Friday, June 03, 2016

Cruising the Web

Ah, this is how the Obama administration approaches mortgage fraud.
Bank of America has been able to reduce a multi-billion dollar mortgage fraud penalty imposed by the Justice Department by giving millions of dollars to liberal groups approved by the Obama administration.

The bank has wiped about $194 million off its record $16.6 billion 2014 mortgage settlement by donating to nonprofits and legal groups. Thanks to little-known provisions in the settlement, the bank only had to make $84 million in donations to do that.

The bank wasn't exploiting any loophole. It's a key part of the deal the Justice Department offered to get it to settle in the first place. For every dollar the bank has given the nonprofits — none of which were victims of fraud themselves — it has claimed at least two dollars off the settlement. The deal ensured the Obama administration that a certain part of the settlement funds would go to friendly liberal groups, bypassing the normal congressional appropriations.

Among the groups receiving the money were Hispanic civil rights group the National Council of La Raza ($1.5 million), the National Urban League ($1.1 million) and the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America ($750,000).
Ed Quite tricky isn't it to find a way to mandate millions to go to groups that liberals like. Ed Driscoll marvels at what liberal administrations have wrought.
It’s quite a racket – the 2008 financial crisis was caused by the Clinton administration massively expanding Jimmy Carter’s Community Reinvestment Act, forcing banks to give high-risk loans to those who had no business owning a home, in a textbook example of Reynolds’ Law run amok. Now in its wreckage, Bank of America is shaken down for billions by the same party that created the CRIA. And of course, no one in the MSM will ask Hillary about her husband’s involvement in the debacle – instead, as this NewsBusters headline today notes, “NY Mag Writer Begs Media to ‘Stop Bugging Hillary Clinton!’”

As Michael Walsh would say, “think of the Democratic Party as what it really is: a criminal organization masquerading as a political party,” and you won’t go far wrong. Not to mention how all of the above is another marker on the road to “The Coming Middle-Class Anarchy,” if sufficient voters begin to realize how corrupt Beltway elites have rigged the system to benefit themselves and their cronies.

And here is another example of how the Democrats break the law to benefit themselves.
The Department of Health and Human Services "circumvented" Congress by illegally diverting billions of dollars from the Treasury to insurance companies in Obamacare's exchanges.

According to a report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, this "would appear to be in conflict with a plain reading of" the law, which states that money collected in excess of a certain amount each year must be handed over to the Treasury....

As Ryan put it, Obama "basically gave billions of dollars, taxpayer dollars, to insurance companies, to try and make Obamacare look better than it is ... and to try to make the premium increases not as high as they otherwise would be."

For a president who campaigned against the influence of big corporations, and who maligned opponents of Obamacare for supposedly defending large insurers, his illegal bailout is another sign of just how badly his healthcare "reform" is working.

The president's pilfering from the Treasury softens the blow a bit for insurers who are discovering that they can't make money under Obamacare's rules. Taxpayers are having their pockets picked so the president can massage the numbers, limit price hikes and make his signature legislation look less like a dog's breakfast.

But the main issue here is that Obamacare lawbreaking is another way in which the nation's chief law officer keeps finding ways to traduce the constitutional limits of his office.
Obama doesn't need no stinkin' laws when it comes to promoting his agenda. If he can't work with Congress to enact policies he wants on immigration, education, healthcare, or even war, he just goes right ahead. Think of the precedents he has created of Donald Trump should actually win this year.

But what's a president to do when his signature law is facing these sorts of results?
Ohio’s InHealth Mutual co-op announced last week that it is going out of business, making it the 13th co-op to fail out of the 23 that were created under Obamacare.

