Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Cruising the Web

There is something quite disquieting to have the President of the United States singling out one private company to demonize, especially when his rhetoric is just plan wrong. But that is what we have with Trump criticizing Amazon and damaging their stock price. And that effect on stocks harms, not only Amazon, but all the private investors in Amazon and all the mutual funds and pension programs that hold Amazon stock. Even though Amazon saw fit to cut me off from having an Associate's account with them, I still think it's one of the most marvelous companies out there. I love being able to go online and comparison shop while reading through customer reviews all from my couch. It's gotten to the point that I do almost all of my shopping outside of groceries online. When I'm in a mall these days I'm always struck by how long it's been between visits to the mall and how long it is since I bought anything there except for visiting a restaurant.
Yes, it's changing the way we do business, but tens of millions of people are benefiting. Just because Trump resents the Washington Post which Jeff Bezos owns is no reason to attack the company.

Rich Lowry comments,
It’s hard to think of a more pointlessly destructive act of presidential jawboning in our history. The online retailer is a jewel of our market economy that has delivered more choice and convenience at a lower cost.

The backdrop for Trump’s animosity is that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, which, like much of the major media, is unrelentingly hostile to the president. WaPo’s bias is nothing new, nor should it be taken out on the underlying business of its owner.

Trump’s anti-Amazon jag can be put in the same bucket as his tariffs against China — Trump being Trump, unleashing in accord with his gut instincts and animosities.

The similarities end there. The difference is between targeting the Chinese regime and a great American company, between lashing out against mercantilism and against a capitalist success story, between berating an adversary of the United States and an adversary of his own.
Jim Pethokoukis refutes the idea that Amazon is a monopoly.
And for all the hipster antitrust talk of Amazon as a dangerous monopoly, it was only responsible last year for 4% of total US retail sales (though that is an impressive number). Not only is Amazon a highly innovative company, but it helps other companies be productive — especially third-party resellers.

What’s more, e-commerce — and Amazon was responsible for about 44% of all US e-commerce sales last year — is a sizable job creator. Economist Michael Mandel notes that while brick-and-mortar retailers have lost 140,00 full-time jobs since 2007, e-commerce companies have added more than 400,000, including better-paying warehouse jobs in fulfillment centers.
And Trump's claim that "they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments" is just plain wrong. That might have been true years ago, but they collect taxes in every state with a sales tax. And his claims about Amazon and the U.S. Post Office are also just plain not true.
Moreover, Amazon does not need the Post Office; the Post Office needs Amazon. The Post Office lost $2.7 billion last year, but “Shipping and packages were a rare bright spot for USPS in 2017, one of two sub-categories of mail for which revenue increased, rather than declined,” according to Quartz. That said, the Post Office does cut deals with Amazon (and other large clients), and maybe it could cut a better deal and charge Amazon more. Of course, Amazon might not even need the Post Office when its fleet of drones takes flight.
Lowry continues with his defense of Amazon,
If Amazon is sharp-elbowed and aggressive with its competitors, no one is forced to buy from it. Customers go there because they find it easy to use and cheaper than the alternatives. Amazon isn’t pocketing huge profits. Instead, it’s doing what companies should do: innovating, then plowing the proceeds into more investments (Amazon is much more than an e-commerce company).

Its fulfillment centers are wonders of productivity and hold the promise of as-yet-unforeseen transformations in other businesses.

Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute points out that online shopping saves consumers the time involved in driving to a store and looking for a product — and shifts all that (unpaid) labor to (paid) workers in its fulfillment centers and drivers.

This is a good deal all around, especially if Mandel is correct that jobs in fulfillment centers pay 30 percent more than jobs in traditional retail. These jobs provide, he writes, “decent pay for a high-school graduate, in a fast-growing tech-related industry, which requires a mixture of physical and cognitive skills. Many of them are full-time jobs with full benefits. They aren’t easy jobs, for sure — but neither are manufacturing jobs.”

