Friday, August 26, 2016

Cruising the Web

Rich Lowry comments on Trump's sudden Kempification. Trump can't even give a clear answer as he twists and changes his positions on immigration from his hard-line position that helped him take the lead in the primaries to one that could have been one that Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio might have enunciated - and with more clarity. Trump is also trying to appeal to African Americans by pointing out to them how little the Democratic Party has done of the past few decades of leading most big cities in the U.S. Trump is hoping to convince people that he's not a racist as he suddenly starts courting African-American and Hispanic voters.
Trump is planning trips to urban areas — with stops at churches, charter schools and small businesses in black and Latino communities — and is developing an empowerment agenda based on the economy and education, aides said. Under consideration is an early September visit to Detroit, where retired neurosurgeon and former Republican primary rival Ben Carson would guide him on a tour of the impoverished neighborhoods where he grew up.
I'm not sure how many blacks will buy Trump's efforts. Perhaps what he is really after is persuading white college-educated voters that he is not as odious as they seem to think he is. I suspect it's too late for that.

Those arguments trying to reach inner-city blacks are an important message. Paul Ryan has been doing this for years, but he does it beneath the radar. Lowry pauses to think of what could have been.
Trump's turn is an implicit acknowledgment that the Republican Party can't just be a Trump party and hope to win. It has to have broader reach than working-class whites, and avoid positions and rhetoric that convince people already inclined to believe such things that the GOP is thoughtless and retrograde. In other words, the party needs the likes of Paul Ryan—so scorned by Trump allies—who has invested the time in coming up with a serious anti-poverty policy agenda.

If Trump loses, one of the tragedies of the campaign will have been that a more populist Republicanism could, in theory, have won over working-class voters of all races. This is something that should have been a focus of the campaign many pivots ago, if not when Trump first descended his escalator.

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While thoughtful people around the world at horrified by the Turkish government's mass round-ups of anyone they could label as a rebel after the failed coup attempt last month, Joe Biden is not one of them. He's full of praise for the courage that Erdogan has shown in crushing the rebels.
Standing at the side of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during an Ankara press conference today, Vice President Joe Biden tried to soothe relations with the Islamist government by slamming last month's coup attempt as "a violent betrayal by a small group of folks who were sworn to defend the very people that they say they care and love."

"The attempted coup went to the heart of who your people are -- principled, courageous and committed. And for a people who have struggled so long to establish a true democracy, this was, from my perspective and the president's perspective, the ultimate affront. So my heart goes out to not just the government, but to the Turkish people," Biden said....

"I personally, the president personally, the American people stand in awe of the courage of your people," Biden gushed during the press conference. "And we understand, Mr. President, the sensitivities the Turkish people feel about international security. That's why the United States is committed to doing everything we can to help bring justice for all those responsible for this coup attempt while adhering to the rule of law."
Reports are that Erdogan has rounded up more than 40,000 people since the coup attempt.
Erdoğan's purge since the coup attempt has included basically any secular opponent to his Islamist government: more than 40,000 people have been rounded up, from soldiers to jurists to bankers and even teachers and a comedian. Human rights groups have charged that the rule of law has gone out the window as detainees have been kept in makeshift facilities without proper access to legal representation and suffering beatings, rapes and starvation. Erdoğan has also intensified his battle against the free press.
Amnesty International is not as impressed with how Erdogan is bringing justice to those he believes are responsible for the coup attempt.
Amnesty International said thousands rounded up by the Turkish government after the failed coup attempt against the Islamist ruling party have faced rape, starvation and torture behind bars.

The group said Sunday that more than 10,000 people -- mostly soldiers deemed loyal to the secular state but also judges, prosecutors, police and other civil servants, both men and women -- have been detained both in regular jail facilities and in "informal" locations, such as the stables at a riding club and the sports hall at Ankara's police headquarters.

Accounts of the treatment being suffered by detainees were given by lawyers, doctors and one person working at a detention facility. Detainees are being denied access to family members and attorneys and are not being informed of the charges levied against them.

