Monday, September 19, 2016

Cruising the Web

It seems that we were incredibly lucky this weekend not to have suffered more and worse casualties during all the terror attacks this weekend in New Jersey, New York City, and St. Cloud, MN. Just think what might have happened if the bomb at the New Jersey marathon had gone off later during the 5K run, a marathon that would have benefited the military and would probably have been participating in the race. And what might have happened if the bomb's blast in New York hadn't been reduced by the dumpster it was hidden in. And what if there hadn't been an off-duty officer with a gun in that Minnesota mall to kill the guy knifing people as he asked if they were Muslim or not? It's a sad fact that this is what we have become accustomed to. And how telling it is that one of the first subjects was to contrast how the political candidates responded as if either of them has any idea of what they would do to stop such attacks.

Now that political analysts are starting to murmur about the possibility of a Trump victory, Jim Geraghty goes the next step and ponders how Hillary Clinton would be regarded if she were to lose against such a buffoonish opponent.
. . . Hillary Clinton would become one of the most hated Democrats of all time. She would rank not merely as a loser, but as the woman who managed to lose the most winnable presidential race in modern history. Forget Mondale, forget Dukakis, forget McGovern. Trump is probably the worst Republican nominee in history — little or no message discipline, little organization, hates fundraising, isn’t convinced television ads or data analysis is needed, tons of scandals and baggage, can’t carry his home state, the media loathes him with the raging passion of a thousand suns going supernova . . . and somehow he’s still in it, and seems to be gaining strength as the race progresses. She has no excuses. She has unequaled resources. The party is reasonably unified behind her. She had a great convention. If Tim Kaine is making mistakes, no one is paying attention. Her commercials have dominated the television airwaves.

If Hillary Clinton loses, Democrats will hate her. Overnight she will go from the inspiring role model for all of America’s children to a selfish, deeply flawed candidate, blinded by ambition and obsessively secretive. Everything that Dem­o­crats now insist is inconsequential — her e-mails, the shady deals sur­round­ing the foundation, Benghazi — they will suddenly realize was extremely consequential. The recriminations will be epic.
The Democrats might have to do some of that navel-gazing that Republicans are always advised to do and ponder why they chose to nominate such a known corrupt and unappealing woman as their candidate. Why did they buy in to the idea that they must have a woman at the top of the ticket and it must be this very woman? They might, as Geraghty suggests, have to ask themselves in quiet corners of their gatherings whether political correctness has gone so far that it has become bullying and has turned off a whole lot of voters. They might also have to examine their own deep hypocrisy and wonder if it has finally come back to bite them.
The Left would have to recognize that most of their our political and cultural elites demonstrate epic hypocrisy on a regular basis. Tim Geithner and Charlie Rangel set tax policy while not paying all the taxes they owe. Al Gore runs up a giant electricity bill while telling everyone else they need to reduce their carbon emissions. Obama declares, “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say ‘okay.’” And then, in the words of David Axelrod, Obama keeps the Oval Office so warm in winter that “you could grow orchids in there.” Hillary Clinton denounces greed and selfishness while making six-figure speaking fees. Bill Clinton gets a free pass from feminists as the sexual harassment and womanizing allegations pile up. They talk about the importance of equal opportunity while Chelsea Clinton gets a $600,000 part-time gig at NBC News. Mike Bloomberg an Rosie O’Donnell travel the country with armed security guards while touting the need for stricter gun-control laws.
At some point, great numbers of Americans just tune out such moralizing and finger-wagging because we can see past it to the hypocrisy. That doesn't mean that Trump is not a hypocrite. He's a hypocrite of seismic proportions. And a lot of people just don't care. Any time I write criticism of Trump, I get a bunch of emails and comments from people saying that Hillary or Obama have done something much worse. It's as if it doesn't matter to them what Trump has done because they're inured to such charges having seen the Left get away with it for so long. So what if their guy does it also?

