Friday, September 09, 2016

Cruising the Web

Some Republicans seem to have discovered a strange new affection for Julian Assange simply because he's threatening to release damaging emails that have been hacked from her server. Just because Republicans can't stand Hillary, that doesn't mean that they should ally with someone who happily made public information that endangered people who had helped the U.S. in Afghanistan and thus endangered their lives. Let us not forget that this is a man accused of rape who has been hiding out in Ecuador's embassy to avoid extradition. And let's not forget Putin's role in all this.

Jim Geraghty writes very well
on this subject.
One of the primary arguments from Republicans this season is that Clinton’s failure to keep classified material in proper systems is a criminal act and unforgivably bad judgment. The thinking goes that failure to protect secret information on such a massive scale endangered American lives and should disqualify her from the presidency.

So why would any Republican turn over the floor to one of the few men on the planet who indisputably and deliberately did more to reveal sensitive American secrets than Hillary did?

Do Republicans hate the idea of classified information getting stolen because it’s inherently bad for American security? Or do they hate it because Hillary Clinton did it? If you’re rooting for Julian Assange now that he says he’s got “significant information” that “pertains to Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” you’re admitting that you’re okay with hacking and stealing information, as long as the hacks and theft target people that you don’t like. Assange won’t specify whether his remaining unrevealed “significant information” comes from the Democratic National Committee (which is not classified information) or whether it comes from government sources.

An anti-Hillary Republican might think of Assange as a temporary ally of convenience. But the problem with even a temporary embrace, or a short-lived amnesia about Assange’s long anti-American history, is that someday Assange will go back to his old tricks of revealing classified secrets and endangering the lives of Americans and their allies. And when that day comes, everyone will know that the Republican outrage against him is extremely conditional.

Rich Lowry adds,
The enemy of my enemy (or more properly, my domestic political opponent) can still be a reprehensible creep, and that’s what Assange is.
But Sean Hannity of Fox News has a newfound soft spot for the accused rapist and scourge of America. A couple of years ago, Hannity tore into the Obama administration for not doing more to capture the WikiLeaks founder, and sympathized with the contention that Assange was the equivalent of a terrorist. Now, the host says he was “conflicted” about Assange back then, and he had qualms about his work only because “I believe in privacy.”

This makes it sound as though WikiLeaks published a Hulk Hogan sex tape. Instead, Assange dumped, among other things, what the Defense Department called “the largest leak of classified documents in its history.” Hannity was outraged a few years ago that the leaks potentially endangered U.S. allies in Afghanistan — the Taliban vowed to track down named U.S. informants — but now hails Assange for exposing “how corrupt, dishonest and phony our government is.”

Assange puts his agenda in more starkly anti-American terms. He has a poisonous, Chomskyite view of the United States as a dastardly “empire,” bending the world to its will and persecuting brave dissidents like none other than Julian Assange.

When he started out, Assange was committed to exposing the world’s genuinely pernicious states. He said he was going to criticize “highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia and Central Eurasia” and warned a newspaper in Moscow of the damaging information he had acquired about Russia.

Assange is no longer in that line of work. He has fallen into the arms of Putin as he pursues his vendetta against the United States and its former secretary of state, whom, it so happens, Putin will never forgive for criticizing Russia’s 2011 parliamentary elections.

The not especially telegenic WikiLeaks founder somehow briefly landed an RT show, and it was his idea for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to seek refuge in Russia. The New York Times recently documented how Assange’s leaks tend to track with Russian interests.

The avowed champion of transparency and free speech told the Times he doesn’t go out of his way to criticize a Russian government that kills journalists because to do so is “boring.”
It used to be that conservatives believed in certain principles. Some people are so eager to see Trump win and Clinton lose that they're losing sight of those principles. It is one thing to discuss the information that Wikileaks might acquire, but it is quite another thing to act as if Assange is some sort of noble crusader for truth now that he's making Clinton look bad.

