Monday, August 29, 2016

Cruising the Web

I haven't seen much about the revised GDP numbers that came out on Friday, but they were pretty dismal.
We got revised GDP numbers from the Commerce Department on Friday and the economy actually did slightly WORSE than originally estimated. Growth was 1.1 percent in the second quarter of this year and less than 1 percent for the first six months of 2016. The business sector of the economy has sunk recession territory. Profits are srinking (down 2.4 percent last quarter) so how long can the stock market rise?

The consumer is keeping the economy out of negative territory, but that's only because we are spending more than we are earning.

How long can that go on? About as long as the housing bubble could inflate without bursting.

For years the polls have shown that Americans are hyper-concerned about the economy and job security. That was when the economy was growing at a meek 2 percent. Now at 1 percent, we aren't just treading water, more families are being plunged underwater.
This is a topic that the candidates for the presidency should be talking about. Hillary seems to be planning to double down on Obama's failed economic policies: more regulation, more dependence on government-provided jobs, government funding of infrastructure, more taxes, more spending. And who knows what Trump would do on any day. They're both demagoguing on trade. We should be hearing debates on whose plans would be better for the economy. Instead, the campaign seems to just be a cacophony of personal attacks.

The Obama administration would like to pretend that the cash settlement they sent the Iranian government was not big deal, as if we normally pay debts of $400 million in cash. But, it turns out that such behavior is as unlikely as you might suspect.
A $400 million cash delivery to Iran to repay a decades-old arbitration claim may be unprecedented in recent U.S. history, according to legal experts and diplomatic historians, raising further questions about a payment timed to help free four American prisoners in Iran....

"There's actually not anything particularly unusual about the mechanism for this transaction," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said this week of the initial cash payment.

But diplomatic historians and lawyers with expertise in international arbitration struggled to find any similar examples.

Asked to recall a similar payment of the U.S. using cash or hard money to settle an international dispute, the office of the State Department historian couldn't provide an example.
Just another lie from this administration about the transaction. The whole thing stinks.

And then the Obama administration tries to tell us that all this is necessary for the improved relationship we are going to have with Iran because of the nuclear deal. We had to pay that ransom in order for the nuclear deal to go through. But, of course, the Iranians don't seem to believe that they have to do anything to maintain this supposed improved relationship. In fact, they seem to be going out of their way to be more confrontational with us.
A pair of dangerously close encounters between the Iranian and U.S. navies in the Persian Gulf this week have raised fresh questions about Tehran’s intentions, a year after Obama administration officials hoped the much-touted nuclear deal would moderate the behavior of the Islamic republic and its military.

Iran’s military is going to “warn” and “confront” any foreign ships entering its territorial waters, the nation’s top defense official said Thursday, after four Iranian fast-attack craft buzzed the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze in the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, and the USS Squall, a coastal patrol ship, fired three warning shots a day later to deter boats under the command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at the northern end of the heavily trafficked waterway.

Pentagon officials called the Iranian craft’s behavior “unsafe and unprofessional,” but the challenges on the high seas point to a bigger diplomatic headache over what Mr. Obama sees as a crowning achievement of his presidency.

U.S. officials say Iran has abided by its commitments on the nuclear program, but there have been few signs of change in Iranian behavior in other arenas, including tensions in the Persian Gulf, clashes with U.S. allies in the region and the civil wars in Syria and Yemen.
But what do we expect from an administration whose vice president recently went to Turkey and gave a speech that was face-palmingly atrocious in its obsequiousness.
First, he threatened Kurdish forces with a loss of American support. They “cannot, will not, and under no circumstances will get American support if they do not keep” what he said was a commitment to stay east of the Euphrates River. Aside from the impropriety of publicly denouncing an ally in the capital of its adversary, the threat comes only a week after the Obama administration announced it was sending 3,000 additional U.S. Special Forces soldiers to Syria specifically to aid the Kurds. The Kurds, the best fighting force against ISIS in the Syria-Iraq battleground, have to wonder where this leaves them, and the American troops have to wonder whether their presumed allies will trust them.
He then wen ton to give his full-throated support for Turkey's crackdown after the coup attempt.
But the worst was Biden citing "confusion" in the United States after the 9-11 attacks to suggest some equivalence between our response and Ankara’s to a national trauma, and to suggest that Turkey’s sledgehammer reaction didn’t meant it wouldn’t “uphold democracy and human rights.” “Let’s give this some time,” Biden said, doing an extraordinary disservice to Americans and their government.

