Friday, November 16, 2018

Cruising the Web

Now we're hearing a new excuse about why it's so hard to do a recount in Florida - people don't know how to write their signatures so what they signed on their mail-in ballots doesn't match the signature on file.
The signature battle touches on constitutional questions of equal protection and free speech. But it is rooted in larger societal trends that are rapidly rendering an individual’s handwriting an unreliable electoral hallmark.

“The culture, and technology, are making signatures a devalued currency,” said Tamara Plakins Thornton, a University at Buffalo professor who wrote a cultural history of handwriting in America. “They came into popularity as a means of expressing a person’s individuality, which made them good for identification. Now people will just use an emoji.”

A particular vulnerability was documented in a pre-election study by the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida, which found that young voters were more likely to have their mail-in ballots rejected because, in part, they did not use their handwriting enough to develop a steady signature.

“Younger voters don’t have firm identity; their signature is in flux,” said Daniel A. Smith, an elections expert and chairman of the political science department at the University of Florida who wrote the A.C.L.U. study. “They are living in a digital world and as a result their signature isn’t a permanent measure of their identity.”

As if to prove that point, an affidavit filed in court this week by an 18-year-old Miami voter whose signature had been rejected, Ezekiel Adreassen, was signed in painstaking but unsteady block lettering.

Most schools, parochial or otherwise, no longer teach penmanship — and only about 10 states still retain cursive writing requirements in their curriculum guides. In 2014, Florida added cursive writing to its learning requirements for the third, fourth and fifth grades.

Businesses are fast phasing out the use of signatures. This year, Target and Walmart quit collecting them after four of the largest card networks — American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa — stopped requiring them in the United States to verify transactions.

Yet the signature remains the main means of identifying voters in Florida and many other states, despite research showing that signatures change as people age, become ill, fall out of practice or are simply in a rush.
So people's ballots are being rejected because these young'uns aren't used to signing their own dang names. And it's a problem in Florida's recount as they try to match signatures on the mail-in ballots which is, by the way, required by state law.

If this is really a problem, how do they work around it? There has to be some sort of verification that the mail-in ballot came from the person it is supposed to be from. What alternative is there to a signature? A fingerprint would be nice, but I can't see requiring that if it were even possible.

Perhaps there could be a warning to people to make sure they don't use a different signature style when they sign their ballots. I can see that having these elections office workers trying to decide if the signatures are the same is pretty silly. What expertise do the Brenda Snipes of Florida have in handwriting analysis.

It probably wouldn't even help the Democrats in Florida if they won all the contested mail-in ballots as Politico reported on Wednesday.
As of the most recent update, only 7,871 absentee ballots were rejected statewide due to “voter error,” which could include mismatched signatures on the ballots compared with what’s on file with the state. And of them, 35 percent were cast by Republicans, 36 percent by Democrats and 29 percent by independents. Another 10,186 ballots were rejected because their envelopes were unsigned. Of them, 31 percent were cast by Republicans, 44 percent by Democrats and 24 percent by independents.

So if all those ballots were counted, Nelson would have to win 85 percent of them statewide in an election where he couldn’t get 50 percent of the vote so far.

BuzzFeed looks at some of the most outrageous offers
that cities made to Amazon. There were offers of tax incentives and exemptions. Other companies have got to be wondering why one of the richest companies in the world was offered all these tax benefits and their companies aren't giving similar benefits. For example, here's what Newark offered:
During the HQ2 competition, Newark passed an ordinance that would offer up to $2 billion in tax incentives to any company that would build a headquarters in the city, create 30,000 jobs, and invest $3 billion over 20 years, according to Another ordinance allowed companies like Amazon to qualify for a 30-year tax exemption of up to $1 billion.
Philadelphia has instituted a 1% tax on new construction projects, but offered Amazon an exemption from that tax.

Columbus Ohio's offer has got to really anger the citizens of that city. In addition to tax abatements and tax refunds and reimbursement, there was this offer.
City officials also vowed to create a task force to prevent what Columbus refers to as “an unacceptable murder rate.”
If it is possible to prevent "an unacceptable murder rate," why haven't they already done so? Or is preventing murder only worth doing if it would bring Amazon to town?

Paul Constant, an inhabitant of Seattle, warns QUeens and Crystal City what it's like to have Amazon in your city. It's not all daisies and rainbows.
First off, more jobs means more people. And all those bodies have to go somewhere: People need homes, and people need to commute from home to work. As you might expect from a city that added a hundred thousand residents in less than a decade, Seattle’s commute has worsened dramatically; we now have some of the worst traffic on the planet, and our meager public transit system is groaning under increased demand.
ANd it's not like New York City and northern Virginia have zero traffic problems already. And it's not as if these areas don't already have high housing costs.
All those well-paid young Amazon employees tipped Seattle’s housing market into a frenzy. In less than a decade, the city’s average rent skyrocketed from $1020 a month to a high of nearly $1700 a month. The average home price has leaped to over $800,000. These are price tags that lower- and middle-class Seattleites simply can’t afford to pay.

Seattle is now more than ever a city of haves and have-nots living in uneasy proximity. Multiple studies have proven that homeless populations rise in direct relation to rent increases. A report from Zillow finds that a 5% rent increase in New York City — which is all but guaranteed, given Amazon’s dramatic proposal — would leave 3,000 more people on the streets.

Those aren’t hypothetical numbers. Travel to Seattle now and you’ll see tent cities sprouting up like mushrooms under our highways and bridges. Unhoused people suffering from psychotic breaks wander around the streets until they become enough of a danger to themselves and others that they get scooped up by police for a few nights, and then they’re released to start the cycle over again. Three years ago, then-Seattle mayor Ed Murray announced a state of emergency to draw attention to Seattle’s homeless populations. Today, we’re still in a state of emergency, but almost nothing has changed.
My home of Raleigh had entered the competition for Amazon and I'm so very glad we lost out. Right now, traffic isn't much of a problem unless there is some traffic accident. For example, my daily commute is about 17 minutes to work. When traffic is bad, it will be 20 minutes. Northern Virginia, eat your heart out!

