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Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Cruising the Web

William McGurn puts his finger on what he finds the most disturbing aspect of CLinton's email scandal - her story that this was "common knowledge" at the FBI that she was using a private email account.
Agents further quote her as saying she “could not recall anyone raising concerns with her regarding the sensitivity of the information she received at her email address.”

However unseemly the cashing in of the Clinton family, whatever the trampling of the ethics accord the Clinton Foundation had signed with the White House, even apart from the walking conflicts-of-interests that were Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, the much larger stink here is this: Mrs. Clinton was allowed to spend her four years as secretary of state off the grid.

It isn’t so much that Mrs. Clinton set up a personal server so she would not be accountable the way normal political appointees are held accountable. It’s that no one in government stopped her. The inspector general’s report notes that when two IT officers expressed their concern in 2010 that her private email system meant federal records were not being preserved, they were told “never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”

As a result, when the American people finally learned about Mrs. Clinton’s use of private email for public business, it wasn’t because of a functioning civil service. It was because of a hacker.
The department didn't seem to think that there was a problem, or that they shouldn't stop Hillary from doing what she wanted. And they've been working to block legitimate attempts to find out what happened. McGurn adds in the IRS and its politicization and all the questions about how the FBI conducted its investigation and interview of Hillary. Mark Halperin is also appalled at the FBI director's behavior.
“There’s so much to say about the FBI’s conduct here,” Halperin said. “Those who are skeptical about how he’s done this, look at the Friday release. The guy’s not had a press conference. He talks about transparency. I’ve become increasingly critical of him. I know he’s got a sterling reputation.”

“Not anymore with me. This was pathetic,” Scarborough said.

“To release this on a Friday as if he’s an arm of the Clinton campaign, I’m just stunned, because there’s a lot of information in here that’s of great public interest,” Halperin said. “And if you really cared about transparency, you would say to yourself, is the best time to release this, to get a full public hearing, on Friday before Labor Day? No, it’s not.”

Scarborough added that the FBI interview with Clinton was conducted over the 4th of July weekend.

“I really believe that he has called his own impartiality into question by what he’s done, and the number of legitimate questions … raised by this material … we could fill three hours talking about it,” Halperin said. “It doesn’t mean she should have been indicted necessarily, but it does mean there are a lot of questions that the FBI didn’t follow up on.”

Jeff Bergner had a similar article
about how liberals have politicized everything. He starts with Ruth Bader Ginsburg inserting herself into the presidential race by criticizing Donald Trump, a violation of Supreme Court standard behavior to not comment on politics. This is especially true given that, if he were to be elected, there would be cases involving his presidency that might come before the Court. President Obama started this politicization whn ehe chose to chide the Supreme Court justices in front of him by mischaracterizing their decision in Citizens United during the State of the Union address. And he's been politicizing things ever since.
President Obama's behavior here was of a piece with his comments about the unfolding IRS scandal in 2014. Here was a genuine abuse of government power, replete with lying, stonewalling, and the wanton destruction of public documents. It would be one thing if the president were to opine about a congressional investigation into the IRS scandal. It is quite another to do so when the president's Justice Department had launched its own investigation of the IRS.

It is perhaps fair to say that the administration's investigation, headed by Justice Department attorney (and Obama contributor) Barbara Bosserman, was a sham from the beginning. But is it acceptable for the president to pronounce there was not "even a smidgen" of IRS wrongdoing while the Justice Department's so-called investigation was underway?

Nor is this behavior different in kind from the numerous occasions President Obama has chosen to opine about the legal affairs of individual Americans before the facts have been established. This was true in regard to his friend, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, and was repeated in the cases of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the Black Lives Matter demonstrators. When the facts eventually became known in these cases, they were quite at odds with the president's comments.

