Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Cruising the Web

In the "be careful what you wish for" approach, Tom Bevan explains why it might not be in the Democrats' best interest to gain control of the House in the Fall. If they do, Bevan theorizes, they will be pressured to bring impeachment proceedings against Trump because that is what their base wants. But that might backfire, unless there is clear evidence of collusion with Russia or some actual criminal conduct. But, without such evidence, impeachment might actually help Trump.
They would effectively turn the president into a victim in almost the same way Republicans did to Clinton.

In other words, Democrats retaking control of one or both chambers of Congress would most likely boost Trump’s prospects in 2020 by giving him something (and someone) to run against. Right now, railing against Democrats in a Republican-controlled Congress is not a terribly effective weapon in Trump’s arsenal. But to be able to tweet broadsides against Pelosi for two solid years and blame her for all manner of ills heading into 2020 would be a vastly more potent line of attack.

As counter-intuitive as it seems, Democrats would be better off gaining seats in the House but coming up just short of retaking control. The benefits of losing are substantial. It would keep their base angry and fired up heading into 2020 while at the same time not giving Trump’s base a reason to get re-energized. In addition to keeping impeachment from dominating the news, not retaking the House this November could serve as the tipping point for Democrats to push the current leadership aside and usher in a new generation of young, fresh, dynamic members to lead the party into 2020 and beyond – something many believe the party desperately needs.

It's a bit late, but one liberal writer at Slate, Joshua Keating, now acknowledges that the Iran nuclear deal, which he had originally supported, was a big mistake. He acknowledges that the deal hasn't lived up to the idealistic hopes of the Obama administration such as Obama's prediction that, with the deal, Iran would behave more responsibly, "not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon—you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.”
This is not what happened on either side of the Middle East’s sectarian divide. Instead, the deal has more often contributed to escalating tensions. In retrospect, this was foreseeable: Iran was perfectly capable of projecting power across the region with or without a nuclear arsenal. As for its rivals, they never trusted Iran’s assurances and saw warming relations between Tehran and Washington as a new and potentially even greater threat.

Following the nuclear deal, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, with aid from the U.S., stepped up their involvement in the tragic and destructive war in Yemen to counter perceived Iranian encroachment in their backyard. The Saudis also exacerbated the region’s sectarian tensions by executing a prominent Shiite cleric in January 2016. This, predictably, led to the ransacking of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the cutting off of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Saudi moves were viewed as a reaction to warming U.S. ties with Iran....

At the same time, rather than moderating its regional ambitions as the JCPOA’s proponents might have hoped, Iran has spent the years since the deal was signed supporting a network of Shiite militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries, part of a larger project to, as BuzzFeed’s Borzou Daragahi put it, “establish territorial dominance from the Gulf of Aden to the shores of the Mediterranean.” Iran might have done all this regardless. But it was also responding to the Saudi actions. Either way, there’s certainly no evidence that nuclear diplomacy, or the lack of a nuclear weapon, has helped the neighbors overcome their differences.
But that was not all that Obama thought might happen after the deal. He thought it might shift power in the Iranian regime to the so-called moderates such as President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani isn't the moderate some like to pretend and we definitely haven't seen any moderation of the government's behavior.
Rouhani got his nuclear deal and won re-election last year, but it’s hard to say that his faction has been “empowered” beyond that. In the months following the deal, the conservative hard-liners who had opposed it stepped up arrests of political opponents in what was seen as a bid to re-establish their position. Human Rights Watch noted that “Iranian dual nationals and citizens returning from abroad were at particular risk of arrest by intelligence authorities, accused of being ‘Western agents.’ ” Iran led the world in executions per capita in 2016 and global democracy monitor Freedom House stated last year that there was no indication that Rouhani’s moderates were “willing or able to push back against repressive forces and deliver the greater social freedoms he had promised.”