Governor Andrew Cuomo lurched into the truth
about why he had to offer Amazon so much to bring them to his state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the deal, arguing that New York has to offer incentives because of its comparatively high taxes. At 6.5 percent, New York’s corporate income-tax rate is only modestly higher than Virginia’s 6 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. But other business and individual taxes are higher in New York.

“It’s not a level playing field to begin with,” Mr. Cuomo said in an interview Tuesday. “All things being equal, if we do nothing, they’re going to Texas.”
It doesn't seem to occur to this blockhead that lowering taxes on all businesses would keep all New York companies from moving to Texas. But he is so wedded to high tax rates that he has to offer Amazon tax breaks which he would deny all the other businesses in New York.

It sounds like white men might as well give up hopes of being leaders in the Democratic Party. The word is out that, if Democrats in the House want to block Nancy Pelosi, they need to put up a woman.
The anti-Pelosi insurgents are coalescing around a new strategy in their quest to deny Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the Speaker's gavel: recruit a woman to run against her.

The shift in approach comes as the rebellious group has been faced with a barrage of criticism for trying to take down Pelosi, who became the first female Speaker of the House in 2007, on the heels of an election cycle being dubbed the "Year of the Woman."

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), one Pelosi detractor, hammered the argument that the California Democrat's promotion is the only way to secure female leadership at the very top of the party.

“To those who say that this is an issue of gender, that’s just not true. I’m a woman, and a lot of our new members are women, and they should not be made to feel that they are anti-woman if they don’t want to vote for Nancy Pelosi,” Rice said Wednesday, leaving a closed-door Democratic meeting in the Capitol....

Pelosi and her allies have made her gender — and the fact that Democrats won the House largely on the backs of women voters and candidates — a central part of their pitch, arguing they need a strong female voice at the leadership table, especially with President Trump in the White House.

Not only are they playing the gender card within their own caucus, but the race card as well. Representative Marcia Fudge is attacking her fellow Democrats within the caucus.

The moral is that once you give into putting out all sorts of allegations, true or false, of racism and sexism and whatever, it will eventually come back to bite you.

Why didn't Congress get this done?
Congress will forfeit a passed bill from each chamber aimed at curbing sexual harassment unless lawmakers can come together before year’s end.

“Time is running out,” said Kristin Nicholson, co-founder of Congress Too, a group of former Hill staffers that has sought to reform the way Congress approaches staff training and response to sexual harassment allegations. “We really want all that progress not to go to waste, and for that to happen, we need something to be passed this year.”

Nicholson and Congress Too co-founder Travis Moore, along with eight former Hill staffers who have publicly detailed experiences with alleged harassment during their time working in and around Congressional offices, outlined their concerns in a letter to House and Senate leaders Tuesday.

The letter was sent to coincide with the anniversary of another missive from the same group signed by 1,500 former staff members during the height of the #metoo movement. Since then, a handful of members lost their seats because of sexual misconduct allegations and record numbers of women waged — and won — campaigns for office. But Congress has so far failed to enact meaningful changes for its own staff. Any legislation not passed by the time Congress adjourns in December will be considered dead....

Lawmakers have reported progress on a final bill, but negotiations have snagged over disagreements in how expansive the bill should be. Those include a narrower definition of sexual harassment in the Senate version than the one passed by the House. The Senate version would also provide some restrictions on a provision in the House bill making members liable for sexual harassment settlements.
This should have been a gimme for Congress after the stories that came out last year.

This story is going to kill GoFundMe for charitable giving.
A New Jersey couple and a homeless Philadelphia man who were once the symbol of generosity in hard times allegedly conspired with each other to come up with a false story to earn GoFundMe donations and will now face charges, according to a complaint obtained by NBC 10 Philadelphia.

The original story was this: Johnny Bobbitt, who was homeless, gave his last $20 to Kate McClure, a stranded motorist in Philadelphia in November last year. To thank him, McClure, 28, and her boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, 39, created a GoFundMe account to raise funds for Bobbitt. More than 14,000 people donated more than $400,000 to the campaign.

But investigators said the three deliberately prevented donors from gaining information "that would affect their judgment about solicited contribution to that fundraising effort," according to the station. Now the three will face charges including conspiracy and theft by deception, a source familiar with the case told NBC 10.
It should be a lesson to anyone who thinks of donating money to a stranger online.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Cruising the Web

Avenatti gonna Avenatti. What a creep.
Michael Avenatti, who became famous for representing Stormy Daniels in her battle with President Trump, has been arrested for felony domestic violence ... law enforcement sources tell TMZ.

Our law enforcement sources say Avenatti was arrested Wednesday after a woman filed a felony DV report. We're told her face was "swollen and bruised" with "red marks" on both cheeks.

Our sources say the alleged incident occurred Tuesday night, but there was another confrontation Wednesday between the two at an exclusive apartment building in the Century City area of L.A.

We're told Wednesday afternoon the woman was on the sidewalk on her cellphone with sunglasses covering her eyes, sobbing and screaming on the phone, "I can't believe you did this to me. I'm going to get a restraining order against you."

We're told security brought her inside the building, took her upstairs and Michael showed up 5 minutes later and ran into the building. He screamed repeatedly, "She hit me first." We're told he angrily added, "This is bulls***, this is f***ing bulls***." We're told he tried getting into the elevator but security denied him access.

Cops showed up and escorted Avenatti into a corner of the apartment lobby and spoke with him for 5 to 10 minutes and then took him into custody.

Yeah, unlike the way he treated Brett Kavanaugh, Avenatti is entitled to the presumption of innocence and he is denying the charges. However, this quote isn't going to wear well.
“When they go low, I say hit back harder," Avenatti said during a visit to Iowa in August.
It just hasn't been a good few weeks for the creepy porn lawyer.
A federal judge in Los Angeles overseeing that suit in mid-October dismissed a related defamation claim Ms. Daniels brought against the president and ordered her to pay Mr. Trump’s legal fees in the case.

