Friday, November 25, 2016

Cruising the Web

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and was able to avoid political disagreements and instead just be thankful for being able to gather with your friends and family and have plenty of food to eat. I think I'm still full and we went out to brunch at 10:30.

Michael Barone has a good column
refuting the idea that Obama likes to endorse by quoting the statement that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Martin Luther King liked to use the quote which originated with abolitionist Theodore Parker. But anyone who has studied history knows that this is more a statement of idealistic optimism than a historic truth. The end of the Civil War, the defeat of Hitler, the end of the Cold War, the results of the civil rights movement were not inevitable. They were the results of courageous actions taken by individuals and countries. They were the result of long and bloody wars.
Obama’s vision of the arc of history is more cramped and partisan. In his view, history is a story of progress toward an ever larger government at home and an ever more assertive America abroad. But history doesn’t always move that way. In the century before World War I, Britain led the world by reducing taxes and freeing up enterprise and trade. Government restrictions were discarded as vestiges of medieval tyranny.

That’s something like American voters’ response to Obamacare and other regulation-heavy Obama policies. Obama hoped Obamacare would lead to a government-run single-payer system and never communicated a sense of how much government would be too much. American voters responded that Obamacare was more than enough. It’s another example of history’s going back and forth on the size of government.

On foreign policy, Obama clearly thinks America has too often been on the wrong side of history, an oppressor more often than a liberator. Better to cede power to international organizations and to hold out to unfriendly powers an “open hand” rather than a “clenched fist.”

So far, that seems to have produced not affection but contempt. Vladimir Putin expands Russian power into Ukraine and Syria. China advances to dominate international sea lanes. The mullahs of Iran ramp up support of terrorism and do little to conceal their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, the arc of history seems to be bending toward something other than justice. As Churchill and Roosevelt knew, history is contingent, and those who act as if progress is inevitable often prove to be sadly disappointed.

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Ronald Radosh observes
how the typical response of Democrats after an electoral loss is to move left, rather than to the center. That's what they did after 1968 with the choice of George McGovern. After Bill Clinton became president in 1992, he tried to push through liberal policies on health care and cutting the defense budget. When that led to the loss of both houses in 1994, he tried triangulation. So now the Democrats have to figure out what to do after their disappointments across the board.
For Clinton, the adversary was Trump, but it was also, as the campaign developed, the “basket of deplorables” who backed him. While Clinton claimed she meant only a subset of Trump’s white working-class supporters, her charge was taken—with some justice—as applying to the group in its entirety. So instead of creating a majority that included her base plus a significant slice of potential Republican voters, Clinton defined her coalition against them. (Many liberal pundits reinforced this perception by repeatedly characterizing Trump’s voters as poorly informed and racist, even though in 2008 and 2012 many of these voters backed Obama.)

Now Democrats are searching for answers about their shellacking and what they should do about it if the party is to have a future. Fingers are being pointed. To find answers, Politico reports that George Soros and other liberal-left big money people met in a private three-day event in the nation’s capital with what reporter Kenneth P. Vogel calls “the darlings of the left” including Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is the Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman. The Conference, sponsored by the Democracy Alliance (DA) donor club—who, according to Vogel, “have had a major hand in shaping the institutions of the left”—is assessing what went wrong. One thing they agree on is to wage “full-on trench warfare” against President-elect Trump’s 100-day plan.
Some urge rebuilding the Clinton/Obama coalition, but many question whether that will be sufficient to win national elections in the future. Others, including Ellison, argue that winning the working-class vote is necessary. The way to do that, he believes, is by arguing for “a form of economic populism.”

Today, the old guard, represented by Hillary Clinton and the DNC, is in a fight for its life, pitted against the socialist far left represented by the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Their favorite for chairman of the Democratic National Committee—-previously run by Clinton stalwarts like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile—-is Ellison
Is that really the best response - to choose a DNC leader from the far left of the party with ties to the Nation of Islam and flirted with 9/11 trutherism?

Forbes has an exclusive interview and look at how Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law orchestrated the campaign that won Trump the White House. According to the story, it was Kushner took control of the campaign last November when there was basically a non-existent organization in place - just a couple of people and Trump's penchant for making outrageous statements in order to get more media attention. Kushner had some Silicon Valley connections and they put together a digital marketing plan.
At first Kushner dabbled, engaging in what amounted to a beta test using Trump merchandise. “I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner says. Synched with Trump’s blunt, simple messaging, it worked. The Trump campaign went from selling $8,000 worth of hats and other items a day to $80,000, generating revenue, expanding the number of human billboards–and proving a concept. In another test, Kushner spent $160,000 to promote a series of low-tech policy videos of Trump talking straight into the camera that collectively generated more than 74 million views.