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Bonnie Kristian has some good proposals to improve the presidential debates. I like all of them. Take it out of the hands of the commission on debates which is run by the two parties who then conspire to keep a third-party candidate out of it by setting a too-high standard. I like the idea of getting rid of the live audience and also cutting off the mic of the candidate when it's not his or her turn. And I also like this proposal to change the format.
Replace gotcha questions with a formal format. Speaking of time allotments, the structure of the debates should follow a predictable pattern with a reasonable pace. As it is, questions are asked at random and candidates are given anywhere from 15 seconds to three minutes to respond. This haphazard approach is particularly damaging in the primaries, where candidates get markedly uneven speaking time and question quality.

A better format would be something like the Oxford debate style, which breaks the evening into single-topic modules. The moderator starts a section with a proposition — for example, "We should build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it" — on which each candidate may speak for seven minutes plus a one-minute rebuttal of the other's remarks. No interruptions are permitted, and seven minutes is long enough that a speaker who wishes to persuasively use their whole time will have to offer more depth than a soundbite can include. The finality of the format, which will permanently move on to a new issue once rebuttals are done, pushes candidates to stay on topic.
The candidates would probably resort to repeating their campaign speeches, but it still would get rid of these quick, substance-free responses. It would be worth a chance.

Ben Shapiro is rightly appalled
by the performances of both Clinton and Trump in the Commander-in-Chief forum. They're both atrocious. Clinton can't give satisfactory answers on her server because there are no satisfactory answers. She's clearly lied about it and is continuing to deceive.
She said she would “make no excuses for it,” then proceeded to make excuses for it – and lie continuously. She said that she had “a lot of experience dealing with classified material,” but that didn’t stop her from distributing it across a private server. She lied that the emails were not marked classified. She acknowledged that she talked on her server about America’s covert drone program. She said there was no evidence her system was hacked, even though FBI Director James Comey said that her email server was less secure than a Gmail account. When a former naval flight officer asked Hillary why he would be imprisoned for the same activities she pursued, she said “I did exactly what I should have done” – minutes after saying she hadn’t.

The disaster didn’t stop there. She said we didn’t lose a single American in Libya, ignoring the death of four Americans in Benghazi. She then stated that the Iran deal did not stop any negative Iranian activity…except for their nuclear program, which German intelligence says continues anyway. She said America would not put ground troops into Iraq “ever again” or Syria. We have ground troops in both. She then tried to blame the rise of ISIS on Trump.

It was a truly egregious performance, made even more egregious by the fact that this was supposed to be Hillary’s area of expertise – she was Secretary of State.
And Trump was reprehensible with some of his answers.
He fibbed that he was always against the war in Iraq. He suggested that his trip to Mexico was a success because “the people that arranged the trip in Mexico have been forced out of government. That’s how well we did.” Say what? He ripped American generals: “I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble.” He reiterated that his policy in Iraq was, “shouldn’t be there, but if we’re going to get out, take the oil.” Which makes no sense, given that someone would have to be there in order to assure the flow of oil. He then said his ISIS policy would be to talk with his generals, but different generals than the ones he says are rubble, and maybe his plan would be “a combination of my plan and the generals’ plan, or the generals’ plan, if I like their plan, Matt, I’m not going to call you up and say, ‘Matt, we have a great plan.’” He said that his intelligence briefers didn’t like President Obama and he could tell because “I have pretty good with the body language. I could tell they were not happy.”

And then he talked up the glories of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Repeatedly. “You know, the beautiful part of getting along, Russia wants to defeat ISIS as badly as we do. If we had a relationship with Russia, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could work on it together and knock the hell out of ISIS…he does have an 82 percent approval rating, according to the different pollsters.” He denied that Putin had hacked DNC servers (“nobody knows that for a fact”) and then compared Putin to Obama, adding, “I think when he calls me brilliant, I’ll take the compliment, OK?...He is really very much of a leader. I mean you can say, oh, isn’t that a terrible thing – the man has very strong control over a country…he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”

Finally, he concluded by saying that he’d fight sexual assault in the military by setting up “a court system within the military.” Which already exists.
Clinton has lied and keeps lying. Trump blusters to hide his ignorance and his fanciful proposals.

