Thursday, March 02, 2017

Cruising the Web

Gee, we're living in weird times. It's as if conventional wisdom has lost all its wisdom. Think of the events of the past year that we were told wouldn't happen and then shocked everyone when they happened. Pundits kept telling us that Trump would lose altitude as more GOP candidates dropped off. We were told of breathless scenarios of how Cruz or Rubio or Kasich could pull off a win. And it just didn't happen. Sports aficionados told us that teams just don't come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA finals, but dang if the Cavaliers didn't do that. And then all the polls and experts were absolutely positive that Brexit would never pass. And it did. Easily.

And then there was the World Series with two of the unlikeliest teams facing off. And the Cubs were down 3-1 and had to go win three games in a row, including two games in Cleveland. All the sports journalists had given up on the Cubs and were ready to crown Cleveland. When the Cubs tied up the series, and then that 5-1 lead in Game 7 and Cleveland tied up the game, it seemed that it would be a Cleveland victory as everyone had thought. But then there was that rain delay and 10th inning and the Cubs' wonderful, improbable finish. Gosh, that was fun, but unexpected.

Of course, there were all the polls and pundits who assured us that there was no way that Trump would win the election. He hadn't spent the money or developed a substantial GOTV operation. He was so objectionable that people just couldn't vote for him even though Hillary was the weakest frontrunner anyone could remember seeing despite the hundreds of millions of dollars and all the celebrity endorsements she'd received. The Clinton team were planning the transition. And during election night, the journalists were so shocked that they spent the evening trying to figure out some way that Hillary could still win while pulling their jaws up off the floor.

And then there was the Super Bowl. The announcers kept telling us that no team had ever come back from being so behind in a Super Bowl. It was impossible. But the impossible happened and Tom Brady and the Patriots won that redemption game in probably the most exciting fourth quarter in a Super Bowl game.

And we were told by the critics that "La La Land" was the shoo-in favorite for Best Picture. After all, it cleaned up at the Golden Globes and isn't that the best predictor of which film will win Best Picture at the Oscars. And they even got Faye Dunaway to call them the winners. Well, we all know how that ended up.

It's been a bad year for experts and conventional wisdom. I know I was a total bust with my political predictions. And I had pretty much given up hope on the Cavaliers, Cubs, and Patriots even though those were the teams I was pulling for. So sure, we will have more doubt when experts tell us something is a sure thing. And then we can all marvel when the conventional is overturned with some fascinating and memorable sports and political events.

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Rachel DiCarlo Currie writes
about a cause near and dear to my heart - the importance of fighting historical illiteracy. She cites some disturbing statistics about basic historical facts that so many college graduates don't know. It's frightening that high schoolers probably know more American history than college students. So why does it matter? Well, too many people have no knowledge of historical events in order to provide context for the debates we're having today.
The stability and affluence of modern Western societies should never be taken for granted. It did not emerge by chance or by accident. Rather, it can be traced back to a very specific cultural and ideological mix — a mix that produced free speech, free markets, individual liberty, property rights, the rule of law, social trust, scientific inquiry, and technological innovation.

Alas, it’s no longer fashionable to deliver that message in many U.S. (and European) schools. This helps explain why, in a 2016 Harvard Institute of Politics survey, a majority (51 percent) of American millennials aged 18 to 29 said they did not support capitalism, while a third said they did support socialism.

That gets to another problem with historical illiteracy: It fuels the political and cultural polarization that is tearing our country apart.

To make sense of contemporary policy debates, you need a certain amount of perspective. If you lack that perspective, you can be more susceptible to overreaction and partisan hysteria.

....Likewise, if you don’t know the history of federal immigration law, and if you aren’t aware of what Jimmy Carter did during the Iranian hostage crisis (“invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States”), it’s hard to have any real perspective on Trump’s push for a temporary travel ban from several countries in the greater Middle East.

Similarly, if you don’t know just how much America’s violent-crime rate skyrocketed between the early 1960s and the early 1990s (the increase from 1961 to 1991 was a staggering 380 percent), and if you don’t know just how devastating the crack-cocaine epidemic was to inner-city communities, it’s hard to have any real perspective on “mass incarceration.”

Finally, if you don’t know the full history of race and race relations in our society, and if you don’t know how that history compares with the experiences of other countries around the world, it’s hard to have any real perspective on the progress America has made in reducing racial inequality.

In each case, greater historical knowledge would go a long way toward improving our public discourse. Would it resolve all the underlying issues and disputes that have made America so polarized? Of course not. But at least it would be a step in the right direction.

