Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Cruising the Web

"Responsibility" just doesn't mean what it used to. A prime example is Hillary Clinton's statement that she takes "absolute personal responsibility" for her election loss.
In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Clinton seemed to wobble between taking personal responsibility and blaming exterior forces. "Of course I take absolute personal responsibility. I was the candidate. I was the person on the ballot"
Well, that is all very nice but then she immediately added in whom she blames for her loss.
"I was on the way to winning before a combination of [James] Comey's letter on Oct. 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people inclined to vote for me but got scared off."

Clinton concluded: "Did we make mistakes? Of course we did. Did I make mistakes? Oh my gosh, yes, you'll read my confession and my request for absolution. But the reason why I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last 10 days."
I guess it was James Comey that led her to put a private server in her basement and break the law about keeping documents secure and then mislead the American people about it. And I guess it was WIkiLeaks that led her and the rest of her family to leverage her position as Secretary of State to funnel donations into their own pockets and their Foundation. And both of them probably forced her to call Trump's supporters "deplorables."

Greg Sargent writes in the Washington Post
about polling done by Democratic pollsters looking into voters who had voted for Barack Obama and then switched to vote for Donald Trump. Their results should concern Democrats.
One finding from the polling stands out: A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. I was also permitted to view video of some focus group activity, which showed Obama-Trump voters offering sharp criticism of Democrats on the economy.
Many of these Obama-Trump voters said that their own incomes are shrinking and not keeping up with the cost of inflation. And then there is this statistic.
42 percent of Obama-Trump voters said congressional Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy, vs. only 21 percent of them who said the same about Trump. (Forty percent say that about congressional Republicans.) A total of 77 percent of Obama-Trump voters said Trump’s policies will favor some mix of all other classes (middle class, poor, all equally), while a total of 58 percent said that about congressional Democrats.
Of course, those results aren't any better for congressional Republicans, but Democrats are so used to portraying Republicans as the friends of the wealthy that this result must shock them.
Skepticism about the Democratic Party was echoed rather forcefully in the focus groups that I watched. In one, Obama-Trump voters were asked what Democrats stand for today and gave answers such as these:

“The one percent.”

“The status quo.”

“They’re for the party. Themselves and the party.”

One woman, asked whether the Democratic Party is for people like her, flatly declared: “Nope.”
However, if Trump doesn't have any success on economic policy and such voters don't see things improving in their own lives by 2020, he can kiss any hope of reelection good-bye.

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The WSJ provides some clarity on the modest gains for Republicans in the budget deal. It's not quite as bad as some are depicting it and it's not as great as Trump would like us to believe. It's a compromise and, as in most compromises, everyone is somewhat unhappy. Mostly, what it does is preserve the status quo - not something either Trump or the GOP campaigned on. As the WSJ says, it was a victory for government as usual. And that's not really something to cheer for.
The $1 trillion agreement to fund the government through the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30 is essentially a modest trade: Republicans got a boost in defense spending and a few policy riders, while Democrats got money for some domestic priorities. The agreement provides $15 billion in supplemental defense spending, which is overdue, even if that is only half of President Trump’s military request. The deal does not include Mr. Trump’s proposed cuts to the federal bureaucracy.

Republicans are right that the bill finally breaks the Obama -era rule that every defense dollar be matched by a domestic-spending dollar. Mr. Obama held the military hostage to his domestic agenda, and some Democrats wanted this damaging parity to continue as a price of their votes in the Senate. The GOP made clear this was a nonstarter, which is at least a down payment against military decline.

Democrats are crowing that they killed scores of Republican policy and spending “poison pills” and also won money for their priorities. They blocked funding for Mr. Trump’s border wall, though Republicans included some $12 billion for border and customs security. Democrats got an increase in National Institutes of Health spending, though many Republicans also supported that. Despite their claims, Democrats did not “preserve” funding for Planned Parenthood. The bill contains no direct dollars for that group, but rather funds grants that will be issued by Health and Human Services, which is unlikely to approve any for the controversial abortion provider.

Most of the domestic funding increases and decreases are GOP priorities. The bill contains $45 million to fund three more years of Washington, D.C.’s popular school voucher program, as well as money for western wildfire fighting and disaster-related repairs at NASA.

Conversely, the bill zeroes out dollars to the international Green Climate Fund (set up as part of the Paris climate accord), and it rescinds, consolidates or terminates more than 150 federal programs or initiatives, including such high priorities as the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation or the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program. The bill cuts $81 million from the Environmental Protection Agency, returning it to 2009 levels.

