Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cruising the Web

Best of wishes to former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush who are both in the hospital. President Bush is i the ICU based on problems stemming from pneumonia. Gosh, pneumonia in a 92 year-old is truly dangerous. In the world of contemporary politics, George H.W. Bush's courtly dignity and honorable character is such a contrast. I had just been listening to Bill Kristol's conversation with Andrew Ferguson (one of my favorite writers). They talked about Ferguson's time working as a speech writer for the senior Bush. That had gotten me to thinking about Bush's presidency and how his reputation has risen, perhaps as contrasted with his successors. I certainly hope that they both recover and are sent home in good health. President Bush's note to Trump about having to miss the inauguration was a sign of the man's true class.

Oh, yuck. Barack Obama has so little self-awareness that he told the media in his press conference yesterday that they shouldn't be sycophants. Oh, now that he's leaving he's suddenly against journalists who write hagiographic coverage? Ed Morrissey writes,
File this under Advice We Could Have Used Eight Nine Ten Years Ago.
Morrissey also wonders if Obama would have made that comment if Hillary Clinton were being sworn in on Friday.

Obama said this with a straight face as journalists invited him to talk about how wonderful his legacy is framed as questions.

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Noah Rothman reminds us
of how angry Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were about the leaks that Bradley Manning made at the time. And Rothman revisits how damaging the information was especially for those who had helped us in other countries.
Some of that which was released by WikiLeaks included the revelation that the late Saudi King Abdullah urged the U.S. to strike Iranian nuclear targets and that the U.S was keeping bombers at the ready to attack al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. Cables released by Manning to WikiLeaks also revealed that Zimbabwean opposition figures were in contact with U.S. diplomatic officials, allowing Robert Mugabe’s dictatorial government to discredit them.

“China made ample use of the WikiLeaks cables to incite a witch-hunt against every academic and human rights activist named in the cables–and of course many who were not–for passing information to Washington. This applied especially to Tibetans and Muslim Uyghurs,” wrote the U.K.-based columnist Kyle Orton. As the Associated Press reported at the time, prosecutors produced an “uncontested written statement that former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden asked for and received from an associate the Afghanistan battlefield reports that WikiLeaks published.”

Manning’s far-left defenders have latched onto the contention established at trial that no one was killed as a direct result of the WikiLeaks dump, but this is a tendentious assertion. At issue is the claim that members of the Taliban killed a tribal elder terrorists alleged had been outed by Manning’s revelations, but that claim was rendered dubious because the murdered individual’s name was not on the list of U.S. informants in those documents. Because it could not be firmly established, the court sustained a defense objection and struck the matter from the record. That does not mean, as Manning’s credulous devotees insist, that this killing was unrelated to these leaks. It very likely was.

Witnesses at Manning’s trial testified in detail to the ways in which America’s mission in Afghanistan had become more difficult as a result of the leaker’s actions. They outlined the extent to which individuals who worked with Americans were forced to go into hiding as a result of Manning’s leaks. Government prosecutors brought such a strong case that they secured not only a theft and espionage conviction but the longest prison sentence ever imposed on a leaker of state secrets.
Here's a proposal for future presidents when it comes to pardons and commutations - don't do them at the last minute as you're going out the door. If you won't make them before the election because it might generate bad publicity for your party's candidate, don't make them.

William A. Jacobson
links to a Ballotpedia analysis that Donald Trump could, especially if the Senate remains in the Republicans' hands, could replace over 50% of the federal judiciary.
The analysis shows that Trump will inherit 108 vacancies, representing roughly one in every eight life-term federal judicial positions (12.41%). Not since President Bill Clinton has a president had the opportunity to fill so many vacancies in the federal courts at the start of his first term. After breaking down the data by circuit court and district court to compare percentages, the report finds that Trump has the third-highest percentage of circuit court vacancies and the second-highest percentage of district court vacancies among recent incoming administrations.

