Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cruising the Web

The intolerance brigades on the internet have decided that Margaret Atwood, of all people, is a "bad feminist" because she dared to criticize the University of British Columbia for how it railroaded a professor of creative writing. Here is her explanation.
In November of 2016, I signed – as a matter of principle, as I have signed many petitions – an Open Letter called UBC Accountable, which calls for holding the University of British Columbia accountable for its failed process in its treatment of one of its former employees, Steven Galloway, the former chair of the department of creative writing, as well as its treatment of those who became ancillary complainants in the case. Specifically, several years ago, the university went public in national media before there was an inquiry, and even before the accused was allowed to know the details of the accusation. Before he could find them out, he had to sign a confidentiality agreement. The public – including me – was left with the impression that this man was a violent serial rapist, and everyone was free to attack him publicly, since under the agreement he had signed, he couldn't say anything to defend himself. A barrage of invective followed.

But then, after an inquiry by a judge that went on for months, with multiple witnesses and interviews, the judge said there had been no sexual assault, according to a statement released by Mr. Galloway through his lawyer. The employee got fired anyway. Everyone was surprised, including me. His faculty association launched a grievance, which is continuing, and until it is over, the public still cannot have access to the judge's report or her reasoning from the evidence presented. The not-guilty verdict displeased some people. They continued to attack. It was at this point that details of UBC's flawed process began to circulate, and the UBC Accountable letter came into being.

A fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt until the report and the evidence are available for us to see. We are grownups: We can make up our own minds, one way or the other.
Because of this, there are some radical feminists who have been criticizing her. It's just ridiculous. When did feminism demand that those who are accused should lose all rights to due process?

Atwood goes on to make the very crucial point that, in the midst of this #MeToo movement, it is important that we don't just take accusations at face value, but allow people to have a defense.
The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn't get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective, and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids.

If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers? It won't be the Bad Feminists like me. We are acceptable neither to Right nor to Left. In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn't puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated.
Condoleezza Rice also warnsabout how the #meToo movement can backfire on women.
Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that while she believes the #MeToo movement is "a good thing," people need "to be a little bit careful" about how they respond to it.

"Let's not turn women into snowflakes. Let's not infantilize women," Rice insisted during an interview with CNN's David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," which airs at 7 ET Saturday night.

Rice said she didn't want "to get to a place that men start to think, 'Well, maybe it's just better not to have women around.' I've heard a little bit of that. And it, it worries me," she told Axelrod.

You might have heard about the story written by one anonymous woman about her date with Aziz Ansari. In a lengthy article, she describes how she met him and then went out with him to dinner and then they went back to his apartment where they engaged in several sexual activities. You can read the whole thing or read Matt Walsh's quick and accurate summary.
Things begin going badly right from the start, Grace says, because Ansari only offers her white wine even though she prefers red. Dinner is rushed and he’s obviously anxious to get her back to his place.

The two start going at it as soon as they arrive in his apartment. They take their clothes off, they perform various sex acts on each other, and Grace willingly goes along with all of it. Ansari makes it clear that he wants to have intercourse, but Grace says she wants to slow down and take it easy. She tells the reader that she didn’t want to be there, she “didn’t want to be engaged in that with him,” and she insists that she was giving off many unmistakable “non-verbal cues,” but she did not communicate any of this to Ansari. Instead, she gets naked and sits on his kitchen counter. And, even after expressing her desire to slow things down, she still winds up performing even more sex acts on him.

Finally, she says definitively that she wants to stop. Ansari relents and suggests that they put their clothes back on and watch some TV. She agrees, but after sitting on the couch for a while, Ansari starts kissing her again. She reacts angrily a: gnd states her desire to leave. He calls her an Uber. She texts him the next day and expresses her discomfort with the way things went the night before. He apologizes and says he “misread things in the moment.” Sometime later, after discussing it with her friends, she comes to the conclusion that she was assaulted. Then, after Ansari got publicity from his Golden Globes win, she decides that she needs to talk to the media.

This is not how rape works.
We shouldn't allow women to characterize a bad date as sexual assault. She could have left at any time. She accuses him of missing her non-verbal cues. Well, you know what is a non-verbal cue: getting naked and twice giving him oral sex. That is not assault.
Of course, none of this gives a man license to physically force himself on a woman. But they are cues, signals, and if you’re relying on a man to pick up on your cues, you may want to consider all of the cues you’re actually giving. Your annoyed facial expression may be an “I don’t want to do this” cue, but the fact that you are naked in his living room is a cue of its own. A man, even a reasonable (if not gentlemanly) one, may argue that the latter cue is far more noticeable and compelling than the former. At the very least, they are conflicting. Which means, rather than relying on the guy to solve the puzzle, you may have to resort to verbal communication. “I am not going to do this,” you could say, and then leave.
There is something very distasteful about a woman using her perception of a bad date with a celebrity to tar him as guilty of sexual assault. And, as Walsh writes, this is what happens in a world of casual sex.
Grace felt violated after the fact. I don’t blame her for that. I blame her for seeking revenge by publishing intimate details of a clearly consensual encounter, but her feelings of emptiness and vulnerability are perfectly warranted. She was indeed violated, but she was complicit in the violation. That is the nature of casual sex. The two partners violate each other. A man uses a woman’s body for his own selfish ends, and the woman allows it, and reciprocates by using the man for her own purposes. If either wakes up feeling depressed the next day, it’s because they regret participating in such a degrading and humiliating exchange. The regret is real, and can be crushing, but it does not retroactively turn the events of the previous evening into rape. The sex remains what it was when you willingly participated in it: self-centered, dehumanizing, shallow, soulless, and, yes, consensual.

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Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic is also worried about what this story about Aziz Ansari says about this moment in time. She notes that a lot of women have responded on social media that "Grace's" story sounds like a lot of dates they have been on. She points out a detail from the end of the evening.
Eventually, overcome by her emotions at the way the night was going, she told him, “You guys are all the fucking same,” and left crying. I thought it was the most significant line in the story: This has happened to her many times before. What led her to believe that this time would be different?
Flanagan, who was a teenager in the 1970s remembers the advice that she learned from magazines of the time about dating. It sounds a lot like what I was also told in the same time period.
But in one essential aspect they reminded us that we were strong in a way that so many modern girls are weak. They told us over and over again that if a man tried to push you into anything you didn’t want, even just a kiss, you told him flat out you weren’t doing it. If he kept going, you got away from him. You were always to have “mad money” with you: cab fare in case he got “fresh” and then refused to drive you home. They told you to slap him if you had to; they told you to get out of the car and start wailing if you had to. They told you to do whatever it took to stop him from using your body in any way you didn’t want, and under no circumstances to go down without a fight. In so many ways, compared with today’s young women, we were weak; we were being prepared for being wives and mothers, not occupants of the C-Suite. But as far as getting away from a man who was trying to pressure us into sex we didn’t want, we were strong.
From Grace's own story, she makes it clear that he wasn't forcing her, but just wasn't treating her with the affection she wanted. So she got back at him and, because he's a celebrity, her tale went viral and has damaged his reputation.
What she felt afterward—rejected yet another time, by yet another man—was regret. And what she and the writer who told her story created was 3,000 words of revenge porn. The clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari. Together, the two women may have destroyed Ansari’s career, which is now the punishment for every kind of male sexual misconduct, from the grotesque to the disappointing.

Twenty-four hours ago—this is the speed at which we are now operating—Aziz Ansari was a man whom many people admired and whose work, although very well paid, also performed a social good. He was the first exposure many young Americans had to a Muslim man who was aspirational, funny, immersed in the same culture that they are. Now he has been—in a professional sense—assassinated, on the basis of one woman’s anonymous account. Many of the college-educated white women who so vocally support this movement are entirely on her side. The feminist writer and speaker Jessica Valenti tweeted, “A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers ‘normal’ sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.”