The bill also continues the GOP deregulation drive. In particular, the bill forbids the IRS from spending to issue regulations that would change political standards for nonprofit social-welfare organizations, and it bars the Securities and Exchange Commission from issuing rules that require corporations to disclose political contributions. It also ends the federal attempt to regulate lead in ammunition or fishing tackle—a particular sore point with hunters and rural Americans.
However, as National Review writes, there is a lot to dislike in the bill.
It is noteworthy for what it does not include: namely, most of Donald Trump’s and Republicans’ recent campaign promises. The bill does not defund Planned Parenthood. It does not include any of the president’s deep cuts to domestic agencies. Public broadcasting is funded at current levels. The National Endowment for the Arts’ budget is increased. There’s even funding for California’s high-speed rail.

So what did Republicans get? As has been widely reported, the bill does not fund the president’s border wall. Instead, it provides $1.5 billion for border-security improvements, such as new technology and repairs to existing infrastructure. Inasmuch as the border wall was oversold as a solution to illegal border crossings, that may be a decent trade, but there is no indication that these measures at the border will be accompanied by financing for more-aggressive interior enforcement. Indeed, the $1.5 billion cannot be used to hire additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
The bill does provide $15 billion for defense spending and $10 billion for the overseas contingency fund so that is one thing that Republicans had campaigned on and they didn't have to match it with increases in domestic spending as Obama had insisted.
Presumably, Republican leadership decided that, since they’ll be negotiating another budget in September, they should keep their powder dry for the time being.

But Republicans have a tendency to keep their powder dry indefinitely, and it’s hard to imagine a different outcome in future negotiations. After all, Republican voters supposedly elected a “fighter,” yet neither the president nor the Republican leadership seem to have fought for much of anything in this round.

Given that there are some House Republicans who won't vote for any spending bill and the Democrats can filibuster a bill they don't like and threaten a shutdown, the GOP leadership has to work to get a compromise with the Democrats. The WSJ recommends a return to the way the budget is supposed to be made in regular order going through the appropriations committees instead of trying to craft some giant omnibus bill that covers the entire government.
Republicans need to get back to the business of passing the 12 separate appropriations bills, so Congress can debate programs and set priorities with more deliberation than a giant catch-all bill that no one has time to read. If Democrats balk, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should consider ditching the filibuster for appropriations. These giant spending bills are a favor to those who want giant government.
I'm not so sure that getting rid of the filibuster for budgets is a great answer. Like Harry Reid's maneuver on nominations, it could come back to bite Republicans one day if the Democrats have control and want to jack up spending on their priorities. The filibuster guarantees that what has to pass will be a compromise - that means more budgets as usual and government as usual. But that might be marginally better than Democratic budgets passed without any input from Republicans. And the GOP can't guarantee to always hold the White House and both houses of Congress.

For all those barnburners in the conservative movement who would have preferred a government shutdown, and argued that the Democrats would have gotten the blame, Ramesh Ponnuru explains why the Republicans will always get the blame for a shutdown.
I still think presidents have an advantage in winning shutdown fights with Congress. But Democrats have a bigger advantage over Republicans.

That advantage has three sources. One is the media’s liberalism. A second is the public’s association of Republicans with anti-government sentiment: If someone has shut down the government, the enemies of government are the people you’d expect to be responsible. A third is that in every shutdown fight I have ever seen, some Republicans cannot resist saying that their party should bring on a shutdown, predicting that nobody will notice it, and making other comments that encourage the media and the public to blame them. President Trump has played that role this time.

In this case, there’s another factor: Republicans have the White House and a majority in both houses of Congress. Of course they would get blamed for a shutdown.
Given the situation in Congress where the minority party can filibuster any budget they don't like, the Democrats will always have something to say about what passes. It's a shame that politicians on the right insist on campaigning as if the realities of what is today's legislative process don't exist. They keep promising more to their voters and thus guarantee that their supporters are continually angry and disappointed in them.

Kyle Sammin writes at The Federalist that the District Court decision striking down Trump's executive order was "a bad ruling about a bad policy, but still good law" because it preserves separation of powers and strengthens federalism.
No one doubts that the federal government has jurisdiction over immigration. Whether they can force the states to help them enforce immigration laws is another matter. In Printz v. United States in 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the Tenth Amendment barred the federal government from requiring state employees to enforce federal firearms background check laws.