In this analysis, Ballotpedia also sought to find out what possible vacancies might occur throughout Trump's first term by examining the number of current judges who are eligible for senior status on their respective courts. Overall, in addition to the 108 current Article III vacancies that Trump will inherit, another 172 judges will be eligible to take senior status by January 20, 2017, and an additional 47 judges will be eligible in the 2017 calendar year. Counting existing vacancies and judges who could possibly take senior status, there could be as many as 438 vacancies by December 31, 2020, representing more than half (50.3%) of the 870 life-term Article III judicial positions under current law. The analysis shows that the majority of both circuit and district judges who could take senior status during the next four years were GOP nominees.
Of course, not all the judges eligible for senior status would decide to do so. But there will still be a large number of vacancies that Trump will have the opportunity to fill. And the Republicans have Harry Reid to thank for the ease with which Trump will be able to nominate those judges.

Salena Zito points
out that there is really nothing Trump could have done with his company that would have satisfied people worried about his conflicts of interest.
If he were to divest, wouldn't that create a bigger conflict?

Imagine the outcry if someone were to buy his empire. It would be seen by some as a bribe. And remember, he has real estate whose value is in the eye of the beholder. So wouldn't divestiture cause more conflicts? And cash in his pocket?

In short, how is Trump supposed to handle this in a way that does not cause conflicts? There really is no perfect answer. You cannot say, "Oh put it in a blind trust and no one in your family can have anything to do with it," because it is a family company and the last time I checked, a family company is as American as it gets....

Now this does not mean Trump has done the right things in trying to deal with the potential conflicts of interest. But there is not one answer that would be perfect.

Selling it off would not be perfect, neither is declaring that his adult children — who have devoted their entire adult careers to building this brand — should not continue their careers just because their father was elected president.

No child should have to take it in the shorts just because a parent was elected president. Remember, they did not run for president, he did.

We have never had a president with this type of private sector business. We also have never held any other president's adult children to a standard that tells them that their careers must end.
I agree that there is no optimal solution. What I'm struck by is how little coverage all this got during the campaign. He was allowed to blithely talk about leaving his children in charge and the issue just disappeared. Maybe it was swallowed up by talks of what might or might not be in his tax returns. I wonder if Trump hadn't really thought about the whole issue because he didn't think he had a chance of winning so he didn't think he needed to confront the whole question.

Betsy McCaughey demonstrates how the Obama administration is lying with statistics about how many Americans with pre-existing conditions are being covered by Obamacare. Obama claims the number is 133 million. She claims it's 500,000.
For starters, half of Americans get their insurance through an employer, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Another 34% are on Medicaid or Medicare. For all these people, pre-existing conditions are no barrier to coverage.

Pre-existing conditions mattered before ObamaCare only in the individual market, but even there few were affected. In 2010 Rep. Henry Waxman, then the Democratic chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, issued a report on the individual market. It stated that the four largest insurers— Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealth and WellPoint—declined to issue policies to about 250,000 people a year because of their medical histories. A 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office found a similar number.

The Waxman memo also explains that insurers also sometimes issued policies with “riders” to exclude certain coverage. The four big insurers refused to pay about 70,000 claims a year because of pre-existing conditions.
Many of these people, about 225,000, were covered before Obamacare by high-risk pools in 35 states.
But some states did not operate high-risk pools. Others, including California and Florida, had patients on waiting lists or capped enrollment. So in 2010 the Obama administration opened a temporary nationwide high-risk pool to serve that unmet need. Enrollment peaked at 115,000 in March 2013, Kaiser reported.

Adding together these figures indicates that around 500,000 people with pre-existing conditions would need protection once ObamaCare is repealed. That’s a minuscule fraction of Mr. Obama’s 133 million. The president’s number is from a misleading report produced by his own Department of Health and Human Services, which vastly exaggerates the health problems serious enough to result in a coverage denial. For example, the report counts 46 million people with high blood pressure. Even more deceptively, the report includes people covered by employer plans or Medicaid.

