Friday, September 22, 2017

Cruising the Web

This sounds like a significant diplomatic victory for the Trump administration.
North Korea learned this week Chinese banks will no longer do business with the Hermit Kingdom, in the strongest sign yet pressure from the Trump administration to choke off funding to the rogue nation is working.

Chinese banks received a document Monday stating they should halt financial services and loans to new and existing North Korean customers as a result of strict U.N. sanctions passed earlier this month, a source told Reuters on Thursday.

“Our bank is fulfilling our international obligations and implementing United Nations sanctions against North Korea. As such, we refuse to handle any individual loans connected to North Korea,” the document reportedly said.
But then there is this news.
hina's surprising instructions to banks this week, however, were at least partially undermined when South Korea on Thursday approved $8 million in supposed humanitarian aid to North Korea.

Some South Korean officials fear the new aid will send a mixed signal to international leaders. Son Kim-ju, a lawmaker and spokesman of the opposition People’s Party, told The Associated Press the announcement is “badly timed.”
There is always the dilemma between our humanitarian concerns for the people of North Korea and the desire to starve the regime of money. South Korea is trying to keep the aid out of the hands of the regime and in a form that will get to the people.
Moon previously said humanitarian aid and political issues should be handled separately. Seoul stopped the aid in January 2016 after Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test. But after meeting with ministries and civilian experts, Moon decided to resume aid to help North Korean children and pregnant woman, the Unification Ministry said. The money is intended to support programs run by U.N. Children’s Fund and U.N. Food Program.

The ministry added the assistance doesn't include cash and there's "realistically no possibility" the North could use it to support its military. About 18 million of the 25 million people who live in North Korea experience food shortages with a high child and mortality rates, according to the U.N.
Perhaps China is responding to this new executive order that Trump announced today.
President Donald Trump announced an expansion of sanctions on North Korea Thursday and praised China for taking action to limit financial transactions with the isolated communist nation.

The effort to project forward momentum in his bid to isolate Pyongyang came at the end of Trump's four-day visit to the United Nations General Assembly, where the crisis has taken prominence in rapid-pace meetings with more than a dozen world leaders.
His emphasis on economic efforts to end the standoff was a sign the President has not exhausted diplomacy in his dealings with North Korea, despite his warnings earlier in the week of dire military consequences should the nuclear provocations continue.
The new set of US sanctions on financial institutions that do business with North Korea is not targeted specifically at China, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Thursday.

North Korea complains that sanctions will hurt the people of of that miserable country. Ed Morrissey responds to that complaint.
There is an easy solution to that problem, which would be to, y’know, stop testing ICBMs and nuclear weapons. That solution comes straight from the UN, at which forum North Korea is making this plea. The obvious answer is Abide by our resolutions and you won’t have this problem. The committee will issue a report on North Korea on October 4th; want to bet that it will have this no-brainer response? Take the under.

25% Off in Office and School Supplies

Deals in Office Products

Deals in Home and Kitchen

Unfortunately, shooting down a NK missile is not as easy as we might hope.
The U.S. and its allies have several different missile defense systems in place to counter the North Korean ballistic missile threat. These defense systems include the Patriot, Aegis, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, and ground-based midcourse defense systems. The first three are regional defense units, while the last defends the U.S. from long-range missiles.

Intercepting a North Korean missile is almost impossible in boost phase. To even have a chance, Aegis-enabled ships would need to be stationed off the coast of North Korea.

For the shots over Japan, neither the PAC-3 systems in country nor the Aegis destroyers armed with SM-3 interceptors nearby would have likely been able to eliminate the North Korean missiles, because the missiles were too high when they passed overhead.

The only option is a midcourse or terminal intercept. Assuming an Aegis ship was operating in waters east of Japan in just the right location, there is a possibility it could intercept a missile. THAAD, which is stationed in Guam and South Korea, could potentially take out a North Korean missile in terminal phase, but there are a lot of variables.

Many of these systems have never been tested in combat, and the GMD system that defend the U.S. mainland have a spotty overall performance record.

Remember when Valerie Plame was a heroine to the left? Today...not so much after she tweeted out an article that is explicitly anti-Semitic, Its title "How America's Jews Are Driving America's Wars" makes it clear what its argument is. After people started commenting on the anti-Semitic bigotry of the article, Plame tried to excuse herself by saying she'd just skimmed the article. Really? She didn't notice the title? Or lines like this in the first two paragraphs? I doubt it.
I spoke recently at a conference on America’s war party where afterwards an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked, “Why doesn’t anyone ever speak honestly about the six-hundred-pound gorilla in the room? Nobody has mentioned Israel in this conference and we all know it’s American Jews with all their money and power who are supporting every war in the Middle East for Netanyahu? Shouldn’t we start calling them out and not letting them get away with it?”

It was a question combined with a comment that I have heard many times before and my answer is always the same: any organization that aspires to be heard on foreign policy knows that to touch the live wire of Israel and American Jews guarantees a quick trip to obscurity. Jewish groups and deep pocket individual donors not only control the politicians, they own and run the media and entertainment industries, meaning that no one will hear about or from the offending party ever again. They are particularly sensitive on the issue of so-called “dual loyalty,” particularly as the expression itself is a bit of a sham since it is pretty clear that some of them only have real loyalty to Israel.
The article goes on to single out Bill Kristol.
For those American Jews who lack any shred of integrity, the media should be required to label them at the bottom of the television screen whenever they pop up, e.g. Bill Kristol is “Jewish and an outspoken supporter of the state of Israel.” That would be kind-of-like a warning label on a bottle of rat poison – translating roughly as “ingest even the tiniest little dosage of the nonsense spewed by Bill Kristol at your own peril.”
Remember that she was supposed to be some sort of espionage analyst and she is trying to make us believe that she is tweeting out an article because she doesn't like neo-conservatives but missed all the anti-Semitic bile throughout the article. Sure.

The left lionized her because she and her husband were tools for attacking Bush. Since then, she's faded from view until she started a funding account in order to try to buy Twitter so she could ban Trump from Twitter. Yeah, as if that was going to happen. And she is on the board of Ploughshares Fund which advocated for the Iranian deal. Figures that she would not be at all disturbed by Iran's threats to nuke Israel.

Now she has given us this embarrassing insight into how she thinks. Philip Wegmann points out that she seems to have a real liking for anti-Semitic writings. And this was nothing new for her. How different is this sort of bigotry from what neo-Nazis are claiming?
One doesn't need training in espionage though to recognize the bigotry of the piece. One also doesn't need to be some sort of covert agent to recognize the flimsiness of her excuse.

While Plame insists that she was unfamiliar with the source of the bigoted article, a quick search shows that she frequents the website and often shares its content. Since 2014, Plame has posted nine UNZ articles including one titled "Why I Still Dislike Israel" and another about "Dancing Israelis" on 9/11.
Can you imagine the outrage if a public figure tweeted out an article saying that Muslims should be labeled with "kind-of-like a warning label on a bottle of rat poison" before they are allowed to speak on foreign policy?

Kimberley Strassel explains why Lisa Murkowski, likely the deciding vote on whether the Graham-Cassidy bill, should vote in favor considering the results for Alaska.
What would Ms. Murkowski get by killing Graham-Cassidy? For a fleeting moment, the adoration of Anchorage’s liberal elite and media. But come next election, that crew will be as arrayed against her as always.

She would get the ObamaCare status quo, which has hit Alaska harder than any other state. Health-insurance premiums have soared more than 200% and are now the highest in the country. All but one insurer has fled the state’s individual market. People are dropping policies. Doctors are refusing to take the flood of new Medicaid patients.

Ms. Murkowski is dreaming if she thinks an alternative bill, some grand “bipartisan” deal, will rescue Alaska. Democrats have no interest in giving a sweet deal to a state that went for Donald Trump by 15 points. House conservatives will never pass any bill that further entrenches ObamaCare. A “no” vote on Graham-Cassidy would condemn Alaska to a downward health-care spiral.
As Strassel points out, there is a lot of discretionary federal spending that goes to Alaska. She might not want to risk all that.
Some of these funds come from mandatory entitlement programs, but the money that really matters is discretionary. It’s the Denali Commission. It’s the Essential Air Service, which subsidizes flights in rural Alaska. It’s grants for weatherization, and village water projects, and salmon recovery. It’s wildlife refuge payments and bridges to nowhere. It’s upgrades for military bases....

