Monday, January 09, 2017

Cruising the Web

Ugh! CNN reports that Monica Crowley, is going to be a spokesperson in Trump's administration on national security, plagiarized her 2012 book.
The review of Crowley’s June 2012 book, "What The (Bleep) Just Happened," found upwards of 50 examples of plagiarism from numerous sources, including the copying with minor changes of news articles, other columnists, think tanks, and Wikipedia. The New York Times bestseller, published by the HarperCollins imprint Broadside Books, contains no notes or bibliography...

In the book, Crowley lifted an entire section on Keynesian economics from the IAC-owned website Investopedia.

In one instance, Crowley lists a variety of so-called "pork" items she claimed were part of the 2009 stimulus package. Many of the instances were copied wholesale from a conservative list of pork barrel spending, with some items dating back to the 1990s. Most of the copied instances were listed on a website for a podiatrist dating back to 2004.

A section on organized labor appears largely copied from a 2004 article by the libertarian think tank the Mises Institute. Another portion of her book on torture is copied from a Fox News article.

Sections of her book are repeatedly lifted from articles by National Review author Andrew C. McCarthy, who is a friend of Crowley’s. Lines in her book also match word-for-word the work of other columnists, including National Review’s Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, conservative economist Stephen Moore, Karl Rove, and Ramesh Ponnuru of Bloomberg View.
CNN includes several clear examples of her plagiarism. And this is not the first incident, apparently, of Crowley lifting material and passing it off as her own. Slate gives clear examples of how she plagiarized a column by Paul Johnson for one that she wrote in the WSJ.

As a teacher, this is pretty infuriating for me. I try to tell students that it's fine to use sources, but that they need to cite where they got information from. If a student had done what CNN is saying Crowley did, I'd have to give the student a zero and refer the kid to our Honor Council. It would go on the student's record and the guidance counselors would have to let the colleges that the student applied to about this. If a high school student wouldn't be able to skate after this, a Fox News contributor and now a spokesperson for the administration shouldn't get away with blatantly trying to pass other people's work off as her own as well as doing shoddy research. These days, things are so easy to Google that no writers should think that they can get away with this sort of thing. I know that I'm more sensitive to charges of plagiarism because I'm a teacher and most people don't know who Monica Crowley is or care that she plagiarized her book, but it still gripes me when known plagiarizers such as Melania Trump, Joe Biden, Stephen Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jane Goodall, Mike Barnicle, and Fareed Zakaria are caught plagiarizing and suffer some temporary embarrassment and then continue their careers with the story of their stealing someone else's work without attribution just a short entry on their Wikipedia page.

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John Hinderaker read through
the intelligence report on Russia's attempts to interfere in our election and notes that the report acknowledges what conservatives have long alleged - that the Russians (or Soviets) were behind various liberal movements of the 1980s such as the nuclear freeze movement as well as more recent attempts by the left to decrease American confidence in our elections such as in 2012. They were also supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement plus anti-fracking and other environmental efforts. As Hinderaker notes the report tied
Russia’s government to a series of left-wing propaganda campaigns in the U.S. No member of the Occupy movement, for instance, can read the report without squirming. If true, it vindicates what we conservatives have been saying for decades, going back to the unilateral disarmament and nuclear freeze movements of the 1950s through 1980s.

Does President Obama even believe his own BS? This is what he said in a Vox interview.
I say this, Ezra, to make something very clear. From the earliest negotiations in 2009 and 2010, I made it clear to Republicans that if they had ideas that they could show would work better than the ideas we had thought of, I would be happy to incorporate them into the law. And rather than offer ideas, what we got was a big “no, we just don’t want to do this.”