By June the GOP nomination secured, Kushner took over all data-driven efforts. Within three weeks, in a nondescript building outside San Antonio, he had built what would become a 100-person data hub designed to unify fundraising, messaging and targeting. Run by Brad Parscale, who had previously built small websites for the Trump Organization, this secret back office would drive every strategic decision during the final months of the campaign. “Our best people were mostly the ones who volunteered for me pro bono,” Kushner says. “People from the business world, people from nontraditional backgrounds.”

Kushner structured the operation with a focus on maximizing the return for every dollar spent. “We played Moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI for the electoral vote,” Kushner says. “I asked, How can we get Trump’s message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?” FEC filings through mid-October indicate the Trump campaign spent roughly half as much as the Clinton campaign did.

Just as Trump’s unorthodox style allowed him to win the Republican nomination while spending far less than his more traditional opponents, Kushner’s lack of political experience became an advantage. Unschooled in traditional campaigning, he was able to look at the business of politics the way so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have sized up other bloated industries.

Television and online advertising? Small and smaller. Twitter and Facebook would fuel the campaign, as key tools for not only spreading Trump’s message but also targeting potential supporters, scraping massive amounts of constituent data and sensing shifts in sentiment in real time.

“We weren’t afraid to make changes. We weren’t afraid to fail. We tried to do things very cheaply, very quickly. And if it wasn’t working, we would kill it quickly,” Kushner says. “It meant making quick decisions, fixing things that were broken and scaling things that worked.”

This wasn’t a completely raw startup. Kushner’s crew was able to tap into the Republican National Committee’s data machine, and it hired targeting partners like Cambridge Analytica to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most: trade, immigration or change. Tools like Deep Root drove the scaled-back TV ad spending by identifying shows popular with specific voter blocks in specific regions–say, NCIS for anti-ObamaCare voters or The Walking Dead for people worried about immigration. Kushner built a custom geo-location tool that plotted the location density of about 20 voter types over a live Google Maps interface.

Soon the data operation dictated every campaign decision: travel, fundraising, advertising, rally locations–even the topics of the speeches. “He put all the different pieces together,” Parscale says. “And what’s funny is the outside world was so obsessed about this little piece or that, they didn’t pick up that it was all being orchestrated so well.”
Kushner comes off as a brilliant and innovative novice. Of course, since he's the source for the information and the focus of the piece, I'm sure he helped to make his contributions seem more influential and decisive. I wonder how Donald Trump likes seeing his son-in-law take credit for his victory. Trump never seems to be someone who doesn't care who gets the credit. Not for him, this bit of wisdom Ronald Reagan used to have on a plaque in his office:
There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.

Jason Riley refutes the idea
that Trump's victory was due to white racism.
Since when does a weekend gathering of “nearly 275” white nationalists in a country of more than 320 million people warrant front-page coverage in major newspapers? Since the election of Donald Trump, apparently.

The same media outlets that insisted Mr. Trump wouldn’t beat Hillary Clinton have spent the past two weeks misleading the public about why he did. Breathless coverage of a neo-Nazi sideshow in the nation’s capital—where antiracism protesters almost outnumbered attendees, according to the Washington Post—helps liberals illustrate their preferred “basket of deplorables” explanation for Mrs. Clinton’s loss.

The reality is that Mr. Trump didn’t prevail on Election Day because of fake news stories or voter suppression or ascendant bigotry in America. He won because a lot of people who voted for Barack Obama in previous elections cast ballots for Mr. Trump this time. In Wisconsin, he dominated the Mississippi River Valley region on the state’s western border, which went for Mr. Obama in 2012. In Ohio’s Trumbull County, where the auto industry is a major employer and the population is 89% white, Mr. Obama beat Mitt Romney, 60% to 38%. This year, Trumbull went for Mr. Trump, 51% to 45%. Iowa went for Mr. Obama easily in 2008 and 2012, but this year Mr. Trump won the state by 10 points. Either these previous Obama supporters are closet racists or they’re voting on other issues.
The white nationalists meeting in Washington, D.C. are both deplorable and simply stupid. Why anyone today would embrace Neo-Nazism is beyond me, but these were just a group of a couple hundred idiots - they aren't part of some larger movement. Weird Dave at Ace points out how few people were at this convention in Washington.
This past week, the benign sounding National Policy Institute held a convention in Washington DC. This event has garnered a lot of press speculation about the movement, it's founder Richard Spencer, their avowed white-supremacy positions and what connection the organization has to President-elect Trump. Many people have had questions about Spencer and the NPI, its history, goals and influence, so below the cut is a handy guide telling you all you need to know about them:

In July of 2016, BronyCon, the annual convention for infantilized adults who love all things related to the children's TV show My Little Pony, drew 7600 attendees to the Baltimore Convention Center. NPI's convention last week in DC drew 200 assholes plus Tila Tequila. Any "movement" that draws 38 times fewer people than one dedicated to "adults" who dress up like cartoon horses ain't shit.

And that's all you need to know.
Yes, these people are awful, but why give them a platform and make them seem more important than they actually are? Ignoring them would seem to be a better approach.

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Here is yet another example of how far down the paranoid political correctness rabbit hole we have traveled. Students at Loyola University Maryland were planning a senior class party with the theme, "America." Apparently, that was so terrible that the university termed the idea "very alienating, divisive and harmful" and contrary to the university's "core values."
The theme for Loyola’s annual “Senior 200s” party — one of four celebrations exclusive to seniors held throughout the year — was based upon a survey of Loyola seniors taken last summer. The party was held on Nov. 18 and went off without a hitch, according to students who attended, despite warnings that the administration might have to get involved if students were offended....

The university’s executive vice president, Susan Donovan sent an email to two SGA members claiming she “talked with a number of students and heard from faculty members” about the party. “None of it is positive and it sounds very alienating, divisive and harmful.”
“I encourage you to reconsider this plan in light of the legitimate concerns raised by so many,” Donovan went on to say. “We have made progress in providing a welcoming climate on campus and do we want to reverse that progress with a theme that divides us?” Donovan did not return TheDC’s request for comment by press time.

Sheilah Horton, the university’s dean of students also tried to pressure students to change the party theme, in a lengthy email that portrayed the students as insensitive for not canceling the America theme.

Horton worried that the theme “provides an opportunity for students to dress or behave in a way that offends or oppresses others.”

Horton also said the administration would have to “deal with” any fallout from the party, which she worried would make students feel “unsafe.” She also worried that the America-themed party might keep potential students from attending Loyola and implied the event could be the “defining” incident of the senior class.
The letter goes on imploring students not to hold the party because what might happen. Fortunately, the students had more confidence in the good sense of the students and the party went on as scheduled. Liberals should be offended at the idea that Trump supporters are the only ones who can celebrate America. And the students should be offended by the university's impression that patriotism is now to be considered divisive and insulting.

Ashe Schow reports
on how the American flag is now regarded as a trigger of hatred on some American college campuses or as a method of protesting Trump's election.
Hampshire College in Massachusetts will stop flying the American flag — or any other flag — until campus discussions are held about what the flag means to different groups of students.

After Trump won the election, Hampshire lowered the school’s American flag to half-staff. In a campus-wide email, Hampshire President Jonathan Lash said the College Board of Trustees adopted a policy to occasionally lower the flag to half-staff to mourn deaths from around the world, similar to what most businesses and government agencies do after a tragedy or a notable death. Hampshire, however, decided to fly its flag at half-staff after the election in what appeared to some as an insult due to Trump’s win.
At Brown University some people vandalized the flags that were hung for Veterans Day. Some students protected the flags, but others cheered on the vandalism.
Some members of the Brown community, however, agreed with those who damaged the flags. In a now-deleted Facebook post on the page Brown Bears Admirers — a page where Brown students post anonymous comments (mostly about who they have crushes on, apparently) — one student praised those who tore down the flags.

“I’d like to appreciate everyone who has been removing the flags from the Main Green,” the original post said. “As much as I know that these flags are there to represent Veterans Day, when I look at them, all I feel is overwhelming nausea, and all I see is a symbol of the oppressing white nationalism that has jeopardized myself and so many others at Brown and abroad.”
Think of what these students have been taught all their lives if that is all that they can think of when they see the American flag. This is what happens when American history is turned over to Howard Zinn as a laundry list of the sins of America throughout history. Students have no context with which to consider their country. When I was a student, I went on a program to study Russian in the Soviet Union for a semester. All the American students on that program agreed that nothing succeeded so well in arousing our own patriotism as to live a few months in the Soviet system and observe what it was like to be denied rights and to have an economy directed from above. I wish some of these tender snowflakes could have that experience to open their eyes.

