Thursday, December 01, 2016

Cruising the Web

Ah, so this is how priorities work in Obama's America.
The Department of Health and Human Services is raiding several of its accounts, including money for Medicare, the Ryan White AIDS/HIV program and those for cancer and flu research to cover a shortfall in housing illegal youths pouring over the border at a rate of 255 a day.

HHS is trying to come up with $167 million to fund the Office of Refugee Resettlement that is accepting the youths, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

Policy Director Jessica Vaughan said that insiders have told her that the funding crisis has forced the department to squeeze programs for money.

The Democrats now are fantasizing about alternate history in which Hillary Clinton actually won the election. It's not enough that she won the popular vote, they have to inhabit a fictional universe that chose her for the election.
After spending weeks complaining that the proliferation of “fake news” led to Hillary Clinton’s electoral demise, progressives are now openly using fake news to self-soothe.

Newsweek, which gained notoriety in the 1990s as a news weekly you could find on dentist office waiting room tables below Highlights and Zoobooks magazines, took the extraordinary step this week of publishing President Hillary Clinton fan fiction.

In a piece entitled “Dispatches From The Alternate Universe Where Hillary Clinton Won,” Newsweek’s Zach Schonfeld compiles excerpts from pre-written news stories anticipating the former secretary of State’s victory.

It’s apparently common practice for publications to have a vault of stories that forecast election results, Schonfeld writes. Preparing content before a major event makes sense to a degree, as newspapers often prepare obituaries for public figures long before they die. What doesn’t make any sense, however, is to publish a month later pre-written content that forecasted the election night incorrectly....

It’s clear these “dispatches” aren’t part of an effort to be more transparent with the American electorate, whose trust the media stomped on to virtue-signal obnoxiously. Its purpose is to serve as a balm for those still licking their wounds after Clinton’s defeat — and that’s what makes this collection of stories all the more troubling. The media are literally using their stories that falsely predicted the election to soothe themselves after things didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped.
They're deeper in that bubble that SNL satirized.

Then we have Washington Post's Wonkblog engaging in some fantasy line-drawing to see if the state's geographical lines were moved a smidgeon here or there would win the Electoral College for Hillary Clinton.
Here's a fun little thought experiment demonstrating the fundamental arbitrariness of the electoral college: Had two state borders been drawn just a little bit differently, shifting a total of four counties from one state to another, Hillary Clinton would have won the election.

Take a look at the imaginary map above, which comes from an nifty online tool called Redraw the States. It was created by Kevin Hayes Wilson, a mathematician and data scientist working in computer science education.

This map moves Lake County, Ill. to Wisconsin, turning that state blue. It moves Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties from the Florida panhandle to neighboring Alabama. That's enough to turn Florida blue. With victories in Wisconsin and Florida, Clinton squeaks to victory in the electoral college, 270 to 268.
I'm sure that is very comforting to Democrats. Hey, let's go back in history to the 1840s when Florida and Wisconsin became states and redraw those lines and save Hillary Clinton in the future. It's a pleasant fantasy. Boy, how prescient were those politicians back int he 1840s. They knew exactly which counties to put where so as to help Trump get elected some 175 years later. Too bad they couldn't have worked out that whole slavery and secession deal while they were at it.

Then there is the point that I've seen Vox and some liberals on Twitter crowing about: Not only did Hillary Clinton win the popular vote, but Democratic candidates for the Senate got more votes than Republicans. Really? Don't people understand how Senate elections work? There were only a third of the senators up for election. Aaron Blake explains why this is a meaningless factoid that betrays more about its fans' ignorance than anything significant.
Democrats owe almost that entire advantage to one massive, fluke-y state. The biggest state in the union — California — just happened to be holding a Senate contest on Election Day. A race between two Democrats. (The state has a unique “top-two” primary system.) That meant the 11.6 million votes counted there so far have all been ballots cast for Democrats. That's basically 1 out of every 8 Senate votes nationwide handed to the Democrats at the outset. (At the time of the USA Today report, only 8 million votes had been counted, so Democrats' Senate popular-vote advantage has actually grown by millions since then.)