....And now is the time when Republicans have to go ahead and show their cards. If in fact they have a program that would genuinely work better, and they want to call it whatever they want — they can call it Trumpcare or McConnellcare or Ryancare — if it actually works, I will be the first one to say, “Great; you should have told me that in 2009. I asked.”
He's just ignoring the actual history. Obama certainly seems to have forgotten how Paul Ryan skewered Obama's health plan at the 2010 health care summit.
Aaron Bandler refutes the idea that the Republicans haven't put forth their own plans, a deception that the Democrats have been spreading for years and which the media aids them in perpetuating.
Obama is using revisionist history. In fact, there were at least three Republican health care proposals that were offered in 2009 as better options to Obamacare. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has already outlined what a replacement for Obamacare would look like. Obama just doesn't seem to be open to anything that goes against his leftist agenda.
Remember that Trump's nominee for HHS, Congressman Tom Price, has been putting forth his own plan to replace Obamacare for years. Bander also points out how Obama is not telling the truth about Obamacare's supposed benefits.
"The thing I've been most proud of is the fact that not only have we gotten 20 million people covered; not only have we been able to reduce the pace at which health care costs have been going up — ever since the law was passed, basically, health care inflation has been as low as it’s been in 50 years, which has saved the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars and extended the Medicare trust fund for 11 years — but most importantly for the people who have gotten insurance through the exchanges, there have been pretty high satisfaction rates, as surveys have shown," Obama said.

This is all false and misleading. The 20 million figure is mostly due to the expansion of Medicaid that will be a massive strain on states' budgets. Obama's healthcare inflation claim also flies in the face of the August economic report which found that "healthcare costs recorded their biggest gain in 32-1/2 years," according to Reuters:
Medical care costs jumped 1.0 percent last month, the largest increase since February 1984, after advancing 0.5 percent in July. The cost of hospital services jumped 1.7 percent, the biggest gain since October 2015. Prices for prescription medicine soared 1.3 percent.

Economists linked the surges to the expansion of healthcare coverage under President Barack Obama's signature 2010 healthcare restructuring law.

"This, of course, is the dark cloud surrounding the good-news story about record numbers of people signing up for health insurance," said Jay Morelock, an economist at FTN Financial in New York. "The bulk of the increase was among the population with pre-existing conditions, which has significantly boosted costs for all."
Obama's claim about the Medicare trust fund is in reference to Obamacare's $716 billion cut to Medicare–but the cuts are being used to fund Obamacare rather than towards Medicare savings, meaning that Obamacare is actually detrimental to Medicare.

David Harsanyi refutes the idea that the Republicans don't have a plan. As he points out, the Democrats didn't have a plan set to go the minute they took office in 2009.
Now, if by “plan,” Kristof is using the contemporary Left’s definition, meaning a expensive, constricting federal regulatory scheme that forces Americans to participate through a series of mandates, then one hopes Republicans never have a “plan.” If the word “plan” still means “a proposal for doing or achieving something,” the GOP have many.

Although there may not be space in either of Kristof’s truth barrels to mention this proposal put forward by the speaker of the House, or the numerous other conservative plans that have been floated, they do exist even if he doesn’t approve. Figuring out a way to turn them into legislation that can pass both houses and meet the approval of a new populist president (who, by the way, isn’t even in office yet) will probably take more than a couple of weeks.

You can have plans. And they can change. I know this because Democrats had many big plans in 2008 but they did not have a finished bill ready to go on day one. This, even though they’d been talking, campaigning, and promising to reform the health-care system for decades. When running for president, Barack Obama (supposedly) opposed the idea of an individual mandate — the device on which Obamacare’s rickety viability hinges — yet it was only later part of the plan. While he was changing his mind, the Senate Finance Committee held 31 meetings to develop Obamacare specifics.

Democrats also had to drop the “public” option and rejigger their abortion coverage to make the bill politically palatable for the moderates in their own party — not the GOP. Even after this the Democrats, who passed the basic structure of Obamacare without having to worry about any Republican opposition, were only later forced to use reconciliation to make it acceptable for the House.

Perhaps Republicans are embracing a newfound competence by avoiding those political pitfalls. Perhaps they’re looking for consensus on timelines and specifics that will make it more feasible. Most likely, it’s going to be messy again. It’s not unprecedented.

