Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cruising the Web

Jonah Goldberg writes about the common political hypocrisy that we witness all the time when one side flips their principles in order to support one of their own. He calls this tribal partisanship. Both sides do it all the time and neither side is pure. Remember this bit of hypocrisy from leftist feminists?
In the 1990s, for example, feminists had laid down a series of arguments about sexual harassment. Then Bill Clinton got in trouble. Rather than maintain the principles they’d been asserting or acknowledge the facts they found regrettable, they rallied to Clinton’s defense. In their rush to help him, they left behind the baggage of their credibility.
All their concern about inappropriate behavior in the workplace went out the window when it threatened a president who was pro-choice. And now we're seeing similar with Republicans who have discovered a strange, new respect for Julian Assange.
Donald Trump and many of his supporters are having a hard time acknowledging the following: Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is an avowed enemy of the United States who has openly admitted — and acted on — his animosity toward America. A onetime TV host for Russia Today, a Vladimir Putin-directed propaganda network, he is if not in the employ of Russia than objectively in service to it.

The government of Russia, through surrogates and proxies, meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, much as it has done in numerous other countries. The Russians used WikiLeaks as a very effective tool for their mischief. That mischief probably had some effect on how the election played out. Russia, under Putin’s authoritarian rule, seeks to undermine the legitimacy of American and Western democracy and to weaken NATO....

Trump and his subalterns have found themselves in the position of rehabilitating Assange as some kind of heroic truth-teller, because they feel it necessary for political reasons.

In 2010, Sarah Palin rightly described Assange as “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands.” This week, she apologized.

In 2010, with a bit of hyperbole, Newt Gingrich declared: “Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism. He should be treated as an enemy combatant.” This week, Gingrich told Sean Hannity (one of Assange’s most prominent fans these days) that Assange is a “down-to-earth, straightforward interviewee.”
Ugh! How cheaply they are selling their principles. And those on the left have suddenly flipped their opinion of Assange.
In 2010, Michael Moore put up $20,000 for Assange’s bail — he’d been charged with rape in Sweden — because “there is a concerted attempt to stop ... anybody that is trying to do the job of telling us the truth.” Now, Moore says Trump has no right to be president because of Russia’s use of WikiLeaks’ truth-telling.

The Huffington Post was initially enthralled by WikiLeaks, running pieces with such headlines as “Let Us Now Praise WikiLeaks.” Now, the Huffington Post’s hyperventilating threatens to suck the oxygen out of the atmosphere.
Nothing has really changed. Assange was always reprehensible. What changes is which side wants to use the leaks he's facilitating.

Republicans just spent the past eight years with the constant refrain of, "imagine if President Bush had done that" in response to actions from the Obama administration. Democrats acquiesced quietly to behavior from Obama that they would have never accepted from a Republican president. As we are about to have a new administration, it would be salutary that Republicans ponder, "imagine if President Obama had done that." If we would have been infuriated if Obama had done the same thing, we shouldn't close our eyes when Trump does it. As much as possible, it would help to avoid tribal partisanship.

Damon Linker argues
that this mix-up of partisan views, rather than indicating tribal partisanship, really just means that the ideological split between left and right is breaking down.
Which may be a sign that the very terms "left" and "right" are beginning to lose their meaning and force in the world. A metaphor meant to enhance our clarity of thinking, the directional image is fast becoming a hindrance to it. That may mean the metaphor needs to be scrapped and replaced by another.

What might work better? As with so much else in this deeply disorienting moment, it's impossible to say. All we can know for sure is that in an ideological world in which WikiLeaks and a know-nothing talk-radio rabblerouser like Sean Hannity can make common cause, anything is possible.
Gracy Olmstead argues that such a breakdown of the ideological spectrum should be welcome news.
The “right” contains a whole medley of individuals whose beliefs may range from the mainstream to the divergent. There are “crunchy cons” and neocons, establishment Republicans and dogged libertarians. Any or all of these folks may call themselves “conservative” or “conservative-leaning.” There are dogged Trump supporters, and vehement “Never Trump” adherents—all labeled “Republican,” or “conservative,” or “right-leaning.”