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Ms. Murkowski after her July health-care defection to let her know President Trump would be turning off the tap, and ending Alaska’s enormous opportunity to cash in on energy deregulation. The liberal press howled over this supposed “threat.” But why should the nation continue to send outsize taxpayer funds to a state that is single-handedly condemning Americans to ObamaCare? Somewhere on Ms. Murkowski’s calculator is a button that reads “Trump Grudge”—and it adds a lot of zeros.

By contrast, what would Ms. Murkowski get with a “yes” vote?

Mostly, she would get a bill allowing Alaska the flexibility to tackle its unique health-care needs. The state has just 740,000 people spread across 660,000 square miles. Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, knows the power of state innovation, having spent recent months bragging about a waiver the Trump administration gave Alaska to support a reinsurance fund for high-cost patients, which is helping with premiums. Mr. Walker’s decision to oppose Graham-Cassidy is as churlish as it is political.

The Congressional Budget Office releases its preliminary score of the bill next week, and it will contain the usual wild predictions about costs. But that score won’t factor in the out-of-the-box thinking that Mr. Walker credits for saving Alaska health-care dollars. It won’t factor in the formula twiddles Senate Republicans are considering to ensure rural states aren’t harmed by Medicaid block grants. And it won’t factor in the dollars Ms. Murkowski would lose for her state more broadly by obstructing the GOP’s health-care plan. Those are the numbers Ms. Murkowski needs in her calculator. And they add up to an easy “yes.”
It sounds tough and ugly to talk about such carrots and sticks, but that is how politics has always been played in Washington. You might remember the sweeteners that were added to Obamacare to get to sixty votes. Remember the "Cornhusker Kickback" for Nebraska's Ben Nelson. Bernie Sanders got $10 billion for Vermont community health centers. There were a whole lot more special deals in Obamacare and the Democrats regarded all that as wily negotiating.
Nelson and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) carved out an exemption for non-profit insurers in their states from a hefty excise tax. Similar insurers in the other 48 states will pay the tax.

Vermont and Massachusetts were given additional Medicaid funding, another plus for Sanders and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Three states – Pennsylvania, New York and Florida – all won protections for their Medicare Advantage beneficiaries at a time when the program is facing cuts nationwide.

All of this came on top of a $300 million increase for Medicaid in Louisiana, designed to win the vote of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Under pressure from the White House to get a deal done by Christmas, Reid was unapologetic. He argued that, by definition, legislating means deal making and defended the special treatment for Nelson’s home state of Nebraska.

“You’ll find a number of states that are treated differently than other states. That’s what legislating is all about. It's compromise," he said.

It was Nelson who proved that he who plays hardest to get, gets the most.
Sauce for the goose, meet the gander. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some special carveout added the final bill to get Murkowski's vote.

The WSJ answers
the hyperbolic criticisms of the bill that the Democrats have been spewing forth.
The left spent weeks declaring this dead on arrival, but now that Republicans appear close to a majority here come the tweets. The Graham-Cassidy proposal “eliminates protections for people who are or ever have been sick. GONE. Insurers back to denying coverage for the sick,” Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy claimed this week.

In fact, a state that receives a waiver from ObamaCare’s regulations must show plans that retain access to “adequate and affordable” coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. ObamaCare’s rules are not the only way to do this, despite the claims of Jimmy Kimmel. The Affordable Care Act’s price restrictions have in practice degraded the quality of care for the ill and sent insurers shopping for healthy patients who are more profitable. (See “Pre-Existing Confusion,” May 2)

States could set up high-risk pools, for example. These pools subsidize care for those who need costly treatment without concealing the expense across healthy patients, who may drop coverage if they can’t afford it. This can lower premiums for everyone.

Another complaint is that Republicans may vote without a score from the Congressional Budget Office, which has said it will release a preliminary estimate but won’t rule on premiums or coverage effects for several weeks.

CBO forecasts are often wrong, but in this case they’d also be meaningless. The point of Graham-Cassidy is to allow states to experiment and tailor approaches to local populations. Some might try to expand Medicaid’s reach or even go single-payer. Others might tinker with reinsurance. The budget office can’t possibly know what 50 states would do or how that would affect coverage.

The irony is that even as critics say little is known about the bill, progressive groups are pumping out black box estimates of what would happen. A report flying around the internet from the consulting firm Avalere says that states will lose $4 trillion in funding over 20 years.

That sounds bad. Except the study assumes no state block grants past 2026—because Congress would have to reauthorize funding. That’s right: The report equates renewing an appropriation with zeroing out an account, as if Congress doesn’t periodically approve funding for everything from children’s health care to highway spending.

The least credible charge is that Republicans are undercutting bipartisan Senate debate and compromise. Bipartisanship would be nice, but let’s retrace the history this year. Even moderate Democrats refused to cooperate during the first GOP shot at reform, though Minority Leader Chuck Schumer promised that if it failed he’d be ready to compromise.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander then took up that offer and negotiated in good faith with Democrat Patty Murray to make modest repairs to insurance markets for 2018. There were hearings. There were meetings. Yet this week Mr. Alexander pulled the plug because they had “not found the necessary consensus.” Democrats claim Mr. Alexander was coerced by GOP leaders and the White House, but in our experience the Tennessean doesn’t give up easily or on anyone’s orders. Senate Democrats refused in the talks to make more than de minimis changes to ObamaCare’s waiver process to give states more regulatory flexibility.

Mr. Schumer is never going to let Ms. Murray make concessions beyond an insurer bailout because he figures he can blame Republicans for higher premiums going into the 2018 election. He also won’t buck Bernie Sanders or his more than 15 other Members who recently endorsed single-payer health care. Democrats are moving left on health care, not to the center. “Process” is beside the point.

The shame is that many Democrats once liked a federalist solution to health care, and Lindsey Graham was one of those who worked with them. In 2007 he and Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold proposed the State-Based Health Reform Act that would have given states even more freedom than Graham-Cassidy. But these days Democrats fear that state laboratories would discredit the command and control approach to health care that they hope will lead to single-payer.

The choice Republicans face isn’t between Graham-Cassidy or some bipartisan beau ideal. Their choice is to pass their own bill, which now means Graham-Cassidy, or fail again and cede the health-care advantage to the single-payer wing of the Democratic Party.

Best Deals in Vitamins and Supplements

Interesting Finds at Amazon: Updated Daily

Spring Savings in Grocery and Gourmet Food

Home and Kitchen Markdowns

Jazz Shaw
links to this story about what the algorithms of Amazon do.
Channel 4 News has discovered that Amazon’s algorithm guides users to the necessary chemical combinations for producing explosives and incendiary devices. Ingredients which are innocent on their own are suggested for purchase together as “Frequently bought together” products, as it does with all other goods.

Ingredients for black powder and thermite are grouped together under a “Frequently bought together” section on listings for specific chemicals.

Steel ball bearings often used as shrapnel in explosive devices, ignition systems and remote detonators are also readily available; some promoted by the website on the same page as these chemicals as products that “Customers who bought this item also bought”.

Users searching for a common chemical compound used in food production — which Channel 4 News has decided not to name — are offered the ingredients to produce explosive black powder....

Users searching the website for another widely available chemical are offered the other ingredients for thermite in a “Frequently bought together” section. These three chemicals when ignited create a hazardous reaction used in incendiary bombs and for cutting through steel.
Jazz Shaw comments,
What’s far more disturbing is that the algorithm had to have picked this up from somewhere and a single transaction wouldn’t do it. Honestly, I’m kind of shocked that you can buy everything you need for a bomb on their site to begin with, but apparently there were enough people assembling all of the elements for the algorithm to detect a pattern and begin making suggestions based on those purchases.

In a way it’s kind of a shame that this story went public. If those shopping patterns have emerged, Amazon could actually perform a service to the world if, rather than filling up the shopping cart entirely, their program fired off an alert which management could send to the FBI, DHS or their counterparts in whichever country the order is coming from. Yes, I’m sure that the Libertarians will be up in arms just at the suggestion, but with the stakes this high, who cares? If somebody is placing a single order for all the fixings for black powder and thermite, plus ball bearings, igniter cord and an electronic ignition system (all of which were on the list when Channel 4 News checked it) then somebody needs to know about it.

This is what media bias looks like. The Hill ran a story with the headline "DeVos uses private jet for work-related travel." Oooh, that sounds scandalous, doesn't it? It sounds as bad as the story that came out earlier this week that HHS secretary Tom Price has been using privately chartered planes for his travel. However, once you read the DeVos story, it turns out that she is not spending taxpayer money at all, but that she is using her own private jet and not asking the government for reimbursement of any of those travel expenses. After much derision on Twitter, The Hill changed their headline to a more accurate "DeVos flies on her own private jet for work-related travel." With the accurate headline, it is no longer much of a story except to remind us how rich she and her family are. But the fact that they originally slapped such a misleading headline and promoted it on Twitter with that headline tells us what their original intent was.

