Monday, June 11, 2018

Cruising the Web

Why is Trump talking about bringing Russia back into the G-7? Russia got kicked out when they invaded Ukraine.
“I have been Russia’s worst nightmare,” Mr. Trump said before departing for the G-7 in Canada, comparing himself, inevitably, to Hillary Clinton. “But, with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend, and it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting.”

He added “you know, whether you like it or not—and it may not be politically correct—but we have a world to run. And in the G-7, which used to be the G-8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
Why do Putin a favor when Putin has done nothing to deserve it? As the WSJ writes, Trump is just playing into Putin's hands with such a recommendation.
Mr. Trump is right, as he often says, that his Russia policy has been tougher than Barack Obama’s . He’s signed off on strengthening NATO deployments to Eastern Europe and admitting Macedonia to the alliance. He has dispatched Javelin antitank missiles to Ukraine, let the Pentagon attack Russian mercenaries in Syria, sanctioned Vladimir Putin’s cronies, and expelled Russian spies in solidarity with Britain after the attempted murder of a former double-agent spy and his daughter on U.K. soil.

He’s also fought hard behind the scenes to persuade Germany and Europe to end the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that would give Mr. Putin more leverage over Poland and other European countries.

Mr. Trump’s “G-8” intervention is nonetheless a gratuitous swipe that plays into Mr. Putin’s strategy to divide the U.S. and Europe. The taunt is an insult to British Prime Minister Theresa May so soon after the Kremlin’s failed assassination attempt. Europe needs to reauthorize its anti-Russia sanctions, and the new Italian government is already skeptical. As for having Mr. Trump’s desire to have Mr. Putin “at the negotiating table,” the Russian will see Mr. Trump’s unilateral concession as a sign of weakness.
Putin's been helping Syria' reign of terror and assassinating people around the globe as well as working to undermine sanctions against North Korea. Why reward them?
There’s a stronger case for inviting India or Australia, a pair of democracies, to the G-7 before inviting Russia, which has nuclear missiles but merely the world’s 11th largest economy by International Monetary Fund estimates. The Brazilian and Indian economies are larger than Russia’s, and South Korea, Spain and Australia aren’t far behind.

Mr. Trump has disputes with the other leading democracies on climate change and Iran that are justified on the merits and one on trade that isn’t. He doesn’t need another gratuitous brawl over a Russia that isn’t America’s friend.

For a guy who brags constantly about knowing how to make a deal, he doesn't seem to understand that you don't unilaterally give the other side something they want without getting something in return. Remember that that was a major criticism of Obama's recognition of Cuba.

For what he's done to oppose Putin, he's also done things that undoubtedly pleased Putin.
This followed the president's earlier reluctance to embrace North Atlantic Treaty Organization commitments safeguarding Europe against Russia, his delay in implementing new congressional sanctions against Russia and his praise of Putin himself.
Trump pretends that there are national security reasons for his tariffs because that is the law that allows a president to unilaterally impose tariffs. But then he goes and says things like this that seem to indicate that he's instituting tariffs for retaliatory reasons, not security.
As frequently happens, his tweeting turns into self-sabotage.

And if you wanted more evidence of Trump's ignorance on foreign affairs, here you go.

Whom is he hearing that from - Paul Manafort? That's just embarrassing.

Angela Merkel tweeted out this picture from the G-7.
That picture probably helps both Merkel and Trump. Her supporters will like the image of her looking tough and womansplaining things to Trump. And his supporters will like his sitting there and looking stubborn.

Someone remarked on Twitter (but I can't now find) that this picture is a Renaissance painting. Neontaster takes the idea and runs with it.

Though, apparently, the scene looked differently in just a few seconds.

Ah, more news about our friends, Iran.
Iranian officials, in a first, have admitted to facilitating the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. by secretly aiding the free travel of al Qaeda operatives who eventually went on to fly commercial airliners into the Twin Towers in New York City, according to new remarks from a senior Iranian official.

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, an international affairs assistant in the Iran's judiciary, disclosed in Farsi-language remarks broadcast on Iran's state-controlled television that Iranian intelligence officials secretly helped provide the al Qaeda attackers with passage and gave them refuge in the Islamic Republic, according to an English translation published by Al Arabiya.

"Our government agreed not to stamp the passports of some of them because they were on transit flights for two hours, and they were resuming their flights without having their passports stamped. However their movements were under the complete supervision of the Iranian intelligence," Larijani was quoted as saying.

The remarks represent the first time senior Iranian officials have publicly admitted to aiding al Qaeda and playing a direct role in facilitating the 9/11 attacks.

The U.S. government has long accused Iran of playing a role in the attacks and even fined the Islamic Republic billions as a result. The U.S. 9/11 Commission assembled to investigate the attacks concluded that Iran played a role in facilitating the al Qaeda terrorists.

