Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Cruising the Web

So now it seems that the Democrats in the Senate have the 41 votes they need to mount a filibuster of Judge Gorsuch. The Republicans should say, "Bring it on!" As everyone acknowledges, the bigger battle may well be the next nomination if, as rumored, Anthony Kennedy retires. As the swingiest of swing justices, the possibility of replacing him with a justice more committed to ruling based on the text of the Constitution and laws rather than Kennedy's occasional flights of fancy will trigger an even more passionate battle. Add in the universal acclaim that Gorsuch has received from everyone except leftists and Democratic partisans, many people, including me, thought that the Democrats would not filibuster him because they didn't want to trigger the nuclear option on Gorsuch's nomination, a man so incredibly qualified, and wait for the next nomination. But the Democrats aren't thinking so strategically. And by trying to block such a distinguished nominee, the more moderate Republican senators such as Lindsay Graham and John McCain are more likely to support the nuclear option.

Liam Donovan explains how egregious this action by the Democrats is.
In a neat bit of sophistry, Schumer has injected into the narrative bloodstream the ahistorical notion of a 60-vote threshold for nominees to the high court. Not only is this clearly false, it conflates the confirmation vote itself with the procedural hurdle to “end debate” and proceed to consideration. There is no 60-vote requirement for Supreme Court nominees, formal or otherwise, and it is exceedingly rare for a vote on a nominee to be preceded by a vote on procedure. Traditionally the decorum of the Senate dictates that members grant “unanimous consent” to limit debate, thereby waiving their right to object and allowing a given matter to receive an up or down vote.

In fact, of the 29 Supreme Court nominations considered by the Senate since the advent of the modern filibuster, only three have faced a roll-call vote for purposes of invoking cloture: Abe Fortas, who was already on the bench, but whose elevation to chief justice was rejected on a bipartisan basis; William Rehnquist, who successfully ran the cloture-vote gauntlet first as a would-be associate justice and later to be chief; and Samuel Alito, the first nominee to face scrutiny in a nuclear environment, as the judicial filibuster had nearly been eliminated months earlier, spared only by a bipartisan “gang” of institutionalists.

Clarence Thomas, whose infamously bilious hearings culminated in the narrowest confirmation margin in history, avoided a procedural blockade. Even Robert Bork wasn’t “borked” on cloture.
McLaughlin also points out this bit of hypocrisy among the Democrats as he compares the expected filibuster votes on Gosuch with the vote on Samuel Alito.
A decade (and several wave elections) later, most of those 16 Democrats are long gone. But a handful remain: Tom Carper of Delaware, Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Bill Nelson of Florida. All voted to give Alito an up or down vote on principle despite opposing his confirmation. Each has already pledged to deny Gorsuch that same courtesy.
How can they justify voting to allow a vote on Alito, but not Gorsuch? They don't have any reason except that he was nominated by Donald Trump. They could vote for his vote to proceed to the floor and still vote to oppose him. But the Democrats would rather bow to their base on this regardless of the consequences.

With the news that Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice had "unmasked" Trump transition officials in U.S> intelligence reports, there is still a lot we don't know about what she was doing and how extensively it went. We also don't know if there were any true security reasons that she would have taken this action. Clearly, the Trump administration is behind leaking that she was involved in this "unmasking." The WSJ wonders where all the civil libertarians are about this story?
Where are the civil libertarians when you really need them? These columns support broad surveillance powers for national security, but executive officials need to be accountable if those powers are abused. If congressional oversight of U.S. intelligence operations is going to be worth the name, then it should include the unmasking of a political opponent by a senior official in the White House.

Democrats certainly raised a fuss during the Bush years and after Edward Snowden kicked off the debate about “metadata,” which are merely telephone numbers without names. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden went so far as to introduce a bill in 2013 to strengthen the ban on “reverse targeting”—in which intelligence agencies surveil foreigners but with the goal of capturing U.S. citizen communications.

Yet now that there’s evidence that the Obama Administration may have unmasked Trump officials, Democrats couldn’t care less. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on House Intelligence, has spent the past week denouncing Mr. Nunes for revealing that a name was unmasked and for having sources at the White House. But he hasn’t raised a peep about the unmasking itself or who was behind it.