Tools and Home Improvement

Today’s Deals

Fashion Sales and Deals

Michael McCann, who writes about legal issues for Sports Illustrated, has an interesting analysis of what the chances are for the estate of Aaron Hernandez in suing the NFL and N.E. Patriots over his CTE. The upshot:
Pretrial discovery might also require the Patriots to share information about how well Hernandez understood his job—meaning Belichick might be required to turn over plays and offensive schemes that involved Hernandez. Likewise, Patriots’ evaluations of Hernandez before they drafted him and before they signed him to a $40 million contract extension may be discoverable.

As part of pretrial discovery, Baez would surely demand to question Patriots and league officials about their knowledge of Hernandez’s health conditions. No doubt, Baez would demand to depose Belichick. He might also seek testimony from Kraft and, conceivably, Goodell.

This dynamic could lead the Patriots and NFL to try to negotiate a financial settlement with the Hernandez family. This is true even if the team and league firmly believe they would ultimately prevail. If defendants have information they want to keep confidential, sometimes they have to pay the plaintiff to preserve that privilege.

MEanwhile, Axios explains that televising sports has just become too expensive for the broadcast networks. They're not earning back in ad revenue what they're paying out for broadcasting rights.
This economics are especially problematic for broadcast networks that carry live sports games, because they don't have access to subscription revenues to subsidize the high cost of programming, like cable networks do. Broadcasters rely on ratings, driven by viewership — which is getting increasingly older and aging out of the coveted 25-54 marketing demographic, as well as retransmission fees (more below).

As a result, more sports distribution rights have migrated to cable networks — think TNT and TBS carrying the NBA and MLB, respectively. But there are problems there, too. Cable channels are losing subscribers to digital streaming options at the fastest rate ever. It's worth noting that both cable and broadcast networks make a substantial amount of money from retransmission fees (charging cable and satellite providers to carry their content), but collectively it's still not enough to completely offset the rate of increases to programming costs.
Athletes should enjoy their huge salaries now because, when it comes times to renegotiate the contracts for broadcasting, the networks just aren't going to be able to offer the mammoth fees that they've been paying. And the lower fees will translate into lower salaries at some point.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cruising the Web

You might have seen the Survey that John Villasenor at the Brookings Institute did of 1500 college students' views of the First Amendment with its depressing results. Catherine Rampell in the Washington characterizes the results as "chilling."
A fifth of undergrads now say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.”

That’s one finding from a disturbing new survey of students conducted by John Villasenor, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and University of California at Los Angeles professor.

...Many of Villasenor’s questions were designed to gauge students’ understanding of the First Amendment. Colleges, after all, pay a lot of lip service to “freedom of speech,” despite high-profile examples of civil-liberty-squelching on campus. The survey suggests that this might not be due to hypocrisy so much as a misunderstanding of what the First Amendment actually entails.

For example, when students were asked whether the First Amendment protects “hate speech,” 4 in 10 said no. This is, of course, incorrect. Speech promoting hatred — or at least, speech perceived as promoting hatred — may be abhorrent, but it is nonetheless constitutionally protected....

Students were asked whether the First Amendment requires that an offensive speaker at a public university be matched with one with an opposing view. Here, 6 in 10 (mistakenly) said that, yes, the First Amendment requires balance.

The most chilling findings, however, involved how students think repugnant speech should be dealt with.

Villasenor offered a hypothetical that may sound familiar to those who recall recent fracases at California State University at Los Angeles, Middlebury College , Claremont McKenna College and other institutions:

Let’s say a public university hosts a “very controversial speaker,” one “known for making offensive and hurtful statements.” Would it be acceptable for a student group to disrupt the speech “by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker”?

Astonishingly, half said that snuffing out upsetting speech — rather than, presumably, rebutting or even ignoring it — would be appropriate. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to find this response acceptable (62 percent to 39 percent), and men were more likely than women (57 percent to 47 percent). Even so, sizable shares of all groups agreed.

It gets even worse.

Respondents were also asked if it would be acceptable for a student group to use violence to prevent that same controversial speaker from talking. Here, 19 percent said yes.
Surprising for those of us who have been disturbed the efforts to shut down conservative speakers, students on the right seem fine with shutting down speech. And we can't blame the bubble that these students exist in on campus since freshmen are showing up in college already intolerant of free speech.

It doesn't really surprise me that students are ignorant of what the Supreme Court has said on hate speech. That's a nuance that isn't going to be covered in many ordinary high school civics courses. Even though I cover this, I still find students are confused because they remember the first freedom of speech case, Schenck v. U.S. and it's "clear and present danger" test and, despite my stressing that this changed by 1969 in Brandenburg v. Ohio to an imminent threat test, some kids remain confused. I guess I have to stress this more and make sure that they understand that hate speech still enjoys constitutional protections.

Of course, no one really presents a definition of "hate speech," other than speech that I don't like. Once I ask students who is going to define what hate speech is and can they present a definition of it, support usually drops. But their inclination is basically to ban any speech that hurts anyone's feelings. They'll say that it's not that their feelings are hurt, but someone out there might have feelings hurt so that's enough for them to want to protect that imaginary person out there who might be feeling badly.

With all the evidence that we've seen that people don't know the most basic elements of the Constitution, should we be surprised that college students don't understand the First Amendment. This poll from the Annenberg Public Policy Center indicates the depths of ignorance among Americans.
* More than one in three people (37%) could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment. THE FIRST AMENDMENT.

* Only one in four (26%) can name all three branches of the government. (In 2011, 38% could name all three branches.)

* One in three (33%) can't name any branch of government. None. Not even one.

* A majority (53%) believe the Constitution affords undocumented immigrants no rights. However, everyone in the US is entitled to due process of law and the right to make their case before the courts, at the least.
This is with every state requiring civic education. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the results from those classes are just as dismal as they are for reading and basic math. It's all very depressing. As teachers, we have to do a better job. Perhaps the results of this study will light a fire under civics teachers to make sure their students understand the First Amendment, but I'm not optimistic. On the other hand, I know that my students enjoy the unit on civil liberties and rights the most of any unit in my AP Government class. They love finding out how these rights have been interpreted over the years and discussing the meaning of the words in the Bill of Rights and 14th Amendment. Teachers have the wind at their backs in teaching subjects so intrinsically interesting to students. And with the importance of these subjects, it is imperative that we all do a better job.

25% Off in Office and School Supplies

Deals in Office Products

Deals in Home and Kitchen

Cheers to Mike Pence for telling it like it is about the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Vice President Mike Pence called on the United Nations to end its “forum for anti-Semitism” against Israel and to boot repressive countries off the U.N. Human Rights Council.
In a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Mr. Pence noted that former President John F. Kennedy had warned the world body 50 years ago not to become a “forum for invective.”

“Yet today, its Human Rights Council has become exactly that — a forum for anti-Semitism and invective against Israel,” Mr. Pence said. “We call on the Security Council and this entire body to immediately reform the membership and practices of the Human Rights Council — and end the Human Rights Council’s blatant bias against our cherished ally, Israel.”

Mr. Pence said the Human Rights Council, which includes countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, has approved more than 70 resolutions condemning Israel “while largely ignoring the world’s worst human rights abusers.”

“Cuba sits on the Human Rights Council — an oppressive regime that has repressed its people and jailed political opponents for more than half a century,” Mr. Pence said. “Venezuela sits on the Human Rights Council, a dictatorship that undermines democracy at every turn, imprisons its political opponents.”
The whole thing is a joke, a bad joke that taints the entire operation at the United Nations. Why does it exist except to bash Israel? It has no true interest in human rights and thus we can see that the United Nations doesn't either.

This is an unbelievable story.
Mere hours after Hurricane Irma, Miami-Dade County was ticketing residents for building code violations on their wrecked properties.

Celso Perez was helping his neighbors remove some fallen trees blocking their street when a county code enforcer rolled up and issued him a safety notice for having a downed fence. "I laughed," Perez tells WSVN-TV. "I thought he was kidding. 'You are kidding right? We just had a hurricane six hours ago.'"

It wasn't a joke. The official told Perez that the downed fence—which encloses a pool—was a safety hazard, and that if it wasn't fixed by the time he returned, Perez would be hit with a fine. The official then hung the safety citation on the portion of Perez's fence that remained standing, leaving him and his neighbors to finish clearing the debris from their street.

