Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cruising the Web

So our long, national nightmare of the past weekend is over. It does seem as if the Democrats decided that the shutdown wasn't playing as well as they thought it would and so, as Aaron Blake writes in the Washington Post, they caved. Blake points to Democratic senators like Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein complaining that Schumer hadn't gotten more from McConnell.
To be clear, most Senate Democrats wound up voting to reopen the government. They did so after a deal was struck in which Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was assured that the Senate would vote on some kind of immigration deal by Feb. 8 — and if they didn't have a deal, there would be an up-or-down vote on DACA, the program protecting the children of illegal immigrants from deportation. Just 16 of the 49 members of the Senate Democratic caucus voted no, and it's a group that is full of potential 2020 contenders like Harris who have a clear interest in appealing to the base.

But that's also the point. Those members have made appealing to the Democratic base their raison d'etre, and they've quickly wagered that this thing isn't going to fly with that same base. The base was cheering Democrats for taking a stand on behalf of so-called dreamers and demanding that they be protected; instead, Schumer has merely been assured of a vote on something to-be-determined that may or may not succeed.
So they punted on an issue that it seems there is little agreement already. Blake continues,
What's clear is that on the very first day of the shutdown on which the federal government was actually supposed to be open, Democrats pretty quickly took a deal that was well shy of what they were demanding. They seemed to be losing leverage as Republicans like Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) who had opposed the continuing resolution seemed to be warming to it, and if just a few Democratic senators followed suit, the whole thing would have blown up.

And really, from the start of this process, Democrats have overestimated both their leverage and the benefit that might arise from this whole situation. Early polls — before the shutdown actually occurred — showed more Americans blaming Trump and the Republicans than Democrats. But Democrats actually provided the votes against the noncontroversial continuing resolution that meant government shut down. Their argument was always much more difficult, and Republicans messaged the “blame game” more effectively.
Gee, that never happens. The Democratic message was so weak that even Republicans had better messaging. Sometimes, reality is a better message for the Republicans than the Democrats realize. We've never seen the Republicans win the blame game on a government shutdown.

It's very telling that the Democratic senators thinking about running in 2020 voted against the agreement shows how they're catering to their base and activists, much like Ted Cruz was doing in 2013 when he filibustered the budget.

Ben Shapiro summarizes what each side gained from the shutdown.
So, what did Democrats get from this shutdown?

Here’s the full list: the perception that Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had outlasted them at the negotiating table; the understanding that Democrats will be unable to fight Republicans using a government shutdown as leverage, at least on the issue of illegal immigration; the impression that Democrats care more about illegal immigrants than military members; a Democratic base that now believes the Democrats are on the run; the impression that Democrats were responsible for the shutdown.


What have Republicans gained?

They’ve gained the perception that they can govern; combined with the tax cut bill, Republicans in Congress have done their job and forced Democrats into a position of irrelevance. Furthermore, the White House now says that it will not sign the Graham-Durbin proposal, a Senate bill to legalize illegal immigrant children and their parents, and hand citizenship to the kids.
Now that the Democrats have signalled that they won't want to tie the budget to DACA three weeks from now, they're going to have to negotiate a separate bill on DACA> And given that this is where they've ended up, the real question is why they didn't agree to that last week instead of all this sturm und drang over shutting down the government.

As they turn now to debating a DACA bill, John Fund argues that the Democrats are worried that attention will shift from talking about the so-called Dreamers to talking about "chain migration."
Even staunch pro-immigration voices increasingly recognize that emphasizing family reunification through chain migration shouldn’t be the heart of our immigration policy. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a prominent pro-immigrant voice for decades, and his co-author Clint Bolick wrote back in 2013:
Since the 1960s, the vast majority of legal immigrants have come pursuant to a very broad definition of “family reunification” — which includes not only spouses and minor children but parents and siblings. Family preferences account for two-thirds of all legal immigrants.
Bush and Bolick point out that the lack of an effective and rational work-visa system similar to the one that Canada and Australia use has cost this country in several ways. First, as the Wall Street Journal editorial page points out, it creates an unbalanced immigration flow: “It makes sense to focus on uniting nuclear families with dependent children rather than extended families.” Second, it has contributed to a polarizing immigration debate because Americans can’t accept that a doctor from Greece can’t immigrate here while a cab driver from Guatemala who is someone’s cousin can. Right now, only one in 15 of the more than 1 million immigrants who are admitted every year are given a visa because of their job skills or entrepreneurial ability. And third, the focus on family unification, and the resulting lack of a rational work-visa program, means that for most aspiring immigrants, their only choice is the arbitrary “diversity lottery” whereby visas are awarded randomly to 55,000 foreigners. As Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick point out, “there are roughly 250 applicants for each [diversity] visa every year. The absence of a meaningful avenue of access increases the pressure for illegal immigration.”

