Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Cruisng the Web

The questions about the DOJ and FBI approach to interviewing Clinton's aides mount.
As part of its immunity deals with Hillary Clinton’s lawyers, Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, the Justice Department agreed to destroy laptops the attorneys turned over to federal investigators and to limit searches of the devices to documents created before Jan. 31, 2015.

The perplexing “side agreements” are revealed in a letter that Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday.
It is really strange to make the agreement to limit the time period of the investigation and then to destroy what could have provided evidence.
The agreement to forego searches after Jan. 31, 2015, prevented the FBI from investigating a key period of the Clinton email fiasco.

On March 31, 2015, the computer technician who handled Clinton’s server used a software program called BleachBit to delete backups of Clinton’s emails. Just after deleting the emails, the technician, Paul Combetta, took part in a conference call with Mills and another Clinton lawyer, David Kendall. Combetta was ordered by his attorney to not answer the FBI’s questions about what was said in that conference call.

The mystery surrounding that conference call has led to speculation that Mills, Kendall and Combetta (who also received DOJ immunity) discussed the deletion.

Comey said last week that investigators found no evidence that Mills ordered Combetta to delete the emails. But the revelation of the side agreement raises the question of whether Comey was asserting that no evidence obtained before Jan. 31, 2015 pointed to obstruction of justice.

Sleazy stories about the Clinton Foundation keep oozing out.
Hillary Clinton had glowing words for the General Motors plant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, when she traveled there in 2011 as secretary of state to announce the joint venture -- of GM and an Uzbekistan state-owned firm -- as a finalist for a State Department award.

“It is a collaboration between Uzbek and American companies, and it will serve as a symbol of our friendship and cooperation,” Clinton said, touting the plant’s “newest, most advanced technology.”

The visit came a year after the General Motors Foundation had contributed $684,455 in vehicles to the Clinton Foundation.

Fast-forward several years, and GM-Uzbekistan is now embroiled in a massive scandal, reportedly facing charges of fraud, money laundering, and embezzlement, a legal case that has reached high-ranking government officials in the country.
I'm sure that the GM contributions to the Clinton Foundation had nothing to do with Clinton's favorable praise for the Uzbekistan firm.

Dan McLaughlin notes how many Democrats are seemingly following Trump's example of saying reckless things to get headlines. Howard Dean went public with baseless accusations that Trump might have been on cocaine when he was sniffing during the debate. I guess Dean figured that he could see those Trump supporters who keep hypothesizing that Hillary is hiding some disease because of her coughing and fainting. Why not wave his medical degree around to try to diagnose someone he hasn't examined while denying that he is doing so? Of course, Dean also put forth a guess in 2003 that President Bush had advance knowledge of 9/11. Not that he would actually say it, but he said that there were lots of theories and he just didn't know what happened. And then there is Harry Reid who often says Trump-like things.
And Reid has such a long rap sheet of Trump-ish rhetoric it would be futile to recount it all here. In 2012, he famously claimed without a shred of evidence that Mitt Romney had paid no taxes for ten years, and his response when called on this in 2015 summarized the Trumpish attitude perfectly: ”They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win did he?” He matched Trump’s ignorance of the basics of the American legal system with the bizarre claim that voters should sue Marco Rubio for missing some votes in the Senate. Over the years, his many insults have included calling Clarence Thomas an “embarrassment to the Supreme Court” whose “opinions are poorly written” (Reid ended up being unable to identify a single actual Thomas opinion), calling President Bush “a loser” and “a liar” and telling him, “Your dog is fat,” calling General Peter Pace “a yes-man…what an incompetent man,” and Alan Greenspan “one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington,” and even complaining that tourists visiting DC smell bad: “You can always tell when it is summertime because you can smell the visitors. The visitors stand out in the high humidity, heat, and they sweat.”

So, part of what’s going on here is just Trump giving these guys permission to be themselves – Trump, a donor to Reid in the past, is as much an imitation of Reid as the other way around. But this much is clear: Democrats may decry the degradation of American political rhetoric that Trump represents, but they will be more than happy to follow him into the mud.

