Monday, August 01, 2016

Cruising the Web

It seems that almost every week Donald Trump plumbs new depths of despicable speech. He is so disgusting that he can't figure out the way to respond to the powerful speech at the DNC of Khizr Khan who spoke about his son who died in Iraq and challenged Trump to ask if he'd ever read the Constitution. Anyone with any sort of manners or political sense would simply say something along the lines of "I honor their son for his service and I fully sympathize with his parents' sacrifice. I'm sorry that we disagree on public policy." And then shut up. But not Donald who never misses an opportunity to be offensive. First he knocked Khan's mother for not speaking at the convention and just standing by her husband. What does Trump not understand about not attacking the parents of a fallen hero? Apparently Trump didn't know that the mother, Ghazala Khan, did speak in an MSNBC interview. She has now written in the Washington Post and her response is devastating. It is difficult to read of her pain and love for her son without tearing up.
Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.

Donald Trump said I had nothing to say. I do. My son Humayun Khan, an Army captain, died 12 years ago in Iraq. He loved America, where we moved when he was 2 years old. He had volunteered to help his country, signing up for the ROTC at the University of Virginia. This was before the attack of Sept. 11, 2001. He didn’t have to do this, but he wanted to.

When Humayun was sent to Iraq, my husband and I worried about his safety. I had already been through one war, in Pakistan in 1965, when I was just a high school student. So I was very scared. You can sacrifice yourself, but you cannot take it that your kids will do this....

Donald Trump said that maybe I wasn’t allowed to say anything. That is not true. My husband asked me if I wanted to speak, but I told him I could not. My religion teaches me that all human beings are equal in God’s eyes. Husband and wife are part of each other; you should love and respect each other so you can take care of the family.

When Donald Trump is talking about Islam, he is ignorant. If he studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.

Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.
Read the whole thing.

With her grief and dignity in sharp contrast to the cretinous behavior of Trump, she's delivered a much more overwhelming blow to Trump than any 50 speeches by Hillary Clinton. And the irony is that Trump's wound is mostly self-inflicted.

Who attacks the mother who has lost her son? Who even thinks of going there and what does it say about Trump that he immediately decided to do that? It says he's just as self-centered and thoughtless and he's always seemed. There is no better Trump who's going to emerge once he has the responsibility of the nomination or even the presidency.

Then in response to a Stephanopoulos question about what Trump had ever sacrificed, Trump responded that he has employed thousands of people, "I think those are sacrifices." Wuh? The man has no self awareness at all.

Of course, the media and Democrats had a much different response to Pat Smith, whose son was killed in the Benghazi attacks and who spoke at the RNC to say she blamed Hillary Clinton for her son's death. But their insensitivity is no excuse for Trump's inability to respond with sense or good taste to a challenge. In his mind, any criticism of him should be responded to with bombastic attacks with no recognition that some attacks should just not be made. Just imagine the idiotic and offensive things he would be saying for the four years he would be in the White House if he got elected. If you remember the attacks and vicious things said about George W. Bush (which he never responded to, by the way), just multiply that by ten and that is what we'd be hearing every day of a Trump presidency. And he'd be tweeting back so many attacks, he would barely have time to do anything else. Which might be a good thing but his own reckless attacks inflict more damage to him than his opponents have ever been capable of doing.

For a contrast of how to answer the anguished criticism of a bereaved parent, look at George W. Bush's response to Cindy Sheehan's attack on him.

And for another sort of contrast, remember that Hillary Clinton basically called Pat Smith, the mother of a Benghazi victim, a liar.

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This is the point that Trump should be hammering home in every single interview.
We just got another extremely disappointing GDP number. It was being projected that U.S. GDP would grow by 2.5 percent during the second quarter of 2016, but instead it only grew by just 1.2 percent. In addition, the Census Bureau announced that GDP growth for the first quarter of 2016 had been revised down from 1.1 percent to 0.8 percent. What this means is that the U.S. economy is just barely hanging on by its fingernails from falling into a recession. As Zero Hedge has pointed out, the “average annual growth rate during the current business cycle remains the weakest of any expansion since at least 1949″. This is not what a recovery looks like.