Larijani admitted that Iranian officials did not stamp the passports of the al Qaeda militants in order to obfuscate their movements and prevent detection by foreign governments. Al Qaeda operative also were given safe refuge in Iran.
Remember all those people telling us that the Shia and Sunni would never work together so we should discount any idea that Iran had helped al-Qaeda. Apparently, hatred of the United States can trump those hostilities.

Nancy Pelosi is the gift that keeps on giving to Republicans.
Does she have any idea what consumer confidence is at these days?
The level of confidence Americans expressed in the economy remained near an 18-year high in May, suggesting steady U.S. growth in the months ahead....
What happened: The present situation index, a measure of current conditions, climbed to a 17-year high of 161.7 from 157.5 in the prior month.

The future expectations index edged up to 105.6 from 104.3.

Big picture: The high level of confidence reflects a sturdy economic expansion in the U.S. that’s about to turn nine years old with no end in sight. Job openings are at a record high and unemployment is at a 17-year low.

What they are saying?: “Consumer confidence has remained resilient in recent months despite uncertainty stoked by anti-trade rhetoric and stock market volatility,” economists at Barclays said.

“Consumers’ assessment of current conditions increased to a 17-year high, suggesting that the level of economic growth in [the second quarter] is likely to have improved from [the first quarter],” said Lynn Franco, director of economic Indicators at board.
Somehow, sarcastically saying "Hip, hip hooray" that unemployment is down is not going to be a winning message to people who just found a job. Maybe she's unhappy that black unemployment is down and the gap between black and white unemployment has hit a record low. And wages are indeed rising. And there are all the bonuses that over 250 companies have given out after the tax reforms. But that's all, in Pelosi's inimitable stupidity, just "crumbs." The Democrats just about all voted against the tax reform package so now they're in the position of having to persuade people that what they're actually experiencing isn't really happening.

Of course, Trump's trade policies could wreck all this progress that the economy has been making, but Pelosi is not criticizing him for that since so many Democrats actually support trade protectionism.

Or the Democrats can join Bill Maher in rooting for an economic collapse because it would hurt Trump.
"I feel like the bottom has to fall out at some point, and by the way, I’m hoping for it because I think one way you get rid of Trump is a crashing economy," said Maher. "So please, bring on the recession. Sorry if that hurts people but it’s either root for a recession, or you lose your democracy."
Now there's a winning electoral strategy.

Maybe the Democrats should just go back to arguing that MS-13 members shouldn't be called animals. Yeah, that'll do it.

Wow! This epitomizes government incompetence. Remember this story any time you hear people arguing about putting the government in charge of more of our lives.
For more than a year, the state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, potentially allowing drug addicts or people with a mental illness to carry firearms in public.

A previously unreported Office of Inspector General investigation found that in February 2016 the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using a FBI crime database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that ensures applicants who want to carry a gun do not have a disqualifying history in other states.

The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned. The problem went unresolved until discovered by another worker in March 2017 — meaning that for more than a year applications got approved without the required background check....

The June 5, 2017 report, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times in a records request, concluded that the employee in charge of background checks, Lisa Wilde, was negligent.

The only other employee who regularly accessed the database was a mailroom supervisor who was barely trained in the system, the report stated.

On April 7, 2016, 40 days after records show the department stopped using the database, Wilde reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that her log-in to the background check system wasn't working. But the investigation said she didn't follow up after she continued to experience problems and never accessed the system again.

In March of 2017, another employee wondered why the department had not recently received any notices of denials, "which was unusual." The employee reached out to FDLE, which handles appeals for denials. FDLE responded that it had not received an appeal from a concealed weapons applicant since September 2016, setting off alarm bells.

It is unclear why it took so long for someone to realize the background checks were not completed. But the report indicated that the department may not have a backup system to ensure the task was completed.

In a Friday interview with the Times, Wilde said the licensing department was overwhelmed with the number of applications and she was under pressure from supervisors to quickly approve applications.
No one thought of trying to figure out the login impasse? Amazing. And you know what happened during that year?
During that time, which coincided with the June 12, 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub that left 50 dead, the state saw an historic spike in applications for concealed weapons permits. There were 134,000 requests for permits in the fiscal year ending in June 2015. The next 12 months broke a record, 245,000 applications, which was topped again in 2017 when the department received 275,000 applications.
And guess what? The guy in charge of that department is now running for governor as a Republican.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has made it a priority to streamline the system for requesting concealed weapons permits since he was elected in 2010. In 2012, he held a news conference to tout the state's one millionth concealed weapons permit, noting the time it took to process an application fell from 12 weeks to 35 days on his watch. There are now 1.8 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida.

Now running for Florida governor as a Republican, Putnam's campaign touts his expansion of concealed carry permits as one of his top accomplishments.
This story has gotta hurt. GOP voters might want to think twice about selecting this guy as their candidate.