Kevin Williamson has a worthy rant about why he hates all the talk about Trump being or not being "presidential."
If “presidential” is meant to describe a way of comporting oneself in public, then we surely must consider that there is not really all that much that our presidents have in common that they do not have in common with other reasonably responsible human beings. They know when to joke and when to be serious, what occasions call for what degree of formality, etc.

Beyond that, it is difficult to imagine what “presidential” quality actually connects the public styles of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump. Washington was a military aristocrat; Lincoln was a thoroughgoing democrat and republican (but not, like that confused fellow delivering the Democratic response last night, “a Republican and a Democrat”); Kennedy was glamorous; Nixon was hard-headed and just plain hard; Carter was pastoral; Reagan was famously sunny. George W. Bush was pretty sunny, too, at times, but it is difficult to imagine Reagan (or George H. W. Bush) having quite so common a touch. But did Lyndon Johnson really seem less like a president for all his vulgarity and drawling?

If by “presidential” we mean exhibiting the qualities we’d like in a chief executive, then it might mean (to me, anyway) something like Eisenhower’s style, inasmuch as Eisenhower performed heroic feats of labor to allow the country to believe that he was just golfing while the world somehow miraculously managed not to disintegrate. Gerald Ford, asked about his unassuming style, responded with one of my favorite quips in all of politics: “I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.”

But if “presidential” is really meant to describe the modern presidency as it exists, then “presidential” means Barack Obama and Donald Trump: omnipresent, purporting to be omnipotent or near to it, hysterical, histrionic, messianic.

And if that’s what the word means, then I especially don’t want to hear it, because I do not want any more of that.

Daniel Henninger writes
about how the Democratic Party has been taken over by the alt-left. They have gone all in on being #theresistance that they're not interested in any semblance of the sort of compromises that are necessary in governing. They resisted compromise when Obama was president because he'd won and they didn't need to. And those compromising muscles were too flabby to use when the Republicans took back Congress so they just figured that they'd hold the White House for the foreseeable future and govern through executive actions. Now that it hasn't worked out that way, all they have is #theresistance. Well, you can't govern by hashtag alone.
Donald Trump extended an olive branch on key legislative issues, and the Democrats gave him the you-know-what....

Eight years is going to be a long slog for Democrats if indeed they plan to conduct the nation’s business with the Trump White House from various street corners.

There is one other relevant image from the moments after the speech ended: Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin standing—alone—to shake Mr. Trump’s hand.

Last week, progressive activists petitioned Minority Leader Schumer to expel Sen. Manchin from the leadership team as retribution for his vote in favor of Scott Pruitt’s nomination to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sen. Manchin should admit reality and move across the aisle to join the Republicans. What do the middle-finger Democrats have in common anymore with West Virginia, which Mr. Trump carried by 42 points?

We keep reading that the Democrats’ newest coalition of the ascendant—from left to far left—sees the tea party as a model. Presumably that includes the politics of mutually assured destruction.

Imperiled Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, which Mr. Trump carried by 18.5 points and 523,000 votes, expects a primary challenge from the left in 2018. Democratic Senators Jon Tester of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bill Nelson of Florida and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, all facing tough re-elections in 2018, must feel like they’ve been pulled into an alternative universe. And they have. It’s called the alt-left.

With Breitbart’s Steve Bannon in the White House, we’ve read umpteen journalistic histories of the alt-right, a phrase some reporters seem to have programmed into a user key.

Well, with established Democratic members of Congress now adopting “resistance” as their basic political model, aren’t we due for a similar media dive into the origins of the alt-left?

Keywords would include: the 1930s, the 1960s, Vietnam, Ramparts magazine, the Weather Underground. Which is to say, if the alt-right flirts with white nationalism, the alt-left always conducts politics at the edge of violence, such as the trashing last month of UC Berkeley. One sign: “Become Ungovernable.”

Become ungovernable sounds pretty close to the party’s modus operandi for Donald Trump—before he gave that speech.

Congressional Democrats have two options now. Option one is to stay the course of mass resistance. This option assumes that Tuesday evening’s President Trump will revert soon to Mr. T, the combative street-fighter.

Maybe, but Hillary Clinton thought Americans would abandon Mr. T, and that failed because too many voters were looking past the personality to get the Trump policies on economic revival. It looks now as if that’s exactly what he is going to give them.