Of course politicians grapple with the reality of power. Democrats have grappled with the failure of their policy promises for six years. Krugman, like everyone else perpetuating the myth that there are no replacement plans, act as if coverage can only exist through fake state-run exchanges or welfare.

Don’t worry, though; today’s “they have no plan!” is tomorrow’s “that plan is extremist!”

It is worth reiterating that the replacement plan doesn’t have to be conceptually or functionally similar to Obamacare, no matter how often the Paul Krugmans of the world demand it. The comprehensiveness and rigidity of Obamacare are things to avoid. So replacement plans can be passed piecemeal.

Byron York raises some good questions
about what we still don't know after the intelligence report on the Russian hacking scandal that was released on Friday. It's not clear if these questions exist because the report was just being obscure to hide information on how they got the intelligence or if they're due to shoddy writing and proofreading. For example,
1) When did the Russian hacking campaign begin? The report says Vladimir Putin "ordered an influence campaign in 2016." It also says Russia's intelligence services gained access to the Democratic National Committee's computer system in July 2015 as part of an effort targeting both Democrats and Republicans, as well as individual campaigns, think tanks, and lobbyists. The IC also notes that some of Russia's "professional trolls…started to advocate for President-elect Trump as early as December 2015." This could be a simple writing problem, or it could be something more significant. Is the report saying Putin ordered the 2016 campaign in 2015? Is it saying Russian activities in 2015 were routine operations to mess with U.S. institutions and then became part of the Putin-ordered campaign in 2016? Is it saying something else?

2) Was the Russian campaign intended more to help candidate Donald Trump or to undermine President Hillary Clinton? The report says Putin ordered the 2016 campaign "to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency." The report goes on to say that at some point Putin "developed a clear preference" for Trump. But it also says that, "Moscow's approach evolved over the course of the campaign based on Russia's understanding of the electoral prospects of the two main candidates. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency." That suggests some sort of shift in the Russian campaign. But when? What does it mean when the report says, "When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win…"? Because if the Russians were following U.S. coverage and commentary, it always appeared that Clinton was likely to win — from the primaries through the Democratic convention through the general election. In other words, during the entire campaign, the consensus of the American commentariat was that Clinton was likely to win. Did the Russians disagree, or did they have a degree of insight into the polls, or simple clairvoyance, that Nate Silver didn't? Or was the Russian campaign overwhelmingly devoted to "undermining [Clinton's] expected presidency"?
I'd like to see the committees investigating all this to ask some of these questions.

And the NYT's David Sanger has another good question I'd like to see asked and answered.
Of the many questions left unanswered by the American intelligence agencies’ accusation that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, led a multilayered campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, one stands out: Why did it take the Obama administration more than 16 months to develop a response?

The short answer, suggested by the report the agencies released on Friday, is that the United States government is still responding at an analog pace to a low-grade, though escalating, digital conflict.

The report, compiled by the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, makes no judgments about the decisions that the agencies or the White House made as evidence of Russian activity mounted. But to anyone who reads between the lines and knows a bit of the back story not included in the report, the long lag times between detection and reaction are stunning.
As Sanger reports, the Russians hacked into the DNC in July 2015 and continued getting records and emails for 11 months. It seems that British intelligence told the US about the hacking in fall 2015. The FBI then informed the DNC which did nothing and the FBI didn't seem to follow up.
Almost immediately, a low-level special agent with the F.B.I. alerted the D.N.C.’s cybersecurity firm, which doubted the call and did nothing for months. The F.B.I. failed to escalate the issue, even though it was clear from the start that the attackers were almost certainly the same Russians who had mounted similar campaigns against the State Department, the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
President Obama wasn't informed about all of this until about a year after the hacking began. We just seemed slow and not all that concerned in our response until after the election. We just seem to be years behind when it comes to cybersecurity.
The same words could have been written after the Chinese went into the networks of Mr. Obama’s campaign and that of his Republican opponent in 2008, Senator John McCain of Arizona. They could have been written after the Iranians responded to the American-Israeli attack on their nuclear facilities by attacking American banks, or when the North Koreans went after Sony Pictures Entertainment in retaliation for a comic film that envisioned the assassination of Kim Jong-un, the nation’s leader.

