Friday, March 23, 2018

Cruising the Web

Gosh, we live in stupid times.

It's pretty bad when actual tweets and speeches by our nation's leaders sound like something in The Onion. And the sad thing is that some analysts think this is Joe Biden locking down the point that he could take Trump on politically because he's willing to metaphorically get in the ring with the President. Matt Lewis writes,
Liberals are generally criticizing Biden for this outburst of toxic masculinity—which helps explain why they lost to Donald Trump in the first place. It seems they have learned nothing.

Why did Donald Trump mop the floor with nice, optimistic conservatives like Jeb Bush and John Kasich? Why does Mitt Romney look small compared to him? And why is Jeff Flake no match for the Donald?

These men were more qualified, experienced, and virtuous than the porn-star loving casino magnate. What is more, unlike Trump, they were (wait for it) right about a lot of things! Consider, for example, Flake’s opposition to protective tariffs. Or Mitt Romney’s warning that Russia was our greatest geopolitical foe. He was right as rain. But the American public chose to ignore this Cassandra, only to embrace someone four years later who seems to have a man-crush on Vladimir Putin.

There are a lot of reasons why Trump bested better men, but a now-famous Bill Clinton maxim helps explain it—and also helps provide a road map for stopping Trump in the future. "When people are insecure,” Bill Clinton has advised, “they'd rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right.”
Maybe what people want these days is someone who comes off as bombastic as Trump so he wouldn't be tagged with looking weak when the President starts tweeting smack. I'm not sure if Biden is what the Democratic Party of today wants - they seem to be moving further and further to the left. But that might leave a more centrist position open for Biden while the Cory Bookers, Elizabeth Warrens, and Kamala Harrises fight it out on who can be the most radical. Lewis argues that Biden could appeal to some of the working class voters who chose Trump over Clinton while still winning enough of the progressive left.
It’s always important to be tough, but that’s doubly true if you want to talk about things like civility and decency. You can’t look weak temperamentally and get away with talking about things like compromise and civility. You’ve got to overcompensate for that kind of soft rhetoric with a tough exterior. That’s Joe Biden.

It won’t be easy. Biden isn’t the best progressive for this #MeToo era. He’s an old white man. He has run twice and lost twice. He’s gaffe prone and has said racially insensitive things. He didn’t support Anita Hill when she claimed sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas. He seems to be, shall we say, “handsy” with the ladies. If he’s going to slide to the center and woo working-class voters, he will surely run afoul of some liberal orthodoxy.

But if the special elections (see Conor Lamb and Doug Jones) have taught us anything, it’s that a moderate Democrat can win in places where a Pelosi Democrat might fear to tread. What is more, we have seen what happens to people who allow Trump to define them (see “Pocahontas,” “Liddle Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted,” and “Low-energy Jeb”). One gets the sense that Biden will give as good as he gets.

As Democratic voters size up the field of aspirants desperate to prove their progressive bona fides, they may want to ask themselves: “Can we win with weak and right?”

And he fights!
Meanwhile, we can enjoy the image of two septuagenarians challenging each other to fist fights that will never come to pass.

And when we're done recovering from all that fake posturing, we can turn to debating what an "unqualified lesbian" is.

Remember when politicians used to talk about serious issues in eloquent and inspiring ways?

It's not just our leaders who have become stupid. Young people seem to be embracing all sorts of stupidity these days. Have you heard about the newest trend among young affianced couples?
Instead of a diamond ring around your finger, a diamond is embedded IN your finger, CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reported.

“We notice lately a lot of people coming looking for that,” Sam Abbas, who owns NYC Ink Studio in the West Village, told Hsu.

Apparently, some millennials are ditching the usual engagement ring and instead piercing their ring fingers.

“I think it looks nice, but if you really think what it’s doing to the body – and you can have scarring – it’s so many complications that can happen from it,” Cynthia Rivas said.

Abbas said there could be problems if the person doesn’t take care of the piercing, such as cleaning it two to three times a day and making sure the piercing artist has experience.

“You’re dealing with the blood, so you got to be very, very safe,” he said. “What we do, we sterilize everything.”
Yes, that's just what every woman is looking for - an engagement diamond that can lead to an infection if not cleaned several times a day.

And criminals are also disturbingly dumb.
Derrick Irving and John Silva, arrested March 13 by Volusia County sheriff’s deputies, broke into the home of a man Irving had previously dated to steal a flat-screen television and other items, sheriff’s officials told the station.

Then they set a pot of spaghetti sauce on the stove with a washcloth on the burner in hopes of starting a fire to cover up the burglary, deputies told WKMC.

“He was trying to make it look like I left the stove on, but who gets up 2 a.m. and fixes sketti?” asked the victim, who had left for work at 2 that morning, reported WKMC. When officers responding to the 7 a.m. 911 call pulled over Silva and Irving near the home, they found an empty jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce in the duo’s getaway car, deputies told the station.

Oh, and Irving wore a bull onesie during the incident, which took place in DeLand, Fla., north of Orlando, the victim told WKMC.
You got that? One guy wore a "bull onesie" while trying to burn the house down with Ragu? I can't even...

Sometimes, I just can't keep up with all the stupidity out there.
Since its inception in 1837, Mt. Holyoke College, set in South Hadley, Massachusetts, has been graduating luminaries — such as poet Emily Dickinson, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and a myriad of other individuals.

As the first of the Seven Sisters — a consortium of prestigious East Coast liberal arts colleges for women and the female equivalent to the once all-male Ivy League — Mount Holyoke is now urging its professors to drop the word “women” from their vernacular when referring to their students, according to the school’s website.

In other words: At an all-women’s college, you should no longer call a woman a woman.

Go figure.

In an effort to promote a so-called gender-neutral environment, officials at Mt. Holyoke College, with a population of about 2,200 students, created the Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Students guide, which is found on the school’s website under the “diversity, equity and inclusion in the classroom” section.

To an outsider, the effort seems like wasted energy, especially considering that the admissions team at Mt. Holyoke does not keep track of how many students self-identify as trans or non-binary — and that the school’s student population is quite small.

Strangely, though, the college’s home page reads: “Imagine if every day were International Women’s Day.” It appears that not everyone at the school got the memo about rejecting the word “women” across the campus.

Yair Rosenberg gives us some of the jokes generated by that DC Council member Trayon White Sr. when he blamed the Rothschilds for snow in Washington in March.
The punchlines write themselves: If Jews really controlled the climate, Tel Aviv wouldn’t be so humid, New York would feel like Los Angeles, and anyway, George Soros and Sheldon Adelson would never be able to agree on how to set the thermostat. “The good news,” wrote Bard College’s Walter Russell Mead, is that “paying off the Rothschild family to stop climate change has got to be easier than shifting the whole global energy system.”
But, as Rosenberg points out, White purported to not even realize that anyone would find what he said as anti-Semitic. I guess our bigots are also more stupid these days. But there is something more disturbing than his blithe bigotry.
The scandal here is not just that an elected Democrat, the youngest on the D.C. Council, believed that a family that has been the target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories for centuries is controlling the weather. It’s that he exists in an information bubble where this sort of thing is apparently both common and not considered outrageous or reprehensible. And the existence and influence of that bubble is far more disturbing than any single anti-Semitic eruption.

When an anonymous troll of any political persuasion trumpets anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on social media, it is the sign of a broken person. These individuals know that their communities would reject them if they put their names to their hate, and so they conceal their identities online. (They’ve told me so when I’ve interviewed them.) But when public figures feel free to share such content unselfconsciously on their feeds, it is the sign of a broken culture. It means that within their ideological universe, they do not expect to experience any opprobrium.