While both Hillary and Bernie campaign about the terrible economy, Obama tries to convince us that things are going along quite well. Michael Boskin, former chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers under George H.W. Bush, notes how shallow the economic recovery has been under Obama. While Obama was not to blame for the recession that riled the economy before he took office, he is responsible for the policies that he pushed through on a partisan basis that have held down economic growth. The next president will face a faltering economy and the brakes that Obama's policies have put on it. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton is proposing to double down on Obama's faulty policies.
Mr. Obama’s successor will inherit his higher tax rates and pressure for still higher taxes from his doubling of the national debt and failure to address rapidly growing entitlement spending, now including ObamaCare. He or she will also inherit a regulatory morass, a corrosive erosion of the rule of law and separation of powers and a strained national-security budget.

Nevertheless, in addition to doubling down on ObamaCare to cement the president’s legacy, Mrs. Clinton wants to raise Social Security benefits, expand government health care, fund more college subsidies, increase taxes (especially on capital), implement even more financial regulation and expand Mr. Obama’s controversial executive orders, each likely to slow economic growth. In short, she seems not to have gotten her husband’s 1996 memo that “the era of Big Government is over.”

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The DNC hoped to throw a sop to Bernie Sanders by allowing him to appoint a couple of people to the platform committee. Charles Krauthammer notes how Sanders chose two virulently anti-Israel activists to put on the committee.
Well, platforms may not immediately affect a particular campaign. But they do express, quite literally, the party line, a written record of its ideological trajectory.

Which is why two of Sanders’s appointments to the 15-member platform committee are so stunning. Professor Cornel West not only has called the Israeli prime minister a war criminal but openly supports the BDS movement (boycott, divestment, and sanctions), the most important attempt in the world to ostracize and delegitimize Israel.

West is joined on the committee by the longtime pro-Palestinian activist James Zogby. Together, reported the New York Times, they “vowed to upend what they see as the party’s lopsided support of Israel.”

....West doesn’t even pretend, as do some left-wing “peace” groups, to be opposing Israeli policy in order to save it from itself. He makes the simpler case that occupation is unconscionable oppression and that until Israel abandons it, Israel deserves to be treated like apartheid South Africa — anathematized, cut off, made to bleed morally and economically. The Sanders appointees wish to bend the Democratic platform to encourage such diminishment unless Israel redeems itself by liberating Palestine.

This is an unusual argument for a Democratic platform committee, largely because it is logically and morally perverse. Israel did in fact follow such high-minded advice in 2005: It terminated its occupation and evacuated Gaza. That earned it (temporary) praise from the West. And from the Palestinians? Not peace, not reconciliation, not normal relations but a decade of unrelenting terrorism and war.

Israel is now being asked — pressured — to repeat that same disaster on the West Bank. That would bring the terror war, quite fatally, to the very heart of Israel — Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ben Gurion Airport. Israel is now excoriated for declining that invitation to national suicide.

It is ironic that the most successful Jewish presidential candidate ever should be pushing the anti-Israel case. But perhaps not surprising considering Sanders’s ideological roots. He is old Left — not the post-1960s, countercultural New Left. Why, the man honeymooned in the Soviet Union — not such fashionably cool Communist paradises as Sandinista Nicaragua, where Bill de Blasio went to work for the cause, or Castro’s Cuba, where de Blasio honeymooned. (Do lefties all use the same wedding planner?)

For the old Left, Israel was simply an outpost of Western imperialism, Middle East division. To this day, the leftist consensus, most powerful in Europe (which remains Sanders’s ideological lodestar), holds that Israeli perfidy demands purification by Western chastisement.
Sanders' choices say a lot about him and what he believes. They also say a lot about what the left wing of the Democratic Party believe about Israel. Good is bad and bad is good. Terrorism is acceptable if it is aimed at Jews in Israel. That the DNC accepted these two men to be on their platform committee tells us where the party is headed and how it is abdicated the long-held support of Israel begun when Harry Truman, no Jew-lover, was the first national leader to extend recognition of the new state.

George Will destroys the arguments that David Cameron has been making for staying in the EU.
Cameron says leaving the EU is unnecessary because Britain has rejected membership in the eurozone currency and is not bound by the EU’s open borders policy. Advocates of “Brexit” reply that if the common currency and open borders, both crucial attributes of the EU, are defects, why remain?

