Friday, October 20, 2017

Cruising the Web

Perhaps General Kelly's appearance and somber, heart-felt words as a military man, but most of all as a man still grieving for the death of his own son in combat, will end the use of a family's grief for political purposes. The WSJ writes,
As anyone who follows media reports knows, the President’s call to this mother grew into a personal feud between Mr. Trump and a Democratic Congresswoman who disclosed what the President said. It then produced long newspaper reports examining the President’s relationship with every identifiable Gold Star family during his term.

It took awhile for Mr. Kelly to get around to talking about that phone call. Instead, he spent some time offering what we in journalism—or anyone purporting to be engaged in a serious line of work—would call context. Mr. Kelly described what happens when a U.S. soldier or Marine—“the best 1% this country produces”—gets killed in action. What he described was a military process that is graphic, emotionally intense and, most of all, untouchable.

Untouchable, as Mr. Kelly made clear, in the sense that what has happened is so grave, so personal and so difficult that the reality of pushing through it comes down to an encounter between the fallen soldier’s family, the officer who informs them and, in time, support from those who served alongside their son or daughter.

Mr. Kelly explained that a personal call from the President is in fact not what families expect or want. But it has become something of a presidential tradition, and Mr. Trump asked Mr. Kelly what he should say.

Mr. Kelly related what his friend and “my casualty officer,” Marine General Joseph Dunford, told him when relating that Mr. Kelly’s own son had been killed in Afghanistan: “He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1%. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war.”

That, essentially, is what Mr. Trump said to the Gold Star mother, no doubt less eloquently. Standing in the White House press room, reflecting on a political spat over a dead soldier, Mr. Kelly said, “I thought at least that was sacred.” His remarks are a rebuke to the Congresswoman for politicizing a private phone call, and to the press corps for attempting to turn grief and sacrifice into a hammer against Donald Trump—who, as usual, made things worse by lashing out in response.

John Kelly made a lot of people look small Thursday. The man who led soldiers in combat in Iraq described spending an hour this week walking in Arlington Cemetery, collecting his thoughts and looking at headstones, some with names of Marines who Mr. Kelly said were there because they did what he had told them to do.

Surely there is a sense in which the continuing political life of Washington is possible because of that sacrifice. That was John Kelly’s point. It would be nice to think the rest of the city could get it.
His boss, Donald Trump, is not immune from criticism, especially after his spat with the gold-star parents who criticized him at the Democratic convention. But grief should not be exploited. It should be respected. I can well believe that Trump was trying to express what General Kelly had told him had helped when his son died and Trump spoke in a less moving and sympathetic manner. But who among us knows the best words to say to a grieving widow or is comfortable offering sympathy at such a time? There is plenty about which to criticize Trump, but let's leave this subject alone. As Ben Shapiro writes,
At this point, it seems there’s enough blame to go around. Trump never should have suggested that Presidents Obama and Bush didn’t do an appropriate amount of outreach to Gold Star families; the media never should have responded by attempting to prove that Trump’s outreach has been insufficient; the White House never should have used Kelly’s son as fodder for response based on Obama’s failure to immediately call General Kelly; Wilson shouldn’t have politicized a condolence call.

If Kelly’s press conference today did anything to restore a semblance of sanctity to fallen soldiers and their families, he’ll have accomplished a great good.

This comment by another father whose son also died in Niger pretty well sums up where our focus should be after such sacrifices by our forces.
Wright, who declined to say whether he supported Trump in the 2016 election, said the focus should be on the lost soldiers and not Trump's response.
"This isn't about Donald Trump and this isn't about a damn phone call," he said. "This is about my son and the kind of man he was. He died in a bad situation that needs to be changed. And he's not coming back home."

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David Harsanyi explains how many of Trump's recent executive orders are geared toward restoring checks and balances that President Obama ignored. You might agree with the policies signed by Obama, but he did issue orders so he could bypass the Republican-controlled Congress. He bragged several times that Congress wouldn't act, but he would.
When President Barack Obama was governing through executive fiat for more than six years, there was precious little anxiety from our elite publications regarding precedents of abuse or the constitutional overreach. Not so today. Take today’s post from Monkey Cage at The Washington Post: “Candidate Trump attacked Obama’s executive orders. President Trump loves executive orders.”

Trump might love them, but the content of these executive orders is more important than the number. Whenever people criticized Obama’s overreach, the reaction was to demand that we contrast the number of executive orders signed by the president’s Republican predecessors (in those heady days “whataboutism” was not only tolerated but favored). This is an exceptionally silly, or perhaps just an exceptionally dishonest, way to compare presidential records. Bean-counting the sum total of executive orders tells us nothing useful about the effects of those orders; one action could be more consequential than 15 or 50. Most of Trump’s executive orders to this point have been either statements of intent, administrative moves, or reviews of Obama-era orders.

There’s nothing improper about executive orders or actions meant to implement law or derived from the Constitution. (Trump’s order promoting free speech and religious freedom, for example, didn’t go nearly far enough.) But there’s plenty wrong with executive orders and actions meant to circumvent those things. Not only did the last administration habitually craft what was in essence sweeping legislation from the ether, it often framed these abuses as good governance. “Congress won’t act; we have to do something” was the central argument of Obama’s second term. Every issue was a moral imperative worthy of the president’s pen.
President Obama didn't have the constitutional authority to issue DACA and was even stopped by a federal judge from his order extending the order to the parents of children who had come here as minors. If you like the Paris Climate Accords, that's fine. But it should have been presented to the Senate for a 2/3 vote to ratify it. That is what the Constitution prescribes.
I have been told many times that the Paris agreement is the most crucial international deal the world has ever known. Yet somehow it wasn’t important enough to be subjected to the traditional checks and balances of American governance, either. Global warming, explained Obama in 2013, “does not pause for partisan gridlock.” He might have well have said “my preferred partisan policy positions should not have to pause for the Constitution.”
Add in the cap-and-trade plan that Obama couldn't get through Congress so he just decided that the EPA had the authority to do it.
The same arguments can be made for the Trump administration ending Obamacare’s concocted subsidies. Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had ordered the administration to begin making these payments without ever publicly explaining the legal justification for why. The political justifications, on the other hand, are quite clear — it’s a way to hide the costs of Obamacare while keeping the fabricated marketplaces in business. It’s difficult to comprehend how anyone honestly believes these payments are constitutional. If American voters believe “cost-sharing reduction” subsidies are essential, Congress should pass a law appropriating taxpayers’ money for insurance companies. If they don’t pass such funding, then voters can elect people who will. That’s how we have been financing programs in this country for a couple of centuries. Trump could have fought to keep the power of funding from the White House, but he relinquished it.
If Obama hadn't used extralegal maneuvers to institute policies that he couldn't get through Congress, Trump wouldn't have had to issue these executive orders returning the legislative power back to Congress.
For those who argue that all of this is nothing more than a malevolent effort to sabotage the Obama administration’s accomplishments, perhaps there is a lesson to be learned: Your legacy is going to be a rickety mess if you build it using imperious diktats rather than consensus.

Here's a suggestion
for those upset about Trump's executive order allowing businesses whose owners have moral objections t not provide insurance covering contraception.
However, the next administration could change the rules back—stoking outrage from religious conservatives. Unlike taxes or transportation funding, this issue is hard to resolve because it pits two incompatible beliefs against each other: the belief that government should not force people to violate their religious faith, and the belief that religious faith should not trump women's access to contraception.

Fortunately, in the case of contraception there is (pardon the expression) a way to split the baby: Make contraception available over the counter. Sell it without a prescription, like aspirin or condoms. Then women would not need to go through the inconvenience and expense of a doctor's visit, and the devout need not arrange for a service they consider contrary to their religious faith.

In most countries, this is already the norm. More than 100 allow over-the-counter (OTC) sales of birth control; fewer than 50 require a prescription (partly, no doubt, because some birth control serves other medical purposes besides preventing pregnancy). And here in the U.S., some states have begun loosening restrictions as well. California and Oregon permit women to obtain hormonal birth control after screening by a pharmacist for potential complications, for instance.

Even that might be unnecessary; research indicates that women can accurately self-screen—i.e., they don't need somebody else's help to determine what's in their own best interest. Imagine that.

The medical community largely agrees on OTC birth control, too. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says oral contraception "should be available over-the-counter," and women should be able to screen themselves. Even physicians, who have a modest pecuniary interest in requiring prescriptions for contraception, lopsidedly favor not doing so.
If birth control were OTC, it would be easier and cheaper to obtain. Patients wouldn't need to see a doctor to get a prescription.

