Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cruising the Web

If you're like me, you probably knew little about Senator Kirsten Gillibrand until she started grandstanding on sexual harassment claims against Al Franken and Donald Trump. She's clearly maneuvering for the 2020 presidential election figuring that there will be another demand for a female New York senator. Michael Brendan Dougherty gives a little background and how she ran originally as a Blue Dog Democrat. And now she's flinging that away in order to cater to the more extreme leftist wing of the party.
This is quite the transformation for Gillibrand, who got her first lift into federal office when Chuck Schumer and other Democrats went looking for unconventional “moderates” after the 2004 election. Elected in 2006 from a rural upstate New York district, Gillibrand joined the Blue Dog coalition, gained a 100 percent rating from the NRA on gun rights, and earned some of the highest marks for any Democrat from groups that favor restricting immigration. She voted against a version of McCain’s “comprehensive reform” when it came into the House, denouncing amnesty. She talked about the biblical characters that inspired her politics. And she won a crushing reelection in 2008. Her elevation to the Senate by Democratic governor David Paterson was initially greeted as an affront.

“So now we have an N.R.A. handmaiden in Bobby Kennedy’s old seat?” asked Maureen Dowd. The Daily Beast complained that she was “a bizarro version of Sarah Palin.” But Chuck Schumer, a man whose knowledge of Democratic politics in New York should not be underestimated, assured the doubters, “Her views will evolve to reflect the whole state.” In fact, her evolution was so quick it made people upset and nervous.

Upon her elevation to the Senate, Gillibrand had originally told reporters that she kept two guns under her bed. After some laughter in the media at her “Annie Oakley” image-making, she explained that she was locking her rifles away, because of her young children. Congresswoman Gillibrand had sought to make permanent the Tiahrt amendments, which prohibited the federal government from sharing information on the firearms-trace database with anyone except law enforcement. One of Senator Gillibrand’s first acts was to request that Attorney General Eric Holder repeal the Tiahrt amendments.

Denounced as a “xenophobe” by activists, Gillibrand responded and embraced the DREAM Act. She has subsequently supported Obama’s executive amnesty (DACA) and co-sponsored the Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy (BRIDGE) Act....

Vogue was right to title its recent Gillibrand profile “In Hillary’s Footsteps,” because Gillibrand has mastered the same playbook as so many successful Democratic figures, like the Clintons, who get ahead. Play conservative locally, or in tough general elections, then become more liberal in high office. Be good to gun owners and religious people, and tough on the border. Then abandon all that later. Gillibrand’s two guns under her bed will be just as non-consequential as Obama’s belief that “God is involved” in marriage (therefore it can’t be extended to gays); Hillary’s opposition to driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants; and, I suspect, Justice Elena Kagan’s support of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Kagan’s White House memo advancing the position that religious liberty meant landlords could discriminate against gay or unmarried couples. That was all positioning. Sometimes you do what you have to do, especially when you want to be the first person that upwardly mobile white liberals think about when considering a political donation.

Republicans, having elected “converts” to the pro-life cause, most notably Donald Trump, will have little standing to criticize Gillibrand’s reinventions. They may even be baffled when, in a general election, she highlights all her former Blue Dog positions again.

But Trump’s tweeted charge that Senator Gillibrand “would do anything” to get his donations — that is, to get ahead — was a charge made by liberal Democrats first. She is winning them over and still attending Bible Studies on the Hill. I suspect she’ll be sitting on a formidable pile of cash soon. My early guess is she has a very good shot at succeeding Donald Trump as president. The lesson of American politics after 2016 is that longstanding convictions are for total suckers. So, yes, it is Kirsten Gillibrand’s moment.

John Rogers, a TV and film writer, has a magnificent tweet storm addressing those conspiracy theorists from the Roy Moore fever swamps who are spreading rumors that the Democrats bussed in black voters from Mississippi to vote illegally, despite Alabama's voter ID laws, for Doug Jones.Read the whole thread. Rogers attacks the idea from a purely logical position - how could they have gotten enough blacks with fake IDs onto enough buses to come into Alabama and vote. It really is well done, but I don't know if logic ever convinces the conspiracy-minded.