And now yoga classes are coming under attack. It's a nefarious example of cultural appropriation, you know.Reason links to this story in the Ottawa Sun.
Student leaders have pulled the mat out from 60 University of Ottawa students, ending a free on-campus yoga class over fears the teachings could be seen as a form of "cultural appropriation."

Jennifer Scharf, who has been offering free weekly yoga instruction to students since 2008, says she was shocked when told in September the program would be suspended, and saddened when she learned of the reasoning.

Staff at the Centre for Students with Disabilities believe that "while yoga is a really great idea and accessible and great for students ... there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice," according to an email from the centre.

The centre is operated by the university's Student Federation, which first approached Scharf seven years ago about offering yoga instruction to students both with and without disabilities.

The centre goes on to say, "Yoga has been under a lot of controversy lately due to how it is being practiced," and which cultures those practices "are being taken from."

The centre official argues since many of those cultures "have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy ... we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves while practising yoga."
If we can't practice yoga now, what is left? Should we close down all dance classes that use dance styles from Latin America? Is using a recipe from any other country's cuisine now unacceptable? What about clothing fashions or jewelry designs? There once was a time when we celebrated the contributions of other cultures to American culture. Now that view is unacceptable? It is as if we've come full circle from celebrating diversity to now banning any such celebration.

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With Trump's choice of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, we're already hearing from the teachers' unions about the evils inherent in school choice programs including tax-credit scholarships. Jon Gabriel writes about the tax-credit scholarship programs in Arizona and other states.
First established in Arizona in 1997, tax-credit scholarships are now offered in 15 states. These programs allow individuals and corporations to donate to scholarship granting organizations in return for tax credits. The organizations then use the donations to give scholarships to students to offset tuition payments at a private school of their families' choice.

Since the first school choice programs were launched, 30 empirical studies have measured the economic impact on taxpayers. Twenty-seven of the studies showed a net savings, while the other three declared the programs revenue-neutral. Not one showed a loss to taxpayers.

Despite the state “losing” money due to tax credits, the schools reduce their cost per student. Even better for public schools, districts keep their federal and local funds rolling in. That’s right: school districts still get money even when their students flee.
Contrary to opponents' predictions, the programs have actually saved taxpayer money.
The reform-minded non-profit EdChoice studied how much money taxpayers saved with the biggest scholarship programs in the country. The amount was staggering.

Using a combination of conservative estimates and more aggressive ones, EdChoice identified a low-end and high-end for the savings. They found that the 1.2 million tax-credit scholarships given nationwide have generated between $1.7 billion and $3.4 billion in taxpayer savings through the 2013–14 school year. That’s the equivalent of up to $3,000 in savings per scholarship student....

Since Arizona’s scholarships have saved up to $555 million, why do so many anti-choicers continue with their claims that these programs harm public education and empty the state treasury? Because they aren’t primarily concerned with students, parents, or even individual teachers. Instead, they want to control the maximum amount of public money with a minimum amount of public scrutiny.

All the more reason to allow Arizona’s families to make educational choices for themselves.
I look forward to seeing DeVos drive the teachers unions crazy as she supports programs to give teachers more choice in their children's education. It's time to acknowledge that the schools exist for the students, not the teachers.

Teachers unions must be upset about this factoid from the election.
Despite early and eager endorsements of Clinton by both unions, the nation’s school teachers and other school workers contributed substantially to Trump’s Nov. 8 win.

How substantially? About one in five American Federation of Teachers (AFT) members who cast a ballot voted for Trump, the union’s leader estimated. Among the larger National Education Association (NEA), which comprises more than 3 million members, more than one in three who voted did so for the billionaire developer, early data show.
Of course, Randi Weingarten, the head of the AFT blames sexism. My experience as a teacher is that most teachers are liberal, but not all. And often teachers join the union simply because they want the insurance to protect them from lawsuits. If we didn't have such a litigious society, I wonder how many teachers would pay the rather substantial union dues.

And the teachers unions aren't the only unions who saw their members vote contrary to the position of their leaders.
Most of the USA’s largest labor unions endorsed Clinton as early as 2015, including NEA, AFT, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Despite the support, Clinton won union households nationwide by just eight percentage points, exit polls show: 51% to Trump’s 43%.

I hadn't known much about Marine General James Mattis, the proposed secretary of defense in Trump's administration, but this column by Mackubin Owens
helped convince me. I once took a class from Owens on Lincoln's leadership in the Civil War and would respect his opinion.