Whatever “confusion” reigned in the U.S. on September 12 and beyond, it did not include:

-Detaining 35,000 people without charges
-Arresting 17,740 people on specific charges
-Issuing arrest warrants for 89 journalists
-Firing or suspending 81,494 people from almost every government ministry, as well as prosecutors, university deans, teachers, soccer officials, and members of the Istanbul Stock Exchange, Television and Radio Supreme Council, Turkish Statistical Institute, Banking Regulation, and Supervision Agency, and more.
None of those fired under the state of emergency is eligible to appeal.

A week later, Amnesty International said it had credible evidence of detainees subjected to beatings and torture, including rape. A month later, 2,360 police officers, 112 military personnel, and 24 members of the coast guard were fired, and, with 23,000 people still detained, Turkey announced the parole of 38,000 criminals to make room for the political prisoners.
That's moral equivalence in Joe Biden's eyes. And in this administration's eyes since there is little doubt that he gave a speech at such a delicate diplomatic time without it being approved.

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Fred Lucas at the Daily Signal has a list of seven constitutional rights that local, state, or the federal government require IDs. It's an interesting list considering that several state voter ID laws are being considered in federal courts. If given the task to come up with other rights in the Constitution that require an ID, I would've come up with the right to purchase a gun and would have been stymied after that. So this is an interesting list. For example, some states require an ID for receiving welfare benefits.
While there is no constitutional right to welfare benefits, the Supreme Court held in the case of Goldberg v. Kelly that welfare recipients are entitled to due process with a hearing before benefits can be terminated.

Nevertheless, several states require some type of proof of identity to collect welfare. The states of Massachusetts and Missouri require a photo ID on the electronic benefit cards used for purchases under food stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families expenditures. The EBT cards in Kansas include a photo if a participant agrees, but isn’t required, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New York City has a municipal ID program. The city’s website says residents will need an ID to “get a job,” “cash a check,” “open a bank account,” “enter a government building,” and, further, says, “To be eligible for some public benefits you need to prove your identity, age and residence.”
Given that one of the arguments against requiring the showing of a photo ID for voting is that some low-income individuals wouldn't have such an ID because they can't afford a car, it would seem that states requiring a photo ID to purchase items using a welfare benefits card must be discriminating against the very people that those benefits are designed for.

Here is another ironic one given that it is the Obama Justice Department supporting suits against such laws.
“The First Amendment guarantees the right to petition your government, but anyone who wants to meet with a Department of Justice official has to show a government-issued photo ID to get into the Department of Justice building for the meeting,” von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal.
Read the rest of the list. It should make interesting discussions when the subject of the supposed injustice of voter ID laws comes up. I wonder if any of the briefs before the courts on this issue contain these examples.

William Voegli has a very thought-provoking essay in the Claremont Review of Books entitled "Trump and His Enemies," making a direct comparison to a book that William F. Buckley had written in the early 1950s about "McCarthy and His Enemies. It's well worth reading the whole thing. One of his points is that, despite his moral inadequacies, McCarthy's basic message that something was going wrong in our country when his emergence is put in the context of what had been going on in the months before his speech in Wheeling making the accusations about the State Department and communism. And Donald Trump is also appealing to those who believe that something is going terribly wrong in our country. Some of that perception is tied to what people perceive as our paralysis of political correctness. There are those who are more concerned that we be not be perceived as Islamophobic than that we speak out against the murders at Charlie Hebdo or note that stated motivations of perpetrators of recent attacks. He recalls the New York Times editorial after Omar Mateen murdered 49 people in an Orlando gay nightclub. They somehow decided that the Republicans were to blame.
Evidently, an Eighth Avenue blamestorming session was convened to alleviate liberal cognitive dissonance. The result was this postulate: if a) Islamophobia is evil, and b) homophobia is evil, but c) Islam is homophobic, then d) it’s all the Republicans’ fault. The news must be made to do its duty. When a story undermines, complicates, or merely fails to support the master narrative about the more and less privileged, facts in evidence are ignored, and ones not in evidence are assumed. The epistemological humility that led the Times to express uncertainty about Mateen’s precise motivations waxes and wanes at the paper. Columnist Paul Krugman, for example, needed mere hours after a lunatic shot an Arizona congresswoman to conclude that the crime was no “isolated event,” but the result of a “national climate” rendered “toxic” by conservatives’ “eliminationist rhetoric.”
If the government and other elites' reactions to horrific attacks is going to be along the lines of the New York Times, we will be forfeiting the opportunity for a common-sense approach. And someone as odious as Trump will be able to appeal to Americans who will agree that something is going wrong in our country.
Given his manifest, widely discussed defects as a prospective president and as a human, the rise of Donald Trump cannot be read as anything other than a vote of no confidence in the political class that has guided our anti-terrorism policies over the past 15 years. Those who believe that problem to be America’s most pressing are right to fear that Trump’s flair for the sensational, his inaccuracies and distortions, will do more harm than good to the cause of anti-terrorism, just as Joseph McCarthy did to the cause of anti-Communism. This danger makes it all the more important to satisfy the people’s urgent demand: leaders and policies that don’t squander, for the sake of secondary considerations, the moral and practical resources we need to thwart terrorists. In opposing Islamic terrorism, as in any other critical endeavor, the main thing is to make sure the main thing is always the main thing. Trump’s voters feel that he, like them, is unequivocally committed to this imperative. About his political opponents, they feel no such confidence. (H/t Ramesh Ponnuru)