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Oh, that Bill. Isn't he a hoot?
Former President Bill Clinton stumped for his wife’s campaign on Monday in Michigan by deeming the Affordable Care Act a “crazy system.”

President Obama’s signature piece of legislation was framed as nonsensical public policy that punishes middle-class Americans by doubling their health-insurance premiums, according to video footage of the event.

“You’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half,” Mr. Clinton told voters. “It’s the craziest thing in the world.”
Well, yeah. That's why the Republicans opposed it. But his wife supported it.

This is how liberals approach education and our children. The U.S. Secretary of Education John King doesn't think all that highly for homeschooling.
Recently, U.S. Secretary of Education John King, while speaking at a press conference, remarked that although some homeschool situations are just fine, in general, “Students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school.”

King also said that part of the school experience is learning how to deal with and build relationships with peers and teachers—implying that homeschoolers don’t get this kind of experience.
As John Stonestreet comments, it's not clear what "rapid instructional experience" means. I'm not sure that rapidity is the goal in education. Homeschoolers have the opportunity to go into depth on subjects of interest to students that regular schools with the basic one-size-fits-all approach can't do. And King seems unaware of what goes on with most homeschoolers. Most are involved in various extracurriculars and athletics that their parents seek out for them. Most are part of groups of homeschooled students who get together to form teams and study groups. I've had many students in high school who were homeschooled in elementary and/or middle school. I have found them all to be intellectually curious students with a wide range of experiences. Perhaps Secretary King should get over his outdated opinions of homeschooling and go meet some of these dedicated parents who give up so much in order to educate their children.

Socialist policies in Venezuela have totally destroyed that country.
And the president, Nicolas Maduro, keeps doubling down on stupid.
Venezuelans continue to fight for survival, as the nation’s socialist experiment has all but collapsed. Looting is commonplace. Hunger is rampant, with Venezuelans of every economic class eating out of garbage cans for sustenance. And a medical system that is so starved of supplies, like soap and gloves, that newborns are reportedly being put in cardboard boxes in maternity wards. That’s coupled with the spikes in infant deaths that began when the country started to falter. The energy shortages haven’t helped either. The rapid inflation has rendered the nation’s currency worthless, there’s no real domestic food production, and all of this has led to empty shelves at supermarkets.

The long lines have been a source of ire for the socialist government led by President Nicolas Maduro, the late Hugo Chavez’s successor, who says that his nation’s economic woes are brought on by outside sources. He’s banned lines outside of bakeries and supermarkets. Those who are willing to sleep outside of supermarkets to beat the rush are arrested and detained.
So his policies led to terrible shortages and his solution is to outlaw waiting in line to buy the products that are in short supply.

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Andrew Stuttaford notes this story about a New York landmark - a statue of Vladimir Lenin.
The copper statue of Vladimir Lenin stood above the Lower East Side cityscape for more than 20 years, facing southwest with one arm perpetually raised as if in mid-oration. Visible from neighboring buildings and the sidewalk below, the statue topped a 13-story luxury apartment building on Houston Street and presented an unusual juxtaposition: the founder of Soviet Communism perched atop a decidedly capitalist enterprise.

Over time it became one of the more familiar pieces of art in the neighborhood, seen by some as a bit of kitsch and by others as a contextual nod to the days when Communist meeting halls dotted the nearby blocks and May Day marches drew tens of thousands. Then, last week, the statue disappeared, removed from the roofline as swiftly and efficiently as Josef Stalin once purged rivals from power.

Michael Rosen, the developer and one of the owners of the building, called Red Square, said last week that he had learned that it could soon be sold to someone who might not want to keep the likeness of Lenin. He said he then arranged with a business partner to take down the statue, which he installed in 1994 as a sort of experiment with symbols.