In a normal Democrat-vs.-Republican election in California, the Democrat might have gotten 7 million votes and the Republican 4.6 million votes — a margin of 2.4 million votes. In this case, the margin was 11.6 million, a 9-million-or-so vote swing, which basically accounts for Democrats' entire advantage in the nationwide Senate popular vote.

Another factor in all of this: Only about two-thirds of the country holds Senate races in any given election, meaning that the lean of the popular vote is very reliant upon which states are up that particular cycle.

This year, the two biggest, bluest states in the country — California and New York — happened to be up. The biggest GOP-leaning state, Texas, was not. Democrats netted 11.6 million votes in California and nearly 3 million in New York, where Sen. Charles Schumer (D) won in a walk, 67 percent to 26 percent.

By contrast, Republicans won by 1 million votes in only one state — Ohio — not because they didn't do well, mind you, but because basically none of the red states were big enough to give the party such a wide popular-vote win.

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So which party is more excited that Nancy Pelosi will continue as the Democratic leader in the House? She has been masterful in keeping her party together to vote in lockstep and helped pass crucial parts of the Obama agenda in 2009 and 2010. And so she is part of the problem for the Democrats that has seen them lose control of the House in 2010 and unable to make much headway. She's associated in the public's mind, or at least in the mind of those people who follow politics and know who she is, with far left policies and claiming that they had to pass Obamacare in order to find out what is in the bill. In an era when Democrats are struggling to appeal to the white voters they lost in 2016, having a San Francisco politician as their leader doesn't seem to be the answer. And clearly members of the Democratic caucus realize this since almost one-third of them voted against her.
But Pelosi’s margin of victory, 134 votes to 63 for Ryan, signaled a large degree of discontent with her leadership after 14 years atop the caucus and, more broadly, with the Democratic policy agenda that many lawmakers say has grown stale. While she cleared her self-declared margin of victory, a two-thirds majority, many Democrats were stunned that almost a third of the caucus was willing to vote for a backbench lawmaker with no major policy or political experience.
That vote split may well indicate that Pelosi will have more difficulty herding her members to vote in lockstep in the upcoming session. There may well be those who voted for Tim Ryan who would be open to working with Paul Ryan on selected issues. We can but hope.

Remember how the media was up in arms the first week after the election that Trump was taking so much time to make his cabinet nominations? The storyline for a few days was that the Trump transition was in disarray and way behind schedule because Trump hadn't planned on winning. Well, actually he is making choices at a historic pace.
A Daily Signal analysis of Cabinet nominations dating back 40 years reveals that President-elect Donald Trump is outpacing all of his predecessors, including George H.W. Bush, who was a sitting vice president at the time of his election.

Trump’s selection of Jeff Sessions as attorney general on Nov. 18 made him the second-fastest president-elect in recent history to pick a Cabinet nominee. He added another on Nov. 23 with Besty DeVos as education secretary.

In the fourth week of the transition, Trump has named four nominees: Rep. Tom Price at the Department of Health and Human Services, Elaine Chao at the Department of Transportation, Steven Mnuchin at the Treasury Department, and Wilbur Ross at the Commerce Department.

The speed of Trump’s choices is even more surprising given that Bush enjoyed the continuity of Republican government in 1988; two of Bush’s three nominations in November 1988 were holdovers from the Reagan administration. With his selection of Price and Chao, Trump is now the fastest president-elect in 40 years to fill four Cabinet roles.
Philip Bump has more stats comparing Trump's pace on nominations. I also was surprised to see that he was so ahead of Obama in 2008 since it was so clear that Obama was going to win that election and should have had a head start.

I was rather pleasantly surprised during the baseball playoffs and World Series that there was so little discussion of the politics of the Ricketts, the family that owns the Chicago Cubs. They were active in the primaries giving money to oppose Trump in the primaries, but then switched to supporting him during the general election.
During the primaries, the Joe and Marlene Ricketts gave $5.5 million to the anti-Trump group Our Principles PAC. Now, they are donating at least $1 million to a pro-Trump Super PAC, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Even though the Ricketts supported other candidates during the primary, they believe it is time to unite behind the nominees,” Ricketts’ political strategist Brian Baker told the publication. “This is all about helping Republicans win in the fall.”