Like White, they might not even realize that what they shared was bigoted, because no one in their circle ever told them otherwise. Like Tamika Mallory, the Women’s March organizer who repeatedly praised and promoted the anti-Semitic homophobe Louis Farrakhan, such people may passionately insist that they oppose anti-Semitism even as they seemingly fail to recognize it when it is staring them in the face. Systems of racism and bigotry often produce acolytes who don’t even realize they’ve been co-opted. Anti-Semitism is no exception.
Conspiracies about the Rothschilds have been around since the 19th century.
Everyone from the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to the Nation of Islam’s Farrakhan has fulminated about the Rothschilds. YouTube, which purports to filter anti-Semitic and other hateful content, is in fact full of videos propagating the Rothschild conspiracy theory, racking up millions of views. The results are unsurprising: A Jordanian TV analyst declaring that the Rothschilds assassinated six presidents; an Oberlin social-justice writing instructor posting memes of Jacob Rothschild stating, “We own your news, the media, your oil, and your government”; officials in the British Labour Party claiming that the Rothschilds control Britain and the global economy.
Both the right and left have their own problems with not recognizing the casual bigotry in their midst.
Yet even as it has become increasingly apparent that these bigoted disinformation bubbles exist and have ensnared numerous individuals, many are still in denial and dismiss the inevitable anti-Semitic outbursts they provoke as isolated incidents. This is true on the right — where no matter how many neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and Islamophobes that President Trump retweets, white supremacy and bigotry is viewed by many as incidental to his appeal. And it’s true on the left — where anti-Semitic incidents are too often ignored or explained away as distractions or exceptions, from the Women’s March organizers and their Farrakhan fandom to the Chicago LGBT march that ejected lesbians displaying Jewish stars.

The reality is that conspiratorial anti-Semitic culture and its assumptions about Jews infect people across the political spectrum. It’s time that partisans on the left and right recognize this and start fighting the bubbles in their own communities, rather than pointing fingers at one another.

Otherwise, the forecast will be far worse than just an accidentally anti-Semitic amateur meteorologist.

The good signs from Saudi Arabia's new government under Mohammed bin Salman continues.
Saudi Arabia is revamping its education curriculum to eradicate any trace of Muslim Brotherhood influence and will dismiss anyone working in the sector who sympathizes with the banned group, the education minister said.

Promoting a more moderate form of Islam is one of the promises made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman under plans to modernise the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

The education ministry is working to "combat extremist ideologies by reviewing school curricula and books to ensure they do not reflect the banned Muslim Brotherhood's agenda," Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Isa said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

It would "ban such books from schools and universities and remove those who sympathise with the group or its ideology from their posts," he added.

In September, a large Saudi public university announced it would dismiss employees suspected of ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, adding to concerns that the government is clamping down on its critics in academia and beyond.
Very nice.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cruising the Web

Ross Douthat nails it in his discussion of the outrage over how Facebook's data of users has been used politically. First of all, he's not impressed with all the outrage.
But the liberal establishment’s fixation on Facebook’s 2016 sins — first the transmission of fake news and now the exploitation of its data by the Trump campaign or its appendages — still feels like a classic example of blaming something new because it’s new when it’s the old thing that mattered more. Or of blaming something new because you thought that “new” meant “good,” that the use of social-media data by campaigns would always help tech-savvy liberals and not their troglodytic rivals — and the shock of discovering otherwise obscures the more important role that older forms of media played in making the Trump era a reality.
Given how the Obama team bragged about how they used data to micro-target voters using their data, it doesn't surprise me that other organizations were finagling ways to manipulate social media to sell their services to political campaigns. If Cambridge Analytica did something that violated their contract with Facebook, let them pay the consequences. But people who think that they're not being targeted by ads and their political feeds on social media, then they're dangerously naive.

Douthat makes the strong argument that it was old media that helped Trump, not new media. Remember that people knew him because of his starring role on "The Apprentice" that painted him like a competent and dynamic executive. That reality show helped convince people that he knew how to get things done. It was all phony, but we live in a world where people think a reality show is actually reality. But he was also helped by the decades of media attention that made him such a familiar figure to voters.
Step two was the use of his celebrity to turn news channels into infomercials for his campaign. Yes, his fame also boosted him on social media, but there you can partially blame algorithms and the unwisdom of crowds; with television news there were actual human beings, charged with exercising news judgment and inclined to posture as civic-minded actors when it suits them, making the decision to hand day after day of free coverage to Donald Trump’s rallies, outrages, feuds and personal attacks.

Nothing that Cambridge Analytica did to help the Trump campaign target swing voters (and there’s reason to think it didn’t do as much as it claimed) had anything remotely like the impact of this #alwaysTrump tsunami, which probably added up to more than $2 billion in effective advertising for his campaign during the primary season, a flood that drowned all of his rivals’ pathetic tens of millions. And as cynical as I believe the lords of Silicon Valley to be, the more important cynicism in 2016 belonged to those television execs who were fine with enabling the wild Trumpian takeover of the G.O.P., because after all Republicans deserved it and Hillary was sure to beat him in the end.
I'll always hold the networks responsible for all the attention that they gave him during the primaries so that other candidates just couldn't break through the Trump fog. Douthat is exactly right to point out all the help that networks gave him by their constant coverage during the election. Trump knew just how to exploit the media's desire for whatever was hot and would get people to tune in even if they were giving airtime day after day to people who should never been given this national platform.
In 2016 this polarization didn’t just mean that Fox became steadily more pro-Trump as he dispatched his G.O.P. rivals; it also meant that a network like CNN, which thrives on Team Red vs. Team Blue conflict, felt compelled to turn airtime over to Trump surrogates like Jeffrey Lord and Corey Lewandowski and Kayleigh McEnany because their regular stable of conservative commentators (I was one of them) simply wasn’t pro-Trump enough.

The depth and breadth of Trump skepticism among right-wing pundits was a pretty solid indicator of his unfitness for high office. But especially once he won the nomination this skepticism was often filtered out of cable coverage, because the important thing was to maintain the partisan shouting-match model. This in turn encouraged a sense that this was just a typical right-versus-left election, in which you should vote for Trump if you usually voted for Republicans … and in the end that’s what most G.O.P. voters did.

My own CNN experiences were positive; I admire the many fine journalists who work in television news. But it was clear enough being in that orbit in 2016, as it should be clear to anyone who watched Trump’s larger relationship to his television coverage, that the business model of our news channels both assumes and heightens polarization, and that it was ripe for exploitation by a demagogue who was also a celebrity.
It was a media perfect storm. Both candidates were unbelievably unpopular. Clinton just deceived herself that the country would never reject her no matter how unappealing she could be. Douthat also points out that the voters whom Trump won over were the sorts of people who were most persuadable by TV coverage rather than social media.
It’s also clear — as the economists Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro wrote in these pages late last year — that among older white Americans, the core demographic where first the primaries and then the general election were decided, television still far outstrips the internet as the most important source of news. And indeed, the three economists noted, for all the talk about Breitbart’s influence and Russian meddling and dark web advertising, Trump only improved on Mitt Romney’s showing among Americans who don’t use the internet, and he “actually lost support among internet-using voters.” In a sense, you could argue, all those tweets mattered mainly because they kept being quoted on TV.