“I wanted to do something creative, fun, an homage to the history of the Lower East Side, which had been a hotbed of political thought,” he said, adding that the statue originally had been positioned to appear as if Lenin was waving toward Wall Street.
How cute and quaint to have a statue of Lenin at a building named Red Square. Does he have any concept of how many people died because of Lenin? Why glorify a dictator responsible for so many deaths? Stuttaford wonders if people would be so fond of a statue of Mussolini or Hitler. He comments,
Because it’s so passĂ© now to ‘demonize’ despotism, mass-murder and genocide: close to one hundred million dead on some calculations.

Late in his life, Molotov, the veteran Soviet statesman who had known both men very well, commented that ‘compared to Lenin, Stalin was a mere lamb.’ He had a point. It was Lenin, who was the killer who presided over the early stages of what became the gulag, it was Lenin who was the tyrant who laid the foundations of Soviet totalitarianism, and acted as the creator of the system that Stalin, in some senses, perfected.

Ah, the benefits of living under Mayor de Blasio.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign promise to curb homelessness across New York City has been a failure. When de Blasio entered office in 2014, there were 50,689 people sleeping in homeless shelters. But during his first year in office, the count increased by 15 percent, and now, less than two years later, there are nearly 60,000 people — that’s including 23,600 children.

Rather than admit that the city’s homelessness-prevention programs have failed to reverse this upward trend, the de Blasio administration opted to make excuses based on hypotheticals: If the programs weren’t implemented, city officials told the Wall Street Journal, there would have been 7,000 more people in homeless shelters.. By this metric, the 18 percent increase in homelessness under de Blasio’s watch somehow represents the success of the administration’s policies....

The annual homelessness budget is now $1.7 billion, and funds are being doled out in ways that, may just be encouraging homelessness. The city now pays for 4,000 motel rooms to house those in need, each room with an average cost of $161 per night (some cost up to $300 per night). De Blasio has substantially expanded this program; in January 2015, only 1,000 rooms were used for this purpose, which is a 400 percent increase in less than two years. If the homeless are given such desirable accommodations, there is little motivation for them to seek shelter independently — the root of the problem will remain as more and more people seek government-funded shelter.

The de Blasio administration also announced a $3 billion plan in November 2015 to fight homelessness by building 15,000 housing units, all with social services, over the course of 15 years.

De Blasio may have claimed that under his administration “we will never go back to those bad old days,” but it seems that as his days in office come and go, New York City’s homeless crisis has gone from bad to worse.

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While people freak out about Trump's leaked tax returns, I'm still trying to figure out what the scandal is. Are people really arguing that he shouldn't have taken the deductions that he was entitled to? As David French (no fan of Trump) writes,
In all my years on this planet, speaking to friends and family members on the left and right, I have never — not once — heard anyone say, “You know, I could have taken that business-expense deduction, but I decided the troops needed the cash more than me.” Yet to read Twitter, one would think Donald Trump is a monster for (apparently) using legal tax breaks to offset future earnings...Indeed, Trump had endured massive financial setbacks, and he had himself primarily to blame. Yet his attackers were almost certainly hypocrites. How many of them have skipped standard available deductions for the purported good of the commonwealth? Yes, the tax code is complicated, and, yes, it is intentionally crafted to provide benefits to particular classes of business, but that’s simply progressive wonkery in action. Technocrats are constantly fiddling with the code to incentivize or discourage certain kinds of business activity..
Charles C. W. Cooke adds,
As far as I can see, Trump did nothing legally or morally wrong, which means that the best case against him is that his not paying taxes is a political problem for his campaign. Insofar as this case rests upon the billion dollar loss per se, I get it; Trump does like to say that he’s a business genius, and he’s quite obviously not. I can also see that it’s embarrassing given that Trump is on record complaining about Americans who don’t pay taxes. But the central argument I’ve seen — that Trump is rich and yet has often paid a lower tax rate than most voters! — is absolute bunk. For a variety of extremely good reasons — outlined well here and here – Americans are not expected to pay taxes on their losses. And, as Ryan Ellis notes over at Forbes, that rule benefits far more people than just Donald Trump:
We were told that this tricky NOL was some sort of “loophole” that only super-rich bad guys like Donald Trump got to use. We were told that this relieved him of having to pay taxes for 18 years, a laughably arbitrary, made up number that is the tautological output of simple arithmetic and wild assumptions.

