Monday, July 17, 2017

Cruising the Web

What an amazing idea - letting Congress decide what a piece of legislation means. Betsy DeVos is going to ask Congress to clarify what Title IX means.
“There has been a lack of clarity,” DeVos told reporters Thursday afternoon. “This department is not going to make laws. It’s high time for Congress to look at a law that law that was passed in 1972 and address these issues and finally speak to them and clarify them."

This means she will defer to Congress to interpret and implement Title IX, an anti-sex discrimination statute passed by Congress in the 1970s—but reinterpreted by the Obama administration in repeated circumventions of Congress’s authority.

Title IX reads: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The Obama Education Department used Title IX to say that "sex" in the statute included gender identity and so meant that schools had to allow students to use the bathrooms for the gender they identified with. The Obama administration also twisted the meaning of Title IX in order to back up their "Dear Colleague" letter on sexual assault.

What a charming change for a bureaucrat leader to defer to Congress to figure out what the words of a law mean instead of twisting the meaning to mean whatever the secretary would like it to mean.
But Secretary DeVos’s call on Congress to rein in interpretations of Title IX’s essential noun would deliver more meaningful results. Guidance documents enforced by former OCR head Catherine Lhamon and her predecessor under President Obama claimed to “clarify” Title IX’s true intent. But because they sidestepped the legislative process, and even the notice-and-comment required for agency rules, OCR’s old guidances aren’t law at all. They might have been politically motivated, ill-considered in the absence of a legislative process that would have scrutinized their effects; and counterproductive in practice. Fortunately, they’re also impermanent. DeVos’s call for Congress to assert its authority—over a law passed by Congress in 1972—shows she’s more serious about Title IX than her predecessor. She’s asking for a lasting solution to its abuses.

Best Deals in Vitamins and Supplements

Interesting Finds at Amazon: Updated Daily

Spring Savings in Grocery and Gourmet Food

Home and Kitchen Markdowns

John Hinderaker has a post
of recommendations from policy think tanks on how the President and Secretary of Health and Human Services, without Congress, could take executive actions to improve health care. Since so much of the Obamacare law gave discretion to the executive branch to determine how the law would be implemented, it just takes administrative action to improve it. For example,
Section 1332 of the ACA allows states to apply to the Secretary of HHS for a State Innovation Waiver from several of the law’s health coverage requirements. With so many state insurance markets imploding as a result of the ACA’s requirements, the ability to waive at least some of the requirements is a critical tool states need to save their markets. Unfortunately, guidance issued in December 2015, contrary to the text and intent of the ACA, severely curtails what states can waive. This guidance should be rescinded and replaced with new guidance that gives states meaningful tools to strengthen their crumbling health insurance markets.

Mexico is finding out the benefits of allowing more of a free market.
When Mexico gambled on ending decades of state control of its energy industry, officials said they hoped the move would promote investment and give the country access to technical expertise. That wager now appears to be paying off.

The government began auctioning off rights two years ago to drill in parts of the Gulf of Mexico. On Tuesday, an international consortium of energy companies said they had discovered a large oil field, and another firm said it had discovered more oil than expected in a separate area.

The overhaul of the Mexican oil and gas sector in recent years eventually ended the state energy company’s seven-decade domestic monopoly on exploration and production. The aim was to arrest years of declining oil output, blamed on a slow-moving public sector that lacked the technology to exploit opportunities in deep-sea drilling, or shale oil and gas.

The two announcements on Tuesday appeared to suggest that Mexico’s strategy, which was met with criticism when it was first pushed through, was succeeding.

Tools and Home Improvement

Today’s Deals

Fashion Sales and Deals

Kay S. Hymowitz writes about
efforts by liberals to help Democrats get beyond their problems dealing with "deplorables." It's a tough sell.
These writers are engaging in healthy critical self-reflection, but in the course of describing the Democrats’ class dilemma, the liberal truth-tellers unwittingly show why a solution lies out of reach. They understate Democrats’ entanglement with the identity-politics Left, a group devoted to a narrative of American iniquity. Identity politics appeals to its core constituents through grievance and resentment, particularly toward white men. Consider some reactions to centrist Democrat John Osoff’s defeat in Georgia’s sixth district. “Maybe instead of trying to convince hateful white people, Dems should convince our base—ppl of color, women—to turn out,” feminist writer and Cosmopolitan political columnist Jill Filopovic tweeted afterward. “At some point we have to be willing to say that yes, lots of conservative voters are hateful and willing to embrace bigots.” Insightful as she is, even Williams assumes that all criticisms of the immigration status quo can be chalked up to “fear of brown people.”

No Democrat on the scene today possesses the Lincolnesque political skills to persuade liberal voters to give up their assumptions of white deplorability, endorse assimilation, or back traditional civics education. In the current environment, a Democratic civics curriculum would teach that American institutions are vehicles for the transmission of white supremacy and sexism, hardly a route to social cohesion. As for assimilation, Hispanic and bilingual-education advocacy organizations would threaten a revolt—and they’d only be the first to sound the alarm.
This might not matter for the Democrats. They may well ride an anti-Trump wave in 2018 and 2020. But eventually, the political pendulum will swing back and the Democrats might regret having written off the "deplorables."