Back in February, Trump sent out a tweet that read, “I hear the Rickets [sic] family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $’s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!
It didn't take long for the family to decide they wanted Hillary to lose more than they worried about Donald Trump. I watched just about every minute of the Cubs in the playoffs and the World Series and didn't hear this mentioned at all. A few Cubs fans said they wouldn't support the Cubs because of the Ricketts' support for Trump. There didn't seem to much of a problem with disaffected fans holding back from celebrating the Cubs' victory in the World Series. And now Trump has picked a member of the family as his Deputy Commerce Secretary.
Mitt Romney isn't the only former critic of President-elect Donald Trump who may become a key member of the incoming administration.

Trump chose Todd Ricketts, an outspoken opponent of Trump's presidential bid, as his deputy commerce secretary.

Ricketts backed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker early in the GOP presidential primaries; his brother Pete Ricketts, the Republican governor of Nebraska, supported Trump after he became the presumptive nominee in May.

At a rally in Nebraska that month, Trump took a jab at Todd Ricketts.

"I love Pete, but I think his brother doesn't like me as much as he does," Trump said. "I like him so much, I'm starting to like the Chicago Cubs again." The Ricketts family has owned a controlling stake in the Cubs since 2009....

His father, Joe Ricketts, is the billionaire founder and a former CEO of online brokerage TD Ameritrade, and he founded the digital news site DNAinfo in 2009.

Todd Ricketts' brother Tom Ricketts is the chairman of the Cubs, and Todd Ricketts, Pete Ricketts and their sister, Laura Ricketts, are members of the team's board.

Pete Ricketts is in his first term as the governor of Nebraska.
I wonder how many Cubs fans are willing to give up their lifelong support for the team because a member of the family is in the Trump administration.

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The Federalist combats the hit piece from Politico on Trump's nominee for HHS, Representative Tom Price.
On Tuesday evening, Politico released an “article” discussing Department of Health and Human Services nominee “Tom Price’s Radically Conservative Vision for American Health Care.” The piece’s first sentence claimed that “gutting Obamacare might be the least controversial part of Tom Price’s health care agenda”—a loaded introduction if ever there were one.

The article goes on to quote seven separate liberal analysts, including the President of Planned Parenthood, while not including a single substantive Republican quote until the very last paragraph of a 27-paragraph piece. Given this opinion piece masqueraded as “journalism,” it’s worth pointing out several important facts, falsehoods, and omissions in the Politico story.

CLAIM 1: Republicans “may look beyond repealing and replacing Obamacare to try to scale back Medicare and Medicaid, popular entitlements that cover roughly 130 million people, many of whom are sick, poor, and vulnerable.”

FACT: It’s ironic that the Politico reporters suddenly care about the “sick, poor, and vulnerable.” I’ve been writing about how Obamacare encourages discrimination against the vulnerable literally for years, including a few short weeks ago. If any Politico reporters have written on how Obamacare encourages states to expand Medicaid to able-bodied adults rather than to cover individuals with disabilities, I have yet to read those articles.

This week came a report that no fewer than 752 individuals with disabilities have died—yes, died—while on waiting lists to receive Medicaid services since that state expanded coverage under Obamacare to able-bodied adults. If the Politico reporters—much less the liberal advocates the reporters interviewed for the article—care so much about the “sick, poor, and vulnerable,” when will they cover this Obamacare-induced tragedy?
Read the rest. This is what happens when media that have not been following conservative debates and discussions over health care for the past decade try to get up to speed by reading Democratic talking points.