Amnesty heard "extremely alarming accounts of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees," including senior military officers being raped with police batons, food being withheld for up to three days at a time and water being withheld for two days, and detainees being zip-tied into stress positions. Those suffering vicious beatings are often not receiving medical care; one person told the human-rights group that a police doctor was heard saying of a severely beaten detainee, “Let him die. We will say he came to us dead.”

The group found only one detainee who was able to choose her own lawyer. Lawyers have reported detainees coming to interrogations in blood-soaked shirts and some trying to commit suicide.

They said a pattern has emerged in the reports: the higher the rank of the soldier held, the worse the treatment.
And Biden admires his courage. What a buffoon.

Office and School Supplies

The Manhattan Institute has done a study to examine
the impact of the 1996 welfare reform that transformed the program into block grants with states having to come up with ways to transition welfare recipients off of welfare and ended welfare as an open-ended benefit for recipients. So what has happened as a result? Here are the key findings.

Children—in particular, those in single-mother families—are significantly less likely to be poor today than they were before welfare reform: child poverty overall fell between 1996 and 2014. This is the case because of household earnings, lower taxes, several refundable tax credits, food stamps and other noncash benefits.

“Deep poverty”—defined as having a family income below half the official poverty line—was probably as low in 2014 as it had been since at least 1979.

Practically no children of single mothers were living on $2 a day in either 1996 or 2012 (the latest year for which we have reliable statistics), once the receipt of all government benefits are factored in. In 2012, fewer than one in 1,500 children of single mothers were living in what is called “extreme poverty.” This finding is consistent with other research.

Official poverty statistics can create a misleading impression that hardship has increased, and that this increase has been due to welfare reform. Government statistics underestimate the income of poorer families, exclude entirely the receipt of valuable benefits, and overstate inflation. The most reliable indicators showing some increase in hardship after 1996 reflect the rise and fall of the business cycle but do not rise steadily—and generally grew worse among groups of Americans who never received cash welfare. The idea that rolling back the 1996 welfare reform would help the poor is wholly unjustified by the evidence.
You can read the full report here.

You know those promises that the Clintons were making that the family would step away from the Clinton Foundation if Hillary got elected. And you know those promises to end corporate and foreign donations? Well, not so fast.
The Clinton Foundation is considering exceptions to its plan to stop accepting corporate and foreign donations and reduce family involvement as a way to insulate Hillary Clinton from potential conflicts of interest if elected president.

As recently as this summer, the foundation was discussing with some allies plans for Chelsea Clinton to leave the board, along with former President Bill Clinton, if Mrs. Clinton should win. But on Wednesday, foundation spokesman Craig Minassian said Chelsea Clinton plans to stay on the board. Mr. Clinton told donors he still plans to leave.

While the parent Clinton Foundation will stop accepting money from foreign governments and corporations, the foundation’s largest project, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, might continue to accept foreign government and corporate funding, Clinton health initiative officials said Wednesday.
The Clintons will continue to be the Clintons. Just as you can't believe Trump's pivots, don't believe Clinton promises to suddenly end their corruption.

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Charles Krauthammer explains what he believes is the central problem of Hillary Clinton's private server and email scandal. It goes to why she took the risk of setting up her private server in the first place. The Foundation is at the heart of all these recent scandals.
The central problem with Hillary Clinton’s emails was not the classified material. It wasn’t the headline-making charge by the FBI director of her extreme carelessness in handling it.

That’s a serious offense, to be sure, and could very well have been grounds for indictment. And it did damage her politically, exposing her sense of above-the-law entitlement and — in her dodges and prevarications, her parsing and evasions — demonstrating her arm’s-length relationship with the truth.

But it was always something of a sideshow. The real question wasn’t classification but: Why did she have a private server in the first place? She obviously lied about the purpose. It wasn’t convenience. It was concealment. What exactly was she hiding?
As Krauthammer points out, she set up the server before she even was sworn in.
The foundation is a massive family enterprise disguised as a charity, an opaque and elaborate mechanism for sucking money from the rich and the tyrannous to be channeled to Clinton Inc. Its purpose is to maintain the Clintons’ lifestyle (offices, travel, accommodations, etc.), secure profitable connections, produce favorable publicity and reliably employ a vast entourage of retainers, ready to serve today and at the coming Clinton Restoration.