According to WSVN, the county has handed out 680 safety notices for downed pool barriers, and another 177 electrical hazard safety notices....

From what can be gleaned from the WSVN story and from county code enforcement procedures, these safety notices appear to be just warnings, meaning no fines have been handed out as of yet. Reason tried to confirm this with the county as well, but was again rebuffed.

Still, these warnings carry with them a duty to correct the violation within a specific window of time. That might not even be possible for some residents, given how many businesses are still out of operation.

As Perez said of the day he got his ticket, "All the stores were closed. It's not like I can go to Home Depot and find some temporary barrier."

Even if he could, it's quite possible that Perez and the other people handed citations might have more pressing things to do right after a hurricane than bring their homes back up to code. You know: clearing the streets, seeking medical attention, checking in on family members, trying to find food. You might think the county would have higher priorities too, like getting the lights back on for Miami-Dade's 16,510 homes and businesses still without power.
Bureaucracies - doncha love them?

Best Deals in Vitamins and Supplements

Interesting Finds at Amazon: Updated Daily

Spring Savings in Grocery and Gourmet Food

Home and Kitchen Markdowns

Jonah Goldberg looks
at the two health care reform proposals on the table: Bernie Sanders idea to give the country "Medicare for All," and the Graham-Cassidy bill being discussed now in the Senate to determine which proposal is more extreme and which one is more moderate. Guess.
The fact that so many contenders signed on to a bill that, if enacted, would throw 100 million Americans off their employer-provided health care and cost taxpayers an estimated $32 trillion over a decade revealed just how far to the left the Democratic party has moved.
And Sanders didn't even present any way to pay for his bill. That is what these Democratic contenders have signed on to.

What about the Graham-Cassidy bill? Liberals are trying to call it extreme. That's a real stretch and betrays either a deep dishonesty or a deep ignorance about what is making health care costs continually go up.
Graham–Cassidy ’s chief goal is to pare back the federalization of health-care policy by getting rid of the individual and employer insurance mandates and letting governors waive out of some regulations. More important, it block-grants Medicaid — a long-sought dream for those wanting to get a handle on out-of-control spending and debt.

A main driver of exploding health-care costs has been the way the federal reimbursement system discourages thrift. Obamacare made that problem much worse. Under Obamacare, Medicaid rolls were vastly expanded, adding millions to a faltering program. And in order to seduce states into signing up, the Feds promised to cover 100 percent of the additional costs for the first three years and no less than 90 percent in later years. If you had an expense account where someone else covered most of the tab, how eager would you be to control costs?

By giving states a lump sum, the hope is that they would experiment with cost-saving reforms that improve health-care results. Opponents of giving states the money and flexibility to innovate often seem to work from the assumption that governors and state legislatures want to harm their own citizens. Maybe they just have a better appreciation of how to help their own citizens than Washington does?

Graham–Cassidy is by no means perfect, and odds are it won’t pass. Democrats are locked into the position that health-care reforms can only involve more government spending and regulation. With 52 GOP senators, Graham–Cassidy can only pass if at least 50 of them vote for it, and they must do so before September 30, when the arcane budget window known as “reconciliation” closes. Because some Republican states would lose money on the deal, squishy senators such as Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski might balk, as she did with previous attempts. This is why it would be smart to emulate Obamacare (and welfare reform) and be overly generous up front with the block grants, to essentially bribe politicians into voting for it.

Meanwhile, Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who has mastered the art of supporting the status quo by voting against piecemeal improvements in the name of purity, has already indicated he will continue to play that game.

Heritage Action for America has grumbled, rightly, that Graham–Cassidy doesn’t repeal all of the Obamacare taxes. But the choice for Republicans isn’t between this and a better reform. It’s between this or letting Obamacare continue intact, violating all of those repeal-and-replace promises entirely.

That’s what’s so silly about the claim that Graham–Cassidy is as “extreme” as Sanders’s radical and shoddily written proposal (the bill is totally silent on how to pay for any of it). Graham–Cassidy is very close to the kind of legislation we would have ended up with if Republicans had an idea of what they wanted from the get-go and the Democrats were interested in compromise. But we live in a time when extremism is defined as not getting everything you want.


Ben Shapiro refutes Jimmy Kimmel's use
of his baby son's heart problems to argue against the Graham Cassidy bill by claiming that it wouldn't cover the care of a child born with a congenital heart defect. Shapiro points out that his daughter also had open-heart surgery at the same hospital and with the same doctor that Kimmel's baby had.
Cassidy insists that the new bill he’s pushing with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) doesn’t violate that test – he’s saying that the bill mandates that states certify that they provide “adequate and affordable care” in order to waive certain essential health benefits mandated by Obamacare. But the test itself was fatally flawed from the first: it assumes that the government is the best venue for addressing these concerns. It isn’t. Medicaid coverage, which expanded dramatically under Obamacare, does not guarantee that a baby will get everything the baby needs in the first year of life – supplemental charity at hospitals like Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, where Kimmel’s son received his surgery, does. In fact, many patients at CHLA are illegal immigrants, who aren’t covered by Medicaid at all. The big question isn’t government-sponsored coverage, but bringing down the prices of health care and health insurance through competition.

In fact, President Obama’s signature health plan doesn’t pass the Kimmel Test either, as even Vox.com acknowledges.

That’s Cassidy’s mistake for buying into the Leftist model of health care provision.
Kimmel then went on to cite the health policies of Japan, England, Canada, Germany, and France as countries that provide the sort of health care he wants. Well, not so fast. It turns out that all of those countries have deep problems with their health care systems. Japan has the problem of allocating resources once cost-controls are imposed arises. The British and Canadians face long waiting times or can't even get appointments. In Germany, patients can't get such basic drugs as those for diabetes because of the price ceiling imposed on the drugs. And France has all sorts of problems such as a shortage of physicians, equipment, and emergency services in some areas. So none of these countries are providing the sort of health care that Kimmel imagines they do.

And Kimmel betrays an essential ignorance about how the health care system works here in the U.S.
Kimmel doesn’t need more maudlin Twitter suck-uppery. He needs a healthy fact-check.

“Before 2014,” he claimed, “if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition, you were born with a pre-existing condition.”

This is false. If parents had health insurance, the child would have been covered under the parents’ policy whether or not the child had a health problem.

Kimmel continued: “And if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition.”

The term “pre-existing condition” is used to describe uninsured chronically ill people who apply for insurance coverage, not for a child in need of immediate care. Moreover, in the U.S., virtually all hospitals are legally obligated to provide emergency treatment to every patient who urgently requires emergency medical care regardless of the patient’s insurance status. This would include a newborn with an urgent heart condition. This requirement does not apply only to patients who enter an emergency room. It applies to all patients who set foot on a hospital’s property.

Kimmel then dramatically asserted: “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”

I repeat: It does not matter if you are rich are poor or if you are uninsured. If your baby is in the hospital, he or she will receive emergency care no matter what.

“This isn’t football,” Kimmel implored. “There are no teams. We are the team, it’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants.”

Kimmel implies that opposition to Obamacare-style insurance mandates is both un-American and indecent. Had he been less hysterical, he would have acknowledged that different health-care systems have pros and cons — and decent Americans can have legitimate differences of opinion on such matters.

In the land of make-believe, it would be wonderful if everyone had free access to the same high-quality care Kimmel and his family did at Cedars-Sinai and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

In the real world, Obamacare plans have severely curtailed the number of doctors and hospitals that customers can use. Command-and-control regulations on guaranteed issue, community rating, and pre-existing conditions favored by Kimmel and company are driving up costs for everyone. Limited access to specialists and long waits have become the increasing norm — just like that other model of government-run health care, the Veterans Affairs system, where the despicable practice of “death by queuing” spiked under Obama.

Moving toward a nationalized health system might play well with an emotion-driven late-night comedy audience. But sober observers know it would mean undermining America’s superior access to cutting-edge diagnosis, innovative treatment, top specialists and surgeons, technology, and drugs.

Compassion without clear thinking is just a waste of Kleenex.
But for people like Kimmel and those cheering him, all that really matters is their good intentions. Facts or the consequences are not so important.