Cameron says leaving the EU would be imprudent for security reasons. Wielding the fallacy of the false alternative, he says those who favor leaving the EU favor “going it alone” and “isolationism.” They respond that Britain out of the EU would remain Europe’s foremost military power. When Cameron recalls “war in the Balkans and genocide on our continent in Srebrenica,” Leave advocates note that the EU had nothing to do with suppressing this, which fell to NATO and especially the United States, neither of which would be diminished by Britain leaving the EU.

Cameron invokes “the serried rows of white headstones” on British graves in military cemeteries on the continent as a “silent testament to the price that this country has paid to help restore peace and order in Europe.” Historian Andrew Roberts tartly responds that the British war dead “fought for British independence and sovereignty, not for European unification.”

The Remain camp correctly says that Britain is richer and more rationally governed than when European unification began. The Leave camp, however, correctly responds that this is largely in spite of the EU — it is because of decisions made by British governments, particularly Margaret Thatcher’s, in what is becoming a shrinking sphere of national autonomy.

Ah, the media today.
In the time since Harambe the gorilla was killed at the Cincinnati Zoo, 69 people have been shot in Chicago – but you wouldn’t know it from watching the news.

The death of the gorilla has received 54-times more coverage than the violence in Chicago, according to an analysisfrom the Media Research Center.

The three major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS and NBC – have dedicated 55 minutes and 7 seconds of coverage to the death of Harambe, but only 1 minute and 1 second to the Chicago shooting spree.

“The broadcast networks routinely prioritize animal life over human life,” Katie Yoder wrote at NewsBusters. “This Memorial Day weekend was no exception.

The Clinton campaign must always be in control of everything.
For Hillary Clinton, the presidential campaign has been about building an approachable image: She's often eschewed big arenas in favor of town halls, peppered her ads with personal stories and planned less-scripted gatherings with voters.

But emails obtained by The Associated Press reveal a careful, behind-the-scenes effort to review introductory remarks for college presidents and students presenting the Democratic front-runner as a speaker, as well as suggesting questions that happened to be aligned with her campaign platform....

"They offered to write your introduction. I told them no," Becky Mann, the head of public relations for South Carolina's Greenville Technical College, wrote in an email to the college's president, Keith Miller.

Clinton's campaign also suggested questions that Miller could pose such as, "We have a number of students who have a financial need - what do we need to do to make college affordable?" College affordability is one of Clinton's campaign issues.

But Miller dismissed the suggestions, calling them "bad questions" and said he would develop his own. "Probably after hearing her speech," he wrote.
Did anyone doubt that this sort of manipulation was going on?

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Ian Tuttle went to the Libertarian Convention last weekend and enjoyed the colorful experience.
The Libertarian party is a reminder that no one truly grows out of Dungeons and Dragons. Around the Rosen Centre, there are lots of suits-with-sneakers and punk-rock hairstyles and impromptu chants of “Taxation is theft!” Organization-wise, it’s the political equivalent of the cantina scene from Star Wars. Since its founding in 1971, the Libertarian party has been a catchall for political misfits. “We’re weirdos,” says a Georgia delegate who has been in the party since 1972. “We’ve always been weirdos.” No offense, but no kidding. (And in a display of pure, untrammeled, glorious cosmic irony — enough to make me revise my disbelief in Fate — MegaCon, an annual gathering of 80,000 comic book fans, sci-fi cosplayers, fantasy-lovers, and gamers, is taking place over the same 48 hours, and at the very same Orlando hotel.)
But they also purport to be a viable political party. And the main purpose of a political party is to win elections.
Consider Saturday evening’s debate, during which the five candidates (McCormick missed the cut) opined on such pressing issues as whether the United States was justified in intervening in World Wars I and II, and whether they would have supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It’s almost as if the debate organizers wrote the questions with the express purpose of disqualifying the candidate from national consideration. The audience doesn’t help: When Gary Johnson suggested that perhaps the government should be able to deny blind people drivers’ licenses, boos were audible. Likewise when Petersen suggested that maybe, just maybe, there should be laws against selling heroin to five-year-olds. And the candidates themselves offered up some good ol’-fashioned bat-guano crazy: Perry said that, “contra the fear-mongering,” Iran is actually just pursuing nuclear energy. Petersen peddled Howard Zinn–style history to explain why “the rest of the world hates us.” And, sure enough, Feldman rapped his closing statement. Vermin Supreme, a beloved party regular who wears a rubber boot on his head and who received 18 votes toward the nomination, spent the debate handing out toast.

