Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cruising the Web

Well, last night was another night of moral victories for the Dems and actual victory for the GOP.

Maybe Ossoff should have just spent more money. Yeah, that would have done it. They poured all that money into a meaningless House special election and it just wasn't enough. If he'd won, we'd have heard how this portended something so significant for 2018. Now that a Republican won, we can go back to not caring about the results from a special election. Such elections aren't predictive of what will happen a year and a half later...unless they are. We have no idea at this point and trying to extrapolate some overarching conclusions about what it all means is really just pundit posturing. One reason that special elections, especially those to replace representatives brought into a president's cabinet, is that presidents are likely to pick people who come from districts that their party isn't likely to lose.

The one thing we know is, if Handel had lost, we would have heard days of how this meant that Trump was such an anchor on GOP candidates and how Republicans should be trembling in their loafers for the midterms. The spin would have really mattered. So, the absence of that spin might be the most important result. Dan McLaughlin points out that "Democrats in 2009-10 won the first seven straight special elections for the House before the GOP got its stuff together in time for a midterm 2010 landslide." So neither side can generalize all that much from yesterday's results.

But the Democrats might ask themselves if it was really the smartest move to run a 30-year old guy who hasn't really ever done anything and didn't even live in the district.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are simultaneously complaining that no one knows what is in the Senate Obamacare replacement bill because they're nefariously negotiating it in secret; however the Democrats also know that the bill they know nothing about will be an absolute disaster for everyone. As Guy Benson writes, the Democrats are hoping that no one remembers how they went about passing Obamacare. Just for a reminder:
(1) Democrats marketed Obamacare with several gargantuan lies, the biggest of which is advertised in their own preferred shorthand for the law: The "Affordable" Care Act. Premiums and out-of-pocket costs have soared under Obamacare, and are getting worse. Team Obama and their allies also issued unequivocal promises that any consumer who was satisfied with his or her existing arrangements could keep what they liked. This ended up being tagged as left-leaning Politifact's 'lie of the year' once implementation exposed the egregious falsehood, which betrayed millions of Americans. Other vows and assurances on cost curves, access to care, reduced "uncompensated care," and the price tag of Obamacare's vast expansion of already-struggling Medicaid have similarly gone down the tubes.

(2) In order to nail down the votes they needed, Democratic leaders and the White House handed out a string of legislative goodies (and bogus promises) to recalcitrant Democrats, from the "Cornhusker Kickback" to the "Louisiana Purchase" to "Gatorade." Republicans objected to these machinations, calling them secretive and ethically-suspect. Some of those tweets and video clips are being used against them today, some representing pretty clean political hits. But highlighting those complaints is a double-edged sword for the Left; yes, it underscores GOP opportunism and hypocrisy, but it also reminds people that Democrats did use a litany of shady tactics of their own in dragging Obamacare across the finish line without a single Republican vote.
Republicans may well face a public backlash for the bill they put forward, but the Democrats are not the ones with clean hands who can disingenuously call out the Republicans.
Republicans may indeed face a backlash of their own for jamming through an unpopular healthcare bill after relatively little public scrutiny (although Senate passage would not conclude the process; a treacherous path would still stretch ahead in the House). If they implement a law that does not improve people's lives, or makes things worse, they'll risk an Obamacare-style beating at the polls. But forgive me for refusing to accept lectures on proper procedure and best practices from the very people who lied, cajoled, and arm-twisted us into Obamacare, and still defend their disastrous handiwork to this very day.

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David Brooks, of all people, says people should just cool it with their expectations about the Trump-Russia story.
The politics of scandal is delightful for cable news. It’s hard to build ratings arguing about health insurance legislation. But it’s easy to build ratings if you are a glorified Court TV, if each whiff of scandal smoke generates hours of “Breaking News” intensity and a deluge of speculation from good-looking former prosecutors.

The politics is great for those forces responsible for the lawyerization of American life. It takes power out of the hands of voters and elected officials and puts power in the hands of prosecutors and defense attorneys.

The politics of scandal drives a wedge through society. Political elites get swept up in the scandals. Most voters don’t really care.

Donald Trump rose peddling the politics of scandal — oblivious to policy, spreading insane allegations about birth certificates and other things — so maybe it’s just that he gets swallowed by it. But frankly, on my list of reasons Trump is unfit for the presidency, the Russia-collusion story ranks number 971, well below, for example, the perfectly legal ways he kowtows to thugs and undermines the norms of democratic behavior.

The people who hype the politics of scandal don’t make American government purer. They deserve some of the blame for an administration and government too distracted to do its job, for a political culture that is both shallower and nastier, and for fostering a process that looks like an elite game of entrapment.

