Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Cruising the Web

W. James Antle writes at The Week to argue that the circus of the Kavanaugh hearings vindicated Mitch McConnell's decision to not allow Merrick Garland a hearing. What would have been the point? These hearings are just Kabuki Theater to provide senators a chance to posture for supporters, but have nothing to do with finding out anything about the nominee that couldn't have been discovered with a questionnaire.
The Kavanaugh hearings have proven once again that these hearings are a charade in which no one's votes are actually in play. So what would have been the point with Garland — more theatrical grandstanding? Procedural niceties? Senate Republicans had the votes to block Garland. They almost certainly would have denied Garland a seat, as they had as much constitutional authority to do as Obama did to send him to the Senate in the first place. Why bother with the charade?

It is quite obvious this time around that the senators demanding documents from Kavanaugh's past have all made up their minds. Even the ostensible swing voters — a pair of moderate Republicans who have proven impervious to conservative primary challenges, and three or so red state Democrats up for re-election this year who are not overly dependent on outside liberal groups for help — would require nothing short of a Kavanaugh meltdown to alter their positions in large enough numbers to influence the outcome.

Senate Judiciary Committee members are mostly vamping for the cameras. The Democrats, especially those with 2020 presidential ambitions, are being tendentious in their questions. The Republicans are either hitting back or being annoyingly folksy. Both seem aggressively uninterested in Kavanaugh's answers, especially if they contain any detail or nuance....

The old norms of granting hearings and up-or-down votes to qualified nominees regardless of party or judicial philosophy were probably better. But they presupposed senators would make individual judgments about these nominations and both parties would play by the same rules. It is difficult to see a realistic way back.

The Senate confirmation process, like the Supreme Court's status as an unelected social-issues super-legislature, has become an exercise in raw power. It may at this point be better to remember that parties gain and lose power than to pretend otherwise.

Garland may have deserved better. Maybe it would have been nice to at least give him his hearing. But it is increasingly clear that this would have done nothing to change the outcome: Garland was always doomed.

Perhaps we should thank Mitch McConnell for sparing us the stagecraft and just shooting down the nomination from the get-go.

Kimberley Strassel makes an apt comparison to how the tea party flexed its muscles when the GOP leadership in Congress didn't do enough to stop Obamacare and how the Democratic Party is now having to respond to its angry activists. The tea party exacted revenge against establishment Republicans whom they derided. The result were some good candidates and a whole lot of awful candidates who won primaries but then went on to lose in the general election. And we're seeing a bit of the same sort of frenzy these days.
Tea party. Resistance. Call it what you will. The 2008 election of Barack Obama stoked a conservative fury against a directionless GOP. The tea-party movement in time would become more organized and strategic, and from the start it played an important role in conservative politics. But even its founders privately concede that its initial focus on intraparty cleansing and the “fight” did harm.

The 2016 election of Donald Trump has now stoked a progressive rebellion, and elected Democrats are feeling its heat. This is how to explain the theatrics of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Democratic collective this week. Everyone down to Sen. Cory Booker’s mailman knows Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed. The only purpose of the obstruction is catering to a resistance that wants a “fight”—even though it will prove futile and potentially damaging to the Democratic Party.

And so we watched Judiciary Democrats repeatedly interrupt Chairman Chuck Grassley with procedural complaints. Democrats accused Judge Kavanaugh of condoning school shootings, torture, toxic air, racism, sexism, presidential dictatorships. A would-be President Booker released confidential committee documents, daring his GOP colleagues to expel him: “Bring it on.” A would-be President Kamala Harris condescended to the judge, treating him like a criminal in the dock. A would-be President Elizabeth Warren, feeling left out because she isn’t on the committee, showed up for pictures outside the hearing room.

All thrilling to the resistance—and all harmful to its cause. To “resist” President Trump effectively, the left would need to take the Senate, and that requires holding almost all of the 10 Democratic seats in Trump states. Voting against Judge Kavanaugh could easily prove deadly to the likes of North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill or West Virginia’s Joe Manchin. Up to now, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has wisely given them a pass. But the resistance and its handmaids on the committee aren’t having it. They have effectively used the hearings to create a litmus test.