Later in October, Mr. Avenatti faced back-to-back setbacks in court when a judge ordered him to pay a multimillion-dollar judgment to a former colleague, and a separate judge ordered his law firm to vacate its office space for failure to pay rent for several months.

Over the past year and a half, more than a dozen creditors have gone to court to collect millions of dollars in debts they allege are owed by Mr. Avenatti, his law practice or his corporate entities.

Mr. Avenatti told The Wall Street Journal in June that his personal and financial dealings and legal practices shouldn’t be of public interest, and that he was thriving financially.
If his finances are so strong, why isn't he paying his debts?

He's such a sleaze and, after the stunt he engineered against Kavanaugh, I enjoy every bit of bad news he has to suffer, though not the suffering of any woman he abused, of course.

The first lesson I have in my AP Government and Politics class is on polling since so much of the politics section of the curriculum depends on poll results. One of the major part of the lesson is to show students all the ways that poll results can be skewed so that they develop a more skeptical approach to poll results they might encounter. BuzzFeed has an interesting analysis of polling on abortion to dissect how the results that often get reported are distorting what people really think.
BuzzFeed News analyzed 14 polls on the public’s opinion on abortion from the past four years conducted by a range of nonpartisan, advocacy, and media organizations, and spoke with researchers and representatives from eight of those groups. All of the researchers and most of the polls agreed: The public’s opinion on abortion is much less binary and significantly more complex than the national conversation about abortion makes it seem, and that accurately polling on abortion is particularly tricky.

“I don’t think any polls out there accurately portray the way the US population thinks about abortion,” Janine Beekman, an associate research scientist for the consulting and research firm Ipsos, told BuzzFeed News. “Abortion, more so than almost any other issue, is incredibly difficult to poll on.”

There are many reasons for this, researchers told BuzzFeed News, but three in particular: the intense emotional and political charge of the subject, the extreme knowledge gap surrounding the issue, and the lack of clarity on how opinions on abortion affect voting behavior.
All sorts of situations can affect the results.
This heightened sensitivity means that a lot of factors can affect polling answers, more so than many other issues. For example, researchers told BuzzFeed News, if respondents are answering the questions by phone when someone else is in the house they could provide different answers than they would online or alone. They may give different answers to a pollster who sounds like a young woman than one who sounds like an older man. If the group conducting the poll is an interest group like Planned Parenthood or the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, for example, and says that on the call, the poll-taker is more likely to give them answers favorable to the group’s point of view. Their answers are also often affected by — and reactive to — the pervasive media narrative at the time.
The wording of the question can skew the results.
The sensitivity of the topic also makes it easy for interest groups to manipulate the questions to get the kinds of answers that suit their cause. A good example is polling on the Hyde Amendment, a federal rule that prevents any government funding from going toward abortion (with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother). This poll partnered with the abortion rights advocacy group All Above All asked, “As long as abortion is legal, the amount of money a woman has or doesn't have should not prevent her from being able to have an abortion,” and received 72% agreement, while Marist’s poll in partnership with the anti-abortion group Knights of Columbus asked, do “you strongly support, support, oppose, or strongly oppose using tax dollars to pay for a woman’s abortion,” and found 60% opposition or strong opposition.

“You can’t summarize abortion with any single question because it is sensitive to question wording. If you’re pushing the health button you get one thing; if you push the baby button you get another thing,“ Lydia Saad, senior editor at Gallup told BuzzFeed News. “It is pretty easy for [interest groups] to manipulate polls because it is very predictable, if you ask a question a certain way you can often know the answer.”
Apparently 30% of respondents don't really know what Roe v. Wade was about so a question as to whether or not people support it will give problematic results.

Michael J. New comments
However, O’Connor’s article neglects polling data that do reveal what many Americans believe about some aspects of abortion policy. For instance, a substantial majority favors limiting late-term abortions. There is strong public support for a range of incremental pro-life laws such as parental-involvement laws, limits on taxpayer funding for abortion, and informed-consent laws. These findings remain consistent regardless of which survey-research firm conducted the polling or the specific wording of survey questions.

Interestingly, much of the blame for the confusion about abortion attitudes falls not on advocacy groups but on media outlets and research firms, both of which commissioned many of the misleading polls about Roe that were the focus of attention after former Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy’s resignation.

Some polling firms rarely conduct surveys of public opinion about the legality of late-term abortions or about incremental pro-life laws. Since 1995, Gallup has asked respondents to identify as either “pro-life” or “pro-choice” 32 times, but during the same time period, Gallup only asked about the legality of third-trimester abortions six times, parental-involvement laws five times, and waiting periods four times.

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court likely will increase the salience of abortion as a public-policy issue. Good public-opinion data can often inform the debate on a range of policy issues, but instead of asking about abortion policy broadly, research firms have tended to focus mostly on public opinion on Roe. In July and August, there were at least five national polls conducted about Roe, and no polls of note about other major abortion-related questions. In the future, pollsters should ask a wide range of questions on abortion policy instead of questions designed to give the misleading impression that most Americans support expansive abortion rights.
I'm always skeptical about polls concerning public policy since I suspect that most people don't really understand the nuances of policy choices so polling questions are simplistically worded about complex subjects. Polls rarely include any questions concerning the costs of various policies. It turns out that people like pie in the sky until they find out how much the pie might cost.

Carrie Lukas responds to liberals
who have been criticizing white women for voting Republican. She observes that a whole lot of progressive women have had little contact with conservative women so they just don't give such women the benefit of the doubt as to their motivations for how they vote.
In this, conservative women have an advantage, since we have been steeped in a culture that showcases the world from the perspective of the Left. I know why my progressive friends vote Left. I know that they hope that greater redistribution and more government oversight of everything from guns to education and health care will lead to fairer outcomes. If you attended a public school, chances are your teachers were liberal and shared their political opinions frequently. If you went to college, it’s a near certainty that your professors were almost uniformly liberal and exposed you to the liberal worldview. If you open a women’s magazine or watch essentially any TV drama, the liberal worldview will dominate.

The conservative worldview is harder to find unless you specifically hunt for it in explicitly political vehicles or religious-themed programming. This has allowed much of the Left to assume that everyone who votes Republican supports the most extreme fringe perspective offered by anyone on the right or fits the cartoonish stereotypes of conservatives presented on liberal programming.