If Mr. Trump succeeds, even with only Republican votes, Democrats alienated from the progressive capture of the party could drift further away. The Trump coalition, which is arguably a political bubble, instead could last a generation.

Option two is get out of the streets and get in the game Mr. Trump offered them in his speech.

There’s no telling what the politically eclectic Mr. Trump might concede the Democrats. He’ll insist that his tax bill include Ivanka’s child-care proposals. The Tax Foundation estimates they’d cause a revenue loss of $500 billion. Democrats might ask for a tax to pay for it, like the Obama “Medicare surcharge” on the 1%.

Not to worry. More likely is that the Schumer-Warren Democrats will spend two years listening to the resurrected voice from their past: “Hell no, we won’t go.”

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Josh Kraushaar writes in the National Journal about the Democrats' problem with white voters.
But be­ing a white guy in today’s Demo­crat­ic Party has be­come a glar­ing polit­ic­al vul­ner­ab­il­ity.

Re­pub­lic­ans have well-pub­li­cized dif­fi­culties with iden­tity polit­ics. They fare poorly with Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans and Lati­nos, and need to make in­roads with these groups if they’re go­ing to be vi­able as the coun­try be­comes more di­verse.

But But­ti­gieg’s un­der­whelm­ing per­form­ance is part of a pat­tern in which Demo­crat­ic lead­ers face their own chal­lenge—how to ex­cite Obama’s co­ali­tion of mil­len­ni­als and non­white voters without play­ing iden­tity polit­ics. Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ives are now throw­ing Clin­ton run­ning mate Tim Kaine un­der the bus, lament­ing that he didn’t en­er­gize the party’s all-too-com­pla­cent base in last year’s elec­tion. On col­lege cam­puses across the coun­try, left-wing stu­dents are agit­at­ing to ex­cise the names of white male his­tor­ic­al fig­ures from cam­pus build­ings.

There are ex­cep­tions to the dy­nam­ic. Bernie Sanders was able to ex­cite white mil­len­ni­als in the primary cam­paign, but he didn’t gen­er­ate much en­thu­si­asm among Afric­an-Amer­ic­an Demo­crats. Sen. Al Franken’s celebrity could put him in a unique po­s­i­tion, if he chose to run for pres­id­ent. But these out­liers prove the point.

Kaine is a text­book ex­ample of an ac­com­plished lib­er­al swing-state sen­at­or whose prag­mat­ism and de­cency ut­terly failed to ex­cite core Demo­crat­ic voters in last year’s pres­id­en­tial elec­tion. Even with an im­press­ive civil-rights re­cord and flu­ency in Span­ish, he didn’t help Clin­ton at­tract the party’s base of young, non­white voters to the polls. One top Clin­ton ad­viser, who re­ques­ted an­onym­ity to can­didly as­sess the elec­tion, told Na­tion­al Journ­al that pick­ing Kaine as her run­ning mate was a ma­jor blun­der be­cause he didn’t of­fer any­thing to a rest­ive base.
Of course, the Republicans have their own problems attracting minority voters, but too often experts focus on only half the demographic disparities. It reminds me of how the pundits all focused on the Republicans' problems with some voters and a gender gap in the 1980s, while ignoring that Democrats had a problem with male voters.

Here's a name from the past - Miguel Estrada, the promising lawyer whom George W. Bush had nominated in 2001 for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The Democrats filibustered his nomination because they were afraid that Bush would then nominate him for the Supreme Court and be able to say that a Republican had nominated the first Hispanic immigrant to the Supreme Court. The Democrats' excuse-making was particularly dishonest.
Democrats said publicly that they needed more information about Estrada. Schumer described the litigator as "a stealth missile—with a nose cone—coming out of the right wing's deepest silo." Liberals argued that they needed access to confidential documents from the Justice Department about Estrada in order to evaluate his record.

A brilliant political strategy, the request was specious legally. In fact, seven former solicitor generals wrote on Estrada's behalf, telling Democrats that unsealing Estrada's record would harm the Justice Department's ability "to defend vigorously the United States' litigation interests."
We know what the motives of the Democrats were because of a strategic leak.
In purloined emails that were later leaked to the press, an aide to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin explained to his boss that strategists had "identified Miguel Estrada (D.C. Circuit) as especially dangerous, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment." Afraid of that possibility, Schumer kept filibustering.
Can you imagine the outrage in the media if such a tactic had been leaked about Republicans trying to deny a Hispanic a seat on the federal bench? Instead, this is a little-known story that only conservatives remember. Well, Miguel Estrada hasn't forgotten. There are rumors that Trump wants him to be Solicitor General. Well, his rejection of that position demonstrates that he remembers the sleazy behavior of the Democrats.
In a statement emailed to The National Law Journal, Estrada said, “I would never accept a job that requires Senate confirmation or, for that matter, willingly place myself in any situation (e.g., a hearing room) in which convention requires that I be civil to Chuck Schumer.”

