First Debate

Surprise! I actually watched (most of) tonight’s debate, around tucking kids into bed. I must say that Fox News did a good job moderating, going after the candidates in a way that the MSM has completely failed to go after Clinton. Megyn Kelly, in particular, asked some tough questions. This is a good thing for the GOP because it will help separate the contenders from the pretenders.

My quick take:

Marcio Rubio did very well (despite the tough abortion question). He was relaxed, genial and had a grasp on the struggles of the middle class. I think — or maybe hope is the right word — that he has put himself back into the conversation.

I was unimpressed by Bush. No one laid a glove on him but he didn’t really make the case to me that he should be the front-runner. To be honest, I was kind of reminded of Romney in 2012. It seemed like Bush just didn’t want to get bloodied while the other candidates took each other out. “Last man standing” worked for Romney, but it may not be enough this time.

I was surprisingly unimpressed by Walker. He didn’t do badly but he didn’t jump out at me either and I’m having trouble, 15 minutes after the debate ended, remembering anything significant he said. This is part of Walker’s style, though.

I have really soured on Mike Huckabee. He’s big government in every way — a massive social conservative and opposed to any meaningful budget cuts. He’s also a supporter of the Fair Tax gimmick, which I oppose.

I liked Ben Carson a lot, not necessarily as a candidate but as a person. Of all the candidates, he seemed the most likable and the least politicized and the most unaffected by the spotlight. But he also didn’t show any credibility on policy and seemed to disappear at times. He would definitely win the “who would you like to have a beer with” competition (Rand would call for straight whiskey). His line about how we are our minds and not our skin was moving.

John Kasich made the case that he belong in the race, giving a great answer on gay marriage and highlighting his solid experience. I expect him to stay in this for a while.

I was once very high on Chris Christie, but I don’t think he brings anything unique to the table (other than flogging his 9/11 experience, which is not as impressive as he thinks). And his record in New Jersey is poor.

Rand Paul didn’t impress me that much either, I must say. I like Paul in the mix and I like him in the Senate. I think his chances of winning the nomination are basically zero.

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump had some one liners but neither seemed to make any real statement that they should be President.

I didn’t see the “kids table” debate earlier in the day but I’m told that the only candidate who did well was Fiorina. I’m not surprised. She’s very smart and savvy and she’s the only one that I think has a chance of getting back onto the big stage. I think there’s a very good chance she will be the Vice Presidential nominee.

So, right now, my impression of the candidates is:

Front-runners: Bush, Walker, Trump
Back in the Coversation: Rubio, Kasich
Call it a Night, Fellas: Christie, Cruz, Paul, Carson, Huckabee

YMMV.

The answer is a resounding “Yes”: next question?

Investors Business Daily has an oped up titled “Clinton Email Scandal: People Need To Know If She’s A Crook” where the question is asked:

Corruption: Some day the Clintons’ over-the-horizon trail of scandals will catch up with them. Given that Hillary might be the target of an FBI probe, that day could arrive soon.

The Clintons became convinced many decades ago that they are above the law. Nothing has persuaded them otherwise, not even that pesky impeachment of Bill. Hillary’s use of a personal email account powered by a private server while she was secretary of state, however, might be her undoing.

And we haven’t even mentioned the Benghazi scandal, and the investigation into that terrorist attack, which led to the uncovering of the private server.

That alone should be enough to bring down Clinton’s presidential ambitions.

As the title of my post indicates, the answer is damned obvious already, and only the usual shitbags pretend it is otherwise. Then again, this is the age of Obama, and stories like this one where the DOJ investigates itself and finds no wrong doing, of course make it evident that lady justice is trapped in the Obama WH basement, with a gimp ball in her mouth, and a train of democrat crooks lining up to take their turn raping her.

The Fix Is In

Just in case you were wondering … yes, both of our parties are bought and paid for by the same people:

For some wealthy donors, it doesn’t matter who takes the White House in 2016—as long as the president’s name is Clinton or Bush.