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution tries to put together the possible theories that would explain a Trump victory. He posits eight plausible explanations. My explanation would remain that the fault lies more in Hillary Clinton. Not because she is a woman. I think the right female candidate could have won. She's just been exposed as not having changed her lying and corrupt ways from when Americans first encountered her 25 years ago. The recent stories about her server have demonstrated her lies and corruption. No one truly believes her explanation. And if people opposed her based on her gender, she would never have been up in the polls at all. But she has been. And every time there is a story demonstrating her mendacity whether it's about her server or her health, Americans are reminded about why they don't like her. And if Trump is keeping his basic Trumpiness to a minimum, she doesn't have the objectionable parts of his personality and past sayings to play off against. The story is about her, not him. That's why her campaign must have been thrilled that Trump decided to rocket the stupidity of his birther suspicions back into the headlines.

Trump has tried to go on the offense by accusing the Clinton 2008 campaign of spreading birtherism rumors. It does seem that a senior staffer on her campaign, Mark Penn, was trying to "otherize" him during that campaign while not actually accusing him of not having been born in the U.S. But, what a surprise that the Clinton guy spreading such rumors was the odious Sidney Blumenthal. No wonder the Obama administration shut down any chance of bringing him into the State Department as Clinton originally wanted to do. They remembered his role in spreading ugly attacks on Obama.
It now looks like those "harsh attacks" that Blumenthal spread included birtherism. James Asher, former editor of McClatchy's DC bureau alleged Friday that Blumenthal had in fact directly brought the allegations to the newspaper chain in 2008 and asked them to investigate.

Blumenthal denied that he'd spread the rumor in an email to the Boston Globe. But later in the day, McClatchy itself made it clear that the charge has merit. In fact the chain sent a reporter to Kenya at Blumenthal's urging, to look into what he had to say "and that reporter determined that the allegation was false."
McClatchy reports,
Meanwhile, former McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief James Asher tweeted Friday that Blumenthal had “told me in person” that Obama was born in Kenya.

“During the 2008 Democratic primary, Sid Blumenthal visited the Washington Bureau of McClatchy Co.,” Asher said in an email Friday to McClatchy, noting that he was at the time the investigative editor and in charge of Africa coverage.

“During that meeting, Mr. Blumenthal and I met together in my office and he strongly urged me to investigate the exact place of President Obama’s birth, which he suggested was in Kenya. We assigned a reporter to go to Kenya, and that reporter determined that the allegation was false.

“At the time of Mr. Blumenthal’s conversation with me, there had been a few news articles published in various outlets reporting on rumors about Obama’s birthplace. While Mr. Blumenthal offered no concrete proof of Obama’s Kenyan birth, I felt that, as journalists, we had a responsibility to determine whether or not those rumors were true. They were not.”
Blumenthal denies this, but who are you going to believe: Blumenthal or the McClatchy reporter who has no reason to lie about Blumenthal's role?

Larry Johnson, a security expert who runs the blog has the story in a post titled "Confessions of a Hillary Insider" of how Sidney Blumenthal was feeding him attack materials on Obama during the 2008 campaign.
I am shocked at the audacity of Hillary Clinton to decry Donald Trump as a birther because her campaign not only pushed that item in a bid to discredit Barack Obama, but mounted a sustained campaign attack Obama on a broad array of issues. How do I know? I was part of that effort and was in regular email and phone coordination with Sidney Blumenthal. Sidney was the conduit who fed damaging material to me that I subsequently posted on my blog.

In some cases Sid Blumenthal actually provided a draft piece that I would slightly modify and publish under my name. Most of the time, however, Sid provided background information and researched material that I would use to craft pieces. How many? I am providing the links to 63 blog articles that I posted (and in one case was posted by Susan Hudgens, who assisted with the blog) between January 2008 and June 30, 2008.

Here is simple summary of material (in writing or through a verbal briefing) that I received from Sid?
Information surrounding the corrupt business relationship between Barack Obama and Tony Rezko.

