Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cruising the Web

Note the difference in these two takes on the same story. Here is the Associated Press.
Many Central American migrants camped in Tijuana after crossing Mexico in a caravan said Monday that a protest over the weekend by residents demanding they leave frightened them and left them even more anxious while they try to get into the United States.

The angry protests have been fed by concerns raised by President Donald Trump’s month-long warnings that criminals and gang members are in the group and even terrorists, though there is no evidence of that.[Emphasis added]

Here is Fox News' coverage.
More than 500 criminals are traveling with the migrant caravan that’s massed on the other side of a San Diego border crossing, homeland security officials said Monday afternoon.

The revelation was made during a conference call with reporters, with officials asserting that "most of the caravan members are not women and children". They claimed the group is mostly made up of single adult or teen males and that the women and children have been pushed to the front of the line in a bid to garner sympathetic media coverage.
I guess the AP just figured that they don't have to buy into what the Department of Homeland Security says.

If you're wondering how DHS might know about who is in the migrant caravan, NBC reports that they have paid undercover informants in the caravan.
The Department of Homeland Security is gathering intelligence from paid undercover informants inside the migrant caravan that is now reaching the California-Mexico border as well as monitoring the text messages of migrants, according to two DHS officials.

The 4,000 migrants, mainly from Honduras, have used WhatsApp text message groups as a way to organize and communicate along their journey to the California border, and DHS personnel have joined those groups to gather that information.

The intelligence gathering techniques are combined with reports from DHS personnel working in Mexico with the government there in an effort to keep tabs on the caravan's size, movements and any potential security threats.


Now here's a viable slogan for Beto O'Rourke, whom Politico tells us has blown up the 2020 Democratic primary. Operatives are impressed by his ability to raise money.
Mikal Watts, a San Antonio-based lawyer and major Democratic money bundler, said several donors and political operatives in Iowa, after hearing from other potential candidates in recent days, have called to ask whether O’Rourke is running, a sign of his impact in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

“They’re not wanting to sign on to other presidential campaigns until they know whether Beto is going,” Watts said. “And if Beto is running, what good progressive Democrat wouldn’t want to work for Beto O’Rourke?”

....

“All the guy would have to do is send out an email to his fundraising base … and he raises $30 million,” the bundler said. “That has totally changed the landscape for the tier 1 guys, because now Bernie and Warren, now they have competition. It completely changes the game if Beto runs. And he should run. … He’s Barack Obama, but white.”
"Barack Obama, but white." How does that play in the intersectionality competition that the Democratic Party has become?

How much of his ability to raise vast amounts of money was because he was running against Ted Cruz and seemed to be the great, liberal hope to win a statewide contest in Texas?

Bill Scher also writes in Politico to apply a few brakes to Betomania. He points out that the Beto buzz is a result of his doing better than expected in a red state, but that Kyrsten Sinema actually did better than he did with Latinos in Arizona and had the same percentage among the under-45 vote. And she, you know, won. And actually, O'Rourke didn't do all that much better than Clinton.
If O’Rourke had made real inroads in Trump territory, then it would make perfect sense to dispatch him to similar territory across the country as the party’s standard-bearer. But he was crushed in Texas’ more rural, lightly populated counties by a 2-to-1 margin. Where O’Rourke was strong was the five most populous, urban-suburban counties, four of which Clinton and Barack Obama won in the past two presidential elections. O’Rourke improved upon Clinton’s performance in all five counties, including a narrow win in the Fort Worth area that Clinton and Obama had lost. But Clinton had improved upon Obama’s performance in all five counties as well, which suggests that O’Rourke benefited more from the continuation of a demographic shift in Texas than his own charm.

What about O’Rourke’s down-ballot coattails? Wasn’t he able to juice Democratic base turnout so much that Democrats flipped two U.S. House seats, two state Senate seats and 12 state House seats?