Jim Geraghty also reminds us
of how ubiquitous Trump was on the media even before he jumped in the race.
Beyond The Apprentice, it’s worth remembering that for most of the Bush and Obama presidencies, Donald Trump was a regular featured guest on news programs and not touted as a partisan Republican, hate-monger, or ranting fool. NBC’s Today show regularly had him on to promote The Apprentice and let him vent about whatever else was on his mind. CNN’s Larry King would regularly have him on and ask about the news of the day, like what the U.S. government should be doing about Somali pirates — as if Trump was some sort of naval-warfare expert. On Fox News, Greta Van Susteren asked him how he would negotiate a deal to avoid a government shutdown. He was a frequent guest of Regis Philbin. Barbara Walters declared him one of her “most fascinating” people of 2011, alongside Kim Kardashian.

Even publications like the Guardian did quasi-admiring can-you-believe-this-character profiles. Rolling Stone was happy to interview him. The smallest bits of news from Trump-world generated positive coverage in the biggest publications: In 2010, the New York Times’ advertising section did a profile of Melania unveiling, “a line of jewelry and watches bearing her name and available exclusively through QVC, the home shopping network, and its Web site.”

Not even the Birther theories made Donald Trump persona non grata on these programs; it just made him more interesting and unpredictable and good for ratings.

By autumn 2016, the argument from Democrats and their allies in the media was that Donald Trump represented a menace to democracy and American values — a not-so-subtle xenophobe and racist, a demagogue, full of authoritarian instincts and petty vendettas, ignorant and erratic. But television had never before invited white supremacists to host Saturday Night Live, welcomed raging demagogues to laugh with Jimmy Fallon on the couch of The Tonight Show, or invited authoritarians to 30 Rock to do softball interviews on morning shows. Donald Trump, megalomaniacal threat to democracy? He gave directions to Kevin in Home Alone 2! . He did cameos in The Little Rascals and Bobby Brown music videos! Trump had enjoyed the pop-culture and big-media seal of approval for decades!

Television’s coverage of Donald Trump from the 1980s to early 2015 portrayed Trump as a phenomenal business success, endlessly knowledgeable and fascinating, insightful, shrewd, entertaining, and funny — a larger-than-life character. Why are so many baffled that Trump managed to turn that image into a path to the presidency?

Douthat points to an article by Michael Brendan Dougherty about the real goal behind the freak-out about Russia, Trump and social media. Dougherty argues that the real goal is to make sure that the big social media companies help progressives and limit the reach of conservatives.
Silicon Valley is working with its media and governmental critics to limit the damage to the center-Left going forward. You can see the dynamic in the way that the media generates a moral panic out of stories about how Brexit and the Trump election happened, and the way Silicon Valley responds. Fake news becomes a problem, and Silicon Valley responds by hiring progressive journalists as censors. I mean “fact-checkers.” You can see it in the demonetization of YouTube videos. Or in the new sets of regulation being imposed in European countries that deputize the social-media networks themselves as an all seeing social censor.
Dougherty points to how Obama's campaign was so very proud of how it used social media to find ways to contact persuadable voters through their "friends" on Facebook. And Facebook didn't mind one bit that it was being used by the Obama campaign.
How did Facebook react to the much larger data harvesting of the Obama campaign? The New York Times reported it out, in a feature hailing Obama’s digital masterminds:
The campaign’s exhaustive use of Facebook triggered the site’s internal safeguards. “It was more like we blew through an alarm that their engineers hadn’t planned for or knew about,” said [Will] St. Clair, who had been working at a small firm in Chicago and joined the campaign at the suggestion of a friend. “They’d sigh and say, ‘You can do this as long as you stop doing it on Nov. 7.’ ”
In other words, Silicon Valley is just making up the rules as they go along. Some large-scale data harvesting and social manipulation is okay until the election. Some of it becomes not okay in retrospect. They sigh and say okay so long as Obama wins. When Clinton loses, they effectively call a code red.

At the macro level, mass broadcast media was a boon to the Left and center-Left. It allowed a new class of people to shape public opinion as never before. But the appearance of social media represented the return of the repressed. It allowed common conservatives and populists to broadcast their own views, and in some sense legitimate them within their social circle. The efforts to criminalize conservative groups who use social media, and legally suppress citizens’ openly sharing unapproved views, are an attempt to put the new class filter back on.

Robert Tracinski writes about how social media replaced blogs and, in the end, that is hurting conservatives. THese big companies can work to hurt conservatives by limiting their access to their platforms.
Was social media a mistake? Two recent events crystallized my answer to this question. First, conservative comedian Steven Crowder had his Twitter account suspended for a week because he posted a video on YouTube that was critical of “gender fluidity” and used a Bad Word. The video was also pulled from YouTube, which you might not think of as a social media platform, even though it definitely is.

Then Brandon Morse noticed Twitter was preventing him from tweeting a link to an article by a controversial conservative columnist. This follows stories of Google-owned YouTube “demonetizing” videos by conservatives, unplugging them from the ability to make money from ads, and Facebook and Google targeting conservative sites for hilariously inaccurate and tendentious “fact checks.” It’s becoming clear that the big social media companies are targeting ideas and thinkers on the Right, and not just the far-out provocateurs and trolls like Milo Yianopoulos, but everyone.

What strikes me most is the contrast between this and the Internet era before social media, before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube swallowed up everything. I’m talking about the 2000s, the great era of the blogs. Do you remember what that blog era was like? It felt like liberation.

The era of blogging offered the promise of a decentralized media. Anybody could publish and comment on the news and find an audience. Guys writing in their pajamas could take down Dan Rather. We were bypassing the old media gatekeepers. And we had control over it! We posted on our own sites. We had good discussions in our own comment fields, which we moderated. I had and still have an extensive e-mail list of readers who are interested in my work, most of which I built up in that period, before everybody moved onto social media.

But then Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube came along and killed the blogs.
Well ahem, some people still write blogs. Maybe I'm a fuddy duddy, but I never felt the lure of the other platforms. I enjoy using Twitter, but I'm more of a lurker than a contributor. I rather enjoy the varied entries I have on my feed of which politics is just a small part. I spend more time with following sports tweets and cute animals. I like how, when I miss a game from one of the teams I follow, I can go on Twitter and people have been sure to post all sorts of clips of the action and commentary on how my team did. I find interesting links to stories I want to read. Sometimes I find material for this blog. But my reach with this blog is pretty small. Some of the major bloggers are still going strong, but I don't know what their reach is these days compared to a decade or so ago. But Tracinski is correct about how there have been blatant efforts by these social media platforms to target conservatives in ways that aren't used against liberals.

Ben Shapiro also comments
on the manipulation by social media groups to help liberals.
This isn’t particularly shocking. In 2012, The Guardian reported that President Obama’s reelection team was “building a vast digital data operation that for the first time combines a unified database on millions of Americans with the power of Facebook to target individual voters to a degree never achieved before.”

What, exactly, would Obama be doing? According to The Guardian, Obama’s new database would be gathered by asking individual volunteers to log into Obama’s reelection site using their Facebook credentials. “Consciously or otherwise,” The Guardian states, “the individual volunteer will be injecting all the information they store publicly on their Facebook page — home location, date of birth, interests and, crucially, network of friends — directly into the central Obama database.”
Facebook had no problem with such activity then. They do now. There’s a reason for that. The former Obama director of integration and media analytics stated that, during the 2012 campaign, Facebook allowed the Obama team to “suck out the whole social graph”; Facebook “was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.” She added, “They came to [the] office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”

Not so with Trump. As soon as Facebook realized that Cambridge Analytica had pursued a similar strategy, they suspended the firm.
Shapiro thinks that all this is part of the Democrats' efforts to find some explanation for why Trump won that exculpates their party for nominating the only person who could lose to Trump. Now they're working hard to pressure Facebook and the other groups to make sure that Trump can't win again.
The result of Facebook’s algorithmic changes: conservatives have been slammed. And that’s the point. A study from The Western Journal found that conservative sites have lost an average of 14 percent of their Facebook traffic; leftist sites saw a minor increase. Even major publications saw that effect: The New York Daily News saw a bump of 24.18 percent, while the New York Post dropped 11.44 percent.