The protests that swept the country in January, sparked by economic grievances, suggest that most Iranians have not benefited from the lifting of sanctions, and the thousands of arrests and dozens killed in those protests certainly don’t indicate that Iranian security forces have become any more tolerant of dissent. The more recent acts of defiance by women protesting the country’s mandatory hijab rules may be another sign that Iranians are tired of waiting for the regime to reform at its own pace—and that the deal did not motivate the change they so desperately desire.
So dang, I guess the major accomplishment of Obama's foreign policy hasn't played out as we were told it would. And there is Syria.
Any consideration of Obama’s priorities in the Middle East has to address the most contested part of his legacy, the still unfolding crisis in Syria. Many critics, including former members of his administration, have charged that Obama’s reluctance to intervene to a greater extent in Syria was motivated in part by the desire to achieve the nuclear agreement with Bashar al-Assad’s patron, Iran. In the new documentary, The Final Year, which follows Obama’s foreign policy team throughout 2016, adviser Ben Rhodes essentially legitimizes this claim by defending Obama’s hands-off policy in part by saying that if the U.S. had intervened more forcefully in Syria, it would have dominated Obama’s second term and the JCPOA would have been impossible to achieve. Rhodes may be right, but it’s less and less clear as time goes on that this was the right trade-off. Looking at the devastating consequences of the Syrian war, not just for that country but for the region and the world, it’s hard not to argue that Obama should have made Syria his main and overwhelming foreign policy focus, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, Iran deal be damned.
All in all, he sounds a bit like a liberal Obama supporter who is being mugged by reality.

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Is this really the rallying cry with which the Democrats want to go into election season?
Progressive Texans burst into applause on Friday as Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered a women’s rights speech with the following rallying cry: “We march with pink pussy hats!”

....“Women know what it’s like to get talked over in meetings, passed over for promotions, and screwed over in salary negotiations,” Ms. Warren told an Austin crowd at Long Center for the Performing Arts. “Nevertheless, we persist. We persist and we march. We march in pink pussy hats! We march carrying hand-made signs! We march with our moms and our sisters and our daughters. And last year we marched in the largest single-day protest in the history of the entire world! Yes!”
Oh, sure that's how to win votes in Texas? It's a long way from 2006 when the Democrats savvily ran more moderate candidates in red states. But now the party has moved sharply to the left so Elizabeth Warren is, as Jake Kastan, a former Paul Ryan aide, comments,
Just look at the Left today. The moderate, pro-business Blue Dogs are nearly extinct. Of the 32 Democrats in the House of Representatives who voted against Obamacare in 2009, only two of them are still in Congress today. This is not your father’s Democratic party. The recent government shutdown should make that clear. For anyone paying attention, this is now the party of Elizabeth Warren. If Democrats win back the House majority this fall, Maxine Waters is in line to become the next chair of the House Financial Services Committee. If Democrats take back the Senate, Bernie Sanders will become chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

More than a third of the Democratic conference in the Senate has endorsed Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill, which would cost, according to some estimates, $32 trillion over 10 years. In the House, the swing to the far Left is even more striking with more than 60 percent of Democrats endorsing John Conyers’ “Medicare for all” bill to nationalize health insurance.

This is not a straw man argument or conservative fear mongering. Single-payer healthcare is undeniably the stated policy position of the majority of the House Democratic conference.
THe Republicans need to make sure that people understand this as we go into this year's elections. While the Democrats want to make the campaign all about Trump, they should have to answer for their policy choices.

This is an excellent idea
From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Bureau of Land Management oversees some of the nation's most prized natural resources: vast expanses of public lands rich in oil, gas, coal, grazing for livestock, habitat for wildlife, hunting ranges, fishing streams and hiking trails.

But more than 99 percent of that land is in 12 Western states, hundreds of miles from the nation's capital. Some Western politicians - both Republicans and Democrats - are asking why the bureau's headquarters isn't in the West as well.

"You're dealing with an agency that basically has no business in Washington, D.C.," said Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who introduced a bill to move the headquarters to any of those dozen states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington or Wyoming. The Bureau of Land Management manages a combined 385,000 square miles (997,000 square kilometers) in those states.

Colorado Republican Rep. Scott Tipton introduced a similar measure in the House, and three Democrats signed up as co-sponsors: Reps. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jared Polis of Colorado and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado.

