Friday, January 12, 2018

Cruising the Web

Ugh! I wish we couldn't have either of these people determining policy in Washington, but that's not where we are.
Once you hit bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up, and on Thursday the language of politics hit bottom.

When the possibility of admitting immigrants from Haiti and Africa came up at a meeting with Senators at the White House, President Trump reportedly mused about why we’d want to admit people into the U.S. from “s—hole countries.”

About that time, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House, offered her thoughts on colleagues who are negotiating an immigration bill with the White House: “The five white guys I call them, you know. Are they going to open a hamburger stand next or what?”

Maybe at some future date, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Pelosi can co-host a talk show on ESPN. For now, this verbal mudslide from two of the nation’s highest officials is, in a word, unedifying.

The House’s number two Democrat, Steny Hoyer, no doubt terrified that his party could become linked to Ms. Pelosi’s use of language from the fringe of identity politics, said, “That comment is offensive.” Republicans, who might worry that Mr. Trump’s barstool belch has lost the African-American vote forever, should do the same.
The bigotry of Trump's remark is really distasteful. Doesn't he have any idea that some of the immigrants who have come here from African countries (the countries he was apparently referring to) are some of the hardest working immigrant groups that we have? I've had the good fortune to teach some of the children whose parents have immigrated from those countries. Of course Trump has no idea, because all he knows are slogans and bluster; he really has no idea about policy. And as for deal-making, that vaunted skill that he bragged about all campaign, he seems to know little about that either. If he did, he wouldn't state before cameras that he wants a deal of whatever those politicians in the room are going to come up with. He wouldn't announce ahead of time that he wants a DACA fix so badly so that the Democrats know that they just have to hold firm and he'll cave. He wouldn't have to have so many of his remarks and tweets cleaned up by his staff to explain to us what "he really meant."

And if he had any situational awareness at all, he'd know that, if he used language like that in a meeting with members of Congress including Democrats that it would all be leaked out within a few hours. And he'd have some sense that, no matter what he privately thinks, the president of the United States shouldn't be referring to countries like Haiti, El Salvador and all of Africa with that sort of language.

Forget all the speculation of some sort of psychological problem as some on the left have been peddling. How about that he's just not all that smart?

But then again,

And this is the point that Trump should be making in the first place.

And whenever I see the networks get their panties all in a twist about Trump being president, I think back to this statistic that Josh Jordan reminds us of and how angry it made me back during the campaign for the GOP nomination.

I like this argument from Erick Erickson.
I would rather the immigrant from Africa, Asia, or South America who lives in a kleptocracy and wants a better life.

The underlying premise of the President's statement about s***hole countries is wrong. A Norwegian immigrant would more likely come here and start demanding his Norwegian way of life on us than a poor person from Africa. The poor person from Africa wants to be American. The Norwegian already thinks of himself as a citizen of the world. The Norwegian would just be coming here for a job. The African would be coming here to be an American. The African may be coming from a third world kleptocratic s***hole with a dictator who steals from his people and kills dissidents, but that is why, in part, the African will make the most of the American dream. He wants an escape from that place and wants the American dream.

To be sure, the well educated first generation Norwegian would probably do better in the United States than a first generation African immigrant in terms of income. But that African immigrant would be more likely to embrace this country and its ways and indoctrinate his children into a long term love of this country because this nation means so much more to those of little means in s***hole countries than it does to Western socialist democracies who already turn up their noses at the notion of American manifest destiny.

I would rather the immigrant from Africa, Asia, or South America who lives in a kleptocracy and wants a better life, not just a better job. They will be the American families that will yield a patriotic love of America through generations. And that the President does not understand this should be a warning sign on his ability to deal with immigration policy at all. His understanding is clearly superficial and lacks substance beyond the power of positive thinking.
I would also guess that we're not being inundated by people from Norway seeking to immigrate here.

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As Armageddon continues from the tax reform law, Americans for Tax Reform has compiled a list of companies offering bonuses to employees due to the bill. Now there are two million Americans who will be receiving bonuses from their employers. Add in the fact that more than 80% of taxpayers will see tax cuts. But Pelosi still calls it Armageddon and now is saying that these bonuses that companies are giving out are simply "crumbs." Some of those bonuses range from $1000 to $3000. I don't know if average folks appreciate her characterization of such bonuses as "crumbs."

