Friday, December 22, 2017

Cruising the Web

Cheers to Nikki Haley and Donald Trump for calling out the United Nations for its vicious hypocrisy in condemning the U.S. decision to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. We don't need to be lectured by the likes of Syria and Yemen about respect for human rights and peace. And cutting American aid to countries that we give aid to who jumped on the bandwagon to condemn us would offend all the right people and win support from a whole lot of Americans.

Yes, we give aid to these countries for various reasons, particularly to help fight terrorism. But concern over what this decision will do to the vaunted peace efforts between Israel and Palestinians is ludicrous. There is no peace effort. It is a charade. Danielle Pletka rightly derides all this conventional wisdom among a lot of bien pensants who deep down think Israel is the one to blame for the lack of peace in the Middle East.
In foreign policy, conventional wisdom has an almost biblical force. Gospel-like, practitioners intone the commandments: Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Terrorism and religion are unrelated. And, holy of holies, do not appear to prejudge the outcome of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians....

Predictably, the president was denounced by the usual complement of opinion leaders, journalists and political opponents. And since Donald Trump is so often wrong, it is tempting to succumb to the opprobrium of polite society and agree he was probably wrong again. Except he wasn’t.

Starting with the purely factual, Jerusalem has the virtue of actually being the capital of Israel. It is the seat of the Israeli prime minister, its parliament, its Supreme Court and its president.

Notwithstanding the objections of other countries, it is established practice for sovereign nations to choose their own capitals.

Dissenting savants will insist that Jerusalem is disputed territory, and therefore must be off limits to the Jews when it comes to capital-choosing.

But for most polite society – excluding Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorists – the question of Jerusalem relates to its Old City and Eastern portions.

Not to all of Jerusalem. And Donald Trump made clear that the United States does not intend to place its embassy on disputed land or prejudge the outcome of a successful negotiation between Israel and Palestinian representatives.

Opponents will add that acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will enrage the Arab world. Perhaps that’s true – though most Arab states have been surprisingly perfunctory in their condemnations – but it’s not a reason for the United States to avoid acknowledging reality. It should certainly be a factor. But it should not be decisive....

But the truth is that the Israelis have had their capital in Jerusalem for almost 70 years, and Washington has maintained an embassy outside Jerusalem for the same time period, and none of that has led to a resolution between the Arabs and the Jews.
Should we just quake in our shoes at the threat of violence from Palestinians? Where will such appeasement end?

Jake Tapper had an excellent segment on how despicable are some of the countries are that are condemning the USA.


William A. Jacobson notes that that video I highlighted yesterday of girls taunting Israeli soldiers until they provoked a reaction was actually an effort by a group of Palestinians with a history of sending children in to provoke reactions that they can then exploit for propaganda purposes.
Dave Lange of the IsraellyCool website coined the nickname “Shirley Temper” for Ahed Tamimi, of the Tamimi Clan of Nabi Saleh.

While the nickname is humorous, the underlying reality of the video exploitation of Palestinian children by the Tamimi Clan, lauded by Western anti-Israel activists, is not funny at all.

As we have thoroughly documented over the years, the Tamimis, led by father Bassem Tamimi, regularly send children to try to provoke a confrontation with Israeli police and soldiers in order to get a reaction that will be captured on video and in photos.

The children are accompanied by a phalanx of videographers and photographers just waiting to turn the video and images viral....

Another Tamimi Clan child, Janna Jihad, has been used since she was 5 years old in such staged scenes. It’s an extremely callous exploitation of children, hoping the children will be the subject of retaliatory violence for propaganda purposes.
Check out his site for more videos and evidence.

David Harsanyi explains why the comparisons in political cost facing the Democrats after Obamacare and the GOP after tax reform are faulty.
Like Obamacare, people don’t know what’s in the bill. But unlike Obamacare, the repeal of the individual mandate merely gives millions a choice. The passage of Obamacare upended lives. ACA would become synonymous with “health care insurance,” and everything that went wrong with that insurance would be attributed to the bill by voters. And since Democrats offered a litany of fantastical promises about the future of health care, the disapproval was well deserved. Millions began losing their insurance plans as soon as Obamacare was implemented, despite assurances from the president and pliant Democrats that no such thing would happen. For many, premiums in the individual markets doubled over four years of Obamacare. These are tangible, real-life consequences that voters dealt with.