Some Westerners have long argued federal land managers should be closer to the land they oversee, saying Washington doesn't understand the region. Now they have a powerful ally in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a Montanan who is leading President Donald Trump's charge to roll back environmental regulations and encourage energy development on public land.

Zinke said in September he wants to move much of the Interior Department's decision-making to the West, including the Bureau of Land Management, which is part of the agency.
I'm for moving as much of the federal bureaucracy out of Washington. Living closer to the areas which they oversee would be good for all concerned. The original idea of representative government is that our representatives need to live amongst us so they understand how their policy choices affect people. The same is true of federal bureaucrats. In the debates over the Constitution, anti-Federalists claimed that a powerful central government would be too removed from the concerns of the nation's citizenry. Would anyone think their fears were not borne out by the federal government today? With modern communications today, there is no real reason why it all has to be located in Washington. Moving the BLM would be a good first step.

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Scott Wilson takes a look in the Washington Post at politics in California and how, come November, many state contests could end up being between two Democrats or someone on the left against someone on the far left. It will be a lovely experiment for all those who think that leftist policies will spell some sort of utopian paradise.
hat means staking out the most liberal stance on issues such as single-payer health care in California, a highly expensive initiative that failed in the legislature last year. The push is in response to the uncertainty surrounding health-care revisions in Washington, but it is estimated to cost twice the state’s annual budget.

Candidates will be forced to defend California’s “sanctuary state” status on immigration and push investment in the solar power and electric car industries to reach strict environmental goals. They also will have to address a sexual harassment scandal that, in Democratic consultant Bill Carrick’s description, “hangs like a black cloud” over a State Capitol where two Democratic lawmakers have resigned and another has been suspended.
As these policies get enacted, Californians can see what they will do to housing costs, taxes, and the cost of living.

Megan McArdle examines the argument that liberals often make that red states get back a lot more from the federal government than they pay in. So they are net recipients contrasted with the blue states that are net contributors to the federal government in terms of how much they pay and how much they receive. McCardle points out that that point is based on data from the middle of Bush's presidency but, as she points out, the electoral and economic maps have changed. She looks at a 2013 map that looks at the "per capita balance of payments between the federal government and the states."
What do you notice? On a per-capita basis -- which is the right way to calculate this -- deep-blue New Jersey is the biggest donor state. But red-blooded Wyoming is the next biggest, and North Dakota makes the list too. There is certainly a preponderance of blue states at that end of the spectrum, but it’s not a clear “Donor states are blue” story. And if we match the 2013 data to the closest election (2012) we find that New Mexico, the biggest net recipient, went for Obama in 2012, as did Virginia, Maryland, Maine and Hawaii. What’s driving the net subsidies isn’t anything as simple as political identification.

What does explain it? In general, the net donor states tend to be populous and rich. But that’s a pretty broad generalization. North Dakota and Wyoming aren’t populous and aren’t particularly thought of as rich states -- but in 2013, they were in the middle of a fracking boom that threw off lots of tax revenue for the federal government. Maryland and Virginia, on the other hand, are both rich and populous -- but they’re also sitting next to the seat of the federal government, which means they have a lot of federal pensioners, a lot of government contractors, and a lot of federal office buildings pouring money into their economies.
She then goes on to explain that states that are the big donor states is that they have a lot of wealthy people sending a lot of taxes to Washington. And then she looks at how states receive federal money.
Most of the transfers do not come from “red state welfare” like agricultural subsidies. They derive from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, welfare, the maintenance of the national highway system, the purchase of goods and services for the federal government, and the operation of federal facilities and lands.

If blue state liberals consider this out of whack, what do they want to change?