The news about Ms. Rice’s unmasking role raises a host of questions for the Senate and House intelligence committees to pursue. What specific surveillance information did Ms. Rice seek and why? Was this information related to President Obama’s decision in January to make it possible for raw intelligence to be widely disbursed throughout the government? Was this surveillance of Trump officials “incidental” collection gathered while listening to a foreigner, or were some Trump officials directly targeted, or “reverse targeted”?

....None of this should deter investigators from looking into the Trump-Russia connection. By all means follow that evidence where it leads. But the media have been running like wildebeest after that story while ignoring how the Obama Administration might have abused domestic surveillance for its political purposes. Americans deserve to know the truth about both.
Of course, the media either
ignored or downplayed the story. Or, as the NYT did, the media framed the story as just an attempt by the Trump administration to deflect attention away from the the connections between his team and Russia.
Former national security officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described the requests as normal and said they were justified by the need for the president’s top security adviser to understand the context of reports sent to her by the nation’s intelligence agencies.
Hmmm. would those "former national security officials" be members of Susan Rice's staff? Interesting that the NYT didn't characterize those anonymous officials as members of either a Democratic or Republican administration. And why do they need to be anonymous if they're just characterizing something that is totally normal.

Kindle Deals up to 80% off

Today's Best Deals

Deal of the Day in Books

Holman Jenkins explains
why the idea that Trump's actions coal last week will be so disastrous is just ridiculous.
So potent and large are these global forces that repealing the Obama rules, costly as they are, not only won’t affect coal jobs, it won’t affect climate.

Gina McCarthy, Mr. Obama’s EPA administrator, admitted as much when confronted, during a 2015 House hearing, with the fact that, by the agency’s own climate models, the effect would be only 1/100th of a degree Celsius. Instead, she said success should be measured in terms of “positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.”...

nd don’t get us started on the “social cost of carbon,” a mechanism of policy justification created by the Obama EPA to assign a dollar-value benefit to carbon abatement rules that, in total, will produce zero impact on climate.

Pile up all the government policies enacted or seriously on the table, and their net effect is zilch. A new McKinsey study, that would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad, points out that Germany’s switch to renewables has been a success by almost every metric except CO 2 output—which is up instead of down.

Rising energy prices to support this energy transition have had one measurable effect—more than 330,000 German households have had their electricity shut off in the past year from nonpayment of bills almost three times as high as those paid by U.S. households.

Germany, needless to add, is many greens’ idea of a country “positioned for leadership in international discussions.”
It doesn't matter what the reality of the science is; it's all about the symbolism. What else does being "positioned for leadership" mean?

Jenkins contrasts the Democrats of today with those of an earlier day.
The most poignant question, however, is what happened to Democrats? They were once a party whose members cared whether policy was efficient and produced benefits for the American people.

Democrats deserve a large share of the credit for the rescue of the failing U.S. economy of the 1970s by throwing out a host of perverse regulatory policies, not that they embrace or even acknowledge this legacy today—which is the problem.

Airline deregulation was born in Ted Kennedy’s administrative practice subcommittee. His aide, Stephen Breyer, now a Supreme Court justice, recalled a working-class Boston constituent asking why the senator was focused on airline issues when this voter could never afford to fly. “That is why,” said Kennedy.

The Democratic Party once had a brain where regulation was concerned, understanding that the ultimate purpose was a net public good, not an in-gathering of power to Washington for the benefit of lobbyists and influence peddlers.

Ed Whelan reminds us
, yet again, that the Democrats were poised to get rid of Supreme Court filibusters if Hillary Clinton won last November. Harry Reid said so publicly as was reported by Talking Points Memo and he just assumed that the Democrats would regain control of the Senate.
Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he is confident that he has laid the groundwork for Democrats to nuke the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees if they win back the Senate in November.

Envisioning Hillary Clinton in the White House and Democrats controlling the Senate, Reid warned that if a Senate Republican minority block her Supreme Court nominee, he is confident the party won’t hesitate to change the filibuster rules again.