More than 60 ultra-rich Americans have contributed to both Jeb Bush’s and Hillary Clinton’s federal campaigns, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by Vocativ and The Daily Beast. Seventeen of those contributors have gone one step further and opened their wallets to fund both Bush’s and Clinton’s 2016 ambitions.

After all, why support just Hillary Clinton or just Jeb Bush when you can hedge your bets and donate to both? This seems to be the thinking of a group of powerful men and women—racetrack owners, bankers, media barons, chicken magnates, hedge funders (and their spouses). Some of them have net worths that can eclipse the GDPs of small countries.

The amounts we’re talking about are small by rich people standards — a few thousand dollars. But the principle is crystal clear: they want “in” no matter who wins.

This is something a lot of people — particularly those of a lefty persuasion — fail to understand. For the monied interests who control the political process, elections aren’t about philosophy or politics or policy. They’re not about abortion or the deficit or healthcare or war. They’re about pull. They’re about influence. The big donors don’t care who is elected as long as they have their ear. Sometimes it’s not even just about influence; often it’s about keeping the government from screwing you over after the election (this is how companies that wanted to stay out of politics — like eBay and Microsoft and Apple — ended up dragged into it). Think about what will happen to these guys if Clinton wins and they haven’t given her money.

Want to stop this? Stop making our government so powerful. Stop making it so that donations to Presidential campaigns can buy ten figure returns. Or prevent ten figure losses. Until that changes, the rich will continue to find ways to buy politicians of every stripe.

(Ironically, two of the few rich politicos who actually care about policy are the Koch Brothers, who mostly support Republicans but have also thrown their support behind gay marriage, criminal justice reform, social justice causes and personal liberty. But the irrational hatred of the Koch’s is so intense that labor unions stopped donating to the United Negro College Fund because the Koch’s gave the UNCF a ton of money.)

There’s something else though; something that’s been bubbling away in my mind for a while. Right now, Donald Trump is the front-runner among Republicans. There are many, like me, who dismissed him as the flavor of the month — a temporary enthusiasm for whatever is new on the menu. But I don’t think that’s it. There are many Democrats who claim that Trump’s popularity is because the Republicans are a bunch of evil racists and Trump is an evil racist and therefore that’s why he’s popular. I don’t think that’s it either. Peter Suderman, among others, made the argument that Trump is appealing to people precisely because he’s uninterested in policy and is acting like a YouTube comments section. That might be part of it, but I don’t think that’s the main reason for Trump’s popularity.

No, this is the reason Donald Trump is surging at the polls. Because many people … Republicans, Democrats or independents … feel like the system is rigged. Especially with a Clinton-Bush showdown looming, they feel like the system is run by monied insiders deciding which particular group of oligarchs is going to rule.

Think about what happened in the financial crisis. Millions of people saw their savings vanish. Millions lost their homes. Millions lost their jobs. But the fat cats on Wall Street? They got a bailout. They got to walk away with their seven figure golden parachutes and zero criminal charges. And that all happened under one of the most liberal Administrations in history. And the two politicians who did the most to ensure we had a financial apocalypse? They wrote the financial reform bill. Chris Dodd and Barney Frank were neck deep in the financial industry so naturally Obama picked them to fix it.

Naturally.

People feel the game is rigged. They feel like Washington isn’t listening to them. And they perceive — rightly or wrongly — that Trump is not for sale because he’s funding his own campaign. They perceive — rightly or wrong — that he’s going to change things and shake up Washington.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought Trump’s McCain gaffe would finish him. I was wrong. Angering the establishment wing of the GOP like that just made him more popular because it played into the idea that Trump doesn’t give a shit what the crusty moneybags think.

I like the sentiment. But much like the Ron Paul campaigns of previous Presidential seasons, I just think it’s being poured into the wrong vessel. I don’t think a President Trump would shake things up. He’s an insider too. And a number of his ideas are either unconstitutional or dangerous. I don’t think he’s serious about changing Washington.