And the warning about Russia — a public intelligence report like the one issued on Friday — might have been written after the F.S.B. and the G.R.U., the two major Russian intelligence agencies, struck the computer systems of the State Department, the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Instead, the government decided not to publicly name who had been behind the attacks. That has changed, at least for now. It is unclear whether Mr. Trump will decide that disclosure or silence is the best policy.

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Senator Schumer wants the Senate Democrats to hire more minorities and so wants them to use the "Rooney Rule" from the NFL to require them to interview minorities for any position.

Rich Lowry gives an anatomy of the Democrats' smear of Jeff Sessions as a racist.
The legend of the 1986 hearings lives on every time a media organization or a Democrat refers to Sessions saying that the KKK was OK with him until he learned it smoked pot. This is used as a handy weapon, not wielded particularly carefully. On “This Week with George Stephanopolos” a couple of weeks ago, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons described it as Sessions saying “nice things about the KKK.”

This is a lesson in how to smear a man based on an absurd misunderstanding of a 40-year-old joke. The Sessions statement came in the course of an investigation into a hideous Klan murder of a black man whose throat was slit and corpse hung from a tree.

Barry Kowalski was a trial lawyer from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department at the time. He recalled in 1986 Senate testimony that he was explaining to Sessions how it was difficult to nail down what the Klansmen were doing in a house one night because they had smoked marijuana and their memories were fuzzy. It was then that Sessions said he used to support the Klan until he learned they smoked pot.

It never pays to try to explain a joke to people who are humorless out of professional obligation, but the point of the mordant comment was that Sessions was referring to the very least of the Klan’s sins. In his Senate testimony, Sessions compared it to saying he opposed Pol Pot for wearing alligator shoes. This is how the line was understood by rational human beings who heard it at the time.

Kowalski told the committee that prosecutors working such a gruesome case sometimes “resort to operating room humor and that is what I considered it to be.” Another DOJ lawyer, Albert Glenn, said, “It never occurred to me that there was any seriousness to it.”

Kowalski, by the way, told the committee that Sessions was absolutely committed to nailing the killers and he became convinced that “he was eager to see that justice was done in the area of criminal civil rights prosecutions.”
Quin Hillyer, an Alabamian, gives the background on another smear of Sessions which the NAACP has been using.
the NAACP officials, without exception, attributed their fierce opposition to Sessions primarily to a 1985 voting-fraud case brought by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Mobile then led by Sessions. They and other leftists have repeatedly portrayed the case, in the rural “Black Belt” county of Perry, as an attempt to “suppress” black votes. On its very face, the allegation is absurd: The original complaint was brought to the feds by one group of black officials (and voters) alleging that other black officials had committed fraud. It was not white against black, but black against black: There was no racial element to the case at all. And while the defendants eventually were acquitted, the evidence of at least unusual (if not illegal) behavior by the defendants was substantial.....

The pièce de résistance, though, in refuting the voter-suppression allegation against Sessions came Wednesday morning. Perry County commissioner Albert Turner Jr., namesake son of the very man who was the defendant in that 1985 case, endorsed Sessions in a lengthy statement that included direct references to the case.An excerpt:
I have known Senator Sessions for many years, beginning with the voter fraud case in Perry County in which my parents were defendants. My differences in policy and ideology with him do not translate to personal malice. He is not a racist. As I have said before, at no time then or now has Jeff Sessions said anything derogatory about my family. He was a prosecutor at the Federal level with a job to do. He was presented with evidence by a local District Attorney that he relied on, and his office presented the case. That’s what a prosecutor does. I believe him when he says that he was simply doing his job. I believe that he is someone with whom I, and others in the civil rights community can work if given the opportunity.
But why care about the truth when you can make up fake allegations and then insert them into the media's bloodstream?