I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men. I had assumed that on the basis of intersectionality and all that, they’d stay laser focused on college-educated white men for another few months. But we’re at warp speed now, and the revolution—in many ways so good and so important—is starting to sweep up all sorts of people into its conflagration: the monstrous, the cruel, and the simply unlucky. Apparently there is a whole country full of young women who don’t know how to call a cab, and who have spent a lot of time picking out pretty outfits for dates they hoped would be nights to remember. They’re angry and temporarily powerful, and last night they destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.
I hope that there will be a backlash and Ansari's reputation will not be hurt too much. Bari Weiss also writes at the NYT about how meaningless these accusations against Ansari are not what sexual assault is about.
I am a proud feminist, and this is what I thought while reading Grace’s story:

If you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you.

If the inability to choose a pinot noir over a pinot grigio offends you, you can leave right then and there.

If you don’t like the way your date hustles through paying the check, you can say, “I’ve had a lovely evening and I’m going home now.”

If you go home with him and discover he’s a terrible kisser, say “I’m out.”

If you start to hook up and don’t like the way he smells or the way he talks (or doesn’t talk), end it.

If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do, use a four-letter word, stand up on your two legs and walk out his door.

Aziz Ansari sounds like he was aggressive and selfish and obnoxious that night. Isn’t it heartbreaking and depressing that men — especially ones who present themselves publicly as feminists — so often act this way in private? Shouldn’t we try to change our broken sexual culture? And isn’t it enraging that women are socialized to be docile and accommodating and to put men’s desires before their own? Yes. Yes. Yes.

But the solution to these problems does not begin with women torching men for failing to understand their “nonverbal cues.” It is for women to be more verbal. It’s to say: “This is what turns me on.” It’s to say “I don’t want to do that.” And, yes, sometimes it means saying piss off....

Grace’s story was met with so many digital hosannas by young feminists, who insisted that consent is only consent if it is affirmative, active, continuous and — and this is the word most used — enthusiastic. Consent isn’t the only thing they are radically redefining. A recent survey by The Economist/YouGov found that approximately 25 percent of millennial-age American women think asking someone for a drink is harassment. More than a third say that if a man compliments a woman’s looks it is harassment.

Maybe this can be a salutary moment as to the dangers of the whole #MeToo movement about what is and isn't sexual assault and that women should own their own behavior instead of blaming men. If women want to be regarded as strong, act like it.
The insidious attempt by some women to criminalize awkward, gross and entitled sex takes women back to the days of smelling salts and fainting couches. That’s somewhere I, for one, don’t want to go.

Just think. If this encounter between "Grace" and Ansari had happened between two students on a college campus just as she described it, she could have complained to some office of bureaucrats on campus and Ansari would have been brought in, denied any sort of legal counsel, the right to question her, and been found guilty of assault and expelled from the university. All for a bad date and an awkward sexual technique with a woman who set off a lot of nonverbal cues that she was willing to have sex with him. Instead, he gets his reputation smashed on the internet. This is what a casual-sex, hook-up culture has devolved down to. This is not what women's equality and #MeToo should be about. There were real women who were abused and their careers impacted because of sexual advances in the workplace. This attack job on Aziz Ansari, demeans the entire movement. Ansari is a man with whom I probably don't agree all that much ideologically, but he deserves better from the attack dogs on the internet.

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So what's worse: Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of disobeying a court order and got pardoned by Trump as well as being accused of violating the rights of Latinos, running for the Senate in Arizona or Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing 750,000 pages of classified information and releasing them to WikilLeaks and whose sentence was commuted by Obama, is going to run for the Senate in Maryland? It's a mark of shame for both parties. Both should be in prison instead of having been pardoned or having their sentences commuted just because both Trump and Obama were playing to their bases.

Apparently, Joe Arpaio didn't know that, when he accepted Trump's pardon, he was confessing guilt.
When Joe Arpaio accepted a pardon from President Donald Trump after his conviction for violating a court order, he apparently didn’t realize that he was admitting wrongdoing. Enter MSNBC’s Ari Melber, who broke the news to the man who recently announced his candidacy for United States Senate. What ensued was quite the awkward exchange, where Arpaio insisted he did nothing wrong, only for Melber to inform him that he’s already said otherwise. The relevant portion of the interview begins at the 1:00 mark in the clip above.

Melber didn’t waste any time in his interview, immediately asking the former Maricopa County Sheriff, “Why should you get a promotion to write laws, when you yourself didn’t follow court orders?”

Arpaio responded by noting that his conviction was for a misdemeanor, and that President Trump pardoned him, “because he knew that this decision was wrong, and I appreciate that pardon.”

“As you know, when you take a pardon, you’re admitting guilt. Why did you take that pardon and admit guilt?”

“I didn’t admit guilt,” Arpaio said. “I said I was not guilty, and I say it today.”

Oh boy. Melber continued to push on the issue, and it just got more uncomfortable from there.

“But you accepted the pardon,” Melber persisted, “and you know under the law that is an admission of guilt.”

“No, I don’t know about that, you’ll have to talk to the legal scholars about that.”

Well, Melber didn’t have to talk to any other legal scholars, being that he is a lawyer, and he cited the Supreme Court decision that indeed says that a pardon is an admission.

In Burdick v. United States, the Court said a pardon “carries an imputation of guilt and acceptance of a confession of it.”
Heh, heh. I hope that Arizona GOP primary voters will realize that Arpaio's candidacy is just an opportunity to replay the disaster of Roy Moore's candidacy in Alabama. They have an attractive candidate in Martha McSally, the first woman to be an Air Force combat pilot. Why would they want to vote for guy convicted of criminal contempt and who has been a crank and bigot who couldn't even get reelected in his own county?

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Watch out if you're driving through this New Jersey town if you're using a navigation app.
If you want to drive through the small residential streets of Leonia, N.J., you'll have to move there.

Starting Jan. 22, the town will ban all non-residents from driving on 60 of its streets during the morning and evening rush hours.

The new rules aim to crack down on urban-dwellers who take shortcuts through the town while following instructions from navigation apps like Waze, Google Maps or Apple — a phenomenon Mayor Judah Zeigler says is causing gridlock, costing money and putting people in danger.

"What's happening with the adoption of Waze and Google Maps and other navigational apps is these vehicles are ending up on our narrow streets," Zeigler told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"It takes people 15 minutes to get out of their driveway sometimes."

The small New Jersey borough is minutes away from the George Washington Bridge to New York City.

Whenever there's a problem on the bridge or a Manhattan highway, Zeigler said the apps tend to divert people through his town.

If you can't use those apps in Leonia, there is one app for San Franciscans.
For those who have maintained that San Francisco is full of . . . whatever, there is now living proof. How much poop is there on the streets of the City by the Bay?

Would you believe there is an online map to track human feces on the city’s streets? There is.

According to Fox News, one area of the city reported a 140% rise in feces. As Jay Caruso of RedState noted, “Public urination is so widespread it has damaged subway elevators and escalators, building walls and power poles.”

When did the gleaming jewel that was San Francisco become a repository for poop? Mayor Willie Brown terminated ordinances; city district Attorney Terence Hallinan would not prosecute “victimless” crimes involving drugs and prostitution.
The app uses human waste reports made to 311 in the city and then maps them out. All good to know, I guess.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cruising the Web

The fact that the Hawaii Emergency Alert system could send out a false warning that was repeated on radio and TV and wasn't corrected until a half-hour later is extremely worrisome. What does this say about the whole emergency system in Hawaii and elsewhere?
The weakness of Hawaii's emergency system is terrifying. The fact that a single employee could trigger a warning by making a stupid mistake is beyond belief.