In fact, a net operating loss is very common in businesses. As Alan Cole of the Tax Foundation pointed out this morning, about 1 million taxpayers had an NOL in 1995. It results from business deductions exceeding business income in a particular year. Under tax rules, this loss can be carried back up to two years, and carried forward up to twenty years. If this is a “loophole,” what are these political reporters suggesting? That a business loss should simply be eaten by the taxpayer? That Uncle Sam should be a full partner in your profits but not in your losses? How is that fair?

Are we to assume from the freakout that these rules should be different if the taxpayer in question is rich? And if so, how so? Sure, Trump has an extremely nice lifestyle, and he had an extremely nice lifestyle during the years he allegedly paid no income taxes. And sure, that must seem irritating to people who have heard only half the story. But, ultimately, there isn’t much of a scandal here. Suppose an inventor came up with a fabulous, billion-dollar product in 1996, but then lost money every year for the rest of his life. Should he be forced to pay taxes on his subsequent losses simply because his pre-existing wealth is considerable? Of course not. Unless the argument is that rich people should pay an annual tax simply for being rich, attacking Trump for following the NOL rules is preposterous.

New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced that he's investigating the Trump Foundation for not having correctly registered in the state to solicit funds. The WSJ notes the hypocrisy of this nakedly partisan attorney general.
The AG gave the foundation 15 days to turn over reams of paper, including audited financial statements and annual financial reports going back many years. Mr. Schneiderman warned in his letter that failure to comply will be deemed a “fraud upon the people of the state of New York.”

The announcement is Mr. Schneiderman’s latest misuse of his prosecutorial authority to attack his political enemies. The AG’s office first announced it was “investigating” Mr. Trump in mid-September—the better to begin a round of bad headlines—and has also been touting its inquiry into Trump University. While it’s possible the Trump Foundation has violated in some way “section 172 of Article 7-A New York’s Executive Law,” it’s notable that the best Mr. Schneiderman could drum up by way of “fraud” was a paperwork technicality.

The bigger point is timing. Mr. Schneiderman’s cease-and-desist order, coming a month before a general election, smells like partisan politics. The AG has endorsed Mrs. Clinton and sits on the Democratic nominee’s New York “leadership council,” which the Clinton campaign describes as the “in-state leadership” for her campaign, charged with “amplifying the campaign’s national voice to New York families” and “aiding the campaign with rapid response.”

Mr. Schneiderman’s prosecution of her opponent certainly qualifies as “rapid.” He could easily have waited until Nov. 9 to divulge his investigation and unveil his order. If the Trump Foundation has been deficient with its paperwork for as long as the AG’s office says, a few more weeks of delay would hardly hurt.
But that wouldn't garner the necessary headlines, would it? And Schneiderman is certainly hoping that he can jump from his position to the governor's mansion when Cuomo is done. And then there is his blatant double standard for political prosecutions.
There’s also Mr. Schneiderman’s screaming double standard. A September Scripps News investigation found that “year after year the [Clinton Foundation and Clinton Health Access Initiative] have ignored New York law and related instructions” when it comes to revealing foreign donors. New York charity law requires nonprofits to divulge the name of each government “agency” (foreign or domestic) and “the amount of each contribution” each year. It found that Mr. Schneiderman has the power to force that disclosure but has refused to do so.

This abdication is especially notable given that Mr. Schneiderman has been on a tear to force conservative nonprofits to reveal their confidential lists of donors—the better for the left to know whom to harass and target. The lawless AG has sued an outfit known as Citizens United to get its donor list, and in late August he convinced a federal judge to help him trammel that group’s First Amendment rights. Mr. Schneiderman bragged, as usual, that this disclosure is protecting his state from “fraud and abuse.”