Information about Barack Obama’s ties to Palestinian radicals.

Information concerning Barack Obama’s longstanding ties to the American terrorist, Bill Ayers.

Information concerning Barack Obama’s close ties to radical clerics–i.e., Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Pfleger.

Information concerning allegations that Barack Obama was not a natural born citizen.

Information concerning Barack Obama being adopted by Indonesian Muslim Lolo Soetoro.

The big Kahuna of the anti-Obama dump was the allegation that Republicans had a tape of Michelle Obama in which she used the disparaging term “Whitey.” I published that after being told about the “tape” by Sid Blumenthal. (I learned a few weeks later that the story of the tape actually originated with Media Matter’s David Brock and he confirmed its existence to me in person).
Gee, it sounds sort of how a vast left-wing conspiracy might work.

Isn't it typical Clinton tactics to spread rumors behind the scenes and circulate ugly emails questioning Obama's citizenship while preserving deniability? And isn't it typical that Donald Trump would ride the birtherism train for lots of publicity and then suddenly act all innocent as if he was the one who ended the whole controversy while throwing shade on the Clintons? Trump's trafficking in birther conspiracies was despicable at the time and he can't deny that he did so. So what does he do: blame Clinton and have the media spend a couple of days rehashing a story that should never have been a story at all.

My prediction is that those who are supporting Trump don't care about his birtherism past. Those who would never vote for him probably have it on their list about #20 about why he should never be president. But, by muddying up the waters with his accusations against Clinton so that her name is in the headlines associated with the whole mess might give pause to undecided who can't figure out which candidate is less objectionable.

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As John Podhoretz points out, the Democrats should have noticed a lot earlier that Hillary was terrible. The polls of the past week should not have been a surprise. But she was their gal and they were determined to return to the glory days of the Clintons.
No, Democrats and liberals, the possibility of Hillary crashing and burning was there from the outset of her candidacy. And yet you stood there and let it happen.

You Democrats and liberals who did not “feel the Bern” but desperately wanted a Democratic president to succeed Barack Obama — you did nothing to prevent the potential cataclysm that is upon you now. Instead, you’ve spent more than a year chortling at Republican failings, expressing disgust at the rise of Donald Trump and convincing yourselves that your ideological tendency is on the cusp of multigenerational rule in the United States.

And in the process, you failed to do your due diligence on your own candidate — which means you failed as a party, you failed as a movement and you failed as citizens.
Podhoretz rehashes some moments that should have been clues to Democrats that Hillary might not be the shoe-in that they expected. Back in June 2014 she was talking about how she and Bill were "dead broke" when they left the White House in 2001. The news broke in the NYT in March 2015 about her secret server. Peter Schweizer's book, Clinton Cash, exposing all the shady links between the Clinton Foundation and what she had done as secretary of state came out in spring, 2015. Yet no big name jumped in to the race to challenge her.
Taken together, these three should have set off warning sirens within the Democratic Party that the frontrunner was damaged goods — a tone-deaf spokesperson with serious ethical and moral issues that might blow up in her and her party’s faces.

But no. You convinced yourselves that anyone who expressed deep reservations about Hillary Clinton’s honesty and who raised questions about her tone-deafness as a candidate was just a Republican shill or an ideological nutball and should be ignored.

What’s more, she knew you would — and she played on that to secure your support. She and her team worked tirelessly to convince you that raising any questions about her honesty and the e-mails and the knowingly false claim that the attack on Americans in Benghazi was due to a YouTube video would put you in the same camp as the “vast right-wing conspiracy” she blamed in 1998 for the political troubles stemming from Bill’s disgraceful personal behavior.

You believed it because you wanted to believe it. The dynamic in this country has now become zero-sum. If you’re a partisan Democrat, you hate Republicans. If you’re a partisan Republican, you hate Democrats. If Republicans and conservatives are investigating Hillary, they’re doing it in bad faith and must be stopped.