Many Democrats, however, oppose this change, not because they don't want to make it easier for women to get birth control, but because, if it were OTC, it couldn't be mandated to be covered by health insurance.
Likewise, some liberals insist that women should not have to pay even a penny for contraception. But those who say so tend to subscribe to the unicorns-and-rainbows school of economics, in which not just birth control but all medical care is both free and unlimited. There's nothing wrong with dreaming a little.

More practical obstacles do remain, such as winning FDA approval for OTC sales and training pharmacists in states that require pharmacist involvement. America isn't going to get over-the-counter overnight. But on the straightforward policy merits, this seems like an easy call. No medical reason exists to keep women from buying birth control over the counter. And letting them do so would put one socially divisive issue to rest — leaving more outrage left over for people to vent on other things.
Usually, liberals want to point to what other countries do in health care and bemoan that we don't follow their enlightened examples.

If you're worried about health concerns for women getting birth control pills without seeing a doctor, remember that other drugs are available OTC that have worse possible effects than birth control.
While oral contraceptives bring with them some tiny risks, especially if used improperly, they arguably pose fewer dangers than many other medicines bought freely at the pharmacy, experts say, including nonsteroidal pain pills like Motrin (which can cause stomach bleeding) and decongestants like Sudafed (which may raise blood pressure). With a simple packaging insert about proper use and precautions, women would be fully capable of using them safely, the gynecologists’ group maintained.

“Nonsteroidal medicines kill far more people than birth-control pills,” said Dr. Eve Espey, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico, who was involved in writing the position paper. “For most women, the absolute risk of taking the pill is far less than the risks incurred in pregnancy.”

Continue reading the main story
The goal of the proposal, of course, is to make birth-control pills more readily available. “The biggest barrier to adherence is the logistics of a prescription — you run out on a Saturday night, you lose your pills, you go on vacation, you can’t get a doctor’s appointment,” said Daniel Grossman, a gynecologist who is a vice president at Ibis Reproductive Health, a nonprofit research organization.

In his group’s studies, about one-third of the women who were using no birth control or a less effective method said they would use the pill if it were available without a prescription. “This is what women want,” Dr. Grossman added.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have endorsed the sale of birth-control pills over the counter. Maybe it's time to move toward this solution and then we won't have to debate the mandate on business owners with moral objections.

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Mike Gonzalez, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, sees some lessons for Americans in the unrest in Spain over the Catalans' demand to be allowed to secede from Spain.
This is happening in a country that is prosperous and free. Americans have every reason to consider it a warning.

The lesson for us is all the more stark given that Spain inherited this problem (before arguably making it worse). The United States, on the other hand, has gone out of its way to create it. Building “a cosmopolitan federation of national colonies,” in the words of the influential early 20th century transnationalist Randolph Bourne, has been the object of many U.S. policies for decades.

Especially instructive should be one of the Catalonian separatists’ arguments for leaving Spain: that their region is the wealthiest, and they’d like to stop subsidizing the rest. As countless voices on the left and right have been warning for some time, dividing a country into ethnic groups through “multiculturalism” militates against the transfer payments on which modern welfare societies depend.
Today, we're lectured constantly about celebrating diversity. We're told that we should prize diversity because we can learn so much from other cultures, but we dang well better not appropriate any fashion or cuisine from those cultures. We are being told to celebrate what divides us.
Ethnic and linguistic fractionalization is what Spain promoted after it became a democracy upon the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. During a nearly 40-year strong-arm rule, Franco had suppressed the use of such languages as Catalan and Basque in the northeast and Galician in the Northwest.

These languages have stubbornly persisted since the early Middle Ages, despite the union of different kingdoms that took place in 1469 when Queen Isabella of Castile and Leon married King Ferdinand of Aragon.

That is Spain’s history. Spanish leaders reacted to Franco’s dictatorship with a pendulum swing in the opposite direction. The 1978 Constitution gave 17 autonomous regions power over education and language. Basque, Catalan and Galician were given co-official status with Castilian in their respective regions. Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez reaffirmed last month that Spain would remain a “nation of nations.”

American history has been the opposite. The founders knew the new country they were building would attract immigrants — as it had already done in their time. Their consensus was that Americans would be able to keep their republic only if newcomers adopted the values the framers were nurturing.

George Washington wrote of immigrants that he hoped that “by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures, and laws: in a word, soon become one people.” For Alexander Hamilton, “the safety of a republic depends essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment; on a uniformity of principles and habits … and on the love of country.” Lincoln and some of America’s best writers, such as Emerson and Melville, also referred to these ideals.
We used to be told that immigrants to the U.S. should assimilate to American culture. They should learn English and leap into the melting pot. Now the idea of the melting pot is considered a microaggression. No politician advocates assimilation today.
In 1997, T. Alexander Aleinikoff, a senior official in the Clinton administration’s Immigration and Naturalization Service, wrote a clarifying article — in which he favorably quoted Bourne — explaining that the task of policy was to promote an America made up of “constituent groups.”

“The increasing and resilient diversity — the polyethnicism — of the United States is a current and future fact,” he wrote. What is needed, he added, was “policies that foster a nation at peace with its constituent groups and groups that identify with the nation.”

Catalonia is showing us every day that this contradiction, like many others, does not work.

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If you pooh-poohed the idea that protests about Confederate leaders would lead to protests against all our nation's heroes, here's some contrary evidence from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
For many students, meeting the statue of Abraham Lincoln after a trek up Bascom Hill is part of a normal day at UW-Madison. However, some students of indigenous descent view Lincoln’s post overlooking campus as a reminder of the suffering of their ancestors at his command.

Wunk Sheek, an indigenous student organization, and roughly 50 supporters gathered in front of the statue Monday afternoon in an effort to Blackout Columbus Day and promote Indigenous People’s Day.

According to Emily (Bad River Ojibwe), co-president of traditional relations for Wunk Sheek, the city of Madison already recognizes the holiday as Indigenous People’s Day, but the organization wants to see it on campus calendars as well....

In 1862, Lincoln ordered the execution of 38 Dakota men, making it the largest mass execution ordered by a U.S. president, according to leaders in Wunk Sheek. For this reason, the organization chose to hold the demonstration in front of his statue on Bascom. A sign hung around Lincoln’s neck describing the execution and ended with “#DecolonizeOurCampus.”

The demonstration was staged as a “die-in” in which supporters laid on the ground in solidarity with the executed Dakota men. The die-in began at 12:26 p.m. to honor the Dec. 26 date of the execution, and lasted for 38 minutes to honor the 38 executed men.

“Everyone thinks of Lincoln as the great, you know, freer of slaves, but let’s be real: He owned slaves, and as natives, we want people to know that he ordered the execution of native men,” Misha said. “Just to have him here at the top of Bascom is just really belittling.”
If these students think that Lincoln owned slaves, they're deeply ignorant. Maybe they could have done a little research before they staged their protest.

You can read more about this episode in history. It's a painful story, but not as cut and dried or simplistic as these students are portraying it. But if Abraham Lincoln is too compromised to pass muster by today's standards, then no one will.

The equivalent of Reductio ad Hitlerum today is Reductio ad slavery. There is something so insulting to compare any situation in the U.S. today to slavery. And a millionaire NFL player like Michael Bennett should know better than reaching for such comparisons.
Bennett said a comment by Dallas owner Jerry Jones that he would not let anyone who sits for the anthem take the field “is crazy. And I just think it’s inconsiderate.’’

Bennett went on to compare it to Dred Scott, a reference to the famous 1857 court case in which Scott, a slave, sued unsuccessfully for his freedom, a decision that has been credited with setting in motion events that led to the Civil War.

“I just thought it (Jones’ comments) reminded me of the Dred Scott case,’’ Bennett said. “You are property, so you don’t have the ability to be a person first. And I think in this generation I think that sends the wrong message to young kids and young people all across the world that your employer doesn’t see you as a human being, they see you as a piece of property. And if that’s the case, then I don’t get it. I just don’t get why you don’t see him as a human being, they don’t see us as human beings first.’’
No, being told by an employer paying an athlete millions of dollars is not treating him like a slave. He can still say whatever he wants. And, as has become clear, the NFL isn't going to punish players who kneel. Jerry Jones may discipline players on his team, but that is a free choice that they're making. Even if the owner of the Seahawks told the players they couldn't kneel during the anthem, they could still come out and speak on their own. They won't be whipped for disobeying orders. They don't have to worry about being sold away from their families or having their wives raped by the owner and children sold far away. The comparison to slavery is an insult to those men and women and children who suffered as slaves. Michael Bennett is not a stupid man. He should know better. No one should make such comparisons today.

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Andrew Ferguson has a blast
reviewing Sally Quinn's newest memoir, Finding Magic: A Spiritual Memoir. And when she writes about finding magic, she means it for real - and it's black magic.
Quinn begins with a loving portrait of her childhood in Georgia, where the family servants schooled her in voodoo. Her mother was already initiated. When the local vet misdiagnosed the family dachshund, Quinn tells us, Mom lost her temper and cried, “I hope you drop dead!”