Here's an example of the sorts of "crumbs" she has such contempt for.
Fiat Chrysler announced Thursday that it will up its investment in the United States and pay some of its employees special bonuses after the recent tax code overhaul.

CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement that these announcements reflect the company's ongoing commitment to manufacturing in the U.S. He also cited the recently signed tax bill as an opportunity to share the savings with Fiat Chrysler employees.

The automaker said it will invest more than $1 billion in a Michigan plant and relocate production of its Ram Heavy Duty truck in 2020. That model is currently being produced in Saltillo, Mexico.

Fiat Chrysler said this decision would create about 2,500 jobs in addition to the ones that have been previously announced.

The company said it will also pay 60,000 of its U.S. employees bonuses of $2,000 each. Fiat Chrysler said these bonuses would not include senior leadership.

IBD explains how the Trump administration is giving people more options on their health care and allowing them to buy less expensive plans that the Obama administration wanted to prevent them from purchasing.
In a series of proposed regulatory changes, Trump aims to give consumers options that Democrats want to deny them — options for less expensive insurance that best suits their own health care and financial needs.

One would remove an Obama-era regulation that was designed to thwart the increasingly popular market for "short-term" insurance plans. These plans didn't comply with ObamaCare's myriad rules and regulations, which meant they could provide benefits at lower rates.

In ObamaCare's first year, eHealth reported that sales of short-term insurance offered on its website shot up 134%. Others reported similar surges. These plans continued to surge as ObamaCare premium increases skyrocketed. Middle-class families that aren't eligible for ObamaCare subsidies — of which there are millions — could save hundreds of dollars a month on insurance, even though they still had to pay the ObamaCare tax penalty.

So, what did the Obama administration do? It issued a rule in October 2016 that limited these plans to three months, rather than the nearly 12 months they had been offering. The rule was specifically designed to force these people back into the ObamaCare exchanges.

As Health and Human Services put it at the time: "The proposed changes will help strengthen the (ObamaCare) risk pool by ensuring that short-term limited duration plans are used only as intended, to fill truly temporary gaps in coverage."

In other words, in a desperate attempt to shore up the failing ObamaCare exchanges, President "Keep-Your-Plan" Obama decided to take away yet another health plan that people liked.

But the rule change wasn't announced until mid-2016, and didn't go into effect until last year. Which means that all Trump proposed was to return to the ObamaCare status quo that had been in effect for three years.

The other change Trump proposed was to ease rules that were preventing small businesses and other groups from banding together to offer insurance through multistate "association health plans." The idea is to give small businesses the ability to get group rates comparable to those enjoyed by large multistate employers.

Late last week, the Labor Department announced its proposal to make this a reality, saying it could make coverage more affordable for 11 million people who work for small businesses or are self-employed and don't have insurance.

"By joining together," the Labor Department said, "employers may reduce administrative costs through economies of scale, strengthen their bargaining position to obtain more favorable deals, enhance their ability to self-insure and offer a wider array of insurance options."
A lot of people are happy to pay less for a less comprehensive plan, one that covers the catastrophic health costs that we all worry about instead of an Obamacare-sanctioned plan that covers more, costs more, and has a huge deductible that average people will never meet anyway.

How stupid is this?
The Committee to Protect Journalists named President Trump as the winner of its “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom” award in its “Press Oppressors” awards Monday.

The committee released a list of top global press oppressors on Monday in response to Trump’s upcoming “fake news” awards, giving Trump the top honor.

“While previous U.S. presidents have each criticized the press to some degree, they have also made public commitments to uphold its essential role in democracy, at home and abroad,” the committee wrote.