But then again, I don’t think any of them are. And maybe it will take a Trump — like it once took a Perot — to scare out politicians into doing their damned jobs.

The Field Closes

The first Republican presidential debate is set for Thursday. I will probably not be able to watch or will watch on a delay (my wife is working late that night, so I have the Betas). But the most significant thing is that Fox has narrowed the 17 — I shit you not — 17 candidates down to 10 so that they will all fit on stage. Those 10 are Donald Trump (currently leading the field), Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich.

That means that seven candidates are out. And I have to say that it’s like those seven are finished. Not because they aren’t in the debate but because they are currently polling so low, it’s unlikely they can bring themselves back into the picture barring an amazing debate performance, which they won’t get a chance at. Those seven are Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum.

And that’s a pity. Trump isn’t going away any time soon, but his negatives are sky high (which you would expect, given that his campaign has zero policy proposals. In mock polling, he loses to Bernie Sanders by twenty points. In taking over the stage, he’s bumping Perry — who is likely doomed from his 2012 gaffe but actually strikes me as a reasonable candidate. He’s also bumping Santorum, who is intensely disliked in some quarters but is one of the few candidates to grasp the pinch many middle class people are feeling. The rest are mainly vanity candidates although Fiorina has some charisma.

Looking at the ten remaining, I’m not terribly high on anyone in the current field. I’ve warmed up to Rubio lately but I think this race is going to quickly narrow to Walker vs. Bush. And if Trumpism spooks enough of the GOP establishment, they will go to Bush, barring some catastrophic gaffe.

So, right now, I’m thinking we’re seeing a 2016 showdown of Bush v. Clinton. Didn’t we already do this?

PP, CMP, Videos, Oh my!

Over the last couple of weeks, an organization called the Center for Medical Progress has released a series of undercover videos alleging that Planned Parenthood has been selling parts of aborted fetuses for medical research. Posing as representatives of a medical research company, they have made inquiries about acquiring fetal tissue for research. On the videos, Planned Parenthood representatives discuss how to provide the tissue. They also joke about the procedure and talk about how abortion providers can carry out abortions to spare organs that medical researchers want.

Selling parts of aborted fetuses for profit is illegal. However, asking for compensation for the costs of harvesting those organs is legal. Right now, it appears that Planned Parenthood is in compliance with the law.

Planned Parenthood and the medical companies are countering with allegations that the videos are deceptively edited and several companies have sought a court order to prevent further releases of the videos. Ken White breaks that down here. The short version is that the Center for Medical Progress can not be forced to not show the videos unless they have already waived their first amendment rights by signing non-disclosure agreements. There also appear to be issues with the Center for Medical Progress sting videos taken in California, which is a two-party state. The Center, however, has indicated that they intend to release more videos.

In general, I tend to shy away from the abortion issue. People are too entrenched on the issue. If the Center for Medical Progress has broken the law — either by violating a non-disclosure agreement or taping someone in California without their consent — they should be punished accordingly. And if Planned Parenthood or other organizations have broken the law by selling fetal tissue for profit, they should be punished accordingly. The courts seem well on their way to sorting this out.

The Republicans, however, are using this in yet another effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood doesn’t get money for abortions. They do, however, get money from grants and from Medicaid for providing birth control and disease screenings to poor women and the Republicans now want to shut that off. I have to say that I’m against this. Planned Parenthood provides abortions. This has never been a secret. Abortion is a nasty business. That has never been a secret either. But their abortion business and their birth control operations are separate and trying to defund the latter because of the behavior of the former is, effectively, trying to ban abortion through the back door.

No, it’s worse. Cutting off Planned Parenthood from federal funds will have no effect on their abortion business. It will simply mean fewer women getting contraception and more women having babies (and having more abortions). It will mean fewer women getting condoms and more women catching diseases. And while you might say “Hey, let them pay for their own birth control!” guess who’s going to have to pick up the bill for those babies and diseases? Unless the Republicans are also willing to shut off Medicaid, WIC, food stamps and everything else … including for children … this is not a move to save the government money. And it is doubly not a move to save money because the Republicans want to divert that money to ineffective faith-based programs that will result in more poor women having babies and getting diseases.