How many billions of dollars have we spent on these systems? Are all state emergency management systems as vulnerable to human error?

Today, I have no doubt that the other 49 states in the nation are looking at their notification systems under a microscope. But what should they look for? What happened in Hawaii?
Perhaps this mistake will be a salutary warning to everyone that we need to make sure that there are some failsafe measures to protect against similar errors.
Hawaii says the alert was sent out because of a mistake made by an employee. Currently, we have no reason to doubt that explanation. But would Hawaii - or any state - announce to the public that the system had been hacked and the entire EMA system was vulnerable to intrusion?

This isn't over - not by a long shot. The FCC is opening their own investigation into the incident and you can bet Congress will also be looking into the false alert as well.

If that happens, the screw up may be a blessing in disguise. Exposing vulnerabilities and dangerous procedures that might lead to the same thing happening elsewhere would be a positive development coming out of this terrifying incident.
And perhaps some Hawaiians can spare a moment to realize that this is how life in Israel is on a regular basis except the warnings are not mistakes.

Tyler Cowen provides evidence
why Trump is so wrong about accepting migrants from poorer countries. Cowen argues that "Africa is sending us its best and brightest." Many of the immigrants from Africa who are coming here already have an education.
One of the most striking facts about immigration to the U.S., unbeknownst even to many immigration advocates, is the superior education of Africans coming to this country. If we consider adults age 25 or older, born in Africa and living in the U.S., 41.7 of them have a bachelor’s degree or more, according to 2009 data. For contrast, the native-born population has a bachelor’s degree or more at the much lower rate of only 28.1 percent in these estimates, and foreign-born adults as a whole have a college degree at the rate of 26.8 percent, both well below the African rate.

How about high school degrees? About one-third of immigrants overall lack this credential, but only 11.7 percent of African-born migrants don’t have a high school degree. That’s remarkably close to the rate for native-born Americans, estimated at 11.4 percent.

Or consider Nigerian-Americans, Nigeria being the most populous nation in Africa. Their education levels are among the very highest in the U.S., above those of Asians, with 17 percent of Nigerian migrants having a master’s degree.

In addition, about three-quarters of African migrants speak English, and they have higher than average rates of labor force participation. They are also much less likely to commit violent crimes than individuals born in the U.S.
Of course, Trump just spouts off based on his stereotyping of these countries without considering who the people are who are applying to come here.
Economist Edward Lazear suggests a simple experiment. Consider immigrants to the U.S. from Algeria, Israel and Japan, and rank them in order of most educated to least educated. The correct answer is Algeria, Israel then Japan. Although that’s counterintuitive at first glance, it’s easy enough to see how it works. If you are Algerian and educated, or aspire to be educated, your prospects in Algeria are relatively poor and you may seek to leave. A talented, educated person in Japan or Israel can do just fine by staying at home. These kinds of considerations explain about 73 percent of the variation in the educational outcomes of migrants.

In other words, Trump is not only being offensive, he is also quite wrong.

Meanwhile, the politics of this standoff over DACA may or may not play to the Democrats' advantage. Matthew Continetti gives the counter-argument.
The difference between the actual politics of immigration and the way those politics are presented in the major papers and on the television news is more than wide. It's Grand-Canyon-scale enormous. The Dreamers are sympathetic cases the public supports. But the public also supports enforcing immigration law and reducing legal migration. A little more than a decade ago, congressional Democrats authorized the very border walls the party now opposes with such vehemence. Yet there is a not insignificant portion of the Democratic caucus that says it will refuse to support any DACA bill containing money for a barrier on the southern border. And they call Trump extreme.

The idea that Democrats benefit from a government shutdown over the Dreamers is absurd. Not only would Democrats have to explain that thousands upon thousands of federal workers are on leave because of a dispute over noncitizens. Democrats would also jeopardize the bipartisan goodwill the Dreamers enjoy by making them pawns in a cynical game. So unreasonable are the Democratic demands on immigration—more, more, always more, and with no changes to a rickety and leaky system—that one begins to wonder whether they actually want to settle the issue.

Perhaps the Dreamers and other illegal immigrants are more useful to the Democrats as tools of virtue signaling and electoral mobilization than they are as legal permanent residents in a country where the border is protected and laws are enforced. However, if my cynical interpretation is correct, then the Democratic strategy may backfire. I can think of one recent national campaign where immigration was central. It did not end in Democratic victory.

The Dreamers may turn against their supposed protectors, as is already happening. At the same time, independent voters and Trump Democrats may rebuke mealy-mouthed open borders types in favor of candidates who want both to legalize the Dreamers and to reform immigration law in a rational manner. Each scenario is plausible. Yet the political and journalistic analysis of this complex and dynamic situation never seems to go beyond the "isn't Trump crazy and mean" stage.
There is room for a reasonable compromise if both sides remember that the essence of compromise is that both sides give up some of what they want. Personally, I'm not so concerned about the wall since more of illegal immigrants come from overstaying their visas than crossing the border. But Trump needs something that he can claim as a victory so give him more of something on a virtual wall. But work on the visa lottery program and reforming chain migration and give the Dreamers some legal certainty so that they end being in this legal limbo.

The question then remains what do the Democrats want to do with power beyond resisting Obama? And there, the answer is hard to find.
This obsession with the president's habits and eccentricities has obscured the utter emptiness of the Democratic policy cupboard. There was no alternative Democratic health care bill, no alternative Democratic tax bill. All the Democrats have is obstruction. While annoying to the administration, it hasn't really worked. The judges are seated, the tax bill was passed, and the antiregulatory and foreign policy agenda moves forward. The latest Democratic tactic is to call the wage increases and bonuses announced for American workers as a consequence of tax reform "breadcrumbs." Genius.

And yet: What must worry Republicans is that a lack of accomplishment and message is no barrier to political success. A listless and exhausted and bereft Democratic Party can take solace in the following British cliché: Opposition parties don't win elections. Governments lose them.
And Trump seems to be working hard to lose both this year's elections and any hope he has in 2020.

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Steve Hayward explains the economics of why so many companies have announced that they're passing out bonuses or raising wages after the passage of the GOP tax reform lowering corporate tax rates.
This is happening for a simple reason: one of the largest factors for corporate finance is the cost of capital—whether that capital is raised through borrowing, issuing equity, or from the internal rate of return on the business’s own cash flow (and anyone who has ever taken a finance class will know how tricky doing the IRR calculation can be). And the cost of capital is set by the marketplace. All businesses have to achieve a rate of return that assures their continued access to capital, and when that cost falls it enables a company to maintain a competitive return while raising wages. The significant reduction in the corporate tax rate has lowered the cost of capital across the board. Other countries are quickly following the U.S. in cutting their corporate tax rates to remain competitive. Japan, Australia, Austria, even Argentina and France (!) have announced plans to cut their corporate tax rates, and several other nations indicate they won’t be far behind.

And liberals furious about this!

....What we are seeing here is a lesson is how left and right see the best strategy to help the economy. Liberalism likes to bribe people with their own money, which requires taking it from them first. It helps when you can target the funds to your favored groups, instead of letting the chips fall where they may when you let people keep their own money as tax cuts do. Freedom is like that.

Instead of having a lower cost of capital put upward pressure on wages, liberals are only happy when wages rise because of a government mandate. Liberals especially love mandating a higher minimum wage. How’s that working out? We’ve reported before (here and here) about how it is backfiring in Seattle, especially the NBER study (commissioned by Seattle) that found “the second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016.” Nice going, Seattle.

Even Elizabeth Warren is having to do some intricate tap-dancing to say that she's happy that Massachusetts citizens are going to get cuts on their energy bills. But she still can't stop herself from blaming the corporations for being big or something and the Republicans from passing a bill that is putting more money in her constituents' pockets.
After that she ranted about the giant corporations getting tax breaks and how she wanted to stop it, utterly oblivious to the fact that it was the same giant corporations extending the tax cuts to their customers, who were benefiting.

