Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Cruising the Web

Ramesh Ponnuru suggests that the parties come together to end the possibility of future government shutdown.
There’s no law of nature that requires the federal government to run at partial capacity when Congress and the president can’t agree on a budget bill. Long ago Congress could have passed, and a president could have signed, a law stipulating how the government would operate in case of such a disagreement.

Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio has been trying for years to enact such a law. During the last shutdown, in 2013, he got a floor vote on an amendment for an “automatic continuing resolution.” If no appropriations bill were signed into law, the affected programs would keep running at their existing spending levels for the next 120 days. If no bill had passed by then, spending would be cut by 1 percent. Another 1 percent cut would be made every 90 days after that.
That sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn't it? When it was proposed back in 2013, the Republicans voted for it and the Democrats voted against. Clearly, the Democrats judged that they would win the PR battle over a shutdown. And, of course, the Democrats hate the idea of cutting the budget 1 percent. They worry about such cuts compounding over time. As Ponnuru points out, such a provision, the Republicans in this case would have an incentive to keep appropriations bills from passing on time so that they could get the automatic cuts. So Ponnuru suggests taking out that provision and putting in some other penalty.
That’s an argument for tweaking Portman’s idea. Congress could set a different default rule for what happens when there’s no agreement on budget bills. Maybe it’s one that keeps spending flat, or keeps it growing at the average pace of the previous few years.
Whatever they come up with, it would be better than having these stupid shutdowns. Perhaps now that the Democrats have suffered a messaging defeat ver a shutdown, they might agree that it is in everyone's best interest to get rid of the possibility of any more government shutdowns.

Another possibility stems from a story I linked to on Monday. It turns out that origin of shutting down the government when they can't agree on a budget stems from a decision made back in 1981.
Before some 1980 and 1981 opinions issued by then-Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, a failure to fund some part of the government didn't necessarily mean that that part of government would stop functioning. Civiletti's opinions interpreted the Antideficiency Act, a law passed in 1884, as meaning that a failure to pass new spending bills required government functioning to shut down in whole or in part.
How about going back to that 1884 law and changing that provision so that the government can keep functioning if no agreement has come on funding.

But perhaps this is a reason to keep having shutdowns.
Many federal employees may remember that Ted Cruz-caused shutdown more fondly — nine months later D.C. enjoyed a baby boom.

The evidence isn't conclusive, but it's there: July 2014 saw more births in Washington, D.C. (875) than any July before or since. That year, July accounted for 9.2 percent of all births. In the four surrounding years, July accounted for an average of 8.5 percent of all births.
Perhaps furloughed federal employees found some other way to, er, occupy their time.

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There's a problem with Chelsea Manning's plan to run for the Senate in Maryland. It turns out that she is still technically an active-duty soldier, and as such, cannot run for political office.
As part of the coverage of Manning’s filing with the FEC and state board, virtually every media organization has declared that Manning is a former Army private. In fact, as the Army confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation in September 2017, Manning remains an active-duty soldier, albeit on excess leave and in a non-pay status while his appeal of a general court-martial for violating the Espionage Act and other orders is underway. And as ABC News noted in May 2017, Manning must remain in an active-duty status while the appeal process continues....

The Army further stated that Manning holds an active-duty identification card and acknowledged his status and access to government health care prior to his release.

While Manning’s felony conviction does not appear to automatically disqualify a run for office, his active-duty status presents a much more troubling issue. Such a status, in other words, has enormous implications for engaging in any kind of political activity, especially a Senate run.

Dru Brenner-Beck, retired Army judge advocate general and president of the National Institute of Military Justice, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that on the face of it, Manning is prohibited by Department of Defense regulations from running for office while serving in an active-duty capacity. The only exception is if Secretary of Defense James Mattis grants explicit permission, a power that cannot be delegated by a secretary to anyone else.
I bet Democrats would love it if Manning were disqualified from running. The last thing they want is a person convicted of leaking more than 700,000 classified documents becoming the face of the party in one state.