It’s because Democrats fear that bringing these facts to light in a debate over Dreamers that they are trying to run away from the term “chain migration.”

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This is how tough the government shutdown had gotten.

This is your Senate at work,
ladies and gentlemen. A group of two dozen senators met to try to end the shutdown.
To try and keep the peace, Collins wouldn't let any senator in the room talk unless they were holding a "talking stick" — which a senator in the room described as a "ceremonial Native American stick" that Collins owned. At one point, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee forcefully tossed the stick toward Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia after Warner interrupted him, nearly shattering a glass elephant belonging to Collins, according to two people briefed on the throw. After that incident, Collins suggested using a small rubber ball, and Alexander also brought his own basketball "because it’d be safer than a stick," an aide said.
Next they'll get a conch shell.

If the rumors are true that Trump is exploring ways to get rid of General Kelly as chief of staff, then Trump is even more clueless about governing than I had thought. Reportedly, Trump is furious that Kelly went on Fox News and seemed to show disrespect to Trump's position on immigration saying that it has "evolved" and that Trump was uninformed when he promised to build the wall. All true, but of course Trump can't stand hearing the truth if it makes him look bad. And Trump can't stand that people respect Kelly as the "grown-up" in the administration.
Trump’s anger at Kelly’s immigration comments is the latest flare-up in a relationship that has been deteriorating for months. A four-star marine general, Kelly was never going to be an easy fit in a West Wing with a Lord of the Flies office culture. Staffers have bristled at Kelly’s rectitude, nicknaming him “the Church Lady,” a former official said.

Trump has increasingly been chafing at the media narrative that he needs Kelly to instill discipline on his freewheeling management style. “The more Kelly plays up that he’s being the adult in the room—that it’s basically combat duty and he’s serving the country—that kind of thing drives Trump nuts,” a Republican close to the White House said. In recent days, Trump has fumed to friends that Kelly acts like he’s running the government while Trump tweets and watches television. “I’ve got another nut job here who thinks he’s running things,” Trump told one friend, according to a Republican briefed on the call. A second source confirmed that Trump has vented about Kelly, mentioning one call in which Trump said, “This guy thinks he’s running the show.” (A White House official said “it’s categorically false that Trump is unhappy with Kelly. “He’s only ever referred to him as the general, tough, can be rough, and commands respect.)

Kelly, in turn, has expressed frustration with Trump’s freewheeling management style and habit of making offensive statements. In August, when Trump incited outrage with his Charlottesville comments, Kelly complained to a colleague that he was “holding it together.” The next month, cameras captured Kelly’s infamous facepalm at Trump’s U.N. speech when Trump called Kim Jong Un “rocket man” and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.” The New York Times reported that Kelly has threatened to quit numerous times.

Trump, for his part, is frustrated that he’s not getting more credit for positive news like the booming stock market and low unemployment numbers. In recent days, he told a longtime friend that the national polls, which put his approval numbers in the low 30s, are under-representing the real number. Trump insisted his approval rating is in the high 50s. The friend challenged him, but Trump didn’t want to hear it. He soon ended the call.
It's always a problem when an aide becomes well-known. Presidents like to be portrayed as the ones in charge and making all the tough decisions. So any good press that Kelly earns is going to annoy Trump. But if Trump thinks that bringing in someone else who will be more obsequious to him is what he needs, he's an idiot. Reportedly, Kelly has straightened out a lot of the inner-office mess that characterized the administration before he brought in Kelly. Maybe if Trump wouldn't tweet and say outrageous things that distract from the good news that Trump is frustrated the media aren't talking about, he would get the attention on the economy that he is looking for.

All those foreign leaders who have such contempt for Trump now have a reason to be grateful to him and the Republicans in Congress.
The International Monetary Fund warned policymakers to be on guard for the next recession even as it predicted global growth will accelerate to the fastest pace in seven years as U.S. tax cuts spur businesses to invest.

The fund raised its forecast for world expansion to 3.9 percent this year and next, up 0.2 percentage point both years from its projection in October. That would be the fastest rate since 2011, when the world was bouncing back from the financial crisis.

The strengthening recovery offers a “perfect opportunity now for world leaders to repair their roof,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told reporters Monday in Davos, Switzerland where the World Economic Forum is meeting. “Growth in our view needs to be more inclusive.”

About half of the IMF’s global upgrade stems from the Republican tax cuts passed in December and enacted this year. Cuts to the corporate tax rate will give the world’s biggest economy a shot in the arm, lifting U.S. growth to 2.7 percent this year, 0.4 point higher than the fund expected in October, the IMF said Monday in an update to its World Economic Outlook. Projected U.S. growth was the highest among advanced economies.

