Friday, June 24, 2016

Cruising the Web

Wow, another major European vote that came out differently from the polls. I have long been suspicious of turning an economic union into a political union that worked to erase sovereignty. People like having sovereignty and if it's going to be removed from them, they want to have a say in it, yet decisions have been taken out of people's hands and put in the hands of unelected elites and bureaucrats. That's got to irritate a lot of people and that is what we saw last night in the Brexit vote. I think that the headline to this Carrie Lukas piece sums it up. "German Leadership Aghast at a Brexit It Helped Cause".
One of the more thoughtful commentaries today is from Torsten Krauel in the right-of-center Die Welt. Krauel asks whether German Chancellor Merkel is partially to blame for the Brexit and concludes her asylum policy almost certainly played a major role. And indeed, the spectacle of Germany unilaterally deciding to change the face and future of the European Union by announcing Berlin had opened the doors to all comers – regardless of the wishes of or the impact this would have on other EU states – has been a powerful symbol of elite disconnect with the concerns of average Europeans and an uncomfortable reminder that Germany has come to dominate the union. Krauel also points out Dover, the British end of the Channel Tunnel to the continent, voted 60 percent to leave. Maybe this has something to do with the thousands of North African migrants seeking to storm the tunnel and cross to England?

While loathe to admit it, Germans at some level suspect their country’s role in the discontent in Britain. Speaking to German friends over the past several years, it’s been difficult not to come away with the sense many view the EU as an extension of Germany policy and as a respectable outlet for German nationalism that has been suppressed since the end of World War II. A new path to German greatness, if you will, camouflaged by warm and fuzzy words about “Europeaness” and immune to complaints of skeptics, all of whom immediately are labeled as right-wing extremists – the kiss of death in German politics.

For me, one of the takeaways from the referendum is the reminder that people care deeply about things other than pure economic interest. On the train this morning, I listened to a left-wing British woman complaining bitterly about the stupidity of her fellow citizens. Her points were all about lost EU subsidies for construction projects and the indignity of having to use the “non-EU” line at passport control when traveling to the continent (I’ll save a spot for you!). It seemed not to have occurred to her that more abstract concepts such as democratic legitimacy, self rule, and national identity matter to people as goods in themselves....

The EU as an economic project was a good idea. But only European elites signed off on ever closer political union and de facto rule by unelected Eurocrats in Brussels. These elites weren’t interested in making their case democratically, preferring to ignore popular concerns while demonizing any opposition to their supranational project. The British electorate has now pushed back. Will the EU learn the right lessons or will it double down on political integration? I suspect the latter, but time will tell.
Look for the rise of other exit parties in other countries.

The other thing I expect to see is the refutation of all the doom-and-gloom predictions for Britain's economy. They can make an economic deal with the EU as Norway did. They can negotiate access to the single market without having to follow the rules of the EU.
Norway’s consumers and businesses enjoy access to the single market, but are not obliged to comply with many EU rules, including those on justice, agriculture and fishing.

Mitch Hall, a student at William and Mary, writes about something that has also irritated me. He is fed up with the virtue signaling that goes on over social media whenever there is some shocking event such as the massacre in the Orlando nightclub.
Much of the reaction I witnessed online and in the news wasn’t surprising. The filibuster by Senate Democrats to push gun-control legislation was to be expected and, although it was outrageous, I wasn’t shocked to see so many reporters in the media, such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper, find creative ways to blame the tragedy—committed by a possibly gay, self-confessed ISIS-following, registered Democrat—on Christian Republicans.

I did find remarkable the number of my peers who posted about the tragedy on social media. “Posted” is a generous word; rather, they hijacked the tragedy as a means to highlight their social consciousness and demonstrate their moral superiority. I couldn’t escape obnoxious, sanctimonious Facebook posts by my online friends, most of them college students like myself, all of which had an air of “What happened was awful, but hey, don’t forget about me. Look at how passionately I’m condemning it!”

These types of responses aren’t just limited to devastating national events. “Hashtag activism“ and “slacktivism”—wherein people give token support for a cause in the form of crafting a hashtag, publishing a social media post, or giving out a “like”—have become a hallmark of political engagement in recent years, particularly among college students. The prevalence of these self-indulgent sentiments prompted me to ask: when did political activism become so selfish?
I notice this all the time. Most of my friends on Facebook are either present or former students. And, bless their hearts, so many of them do rush to post their feelings after a tragedy because, apparently the best way to express outrage after a mass murder is to change their picture on Facebook or retweet a hashtag. They don't have to do anything, just post something.
Contrast today’s activism with that of the civil rights era in the 1960s. These movements were characterized by hundreds of thousands of students participating in sit-ins, boycotts, walkouts, and confrontations with police. To be recognized as an activist for these causes, you couldn’t just talk about how much you liked MLK, you had to get out there on the front lines.

While student crusades today have also featured sit-ins, boycotts, walkouts, and even squabbles with police, one’s physical presence is no longer required to cement a place in the movement. Tweeting out a popular article or publishing a Facebook essay about how much you care, all from the comfort of your bedroom, conveys a person’s commitment without him actually having to do anything meaningful. Because of social media, you can now reap the social benefits associated with being an activist without, well, actually being an activist....