In short, there are many scourges in American life. Amazon isn’t one of them.
Allahpundit adds,
Even if Trump’s media template wasn’t Pecker’s National Enquirer, he’d still want to run a vendetta against Bezos, I think. That’s the way he is. If you make trouble for him, he’s going to make trouble for you; using the federal government to settle personal scores is just a perk of the job, whatever the best interests of the country or consumers might be. But it’s absolutely true that a guy who survived and thrived in a tabloid culture for 30 years, with all sorts of retaliation and scummy favors between publishers and the subjects they covered, would naturally be skeptical that Bezos isn’t driving WaPo’s unflattering coverage of him. If that’s how the Enquirer works, why wouldn’t the Washington Post or the New York Times work the same way? Although that suspicion, ironically, flies in the face of the usual right-wing suspicions about the media: WaPo doesn’t need Jeff Bezos flogging them to do hit pieces on Trump because their staff of liberals is eager to do those pieces anyway.

But yes, as Sherman notes, Trump’s grudge is all about Bezos’s side gig, the Post, not his main gig at Amazon. Amazon is the whipping boy partly because, unlike the Post, there are no First Amendment concerns in trying to regulate it and partly because it’s worth orders of magnitude more than the Post is. If you want to hit Jeff Bezos in the wallet, you hit Amazon, not WaPo. (By one estimate, Trump’s Twitter ranting of late has cost Bezos $16 billion. No typo.) His gripes about Amazon’s USPS business and tax practices may be woefully misinformed, but that’s irrelevant. This isn’t about crafting good policy, it’s about a vendetta. It’s banana republic. It’s as if Obama had launched a sustained Twitter/regulatory campaign aimed at 21st Century Fox to “f*** with” Rupert Murdoch for Fox News’s coverage. As Erick Erickson notes, Trump’s successors will use the precedent to their own ends.
Conservatives should be appalled that a president is singling out a company and trying to damage it mostly because he is angry about the Washington Post's coverage of him. Noah Rothman expands on why conservatives need to reject these attacks on Amazon.
In a roundabout way, the president is exerting pressure on a private American enterprise to effect a change of editorial culture in an American newsroom. That’s not only dangerous; it’s un-American. Republicans who stifle their criticism of Trump today are abetting the establishment of a precedent they will profoundly regret when it is deployed against them....

These tweets expose once again that Trump’s instincts on policy are those of the center-left. No conservative would claim the impulse to shackle a wildly successful and innovative job creator like Amazon with a higher tax burden solely to protect uncompetitive legacy firms and sclerotic government bureaucracies. Perhaps more important, though, these tweets reveal the extent to which conservatives within the Republican firmament have fallen out of love with the idea of limited government. If the GOP is Trump’s party now, then it is also a progressive party.

Conservatives should not pretend that the president is trying to ignite a serious policy conversation. He is salving his fragile ego by attacking a perceived enemy and leveraging the power of the presidency to enhance the authority of those attacks. Bezos is not alone; from behind a keyboard, the president has launched renewed assaults on familiar old targets including CNN, NBC, Mexico, the Justice Department, Resistance Democrats, Establishment Republicans, and anyone else responsible for the kind of mild effrontery the president cannot bear. What makes Trump’s assault on Amazon different, though, is that it has been effective in a way that his attacks on other entities cannot be.

Since Trump launched his war against the private American firm, the company’s stock has collapsed by 5 percent, costing it $36 billion in market value. That devastation is occurring amid a market selloff resulting from the inauguration of Trump’s “trade war” with China, so it is difficult to isolate the extent to which Trump’s tweets or Trump’s policies are hurting this firm, its investors, and its employees. It is clear, however, that the president’s tirades are having a substantial impact on Amazon’s share price....

Maybe the president is simply venting his frustrations on Twitter, but that discharge has the effect of punishing Amazon’s shareholders for their affiliation with Bezos. Maybe Trump’s animating impulse is pride, but his objective is the censorship of the Fourth Estate. Conservatives would be fools to pretend that the next president will not try to intimidate his or her adversaries similarly and with a more considered and, therefore, achievable objective in mind.