In addition, Barack Obama remains solidly on track to be the only president in all of U.S. history to never have a single year when the economy grew by at least 3 percent. Every other president in American history, even the really bad ones, had at least one year when U.S. GDP grew by at least 3 percent. But this has not happened under Obama even though he has had two terms in the White House.
I'm not quite sure about the last claim that every president showed growth of at least 3% in one year of his presidency. It certainly doesn't seem true of Herbert Hoover. But the point is still valid that this is the longest recovery from any recession since WWII or the Great Depression. And Hillary isn't planning anything different from Obama's policies. Instead she's doubling down with promises of more regulation and more top-down planning.

It's probably too late for Trump to learn the standard politician's ability to turn any question to the areas of what he wants to talk about. He needs to master a response along the lines of "The American people don't care about these matters that the media focus on. They are worried about their jobs and will their children have the promise of secure lives. Barack Obama has failed in that responsibility and Hillary isn't promising anything different. If they want more years of a stalled economy, Hillary will provide that for them. I will not be satisfied with the low economic growth as Obama and Clinton are when they brag about what a great job Obama has done and how Clinton will continue those failed policies. The American people deserve better."

It's not rocket science to have a variation of that answer for every single interview. I'm a high school teacher and I can write this stuff. Either Trump doesn't have advisers who know to recommend such an answer or he ignores them. Either possibility is a disturbing sign of what the rest of this campaign will be like. The media and Democrats will keep teaming up to lead him off on these offensive tangents and he'll fall for it every time because that's who he is and he has no control. If he thinks he's being attacked, he thinks he needs to attack back even if he ends up criticizing a mother who lost her son.

Leon Wolf has a thoughtful essay asking if conservatives should try to win votes by lying to voters. He points out that Trump is basically lying to unemployed coal miners and factory workers when he says that he will bring back their jobs.
One good example of this is coal miners. Hillary got destroyed in West Virginia (and some other places) because of an offhand comment to the effect that many coal jobs are never returning. This is true beyond a shadow of a doubt. Even if all EPA regulations pertaining to coal were lifted overnight, coal could still not compete on price with natural gas as a result of fracking and other energy technologies, and even if it could, coal takes way less human labor to mine than it used to. New coal mining techniques allow companies these days to remove the entire top of a mountain in just a couple of years using less than 20 workers. The days where hundreds of people went down into a mountain day after day to dig coal are just gone.

Likewise, many people who work in the manufacturing sector are unwilling to face the reality that fewer and fewer humans period are required to make things anymore. The false perception has taken hold that the United States does not manufacture things anymore; this is patently untrue. U.S. Manufacturing output is at an all time high, it's just that fewer people are involved in creating that output.
Of course, telling those workers the truth that those jobs just aren't coming back no matter who is elected in November and there is nothing government can do to change these realities isn't going to win many votes. So politicians, and Trump isn't the only one, will pander to those workers.

The way politicians, particularly the Democrats, though Trump is also guilty of this, pander on Social Security is another example of lying to voters.
These workers are by no means the only voters who demand magical thinking. A huge portion of America demands to be lied to about the financial solvency of our current government-provided retirement security net - a security net that was predicated on an average American life expectancy of about 55 and has consistently avoided any changes to the retirement age even as American life expectancy has creeped towards 75. While Hillary Clinton might not be willing to lie to the coal miners, she's plenty willing to lie to baby boomers and tell them everything is fine with the program that is threatening to cripple the entire nation's financial solvency.
Some politicians have told the truth about entitlements and lived to tell the tale. Marco Rubio famously campaigned in Florida about having to reform entitlements and, despite the best efforts of his opponent, won election. Chris Christie spoke about this during the primaries, though it didn't do him much good.

Wolf's point is that conservatives need to do a better job of disabusing people of the idea that government can solve all their problems. The next president isn't going to be able to create jobs. The best he or she could do is get out of the way and stop the policies that have been squelching economic growth.
Personally, I'm tired of the think pieces that ask how to "reach" these people - all of whom seem to be based on the idea that what's required is good messaging to mollify their concerns with lies. A far more important concern for the actual health of our country is how we can convince these people that it's not the government's job in the first place to magically fix their economic problems that have been created by the natural operation of the free market. Until that becomes the goal, our politics will just fall further down the well of pleasant-sounding lies that cripple our ability to meet the challenges of tomorrow in any sort of sustainable fashion. These people do not need to be reached, they need to be taught.

But teaching people is hard, and lying to them is easy, especially when teaching is punished and lying is rewarded. In other words, the problem is not just or even mostly the candidates, the problem is us.
Of course, we know what demagoguery would meet any candidate who spoke such truths. In the political arena, demagoguery and lies always seem to win out over painful truths.

