Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cruising the Web

Yeah, this sounds rather shady.
If elected president, Donald Trump’s global business empire would represent one sprawling mess of conflicts of interest and ethical morasses for himself and, by extension, the United States. That’s the big takeaway from a lengthy investigation by Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald published Wednesday. Eichenwald documents what he describes as a “web of contractual entanglements” between the Trump Organization and foreign corporations with close ties to their own respective governments. The ensuing conflicts would be impossible to avoid unless Trump and every member of his family cut financial ties with their business for good. The Republican nominee, however, has made it abundantly clear that he has no such plans to do that if he wins this November, even as he and his campaign continue to call for the Clinton Foundation to be shut down....

Newsweek’s list goes on: Trump has potentially problematic business dealings in Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan (all of which are detailed in the magazine) as well as China, Brazil, Bulgaria, Argentina, Canada, France, and Germany.

Team Trump’s response on Wednesday was much as it has been throughout the campaign: a shrug followed by misdirection. Speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is an executive in her father’s company, said that she and her adult siblings would simply take over the business and everything would be fine. “My father already said he would put it into a blind trust and it would be run by us,” she said. “So he's been very articulate on that fact and outspoken.”
So how is it a blind trust if it is being run by his kids? His business connections are a lot more than what previous presidents have placed in blind trusts so they couldn't be accused of making decisions that might benefit him financially. But those trusts involved some independent person or organization making decisions. Having the president's children making those decisions is just asking for trouble. As Slate points out, even if all his business were put in a blind trust, it's not like he's going to be unaware of the companies involved and what is going on with them. What he really should do is sell off the businesses and the rights to his name. But he would never do that and, given that his children work for the business, he is unlikely to want to sell their jobs out from under them. If only there had been laws in place mandating true blind trusts, perhaps Trump would never have run. If only...

Jason Riley notes the danger signs from Trump's admiration of Putin.
Listening to a presidential candidate laud an adversary of America is galling and ought to be disqualifying. But the businessman’s musings also suggest that a Trump presidency could look a lot like President Obama’s third term when it comes to U.S. military engagement....

The GOP candidate cites Mr. Putin’s high approval rating as another praiseworthy accomplishment, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Putin runs a country with no independent legislature or judiciary and restricted press freedoms. When your political opponents wind up dead or imprisoned, people tend to tell you what you want to hear.

In Garry Kasparov’s recent book “Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped,” the Russian chess champion turned democracy activist details the Putin leadership style that Mr. Trump holds in such high regard. After Mr. Putin first became president in 2000, democratic reforms were “steadily rolled back” and the “government launched crackdowns on the media and across civil society.”

The suppression of pro-democracy groups was especially harsh. “The Kremlin’s domination of the mass media and ruthless persecution of all opposition in civil society made it impossible to build any lasting momentum” for reform, writes Mr. Kasparov. “Jump forward to the beginning of 2015 and Putin is still in the Kremlin. Russian forces have attacked Ukraine and annexed Crimea, six years after invading another neighbor, the Republic of Georgia. Just days after hosting the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February 2014, Putin fomented a war in Eastern Ukraine and became the first person to annex sovereign foreign territory by force since Saddam Hussein in Kuwait.”

This is the record that has led Mr. Trump to call Mr. Putin a “better leader” than our current president. Mr. Obama should take that as a compliment. Mr. Trump should have his head examined—and release the results.

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The Washington Examiner has gone through the leaked emails hacked from Colin Powell to see what he doesn't like. While such hacking is a terrible national problem, it still is interesting to read what such a prominent figure writes when he is not concerned about the public's seeing what he says. He is quite frank with his derision for Dick and Liz Cheney. And he just doesn't like Hillary Clinton, though he calls her a friend. Gee, doesn't sound all that friendly to me.
"I would rather not have to vote for her, although she is a friend I respect," Powell wrote in an email to Democratic financier Jeffrey Leeds. "A 70-year person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational, with a husband still dicking bimbos at home."