Such a move would be an extension of what Reid did in 2013 when he was still majority leader, eliminating filibusters (with a simple majority vote) on the President’s nominees. There was only one exception: the Supreme Court. As it stands now, Democrats still need 60 votes to move forward with a Supreme Court nominee.

Reid said, however, that could change.

“I really do believe that I have set the Senate so when I leave, we’re going to be able to get judges done with a majority. It takes only a simple majority anymore. And, it’s clear to me that if the Republicans try to filibuster another circuit court judge, but especially a Supreme Court justice, I’ve told ‘em how and I’ve done it, not just talking about it. I did it in changing the rules of the Senate. It’ll have to be done again,” Reid told TPM in a wide-ranging interview about his time in the Senate and his legacy.

“They mess with the Supreme Court, it’ll be changed just like that in my opinion,” Reid said, snapping his fingers together. “So I’ve set that up. I feel very comfortable with that.”
Tim Kaine also promised that the Democrats would nuke the filibuster. Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Sheldon Whitehouse were in complete agreement with Kaine. It demonstrates how arrogant the Democrats were about the election results that they were willing to go on record with these plans. If the Republicans do what the Democrats had promised to do with the filibuster rules, expect to see Republicans trotting out these quotes. Of course, it is doubtful how many MSM outlets will include such threats from the Democrats in their reporting.

Jeffrey Lord
has an interesting column based off of Reason essay (behind a paywall) by University of Alabama history professor David T. Beito on "Roosevelt's War Against the Press." Beito analogizes how FDR used the radio as his 1930s version of Twitter. Lord points out how presidents have used the new technology of their day to get around the version of the mainstream media of their days.
In Kennedy’s case, television had been around for just over a decade when he took office in January of 1961. His immediate predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had been the first President to step before the television cameras for a televised press conference. But there was a major caveat with Ike. Concerned that the President might misspeak, press secretary James Hagerty, a longtime journalist himself (who invented the idea of a televised press conference in 1955 and would later be an ABC television executive) insisted the pressers be filmed — so they could be edited before being shown on the TV networks.

This rationale was presented to Kennedy, who, having been elected in part because of his skills in a series of live televised debates with the GOP nominee Richard Nixon, rejected it. Thus it was that Kennedy stepped onto the stage of the State Department auditorium days after being sworn-in, drawing an audience of 65 million Americans, a staggering figure then and even now. From that moment forward, the live presidential press conference became a staple of American political life.

It is noteworthy that the rationale behind FDR’s use of radio was his political need ---- first as governor of New York and later as presidential candidate and President — to get around the powerful Republican newspaper publishers of his day. JFK’s rationale was similar.
JFK realized that media would carry the live press conferences and he could reach Americans and get around the media to do so. FDR's use of the radio allowed him to do the same thing. And he also was able to use his power the squelch opposition.
Beito — as noted a University of Alabama history professor — recounted in detail FDR’s obsession (and I would call it the liberal obsession) — with using power to crush dissent. Beito went into detail describing FDR’s use of government power to shut off his critics, in a notable instance by relying on New Deal ally and powerful U.S. Senator Hugo Black (D-Ala.). As President Obama used the IRS to try and shut down the Tea Party, so too did FDR use the newly created Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to control if not shut down entirely his opponents’ use of radio.

FDR appointed a Democratic National Committee operative who had “overseen radio for Roosevelt in the 1932 campaign” as secretary of the FCC. Beito wrote:

It did not take long for broadcasters to get the message. NBC, for example, announced that it was limiting broadcasts ‘contrary to the policies of the United States government.’ CBS Vice President Henry A. Bellows said that ‘no broadcast would be permitted over the Columbia Broadcasting System that in any way was critical of any policy of the Administration.’ He elaborated ‘that the Columbia system was at the disposal of President Roosevelt and his administration and they would permit no broadcast that did not have his approval.’ Local station owners and network executives alike took it for granted as Editor and Publisher observed, that each station had ‘to dance to Government tunes because it is under Government license.’”