And that’s the goal in covering Cambridge Analytica, and Russian interference on Twitter, and all the rest — even without any serious information suggesting that such interference shifted votes, the left can rest assured that its Silicon Valley allies will act to de-platform Republicans and conservatives. There’s a reason Twitter has suspended alt-right racists but continued to recommend that others follow Louis Farrakhan; there’s a reason YouTube is being sued by Prager University; there’s a reason Google used automatic fact-checking on right-wing sites but did no such thing for left-wing sites.

We’re in the midst of a radical reshifting in social media. Ironically, the people who have stumped against regulation — conservatives — are those being targeted by social media companies. If companies like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Twitter don’t start acting like platforms again rather than like motivated left-wing outlets, Republicans likely won’t let principle outweigh practicality for long.
David Harsanyi reminds us that we shouldn't be surprised that political campaigns were targeting people. That's what advertisers did. Maybe it's because my dad was in advertising and marketing, but I just don't get all that excited to find out that advertisers are advertising.
Most of all, so what if voters were being “targeted?” Part of living in a free society means being bombarded by messages we don’t like. The entire Facebook/Russiabot scare is predicated on the notion that people don’t have free will. It’s only once we start micromanaging the information Americans consume that we begin undermining choices. Of course people shouldn’t get their news from Facebook. And a reliable Fourth Estate which reports without bias to help Americans navigate through this messy contemporary digital life would be helpful. But the Cambridge Analytica story is just another example of how it fails.

These social media sites are private companies and they can choose how they want to run their businesses. They can decide to slant their platforms to help liberals. That is their prerogative. But don't spit in our faces and then tell us it's raining. Don't pretend that you're neutral when you're clearly not.

Meanwhile John Podhoretz has some mocking news for all those innocents who think that these sites Don't people realize that companies don't expand and have thousands of employees to provide a free service?
Did you think that the energy-sucking servers holding your photos and hosting the groups dedicated to your high-school class and your neighborhood ran on good wishes?

Did you think the company that has allowed you to consume news and opinion at no cost whatsoever to you was doing so out of the goodness of its collective heart?

Did you think . . . it was free?

Did you really not know that your agreement with Facebook was that Mark Zuckerberg would provide you with hours a day of enjoyment in exchange for your personal information?

There isn’t an adult in this country who shouldn’t know better than to screech in anguish at the supposed horrifying discovery that his or her “personal data” have been gathered by social-media networks and others to earn the dough necessary to run these networks and make massive profits besides.
They're doing what media companies have been doing for decades - providing us with content in exchange in exchange for selling the opportunity to others to sell us stuff. I remember how I once made a mistake in how I filled out a magazine subscription form for Sports Illustrated. For years we would receive all sorts of unsolicited mail trying to sell us stuff with our names containing that misspelling so we knew that they our names had been bought from Sports Illustrated. Did people really think that the internet would operate without doing the same, especially a site like Facebook that would have access to all that delicious personal data that marketers and, yes, political campaigns would love to have access to?
Guess how long we’ve lived in a world in which media have been provided to us without charge because networks earned their keep selling the fact of our presence to advertisers? The first radio station to broadcast over the airwaves transmitted news about the 1920 presidential elections in Pittsburgh. That was 97 years ago, people.

From radio to broadcast TV to the Internet, the model has been the same. You sell yourself — your ears, your eyeballs, your attention — and get entertainment in exchange. The only expenses you incur are for the device that entertains you and (since the advent of cable) the wires that come into your house to provide you with unalloyed access to the entertainment....

The reason Facebook makes as much money as it does is only in part because it has so much data. It’s largely because of the promise it makes to advertisers — the promise that can separate the wheat from the chaff and serve up targeted content that will have particular meaning to particular audiences.

For example: I keep kosher. Showing me a cheeseburger is a waste of McDonald’s ad money because I’m not going to eat one. If my personal data tell Facebook about my dietary restrictions, it can help McDonald’s not waste its ad money on me or people like me. And it can maybe tell me about an offering at the local kosher supermarket if that supermarket uses Facebook to look for targeted customers.

But it can only do that by knowing things about me.

It’s possible you didn’t know. It’s possible you came to believe that Facebook was like oxygen — something you just breathed in because it was there for you to breathe in.

Or that you did pay for it because you bought your computer or your mobile device and have to pay for your home Wi-Fi or cellular data. Those are expensive! Somehow Facebook just comes with them, you thought — maybe.

The science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein said it best: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Everything has a cost. If you forgot that, or refused to see it in your relationship with Facebook, or believe any of these things, sorry, you are a fool. So the politicians and pundits who are working to soak your outrage for their own ideological purposes are gulling you. But of course you knew.

You just didn’t care . . . until you cared. Until, that is, you decided this was a convenient way of explaining away the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

You’re so invested in the idea that Trump stole the election you are willing to believe anything other than that your candidate lost because she made a lousy argument and ran a lousy campaign and didn’t know how to run a race that would put her over the top in the Electoral College — which is how you prevail in a presidential election and has been for 220-plus years.

The rage and anger against Facebook over the past week provide just the latest examples of the self-infantilization and flight from responsibility on the part of the American people and the refusal of Trump haters and American liberals to accept the results of 2016.

Honestly, it’s time to stop being fools and start owning up to our role in all this.

Monica Showalter points out that Democrats are starting to get worried that the reaction to the news about Cambridge Analytica might harm their own ability to move the public in the ways they approve of. She points to a column by Cass Sunstein urging people not to overreact to this whole story because "[a]uthorized use of that data can do a great deal of good." Hmmmm, what does he mean by that? Showalter explains,
He cites other apps that spy on Americans that can improve health care and income inequality, as well as observe congressional behavior as arguments to not shut all of the data-mining down. These are red flags all by themselves, since we all know how Democrats use health care data and what their solutions are to income inequality. But never mind that.

Obviously, as a far-left Democrat operative in the Obama inner circle, Sunstein's argument to not overreact, plus his involvement in Facebook as an adviser, which he discloses at the bottom of his piece, suggests strongly that Democrats have a stake in the spying on voters, too. As they see Cambridge Analytica get sanctioned over all the hypocritical outcry, they know that their ox is up to get gored. And they are feeling flop sweat, given their long history of manipulating social media data. ...

Sunstein in particular is worth looking at. Back in his Obama days, he led an operation called "Nudge" as a means of lightly coercing consumers to buy the kind of products the central planners wanted them to buy, viewing buyers as sheep....

So as Sunstein suddenly calls on Democrats not to overreact to Facebook's clampdown, which is the result of their hysteria, it's worth noting that his game has always been about manipulating voters himself. Obviously, he wants as much space to do it as possible. No wonder he wants Democrats to restrain themselves on their fury at Facebook.
Manipulating us for our own good. How very "progressive" that is.

And right on time, here is an example of that attitude that we, the lumpenproletariat, need our betters to force us to do what we should be doing, but are too dumb or selfish to do it ourselves.
Two-and-half-years after Australia’s Labor government offered a parental leave program for new mums and dads, only one dad for every 500 mums was taking it. In the UK, 40% of dads choose not to take the parental leave offered. And in the US (Silicon Valley excepted) the figures are worse: 76% of men take less than a week off when their baby is born and 96% are back at work after two weeks or less.
Everyone knows that men should be more involved in child rearing. We also know that women who take time off from work to stay home with children suffer professionally. But men still aren't staying home. What to do? Force those dads to stay home. After all, that's what wiser countries are doing.
That’s why the most successful paternity leave schemes, such as those in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Germany, make it mandatory for men to take a number of weeks’ leave. If they don’t, their family isn’t eligible for the full amount of leave available. Men have to take leave unless they want their kids to have less time with both parents.