While Bernie Sanders brags about socialism and the Democratic Party has basically adopted many socialist policies, let's take a look at where socialism has led in Venezuela.
A new decree by Venezuela's government could make its citizens work on farms to tackle the country's severe food shortages.

That "effectively amounts to forced labor," according to Amnesty International, which derided the decree as "unlawful."

In a vaguely-worded decree, Venezuelan officials indicated that public and private sector employees could be forced to work in the country's fields for at least 60-day periods, which may be extended "if circumstances merit."
Can forced labor camps be far behind? It's all reminiscent of how Soviet policies led to famines in the 1930s. The stories of people waiting for hours in line to buy food from stores almost empty are also similar to the Soviet Union. Forcing people to work in the fields won't fix their agricultural production anymore than collectivization fixed the Soviet Union's agricultural problems.

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Well, this certainly gives the Clinton campaign an answer every time Trump talks about her deleting her emails.
In 2006, when a judge ordered Donald Trump's casino operation to hand over several years' worth of emails, the answer surprised him: The Trump Organization routinely erased emails and had no records from 1996 to 2001. The defendants in a case that Trump brought said this amounted to destruction of evidence, a charge never resolved.

At that time, a Trump IT director testified that until 2001, executives in Trump Tower relied on personal email accounts using dial-up Internet services, despite the fact that Trump had launched a high-speed Internet provider in 1998 and announced he would wire his whole building with it. Another said Trump had no routine process for preserving emails before 2005.

Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld was stunned. “He has a house up in Palm Beach County listed for $125 million, but he doesn’t keep emails. That’s a tough one,” he said, according to transcripts obtained by USA TODAY. “If somebody starts to put forth as a fact something that doesn’t make any sense to me and causes me to have a concern about their credibility in the discovery process, that's not a good direction to go, and I am really having a hard time with this.”

....As the Trump Hotels court case dragged on, the defendants asked the judge to enforce sanctions against Trump for destroying evidence. Trump’s company failed to preserve emails and “has been regularly destroying data and evidence located on its computer, both before and after this case was filed,” the companies charged in a May 2007 motion. One Trump executive had his computer replaced in 2005, after Trump filed his complaint against Fields and the other casino developers, and “there were emails on the hard drive of his old computers that were not migrated to his new computer or otherwise preserved,” the defendants argued.

But the case was settled before the judge ruled on whether Trump's company had destroyed evidence.
Of course, there is a big difference between a private citizen deleting emails and a public official under federal requirements to retain such emails, but the irony is rather amusing.

When Hillary trumpets her desire to support a constitutional amendment to repeal Citizens United, which remember concerned a movie criticizing Hillary Clinton, she is really talking about repealing a provision of the First Amendment. Apparently, Hillary thinks that our economy isn't working because our democracy isn't working because of money in politics (which she knows a whole lot about). So her solution is to support that constitutional amendment.
Of course, we can call a constitutional amendment that overturns Citizens United by another name: a repeal of the First Amendment. The consequence of Citizens United, that corporations can spend without limit on independent political advocacy, flows directly from the First Amendment guarantees that free speech and association will not be abrogated by the government. A corporation is a legal entity that represents an association of people. People who associate in the form of a corporation do not lose their First Amendment right to free speech — a right which includes spending money to make a commercial, for instance, about the upcoming election.

Citizens United affirms this principle in consonance with the First Amendment. A constitutional amendment that overturns Citizens United would literally be a constitutional amendment that repeals the First Amendment.

Clinton’s promise to do so was an applause line.

It is not so difficult to figure out where her zeal to overturn this case comes from, since the dispute which occasioned the case was over a negative movie that Citizens United made about the now-nominee. But everything else about this line invites incredulity. What is the relation between campaign finance laws and the economy? It is certainly not a material relation, and to posit an abstract connection is to spout a series of pure ideological contrivances. What is involved with overturning Citizens United? Thinking through the consequences of such an amendment involves envisioning a world in which newspapers cannot have editorial boards, lest these corporations spend money advancing a political viewpoint. Why is a vow to repeal the First Amendment drawing so much applause? Gutting something essential to democracy would hardly preserve democracy.