Let’s not be so quick to give Beto all the credit. All those red-to-blue wins were on urban-suburban turf, the same kind of turf that was fertile for Democrats nationwide. The two U.S. House seat flips in Texas were in districts that Clinton won, districts already primed to turn blue.

Outside Texas, other, less viral Democrats were able to win U.S. House seats in more challenging territory, such as Oklahoma’s 5th District and South Carolina’s 1st District. And Democrats flipped 380 state legislative seats nationwide, including 10 state House and six state Senate seats in North Carolina, and seven state House seats in Iowa—both swing states that went to Trump. No electrifying progressive superstar was at the top of the ticket in any of those four states.
Oh, come on. We shouldn't let actual facts get in the way of a candidate who skateboards and plays the air guitar.

Scher has the ultimate insulting comparison. Beto might not be Obama. He might be John Edwards. Ooh, that's bad.
Obama’s moment came together because he was not only a charismatic campaigner who could build a powerful multiracial coalition, but also because he was on the right side of the 2008 campaign’s dominant issue: the Iraq War. When all the other top-tier Democratic candidates voted for George W. Bush’s war resolution, the then-state Senator Obama was predicting it would be a “dumb war.” And he was able to speak cogently enough about a wide range of foreign and domestic policy issues to beat back arguments that he was a paper-thin, single-issue candidate.

O’Rourke wouldn’t come into the 2020 campaign with a signature issue that would distinguish himself among the sprawling Democratic pack and define his candidacy. The main argument for a Beto campaign comes down to little more than, well, he’s Beto, and people really like Beto. But a successful presidential campaign needs a lot more than that to survive the presidential primary marathon. While it’s possible O’Rourke has what it takes to be Obama 2.0, the risk remains he could be Edwards 2.0.

If this was truly O’Rourke’s only moment to become president, the logical choice would be to seize the moment. But he has another, more promising path: Stay in Texas first and finish the job of turning it blue....

O’Rourke would have to survive a cage match with about 20 other Democrats if he is to be the 2020 presidential nominee. But the 2020 Senate nomination to run against incumbent Senator John Cornyn is his for the taking. He could literally announce today, immediately clear the Democratic field, and focus like a laser on Cornyn for the next two years.

And Cornyn appears ripe for the plucking. Dr. James Henson, who teaches government at the University of Texas-Austin, recently noted Cornyn is “one of the least popular top-tier statewide officials in Texas,” with an approval rating among Texans that’s 28 points lower than Cruz’s. In turn, Henson concluded, “Cornyn’s relatively soft support among the GOP base, coupled with presidential year turnout among Democrats, makes Cornyn appear less formidable in 2020 than Cruz in 2018.”

Democrats will not be lacking in choices in their presidential primary. There will be candidates old and new, left and center, heartland and big city. O’Rourke is not needed there. But in Texas, there is only one Beto.


White House journalists who are irritated with Jim Acosta's grandstanding and stealing time from their own questions now have another reason to be ticked at Acosta. One result of CNN getting a court order preventing the White House from denying him a hard pass is that they can now set up procedures to deny a hard pass not only to Acosta, but to other journalists. Byron York explains,
[Judge] Kelly declared that the White House could not eject Acosta without first providing him due process — specifically, notice of the revocation of his press pass, a chance for Acosta to respond, and a written decision.

In short, the judge said to the White House: You can't throw out a reporter without going through a process. But if you go through a process — which you, the White House, can design — then you can throw the reporter out. In the end, it could be that Kelly's ruling will make it easier for the White House to oust reporters in the future — and to make the decision stick.

Throughout the court session, Kelly referred to the only real precedent in the Acosta matter, a 1977 case from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called Sherrill v. Knight. In that case, the court ruled that the White House — specifically the Secret Service — could not deny a press pass to a "bona fide journalist" without due process. The court defined due process as "procedures whereby an applicant is given notice of the evidence upon which the Secret Service proposes to base its denial, [and] the journalist is afforded an opportunity to rebut or explain this evidence, and the Secret Service issues a final written decision specifying the reasons for its refusal to grant a press pass."

