Monday, November 13, 2017

Cruising the Web

Well, I spent the last week thinking about centennerary of the Bolshevik Revolution and the tens of millions of deaths that came about as a result of that as I was in D.C. for the Centennial Commemoration by the Victims of Communism Foundation. It was just such a solemn moment. Even as we can celebrate the end of the Cold War, but there are still millions suffering in places like North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela so we can't forget what the end results of a communist system will inevitably be.

And then to look at the current news and see that Republicans are arguing with each other about whether a man in his thirties making advances on teenage girls should be supported for the Senate. Gosh, what have we come to? I realize that we don't know the facts in the story about Roy Moore, but if you were willing to believe accusations against Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey or Bill Clinton because there were several people making the accusations who had told people contemporaneously about those events, then, as Jim Geraghty argues, Occam's Razor would fall against Moore.
If you believe Moore’s denials, you have to believe that four of these women, with no evidence that they know each other or ever met each other, all decided to lie when the Washington Post showed up at their door, that they all spontaneously made up a story that they were able to recount in detail in multiple retellings to reporters over a period of weeks, and they all chose to make up similar stories about Moore’s sexual pursuit....

A variation of Occam’s Razor declares that the simplest explanation is the most likely one. You can either believe that Moore behaved in the way the women describe – accounting for any faults of memory in the forty or so years since then – or you can believe that they all chose, spontaneously, to partake in an elaborate conspiracy to destroy his reputation, an effort that they no doubt understood would lead to making enemies.
But then there are some Alabama Republicans who are trying to argue that a man in his 30s pursuing a relationship with high school girls as young as 14 is no big deal. I'm sorry. I've been teaching middle and high school for over 35 years and, in my mind, there is no defense. It was wrong in the 1970s and it is wrong now.
Most, but not all, people across the political spectrum recognize that an adult pursuing a sex

Aual relationship with a teenager is wrong today, and it was wrong in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We can argue what the age of consent ought to be, and we can have a separate discussion about whether our society has a glaring double standard, sometimes laughing off tales of adult women teachers having sexual relationships with male students, while prosecuting adult men having sexual relationships with teenage girls. But society has the good sense to realize that teenagers are often not the best decision-makers when it comes to sex. Hormones and desire can easily outpace their judgment. Fully-grown adults need to be barred from exploiting teenagers’ naiveté and inexperience in human relationships.
The man was an assistant district attorney at the time. He would have known that the age of consent was at the time. And it's totally believable to me that a young girl at the time wouldn't want to make an accusation against a prominent man in the community.

As all these accusations against prominent men and their predatory behavior have been in the news, I've been thinking about a distant event that I hadn't thought about for years. When I was 15, I had volunteered to tutor at the local middle school. I was assigned to a sixth grade classroom and was enjoying working with the kids. Even then I liked teaching. But then the teacher started making suggestive comments to me, asking if I was a virgin and telling me he'd never slept with a Jewish girl and wouldn't I like to sleep with him. I was so uncomfortable, but it didn't occur to me to tell anyone. I was afraid that, if I told my mother, she wouldn't allow me to tutor anymore and I liked tutoring. And actually, it was his remarks about never had had a Jewish girl that creeped me out the most.    I know now that, if I'd told the authorities at that school, he might have lost his job. Today I might favor such a man being fired. If he taught that way to a 10th grader, what might he be doing with other girls, other Jewish girls? But I just told him no and tried to avoid him while still working with the kids I was tutoring. I wasn't scarred or anything, but remembering that distasteful episode helps me understand now how girls can remain quiet, but remember how awful the experience might have made them feel at the time.

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It's depressing to see how tribal all these stories are making people behave. If you were disgusted by the stories of Kathleen Willey or Juanita Broaddrick about Bill Clinton's behavior with them, you shouldn't be looking for excuses for Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, or Roy Moore. And Roy Moore was a totally objectionable candidate to begin with. Just because he annoys the sorts of people you might not like doesn't mean that he belongs in the Senate. You might not like Keith Ellison, but that doesn't mean that his religion should disqualify him from serving in Congress. You might disagree about the presence of the Ten Commandments in a courtroom, but that doesn't mean you should support a judge ignoring a court order. You might have conservative values on sexual issues, but Moore has said that he believes that 9/11, the high murder rate n Chicago, and other crimes is God's retribution against our country for "legitimizing sodomy." So, in my mind, he was already someone the Republicans shouldn't be supporting. I get that people will support him simply because he is not a Democrat, but then don't start complaining about the principles and moral behavior of those politicians with whom you disagree.

