Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cruising the Web

Bari Weiss, a staff editor for the NYT explains why she is glad that that Chicago gay march banned the carrying of a rainbow flag with the Star of David. By doing so they exposed the inherent ugliness of intersectionality.
Well, in practice, intersectionality functions as kind of caste system, in which people are judged according to how much their particular caste has suffered throughout history. Victimhood, in the intersectional way of seeing the world, is akin to sainthood; power and privilege are profane.

By that hierarchy, you might imagine that the Jewish people — enduring yet another wave of anti-Semitism here and abroad — should be registered as victims. Not quite.

Why? Largely because of Israel, the Jewish state, which today’s progressives see only as a vehicle for oppression of the Palestinians — no matter that Israel has repeatedly sought to meet Palestinian claims with peaceful compromise, and no matter that progressives hold no other country to the same standard. China may brutalize Buddhists in Tibet and Muslims in Xinjiang, while denying basic rights to the rest of its 1.3 billion citizens, but “woke” activists pushing intersectionality keep mum on all that.
One of the women excluded couldn't understand why, as a Jew, she wasn't welcome at the Dyke March.
She isn’t. Because though intersectionality cloaks itself in the garb of humanism, it takes a Manichaean view of life in which there can only be oppressors and oppressed. To be a Jewish dyke, let alone one who deigns to support Israel, is a categorical impossibility, oppressor and oppressed in the same person.

That’s why the march organizers and their sympathizers are now trying to smear Ms. Grauer as some sort of right-wing provocateur. Their evidence: She works at an organization called A Wider Bridge, which connects the L.G.B.T.Q. Jewish community in America with the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Israel. The organizers are also making the spurious claim that the Jewish star is necessarily a symbol of Zionist oppression — a breathtaking claim to anyone who has ever seen a picture of a Jew forced to wear a yellow one under the Nazis.
Weis argues that these supposed progressive gays are staking out a position in which Jews are not welcome.
That kind of choice would have been familiar to previous generations of left-wing Jews, particularly those in Europe, who felt the tug between their ethnic heritage and their “internationalist” ideological sympathies. But this is the United States. Here, progressives are supposed to be comfortable with the idea of hyphenated identities and overlapping ethnic, sexual and political affinities. Since when did a politics that celebrates choice — and choices — devolve into a requirement of being forced to choose?

Jews on the left, particularly in recent years, have attempted to square this growing discomfort by becoming more anti-Israel. But if history has taught the Jews anything it’s that this kind of contortion never ends well.

It may be wrong to read too much into an ugly incident at a single march, but Jews should take what happened in Chicago as a lesson that they might not be as welcome among progressives as they might imagine. That’s a warning for which to be grateful, even as it is a reminder that anti-Semitism remains as much a problem on the far-left as it is on the alt-right.
And I'm still amazed that these gay marchers have put themselves on the side of countries and peoples who outlaw and persecute gays. Do they think that a gay march would be welcome in the Gaza Strip or West Bank? Or anywhere besides Israel in the Middle East? Why don't they march to support Arab gays instead of banning Jewish gays who dare to carry the Star of David?

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Trump likes to portray himself as the smartest guy on every subject. Responding to criticism that he doesn't really understand the health care bills the GOP House and Senate have written, he tweeted praising his knowledge of the issue. Oh, please. The GOP senators who met with him on Tuesday were not so impressed.
A senator who supports the bill left the meeting at the White House with a sense that the president did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan — and seemed especially confused when a moderate Republican complained that opponents of the bill would cast it as a massive tax break for the wealthy, according to an aide who received a detailed readout of the exchange.

Mr. Trump said he planned to tackle tax reform later, ignoring the repeal’s tax implications, the staff member added.
The word is that they would rather deal with Mike Pence, probably because he has a more complete understanding of the issues involved. The President seems to care more about claiming a victory than what the actual bill might contain.
When asked if the president understood or had a solid grasp on the important facets of the Senate or House incarnations of repeal-and-replace, one official—who who works closely with the president on health-care policy, replied initially with a few moments of light chuckling—before answering “not to my knowledge.”
“The president understands winning,” another official noted, adding a stuck-out-tongue emoji to the correspondence.