...The same could be said of many on the “left.” The term describes a similar medley of contradictory positions and politics. There are progressive-leaning individuals, more classical liberals, and a good assortment of libertarians who might associate themselves with the “left.” Some stood with Hillary, while others were vehemently opposed to her politics. Some liked Bernie Sanders; others disapproved of his socialist positions.
It's a wide spectrum for each party. I happen to like the fact that our two-party system forces the parties to be wide coalitions. And it is inevitable that there would be fractions within the coalitions. There might be some splintering off from one party or the other, but I don't agree that we'll see a flip of the left and right and the two parties. What we might see is a lot of people just fed up with both parties. Such people might be susceptible to appeals from another party.

Perhaps those of us who aren’t running for office, who don’t feel satisfied with “left” or “right,” can happily call ourselves amateurs: lovers of family, of community, and of place—without having to throw a “Republican” or “Democrat” on the end of that definition.
At least until we face another election season. Then the tribalism will return.

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The Republicans, never slow to do the dumb thing, are now pondering whether to renew the use of earmarks. It was an honorable choice when they got rid of earmarks when they took control of the House in 2011. But now, there are those who want them back. If you have any doubt of whether this is the right thing to do, note that Harry Reid wants them returned.
“Why should we as members of Congress give authority to the White House? That is what has happened, and it brought Congress to a standstill. Bring back earmarks,” former Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democrats’ longtime floor leader, pleaded with colleagues in his farewell address last month.
I find it handy to just assume that anything Reid advocates for is of questionable value to the country. Former Senator Tom Chris ChriCoburn opposes any attempt to bring back earmarks. Hmmm. Who is more principled: Harry Reid or Tom Coburn? That's an easy choice.

Just after the PR fiasco the Republicans had last week in first attempting to limit the ethics watchdog in the House and then waking up to that is not the headline they wanted for their first action in the new Congress, do they want the next headline to be that they spent their next week bringing back earmarks? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

President Obama now is blaming himself
for the losses that his party suffered in the past eight years. He told George Stephanopolous that if he'd only been able to give more speeches supporting Democratic candidates, they would have done better.
"I couldn't be both chief organizer of the Democratic Party and function as commander in chief and president of the United States," Obama told host George Stephanopoulos. As a candidate himself, Obama said he was able to do a better job of "showing up," but as president, he has "not seen or — or presided over that kind of systematic outreach that I think needs to happen."

Since Obama took residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Democrats have surrendered control of both the House and the Senate and lost a dozen governorships and about 1,000 state legislature seats. He has campaigned for a number of Democrats,including Hillary Clinton, who failed to defeat Donald Trump to become Obama's successor.
Gee, where is the evidence that Obama' s campaigning helped any other candidate other than himself. He was great at winning votes for himself, but he spent a lot of time campaigning for Democrats while president, starting in 2009 when he campaigned for Democrats in the New Jersey and Virginia off-year governor's races, and Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell won. He campaigned in 2010 and 2014 to little benefit for Democrats. And he was very active campaigning around the country for Hillary telling blacks that he would consider it a "personal insult" if African Americans didn't turn out for Hillary. None of that seemed to help. He couldn't even persuade the Olympic Committee to give the Olympics to Chicago. He's just not as persuasive as he thinks he is. And he can't seem to acknowledge that perhaps some of his policies might have had something to do with all this losses; it wasn't the lack of more campaign speeches from Obama.

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William Jacobson celebrates a huge loss
at the Moderan Language Association for advocates of the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement against Israel.
The Modern Language Association (MLA) Delegate Assembly voted today on three resolutions: One in favor of a boycott of all Israeli universities (Resolution 2017-2); the second, opposing academic boycotts in general (Resolution 2017-1); the third, condemning the suppression of academic freedom at Palestinian universities by the Palestinians themselves (the Palestinian Authority and Hamas)(Resolution 2017-3).

Michael Barone has been poring over the latest release of the Census Bureau's estimated population figures for the country.
It's always interesting to see which states have grown the most in the past year: for 2015-16 the fastest growers were Nevada and Utah at 2 percent and Florida, Idaho and Washington at 1.8 percent. It's also interesting that an unusually large number — eight — of the states are estimated to have lost population in 2015-16: Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wyoming. In percentage terms, the biggest loser was Illinois, the home state of the outgoing president.
So why are people moving out of some states and into others? Barone has some suggestions.
Public policies can make a difference in whether states grow — or, like Illinois, decline. You can see how by aggregating the population data for states according to whether they have state income taxes and whether they have right-to-work laws....