There’s one other aspect of this, though. One I’m hesitant to get into, but one I think is important. The thing is … while I disagree with the Republicans, I understand where they’re coming from.

The pro-choice side has a very long history of trying to run away from the gruesomeness of abortion. They’ve tried to keep protesters from showing signs of aborted fetuses; they’ve tried to block informed consent laws that tell patients how abortion works; they try to pretend that the procedure is no more significant than having a boil lanced.

But this is nonsense. Abortion is a gruesome business. Most medicine is. I had my gallbladder out a few years ago and that was still nasty despite being done through a laparoscope. If you work in medicine for any period of time, you will see things that make your stomach turn. And then you will get inured to it.

If there have been laws broken, that needs to be punished. But there is nothing illegal about providing fetal tissue — at cost — to medical research companies. The alternative is to incinerate the tissue. But there’s also nothing wrong with abortion opponents pointing out that harvesting of fetal cells exists and that abortion providers try to accommodate that demand. This is part of the debate. It is perfectly acceptable to say to pro-choicers, “If you think abortion, should be legal, this is what you think should be legal.” And honest pro-choicers, like Elizabeth Nolan Brown, have accepted that. I accept that (although I oppose most late-term abortion).

The outraged response to this from the Left; the reflexive defensiveness; the attempt to impugn the Center for Medical Progress as “extremists” (which they are) instead of addressing their claims represent a real problem for the pro-choice movement. They don’t like to talk about what abortion entails.

This is not unique to the pro-choice movement. Pro-death-penalty people don’t like to talk about botched executions and the likelihood that the lethal injection combo we use causes excruciating pain. War advocates don’t like to see pictures of dead children. But that doesn’t change the reality of these policies (or their necessity, if you think them necessary).

The pro-choice movement, which I reluctantly agree with, is trying to run away from the reality of what they support. I don’t think they can.

Mullah Omar Dead

Afghan Intelligence is reporting and the Taliban are confirming that Mullah Omar is dead, having perished two years ago in a Pakistani hospital.

I have no idea how this will affect the situation in Afghanistan. I suspect the impact will be small since Omar was largely a symbolic figure. Still … at least the man who crafted the vile Taliban state can’t do any more harm.

Pollard to go Free

Jonathan Pollard is going to be paroled:

In July 2014, after Jonathan J. Pollard had served 29 years of a life sentence for spying on behalf of Israel, his hopes for freedom were thwarted when a federal panel denied his request for parole.

But that hearing set in motion an intense scramble by lawyers for Mr. Pollard to ensure a different result a year later, when he would be eligible for parole after serving 30 years. They wrote letters, cited statistics and introduced evidence that their client met two legal standards for parole: that he had behaved well in prison, and that he posed no threat of returning to a life of espionage.

On Tuesday, the effort finally succeeded, as the United States Parole Commission announced that Mr. Pollard, 60, met the legal standards and would be released just before Thanksgiving.

On the strict letter of the law, they were correct. However, the government have objected to it and apparently has not. The official reason is that Pollard is no longer a threat and is in poor health. The rumored reason is that it is to smooth over relations with Israel after the Iran deal (although this appears very unlikely to work).

My position on Pollard has brought me into conflict with some people, including many fellow Jews. I think his sentence was entirely justified. The excuse that he only sold secrets “to our ally” did not impress me. As I have noted many times, even our allies have different interests from us. We keep secrets from them; they keep secrets from us. We spy on them; they spy on us. There’s nothing shameful about that. Pursuing the interests of one’s country is a leader’s job. There’s nothing wrong with Israel spying on us or paying one of our citizens for secrets. But there is something wrong with that citizens selling them. That’s called treason.