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Adam Millsap writes at Forbes writes about the ridiculous requirements that government requires for getting licensed for so many professions. The restrictions usually take the form of costly training requirements that result in state-approved certification, and the occupations impacted include some that may surprise you: hair stylists, auctioneers, opticians, morticians, barbers and interior designers to name a few. The chart below from my colleagues at Mercatus depicts the average time and money costs levied on workers in order to get a license for several different occupations.
The restrictions usually take the form of costly training requirements that result in state-approved certification, and the occupations impacted include some that may surprise you: hair stylists, auctioneers, opticians, morticians, barbers and interior designers to name a few. The chart below from my colleagues at Mercatus depicts the average time and money costs levied on workers in order to get a license for several different occupations.

That's just ridiculous to require around 400 hours to become a barber. Or about 100 hours to be a manicurist. The only reason to have such burdensome requirements is to protect those barbers and manicurists who want to cut down on the competition. We don't need a modern-day guild system. Millsap quotes from a Brookings study on "Reforming Occupational Licensing Policies."
Economic studies have found little impact of occupational licensing on service quality in occupations that are not widely licensed; even in occupations that are widely licensed, studies have found few impacts of tougher requirements for licensing on health measures or quality outcomes.
These licensing regulations often burden those people who are struggling to make it economically. But, hey, why worry about that when lawmakers can give those who already have the licenses the added benefit of lowered competition.

Darya Safai, a Belgian-Iranian women’s rights activist, chastises the feminists of the West who ignore their sisters in the Middle East.
Dorsa Derakhshani may be today’s bravest feminist. As the 18-year-old Iranian chess grandmaster competed at a January tournament in Gibraltar, she refused to don a hijab, in defiance of her country’s Islamic authorities. She was later removed from the national team. Her 15-year-old brother, Borna, was also booted, for facing off against an Israeli chess player.

It would be nice to report that Western feminists rallied to Ms. Derakhshani’s defense, but they didn’t. America’s liberal feminists have been busy planning a “Day Without a Woman” to protest President Trump’s alleged misogyny.

In Iran, the Interior Ministry investigates more than a million women every year for refusing to cover their heads. In 2014 several bareheaded young Iranian women posted a video of themselves dancing and singing to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.” They were arrested for “hurting public chastity” and sentenced to a year in prison and 91 lashes. (The sentences were suspended contingent on three years of good behavior.)

Feminists and progressives have a habit of ignoring Islamism’s female victims, preferring to focus on phantom reports of Islamophobia in the West. Enormous attention has been paid to “burqa bans” in European countries. But how many readers have heard of Ms. Derakhshani?

Sweden claims it has a “feminist foreign policy,” yet during an official trip to Iran last month several female cabinet members covered their heads. How will Iranian women escape Islamism’s chokehold if European feminists submissively bow to men who refuse even to shake a woman’s hand?

Days before that state visit, an Islamic court in Iran’s Lorestan Province sentenced a man and woman to death by stoning for adultery. The Swedish feminists issued nary a peep in protest of this gross violation of human rights.

In the guise of cultural relativism, Western feminism appears to have evolved into a new kind of racism. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems not to apply to women in certain Islamic countries.

Yet Western moral preening never ends. Also days before the state visit, Sweden’s deputy prime minister, Isabella Lövin, publicized a picture of herself signing a decree as seven female officials stood behind her desk. It was meant as a parody of Mr. Trump’s all-male signing ceremonies. Why are Sweden’s officials so agitated by America’s mouthy president yet so taciturn about Iran’s brutal Islamists? Why should his machismo concern them more than millions of oppressed and debased women?

You won’t get answers to these questions from progressives on either side of the Atlantic. A prime example is Linda Sarsour. Born in Brooklyn to Palestinian parents, she styles herself a leader of the anti-Trump movement. In 2014 she tweeted: “I live my life under Sharia law everyday.”

Such women will never stand up for the basic rights of their counterparts in Muslim countries. Such women don’t deserve to call themselves feminists. That’s an honor that rightly belongs to the likes of Dorsa Derakhshani.