Tools and Home Improvement

Today’s Deals

Fashion Sales and Deals

I was just teaching my students what the term "frontloading" means in the context of the primaries calendar. Well, here's an example.
Democratic candidates considering a run for president in 2020 will have to make their case early to voters on the liberal Left Coast, if officials in key western states get their way.
Officials in California, Oregon and Washington are taking steps to move their presidential primary contests toward the front of the nominating calendar. They say they want voters in their states to have more influence over the candidates the two parties will nominate, and holding earlier contests is key to expanding that influence.
If you didn't think that the party's presumptive candidates weren't already moving to the left as they endorsed single-payer health care, this will really serve in moving them. And it might give Senator Kamala Harris a big boost if she can win her own state overwhelmingly. It will also make campaigning out there more expensive for the other candidates.

Scott Walker has won again. This time, the state Court of Appeals struck down union objections to the 2015 right-to-work law.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the state's right-to-work law was constitutional and ordered a district court to dismiss a union lawsuit on Tuesday.

The three-judge panel effectively ended a suit from a coalition of the state's largest labor unions seeking to block the 2015 law, known as Act 1, from taking effect. The Court said the unions failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the law, which prohibits companies from mandating union membership as a condition of employment, violated the state Constitution by unlawfully denying them property without compensation.

"Act 1 does not take property within the meaning of the Wisconsin Constitution. … The Unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of non-member employees," the ruling says.

The Wisconsin state AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers District 2, and International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 10, as well as IAM Lodge 1061, argued the law would force them to continue representing workers who stopped paying dues. A district court judge agreed the law would create a "free rider" problem for the unions because federal law requires them to continue providing representation services to workers in a bargaining unit regardless of membership status. The Court of Appeals rejected the argument, concluding, "no property interest has been taken." It directed the lower court to dismiss the suit.

"Act 1 does not deprive compensation for those mandated services. The law merely prohibits anyone from conditioning a person’s employment on the payment of monies designed to cover the costs of performing that duty of fair representation, " the ruling says. "We therefore reverse the judgment and remand to the circuit court with directions to dismiss the complaint."
Somehow, the unions wanted to argue that the Wisconsin constitution ratified in 1848 gave unions, which were barely around then and certainly didn't have political support, had the right to force people to be members of unions in order to have certain jobs. They tried to argue that those dues are the property of the union and couldn't be taken without compensation. Yeah, right. What a skewed argument that was. No wonder it lost unanimously.

Twenty-eight states now
have right-to-work laws and it sounds like West Virginia is about to win against union challenges to its law.

Remember those pictures of protesters taking over the state capitol in Madison to protest Scott Walker and the law ceasing to take dues for public employees unions out of workers' paychecks. The Democrats even left the state to avoid voting on that. They tried to recall Walker. And they lost. Union membership is down 40% since Act 10 that eliminated collective bargaining for public workers. It turns out that people don't like being forced to pay dues to the unions. And the state voted for Trump.

So much losing.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cruising the Web

Speeches at the U.N. might garner headlines, but it's not clear that they actually accomplish anything besides giving us an insight into how the speaker views the world. That is what we can garner from Trump's speech yesterday at the U.N. While the bien pensants are tut-tutting of the immaturity of calling Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man," there was quite a bit to like in the speech. It's still not clear what anything he said would actually mean in real life, but that's true of almost everyone's speeches at the U.N. Yes, he threatened to destroy North Korea, but thenBarack Obama also warned that the U.S. could destroy North Korea but wouldn't because of the humanitarian costs and the dangers to South Korea. Trump seems to think that making more direct threats to North Korea might get Kim Jong Un to back down. There is no evidence that Kim responds to such threats. But the message is directed more at China than North Korea. The combination of North Korea's escalation and the U.S.'s leadership has led to more international sanctions on North Korea than we've seen before. Given the improbability of real military action against the hermit kingdom, I don't think we'll see any change. We can just hope that China will see the benefits of regime change in Pyongyang.

However, as the WSJ writes, Trump's speech was indeed bracing.
The threat to destroy the North offended the foreign affairs cognoscenti, who view Mr. Trump as a barbarian. And at first hearing the “Rocket Man” reference to dictator Kim Jong Un does sound like an insult better left to teenagers in the school yard.

Then again, Mr. Trump inherited the North Korean nuclear crisis, and he is trying to get a cynical world’s attention that he intends to do something about it. Traditional diplomacy isn’t getting through to Mr. Kim and his entourage, or to their patrons in Beijing. After years of Barack Obama’s diplomatic niceties that ducked the problem, maybe the world needs to be told some unpleasant truths about an evil regime with a weapon of mass murder and the means to deliver it.

Mr. Trump added a challenge that most of the media ignored: “The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about. That’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.”

This is another hard truth. The U.N. was founded on the promise to provide what Mr. Obama often called “collective security.” But the U.N. has nearly always failed in that duty amid Russian vetoes at the Security Council, as during the Cold War and this decade in Syria, or out of indifference as in the Rwanda genocide of the 1990s.
I've always seen the U.N. as an example of people's hopes triumphing over reality. It all sounds very nice that we would have the nations of the world coming together to solve the world's problems, but it doesn't do that. Nations care about what they want and don't really care about fulfilling the high-flown rhetoric of the institution's founding.

I liked his blasting the U.N for its bureaucracy. Others have criticized it before, but he deservedly called out the Human Rights Council.
We also thank -- (applause) -- we also thank the Secretary General for recognizing that the United Nations must reform if it is to be an effective partner in confronting threats to sovereignty, security, and prosperity. Too often the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process.

In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution's noble aims have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them. For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
He pointed out that the U.S. is one of 193 countries but pays 22% of the budget. He didn't explicitly threaten to withdraw that funding, but said that it would be well worth it if the U.N accomplished some of its goals. Yeah, like that is going to happen.

I loved what he said about Venezuela.
The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. (Applause.) From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.
I loved that he made the point that Venezuela is the ultimate end of socialist policies. Too many times, people want to excuse the tens of millions of deaths due to communist regimes as just the problem of the individual government and that "real socialism has never been tried." Balderdash!

And it was nice to hear a full-throated defense of the United States rather than the flimsy moral relativism that Obama brought to the table. Trump used that history to call on the U.N. to live up to its principles.
This institution was founded in the aftermath of two world wars to help shape this better future. It was based on the vision that diverse nations could cooperate to protect their sovereignty, preserve their security, and promote their prosperity.

It was in the same period, exactly 70 years ago, that the United States developed the Marshall Plan to help restore Europe. Those three beautiful pillars -- they’re pillars of peace, sovereignty, security, and prosperity.

The Marshall Plan was built on the noble idea that the whole world is safer when nations are strong, independent, and free. As President Truman said in his message to Congress at that time, “Our support of European recovery is in full accord with our support of the United Nations. The success of the United Nations depends upon the independent strength of its members.”

To overcome the perils of the present and to achieve the promise of the future, we must begin with the wisdom of the past. Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution, and this is foundation for cooperation and success.

Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect.
The problem, however, in calling for nation to promote the interests of their own people is that some nations, such as Russia and China, define those interests as expansionism. They're not interested particularly in the rights of other nations whether its territorial invasion or the theft of property rights or hacking of computers. With that being true, who honestly thinks that the U.N. can accomplish any of its original goals?


25% Off in Office and School Supplies

Deals in Office Products

Deals in Home and Kitchen


As Jonathan Tobin at the National Review points out, much of what Trump said is totally in line with previous presidents.
The tone of American foreign policy has changed, and there’s both good and bad in the language Trump used. But the substance looks to be remarkably similar to much of what came before him.

To be sure, on Iran, the Trump doctrine, if we can dignify it with such a term, is very different from that of Obama. Whether Trump is prepared to tear up the Iran nuclear deal within the next month, or if, as has been reported, the White House faction led by National Security Adviser General H. R. McMaster persuades him to seek to change it instead, there’s no doubt that Washington’s attitude toward Tehran is radically different from what it was a year ago. Trump correctly understands that the deal did not achieve the objective of ending the nuclear threat from Iran and has instead merely put it off for a few years while enriching and emboldening the Islamist regime.

But here, as with Trump’s muscular tone toward North Korea and Venezuela, there is nothing very different in terms of substance from what we would have heard from Bush or, in some instances, from Obama, who used tough rhetoric about Syria before ultimately punting on doing anything about the Assad regime’s depredations.

Donald Trump is not the first U.S. president to warn the world that the U.S. would defend its interests against aggressive rogue regimes. And if he did so in blunt language, that approach wasn’t any more dangerous than his predecessors’ unsuccessful attempts to appease the North Koreans.

But leaving aside Trump’s threats, what really upset Trump’s critics was the implication that his “America First” beliefs mean an end to U.S. advocacy for democracy and human rights.