Now we learn how the whole machine operated. Two weeks ago, emails began dribbling out showing foundation officials contacting State Department counterparts to ask favors for foundation “friends.” Say, a meeting with the State Department’s “substance person” on Lebanon for one particularly generous Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire.

Big deal, said the Clinton defenders. Low-level stuff. No involvement of the secretary herself. Until — drip, drip — the next batch revealed foundation requests for face time with the secretary herself. Such as one from the crown prince of Bahrain.

To be sure, Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, is an important Persian Gulf ally. Its crown prince shouldn’t have to go through a foundation — to which his government donated at least $50,000 — to get to the secretary. The fact that he did is telling.

Now, a further drip: The Associated Press found that more than half the private interests who were granted phone or personal contact with Secretary Clinton — 85 of 154 — were donors to the foundation. Total contributions? As much as $156 million.

Current Clinton response? There was no quid pro quo.

What a long way we’ve come. This is the very last line of defense. Yes, it’s obvious that access and influence were sold. But no one has demonstrated definitively that the donors received something tangible of value — a pipeline, a permit, a waiver, a favorable regulatory ruling — in exchange.

It’s hard to believe the Clinton folks would be stupid enough to commit something so blatant to writing. Nonetheless, there might be an email allusion to some such conversation. With thousands more emails to come, who knows what lies beneath.

On the face of it, it’s rather odd that a visible quid pro quo is the bright line for malfeasance. Anything short of that — the country is awash with political money that buys access — is deemed acceptable. As Donald Trump says of his own donation-giving days, “when I need something from them . . . I call them, they are there for me.” This is considered routine and unremarkable.

It’s not until a Rolex shows up on your wrist that you get indicted. Or you are found to have dangled a Senate appointment for cash. Then, like Rod Blagojevich, you go to jail. (He got 14 years.)

Yet we are hardly bothered by the routine practice of presidents rewarding big donors with cushy ambassadorships, appointments to portentous boards and invitations to state dinners.

The bright line seems to be outright bribery. Anything short of that is considered — not just for the Clintons, for everyone — acceptable corruption.

It’s a sorry standard. And right now it is Hillary Clinton’s saving grace.
If Krauthammer is right that Hillary set up the server to keep her communications with the Foundation secret, just think what that means. She entered office planning to be corrupt and to hide the evidence from federal laws concerning transparency. It was premeditated corruption and law-breaking. That's the Clintons for you. They plan ahead.

Even Vox is having to admit that Hillary Clinton's sleazy behavior at State of maintaining such close ties between her Foundation and State was a problem.
The key to understanding why good government advocates are upset about the new revelations is to first get past the argument that Clinton Foundation donors were transactionally rewarded for their gifts.

This is not what my sources argued. Instead, the heart of their complaint was that the foundation’s contributors appear to have gained a greater ability to make their voices heard by Clinton’s State Department by virtue of donating to her husband’s private foundation.

This is why they see the new email disclosures as such a big deal. Talking with top government officials obviously isn’t the same as getting them to do your bidding, but doing so can help structure how they think, whom they turn to for advice, and, ultimately, what they decide to do. And the emails at least strongly suggest that foundation donors had a better opportunity to mold the secretary of state’s worldview than they would have otherwise.

Elise Jordan, an NBC News/MSNBC analyst writes in Time Magazine about Hillary Clinton's appalling response to her scandals.
Every day that she fails to seriously address the rotten consequences of her poor judgment, Clinton further erodes the already lacking public trust in her. By avoiding a sincere display of contrition, she risks her candidacy and the foundation her family built.
Well, perhaps that is because there is no honest answer to the questions that reporters would ask that wouldn't make her look worse.
When it comes to the Clintons, it’s not only about what happens, but how they react. The fact that Clinton has not given a press conference in 264 days is far more damaging than the seeming corruption itself.

If she didn’t do anything wrong, why won’t she defend herself? By avoiding taking responsibility, Clinton only exacerbates the perception she is dishonest and untrustworthy, the primary hurdle on her path to the White House.

Optics matter when the issue is transparency. How ironic that Clinton defenders were quick to attack the AP’s report as cherry-picking from an insufficient sample when the AP had to sue the State Department for access to the limited records included in their investigation....