What is really amusing is that we've heard throughout Obama's presidency that the Republicans have presented no plan for health care and are simply just about opposing Obamacare. And now all of a sudden the media deign to tell us that this terrible man, Tom Price, has put forth several proposals for reforming health care.
The 62-year-old lawmaker, who represents a wealthy suburban Atlanta district, has played a leading role in Republican opposition to the law and has helped draft several comprehensive bills to replace it. The GOP-led House has voted five dozen times to eliminate all or part of the ACA but has never had a chance to accomplish its goal as long as President Obama has been in the White House.
Of course, the media basically ignored those plans, but now suddenly remembers that they were proposed.

Ilya Shapiro presents a cogent argument
for doing away with filibusters for all judicial nominees.
While it’s senators’ prerogative to vote against any nominee they think would be bad for the country—I previously argued that Republicans should vote against essentially all judges Hillary Clinton names—judicial filibusters have always struck me as strange and sordid. Until Democrats began a systematic blockade of George W. Bush’s judicial nominees in 2003 (most notoriously Miguel Estrada, because of his ethnicity), the only judicial filibuster was the bipartisan opposition to Lyndon Johnson’s attempt to elevate Abe Fortas to chief justice in 1968.

The Senate runs largely on tradition and precedent, and while the idea that a super-majority is needed to allow legislation to proceed to a final vote is seen as part of the body’s “cooling off’ function, filibustering nominations has long been considered illegitimate. Accordingly, when Harry Reid (D-NV) abolished the filibuster for executive and lower-court nominations in November 2013, he ironically restored Senate practice to what it was before his own machinations of a decade earlier. (Would that Bill Frist (R-TN) had acted so boldly then.)

There’s no reason not to extend that “nuclear option” to the Supreme Court as well, as progressive legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky argued three years ago.
The argument that the Republicans made in response to the filibuster of Miguel Estrada was that every nominee deserves an up or down vote. That argument still stands.

Remember the riots that broke out this summer when Keith Scott was killed in Charlotte and his family claimed he was unarmed and simply been reading a book/ Well, today the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district attorney Andrew Murray announced that they wouldn't be filing charge against the policeman who shot Scott and then explained how all the claims from the family and supposed witnesses were false.
Evidence in the case shows that Scott stepped out of his SUV with a gun in his hand, Murray said, and ignored at least 10 commands from the five officers on the scene to drop it.

Murray said that Scott bought the gun – a Colt .380 semi-automatic that had been stolen in Gaston County – 18 days before the confrontation for $100. One bullet was found in the chamber of the cocked gun, the safety was off and Murray said Scott’s DNA was found on the grip and slide.

The person who sold the gun to Scott admitted to doing so when confronted by state and federal law enforcement, according to a prosecutor’s report on the shooting. “The seller said that Scott asked him to find him a weapon because he was having problems with his wife and her family, specifically his nephew,” the report said.

Murray said that speculation in the community that Scott was unarmed – initial reports from a family member on Facebook said he was holding a book – were untrue.

“A reading book was not found in the front or back seats of Mr. Scott’s SUV,” Murray said.

Officer Vinson’s gun was examined after the shooting and four bullets were missing, Murray said. Analysts determined that the four shell casings found on the scene were fired from Vinson’s weapon. Scott suffered three gunshot wounds. Guns taken from the other officers at the scene had not been fired, he said.

People who claimed on social media that they had seen the shooting and Scott was unarmed later recanted – three people who’d made the claim told State Bureau of Investigation agents in interviews that they hadn’t actually seen the shooting, Murray said.
it 15 veteran prosecutors in his office and they were unanimous in their recommendation that there was insufficient evidence to charge Vinson in the case. Two of those prosecutors were African-American and one was Latino, Murray said.
Gee, perhaps it would be wise to wait a bit before pouring into the streets and protest against the police. People still believe that Michael Brown had his hands up when he was shot. "Hands up, don't shoot" has become a slogan for those protesting police brutality even though the whole story was a lie.
As David French writes,
Activists are fond of saying that cops have to “build trust” with with the communities they police, but this obligation runs both ways. Members of the community shouldn’t lie about cops.

How many more costly hoaxes will we have to endure before the mainstream media starts treating activists’ claims with the skepticism they deserve? No one doubts that there are bad cops who do bad things, but we almost always only know that later – after investigators have had an opportunity to do their work. There is a reason why we don’t leave justice to the streets.