Most mystifying of all, though, is why Hillary Clinton would inveigh against the effect Citizens United is having on our elections in the midst of an election in which the case is having little effect. Her primary opponent’s success without super PACs was a display of how voters do not simply gravitate toward the candidate with the most money. Sanders’s message resonated. If one affirms that corporate spending drowns out democracy, then one has to conclude Clinton’s victory over him is a democratically illegitimate result spurred on by her vast financial reservoir. But if one understands that democracy thrives when there is more political speech, not less, then one will see Clinton’s victory as a legitimate triumph.
We were discussing Hillary's desire to repeal the free-speech part of the First Amendment as well as the gun rights protections of the Second Amendment and wondering if there were any part of the Bill of Rights that she would regard as sacrosanct. My husband replied that she'll be sure to preserve the Fifth Amendment. Protection from self-incrimination might come in handy one day.

David French points to the similarities between Hillary's and Trump's plans for defeating ISIS.
This is the same plan. It’s air strikes, allies, and intelligence. It’s just spoken with MORE ENERGY. In other words, the Trump strategy is the Obama strategy is the Clinton strategy — with the addition of trash talk. Neither potential commander-in-chief has given the slightest inclination that they’re willing to do what it takes to speed up Obama’s slow-motion war.

This isn't the least bit infuriating. Not at all. Geez.
The Chinese government may have hacked into computers at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on multiple occasions between 2010 and 2013, according to a congressional report....

However, the report’s most serious accusation addresses the agency’s handling of the hacks. According to the report, the FDIC not only failed to report major hacks, but also actively worked to “evade congressional oversight” during the congressional investigation.

The FDIC’s attempts to avoid congressional oversight included the agency’s top lawyer instructing employees not to discuss the hacks via email. The FDIC’s chief information officer at the time, Russ Pittman, also called on employees not to discuss the hack. The FDIC’s efforts were apparently an effort not to jeopardize current Chairman Martin Gruenberg’s impending congressional confirmation in 2012.

According to a source close to the investigation, the servers that were targeted indicate the hackers were seeking “economic intelligence.” These accusations follow the hacking of the Office of Personnel Management last year, which saw Chinese hackers obtain the personal records of 22 million current and former government employees.
And yet we're supposed to believe that bureaucrats have some sort of magical power to fix all the problems besetting our country.

Despite their best efforts, the Democratic Party, as Ross Douthat argues the Democratic Party had nothing to offer conservatives to win them over. They certainly tried to appeal to disaffected Republicans, but just waving some flags isn't going to be enough symbolism to convince them that there would be any moderation of the Democrats' agenda.
Yes, the convention’s showmanship was strikingly unifying, bipartisan, moderate — but Hillary Clinton’s domestic agenda is not. She’s running as a liberal, full stop, with a platform well to the left of where her party stood five or 10 or 20 years ago.

She’s happy to make right-leaning voters feel a little better about fleeing Trump, but she isn’t offering them substantive concessions, or seeking a grand centrist coalition. Instead she’s telling them: It’s me or Trump, and you know you can’t put the nuclear codes in his undersize hands, so my offer is … nothing.

But here’s a flag to cheer you up.

Or again, imagine that you’re one of the many Americans conflicted about immigration policy — you view immigrants favorably, you find Trump’s rhetoric toxic, but you also favor limits on migration, and you want to make sure that the law is respected and enforced.

You would be happy to vote for the Hillary Clinton of the early 2000s, who talked a lot about border security and workplace enforcement. But that Clinton is long gone. Her party is evolving toward the position that illegal aliens, save criminals and terrorists, should never be deported once they’ve reached our soil, and Clinton herself is committed to a unilateral amnesty even more expansive than the one that President Obama attempted. Which for our conflicted voter isn’t really a middle ground compared to Trumpism; it’s closer to the opposite extreme.

Or finally, imagine that you’re a fiscal conservative who appreciated Bill Clinton’s balanced budgets. Trump looks to you like a big-government populist, not a budget-cutter, so a fiscally-sober Democrat would obviously represent the better choice.

But you listened to Hillary’s acceptance speech and you heard the voice of Bernie Sanders — expand Social Security, free college, new infrastructure spending, plus a call for a living wage and a jab at “unfair” trade deals. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop pointed out, there wasn’t even a nod to entitlement reform or the deficit, no mention of the costs of excessive regulation or the virtues of free trade, no real hint of how this largess might be paid for. It was just Great Society liberalism come ’round again, saner than Trumpism but (to your ears) ideologically similar at bottom.