Once the stigma is gone and men start taking it, more follow. When Germany legislated that of a possible 14 months parental leave, two months must be taken by fathers, the percentage of men taking paternity leave went from 3% to more than 20% – in only two years.

When Quebec introduced a similar scheme, with reserved “daddy-only” time, participation increased by more than 250%. In 2010, 80% of Quebecois dads were taking paternity leave.
Of course, the numbers increased. They were being forced to by the government.

My question is why stop there? Studies have shown that children do better if not shuffled off to day care and are, instead, taken care of by a loving family member. Why not mandate that?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cruising the Web

Victor Davis Hanson notes the peculiarity of Senator Warren's claim that she is a Native American because some unknown ancestor was, according to her family's lore, was one.
Progressives such as Elizabeth Warren resurrect the race-based thinking of the antebellum South: ‘One drop’ and you’re a bona fide minority.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has doubled down on her insistence that she is Native American.

In her past incarnations, she probably used that yarn in hopes of helping her win a law professorship at Harvard, which touted her as the law school’s first indigenous-American professor (and others apparently referenced her as Harvard Law’s “first woman of color”). She has refused to back down (and also refused to take a DNA test), even after Native American genealogists disputed her claim.

But what if indeed the pink and blond Warren were found to have 1/32nd or even 1/16th Native American “blood”? Why would that artifact magically make her “Indian,” much less a victim of something or someone, or at least outfitted with a minority cachet?

Does she have an idea of the absurdity of current progressive race obsessions and their creepy pedigrees? In wartime Western Europe, one of the justifications for making Jews wear yellow stars was that it was otherwise impossible to determine whether they were Jews at all, which of course made the entire Nazi edifice of supposed overt racial inferiority a nightmarish joke.

The Fascist and anti-Semitic French novelist Lucien Rebatet explained why the stars were needed for hard-to-identify Jewish citizens: “The yellow star rectifies this strange situation in which one human group that is radically opposed to the people of white blood, and which for eternity is unassimilable to this blood, cannot be identified at first glance.”

What is the moral of this sad reversion to the failed racist systems of the past? Warren is harkening back to the old South’s “one drop rule” of “invisible blackness.” Supposedly any proof of sub-Saharan ancestry, even one drop of “black blood,” made one black and therefore subject to second-class citizenship.
Hanson is so correct. It's always struck me as so ironic that those on the left advocating affirmative action programs have adopted the same standards that were used to discriminate against other minorities. I think of Homer Plessy who was 1/8 black and could pass for white, had to make it known that, when he sat in a whites-only section on a Louisiana train that he was actually breaking the law so that, after being charged, he could challenge the state's separate-car law in the case that became the infamous decision Plessy v. Ferguson. That decision established the legality of segregation as long as there was a pretense that the provisions were "separate, but equal." What was once a one-drop rule to segregate out blacks, is now an excuse from someone like Elizabeth Warren to gain professional benefits.

Hanson then transitions to note how liberals are adopting other odious policies from the old South.
hey also echo the antebellum talk of secession and boast about state nullification of federal law — again, based on the premise that a superior coastal culture should not be dragged down by the rest of the morally inferior United States.

California has announced that it is no longer entirely subject to federal law enforcement, much as South Carolina proclaimed before the Civil War. As an attorney and advocate, California has hired former attorney general Eric Holder, who is no longer the steward of federal law. Holder is eager to defend the state’s various nullification efforts. California has become an entire “sanctuary state,” where the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents supposedly have no jurisdiction over illegal aliens currently held in state and local jails.

Governor Jerry Brown, in 1850s southern evangelical style, has justified defiance of the U.S. government by evoking God to impugn President Trump’s religiosity: “I don’t think — President Trump has a fear of the Lord, the fear of the wrath of God, which leads one to more humility.” Indeed, Brown has toured abroad as a quasi commander in chief, urging foreign leaders to deal with California as though it were essentially an autonomous, sovereign country. Who knows, maybe Brown can cut trade deals that circumvent U.S. laws in the way that the cotton-exporting South once believed that foreign nations would favor its eventual autonomy.
We can but hope that Hanson's prediction that these attitudes will eventually fade away.
A century from now, our successors are likely to be as bewildered by the classifications of affirmative action and designated safe spaces as we are by segregation and “separate but equal” schools. A century after the Civil War, in reaction to the legacy of the Confederacy, progressives fought for integration; a century and a half after the Civil War, progressives are channeling the one-drop rule and advocating race-based dorms, safe spaces, and race-themed houses.

Once a region, a state, or a group of people becomes racially obsessed..., they turn absurd. Soon they stop listening to reason and fall into predictable mythologies of cultural superiority, regional chauvinism, and ultimately secession as proof of their moral supremacy.

What follows next never ends well.

Sounds like Republican voters are about to, yet again, throw away the opportunity to win a Senate seat that should be totally winnable.
National Republicans — on the heels of the Roy Moore and Rick Saccone debacles — worry they’re staring down their latest potential midterm election fiasco: coal baron and recent federal prisoner Don Blankenship.

With Blankenship skyrocketing in the West Virginia Republican Senate primary and blanketing the airwaves with ads assailing his fractured field of rivals as career politicians, senior party officials are wrestling with how, or even whether, to intervene. Many of them are convinced that Blankenship, who served a one-year sentence after the deadly 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine, would be a surefire loser against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin — and potentially become a national stain for the party....

While some senior Republicans are anxious to block Blankenship, others believe that such a move could backfire and turn him into a martyr— much as it did when the national GOP dropped millions of dollars in an unsuccessful attempt to take down Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in a Republican primary.

Like Moore, Blankenship is an entrenched, anti-establishment figure running in a conservative state.
It sounds like a lot of his efforts are aiming to clear his name from his conviction and prison sentence. Just what we need, another millionaire using politics to advance his own personal agenda.

Is this really how the left wants to use their efforts: ridiculing and slamming a harmless children's book simply because its author is the daughter of Mike Pence and Pence's wife did the illustrations? That's what John Oliver spent his show's influence to accomplish.
The most recent viral clip focused on the following horror of horrors: Mike Pence's daughter has come out with a book about his rabbit, Marlon Bundo. Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President teaches children about the vice presidency. Proceeds go to a hospital art therapy program called Tracy's Kids and an abolitionist and anti-human trafficking organization, A21.

Watching his segment, you can actually tell that Oliver at first struggled to explain why the book was worth attacking in the first place. Eventually he found a reason, noting that the final stop on the Pences' book tour was at "Focus on the F—king Family" (which you can tell is funny, because he said "f—k").

"Congratulations, Pence, you even managed to ruin Marlon Bundo," Oliver says to a graphic of Mike Pence, who again, had nothing to do with the book. "Now none of us can enjoy a book about your rabbit," Oliver continued, forgetting the literal slaves this book is helping.

Focus on the Family has an entire division devoted to benign and apolitical children's entertainment with a Christian bent (like the popular Adventures in Odyssey program). But the group is also active in socially conservative causes. Charlotte Pence is politically moderate, but this thoughtcrime by association on one stop of the tour is reason enough for Oliver to spend a significant amount of time and resources riffing on a children's book about a bunny. Proceeds of which are directed to the needy.