That conclusion is in line with Trump’s campaign rhetoric and perhaps even his inclinations. His discussion of the value of individual sovereignty was a signal of something that we already knew: There will be less preaching from this administration about democratic values and human rights.

But, in spite of that, it is worth pointing out that when Trump chose to attack rogue regimes, the rhetoric he used was largely that of human rights, whether he was talking about North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, or even Syria. The last of these was particularly significant, since Trump has always been wary of intervention against the Assad regime.

This illustrates something significant about American attitudes toward the world that appear to transcend even the stark contrast between Obama and Trump. When American presidents mention what they don’t like about foreign governments, they inevitably employ the rhetoric of human rights. Trump may say he doesn’t want to preach to the world, but how else you can you describe his language about rogue regimes?

Trump’s willingness to state openly that the U.S. has been played for a sucker by its international partners and bears too much of the burden of funding the U.N. is new, even if the sentiment is not.

It’s also true that Trump signaled he was ready to work with countries that may not reflect our values but do not impose their governing systems beyond their borders.

But while Trump’s style may lack the evangelical zeal of George W. Bush, that is a distinction without a difference, since every recent U.S. president has made exceptions for authoritarian governments it needed to work with. Though Trump may sound different, the basic imperatives that have governed U.S. foreign policy since the Second World War do not appear to be fundamentally altered. Moreover, after years in which the U.S. did not put its interests or that of its allies first — something that was very much on display in the negotiations that led to the pact with Iran — Trump’s tough talk was very much on point.

We have yet to see how the conflicts between more traditional foreign-policy thinkers, such as U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and the remaining unreconstructed “America First” advocates in the West Wing will play out. Nor is it clear how having a technocrat like Rex Tillerson with little apparent interest in big policy ideas will influence Trump’s decisions, even if we assume that he will not be replaced before long by Haley.

The world has never seen a president like Donald Trump before, and the impact of his abrasive style on the delicate sensibilities of the world body is not to be underestimated, especially since so many of the diplomats stationed in New York take their cues from the mainstream liberal press here.

But what we heard at the U.N. on Tuesday was a U.S. president who was prepared to defend U.S. interests with force and who used the language of human rights to bash America’s enemies. In terms of substance, that means a degree of continuity that ought to surprise both Trump’s supporters and his detractors.

Coupons for money off in every category

$20 off top Kindle models and more savings on Kindle Bundles

Try Amazon Music Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial

Megan G. OPrea examines the efforts of French president Macron to reform his country's sclerotic labor policies. Macron is facing a lot of pushback from unions who don't want to give up any of their privileges. In typical French style, tens of thousands of workers have taken to the streets in rallies against the proposed reforms.
The proposed overhaul of France’s labor code would include making it easier for employers to fire employees (something prohibitively difficult in France today) and reduce the power of unions in a number of ways, giving employers more room to negotiate with their employees directly. Macron’s hope is that these changes would jumpstart the economy and lower the unemployment rate, which now sits at around 10 percent.

The French are known for their love of manifestations, or protests, a pastime that brings them out to the streets by the hundreds and thousands. Nothing gets their feet on the pavement faster than any sign, large or small, that their privileges as workers or students are being reduced. Those have become sacred, thus it’s little surprise that the upstart kid genius Macron is getting serious pushback against his attempt to overhaul the French code du travail.
As Oprea writes, the entire country has the attitude that they shouldn't need to work much and should have legal protections against being fired.
French workers of all socioeconomic levels consider a litany of perks part of their fundamental rights. This includes the 35-hour work week, two-hour lunch breaks, five-week annual vacation time, and virtually guaranteed job security. France has one of the earliest retirement ages in the world for many public-sector jobs and a mandatory retirement age (it was 67 but a 2008 law now gives the option of working until age 70.)

The French believe strongly that a person lives for leisure, not for work. They don’t understand what they see as an American obsession with working, getting ahead, competing, and maybe being an entrepreneur. For the French, you work to live, you don’t live to work. This doesn’t mean the French are lazy, but it has seriously affected how they approach their work and what is expected of them.
This is the culture that Macron is trying to change. Bonne chance!

MEgan McArdle chides
the media for normalizing leftist violence. She reminds us of those in the media who were horrified that they might have normalized Donald Trump. However, in the contempt for Trump, violence from opponents has been normalized.
I think it’s safe to say that Donald Trump has not been normalized by anyone. The media treats him with deep contempt -- mostly earned, I’d argue, but still not the normal way you expect to see a president portrayed. Foreign leaders sure don’t seem to think he is normal, and nor do the bureaucracy or the courts. And partisans on both sides are behaving distinctly abnormally. They do not see themselves as arguing over policy or even values, but as engaged in an existential battle between good and evil, with President Trump as the avatar for one side or another.

But the process of not normalizing Trump has instead normalized a lot of other things, bad ones. Like public disorder. Like persistent, pervasive anxiety that often looks like mass hysteria. Like people on both sides who try to minimize the illiberal tactics of the radicals on their own side by pointing mostly to the offenses of the other. (Yes, President Trump, I’m looking at you. And also at the folks who held light-hearted debates about whether it was okay to sucker-punch Richard Spencer.)

Much of the debate over antifa has focused on whether the white supremacists on the other side are worse. It seems to be impossible, in fact, to write a column on antifa without noting, at length, that they are not nearly as bad as the neo-Nazis who converged on Charlottesville. And indeed, they are not.

But how does that justify antifa’s tactics? It’s not as if the police are unable, or unwilling, to deal with white supremacists who commit violent acts. We may wish that they had gotten to those people soon enough to prevent tragedies like the killing in Charlottesville, but it’s not as if antifa is a crack team of investigators who can stop crimes before they happen. The only things they can stop, and the police cannot, are things that aren’t crimes: notably, people exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and speak their minds.

Those rights are not restricted to good people with morally just opinions and majority support. We hold them because we are in the U.S., a nation unified by the freedoms we all share.
We saw Berkeley having to spend $600,000 to protest against violence when Ben Shapiro came there to speak. That is the sorts of protections now necessary for conservative speakers. Kudos to Berkeley for refusing to allow radical and violent protesters from exercising a heckler's veto. However, Middlebury, where Charles Murray and a professor came under attack last year, has given in to the hecklers.
Middlebury College—ground zero for one of the most sordid censorship episodes of last year, the physical attack on Charles Murray and Alison Stanger—has announced a new policy regarding guest speakers. Proposed events will be evaluated by a Threat Assessment and Management Team; if the team feels that an event attracts an "imminent and credible threat to the community," it could be cancelled....

He has a point. If protesters who oppose a crtain speaker know that Middlebury will shut down the event if they threaten the community, this gives them an incentive to issue such threats. This is the heckler's veto: giving the hecklers the power to choose whether an event proceeds.

The policy suggests that such measures would only be put in place for "exceptional cases." But what's an exceptional case? The views Murray intended to articulate at Middlebury last year were perfectly conventional. He's no Milo Yiannopoulos—and in fact, he has specifically refused to share a platform with the former Breitbart writer. And yet students resorted to explicit violence to silence him.
After all, who is it who is threatening the violence? So we all know that it would be conservative speakers would be the ones to be blocked. And, as a scholar at the Foundation for INdividual Rights in Education, Adam Goldstein, warns, there should be a concern about who will have to pay for security.
Goldstein is also concerned that the policy does not explain where the funds for increased security are supposed to come from. If Middlebury intends to pass these costs along to the students who wish to invite a controversial speaker, then officials would be inadvertently chilling speech.

It would be better for Middlebury to explain how it will protect speakers like Murray in the future—and what steps it will take to impress upon students the value of a robust exchange of ideas. Instead they may be enshrining a literal heckler's veto in the campus rules.

Leah Singer, a freelance writer in Indiana, writes of her experiences moving from the supposedly open-minded California to Indiana and what she has learned about living in a red state (albeit one that went for Obama in 2008). She faced a lot of derisive questions from her friends back in California.
As I settled into life in the Midwest, I heard the same assumptive questions: “Did everyone you know vote for Donald Trump?" "Are there African-American, Jewish, Asian, LGBTQ people in Indiana?" "Do people make fun of you for listening to National Public Radio?”
Those who have such contempt for Indiana seem to have missed a lot about what living there might be like.
Never does one ask about Indiana’s history as a blue state (Indiana cast its electoral votes blue for President Barack Obama in 2008). Never does one ask how the Indiana public schools provide many opportunities that have been cut from California’s public schools because of one budget crisis after another. Never does one ask about the low cost of living that is allowing us to pay off the mountain of debt we accrued in California. And never does one ask about my fellow community members, who are running successful businesses, enriching the city's arts and making a difference for the local environment.