“Trump, by contrast, has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as Xi [Jinping], [Recep Tayyip] Erdo─čan, and [Abdel Fattah al-]Sisi.”
Sure, Trump has a boorish and bullying attitude to the press. But he isn't jailing journalists or assassinating them such as happened in countries like Russia or Iran. They just dilute their credibility. David Harsanyi points out that the very fact that so many journalists can criticize Trump indicates how free our media are.
For one thing, the very breadth and intensity of the anti-Trump press illustrates there are few inhibitions or no strictures on their freedom of expression. Trump’s attacks on journalists — some of it brought on by their own shoddy and partisan behavior — are often unseemly and unhealthy, but it hasn’t stopped anyone from engaging, investigating, writing, saying, protesting or sharing their deep thoughts with the entire group.

Every day. All the time.
And let's not forget the Obama administration secretly obtaining two months worth of telephone records of Associated Press journalists to try to find the leak of classified information. And they also went after Fox's James Rosen and labeled him in court documents as a criminal "co-conspirator" for trying to solicit classified information. The Trump administration hasn't done anything like that.
If the Trump Administration, which has a bigger leak problem than any in history, engaged in anything resembling this kind of behavior, it would rightly be considered a massive scandal. Every newscast and every front page would lead with it.

But it’s not just about the past. While Trump’s efforts to stop Michael Wolff’s fabulist “Fire and Fury” from being published are silly and counterproductive and sure to fail (update: as is his new lawsuit against Buzzfeed), he is merely accessing the legal rights that all Americans enjoy. In the meantime, Democrats, right now, support new laws that would allow the state to ban political books and documentaries. The Obama years made overturning the First Amendment via the Citizens United a tenant of its party platform. Obama, in perfect syntax, engaged in an act of norm-breaking, called out the Supreme Court publicly for upholding First Amendment. That was rhetoric, too. Few defenders of the press seemed bothered by any of it.
But the real scandal is the choice to single out Trump instead of the leaders of countries actually threatening the press and denying them true freedom.
Claiming the president of the United States (Obama or Trump) is “overall” more detrimental to press freedoms than the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Egypt or China not only denigArights work to begin with. Because not only is the United States far superior in its embrace of open political discourse than authoritarian states, or Third World states, or (nearly) every state in Middle East, the United States is superior to Western European nations, as well.

There is no country in Europe that boasts as healthy an environment for press freedom or free speech as the United States — and considering the attitude of elites, it’s doubtful they want that dynamic to change. In Europe libel laws are frequently used by the rich and powerful to suppress unfavorable coverage. In England, for example, Trump would likely have been able to quash the Wolff book. In Germany, the state demands that private online outlets govern speech that doesn’t comport with their diktats. In France, the government will decide what real news is. The European Union’s Code of Conduct features an array of demands for the government to police speech, which includes, among other things, online “hate speech” — a perpetually flexible and easily abused phrase. Increasing numbers of Americans, some no doubt worried about Trump fascism, support the implementation of these kinds of laws here.

Rhetoric matters, but it’s not all that matters. To believe press freedom is in imminent danger you have to concentrate solely on Trump’s words rather than what’s actually happening. As David Brooks recently noted, those who do so seem to be “settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information.”
And while Trump babbles about changing the nation's libel laws because, deep down, he'd like to be able to sue people who write bad things about him, he can't do anything about that because of Supreme Court decisions that aren't likely to be reversed. The WSJ writes,
But on Mr. Trump’s comments, we associate ourselves, to our astonishment, with Brian Hauss, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who issued the following statement Wednesday: “President Trump’s threat to revise our country’s libel laws is, frankly, not credible. There is no federal libel law, and the president does not have the authority to change state libel laws. Furthermore, the First Amendment provides strong protections against libel liability, particularly with respect to statements about public figures or matters of public concern. Whatever President Trump might think, he has no power to override these constitutional protections.”

Exactly right. Worry about genuine threats, not more feckless bluster.

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Here is another example of how many of the elites in the EU are, at heart, favoring dictators. Eli Lake looks at the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini.
Few diplomats though have pursued this kind of engagement with such moralizing puffery. In Mogherini's world, diplomacy with dictators should not aim to transition these countries to open societies, but rather to prevent conflicts at all costs.