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Well, this is a scary thought.
But there's another security consideration that may have dawned on folks along with the need to protect Trump's Gold House in Midtown: What about all of those Trump-owned and Trump-branded properties across the globe? Thanks to a hundred thousand voters in the Midwest, anything with the word “Trump” emblazoned across its front just became a huge possible target for international terrorists. What to do about those? Protecting Trump Tower is relatively easy. Protecting a Trump-branded resort in Indonesia is something else entirely, and raises a slew of questions. How? Who?

“Just from a pure protection perspective, it's going to be darn near impossible to try to carry out any sort of attack on Trump the president-elect or the White House or any high-value target,” Fred Burton of the security firm Stratfor told me when I spoke to him by phone Monday. “However, you certainly have a tremendous number of other branded properties around the globe that pretty much become then pushed into the soft-target arena.” Burton knows what he's talking about, having served as deputy chief of counterterrorism for the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service....

Burton seized on Trump-branded hotels and resorts as particularly difficult to protect. Citing the attack at a hotel in Mumbai in 2008, he pointed out that hotels are in the business of making it easier for people to see how they operate. “Hotels are in many ways embassies of the future,” he said. “The perfect kind of soft-target set.”

“Anybody can rent a room as long as you have the money, and you can conduct a base of operations from your room,” Burton continued. “It presents a unique challenge from an insider threat perspective in that your customer has the opportunity to look at your target set online, can go in, rent a room, can walk the establishment and conduct a fairly comprehensive pre-operation surveillance package by just renting a night or two in the room.” What's more, hotels see huge amounts of other vulnerabilities. “You're dealing with outsourced guard contracts. You're dealing with a large number of deliveries every day. Trucks. You've got international foreign guests,” he said. “If I was saddled to write the threat assessment here, [hotels] would be first and foremost at the top of my list.”
Then add in all the Trump businesses around the world. It is truly scary.

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Pakistan has released a readout
of a conversation that the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, had with Donald Trump. Countries don't usually do this. I would think that they would be especially wary about doing it and embarrassing an incoming president. But when you read this, assuming it's an accurate portrayal of what Trump said, it is so clear how clueless Trump is about foreign policy. He sounds like the worst caricature of himself. Alec Baldwin would have played Trump with more diplomatic intelligence than this.
rime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called President-elect USA Donald Trump and felicitated him on his victory. President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.

On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump.
Geez, is this the guy who is going to be talking to foreign leaders for the next four years?

The Washington Post points out how different the tone of this conversation is to what Trump has said publicly about Pakistan.
Lavishing praise on the Pakistanis would be a major turnaround for the president-elect. In 2012, Trump took to his favorite social media platform, Twitter, to denounce Pakistan.

On Jan. 17 of that year, he wrote: “Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend. We’ve given them billions and billions of dollars, and what did we get? Betrayal and disrespect — and much worse. #TimeToGetTough”

...Trump has also spoken highly of Pakistan's archrival, India. During his campaign, he courted the Hindu-American vote, and said that in a Trump presidency, India and the United States would be “best friends.”

“There won’t be any relationship more important to us,” Trump said in Edison, N.J., at a rally organized by self-described Indian nationalists.

Pakistan is a major beneficiary of U.S. assistance and is slated to receive almost $1 billion in economic and security assistance in the 2017 financial year.

Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, is markedly less loved in his country than Trump's praise would make it seem. He is dogged by allegations of corruption, and the release of the Panama Papers last summer appeared to confirm many Pakistanis' suspicions. He is being investigated for conflicts of interest stemming from four luxurious apartments occupied by members of his family in London, and has vowed to step down if found guilty of siphoning funds.
I don't know if Pakistan released this summary to try to make their prime minister look good or maybe to demonstrate that Trump won't be so harsh on Pakistan as he's said in the past. Or maybe they just enjoyed making him look stupid. I doubt if they achieved the first two goals, but they certainly did the last one.