This notion was once again reinforced by the president’s own words this week. On Wednesday, he told reporters that "we're going to have a big surprise…a great, great surprise" regarding health care, and has routinely spoke of finally "winning" and "victory" at last for Republicans on gutting Obamacare.

The fact that President Trump is about as far from a policy wonk as you can get in politics isn’t some new revelation. Few involved in the president’s political rise in the Republican Party, or his current administration, will be shocked to hear that Trump is disengaged with, or straight-up bored by, policy minutiae.

One former senior Trump campaign aide recalled to The Daily Beast several instances throughout 2016 when the Republican presidential contender would privately appear to confuse Medicaid and Medicare, and the functions and purposes of each. He would at times conflate to the two and had to be reminded of which one was which.

"There would be times when he would describe what was clearly Medicare...but say Medicaid, and when we pointed that out, he would say, 'That's what I said, Medicare and Medicaid,'" the source recounted.

Sometimes Trump would be on the ball regarding the key distinctions—and sometimes he’d conspicuously fall off.

The former aide added that campaign staff would move on instead of lecturing or drilling in the policy specifics with Trump because those details weren’t important to the debate prep or his rallies, and that no one wanted to risk making him look "dumb."
I'm always amazed at these aides who are willing to diss him to the media. My 10th graders also don't know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, but I have a simple mnemonic that seems to work splendidly. I offer it up for the President. Medicare is for old people like their grandparents whom they "care" about. Medicaid is for poor people whom they might not personally care about but whom they'd like to "aid."

Damon Linker examines the theory that liberals are the "country's true silent majority" and if only a Democratic candidate ran as a true progressive that candidate could win whether it be Hillary Clinton or Joe Ossoff.
The most recent bit of such evidence is an important study based on a survey of voters in the 2016 election. It shows that while a good number of people who voted for Trump may well be reachable by progressives on economic issues, many of them are also likely to be put off by the left's uniform hostility to any kind of cultural conservatism, whether on social/religious issues or immigration. Apparently, the overwhelming majority of voters on the left combine economic progressivism with strong support for open borders and no-questions-asked abortion-on-demand — a mixture of positions that is likely to remain a deal-breaker for many middle-of-the-road Americans who don't already vote for liberals.

This would seem to imply that the most electorally formidable leftist candidate would combine Bernie Sanders' economic populism with modest immigration restrictions (Socialism for Citizens) and Bill-Clinton-style moderation on social issues (keeping abortion "safe, legal, and rare"). But given the attachment of left-leaning voters to strongly progressive positions on these social issues, a candidate who staked out such a socially moderate position and made gains among Trump voters could well inspire otherwise motivated Hillary Clinton voters to stay home in 2018 and 2020.

The left appears to be stuck in a zero-sum trap, maxed out on votes and falling just shy of what it needs to prevail in national elections.
I don't think that the Democratic Party of today is ready to welcome an economically progressive, socially conservative candidate. In 2006, they engineered victory in both the House and Senate races by finding candidates like that who could win in red districts and states.

While the left is outraged over how Republicans successfully gerrymandered the states where they had control, let's not pretend that such gerrymandering is limited to Republicans. Both parties have been doing it and both parties scream bloody murder when the other party does it to them. I sure hope the Supreme Court, when it hears the case it took on Wisconsin's gerrymandering, that it will pay attention to this partisan history. For example, Maryland Democrats are quite proud of their successful gerrymandering.
In spring 2011, the six Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegations tasked Eric Hawkins with two key jobs: Draw new district lines that get us re-elected easily for another five terms, while also taking direct aim at the state’s last two Republicans.

Behind closed doors, Democratic insiders and high-ranking aides referred to it as “the 7-1 map.” Hawkins—an analyst at a Beltway data firm called NCEC Services—not only made it happen, but imagined an 8-0 map that might have shut Republicans out of power altogether. That, however, would have required spreading Democratic voters a little too thin and made some incumbents slightly less safe; these congressmen were partisans, sure, but they were also reluctant to risk their own seats.