It’s high time the media stopped confusing a loose collection of angry tweets with a march on Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s also time that we individually stop legitimizing lazy online activism. Don’t incessantly praise your Facebook friends for “raising awareness” with their new picture filter, and don’t hail them as heroes after every impassioned status update. If we continue accepting anything less than real action, then we could find ourselves at the mercy of an online minority exercising their will over a silent, largely offline majority.
This sort of preference for symbolic action by young people mirrors the politicians in Washington. Just look at the silly sit-in that the Democrats just staged in a huffy play for attention on gun control.
While Democrats were sitting on the floor of the House to demand movement on these bills, all of the legislation had already died in the Senate, and it died in part because Democrats voted down more moderate, incremental bills proposed by Republicans. And because—and nobody wants to talk about this—Democrats from more moderate states reflected the will of their constituents and voted against gun control....

The nominal goal of the sit-in was to “demand a vote.” Except that there already was a vote and their side lost. Voting is how we got the current (relative) absence of gun control, because pro-gun policies are actually popular with the American people, and the long-term history is one of declining public support for gun control.
So instead of working together on a compromise, they decided to sit-in to occupy the House floor. Robert Tracinski links to these tweets that sum up how meaningless the sit-in really was.
But they got public attention from the media which agree with the Democrats and hate the gun rights agenda. Tracinski explains how skewed it is to compare this sit-in to Selma.
But this is actually the complete opposite of Selma. The point of Selma was to restore civil rights that had been arbitrarily taken away from an oppressed minority. The purpose of this movement is to arbitrarily deprive people of their civil rights. That’s the upshot of the bill to block people on a terrorist watch list from being able to buy guns. The problem is that anyone can be put on the watch list without “due process,” that is, without any objective legal process. But Democrats now view due process as their chief obstacle.

So they are stealing the symbolism of the civil rights movement to use it for the cause of depriving people of civil rights. Which kind of sums the whole thing up, doesn’t it?

I have long made the argument that the Left is interested in symbols over reality. (As this year demonstrates, that’s not just true of the Left.) But what happens when you put symbols over reality is that eventually you so completely lose sight of the connection between the two that you begin to use the symbols for the exact opposite of what they originally meant.

The Left wants to maintain their symbolic position as outsiders bravely battling the establishment to stand up for the people and guarantee our civil rights. They have actually become the voice of an entrenched establishment that wants to override the will of the people and take away our civil rights.

But they use all of the old symbols to cover up for the self-liquidation of their ideals.
And I bet they can also virtue-signal on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and that will make everything all better.

Paula Bolyard writes at PJ Media that we shouldn't be all that impressed with the bold sacrifices of the House Democrats.
If you're envisioning Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. when you picture this House sit-in in your mind, you'd be way off. Think a slumber party with a bunch of 7th grade girls. Our well-paid members of Congress are enjoying Starbuck's, Chinese food, and taking many, many selfies with their friends (I wouldn't be surprised if there are manis and pedis too!). They've also sent out for pillows and blankies, because you definitely need pillows if you're going to sit on that luxurious carpet all night.
Just remember when you see the Democrats, led by John Lewis, protesting in order to ban those on the No-Fly List from buying guns that John Lewis was once put on the No-Fly List himself.

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Oh, great. Corey Lewandowski, the recently-fired Trump campaign manager, just got hired by CNN as an analyst.
CNN acknowledges that Lewandowski’s hiring “is bound to be controversial” — you know, given his tendency to beat up reporters (including one of CNN’s) — but suggests that he “brings the same thing some of CNN’s other paid commentators bring: first-hand experience running a presidential campaign.” And, indeed, why shouldn’t Lewandowski get a cushy gig on cable news? It’s not like there are any reasons to think he might have a problem telling the truth.

The problem here isn’t hiring ex-political operatives to do commentary. That’s standard practice (though most are not hired within 72 hours of leaving campaign HQ). The problem is CNN’s prima facie ridiculous proposition that Corey Lewandowski is, in the wake of his termination, a good-faith independent operator. That was obvious nonsense even on Monday, when in his first post-firing interview he basically argued that things were going so gosh-darn well on the Trump campaign, they didn’t really even need him anymore. CNN has Trump surrogates on regularly (e.g., Jeffrey Lord). Did it really need a salaried one?

CNN tried
to argue that Peter Schweizer's book, Clinton Cash, has been debunked and so they could ridicule Trump's relying on the book in the speech he gave attacking Hillary Clinton. However, they missed the evidence from such vast right-wing conspiracy sources as the New York Times and the New Yorker that upheld some of the most scandalous allegations.
Why Alesci and Frankel couldn’t confirm the $145 million in Clinton Foundation donations for themselves is curious. Indeed, in a 4,000-word front page story written over a year ago, the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Jo Becker and Mike McIntire verified the Clinton Cash uranium revelation in stunning detail, including charts and graphs laying out the flow of millions of dollars from the nine investors in the uranium deal who flowed $145 million to Hillary’s family foundation.

