Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cruising the Web

Yeah, tell us that money to Iran wasn't a ransom. No one is going to believe that now.
New details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran, based on accounts from U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation.

U.S. officials wouldn't let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17, the officials said. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash back from a Geneva airport that day, according to the accounts.
And yet the administration is still trying to pretend that the two events were unrelated and just a coincidence.

Well, I guess Trump has decided to double-down on his Trumpiness by appointing Breitbart News chief Stephen Bannon who has been cheering on every thing Trump has said since he started campaigning. Jonah Goldberg sums up what Trump has done.
Amazing! Trump is hiring the guy who has run a website that says Trump is perfect just as he is to come on board the campaign to say the same thing to his face. Paul Manafort may be a sinister guy, but he’s not dumb. He wanted Trump to moderate and pivot to the general-election electorate. Trump hated hearing this because, like a teenager who promised his pals that he knew how to drive, Trump didn’t want to be exposed as a liar for saying he could act presidential if he wanted to. Trump can’t pivot and, again, doesn’t want to try because he can’t. That’s why he’s been saying it would be “unfair” to his followers to suddenly act more presidential.

The problem, I suspect, is that Trump had literally no one around him to give him “permission” to stop pandering to voters he already won. That will be Bannon’s role. He will be Minister of Letting Trump Be Trump. He will be the guy shouting “more cowbell” where cowbell means “Trump.” And that’s what Trump wants to hear. Of course, Bannon will sell it in the language of some grand theory about nationalism supplanting conservatism. But all Trump will hear is “You be you.”

That said, the last 48 hours have been the best Trump has had in a long time. He’s stuck to a TelePrompTer for two speeches and managed to avoid stepping on his message too much. I didn’t watch his speech last night, but from what I’ve seen of it, it was a good deal more serious and disciplined than his usual rally shtick. Of course, reshuffling the campaign steps on the message they might have hoped to carry in to today from last night. But that’s okay, because it will be Bannon’s job to tell Trump he can do that whenever he wants.

The WSJ is skeptical that the problems with the Trump campaign is that Trump has not been sufficiently Trumpian. And to appoint the guy who has been spending his platform to attack Republicans like Paul Ryan and even lead the futile effort to unseat Ryan in the primary is a discouraging sign for any other Republican who had a faint hope that Trump could pull things together and become a more presidential candidate.
Then again, the essential truth about presidential campaigns is that they always reflect the candidates, for better or worse. The Trump campaign’s make-it-up-as-you-go operation, its emphasis on personal branding over policy, and its minimal attention to organization are all a reflection of Donald Trump’s management style and political choices.

So at least it’s truth in advertising that Mr. Trump wants to run as unfiltered Trump from here to November. The voters will be able to see what they’d get in the Oval Office, and if he loses Mr. Trump would know, even if he didn’t admit it, that he is the man responsible.
Trump's choices of Paul Manafort, a lackey for dictators, and now Stephen Bannon, the man who turned Breitbart into a Trumpian echo chamber are not encouraging for thinking about the sorts of people Trump would appoint if he had the opportunity in the White House.

Well, at least we now know that he'll have his daughter sit in on intelligence briefings. Really? smh

Larry O'Connor, who once worked for Breitbart, writes about how Republicans would be howling if the leader of any other media site went to work as the campaign chairman for a Democratic candidate and had been secretly advising him throughout the campaign.
I do think the intersection of media and politics is an area in need of exploration. Here’s a passage from Robert Costa’s write-up in the Washington Post that caught my eye:
Bannon, in phone calls and meetings, has been urging Trump for months to not mount a fall campaign that makes Republican donors and officials comfortable, the aides said. Instead, Bannon has been telling Trump to run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist.

Trump has listened intently to Bannon and agreed with him, believing that voters will ultimately want a presidential candidate who represents disruption more than a candidate with polished appeal, the aides said.
I am not interested in debating the value of the advice Bannon gave Trump on his campaign strategy. I’m more concerned with the revelation that the man running a conservative news and opinion website has been on the other end of the phone with a presidential candidate, giving him advice and helping to steer his campaign.

If we learned the President of CNN was giving regular advice to Hillary Clinton, would we complain? I know, Breitbart isn’t CNN because they don’t pretend to be unbiased. Make no mistake, CNN is, in fact, a biased news organization, I get that — and Breitbart is biased as well. The difference is, Breitbart tells you they are biased. But you know we’d be writing posts and talk radio would be going nuts about the incestuous relationship between CNN and Hillary.

But what about a media entity that wears their bias on their sleeve? If we learned Arianna Huffington was regularly advising Hillary and she was taking over her campaign, we wouldn’t have something to say about it? Of course we would.

