Monday, October 17, 2016

Cruising the Web

Remember all those stories in the 1990s about foreign donations to the Bill Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party. Well, it seems that little has changed.
In an email chain with the subject, “Re: Foreign registered agents,” various figures in her presidential campaign discuss the best way to handle foreign donations. The chain features Dennis Chang, national finance director for the Clinton campaign, asking, “We really need make a policy decision on this soon – whether we are allowing those lobbying on behalf of foreign governments to raise $ for the campaign. Or case by case.”

The emails continue with a debate about the best way to manage foreign lobbyists wanting to raise money for the campaign.

Jesse Ferguson, deputy national press secretary and senior spokesman for Clinton, tries to understand just how much money is up in the air. “Is there anyway to ballpark what percent of our donor base this would apply to (aka how much money we’re throwing away) Cost benefits are easier to analyze with the costs. :)”

The emails feature a list of foreign agents that the Clinton campaign was worried about possibly excluding from fundraising, including people lobbying on behalf of Somalia, United Arab Emirates, Kurdistan, the Transitional Government of Libya, and the Republic of Iraq, among others.

Later, Chang seems worried about losing this potential fundraising, writing, “Hi all – we do need to make a decision on this ASAP as our friends who happen to be registered with FARA are already donating and raising. I do want to push back a bit (it’s my job!): I feel like we are leaving a good amount of money on the table (both for primary and general, and then DNC and state parties)… and how do we explain to people that we’ll take money from a corporate lobbyist but not them; that the Foundation takes $ from foreign govts but we now won’t. Either way, we need to make a decision soon.”

Finally, Robby Mook, campaign manager for Clinton, writes, “Marc made a convincing case to me this am that these sorts of restrictions don’t really get you anything…that Obama actually got judged MORE harshly as a result. He convinced me. So…in a complete U-turn, I’m ok just taking the money and dealing with any attacks. Are you guys ok with that?”

Jennifer Palmieri, director of communications for Clinton’s campaign, responds to that email, “Take the money!!”

Roger L. Simon comments,
Today's "Podesta Emails" revelations from WikiLeaks bring up another matter—money. The foreign kind. As the Federal Elections Commission notes, "Foreign nationals are prohibited from making any contributions or expenditures in connection with any election in the U.S."

The reasons for this should be obvious—foreign subversion of our national interest, etc.—but, as we shall see, the crew at Hillary Clinton HQ evidently wasn't convinced these risks were serious, not serious enough anyway to merit observing the federal regulation known to all.
After summarizing the email discussions of allowing foreign donations, he adds,
An email chain--subject line: "RE: Registered foreign agents"—that wound up in the lap of Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri tells a tale of greed over national interest straight out of H. L. Mencken's famous remark: "When they say it's not about the money, it's about the money."

On the cc. line and responding at various points were many of the usual suspects: Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, Huma Abedin (no identification necessary), John Podesta (ditto), campaign general counsel Marc Elias, national finance director Dennis Cheng, and quite a few others.

The issue at question was what to do about donations from representatives of several dozen countries, some, not surprisingly, misogynistic and homophobic, few democratic. Included are Iraq, Egypt, Libya, UAE, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, National Security Council of Georgia, Hong Kong Trade Dvelopment [sic] Council, Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Kosovo, Republic of Peru, Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Colombia (of Clinton Cash fame) and something called the Breaux Lott Leadership Group for Government of Taiwan that appears to have been bought by a group connected to the Embassy of China.

This only touches the surface because early in the chain Karuna Seshasai, also an attorney, writes: "This is only 23 names of the first 350 prospective bundlers we looked at pre-launch. I anticipate more coming down the pipeline. "

More do. And there follows a debate about what to do. Can they get away with it? Can they disregard the inconvenient federal regulations proscribing foreign donations?
And the conclusion: "Take the money!!"

And the death spiral of Obamacare goes on, this time in North Carolina where a quarter million people are losing the plans they bought under the law as two of the three insurers in North Carolina are dropping out.
More than 250,000 people in North Carolina are losing the health plans they bought under the Affordable Care Act because two of the three insurers are dropping out — a stark example of the disruption roiling marketplaces in many parts of the country.