Michael Barone uses Arthur Kling's book, Specialization and Trade: A Re-Introduction to Economics, why we shouldn't be expecting any real job recovery in the next few years. Kling rejects the idea that there is something that politicians in Washington can do to create economic growth and jobs.
Reasons are not hard to see. Higher federal tax rates have hurt, and high-tax states have seen businesses flee to low-tax places such as Texas. Taking money away from existing enterprises and potential entrepreneurs to pay for skyrocketing pensions for retired public-employee union members is not a recipe for job growth.

The Obama administration’s record-setting pile-on of regulation after regulation surely hurts as well. Obamacare regulations deter many a business from creating job No. 50. Higher minimum wages destroy jobs in which entry workers can develop skills and good work habits. Mandates for increased benefits and leave time crowd out job creation.

The aging of the population plays some role, but doesn’t explain slow job creation, which apparently motivates many baby boomers to cling to jobs they have after age 65.

Another factor, less often stressed, is reduced mobility: Fewer Americans are up and moving. American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks points out that 50 years ago about 20 percent of Americans moved every year and 25 years ago about 15 percent did. Now it’s down to about 10 percent.

In an economy in which patterns of specialization and trade are always changing, Kling argues, it’s impossible to maintain stable local-employment patterns. Some places shed jobs; in others jobs are created. Many people need to move to maximize opportunity. These days fewer do.

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Theodore Kupfer follows up on the Orwellian nature of the University of Northern Colorado's Bias Response Team that answered a complaint that a professor asked students to list pro and con arguments on various controversial issues such as transgenderism, abortion, and global warming.
Understand this: A Bias Response Team is an authoritarian tool with a stupid name. The process begins when a student reports an incident to the school administration. Administrators then investigate and share their concerns with the party responsible for the incident. The involvement of school administrators, who retain power over students and faculty alike, crosses the line. When an authority figure says to a professor, “Maybe you shouldn’t teach that anymore,” it is not a mere suggestion. It is not “dialogue” between two equal parties. It is an implicit threat.

Worse, someone can be investigated and threatened by the Bias Response Team without actually doing anything wrong. The school says that even “when incidents don’t rise to the level of discriminatory or criminal behavior requiring formal action, the actions may still run counter to UNC’s commitment to foster civility and inclusivity.” Staying within the bounds of university policy is apparently not enough; one must become a veritable champion of vague platitudes. Here again, free expression is threatened. It is easy to demonstrate compliance when the rules have determinate boundaries. Not so when they completely elide definition.
As a high school teacher, it is very common for me to make an assignment and ask the students to chart out the pro and con arguments on a question or issue as they read opposing articles. Silly me. I thought I was setting students up to have a better understanding of each side and to weigh arguments to make up their own mind. Little did I know that I could be demonstrating bias merely by asking them to consider the other side of an argument.

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While Washington Democrats spend their time staging a sit-in for a bill that wouldn't have done anything to stop the Orlando massacre, here is the sort of problem they and the Republicans should be working on.
Medicare and Social Security will begin to spend more than they earn by the end of this decade, new projections showed Wednesday, putting a spotlight on an issue that has seen scant discussion in an election year—the programs’ solvency challenges facing the next president.

The annual report card from the programs’ trustees said Medicare’s hospital-insurance trust fund, which provides coverage to more than 55 million Americans, will exhaust its reserves by 2028, two years sooner than estimated last year.
John Sexton adds,
What the summary does not say is what happens to Medicare when doctors and hospitals are told (circa 2028) that reimbursements are getting cut 13 percent and will continue to decline over the next 15 years. At that point we’re likely to see doctors begin to opt-out and others deciding to become non-participating doctors, meaning they accept Medicare patients but also bill them an extra amount above the standard reimbursement rates.
We keep getting closer and closer to Medicarmaggedon and keep seeing nothing get done in Washington. Voters don't seem to know what is going to happen. It is the job of politicians to make them care and only a few politicians such as Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio talk about this. It's all so discouraging.

Dan McLaughlin points to a Miami CBS report on Patrick Murphy, the likely opponent for Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate race if Rubio wins his primary. He hadn't accomplished much until he put together a deal to start a company, Coastal Environmental Services, after the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf. He ran for Congress touting his experience as a small business owner working to clean up the Gulf as well as his work as a CPA.
A CBS4 News investigation into Murphy’s history as both a CPA and a self-described small business owner, however, shows Murphy has in some cases exaggerated his experience and in other instances made claims that were misleading or outright false.

For instance, he has never worked a day in his life as a Certified Public Accountant.

And he was never a small business owner.
He never even held a CPA license in Florida, but Colorado which had lower requirements for getting the license although he never worked or lived there. He seems to have been misleading voters for years about his background as a CPA.

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Burger King goes all in with evil temptation.
Burger King, the restaurant chain backed by 3G Capital and Warren Buffett, will begin selling deep-fried sticks of macaroni and cheese encrusted in Cheetos-flavored breading, part of a trend toward blending fast food with well-known snack brands.