Progressives need to have more opportunities to walk in conservatives’ shoes. Just as conservatives give liberal women the benefit of the doubt that they are against the violent, racist, misogynistic elements of their party, progressives should consider that women who vote Republican may actually believe that their policy platform is the best path forward for the country. Republican women may have concluded that unnecessary and ineffective government regulations and programs often backfire on the very people they are meant to help. They really believe that lower taxes and a small government lead to better jobs, prosperity, and opportunities for all Americans. They want parents to have more control over where their children go to school and what kind of health insurance they buy. Furthermore, they may object to what seems the Left’s dehumanizing hostility to straight white men, Christians, and other women who hold contrary opinions. We think that animus toward these groups is as wrong as it would be to any other group, and we want all people treated respectfully, as individuals.

It’s become a cliché to say that we need more civility in politics. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Certainly, there is plenty of blame to go around for how we have gotten to where we are. But the Left should consider how the shaming and demeaning of women who don’t agree with them is making our country worse, and exhibiting the same prejudice that they purport to abhor.

With Nancy Pelosi playing the gender card to get her caucus to vote for her, could the race card for other candidates for party positions be far behind?
Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina on Tuesday accused detractors of using racially-charged “dog whistles” to undermine his bid for the No. 3 slot in House Democratic leadership.

Clyburn, the current assistant Democratic leader and highest ranking black lawmaker in Congress, told McClatchy race was being injected into the competition for House majority whip.

He didn’t offer names.

“I don’t know where it’s all coming from,” Clyburn said in an interview with McClatchy. “But someone came to me over the weekend and told me that (they heard), when I was whip before, I was a figurehead.”

Suggestions that, as the only black member of the leadership team, he was a token and not an effective leader, were tantamount to “the little dog whistles that have been floating around this side for a long time,” Clyburn said.
Wait! Does that mean that some Democrats are using racial dog whistles against an African American leader? I thought that it was only Republicans who used racial dog whistles.

Apparently, the new thing in some locales is a "Cuddle Party." There are even people who make a living as professional cuddlers. Annie Vainshtein writes at SFGate,
Unlike most parties, I had to pay for this one. Thirty-six dollars covered four hours of cuddling at a secret location in San Francisco's Richmond neighborhood. I was instructed to eat beforehand, bring water and "soft fluffy things" to "enhance" the experience, and to wear comfy clothes, such as pajamas. Pajamas seemed too intimate for me; the entire enterprise, which at this point I knew virtually nothing about, seemed too intimate for me. I settled on a non-porous pair of pants, which friends in the past had pointed out looked "witchy."

....The belief that touch is essential — a biological and social need — but often difficult to find without an intimate relationship is a guiding principle within the cuddling world, which in recent years has emerged as a major commercial industry. There are professional cuddlists who offer private cuddling sessions for as much as $100 per hour. Cuddling has pushed into the retail market with vigor.

Cuddle Parties take place all over the world, and all follow the exact same script. The first part of the evening is mingling, often over snacks. The second part is the informational portion, where the rules of cuddling are outlined. The third part is, naturally, the most amorphous: "free-range" cuddling.
We are living in very strange times.

Jews are number targets of anti-religious hate crimes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Cruising the Web

So all the hoopla about Amazon picking a new headquarters has ended with New York City and Crystal City, just outside Washington, D.C. Big whoopty doo. Amazon has the right to move wherever they think is best, but it does seem like this year-long search was a bit of a charade. I'm sure they weighed all the factors, but do their employees really want to live in such expensive areas for housing and where there is some of the worst traffic in the nation? It's just what northern Virginia doesn't need - 25,000 more commuters on their roads. Anyone who has ever traveled through that area knows how odious the traffic is.

What is really shameful is that these localities are giving special benefits to lure Amazon. Jim Geraghty, who lives in northern Virginia, comments on what Virginia is reportedly giving Amazon.
Begin with the otherworldly claim that “regional and local transit systems have significant unused capacity, even during peak travel periods.” Washington regularly tops the list of worst traffic in the country and the world, with drivers spending “63 hours on average last year in congestion during peak hours.” The Metro System continues to struggle with persistent problems with delays, long-overdue repairs, accidents, and struggles to function in bad weather. The assessment that there is significant unused public and private transportation capacity during peak travel periods can only be reached after using LSD.

The state of Virginia is giving Amazon more than a half-billion dollars, with the local government of Arlington kicking in another $23 million.
Amazon will receive performance-based direct incentives of $573 million based on the company creating 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000 in Arlington. This includes a workforce cash grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia of up to $550 million based on $22,000 for each job created over the next 12 years. Amazon will only receive this incentive if it creates the forecasted high-paying jobs. The company will also receive a cash grant from Arlington of $23 million over 15 years based on the incremental growth of the existing local Transient Occupancy Tax, a tax on hotel rooms.
In other words, Arlington is raising taxes in order to pay Amazon to locate there. This is not how government and taxation are supposed to work.

This deal should be tattooed onto the forehead of Governor Ralph Northam. Never let a Virginia Democrat ever claim that Republicans are “in the pocket of big business and special interests” again.

At least the most powerful media institution in the region, the Washington Post, will stand up to this giant corporate giveaway — oh, wait a minute, Jeff Bezos owns that, too.

Technically, this is good news for the real-estate value of the National Review Fairfax County Bureau, a.k.a, Jim’s House. But the Washington and northern Virginia real-estate markets were already expensive, and the Washington area’s cost of living was already high. Arlington’s cost of living is 92 percent higher than the U.S. average. All Amazon’s move is going to do is make an expensive housing market even more expensive, and a high cost of living even higher.

What’s more, this region is so blue it’s Sapphire — but few Democrats will raise any voices in objection. Most local Democratic officials are perfectly fine with corporatism as long as they’re the ones who get to give the speeches at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
New York also coughed up a lot to attract Amazon.
Under the agreement, first announced by Amazon in a blog post, the company would receive performance-based direct incentives of $1.525 billion based on the company creating 25,000 jobs in Long Island City, most of which come from a state tax credit. “Amazon will receive these incentives over the next decade based on the incremental jobs it creates each year,” the company wrote.