As Hillyer points out, many Democratic senators have worked well with Sessions in the past and even said good things about him in the past.
The Democratic senators know that Sessions is no racist. Their voters know that Sessions is no racist. And their voters know that their senators know he is no racist. In fact, as they see Sessions handle himself with courtesy and dignity during next week’s confirmation hearings, those red-state voters will resent, strongly, any attempt to join with NAACP occupiers in smearing the Alabaman.

If the best evidence the Left can concoct against Sessions relies on discredited allegations more than three decades old, and if the Left ignores Sessions’s spotless record in public life ever since, the Left will fail, soundly.

Jonathan Last examines how Barack Obama has embraced identity politics. As Last reminds us, Obama burst on the scene in 2004 with a speech seeking to unite all of America. But that has not been the pose he's taken since he got elected in 2008.
First, there was his decision to send his Justice Department after the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, in Redford, Michigan. The school had fired a "called" teacher and was sued by Obama's EEOC on the grounds that churches could only apply the ministerial exception to hiring and firing rules—that is, the exception guaranteed by the Constitution's provision for freedom of religion—to people whose duties were solely ministerial.

It's difficult to overstate how radical this position was. Consider that even Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would join the Supreme Court's unanimous opinion against the EEOC, calling its interpretation "extreme." (At oral arguments, Justice Elena Kagan called the government's contention "amazing.")

What looked at first like a one-off mistake turned out to be a pattern. Obama used his Health and Human Services Department to insist that all employers were required, under Obama-care, to provide coverage for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization—even religious employers like the Little Sisters of the Poor.

It's important to understand that this was a purely administrative—not a legal—decision. The entire Rube Goldberg machinery of Obama-care is run on exemptions and waivers and delays, where the text of the Affordable Care Act says one thing and Obama's administration simply decides to do another. But in the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Obama actively decided to prosecute the nuns and break them on the rock of contraception and abortifacient coverage. It was a war of choice.

As with Hosanna-Tabor, Obama ultimately lost the battle—the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the president. But he won the war, because his persecution of the Little Sisters of the Poor was part of the broader strategy of his 2012 reelection campaign, which was predicated in part on the idea that Republicans were waging a "war on women."

And it worked: Obama ran up huge margins among unmarried women, to go along with his historic margins among African Americans, millennials, and Hispanics. The lesson of 2012 was that, as distasteful as it might be, identity politics works.

So when the Electoral College results were certified on Friday and several House members tried to challenge the results, they were unsuccessful because no senator would join the challenge. So why wouldn't a single senator join the challenge? Where was Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or one of the other Democratic senators from a safe blue state?

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When I first heard that Trump was thinking of choosing Kellyanne Conway's husband for Solicitor General, I was very skeptical. But this very complimentary article about George Conway by David Lat at Above the Law explains why this might actually be a very good choice. He notes praise from those on both sides of the aisle for Conway.

Oh, geez. Feminists get sillier all the time. Now a Kentucky high school has had to scrap plans to have a stallion be their team mascot.
n Lexington, Kentucky, local school officials have caved to a massively underwhelming petition and ditched the mascot for a new school because some people decided it was “inappropriate and sexist.”

The petition, which received only 214 out of the 500 signature goal, aimed to persuade the local school district to remove the name “stallions” from a new school being built.

Frederick Douglass High School had planned on having the stallion mascot, but some students were too triggered by it. The folks behind the petition are mad because a stallion is another name for a male horse, and it is absolutely appalling to think that females should be associated with a school represented by a male figure (ignoring the fact that the school itself is named after a man)....

The school will still keep the original colors, orange and green, and the horse logo will also remain. Essentially the only thing changing is the name of the horse, which students will be allowed to choose themselves.
Clearly, a female athlete can't be on a team named the Stallions, because that wouldn't be realistic. As if athletes were really cougars, lions, tigers, or blue devils.