This isn’t some revelation. Conservatives know that precedent begets precedent. They know that the president can be unprincipled. They know what they’re witnessing is wrong and threatening to the customs on which the Republic is built.

Amazon is way more popular than Donald Trump. He needs to just shut up about them.


The Daily Wire points out the quaint way that CNN refers to John F. Kennedy's sex life. a tweet advertising a CNN series "The Kennedys" says "JFK had a legendary love life." Er, no. Abelard and Heloise had a legendary love life; JFK was a sexual predator with a disgusting history of promiscuity. This was a man who had sex with a 19-year old White House intern and then encouraged her to give oral sex in public to one of his aides. He slept with a woman who was also sleeping with a mob boss. His brother had to have an East German prostitute deported because he worried that JFK's naked pool parties at the White House would come out in his reelection campaign. He had two secretaries, nicknamed Fiddle and Faddle, who spent their time also skinny-dipping with the President in the White House pool. That's just a short list of all the women he slept with. After all, this is a man who complained of headaches if he didn't have sex every day. So calling his love life "legendary" seems to be eliding right past all his smarmy promiscuity. Imagine what the #MeToo movement would make of such behavior today.

Donald Trump is no gentleman in his behavior with women. I don't think any but the most deluded doesn't believe that he slept with Stormy Daniels after his wife had just given birth. This is a man who, after all, publicly cheated on his two prior wives and bragged about his sex life on Howard Stern. But is his behavior any worse than "legendary" lover JFK? Ben Shapiro comments,
CNN called this disgusting behavior “legendary.”

Remember, this is the same network currently shellacking President Trump for bedding a porn star while married, and hosting her on the air to ask about Trump’s condom use. This is also the same network that repeatedly shuts down discussion of Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadillos. But JFK, because he’s a Democrat, is different.

The media wonder why so many on the right shrug at Trump’s sexual antics. They’re right to wonder that. But one reason many on the right ignore CNN’s ginned-up outrage is the double standard CNN clearly holds when it comes to sexual impropriety from Democrats.
While there doesn't seem to be much of a link between successful leadership and respectful attitudes toward women, I would prefer that we could all be equally disgusted by Democrats and Republicans who treat women as sex objects there for their pleasure.


The Washington Post certainly makes interesting editorial decisions. Now they're publishing propaganda from a Shanghai venture capitalist and official at Fudan University's China Institute, telling usthat it's a "good thing" that China just lifted the two-term presidential term limit. We are instructed that this doesn't mean that Xi can be president for life.
But this misinterprets the nature of the development. And the world appears to be overlooking consequential political reforms taking place in China that will impact our collective future for the better.
We're just dumb westerners who don't understand how dictatorship works in China.
The presidential term limit has no bearing on how long a top Chinese leader can stay in power and lifting it by no means allows anyone to rule for life. In fact, the position of real power — the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee — has never had term limits. The most recent draft of China’s constitution, written in 1982, set the presidency as a symbolic head of state, with no actual power. Although the two offices happened to have been occupied by the same person for more than 25 years since Jiang Zemin, the institutional mechanics of the offices are rather separate.

Formally unifying these two positions at the very top will transform the entire Chinese governance structure by institutionally fusing the party and the state. This reform is good for China simply because the party has developed into the most competent national political institution in the world today.
Yeah, if only we could fuse the party and the state here in the U.S.
Bringing the presidency’s institutional mechanics in line with the office of party general secretary, and for them to be occupied by the same person, will create a more efficient and coherent governing structure and more transparency and predictability in China’s dealings with the world. It lifts the veil of pretense that, somehow, the party and state governance are not one, which is untrue and wholly unnecessary and counterproductive at this stage of China’s development. It signals the maturing of the Chinese political system that shows the world clearly how decisions are made and who is in charge.

The current Chinese system is a good combination of principle and flexibility. The principle of no lifetime tenure, combined with collective leadership and retirement rules, prevent unchecked rule for life by the wrong person. But a degree of flexibility in the retirement mechanism allows the right leader to govern longer. Xi will retire someday. But as long as he continues to lead successfully, that day will be a long way off.
Not like the U.S. with that pesky 22nd Amendment. Why would the Post even publish this line of propaganda? He then goes on to tell us how much better Xi has been than all those annoying American presidents of the past 25 years. And he even has good poll numbers!