The state also offered a capital grant to the company that could total as much as $500 million that Amazon can use to build new offices.

It will also apply for additional incentives through existing city programs available to any company, Amazon said. Tax experts said those programs, for hiring workers in boroughs outside Manhattan and for commercial development, could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ben Shapiro comments,
So, it turns out that crony capitalism is alive and well in Democratic areas like New York and Washington D.C. This used to be called corruption. Now it’s just “drawing business.” It’s rather hilarious that the same politicians who recognize that they need to create special incentives to draw businesses from foreign climes refuse to acknowledge that the regulations and taxes they place on their own homegrown businesses drive those businesses away. But economic liberals have never been known for the consistency of their viewpoint.

Our new socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted out that her district in Queens also gave up benefits to bring Amazon there. And a lot of conservatives are noting that she's right about the evils of such corporate welfare. Veronique de Rugy, a libertarian economist, applauds Ocasio-Cortez,
Following the announcement, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that “Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”

As a result of her tweet, conservative commentators all over twitter and on shows like Fox Business’s Varney & Co. are making fun of her. They argue that her reaction is yet more evidence that she doesn’t get economics and that doesn’t want New Yorkers and Virginians to get the thousands of jobs that will be created there thanks to the new headquarters.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Ocasio-Cortez is mostly correct on this matter, and her conservative critics are wrong. Handouts like this to Amazon and other prominent companies are appalling in their cronyism, pure and simple. I agree that she doesn’t understand economics and that her socialist ideal is a recipe for fiscal and economic disaster. But her conservative critics reveal their own economic misunderstanding when they support targeted tax breaks as a means of creating jobs.
She goes on to report on research that shows that tax incentives are not usually a major draw for companies relocating.
In other words, Amazon would have likely made the same decision with or without subsidies. It also explains why no amount of subsidies can drag a company to a place that isn’t economically vibrant or that is in the middle of nowhere. But face it: Amazon was never going to move to, say, Opelika, Ala., or Marfa, Texas, no matter how gargantuan the promised tax breaks there.

More importantly, while there’s no doubt that Amazon’s HQ2 will add something, including jobs, to the economy, it could have not only have added these jobs and economic growth from the economy without the subsidies, but the payoff to the local economy would have likely been larger absent the handout. There is a broad body of economic research that shows that targeted state subsidies to private businesses — while often promoted as a “market-friendly” means to boost growth, jobs, and development — have little to no net positive effects. George Mason University’s Christopher Coyne and Lotta Moberg wrote a review of the research and concluded that such subsidies are in fact often damaging because they misallocate scarce public resources while encouraging rent seeking, regulatory capture, and cronyism.
This is just crony capitalism and it really isn't good economic policy for the communities that were competing to offer the best package to Amazon did not act in the best interests of their constituents.

Philip Wegmann points out that Ocasio-Cortez isn't against all crony capitalism. At the same time that she was tweeting against Amazon, she was joining a sit-in at Nancy Pelosi's office to demand more federal subsidies for so-called green corporations.
Scroll over to her website to see how serious Ocasio-Cortez is about her anti-corporatism. This Green New Deal calls for “a carbon-free, 100% renewable energy system and a fully modernized electrical grid by 2035.”

All the United States needs to do, the bartender-turned-legislator argues, is to encourage “the electrification of vehicles, sustainable home heating, distributed rooftop solar generation, and the conversion of the power grid to zero-emissions energy sources.”

What does this flowery and high-minded green rhetoric actually mean? It means billions in subsidies and tax credits. It means a repeat of Obama-era waste when the profits were private and the risk was public. It means Solyndra, only on a much more massive scale.

Ocasio-Cortez absolutely deserves points for calling out Amazon and calling out state governments. But her anti-cronyism only goes so far because her beef isn’t the redistribution of taxpayer dollars. Her frustration is that those taxpayer dollars aren’t being funneled to the corporations she prefers.
Of course. It's crony capitalism for me but not for thee. As Ben Shapiro concludes,
This is the dirty little secret about crony capitalism: democratic socialists love it, because crony capitalism is just another form of top-down economics in which the government chooses winners and losers. But it’s bad business for taxpayers no matter how you slice it.

Amazon has a history of manipulating government regulations for its own benefits.
Getting the right regulation can crush a competitor and direct billions in profits your way. If you’re as bold as the health insurers or ethanol peddlers, you can even get Congress to require consumers to buy what you’re selling. Subsidies, handouts, and bailouts are increasingly central to Big Business’s prospects.

Then throw in the complex tax code, with rates that are still too high. When General Electric was under attack for its low tax bill earlier this decade, the New York Times reported that the company employed a tax division of 900 lawyers, lobbyists, and accountants. All that money spent gaming the federal government is money not spent creating innovations of value to customers.

Bezos knows this game. The company spent years fighting off sales tax collection on its interstate sales. Then, when its nationwide network of warehouses and other properties resulted in a court ruling forcing Amazon to collect the sales tax, Amazon started lobbying for a federal law to require its smaller competitors to do the same.

Amazon also lobbies for Net Neutrality regulations that protect the current business model of online provision of streaming content. When Amazon announced it would raise its employee wages to a minimum $15 an hour, it also announced it would lobby to force everyone else to pay the same.

Amazon knows how to use big government to protect itself from competition and to reel in handouts, such as the $2 billion in subsidies it is getting from Virginia and New York.

Again, all this lobbying and regulating pads the bottom lines of the big guys who can afford the lobbyists, while harming consumers, competitors, and taxpayers.

By coincidence, I've been reading the French economist Frédéric Bastiat for my AP European History class. As we study the first half of the 19th century, I have the students simulate a roundtable playing the roles of prominent figures representing various ideologies of the period. Since I have a larger class than I've had previously, I needed to add a few new figures. I also require the students to read primary documents by their person and write an essay. I decided to add in Bastiat so I started reading some of his writings to pick out something to give out for the student to read. As I read his 1850 work, The Law, right after reading about Amazon, I was struck by how apropos his words were for us today. He discusses the idea of "legal plunder" whereby people use the government to gain their own benefits.
Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole — with their common aim of legal plunder — constitute socialism....