Leading progressive groups delivered a scathing letter to Mr. Schumer Wednesday, declaring that “anything less than 49 Democratic votes against Kavanaugh”—i.e., every Democrat in the Senate—“would be a massive failure of your leadership.” Remember when one-time tea-party Sen. Jim DeMint said he’d “Rather have 30 Marco Rubios in the Senate than 60 Arlen Specters”? He got his wish (though Specter became a Democrat), and Republicans stayed in the Senate minority for four more years. Maybe he’s moonlighting as a Booker adviser.
Strassel goes on to warn Democrats that their behavior in the Kavanaugh hearings may help drive Republican turnout this Fall.
None of this will necessarily stop a Democratic House takeover; the tea party’s excesses didn’t stop Republicans in 2010. But it could hint at what a takeover could look like. Veteran staffers still wince at the GOP disarray that followed tea-party triumph—endless internal feuding, yanked legislation, leadership challenges, a shutdown. The GOP managed to stop the Obama legislative agenda, but did precious little else.

Democrats have traditionally exercised better party discipline than Republicans, though that was before Trump derangement syndrome. This week demonstrated the extent to which the resistance is driving Democrats. And it is to nowhere good—for the party, or for the country.
Isn't that just so very clever? They portrayed one individual as actually three separate people. They characterized those people to make them sound like experienced, senior analysts when it was actually a guy who was an intern and then a person in an entry-level position. The story is still on their website with no acknowledgement of how they misled readers.

With the anonymous column published in the New York Times, we're learning how fluid the definition of a "senior" official is. Phelim McAleer reports on an amazing story of how the NYT labeled a source a source as an "analyst" when the source was really just an intern.
The paper has a scandalous history of lying about the seniority of officials it quotes anonymously - especially when that source parrots their agenda.

A few years back they were caught red-handed deceiving their readers in such a way.

In a lengthy anti-fracking article they claimed that senior industry experts and insiders believed the industry to be little more than a “Ponzi scheme" ... "set up for failure".

They even had the emails from a series of senior insiders where these doubts were expressed.

According to the New York Times, one “energy analyst” wrote, “Am I just totally crazy, or does it seem like everyone and their mothers are endorsing shale gas without getting a really good understanding of the economics at the business level?”

Another “federal analyst” said in an industry email, “It seems that science is pointing in one direction and industry PR is pointing in another.”

Well unfortunately for the New York Times, the emails were from the Energy Information Agency - a government organization - so this meant Senate investigators were able to find the original emails and work out the identity of all these different senior experts. It turns out the federal analyst, the energy analyst and the officer turned out to be the same person who was actually an intern when he wrote the first email and in an entry level position when he wrote the other comments. Yes, that’s right, the “Paper of Record" misrepresented an intern/junior employee as a senior official to push an agenda.

Was the New York Times embarrassed when their deception was uncovered? The Senate investigation did attract the attention of the New York Times Public Editor Arthur S Brisbane. “Can an intern be an “official”? It doesn’t sound right to me,” he stated.

Well it sounded fine to the New York Times editorial board. They stood by their mislabelling of the intern/low level employees as a senior official. They later decided they didn’t want their stories to be second guessed in their own newspaper so they ended the role of public editor in the newspaper. And the reporter who misrepresented the intern, well, he was promoted. Ian Urbina is now a New York Times “investigative reporter based in Washington.”

Oh, geez. With all the problems facing schools these days, do we really need to worry about figures in history being labeled heroic? The Texas State Board of Education is considering a recommendation that the defenders at the Alama should not be described as "heroic."
The recommendation, made in a report issued last month, was one of several hundred tweaks, additions and deletions offered up by the advisory group reviewing state curriculum standards for social studies. The panel said "heroic" was a "value-charged word."

....Current seventh-grade social studies curriculum standards include the "siege of the Alamo and all of the heroic defenders who gave their lives there." The advisory committee recommended cutting the phrase "and all of the heroic defenders who gave their lives there."
Another recommendation is that students shouldn't study William Travis's letter vowing "I shall never surrender or retreat."
Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said the recommendation was made in response to complaints that curriculum standards are too long. The advisory group has been reviewing curriculum requirements subject by subject to streamline instruction. This will be the first time social studies standards have been updated since 2010.