Whatever valid concerns there are about debt or spending (and they are valid,) the idea that tax cuts will have similar long-term consequences on voting as health care is unlikely. It is more likely that tax cuts will do little to change the dynamics of the coming years at all. But it is plausible that, because of the overreaction from the Left, millions of Americans who thought they were going pay more in taxes will find a new child credit and be thankful.
One benefit of the hysteria over the tax bill is that the Democrats have exposed what they really think about the money you earn.
As an ideological matter, every time a Democrat claims that keeping more of your own money is tantamount to stealing – which is all the time – voters should remember this is fundamentally a debate between people who believe the state should have first dibs on your property and those who don’t. The only way to frame the bill as a tax hike is by using the 2025 expiration of individual rate cuts. And the only way they won’t be extended is if Democrats decide to raise taxes again. These are debates Republicans should embrace.
It reminds me of Obama's claim about someone's business that "You didn't build that." It made perfect sense to them to include government spending on infrastructure and other items to argue that no one builds their own business without government's help. But it made little sense to anyone who had ever built a business. And persuading people that the government has more of a right to their money to spend on whatever government wants is going to be a hard sell.

No wonder Joe Manchin is having a hard time explaining why he voted against the tax bill.
“There’s some good in this bill. I acknowledge that,” Manchin said, when West Virginia radio talk show host Hoppy Kercheval asked the senator why he opposed legislation that will benefit the “vast majority” of taxpayers and businesses in the state.

“The things that you mention are correct. Initially people will benefit and see some changes in their taxes,” Manchin admitted.

Manchin blamed his opposition on projections from some analysts that the tax overhaul would increase the national debt, and that cuts directed at individuals and married couples is temporary and sunset in 2025 without further action from Congress, versus the corporate cuts, which are permanent.

He also complained of a coming increase in health care costs because the legislation repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate to purchase insurance. At times, it appeared that Manchin was wrestling with his answers, trying to justify his “no” vote without being too critical, and antagonizing Trump.

“Why did the permanency have to go on the big end, and not on the individuals who really got left behind?” Manchin said. “I think there is going to be benefit from the get-go, which is called the sugar high”
Well, Joe, it was all strategic. The Republicans are gambling that come 2025 the Democrats will have a hard time voting to increase individual taxes but they wouldn't have such a problem voting to increase corporate taxes. Other Democrats up for reelection next year in very red states such as Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana are going to have a similar struggle explaining why they voted with their party and didn't support a bill that will put money in so many of their constituents' pockets. Their one hope is that the media will keep acting like the party's handmaidens in how they depict the bill. It's going to be hard that they're independent voices if they're going to vote in lockstep and don't really have a good explanation why.

Using hyperbolic language about the motivations of the Republicans just isn't going to convince people that giving people a tax break is because evil Republicans want to make things hard for the poor. As Jim Treacher mocks, this is not a good campaign slogan: "More money in your pocket makes your life harder. Vote Democrat!"

And this tweet thread encapsulates up the divide in America. He asks where a family can get dinner for $36 and gets dozens of answers. Meanwhile, other people tweet their disgust at the food choices of people who find places to eat where they can feed their family for under $36. Read through the whole thread. I guess it's just deplorable to feed your family with some pizzas or tacos or, Heaven forfend! McDonalds and other fast food places. This is what a bubble looks like. I like the one woman who argues that getting $72 a month could "make the difference between school lunches and starving." The response that she gets is that it would be better to spend government money on universal school breakfast and lunch instead of a tax cut. That's kind of missing the point that a lot of people would prefer to provide their own meals for kids and a lot of kids can't stand what they're given at school meals.

James Pethokoukis wonders what Democrats will do if Americans turn out to like the Trump tax cuts. He points out that Trump may have a lot of luck in the economy demonstrating growth consistently over 3 percent and with continuing declines in unemployment.
Democrats have a response at the ready to explain this boomlet: "Thanks, Obama." And it's true, all these positive trends began during Barack Obama's presidency. But Republicans also have a story to tell: "Thank you, Trump tax cuts." GOPers will credit corporate America's anticipation of the Trump economic agenda for igniting faster growth and then actual passage of the tax bill for its continuation.

Many voters might just believe the GOP line given that the upturn is happening at the same time their taxes are being cut. Correlation is good enough to assume causality for most of us. Politicians are typically given credit for what happens on their watch, no matter what experts say.
Then Americans might start noticing that they actually are saving money on taxes instead of having to pay higher taxes as the Democrats have been lying to them about. Maybe more corporations will give out bonuses and credit the tax reforms. So what are the Democrats going to say in response?
And what is the Democratic counter? Sure, they could argue that the GOP's individual tax cuts are temporary. But Republicans would love that. House Speaker Paul Ryan has already said those cuts will never expire and dared Democrats to promise otherwise. Or maybe Democrats could make an argument about rising budget deficits or rising wealth inequality. But those are pretty abstract claims to compete against greater take-home pay.

Jim Geraghty ridicules the responses by liberals disdaining the announcements by corporations that they're going to give employees some sort of bonus in response to the tax reforms.
What’s fascinating is how many commentators you will see who will offer variations of A) “This is just one/two/three/four/five companies!” B) “$1,000 isn’t really that much!” C) The companies and corporate executives will get a lot more!” and so on. They can’t look at announcements like this and say, “oh, good. A lot of workers will get some more money in their pockets as 2018 begins, this can only be a good thing.”