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Kimberley Strassel makes the point
that Hillary Clinton set up her server for a particular purpose and that is what tells us of how she intended to be corrupt before she was even sworn into office.
The Democratic nominee obviously didn’t set up her server with the express purpose of exposing national secrets—that was incidental. She set up the server to keep secret the details of the Clintons’ private life—a life built around an elaborate and sweeping money-raising and self-promoting entity known as the Clinton Foundation.

Had Secretary Clinton kept the foundation at arm’s length while in office—as obvious ethical standards would have dictated—there would never have been any need for a private server, or even private email. The vast majority of her electronic communications would have related to her job at the State Department, with maybe that occasional yoga schedule. And those Freedom of Information Act officers would have had little difficulty—when later going through a email—screening out the clearly “personal” before making her records public. This is how it works for everybody else.

Mrs. Clinton’s problem—as we now know from this week’s release of emails from Huma Abedin’s private Clinton-server account—was that there was no divide between public and private. Mrs. Clinton’s State Department and her family foundation were one seamless entity—employing the same people, comparing schedules, mixing foundation donors with State supplicants. This is why she maintained a secret server, and why she deleted 15,000 emails that should have been turned over to the government.

....The other undernoted but important revelation is that the media has been looking in the wrong place. The focus is on Mrs. Clinton’s missing emails, and no doubt those 15,000 FBI-recovered texts contain nuggets. Then again, Mrs. Clinton was a busy woman, and most of the details of her daily State/foundation life would have been handled by trusted aides. This is why they, too, had private email. Top marks to Judicial Watch for pursuing Ms. Abedin’s file from the start. A new urgency needs to go into seeing similar emails of former Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills.

Mostly, we learned this week that Mrs. Clinton’s foundation issue goes far beyond the “appearance” of a conflict of interest. This is straight-up pay to play. When Mr. Band sends an email demanding a Hillary meeting with the crown prince of Bahrain and notes that he’s a “good friend of ours,” what Mr. Band means is that the crown prince had contributed millions to a Clinton Global Initiative scholarship program, and therefore has bought face time. It doesn’t get more clear-cut, folks.

That’s highlighted by the Associated Press’s extraordinary finding this week that of the 154 outside people Mrs. Clinton met with in the first years of her tenure, more than half were Clinton Foundation donors. Clinton apologists, like Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, are claiming that statistic is overblown, because the 154 doesn’t include thousands of meetings held with foreign diplomats and U.S. officials.

Nice try. As the nation’s top diplomat, Mrs. Clinton was obliged to meet with diplomats and officials—not with others. Only a blessed few outsiders scored meetings with the harried secretary of state and, surprise, most of the blessed were Clinton Foundation donors.

Mrs. Clinton’s only whisper of grace is that it remains (as it always does in potential cases of corruption) hard to connect the dots. There are “quids” (foundation donations) and “quos” (Bahrain arms deals) all over the place, but no precise evidence of “pros.” Count on the Clinton menagerie to dwell in that sliver of a refuge.

But does it even matter? What we discovered this week is that one of the nation’s top officials created a private server that housed proof that she continued a secret, ongoing entwinement with her family foundation—despite ethics agreements—and that she destroyed public records. If that alone doesn’t disqualify her for the presidency, it’s hard to know what would.
The additional point that I keep getting hung up on is that she planned this sort of pay-to-play from the very beginning. That's why she set up the private server right at the beginning. And the idea that this was for convenience is just laughable. Her corruption was premeditated. And if she had to misuse classified information and make it vulnerable to whatever foreign hacker wanted to peek into her not-very-secure files, that was a chance worth taking.

Jonah Goldberg writes on the same topic.
Do you know the old wheelbarrow joke? It’s truly funny only to grandpas and the grandkids they tell it to, so I won’t bother with the elaborate setup. For years a factory worker pushes a wheelbarrow full of straw past a security guard on his way out. Suspicious that the guy is stealing something, the guard looks in the straw but can’t find anything. Finally, when the worker is retiring, the guard asks, “I know you’ve been stealing something — can you tell me what it is?