New court depositions and previously unseen emails uncover just how determined Maryland Democrats were to take a seat from the Republicans and knock 10-term veteran Roscoe Bartlett—an idiosyncratic conservative who after losing his seat retired off the grid in the mountains of West Virginia, issuing dire warnings about the vulnerability of our power grid—out of office. They also reveal the partisanship with which Democrats approached redistricting in Maryland: As former governor and 2016 Democratic presidential primary candidate Martin O’Malley explains, he and other Democrats wanted to use their party’s control of the governor’s office to secure a 7-1 majority.

“Yes,” said O’Malley, in a deposition. “Part of my intent was to create a map that, all things being legal and equal, would, nonetheless, be more likely to elect more Democrats rather than less.”
Both sides do this. And they always have. It's no surprise. Sure, it would be wonderful if every state used truly independent commissions, but that is constitutionally a choice that states get to make. With the powerful computers we now have, it would be possible to feed all the data into a computer and then program it to design districts that are compact, contiguous, and respect communities of interest, as the Supreme Court has said should be the criteria, and then step back and adopt what the computer spits out. But legislators aren't going to give up their partisan concerns and acting as partisans is not unconstitutional, just unfortunate.

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I wonder how normal this is for either party.
A total of 30 Republican members of Congress have either been attacked or revealed that they were the victim of a death threat since the beginning of May.

Donald L. Luskin argues all the reasons for getting rid of the federal deduction for state and local taxes (SALT).
First, it’s hard for Democrats to argue that the tax reductions in Mr. Trump’s plan are budget-busters when killing the SALT deduction would add $1.3 trillion to federal coffers over a decade, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That would pay for a lot of personal and business tax cuts, even without factoring in the faster growth that could pay for those cuts over time.

Second, Democrats can’t say Mr. Trump’s plan isn’t real reform. The SALT deduction is a distortive subsidy to states. It encourages them to raise taxes, because voters can deduct those higher taxes from their federal tax bill.

Third, there’s little in this for red states, because they generally have lower tax rates to begin with. Therefore, according to the Internal Revenue Service, blue states with higher tax rates receive about two-thirds of this break. In fact, half of the $100 billion tax break goes to six deep-blue states: California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Democrats in favor of preserving the SALT deduction are simply self-interested.

Fourth, eliminating the SALT deduction makes it harder for Democrats to label the Trump tax reforms “a sop to the rich.” It mainly applies to higher-earning taxpayers who itemize deductions, so the richest 20% of taxpayers get 14 times the benefit from it enjoyed by the poorest 20%, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

What scares Democrats most, however, is that the GOP can take away the SALT deduction—and achieve anything on taxes—without a single Democratic vote in the Congress.
Go fo! Why should the rest of the country subsidize those six states? And those Democratic senators in red states up for reelection in 2018 probably don't want to defend having their constituents pay taxes to offset the deductions of wealth blue-staters?

Fivethirtyeight proves that basic rules of economics are still in effect.
As cities across the country pushed their minimum wages to untested heights in recent years, some economists began to ask: How high is too high?

Seattle, with its highest-in-the-country minimum wage,1 may have hit that limit.

In January 2016, Seattle’s minimum wage jumped from $11 an hour to $13 for large employers, the second big increase in less than a year. New research released Monday by a team of economists at the University of Washington suggests the wage hike may have come at a significant cost: The increase led to steep declines in employment for low-wage workers, and a drop in hours for those who kept their jobs. Crucially, the negative impact of lost jobs and hours more than offset the benefits of higher wages — on average, low-wage workers earned $125 per month less because of the higher wage, a small but significant decline.

Stephen Moore looks at the disaster that is Illinois's budget.
Last week, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan endorsed a $5 billion annual income tax hike. This would be the largest tax increase of any state in years. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has blocked new taxes for three years but is now under intense pressure from the Springfield political machine to agree to the revenue heist.

Anyone who thinks this soak-the-rich scheme will solve Illinois' long-term budget crisis should have their head examined. Illinois already ranks in the top three among the 50 states in state-local tax burden, so if raising taxes were any kind of solution here, the Land of Lincoln would be a Garden of Eden.