In court, Kelly told lawyers for CNN and the government that he would use Sherrill as a guide in the Acosta matter. In his view, the due process arrangement outlined in Sherrill should apply to the Trump White House's treatment of Acosta or any other White House reporter. "The court in Sherrill held that this process must include notice, an opportunity to rebut the government's reasons, and a written decision," Kelly said.

The judge's clear implication was that if the White House takes those actions, if it jumps through those hoops in the future, it can expel a reporter without raising due process concerns.
Journalists might want to say, "Thanks, Acosta."


How stupid is Cindy Hyde-Smith
, the Republican woman running in the runoff for Mississippi senator?
Walmart withdrew its support for Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith on Tuesday, requesting that her campaign refund all its donations after the Mississippi lawmaker made a racially charged comment and supported suppressing Democratic votes.

Hyde-Smith, appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant earlier this year to fill the seat vacated by retired Sen. Thad Cochran, is facing a contentious runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy to serve the remaining two years of Cochran's term.

Not only did Hyde-Smith say she would sit in "the front row" of a public hanging if asked by a supporter — a comment that drew outrage because of public lynching of black men in the Southern state's past, video surfaced of the senator suggesting she would support measures to prevent "liberal folks" from voting.
There is no excuse for talking like that and anyone involved in politics should have more of a filter when talking. I can't imagine why she would have talked like that. No wonder GOP internal polls are showing her up by only five points. This is Mississippi!! The Republicans are facing another Alabama situation where the GOP throw away an eminently winnable seat because their candidate is an idiot. Allahpundit comments,
The Democratic strategy is simple as can be: Mississippi is a longshot for them even under the best circumstances but to have any chance they need massive turnout from black voters. Hyde-Smith’s gaffes have been a godsend on that score, handing the Dems material — on video, no less — which they can air to get those voters fired up to go to the polls in what otherwise many might dismiss as a hopeless cause.

Espy himself is black and other black Democrats with a national profile have visited the state in the past few days to rally voters for him. Cory Booker was there yesterday, as was Kamala Harris. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Obama make a cameo this week; normally O would stay far away, not wanting to fire up Mississippi’s anti-Obama Republican majority, but having the first black president visit under the current circumstances may do his party more good than harm.

Corporate donors have also begun running away from Hyde-Smith in the aftermath of the “hanging” comment, most notably Wal-Mart. The irony of her landing in hot water for incendiary soundbites is that she was considered the safe establishment choice in the primary. It was populist Chris McDaniel who McConnell and the NRSC were worried about, fearing that if he finished ahead of Hyde-Smith two weeks ago and made the runoff, Espy and the Dems would label him a “neo-Confederate” or whatever and run this same strategy against him. McConnell got his wish — Hyde-Smith made the runoff. And now … she’s the one being accused of winking at lynchings and voter suppression. That’s where the obvious comparison to the Alabama special election last year breaks down. Yes, Mississippi’s a deeply red, deep southern state, but Republicans there actually did choose the “electable” candidate in their primary. And look what that got them.

The divide between the Hyde-Smith segment of the party and the McDaniel segment makes the racial controversy here especially dangerous for the GOP. Even a highly motivated Democratic Party probably doesn’t have the numbers in Mississippi to flip a Senate seat if if if the Republican majority is united behind its nominee. But what if it isn’t? What if populists who backed McDaniel in the primary have decided that the establishment favorite Hyde-Smith (who was a Democrat herself until a few years ago) can dig herself out of this hole next Tuesday when the polls open without their help? And what if the Times is right in speculating that Hyde-Smith’s comments might alienate more upscale whites? Huge turnout from black Democrats plus tepid turnout from the centrist *and* right wings of the GOP would mean very bad vibes for Hyde-Smith and McConnell.