This question of legal plunder must be settled once and for all, and there are only three ways to settle it:

The few plunder the many.
Everybody plunders everybody.
Nobody plunders anybody.
We must make our choice among limited plunder, universal plunder, and no plunder. The law can follow only one of these three.

Limited legal plunder: This system prevailed when the right to vote was restricted. One would turn back to this system to prevent the invasion of socialism.

Universal legal plunder: We have been threatened with this system since the franchise was made universal. The newly enfranchised majority has decided to formulate law on the same principle of legal plunder that was used by their predecessors when the vote was limited.

No legal plunder: This is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony, and logic. Until the day of my death, I shall proclaim this principle with all the force of my lungs (which alas! is all too inadequate).
Now we might not like Bastiat's arguments against universal suffrage, but he was correct that, once people get the vote, they will start voting for politicians who will give them benefits. And haven't we seen that in our nation's history?

Where is the international condemnation of Hamas firing rockets to attack Israeli civilians?
Over the past two days terrorist organization Hamas, in partnership with Islamic Jihad, launched more than 300 rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli communities.

The goal wasn't just to target Israeli soldiers, but to murder civilians.
Imagine the outrage if Israel were firing into Gaza? But killing Jews just doesn't rate the sort of international attention that any military retaliation by Israel to defend citizens will garner.

I wonder how Democrats enjoy having the gender card played in their political contests? Now Nancy Pelosi is using her gender as an argument why they should vote for her for Speaker.
Nancy Pelosi is making gender a central part of her bid to reclaim the speaker’s gavel — leaning hard into the pitch that Democrats cannot oust the only woman at their leadership table following a historic election for women.

In addition to arguing she’s the best qualified for the job, the California Democrat and her allies are also framing a Pelosi victory as a matter of protecting political progress for women at a critical moment. Push her out, and men may take over the party at a time when more than 100 women are heading to Capitol Hill and after female voters have been thoroughly alienated by President Donald Trump. Embrace her, and she’ll prioritize legislation empowering women on issues ranging from equal pay to anti-harassment legislation.

“I think it would look ridiculous if we win back the House … we have a pink wave with women who have brought back the House, then you’re going to not elect the leader who led the way? No,” said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), who leads the Democratic Women’s Working Group. “That would be wrong.”

Incoming freshman Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) was blunter: “We have a president who is a misogynist, a president who has been antagonistic to women’s issues… There is no better person at the very top than” Pelosi.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cruising the Web

David looks at the state races
to observe how very divided we are all over the country.
In other words, by the end of Election Day, state party alignments ultimately better reflected their regional political cultures.

Consequently, there is now exactly one state with divided legislative control — Minnesota. The legislatures of the other 49 states are controlled by a single party. Republicans control 31 state legislatures, and Democrats control 18.

But what about the “trifectas,” those states where the same party controls both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s mansion? Before the 2018 election, the trifecta states were at near-record highs. A total of 34 states were under trifecta control, 26 Republican and 8 Democrat....

After Tuesday? The number of trifecta states grew. Now 37 states are under trifecta control (I’m including Georgia in this count even though Stacey Abrams hasn’t yet conceded), 23 Republican and 14 Democrat.

But that’s not all. If you look closely at these maps (courtesy of Ballotpedia), you’ll note that the cleavages aren’t just partisan, they’re regional — with three big partisan power clusters.
The new reality shows Democratic surges in Nevada and the Northeast. Add in their control of the Pacific Coast as well as most of New England.
The Republicans persistently dominate the states of the Southeastern Conference (yes, the center of American football power is also the center of Republican political and cultural dominance). Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (along with Oklahoma and Nebraska) are states under enduring Republican control. And just as Massachusetts and Maryland are undeniably blue despite their divided governments, no one would allege that, say, Louisiana and Kansas are anything but culturally and politically red.

It is absolutely clear from recent American history that the public likes a divided federal government. One party is able to enjoy dominance only for brief periods of time. But it’s also clear that the public is choosing unified state government, and that those unified states are not scattered willy-nilly across the nation. Instead, they tend to be geographically contiguous with like-minded states and culturally distinct from competing regions.
French's point is that the divisions that we have observed at the national level are moving down to the state level.
I raise this point not to say that America is poised for that level of unrest, but to merely highlight a trend that, combined with other trends (such as negative polarization and the so-called “big sort” in which Americans are voluntarily clustering with like-minded neighbors), means that we are moving to a new reality for modern America. Geographically contiguous, culturally similar, and economically potent American regions are now also increasingly politically uniform.

Isn't this the sort of thing Trump promised to fix?
The Department of Veterans Affairs is suffering from a series of information technology glitches that has caused GI Bill benefit payments covering education and housing to be delayed or — in the case of Roundtree — never be delivered.

"I’m about to lose everything that I own and become homeless," Roundtree said. "I don’t want to be that veteran on the street begging for change because I haven’t received what I was promised."

Without the GI Bill's housing stipend, Roundtree was kicked out of his apartment and is now living on his sister's couch, miles from school, where he feels like a burden on his family. The new living situation required him to move all his belongings into a storage container, which he can no longer afford. Now all of his possessions are in danger of being auctioned off by the storage facility.

Roundtree said that because of his extremely strained finances, he is forced to choose between spending money on public transportation to get to his marketing classes or buying food — not both. At the end of the day, the veteran said he often makes himself go to sleep hungry.

"It’s just confusing," said Roundtree. "Who is there for us? Who is representing us? Who is helping us? Who is doing what they need to do to better the situation for veterans?"

There are many veterans, like Roundtree, across the country who are still waiting for VA to catch up with a backlog created after President Donald Trump signed the Forever GI Bill in 2017. The landmark piece of legislation greatly expanded benefits for veterans and their families, but it did not upgrade the VA's technical capabilities to account for those changes.