Instead, the state has been a financial basket case for years.

This is a state that is now $14.5 billion in arrears whose bonds have been downgraded to near-junk bond status, and that is losing its most valuable resource: its businesses and citizens. Small business contractors have to wait six months or more to get paid.
Residents and businesses that can have already left or are hoping to leave the state. With surrounding states having much lower tax levels, why would any business with choice, choose Illinois? If you move there, be prepared for the largest portion of the state's budget to go to pay for the generous pensions that the Democrats promised state employees.
The tax increase is a punt in dealing with the massive unfunded liabilities in its government pension system. According to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, Illinois' pension payments are the major contributor to spending growth. Following the recent credit downgrade, Moody's Investors Service cited the state's overwhelming pension debt level as a contributor to the poor credit rating and negative outlook. In November, the state reported having $130 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, but Moody's calculates that level of pension debt as twice as high, or $251 billion. A recent Hoover Institution analysis estimates Illinois' pension funding ratio to be 29 percent, the lowest level in the United States.

According to Donna Arduin, a former budget advisor to Gov. Rauner, if the pensions aren't curtailed, as much as 1 in 4 tax dollars in the state will soon not go to schools, roads, health care, or police and fire but to pension payments to retired employees -- many of whom no longer live in the state.
California and New York are following down the same path.

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This is scary and depressing.
More Russians consider Joseph Stalin the “most outstanding person” in world history than any other leader, according to a poll released Monday. Tied for second in the same survey is the man who has done more than anyone to restore the notorious Soviet dictator's reputation, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The poll by the Levada Center asked a representative sample of 1,600 Russians to name the “top 10 most outstanding people of all time and all nations.” It also compiled a list of all 20 names that received more than 6 percent of the vote.

Without prompting, 38 percent named Stalin, followed by Putin at 34 percent, in a tie with Alexander Pushkin, the renowned 19th-century poet often referred to as “the Shakespeare of Russia.”

Putin's 34 percent is his highest ranking on this list since he came to power 17 years ago. Stalin has actually slipped a few notches: He polled 42 percent in 2012, the first time he topped the survey of the world's most influential people, which has been conducted by Levada and its predecessors since 1989.
Think of the millions of his own citizens that Stalin is responsible for killing. Of course, Russians today probably don't know that history; students in the west are barely aware of it. Historians have a hard time coming up with a number for how many deaths Stalin's policies caused. The estimates range somewhere between 20 and 60 million.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the literary giant who wrote harrowingly about the Soviet gulag system, claimed the true number of Stalin’s victims might have been as high as 60 million.

Most other estimates from reputed scholars and historians tend to range from between 20 and 60 million.

In his book, “Unnatural Deaths in the U.S.S.R.: 1928-1954,” I.G. Dyadkin estimated that the USSR suffered 56 to 62 million "unnatural deaths" during that period, with 34 to 49 million directly linked to Stalin.

In “Europe A History,” British historian Norman Davies counted 50 million killed between 1924-53, excluding wartime casualties.

Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev, a Soviet politician and historian, estimated 35 million deaths.

Even some who have put out estimates based on research admit their calculations may be inadequate.

In his acclaimed book “The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties,” Anglo-American historian Robert Conquest said: “We get a figure of 20 million dead [under Stalin], which is almost certainly too low and might require an increase of 50 percent or so.”
And this is the man that 38$ list as the most outstanding of all people and all nations. No wonder that Putin, who has tried to ally himself with Stalin in the public's mind, ranks so high in this poll. The resurgence of Stalin's popularity is just amazing.
Several Russian cities have unveiled monuments to Stalin in recent months. A Levada poll released in May found that the number of Russians who consider Stalin's repressions to be “political crimes” has diminished from 51 percent in 2012 to 39 percent. The number of Russians who did not know anything about the repressions doubled over the same time from 6 percent to 13 percent.

Checking out the poll results, the only non-Russian figures wh ranked were Napoleon in 14th place with 9%, Einstein and Newton tied with 7% of the vote. And we think American students don't know any history!