If you hear screeching about cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts and how they endanger the arts in America, remember this story about the organization that gives out their money.
The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities is giving millions of taxpayer dollars to nonprofits with assets of over $1 billion., a transparency watchdog group, released a report this week highlighting egregious examples of arts funding going towards museums, universities, and nonprofit organizations that hardly need federal funding.

The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities issued $20.5 million in grants to "asset-rich" nonprofit groups with assets of $1 billion or more in 2016 alone....

The report highlighted numerous examples of arts funding that went to questionable projects.

The Borderlands Theater, which received $10,000 from the NEA in December for a play about going back in time to kill Christopher Columbus, also received funding for dance performances with a cactus.

"First, attendees stand or sit with a saguaro cactus for an hour in the middle of the desert," said. "Participants are encouraged to see what the cactus can teach them during this hour and share their experience on social media using the hashtag #IStandWithSaguaros."

The funding also went to a podcast on the cactus and a "cactus celebration" involving story, song, poem, and dance.

The Borderlands Theater's annual revenue is $228,461, and received $90,000 from the federal government since 2009.

The richest organization to receive taxpayer funding is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The museum has $4 billion in assets.

"Yet, the Met received $1.22 million in grants and contracts from the NFA-H (FY2009-FY2016). Calendar year 2016 was the biggest year of NFA-H grants to the Met, which received $551,028," said.

The Sundance Institute, Robert Redford's host organization for the Sundance Film Festival, has received $3.3 million in arts grants from the government since 2009. Sundance has annual revenues of $37.1 million.
If the people who attend such events really like them, they can donate the money to make up for cutting out federal grants. Or the organizations can use their own funds. If the federal money were unlimited, we could consider such grants, but it isn't. If we can't cut giving grants to million-dollar organizations, what can we cut?

Huffington Post has decided to go visit the heartland on a 23-city "road trip through middle America in a "Listen to America" tour. Having criticized the left for their unfamiliarity with the people who live in middle America so I applaud any efforts by those on the left to hear from the sorts of people they seem to usually regard as anthropological oddities. I'm not sure how much can be learned from driving a bus from city to city, but perhaps the HuffPo journalists will discover that people who live in red states are not as deplorable as leftists seem to think they are. Politico notes, however, that the journey isn't necessarily going to visit places that voted for Trump in any effort to figure out what those people think. THey seem to be forcusing on the parts of red states that voted for Hillary.
Though many of the cities the group is visiting voted for Hillary Clinton in last year’s election, all but two of the states went to Trump. But Polgreen says they’re not visiting “Trump country,” pointing to a reason for each city or state on the tour like an interesting community college system in Fort Wayne or Detroit’s large Arab-American population. Hillary Frey, HuffPost’s director of editorial strategy who came up with the bus tour idea, also pointed out that logistically it didn’t make sense to go to the corners of the country where the distance from one city to the next would be too far.

“We were basically looking at a pretty eclectic mix of communities that represent a lot of different facets of American life,” Polgreen said. "All of these ideological divisions [in the media] are confusing right now and for me it’s less about left or right — it’s who are you more oriented toward, more oriented to the interest of the wealthy and powerful or are you orientated toward the people who are not in the top 20 percent."
Salena Zito expresses what I was thinking as I read this - the media would do better to hire journalists from such areas so they get the benefit of insights from people who actually live in these areas rather than just motoring in for a day or two.
Salena Zito, a columnist for the New York Post and Washington Examiner who lives near Pittsburgh and rose to prominence last year through her reporting showing a clear path for Trump to win the presidency, said that real investment in local media by hiring reporters has the better payoff, though a listening tour can be an important step in understanding local issues and problems.

“The attempt is important. It’s a recognition that there needs to be a better understanding of different cultures in the country,” Zito said. “It depends on their approach. If it’s a lot of grandstanding associated with it, that might take away what their ultimate goal is, which is to have a better understanding of the people and culture outside of Washington and New York.”
It sounds like it's an expensive venture for HuffPo.
Two sources with knowledge of the tour said its total price tag could be near $1 million, which will come just weeks after the HuffPost newsroom was hit with some 39 layoffs as part of parent company Verizon Communications Inc.’s acquisition of Yahoo. A HuffPost spokesperson declined to comment on the cost of the tour, but Polgreen rejected the notion that the bus tour will suck up money that could be used for hiring more journalists.
Meanwhile, conservatives on Twitter are having a lot of fun making fun imagining the reports from Huffpo's journalists. Check out this thread #HuffPoInTheHeartland Some examples:

I was just working on my first unit for AP Government in which we'll be discussing the divisions within the country along partisan and ideological lines. The fact that conservatives imagine that this is how liberal journalists think is an example of how divided we are. But it's also funny.