In other words, the problem with the Libertarian party is . . . that it’s the Libertarian party.

The basic theory goes like this: To be a viable alternative in November’s election, the Libertarians need to claim a non-negligible slice of Democrats who cannot stomach voting for Hillary Clinton, as well as Republicans who refuse to pull the lever for Trump. That will require some moderation, something like: “We want to marijuana legalize nationally, but we’ll give way on bath salts, because there’s strong evidence that they cause people to eat each other’s faces off.” That would strike most Americans as a reasonable compromise.

But this is a crowd for whom “compromise” is a scurrilous notion. The result is that the Libertarian wish list, instead of providing common ground on which to erect a “big tent,” is likely to alienate just about everyone who isn’t a capital-L Libertarian. Bernie Sanders’s democratic socialists won’t mind the laissez-faire approach to abortion and marriage, but they’re not going to dig the end of all welfare programs on the tenuous rationale that, in Darryl Perry’s words, “nobody will abandon Grandma.” And while Never Trump conservatives will find much to like in Libertarians’ devotion to free trade and lower taxes and their machete-swinging approach to the federal bureaucracy, they’re unlikely to be enthused about open borders, polygamy, and on-demand crystal meth. It’s not that Libertarians can’t please all the people all the time. It’s that they can’t please any of the people any of the time.

Such is the Libertarian curse. It’s tough for people who think politics is a fundamentally illegitimate enterprise to build durable political bridges.
It's a shame, really. If Libertarians could be the party of classical liberalism, the origin of libertarianism, I would have a home.

In an answer to all those who reflexively called for more gun control in response to the professor killed by one of his Ph.D. students, Charles C. W. Cooke asks which law would have prevented that murder.
I ask because, absent the total ban on firearms that gun-control advocates insist that they don’t covet, it is not at all obvious which rules would have stopped the perpetrator from carrying out his plan. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the shooter bought a 9mm handgun legally in Minnesota, passing a background check in the process; then, gun in hand, he killed a woman in that state; and, finally, he drove with his guns to California, where he killed both his professor and himself.

In the process, he both obeyed and broke a number of existing laws. In Minnesota, he followed the purchasing rules to the letter, and, because he had no criminal record, he was rewarded for his fealty. But after that moment he resolved to ignore whatever rules got in his way. In both Minnesota and California he violated the statutes that prohibit gun owners from carrying their weapons without a permit; at UCLA he violated a rule issued in September of 2015 that prohibits gun owners from carrying firearms onto campus; and, rather obviously, he violated the flat-out prohibition on murder that obtains in all 50 states. He was, in other words, entirely happy to follow the rules when it suited him, and entirely happy to break them when it suited him. He was, like most shooters, not much interested in the sanctity of the law.
None of the proposals that Barack Obama has made to institute stricter gun control laws would have prevented this murder.
Which brings me back to my initial question: When President Obama tweets, as he did earlier today, that Americans must “take action to prevent this from happening again,” what exactly does he mean? I understand that he’s upset; everybody is upset. I understand that he’s expressing frustration; that’s fine. But I want specifics. In free countries, laws are clear and they are limited; they have a specific purpose; and they can be understood and followed by laymen. Which precise provisions does President Obama want to add to the legal code?
They don't need specifics. They can get enough satisfaction from the moral preening they can do while issuing platitudinous calls for some sort of vague laws that wouldn't have done anything.