It comes down to Clinton’s judgment, and the culture she and the former President create. Even if you give Clinton the benefit of the doubt that her staff acted on her behalf trading access in a way that’s technically above board, she created the culture that encouraged the behavior. As Secretary of State, she did not clip her husband’s wings, a scary precedent that promises Bill Clinton would be a distraction for her entire presidency. The unseemly overlap of the Clinton Foundation with her official role as our nation’s lead diplomat shows she cannot keep her worlds separate and disconnected.

Maybe she didn’t technically do anything wrong, but what’s wrong is that she skirted the line so closely that there’s debate over what actually happened. For years, insider trading was legal for members of Congress, but that doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do. We are right to expect better of people in public service.

And that’s why this election comes down to one question. Is Hillary Clinton’s judgment better than that of Donald Trump, whom she adroitly called out as a man who can be baited with a tweet? The answer is the depressingly low bar by which voters will decide who is more fit to serve as leader of the free world.
Yup, it's the most depressing electoral choice I could ever imagine.

The union-linked organization trying to increase Colorado's minimum wage to $12 don't pay the workers they hired to get signatures to put the measure on the ballot the wage that they are arguing is so very important.
The campaign to increase the minimum wage to $12 in Colorado reportedly didn't even pay many of their own campaign workers that amount to get the measure on the ballot. According to a circulator and wage report filed with the Colorado Secretary of State's office by the campaign, 24 of the workers out collecting signatures to get the measure on the ballot were paid less than the $12 per hour proponents are attempting to codify into the Colorado constitution. The report was obtained Keep Colorado Working, the opposition campaign, in an open records request.

The proponents of increasing the minimum wage, Colorado Families for a Fair Wage, funded largely with union money, hired Fieldworks, a signature gathering firm, to collect the necessary signatures for ballot access. Colorado requires a report detailing hours and pay of signature gatherers be filed with the Colorado Secretary of State's office.

"The irony of paying someone less than $12 an hour to stand on a street corner to mandate a minimum wage increase to that amount is dripping off this story," said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. "Unions are trying to force small businesses already operating on razor thin margins to increase pay just so they can line their pockets, and they aren't even paying their own workers that. The hypocrisy is palpable."

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John Hood has an answer for Bill Bennett's criticism of those conservatives who continue to oppose Trump. Bennett called such #NeverTrumpers as putting "their own vanity and taste above the interest of the country." Bill Bennett used to care about moral values in our nation's leaders. Hood writes,
Human beings are flawed creatures. We all fall short of the mark. We all fail to live up to our own standards of morality and decorum on occasion. Those who oppose Trump would never reject a good-faith effort on his part to admit past errors and seek to atone or make up for them. But a speech or two — particularly when they don’t contain any specifics and clearly represent the ideas of someone else rather than the speaker — do not constitute a significant change of attitude or behavior. They don’t let candidates off the hook for longstanding patterns of thought and behavior. Past conduct is, indeed, a pretty useful guide for what will come next. And character counts. It isn’t irrelevant to the ability to lead or the choices that voters should make when they cast ballots — a decision that is, after all, about bestowing the coercive powers of government on specific human beings, not about picking legislative proposals or party platforms.

Bennett and others who are enabling Trump’s seduction of the conservative movement ought to know better than to make excuses for Trump’s lifetime of deceitful, crass, and abhorrent behavior. They ought to recognize that using dishonorable means to achieve your ends is unwise and counterproductive in the long run. Here are some of the most persuasive statements on the subject you will ever find:

“It is our character that supports the promise of our future — far more than particular government programs or policies.”

“The President is the symbol of who the people of the United States are. He is the person who stands for us in the eyes of the world and the eyes of our children.”

“If we are surrounded by the trivial and the vicious, it is all too easy to make our peace with it.”

“People of good character are not all going to come down on the same side of difficult political and social issues. Good people — people of character and moral literacy — can be conservative, and good people can be liberal. We must not permit our disputes over thorny political questions to obscure the obligation we have to offer instruction to all our young people in the area in which we have, as a society, reached a consensus: namely, on the importance of good character, and some of its pervasive particulars.”

Bill Bennett has a way with words, doesn’t he?

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