This is in interesting contrast to the cases of Islamic terrorism (Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and Orlando) where the facts and motivations were quite clear from the beginning; indeed, the perpetrators announced their motives clearly and without equivocation. Nevertheless, in these instances the president has withheld judgment, saying the motives are complex, unclear, and in need of thorough investigation—though thorough investigations of these events never seem to lead to any new presidential conclusions down the road.
Bergner points out that Democratic politicians are more concerned with partisan loyalties rather than criticizing any action by Democrats.
With regard to IRS targeting of political opponents, for example—the temerity of which would make Richard Nixon blush—was there really a sufficient reason to excuse lying, stonewalling, and the destruction of computers and literally thousands of emails? Is there no single Democrat who can rise above his or her own partisanship and acknowledge that while there may be partisan gain for Republicans, an investigation might also be good for the defense of liberty and government restraint? Would they want the IRS to target them?

In all this, one supposes that the past will be prologue. Is there anyone who thinks that next year the former President Obama—especially if his successor is a Republican—will follow the lead of his predecessors and largely refrain from intervening in political issues? We hear a good deal of fear-mongering about how a President Trump might aim to centralize political power and politicize government decisions. If he does, he will have an excellent example upon which to draw.

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The Washington Post looks at the money that Bill Clinton received from for-profit colleges. Of course, there is no evidence of an overt quid pro quo, but it's clear that the companies knew what they were getting. They got an invitation to a private State Department dinner on higher-education policy.
In addition to recommending invitations for leaders from a community college and a church-funded institution, Clinton wanted a representative from a for-profit college company called Laureate International Universities, which, she explained in an email to her chief of staff that was released last year, was “the fastest growing college network in the world.”

There was another reason Clinton favored setting a seat aside for Laureate at the August 2009 event: The company was started by a businessman, Doug Becker, “who Bill likes a lot,” the secretary wrote, referring to her husband, the former president.

Nine months later, Laureate signed Bill Clinton to a lucrative deal as a consultant and “honorary chancellor,” paying him $17.6 million over five years until the contract ended in 2015 as Hillary Clinton launched her campaign for president.
I'm not sure if it was worth $17.6 million for Laureate to get Bill Clinton as a consultant. What advice do you think he could be giving them? And they weren't the only one.
While much of the controversy about Hillary Clinton’s State Department tenure has involved donations to her family’s charity, the Clinton Foundation, a close examination of the Laureate deal reveals how Bill Clinton leveraged the couple’s connections during that time to enhance their personal wealth – potentially providing another avenue for supporters to gain access to the family.

In addition to his well-established career as a paid speaker, which began soon after he left the Oval Office, Bill Clinton took on new consulting work starting in 2009, at the same time Hillary Clinton assumed her post at the State Department. Laureate was the highest-paying client, but Bill Clinton signed contracts worth millions with GEMS Education, a secondary-education chain based in Dubai, as well as Shangri-La Industries and Wasserman Investment, two companies run by longtime Democratic donors. All told, with his consulting, writing and speaking fees, Bill Clinton was paid $65.4 million during Hillary Clinton’s four years as secretary of state....

The Laureate arrangement illustrates the extent to which the Clintons mixed their charitable work with their private and political lives. Many of those who paid Bill Clinton to consult or speak were also foundation donors and, in some cases, supporters of political campaigns for one or both Clintons.

Becker, for example, donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and last year donated $2,700 to her current effort. Laureate has given between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to the charity’s website, and made millions of dollars of charitable commitments through the Clinton Global Initiative, an arm of the foundation that arranged for corporations to make public pledges to their own philanthropic projects. Meanwhile, Laureate portrayed its association with the Clintons as a symbol of its legitimacy rather than the result of a business deal.
It's all mighty cozy, isn't it?

Remember when Democrats used to worry about the "appearance of corruption"? Well, of course, they were only worried when it was Republicans. Democrats thought that a few off-color jokes that Clarence Thomas supposedly made were beyond the pale. But Bill Clinton's admitted behavior with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky - no big deal.
The same thing happened with sexual harassment. For years, we denounced Orwellian standards symbolized in the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. But then Clinton summoned Monica Lewinsky to his tent like an Arabian sultan, and the political right miraculously turned on a dime.
So David Bonior and other Democrats were so upset about Newt Gingrich's book deal as basically a bribe when he had become the new Speaker of the House after the 1994 election, but didn't care about the book deals that the Clintons received as they left the White House.
Hillary Clinton, that paragon of haughty liberal virtue, has signed a whopping book deal with Simon & Schuster. She will reportedly receive an $8 million advance, a record surpassed only by the Pope.