Oliver responded by announcing his own version of the book, in which Marlon Bundo is a gay bunny ("just like the real Marlon Bundo," he notes), stopped from marrying another boy bunny by an evil worm who looks like Mike Pence. Oliver assured viewers that buying the book would be a way of saying "f—k you" to Pence (which is funny, because he said "f—k").
He then urged his fans to go to Amazon and post negative reviews for a book they haven't read.

Why extend his vitriol against Pence to Pence's daughter and a perfectly harmless book the earnings of which are going to fight human trafficking? It's just an unending desire to attack Pence, the necessity of which, in Oliver's eyes outweighs any other consideration of decency.

Keith Ellison, a leading Democratic Congressman and Deputy DNC chair, has been claiming that he hasn't met with Louis Farrakhan since 2013. It turns out that that is a lie and the guy calling him on it is...Louis Farrakhan.
At the heart of Democratic Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison’s ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is a private hotel visit that Ellison is said to have paid Farrakhan, but which Ellison denies took place.

Farrakhan has said that Ellison and Democratic Indiana Rep. Andre Carson visited his Washington, D.C., hotel room in 2015 and they had a friendly meeting. “Both of them, when I was in Washington, visited my suite, and we sat down talking like you and I are talking,” Farrakhan said in a 2016 Facebook video.

Carson has confirmed that he was at the meeting. Ellison, however, is saying he was never there.

Ellison hasn’t been “in any meeting with [Farrakhan]” since he and Farrakhan both attended a dinner in 2013 that was hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, he said in a blog post Saturday....

Ellison, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), claimed in December 2016 that he had cut all ties with Farrakhan before he first ran for Congress in 2006. In reality, he attended two events with Farrakhan while in Congress, in addition to the 2015 meeting, new reporting has shown.

The first event took place sometime between 2010 and 2013. A video posted to YouTube shows Ellison standing and talking among a group of men at a Muslim community meeting, just feet away from Farrakhan. The second event was a dinner that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held for American Muslim leaders in 2013.

The Washington Post dinged Ellison in a fact-check earlier in March for claiming that he cut ties with Farrakhan before 2006, citing The Daily Caller’s reporting on the subject.,
So which repellent guy should we believe?

Germany, unbelievably, is acting to block Israel from finally obtaining a seat on the UN Security Council as was promised in a deal negotiated by UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke in the late 1990s. As Benny Avni explains in the New York Post, Israel wasn't able to obtain a seat because they're determined by regional groups, and Israel's region was never going to pick Israel. So Holbrooke's deal was for Israel to be the nominee for the Western Europeans and Other Group which includes democracies west of Berlin, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. And the deal had a long lead time - Israel wouldn't get a seat until the 2019-2020 term when both Israel and Belgium would get the seats. But Germany has decided that it wants a seat despite having had a seat in 2011-2012. So why is Germany abrogating the agreement? Its excuse doesn't hold water.
Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member — as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory.

But is building a porch in Maale Edumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong-un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless, clueless, cynical German power play against the Jewish state.
The UN is such a corrupt, useless institution. Every time I think they can't demonstrate their bigotry and worthlessness, they plumb new depths.

It is indeed striking how many times in recent years, the progressives seem to be on the wrong end of First Amendment issues. We've seen it in the shoutdowns on college campuses and the Obama administration position on compelling religious organizations to insure what they considered abortifacients. There is the liberal antipathy to political speech and their fury at the Citizens United decision. And now we have this case, NIFLA v. Becerra, that the Supreme Court heard yesterday. The case involves a California law targeted at pro-life pregnancy centers to post notices about where women can go to get free or low-cost abortions. These centers exist to provide prenatal care and counseling and often have a religious foundation. But the liberal state can't stand that such centers even exist and women aren't giving the abortion message. It also seems like a clear case of compelled speech, and judging from the questions asked in the hearing yesterday, there is a majority on the Supreme Court to strike down the law.
To any ordinary person, that’s an instance of the state requiring citizens to recite political speech whose content they abominate. But the Supreme Court has a long history of striking down laws that require objectionable speech: In Wooley v. Maynard (1977), for instance, the court held that New Hampshire could not require drivers to display the state motto, “Live free or die”; and in Riley v. National Federation of the Blind (1988) the court rejected a North Carolina law requiring fundraisers to relay specified factual information to potential donors.

Another part of the California law requires the pregnancy centers to declare to counselees that the center is not licensed by the state of California. That’s yet more required speech and almost certainly unconstitutional according to past high court decisions. It’s also just nasty: Is the point of state licensing laws to protect the public from a local crisis pregnancy center?

Several of the court’s liberal justices—Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor—seemed to take a skeptical view of the California position, which suggests that the law will almost certainly be declared unconstitutional. But that doesn’t mean the issue is decided. What about state laws that require abortion providers to specify the health risks of abortion or explain alternatives to it? The Supreme Court’s 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey famously upheld these “informed consent” laws, but aren’t they the same as California’s law requiring pregnancy centers to explain alternatives to adoption—namely abortion?

On Tuesday the justices seemed to indicate that the answer is “no,” but mainly because the California law is so manifestly written to target pro-life pregnancy centers. What if the law were more fairly written and applied? The pro-life side argues that the cases are completely different inasmuch as “informed consent” explanations take place before a serious medical procedure, and pregnancy centers don’t offer medical procedures. We agree, but the court won’t answer that question in NIFLA v. Becerra.

The most extraordinary thing about NIFLA v. Becerra is the existence of the FACT Act in the first place. California lawmakers don’t like pro-life pregnancy centers and sought a way to punish them. Why? Because frightened women sometimes wander into these welcoming places mistakenly believing them to be abortion clinics. Often they leave with a brighter outlook and a determination not to abort their unborn child. Liberal California lawmakers would rather that didn’t happen. Their remedy was to force pregnancy center workers to parrot state-sponsored talking points about “free or low-cost” abortions.

We’re sorely tempted to compel left-wing California lawmakers to recite their own follies. Thankfully the First Amendment doesn’t allow that.
For a more detailed analysis of the hearing, read Amy Howe's excellent summary at Scotusblog.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cruising the Web

Jay Cost makes a very astute argument
that we need to get Donald Trump out of our heads. He is such an oversize personality and he exults in dominating every day's news both with what he says and how others react that our attention on him detracts from more important topics.
But if we move outside his orbit for a moment, it’s easier to appreciate how we have become detached from reality. Elections are still scheduled for November 6, 2018 — McCabe’s dismissal notwithstanding. Maybe Trump interferes with Robert Mueller’s investigation; maybe he doesn’t. Maybe Mueller finds something big on Trump; maybe he doesn’t. Either way, the people will have multiple opportunities to register their views on Trump between now and January 20, 2021. And to judge from his job-approval rating at the moment, he is in deep trouble with the voters.

When we fret about how Trump has corrupted democracy, or the republic or whatever, we overlook how easily he has manipulated our civic discourse. That seems to me to be a much bigger problem. While we are all talking about Trump Trump Trump — whether you like him or hate him, want to #MAGA or #RESIST — we are shunting aside substantive issues that are more worthy of our attention.
We need to remember that there is a lot more to U.S. government than Donald Trump. It's just not healthy for our country to focus so much on one person, whether it's Trump or Obama or Clinton or whomever.
This, to me, is the real power of Donald Trump — and the real problem. He has reoriented politics around himself. To some degree, every president manages to do that; it’s in the nature of the bully pulpit. But opinions on the president are usually proxies for positions on larger issues that matter, such as taxes or social welfare spending. With Trump, it often comes down to what you think of the man himself. He is the center of gravity around which politics orbits in 2018.