This is exactly what many sanctuary city opponents prescribe as the cure: forcing state and local law enforcement to apply federal i igration laws. As in the Printz case, this is contrary to the idea of federalism and local control of government. The local jurisdictions challenging Trump’s executive order do not seek to nullify the federal authority on the subject; they merely object to Washington’s right to conscript their employees to enforce it.

The best solution would be for states to voluntarily tip off the feds to criminals in their midst. But in jurisdictions where the local governments value virtue signaling more than their citizens’ safety, the answer is for Washington to hire more enforcement officers and do the job themselves.

If Congress is not willing to appropriate the funds for that, it should signal to voters that they are not serious about solving the problem they talk so much about. Congress and the Trump administration have properly identified sanctuary cities as something that needs to be fixed. Now they must put their money where their mouths are, while staying within the law.
Conservatives were very happy with the Printz decision and used to advocate for New Federalism in which power would devolve from the federal government to the states. We used to criticize Obama for expanding presidential powers beyond what the text of laws actually says. That shouldn't change just because there is an ostensible Republican in the White House. I guess it depends what the meaning of "responsibility" is. She demonstrates once again what about her was so unlikable.

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Oren Cass has a very provocative cover story at National Review titled "Climate-Change Activists Are the Real Science Deniers." First he refutes the claim that 97% of scientists agree on the dangers of climate change.
Only half of the economists surveyed by NYU’s Institute for Policy Integrity in 2015 believed “immediate and drastic action is necessary” on climate change; only 56 percent said that “if nothing is done to limit climate change in the future” it would be a “very serious” problem for the United States; only 41 percent believed “climate change is already having a negative effect on the global economy.”
He points out that the focus has shifted from the science of climate change to what public policies should be adopted. Activists would rather talk about denialism than talk about the parameters of proposed policies. They would rather rant about "denialism" because they are more concerned with pushing through their agenda and don't want to allow room for debate.
Statements about climate change are no longer being policed for their accuracy, but rather for the degree to which they help or harm the activist agenda. The Atlantic explains that “the new climate denial is like the old climate denial” because “both are excuses for inaction.” Why didn’t Sanders ask Pruitt the obvious follow-ups: “Do you see that lack of precision as relevant to the policy choices facing us?” or “Of course, science is always subject to imprecision, do you believe we should take action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions?” Sanders didn’t ask these questions because he had no interest in discussing climate policy, where his own ideas make no sense (including, for instance, banning nuclear power and “bringing climate deniers to justice”). His position rests on the fiction that scientists unanimously agree, and that is where he must make his stand.

Pruitt’s emphasis on the difficulty of measuring, “with precision, the degree of human activity’s impact” also crosses a red line for activists, because the precision with which climate models can describe what is happening links directly to the precision with which they can describe what will happen. If scientists do not know exactly how the climate system is behaving now, we might accord less weight to their projections into the distant future.
Even though the IPCC estimated a wide range in its predictions, activists deny that there is any such doubt.
But as the IPCC emphasizes, the range for future projections remains enormous. The central question is “climate sensitivity” — the amount of warming that accompanies a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As of its Fifth Assessment Report in 2013, the IPCC could estimate only that this sensitivity is somewhere between 1.5 and 4.5°C. Nor is science narrowing that range. The 2013 assessment actually widened it on the low end, from a 2.0–4.5°C range in the prior assessment. And remember, for any specific level of warming, forecasts vary widely on the subsequent environmental and economic implications.

At least one might assume that reasonable minds could be allowed to differ on the ultimate question of how well society is likely to cope with the effects of climate change — a political, social, and economic question several degrees removed from anything resembling a scientific consensus. Not so.
Activist writers want to reject any acknowledgement of such uncertainty. Their whole pitch for policy changes relies on their absolute certainty and the bogus "97% consensus" number. They need to portray anyone who doesn't endorse their policy choices as deniers.
For now, though, navigating the climate debate will require translating the phrase “climate denier” to mean “anyone unsympathetic to the most aggressive activists’ claims.” This apparently includes anyone who acknowledges meaningful uncertainty in climate models, adopts a less-than-catastrophic outlook about the consequences of future warming, or opposes any facet of the activist policy agenda. The activists will be identifiable as the small group continuing to shout “Denier!” The “deniers” will be identifiable as everyone else.