“And,” she writes laconically, “he did.”

In the next chapter we learn that 10-year-old Sally came under the care of a doctor who upset her mother. Mom fed him the same line she gave the vet, and “he died shortly thereafter.”

Well, life goes on—not for the vet and the doctor, of course, but for Sally. She grew up and moved to Washington and dated a yummy reporter. Once he flirted with another woman. “I won’t say exactly what I did—even now it would be bad luck for me,” she writes. “I worked on the hex for several days.” The woman killed herself....

Next we read about Clay Felker, the editor of New York magazine, who commissioned a scurrilous profile of Quinn. She put a hex on him. Suddenly the magazine was sold and Felker was fired and publicly humiliated. “Clay never recovered professionally,” she tells us. “Worse, he got cancer, which ultimately led to his death.”
So she's bragging that she and her mother caused the death of four people. Are we supposed to believe her and think of her as a murderer or not believe her and just think of her as a kook. Ferguson thinks it's a warning for those who would write bad reviews of her book but, nevertheless, he persists. He tells of how her memoir goes on to tell of how she used sex to rise in her profession as a society writer. Meanwhile, she writes of how she can read minds and talk to ghosts and sometimes casts hexes and kills those who anger her. Most famously, she had an affair with the married Ben Bradlee getting him to leave his wife and children to marry her. Thus, as Bradlee's wife she became the quintessential Washington hostess.
Like her fellow revolutionaries, Quinn was at first mistaken for an anti-elitist, striking a blow against the hypocrisy and pretension of the old order. She was nothing of the sort. She just favored a different kind of elite—one whose ranks were filled with people like her. By the time the Watergate scandal had laid waste to the capital, the city’s aristocracy had been remade by journalists for journalists, along with the politicians that journalists found appealing. John Kerry, Gary Hart, and Ted Kennedy were early favorites.

Soon enough, as in all revolutions, the vanguard became the bodyguard, and Quinn was top cop, policing the neighborhood and telling the bums to move along now. Early in the Carter presidency, a well-heeled but harmless couple from Georgia called the Bagleys bought a mansion in Georgetown and started throwing parties. These parties were unauthorized, and Quinn wrote an explosive piece in the Post destroying their reputations. The Bagleys left town. (They snuck back in later.) A young hayseed from Pocatello, Idaho, moved to Washington and started inviting big shots like Kissinger to his parties. Sometimes they came, and the situation was getting out of hand! Sally gathered anonymous quotes insulting the young man as a poseur. She strung them into a feature story and got it on the front page of Style. So long, hayseed. “It was like finding the cure for cancer,” she said later.

Quinn’s ruling class is aging now, but it survives, clinging to power, and it’s against this twilight backdrop that her spiritual memoir achieves a kind of poignancy. The elite of Quinn’s generation was the first in American history to turn wholesale from organized religion. “If any of them were religious,” she writes of her peers, “I certainly never knew about it. There was one thing that mattered: the story. Get the story; get it first and get it right. That was their religion. The First Amendment was their religion.” Nice—no getting up early on the Sabbath.

Quinn is proof of the observation attributed to G.K. Chesterton: When a person ceases to believe in God, the danger isn’t that he will believe in nothing, but that he’ll believe in anything. In addition to her hexes and ghosts, her Tarot and telepathy, Sally believes in Ouija boards, palm reading, astrology, fortune telling, Hindu gods, telekinesis, witchcraft, and pretty much anything else that crosses her line of sight. Anything, that is, but God, biblically understood. “In the end I have my own religion,” she writes. “I made it up.” So this is where we are, 50 years after the elites dropped conventional religion in pursuit of…something they could make up.
She's a woman who propelled herself to the top of the Washington food chain using a bit of talent, sex, ruthlessness, and when all else fails, her own sort of black magic. But don't judge her.
“I am,” she assures us, “a good and compassionate person, ethical and moral, embedded in core values, someone who cares about others.” Meanwhile, her memoir produces plenty of hard evidence to the contrary. There’s that dead fortune teller, for one thing. For another: Her account, utterly remorseless, of how she systematically set about seducing Bradlee away from his wife and children is as harrowing as the hexes.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cruising the Web

The Hill is all over this story about the Obama administration's actions involving Russia's efforts to gain American uranium and the corruption involved. It keeps looking like a deliberate cover-up to help Hillary Clinton.
An American businessman who worked for years undercover as an FBI confidential witness was blocked by the Obama Justice Department from telling Congress about conversations and transactions he witnessed related to the Russian nuclear industry's efforts to win favor with Bill and Hillary Clinton and influence Obama administration decisions, his lawyer tells The Hill.

Attorney Victoria Toensing, a former Reagan Justice Department official and former chief counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday she is working with members of Congress to see if they can get the Trump Justice Department or the FBI to free her client to talk to lawmakers.

“All of the information about this corruption has not come out,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “And so my client, the same part of my client that made him go into the FBI in the first place, says, 'This is wrong. What should I do about it?'”

Toensing said she also possesses memos that recount how the Justice Department last year threatened her client when he attempted to file a lawsuit that could have drawn attention to the Russian corruption during the 2016 presidential race as well as helped him recover some of the money Russians stole from him through kickbacks during the FBI probe.
The undercover client witnessed “a lot of bribery going on around the U.S.” but was asked by the FBI to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) that prevents him from revealing what he knows to Congress, Toensing explained.

When he tried to bring some of the allegations to light in the lawsuit last year, “the Obama Justice Department threatened him with loss of freedom. They said they would bring a criminal case against him for violating an NDA,” she added.
It seems clear that this witness was key to the FBI investigation of what went on.
Federal court records from 2014 and 2015 show that a wide-ranging FBI probe into Russian nuclear industry corruption was facilitated by an unnamed American consultant who worked for the Moscow-based nuclear energy giant Rosatom's Tenex subsidiary on a multiyear campaign to grow Moscow's uranium business inside the United States.

Those efforts included winning U.S. approval of Rosatom's controversial purchase of Canada-based Uranium One's American uranium assets, securing new approvals to sell new commercial uranium to the federally backed United States Enrichment Corporation and winning billions in new U.S. utility contracts for Russian nuclear fuel....

he records make clear he came to the FBI immediately after Russian officials asked him to engage in illegal activity in 2009....

Sources told The Hill the informant's work was crucial to the government's ability to crack a multimillion dollar racketeering scheme by Russian nuclear officials on U.S. soil that involved bribery, kickbacks, money laundering and extortion. In the end, the main Russian executive sent to the U.S. to expand Russian President Vladimir Putin's nuclear business, an executive of an American trucking firm and a Russian financier from New Jersey pled guilty to various crimes in a case that started in 2009 and ended in late 2015.
This is, apparently, the same person. But for some reason the Obama DOJ didn't want him to testify before Congress about what he witnessed. I wonder if this is why.
The information the client possesses includes specific allegations that Russian executives made to him about how they facilitated the Obama administration's 2010 approval of the Uranium One deal and sent millions of dollars in Russian nuclear funds to the U.S. to an entity assisting Bill Clinton's foundation. At the time, Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of State on the government panel that approved the deal, the lawyer said.

It has been previously reported that Bill Clinton accepted $500,000 in Russian speaking fees in 2010 and collected millions more in donations for his foundation from parties with a stake in the Uranium One deal, transactions that both the Clintons and the Obama administration denied had any influence on the approval.

Federal law requires officials such as then-Secretary Clinton to avoid both conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts when it comes to the business and financial interests of a spouse. Clinton signed a special agreement when she became secretary to disclose her husband's charitable donations to the State Department to avoid any such conflicts. Both Clintons have repeatedly insisted no donations raised by the foundation ever influenced her decisions.

A spokesman and a lawyer for the Clintons did not return calls seeking comment.

Toensing said her client can also testify that FBI agents made comments to him suggesting political pressure was exerted during the Justice Department probe of the Russia corruption case and that there was specific evidence that could have scuttled approval of the Uranium One deal if it became public.

“There was corruption going on and it was never brought forward. And in fact, the sale of the uranium went on despite the government knowing about all of this corruption. So he's coming forward. He wants the right thing to be done, but he cannot do it unless he is released from the NDA,” she added.
What do you bet that Jeff Sessions reverses that decision?

And that isn't all that smells dirty from this story. Paul Gregory, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes in the Hill about what is missing from the story reported earlier in The Hill.
Obama administration figures involved in the 2009-15 investigation include Robert Mueller, James Comey, Rod Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe — all of whom are involved in some fashion in the current investigation of President Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia.