While it is unclear how many GI Bill recipients were impacted by the delays, as of Nov. 8, more than 82,000 are still waiting for their housing payments with only weeks remaining in the school semester, according to the VA. Hundreds of thousands are believed to have been affected.
I suspect that the problem is that huge government bureaucracies just aren't very competent.

Josh Kraushaar writes in the National Journal about the ominous signs for Trump's reelection chances in 2020 coming out of the 2018 election. It's the sort of warning that I've been voicing for a year. Democrats won in suburban areas while Republicans won in more rural areas.
The results of the suburban-small town trade-off were a mixed bag. Against the odds, Republicans comfortably held the governorship in Ohio and won the governor’s race in Florida, and Gov. Rick Scott is narrowly leading in that state’s too-close-to-call Senate race. But Democrats swept through the Rust Belt firewall that Trump constantly brags about winning in 2016, toppling Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, dominating in Pennsylvania, and squelching Republican opportunities in Michigan. Virginia and Colorado now look like comfortably blue states, where Democrats netted a combined four House seats (all in the suburbs), while fast-growing and diverse Georgia and Arizona are now competitive battlegrounds for the next presidential election.

What should worry Trump is the GOP’s glaring slippage in the suburbs, where brand-name Republicans were unable to sustain the unstable coalition of white-collar professionals and populist-minded Trump fans that propelled so many down-ballot Republicans to victory in 2016. In Wisconsin, Walker lost serious ground in the deeply conservative suburban stronghold in Waukesha County. Pragmatic Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, who evolved into a Trump ally running for the Senate, is lagging behind Trump’s performance in vote-rich Maricopa County (Phoenix). Her inability to hit Trump’s vote share in the state—despite her pandering to his supporters—shows how hard it will be for Republicans to play both sides of the intraparty divide.

Even in races where Republicans won—holding off Beto O’Rourke in the Texas Senate race and defeating Stacey Abrams in the Georgia governor’s race—there were ominous trend lines for the GOP. Abrams, despite running a progressive campaign in a red state, notably improved on Hillary Clinton’s performance in the suburban Atlanta counties that were once solidly Republican. Democratic dominance in the Texas population centers brought O’Rourke within 2 points of Sen. Ted Cruz, and flipped House seats around Houston and Dallas. If the Trump campaign has to invest valuable money in Texas and Georgia in 2020, that bodes poorly for his reelection chances (even if he holds onto both states). The shifts in these states are a lot more about Trump than about the celebrity Democratic candidates....

Ignoring the reasons why upper-middle class voters are drifting away from the GOP will lead to disaster for Trump in the next election. The midterm results from Pennsylvania demonstrate that the president’s standing in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs could drop even below what it was in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans are nervous about losing critical ground in suburban Milwaukee, a region known for its GOP dominance and strong turnout operation. Even with Ohio and Florida in his column, Trump will still need to break through in another traditionally Democratic state to win reelection.
Republicans need more of a strategy than just hoping that the Democrats implode by picking another bad candidate. And it would help if Trump wised up to these realities.
It would be a lot easier for Trump to maintain the GOP’s volatile coalition if he focused more on his economic accomplishments and less on exacerbating the cultural divisions in the country. Obsessing over a caravan of migrants likely juiced turnout in red states like Missouri and Indiana, but it backfired in the parts of the country he needs to win for a second term. The midterm results showed that there’s a pathway for Trump to win a second term, but his 2018 playbook will have to be abandoned.

Kevin Williamson ponders the self-deceptions that today's protesters tell themselves.
My objection to these absurd claims of Nazism isn’t so much that they might inspire violence (Americans generally require very little inspiration on that front) but that they are not true. Ron DeSantis is not a Nazi. No amount of petulant weeping and chocolate-milk tossing is going to make that true. Mitt Romney, lately of Utah, did not get himself elected to the Senate in the service of a white-nationalist agenda. Rick Scott has nothing in common with the Ku Klux Klan. Mitch McConnell is not very much like Benito Mussolini. These are the facts of the case. The politics of opposition, like the politics of government, should be based if not on things that are self-evidently true then at least on those that are not self-evidently false.

Calling yourself an “antifascist” while defining “fascism” as “the enforcement of ordinary immigration laws” or “thinking that Bernie Sanders is a grumpy Muppet who should be kept far from the levers of power” is entirely childish and deeply stupid. (These absurd characterizations also, not that anybody really cares, drown out legitimate criticisms of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans.) These play-acting buffoons aren’t the moral equivalent of the French Resistance — they are mincing would-be thugs looking for something that will make them feel better about themselves. Apparently, terrorizing Tucker Carlson’s wife scratches an itch that weed and NetFlix don’t.

Periods of intense social change often are accompanied by mass hysterias. The snoopery and vindictiveness of the Red Scare were only partly about Communism — much of the paranoia of that time had to do with events in Muncie, not Moscow. The mass hysteria about Satanic cults engaged in the widespread sexual abuse of American children — a complete fiction—was probably a moral overcorrection set against the divorce epidemic of the 1970s and 1980s and the excesses of the so-called Sexual Revolution.

The age of easy and instantaneous connectivity, globalization, and related phenomena have created a new kind of “lonely crowd,” full of people who feel isolated, inadequate, insignificant — and resentful of being made to feel that way. There are many ways to assuage that loneliness, but many of them — family life, religion — have fallen out of fashion. Ordinary politics provides insufficient drama, as anybody who has observed the real business of government in action knows. Fantasy politics — I’m fighting the Nazis! — offers a lot more emotional oomph.

It’s a sad spectacle. It’s also a dangerous one.
If Donald Trump were truly a fascist, it wouldn't matter that the Democrats won the votes to take back the House last week. Do you think Mussolini or Hitler would have turned over control of a branch of government to their political enemies? Just to pose the question demonstrates how far we are from whatever it is that people are worried about happening here.

Steven Hayward links to this great column by Megan McArdle which reflects on the fact that a prominent food critic lost his job because he made a joke about vegans.
So I wasn’t entirely surprised to hear that William Sitwell, a magazine editor and food critic for the BBC’s “MasterChef,” had recently responded to a freelance writer pitching a series on vegan eating to suggest instead “a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?”

