Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Cruising the Web

I guess Paul Ryan didn't have to sweat his primary or worry about whether or not Trump begrudgingly endorsed him. And I guess that Sarah Palin's spite didn't count for much in Ryan's district. And Breitbart's pumping up of Ryan's opponent didn't turn the tide. It's nice when results play out as they should. It's been rare enough this year.

The New York Times looks to Hillary's early years
to explain why she became a corporate lawyer and has raised money over the years in such unseemly ways. It's all because of the scare she got when Bill lost reelection for governor in 1980. There they were - a young couple with a baby and she had to worry about working and providing for them because Bill was, apparently, useless. He was only earning $55,000 a year which is about $160,800 today. What poverty! She was forced, forced mind you, to go work for the Rose Law Firm and become a corporate lawyer instead of working in public service. And then when Bill won back the governorship in 1982, she was forced, forced to keep on working there because she was so scarred. And that whole turning $1000 into 100,000 based on a a tip and the help from a rich friend for cattle futures was so very nerve-wracking.

They had to move out of the governor's mansion and buy a house that was one of the smaller ones in the neighborhood. And, horrors of horrors, they had to buy furniture from thrift stores that DIDN'T MATCH. And, get this! The poor woman had to raise their 9-month baby without the free help they had used when he was governor. She had to be a working mother while there were people in Arkansas at that time who were making fortunes because they actually, you know, produced things that people wanted like Walmart or Tyson Foods. Yet she was able to buy a home that was worth $112,000 in 1980 which is about $327, 600 today. Not too shabby, but it wasn't like the other mansions that richer people had.
It was one of the smallest houses on the block in Little Rock’s Hillcrest section, and Mrs. Clinton largely bought it with her own money, the month after that devastating 1980 election loss.

She filled the rooms with mismatched furniture bought at thrift stores and borrowed from her flamboyant mother-in-law. She converted the windowed attic into a bedroom for Chelsea, parked her Oldsmobile Cutlass in the weedy driveway, and chased after the family’s cocker spaniel, Zeke, who liked to chew through the fence.

The Clintons had stretched their finances to afford the $112,000 home, which was down the hill from the city’s old-money mansions. The sprawling estate of Winthrop Rockefeller, the celebrated former governor, was so close that it practically cast a shadow on the Clintons’ grassy backyard.

Friends described the d├ęcor as unsightly, a jarring departure from the governor’s mansion.

“That couch just jumped out at me,” said Bobby Roberts, a former aide to Mr. Clinton, describing a scarlet-colored Victorian chaise that Mr. Clinton’s mother, Virginia Kelly, had lent them. “It was in some bright, violent color.”
That sounds really, really terrible. It would scar anyone and force them to give speeches to Wall Street firms 30 years later, wouldn't it? What family could overcome the sort of poverty that forced them to buy thrift-store furniture or use the ugly furniture their parents gave them? No upstanding American family could recover from those years.

And then, just to show how poor they truly were, when Bill won the presidency in 1992, their income was only $297,177 (over half a million today) but George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot were so much richer. Why, they were just the poorest family to move into the White House since Harry Truman. But then they left the White House "dead broke." So that's why Hillary's financial insecurities returned and forced her into all sorts of unseemly financial deals to buy two houses in Chappaqua and then later in Georgetown and then start pulling in all sorts of money from everywhere possible no matter how unseemly it might seem to others. Because she is just haunted by that two-year period when she had to buy thrift-store furniture. Why, she is Everywoman. And we should all just cut her slack about every corner she's cut since then and every appearance of corruption and selling of favors. No woman should have to worry about that ugly couch ever again.

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This is one of the most under-covered crises facing communities across the country. I wish that more voters were aware of the doom headed their way.
Taxpayer costs for U.S. public pension plans, already up three-fold since 2001, are going up yet again — the necessary consequence of long-term investment returns plummeting to record-low levels.

While underperforming investments receive the most attention, they aren’t the real reason for the tax hikes and cuts in government services needed to bail out public pensions. In reality, the culprit is the extraordinarily generous nature of the benefits themselves, whose costs are only now coming to the surface.

Take my home state of Nevada, for example. Like most U.S. plans, the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (NVPERS) outperformed its investment target over the past 30 years, yet costs soared anyway — totaling 12 percent of all state and local tax revenue in 2013, the second highest rate nationwide.