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Both Bill and Hill keep racking up the Pinocchios. The Washington Post returns once again to award three Pinocchios to Bill's defense of Hillary's having classified messages on her private server.
Strictly speaking, classification markings do not render information classified, and the absence of classification markings do not render it unclassified, said Steven Aftergood, director of the government secrecy project at the Federation of American Scientists. In fact, a person can share classified information at a cocktail party.
And the attempt to argue that other Secretaries of State did the same thing is just laughable. They didn't have their own private servers.
Clinton’s case is not an apples-to-apples comparison to her predecessors or to her successor John Kerry for two major reasons: She was the only one to have operated solely on a private email server, and she had access to more electronic records than her predecessors.
The only one who used a personal email account was Colin Powell.
That comes down to one predecessor, Colin Powell. He was the only other secretary of state to use a personal email account like Clinton. But Powell’s staff has said the account has been closed “for a number of years,” and that Powell does not have access to it anymore, and he did not retain or make printed copies before his tenure ended in 2005. So he can’t actually turn over any records anymore, like Clinton can.

State Department guidelines for emails were “very fluid” during Powell’s tenure, the inspector general found. It was after Powell left in 2005 that private email guidelines became more specific.
But Post still scorns Bill Clinton's defense.
The whole dispute over the little “c” versus big “C,” portion markings versus header, and so on, is the political equivalent of three-card monte. Democrats, like Bill Clinton, have cherry-picked Comey’s comments from the five-hour hearing to declare Hillary Clinton vindicated. But what they conveniently sweep under the rug are the 110 emails — which were not a part of the 2,000 that were retroactively classified — that were found to “contain classified information at the time they were sent or received.”

Moreover, the diversion to “little-C” markings is an effort to distract the public from the disturbing finding by the FBI that Clinton was “extremely careless” in handling her emails, and should have protected the information whether or not it had a classification marking. And it distracts voters from the fact that for more than a year, Clinton modified her excuse over and over to position herself in a way she can declare she was technically right in some form or another.

Bill Clinton also repeated the Democratic excuse that she used a personal email account just like her predecessor, and that she turned over more email records than her predecessors did. This comparison is a pathetic and misleading attempt to normalize Hillary Clinton’s use of her personal email account and play down the fact that she was the only secretary of state to use a private server. The decision to use a private server is the root of all of the political difficulties concerning her email practices.
"Pathetic and misleading." That about sums up every defense the Clintons have ever had for any one of their scandals.

Of course, when you get feminists writing this sort of thing about Bill Clinton, no wonder Bill feels that he and his wife should get free passes for everything they ever did.
An online feminist magazine recently featured an article that excused former President Bill Clinton’s alleged rape of Juanita Broaddrick.

A Wonkette article titled “Let’s Talk About Juanita Broaddrick” claimed that even if Clinton had raped Broaddrick in 1978 — he was running for Arkansas governor at the time — it does not necessarily mean he’s “an evil man.”

“To sum up, I think Bill Clinton could very well have raped Juanita Broaddrick; that it doesn’t make him an evil man, or irredeemable (I’m Catholic; we’re all forgiven, if we’re sorry, and Broaddrick says Bill Clinton personally called her up to apologize). It doesn’t even necessarily make him a bad feminist — you know, later, once he stops doing that,” the article claimed.

The author also wrote that while she could see Clinton raping Broaddrick back then and viewing it as “alpha sex,” she could also see a lot of other men of the time doing the same thing.

“I can absolutely see Bill Clinton doing this (then, not now) and not even thinking of it as rape, but thinking of it as dominant, alpha sex. I can see a LOT of men doing that during that time period, before we started telling them in the ’80s, “hey, that is rape, do not do that,” the article stated.
Well, alright then. Now we know. If you raped a woman in the 1980s and then apologize, that's okay. You were just being an alpha sort of guy. Right. I'm sure that is what any feminist would have believed about any man, Republican or Democrat. But if that's true, why get so upset about the accusation that Clarence Thomas once made a joke in the 1980s about a public hair on his can of coke? That was regarded as a major transgression. Rape by Bill Clinton? Not so much.

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So how much do Olympic medal-winners have to pay in taxes on the bonuses they receive from the USIOC for any medal they win?
The maximum possible "victory tax" on the bonus for each gold medal, using the top tax rate of 39.6% for the nation's highest earners, is $9,900, according to Americans for Tax Reform. For silver, it's $5,940, and for bronze it's $3,960. Athletes in lower tax brackets would owe less — and keep in mind that some or all of their massive training expenses would likely be deductible, whether they treat their sport as a business or a hobby.