You might have heard the story that went viral this past weekend about the Minnesota Chipotle where the manager was fired after a video showing black customers, apparently, being told that they had to pay ahead of having their food prepared. Chipotle has now rehired the manager after crowdsourcing on found the social media comments of some of the guy who posted the original video where he bragged about how he and his friends enjoy dine-and-dash.
ast-food giant Chipotle rehired a manager of one of its Minnesota franchises it had fired after she was recorded in a series of viral cellphone videos refusing to serve a group of young black men unless they paid first.

The restaurant chain said in a statement Monday that it reversed it's decision after it "spent the last few days reviewing the evidence available to us regarding the incident."

The company had earlier said it was aware that one of the alleged victims who claimed that he and his friends were racially profiled had previously boasted on Twitter about dine-and-dash incidents specifically targeting Chipotle.

"Based on our review, we have offered our manager her job back," Laurie Schalow, chief communications officer for Chipotle, said in a statement to ABC News Monday afternoon. "While our normal protocol was not followed serving these customers, we publicly apologize to our manager for being put in this position. We will work to continue to ensure that we support a respectful workplace for our employees and our customers alike."

The incident occurred on Thursday at a Chipotle on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, when five young black men walked in about 4 p.m. and asked to be served.

In a video posted on Twitter Friday by one of the men, Masud Ali, 21, which garnered tens of thousands of likes and retweets, an unidentified female manager tells the group, "You gotta pay because you never have money when you come here."

The group begins yelling at the manager and other staffers that they are being "stereotyped." They continued to berate the manager and a staffer who asked them to calm down when a white customer who came in after them was served without being asked to pay up front.

"We're not going to make food unless you guys actually have money," a server said in the video.

After the video went viral on Twitter, Chipotle announced on Saturday that it had fired the manager and made the staff of the restaurant undergo "re-training to prevent this incident from happening again."

....Twitter users came to the manager's defense, alerting Chipotle of the previous tweets allegedly posted by Ali in which he joked about dine-and-dash incidents at St. Paul restaurants, including Chipotle.
Perhaps corporations will learn to take a few days to investigate rather than giving into ginned up online outrage.


The efforts to protect college students from anything that might make them stressed continues with this memo from Leeds Trinity University in the UK.
Lecturers have been banned from using capital letters when assigning work to students because it might upset them.

Staff at Leeds Trinity’s journalism department have been told writing to students using capital letters could ‘scare them into failure’ and instead suggested using a ‘friendly tone’ and avoiding the use of negative language.

Critics have since slammed the memo, saying it is just aiding to the ‘snowflake’ generation being overindulged throughout their education – following incidents in Manchester and Kent.
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The memo said: ‘Despite our best attempts to explain assessment tasks, any lack of clarity can generate anxiety and even discourage students from attempting the assessment at all.’

The Express reports that it goes on to say writing words in capital letters could make the assignment appear ‘more difficult’ – adding to anxieties.

But one staff member said capitals helped ensure students didn’t misunderstand their instructions.

They added: ‘We are not doing our students any favours with this kind of nonsense.’

A spokesperson for Leeds Trinity said the memo was guidance on how to explain tasks to students so they achieve their full potential.

The move is the latest in a string of incidents which have seen universities criticised for pandering to students.

The University of Manchester’s students’ union replaced applause with ‘jazz hands’ at one event to alleviate stress among the anxious and people with sensory issues.
Oh, geez! If capital letters are stressing people out, they just need to get over themselves. Usually, when I have a question on a multiple choice test in which I think that the students might miss something by reading too quickly, I'll put the key word in all caps. For example, if a question is "All of the following are correct except...." I'll write it as EXCEPT so the kids don't miss it. What is more stressful, missing the key word or having to read all caps?


Meanwhile, Greg Lukianoff and JOnathan Haidt explain how all this "safetyism" is actually making students weaker and less safe.
Taken literally, Nietzsche's famous aphorism—"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger"—is not entirely correct. Some things that don't kill you can still leave you permanently damaged and diminished.