MEgan McArdle has some advice for both Democrats and Republicans after Alabama.
For Democrats, my advice is simple: Don’t get too excited. Yes, the schadenfreude is almost unbearably sweet. Yes, this will make it harder for Republicans to legislate next year. Yes, it will even make it easier for Democrats to retake the Senate in 2018. But the odds still favor Republicans, and Democrats are not going to hold onto Jones’ seat for very long. Moore was less popular in his state than a normal Republican before he was accused of being a child molester. Most of the Republican opponents in 2018 will not have such a political liability.

The second lesson is for the Trump-Moore faction of the Republican party: Your grievances with the party establishment may be justified, your decision to completely dismiss their political instincts is not. Next time they have concerns with nominating a guy who keeps getting kicked out of office because he thinks that he’s a law unto himself, maybe take them seriously.

Someone who doesn’t believe that the rules apply to him has a good chance of getting engulfed in a horrible scandal. There’s also a good chance that person will refuse to do the decent thing for the party when the scandal breaks.

The third lesson of Alabama is for the Republican party, both the establishment and the insurgents: Don’t overestimate the power of the insurgency.

Jon Gabriel explains
why all the panic over the FCC ending Net Neutrality is ridiculously overblown.
If President Trump is some kind of digital facist, he sure has a funny way of going about it.

His FCC chairman is trying to remove government from the Internet, returning it to those dark, authoritarian days of 30 months ago — you know, when pretty much every website, app and online service we use was created.

Bizarrely, these net neutrality alarmists are demanding that Trump maintain control of the Internet, planting his administration firmly between citizens and whatever content they want to view or create.

Even if Democrats were running the show in Washington, how could federal meddling improve the Internet? Do they want the Web run by the bureaucrats who spent $2 billion to build a health care website that didn't work? Do they want our privacy assured by those behind the National Security Agency?

Nevertheless, progressives insist that Trump regulate the Internet in the name of free speech. Perhaps he can do this between his tweets bashing the press.

Jason Riley takes on the attack
in an Associated Press look at charter schools that was quite negative and focused on how so many charter schools are overwhelmingly filled with minority students. Many civil rights activists who support charter schools reject the idea that minority children need white children around them in order to learn.
But Mr. Jeffries seemed even more taken aback by the premise of the AP story. To wit: the supposed importance of the role white students play in the education of black students. “There’s no doubt there are benefits for students who attend racially diverse schools,” he said, but “we take issue with the assumption that black and brown children can’t learn unless they attend school alongside white children.”

Mr. Jeffries’s criticism was almost mild in comparison to that of Amy Wilkins of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, who took personal umbrage at the implication that school-choice proponents like herself have made common cause with the racial segregationists of yesteryear.

Ms. Wilkins hails from what could accurately be described as civil-rights royalty. She is the daughter of Roger Wilkins, the black political activist, journalist and academic, who served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. And she is the niece of Roy Wilkins, who led the NAACP in the 1950s and ’60s, two of the most consequential decades in the effort to abolish Jim Crow oppression. Ms. Wilkins has spent her adult life as an outspoken advocate for black children, and after the AP story appeared she wrote a response in the education-news website The 74 that pulled no punches.

The problem, wrote Ms. Wilkins, “isn’t one article, however off-base it may be. The problem is the mindset of revanchists who peddle stories like these—professional anti-reformers who go nuts when approaches other than those they sanction and control deliver results for the students . . . they insist cannot learn at high levels.” Black parents simply want better schools, and the strong demand for education choice among low-income families stems from the persistent failure of traditional public-school systems to provide a decent education for their children.

“There is no comparison—none—between the enforced segregation of the pre-Brown v. Board era and the choices black families make when they enroll their children in better schools,” wrote Ms. Wilkins. “It’s ludicrous to suggest the two are in any way similar. In fact, it’s far closer to the spirit of Jim Crow to tell a black student that she has to go to her dismal neighborhood school because the better charter school up the street is not white enough to satisfy the defenders of the status quo.”
As Riley points out, the issue of school choice pits two liberal groups against each other: teachers' union members against advocates for minorities.
The primary obstacle to advancing school choice for liberals like Mr. Jeffries and Ms. Wilkins is not conservative Republicans. Rather, it’s liberal Democrats, who tend to control the levers of power in urban centers populated by the black poor.