As Jonah Goldberg writes,
I suppose it’s good that some Republicans see this as a bridge too far. But it’s a little hard for me to focus on that upside when you think about what they considered to be acceptable until now.

Still, it’s good to know where the line is. You can set up shady charities for profit. You can call for religious tests and champion theocracy. You can cutely flirt with the idea that homosexuals have no rights — I don’t mean gay marriage, but the right to life — you can be removed from the bench, twice, you can demonstrate a thumbless grasp of the issues central to the Trump agenda: This is all acceptable for many conservatives. But, molest a little girl? That at least is too much.
But still there are those on the right who are convinced that this is all a plot by the Washington Post to smear Moore. Sure, that could be true. Republicans remember the smear that Sixty Minutes put on against George W. Bush. But right now, we have several women talking about his behavior with high-school age girls.
Now, if you honestly think all of the people talking to the Washington Post are lying and that the Post somehow got them all to make this up, you have got one of the biggest stories of the century. If you can prove it, Roy Moore will end up owning the Post after his lawsuit.

But the Post has offered an enormous amount of evidence. Moore’s defenders are simply shouting “fake news!” “Soros!” “Narrative!” and other inanities — because that’s all they’ve got.

And for what? To defend a man who was indefensible before the Post story.

I am one of those naïve fools who actually believed that the conservatives who often talked the loudest about the supreme importance of character were sincere. The last two years disabused me of that.
I'm still waiting for Roy Moore to announce his libel suit against the Post. As Goldberg points out, Republicans pulling for a Moore victory should be wary about getting what they wish for.
But just as a matter of cold realpolitik, I cannot grasp why so many people think it’s a good idea to stand by a man who, if elected, will serve as a negative campaign ad made flesh. I get the argument that it’s a “binary choice!” But it’s a binary choice now, because a bunch of people who want to see the GOP burn down made it one. In the long run, a Senator Moore would cost Republicans more seats than the one he might give them. He’d be an albatross for every elected Republican, including President Trump, who will be asked to take a side on every scene in the clown show Moore would bring to Washington. And every conservative who ever denounces a Democrat for immoral behavior or insane views will be asked, “Oh yeah, why did you support Roy Moore then?”
The accusations against Moore in the Washington Post are probably not enough to convict him in a court of law, but since when is that the standard voters use for judging a candidate.

And Republicans trying to argue that what Moore is accused of is no big deal and that a 14-year old is not that young and that he stopped when she objected or whatever - for shame. Would you feel the same way if it were your daughter?

Jonah Goldberg expresses
disgust much better than I can.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve written about the unfolding corruption of conservatism these last few years, but the events of the last 24 hours have shocked me about how deep the rot goes. Forget the people who refuse to even give the heavily sourced and corroborated Washington Post account a fair reading on the tired and predictable pretense that inconvenient facts are simply proof of the conspiracy against them. What galls and astounds me are the supposedly conservative public figures arguing that even if it’s true that Moore molested a 14-year-old girl, it doesn’t matter because, well, because the Bible said it was okay or Democrats are eeeeevil or it was a long time ago. At least Roy Moore admits that the allegation is serious and has denied it.

Bless my heart, I assumed that people who are so much more sanctimonious and preachy than I am would be able to draw a line at plying 14-year-old girls with booze and molesting them, particularly when the guy they’re defending won’t even defend the behavior himself. You’d think this would be the Colonel Nicholson moment where, like Alec Guinness in Bridge on the River Kwai, they would mutter to themselves, “My God, what have I done?” and collapse to the ground.

But no. They’d rather be more pro-kid-touching than the alleged kid-toucher himself.

This is the unavoidable consequence of a movement that is in the process of replacing conservative principles and arguments with the new lodestars of “fighting” and “winning.” Fighting and winning are amoral concepts, embraced equally by freedom fighters and totalitarians alike. Serious thinking begins with asking, “What are we fighting for?” “What are we trying to win?” But the distinctions don’t end there. “What are we willing to do for the sake of winning?” “What means will we tolerate to achieve our ends?”