Despite extensive information as early as 2009 that Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm and that Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation, Hillary Clinton’s State Department and other government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment (including Attorney General Eric Holder) unanimously approved the partial sale of the Canadian mining company, Uranium One, to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom in October 2010....

Uranium One had accumulated massive U.S. uranium holdings, and the 2010 sale gave Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium reserves. In 2011, the Obama administration gave approval for Rosatom’s American branch, Tenex, to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants.

Notably absent from The Hill article is the name of Frank Guistra of Uranium One, purported to be the largest single donor to the Clinton Foundation at some $33 million. Guistra’s name does not appear on Clinton Foundation donor lists.

In fact, Guistra and aides to President Bill Clinton started a Canadian charity to shield the identities of donors to the Clinton Foundation, according to the New York Times. This was in violation of Hillary Clinton’s pledge of transparency as a condition of her becoming secretary of State.
The more we find out about this deal to sell American uranium so that Russia would get it, the worse the story gets.
Russia’s nuclear affiliate, Tenex, compromised U.S. companies in the nuclear supply chain by offering no-bid contracts in exchange for kickbacks in the form of money payments made to offshore banks accounts. Hence, Russia had the evidence to compromise the U.S. companies they partnered with in the nuclear supply chain.

Alarmingly, the materials being transferred by these compromised companies could form the basis for radioactive dirty bombs. In December 2015, the head of the Russian affiliate, Tenex, accepted a plea bargain for a jail sentence and a $2 million fine.

The Hill report raises serious questions about the FBI and Justice Department during the Obama years. They appear not to have pursued with any vigor the Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Clinton Foundation “connections” with high-level Russian nuclear officials.

Their five-year investigation yielded only one conviction so far. They appeared to be lax to the extreme in terms of keeping appropriate government agencies, administration officials and Congress apprised of their investigation, even though it related to serious questions of national security.
Given the behavior of Mueller, Rosenstein, and McCabe in this investigation, how much confidence can we have in their investigations into Russia's involvement in our election?

And, of course, the networks didn't cover the story.

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Apparently, the reason why Donald Trump came out into the Rose Garden pretending to be best buds with Mitch McConnell was because McConnell explained to him that Bannon's plan to primary some GOP senators would endanger Trump's entire agenda.
McConnell emphasized that Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, was undermining the president's agenda with plans to recruit and finance primary challenges against Republicans who are some of his most reliable supporters in the Senate. McConnell might have made some headway....

But Bannon's top targets include Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming; Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Roger Wicker of Mississippi. Barrasso and Wicker vote with Trump 96 percent of the time. Fischer sides with the president 92 percent of the time, according to tracking from FiveThirtyEight.

None of three is known for speaking out against Trump in public.

Even occasional Trump critics like Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., who Bannon also is targeting, vote with the president 92 percent and 90 percent of the time, respectively. All five voted for failed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, although Heller was initially opposed.

None of the five is threatening to oppose tax reform.

McConnell made clear that he wouldn't back down from a fight with Bannon, whether protecting incumbents, or defending open seats from the nomination of unsavory candidates. Unsaid was that he wouldn't defer to the president, either, who has previously threatened to oppose Flake and Heller.
And there is no guarantee that Bannon-supported candidates like Roy Moore would back Trump in the Senate if it meant going along with McConnell. He could turn into another Rand Paul bent on burnishing his own status as an independent rather than being willing to get, as Ronald Reagan recommended, 80% of what he wanted if he couldn't get 100%. Rand Paul seems to prefer 0% over %. Who thinks Roy Moore would be more rational?

It's amazing that Trump didn't realize the dangers to his agenda from Bannon's plan to primary incumbents who have voted with him over 95% of the time. Allahpundit calls McConnell the Trump whisperer. Allahpundit adds,
A Senator Roy Moore would need to bear that in mind whenever Trump lurches to the middle and tries to compromise with Schumer and Pelosi. Who’s more likely to support a DREAM deal, Moore or Strange? Jeff Flake or Kelli Ward? Barrasso and Deb Fischer or some random nationalist candidates? Remember, although Trump frequently aligns with populists, he’s not technically a populist himself. He’s a Trumpist, which means he wants whatever his position happens to be at a given moment, and those positions (a la DACA and DREAM) aren’t always populist. More than anything he wants some legislative wins and a Congress that’ll deliver for him. That’s why it made sense for him to support Strange over Moore. Strange will do his bidding reliably, Moore won’t.

That’s what McConnell tried to press upon him yesterday, I think, and he may have succeeded to some extent. Although a few GOP senators like Corker, Flake, and Sasse shoot off their mouths regularly in criticizing Trump, even they’re reliable voters for the president’s agenda. The rest of the caucus not only votes with the White House but mutes its criticism of Trump for fear of antagonizing the base.
And now Moore doesn't even look like a sure thing to win his election. If Bannon's chosen candidate can't win as a GOP candidate in Alabama, what are the chances that his other candidates would do better? And who knows how much Bannon's endorsement helped in Alabama? Moore was ahead in the primary before Bannon stuck his nose into the race. He came in at the last minute and then claimed credit.

As the WSJ writes, Rand Pau
l is living in an alternative reality.
Life must be tough for Rand Paul, living in an alternative political reality all by himself. After repeatedly obstructing reforms to ObamaCare that would have reduced the size of government, he is now opposing a budget resolution that is essential for tax reform.

Mr. Paul said Tuesday that he’ll vote against the Senate budget outline because it includes $43 billion in military funding that breaks Congress’s 2011 spending caps. “Senators [John] McCain and [Lindsey] Graham are torpedoing the budget by insisting on busting the budget caps for more spending,” he tweeted.

Enough with the warmongering, Rand. As even the Kentucky Senator acknowledged, the budget is merely a vehicle for passing tax reform with 51 Senate votes. The GOP budget is “a document that represents are we for spending cuts, are we fiscally responsible,” he said, adding that “the budget vote to me is a symbol and a guidepost as to what we are as a party and what we stand for.” But Mr. Paul’s goal of chopping defense isn’t shared by most of his colleagues. So he’s threatening to block tax reform so he can make a futile political gesture.

His criticism of Messrs. McCain and Graham as “false conservatives” may also explain his recent vote to kill Mr. Graham’s version of ObamaCare repeal. The biggest driver of federal spending is entitlements, and legislation to block grant health-care funds to the states would have been the biggest entitlement reform in decades.

Mr. Paul is deceiving voters and perhaps even himself by pretending that limiting defense spending will balance the budget. This will require faster growth that requires tax reform. Who is the real political phony?
Kentucky voters like Obamacare more than a lot of red states. I think Paul preferred to grandstand that the reform measures put forth by other GOP bills didn't do enough so that what ended up happening was continuing Obamacare. He got his big moments in front of the camera and Kentucky got to keep Obamacare.

And now he's endorsed Roy Moore. As Brian Doherty writes at Reason, there is nothing libertarian about Roy Moore.
On the one hand, "Republican senator endorses another Republican senator" isn't huge news. But if ever there were a would-be colleague who someone of even slight libertarian tendencies should be leery of, it is Moore.

Shikha Dalmia wrote earlier this month about some of other things Moore spent his lifetime doing, adding up to a highly theocratic vision that she analogized to Saudi Arabia (despite Moore's paranoid belief that Sharia law exists in parts of America), including:
that he is the author of the misnamed 2005 Constitution Restoration Act that would give Congress the power to remove any judge who refuses to recognize God as the source of America's law. The bill also seeks to limit the power of the Supreme Court to overrule or punish any state official or judge acting in the name of God's law and, instead, would impeach the judges who take on such cases...nearly all of Moore's conservative backers—whether ethno-nationalists Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka or nativist rabble rouser Ann Coulter or Christian reconstructionist Mike Huckabee—want to create a Fortress America and cut off the outside world....exactly the kind of medieval social vision that Saudi Arabia, thanks to influence of hardline Wahhabi clerics not dissimilar to Moore, embraced three decades ago.

Where do they come up with this stuff?
So now we know: Free trade causes abortion, wife-beating and infertility.

This exciting new discovery was made — or, rather, made up — by the Trump White House as it sought to find arguments to justify scuttling the Trans-Pacific Partnership, NAFTA and other vehicles of international trade.

The Post’s indispensable Damian Paletta reports that the two-page document, which he obtained, was “prepared and distributed” by Peter Navarro, an economic adviser to President Trump who directs the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. It was “presented without any data or information to back up the assertions” to Trump administration officials as they deliberateds over trade policy.

On a page titled “socioeconomic costs of a weakened manufacturing base,” Navarro’s document lists, among other things: “higher abortion rate,” “lower fertility rate,” “increased spousal abuse,” “lower marriage rate,” “higher divorce rate,” “higher crime,” “rising mortality rate” and “increased drug/opioid use.”