The medals themselves are taxed, too, but they're not as valuable as their shiny goodness may appear. Based on the commodity prices of the metals involved, gold is worth in the neighborhood of $600, silver about $300 and bronze next to nothing. What they'd go for on the open market is much higher, easily $10,000 or more, but that's not a factor unless an athlete sells or otherwise disposes of the medal, according to tax expert Blake Christian, partner at Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt.
There is a bipartisan bill sponsored by John Thune and Chuck Schumer to eliminate taxes on any medals that are won by athletesin the Olympics and Paralympics. That should be an easy vote. And then Republicans can start asking Schumer why other hard working business owners who are providing jobs shouldn't get a bit of consideration also.

Matt Lewis works
his way through several supposedly ethical quandaries of two bad choices as a comparison for voters trying to choose between Clinton and Trump. After pondering killing one man on the trolley track in order to save five others, he concludes
Some have suggested that not voting for Trump is tantamount to voting for Clinton. This strikes me as a bogus argument. By passively not voting, you simply wash your hands of it. For good or bad, it turns out the way it would have turned out, had you not intervened. It is by taking overt action — grabbing that ballot and wrestling it to the railing — that we become truly complicit.

This is not to say that silence equals consent. I have criticized both candidates for their sins. But I can’t, in good conscience, vote for either of them.

Jesus, take the wheel, err, the lever.

Charles Lipson explains why executive power has grown under both Democratic and Republican presidents.
Why is this Madisonian construction faltering? Two reasons stand out.

First, as Washington has played an ever-larger role in our nation’s social, political, and economic life, the need for detailed management rises. Only the Executive Branch can implement these detailed laws, rules, and regulations. There is no way for Congress to implement a detailed program like the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It requires extremely detailed rules before it can be rolled out, and there is simply no way Congress can write them. So it provides a more or less detailed legal framework, and the agencies take it from there. But the rules and procedures the agencies adopt are effectively laws, and they are “passed” without much democratic scrutiny or congressional oversight.

Second, party affiliation has increasingly undermined Congress’s institutional interests. Harry Reid is an abject example. He carried water for Pres. Obama, not for his fellow Senators. In fact, he changed the basic rules of the Senate to ram through his party’s agenda, and that agenda was set by the President, not the Congress. Reid’s job, as he saw it, was to pass the President’s agenda and perhaps tweak it. The same logic holds true when Republicans control the Presidency and Congress. That logic means the Congress lacks the institutional will to constrain the executive. The process is self-reinforcing. The more the balance has tilted toward the President, the less equipped Congress is to reverse the trend.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court hasn't fulfilled its role to check the other two branches. Instead they defer to the executive and to administrative agencies.

The Washington Examiner lists
six batches of Clinton-related documents that haven't been released before. We don't know the schedules of Bill Clinton's speeches that he made while his wife was Secretary of State. That's under FOIA request now. Also being kept hidden by the State Department are Hillary Clinton's official schedules when she was leading the State Department. And they're trying to hide her letters about TPP when she was supporting it until after the election. Huma Abedin's emails were also deleted by Clinton's lawyers. Of course, there are the deleted emails from her server that the were since recovered and which Judicial Watch has FOIA requests to see. And then there are the notes from the FBI interview with Hillary Clinton. Any of these could be released before the election.

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Oh, come on. Ellen DeGeneres was not being racist by tweeting a picture of her riding on Usain Bolt's back. Everyone, just calm down and go get a sense of humor.

Jim Geraghty points out that, if Donald Trump loses big this year, it will be his own dang fault. He's running against one of the weakest major party candidates in history, someone whom the majority of Americans think is dishonest and he's still down in the polls. Geraghty looks at our most recent landslide elections - Goldwater's in 1964 and Mondale's in 1984. Both those elections would have been just about impossible for any candidate to win at those times. But this year, the Republicans had a very decent chance. Trump has just thrown it away.
Trump is quite different than Goldwater and McGovern in that he goes out and confirms his opponents’ caricature of him every single day. Unlike those men and Mondale, he has no record of votes in a legislative body or signature legislation, no military service, and few longtime allies in the national and state parties. He has high name recognition but has never run for office before, a trait that his fans insisted was an advantage. He’s erratic, imprecise, and sometimes incoherent in his statements. He shows no interest in policy details and dismisses the need for campaign offices in swing states.

Looking back on previous historic presidential defeats, a confluence of factors made the losing candidate’s task almost impossible: the economy, social changes, the national political environment, the electorate’s appetite for change or lack thereof. If Trump loses, the explanation for 2016 will be much simpler: Even with the wind at his back and a deeply flawed opponent, he simply wasn’t up to the task of winning over a majority of the American electorate.

For once, in other words, it really will be the candidate’s fault.

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