Even the AP report acknowledged that “on average, children in hyper-segregated charters do at least marginally better on tests than those in comparably segregated traditional schools.” Charter schools are also less violent and produce higher rates of graduation and college completion. As the Shavar Jefferieses and Amy Wilkinses and others on the school reform left understand, parental choice scares defenders of the status quo not because it’s ineffective or somehow harmful but because it works.

“To the people trying to fabricate a segregation story to deny black students educational opportunity, I have a simple message: Don’t you dare,” wrote Ms. Wilkins. “Don’t you dare try to take away choices black families have fought for. Don’t you dare tell black families that you know better than they do what kind of school their children should attend. Don’t you dare call yourself social justice warriors while undermining the work of black school leaders and educators who are building something better for their communities.”

China is trying to install a new curriculum
on the schools developed by the Communist Party-led government. They tried this back in 2012 and there was such a protest that the government backed down. It's clear how the Communists want to slant education.
The new proposed curriculum for city schools is missing key parts of modern Chinese history, like Hong Kong's 1967 pro-Communist riots against British rulers and the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, when Chinese troops killed hundreds of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing.

"These are crucial parts of history being taken out," says secondary school history teacher Cheung Siu-Chung. "Teachers are asking what the rationale is behind this, and our own deputy secretary of education said these parts of history are trivial and aren't even worth mentioning. She literally said that."

....The proposed curriculum carefully removes or skims over events deemed sensitive by China's Communist Party, like Mao Zedong's failed political campaigns that left tens of millions dead, as well as uprisings like Tiananmen, leaving it to teachers to decide whether they'll have time to teach these events.
Of course, the history of Hong Kong is going to be erased.
Fellow student Matthew Chu says he and his class were on the verge of a history lesson last year when other students began handing out pamphlets.

"They gave some information — about how Hong Kong should be separated from China — in front of our school and give to our students," remembers Chu. "Then the teacher called them to go into a room and talk."

When they came out, the students had been disciplined. And that, says Chu, was the last he and his classmates heard about Hong Kong independence at school.

He says it was one of the best history lessons he's had.
Just wait a year or two and such protests will be totally shut down.

Irwin Stelzer gives China the 2017 prize for Hypocrisy of the Year.
Earlier this year Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic, took the stage at the Davos gathering of the great, the good, and their hangers-ons, to say that unlike America, China is willing to “swim in the vast ocean of the Asian market . . . develop a model of open and win-win competition . . . say no to protectionism. Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air. No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.” Xi did everything save wave his dog-eared copy of the Mandarin translation of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.

And when President Trump reversed long-standing American policy that supported large, multilateral trade deals and the World Trade Organization, Xi rushed to fill the leadership vacuum. At a conference of Asia-Pacific business leaders he urged the audience to “uphold multilateralism,” a clear rebuke to Trump’s support of bilateral trade deals.

But as sportscasters like to say, let’s go to the tape. China will allow foreign firms to compete for its markets only if they turn their technology over to a Chinese partner. The country imposes a 25 percent tariff on imported vehicles, tenfold that imposed by the United States. At the World Trade Organization China runs with the pack of underdeveloped nations, and as such it claims “special and differential treatment”, such as, for example, the right to abandon free trade whenever it pleases.

There’s more. China claims to be America’s replacement as the world leader in the fight to reduce CO2 emissions and prevent global warming. America might abandon the world to its horrible fate if global temperatures rise another 2 degrees centigrade, but not China: “We mankind have only one homeland . . . China will continue to take steps to tackle climate change and fully honor its obligations.” That prompted California Governor Jerry Brown to hop an emissions-spewing jet to seek guidance from, and a tacit alliance with, China’s new Great Leader. Unfortunately, what Xi might have had in mind were not the obligations of the Paris agreement, but the commitment of his Beijing-based Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to underwrite $33 billion of bonds and shares for developers of coal plants. That, according to the Financial Times, makes China “the biggest underwriter” of these greenhouse-gas emitters.

So it is only appropriate that a defender of free trade pause for a moment from developing his nation’s plans to subsidize the industries of the futures, barring imports, stealing intellectual property, and having his banks finance hundreds of coal plants, in order to step forward and receive the Hypocrisy of the Year Award for 2017.
Xi has figured out that all that matters to many observers is just to mouth the correct pieties and then do whatever he wants.

The chapter of Omarosa, White House aide, is sadly over without anyone really knowing what she did there. General John Kelly finally had enough of her and, with Trump's approval, gave her the heave ho.