This has a more subtly negative effect on democracy. Public opinion is supposed to be sovereign in a republic, but it can be a benevolent sovereign only after the people think, converse, and argue with one another on the issues that are important to the general welfare. If the people cannot deliberate on anything except Trump, they are not thinking about those issues. So public opinion on matters of substance remains inchoate or poorly formed, undermining the sovereignty that the Constitution grants the people.

In my view, this is a much bigger problem than McCabe, the Mueller probe, or whatever. With Trump living rent-free in everybody’s head, there is no room for us to think about anything else and for the people to influence the course of public policy in a beneficial way.
Policy discussions such as whether a steel tariff is a good idea or how we should orient ourselves toward Russia become about what Trump thinks about the ideas rather than whether they're good or bad proposals.

Eric Holder is claiming now that the administration he served liked the media. But, as Philip Wegmann writes, that's not the real story.
Holder was absolutely obsessed with a couple of journalists in particular, and a scandal related to his treatment of them will forever shape his legacy. Under Holder's leadership, the Department of Justice subpoenaed the work and home phone activity of Associated Press reporters. It also and labeled James Rosen of Fox News a “criminal co-conspirator” in a 2013 case in a bid to seize personal phone records and emails.

If the attorney general thought that the AP and Fox News would be flattered by all that attention, he was wrong. What Holder must have considered casual and friendly advances, everyone else saw as a serious assault on the First Amendment.

"Today we learned of the Justice Department’s unprecedented wholesale seizure of confidential telephone records from the Associated Press,” The Newspaper Association of America said, giving the final word in a statement. “These actions shock the American conscience and violate the critical freedom of the press protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
Holder is reportedly considering running for president in 2020. We'll see if the media will remember how Holder treated them when he was last in power.

Nima Sanandaji writes in honor of Imternational Women's Day and the efforts to advance women's careers. One surprising (for liberals) finding is the effect that reducing the welfare state might do a lot more than the more usual policy proposals. And the Nordic states are leading the way. These states have a long history of affording women more rights than the rest of Europe or the United States in the 19th century. However, women aren't reaching the top positions in management in Nordic countries as we might expect and the U.S. has a high percentage of women in management positions.
Comparing the Nordic countries with each other, a pattern emerges: Those with more extensive welfare-state policies have fewer women on top. Iceland, which has a moderately sized welfare state, has the most women managers. Second is Sweden, which has opened up welfare services such as education, health care, and elder care for private-sector competition. Denmark, which has the highest taxes and the biggest welfare state in the modern world, has the lowest share of women in managerial positions.

Essentially, the rise of the welfare state has been a double-edged sword for women’s advancement. On the one hand, it has created jobs in women-dominated fields such as health care and education, and aided the labor-market entry of women by offering day care and other family-related services. On the other, the attendant high taxes have reduced the economic incentive for both parents to work full-time, and have also made it difficult for families to purchase services that alleviate household work (such as cleaning). Parental-leave policies have given women an incentive to take long breaks from working. And state monopolies in female-dominated sectors such as health care and education have limited women’s career choices.

The result of all this? The United States, often viewed as being far behind the Nordic countries when it comes to gender equality, actually has a higher share of women in top business positions. The true lesson, that a large welfare state actually can impede women’s progress, is seldom if ever reported. Perhaps it is time to change that.
This sounds like the sort of result that politicians will ignore because it contradicts their preferred nostrums.

You might have heard of the idiot member of the District of Columbia City Council who posted a video on his Facebook page blaming Jewish bankers for the bad weather that has been afflicting the city.
Council member Trayon White Sr. apologized for the comments he made in a since-deleted video on his official Facebook page posted Friday morning as snow fell over the capital.

“Man it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation,” White can be heard saying in the video, the Washington Post reported.

“And D.C. keeps talking about, ‘We a resilient city,’” he continues. “And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”
After this story went viral, he decided to apologize.
On Sunday night, White posted a note on Twitter apologizing “to the Jewish community and anyone I have offended.”

“The Jewish community have been allies with me in my journey to help people. I did not intend to be Anti-Semitic, and I see I should not have said that after learning from my colleagues,” the note reads.

White — a Democrat who won the Ward 8 seat in November 2016 — also said he’d reached out to his “friends” at the organization Jews United for Justice.

“They are helping me to understand the history of comments made against Jews and I am committed to figuring out ways continue to be allies with them and others,” he wrote.

The organization acknowledged speaking with White, writing that they “look forward to working with him toward deeper understanding of anti-Semitism and toward our collective liberation.”

Fellow lawmaker Brianne Nadeau, who is Jewish, said she believes White’s apology is sincere.

“I believe he is being truthful when he says he didn’t realize what his statement implied,” she wrote in a statement on Facebook.
Oh, please. How does a guy not know that those comments are offensive and insulting to Jews. And how exactly does he think a banking family who has been out of the headlines for decades actually control the weather? This guy is obviously a foolish jerk. But what is rather remarkable is that he felt comfortable talking like this and didn't realize what a storm that his words would provoke. What swamps must he inhabit that this is just normal commentary?

So does it seem any coincidence that Al Sharpton, a guy with his own anti-Semitic history is working with Black Lives Matter and other African-American groups to organize a protest in support of Louis Farrakhan?
Several black activist groups are holding a protest on Monday in defense of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a notorious anti-Semite and racist revealed to have close ties to prominent Democratic politicians and activists.

Black Lives Matter, the New Black Panther Party and the National Action Network are among the groups spearheading the protest, the organizers said in a press release.

The groups are protesting a House resolution, introduced by Republican Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita, that formally condemns Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. The activists instead want lawmakers to pass a resolution condemning President Donald Trump....

“We cannot allow a politically hypocritical political situation to exist whereas an openly racist president, Donald Trump is given a free pass and to spew racist venom and racist policies by a confederate based GOP; and then they have the gall to issue an official legislative condemnation of a private citizen and Black leader who is dearly beloved by the masses,” said Black Lawyers for Justice president Malik Zulu Shabazz, one of the protest organizers.

Shabazz, a former leader of the New Black Panthers, has a long history of anti-Semitism and once shouted at a protest: “Kill every goddamn Zionist in Israel! Goddamn little babies, goddamn old ladies! Blow up Zionist supermarkets!” That’s according to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization which has tracked Shabazz’s anti-Semitism for years. The press release lists Shabazz as the point of contact for the protest. He did not return an email seeking comment.
Of course, these groups and leaders find nothing wrong with Farrakhan's anti-Semitism. Like that D.C. Council member, they must be marinating in such ugliness that they don't even see anything wrong with it.

Just flip the script. What if it were Republican politicians who hung out with David Duke or other white supremacists who regularly spouted racist remarks. Would it be acceptable to have those groups mobilizing in support of those members of Congress while attacking anyone who dared to criticize those members of Congress for their associations with such racists. Donald Trump was rightly criticized for his failure to condemn white supremacists who supported him. That was appalling. Now we're seeing similar behavior on the other side of the aisle and the condemnations should be just as vociferous.

Alan Dershowitz contrasts
the treatment of Jewish refugees from Arab countries to how Palestinians have been treated by Arab countries.
The Arab exodus from Israel in 1948 was the direct result of a genocidal war declared against the newly established Jewish state by all of its Arab neighbors, including the Arabs of Israel. If they had accepted the U.N. peace plan — two states for two people — there would be no Palestinian refugees. In the course of Israel's fierce battle for its survival — a battle in which it lost 1 percent of its population, including many Holocaust survivors and civilians — approximately 700,000 local Arabs were displaced. Many left voluntarily, having been promised a glorious return after the inevitable Arab victory. Others were forced out. Some of these Arabs could trace their homes in what became Israel hundreds of years back. Others were relatively recent arrivals from Arab countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Jordan.