But even raising such questions is the stuff of cucks and swamp-dwellers. We are becoming the Party of Wales, and the “butthurt” of those we hate is its own reward.

It's funny - I'd actually been thinking of that exact quote from A Man for All Seasons about this whole episode and a lot of current political stories. People seem to be selling their principles cheap these days.

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Cleta Mitchell and Hans von Spakovsky explain how Hillary's deal with the DNC as detailed in the Donna Brazile book violated campaign finance laws.
The purpose of joint fundraising committees is to allow more than one entity to collaborate in raising money and share in the costs. Each participant is subject to federal contribution limits. When the party itself is a participant, its committee (in this case the DNC) normally handles accounting and financial controls. Not here. The Hillary Victory Fund was controlled by the Clinton campaign, with a campaign employee as treasurer and the fund’s bank account established at the Clinton campaign’s bank. According to Federal Election Commission reports, the Hillary Victory Fund has raised more than $526 million.

The DNC asserted its “neutrality” by also entering into a joint fundraising committee with the Sanders campaign. It raised a total of $1,000. And the Bernie Victory Committee treasurer was the DNC’s designee.

“Money in the battleground states usually stayed in that state,” Ms. Brazile writes, “but all the other states funneled that money directly to the DNC, which quickly transferred the money to Brooklyn”—i.e., Clinton headquarters. She says state parties raised $82 million, of which they kept less than 0.5%.

The memorandum of understanding promised the Clinton campaign, among other things, “complete and seamless access to all research work product and tools” paid for by the DNC, despite Federal Election Commission regulations that prohibit privately sharing such research with a candidate without either reporting the costs as an in-kind contribution or allocating them against the party’s coordinated spending limits for that candidate.

The memo also tied transfers of funds raised for the DNC by the Hillary Victory Fund to operational control of the DNC’s expenditures: “The release of the Base Amounts each month are conditioned on the following: . . . hiring of DNC Communications Director . . . DNC senior staff . . . joint authority over strategic decisions . . . alerting HFA”—Hillary for America, the campaign—“in advance of . . . any direct mail communications that features a particular Democratic primary candidate or his or her signature.”

Contributions to the DNC, even though made through the Hillary Victory Fund, were required by law to be transferred to the party and could not legally be withheld by the Clinton-designated treasurer. Nor does the law allow a single candidate to control a political party’s operations and expenditures.

National party committees have higher contribution limits than candidates do—$334,000 a year vs. $2,700 for each election. The memorandum raises the possibility that Clinton campaign took advantage of the DNC’s higher limits, then availed itself of all the resources the DNC could buy—without having any of the attendant costs or expenditures assessed against the campaign.

There are strict statutory limits on what a party committee can contribute to any candidate and what a party can spend in coordination with its candidates. We don’t like limits on the ability of parties to support their candidates. But campaign-finance zealots, egged on by media outlets (which are not subject to any limits), made certain that the McCain-Feingold law of 2002 stringently limited coordination between candidates and political parties.
Hillary Clinton likes to talk about the Citizens United decision as such an terrible decision that she supports an amendment to the Constitution to negate that decision. But she certainly is happy to find her own ways to violate the campaign finance laws.
Candidate Clinton railed against Citizens United—a case that involved a documentary film critical of her—arguing that “big money” and “secret spending” are ruining our politics. Is it too much to ask that those who loudly demand greater regulation of political speech and spending themselves abide by the laws already on the books?

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Soon you'll be able to rent out Ben Sasse's house in Washington, D.C.

A headline you can't make up:
Anthony Weiner looking for pen pals while in prison

Another story that is funnier than any Onion satire: Dan Rather is worried that the public thinks that the media make up stories.
Former CBS journalist Dan Rather appeared on NBC "Today" on Tuesday where he lamented on the American people's lack of trust in the media.

"There’s a recent poll that said nearly half of people think the media make up stories," host Savannah Guthrie noted. "The media itself is under fire."

"What do you think the media needs to do better to enhance its own credibility?" she asked.

"We need to do a better job, we need to do our job. Our job is to bear witness, to be honest brokers of information, to be as accurate and fair as we possibly can," Rather said.

"I think most of the public understands that we’re under attack by very powerful people, including the president, for their own partisan, political, and ideological reasons," he concluded.
This from the guy who lost his job at 60 Minutes for peddling a poorly-researched story using fake documents purporting to show that criticized George W. Bush's service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War.