Not even ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber says that the ban on [refusing to cover] pre-existing conditions expanded the ranks of the insured. An October article for the New England Journal of Medicine, co-written by Mr. Gruber, attributes 63% of the gains in coverage under ObamaCare to the expansion of Medicaid and 37% to the subsidies for buyers with low incomes. The individual mandate, the paper states, had “no significant effect.” Pre-existing conditions aren’t even mentioned.
If the numbers aren't so vast, the solution didn't have to be as vast as tearing up our entire health insurance market and replacing it with a convoluted, government-run system that is raising costs on everyone and pricing businesses and customers out of the market. A more targeted solution could help these people and lower insurance costs for everyone else.
High-risk pools would also subdue premium increases for healthy buyers by removing the largest costs from the insurance pool. The sickest 5% of Americans account for 50% of health-care spending, according to Kaiser. The healthy can see that paying the same price for insurance as the sick is a bad deal. That’s why ObamaCare enrollment skewed older and sicker than expected, causing insurers to lose $2 billion a year. UnitedHealth, Aetna and others have fled the market or dramatically raised premiums. Funding high-risk pools for the sickest Americans—and doing it soon, as part of this month’s budget reconciliation—could avert a market collapse.

That’s what Alaska did last June. State officials acted on their own to stave off a 40% increase in ObamaCare premiums by paying for the sickest people with $55 million in taxpayer funds. It worked, keeping premium growth to single digits. Congress can do the same for the entire nation. It will mean improved coverage for people with serious illnesses and a fair deal for the healthy.

That beats scaring the nation with phony numbers and fake news about pre-existing conditions.

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David French rants about liberals who oppose school choice.
pend much time with wealthy, well-educated liberals and you’ll be astounded at the sheer amount of time they spend thinking about and agonizing over their kids’ education. In some locations they battle for admission to the best preschools. I’ve seen families send three different kids to three different schools simply because the “culture” or the “philosophy” suits each child’s unique temperament. If a child isn’t thriving socially or academically, they’ll yank them out of one school and place them elsewhere, seeking just the right fit.

I can’t imagine telling those parent they can’t do what they believe is best for their child because some study, somewhere says the chances of test score improvement aren’t great.... They’d tell you their choice isn’t just about achievement tests, or that other children’s scores aren’t relevant to their kid, or that they’re choosing the school because it’s the best social environment.

But take this same progressive parent and talk to them about school choice for poor kids, and they’ll shake their head and say, “Well, I read on Vox that peer-reviewed studies are showing minimal improvement or even some slight regression in median test scores in schools participating in voucher programs. Choice isn’t good for the poor.”

The bottom line is that moms and dads want choices for their kids. Many states and cities have the resources to provide those choices without raising taxes or straining the present school financing system. But the liberal elite says no — no to moving children who fail to thrive, no to moving children who are being bullied, no to moving kids who seek a chance at better scores, no to moving kids for the sake of the very “fit” they crave for their own children.

To be clear, though I find parental education obsessions annoying, I don’t resent another family’s decision to spend a single dime of their resources to make their own choices. What I do find ridiculous is the notion that when it comes even to revenue-neutral reforms, many of those same families will actively work to prevent the poor from enjoying even a fraction of the options the progressive elite takes for granted.

Avik Roy explains
what's wrong with the CBO's recent projection of what the repeal of Obamacare would cost. For example, it doesn't allow for there to be any replacement and it "massively overestimates the impact of Obamacare's individual mandate." And, as Roy points out, the CBO has a very bad track record on estimating the numbers covered by Obamacare.
It’s worth noting that CBO is far from omniscient. Indeed, its estimates of Obamacare’s effects have historically been more optimistic than reality. In 2010, CBO estimated that 21 million people would be enrolled in Obamacare’s exchanges; the actual number was less than 12 million.