This was such an axiom in the Democratic Party that, in the worst political blunder of the season, Bernie Sanders slammed the brakes on his own suddenly potent protest campaign in the first Democratic debate by declaring that he was “sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails!”

The implicit theory of the Sanders campaign was that Clinton had been corrupted by Wall Street money (and was bad because she had voted for the Iraq war). A rational and far-thinking campaign would have understood that his message would have gone a lot farther if he had connected it to the news about her server.

But doing that would aid Republican inquiries on Capitol Hill, which were deemed out of all permissible bounds. And so Sanders hobbled his bid to topple Hillary just as it was getting going in earnest.
Podhoretz contrasts how Republican candidates and office-holders fought against the Trumpian tide. But no one, except Bernie, fought back against the Clinton juggernaut.
And here’s one salient difference between Trump and Clinton: Mainstream Republicans battled feverishly to prevent him from securing the nomination. Scott Walker got out of the race early and said he was doing so to help the party coalesce around an anti-Trump. Rick Perry did the same. Jeb Bush attacked him. Marco Rubio attacked him. John Kasich attacked him.

Conservative media joined in. My magazine, Commentary, published harsh articles about Trump, as did the Weekly Standard. National Review did its now-famous “Against Trump” issue.

Trump wasn’t defeated in his quest for the nomination, but it wasn’t because the party or the conservative movement lay down and rolled over for him. Indeed, all the lines of attack being raised today by Hillary Clinton against him, from Trump’s footsie-playing with racists to his foundation’s high jinks to Trump University, were introduced into the national discussion and aired out on the Right for months.

Democrats and liberals, by contrast, did not adjudicate the matters now dogging Hillary’s candidacy during the primary season. Instead, they left all opposition to the ministrations of a 74-year-old socialist who wasn’t even a Democrat until 2014.

And his surprising strength in running against her — Sanders ultimately secured 44 percent of the Democratic primary vote — should have made clear that whatever the mainstream Democratic view, ordinary Democrats did see her as shifty, untrustworthy and someone they did not wish to vote for.

Well, here we are. And here you are, Democrats and liberals. There will be a lot of blame to go around if Trump wins. But a significant share will go to you, because you live in a bubble so impervious to reality, you didn’t realize that nominating a widely disliked person with legal and ethical problems might come to bite you in the ass in the end.
It all seems very ironic to me because Bill Clinton rose to the presidency because so many, better qualified Democrats, decided not to run in 1992 because they thought George H.W. Bush was unbeatable after the first Gulf War. Yet Clinton stayed in and persevered all the way to two terms in the White House because of those other Democrats who hesitated and so lost the opportunity that Bill saw. And yet again it seems that Hillary might win the White House because no other Democrat had the foresight to see the possibility of a Hillary collapse and jumped in to oppose her.

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Here's an interesting little story about how the Hillary campaign pads its contributions. They overcharge small donors.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is stealing from her poorest supporters by purposefully and repeatedly overcharging them after they make what’s supposed to be a one-time small donation through her official campaign website, multiple sources tell the Observer.

The overcharges are occurring so often that the fraud department at one of the nation’s biggest banks receives up to 100 phone calls a day from Clinton’s small donors asking for refunds for unauthorized charges to their bankcards made by Clinton’s campaign. One elderly Clinton donor, who has been a victim of this fraud scheme, has filed a complaint with her state’s attorney general and a representative from the office told her that they had forwarded her case to the Federal Election Commission.

“We get up to a hundred calls a day from Hillary’s low-income supporters complaining about multiple unauthorized charges,” a source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of job security, from the Wells Fargo fraud department told the Observer. The source claims that the Clinton campaign has been pulling this stunt since Spring of this year. The Hillary for America campaign will overcharge small donors by repeatedly charging small amounts such as $20 to the bankcards of donors who made a one-time donation. However, the Clinton campaign strategically doesn’t overcharge these donors $100 or more because the bank would then be obligated to investigate the fraud.
If true, and the story includes a photo of a bank statement demonstrating how this happened to one customer, this would be deeply slimy. Does she really need to resort to fraud to pump up her fundraising?