This is how government regulations
keep hard-working people from making a living. They tell the story of a young man who was working as a barber in Tennessee. He had a fake license for being a barber and was busted for that. But when he tried to find out what he had to do to get a legitimate license.
Still wanting to make things right with the state, and wanting to provide a steady income to support his new wife, who was expecting a daughter, Zarate began calling around to barbering schools in the Memphis area. That's when he hit another wall.

Without a high school diploma or a GED, he was repeatedly told, there would be no reason for a school to admit him.

Nearly a decade earlier, Zarate had dropped out of high school. He'd made it to the 12th grade, but he had a failing GPA and spent most of the school day sleeping through classes because he was exhausted from working a series of after-school and weekend jobs. His mother had died when he was just 10 and his father had left the family soon after, leaving Elias and his two younger siblings in the care of relatives. That situation was untenable, so when an opportunity arose to work and live in Memphis—about 20 miles from where he was living at the time—Zarate had no second thoughts about leaving school.

At the time, he never would have guessed that failing to finish the 12th grade could prevent him from working as a barber. Even now, he's somewhat stunned by the law.

"I don't feel like anything in my entire schooling from grade school through senior year had anything to do with my barbering skills," he tells Reason.

All licensing rules are at least somewhat arbitrary, and all licensing rules limit access to jobs in licensed professions, but the disconnect between mandatory training and the danger posed by unlicensed individuals doing the exact same work is rarely larger than it is in the barbering profession—and Tennessee's barber licensing law is an outlier.

It's also a policy with no justification except protectionism. Cutting hair well does not require knowledge of trigonometry or a careful study of the meaning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Proper sanitation for the equipment used by licensed barbers—the only thing that could remotely be considered a reason for government to intervene in the process of determining who can be a barber—could be, and indeed is, taught during the mandatory training that all barber licensing applicants must complete in Tennessee. It is not taught in Tennessee high schools, for obvious reasons....

Tennessee's requirement that would-be barbers graduate from high school is not some relic from a by-gone era. The law was passed in 2015.

Before then, obtaining a barber's license (technically called a "certificate of registration as a master barber") required an applicant to show that he or she had completed the 10th grade. In other words, when Zarate dropped out of school in the 12th grade in 2008, he would have been eligible for a barber license. By the time he sought the license, in 2017, he was not.

Legislative records show that there was little debate on the bill—it was HB 1332 and SB 964 during that session—as it moved through the legislature. The legislation was presented as an effort to "clean up" differences between the state's cosmetology and barbering licensing rules following the merger of the two boards into the newly formed Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners. But the bill actually hiked schooling standards for barbers while ignoring similar requirements for cosmetologists. Getting a cosmetology license in Tennessee requires only that an applicant has completed the 10th grade.

In addition to increasing the legal requirements for barbering in Tennessee, the bill hiked the punishments for anyone caught barbering without a license. Under the new rules, the offense is now a Class A misdemeanor punishable under Tennessee law by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail along with fines of up to $2,500. Before, it was a Class C misdemeanor that carried no more than 30 days in jail and a $50 fine.

The changes may have been rooted in protectionism. Until 2013, one of the states that borders Tennessee—Alabama—had no state license for barbers. The head of Alabama's cosmetology board, who was a leading proponent of the 2013 license, explicitly favored it on the grounds that it would protect cosmetologists from "unfair competition" by barbers. Was a similar motive at work in the Volunteer State?
Do legislators ever think of the impact of such stupid and onerous regulations to keep a motivated worker from cutting guys' hair?
The closer you look, the less sense it makes. You can become a licensed emergency medical responder in Tennessee without a high school diploma—indeed, you can do it with far less work than is required to become a barber. Getting an EMR license in Tennessee requires only that an applicant can "read, write, and speak the English language," according to Tennessee Department of Health guidelines.