Claudine Feledick writes at The Federalist about the comparisons that fit between the Obama administration and Watergate.
The American people learned in 2013 that Obama’s Justice Department subpoenaed email and phone information from Associated Press and Fox News reporter James Rosen, who was aggressively investigating and reporting on the Benghazi attack. Rosen claimed his parents’ phone records were also swept up in the intelligence-gathering. The Justice Department said his suspected release of classified information was the reason for its intelligence gathering. Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, admitted in 2014 that the surveillance had happened and expressed regret.

Former CBS reporter Sharyl Atkisson also claims the Obama administration surveilled her. One morning at 1 a.m., her laptop popped on by itself. In her book “Stonewalled,” Atkission describes the event: “‘Reeeeeeee.’ The noise is coming from my personal Apple desktop computer in the small office adjacent to my bedroom. It’s starting up. On its own.” An investigation by computer forensics experts at both her employer and her own hired investigators agreed there had been a “highly sophisticated remote intrusion” of her computers.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter website, Sharyl noted, “I have been told by two computer forensics experts that a highly sophisticated entity using abilities outside non-government resources, using software proprietary either to the DIA, CIA, FBI, or NSA made repeat remote intrusions into both my computers over a period of time.” Atkisson was researching the Fast and Furious federal gun-running to drug dealers and Benghazi stories at about that time. She now has two lawsuits pending against the government.

The Obama administration’s use of surveillance against political opponents wasn’t limited to reporters poking their noses into uncomfortable situations. It was recently revealed that Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, requested the unmasking of Americans in the gathering of intelligence. Unmasked information was then leaked to the press....

According to Circa News, thousands of American citizens’ names were unmasked from surveillance reports during the Obama administration. Unmasking occurs when an American citizen’s name shows up redacted in an intelligence report. This typically requires a compelling reason, to protect that citizen’s Fourth Amendment rights. The intelligence committee recently subpoenaed three former Obama intelligence administration officials—John Brennan, Rice, and Samantha Power—to testify regarding this unmasking. Congress wants to know if the unmasking was done for national security or for political reasons.

Sen. Rand Paul has reported that sources have come to him to let him know that he was spied on. “I have formally requested from the WH and the Intel Committees info on whether I was surveilled by Obama admin and or the Intel community!” Paul wrote on Twitter. Intelligence sources also told Sen. Lindsay Graham that he was surveilled and unmasked in a private conversation. He said, “I have reason to believe that a conversation that I had was picked up with some foreign leader or some foreign person and somebody requested that my conversation be unmasked.”

Graham and Paul were candidates for the Republican Party nomination for president in the 2016 election. Was the government surveillance justified for national security reasons or used to affect an election, or to punish political enemies? The question is unanswered.
Read the rest. We've heard a lot of these stories before, but they received a scintilla of the attention all the accusations against Trump received.

Paul Beinart writes in The Atlantic to contrast the positions that Democrats used to have on illegal immigration to the position that they hold today.
In 2005, a left-leaning blogger wrote, “Illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone.” In 2006, a liberal columnist wrote that “immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants” and that “the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear.” His conclusion: “We’ll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants.” That same year, a Democratic senator wrote, “When I see Mexican flags waved at proimmigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.”

The blogger was Glenn Greenwald. The columnist was Paul Krugman. The senator was Barack Obama.

Prominent liberals didn’t oppose immigration a decade ago. Most acknowledged its benefits to America’s economy and culture. They supported a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Still, they routinely asserted that low-skilled immigrants depressed the wages of low-skilled American workers and strained America’s welfare state. And they were far more likely than liberals today are to acknowledge that, as Krugman put it, “immigration is an intensely painful topic … because it places basic principles in conflict.”

Today, little of that ambivalence remains. In 2008, the Democratic platform called undocumented immigrants “our neighbors.” But it also warned, “We cannot continue to allow people to enter the United States undetected, undocumented, and unchecked,” adding that “those who enter our country’s borders illegally, and those who employ them, disrespect the rule of the law.” By 2016, such language was gone. The party’s platform described America’s immigration system as a problem, but not illegal immigration itself. And it focused almost entirely on the forms of immigration enforcement that Democrats opposed. In its immigration section, the 2008 platform referred three times to people entering the country “illegally.” The immigration section of the 2016 platform didn’t use the word illegal, or any variation of it, at all.
Beinart looks for an explanation for this change and finds one explanation in the political benefit that Democrats think that they can gain by catering to Latino voters which they believe outweighs any political cost. Another factor is the pressure by corporate America which wants loosened barriers to immigration. Beinart points out that studies that purport to show that there are no effects of immigration to lower employment or wages have been made by scholars funded by pro-immigration groups plus the fear of a backlash that academics would face if they found otherwise.