Peter Spiliakos points out how Hillary's answers to the press about her collapsing episode was quick to blame her staff for not having gotten the story out there fast enough that she had pneumonia.
This statement didn’t get much play, but it gets at part of what makes her so tough to like. Nobody believes that the problem was that her campaign wasn’t “quick.” They were very quick about getting her out of the public eye and coming up with a cover story. Nobody believes that her campaign’s attempts to conceal her condition were the product of the staff. Even the most obdurate Clinton flacks know that the lies started at the top.

Clinton’s statement made her look dishonest, and it made her look disloyal toward her staff. It was also unnecessary. She could have just promised to do better without leaving the implication that it was about her staff.

But she couldn’t help herself. She couldn’t level with the public — even when it would have helped. She seems to have a pathological determination to mislead.

I suspect that is a one reason why so many weak Democratic-leaners that I know view voting for her with a combination of resignation and disgust.

These weak Democratic-identifiers will probably still vote for her. She will probably be elected president. But if she loses, her tombstone should say:

She would rather be mendacious than president.

Sean Davis has done a deep dive into the tax documents
from the Clinton Foundation. And he's uncovered how little of the money that the foundation spends goes to charitable grants.
During the 2014 tax year, the tax-exempt foundation spent a total of $91.2 million, but less than $5.2 million of that money, or 5.7 percent, was granted to charitable organizations, the group’s tax filings show. The Clinton Foundation raised nearly $178 million in 2014. The organization’s charitable grants also declined significantly when compared to its donations in 2013.
To put that sum in context, Davis compares those numbers to some other expenses of the foundation. The comparisons are not a positive for the Clintons and their bragging about what good their foundation is doing.
The tax records, which were filed with the IRS in November of 2015, show that the Clinton Foundation spent far more on overhead expenses like travel ($7.9 million) than it did on charitable grants in 2014. The group also spent more on rent and office supplies (a total of $6.6 million) than it did on charitable grants. The Clinton Foundation’s IRS forms show that even its depreciation expense ($5.3 million) — an accounting classification that takes into account the wear and tear of an organization’s assets — exceeded the tax-exempt organization’s charitable grant outlays.
And when they are they giving out those grants, where do they go? By great coincidence they go to organizations associated with Clinton cronies and other Clinton-associated groups.
Supplemental tables within the Form 990 filed with the IRS show that the Clinton Foundation’s largest charitable grant was a $2 million payment to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (AHG), a joint project founded by the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association. Bruce Lindsey, the board chairman for the Clinton Foundation in 2014, also served on AHG’s board that year, according to the organization’s 2014 tax filings. Of the $16.3 million AHG organization spent in 2014, only $349,022, or 2.1 percent, was spent on charitable grants, the group’s tax filings show.
And when they're giving money out to non-Clinton-associated groups, the money went to a Sean Penn and the Tiger Woods Foundation. So what is the defense from the Clinton supporters? They say that most charitable work is done by salaried employees. Not so fast.
A review of the organization’s tax filings and statements from its own executives about the group’s “commercial proposition,” however, suggests that this may not be the case.

The Clinton Foundation’s three largest charitable “program service accomplishments,” according to its tax reports, are the Clinton Global Initiative ($23.2 million), the Clinton Presidential Library ($12.3 million), and the Clinton Climate Initiative ($8.3 million). The Clinton Global Initiative, which exists to organize and produce a lavish annual meeting headlined by former president Bill Clinton, was characterized by the New York Times as a “glitzy annual gathering of chief executives, heads of state, and celebrities,” hardly a portrait of the kind of charitable work that directly impacts the lives of the needy.

Ira Magaziner, a top former Clinton Foundation executive, also explicitly rejected that the group’s climate change activities were charitable in nature. “This is not charity,” Magaziner told The Atlantic in 2007. “The whole thing is bankable. It’s a commercial proposition.”