Now, it’s true that job loss can lead to social ills, but the Trump White House officials involved in such social-science “research” made some enormous leaps of logic — that the social ills are caused specifically by the loss of manufacturing jobs and by nothing else, and that the job losses are caused by free trade rather than, say, productivity, technology or the failure of government policies.

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This is a scary statistic.
Opioid drugs have killed more Americans than the 19-year Vietnam war, the AIDS crisis, car accidents, suicides and homicides, a new report shows.
The analysis by independent research group Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) lays bare the scale of the epidemic by analyzing the latest CDC figures.

It breaks down the death tolls of the most devastating events in US history in the last 50 years, to show why addiction is the most deadly issue the country has ever faced.

While the Vietnam war claimed 58,200 lives in 19 years and six months, opioids killed 64,070 Americans in 2016 alone.

Experts warn last year's peak was likely just the start, as we start to see the repercussions of decades of over-prescribing painkillers, which drove medication addiction and even a surge in heroin use.

A Tampa NHL player protested the national anthem and so the Tampa police invited him to come spend the day at the police academy and go through what police have to learn for their job.
J.T. Brown spent Friday afternoon getting shot at during a traffic stop.

The bullets were blanks, of course, with the Lightning wing role-playing as a police officer in the Tampa Police Department's Citizens Police Academy.

The red sedan that Brown and Lightning teammate Gabriel Dumont pulled over was missing a tag.

They weren't expecting an ambush.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

"You realize every time you leave the (police) car, it could be the last time," Dumont said.

Said Brown: "You see what they go through. I have a better understanding, I can guarantee you that."

That was the goal when Tampa interim police Chief Brian Dugan extended the academy invitation to Brown last week.

Dugan had seen the image of Brown raising his right fist during the national anthem before the Oct. 7 game against the Panthers in Sunrise. Brown, one of about 30 black players in the NHL, followed the path of NFL players who have knelt or sat during the anthem in protest to raise awareness of police brutality and racial injustice.

Dugan thought he could address the issue by meeting with Brown in the Lightning dressing room Monday. Brown offered his support for law enforcement while voicing concern about racial injustice, Dugan said.

Dugan, a former Lightning NHL security representative, welcomed Brown to see the other side. He never expected Brown to take him up on the offer four days later.

"I never did discuss with him about race and his fist," Dugan said. "He can do whatever he wants to do. As a police department, we've always been supporting of people protesting peacefully. I just wanted to give him a different perspective. Not trying to change his mind, just wanted to educate him.
What a great idea. Local police all over the country should have these sorts of conversations with protesting athletes and invite them to a similar training experience. While we can all feel shock and sorrow after a police shooting of someone who turned out to be unarmed, I don't think any of us realize how little reaction time a police officer has in a tense situation.
Such dialogues between the police and protesters and opportunities to experience a bit of what it is like to walk in the police officer's shoes might go much further in improving relations than any sort of chastisement for kneeling for the anthem.
In a Twitter post the day after his protest, Brown said he has had good and bad experiences with police but overall respects what they do. And his three-hour visit to the Tampa department's training center Friday gave him a new perspective.

Brown, Dumont and Vladislav Namestnikov were taken through the academy, offered a few times a year to citizens. They went through mock traffic stops, and attended to reports of domestic violence and drunk and disorderly at a bar. They participated in computer simulations that teach when there should be shoot and no-shoot scenarios.

Brown, an active video gamer, said it wasn't always easy to tell what was an active threat.

"It was stressful," he said.
I don't know if it will make a difference in his desire to kneel during the anthem, but any improvement in understanding is worth it. Cheers to the Tampa police and Brown for being willing to engage with each other.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cruising the Web

The Hill has an explosive story about how the Obama administration had learned that Russia was issuing bribes and involved in other illegal shenanigans in order to gain access to American uranium.
Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

The racketeering scheme was conducted “with the consent of higher level officials” in Russia who “shared the proceeds” from the kickbacks, one agent declared in an affidavit years later.

Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefiting Putin’s commercial nuclear ambitions.
The first decision occurred in October 2010, when the State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium supply.

When this sale was used by Trump on the campaign trail last year, Hillary Clinton’s spokesman said she was not involved in the committee review and noted the State Department official who handled it said she “never intervened ... on any [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] matter.”

In 2011, the administration gave approval for Rosatom’s Tenex subsidiary to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants in a partnership with the United States Enrichment Corp. Before then, Tenex had been limited to selling U.S. nuclear power plants reprocessed uranium recovered from dismantled Soviet nuclear weapons under the 1990s Megatons to Megawatts peace program.

“The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,” a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials.
You might remember that this was part of what Peter Schweizer alleged in his book, Clinton Cash.
Peter Schweitzer and The New York Times documented how Bill Clinton collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in Russian speaking fees and his charitable foundation collected millions in donations from parties interested in the deal while Hillary Clinton presided on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

The Obama administration and the Clintons defended their actions at the time, insisting there was no evidence that any Russians or donors engaged in wrongdoing and there was no national security reason for any member of the committee to oppose the Uranium One deal.

But FBI, Energy Department and court documents reviewed by The Hill show the FBI in fact had gathered substantial evidence well before the committee’s decision that Vadim Mikerin — the main Russian overseeing Putin’s nuclear expansion inside the United States — was engaged in wrongdoing starting in 2009.
And here are some familiar names about the investigation in the Russian payments to get the deal.
The investigation was ultimately supervised by then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, an Obama appointee who now serves as President Trump’s deputy attorney general, and then-Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe, now the deputy FBI director under Trump, Justice Department documents show.

Both men now play a key role in the current investigation into possible, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election cycle. McCabe is under congressional and Justice Department inspector general investigation in connection with money his wife’s Virginia state Senate campaign accepted in 2015 from now-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe at a time when McAuliffe was reportedly under investigation by the FBI. The probe is not focused on McAuliffe's conduct but rather on whether McCabe's attendance violated the Hatch Act or other FBI conflict rules.

The connections to the current Russia case are many. The Mikerin probe began in 2009 when Robert Mueller, now the special counsel in charge of the Trump case, was still FBI director. And it ended in late 2015 under the direction of then-FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired earlier this year.
The Hill notes that the Justice Department and FBI downplayed their findings even though they might have found out about a large Russian corruption plot that "compromised a sensitive uranium transportation asset inside the U.S. and facilitated international money laundering." But they just issued a press release before Labor Day.
The final court case also made no mention of any connection to the influence peddling conversations the FBI undercover informant witnessed about the Russian nuclear officials trying to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons even though agents had gathered documents showing the transmission of millions of dollars from Russia’s nuclear industry to an American entity that had provided assistance to Bill Clinton’s foundation, sources confirmed to The Hill.

The lack of fanfare left many key players in Washington with no inkling that a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme with serious national security implications had been uncovered.
The Department of Justice didn't even inform anyone in Congress as they normally would for such a national security story. How convenient that they squelched the story and its Clinton connections before the election. She sat on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States which signed off on the deal. The FBI had information on Russia making kickbacks and bribes in order to gain control of the U.S. uranium production and they also funneled $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation. Ed Morrissey comments,
Call me crazy, but this seems a lot more serious than a Russian troll farm buying $100,000 in Facebook ads during the election. Solomon and Spann report that this involved millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, not just small potatoes like online ads. The FBI probe exposed new avenues of money laundering, an intelligence boon that may have serious repercussions for Russian intelligence down the road....

That smells like a political cover-up of the first magnitude. Rather than hyperventilate over Facebook ads and Twitter trolls, perhaps Congress and the current Department of Justice should look into what the FBI found in 2009-10, how much of it benefited Bill and Hillary Clinton — and why the DoJ and the Obama administration never briefed the intelligence committees on this Russian collusion operation. And maybe special counsel Robert Mueller should explain what he knew about these investigations, which took place while he was FBI director, and why this information got buried until now.

Here's another story about questionable behavior from the head of the FBI. The FBI has released some more information to indicate that FBI Director James Comey had decided to exonerate Hillary Clinton about two months before he made the official announcement and before the FBI had interviewed nearly a dozen witnesses, including Hillary Clinton. And Comey likes to portray himself as such an honorable Boy Scout who was just concerned about doing what was right. He denied in testimony on the Hill that he had absolutely not decided on the verdict before he completed the investigation. I think he has some explaining to do.

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The ACLU's Floyd Abrams who represented Mitch McConnell in the Citizens United case examines the data to see if that decision led to the outpouring of corporate money that opponents of the decision predicted.
Since those predictions, two presidential and four congressional elections have come and gone. There’s now solid data, filed with the Federal Election Commission, showing how much money corporations have spent in recent elections. It turns out the apocalyptic forecasts were not just inaccurate but utterly insupportable.