"You can restart the heart of a pulseless, unbreathing person without a high school diploma, but you cannot cut hair," says Braden Boucek, director of litigation at the Beacon Center, a Nashville-based think tank.
We all know what is behind such overregulation.
Most licensing rules are less about protecting the public and more about protecting the license holders. Professional licensing boards are essentially "cartels by another name," according to Aaron Edlin and Rebecca Haw, two University of Pennsylvania law professors who published a paper in 2014 arguing that unscrupulous licensing boards should face antitrust lawsuits. Dental boards have tried to stop non-dentists from doing things like whitening teeth. Florist licensing boards have limited who can arrange flowers professionally in order to protect the public from the scourge of contaminated dirt. In California, a state law prohibits teaching someone how to be a farrier—that is, someone who makes and fits horseshoes on horses—unless the student has a high school diploma.
Gee, how did blacksmiths operate for so many centuries without high school diplomas?

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The WSJ has some fun with the news that former FBI director James Comey is going to teach a class at William & Mary on "ethical leadership." The editors have some questions for the class to discuss.
Week One case study: The FBI is investigating a presidential candidate for mishandling classified emails as Secretary of State. The director decides on his own to violate Justice Department rules and exonerate that candidate in a public statement to the media, letting an aide replace the legally potent phrase “grossly negligent” in a draft of his statement with “extremely careless” in the final version.....

Breakout session topic: Having exonerated that candidate, the FBI director intervenes in the campaign again only days before Election Day, saying new evidence has required him to reopen the email case. Two days before the polls open he says that the new evidence turned out to be nothing of consequence. Was the FBI director protecting the rule of law, or his own reputation?

....Week Three: FBI director Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York are convinced that the man behind the 2001 anthrax mail attacks is a government virologist. They spend years pursuing him and destroying his reputation through the media, only to concede years later that they had fingered the wrong man.

Students will examine the ethics of trial-by-media and the risks to the fair administration of justice from prosecutors who ignore contrary evidence. Visiting scholars: Nicholas Kristof and Steven Jay Hatfill.

Week Four: A deputy attorney general handpicks a personal friend and godfather to one of his children, Patrick Fitzgerald, as a special counsel to investigate who leaked the name of CIA official Valerie Plame. Within days Mr. Fitzgerald learns that the leaker was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a fact he then keeps secret for years.

Instead of closing the case, the deputy AG expands Mr. Fitzgerald’s mandate. After a three-year investigation that turns up nothing new, Mr. Fitzgerald indicts a White House aide for perjury to salvage something from the effort. Reporter Judith Miller, whom Mr. Fitzgerald sent to jail for 85 days to force her testimony that was crucial in convicting the White House official, later says she testified falsely after Mr. Fitzgerald withheld crucial information from her.

Students will consider the ethics of special counsels without effective supervision, and whether Mr. Fitzgerald showed loyalty to lasting values and the truth by keeping the name of the leaker secret from the public and President George W. Bush. Special guest (invited): Scooter Libby.
Sounds like there is a lot of discussion material there.

Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, is suspected of being the leak about matters the committee is investigating. People have even tied his leaving the committee room to when leaks about what the committee was discussing just then appearing on CNN. But he seems to have a remarkable lack of curiosity at getting to the bottom of the Steele Dossier.
Has there ever been a more incurious congressman than Adam Schiff ?

The California Democrat serves as ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a powerful oversight panel. Recently this committee succeeded in wresting key documents from the Justice Department and FBI after months of being stonewalled, and Republican staffers have summarized the info in a classified four-page memo. Those who have read the memo say it includes evidence of abuses by Justice and FBI officials handling the investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged ties with Russia, most salaciously summed up in the infamous Steele dossier named for the former British spy who compiled it.

But whether it’s material submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a warrant on a Trump campaign official or conveniently missing texts between an FBI agent and his FBI mistress—who both hated Mr. Trump and would each serve on the special counsel’s team—Mr. Schiff exhibits no interest. Saturday on CNN he implied that the only ones who are interested are Russian bots on Twitter .