To bring a little reality into the bidding war between Trump and Clinton on bribing enticing young parents to vote for them, the WSJ explains what the results would be of their proposals. First of all they refute the idea that day-care prices have been rising too high and too fast.
Groups that favor government intervention like Child Care Aware of America roll out eyebrow-raising averages: In Massachusetts the annual cost for infant care tops $16,000, and nearly $15,000 in New York.

Yet averages are inflated by affluent parents who pay a premium for care that includes French immersion or yoga sessions. A report last year from Chris Herbst at Arizona State University found that prices “have been essentially flat for at least a decade,” and spending for low-income families hasn’t budged. The typical family’s child-care spending has risen 14% since 1990—much more modest than Mrs. Clinton and left-wing outfits claim.
One reason for rising costs is increased government regulation.
Mr. Trump deserves credit for noting that regulation drives up the cost of care. States set minimums on square feet per child; licensing requirements; ratios for staff-to-children; group sizes. Zoning laws prevent care centers in convenient places such as residential neighborhoods. Regulation also limits options like informal care at grandma’s house or families who share nannies.

These rules are supposedly for the child’s well-being, but a 2015 paper from George Mason’s Mercatus Center notes the weak connection between most mandates and better care. Ratios and rules could certainly be loosened for four-year-olds, who require less intensive care than infants. Yet most barriers are local and state rules, not measures Mr. Trump could eliminate as President.
And Trump can never offer enough in his proposal to trump Clinton's proposals. If the country wants a Democrat, why go for the Democrat who is pretending to be a Republican rather than the one who has been a leader of the party for a quarter-century?
Mrs. Clinton raises the Trump offer in every regard, from more Head Start funding to salary support for day-care workers. And if you think care is expensive now, wait until Mrs. Clinton wades in. She likes to say that child care can be more expensive than college tuition, which is false. The irony is that her day-care blowout would recreate what has made college notoriously expensive—large subsidies for the provider and buyer. Day-care centers and pre-Ks could raise prices, confident that government will cover the increase.

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William Voegeli explores the insipid moralism of Hillary Clinton's rhetoric. It says nothing, but that's the point. And, as Voegeli goes on to write, this emptiness is typical of the progressive movement.
The Clintons’ rhetorical oeuvre makes clear that the best answer is zero. Again and again, for a quarter century, their every attempt to connect and rationalize individual policy proposals culminates in sour nothings, windy declarations as solemn as they are vacuous.

According to one journalistic assessment, the pillars of Thomas Dewey’s failed, hyper-cautious 1948 presidential campaign were: “Agriculture is important. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom without liberty. The future lies ahead.” Dewey never actually said any of those things, of course. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, really did say in an economic-policy speech this year, “I believe in an America always moving toward the future.”

This inanity is not a new problem. Consider the two most important speeches the president and the first lady gave in 1993. In his inaugural address, Bill Clinton said, “Each generation of Americans must define what it means to be an American.” Further, “the urgent question of our time is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy.” Less than three months later, in a speech ostensibly about health-care policy, Hillary Clinton told a bemused University of Texas audience that “we lack meaning in our individual lives and meaning collectively, we lack a sense that our lives are part of some greater effort, that we are connected to one another.” Her solution exceeded the responsibilities of a president’s spouse, but then it also exceeded the capacities of any public official, private citizen, or national institution: “Let us be willing to remold society by redefining what it means to be a human being in the 20th century, moving into a new millennium.”

The earnest, incoherent moralism that characterized Clintonism at the outset remains its salient feature. In her recent acceptance speech, Hillary Clinton offered “the words of our Methodist faith” that she had learned as a girl: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”

It’s quite impossible to disagree with this credo, which is both its appeal and its fatal flaw. The hard questions, the moral and practical ones that matter, are about how to do good, not whether. The pious tautology that it’s good to do good but bad to do bad tells us nothing about choosing between goods when there are trade-offs or conflicts, weighing costs against benefits, comparing short-term attainments with long-term risks, or reckoning second-order effects. It’s useless, in other words, for grappling with every problem that makes our moral and political lives so hard.
I had the opportunity to teach my students the word "platitude." No one knew the the word. I could have picked almost any politician's speech as examples.