It is true that in the wake of Citizens United many groups sprang up that are permitted to spend unlimited sums supporting or opposing candidates and issues. These so-called super PACs have proved themselves a political force. But the money they have spent since 2010 has not come primarily—or even mostly—from corporations.

Super PACs across the political spectrum raised $1.8 billion between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2016, according to data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics. Of that, $1.04 billion came from individual donors and $242 million from unions, trade associations, politically active nonprofits and other organizations. Only $85 million was contributed by business corporations.
So what can we conclude from this information?
The data suggest two conclusions. The first was summarized by Brooklyn Law School Professor Joel Gora after the 2012 election: “The predicted wave of corporate financial political intervention never materialized. Of all of the super PAC independent expenditure spending that escalated in the 2012 election, very little of it came from corporate contributions.” That remained true in 2016 and probably will into the foreseeable future.

The second is that corporations remain conservative—with a small “c.” Fear of public disapproval limits their appetite for potential controversy, so they do their best to steer clear of high-profile political entanglements. A comment often attributed to Michael Jordan captures this attitude: “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” The unwillingness of large corporations to offend their actual or desired customers is difficult to overstate.

Despite the bombastic rhetoric and dire predictions, corporations and their vast treasuries have not dominated elections post-Citizens United. In fact, corporations have donated a comparatively small percentage of the money spent in political campaigns since 2010. It would be nice if those who expected a darker world would acknowledge that fact.

So now Jerry Brown has taken the Betsy DeVos approach to wanting to guarantee due process to students accused of sexual assault on college campuses, can we end the accusation that DeVos is somehow pro-rape?
The Obama Administration in 2011 issued the notorious “Dear Colleague” guidance, which ordered universities to create Title IX kangaroo courts or risk losing federal funds. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is moving to replace that guidance with new regulation restoring due process.

But the California Legislature, in full resistance mode, passed a law explicitly “to protect the Obama-era guidelines,” said Santa Barbara state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, the bill’s sponsor. Adherence would be “a condition of receiving [state] financial assistance.”

Enter Mr. Brown, who echoed Mrs. DeVos’s concerns in a letter with his veto: “Thoughtful legal minds have increasingly questioned whether federal and state actions to prevent and redress sexual harassment and assault—well-intentioned as they are—have also unintentionally resulted in some colleges’ failure to uphold due process for accused students.”

Mr. Brown said accused students must be granted “the presumption of innocence until the facts speak otherwise” and warned that “depriving any student of higher education opportunities should not be done lightly, or out of fear of losing state or federal funding.” He added, in an affront to the idols of identity politics, that “we have no insight “ into “whether there is disproportionate impact on race or ethnicity.” All of which is true.
Jerry Brown noted in his veto message that he had already signed an "affirmative consent" bill into law, he added,
Since this law was enacted, however, thoughtful legal minds have increasingly questioned whether federal and state actions to prevent and redress sexual harassment and assault — well-intentioned as they are — have also unintentionally resulted in some colleges’ failure to uphold due process for accused students. Depriving any student of higher education opportunities should not be done lightly, or out of fear of losing state or federal funding.
David French adds,
Brown is exactly right. In fact, universities have faced dozens of adverse court rulings, from judges across the ideological spectrum, holding that they have denied due process to accused students. Thoughtful professors, again from across the ideological spectrum, have signed open letters condemning the lack of due process in campus sexual-assault adjudications. Indeed, the progressive dissent from Obama’s policies is so pronounced that a Boston Globe headline recently asked, “Why are some feminists siding with Trump on sexual assault policy?”

The answer is that these feminists care about the Constitution. They understand that a person can condemn sexual assault and vigorously investigate and prosecute misconduct without creating kangaroo courts. (links in original)
French points to Emily Yoffe's piece in The Atlantic that raised the question of whether the system is biased against men of color. The evidence isn't clear, because the Office of Civil Rights remarkably doesn't keep data on the races of the accused and accuser in such cases. That is amazing to me because the government requires racial information on all sorts of other circumstances such as the race of students being disciplined in schools. French continues,
So, to review: The Obama administration enacted Title IX guidelines so extreme that even Jerry Brown balks at reimposing them on his own state schools, and these same guidelines may well impose a disproportionate burden on black male students. Yet at least 29 Democratic senators and countless campus activists from coast to coast are unmoved. They continue to believe that the sexual-assault crisis on campus is so grave that constitutional due-process protections must be ignored in the interest of convicting more accused students.

These politicians and activists ignore adverse court rulings, they wave away their own friends’ and allies’ objections, and they focus on education secretary Betsy DeVos as the villain in a sadly simplistic on-campus morality play.

Governor Brown has done the nation an immense favor. He’s reminded Americans that defense of the Constitution is and should be a nonpartisan enterprise, and he’s shown that powerful Democrats can break with their base in the interests of justice. Betsy DeVos is right to lead the way on Title IX reform. Progressive civil libertarians are right to shed the tribalism of these polarized times and offer a principled defense of the Constitution. There is, at long last, hope for positive constitutional change on campus.

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Ed Morrissey notes
that we're starting to hear all sorts of explanations for why NFL players are protesting during the national anthem.
CNN contributor and former NFL receiver Donté Stallworth said Saturday the NFL kneeling protests are also about the "gender pay gap" and "housing discrimination" in addition to police brutality toward minorities and racism.

The former Saints and Eagles star said during an interview on CNN with anchor Ana Cabrera that, “The No. 1 stated goal was to bring awareness to a lot of these issues and again, it's a broad spectrum of issues. Again, it’s not just police brutality and community policing.

"It’s also, again from what I’m hearing from players directly involved in these talks, they’re telling me it’s also about the gender pay gap, it’s also about housing discrimination, they have so many things that they are interested in and advocating for and they want the NFL to take ownership in and help be able to use the NFL’s platform," Stallworth added.
Well, if they're basically going to be protesting everything that they don't like, the protest loses meaning. Now it just is that they don't like the way things are in the country. I'm not sure how their kneeling accomplishes anything.

Morrissey then notes the irony of the NFL protesting the gender pay gap given what NFL cheerleaders earn.
Millions of Americans have applauded the NFL players who have taken a knee during the national anthem, but not the women whose job it is to root for the teams — the cheerleaders.

They have been noticeably absent from the year-long drama that has divided football fans and outraged President Donald Trump and their reasons range from not wanting to undermine the team — to not wanting to lose their prized spot on the squad.
Some of the cheerleaders talk about being part of a team that creates a sense of unity.
“We work hours and hours of being in line and on your mark, so I guess you can relate it to that," said Brown, who is also white. "If one girl isn’t doing the same thing as another girl, it might be something that needs to be discussed.”
Hmmm. Aren't the players part of a team? If the players are so concerned about pay inequities, how about giving up a bit of their salaries to help the cheerleaders who are making a pittance.
Doe said every cheer squad is managed and compensated differently. But the bottom line is that cheerleaders don't do it for the money.

The NFL is a $13 billion-dollar industry, but Doe said she and her squad mates took home approximately $100 a game. Kay said when she was a Chargers Girl, captains made $100 and cheerleaders made $75.
Morrissey adds,
Yeah, you read that correctly. The players on the practice squad get $7,200 a week. Salary minimum for active roster players is over $27,000 per week.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cruising the Web

It seems that all the politicians are worried. They don't know what's going on with the electorate. For example, Dick Durbin is warning that, if the Democrats move too far to the left, they could lose to Trump in 2020.
Durbin was asked on a local Chicago radio program about comments from Rep. Cheri Bustos (D., Ill.), who warned fellow Democrats that Trump would be reelected if the party becomes too liberal....

"We need to be balanced," Durbin said on "Connected to Chicago" on WLS-AM. "She's right about that. And as downstater like her, I understand she represents a challenging district. We don't give up on our values, but we better be sensitive too that there are people with more moderate views, and people who may disagree with some parts of the Democratic platform as they as they are presented. We've got to be open to that possibility."

The radio host asked if Democrats could lose by "being too liberal."

"You can," Durbin said. "I think you can overdo it. We have to really appeal to that sensible center. It's a thin stripe now. It used to be a lot wider stripe, but it's an important and determining factor in most elections."
These sorts of questions are presenting problems for Democrats in Iowa.
As a state that can make or break presidential campaigns, and one that had regularly sent liberal Democrats to Washington, Iowa now serves as a test of whether Democrats can win back white voters who have swung toward the Republican Party over the last decade.

But Democrats in the state are divided over how populist their message should be and whether voters here will buy it....

While the state has been represented in the Senate by Republican Charles E. Grassley for four decades, liberal Democratic stalwart Tom Harkin was the state’s junior senator for 30 years.

