Monday, July 10, 2017

Cruising the Web

I've had a lovely vacation. We spent the last few days in Boston which was a perfectly lovely place to celebrate the Fourth of July. We did the Freedom Trail and soaked in the history of the Revolution ending up at the Old North Church to hear about the fact and fiction of Paul Revere and the efforts to warn colonists that the British regulars were out and coming for Sam Adams and John Hancock. After that, a man dressed as a minister of the church from 1776 mounted the pulpit and read the entire Declaration of Independence. We were encouraged to be an interactive audience and call out our responses to the bill of indictment of George III and Parliament and cheer on the final paragraphs declaring our independence. I've never listened to the entire Declaration read aloud and was surprised at how moving it was and how satisfying it was to voice our feelings at key passages. At the end of the evening, we walked down to the river and watched the fireworks. It was a wonderful Fourth of July and I enjoyed it as I haven't done since I was a child.

Later I read this passage from Jim Geraghty:
Before we dive into what’s left of a short work week, a quick thought: Yesterday, a couple hundred million Americans gathered at parades, ballparks, backyard barbecues, harbors, marathons, pools, and other locations to celebrate Independence Day.

Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and every other anti-American extremist would have loved to disrupt those events with an attack and mar the day. And they couldn’t. The Department of Homeland Security gets a lot of grief, sometimes deservedly so, in part because their public face is the men and women in blue who are touching your junk in search of a non-metaphorical concealed weapon. But yesterday — and almost every holiday — DHS, FBI, our armed forces, our intelligence agencies, and police officers across the country did an exceptional job at ensuring everyone had a safe and enjoyable day. Thanks, everybody.
He is so right. I realized how for granted I took our safety as we moved through the crowds all day in Boston without one single thought about terrorism. When we noticed all the policemen along the river when we walked up to watch the fireworks, I just thought they were there to facilitate the traffic when everyone left. I didn't even think of terrorism, but I bet that was on all their minds, especially in a city that had suffered its own terrorist attack only a few years ago at the Boston Marathon. And Geraghty is right, all those who have done so much to keep us safe deserve our gratitude for the freedom to go about our daily business and celebrations of holidays such as the Fourth of July. They receive so much criticism and disdain and all they do is give up their holidays ready to risk their lives to keep us safe. As another safe holiday passes since 9/11, I'm full of gratitude for all that they do.

Coupons for money off in every category

25% Off in Office and School Supplies

Deals in Office Products

Deals in Home and Kitchen

Kimberley Strassel reports on what Senator Ron Johnson has reported on through the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs about the leaking from the government since Trump was inaugurated.
That mission resulted this week in a shocking staff analysis of the recent deluge of secret-spilling, and the manner in which these unauthorized disclosures are harming national security. It’s the first congressional scrutiny of the leaks—and notable for its straight-up nature. This is no partisan document. It’s a bloodless accounting of a national-security failure, perpetrated by dozens of government employees willfully breaking the law.

The first 126 days of the Trump administration featured 125 stories that leaked harmful information. Just under one a day. The committee staff judged the stories against a 2009 Barack Obama executive order that laid out what counted as information likely to damage national security. And as it chose to not include borderline leaks or “palace intrigue” stories, that number is an understatement.

For reference, the first 126 days of the Obama term featured 18 stories that met the criteria. Ten of those were actually leaks about George W. Bush’s “torture memo,” which Mr. Obama released....

Alarmingly, the titles, and the nature of the information disclosed, indicate that many leaks are coming directly from the U.S. intelligence community.

What’s been disclosed? The contents of wiretapped information. The names of individuals the U.S. monitors, and where they are located. The communications channels used to monitor targets. Which agencies are monitoring. Intelligence intercepts. FBI interviews. Grand jury subpoenas. Secret surveillance-court details. Internal discussions. Military operations intelligence. The contents of the president’s calls with foreign leaders.
Opponents of President Trump have decided that breaking the law is worth it if it damages Trump. However, it is the country that is damaged by this leaking. As Strassel points out, leaks about military plans, weapons systems and security tactics are not going to encourage other nations to share information with us.
The Johnson report doesn’t go here, but let’s go ourselves: This is lawbreaking, in the aid of a political hit job. The leaking syndicate can’t claim whistleblower status, since it has yet to leak a piece of evidence showing Trump wrongdoing. This is about taking out a president. And with a role model like James Comey —who wrote secret memos with the express purpose of leaking and launching a special counsel—that’s no surprise.

But as Mr. Mueller surely knows, the Espionage Act doesn’t trifle with intentions. As even the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has noted, leaks enjoy “no First Amendment protection, regardless of the motives,” and no accused leaker “has ever been acquitted based on a finding that the public interest was so great” that it justified unlawful disclosure.
Investigating all these leaks should be in the purview of the Robert Mueller investigation. The question is how deeply he will be pursuing that aspect of his assignment.