Philip H. DeVoe comments,
While the IMF estimates that the tax cuts will spur growth until 2022, it stressed that this would change if the individual cuts and other elements of the law set to expire were allowed to do so. As it stands now, the IMF predicts global growth will be lower than had been forecasted beginning in 2022 and for a few years onward.
All the more reason to get Congress to vote on extending the cuts.

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This is pretty sleazy behavior.
Representative Patrick Meehan, a Pennsylvania Republican who has taken a leading role in fighting sexual harassment in Congress, used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle his own misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making unwanted romantic overtures to her, according to several people familiar with the settlement.

A married father of three, Mr. Meehan, 62, had long expressed interest in the personal life of the aide, who was decades younger and had regarded the congressman as a father figure, according to three people who worked with the office and four others with whom she discussed her tenure there.

But after the woman became involved in a serious relationship with someone outside the office last year, Mr. Meehan professed his romantic desires for her — first in person, and then in a handwritten letter — and he grew hostile when she did not reciprocate, the people familiar with her time in the office said.

Life in the office became untenable, so she initiated the complaint process, started working from home and ultimately left the job. She later reached a confidential agreement with Mr. Meehan’s office that included a settlement for an undisclosed amount to be paid from Mr. Meehan’s congressional office fund.
Meehan is on the House Ethics Committee, the committee that is investigating sexual misconduct against other contressmen. So, knowing that he had this episode in his own personal history, he didn't speak up and recuse himself from the committee? If this hadn't been leaked, he'd still be judging accusations of sexual misconduct against his colleagues. Stories like this are why people have such contempt for Congress.

John Sexton looks at accusations reported in The Guardian about sexual harassment and assault at the United Nations.
The United Nations has allowed sexual harassment and assault to flourish in its offices around the world, with accusers ignored and perpetrators free to act with impunity, the Guardian has been told.

Dozens of current and former UN employees described a culture of silence across the organisation and a flawed grievance system that is stacked against victims.

Of the employees interviewed, 15 said they had experienced or reported sexual harassment or assault within the past five years. The alleged offences ranged from verbal harassment to rape.

Seven of the women had formally reported what happened, a route that campaigners say is rarely pursued by victims for fear of losing their job, or in the belief that no action will be taken.

“If you report it, your career is pretty much over, especially if you’re a consultant,” said one consultant, who alleged she was harassed by her supervisor while working for the World Food Programme. “It’s like an unsaid thing.”
Things don't go well if these women report what has happened to them.
Three women who reported sexual harassment or sexual assault, all from different offices, said they had since been forced out of their jobs or threatened with the termination of their contract in the past year. The alleged perpetrators, who include a senior UN official, remain in their posts.

One of the women, who alleges she was raped by a more senior UN staff member while working in a remote location, said: “There are no other options to get justice, and I have lost my job too.”

She said that despite medical evidence and witness testimonies, an internal investigation by the UN found insufficient evidence to support her allegation. Along with her job, she says she has lost her visa and has spent months in hospital due to stress and trauma. She fears she will face persecution if she returns to her home country…
But, hey, the UN always has time to condemn Israel and vote against the U.S. moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

This is what happens under Sharia Law in Indonesia.
A woman and her partner were publicly whipped for getting "too close" to each other just days before their wedding.

The shocking public punishment took place in Aceh, Indonesia.

Closeness is seen as a step towards pre-martial sex which is against Sharia Law and as a result the couple each received 20 lashes, in front of gathering crowds.

The pair were among a group which were brought forward for public punishment on a makeshift stage outside a mosque on Friday.

An Indonesian Christian was also whipped for selling alcohol in the conservative province of Aceh.

Islamic law also forbids selling and consuming alcohol and Jono Simbolon was arrested in October and sentenced to 36 lashings.

As a masked officer whipped his back with a rattan stick the man could be seen grimacing in pain in front of the jeering crowd.

After 10 of the lashings a doctor was brought in to check on Simbolon - but he gave the go-ahead for the whipping to continue.

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I thought women were the same as men intellectually and it was outrageous to suggest that there was any difference in their abilities to do science or math. Larry Summers lost his position at Harvard for just saying that perhaps that was something to be looked at. James Damore was fired from Google for saying that perhaps there were reasons other than discrimination for there to be fewer female applicants in engineering. But then we see a story like thos about Oxford University.
Oxford University has extended time for maths and computer science exams in a bid to help women get better grades.

Undergraduates were given 105 minutes to complete their papers, rather 90.

There was no change in difficulty or the length of questions and female students were said to do better as a result.

Dons trialed the changes to allow women to achieve higher results, with just seven female maths finalists achieving firsts last year compared with 45 men.

The proposals were put forward to reduce the 'undue effects of time pressure' which the prestigious university believe effects [sic] women more than men, reports the Sunday Times.
They explain the need for extending time by saying that women are more likely to check over their answers which slows them down while men answer more quickly, but also make more mistakes.

Neat-o! Two new Van Gogh drawings have been found.