When CNN’s Ana Cabrera asked him why not let the American people see the info and decide for themselves, Mr. Schiff went full Jack Nicholson : “The American people, unfortunately, don’t have the underlying materials and therefore they can’t see how distorted and misleading this document is,” he answered. Translation: The American people can’t handle the truth.

It makes no sense. If the American people lack context, that’s an argument for more disclosure, not less. But it fits a pattern. Mr. Schiff tells us there is “more than circumstantial evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But he never produces it.

To put it another way, Mr. Schiff appears to be the only man in America who doesn’t seem to want to know whether the material in the Steele dossier is true or not. All along he has stood against getting relevant information—fighting subpoenas for Justice, fighting subpoenas for the FBI, and fighting the subpoena for the bank records of Fusion GPS (which ultimately prompted the admission that the Clinton campaign had helped fund the Steele dossier)....

Congress—especially the oversight committees—is supposed to act as the people’s watchdog. Mr. Trump is routinely slammed for his indifference to reading, especially the endless memos and policy papers that find their way onto a president’s desk. But what does it say when the ranking member of a vital oversight committee appears uninterested in what his committee has unearthed about a matter that speaks to the integrity of our highest institutions of law enforcement?

The Beltway standard for comparison for scandal today is Watergate. It’s now been nearly five decades since men affiliated with Richard Nixon’s Committee for the Re-Election of the President were nabbed while breaking into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex. The purpose of the break-in was to plant a bug and gain embarrassing intel on the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, George McGovern.

If Mr. Trump and his team worked with Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton, it would indeed be as scandalous as Watergate. But it would be just as scandalous if a Democratic administration’s Justice Department and FBI used unsubstantiated opposition research—parts of which were quite possibly drawn from Russian disinformation—to obtain warrants to spy on members of a Republican presidential campaign.

In 1972, Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler dismissed the break-in as a “third-rate burglary.” Today Mr. Schiff routinely dismisses the House Intel Committee findings about Justice and the FBI’s handling of the Steele dossier as “a profound distraction”—while he too fights an investigation into a presidential election. Could that be why he’s so opposed to letting the American people see what he’s seen?
And remember, if the Democrats take over the House, this guy will be the chairman of that committee and we can all forget about learning anything more about what was going on with the Steele dossier.

Will this Armageddon never cease?
Chief executive officer and chairman of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger and Mickey Mouse look on before ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), November 27, 2017 in New York City. Disney giving 125,000 employees $1,000 cash bonuses
1 Hour Ago | 00:44
Disney announced Tuesday it will pay over 125,000 employees a one-time cash bonus of $1,000, as well as make a new $50 million investment into education program for employees.

"We are directing approximately $125 million to our cast members and employees across the country and making higher education more accessible with the launch of this new program," CEO Bob Iger said in a statement.

Disney says both initiatives are due to recent tax reform. Some of the biggest companies in the United States have been giving out bonuses to employees, often citing the recently-passed tax bill as the motive. Boeing, AT&T, Wells Fargo, Comcast, Bank of America and Walmart are just a few of those distributing new tax benefits to workers.

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This is what having due process rights protects us from.
Police in the Dutch city of Rotterdam have launched a new pilot programme which will see them confiscating expensive clothing and jewellery from young people if they look too poor to own them.

Officers say the scheme will see them target younger men in designer clothes they seem unlikely to be able to afford legally – if it is not clear how the person paid for it, it will be confiscated.

The idea is to deter criminality by sending a signal that the men will not be able to hang onto their ill-gotten gains.

Rotterdam police chief Frank Paauw told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: “They are often young guests who consider themselves untouchable. We're going to undress them on the street.

“We regularly take a Rolex from a suspect. Clothes rarely. And that is especially a status symbol for young people. Some young people now walk with jackets of €1800. They do not have any income, so the question is how they get there.”