Let's get that straight one more time: Warren actually said she wanted to get rid of the tax cuts, unable to grasp that the tax cuts are the exact instrument that enabled the energy company to cut rates for consumers. Warren was supposed to be smart enough to be a Harvard professor?

It's got to be painful to contort herself this way....

She followed it with another rant howling about how corporations – those same corporations handing out the bonuses – had benefited and how that somehow was a bad thing.

She apparently thinks Massachusetts's workers are stupid and are unable to see any connection between bonus money in their pockets and the tax breaks extended to the people who employ them.

In Warrenworld, there apparently are just these giant corporations floating out there, being rich, whose behavior has nothing to do with tax policy, jobs created, or bonuses handed out to workers.

So don't imagine there won't be more of this stupid talk from a washed up consumer advocate from a previous era. Liz Warren made her reputation as the staunch defender of the consumer, and her great contribution to it was the crummy little fiefdom of zero accountability known as the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, well known for its sleazy tactics against small businesses that cannot fight back the shakedowns for their purpose of funding left-wing activist groups. She already has said she wants the tax cuts repealed.

Yet it doesn't obliterate the fact that Trump and the hardworking Republicans in Congress have extended real benefits to consumers, across the board, without picking and choosing which consumers to "help" as Warren's bureaucratic confection did.

Well this sounds unlikely
A CNN anchor blasted author Michael Wolff on Saturday for "misrepresenting" himself at the outset of his project in order to gain access to the White House, citing emails in which Wolff allegedly promised to "humanize Donald Trump."

Wolff, the man behind the new tell-all book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, accused CNN of siding with the president when anchor Michael Smerconish questioned the methods he used to get inside the West Wing.

"You're doing the work of the White House to discredit this book. The White House wants to discredit this book," Wolff said in the contentious interview.
Yeah, because CNN is so very pro-Trump.

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Ilya Shapiro and Aaron Barnes discuss the terrible decision last week from the Eighth Circuit on a case challenging Missouri's law mandating at least 1,000 hours of training to be allowed to earn a living of African-style braiding.
Obtaining the mandatory license from the Missouri Board of Cosmetology & Barber Examiners entailed undergoing a minimum of 1,000 hours of mostly irrelevant training and passing an exam with both written and “practical” (term used loosely) components.

Not only is over 90 percent of the required training completely inapplicable to the practice of African-style hair braiding, but seven of the nine board members are barbers, cosmetologists, or cosmetology school owners with a direct financial incentive to limit competition.

None of that mattered to the three judges on the Eighth Circuit panel, who yesterday after a full year of foot-dragging issued a perfunctory opinion upholding the district court ruling in the board’s favor. Instead of finally providing two aspiring entrepreneurs their day in court before a neutral arbiter, this ruling continues the pattern of courts’ violating bedrock due-process principles by rubber-stamping occupational regulations under the flimsiest of rationales.
States should get rid of all these licensing requirements that are really designed to limit competition and instead prevent hard-working people from making a living. There is no justification for all these stringent requirements to braid hair. This case will eventually end up before the Supreme Court. This is an issue that should be considered if Trump gets the opportunity to make another Supreme Court nomination.
One further disturbing aspect of the ruling is thus that one of the panelists, Judge Steven Colloton, appears on President Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees. By contrast, another member of the Trump shortlist, newly confirmed Fifth Circuit Judge Don Willett, wrote a concurrence while on the Texas Supreme Court that addressed this very issue of overly burdensome occupational licensing in a manner that properly considered plaintiffs’ right to earn an honest living in the face of arbitrary government regulations.

If nothing else, Niang should remind us all of the need for substantive debate at future judicial confirmation hearings, not frivolous demagoguery.

Megan McArdle looks at the lawsuit that former Google employee James Damore has brought against Google for bias against conservatives. It's not so much that Damore has much hope of winning legally, but because Google has a lot to lose from having this lawsuit and discovery go forward.
Google has an immense amount to lose, even if a court ultimately vindicates its corporate culture. The company’s internal systems, featuring an immense array of internal employee communications, will be ripped open to scrutiny. If I were a Google executive, I wouldn’t want to bet that employees haven’t said much worse things in emails and on message boards than those featured in the lawsuit. Things that are plainly, inarguably, expensively illegal.

But I also wouldn’t want even milder utterances to turn up as testimony in a lawsuit. Because every nasty comment and intemperate remark about Republicans or white males or conservative Christians is going to get broadcast to the public when this case goes to trial. And as you may have noticed, those folks are half the country.

Perhaps Google thinks its market position is so strong that it doesn’t have to worry about piddly things like whether its employees spend a great deal of time using internal systems to slander half the company’s American customer base. What are you going to do, use another search engine?

But this is too narrow an analysis. For one thing, there are quite a lot of conservative small-business owners, and small business is the lifeblood of the kinds of ads that Google sells. The company will be hurt if those business owners get serious about taking their advertising elsewhere, especially if conservatives pursue a secondary boycott, targeting companies that advertise with Google.

To be sure, boycotts are rarely all that effective. But most boycotts involve minor matters of policy. This is about tribal identity. Google fired a conservative for writing a rather anodyne memo. If it turns out that the company was at the same time tolerating truly vicious conservative bashing in its internal systems—well, no one wants to give their hard-earned money to people or companies that are violently bigoted against them.
And it might not matter that Google has unlimited resources to fight the lawsuit.
But Google’s very wealth and power mean it is even more vulnerable than usual to the political and economic pressure that such a lawsuit will bring. To a first approximation, every single conservative in America will learn about every single bigoted thing that a Googler has said about conservatives. If I were a Google executive, I would be willing to devote a considerable portion of the company’s riches to paying off Damore before this thing ever gets within shouting distance of a courtroom.
But what if Damore and his allies would prefer to embarrass Google?
This is one reason public corporations have historically tried to keep politics out of their business. It is internally divisive, and it paints a giant target on your back for your political enemies. Whatever small gains you may get, from internal bonding among like-minded employees, or external rewards from like-minded politicians, are almost never worth the blowback.

This is a lesson that Silicon Valley hasn’t had to learn yet, because it is so rich, and so new, that these sorts of concerns haven’t really registered. Presumably that’s why Google managers complacently allowed a corporate culture to grow up that at the very least tolerates some degree of progressive militancy at work, and quite possibly encourages more than a little of it. That was incredibly short-sighted. And if Silicon Valley doesn’t realize this, it is about to get belatedly hit by that realization, good and hard.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Cruising the Web

Ugh! I wish we couldn't have either of these people determining policy in Washington, but that's not where we are.
Once you hit bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up, and on Thursday the language of politics hit bottom.

When the possibility of admitting immigrants from Haiti and Africa came up at a meeting with Senators at the White House, President Trump reportedly mused about why we’d want to admit people into the U.S. from “s—hole countries.”

About that time, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House, offered her thoughts on colleagues who are negotiating an immigration bill with the White House: “The five white guys I call them, you know. Are they going to open a hamburger stand next or what?”

Maybe at some future date, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Pelosi can co-host a talk show on ESPN. For now, this verbal mudslide from two of the nation’s highest officials is, in a word, unedifying.