But the bottom started falling out in 2010, when Terry E. Branstad, Vilsack’s four-term predecessor, beat Culver to reclaim the governorship. Republicans also took over the state House. Four years later, after Harkin announced his retirement, Republican Joni Ernst succeeded him, defeating Rep. Bruce Braley by 8 points in the GOP wave election.

Democrats hit rock bottom last year when they lost the state Senate and Trump won the state by 10 points.

“Obama winning Iowa in 2008 and 2012 kind of papered over a lot of the very serious structural deficiencies in the Democratic Party,” said Pat Rynard, a former Democratic campaign staffer who now runs the website Iowa Starting Line.

“The county parties started to kind of wither away. The thing was it was all obvious, but Democratic campaigns here in the state did not change up their strategies. They were still running the same ‘raise a bunch of money, poll test the top three issues and then run all of your campaign ads on those top three issues,’ and it just hasn’t been working,” Rynard said.

There is a feeling among some in the rural areas that Democrats have not focused enough on their needs.

“These are people who said they haven’t seen someone down in their counties and their towns in a heck of a long time,” said Cindy Axne, one of several Democrats challenging Young next year. “One even said [not] since Sen. Harkin.”
Meanwhile, Republicans are worrying over losing the House as the Cook Political Report has changed the ratings in 12 district from Republican to favor Democrats or from strongly Republican to leans Republican. Republicans don't know how to talk about Trump in their districts as they try to avoid ticking off Trump supporters while also maintaining the votes of those who don't like Trump.

It must be so miserable to be a politician today. They fight so hard to get elected and then arrive in Washington and find that they can't accomplish anything that they had set out to do. And then basically everyone despises them.

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Unfortunately, it seems that some conservative students have started emulating the behavior of leftist students by trying to stop the speech of a speaker with whom they disagree.
Last week, Whittier College — my alma mater — hosted California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, in a question-and-answer session organized by Ian Calderon, the Majority Leader of the California State Assembly.

They tried to, anyway.

The event ended early after pro-Trump hecklers, upset about Becerra’s lawsuit against the Trump administration over DACA, continuously shouted slogans and insults at Becerra and Calderon. A group affiliated with the hecklers later boasted that the speakers were “SHOUTED DOWN BY FED-UP CALIFORNIANS” and that the “meeting became so raucous that it ended about a half hour early.”

The event, held in Whittier College’s Shannon Center theater, was free and open to members of the community, and featured introductions from both Whittier’s president and student body president. Becerra and Calderon were to have an hour-long question-and-answer session using audience questions randomly selected from a basket. As soon as they began the discussion, however, hecklers decked in “Make America Great Again” hats began a continuous and persistent chorus of boos, slogans, and insults.
It's so discouraging to see extremists on the right are emulating the behavior on the left to block speakers with whom they disagree from being able to speak. The hecklers' veto is wrong whichever group uses it. If you don't like a conservative's speech being shouted down, then you shouldn't approve of a Democrat's speech being blocked from continuing. These protesters at Whittier College even uploaded a video of their behavior.

The only way such behavior will stop is when university officials start disciplining those responsible. Since their faces are on the video, the university should be able to identify a few of them and should punish them accordingly whether through suspending them or cutting scholarships. As Adam Steinbaugh writes at FIRE, it is perfectly legal under California law to discipline hecklers whose behavior stops a speaker from being able to deliver his speech as he quotes from a California Supreme Court decision.
Since the Constitution indubitably affords some measure of protection to the free expression of all those present at a meeting—speakers, officials, and audience—[the statute prohibiting] “disturbances” [of meetings] potentially may collide with safeguarded First Amendment interests. […] Nonetheless, the state retains a legitimate concern in ensuring that some individuals’ unruly assertion of their rights of free expression does not imperil other citizens’ rights of free association and discussion. […] Freedom of everyone to talk at once can destroy the right of anyone effectively to talk at all. Free expression can expire as tragically in the tumult of license as in the silence of censorship.
Steinbaugh adds,
The conduct here is a good example of this kind of interference. Although asked repeatedly by campus security officers to let the event proceed, the hecklers here persisted, preventing the audience from being able to question their elected officials. If every appearance by an elected official spirals into sustained heckling intended to prevent the speech, the utility of appearing at all is diminished, and officials will be even less inclined to face their constituents. It’s disappointing to see hecklers again interfere with the ability of students, faculty, and community members to hear from — and seriously question — their elected representatives.
I fear an escalation of the heckler's veto if both sides decide to do what they can to block the other side from having a successful appearance by someone with whom they disagree.

A professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt, Kelly Oliver, published an essay in the New York Times about what it like to try to teach in the "Age of Outrage." She starts by telling us that she is an openly bisexual woman who has faced harassment in her career and now wants to eliminate inequality in universities and the workplace. But she is upset with what she is witnessing in the academy.
So it is with some trepidation that I admit that the current political climate in academia confuses me. The more I read about trigger warnings, safe spaces and petitions to retract scholarly articles, the more my head spins. On top of that confusion, I harbor a fear of expressing views that will offend other progressives, scholars and teachers who may also be fighting oppression. And I fear being subject to public shaming on social media, and receiving private hate mail (I still am, after my response in May to the controversy over Rebecca Tuvel’s article in the journal Hypatia). In short, I find myself in an educational environment in which outrage, censoring and public shaming has begun to replace critique, disagreement and debate.

Public shaming always has a purpose, whether it comes from the left or right, from progressives or conservatives, activists or armchair philosophers. It may be an effective way to close down discussion, or deter others from taking certain unwanted political positions. It may also be a way to circumvent the status quo in the academy and challenge the standards of academic publishing and career advancement.

But the problematic effects of public shaming are many — among them, silencing “allies,” blaming individuals rather than examining social context, fostering intolerance and divisiveness, creating a “with-us-or-against-us” ethos, and reducing identity politics to a version of “oppression Olympics.” In cases where pain and suffering are equated with moral authority, calling out injustice can operate as a form of signaling virtue.

Continue reading the main story
Let’s face it, outrage sells. That’s why social media and mainstream news outlets are invested in promoting it; they can both fuel and produce desires by tailoring their content to suit individual tastes. The red and blue newsfeeds and the “click bait” that proliferate on them produce profits, but they have also helped to make our time one of deep divisions and reactionary hatred, with a radicalization of both sides in a culture war that risks deepening into a civil war, with militarized armies of fascists and anti-fascists fighting in the streets.

In a culture that increasingly values raw emotions uncontaminated by scholarly analysis, the uncritical legitimation of feelings as the basis for moral authority becomes a form of political leveling. If unexamined outrage is the new truth, then we are moving dangerously close to a form of reactionary politics that closes down difficult discussions and prevents us from distinguishing between sexism or racism and critical discussions of them. Certainly, as Pascal said, “the heart has its reasons of which reason knows not,” but we have arrived at a point where we need to analyze what they are in order to better understand ourselves and others.
Outrage now dominates everything else.

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Nicholas Horton looks at how work reforms in Maine have helped the poor.
The state of Maine has long been on the leading edge of welfare reform. Under Governor Paul LePage, it has reformed its food-stamp program by promoting work, resulting in former enrollees’ more than doubling their incomes the following year. Maine has also worked tirelessly to find and prosecute welfare fraud, going after those who steal limited resources from the people who most need help.

These efforts, combined with Maine’s rejection of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, have allowed the state to make the truly needy a priority. But Maine’s not slowing down.

In August, the state submitted a Medicaid-reform waiver to the Trump administration. If approved, the waiver will allow the state to make several important changes to its Medicaid program — asset tests, premiums, and allowing providers to charge enrollees for missed appointments. But of all the proposed reforms, none are as important or transformational as work requirements.

Maine’s plan would generally require able-bodied, working-age adults (ages 19 to 64) to work or participate in a work program for 20 hours per week to maintain Medicaid coverage through MaineCare. Able-bodied adults could also fulfill the work requirement by volunteering, by being enrolled in school at least half-time, or through a few other avenues.

In addition, the waiver proposes some reasonable exemptions for individuals in rehab, caretakers of children under age six, pregnant women, and those who are “physically or mentally unable” to fulfill the work requirement, as determined by a medical professional.

Mirroring common-sense food-stamp rules, enrollees would be allowed to stay enrolled for just three months out of any 36-month period without meeting these work standards.

Maine’s reform, when approved by the Trump administration, will be historic. To date, work requirements have not been allowed in Medicaid, despite their prevalence in food stamps and cash welfare. But for many Mainers who are trapped in the welfare system, work requirements are exactly the hand up they need.

After the state reinstituted food-stamp work requirements, incomes more than doubled, caseloads plummeted, and limited resources were immediately freed up for the truly needy. There’s plenty of reason to believe that Medicaid work requirements will produce a similar life-changing experience for Mainers.
This is the beauty of federalism as laboratories of democracy. Other states can learn from the success of Maine.