In fact, the bulk of the charitable work lauded by the Clinton Foundation’s boosters — the distribution of drugs to impoverished people in developing countries — is no longer even performed by the Clinton Foundation. Those activities were spun off in 2010 and are now managed by the Clinton Health Access Initiative, a completely separate non-profit organization.
Of course, the Trump Foundation is no answer to the Clinton's self-dealing disguised as a charitable foundation. As the Washington Post reported last week, Trump doesn't spend his own money on his foundation. He gets other people to donate money and then he takes credit. And then he holds events at his properties and charges charities for the costs of using his facility.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation is not like other charities. An investigation of the foundation — including examinations of 17 years of tax filings and interviews with more than 200 individuals or groups listed as donors or beneficiaries — found that it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner.

For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people’s money — an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation.

Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression that it is Trump’s own money.

In two cases, he has used money from his charity to buy himself a gift. In one of those cases — not previously reported — Trump spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself.
Because, of course, a six-foot portrait of Donald Trump is everyone's definition of a charitable gift. Then there was the extremely convenient donation to Florida's attorney general, Pamela Bondi, who was looking into investigating Trump University.

I suspect that the lack of charitable donations is one reason why Trump is adamantly refusing to release his tax returns. If he isn't donating to his own foundation, whom is he giving money to? The foundation doesn't have any employees. His family members just get together and decide who gets money.
The Trump Foundation still gives out small, scattered gifts — which seem driven by the demands of Trump’s businesses and social life, rather than by a desire to support charitable causes.

The foundation makes a few dozen donations a year, usually in amounts from $1,000 to $50,000. It gives to charities that rent Trump’s ballrooms. It gives to charities whose leaders buttonholed Trump on the golf course (and then try, in vain, to get him to offer a repeat donation the next year).

It even gives in situations in which Trump publicly put himself on the hook for a donation — as when he promised a gift “out of my wallet” on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice.” The Trump Foundation paid off most of those on-air promises. A TV production company paid others. The Post could find no instance in which a celebrity’s charity got a gift from Trump’s own wallet.

Another time, Trump went on TV’s “Extra” for a contest called “Trump pays your bills!”

A professional spray-tanner won. The Trump Foundation paid her bills.
Ah, charity Trump-style.

The New York Post has seen the internal emails at Platte River Networks, the organization that ran Clinton's private server. Clearly, the people working there realized that there was something very peculiar about the whole operation.
Computers from China and Russia tried to attack Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server, according to never-released e-mails from the Denver company that set up and maintained the system.

And other internal e-mails show the IT executives fretted about being ordered to purge e-mails and scrambled to distance themselves from what they believed was the former first lady “covering up some shaddy [shady] s- -t.”

In a gallows-humor message, one called it “Hillary’s coverup operation.”

....The FBI report noted there were many hacking attempts into the system, both while Clinton was secretary of state and afterward when Platte River Networks took over the administration of the home server. The agency said none had been successful, and it never named the hackers or their points of origin.

But multiple internal Platte River e-mails reviewed by The Post show that computers in China tried on three occasions in 2014 to log into Clinton’s server and a computer in Russia tried once in 2013.

The internal communications also revealed how the execs belatedly tightened security on Clinton’s now-controversial home server and frantically sought to “cover our asses” when news broke that the former secretary of state’s communications were deleted....

Clinton put the e-mail server in the hands of Platte River even though no one at the company had a government security clearance.

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Not having any other problems to address, the Alexandria City Council has voted to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway and remove a commemorative statue of a Confederate soldier. I'm usually opposed to a lot of the efforts today to remove all trace of historical figures who owned slaves or supported the Confederacy, but I'm all for renaming the highway. I never understood why a highway, especially one so close ot the nation's capital, should honor the leader of the Confederacy which sought to destroy the union. I've been predicting for years and years that the name of that highway would have to change. If I wait long enough, my predictions will come true.