"Could this be reduced by either deleting information, combining standards or clarifying? That was the goal," Ratcliffe said. "They suggested deleting the Travis letter because they think when teachers talk about the Alamo they will absolutely mention it, but not having it outlined specifically just meant teachers would spend less time on it."
When I taught eighth grade social studies, students loved learning about the Alamo and reading Travis's letter. That didn't mean that we didn't talk about the problematic aspects of the American settlement of Texas and the war with Mexico. Teachers can do both.

California continues to be a model of what not to do. The WSJ looks at the proposal in California to require all power to come from renewables by 2045.
Most states are enjoying flat or declining electricity rates thanks to shale fracking, which has sent natural gas prices plummeting. But not California, where rates have jumped 25% since 2013. Electricity prices in the Golden State are by far the highest in the continental western U.S. and twice as high as in Washington state.

The reason: California requires that 50% of power be generated from renewables such as solar and wind by 2030. Democrats recently passed legislation establishing a 100% requirement for 2045. Even Governor Jerry Brown ought to realize this energy experiment will punish Californians who can’t afford to live in Marin or Malibu.

Renewable prices have dropped thanks to technological improvements and cheap Chinese solar panel imports. The wholesale price of solar energy with the 30% federal tax credit is now nearly comparable to fossil fuels. But renewables impose other costs.

Start with backup power, which is needed when the sun isn’t shining. A 100% mandate would require natural gas plants that currently provide backup power—many recently constructed—to be retired and replaced with enormous batteries. Customers will pay for the stranded plants and the batteries, which will have to be replaced periodically.

Even batteries probably won’t capture all of the surplus solar energy pouring onto the grid on sunny days. So the state will have to find another outlet to avoid overloading the grid. In recent years California has paid Arizona to absorb its excess energy....

Managing the grid and balancing power sources will also become far more complicated and costly as renewable generation grows. Fellow sun-worshipper Australia provides a cautionary example.

In South Australia, wind and solar account for nearly 40% of power, which has caused rates to soar. South Australians pay more than three times as much for power than the average American. After storms felled transmission lines and caused power outages, the South Australian government tapped Tesla to build a battery the size of a football field capable of powering 30,000 homes for an hour to provide backup power in emergencies.

Tesla and the South Australian government have declined to disclose the battery cost. But the Electrek news site reported in January that Australia’s battery owners were paid 79 cents per kilowatt-hour—about 10 times the wholesale cost of power in the U.S.—to absorb surplus energy from the grid. That power can later be sold at a premium during shortages. Customers get charged twice—once for storing the excess power and then for discharging it.

California’s low-income residents will suffer the most since they spend more of their income on energy and live in hotter inland areas where more electricity is required for cooling. Workers in energy-intensive industries like manufacturing would be especially hard hit. Manufacturing employment has grown half as fast in California as nationwide since 2010.
But sure, throw lower income residents under the green energy bus.

I'm not sure that there is much of a market for Kenneth Starr's memoirs of his investigation of the Clintons, but he has written that book. He thinks that it is time since, with Hillary's loss in 2016, the Clinton era is [thankfully] over. This conclusion seems pretty apt.
“By the end of this book,” wrote Starr, “my personal account of the legacy of Bill and Hillary Clinton — a legacy of contempt — I believe most reasonable, open-minded people will agree with me. Or at least they should agree with my basic proposition: that President Clinton and the first lady knowingly embarked on a continuing course of action that was contemptuous of our revered system of justice. I make this bold statement for one key reason: The basic facts are undisputed. The continuing debate is really about the conclusions that ‘We the People’ choose to draw from the crystal-clear record.”

The #MeToo movement makes a showing in the book, as Starr portrays a president and his supporting wife as prime evidence for what the movement is all about.

Dismissing suggestions that he was part of a right-wing effort to take Clinton down in his investigation, Starr wrote: “That was all Hillary-generated nonsense, intended to avert the nation’s gaze from her husband’s crimes. She was a systematic enabler, in the White House no less, just as she had been in Little Rock, viciously attacking the various women who came forward to say they were Bill’s paramours, including Monica Lewinsky.”