Rich Lowry traces the decline of late-night talk-show hosts in the differences between Johnny Carson and Jimmy Kimmel.
Jimmy Kimmel deserves credit for frankness, if nothing else. In an interview over the weekend, the ABC late-night host said he doesn’t care about losing Republican viewers.

We’re a long way from Johnny Carson, whose “Tonight Show” was a national institution that enjoyed a broad audience — and was conducted like one. Carson steered clear of politics and kept his views to himself because delving into divisive politics would “hurt me as an entertainer, which is what I am.”

Kimmel may be an entertainer, but he has no such inhibitions. He is willing to say “not good riddance, but riddance,” as he put it in the “CBS Sunday Morning” interview, to Republicans put off by his headline-generating editorials in recent weeks.

Once a down-the-middle comedic voice who co-hosted the unapologetically vulgar “Man Show” on Comedy Central, Kimmel uttered what could be the epigraph for our times, saying of viewers who strongly disagree with his political views, “I probably won’t want to have a conversation with them, anyway.”
Isn't that the key? He doesn't want to have a conversation with those who disagree with him. He'd rather pontificate on what he thinks is right, using talking points fed to him by Chuck Schumer. Maybe that helps him increase his audience among leftists, but Lowry is right that it leaves a vacuum in the middle where people of good will can come together and discuss differences and learn from each other.
His impassioned monologues on health care — originally occasioned by the illness of his little son, Billy — and gun control have won media accolades. A CNN piece even deemed him “America’s conscience.” The press is nice puffery, but what matters to his employer is the ratings, which are notably up.

Stephen Colbert of CBS blazed this particular trail with increasingly over-the-top denunciations of President Trump that vaulted him to the top of the late-night ratings. Jimmy Fallon, the heir to Carson’s “Tonight Show” via Jay Leno, has pointedly declined to make his show the New York Times editorial page with a few jokes attached, and has seen ratings decline.

It is important to note that these shows are competing for numbers that once would have been considered catastrophic. Carson could pull in 9 million viewers when one of his shows popped; he averaged 19 million viewers a night his final week on air in 1992.

Stephen Colbert is winning the late-night race with 3 million viewers. That’s better than MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, but not by much. This means that all it takes to become a giant of late-night TV is winning over a Maddow-like audience, exactly Colbert’s strategy.

If this trend is inevitable, it’s not a good thing. It removes yet another neutral zone, free of social and political contention, from American life.

It means that the quality of the comedy on these shows probably goes down (agitprop isn’t funny), while the quality of the political commentary is inevitably poor; Jimmy Kimmel’s wholly ill-informed gun monologue subtracted from the nation’s understanding of the issue, as you’d expect of a comedian who is only paying enough attention to absorb the flimsiest cliches of the gun debate.

Finally, it’s conducive, appropriately enough, to political monologue rather than dialogue. As Kimmel’s dismissive comments show, it’s a short step from believing that you don’t need the patronage of the other side to feeling contempt for it. Stephen Colbert isn’t trying to convince anyone; he’s scorning and mocking Trump for the benefit of people who already hate him.

It would have been hard to believe that the old, maligned CNN debate program “Crossfire” would appear in retrospect to represent a golden age of a relative commitment to civil, informed political debate, but here we are.

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Remember when it was considered a coup necessitating a Rose Garden press conference for President Obama to announce the deal that freed Bowe Bergdahl from years of captivity by the Taliban. Then we found out that he'd voluntarily deserted his post when he was captured and that American soldiers died and were permanently injured searching for him. We learned that Obama gave up five Taliban prisoners in exchange for his freedom. Susan Rice, known for her lying on TV after Benghazi, went on TV to assure us that he was a courageous hero.

Now he's pled guilty for deserting his post and misbehaving before the enemy just as his critics had alleged.
Bergdahl’s plea sets up a pre-sentence trial starting Oct. 23 at Fort Bragg that’s expected to include dramatic testimony about three troops seriously injured during search-and-rescue missions launched to find him. Two of them suffered disabling injuries: Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, who in 2009 was shot in the head searching for Bergdahl, leaving him confined to a wheelchair and unable to talk; and Navy SEAL Jimmy Hatch, who was shot in the leg on another search the next day, leaving him with a permanent limp.

To garner sympathy from the sentencing judge, Bergdahl’s defense team is expected to play up his alleged mental health problems, including what they claim is paranoia and schizophrenia.

However, Army shrinks found Bergdahl does not suffer from psychological problems that would prevent him from standing trial. And last month, Bergdahl’s lawyers failed to produce for prosecutors mental health records and other evidence detailing any serious condition.

What’s more, Army security officials say Bergdahl exhibited no signs of mental illness since being assigned to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he is based. In fact, one fort insider told me that when Bergdahl is not working a desk job in administration, he “regularly bowls” at the post lanes, and was even on a bowling team. (“He has been afforded all the rights and privileges that any other soldier on post has,” including leaves, in spite of his court martial.)

....The military official, moreover, noted that Bergdahl was lucid during his evaluation for receiving secret security clearance, a process that included filling out a SF86 questionnaire so he and his lawyers could review classified materials for his case (yes, military brass also gave the suspected deserter and enemy sympathizer access to classified military secrets).
Obama has never answered for why this was such a necessary exchange to give up Taliban prisoners to return to fighting.
But they knew better. They had to have: The Pentagon itself refused to list Bergdahl as a POW. That’s because an internal 2009 Army report found he had a history of walking off his post and more than likely deserted. It also found he shipped his laptop back home to Idaho, and left a note expressing his disillusionment with the war, before ending up in the arms of the Taliban.

Obama had access to this intelligence long before he made his Taliban deal. So why did he trade a known deserter — and likely enemy sympathizer, if not collaborator — for five enemy commanders whom he acknowledged posed a national security risk? Simple: To justify the release from Gitmo of five “forever detainees,” who otherwise would never have been released and would have delayed achieving his promise to antiwar liberals to withdraw from Afghanistan and empty Gitmo.

At the bizarre Rose Garden ceremony, during which Bergdahl’s Taliban-bearded father praised Allah, Obama asserted: “We’re committed to winding down the war in Afghanistan and closing Gitmo.”
For all that, Obama sent five Taliban fighters back to fight against American troops in Afghanistan without even notifying Congress as the law required. Of course, Obama was never all that interested in keeping Congress in the loop on much of anything.

But as long as we're criticizing Obama for his Rose Garden announcement of the Bergdahl deal, let's not leave out the shameful behavior of President Trump who couldn't be bothered to call families of those soldiers who died in Niger. Instead, when asked about it, he made the claim that his predecessors hadn't contacted the families of fallen troops.
Mr. Trump was responding to a question about why he had not spoken publicly about the killing of four Green Berets in an ambush in Niger two weeks ago when he made the assertion. Rather than answering the question, Mr. Trump said he had written personal letters to their families and planned to call them in the coming week. Then he pivoted to his predecessors.

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Mr. Trump said during a news conference in the Rose Garden with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”
Mr. Trump’s assertion belied a long record of meetings Mr. Obama held with the families of killed service people, as well as calls and letters, dating to the earliest days of his presidency. Before he decided to deploy 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, Mr. Obama traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to greet the coffins of troops.
I get that it must be extremely painful to talk to the families of those brave men and women who died under his command, but that is the least that a president can do. If he has time to golf, he has time to pick up the phone or go out to Dover to salute the coffins. And it's no excuse to say that he's waiting for the paperwork.

ANd for those defending Trump by criticizing Obama, I wonder if you accept that sort of excuse from your children that "he did it too"?

George W. Bush demonstrated what a real leader does when visiting the parents of a fallen hero. Dana Perino tells the stories of Bush's visits with the wounded at Walter Reed as well as one painful meeting with the mother of a soldier who died under his command.
One mom and dad of a dying soldier from the Caribbean were devastated, the mom beside herself with grief. She yelled at the president, wanting to know why it was her child and not his who lay in that hospital bed.

Her husband tried to calm her and I noticed the president wasn’t in a hurry to leave—he tried offering comfort but then just stood and took it, like he expected and needed to hear the anguish, to try to soak up some of her suffering if he could.

Later as we rode back on Marine One to the White House, no one spoke.

But as the helicopter took off, the president looked at me and said, “That mama sure was mad at me.” Then he turned to look out the window of the helicopter. “And I don’t blame her a bit.”

One tear slipped out the side of his eye and down his face. He didn’t wipe it away, and we flew back to the White House.
Can anyone imagine Donald Trump making such visits and sharing the pain of a mother who was losing her son and calmly accepting her abuse? Perhaps he can and does, but he certainly didn't do so when those bodies came back from Niger. And that is on him, not his predecessors.