-Do they want to move toward a flatter, less progressive federal tax code?
-Do they want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?
-Do they want to return unemployment insurance and similar entitlement programs entirely to the states?
-Do they want to hand over the national parks to the states, or privatize them?
-Would they like to downsize the federal workforce?
-Should we redistribute military bases from red states to blue? (Those relocations might meaningfully alter the state electorate, making it easier for Republicans to get elected. They would also require the purchase, by eminent domain, of a lot of prime blue-state land that has things like beach houses on it.)
But on the other hand, one can make an argument, from fairness and federalism, that these transfers are simply too large, too unbalanced; that it’s time to return social services to the states, and turn the federal government back into something like what it was before the New Deal: a referee between the states, a coordinator of inarguably national concerns like national defense, but not the guarantor of a vast and comprehensive social safety net.
Is that what liberals really are arguing? Of course not. But if they're honestly upset that red states are receiving more money than they contribute then the solution is to adopt more conservative policies.
Maybe the system is now so unfair to rich liberals that this is the way we should go. And given how impossible it is for them to get anything done in the federal government these days, blue-state liberals might want to offer Republicans a compromise: We’ll get rid of federal taxes and programs, and it’s every state for itself. If you genuinely think it’s an outrage that red states collect so much federal money, you should probably be eager for the trade.

But think carefully before you make that proposal. Because if liberals offer to dismantle the New Deal and return to genuine federalism, they might just find that Republicans are eager to take that deal.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis testified
yesterday to lay the smackdown on Congress what it means to the military if the politicians keep jerking around without passing the appropriations bills for the Defense Department.
Without “sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time,” he added.

Mr. Mattis said that stumbling into another year-long continuing resolution would mean: not recruiting 15,000 Army soldiers and 4,000 Air Force airmen to fill shortfalls; grounding aircraft thanks to a lack of maintenance and spare parts; and worse. “Let me be clear,” he said, “as hard as the last 16 years of war have been on our military, no enemy in the field has done as much to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps, worsened by operating for 10 of the last 11 years under continuing resolutions of varied and unpredictable duration.”

All of this should rattle Members obsessing over funding for this or that domestic account as a precondition for a deal that gives the military stable funding. Credit to Mr. Mattis for exposing this pathetic budget exercise, which has withheld resources from service members who have signed “a blank check payable to the American people with their lives.”
Wow! What a powerful quote and it is so very true. They can all pretend how much they honor the military, but when it comes right down to it, they are holding them hostage in favor of DACA. For shame!

Oh, geez! Say it ain't so
President Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s armed forces.

Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top-secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning.

Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.

“The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” said a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planning discussions are supposed to remain confidential. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”

Shows of military strength are not typical in the United States — and they don’t come cheap. The cost of shipping Abrams tanks and high-tech hardware to Washington could run in the millions, and military officials said it was unclear how they would pay for it.

A White House official familiar with the planning described the discussions as “brainstorming” and said nothing is settled. “Right now, there’s really no meat on the bones,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

....The inspiration for Trump’s push is last year’s Bastille Day celebration in Paris, which the president attended as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump was awestruck by the tableau of uniformed French troops marching down Avenue des Champs-Elysees with military tanks, armored vehicles, gun trucks and carriers — complete with fighter jets flying over the Arc de Triomphe and painting the sky with streaks of blue, white and red smoke for the colors of the French flag.

Aboard Air Force One en route home from Paris last July, aides said Trump told them he was dazzled by the French display and said he wanted one at home.
Can't Mattis and the other generals that Trump likes to surround himself with sit him down and explain to him that this just isn't how we do things in the U.S. Why look to the French or the Russians for your precedent?

As Dan McLaughlin tweeted, "America doesn't & shouldn't do military parades. We do victory parades." Drop the mic.

