firmly against the Citizens United decision which was, at its heart, an attempt to stop a documentary criticizing...Hillary Clinton.

Bret Stephens writes
that we have all become semioticians as we learn to apply what we learned from dissecting the Clintons' statements to what Donald Trump says.
Mr. Trump says we ought to steer clear of the Middle East’s imbroglios—but then says we should seize its oil fields. He lambastes our allies as freeloaders and military nincompoops who throw down their arms at the first sign of danger—but then says he would expect these same allies to provide perimeter defense for the oil fields we’ve stolen from them.

Point out these contradictions to the candidate, and he’s likely to rejoin that you’re a loser who’s been wrong about everything and doesn’t understand the art of leadership. Point them out to his admirers and apologists, and they’ll say you’re missing the deeper point, which is that Mr. Trump is reflecting the anger of everyday Americans who want a pragmatist in the White House whose instinct is to put America first and negotiate the details later.

What you won’t get is a satisfactory response to the basic question: How, other than massively garrisoning the Middle East, does Mr. Trump propose to keep the oil?

There was a time when there was a price to be paid in American politics for evading questions. “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” Sen. Howard Baker famously asked in 1973 of Richard Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal. The country never got a believable answer from the White House, and Nixon resigned the presidency the following year.
This evokes the Clintons and how we had to decipher what the meaning of "is" is. And Hillary and Obama have continued this trend of presenting a different layer of meaning in simple statements.
A recent example of this is Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama publicly opposing gay marriage until 2012. The ordinary voter might have treated the volte face as a betrayal. But the semioticians of the left took it in stride, because they always assumed the position to be dishonest in the first place—a regrettable necessity but not a disqualifying sin.

Clinton lies and crookedness are supposed to be a big part of what animates Mr. Trump’s most fervent supporters. So why their apparently limitless tolerance for Trump lies and crookedness? If the Clinton Foundation is objectionable for funneling taxpayer subsidies to attractive friends of Bill, why is Trump University any less revolting for allegedly defrauding the poor saps who signed up for its courses? If Mrs. Clinton’s misstatements about her emails make her unfit for office, what are we to make of the serial and slanderous conspiracy theories that have been Mr. Trump’s political stock-in-trade for years?

Maybe the answer is that Mr. Trump’s supporters don’t care about his lies because they, too, think they’re participating in a wink-and-nod routine with their candidate.

So Mr. Trump can accuse Ted Cruz’s father of being a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald on the eve of the Indiana primary and then, victory in hand, lavishly praise the Texas senator the day he bows out of the race. It’s all as if to say: The words are rubbish; the attacks are pure theater; the promises are negotiable; the facts are an irrelevance. What matters is power: my getting it, you getting out of the way.

And this is what they like about him. He’s out-Clintoning the Clintons.
I sense some of that same sentiment among Trump's supporters who love his assertions of how he will use executive authority to accomplish his goals even as we've spent the past seven years decrying how Obama expanded executive authority out of all recognition from the system of checks and balances that used to undergird our entire government. Who cares if Trump promises to expand presidential powers even more? Obama did it first. Nyah, nyah.

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The WSJ has some fun with Bernie Sanders' presence at Game Seven of the Golden State Oklahoma City game.
To wit, does Mr. Sanders consider Oakland’s Oracle Arena a monument to the corporate greed he so often decries? Why was he cheering, rather than occupying? Isn’t the minimum wage spelled out in Steph Curry’s four-year, $44 million contract an outrage when income inequality is growing? Is it right that the team that scores the most points wins, rather than redistributing points equally?

Then there’s Mr. Sanders’s unearned privilege to sit in the 15th row behind the Thunder basket, with the actor Danny Glover (“Lethal Weapon” 1-4). The pool reporter, Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle, joked that Mr. Sanders scored “good seats but not the ones frequented by millionaires and billionaires.”

Maybe so, but ESPN reveals that list prices for tickets averaged $960, and tickets near Mr. Sanders’s section were trading on the secondary market between $1,650 and $1,750. Courtside floor seats a few rows ahead were going for as much as $58,000 a pair.

That small fortune could almost pay for a year of debt-free tuition at an elite university. Contra Mr. Garofoli, it’s reasonable to conclude Mr. Sanders sat among the 1% he otherwise says need to be held accountable, and presumably he doesn’t mean for Mr. Glover’s movies “Operation Dumbo Drop” and “Dirty Grandpa.”

Ethics rules prohibit Senators from accepting gifts valued over $100, with an exception for gifts over $250 from personal friends with written permission. If the campaign purchased or reimbursed the ticket for the candidate, that’s a lot of $27 contributions. Perhaps Mr. Sanders should clarify exactly which type of money he wants out of politics.

Some people are just having conniptions about the shooting of Harambe the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla to save the small child. Perhaps the Zoo didn't have sufficient safety features at the gorilla exhibit to prevent a toddler from falling in. At that point it becomes a decision that had to be made within seconds as to how to best save the child. Just watch the video of the gorilla swinging the small child around in the water. It's a no-brainer. There shouldn't ever be any doubt when it becomes to choosing between the life of a child and that of an animal. Yet, there are those who are criticizing the decision to shoot Harambe. There has also been a backlash against the parents of the small boy blaming them for the toddler crawling into the enclosure. Any adult who has had responsibility for small children knows that there are moments when the children wander away and we lose track of them. It's a miracle that there aren't more tragedies. And the description of what happened by someone who was there when the child went into the enclosure indicates that this happened in just a moment. Any parent can remember moments when the child was there and then we look away for a second and the child is gone. Critics should just shut up and keep their criticism to the parents to themselves and stop whining about the unfortunate death of the gorilla. It is very sad, but a child's life has to come first. That this is a subject for debate today is dumbfounding to me.

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