Clearly states without an income tax and states with a right-to-work law have been growing more rapidly than those with income taxes and without right-to-work laws. Fully 40 percent of the nation's population growth occurred in the nine states with no income taxes and 64 percent of the nation's population growth occurred in the 26 states with right-to-work laws.

The growth in no-income-tax and right-to-work states was fueled largely by net domestic migration rather than international migration, according to the 2016 Census estimates....

More than 2 million people moved within the country to no-income-tax and right-to-work states from other states. States with no income taxes attracted significantly more Americans than immigrants; states with right-to-work laws attracted almost exactly the same number of natives and immigrants.

Immigrants were less likely to go to such states: 75 percent went to states with income taxes and 60 percent to states without right-to-work laws. This makes a certain sense: immigrants are less likely than natives to pay income taxes (because those with low incomes usually pay little or none), and immigrants are less likely to be subject to paying union dues (since most union members are public employees and immigrants tend not to be eligible for or to seek public sector jobs).

Ah, such brilliant political tactics. John Sexton notes that the Senate Democrats are going to live-stream Facebook attacks on Republican plans to end Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. And in great strategic planning, they're scheduling their talkathon against the college football championship game.
Schumer told the Huffington Post, “We are taking to the floor and social media to denounce this plan and warn the American people that the Democrats will be fighting tooth and nail against this potentially catastrophic move.”

Does that sound like anyone’s idea of an enjoyable evening? It’s difficult to imagine that anyone wants to listen to conference calls primarily intended to generate more sympathetic media in a market that is already flooded with pro-Obamacare headlines.
I suspect that this is more for the interest groups that will be on the conference calls to demonstrate that the Democrats are going to something to earn the millions that each group gave their party.

That's certainly the explanation for the Democrats' opposition to Betsy DeVos for Education secretary. Glenn Reynolds writes,
What DeVos’s critics hate most is that she’s an advocate of school choice. DeVos supports charter schools, education vouchers, and other ways of letting parents control where their kids go to school. The people who hate this idea are mostly, in one way or another, people who instead want a captive market of taxpayer-funded pupils. But what’s good for politicians, administrators, and teachers’ unions isn’t necessarily good for kids....

Public schools are sold as promoting equality, but in practice they’re more likely to reinforce inequality. People with money move to “good” neighborhoods, and they do it “for the schools.” People without money generally live in “bad” neighborhoods, where the schools aren’t very good and probably won’t teach their kids what they need to know to get ahead.

Of course, as Lucinda Rosenfeld wrote recently in The New York Times, “the most privileged segment of society does not use the public schools at all.” Rich parents send their kids to private school.

Poor parents can’t afford to do that, but school choice, of the sort that DeVos has championed, would give them the chance to do so. The problem is, giving parents choice in where to send their kids is very bad for the existing public schools, because given a choice, so many parents choose to send their kids elsewhere.

Even without vouchers, many public school systems are in trouble because parents see that they are inferior, and scrimp, save, and maneuver to get their kids into better places. Since the kids whose parents care that much about their education tend to be the better students, their departure makes the public schools noticeably worse, leading to further departures. As I noted in my book, The New School, in a number of cities this has led to school closings and teacher layoffs, as failing public schools can’t retain enough students to stay in business. As black Atlanta educator Nikita Bush says, “people are starting to realize that public education in America was designed for the masses of poor, and its intent has been to trap poor people into being workers and servants. If you don’t want that for your children, then you look for something else.”

If leaving lousy public schools gets easier, still more people will leave and these problems will grow. This won’t be bad for the kids, who’ll be going to better schools. It’ll be bad for the teachers, administrators and union officials who depend on the existing schools to maintain their jobs.

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Politico has talked to several experts
about ways that Donald Trump could end his conflicts of interests between his businesses and his role as president. However, I don't have much confidence that Trump is interested in any action that would impair his future control of his company.