April D. Ryan reports that she cursed out Kelly when told that she had to go. Allahpundit comments,
Even for Omarosa, cursing out a four-star Marine general is pretty Omarosa. Ryan elaborated in a radio report, claiming that when Kelly told Omarosa she was out, she demanded to speak to Trump directly. Nope, said Kelly, this isn’t like going to the principal’s office. He’s already signed off on my decision. Omarosa allegedly then started cursing up a storm and told him that she had brought the black vote to Trump last fall. Kelly’s reaction is unknown but presumably he bust out laughing. Then, when they were done, Ryan says Omarosa tried to get into the White House residence to plead with Trump directly about keeping her job. The Secret Service hauled her off and that was that. Just another day in POTUS’s “fine-tuned machine.”
He links to this attempt by Daily Beast's Elaina Plott to figure out what Omarosa was doing in the White House. No one seems to have a clue. But she did have time to plan her wedding while working there.

The Secret Service is now denying that they were involved in physically removing Omarosa. I guess that was more fake news.

Libertarian Don Willett has been confirmed to the 5th Circuit even though the Democrats all opposed him. Damon Root summarizes a couple of his notable libertarian decisions for the Texas Supreme Court.
Since joining the Texas Supreme Court in 2005, Willett has made a name for himself as a sharp critic of overreaching state government.

In Patel v. Texas Department of Licensing Regulation (2015), for example, Willett skewered state officials for requiring eyebrow threaders to obtain an expensive government license before engaging in the entirely harmless act of threading cotton string through customers' eyebrows to remove old hair and skin.

"This case is fundamentally about the American Dream and the unalienable human right to pursue happiness without curtsying to government on bended knee," he wrote in Patel. "It is about whether government can connive with rent-seeking factions to ration liberty unrestrained, and whether judges must submissively uphold even the most risible encroachments." (Disclosure: Willett's Patel opinion favorably cited my book Overruled).

Willett proved to be equally scornful of the state's civil asset forfeiture regime. When the Texas Supreme Court declined to take up the civil asset forfeiture case Zaher El-Ali v. Texas in 2014, for instance, Willett faulted his colleagues for effectively failing to do their judicial duty. "Does our Constitution have anything to say about a 'presumed guilty' proceeding in which citizens are not arrested or tried, much less convicted, but are nonetheless punished, losing everything they've worked for?" he complained.

Now that Willett has been successfully confirmed to the federal bench, I fully expect that he will bring the same heightened degree of judicial scrutiny to the misdeeds of the federal government.

If the FCC approves this new proposal, the worst of federal meddling online will be retired. Instead, the commission will simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their service offerings. That way, tech innovators will have the information they need and consumers will know which plan works best for them.

In other words, Web users and creators will be back in control of the Internet instead of lawyers and bureaucrats. Just as they were for all but the past couple of years.

To ensure transparency, Pai made all his proposals public before the FCC vote Thursday. A big departure from the Obama administration’s methods, which kept its net neutrality rules secret until after they were approved.

Before the FCC’s heavy-handed intervention, we saw the creation of Amazon, Google and Twitter. If Washington removes these unnecessary regulations as expected, we’ll see the Internet continue to blossom.

And my daughters will get to watch their favorite YouTube celebrities complain about net neutrality for years to come.

Some people wrote in Nick Saban in Tuesday's election. I was thinking that it would have been a good strategy to urge everyone to write in Saban if they could get him to just answer "No comment" when asked about it. Then, if he ran, he could be sworn in for 1 hour and then resign so the governor could appoint someone else. The only problem is that he probably wouldn't go along with that. But it would have been a hoot.

Tavis Smile
y? It's one PBS guy after another, isn't it? Who knew that PBS was such a cesspool of sexism? Here's a list of 66 prominent men in Hollywood and the media who have been accused of sexual misconduct. I realize that I'm so out of it, that there were only a handful - mostly those in the news media - that I had ever heard of. We keep hearing that the media are working on a story that could involve 20-40 members of Congress. Hoo boy! Of course, all the standard caveats of innocent until proven guilty apply. And don't forget our president.

If you are a fan, as I am, of the Volokh Conspiracy legal blog, you should note that they've moved from being hosted at the Washington Post to They wanted to get beyond the Post's paywall