How tempting for partisans to make life difficult for Hillary, considering the grief Newt Gingrich received for his $4.5 million advance six years ago. In 1995, the news networks considered such an outlandish sum tantamount to a bribe from Rupert Murdoch, the owner of HarperCollins and the CEO of News Corp.

How could the speaker of the House conduct business fairly, asked ostensibly scandalized Democrats, when a giant multinational cut him such a fat check? "I made $36,000 a year for 12 years and was glad of it. I don't even know how to think in those terms," said, at the time, a shocked, shocked President Clinton, who is expected to charge $100k for a single rubber-chicken speech when he leaves office....

Michigan Rep. David Bonior, a veritable bile factory, declared of the Gingrich deal, "This latest $4 million book deal wades 10 feet deep into the ethical swamp." Gingrich was charged with hypocrisy, since he himself helped depose former Speaker Jim Wright, who apparently had been, among other things, selling his "privately published" doorstop of a book to fat cats.

Amid the flak, Gingrich declined the $4.5 million, accepting $1 instead. Republicans cheered Gringrich's graciousness and the Bonior crowd grumbled in their disappointment that Newt hadn't done the right thing by leaping off a cliff.

Now, a reasonable person might expect Bonior to be twice as outraged by an advance twice as large coming from another multinational corporation (Simon & Schuster's parent is Viacom, which owns CBS). Of course he's not. Unsaddled by intellectual consistency, Mrs. Clinton's defenders see nothing wrong with her raking in millions under almost identical circumstances to Gingrich (full disclosure, Newt Gingrich writes for National Review Online, which I edit).

Some Hillary defenders invoke legalisms, arguing that Senate rules are looser than the House rules that applied to Gingrich at the time. But the accusation was that Gingrich was essentially taking a bribe. "More tonight about whether Australian-born É billionaire Rupert Murdoch is trying to buy influence with politically connected authors," was how Dan Rather introduced a Gingrich book story in 1995.

Well, a bribe is a bribe. It doesn't matter if there's a loophole for senators that doesn't exist for House members. If taking enough money to choke a hippo from a huge corporation is tantamount to corruption, or the appearance of corruption, for the speaker-elect, then it's corrupt for a senator-elect, too.

But the truth is that there's nothing corrupt about either. Sure, there are things about Hillary's book deal, and Newt's for that matter, that are politically unpalatable, but it's simply ludicrous to tell people that there's something ethically wrong with getting paid to write a book.

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Megan McArdle explains why the price of EpiPen has suddenly skyrocketed. As she points out, companies are always greedy and always want to make more money. So what has changed?
Companies often decide they’d like to raise prices. And yet, we rarely see markets where prices shoot up by a factor of five when there’s been little change in the underlying costs.

However, those markets have something that the market for EpiPens lacks: competition. People trying to produce a generic version of the EpiPen are held back by the difficulties of getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

There is an alternative device, the Adrenaclick. It may be harder to use than the EpiPen, but with EpiPens selling at $600 a pop, you’d figure that patients would be willing to go through some learning curve in order to save a lot of money. Unfortunately, here it interacts with two other features of our health care system: the need to get a prescription, and the need to get insurance to pay for it.

The Adrenaclick, which can be found for as little as $140 with the right discount coupon, according to Consumer Reports, is not on a lot of insurance formularies. And perhaps in part because of that, physicians don’t write prescriptions for it. They prescribe the EpiPen. Thanks to strict rules about substitution, if pharmacists get a piece of paper telling them to dispense an EpiPen, they cannot say: “Very good, Moddom. Would you like our top-of-the-line, gold-plated epinephrine-dispensing device, or would you like to take a look at some of our lower-priced offerings?” They have to give you an EpiPen. With no generics available, well, enjoy your $600 device that will only last a year before the drug inside degrades and you have to replace it.