The House’s number two Democrat, Steny Hoyer, no doubt terrified that his party could become linked to Ms. Pelosi’s use of language from the fringe of identity politics, said, “That comment is offensive.” Republicans, who might worry that Mr. Trump’s barstool belch has lost the African-American vote forever, should do the same.
The bigotry of Trump's remark is really distasteful. Doesn't he have any idea that some of the immigrants who have come here from African countries (the countries he was apparently referring to) are some of the hardest working immigrant groups that we have? I've had the good fortune to teach some of the children whose parents have immigrated from those countries. Of course Trump has no idea, because all he knows are slogans and bluster; he really has no idea about policy. And as for deal-making, that vaunted skill that he bragged about all campaign, he seems to know little about that either. If he did, he wouldn't state before cameras that he wants a deal of whatever those politicians in the room are going to come up with. He wouldn't announce ahead of time that he wants a DACA fix so badly so that the Democrats know that they just have to hold firm and he'll cave. He wouldn't have to have so many of his remarks and tweets cleaned up by his staff to explain to us what "he really meant."

And if he had any situational awareness at all, he'd know that, if he used language like that in a meeting with members of Congress including Democrats that it would all be leaked out within a few hours. And he'd have some sense that, no matter what he privately thinks, the president of the United States shouldn't be referring to countries like Haiti, El Salvador and all of Africa with that sort of language.

Forget all the speculation of some sort of psychological problem as some on the left have been peddling. How about that he's just not all that smart?

But then again,

And this is the point that Trump should be making in the first place.

And whenever I see the networks get their panties all in a twist about Trump being president, I think back to this statistic that Josh Jordan reminds us of and how angry it made me back during the campaign for the GOP nomination.

I like this argument from Erick Erickson.
I would rather the immigrant from Africa, Asia, or South America who lives in a kleptocracy and wants a better life.

The underlying premise of the President's statement about s***hole countries is wrong. A Norwegian immigrant would more likely come here and start demanding his Norwegian way of life on us than a poor person from Africa. The poor person from Africa wants to be American. The Norwegian already thinks of himself as a citizen of the world. The Norwegian would just be coming here for a job. The African would be coming here to be an American. The African may be coming from a third world kleptocratic s***hole with a dictator who steals from his people and kills dissidents, but that is why, in part, the African will make the most of the American dream. He wants an escape from that place and wants the American dream.

To be sure, the well educated first generation Norwegian would probably do better in the United States than a first generation African immigrant in terms of income. But that African immigrant would be more likely to embrace this country and its ways and indoctrinate his children into a long term love of this country because this nation means so much more to those of little means in s***hole countries than it does to Western socialist democracies who already turn up their noses at the notion of American manifest destiny.

I would rather the immigrant from Africa, Asia, or South America who lives in a kleptocracy and wants a better life, not just a better job. They will be the American families that will yield a patriotic love of America through generations. And that the President does not understand this should be a warning sign on his ability to deal with immigration policy at all. His understanding is clearly superficial and lacks substance beyond the power of positive thinking.
I would also guess that we're not being inundated by people from Norway seeking to immigrate here.

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As Armageddon continues from the tax reform law, Americans for Tax Reform has compiled a list of companies offering bonuses to employees due to the bill. Now there are two million Americans who will be receiving bonuses from their employers. Add in the fact that more than 80% of taxpayers will see tax cuts. But Pelosi still calls it Armageddon and now is saying that these bonuses that companies are giving out are simply "crumbs." Some of those bonuses range from $1000 to $3000. I don't know if average folks appreciate her characterization of such bonuses as "crumbs."

Here's an example of the sorts of "crumbs" she has such contempt for.
Fiat Chrysler announced Thursday that it will up its investment in the United States and pay some of its employees special bonuses after the recent tax code overhaul.

CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement that these announcements reflect the company's ongoing commitment to manufacturing in the U.S. He also cited the recently signed tax bill as an opportunity to share the savings with Fiat Chrysler employees.

The automaker said it will invest more than $1 billion in a Michigan plant and relocate production of its Ram Heavy Duty truck in 2020. That model is currently being produced in Saltillo, Mexico.

Fiat Chrysler said this decision would create about 2,500 jobs in addition to the ones that have been previously announced.

The company said it will also pay 60,000 of its U.S. employees bonuses of $2,000 each. Fiat Chrysler said these bonuses would not include senior leadership.

IBD explains how the Trump administration is giving people more options on their health care and allowing them to buy less expensive plans that the Obama administration wanted to prevent them from purchasing.
In a series of proposed regulatory changes, Trump aims to give consumers options that Democrats want to deny them — options for less expensive insurance that best suits their own health care and financial needs.

One would remove an Obama-era regulation that was designed to thwart the increasingly popular market for "short-term" insurance plans. These plans didn't comply with ObamaCare's myriad rules and regulations, which meant they could provide benefits at lower rates.

In ObamaCare's first year, eHealth reported that sales of short-term insurance offered on its website shot up 134%. Others reported similar surges. These plans continued to surge as ObamaCare premium increases skyrocketed. Middle-class families that aren't eligible for ObamaCare subsidies — of which there are millions — could save hundreds of dollars a month on insurance, even though they still had to pay the ObamaCare tax penalty.

So, what did the Obama administration do? It issued a rule in October 2016 that limited these plans to three months, rather than the nearly 12 months they had been offering. The rule was specifically designed to force these people back into the ObamaCare exchanges.

As Health and Human Services put it at the time: "The proposed changes will help strengthen the (ObamaCare) risk pool by ensuring that short-term limited duration plans are used only as intended, to fill truly temporary gaps in coverage."

In other words, in a desperate attempt to shore up the failing ObamaCare exchanges, President "Keep-Your-Plan" Obama decided to take away yet another health plan that people liked.

But the rule change wasn't announced until mid-2016, and didn't go into effect until last year. Which means that all Trump proposed was to return to the ObamaCare status quo that had been in effect for three years.

The other change Trump proposed was to ease rules that were preventing small businesses and other groups from banding together to offer insurance through multistate "association health plans." The idea is to give small businesses the ability to get group rates comparable to those enjoyed by large multistate employers.

Late last week, the Labor Department announced its proposal to make this a reality, saying it could make coverage more affordable for 11 million people who work for small businesses or are self-employed and don't have insurance.

"By joining together," the Labor Department said, "employers may reduce administrative costs through economies of scale, strengthen their bargaining position to obtain more favorable deals, enhance their ability to self-insure and offer a wider array of insurance options."
A lot of people are happy to pay less for a less comprehensive plan, one that covers the catastrophic health costs that we all worry about instead of an Obamacare-sanctioned plan that covers more, costs more, and has a huge deductible that average people will never meet anyway.

How stupid is this?
The Committee to Protect Journalists named President Trump as the winner of its “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom” award in its “Press Oppressors” awards Monday.

The committee released a list of top global press oppressors on Monday in response to Trump’s upcoming “fake news” awards, giving Trump the top honor.

“While previous U.S. presidents have each criticized the press to some degree, they have also made public commitments to uphold its essential role in democracy, at home and abroad,” the committee wrote.

“Trump, by contrast, has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as Xi [Jinping], [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, and [Abdel Fattah al-]Sisi.”
Sure, Trump has a boorish and bullying attitude to the press. But he isn't jailing journalists or assassinating them such as happened in countries like Russia or Iran. They just dilute their credibility. David Harsanyi points out that the very fact that so many journalists can criticize Trump indicates how free our media are.
For one thing, the very breadth and intensity of the anti-Trump press illustrates there are few inhibitions or no strictures on their freedom of expression. Trump’s attacks on journalists — some of it brought on by their own shoddy and partisan behavior — are often unseemly and unhealthy, but it hasn’t stopped anyone from engaging, investigating, writing, saying, protesting or sharing their deep thoughts with the entire group.

Every day. All the time.
And let's not forget the Obama administration secretly obtaining two months worth of telephone records of Associated Press journalists to try to find the leak of classified information. And they also went after Fox's James Rosen and labeled him in court documents as a criminal "co-conspirator" for trying to solicit classified information. The Trump administration hasn't done anything like that.
If the Trump Administration, which has a bigger leak problem than any in history, engaged in anything resembling this kind of behavior, it would rightly be considered a massive scandal. Every newscast and every front page would lead with it.