The defections mean that almost all of the state, from the Blue Ridge to the Outer Banks, will have just one insurer selling ACA policies when the exchanges open again for business in November. The remaining company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, agonized over whether to leave, too. Instead, it is raising its rates by nearly 25 percent.

In no other state will as many people find such limited choice. But what is happening to nearly a half-million North Carolinians epitomizes a national checkerboard of ACA haves and have-nots.

The waning competition — and the financial losses that have prompted insurers to jilt so many ACA customers — pose fresh challenges to the marketplaces as they enter their fourth year.
The disaster continues in Minnesota.
Another day, another Democrat finally owning up to the fact that ObamaCare is a disaster. And another state facing the implosion of its health-insurance market.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton — once one of the Affordable Care Act’s most enthusiastic champions — is the latest Democrat to publicly eat crow for that support.

With good reason: Tens of thousands of Minnesotans are losing their coverage next year. And premiums on individual plans — which enroll 250,000 North Star State residents — will rise an average 50 percent to 67 percent.

“The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for increasing numbers of people,” Dayton admitted last week, calling the situation in his state “an emergency.”
Bloomberg summarizes what is happening.
A growing number of people in Obamacare are finding out their health insurance plans will disappear from the program next year, forcing them to find new coverage even as options shrink and prices rise.

At least 1.4 million people in 32 states will lose the Obamacare plan they have now, according to state officials contacted by Bloomberg. That’s largely caused by Aetna Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and some state or regional insurers quitting the law’s markets for individual coverage.

Sign-ups for Obamacare coverage begin next month. Fallout from the quitting insurers has emerged as the latest threat to the law, which is also a major focal point in the U.S. presidential election. While it’s not clear what all the consequences of the departing insurers will be, interviews with regulators and insurance customers suggest that plans will be fewer and more expensive, and may not include the same doctors and hospitals....

Nationwide estimates of the number of people losing their current plans are higher. For example, Charles Gaba, who tracks the law at, estimates that 2 million to 2.5 million people in the U.S. will lose their current plans, compared with 2 million a year ago. Gaba’s estimate is based on insurance company membership data.

For the people losing plans, there are fewer and fewer choices. One estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation predicts that for at least 19 percent of the people in Obamacare’s individual market next year there will be only one insurer to choose from.
CNN profiles what all this means for one woman in Georgia.
Shela Bryan, 63, has been comparing prices for individual health insurance plans since May, and she can't believe what she sees.

"They cost a thousand, $1,200 [a month], and they have a deductible of $6,000," she said. "I don't know how they think anyone can afford that."

Bryan, who lives in Hull, Georgia, a hamlet of about 200 residents near Athens, was on her husband Tony's insurance plan for decades. When Tony died in 2013, she continued his workplace coverage through COBRA, and she had to pay almost the full price of the insurance — about $800 a month. That was high, but it was "the Cadillac of insurance," Bryan said, with low copays, prescription drug coverage and a $500 deductible. That option will run out in a few months.

So she is turning to the individual insurance marketplace in what is shaping up to be the most expensive year for the 400,000 or so consumers in Georgia who buy individual policies but don't purchase them on the Obamacare exchanges.

About 10 million Americans buy individual insurance coverage either on or off the exchanges and get no federal subsidies to help bring down the cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office. About the same number get the financial assistance for the plans they purchase on the exchanges.

"For those receiving subsidies, the subsidy protects them against the increase. If they're not eligible, they'll be paying a lot more. And the more premiums go up, the higher the cliff," said William Custer, a health policy and insurance expert at Georgia State University.

In Georgia, consumers who don't get insurance through their employers or don't qualify for tax credits to help pay for policies they purchase are facing double-digit premium increases. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, the only insurer offering plans throughout the state, received an increase of more than 21% from the state insurance commissioner. Humana was awarded a 67.5% hike.