He said the young men targeted often have no income and are already in debt from fines for previous convictions but wearing expensive clothing.

This “undermines the rule of law” which sends “a completely false signal to local residents”, he explained.

The trial is due to start in the Rotterdam West section of the city and police say they will target one gang in particular.

The scheme comes after a previous pilot which looked at the expensive cars suspected criminals drove despite not having an income.
While we can sympathize with the efforts to stop crime in the city, I would hope that we would never accept targeting people simply because the police suspect they can't afford their clothes or jewelry. This would lead to the worst type of racial profiling and shouldn't be acceptable here. But, apparently, in the Netherlands, such targeting is just fine. And, of course, in Rotterdam, a city with a crime problem, partially due to the immigrant population, this is really all about ethnic profiling.

A model chosen by L'Oreal
to be the first spokeswoman in a hijab to advertise he their hair products has had to step down when it came out that she had posted some some pretty extreme anti-Israeli tweets a few years ago. Revlon has also experienced problems with their efforts to cozy up to Muslims.
Khan was unveiled just last week as one of the new faces in an ad campaign for hair care products in which she appeared wearing her hijab.

“Whether or not your hair is on display doesn’t affect how much you care about it,” said the beauty blogger from Leicester, England. But after the international attention brought by the groundbreaking ad, Khan found herself hastily deleting several tweets that used harsh language relating to Israel.

In the deleted messages captured by screenshots and tweet-saving services, Khan called Israel a “sinister state,” an “illegal state,” and said the country is full of “child murderers” and expressed hope for its defeat. In other posts on social media that had not been deleted, Khan accused Israel of “Torture. Murder. Rape. Genocide” and falsely claimed that “Orthodox Jews themselves condemn the actions of Israel.”

Khan has participated in L’Oreal campaigns since late 2016 when she was part of an advertisement for foundation cosmetics. There is no little amount of irony involved in her cooperation with L’Oreal, which has operated a factory in Migdal Ha’emek for decades. The company has faced many boycott calls over the years from supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement over its extensive business ties with Israel.

Last week, beauty competitor Revlon also faced controversy after it offered a “changemaker” award to a Muslim activist who rejected the recognition because of Gal Gadot involvement with the company.

Amani al-Khatahtbeh, a writer and the founder of, said last week she could not accept the recognition “with Gal Gadot as the ambassador.” She said Gadot’s “vocal support of the Israeli Defense Forces’ actions in Palestine goes against’s morals and values.”

Gadot, the Israeli star of the hit Wonder Woman film, was recently announced as the new face of Revlon’s “Live Boldly” campaign.

Ben Shapiro explores the stupidity
of barring an ad in the Super Bowl LII program with American soldiers carrying the flag and with the hashtag #PleaseStand. THe NFL says they don't want to take a position on that so refused to take the ad. They just didn't want anything political connected with the Super Bowl. Yeah, sure.
Stupidity like this is one of the reasons the NFL has been losing popularity. They’ve routinely engaged in politics at the Super Bowl — just two years ago, Beyonce performed at the Super Bowl in a Black Panther outfit, with her backup dancers holding up raised fists. Lady Gaga performed at the 2017 Super Bowl, and kept her performance relatively apolitical — but that’s not to say that the NFL would have done anything had she not. The NFL’s decision not to tell players to stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room was obviously political, too.

But when it comes to veterans standing for the flag and encouraging others to do so, too, that’s where the NFL draws the line.

All of which suggests that the leadership of the NFL needs to take better stock of its fan base. The NFL’s fan base is evenly spit between Republicans and Democrats — and Americans generally have evidenced little enthusiasm for the kneeling. As of October 2016, the leading reason cited by those who tuned out of the NFL for tuning out was furor over the anthem.

This shouldn’t have been a difficult call from the NFL. If they wanted an ad on the other side, they surely could have taken one. But they didn’t. And so the NFL, by chickening out, continues to diminish its own popularity.