In a better, more reasonable, less reflexively partisan world, we would all be willing to applaud when an idea we didn’t support has at least one good effect....

Even if these companies are making these moves with less-than-noble motives, wanting good publicity or to ingratiate themselves with the administration . . . so what? Do you think the workers getting those bonuses will feel like they’re tainted? “I’m going to tear up my bonus check, I think they’re just trying to use me for a photo-op.”

This tweet is right on the mark.

David French is appalled by the attitude of Democrats that the government owns people's earnings and, if Republicans allow people to keep more of their own money then they're actually stealing money from the government.
Note the key words. A tax cut is a “heist.” It’s “looting” the government’s money. You’re “robbing” and “ransacking” the middle class. Schumer is the most measured, and even he acts like the government is “giving” people money by granting a tax break.

Yes, part of this is just talking points. They’re words chosen to win a news cycle. But they also betray a deeper problem. Taken at face value they represent a fundamental redefinition of private property. It’s part of the Democratic march towards socialism, and it doesn’t just have implications for tax rates, it has grave consequences for civil liberties as well.

The traditional view of private income and private property is clear. You own and control the money you make or the property you possess. By the consent of the governed the state can tax a portion of that money and regulate your use of your property, but the fundamental presumption remains — it’s your property. It’s your money.

To put it in legal terms, the government bears the burden of establishing the need for your funds or the necessity for regulation. Indeed, the Constitution establishes the primacy of individual rather than state ownership by noting that the government can take your property only for “public use” — and only after paying “just compensation.”

Increasingly, however, the American Left is flipping the proposition. What’s “yours” is the array of government goods and services established by the vast and growing federal bureaucracy. What’s “yours” is the bundle of bureaucratic and regulatory rights created by an increasingly regulatory state. Thus, private property is in reality a public resource. Private businesses are “public accommodations” that can easily be commandeered to become instruments of social policy — just ask the Christian business owners required to furnish free abortifacients to their employees or to use their artistic talents to celebrate immoral events....

In other words — as with so many other elements of our public debate — we’re back to first principles. We’re back to culture war. Red and Blue America are once again like ships passing in the night. A conservative hears the language of “theft” and laughs. I’m not stealing from anyone if I’m allowed to keep more of my own cash. The progressive hears the same word and nods. After all, the government must fund “our” welfare state, and the more money a person has, the greater the government’s moral and legal claim on his resources.
If only Republicans could make this argument. I think it is an appealing argument, but few REpublican politicians can make it with clarity and eloquence. Reagan and Jack Kemp can do that. Paul Ryan can do it. Donald Trump...not so much.

Ah, Steve Bannon's golden touch. Bannon's choice to run against Paul Ryan in 2017, Paul Nehlen, has gone full anti-Semite on Twitter. But hey, Bannon hates Paul Ryan for not being sufficiently enthusiastic in his support of Trump in the election so he supported Nehlen who amassed a whopping 16% (actually 15.9%) in the primary against Ryan. Now, as Nehlen is tweeting that "It's okay to be white." Good to know. And, as John Podhoretz tweets, Nehlen has come "out of the the Nazi closet." Nehlen has been tweeting insults against Ari Cohn, the director of Fire implying that, because he is a Jew, he can't be white. Wow, Bannon can really pick them, can't he?

Jeryl Bier of the Weekly Standard resurrects this quote from Barack Obama about why it was important not to let the payroll tax cut expire in 2011 and 2012.

Glenn Thrush, the NYT reporter who was suspended for his drunken harassment of women, has now been reinstated starting at the end of January. His only punishment is that he's been removed from covering the White House. The NYT has said that they think his behavior was bad, but not bad enough to fire him. Instead he will undergo counseling and training. I bet this will turn out to be the pattern for a lot of these men who have been accused of sexual harassment. They'll claim that they had some sort of substance abuse problem and now they've seen the light, had some counseling, and are committed to fighting inappropriate behavior toward women.

One of the Congressional aides, or interns, who has been spending time on the Hill to edit Wikipedia pages has come forward to describe what she's been doing.
Days later, Kohn, in a conversation with The Daily Beast, became the first member of what she says is a secret society of interns editing Wikipedia pages with political messages they know will reach some of the biggest names in Washington to out herself.

“It was all for the goof, but some people were really radicalized by the past election,” Kohn told The Daily Beast. “I won’t say I wasn’t one of them.”...[S]ome of Kohn’s efforts included a wide range of Wikipedia edits that spanned from overt political statements to fixing genuine grammatical and factual errors in entries about quantum physics, video games and Korean pop stars.