A pair of studies by the American Enterprise Institute’s Andrew Biggs reveals why. The average benefit for full-career state workers is $1.325 million, at least 55 percent greater than that of their private-sector counterparts.

Those figures exclude NVPERS top-earners — police and fire officers — whose benefits are so rich and available at such a young age that it’s not uncommon to see retirees collecting six-figure pensions while still working full-time elsewhere. Former Las Vegas police officer Dan Coe tops that list: his starting $110,804 pension at age 38 is projected to total $13,216,000 in combined lifetime payouts.

Nevada isn’t the only place where this is happening. California’s multiple independent pension plans allow government workers to double dip without even leaving the state.

Marin County counsel Steven Woodside, for example, added two government pensions on top of his $258,000 salary last year: a $82,606 payout from his 12 years with Sonoma County plus a $97,206 allowance from his 29 years at Santa Clara County, according to the Transparent California website.

Unfortunately, the cost to sustain such generosity has grown so dramatically that even those who benefit from the system consider it “outrageous.”

Just across the bay from Woodside sits the Rodeo-Hercules fire district, where, in 2013, chief Charles Hanley cleared roughly $540,000 in total pay and benefits from California governments — $395,000 for his services as chief plus a pension of nearly $145,000 from the City of Santa Rosa.
The stories go on and on. One day, citizens will wake up to learn that their community or state can't fund basic programs and expenses because too much of their budget is tied up with paying pensions for retired public employees. And they'll learn that the blame lies with politicians who traded long-term concerns for short-term political gains from union workers.
To be clear, these employees did nothing wrong. They merely took advantage of the system offered to them, as anyone would. But as Hanley suggests, taxpayers should be asking questions. In particular, why are government retirement systems paying out six-figure pensions to those still in the prime of their working career?

Harvard economist Edward Glaeser considers public pensions a “shrouded cost of government” because of their inherent complexity. This shroud enabled Nevada’s public unions to lobby successfully for numerous pension enhancements, with legislators either not knowing (or caring) about their long-term costs.

Ultimately, a recurrent pattern emerged. Rather than using excess investment returns to pay down NVPERS billion-dollar deficit — as fiduciary guidelines dictate — lawmakers used them to pay for the additional enhancements.

This scheme extends far beyond Nevada. The most infamous example is the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, where the system’s $139 billion shortfall has been largely blamed on similarly irresponsible benefit enhancements in 1999 and 2001.

It’s easy to see why this legislative practice is so appealing: it allows lawmakers to get the best of both worlds. They can curry favor with government unions by enriching their benefits while keeping the costs of these increases invisible to most voters. And if costs skyrocket later on, that will be someone else’s problem.

Another way that politicians can trade future economic results for short-term political benefits is how President Obama's regulations have affected the American economy.
Since President Obama took office in 2009, the federal government has issued 600 major regulations totaling $743 billion, according to a new study from the conservative American Action Forum.

The Obama administration issues an average of 81 major rules, those with an economic impact of at least $100 million, on a yearly basis, the study found.
That’s about one major rule every four to five days, or, as the American Action Forum puts it, one rule for every three days that the federal government is open.

“It is a $2,294 regulatory imposition on every person in the United States,” wrote Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy at the American Action Forum, who conducted the study.

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And so it continues.
ITALY'S highest court has given the go-ahead for a make-or-break referendum on the crisis-torn country's constitutional future which could have huge knock-on effects for the EU.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said victory in the poll would end Italy's notoriously shaky political system that has prevented any government completing a full term since the Second World War.

But defeat will mean the end of the line for pro-Brussels Mr Renzi who has promised to quit if voters do not approve his constitutional changes.

It is a huge political gamble for the pro-EU centre-left leader with opinion polls showing many of the 50 million voters are undecided and the "No" camp gaining momentum in what will be a very close campaign.

One woman expresses what I believe - there is no reason for women to vote for Hillary just because she's a woman.
Choosing a presidential candidate based on his or her gender is like voting for someone because you like the candidate's hair color. It has nothing to do with a person's leadership abilities.

In fact, voting for Hillary solely or in large part because she's a woman isn't an exercise in open-mindedness at all. It's sexist, and it's divisive. Worse, it ignores the progress women have made over the past few decades.

Today, women graduate college at a higher rate than men. There are more female managers today than at any point in history. And with the rise of telecommuting and virtual offices, it's becoming increasingly easier for many women to balance careers and motherhood....