But it’s not just about the past. While Trump’s efforts to stop Michael Wolff’s fabulist “Fire and Fury” from being published are silly and counterproductive and sure to fail (update: as is his new lawsuit against Buzzfeed), he is merely accessing the legal rights that all Americans enjoy. In the meantime, Democrats, right now, support new laws that would allow the state to ban political books and documentaries. The Obama years made overturning the First Amendment via the Citizens United a tenant of its party platform. Obama, in perfect syntax, engaged in an act of norm-breaking, called out the Supreme Court publicly for upholding First Amendment. That was rhetoric, too. Few defenders of the press seemed bothered by any of it.
But the real scandal is the choice to single out Trump instead of the leaders of countries actually threatening the press and denying them true freedom.
Claiming the president of the United States (Obama or Trump) is “overall” more detrimental to press freedoms than the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Egypt or China not only denigArights work to begin with. Because not only is the United States far superior in its embrace of open political discourse than authoritarian states, or Third World states, or (nearly) every state in Middle East, the United States is superior to Western European nations, as well.

There is no country in Europe that boasts as healthy an environment for press freedom or free speech as the United States — and considering the attitude of elites, it’s doubtful they want that dynamic to change. In Europe libel laws are frequently used by the rich and powerful to suppress unfavorable coverage. In England, for example, Trump would likely have been able to quash the Wolff book. In Germany, the state demands that private online outlets govern speech that doesn’t comport with their diktats. In France, the government will decide what real news is. The European Union’s Code of Conduct features an array of demands for the government to police speech, which includes, among other things, online “hate speech” — a perpetually flexible and easily abused phrase. Increasing numbers of Americans, some no doubt worried about Trump fascism, support the implementation of these kinds of laws here.

Rhetoric matters, but it’s not all that matters. To believe press freedom is in imminent danger you have to concentrate solely on Trump’s words rather than what’s actually happening. As David Brooks recently noted, those who do so seem to be “settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information.”
And while Trump babbles about changing the nation's libel laws because, deep down, he'd like to be able to sue people who write bad things about him, he can't do anything about that because of Supreme Court decisions that aren't likely to be reversed. The WSJ writes,
But on Mr. Trump’s comments, we associate ourselves, to our astonishment, with Brian Hauss, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who issued the following statement Wednesday: “President Trump’s threat to revise our country’s libel laws is, frankly, not credible. There is no federal libel law, and the president does not have the authority to change state libel laws. Furthermore, the First Amendment provides strong protections against libel liability, particularly with respect to statements about public figures or matters of public concern. Whatever President Trump might think, he has no power to override these constitutional protections.”

Exactly right. Worry about genuine threats, not more feckless bluster.

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Here is another example of how many of the elites in the EU are, at heart, favoring dictators. Eli Lake looks at the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini.
Few diplomats though have pursued this kind of engagement with such moralizing puffery. In Mogherini's world, diplomacy with dictators should not aim to transition these countries to open societies, but rather to prevent conflicts at all costs.

Just consider her trip last week to Cuba, a plantation masquerading as a nation-state. Did Mogherini use her visit to call attention to the struggle of human rights activists or to comfort the families of political prisoners? No, Mogherini was in Cuba to reassure a regime that Europe will not go along with America's trade embargo....

While Mogherini found her voice in Havana about Cuba's "isolation," she was mute on the popular uprising in Iran. She waited six days to say anything about the demonstrations there. When she finally did, it was a mix of ingratiation and neutrality. “In the spirit of openness and respect that is at the root of our relationship," she said, "we expect all concerned to refrain from violence and to guarantee freedom of expression."

It's as if Mogherini believes that Iranian demonstrators are arresting and silencing members of the state Basij militia, and not the other way around. And why does she speak of openness and respect? Has the European foreign policy chief not followed the ordeal of European dual national citizens, detained on trumped-up charges in Iran? Apparently this openness and respect is a one-way street.

All of this is part of a pattern for Mogherini. Most strategists believe diplomacy is a tool for achieving a specific outcome in foreign relations. The only outcome Mogherini seems to seek is preservation of the status quo. That's fine in moments of tranquility and prosperity, not a moment when authoritarians are on the march in Europe and Asia....

Mogherini’s ideology is a particular tragedy in the case of Iran. The West can help aid Iran’s freedom movement by linking the regime’s treatment of its people, and particularly its political prisoners, to economic and political engagement. The US has some leverage here, but Europe — because so many of its businesses want a piece of Iran’s economy — has far more.

As Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, told me: “This is the European moment on Iran.” Europe’s response to the regime’s violent suppression of protests after the stolen election of 2009 was firm. The EU should send the same message today.

So far, Mogherini and the Europeans have delivered the opposite message. On Monday, the high representative invited Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, to Brussels next week for more discussions on the Iran nuclear deal. Alireza Nader, an Iran expert at the RAND Corporation, told me this week that Mogherini’s statement on Iran was “saying both sides are equal, when it’s Iranian security forces that are shooting and killing people.”

Here is the latest sexist crisis du jour that we're supposed to be worried about. In reshooting scenes of "All the Money in the World" after they had to swap Christopher Plummer in to play the Kevin Spacey role, Michelle Williams was paid only $80 per day while Mark Wahlberg got $1.5 million. Isn't that just an example of how men are paid more than women in Hollywood? Isn't the Hollywood that loves to lecture us about sexism a morass of sexist behavior? Well, not so fast.
Mark Wahlberg received $1.5 million to take part in reshoots for “All the Money in the World,” while Michelle Williams got next to nothing. And while that strikes many as a clear-case of sexism, it just comes down to their contracts, TheWrap has learned.

Williams received only a per diem of $80 a day, as USA Today first reported. Her contract required her to do reshoots, which turned out to be much more extensive than planned because director Ridley Scott re-cast disgraced actor Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer.

Wahlberg received more than 1000 times as much money as she did because reshoots were not in his contract, according to an individual with knowledge of the deal. It’s no surprise that Wahlberg’s agent, Ari Emanuel, demanded top dollar: Their dynamic inspired Wahlberg’s series “Entourage,” in which an Emanuel-inspired agent’s ruthlessness is a running gag....

It’s also worth noting that Wahlberg’s character has many more scenes with J. Paul Getty (Plummer).

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Kyle Smith raises
an interesting question about the new movie, I, Tonya.
There’s this movie about an impoverished girl who gets beaten and otherwise abused by her mother, then beaten and otherwise abused by her husband. Naturally, it’s a comedy.

I, Tonya, which plays the travails of Tonya Harding for kitschy laughs, was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy, and it isn’t a musical. Taffy Brodesser-Akner even noted in her superb New York Times profile of the disgraced ex-Olympic figure skater now known as Tonya Price that there were people in press screenings of the film who laughed during a beating scene.

Query for all the rich white people in New York and Los Angeles who are finding this movie hilarious: Would you be chuckling if Tonya Harding were black? Would the scene in which Margot Robbie’s Harding speaks while the director makes sure we see the pile of dirty dishes piled up behind her leave you in stitches? Would you go out for drinks afterward and share your favorite “black trash” jokes?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cruising the Web

Here's a story that strengthens the arguments for a Bernie Sanders-style single-payer health plan.
American liberals such as Sen. Bernie Sanders like to tout socialized healthcare systems such as Britain's for spending less and covering everybody, but here's a reality check you shouldn't expect to hear in any of his fiery speeches: the British government-run National Health Service has abruptly canceled 50,000 nonemergency surgeries due to overcrowding at hospitals this winter.