If you can't beat them - blame them for all your problems. Thus is the response from some public schools to the popularity of charter schools. School districts whose school-age population has been shrinking for a lot of different reasons like Los Angeles and Detroit are angry that high numbers of those increasingly fewer students are choosing to go to charter schools and taking their funding with them.
Charter school advocates say it's only fair for local and state property tax dollars to follow children to the new schools, and that parents aren't to blame for a district's failing finances.

"To the extent the district is not serving the needs of their students, this has been a trend line for some time," said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit advocacy group.

District leaders contend that even with fewer students to educate, they still have a range of fixed costs. Ultimately, they say, the funding decline affects programing for students still at traditional public schools, who often face the steepest challenges.

If Los Angeles schools are no longer able to function as a district, "there is going to be collateral damage," said Steve Zimmer, president of LA Unified's school board. And the damage "will be to those children and families who are the most vulnerable."

The issue surfaced recently when nearly all of Detroit's public schools were closed and more than 45,000 students missed classes for two days after about half of teachers called out sick to protest the possibility that some wouldn't get paid over the summer if the district ran out of cash.

The number of students enrolled in Detroit public schools has dropped dramatically since the 1990s, fueled by the flight of a quarter million city residents, abysmal graduation rates, financial mismanagement and corruption. In 2002, the district had 156,000 students. This year, that number was 46,000 - a 70 percent decline.

Detroit is unique in the severity of its financial struggles, but isn't alone in its enrollment troubles.

Kansas City schools, which once educated more than 70,000 students, now enroll about 15,000. Los Angeles had almost 674,000 students enrolled in district-run schools in the 2006-07 school year, compared with about 542,000 in 2014-15, a nearly 20 percent decline. Enrollment in traditional Chicago public schools has declined by nearly 85,000 students in the last decade.
Remember what charter schools are doing - they are offering a more attractive education that parents are freely choosing for their children. Charters schools can be more nimble in their funding decisions since they're tied in to union contracts and pension costs. Don't blame them for the problems that public school districts have created for themselves.

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This is the newest silliness from college campuses: giving first-semester students letter grades will lead to a severe mental-health crisis. Seriously.
For decades, Johns Hopkins has concealed students’ first-semester letter grades — marking their performance in these classes as simply having been either “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” — from potential employers and graduate schools.

According to an article in the Baltimore Sun, however, the school has since decided that this policy might be encouraging too many students to take their first semester less than seriously (um, ya think?!) and that it therefore plans to change it beginning in 2017.

Now, you might think that giving grades for schoolwork seems like a reasonable thing for this school to do . . . but many of its students don’t see it that way. In fact, the Sun reports that more than 20 student groups are protesting the change — arguing that not only would it cause widespread mental breakdowns, but also that, according to some groups such as the Black Student Union, it would be particularly unfair to minority students, because they often “must experience racial discrimination combined with difficult classes that some of their previous schools might not have properly prepared them for.”
Think about this. We're talking about one of the top universities in the country. And this students had to have grades in order to get there. And now they'r worried about hose students' mental health if they find out how they did in class. Just imagine how traumatic it will be when they get out in the real world and look for a job.

Reason Magazine points
to the newest identity politics riling Yale University. Some students are objecting to the requirement for English majors that they take a course on "Major English Poets."
Some Yale University students are demanding changes to the English Department curriculum: specifically, they don't think it should feature so many English poets who were straight, white, wealthy, and male.

"It is your responsibility as educators to listen to student voices," the students wrote in a petition to the faculty. "We have spoken. We are speaking. Pay attention."