I was, however, a tad nonplussed on Wednesday when he was actually forced to resign from his editorship at Waitrose Food magazine over this fine bit of hyperbole. Obviously, it would be a firing offense to actually threaten to kill vegans; just as obviously, he was joking, not seriously proposing a new all-vegan version of “The Hunger Games.”

But then ours is the era where jokes have come to die. The new thing in comedy is apparently not to tell jokes, because jokes aren’t funny. Jokes, we are informed, diminish the essential humanity of either the teller or the target; they erase too much hard-won pain.

Of course there are some jokes that shouldn’t be told, and some things are not proper targets for humor. But until five minutes ago, vegans were not among those taboo subjects.

Like many vegans, I knew vegan jokes and laughed at them – like Anthony Bourdain’s observation that “vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.” Or perhaps you’ve heard the one about the fellow who became an eighth-level vegan adept? He doesn’t eat anything that casts a shadow.

I could enjoy these jokes even from omnivores because I understood that vegans are indeed kind of funny, especially the bizarre lengths to which they will go to avoid animal products, as anyone can attest who has hiked 10 miles to a town’s lone vegan dining option — which is to say, a bag of Fritos from the Gas-N-Go.

But the other thing I understood is that vegans aren’t a protected class, and with good reason. We aren’t what we eat, and however healthy or moral your food choices, they do not grant you immunity from criticism.
If we can't laugh at vegans, we will have truly lost the ability to make jokes about anything.

Ah, the difference in polling if people are presented with the costs of pie-in-the-sky policy proposals. Cato Institute ran a poll to find out how people's responses to questions about providing health insurance for those with pre-existing conditions. Democrats did very well running on that issue in the election. And a lot of polls showed that people care a lot about the issue.
The survey first replicated the results from myriad other surveys finding a majority (65%) of Americans favor regulations that prohibit insurance companies from refusing to cover, or charging higher premiums to, people with pre-existing conditions, while 32% oppose. However, support plummets when Americans are faced with likely consequences of these regulations.

Support drops 20 points to 44% in favor and 51% opposed if pre-existing condition protections limited people’s access to medical tests and treatments. Similarly, 44% would favor and 50% would oppose if these regulations harmed the delivery of high-quality health care. Support drops 18 points to 47% in favor and 48% opposed if these regulations limited people’s access to top-rated medical facilities and treatment centers. Some may dismiss these potential costs as improbable; however, research finds these are likely consequences from the incentives these regulations create for the health care industry. It is for this reason that we investigate how the public evaluates these costs.

Compared to quality reductions, Americans are more prepared to pay higher taxes or premiums in exchange for keeping regulations that prevent insurers from denying coverage or charger higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions. About half (51%) would favor and 44% oppose if these regulations raised taxes and 49% would favor and 47% would oppose if they drove up premiums.

These results follow a familiar pattern identified in the Cato 2017 Health Care Survey that asked about each of these pre-existing condition protections separately. However, in this year’s survey we improve the desirability of these regulations by offering them as a bundle. Even still, when faced with the realistic costs of these mandates, public support plummets.
Investor's Business Daily comments on these results when people are asked about the consequences of mandating coverage of pre-existing conditions.
These aren't theoretical side effects, either. Those are all the actual results of ObamaCare's pre-existing condition mandate.

ObamaCare imposed a multitude of new taxes and fees to cover the cost of this protection.
Premiums in the individual market more than doubled. That priced millions of middle-class families who aren't eligible for ObamaCare subsidies out of the insurance market altogether.

And most health plans sold in the ObamaCare exchange imposed strict HMO-style limits on providers that often don't include the best hospitals or doctors.

It's easy to support a government-mandated protection when it appears to be free. But when there's a cost attached, suddenly most of it disappears.
That doesn't mean that people with pre-existing conditions shouldn't be covered - just that there are better ways to do it than the way Obamacare does. Perhaps, with divided government, our leaders can explore other methods of protecting these people.

Nyah, they'll just hurl accusations against each other and the Democrats will be happy to maintain this as a talking point for the next election.

Rich Lowry writes about the failures of liberal policies to address homelessness.
It’s appropriate that the UN special rapporteur devoted to adequate housing has visited encampments in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Mumbai — and San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley.

The homeless situation in those cities and others around the country is positively Third World, a blight that shows the persistence of human folly, and misery, despite what we take to be our steady progress to greater enlightenment and prosperity.

San Francisco is a crown jewel of the new economy, and a sink of vagrancy. One of the more compelling pieces of reportage that The New York Times has run recently was on the dirtiest block in San Francisco, the 300 block of Hyde Street, blighted by discarded heroin needles and other filth.

In the 21st century, in the richest country on the planet, you would think that we would have figured out how to live without having to step around human feces. The experience of San Francisco says that, against all expectations, we haven’t — or at least we forgot how.
It's become quite clear that the actual policy choices by progressives have exacerbated the problem.
Cities wiped out or drastically diminished their skid rows, once a last-ditch housing recourse for men who had hit bottom. As urban renewal and regulations to improve the quality of housing eliminated these down-on-their-luck areas, the people who once lived there decamped to public places.

We “deinstitutionalized” the mentally ill, too often a euphemism for dumping them onto the streets and into jails. About 20 percent to 30 percent of the homeless are mentally ill.

Meanwhile, the number of single-parent families drastically increased. Women only rarely lived on skid row, but poor families headed by single mothers are a large component of the homeless.

Eide notes that in New York City “two-thirds of the homeless population is comprised of families with children, and around 90 percent of those families are headed by single mothers.”

These large-scale trends have been met with a new restrictive legal environment. The Supreme Court in 1972 made it more difficult for city police forces to hustle along vagrants, and subsequent free-speech jurisprudence has made outlawing panhandling tricky. Civil commitment of the mentally ill has become highly restricted. The ACLU is a great de facto friend of vagrancy.
If local government officials can't recognize what they have been doing to worsen the problems.