Numbers like those are rattling other states too. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee was granted a 62% rate hike, while state officials approved a 46% increase for Cigna. Florida authorities gave plans there an average 19% bump. And last week, Minnesota officials announced that premiums for the seven insurers on the individual market are rising 50% to 67%.

For Democrats, this just means that we need the government to bail them out. They ignore how COBRA plans were perfect solutions for so many people before the passage of Obamacare. Then we need to replace the failed federal exchanges with even more government control of the insurance industry. Yeah, because that makes sense.

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While Donald Trump is going way over the top with his threats of libel suits against media outlets publishing stories about women alleging sexual harassment, the media should not be absolved from the bias that they've been demonstrating. Such bias, as Joe Concha, the media critic for The Hill, writes, is still at fault.
Speaking of data, try this on for size:

In viewing recordings by The Hill of each major network's evening newscasts, which are watched by an average total of 22 million to 24 million people nightly, the newest batch of WikiLeaks revelations was covered for a combined 57 seconds out of 66 minutes of total air time on ABC, NBC and CBS.

Those leaked emails include derogatory comments about Catholics by senior Clinton campaign officials and more disturbing examples of collusion between the media and her campaign It's newsworthy stuff) —

On the other hand, allegations from four women of unwanted sexual advances by Trump were covered a combined 23 minutes.

Add it all up, and one presidential candidate's negative news of the day was somehow covered more than 23 times more than another candidate's negative news of the day.

It's understood what has always sold in this business: sizzle always trumps steak, sex always triumphs over substance. If you told me the coverage was 2-1 or even a 3-1 ratio of Trump to Clinton, you wouldn't be reading this column right now.

But a story winning the lead over another is one thing. Devouring it to the point of almost total omission via a more than 23:1 ratio is quite another:

"NBC Nightly News" with Lester Holt devoted zero seconds to the Democrat and Wikileaks on Thursday night.

"ABC World News Tonight" with David Muir gave it the same time as a shot clock in college basketball: 30 seconds.

"CBS Evening News" with Scott Pelley when 27 seconds with the story.

To put the importance of evening news editorial into context, the size of the its collective audience each night trounces the highest-rated program on CNN. In Wednesday night's case, that was "Anderson Cooper 360," with 1.925 million viewers. On MSNBC, it was "All in with Chris Hayes," with 1.926 million. On Fox News, it was "The O'Reilly Factor," with 3.728 million.

Add all of those up, and it's just shy of 7.6 million, or about one-third the number of people watching ABC, NBC and CBS, the networks presenting — in theory, anyway — straight news stories without the opinion and conjecture that dominates cable news.

And that's why it matters to pay attention to this kind of stuff when listening to Trump charge the media with bias.

It's one thing to lazily dismiss it as Trump simply blaming the messenger for a campaign heading in mostly the wrong direction in the polls partially due to self-inflicted wounds.

It's another to actually take the time to dive into the numbers to see if there's some beef here or just empty calories.

From the looks of the coverage, we're looking at the kind of burger once advertised on "The Simpsons": 18 ounces of sizzling ground beef, soaked in rich, creamery butter, and topped off with bacon, ham, and a fried egg.

Somewhere around 23 million people absorbed Trump getting pulverized for 23 minutes across the Big Three broadcast network evening newscasts.

Less than a minute combined was devoted to damaging documents pertaining to Clinton.

Mollie Hemingway adds in that the media's efforts to affect the election with the timing of the women's accusation against Trump is not the sort of media behavior that benefits the country.
Now we learn of reports that NBC executives planned to release their “Access Hollywood” tape for maximum impact on the election. They wanted to wait for the day after the debate, but others leaked it to the Washington Post prior to the debate.

Cooper works hard to get the denial from Trump, kudos to him. And three days later we now have everyone leaking the story at once.