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Heather Wilhelm ridicules the story
of how some companies are addressing concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace in response to a WSJ story "Can You Still Date a Co-Worker? Well, It's Complicated." Companies are trying to make rules for dating as strict and measured as the rules about having to ask for verbal permission each time a man goes to kiss a woman or anything else.
Hey, speaking of social media, how’s the dating climate at Facebook and Google, supposed beacons of empowerment and bold progressive cultural change? “Employees are only allowed to ask a co-worker out once,” the Journal reports. “If they are turned down, they don’t get to ask again. Ambiguous answers such as ‘I’m busy’ or ‘I can’t that night,’ count as a ‘no,’ said Heidi Swartz, Facebook’s global head of employment law.”
Well, that might be good if the co-worker actually doesn't want to date the other person? But what if there is something else going on.
But . . . what if you really are busy? What if you actually can’t that night, but would like to do it another time, but you forgot to add that part, or simply wanted to be asked again? What if you are a rare devotee of the slightly crazed 1990s dating handbook The Rules, and you refuse to accept a Saturday-night date after a Wednesday? What if you would like to present a sense of mystery or are slightly undecided? What if your impressions of the asker change over time? What if you date people only after they’ve proved their persistence by standing outside your window passionately lofting an old-school boom box playing “In Your Eyes” like John Cusack did in Say Anything? (It is 2018, so do not try this in real life. You will probably get arrested.)
What about just saying that no, you don't want to date that person? I know it's uncomfortable, but aren't women supposed to be all modern and independent and can do anything a man can do? And if it's a woman asking a man, can't he make it clear? Do we really need the boss to make rules about how many times someone can ask someone else out?
Let’s face it: This is all kind of weird. In this worldview, which developed long before #MeToo, everything must be spelled out, contract-like, businesslike, and brisk. There is no room for error or nuance — the stakes are far too dangerous and high! Moreover, for those most deeply entrenched in the current movement, the previous paragraph might sound wildly problematic. How dare one presume that a woman might be on the fence, or that she might actually be a normal, well-functioning adult who can somehow avoid spiraling into mute terror over a second date request? How can we possibly expect an adult to personally judge when behavior crosses a line?

Companies such as Facebook and Google, of course, are free to do what they want—according to Google, the company has had a dating policy since 2004. But the cultural assumptions behind the “only ask once” rules, paired with the rise of similar #MeToo-inspired policies, should bother anyone concerned with equal opportunity. After all, why would you need such stringent rules unless you view women as essentially weak creatures who can’t stand up for themselves? Women, the assumption seems to be — and let’s be real, these rules are largely centered on “protecting” women, not men — can’t handle even the most minor uncomfortable situations, so HR must stop them before they start.

It’s strangely Victorian. It’s also pretty darn anti-feminist, as far as I can see. Strangely, modern feminism seems to have shifted our cultural focus from supposed “empowerment” and “choice” to treating people like not-so-resourceful children. Well, never mind. We’re rolling, and the consequences aren’t pretty.

As National Review’s Kyle Smith recently noted in the New York Post, major companies are now cutting back on men and women traveling together for business. Many state legislators in Florida will no longer meet in private with female lobbyists and staffers, with some requesting chaperones, those sober adult guides formerly reserved for school dances and field trips. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal tells us, corporations across the U.S. are “drawing a hard line in the sand” when it comes to employee relationships. The assumption is that grown adults can’t do it themselves.

Perhaps, in the mess of today’s confused feminist-assisted culture, that assumption is correct. Oh, dear.

For all these women who need their bosses to preemptively protect them from being asked out more than once, here is what true courage looks like.
Though facing potentially lengthy prison terms, women arrested for removing their headscarf have refused to express penitence for what is an illegal act in Iran.

“Ms. Hosseini did not even appear in court to express remorse for her action. She said she objects to the forced hijab and considers it her legal right to express her protest,” Nasrin Sotoudeh, lawyer for Narges Hosseini, 32, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

She is facing a possible 10 years in prison and up to 74 lashes on charges including openly committing a sinful act, violating public prudency, and encouraging immorality or prostitution, according to the rights group. She was arrested on January 29 and is unable to pay the $135,000 bail set by the court.

Hosseini is “not prepared to say she’s sorry,” her lawyer said.

She is one of at least 29 women arrested for protesting the country’s mandatory head covering law. The women have removed their headscarves and held them aloft on Tehran’s Revolution Street. Their images have been widely shared on social media with the hashtag #GirlsOfRevolutionStreet.

Men have also joined the protest, in solidarity.

They were inspired by Vida Movahed who was pictured holding her headscarf like a flag during widespread anti-government protests in late December.

According to a report released by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, nearly half the country is opposed to the mandatory hijab.

According to the three-year old-report, 49.2 percent of respondents in a poll believe that the decision to wear the headscarf is a private matter.
Yet, here in the U.S. Elizabeth Warren is too busy touting the courage of marching with a pussy hat instead of speaking out about these brave Iranian women. And the Obama folks are probably still thinking that somehow, sometime, their nuclear deal will moderate the Iranian government. Please.