Andrew McCarthy has an important essay urging Congress to reassert its role in the nation's war-making powers. For too long, it seems that Congress has been willing to abdicate its role because they don't want to make tough votes that could come back to harm them later. As a result, presidents have been taking action without any real discussion or vote from the legislative branch. This situation has evolved under presidents of both parties.
Now, it is fair enough to say that our contemporary practice has not conformed to these constitutional guidelines. As a practical matter, we have permanent military forces and there is no stopping a president from ordering them into battle. As we’ve noted, President Obama did not seek congressional authorization for the Libya campaign, just as President Clinton did not seek it for the bombings in the Balkans, and President Reagan did not seek it prior to the invasion of Grenada. After insisting as candidate Trump that Obama needed Congress’s assent to attack regime targets in Syria, President Trump has attacked regime targets in Syria without Congress’s assent. Congress’s war powers seem not to be much of a hindrance on the executive.
It should matter in a republic that representatives from both parties have to take a stand about our military involvement around the world. It's not enough just to chime in to criticizing the president when things go badly.
The point that is relevant to constitutional war powers is the political imperative of public support for military operations. If there are vital American security interests at stake, the American people will be on board. Congressional authorization and endorsement will then make it possible to achieve crucial military victories.

Americans, however, are simply not interested in trying to democratize Islamic societies through military force. On this score, it is essential that Congress do its job: Demand that any president who lurches into these conflicts seek congressional authorization for clearly stated objectives, and satisfy the people’s representatives that we are pursuing real security objectives, not conducting a sociology experiment at the expense of our best and bravest young people.

As a practical matter, the Constitution may not be able to prevent an overly adventurous president from enmeshing us in conflicts against our interests. But congressional war powers can still have much to say about the legitimacy of the use of force, and therefore about its extent and duration.
That is why I was so disappointed in Congress when they let deadlines for Congressional approval under the War Powers Act just slip on by when Obama went into Libya. They've ignored those requirements entirely in Syria under both Obama and Trump. Usually, members of Congress are very jealous of their prerogatives, but I guess they don't care so much if it means taking a tough vote.

Gee, what country wants to be up next to host the G20 or any other group of nations' leaders if this is what they'll have to deal with?
In the last three days, more than 200 police officers have been injured. Some 143 people have been arrested and 122 taken into custody. The number of injured protestors was not available. On Friday night, special armed police had been deployed with sub-machine guns....

Merkel had wanted to show her commitment to free speech by hosting G20 leaders in Hamburg, a port city with a strong radical tradition, but images of burning cars and shops and streets awash with debris have raised questions about that strategy.

Hamburg residents inspected the destruction on Saturday and said they were angry the summit was taking place there....

Police from across Germany have been brought to Hamburg to reinforce the local force. A 27-year old German suspected of attempted murder after pointing a laser pointer at a police helicopter was due to face a judge on Saturday, said police.

David Burge comments oh so accurately,

Interesting how CNN had a totally different take on what happened in Hamburg.

Best Deals in Vitamins and Supplements

Interesting Finds at Amazon: Updated Daily

Spring Savings in Grocery and Gourmet Food

Home and Kitchen Markdowns

That Iranian deal is certainly fulfilling expectations - just not the Obama administration's expectations.
Damning German intelligence reports emerged in June and July revealing the Iranian regime’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile technology in defiance of international sanctions and UN resolutions....

According to the German state of Hamburg’s intelligence agency: “there is no evidence of a complete about-face in Iran’s atomic polices in 2016” [after the Islamic Republic signed the JCPOA accord with world powers in 2015, designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief]. Iran sought missile carrier technology necessary for its rocket program."

Daniel Henninger explains how Republican governors took the Faustian bargain of expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare and thus they and Republican senators from those states are forced to oppose any reform of the Medicaid program.
Medicaid has become most states’ second biggest budget outlay, behind K-12 education. Even the feds have cut back federal grants on everything else to pay for Medicaid. Here’s the Government Accountability Office’s bloodless 2012 report of how that works:

“The increase in federal outlays for Medicaid and other health-related grant programs was offset by an approximately equivalent decrease in grants to state and local governments targeted for other areas such as transportation, education, and regional development.”

Like state-administered medicine everywhere, Medicaid “works” only if no one notices it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. The Peters getting robbed to make Medicaid work include doctors who are supposed to serve this population.

A Pew report described the mechanics of this perpetual grinding wheel: “In 2012, for example, Medicaid paid physicians on average 66 percent of what Medicare paid for services, down from 72 percent in 2008. Furthermore, both Medicaid and Medicare pay providers significantly less than what they receive from private payers. Low reimbursement rates decrease the willingness of providers to treat Medicaid enrollees, which sometimes limits enrollees’ access to health care services.”