As I got to know my new Midwest home, I realize how living in a bubble and subscribing to the Middle America stereotypes is truly damaging to this country.

While it is true there are far fewer African-Americans living in Terre Haute than San Diego, that doesn’t mean the city is a bastion of racism either. In fact, very few people know the Lost Creek community in Terre Haute was a stop on the Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves enter the free state of Indiana before the Civil War. The diversity may not be as evident, but the city has a history of activism.

In Terre Haute, I witness a different kind of diversity: economic diversity. Here, 27% of residents are living below the poverty level (compared to 14% in all of Indiana). And 57% of the students attending Vigo County public schools in Terre Haute receive free or reduced price meals, meaning their families earn the equivalent or below 185% of the federal poverty level.
She enjoys the lower cost of living unlike San Diego where, as she writes, it's become increasingly challenging for middle class families to afford a house or rent. She calls for people to get out of their bubbles and experience the heartland.
We ask politicians to reach across the aisle and work with their constituents. But are we doing the same and reaching out to our neighbors? If that’s our expectation for our leaders, why aren’t we doing the same as citizens?

To be sure, there are plenty of individuals living in the Midwest that would also benefit from getting to know their coastal neighbors. The bubbles do not just exist on the East and West coasts. And I’m certainly not suggesting that life in California is terrible, or living in the Midwest is the answer for everyone.

It’s easy to condemn people we don’t know on social media. It’s harder to take the time to step out of our own bubbles and understand each other.
I had a similar experience when we moved from graduate school in Los Angeles to Raleigh, N.C. in the early 1980s. A lot of my friends wondered how I could stand to live in a state that had elected Jesse Helms to the Senate. My California friends seemed to have an image that North Carolina was a haven for rednecks. They were shocked when I told them that the Cary, a city neighboring Ralein where a lot of people who work or go to school in Raleigh live had, at that time had the highest number of people with a Ph.D. per capita. We noticed from the first day how friendly and helpful people were everywhere we went. People who move here today still comment on how different the friendliness of people here are compared to other places they've lived. I can unequivocally say that Raleigh is a much better place to raise a family. My friends with children in L.A. were constantly complaining about the schools and worried about violence threatening their children. The schools might not be perfect here, but violence or lack of discipline endangering students is not really a problem. And unlike Los Angeles, middle class families can afford houses that only multi-millionaires could afford in L.A. I've never regretted that move. I fully endorse Leah Singer's plea for people to get to know other regions of the country and the people living there.

Best Deals in Vitamins and Supplements

Interesting Finds at Amazon: Updated Daily

Spring Savings in Grocery and Gourmet Food

Ah, leadership, competence, and courage.
hile students at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg awaited a lashing from Hurricane Irma, the school's leader fled the state for Atlanta and insinuated in an email to her boss that she remained on campus — going so far as to say things were quiet and that she heard birds chirping.

After the storm, USF officials moved to fire USFSP regional chancellor Sophia Wisniewska for incompetence and "lack of leadership," criticizing her departure and alleging that she had hesitated to evacuate students as Irma grew more dangerous.

"Your conduct created an intolerable safety risk to our students and the USFSP community," System President Judy Genshaft wrote in a draft termination letter.

Wisniewska negotiated a resignation on Monday, so the letter was not officially sent. In a response to USF, she defended herself and said she had pushed for early evacuations from the vulnerable, waterfront campus, but was shut down.

"I strongly reject any question of my leadership during Irma and my leadership during my tenure at USFSP," Wisniewska wrote in a text message to the Tampa Bay Times Monday night. "Certainly, I did nothing to warrant firing for cause. . . . I resigned this evening without hard feelings and with optimism for the future. My only regret is that I was unable to achieve all of our goals for USFSP."
She doesn't think she deserved firing? How about having written this email?
"I'd like to know if you've walked your campuses and the status of those physically on campus," Genshaft emailed Wisniewska on the evening of Sept. 9. "What is your current status as you settle in for the next couple days?"

Late that night, Wisniewska responded.

"As I walked around the USFSP campus, I heard more birds chirping than students talking," she wrote. She said she had talked to a student studying for a test and peeked into the campus tavern before it closed for the weekend. "All quiet before the storm."
But she was in Atlanta. And she thinks, somehow that she deserves her salary of $265,000.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cruising the Web

Now that the Democrats are fully on board the single-payer train, let's examine what that actually means. As James Pethokoukis writes, the idea of providing Medicare for all is simply "magical thinking." Pethokoukis writes, Democrats and the media bash Republicans when they come up with vague tax cut proposals, we should apply equal pressure on Democrats for their unrealistic proposals on health care.

Home and Kitchen Markdowns
What tax cuts are to Republicans, single-payer health care seems to now be for Democrats: a popular, populist policy idea that's far more attractive in broad strokes than devilish details. Just take a look at Bernie Sanders' long-awaited Medicare-for-all legislation, introduced yesterday in the Senate. It's more like the Don't Worry, Everything's Pretty Much Covered Act of 2017. Just flash your Universal Medicare card, and you're entitled to generous — even compared to single-payer plans in other advanced economies — comprehensive health-care services: hospital care, doctor visits, mental health care, eyecare, and more.

Would taxes go up? Well, yeah, of course. But why should Sanders kill the buzz by getting into all that unpleasantness? Recall that economists sharply criticized his presidential campaign's health-care plan for severely underestimating the costs of the comprehensive benefits it offered and thus underestimating the much higher taxes — maybe twice as high as Sanders estimated — needed to pay for it.

But that's hardly where the problems end for BernieCare. His plan would also phase out employer-provided health care. That, even though some 70 percent of workers in those plans say they're satisfied with their coverage. Sanders' plan would require millions of Americans to trade something that seems to be more or less working for them for something new and uncertain, both in coverage and cost.
Sanders' plan has not a tinge of realism.

IBD wonders
if all those Democrats rushing to sign on to Sanders' plan have any idea about what they're signing on to. They point out that no other country in the world covers 100% of health care as Sanders' plan does.
Even Sanders' beloved Canadian single-payer system doesn't cover prescription drugs, home care or long-term care, vision or dental.

And as IBD noted recently, every one of the countries that Sanders' points to as models for the U.S. relies on out-of-pocket spending to cover a significant portion of their health costs. In the Netherlands it's 12.2%, in Denmark, it's 13.7%, in Switzerland, 27.7%, in the U.K. and Canada, it's 15%.

Many "single-payer" countries also rely on the private sector to one degree or another. In Canada, 15% of health costs are paid by private insurers. In Germany, upper income Germans can opt out of the government "sickness funds" and buy private coverage.

In fact, there are no OECD countries where the government picks up the entire health care tab. In Canada, government spending accounts for 70% of health costs, in Germany, 85%, in Sweden it's 83.9%, and in the U.K. it's under 80%, according to OECD data.
Why don't these countries go as far as Sanders' plan does? They know better.

Will all the people satisfied with their health care now be happy to lose that and get government care.
To sell ObamaCare, President Obama at least pretended that "if you like your plan you can keep your plan." Sanders guarantees that if you like your plan, you will lose it, and be shoved into government insurance.

That means 17.6 million seniors — almost a third of all Medicare enrollees — who are getting coverage from private insurers through Medicare Advantage would lose their plans. As would the 178 million who get coverage through work, and the 52 million who buy coverage on their own.
And the cost? Estimates are about $1.4 trillion a year, about 36% of our current federal budget. And we know that such estimates always seem to come up short. And expect increases in taxes.

Even a younger Bernie Sanders knew better than this.
“If we expanded Medicaid to everybody…we would be spending such an astronomical sum of money…we would bankrupt the nation,” Sanders said in 1987.

Best Deals in Vitamins and Supplements

Interesting Finds at Amazon: Updated Daily

Spring Savings in Grocery and Gourmet Food

Now that those senators thinking of running for president in 2020 have endorsed Bernie Sanders' plan, they will have to answer all sorts of questions from voters about why BernieCare would be better than VA hospitals or Medicaid. Or why can't people keep their plan if they like it. If a candidate did run on this program, we should have a serious discussion about what impact there would be on the economy if the government took on that sort of burden and how health care would be affected.
Sanders expects price controls to reduce health care spending by at least $6 trillion over the next 10 years. But history has taught us that price controls inevitably lead to shortages.

Medicare and other government programs already under-reimburse providers, in some cases paying doctors less than the cost of treating a patient.