What a shock - anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise in Germany. At first, the government wanted to blame the attacks on the far right. But they've had to acknowledge that the majority of the attacks are coming from Muslim immigrant groups, sometimes joined by immigrants from eastern Europe. The WSJ reports on the horrific attacks targeting Jewish students, as well as teachers.
Heinz-Peter Meidinger, head of Germany’s teachers association, said a particular hot spot of anti-Semitism seemed to be schools, many of them in Berlin, where children from migrant families made up between 70% and 100% of students.

“The key part of the problem are the parents,” Mr. Meidinger said. “But we can’t reach them as teachers. Most of them don’t speak German and they are sometimes hostile toward authorities.” He said there was a tendency among Arabic- and Turkish-speaking communities to view Jews in Germany in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The very word “Jew,” Mr. Meidinger said, is now a generic term of abuse in some school yards.
The standard answer for German schools is more education about the Holocaust. But that doesn't work on this generation.
The notion that some among the well over a million recent arrivals—many from Syria, where criticism of Israel laced with anti-Semitic clichés has been part of the official discourse for decades—might be harboring prejudice about Jews has presented authorities here with a dilemma.

Jewish representatives say Germany’s tried and tested toolset to combat anti-Semitism through education is failing to reach communities that often don’t speak German and know little about Nazism and the Holocaust.
This has happened before in Germany's past since WWII, but now there are both more Jews in the country and they're centered in Berlin, as well as more Muslim immigrants. It's one more problem that can't be waved away by talking about respect for diversity and multiculturalism.


A similar epidemic of anti-Semitic violence is happening in France where the country was horrified when two men stabbed and set on fire an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor with the younger murderer accusing the older one of shouting "Allahu akbar" as he murdered the elderly woman and they both assumed that, because she was a Jew, she would have money worth stealing.
Regardless, anti-Semitism is growing in France. Back in April 2017, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jew was thrown out of her apartment window to her death. The incident happened in the same district. The judicial confirmation that this crime was motivated by anti-Semitism came only last month.

In 2012 an Islamic fundamentalist in Toulouse shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school. In January 2015, four people were killed at a Jewish supermarket by an associate of the two brothers who had killed staff at Charlie Hebdo. Reports of anti-Semitic violence in France rose by 26 percent last year, which has led record numbers of Jews to emigrate to Israel.

This has sparked debate over anti-Semitism in France, and the security of the 500,000 Jews residing there. Indeed, Macron has vowed to fight anti-Semitism, yet his declarations remain vague as he merely tackles “education” and harassment online. The notable problem remains unaddressed: there is a problem with Muslim anti-Semitism in France.
If the authorities can't acknowledge the foundation of the problem, they won't be able to address it. And the concern seems to be more of sparking antipathy toward Muslims than talking honestly about the problem. And the far right party, National Front, has its own problems with anti-Semitism. The left is far more willing to talk about the bigotry of the National Front than of the Muslim immigrant population. It's a mixed-bag of ugliness and there are quite a few sources of this anti-Semitism.
The progressive French Think Tank Fondapol released a study in 2014 that claimed: “The French society includes three very strong centres of anti-Semitism. The first, the relatives of the National Front and the voters of Marine Le Pen in 2012, occupy an important position in this matter. The second group is among the French Muslims, where there is also an anti-Semitic sentiment that is shared more easily. And then the third group are the relatives of the Left Front and the supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in 2012…”

One thing has been exposed more than ever through Knoll’s murder. The failure of addressing anti-Semitism in France is political, whether lack of political courage or of extreme political correctness. If leaders in Paris are unable to address the deep-rooted anti-Semitic beliefs in France, then acts like murder of this Holocaust survivor are bound to repeat.
Prediction: these acts will continue and escalate.