Affirmative action has hit the publishing industry. Author Lionel Shriver writes in the Spectator,
I’d been suffering under the misguided illusion that the purpose of mainstream publishers like Penguin Random House was to sell and promote fine writing. A colleague’s forwarded email has set me straight. Sent to a literary agent, presumably this letter was also fired off to the agents of the entire Penguin Random House stable. The email cites the publisher’s ‘new company-wide goal’: for ‘both our new hires and the authors we acquire to reflect UK society by 2025.’ (Gotta love that shouty boldface.) ‘This means we want our authors and new colleagues to reflect the UK population taking into account ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social mobility and disability.’ The email proudly proclaims that the company has removed ‘the need for a university degree from nearly all our jobs’ — which, if my manuscript were being copy-edited and proof-read by folks whose university-educated predecessors already exhibited horrifyingly weak grammar and punctuation, I would find alarming.
She goes in to examine the questionnaire for PRH authors to identify their ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender. Shriver points out that being White lumps together a whole lot of diverse people who wouldn't be counted as diverse because race outweighs everything else.
If your office is chocka with Italians, Greeks, Spaniards, Germans, Danes, Finns, Bosnians, Hungarians, Czechs, Russians, Americans, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, Argentines, Guatemalans, Mexicans, Romanians who aren’t travellers and South African Jews — I could go on — together speaking dozens of languages and bringing to their workplace a richly various historical and cultural legacy, the entire workforce could be categorised as ‘White: Other’. Your office is not diverse.
The questionnaire allows Asians to specify "‘Indian,’ ‘Bangladeshi, ‘Chinese’, or ‘Pakistan’" Blacks can specify Caribbean or African. Aren't there other types of Asians? WHy are they getting short shrift?
I see two issues here. First: diversity, both the word and the concept, has crimped. It serves a strict, narrow agenda that has little or nothing to do with the productive dynamism of living and working alongside people with widely different upbringings and beliefs. Only particular and, if you will, privileged backgrounds count. Which is why Apple’s African-American diversity tsar, Denise Young Smith, got hammered last October after submitting, ‘There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.’ She hadn’t bowed to the newly shackled definition of the word, which has now been effectively removed from the language as a general-purpose noun.

Second: dazzled by this very highest of social goods, many of our institutions have ceased to understand what they are for. Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’être as the acquisition and dissemination of good books. Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision. Thus from now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes. We can safely infer from that email that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling. Good luck with that business model. Publishers may eschew standards, but readers will still have some.
We've raised the concept of diversity to such an absurd height that it has lost any value. Penguin Random House should remember that the publishing industry is facing all sorts of market challenges right now. THeir mission should be to put out the best books possible, not setting diversity quotas for their authors. As self-publishing gets easier and more lucrative, authors will have less need for Penguin Random House.

Scott Rasmussen is right - let's get politics out of sports and other aspects of our lives. Maybe, as Trump's presidency goes on and fewer championship teams are willing to visit his White House, we can just scrap that whole tradition.
But this incident reveals a deeper rot in the entire political process. Both sides in the partisan sniping implicitly assume that the president should act like royalty and treat the White House like a palace. It's part of a larger attitude pretending that the president's every utterance is of supreme importance and that he must express an opinion on just about everything.

I disagree.

The president's job is to lead the government, not bestow royal blessings on successful citizens or offer a running commentary on every fad in the news cycle. Bluntly, I don't care what President Trump thinks about the Philadelphia Eagles any more than I cared about the March Madness brackets filled out by President Obama. If you want royalty, go to London.

In America, it should be possible to watch a football game or go to the theater without hearing from or about the president. In fact, it should be normal to go about daily life without encountering the intrusion of partisan politics into every nook and cranny of society. Unfortunately, that's not the case today.

To restore balance in our public life, it's well past time to establish social boundaries protecting large segments of public life from the civic pollution of politics. We must get rid of the false media narrative that every problem has a political solution and every situation must be analyzed politically. President Trump could take a simple step in the right direction by ending the practice of inviting teams to the White House.

With boundaries protecting society from politics, it would be easier to remember that the president runs the government, not the country. We would see more reminders that almost all positive change in America comes from far outside of official Washington. Leaders like Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates have each had a more lasting impact than any politician.

That's the way it's supposed to work in a nation founded upon the ideals of freedom, equality, and self-governance. Politics does have a role to play in governing our society, but it is not the lead role. Instead, progress comes from unleashing the creativity and resources of individual Americans, families, community groups, churches, entrepreneurs, small businesses, local governments and more. Leadership comes from millions of everyday Americans who work together in community to create a better world.

I want to know how much a teacher would consider a sufficient bribe to lose her career.
A Philadelphia teacher is no longer in the classroom after she allegedly took bribes from students in exchange for better grades.

NBC10 first received a tip that Amanda Richardson, a humanities teacher at the LINC High School on W. Erie Ave., was accused of accepting bribes from her students and giving them good grades in return. A spokesperson for the Philadelphia School District confirmed with NBC10 they were investigating the allegations.