The guy smiles and says, “Wheelbarrows.”

That joke keeps popping into my head whenever I hear Hillary Clinton’s defenders say there’s no evidence of a quid pro quo in the fresh batch of e-mails released this week....

This brings me back to the wheelbarrow joke. The meetings (and phone calls) are the wheelbarrows. It really doesn’t matter if there’s nothing “inside” the wheelbarrows; the meetings and conversations alone were valuable.

Being able to say to business partners, creditors, local politicians, etc., “When I met with Secretary of State Clinton last week . . .” is a gift. In America and even more so abroad, possessing a reputation for having friends in the highest places is a priceless asset.

All campaigns understand this. Donors could always just send the check by mail. But politicians understand that one of the things a donor is “buying” is the ability to strut like an insider and dine out on your political connections.

When Bill Clinton rented out the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House to big donors, the donors didn’t get to keep the furniture, but they did get to begin sentences, “The last time I stayed at the White House . . ”

The Clinton Foundation may not have sold any policy changes, but it definitely sold the wheelbarrows.

A.B. Stoddard argues that Hillary is more than just tone deaf to how her behavior will appear.
Clinton does defiance, denial and deflection but not accountability. Her persecution complex prohibits it, so she instead projects all sorts of terrible deeds onto unknown, even fictional Republicans, whom she has held responsible over the years for everything from her husband’s sexual affair with an unpaid White House intern to an Obama administration investigation into her rogue email server. And when situations call for specifics, like in an FBI interview, well it’s fair game to throw good people like Colin Powell under the bus.

Democrats continue to find this gobsmacking, but it’s nothing new. Who could imagine the gall it would take, while running for president — a second time — to take government records and store them on an unsecured server vulnerable to hackers? Did she not think that someday, when those inevitable congressional investigators came poking around, let alone Freedom of Information Act requests from the press, she would be caught not using the government email system she was required to?

Why, as secretary of state, would Clinton permit even the appearance of the co-mingling of foundation business with her official duties, as emails among her top staffers have already demonstrated?

And what moxie did it take for Clinton, upon leaving the State Department and biding her time before another presidential campaign, to go out and give highly paid speeches to corporate and financial interests, some totaling $250,000 for an hour or less?

Observers blame Clinton for being tone deaf. But that’s not remotely the case. She gets it, she just doesn’t care. If she looks greedy, arrogant, above the law and eager to cut corners, so be it. No matter how virulent the storm, there’s a rainbow ahead — it’s always about the ends and never the means, or the bad press.

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Mitchell Blatt writes at The Federalist that the hateful things said by the alt-right match similar hatefulness coming from Social Justice Warriors. The difference is just whom they despise.
There is a paradox at the center of the identity politics left. Those who consider themselves the most ferocious opponents of racism and bigotry are in fact the only other ones besides racists who are so obsessed with their identities....

Dividing people by race is what politically correct SJWs thrive on. Many can’t even evaluate an argument without invoking the race, gender, or sexuality of the person making that argument. PC activists have created a whole language to demean an argument based on the identity of the speaker. Claiming someone is “mansplaining,” “whitesplaining,” “straightsplaining,” “cissplaining” or some other kind of “-splaining” is considered sufficient for SJWs to refute an argument. When Jonathan Chait critiqued the culture of extreme political correctness on the left, writers at some of those same outlets that applauded Clinton for smacking down Breitbart’s toxic identity politics invoked Chait’s identity to attack him.
Apparently, there are some topics that white people just aren't allowed to write about. The attitude seems to be that only people of one race or national origin can write anything about any issue affecting people of that race or nation.
Ironically, those liberals who insist that we must take into account the identity of a writer or speaker making an argument are making the exact same argument Trump was (rightly) criticized for making about the Trump University lawsuit, including in Clinton’s speech. His thought that an American of Mexican descent can’t be impartial due to his heritage is the logical equivalent of Autostraddle saying that a white reviewer can’t be impartial on account of his heritage. In her speech, Clinton once again quoted Paul Ryan’s rebuke that it was the “textbook definition of a racist comment.”

It’s also the textbook definition of a politically correct comment.
It is when we get down to bean counting by race and arguing that subjects in college must be divided up by race, gender, national origin, sexual identity, etc. that we start dividing everyone up and forcing people to perceive everything through a prism of identity. It's such a shame that we seem to have lost the idea that the ideas matter than the color of someone's skin or anything else about them.