Sanders, I-Vt., has lamented that the United States "ends up spending almost three times per capita what they do in the UK," which is "guaranteeing healthcare to all people." Yet here is what life is like for those living in the supposedly more humane system, as reported by the Telegraph:
Every hospital in the country has been ordered to cancel all non-urgent surgery until at least February in an unprecedented step by NHS officials.

The instructions on Tuesday night - which will see result in around 50,000 operations being axed - followed claims by senior doctors that patients were being treated in “third world” conditions, as hospital chief executives warned of the worst winter crisis for three decades.

Hospitals are reporting growing chaos, with a spike in winter flu leaving frail patients facing 12-hour waits, and some units running out of corridor space.

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, on Tuesday ordered NHS trusts to stop taking all but the most urgent cases, closing outpatients clinics for weeks as well as cancelling around 50,000 planned operations.

Trusts have also been told they can abandon efforts to house male and female patients in separate wards, in an effort to protect basic safety, as services become overwhelmed.
Guy Benson comments,
This is single-payer healthcare, operating in an advanced Western nation that has had their system in place for decades. A fundamentally flawed system, insufficient resources and an aging population are proving to be a recipe for disaster.

And that disaster is exactly what Bernie Sanders and a bevy of Democratic presidential hopefuls have in mind for the American people -- this, despite the stunning fiscal realities that have blocked far-left states like Vermont and California from implementing "universal healthcare" fantasies. Those stalled proposals would have roughly doubled the entire budgets of each state, offering absolutely no viable plan to make up those extraordinary funding gaps. The Bernie/Warren wing of the Democratic Party looks at these cautionary tales and responds, "full speed ahead -- let's impose that upon the whole country." And how would they even start to partially fund their reckless experiment? Massive across-the-board tax increases on the middle class and working Americans. That's according to the chairman of their own party....

If liberal Democrats get their way, these scenes will play out across our country, after 156 million Americans are forcibly uprooted from their existing healthcare plans and dumped into the mandatory government system. Single-payer healthcare would be terribly disruptive and egregiously unaffordable in the United States, crushing medical innovation, achieving worse outcomes, and hugely expanding wait times for treatment -- all managed by the sort of unaccountable federal pencil-pushers who were responsible for the (ongoing) VA scandal. And the people pushing this lose-lose proposition are the same group that lied incessantly about the outcomes and consequences of their most recent government intrusion into the US healthcare system.
Whenever Democrats push for single-payer, which many 2020 possible candidates have endorsed, Republicans can just cites this story.

Well, look at this.
The Congressional Budget Office has found that the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires people to have health insurance or pay a fine, will result in fewer people becoming uninsured than it had projected.

In presentation slides made public Wednesday by CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation, the nonpartisan agencies laid out the steps they had taken to arrive at earlier projections that 13 million more people would become uninsured in a decade if the individual mandate penalties were repealed. The groups also had estimated that gutting the fines would result in the government spending $338 billion less.

Republicans challenged the estimates, arguing that the effectiveness of the individual mandate had been overstated. Senators said they did not believe people would voluntarily drop out of programs in which they received government subsidies that largely covered their insurance costs. Democrats often cited the projections as they attacked bills to repeal Obamacare in floor speeches and press conferences.

Amid the backlash from Republicans, CBO and JTC said they would reevaluate their findings. Though they did not say in the latest report how much their projections would change or when they would release final figures, they concluded that estimates would be lower than they reported.
They don't have their new estimate now; they just know that they aren't confident in their previous estimates which had proved so helpful to the Democrats in opposing any repeal of Obamacare. Of course, if they change their projects of the impact of repealing the individual mandate, that also means that their projections of savings from getting rid of the mandate will not result in the same level of savings that they had previously projected and which the GOP had used when using reconciliation to pass their tax bill. It's all so sketchy. I think they really have no idea what is going to happen.

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Ted Cruz is taking Democrats up on their complaints
about the temporary parts of the middle-class tax cuts from the GOP tax bill.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) has introduced a bill that would make the individual tax cuts included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent.

Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law, there were seven tax brackets: 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, 35, and 39.6 percent rates. The tax reform legislation cut those rates to 10, 12, 22, 24, 32, 35, and 37 percent.

While the corporate tax rate was cut permanently to 21 percent, most of the individual tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025.

Cruz's bill would amend the tax code to make the individual tax cuts permanent so they would not expire.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said in an interview that the tax cuts should have been made permanent. Cruz responded that Sanders should cosponsor his bill.

"I agree, Bernie Sanders—let's make the middle-class tax cuts permanent," Cruz tweeted. "Join me, we'll cosponsor legislation (I've already got it drafted) that does exactly that, and we'll get it passed in January!"
Of course, Sanders and other Democrats don't mean it. They'll have to explain why they don't want the middle class to have permanent tax cuts.

Costco is letting customers know how much Seattle's soda tax is adding to the cost of soda. They have put up signs telling customers that their price for a case of Dr. Pepper is $9.99 and that the Seattle "Sweetened Beverage Recovery Fee" has added an additional $7.56 to bring the cost up to $17.55. They've then added a sign suggesting that customers go to a Costco outside the city limits to buy their sweetened drinks.
Costco letting its customers know that if they don't like Seattle's new sugary drink tax, they are more than welcome to shop at its warehouse stores outside the city.

Jason Mercier from Washington Policy Center, which opposed the tax, shot a photo from inside a Seattle Costco that showed the price for a Gatorade 35-bottle variety pack was $15.99. That is until you add the new tax, which bumps it up by $10.34 for a total of $26.33.

Costco also posted an explainer of the new tax, saying it adds 1.75-cents per ounce on "sugar sweetened beverages with added 'caloric sweeteners' or syrups. Then the store posted a reminder that shoppers can go to their Tukwila and Shoreline Costcos to avoid the tax.
I hope that Seattle consumers take the advice. Maybe Seattle will find out what Philadelphia has found out from their soda tax.
Philadelphia's soda tax isn't the windfall some had hoped for Philadelphia's soda tax isn't the windfall some had hoped for
11:31 AM ET Tue, 22 Aug 2017 | 00:59
Philadelphia's soda tax is falling flat — for the city, at least.

The city started taxing sweetened drinks at 1.5 cents per ounce this year after a contentious debate. The tax was billed as a way to fund community schools, prekindergarten programs, recreation centers, libraries and parks. However, revenue expectations have fallen short every month since the tax took effect in January.

Based on preliminary estimates, the tax generated $39.3 million in revenue through the end of June. That's about 15 percent short the city's original projection of $46 million, and just under its revised estimate of $39.7 million.

A new study from market research firm Catalina found people in Philadelphia are still buying sugary drinks, but they're traveling outside city limits to stock up.
Ah, people voting with their feet - amazing how that works.

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James Taranto discusses the argument that noted political scientist Morris Fiorina is making in his new book, Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting and Political Stalemate. Fiorina's argument is that we are now past the time when we could talk about a party having a "permanent majority" or even a long-time majority.
Those old enough to remember the decades before the ’90s, then, may tend to see permanent majorities around the corner because they expect a return to normalcy. Mr. Fiorina, by contrast, argues that frequent shifts in political control are now the norm because of the way the parties have changed. He rejects the common view that American voters are “polarized.” Instead, he says, the parties have become polarized, in a process he calls the “sorting” of the electorate.

“We have these two now cohesive, different parties,” he says. Democrats and Republicans today are as ideologically distinct as “the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats in Europe at the height of their power in the 20th century. And the problem is, we’ve got a much more heterogeneous country, and there’s only two of them, and they just don’t fit the electorate.”
He then goes on to demonstrate that the parties have sorted themselves out ideologically with no overlap ideologically. Where before Congress had some conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, we just don't have that overlap any more. OUr politicians are more polarized, but the electorate hasn't sorted itself out that way.
A line graph illustrates the electorate’s continuity. The share of Americans identifying as politically moderate has remained fairly constant—around 40%, and usually a plurality—since at least 1974. In the same period, another chart shows, independents overtook Democrats as the biggest partisan grouping. As the parties drifted from the ideological middle, centrist voters disaffiliated from the parties.