Byron York, however, argues that Trump has an inborn advantage because he hasn't served in office. Clinton has to defend her record and what she has actually done while Trump just has a record of talking and he seems to shrug off pass statements with nonchalance.
One common theme of all the questions: They focused on things Clinton did in her years in office, in the Senate and as secretary of state. She started out by citing her experience, so Lauer and the audience answered, in effect, "OK, let's talk about your experience."

Trump has no such experience. There's no Trump record in public office, no government decisions that went awry, no votes to back away from, no nothing. When running for public office, even for the presidency, that can be an advantage.
He can just criticize what she has actually done. That's always easier than having to actually be in office and make difficult choices. York goes on to point out that challengers have done better than candidates with government experience in the recent pass. Think of Obama versus McCain, Bush 43 against Gore, Clinton against Bush 41. Reagan against Carter, and Carter against Ford. Not having a record can be a help. Of course, for this to help Trump, he has to be able to both point out Hillary's mistakes and then present himself as a reasonable and acceptable alternative. He's had trouble doing that so far.

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Ruth Marcus, no conservative, is not impressed with how the Clintons cashed in on the presidency.
The president, as he prepared to leave office, was dead broke. So broke, in fact, that he had to take out a loan to get him through the transition. Bill Clinton in 2001? No, Harry Truman in 1953 — and the resemblance ends there.

Back then, although Truman had only a monthly Army pension of $112.56, he was adamant about not employing his presidential service to cash in. As biographer David McCullough relates, Truman turned down a new Toyota; a Miami real estate development company’s offer of “not less than $100,000” to come on board; an array of consulting gigs.

“I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency,” Truman later wrote.

Those were the days — and even then they weren’t, entirely. Months after leaving office, Truman sold the rights to his memoirs to Life magazine for $600,000 — the equivalent of more than $5 million today.
Other former presidents have since cashed in, but none with the determination and crassness of the Clintons. Her solution is to give former presidents more government money.
Let’s pay our ex-presidents more from the public fisc (their annual pension is now about $200,000) and expect more from them. In exchange for receiving the higher pension money, they could be required to file annual financial disclosure forms, just as they did while president. We can’t stop ex-presidents from vacuuming up huge speaking fees, including from questionable sources, but we can force them to do it in sunlight, whose glare could be chastening.
Yeah, like that would have stopped the Clintons. I like her other proposal better.
Alternatively, or in addition, make the pension dependent on forgoing outside income above a certain amount — as is already done in some cases for federal employees who go through the revolving door into lucrative jobs. Perhaps presidents could collect their pension only if they eschew income from any sources beyond writing books; well-paid presidential memoirs have a long history (see Ulysses Grant) and serve the public interest more than closed-door speeches.
With all the money out there for former presidents to earn big bucks, why should the taxpayer be paying to support a presidential office and all the other perks besides security?

Oh, what a surprise. The State Department rushed to provide Clinton emails for the Democrats in Congress while they stonewalled the Republicans on their requests.

The WSJ explains what is behind the Democrats' filibuster of the Zika bill. It's all about trying to help out the Democrat, Patrick Murphy, running for the Senate against Marco Rubio.
A Zika funding bill passed the Senate 89-8 in May, with the support of every Democrat, but then Harry Reid ambushed the House-Senate compromise conference report, which has passed the House and can’t be amended. The decoy that Democrats settled on for this double cross is that the bill “bans” Zika money from flowing to Planned Parenthood and its ProFamilias affiliate in Puerto Rico. This is a transparent falsehood that even the dumbest Democrats aren’t dumb enough to believe.

The legislative text appropriates block grants “for health services provided by public health departments, hospitals, or reimbursed through public health plans.” The notional basis for the Democratic opposition is that it does not specifically single out Planned Parenthood and ProFamilias as grant recipients. That’s it. Congress isn’t banning anything.