Just consider her trip last week to Cuba, a plantation masquerading as a nation-state. Did Mogherini use her visit to call attention to the struggle of human rights activists or to comfort the families of political prisoners? No, Mogherini was in Cuba to reassure a regime that Europe will not go along with America's trade embargo....

While Mogherini found her voice in Havana about Cuba's "isolation," she was mute on the popular uprising in Iran. She waited six days to say anything about the demonstrations there. When she finally did, it was a mix of ingratiation and neutrality. “In the spirit of openness and respect that is at the root of our relationship," she said, "we expect all concerned to refrain from violence and to guarantee freedom of expression."

It's as if Mogherini believes that Iranian demonstrators are arresting and silencing members of the state Basij militia, and not the other way around. And why does she speak of openness and respect? Has the European foreign policy chief not followed the ordeal of European dual national citizens, detained on trumped-up charges in Iran? Apparently this openness and respect is a one-way street.

All of this is part of a pattern for Mogherini. Most strategists believe diplomacy is a tool for achieving a specific outcome in foreign relations. The only outcome Mogherini seems to seek is preservation of the status quo. That's fine in moments of tranquility and prosperity, not a moment when authoritarians are on the march in Europe and Asia....

Mogherini’s ideology is a particular tragedy in the case of Iran. The West can help aid Iran’s freedom movement by linking the regime’s treatment of its people, and particularly its political prisoners, to economic and political engagement. The US has some leverage here, but Europe — because so many of its businesses want a piece of Iran’s economy — has far more.

As Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, told me: “This is the European moment on Iran.” Europe’s response to the regime’s violent suppression of protests after the stolen election of 2009 was firm. The EU should send the same message today.

So far, Mogherini and the Europeans have delivered the opposite message. On Monday, the high representative invited Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, to Brussels next week for more discussions on the Iran nuclear deal. Alireza Nader, an Iran expert at the RAND Corporation, told me this week that Mogherini’s statement on Iran was “saying both sides are equal, when it’s Iranian security forces that are shooting and killing people.”

Here is the latest sexist crisis du jour that we're supposed to be worried about. In reshooting scenes of "All the Money in the World" after they had to swap Christopher Plummer in to play the Kevin Spacey role, Michelle Williams was paid only $80 per day while Mark Wahlberg got $1.5 million. Isn't that just an example of how men are paid more than women in Hollywood? Isn't the Hollywood that loves to lecture us about sexism a morass of sexist behavior? Well, not so fast.
Mark Wahlberg received $1.5 million to take part in reshoots for “All the Money in the World,” while Michelle Williams got next to nothing. And while that strikes many as a clear-case of sexism, it just comes down to their contracts, TheWrap has learned.

Williams received only a per diem of $80 a day, as USA Today first reported. Her contract required her to do reshoots, which turned out to be much more extensive than planned because director Ridley Scott re-cast disgraced actor Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer.

Wahlberg received more than 1000 times as much money as she did because reshoots were not in his contract, according to an individual with knowledge of the deal. It’s no surprise that Wahlberg’s agent, Ari Emanuel, demanded top dollar: Their dynamic inspired Wahlberg’s series “Entourage,” in which an Emanuel-inspired agent’s ruthlessness is a running gag....

It’s also worth noting that Wahlberg’s character has many more scenes with J. Paul Getty (Plummer).

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Kyle Smith raises
an interesting question about the new movie, I, Tonya.
There’s this movie about an impoverished girl who gets beaten and otherwise abused by her mother, then beaten and otherwise abused by her husband. Naturally, it’s a comedy.

I, Tonya, which plays the travails of Tonya Harding for kitschy laughs, was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy, and it isn’t a musical. Taffy Brodesser-Akner even noted in her superb New York Times profile of the disgraced ex-Olympic figure skater now known as Tonya Price that there were people in press screenings of the film who laughed during a beating scene.

Query for all the rich white people in New York and Los Angeles who are finding this movie hilarious: Would you be chuckling if Tonya Harding were black? Would the scene in which Margot Robbie’s Harding speaks while the director makes sure we see the pile of dirty dishes piled up behind her leave you in stitches? Would you go out for drinks afterward and share your favorite “black trash” jokes?