Most notoriously, Roosevelt recruited the Black to head a Senate committee to investigate opponents of an FDR proposal to, under certain circumstances, dissolve utility holding companies. Although Beito doesn’t mention it, Black was also a lifetime member of the Ku Klux Klan and was later appointed by FDR to the U.S. Supreme Court where he infamously wrote the Court’s opinion setting up internment camps for Japanese-Americans. Black promptly “expanded the investigation into a general probe of anti-New Deal voices, including journalists.”

Beito continued:
The Treasury granted Black access to tax returns dating back to 1925 of such critics as David Lawrence of the United States News. Then he moved to obtain his targets’ private telegrams, demanding that telegraph companies let the committee search copies of all incoming and outgoing telegrams for the first nine months of 1935. When Western Union refused on privacy grounds, the FCC, at Black’s urging, ordered it to comply.
There’s more, but you get the flavor. FDR was not simply smart — as is Trump today — to use a new technology (radio) to push his political agenda over the heads of the powerful Republican newspaper publishers of the day. FDR was also using the iron fist of the federal government to intimidate and silence his opponents — precisely as President Obama did using the IRS (to intimidate and silence the Tea Party) and the Justice Department (to snoop on the e-mails of Fox reporter James Rosen and attempt to shut down a book on the CIA by New York Times reporter James Risen).

Best Deals in Auto Parts

Sales and Deals in Beauty and Grooming

Deals in Jewelry

David Bernstein notes
how the Washington Post, in an article on Uber, rejects the idea that Asian Americans are a racial minority, but Hispanics are.
If I’m following the implicit logic of this article correctly, “Uber employees identifying as Asian” don’t count as members of a racial minority group, but Hispanic employees do; otherwise, it would be hard to see how having more than half of Uber’s employees being “racial minorities” could be considered a “relative dearth.”

Whatever one thinks of race as a biological or social construct, it’s hard to think of any logical theory of race in the United States that construes Asian Americans as not a racial minority, but Hispanic Americans, who can be of European, African, indigenous or Asian descent, or any combination thereof, as a racial minority, beyond “a racial minority is any group we say is a racial minority when it suits a political agenda.”

Note that Justice Sonia Sotomayor also gerrymanders “racial minority” to include Hispanics but not Asians.
Bernstein wrote back in 2014 about Sotomayor's dissent in the case Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action when she used Hispanics as racial minorities but didn't include Asian Americans.
It’s bizarre to treat Hispanics but not Asians as a racial group. Hispanic Americans (like Americans in general) can be descended from Europeans, indigenous people, Africans, Asians, or any combination of those. The idea that a white American whose father is of German descent and whose mother is a Chilean immigrant of Italian ancestry is in the same “racial” category as a Peruvian immigrant of pure Incan descent and an Afro-Costa Rican immigrant should offend the common sense of anyone who takes a moment to think about it…. While there are many white Hispanics—not just Hispanics with only partial Hispanic ancestry, but descendants of Spanish and Portuguese immigrants, descendants of Europeans who settled in Latin America, Sephardic Jews, and so on—there are by definition no “white Asians.”

Justice Sotomayor’s opinion nevertheless ignores Asian Americans entirely for the obvious reason that their success in winning admission to universities undermines the statistics she cites that show a sharp decline in “minority” (not including Asian) enrollment in states that ban racial preferences….

Justice Sotomayor’s implicit view of race in Schuette—that it includes a group with a common linguistic but not racial heritage (Hispanics) but not Asians—also undermines the following widely quoted language from her dissent:

And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from?”, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.”

“Race matters” is an odd rallying cry from a justice who for all intents and purposes treats Asian Americans as indistinct from whites. Nor does she provide a rationale for limiting the scope of her concerns for minority groups to African Americans and Hispanics. Are Hispanics and African Americans more likely to be asked where they are from or spoken to in a foreign language than are Asians? Do they suffer more slights, snickers, and silent judgments than Indian Sikhs wearing traditional headdresses, or, for that matter, Hasidic Jewish men with side-curls and fur hats, Mennonites, and Amish in traditional dress, or Arab women in hijabs? Unlike fair-skinned Hispanics who blend in with the general “white” population, Hasidim, Mennonites, and Arab Muslims are not eligible for affirmative action preferences—nor, in university admissions, are Sikhs or other Asians.
All this might become very relevant if this suit against Harvard University ever reaches the Supreme Court.
What is different about the Harvard lawsuit is that the lead plaintiff in the case is not a white student. The plaintiff is an Asian-American student.