Timothy Carney explores all
that has been done by the Obama administration to assault the Bill of Rights. It's really quite a record. The Obama administration has forced universities to have speech codes and to recognize any unwelcome sexual conduct as sexual harassment. The accused will then be tried without normal rights of due process.
Since "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature" can include something as simple as a dirty joke, according to the government, Obama's DoJ has arguably said universities must ban dirty jokes or even published statements about sex and sexuality that people find offensive.

This paves the road for a future DoJ to force campuses to bar all sorts of politically incorrect arguments about sexuality, including expression of religious or traditional ideas about marriage or gender roles.

Volokh has written: "The same logic, if accepted, will likewise extend to racially themed speech that some people find offensive, plus probably also anti-gay speech and the like."
There have also been assaults on religious freedom.
The president's biggest long-run impact on religious liberty may be less his legal arguments and judicial appointees than his bold political decision to provoke a culture war.

Through executive regulatory processes, Obama mandated contraception coverage (even though the Affordable Care Act doesn't call for it). Then he (not the law itself) chose to make the religious exemptions narrow.

When Republicans pushed back, Obama's team dialed the culture war up to maximum volume, making the mandate and religious conservatives' requests for exemptions a centerpiece of the 2012 campaign.

Obama even put law student Sandra Fluke on stage at the Democratic National Convention in prime time to argue that allowing employers to choose whether to pay for their employees' contraceptives amounted to letting bosses "control" "access to birth control."

In short, Obama trolled religious conservatives. He forced them to do something they found immoral, and when they asked to be left alone, he blasted them as misogynistic theocrats.

This Obama approach spread throughout elite culture. After the Supreme Court obliged states to conduct gay marriages, Apple CEO Tim Cook took to the pages of the Washington Post to portray wedding photographers and bakers as the ones imposing their morality.

Democrats in the 1990s championed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. By the end of the Obama administration, RFRA has become a curse word, a retrograde hate-attack by the Religious Right.
Obama and Democrats have continued their efforts to trim Second Amendment rights.

Scratch one conspiracy theory.
Melania Trump appears to have resolved questions about the legality of her immigration status in the 1990s, releasing a letter from an attorney on Wednesday that sought to clarify that situation.

Trump immigrated to the United States from Slovenia two decades ago. How she came over had become the subject of scrutiny after questions were raised in the timeline of her arrival to work as a model in the United States and because of her husband Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration stance.

She posted a letter from her immigration attorney on Twitter, which she wrote, “states that, with 100% certainty, I correctly went through the legal process when arriving in the USA.”

Indeed, the letter does appear to answer all of the major questions about Trump’s immigration case. Michael J. Wildes, a partner at a New York law firm specializing in immigration and nationality, wrote the letter offering that Melania came to the U.S. legally.

Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield report on 15 facts about people in poverty that you might not know. Their information comes from government surveys.
-Poor households routinely report spending $2.40 for every $1 of income the Census says they have.

-The average poor American lives in a house or apartment that is in good repair and has more living space than the average nonpoor person in France, Germany, or England.

-Eighty-five percent of poor households have air conditioning.

-Nearly three-fourths of poor households have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.

-Nearly two-thirds of poor households have cable or satellite TV.

-Half have a personal computer; 43 percent have internet access.

-Two-thirds have at least one DVD player

-More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.

-One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.

-Only 4 percent of poor parents reported that their children were hungry even once during the prior year because they could not afford food.

-Some 18 percent of poor adults reported they were hungry even once in the prior year due to lack of money for food.

-The left claims that one in 25 families with children live in “extreme poverty” on less than $2 per person per day. Government surveys of self-reported spending by families show the actual number is one in 4,469, not one in 25. The typical family allegedly in “extreme poverty” reports spending $25 for every $1 of income the left claims they have.
They go on to point out that government identification of poverty does not include any money that people might get from government benefits.
In 2014, government spent over $1 trillion on means-tested welfare for poor and low income people. (This figure does not include Social Security or Medicare.) Welfare spending on cash, food, and housing was $342 billion.

The cash, food, and housing spending alone was 150 percent of the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S. But the Census ignored more than four-fifths of these benefits for purposes of measuring poverty. Effectively, the Census counts poverty in the U.S. by ignoring almost the entire welfare state.