And Doug Mataconis reminds us that Pollard’s spying was far from benign:

When Pollard was first sentenced in 1985, for example, then Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger penned a blistering letter to the Judge, some of which classified, in which he laid forth the manner in which Pollard’s actions had endangered American national security. For example, while it wasn’t widely reported at the time, it became known to the United States that the Israelis had used some of the information Pollard had provided to them to trade with the Soviet Union for the safe release of Jews living in the USSR, thus handing vital American intelligence to our principal adversary at the time. Additionally, over the years other leaders in the U.S. intelligence community made it known that Pollard had also offered to sell classified information to three other nations other than Israel, an accusation which certainly makes him a far less sympathetic figure. The antipathy toward Pollard was so high at one point that in 1998, then CIA Director George Tenant threatened to resign if he was released.

As someone who is against massive prison sentences for all but the worst criminals, I suppose I should be OK with this. Pollard is in failing health and it’s not like he’s going to start spying again. But if we are to release Pollard, it’s not a victory. It’s the end of a sad saga that began when Pollard decided to betray his country.

How sad things are…

Rasmussen has a poll that asked people if they bought Obama’s most recent attempt to hide the fact that under his administration the IRS conveniently targeted his political opponents right before an election, and the sad thing is that the result was that only 52% of likely US voters believe that this was highly illegal and a directed political attack. I suspect that amongst the democrat voting block there are two issues that drive this number. The first that these democrat voters are predominantly low information voters: they get their news from comedians or DNC apparatchiks like the NYT or PSMNBC, which pretend to be doing unbiased news, but are nothing but shills for the DNC. But I suspect that there is also a large block that know this was illegal and a dangerous abuse of power they would never, ever, have gone along with, but they don’t care to admit that now, because it benefited their guy and their side.

These idiots are the ones that make totalitarian systems possible. They are fine with abuses of power and law breaking as long as it is done by their guys – explained away as a necessary evil in their battle against the enemy – and never figure out that eventually they will be in the line of fire themselves until it is too late. One can forgive the low information voter. After all, stupid is as stupid does. But willfully ignoring criminal activity is another thing. And during the Obama term we sure as hell have seen some unbelievable abuses of power. From this IRS scandal to the things going on in the ME (Benghazi. Iran deal, and more), to the attack on Walker Hal posted about, these people have shown they operate like a criminal syndicate. And we as a country are all suffering for it. When the rule of law crumbles as it is doing now, sooner than later, you will get those that decide to take the law into their own hands.

Walker Vindicated … Again

Color me surprised:

Dealing Gov. Scott Walker a victory just as his presidential campaign gets underway, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a sweeping decision Thursday ruled the governor’s campaign and conservative groups had not violated campaign finance laws.

The ruling means the end of the investigation, which has been stalled for 18 months after a lower court judge determined no laws were violated even if Walker’s campaign and the groups had worked together as prosecutors believe.

This is the infamous “John Doe” investigation where government agents basically had an ongoing far-reaching investigation that involved, essentially, harassing Walker’s supporters and any other conservatives within reach with midnight raids, gag orders and endless investigation:

In international law, the Western world has become familiar with a concept called “lawfare,” a process whereby rogue regimes or organizations abuse legal doctrines and processes to accomplish through sheer harassment and attrition what can’t be accomplished through legitimate diplomatic means. The Palestinian Authority and its defenders have become adept at lawfare, putting Israel under increasing pressure before the U.N. and other international bodies. The John Doe investigations are a form of domestic lawfare, and our constitutional system is ill equipped to handle it. Federal courts rarely intervene in state judicial proceedings, state officials rarely lose their array of official immunities for the consequences of their misconduct, and violations of First Amendment freedoms rarely result in meaningful monetary damages for the victims.

Investigators would conduct armed police raids on the houses of Wisconsin conservatives. They seized computers, phones and as many documents as they could get their hands on. They then issued gag orders preventing the targets their neighbors what was going on. All this because of supposed violation of campaign finance laws; laws we now know were not broken.