“Students for Fair Admissions,” an arm of the Project on Fair Representation, filed a suit against Harvard College on November 17, 2014, on behalf of a Chinese-American applicant who had been rejected from Harvard. The lawsuit charges that Harvard’s admissions policy violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars federally funded entities from discriminating based on race or ethnicity.

This controversy over how Asian-Americans are being treated in selective college admission was jump-started in 2005, when sociologists Thomas Espenshade and Chang Chung published findings from their study on the effects of affirmative action bans on the racial and ethnic composition of student bodies at selective colleges and universities.

Espenshade and Chung found that if affirmative action were to be eliminated, the acceptance rates for black and Latino applicants would likely decrease substantially, while the acceptance rate for white applicants would increase slightly. But more than that, what they noted was that the acceptance rate for Asian-American applicants would increase the most by far.

As the researchers explained, Asian-American students “would occupy four out of every five seats created by accepting fewer African-American and Hispanic students.”

Such research has been cited to support claims of admissions discrimination against Asian-Americans....

These findings, especially that Asian-American applicants seem to need a higher SAT score than white applicants or other applicants of color in order to be admitted to a selective college are being used as proof that elite institutions like Harvard are discriminating against Asian-Americans in their admissions processes.

The picture is more complicated

As we know, selective admissions processes are much more complicated than SAT score data can show. There are many factors that are taken into consideration for college admission.

For example, in the “holistic” admissions processes endorsed by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger, standardized text scores are not the only, or even the main, criterion for admission. “Holistic” review takes many relevant factors into account, including academic achievement, of course, but also factors such as a commitment to public service, overcoming difficult life circumstances, achievements in the arts or athletics, or leadership qualities.

Robert Tracinski ridicules
the "Democrats' Sad Search for an 'Appalachian' Savior." Some Democrats are so desperate to try to win back those voters that Trump won that they're pretending that they're populists even if there is nothing populist in their political make- up. They just want a younger Bernie Sanders.
If you remember the septuagenarian Democratic primary lineup in 2016, you’ll understand why young Democratic politicians are in such demand. But it’s a bit of an evasion to attribute this to the “post-Trump” era, because it was true before Trump even decided to run. It would be more accurate to ascribe this to the post-Obama era. It was during Obama’s presidency, and in reaction to his leftward lurch, that Democrats lost the House and the Senate and were wiped out in the statehouses. That is why the Democrats are so short on young political talent: all of the political careers, including Perriello’s, that were cut short in the Obama years.

The people who were hit hardest in the Tea Party waves of 2010 and 2014, by the way, were the conservative Democrats. In other words, precisely the sort of people the party would want if it were actually courting the Appalachian vote. But it’s not. If Democrats wanted an “Appalachian” savior, well, there was Jim Webb, who wrote a whole book in tribute to the original hillbillies: Scotch-Irish immigrants to America. But Webb was one of the least successful candidates in the 2016 Democratic primaries and always seemed like the odd man out.

Where is Webb now? He was just pressured into refusing an award from the U.S. Naval Academy because of politically incorrect views he expressed nearly 40 years ago about women in combat. That is exactly the sort of thing that alienates heartland voters, yet that is the direction the Democratic Party has chosen to move.

The basic contradiction for the Democrats is that they want to turn their party to the far left—or to be more accurate, they want to embrace the fact that it has already turned to the far left—yet they still cling to the fantasy that they represent “the little guy” out in the heartland. Hence the need for an “Appalachian populist,” or the need to invent one if they can’t find him.

The causes that drove heartland voters away from the Democratic Party go back decades, as a result of deliberate cultural and ideological choices that Democrats show no inclination to reverse. No Appalachian savior, certainly not a fake one like Tom Perriello, is going to change that.

Groceries under $10

Best Deals in Pet Supplies

Office and School Supplies