I'd argue there's also a moral hazard in Clinton pushing her gender so aggressively. This extreme focus on her gender sends the message that as women, we cannot succeed on the merit of our ideas alone.

Other Clinton supporters, such as historian Nancy L. Cohen, have said women shouldn't vote for Clinton because of her gender — but because she best represents the interests of her gender.

But even that argument is narrow-minded because it assumes women are monolithic and all have the same needs, interests and political positions. News flash: Not every woman wants the government to be more hands-on in their health care, child care or employee-employer relationship.

What it comes down to is this: Those who still see a glass ceiling today always will because that's how they view the world: black versus white, women versus men. Unfortunately, these people will never see — or enjoy — all the progress that's been made and how diverse and intelligent women really are.
It would have been preferable if the first woman with a real chance to achieve the presidency had been a Republican. Then we know that she would have been evaluated on her ideas and accomplishments rather than her chromosomes.

Well, Trump had one day when he stayed on topic and focused on the economy instead of going off and saying something that would distract the media from his message. Then he went and had to say this:Clearly, it was a joke and he wasn't advocating violence as the Clinton campaign claimed. But of course the media will keep this topic going. But it's past time to hold out hope that there is some other Trump who will demonstrate common sense and political acuity or just basic self control so that he doesn't say things to get the focus off message.

John Podhoretz has a great tweetsorm on Trump's Second Amendment "joke."

He's right. Trump's joke implies that Second Amendment supporters would consider assassination. It's rather like when he tried to cater to pro-life voters by saying that they support some sort of punishment for women who have abortions. I suspect he has as little understanding of the gun-rights movement as he does of the pro-life movement.

Podhoretz then reminds us of those halcyon days of past political stories.

By the way, I always thought that Bush looking at his watch was the silliest gotcha story. What person in a debate wouldn't want to know how much time was left? Who hasn't looked at his or her watch in an important moment. I know I'd be wondering how much time I'd have to listen to Clinton feel people's pain or for Perot to tell us how he was going to get under the hood and fix everything as if it was that easy.

Of course, jokes about murdering opponents are a lot funnier when it is a Democrat joking about killing a Republican.
A few years after his failed presidential campaign, John Kerry went on Bill Maher and joked about killing President Bush.

After Maher riffed that Kerry could have gone to New Hampshire and killed two birds with one stone, Kerry replied, “Or, I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.”

There was no media outrage. The event is remembered only on conservative websites.

And barely even there.

At least back when Kerry had joked about the assassination of Dan Quayle, he had been forced to briefly apologize for it. But less than a decade later the media bias had become so pervasive that joking about murdering Republican politicians had become so socially acceptable that it wasn’t even worth mentioning.

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This is the newest outrage among over-the-top feminists.
In case you’ve been too wrapped up in your own white privilege to think about these kinds of serious problems on your own, a feminist Internet journalist took the time to write a nearly 2,000-word piece about how “wearing camo can be anti-feminist.”

“Let’s have a conversation about the basic origin of camouflage, shall we?” self-described “queer/femme antagonist” Annah Anti-Palindrome writes in a piece for Everyday Feminism titled “These 3 Powerful Stories Show Why Wearing Camo Can Be Anti-Feminist.”

“Camouflage is a dye pattern that was initially made to disguise the bodies of soldiers during combat, so that they could stealthily hunt people on opposing armies,” she writes. “Let me repeat this: Camo patterns were made for the purpose of human hunting.”
She goes on to argue that camouflage clothes traumatizes immigrants because it might remind them of border patrol guards. Or, apparently, it will bring back the trauma for New Orleans citizens who were traumatized when the National Guard patrolled the city after Katrina. Forget about all the National Guard who came in and rescued people. And, of course, camouflage evokes police brutality and Ferguson. So feminists should just stop wearing camouflage because their clothes mean something.

Whenever I read idiocy such as this I wonder why feminists aren't more upset about how women are treated around the world, particularly in several Muslim countries where women have no civil rights, instead of working about symbolic trivialities.

This is a powerful story from Jacksonville safety Earl Wolff about a night he was kidnapped and threatened with murder as part of an armed robery.

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And for some fun, watch Kevin Durant, Boogie Cousins, and Kyrie Irving play Taboo.
Looks fun. I love Taboo, but I play it with my students with cards I made up for either American or European history. It's a great review game.