Imagine, for instance, that you’re one of the many churchgoing voters — Catholic, evangelical and Mormon — repelled by Trump’s vulgarian style, his bigotry and misogyny, his embodiment of an essentially post-religious right. You generally vote Republican because of issues like abortion, but Trump’s bluster about Supreme Court justices hasn’t convinced you that he’s worth the risk.

But on social issues, Clinton and her party aren’t even offering the fig leaf of her husband’s “safe, legal and rare” formulation. They’re for abortion rights without exception and for public funding of abortion, a maximalist stance that thrills pro-choice activists but is nowhere near the muddled middle on the issue. So any pro-lifer inclined to cast a vote for Hillary has no cover; to stop Trump, they have to cast a baldly pro-abortion vote.

How amusing that Robert Redford is now so worried about political incivility.

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Heritage has an interesting report on how today's college students spend their time. A relatively small part of the average student's day is spent in education whether in attending class or studying.
Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s American Time Use Survey from 2003–2014, during the academic year, the average full-time college student spent only 2.76 hours per day on all education-related activities, including 1.18 hours in class and 1.53 hours of research and homework, for a total of 19.3 hours per week.[4]

Full-time high school students, in comparison, spent 4.32 hours per day on all education-related activities, including 3.42 hours in class and 0.80 hours of research and homework, for a total of 30.2 hours per week. Thus, full-time college students spend 10.9 fewer hours per week on educational activities than full-time high school students....

The combined education and work effort of the average non-employed, full-time college student (25.8 hours per week) most closely matches that of a non-student, part-time employee (22.9 hours per week), but remains substantially less than that of a high school student (34.0 hours per week) or even a part-time employee, part-time college student (33.8 hours per week).

In order to match the combined work and education effort of the average full-time employee, the average non-employed, full-time college student would need to work 16.9 hours per week, in addition to the 24.9 hours spent on educational activities.
So full-time, non-employed students would have more time in their day to have at least a part-time job. Think of these statistics the next time you hear politicians argue that working people should pay some of their taxes to subsidize loan forgiveness for college students.

My high school students seem to have little idea how much free time they will have in college. When we discuss non-voting and I ask them why young people tend to vote in lower numbers than other age groups, they habitually answer that they're too busy in college to vote. I just laugh at them and try to explain to them that they're likely never to have as much free time in their adult lives until they retire as the time when they're in college. They just laugh and look forward to leaving high school for college without ever wondering why their parents are going to have to pay so much money for them to have so much free time.

With all the worry about Islamophobia that we hear today, you might be surprised to learn that there is much more anti-Semitic activity on college campuses than anti-Muslim.
Jewish college students are the largest university population “coming under systematic attack,” with an increasing number seeing their civil rights infringed upon, the head of a campus watchdog group told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative — which combats, monitors and documents antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America — made the comment following the release of a shocking new report revealing the dramatic rise of antisemitic activity across more than 100 US college campuses between January and June 2016.

According to the report, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist groups on campus “have become significantly more brazen in both their strategy and tactics,” which has contributed greatly to an increase in antisemitic activity.

Dramatic findings of the report include: antisemitic incidents on college campuses increased by 45 percent as compared with the same time period in 2015; the suppression of Jewish students’ freedom of speech and assembly doubled, while calls for Israel’s elimination tripled. The calls and acts opposing Israel’s right to exist were found to be highly correlated with behavior that targeted Jewish students for harm.

The presence of three factors — anti-Zionist student groups; faculty who support boycotts of Israel; and pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activity — are “each strong predictors of anti-Jewish hostility.”

Rossman-Benjamin said that while anti-Israel groups — such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — still focus on attacking Israel, Jewish students have become new fodder for their malicious activities. Jewish and pro-Israel students across the country are being bullied, harassed and intimidated — many times physically and violently — for their support of the Jewish state. “We are seeing this happen more and more across the country, and it is very worrisome,” she said.

This is how topsy-turvy our world has become. A student body vice president at the University of Houston faced impeachment for tweeting out "Forget #BlackLivesMatter; more like #AllLIvesMatter" after the Dallas police shooting. Instead of impeachment, she must undergo today's version of the Ludovico treatment.
In order to avoid being impeached, Sethi must attend a three day Libra Project diversity workshop in August, is suspended from 50 days beginning Monday, attend three cultural events a month, and write a reflection letter and present herself to the student senate on September 28, Campus Reform reported.
This young dictators will be all ready to be members of the Democratic Party.