Again, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. All’s fair in love and war. And so on and so forth. But there is something curious about this high level of coordination between the media and the Clinton campaign. It’s worth asking whether it’s healthy. Heck, it’s worth noting that “coordination” is the nicer construction on what just transpired.
It's enough to make a cynical conservative suspect that there was a deliberate effort to hold the ugliest information on Trump until he'd gotten the nomination and then release it at the most damaging moment.
To put a fine point upon it, unless you claim to believe that every single person involved in these allegations just happened to be spurred at the same exact moment to go public and only because Cooper just happened to force magic words out of Trump’s mouth, we have three explanations for the current timing of the opposition research dump. None of them looks particularly good for the media.

1) The media had the information, but chose not to write about it until now. 2) The media didn’t bother looking for any of the information until after Trump had clinched the GOP nomination. Or 3) the media didn’t look for the information during the primary and didn’t look for the information during the general, and only used what the Clinton camp gave them over the last few weeks.

Even a combination of those answers doesn’t look too good for them.

It’s not even that most these stories were particularly unknown — although who could have known the “Access Hollywood” tape existed or the People magazine writer’s account unless they chose to publish it — but they were written about differently earlier in the year.
Hemingway links to an article from the NYT in May painting a much more nuanced view of Trump's relations with women who had worked with him. There was also a very different attitude by the mainstream media regarding women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment and even assault.
This is not a journalistic class interested in helping women exploited by sexually entitled men or their powerful wives.

Again, if you thought anything other than this would happen to Trump, you are an idiot. I’m sorry, but you are. Still, the media cooperation with the Clintons against the Trump campaign is disconcerting. Not for Trump’s sake. He and his enablers deserve this. But for the country and her civil discourse and self-government.

We all know that if Trump weren’t the nominee, something generally along these lines would be happening no matter who the Republican candidate was. Trump is deserving of what comes his way, but it’s hard to blame Trump voters for detecting a pattern in how the media treat candidates who don’t align themselves with the political agenda of most journalists.
If you doubt that the media would have treated any GOP candidate differently, Hemingway reminds us of the ludicrous outrage over Romney's statement that he looked at "binders full of women" when trying to hire more women in his business.
It’s popular for reporters to talk about how “quaint” the binders full of women controversy was. But let’s remember what actually happened there. What happened was that Mitt Romney talked about his efforts to hire more women into his administration as governor and for that he was beyond pilloried. President Obama quoted this line “as evidence of Mitt Romney’s extremism and his back-to-the-1950s reactionary worldview” and newspapers ran stories, columns, and video packages mocking it.
It is not a good situation for America when half the country sees the media putting a huge fist on the scales to help elect their candidate.
So this week, when we could be having frenzied outrages about the racism of Clinton staffers, the conspiratorial anti-Catholicism of Clinton staffers, the crony capitalism of the frontrunner, and her ties to foreign governments, we are instead continuing to learn that the man who has bragged for decades about being a lecherous womanizer is that. It’s good for accomplishing the goal of electing Hillary Clinton and maintaining the status quo. But it might not be good for a media already distrusted by millions, or for institutions on the brink of crumbling.

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Lane Filler, a columnist for Newsday, went to see a Trump rally in New Hampshire and saw a different Trump, at least for part of the speech, than one seen on news reports.
As the crowd was leaving, a man said: “Now that I saw it myself, I want to go home and see how it looks on CNN.” I knew what he meant.

It is possible for these two things to be true at the same time: that Trump is an inappropriate candidate for president, and the coverage of him is at times unfairly negative, if only by omission.
It is also possible for these two things to be true at the same time: that Clinton is the most appropriate candidate for the office, and the coverage of her is at times unfairly positive, if only by omission.
Beyond possible, it may even be likely all four of these things are true. And if that’s the case, then the premise of Trump’s (and Bernie Sanders’) campaigns were true all along, and the game won’t change as long as voters elect the people who wrote the rules and shuffled the cards in the first place.

John Kass is waiting for reporters to ask Hillary about her speech to a Brazilian bank talking about her vision of a country with "open borders."
"My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, sometime in the future with energy that's as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere," Clinton reportedly said to investors in a paid speech she gave to Brazilian Banco Itau in 2013.

Here's the thing about borders. If you don't have borders, you don't have a country. Americans are beginning to understand this. Europeans understand it now, quite clearly....