The "Major English Poets" sequence, a mandatory two-course commitment for English majors, is particularly problematic, according to the students. These classes cover Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, John Donne, John Milton, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, and T.S. Eliot. It's not the most diverse line up, to be sure, but it's the one that best reflects history the way it actually happened. Inarguably, these are the most influential poets in the English language.

But students think this sequence "creates a culture that is hostile to students of color."
Students want to be prepared to take "higher-level courses relating to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, ability, or even to engage with critical theory or secondary scholarship." They urge the English department to "decolonize" its course offerings. They're not interested in learning from Shakespeare or Chaucer or Milton (who was even handicapped!). Robby Soave of Reason links to an essay by Katy Waldman at Slate who wrote,
I want to gently push back, too, against the idea that the major English poets have nothing to say to students who aren’t straight, male, and white. For all the ways in which their particular identities shaped their work, these writers tried to represent the entire human condition, not just their clan. A great artist possesses both empathy and imagination: Many of Shakespeare’s female characters are as complexly nuanced as any in circulation today, Othello takes on racial prejudice directly, and Twelfth Night contains enough gender-bending identity shenanigans to fuel multiple drag shows and occupy legions of queer scholars. The “stay in your lane” mentality that seems to undergird so much progressive discourse—only polyamorous green people really “get” the “polyamorous green experience,” and therefore only polyamorous greens should read and write about polyamorous greens, say—ignores our common humanity.
As Allahpundit comments,
But that misses the point. Again: They’re not there to learn. They’re there to teach, and teaching begins with an assertion of authority. (“We have spoken. We are speaking. Pay attention.”) Or maybe I have the cause and effect mixed up. Maybe it’s the assertion of authority that’s important and educating the educators is merely the pretext for asserting it.
Tyler O'Neil writes at PJ Media about the students; demand that they not be required to read English writers such as Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth or TS Eliot and instead read writers of color.
The students go even further: "A year spent around a seminar table where the literary contributions of women, people of color, and queer folk are absent actively harms students, regardless of their identity." Wow. So reading dead white men without the saving grace of some minority transgender lesbians is a kind of abuse? I went through such seminar discussions at Hillsdale for four years, and I don't have PTSD. Guess I might just be lucky.

Returning to the topic at hand, the students argued that "the Major English Poets sequences (sic) creates a culture that is especially hostile to students of color." Here comes the point in the essay where any good English student would cite a source or two, provide some quotes, explain how Shakespeare, Donne, and Chaucer expressed prejudices against these sacrosanct minority groups. You know, actually investigate some literature and come up with arguments against it.

Oh, were you expecting some intellectual heft? Here's what you get instead: "When students are made to feel so alienated that they get up and leave the room, or get up and leave the major, something is wrong." So students who say they feel alienated is enough evidence to prove that the giants of English literature create a "hostile culture?" Anyone can claim to be offended. This is no argument.
Somehow the minority status of the author trumps the quality of the writing.
Whether you're straight or gay, white or black, male or female, you can understand and appreciate the despair at the end of a civilization in T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland," or feel the contradictions of a love both fulfilling and demanding in John Donne's "Batter My Heart, Three Personed God," or sense the agony of a man trying and failing to repent of his sin in Claudius' speech in "Hamlet."

Who has not felt the chilling allure of Satan's speech in Milton's Paradise Lost, where he declares, "it is better to rein [sic] in Hell than serve in Heav'n"? What sorry man or woman has not felt the triumph of the human spirit reading Alexander Pope's "Essay on Man?" Or the joys and struggles of a romantic relationship in Edmund Spenser's "Epithalamion?" These are universal experiences, available to all, which enrich human experience.

God forbid we entertain the thought that these grand themes and central human struggles are beyond the reach of women, racial minorities, or homosexuals! Every human soul is capable of such depth and emotion, and any attempt to shield someone from this type of literature is not charitable, but insulting.
No, the message of any writer must be reduced to racial or gender identity.

Ah, just what you were waiting for - Bill Belichick erotica. It's just 99 cents at Amazon. Busted Coverage has the story.