The intended beneficiary of this obstruction appears to be Patrick Murphy, the House Democrat who is challenging Marco Rubio for the Florida Senate seat. “We can’t keep putting ideology above the health and safety of Florida families,” Mr. Murphy said Tuesday.

You almost have to admire the political nerve. Mr. Rubio voted in favor of the bill to boost Zika funding. Mr. Murphy voted against it in the House, and Florida’s other Senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, joined the filibuster. As for ideology, Democrats are holding up everything else in the bill—from Zika vaccine development to mosquito eradication—over a phantom affront to the abortion lobby. Do the goddesses of Planned Parenthood now have to be cited, if not exalted, in every bill as a precondition for passage?
How disgusting that the Democrats will play politics and then try to pretend it is the Republicans' fault that the bill hasn't passed. I hope that Floridians will come to understand what is really going on.

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The Institute for Fiscal Studies has some instructive statistics on the gender pay gap in Britain.
The real gender pay gap may only be about 6%, it is getting smaller over time, and it is mostly not caused by companies paying women less than men for the same jobs.

Charles Krauthammer lays out the open contempt
that foreign leaders are showing to Obama.
China’s ostentatious rudeness was perfectly reflective of the world’s general disdain for Obama. His high-minded lectures about global norms and demands that others live up to their “international obligations” are no longer amusing. They’re irritating.

Foreign leaders have reciprocated by taking this administration down a notch knowing they pay no price. In May 2013, Vladimir Putin reportedly kept the U.S. secretary of state cooling his heels for three hours outside his office before deigning to receive him. Even as Obama was hailing the nuclear deal with Iran as a great breakthrough, the ayatollah vowed “no change” in his policy, which remained diametrically opposed to “U.S. arrogant system.” The mullahs followed by openly conducting illegal ballistic missile tests — calculating, correctly, that Obama would do nothing. And when Iran took prisoner 10 American sailors in the Persian Gulf, made them kneel and broadcast the video, what was the U.S. response? Upon their release, John Kerry publicly thanked Iran for its good conduct.

Why should Xi treat Obama with any greater deference? Beijing illegally expands into the South China Sea, meeting only the most perfunctory pushback from the U.S. Obama told CNN that he warned Xi to desist or “there will be consequences.” Is there a threat less credible?

Putin annexes Crimea and Obama crows about the isolation he has imposed on Russia. Look around. Moscow has become Grand Central Station for Middle East leaders seeking outside help in their various conflicts. As for Ukraine, both the French president and the German chancellor have hastened to Moscow to plead with Putin to make peace. Some isolation.

Iran regularly harasses our vessels in the Persian Gulf. Russian fighters buzzed a U.S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea. And just Wednesday, a Russian fighter flew within 10 feet of an American military jet. The price they paid? Being admonished that such provocations are unsafe and unprofessional. An OSHA citation is more ominous.

Add to that American acquiescence not just to ransoming hostages held by Iran, but to delivering the loot by unmarked plane filled with stacks of cold (untraceable) cash, like a desert drug deal. Why the stealth? Obviously to conceal the manner of the transaction from Congress and the American public. Some humiliations are so grotesque that even the Obama team can’t miss it.

Now the latest. At the G-20, Obama said he spoke to Putin about cyberwarfare, amid revelations that Russian hackers have been interfering in our political campaigns. We are more technologically advanced, both offensively and defensively, in this arena than any of our adversaries, said Obama, but we really don’t want another Cold War-style arms race.

It makes you want to weep. This KGB thug adhering to norms? He invades Ukraine, annexes Crimea, bombs hospitals in Aleppo — and we expect him to observe cyber-code etiquette? Rather than exploit our technological lead — with countermeasures and deterrent threats — to ensure our own cyber-safety?

We’re back to 1929 when Secretary of State Henry Stimson shut down a U.S. code-breaking operation after it gave him decoded Japanese telegrams. He famously explained that “gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

Well, comrade, Putin is no gentleman. And he’s reading our mail.
When Bush was president, other countries didn't like him, but Obama promised us that his mere presence in the White House would reverse all that. Yeah, we've seen how that worked.