These artificial barriers to entry are why we keep seeing huge price spikes for various drugs.
McArdle isn't impressed with Hillary's proposals to address such price increases.
I tend to think that it overcomplicates things. Our health care system already has too many overlapping panels of bureaucrats trying to tweak the market. And I don’t favor either of the two simple, obvious solutions that I’ve seen proposed -- a price-control board, or allowing re-importation of U.S. drugs from Europe (which is basically just re-importing European price controls) -- because the relatively free pricing of the U.S. market provides the profits that support pharmaceutical R&D. Which has given us great, valuable drugs like Sovaldi and Opdivo.

What I do favor is the economist Alex Tabarrok’s proposal for drug reciprocity with Europe: If a drug or device may be sold there, then it should be approved for the U.S. as well. We don’t need to import their price controls, or impose ones of our own. We just need to import their competition. (Europe has many epinephrine pens on the market).

Beyond that, we should have a good long think about what the FDA does. A lot of the reason that it can be so hard to get new drugs and devices approved is that the FDA too often wants those drugs and devices to be perfect -- at least as good as anything already on the market and preferably better. And it does not really consider factors such as “It’s cheaper,” or “It will keep the other companies honest” when passing judgment.

We should learn a lesson from this episode. But the lesson is not, “We need more government and less market.” The lesson is, “We need more market -- which means we need better government.”
Paul Howard writes on the same subject at The Hill.
What’s preventing competition is not lack of demand, but regulatory costs imposed by the Food and Drug Administration. One company estimates that it would cost them at least $1.5 million dollars to develop an EpiPen alternative and push it through clinical trials.

What can be done? Imposing a price cap on epinephrine autoinjectors would only discourage future competitors. Instead, we should make it cheaper and easier to bring alternatives to market.

Congress could offer the U S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) priority review vouchers for companies that launch competitors for single-source generics. Given the high cost of clinical trials, conditional approvals for promising medicines could also allow companies to recoup some of their upfront costs and generate revenue, while collecting final data on safety and efficacy. Another option is to list more medicines for over-the-counter use, reducing the need for expensive prescriptions.

Instead of pointing fingers, we need to push for reforms that allow new competitors to enter the market more quickly. When barriers to entry are high, competition delayed is often competition derailed.
And then there was Nancy Pelosi's silence about Democratic Representative John Murtha and his providing of pork to groups that gave him money. She also supported Charlie Rangel through all his corruption scandal The appearance of corruption that Pelosi used to trumpet when it was about Republicans suddenly wasn't so important.

Worrying about the "appearance of corruption" is the whole motivation behind campaign finance reform, one of the Democrats' pet causes. But they certainly aren't worried about the appearance of corruption in all the Clinton stories. Oh, no. For those stories, they're happy to try to help her out by stonewalling or pooh-poohing any concerns.

Speaking of hypocrisy, Ed Morrissey links to an NPR story about Major Jason Brezler who made a much more noble mistake than Hillary Clinton yet may be paying a much higher price.
Four years ago, Jason Brezler sent an urgent message to a fellow Marine in Afghanistan, warning him about a threat. The warning wasn't heeded, and two weeks later, three U.S. troops were dead.

Now the Marine Corps is trying to kick out Maj. Brezler because the warning used classified information.
He served in Fallujah and survived and then went back to serve in Afghanistan when he encountered a corrupt police chief, Sarwar Jan, who was linked to the Taliban and was a pedophile preying on young boys. Brezler kicked him off base. Brezler went home and then got a request, while sitting in a class, from a Marine in Afghanistan that Sarwar Jan was back on base with a group of young Afghan boys.
Brezler searched his laptop — it was the same one he'd had with him in Helmand — and found the dossier on Sarwar Jan. He attached it, hitting "reply all" and then "send." That set off a chain of consequences, including one Brezler never intended, according to his lawyer, Mike Bowe.

"As soon as he sends it, the Marine on the other side says, 'This is marked classified,' " Bowe says. "So, at the first break during class, [Brezler] calls on his cellphone to his [commanding officer] and he says, 'Look, this is what just happened,' " says Bowe, "so he self-reports right away like he's supposed to do."