Jonathan Tobin predicts that there will be benefits now that more and more on the left are honestly admitting that they want to repeal the Second Amendment. It's better to discuss what they really want than to have the left hiding behind the meaningless slogan of "common-sense gun reform."
In the aftermath of Parkland, the anger of student protesters and their intolerance for the views of the National Rifle Association and those linked to it is growing. Under these circumstances, the Left’s coyness about the Second Amendment may change.

More to the point, as we head toward the 2020 presidential election in which the Democratic nomination will be largely decided by which potential candidate is able to secure the affections of the party’s left wing, the time may soon be approaching when liberals will be able to own up to their desire to drastically restrict gun rights in a way that was unimaginable only a few years ago.

Although that sort of debate sounds horrific to conservatives, they should actually welcome it since it would at least provide an opportunity to talk about something real rather than the disingenuous discussion about proposals that do nothing but make the lives of law-abiding citizens more difficult.

So should the rest of the country. If gun control remains an issue that most Americans care about one way or another— and that will continue to be the case if mass shootings continue to happen every few months — then they should be debating core questions about rights and the government’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens rather than diversions politicians create to convince the public they are doing something when they’re not.

It is a debate conservatives should continue to win. But whether they do or not, it is high time we stopped wasting our time fighting about things that don’t matter rather than those that do.
I can see how those politicians on the left will have to answer the question as to whether or not they wish to repeal the Second Amendment. They'll have to explain how their proposals would have done anything to stop the shootings that have occurred. They'll have to explain why we should put all our trust in the police to keep us safe while applauding all those protesting police violence.


Another question that Democratic politicians might have trouble answering is whether or not they will work to repeal middle-class tax cuts. DNC vice-chairman Keith Ellison refused to answer that question on, of all networks, MSNBC.
MSNBC's Steve Kornacki repeatedly attempted to get Ellison to answer if Democrats, who widely stood in staunch opposition to Republican-led tax reform passed at the end of 2017, would want to repeal the middle-class tax cuts. Ellison, however, continued to dodge and instead discuss repealing tax cuts for higher-income families and companies.

"Is the Democratic message to those working folks that ‘you can keep the tax cut that you got from Donald Trump' or is the message ‘repeal the tax cut?'" Kornacki asked.

"I think the message for the richest folks who got the tax cut, and the biggest companies, needs to be ‘repeal them,'" Ellison said.
Yeah, we know. It's "crumbs" and all that. But do the Democrats want to reverse it?


Feminists have to decide what their position is. Are women the equal of any man who can Annie Oakley-style claim that anything a man can do, they can do better? Or are they fragile creatures who must be protected from the unfairness of the patriarchy? Here's a story about female debaters that seems to come down on the latter side.
The first rule of a North American debate tournament to be held in Vermont this weekend: No men allowed.

Some 150 debaters from 18 schools across the U.S. and Canada will compete in the special tournament, which is designed to be a safe space for women who complain of bias when they debate against men.

Although some men will be allowed to serve as judges, organizers say the tournament at the University of Vermont offers women a chance to hone their speaking and arguing skills and gain confidence and friends without being subject to sexism.

"There is also a lot of sexual predation that happens in the debate community," said UVM debate director Helen Morgan-Parmett. "The tournament, I think, provides a safe space where people feel they are debating other women, and their bodies aren't necessarily on display."

College debating is one of the few intercollegiate competitive activities in which women and men compete directly against one another. While some women do win, the debaters say they have to be that much better than men to overcome bias on the part of many judges. And they point to statistics that show they are less likely to reach the top echelons of the activity.


Ah, this is the generation we're being told is so perceptive and caring that we should lower the voting age to 16. Apparently, teen-agers have branched out from eating Tide Pods to snorting condoms. This is not a joke.
The Condom Challenge is the latest dangerous teen trend that is hopefully not sweeping the nation. The challenge involves inhaling an unwrapped condom through your nose and pulling it through your throat.

Like many questionable young trends, the Condom Challenge isn’t new, but rather a resurgence of something bored teens have been doing for years. Typing the Condom Challenge into YouTube will leave you with an array of videos of young people snorting condoms up their nose.