Beinart is courageous in examining that which liberals would prefer not to read. Having been honest in his analysis, his proposals for addressing immigration merit consideration. His essay is well worth reading.

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Obama attorney general Eric Holder is considering running for president in 2020. If the Democrats want a candidate as ethically challenged as Hillary Clinton, Holder should be their guy. Matt Vespa reminds us of one aspect of Eric Holder's shady history.
Holder was put in the hot seat over the Fast and Furious scandal that embroiled the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for a botched gunwalking operation against Mexican drug cartels. The ATF allowed over 2,500 AK-47s and other weapons to be purchased by the cartels, which were then used in crimes. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed by one of the guns, which weren’t tracked. The Mexican government was also kept in the dark about the operation by the Obama administration.

Congress and the Obama White House ended up in a tug of war over documents relating to the operation, resulting in the administration invoking executive privilege and Holder being held in contempt. So, there’s political baggage, with the addition that Mr. Holder has never held public office.
There is a lot more that would come out about Holder's conduct both under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He's survived those scandals before, but don't expect that he would continue to do so if he made a serious run for the presidency.







Hans A. von Spakovsky and Benjamin Janacek refute the claim by Hillary Clinton and others that voter-ID laws suppressed Democratic votes in 2016.
While it is true that 2016 saw Wisconsin’s turnout drop from 2012, it is also true that the state still experienced higher turnout than in 2008, before the voter-ID law was passed. Moreover, according to the U.S. Elections Project, Wisconsin had the fifth-highest turnout rate in the country, far higher than that of many states with no ID requirement. 69.4 percent of the state’s eligible voters showed up to the polls, far surpassing the national average of 59.3 percent and the 56.8 percent rate in Clinton’s home state of New York, where there is no voter-ID law.

Wisconsin’s turnout decrease from 2012 is just as likely, or more likely, attributable to a natural regression from its unusually high 2012 turnout rate. President Obama’s high-powered turnout operation, coupled with Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan being on the GOP ticket, would easily explain the 2012 surge in statewide voter turnout. Hillary Clinton’s ineffective campaign, her decision not to visit the state, and the general leftward shift of the Democratic party may also have dampened enthusiasm for her candidacy.

Democrats have generally admitted that they failed to connect with blue-collar workers in 2016. In fact, their party chairman, Tom Perez, has organized a year-long outreach program to try to rectify the problem. Unfortunately for Democrats, these voters are highly concentrated in Rust Belt states, such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, that proved especially susceptible to Trump’s economic message. None of those states saw any increase in voter turnout, but it wasn’t because of voter-ID laws, which vary widely among them; it was because Clinton failed to rally their working-class voters to her side, convinced that she could rely on Obama’s winning coalition from 2008 and 2012 to put her over the top....

In fact, turnout data from 2012 and 2016 do not show any “voter suppression” because of ID requirements. Nine of the eleven states that have implemented so-called strict ID Laws either saw an increase in turnout or exceeded the national average in turnout in 2016. Two of them, Wisconsin and New Hampshire, finished in the top five nationally. Meanwhile only two of the 17 states plus Washington, D.C., that have no ID requirement finished among the top five.
Studies that the Democrats are using to blame voter-ID laws have since been debunked. But why pay attention to actual evidence when you can just throw out poisonous allegations.
A January 2017 study by three professors from the University of California San Diego and Bucknell University — frequently referenced in liberal media outlets — is another unfortunate example. The study erroneously claims that voter-ID laws have a disparate impact on minorities and “diminish the participation of Democrats and those on the left, while doing little to deter the vote of Republicans and those on the right.” This sensational finding generated a media storm, with the help of several opinion pieces from the authors making the politically charged (and false) claim that voter-ID laws “lower minority turnout and benefit the Republican Party.”

But these claims, too, were recently debunked by a group of professors from Yale, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania. Upon examining the data in the original study, the group found “no definitive relationship between strict voter ID laws and turnout.” It also found that the original study contained measurement errors, omitted-variable bias, and misinterpreted data.(links in original)

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Bre Payton thinks the "end is nigh" now that Mattel has introduced a Ken doll with a man bun.


Ugh! Can we say that this very unfortunate fashion trend as officially jumped the shark if Ken is now sporting a man bun?

In contrast to man-bun Ken, Payton links to this 1865 from a Maine man seeking a wife.



Given how many young men in the North and South who had died in the Civil War by 1865, I have to think that there would have been some young woman who would have taken this man up on his advertisement.