Approximately the same number of Jews were displaced from their Arab homelands during this period. Nearly all of them could trace their heritage back thousands of years, well before the Muslims and Arabs became the dominant population. Like the Palestinian Arabs, some left voluntarily, but many had no realistic choice. The similarities are striking, but so are the differences.

The most significant difference is between how Israel dealt with the Jews who were displaced and how the Arab and Muslim world dealt with the Palestinians who had been displaced by a war they started.

Israel integrated its brothers and sisters from the Arab and Muslim world. The Arab world put its Palestinian brothers and sisters in refugee camps, treating them as political pawns and festering sores in its persistent war against the Jewish state.

It has now been 70 years since this exchange of populations occurred. It is time to end the deadly charade of calling the displaced Palestinians "refugees." Almost none of the nearly five million Arabs who now seek to claim the mantle of "Palestinian refugee" were ever actually in Israel. They are the descendants, some quite distant, of those who were actually displaced in 1948. The number of surviving Arabs who were personally forced out of Israel by the war started by their brethren is probably no more a few thousand, probably less. Perhaps they should be compensated, but not by Israel. The compensation should come from Arab countries that illegally seized the assets of their erstwhile Jewish residents whom they forced to leave. These few thousand Palestinians have no greater moral, historic or legal claim than the surviving Jewish individuals who were displaced during the same time period seven decades ago.

In life as in law there are statutes of limitations that recognize that history changes the status quo. The time has come, indeed it is long overdue, for the world to stop treating these Palestinians as refugees. That status ended decades ago. The Jews who came to Israel from Morocco many years ago are no longer refugees. Neither are the relatives of the Palestinians who have lived outside of Israel for nearly three-quarters of a century.
The surrounding Arab countries have refused to absorb Palestinians into their countries. They would prefer to keep them as a downtrodden excuse for hating Israel and distracting people's attention away from the conditions in their own countries. Remember this history whenever you see people talking about how terrible the Jews are for the supposedly terrible treatment of Palestinians. And remember also how Israeli Arabs have full rights and can elect members of the Knesset. They live better and with more liberties than many Arabs in Arab-run countries.

Tim Worstall ponders the question: "How Saudi Arabia came to have (way) too many royals."
Think of, in this manner at least, Saudi Arabia as being the personal creation of the first monarch, Ibn Saud. Similarly, many medieval European states were the creation of personal loyalty to the ruler, not to anything like a sense of nationality or country as we think of them today. That state will be monarchical, of course, but also feudal in many senses. The children of that monarch will have great economic power over the new country.
However, in Saudi Arabia, the numbers are geometrically increased because a ruler wasn't limited to a single wife.
Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, was born in 1875. He had some 100 children through a varied count of marriages and concubines, 45 of whom were sons. Almost all of the sons had Islam’s allowed multiple marriages, and by the time we get to today’s great grandchildren of Ibn Saud we’re talking of many thousands of princelings – 9,000 at one count. Each of whom has, so it is said, an allowance from the state and so on. As such, being a member of that family confers economic privilege, and not being in the family has a few disadvantages.

That’s a problem in two ways. Who actually rules is now a matter of argument within that rather large number of people. And who should gain economic privilege, well, that needs to be limited in order to alleviate the burden upon the economy in general.
Yet another benefit of monogamy.

Jim Geraghty has some good questions
for those who are so outraged at the firing of Andrew McCabe. He points out that McCabe, due to his wife's connections to Terry McAulliffe should have recused himself from the Hillary Clinton investigation.
McCabe defenders may argue that any other FBI official would have reached the same conclusions about the Clinton investigation that McCabe did. But if that really is the case, that just strengthens the argument that someone else should have handled it. Why invite speculation and second-guessing by having McCabe make those decisions?

McCabe states in interviews that President Trump taunted him repeatedly about his wife’s defeat in the state senate race. That, no doubt, is a jerky and obnoxious thing to do. But the rules for the FBI aren’t different when they’re dealing with an obnoxious jerk.

Similarly, according to many accounts, Carter Page is a bit of a weirdo with some strongly pro-Russia views. But that doesn’t mean the FBI gets to gloss over the partisan motivations of its sources in a footnote of an application to the FISA court.

If you allow the FBI to cut corners or tread into gray areas when investigating political figures you don’t like, at some point, they’re going to cut corners or tread into gray areas when investigating political figures you do like.

Separately, for those still irate over McCabe’s firing, and loss of some (but not most) of his retirement benefits . . . what should be the consequence for an FBI deputy director lying to federal investigators?
Should someone in a high position in the FBI who lies to investigators suffer no penalty when others accused of the same crime are threatened with prison?

David French remarks
on how topsy-turvy politics are today. Both sides reverse themselves on a dime depending on whether the story redounds to the credit or discredit of their side. And Trump's endless tweets attacking McCabe and Mueller don't help anyone.
Ahh yes, there’s nothing like a Trump tweet to reassure America that the process of terminating one of America’s most senior law-enforcement officers was completely fair, nonpartisan, and professional.

Oh, and keep in mind that all this sanctimony — all this fury — was unleashed online without the public, politicians, or pundits having seen the testimony that allegedly caused McCabe’s termination. No one knew the actual evidence, yet their rage and certainty were undiminished.

But that’s pretty much par for the course. Remember, we’ve just exited a news cycle where the public, pundits, and politicians opined authoritatively about the legality and credibility of FISA applications they hadn’t read. Instead of waiting for comprehensive reports or reviewing source documents, they sallied forth into online battle relying mainly on two shoddily written, hopelessly partisan memos from a terribly compromised House committee.

At this point American political hypocrisy is boundless. The same people who would parse and condemn Barack Obama’s public statements about ongoing investigations now urge us to ignore Trump’s tweets. Meaningless venting, they say. Conversely, the same people who told us that Obama’s public pronouncements had no impact on the good professionals at the FBI and IRS now tell us that Trump’s tirades are proof positive of political influence on the DOJ.

And Friday-night news dumps? Well, they’re suspicious only if we don’t like the news.

By the way, it seems that McCabe hasn't actually lost his pension.
However, McCabe has not been stripped of his pension at all. In fact, that is impossible to do to a federal employee after five years of employment.

The 21-year career FBI official lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in early retirement benefits, including the privilege to retire at 50 rather than between 57 and age 62, a luxury virtually unheard of in the private sector. His yearly payments would reach around $60,000 if he qualified for the early retirement program.
Forbes reports on the details,
In fact, McCabe is all of 49 years old, likely 50 by the time readers see this, and what he lost out on was, as CNN much more calmly recounts, the ability to take his benefits at age 50, rather than somewhere between age 57 and age 62, and he lost his eligibility to a special top-up in benefit formula. These are, admittedly, tangible financial losses, but it is grossly misleading that various news outlets are giving the general public the impression that he has lost his pension entirely.

But the existence of these special perks, benefits that we in the private sector can barely comprehend in the year 2018, points to a fundamental disconnect between the private and public sector. Why shouldn't someone whose benefits consist of 401(k) account accruals believe that government pensions work so differently as to punish someone arbitrarily by removing their benefits? Add to this the fact that retirement at age 50 is well-nigh incomprehensible for the average working American, except perhaps in the case of high-risk, health-sapping occupations, which surely likewise added to the impression that actual pensions, rather than generous ancillary provisions, were being lost.

Yes, the rationale for these generous pension benefits is that these civil servants accept significantly lower salaries than they would be able to earn in the private sector. But this exchange of "low salaries now, rich retirement benefits later" is a matter of "robbing Peter to pay Paul" that isn't wise in the long term, either.