Brezler told his commander he had emailed a classified document from a non-secure Yahoo account. His commander, who had served with Brezler in Fallujah, told him to notify their intelligence officer but not worry too much about it.

"He said all right, it sounds like minor spillage," Brezler recalls.

Over the next several months, NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service — because the Marine Corps is technically part of the Navy) would investigate the "spillage" and find that Brezler had classified materiel still on his laptop from his deployment. That would result in a bad fitness report on Brezler's otherwise excellent record of awards and citations.

More immediately, though, the urgent warning he had sent got lost in the concern over spillage.
Just two and a half weeks after his warning, one of Sarwar Jan's young servants killed three unarmed Marines at the base in Afghanistan. Just what Brezler had feared had now happened. And then he found out that the parents of one of the murdered Marines didn't know the details about their son's death. Their congressman, Republican Pete King was looking into it for them.
"It was at that point that I said to myself, 'This isn't OK.' That family, they probably don't really know this attack was in the preventable range," he says.

Brezler met with Rep. King, and the congressman started pushing the issue in the media.

And that's when the U.S. Marine Corps got serious — about investigating Jason Brezler.

"Almost a year had gone by from the time, he had moved on, the Marine Corps had moved on," says lawyer Mike Bowe. "A news story comes out that reveals that he's talking to Congressman King about these murders, and three days later he is sent to a Board of Inquiry to be kicked out of the Marine Corps."

The inquiry was retaliation, Bowe says, for embarrassing the Marine Corps brass. He says there were hundreds of similar cases of "spillage" the same year, and only two were punished. A Pentagon inspector general's report concluded it was not retaliation.

After three days of testimony, the board decided Brezler should be put out of the Marine Corps, with an honorable discharge. He wouldn't lose any benefits or rank; Jason Brezler just wouldn't be a Marine anymore.

"In light of my very strong desire to continue to serve and lead Marines, it didn't feel honorable," he says.

Brezler is suing in federal court to stay in the Marines.
Compare this honorable Marine's treatment to that of Hillary Clinton. It is a scandal. Morrissey writes,
Hey, all Brezler did was to act in an “extremely careless” manner. He may have had some classified information on his unsecured home server — er, laptop — but there was no intent to commit a crime. Under the FBI’s and Department of Justice’s rules, that means that not only should Brezler be left alone, he should be elected to high public office.

In fact, the differences in Brezler’s case makes the disparate treatment of Hillary and the Marine major even more egregious. Brezler self-reported his mishandling, and expected some kind of punishment for it, but he (inadvertently!) committed that act in an attempt to save lives and assist the US military in distinguishing what turned out to be a deadly threat. Brezler did all he could to promote transparency, both of his actions and of threats that emerged in his absence. Hillary Clinton deliberately set up a system to evade transparency, didn’t self-report, evaded and lied constantly about the system while destroying evidence — sometimes with hammers. And she did that all during the time that Congress had an open investigation into the State Department’s failure to discern emerging threats in Benghazi and provide appropriate security for its consulate.
But we have two systems of justice in this country. One for the Clintons and one for everyone else.

This should be a powerful ad in Florida. And it could run in other states for Democrats who think funding Planned Parenthood trumps Zika funding.

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This is a show I might actually watch. Great Van Susteren is leaving Fox News and Brit Hume will anchor a show about the election. I wasn't interested in Van Susteren's show. She seemed to either be focusing on the latest murder mystery, particularly if the victim was an attractive blonde. At one point she seemed to be the all Natalie Holloway show. And then she was on the Sarah Palin bandwagon. Or she was playing the Sean Hannity role in giving power puff interviews to Donald Trump. But I've always enjoyed Brit Hume and have missed him since he retired from the 6 pm show, despite Bret Baier's meritorious job as Hume's successor. Unfortunately, the show will only go until the election and will focus on the election. Now, that's a subject I can only take so much of. Maybe I'll just watch Jeopardy instead.

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