He added at the end of the book, “The verbal assaults on women by the Clinton’s and their surrogates, who hurled demeaning epithets such as ‘trailer park trash,’ would become unthinkable in 2017 and 2018.

“But the now-fading Clinton years were starkly different, culturally and politically, in terms of respecting the rights of all persons, especially those subject to the exploitative hands of the powerful. Both as governor and president, Clinton could malign his jettisoned paramours and victims with little if any consequence. In those days, oddly, no one seemed to care about the exploitative power arrangement. That was just Saturday Night Bill from Hot Springs, Ark.”
He also reveals that his daughter needed 24-hour protection due to all the threats that he and his family received. I wonder if Robert Mueller is also receiving such threats.

Speaking of how so many liberals and the media closed their eyes to the sins of Bill Clinton, Byron York reminds us of how China interfered in the 1996 election. It's a story that's been largely forgotten.
Looking back on press accounts from the era, it's striking how brazen a number of the players were as they went about the task of funneling illegal foreign donations to the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The names have been mostly forgotten now -- Charlie Trie, John Huang, Johnny Chung -- but the record remains.

Chung, for example, who was born in Taiwan and became a U.S. citizen, was a prolific Democratic fundraiser. Between 1994 and 1996, he gave $366,000 to the DNC and visited the Clinton White House more than 50 times.

In 1995, Chung gave a $50,000 check to First Lady Hillary Clinton's chief of staff at an event on the White House grounds. His memorable explanation: "I see the White House is like a subway -- you have to put in coins to open the gates."

In May 1999, Chung testified before the House Government Oversight Committee. He said that in 1996, during the Clinton re-election campaign, he met with the head of Chinese military intelligence in the basement of a restaurant in Hong Kong. "We really like your president. We hope to see him re-elected," the Chinese spy, Gen. Ji Shengde, told Chung, according to Chung's testimony. Gen. Ji continued: "I will give you 300,000 U.S. dollars. You can give it to the president and the Democratic Party."

....In the great tradition of shady operators, Chung ended up taking a lot of the money for himself. But some of the cash from the head of Chinese military intelligence -- that is, the People's Liberation Army -- made its way into the Clinton re-election campaign and other Democratic efforts.

Earlier, Chung testified before a grand jury that he had also contributed money that came from another officer in the People's Liberation Army and from the son of China's top military commander. Chung pleaded guilty to bank fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy in connection with some of his illegal contributions. He was sentenced to probation.
Probation for channeling money from China into the Clinton campaign! And he wasn't the only one who got off so easily.
Then there was Charlie Trie, who raised $1.2 million in foreign dollars for the Clinton legal defense fund and the DNC. In March 1996, Trie dropped off a donation of $460,000 at the Washington offices of the defense fund, with some of the money in sequentially-numbered money orders made out in the same handwriting. He visited the White House 22 times. He pleaded guilty to violating federal election laws and was sentenced to probation.

There was also John Huang, the Democratic fundraiser who raised more than a $1.5 million from illegal foreign sources. He visited the White House 78 times. Huang was an agent for James Riady, an Indonesian businessman with extensive ties to China. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee found that Riady had "a long-term relationship with a Chinese intelligence agency." He pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and was sentenced to probation, plus a multi-million dollar fine.
Remembering this scandal, I also remember how the attorney general, Janet Reno, steadfastly resisted all calls for an independent counsel. And that stonewall worked. The Justice Department could conduct its investigation and then grant probation. Problem solved.
The scandal was news at the time; indeed, some print outlets, like the Los Angeles Times, led the way in uncovering it. The story received far less coverage on television, where several news outlets appeared distinctly uninterested. Overall, it would probably be fair to call the coverage moderate-to-restrained.

The rhetoric was restrained, too. To use one measure, it did not lead to widespread use of the word "treason" in the public discussion of President Clinton.
How our sense of outrage changes.

Now they think we really know who was the actual D.B. Cooper. It sounds pretty legit.