As to Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren charging that the Republicans’ attempted Medicaid reforms will kill people, those are crocodile tears. For years, states have tried to control Medicaid’s open throttle the only way they know how—with cuts. On Friday, a federal judge ordered Illinois to start paying a stunning $3 billion it has withheld from Medicaid providers, claiming it doesn’t have the money. But from a pro shop somewhere, Mr. Obama, who learned his politics in Illinois, says the GOP effort to fix his namesake would “ruin Medicaid as we know it.”

Medicaid is already a fiscal ruin and lowest-common-denominator medicine. Advocates say it’s better than nothing for the poor or uninsured, but well-controlled studies put even that claim in doubt.
Those who refuse to reform Medicaid are just pushing the problem in the future and selling out fiscal stability in exchange for popular support now. Such punting problems down the road has been the modus operandi for all our entitlement programs. Sure, it can work for the present, but an honest approach would recognize that it is not any sort of permanent solution.

Allahpundit links to a Washington Post story speculating that James Hodgkinson, the guy who tried to kill GOP congressmen and staffers as they practiced for a baseball game might have been influenced by a right-wing talk radio host, Bob Romanik, who is from the same Illinois town. They have no evidence that Hodgkinson listened to Romanik, but hey, why wait for such evidence? Allahpundit comments,
It’s telling that Peter Holley, the author of the WaPo piece, never mentions that Hodgkinson’s Facebook page was adorned with anti-Trump and anti-Republican news articles. Nor does he mention that Hodgkinson’s targets were all Republicans, saying only that he “shot four people at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria.” The only clue as to Hodgkinson’s political bent is the reference to “disgruntled Democrats.” Gabe Malor summarizes:
That brings us back to the two “climate of hate” staples. The first staple: An actual link between right-wing word and murderous deed need never be proved. If Sarah Palin’s PAC publishes an electoral map with crosshairs on it and some nut goes and shoots a Democratic congresswoman, that’s close enough to causation for the media to make the connection. Showing that the crank actually saw the map and drew his inspiration from it is beside the point. The sleight of hand in the WaPo piece is that there are “disgruntled Democrats” who listen to Romanik’s N-bomb rants, and James Hodgkinson was himself a “disgruntled Democrat.” Therefore it’s fair to imply that Romanik may have inspired Hodgkinson.

The second staple: Right-wing “hate” can push far-left killers over the edge, although of course the reverse is never true. If that bizarre logic seems familiar, that a “climate of hate” on end of the political spectrum might somehow drive someone on the other end to murder, there’s a reason. It’s the same argument leftist polemicists have used for years to try to turn the Kennedy assassination, carried out by an actual communist, into a right-wing operation. Dallas was filled with right-wingers who despised JFK, the theory goes, and the resulting “climate of hate” took over Oswald’s brain or somehow shifted the Overton window in his mind of what was politically permissible, never mind that he’d tried to kill a far-right general months before the Kennedy shooting. Needless to say, should a right-wing nut attack a liberal, there’s no example you could find of fire-breathing progressive rhetoric that the media would accept as possibly having motivated the attacker. The “climate of hate” is always and forever necessarily a right-wing climate. The concept wouldn’t be politically useful to liberals if it wasn’t.

Tools and Home Improvement

Today’s Deals

Fashion Sales and Deals

The theory about Amelia Earhart being captured by the Japanese was big news while we were on vacation. It's all very enticing, but it seems to be a big nothingburger. It just hadn't made sense to me that the Japanese would have been eager to imprison and kill one of the most famous women in the world in July, 1937. This article in The Daily Beast put that date in the context of what was going on between the U.S. and Japan in that year.
The last thing the Japanese needed was to inflame American opinion by murdering the world’s most-famous woman.

Although they had a formidable air force and navy the Japanese were distracted by Soviet Russia’s claims to Japanese islands and at that time they also feared American naval power in the Pacific. America, in turn, wanted no part of the war in China.

Just how anxious both the U.S. and Japan were to avoid conflict was revealed by an incident in December 1937. An American gunboat, the USS Panay, that was allowed to patrol the Yangtze River by international agreement, was called in to evacuate staff from the U.S. embassy in Nanking, as well as some international journalists as the Japanese carpet-bombed the city.

The Panay sailed upriver to what the captain thought would be a safe refuge and anchored alongside other boats laden with Chinese refugees.

But a swarm of Japanese bombers attacked all the boats, including the Panay. Two U.S. crewmen and an Italian journalist were killed. The Japanese claimed that the attack was an accident. President Roosevelt was so anxious that the bombing should not lead to calls for retaliation that he censored newsreel footage. The Japanese, alarmed that they might have awakened a sleeping tiger, paid $2.2 million in compensation.