That creates what Mr. Fiorina calls “the ping pong pattern” of unstable majorities. One party manages “to win, narrowly, and then they immediately respond to their base. So Bush says we’re going to have personal Social Security accounts, and voters—some say, ‘I didn’t vote for that.’ Or Obama says we’re going to do government health care, and a lot of them say, ‘I didn’t vote for that.’ ” Lawmakers from the party in power “suffer for it in the next election, when they lose the marginal voters,” as Republicans did in 2006 and Democrats in 2010.
The solution would be to have parties return to being big-tent parties with a coalition of various ideologies. But that's not going to happen.
What should a party do if it aspires to an enduring majority? “Go back to being a more sort of open—no litmus tests,” Mr. Fiorina advises. “The Democrats are all talking about their chances of winning next time, but if you keep trying to run antigun and pro-choice candidates in areas like West Virginia . . . you’re committing suicide.”

This advice has one crucial shortcoming, Mr. Fiorina acknowledges: “They can’t do it.” One reason has to do with money. “The donors are most ideological of all,” he says. In the 1970s and ’80s, “a big majority of contributions to congressional races came from individual contributions within your district, and now the money is coming from outside. Texas is an ATM for Republicans, California and Manhattan for Democrats.”

He adds that “30 years ago, an Ohioan Republican and an Oregon Republican would have faced very different primary electorates that run different kinds of races. Now, you look at their campaigns—they’re going to be the same. They’re getting their money from the same kinds of people.” The Republican in Oregon, a more liberal state, is likely to prove unelectable. For this problem there is probably no remedy.
As recently as 2006, the Democrats were able to successfully seek out candidates who were ostensibly moderate in order to win in red states or districts. Now, it's going to be hard for such candidates to win primaries with activists insisting on a more doctrinaire liberalism. And the reverse is happening on the Republican side.

One conclusion we can draw from Fiorina's argument is that, if there is a big wave election for Democrats this year, it will not be a permanent state of things. Republicans will be back in another few elections. Nothing is permanent.

This is disappointing to learn. NPR is reporting that the reason that James Rosen has left Fox News is due to his conduct with women.
The network cited no reason for Rosen's exit and did not announce it on the air. According to Rosen's former colleagues, however, he had an established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers and had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists, including two reporters and a producer. And his departure followed increased scrutiny of his behavior at the network, according to colleagues.
He was always one of my favorite reporters. I liked that he was a historian on the side so he could offer some context for stories as well a bit of an impish sense of humor. However, the reports about his private behavior toward some of his female colleagues is rather disturbing. And there are more details about the sexist atmosphere at Fox News beyond what we've heard before about Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly. It all goes to show once more that we can't judge people by the persona they project in public. Who knows why a seemingly nice, intelligent, reasonably good-looking, successful man would feel that he could and should force embraces and kisses on women who clearly weren't interested? But those decisions have now cost him, and others like him, their careers.

Another prominent reporter
has been suspended.
Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach was suspended by his employer on Wednesday for “inappropriate workplace conduct” with current and prior female coworkers.

Achenbach will be suspended for 90 days without pay, effective immediately. According to the Post, that's the most severe punishment the organization has issued recently for violations of workplace or journalistic standards.

The paper did not elaborate on what kind misconduct Achenbach engaged in, but noted that an investigation had been conducted for two months about his behavior.

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The Daily Caller looks into the lawsuit that James Damore, the former Google engineer who was fired when he wrote up a memo criticizing some of the diversity policies at Google and stating that it might not be sexism denying women engineering jobs, but simply that fewer women are choosing that career. I'm not sure what sort of a chance that he has for his suit, but the evidence of bias against conservatives at Google is pretty startling in how open it was.
Another trio of managers — Adam Fletcher, Jake McGuire and Nori Heikkinen — endorsed “blacklisting” conservative employees on an internal message board in August 2015.

“I will never, ever hire/transfer you onto my team. Ever,” Fletcher wrote with respect to conservatives. “I don’t care if you are perfect fit or technically excellent or whatever. I will actively not work with you, even to the point where your team or product is impacted by this decision. I’ll communicate why to your manager if it comes up.”

McGuire and Heikkinen expressed agreement in subsequent messages. The sequence was precipitated when a “Republican employee” complained about disparate advancement opportunities for openly conservative personnel.

During this same period, another manager, Paul Cowan, relayed his support for blacklists, announcing that he kept a mental blacklist of colleagues who hold “dunderheaded opinion[s] about religion, about politics, or about ‘social justice'” on an internal message board.

“If I had to work with people on this list, I would refuse, and try to get them removed; or I would change teams; or I would quit,” he wrote.

The complaint also speaks of pervasive but informal practices through which employees “block” colleagues with heterodox political views on company social media and communications platforms. Such “blocking” is detrimental to advancement, since employees are not placed on project teams with other Googlers who have “blocked” them.

All told, the problem was serious enough to provoke a meeting between conservative employees and Paul Manwell, chief of staff to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Sept. 8, 2017. The meeting appears to have yielded little by way of results, while other Googlers revealed that senior vice presidents sanctioned unofficial blocking and blacklisting during an October 2017 meeting, though the lawsuit is not specific as to what was said during the October meeting.

The complaint also alleges that Google fosters an HR architecture obsessively attentive to race, gender, and sexuality. The suit claims the company relies on illegal racial or gender quotas in personnel decisions, and promotes a work culture deeply intertwined with identity politics.

Most seriously, Damore alleges that the company uses illegal hiring quotas to meet desired numbers of female and minority employees in every facet of the hierarchy.

Such racial and gender preferences are communicated during company-wide events. During a Google-wide meeting March 30, 2017, two senior corporate officers, CFO Ruth Porat and HR chief Eileen Naughton, allegedly berated company units where women comprise less than 50 percent of employees. They also announced the company would consider gender and ethnic characteristics in awarding promotions and leadership opportunities.
Discovery might prove to be fascinating for this case.

That's not the only story about anti-conservative bias at Google that the Daily Caller has found. They have looked at Google's fact-checking of websites and found that Google is singling out conservative sites.
Google, the most powerful search engine in the world, is now displaying fact checks for conservative publications in its results.
No prominent liberal site receives the same treatment.

And not only is Google’s fact-checking highly partisan — perhaps reflecting the sentiments of its leaders — it is also blatantly wrong, asserting sites made “claims” they demonstrably never made.

When searching for a media outlet that leans right, like The Daily Caller (TheDC), Google gives users details on the sidebar, including what topics the site typically writes about, as well as a section titled “Reviewed Claims.”

Vox, and other left-wing outlets and blogs like Gizmodo, are not given the same fact-check treatment. When searching their names, a “Topics they write about” section appears, but there are no “Reviewed Claims.”
In fact, a review of mainstream outlets, as well as other outlets associated with liberal and conservative audiences, shows that only conservative sites feature the highly misleading, subjective analysis. Several conservative-leaning outlets like TheDC are “vetted,” while equally partisan sites like Vox, ThinkProgress, Slate, The Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Salon, Vice and Mother Jones are spared.

Occupy Democrats is apparently the only popular content provider from that end of the political spectrum with a fact-checking section.

Big name publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times are even given a column showcasing all of the awards they have earned over the years.
They also point out that the fact-checking sometimes doesn't even check what is actually in the article supposedly being checked. David Harsanyi goes into depth exploring the Google checks on his site, The Federalist, and finding the checks to be quite questionable in what they're purporting to check and what The Federalist actually wrote or how they put in such checks for his site, but not other sites that had made similar claims, such as the Washington Post.