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At Kellogg Community College students in Young Americans for Liberty were arrested for passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution because this, according to the school, violated the school's Solicitation Policy.
The students allege in their federal lawsuit that campus administrators and security approached them and told them they were violating the school’s Solicitation Policy because they were passing out the Constitutions without prior approval. They were also informed they could not engage in such activity at that particular location.

The students allege that an administrator told them that “engaging [students] in conversation on their way to educational places” violated the Solicitation Policy because it was an “obstruction to their education” to ask them questions such as “Do you like freedom and liberty?”

This administrator also, according to the lawsuit, told the YAL members that students from “rural farm areas … might not feel like they have the choice to ignore the question.”

When Gregoire, Withers and the others said they would not leave, KCC’s chief of public safety arrested them and charged them with trespassing.
And now the students are suing the college. It sounds like the college behaved stupidly and was deliberately trying to stop the students from organizing their club and speak to students about their mission to promote freedom and liberty. Was having these students arrested and thrown in jail really worth this?

Bethany Mandel
notes this Washington Post story that what the government has been advising parents for years to avoid giving small children peanuts because it might trigger dangers allergies was exactly wrong. Studies now show that exposing your child early to peanuts "might prevent them from developing an allergy." The results of the faulty federal advice have not been inconsequential.
The guidelines come at a terrifying time for new parents in terms of allergies. The number of American children with nut allergies has quadrupled in the past 13 years, and peanut allergies are now estimated to affect 2 percent of them. Most schools now ban foods with peanuts, and manufacturers are required to label major allergens. The soaring price of EpiPens, which are used to treat a severe allergic reaction and retail for up to $650 for a two-pack, has become a hot political topic.
The reversal came about out of an Israeli study.
Anthony S. Fauci, NIAID director, said in an interview that the new thinking on peanut exposure grew out of observations of Israeli children in Israel versus Israeli children in Britain. In the former, he said, parents as part of their culture often give various types of peanut preparations such as paste or nuggets in the very earliest days of a child's life. Scientists noted that the incidence of peanut allergies in Israeli children in Israel is lower than in Israeli children in Britain and wondered whether the two things could be related.

“They thought that perhaps we should try the counterintuitive approach of feeding peanuts to babies early on rather than withholding them in order to protect them,” Fauci explained.

That theory was put to a test in the much-praised Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study, a randomized trial led by Gideon Lack of King's College London involving 640 infants considered at high risk of developing peanut allergies. The results, published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that children at high risk who regularly consumed peanuts as infants had an 81 percent lower chance of developing a peanut allergy by age 5.
This is great news for parents, but why did it take the government eight years to reverse themselves? That study came out in 2008.Reading this story, I was also struck by the thought of all those leftists as well as the whole BDS movement who want to ban any Israeli scientist from being able to participate in academic conferences and to boycott Israeli universities and academics. If they had their way, this study on peanuts could not have been done. Would the world really have been better off without the results from these Israeli researchers?

These students are beyond parody.
Concerned that some of its students might suffer long-term emotional distress from prolonged proximity to Donald Trump’s inauguration, Georgetown University is offering a restorative safe space with Legos, stuffed animals, juice boxes and snacks.

The event, called “Self-Care Night,” is sponsored by GUPride, the school’s LGBT organization, and is designed to help students who spend time protesting this weekend to reconnect with their “inner children,” and de-stress.

“Join GUPride for a night of relaxation, recovery, and rest after a long week,” an email invitation sent to Georgetown’s student body states. “There will be Legos and stuffed animals and coloring books—come to embrace the inner child and hang out with people:)"
These are college students in the heart of the nation's capital at a prestigious university. And they need Legos and stuffed animals and coloring books to cope with the Trump presidency? Georgetown was founded by the Jesuits. I think of Jesuit missionaries who traveled around the world to places where natives often wanted to kill them or where they had to endure harsh conditions to survive and fulfill their self-appointed mission to convert people to Catholicism. It wouldn't have been something I advocated, but it did take guts to do what they did. And now these students are approaching the presidency of someone they dislike with coloring books! Pshaw!.