Yet in recent years, far too many parents, teachers, school administrators, and students themselves have become taken with the opposite idea—that what doesn't kill you makes you weaker. They have bought into a myth that students and children are inherently fragile. For the most part, this represents an understandable desire to protect children from emotional trauma. But overwhelming evidence suggests that this approach makes kids less psychologically stable. By over-sheltering kids, we end up exposing them to more serious harm.
They give the example of protecting children from any exposure to nuts because of fears of allergies. We've consequently seen a more than tripling of the number of children out of 1000 who have peanut allergies. Schools became so worried about exposing kids to a dangerous allergen that they just banned all nuts.
Why not? What's the harm, other than some inconvenience to parents preparing lunches?

It turns out, though, that the harm was severe. It was later discovered that allergies were surging precisely because parents and teachers had started protecting children from exposure to peanuts back in the 1990s.

In February 2015, an authoritative report called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy was published. The study had looked at the hypothesis that "regular eating of peanut-containing products, when started during infancy, will elicit a protective immune response instead of an allergic immune reaction." The researchers recruited the parents of 640 babies four to 11 months old who, because they had severe eczema or had tested positive for another allergy, were at high risk of developing a peanut allergy. Half the parents were instructed to follow the standard advice for high-risk kids, which was to avoid all exposure to peanuts and peanut products. The other half were given a supply of a snack made from peanut butter and puffed corn and were told to give some to their child at least three times a week. The researchers followed all the families carefully, and when the children turned 5 years old, they were tested for an allergic reaction to peanuts.

The results were stunning. Among the children who had been "protected" from exposure, 17 percent had developed a peanut allergy. In the group that had been deliberately exposed to peanut products, the number was only 3 percent. As one of the researchers said in an interview, "For decades allergists have been recommending that young infants avoid consuming allergenic foods such as peanut to prevent food allergies. Our findings suggest that this advice was incorrect and may have contributed to the rise in the peanut and other food allergies."
That's fascinating. Every year parents have to fill out a form for their children at our school listing all medical conditions, including allergies. I heard a couple of years ago that, in a school with about 540 students, we had well over 100 students with allergies - basically about 20% of all students had some sort of allergy. I thought that was amazing at the time, but maybe this study helps to explain it.
The immune system is a miracle of evolutionary engineering. It can't possibly anticipate all the pathogens and parasites a child will encounter—especially in a mobile and omnivorous species such as ours—so it's "designed" to learn rapidly from early experience. As a complex, dynamic system that is able to adapt in and evolve with a changing environment, it requires exposure to a range of foods, bacteria, and even parasitic worms in order to develop its ability to mount an immune response to real threats, such as the bacterium that causes strep throat, while ignoring nonthreats such as peanut proteins.

This is the underlying rationale for what is called the hygiene hypothesis, the leading explanation for why allergy rates generally go up as countries get wealthier and cleaner. As developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik has observed, children today play outside less than they used to, which results in less exposure to microbes and weaker immune systems.
Haidt and Lukianoff then apply this reasoning to efforts to protect the emotional safety of all students, even those who are actually adults.
In 2014, Oberlin College posted guidelines for faculty, urging them to use "trigger warnings"—advance notice that certain kinds of ideas are likely to arise in a class—to "show students that you care about their safety." The rest of the memo makes it clear that what the college was really telling its faculty was: Show students that you care about their feelings.

You can see the conflation of safety and feelings in another part of the memo, which urged faculty to use students' preferred gender pronouns (for example, "zhe" or "they" for individuals who don't want to be referred to as "he" or "she"). The reason was not because this was respectful or appropriately sensitive, but because a professor who uses an incorrect pronoun "prevents or impairs [the student's] safety in a classroom."