New York citizens deserve to be protected from abuse—of the prosecutorial kind that Mr. Schneiderman is exercising to swing an election. The irony is that Mr. Trump’s critics keep telling us that he must be defeated because he poses a unique threat to the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. What about the abuses that Mr. Schneiderman is practicing now? Where’s the liberal outrage?
Schneiderman joins a list of Democratic officials using their offices to try to bring down Republicans as was done to Rick Perry and Scott Walker. The Supreme Court just refused to hear the appeal of Wisconsin Democratic officials who went after supporters of Scott Walker for daring to use their freedom of speech to support him.
There are no permanent victories in politics, but the U.S. Supreme Court came as close as we’ll get Monday by rejecting the request by Wisconsin prosecutors to resurrect their abusive, secret campaign against Governor Scott Walker’s political allies.

You may have thought this campaign against free speech had died in July 2015 when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the probe was “unsupported in either reason or law” and later fired Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz. But Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm couldn’t accept his humiliation, and he and his media allies ginned up a campaign to beseech the U.S. High Court to hear the case.

The effort included the not-so-coincidental recent leak of some 1,500 pages of documents to the Guardian purporting to show scandal when there was none. On cue, the cause was picked up by the herd of independent minds at the Brennan Center for Justice, the New Yorker and New York Times.

The appeal was a long shot because the case concerned a matter of Wisconsin law. But the relentless persistence of the left in trying to prosecute political speech shows what could happen if the U.S. Supreme Court gets a five-judge liberal majority. The progressive censors will gin up cases to overturn legal precedents like Citizens United and SpeechNow v. FEC that have made it harder for government to regulate who can join with allies to influence elections.

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Office and School SuppliesMy children both attended Duke University, but I'm now embarrassed for the school as it goes over the top in its political correctness.
Duke University is creating a “safe space” for male students to pore over the ways in which their “toxic masculinities” create a harmful environment on campus and beyond.
The Men’s Project, which is sponsored by the Duke Women’s Center, aims to “create a space of brotherhood fellowship dedicated to interrogating male privilege and patriarchy as it exists in our lives, our campus and our society,” according to the university’s website.
Yes, because young men all need to be taught that they are sexist, privileged pigs. Why should women be able to dictate what men have to think about themselves?

When I teach about the American Revolution, I point out that one advantage the Americans had was that their officers were, by and large, promoted by merit, or elected by their men, and not by birth or by purchasing commissions like in the British army. Well, that is now going to change for the Air Force.
The Air Force announced a new set of 13 inclusion initiatives Friday with the goal of ensuring the force isn’t as white, male and heterosexual as it is now.

Air Force officials are intent on building upon a foundation of nine initiatives from 2015, in order to boost diversity.

Those nine initiatives weren’t enough to make the Air Force as diverse as desired, which is why it is taking more intensive steps in 2016.

The first new initiative mandates that at least one diverse candidate will have to be in the running for important developmental positions like aide-de camp, senior enlisted advisor and executive officer, among other roles.

“This initiative will require that the pool of Airmen considered for key military developmental positions… include at least one qualified, diverse candidate,” the Air Force’s new fact sheet reads, before going on to say that mandating diverse candidates in the selection pool does not mandate actually hiring that diverse candidate for the position.

A second proposal, however, declares that Development Teams (DTs) and Command Selection Boards (CSBs), both intimately involved in the selection process, must have a certain number of diverse candidates sitting on them.

More dramatically, the CSB or DT president must “assess the diversity of both the selectees and those not selected for command following the board’s decision.” In other words, the heads of these boards will have to provide clear justification if they decide to make decisions that run-up against diversity goals.

To head-off immediate criticisms of the far-reaching proposals, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein recently insisted to Air Force Times in an interview: “This is not about social engineering. This is about maintaining a competitive advantage.”

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James put down her foot and said she wants to make the demographics of the service match more closely with the changing demographics of America.
And how is that not social engineering?