You can read more from the WSJ:

For the past few days, I’ve been talking to the targets of the task force of Milwaukee Democratic prosecutors, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board and Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz. Their experiences, on the record here for the first time, reveal the nasty political sweep of an investigation that invaded privacy with surveillance of email accounts, raided homes with armed law enforcement, and swarmed individuals with subpoenas demanding tens of thousands of documents while insisting on secrecy.

Gabriel Malor shows just how empty this investigation was:

The theory of the prosecutor’s case was that conservative groups had illegally coordinated with candidates for office by means of issue advocacy. Applying well-settled principles of election law, the Wisconsin high court holds that this goes too far because “[d]iscussion of issues cannot be suppressed simply because the issues may also be pertinent in an election.” The courts have long treated express advocacy—that is, speech directly supporting a candidate for election—as wholly separate from issue advocacy—that is, speech about political issues. The court explains that, insofar as the Wisconsin statute purports to regulate issue advocacy the way that it does express advocacy, it is overbroad and vague under both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Wisconsin’s own Article 1, Section 3.

Read the whole thing. The judges were brutal on the prosecutors saying their investigation was “unsupported by reason” and “employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing”. This isn’t just saying there’s no evidence; this is saying the investigation was a complete travesty designed entirely to harass Wisconsin conservatives.

The Democrats had a lot riding on this. Just a few months ago, they were writing smug posts on how the John Doe investigation was going to crush Walker’s Presidential campaign. Now the investigation is in ruins, their slimy tactics open for the world to see.

I am honestly amazed by what we’ve seen in Wisconsin. Vicious election fights. Recall elections. The legislature fleeing the state. An aggressive intrusive useless investigation from the people who’ve spent the last decade vilifying Ken Starr for his “politicized investigations” that … um … produced thirty felony convictions.

And all of this just to get one governor. What the heck?

The Cuomo Apple Doesn’t Fall Far

At one point, I was optimistic that Andrew Cuomo wouldn’t be the big disaster for New York that his father was. Fat chance:

Under a plan approved by New York’s Fast Food Wage Board, a $15-per-hour minimum wage would be phased in over three years in New York City and six years across upstate New York, whose economy has long been the American equivalent of East Germany. The mandate would apply to any restaurant chain with 30 or more locations in the state.

Speaking at a rally in Manhattan, Cuomo pledged that he’s just gettin’ started:

“You cannot live and support a family on $18,000 a year in the state of New York — period….This is just the beginning. We will not stop until we reach true economic justice.”

The legal status of the diktat is not immediately clear. Cuomo created this particular board after failing to push a broader minimum wage hike through the legislature. Chains are expected to fight the rules, which single them out for particular treatment.

OK, do we have to go over this again? You’re not supposed to raise a family on minimum wage. It’s an entry level wage. Yeah, I know Roosevelt referred to it as a “living wage”. It’s still an entry-level wage that we have set up all kinds of anti-poverty programs around to make surviving on it easier.

(Obama’s former cabinet member Janet Napolitano is also raising the minimum wage to $15 in California schools. Expect, in a few years, to see a bunch of think pieces asking why the UC system is having to raise tuition again.)

We are now engaged in one of the most massive economic experiments in history, seeing if governments can magically create wealth and prosperity by fiat. That’s fine … if you don’t care about the people affected by it. But when prices go up and employment goes down, it will be cold comfort to people to learn that the liberals were wrong and the Law of Supply and Demand actually exists.

(As it happens, New York and California already have two of the highest minimum wages in the country. They also have two of the highest levels of income inequality and, if you account for cost of living, very high levels of poverty. It’s a mystery as to why that is.)

Cuomo has a bunch of other idiotic policies you can find at the link. But the minimum wage hike takes the cake. It applies to everyone in the state, whether they live in areas with a high cost-of-living or a low cost-of living. It singles out a particular industry with the hope of diving and conquering. It’s not even clear that it’s legal. But, I guess nothing will stand in the way of idiotic liberals determined to achieve “social justice”.

This sort of crap almost has me hoping that Hillary Clinton wins the election next year. Because there should be a Democrat around to take credit for the mess they’re creating.