If students have been told that they can request gender-neutral pronouns and then a professor fails to use those pronouns, they may well be disappointed or upset. But are these students unsafe? Are they in any danger in the classroom? Professors should indeed be mindful of their students' feelings, but how does it change the nature of class discussions—and students themselves—when the community is told repeatedly that speech should be judged in terms of safety and danger?

Why might an Oberlin administrator have chosen those particular words? In a 2016 article titled "Concept Creep: Psychology's Expanding Concepts of Harm and Pathology," the Australian psychologist Nick Haslam examined a variety of key concepts in clinical and social psychology—including abuse, bullying, trauma, and prejudice—to determine how their usage had changed since the 1980s. He found that their scope had expanded in two directions: The concepts had crept "downward," to apply to less severe situations, and "outward," to encompass new but conceptually related phenomena.
They then go on to look at some of the more egregious examples of college students expressing the outrage that arguments that they disagree with are not only wrong, but dangerous. Here is a typical example.
Few Americans had ever heard of a "safe space" in an academic sense until March 2015, when The New York Times published an essay by Judith Shulevitz about students at Brown University preparing for an event on campus. Two feminist authors, Wendy McElroy and Jessica Valenti, were scheduled to debate "rape culture," the idea that "prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse."

Proponents of the idea, such as Valenti, argue that misogyny is endemic to American culture, and that in such a world, sexual assault is considered less serious than other crimes. It's clear, especially in the #MeToo era, that sexual abuse is far too common. But does that make for a rape culture? It seemed an idea worthy of debate.

McElroy disputes the claim that America is a rape culture, and to illustrate her argument, she contrasts the United States with countries in which rape is truly tolerated. In parts of Afghanistan, for example, "women are married against their will, they are murdered for men's honor, they are raped. And when they are raped they are arrested for it, and they are shunned by their family afterward," she said at the debate. "Now that's a rape culture."

McElroy has firsthand experience of sexual violence: She told the audience at Brown that she was raped as a teenager, and that as an adult she was so badly beaten by a boyfriend that it left her blind in one eye. Nonetheless, she thinks it is untrue and unhelpful to tell American women that they live in a rape culture.

But what if some Brown students believe that they do? Should McElroy be allowed to challenge that belief, or would doing so put them in danger? "Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people's experiences," one Brown student told Shulevitz, and that could be "damaging."

The logic seems to be that some Brown students' belief in the existence of a rape culture in America is based, at least in part, on their own lived experience of sexual assault. If, during the debate, McElroy were to tell them that America is not a rape culture, she could be taken to be saying that their personal experiences are "invalid" as grounds for their assertion.

Illustrating concept creep and the expansion of "safety" to include emotional comfort, the student quoted above and some classmates attempted to get McElroy disinvited from the debate in order to protect her peers. That effort failed, but Brown President Christina Paxson announced that she disagreed with McElroy and that at the same time as the debate, the college would hold a competing talk in which students could hear about how America is a rape culture without being confronted by different views.

The competing talk didn't entirely solve the problem, however. Because students could still be retraumatized by the presence of McElroy on campus, the person quoted above worked with other Brown students to create a "safe space" where anyone who felt "triggered" could recuperate and get help. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets, and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members purportedly trained to deal with trauma.
If you apply the same logic from the allergy studies to these coddled college students, we're raising a generation that will be less likely to cope with real life once they leave their protective college bubbles.
When children are raised in a culture of safetyism, which teaches them to stay "emotionally safe" while protecting them from every imaginable danger, it may set up a feedback loop: Kids become more fragile and less resilient, which signals to adults that they need additional protection, which makes them even more fragile and even less resilient. The result may be similar to what happened when we tried to keep kids safe from exposure to peanuts: a widespread backfiring effect in which the "cure" turns out to be a primary cause of the disease.
Maybe we can start acclimating them to the big, bad world by using capital letters and actual applause instead of jazz heads. Now, that would be walking on the wild side.