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This should make election day
For decades, news organizations have refrained from releasing early results in presidential battleground states on Election Day, adhering to a strict, time-honored embargo until a majority of polls there have closed.

Now, a group of data scientists, journalists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs is seeking to upend that reporting tradition, providing detailed projections of who is winning at any given time on Election Day in key swing states, and updating the information in real time from dawn to dusk.

The plan is likely to cause a stir among those involved in reporting election results and in political circles, who worry about both accuracy and an adverse effect on how people vote. Previous early calls in presidential races have prompted congressional inquiries.

The company spearheading the effort, VoteCastr, plans real-time projections of presidential and Senate races in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It plans to publish a map and tables of its projected results on Slate, the online newsmagazine.
How fun it will be to see the sorts of information that the media have access to.

We haven't voted yet this year, but it's not too early to turn our eyes to 2018. And Democrats are really worried about defending all those Democratic Senators who were swept in with Obama in 2012.
As difficult as the 2016 Senate map has been for Republicans, who had to defend numerous blue- and purple-state seats and could lose their majority, Democrats’ 2018 map looks practically unnavigable. The party starts with five ruby-red seats to defend: Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia. Then, Democrats have a slew of Senate seats up in traditional swing states, including Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin. If he doesn’t become vice president, Tim Kaine will also face reelection in closely divided Virginia in 2018. And if he does, a Democratic appointee could face an expensive special election in 2017 before the race for a full term the next year.

However far off it may seem, the consequences of the 2016 election are already hitting home for lawmakers preparing to defend their seats in 2018. While Democrats cheer Hillary Clinton’s lead in the presidential race right now, they are also very aware that it could lead, like clockwork, to a very bad midterm election for Senate Democrats in two years — while the slimmer chance of a Trump victory could help inoculate some of their red-state senators.

“[Democrats] have not figured out how to translate presidential success into midterm success. And even worse, this time we have a candidate who is winning by default,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked on Senate races. “It’s going to be a disaster.”

The Washington Post has examined
Trump's foundation to show that it is a sham if what you look for in a billionaire's charity is his donations to help others.
Mr. Trump has cultivated the persona of a generous man, repeatedly claiming on television he would donate to charity “out of my wallet” and accepting honors from groups he appeared to support. In fact, an exhaustive investigation by Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold shows that Mr. Trump retooled his foundation about a decade ago to act as an intermediary for other people’s charitable giving, a racket from which Mr. Trump gained in reputation and from which he may even have occasionally profited.

Mr. Trump does not appear to have given his own money to the Trump Foundation since 2008, and by then Trump funds had become a tiny slice of the organization’s revenue. Since then, the available records suggest, a charitable group that bears the billionaire’s name has been funded by others. That has not stopped Mr. Trump from claiming credit for doling out other people’s cash. He happily accepted an award from the Palm Beach Police Foundation in 2010 — then he cut the group off once the real source of the money, a New Jersey charity, stopped contributing to the Trump Foundation. Donations he promised on “The Celebrity Apprentice” would come out of his “own wallet” instead came from his foundation or a television production company. The story is the same with a 2009 TV contest called “Trump pays your bills!”, in which the Trump Foundation, not Mr. Trump, paid the winner’s bills.

Perhaps Mr. Trump confused the Trump Foundation with his own bank account because he occasionally treated it like one. Melania Trump used $20,000 of foundation funds to buy a six-foot painting of Mr. Trump at a charity art auction. Mr. Trump bid $12,000 in foundation money to win a football helmet signed by quarterback Tim Tebow. These examples appear to violate IRS rules against charity officials engaging in “self-dealing.” Then there is the fishy donation sent from the Trump Foundation to a committee supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R). The donation was illegal — charities cannot give to political campaigns — and it came just as state attorneys general were subjecting Trump University to increasing scrutiny.
Comparisons will abound between the Clinton and Trump foundations. To me, there is a major difference in providing a conduit so foreign actors and others who want something from the Secretary of State can donate money to get benefits and a guy who has been a sham all his life pretending to be a charitable guy when he actually is nothing of the sort. They're both awful people, but only one of them involved government policies in their pretense that they're good, generous people who care about those less fortunate.