Holman W. Jenkins looks back on how reporters on the climate went from agreeing that there were uncertainties in projections on the climate to insisting that the data provide absolute certainty.
In the 1980s, when climate alarms were first being widely sounded, reporters understood the speculative basis of computer models. We all said to ourselves: Well, in 30 years we’ll certainly have the data to know for sure which model forecasts are valid.

Thirty years later, the data haven’t answered the question. The 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, voice of climate orthodoxy, is cited for its claim, with 95% confidence, that humans are responsible for at least half the warming between 1951 and 2010.

Look closely. This is an estimate of the reliability of an estimate. It lacks the most important conjunction in science: “because”—as in “We believe X because of Y.”

Not that the IPCC fails to offer a “because” in footnotes. It turns out this estimate is largely an estimate of how much man-made warming should have taken place if the models used to forecast future warming are broadly correct.

The IPCC has a bad reputation among conservatives for some of its press-release activities, but the reports themselves are basically numbing testimonies to how seriously scientists take their work. “If our models are reliable, then X is true” is a perfectly valid scientific statement. Only leaving out the prefix, as the media routinely does, makes it deceptive.

We don’t know what the IPCC’s next assessment report, due in 2021, will say on this vital point, known as climate sensitivity. But in 2013 it widened the range of uncertainty, and in the direction of less warming. Its current estimate is now identical to that of the 1979 Charney Report. On the key question, then, there has been no progress in 38 years.

For journalists, the climate beat has been singularly unrewarding. It has consisted of waiting for an answer that doesn’t come. By now, thanks to retirements and the mortality tables, the beat’s originators are mostly gone. The job has passed into hands of reporters who don’t even bother to feign interest in science—who think the magic word “consensus” is all the support they need for any climate claim they care to make.

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John Kass writes at the Chicago Tribune
that we have been told for years that threats to our liberties would come from the right.
Thhe lie we were told as kids was this: The end of American liberty would come at the hands of the political right.

Conservatives would take away our right to speak our minds, and use the power of government to silence dissent. The right would intimidate our teachers and professors, and coerce the young.

And then, with the universities in thrall, with control of the apparatus of the state (and the education bureaucracy), the right would have dominion over a once-free people.
But the threats to free-thinking now is coming from the left.
But the lie is obvious now, isn't it?

Because it is not conservatives who coerced today's young people or made them afraid of ideas that challenge them. Conservatives did not shame people into silence, or send thugs out on college campuses to beat down those who wanted to speak.

The left did all that.

It's there in front of you, the thuggish mobs of the left killing free speech at American universities. The thugs call themselves antifas, for anti-fascists.

They beat people up and break things and set fires and intimidate. These are not anti-fascists. These are fascists. This is what fascists do.

Some wear masks to cover their faces, or hide bike locks in scarves and swing them at the heads of any who disagree. They're all about intimidation. And intimidation on a national scale, so angry and violent, is a fascist thing of the left.

Many liberals — journalists, senators, television comedians and others — are properly appalled at what their political children, born of the hard left, have done. Many liberals have warned about this, and so many must wince as the fruits of their labor turn bitter in their mouths.

But they are also complicit, because they've taken advantage of the anger and energy of this hard left fascism to leverage their own politics. And Democratic operatives still hope to use this emotional frenzy and muscle for political gain in the next elections....

The American university is where intellectuals with dissenting views are silenced — even physically assaulted — by mobs. And administrators sit by and watch, afraid to anger those mobs.

What has been the general liberal response to Americans who insist on speaking after being threatened?

Annoyance. The response sounds like this: Hush. Go away. Come back later when it's quiet. Why cause trouble? Shhh.
What is truly scary is how more and more people are starting to believe that the First Amendment goes too far.
Surveys suggest that many young Americans think the First Amendment should be amended so as to not allow offensive speech. So the students have learned their lessons well.

All speech challenging the status quo is offensive — to the establishment. And free speech is what American liberty is about.

Unless, of course, you're of the hard left, and can hunt free speech at American universities and crush it.

That's not fiction. That's not fantasy. And it is not a lie. It's happening now, in the United States.
I've heard high school students argue that universities should be able to punish students and ban speech that is offensive to others. They're rather vague at who gets to determine which speech is offensive, but they are worried that students won't be able to succeed in college if they have to hear speech that is personally derogatory.