If that is indeed her dream, then she dreams the internationalist dream that would end America. But Americans aren't talking about this, perhaps because there is no video involving sex and Hollywood and Trump.

I would love to hear Clinton's explanation. Perhaps she could put it in some proper context.

Or perhaps she was merely telling the Brazilians something they wanted to hear, because they were paying her a good chunk of cash.

And if there is a way for America to maintain sovereignty without borders, Hillary might be just the one to tell us. But the Clinton campaign isn't commenting. And reporters aren't really pressing, preoccupied as they are by that vulgar video of a boorish Trump.

The NAACP did indeed voted for a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools. The WSJ writes of this shameful decision,
The NAACP is so blinded by ideology that it is endorsing separate and unequal education for poor minority children for years to come.

The NAACP’s statement Saturday shows how out of touch its well-to-do board members are with American education. It calls for a ban on new charters until “charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools.”

Hello? Inner-city schools are the definition of unaccountable as they promote failure year after year. Charters should be held accountable, and some charter operators have done a poor job. But they can be and are shut down. The proof of charter performance are the long waiting lists in most cities to get in. Parents vote for charters with their feet when spaces are available.

The NAACP statement also wants a charter ban until “public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system.” But charters are public schools, albeit without the union and tenure rules that retard student learning. A 2015 Stanford study found that urban charters on average provide 40 more days of learning in math and 28 days in reading than comparable traditional schools. The NAACP rejects this evidence of educational advancement in favor of bowing to the union desire for political control.

The statement even has the gall to claim “there is no time to wait. Our children immediately deserve the best education we can provide.” If these gentry progressives are waiting for urban schools to reform without competition from charters or vouchers they are consigning generations of children to diminished lives.

The vote should cause the NAACP’s corporate donors to reconsider. Any CEO who donates to a group that opposes charters should never again whine about the “skills gap” or claim to care about education reform.

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Accusations of sexual harassment on college campuses seems to show up in the silliest of accusations.
Last week, several news outlets reported that a student at the University of Tennessee (UT) received a zero on a quiz—a grade his professor justified because he viewed an answer as sexual harassment under Title IX. Now he’s being investigated by campus officials after unidentified faculty saw the absurd interpretation being mocked by entertainment website Total Frat Move.

How might one violate Title IX on a quiz? The first question on the quiz asked “What is your Lab instructor’s name?” and invited students to “make something good up”—that is, a joke—if they don’t remember his or her name. The student, Keaton Wahlbon, couldn’t remember his lab instructor’s name, so he wrote a generic first name, Sarah, and a common last name, Jackson. Writing Sarah Jackson—an altogether ordinary name—landed Wahlbon in hot water with his lab instructor and his professor. In fact, the quiz was returned to Wahlbon with the word “inappropriate” next to his Sarah Jackson answer.

As it turns out, Sarah Jackson happens to be the name of a Canadian actress and lingerie model. It is also a name shared by thousands of other people across the world. Wahlbon tried to explain to his professor that he wrote what he thought was a generic name on the quiz and did not intend to be crass.
The professor wasn't having any of that. She ridiculously asserted that his answer fit the definition of sexual harassment under Title IX. Tyler Coward at FIRE comments,
the Supreme Court defined peer-on-peer harassment in the educational context as conduct that is so “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.” No reasonable person could believe that a student giving an incorrect quiz answer rises to the level of harassment defined by the Court. Its absurdity is what led to sites like Total Frat Move covering the story.

That coverage, unfortunately, appears to have led UT officials to—without a complaint by the student or TA—open a Title IX investigation because faculty saw the post on Total Frat Move. As if it wasn’t enough for Wahlbon to be censured for sexual harassment for an incorrect answer on a quiz, apparently publicly pointing out the absurdity of such an interpretation has subjected him to a formal investigation by the university. Investigations, as we’ve said before, can have a chilling effect on speech.
Beyond the absurdity of the professor's accusation, I'm still struck by the stupidity of the question. Why would that be a question on a college-level quiz?