As a result, more and more physicians have been dropping out of the program. Roughly a quarter of primary-care doctors say they’re not accepting new Medicare patients.

Slashing reimbursements further will only exacerbate this problem. Yet making health care “free” to the patient will drive up the demand for care. Increased demand and diminished supply? Prepare to wait six months to see your doctor.

And don’t think you can opt out. Sanders’ plan would ban private insurance, either employer-sponsored or individual. If you don’t like what the government gives you . . . too bad.

Medicare isn’t the best model for health care. There’s no doubt it’s popular. Seniors love it. But part of that popularity stems from the fact that Medicare provides benefits it can’t afford. The program already faces close to $50 trillion in future unfunded liabilities. Expanding it seems akin to adding more passengers to the Titanic.

And going broke is hardly Medicare’s only flaw. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that for 16 of 40 standard indicators, Medicare patients received recommended care less than two-thirds of the time. Other studies have shown that Medicare patients receive a lower quality of care than do similar patients with private insurance.

A study in the Journal of Health Services Research found that “Medicare coverage at age 65 for the previously uninsured is not linked to improvements in overall health status.” Similarly, a study by Amy Finkelstein and Robin McKnight for the National Bureau of Economic Research found that Medicare has had little effect on mortality rates among the elderly.

If we’re going to spend $1.4 trillion per year for a new health care program, shouldn’t we actually get better health care?

Dan McLaughlin writes that the differences between what forecasters were predicting about its impact on Florida and what actually happened should lead us to be more cautious about predictions. Slight changes in its path made about a $150 billion difference. The models simply have a degree of uncertainty predicting the path of a volatile storm. Just look at the predictions a few days out from the hurricane hitting and it looks like a colorful plate of spaghetti as different models predict different paths. And hurricanes are the only events that models have trouble predicting with exactitude.
While there may be lessons in these storms to incorporate into future improvements in the models, the real lesson here is much the same as the lesson after election forecasters like Nate Silver had Donald Trump with about a 1 in 3 chance to win the 2016 election based on the available polling entering Election Day: probabilities aren’t facts, there are limits to our ability to predict complex systems, and an event with a nonzero projected chance of happening will sometimes happen. The more complex the system, the more likely it is to thwart efforts at projection. And yet, we keep seeing predictions about vastly more complex systems like the climate or the economy being treated as if they were hard, undebatable facts – even when the predictors have a track record of recurring failure of their past predictions, rather than the records of Silver or the hurricane modelers, who have been right more than wrong. Government projections of future revenues from tax legislation, or the cost of federal programs, are rarely correct. The CBO has been wrong about Obamacare enrollment continuously for years, yet its projections are treated as if they were the scores from yesterday’s ballgames. The 2008 financial crisis was in large part a story of systemic failures, in the private and public sectors, to project the trajectory of housing markets and their impact on financing structures.

In the words of Yoda, “always in motion, the future is.” The world is a complicated place, and it is often only in hindsight that we see how all the pieces interact. Both history and data are useful tools for understanding where we may be headed at any given moment, and indeed, it was prudent for people on the Florida coast to take seriously the threat that Irma might have been a lot worse (it was plenty dangerous enough as is). But we should all have a little more humility and a lot less hubris and scientistic triumphalism about “facts” that are really just educated guesses with numbers. This won’t be the last time they are this far off.
Some good advice there.

Tools and Home Improvement

Today’s Deals

Fashion Sales and Deals

The slippery slope continues. The Dallas Morning News reports on the discussions in the Dallas school district about which schools should have their names changed.
The Dallas Morning News has obtained a copy of that list, which includes Texas revolutionaries and founders such as Sam Houston, James Bowie and William Travis, U.S. presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and Dallas pioneers James Gaston and William Brown Miller.

Elizalde acknowledged to trustees the difficulty in drawing a line on where to proceed. Some of the schools' namesakes were involved with the Confederacy, but in lesser army ranks or non-combat roles. As examples, Elizalde mentioned John H. Reagan, the Confederacy's postmaster, and Nancy Cochran, who according to Elizalde's research, "encouraged her sons" to fight for the Confederacy.
"If we're going to go there, we'll need direction of which are we actually going to talk about changing, and how far down that association," Elizalde said to trustees.

"We definitely think three — absolutely, for sure — at a minimum could be considered," she added later, referencing Stonewall Jackson, Lee and Johnston. "And we're leaving the rest at this point. We could do some more research and give you some more specifics on other schools if you'd like."

A few trustees — Lew Blackburn, Joyce Foreman and Dustin Marshall — indicated that they'd be interested in further investigation.
Blackburn said that if DISD didn't address slave owners such as Miller, "we are in some ways being hypocritical."
I really don't have a problem renaming schools named after prominent Confederates or segregationist leaders from the 20th century. I don't see why those people should be honored by school children. However, my fear has been of the slippery slope since people just don't seem capable of making distinctions. But if we're now so politically correct that we can't honor James Madison and Thomas Jefferson because they owned slaves despite what they did for the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights then we've lost all ability to understand history. And Ben Franklin? Yes, he did own slaves for one period in his life and allowed ads for slaves to appear in his newspaper. But he also became an abolitionist leader signing on to an abolitionist petition to the First Congress. Honor the man for his greatness and contributions to the Revolution and intellectual society in the early days of the Republic. And teach children to appreciate his growth on the subject of slavery.

There also seems a feeling in Dallas to oppose those men involved in Texas's revolution. I am not sure why this is but I'm guessing it is because it was a revolution against Mexico. Well, I'm sorry. IF Texans can't honor the heroes of Texan history because they were fighting against Santa Anna, a really rather dreadful leader, then we just need to hang it up. Yes, Sam Houston owned slaves but he also opposed the expansion of slavery into the territories and opposed Texas's secession. Are they going to rename the city of Houston? Again, William Travis owned a slave, Joe, who fought alongside Travis at the Alamo. Joe survived the battle and testified about what had happened. Again, use the opportunity to discuss these men's biographies.

What's the problem with Stephen Foster. Is the problem that he used a form of black dialect in some of his songs? Is that considered cultural appropriations. There is also a movement in Pittsburgh to pull down a statue of Foster, a native of that story, because there is a black man playing the banjo at his feet.
Foster’s musical relationship to African-Americans is complicated, said Deane Root, a music professor at the University of Pittsburgh and director of its Center for American Music.

“He was the first songwriter to put enslaved people into his songs — texts that made them much less a caricature,” Mr. Root said. W.E.B. DuBois, a black writer and civil-rights activist, hailed Foster’s music, and one of Foster’s lifelong friends, Charles Shiras, was a noted abolitionist.

But Foster “used the language of the time, which was racist [and] hurtful and damaging,” Mr. Root said. “There are songs I can’t look at, even though I have to as a historian.”

And while Foster’s best work may humanize African-Americans, “The statue is not the rendering of someone with human characteristics that we hear in his lyrics.”
Yes, some of his lyrics are problematic today, but children can learn from discussing what was common attitudes during his age and aren't acceptable today.

I just feel that any movement to change the names of these schools is just so that teachers get to avoid having thoughtful, yet difficult discussions in their classes. But that is their job and they should welcome the opportunity.

I sponsor a club at my school called Student Legislative Assembly for which the kids write bills for a mock North Carolina general assembly and then debate them. We met last Friday after school for the kids to debate a bill they'd written to pull down statues commemorating members of the Confederacy. I was impressed at how thoughtful the students were and how they were successful in avoiding insensitive or intemperate remarks. I hadn't thought that any of the students would oppose the bill since the students at my school (and in this club) are pretty liberal. But the debate was pretty evenly divided. The bill passed narrowly. I just was happy for the students to intellectually engage in the question without succumbing to a simple emotional response. I realize that most of these schools on Dallas's list are elementary and middle schools, but I'd prefer that teachers attempt to present history, even when complicated, to their students in all its complexity rather than assuming kids can accept explanations about historical figures that are either all evil or all good.

Deals in Jewelry - under $80

Deals and Coupons in Beauty

Luggage and Travel Deals

Ah, I love news like this.
Most parents would consider it a crime to give a child ice cream for breakfast. But they might rethink allowing their kids to have a scoop of the cold, sweet treat first thing in the morning, if they knew it could make them smarter. Although an early morning sugar rush may be parents and teachers worst fears, a new study recently found eating ice cream first thing in the morning can actually be beneficial for the brain. The study, published by Kyorin University professor Yoshihiko Koga, said eating ice cream right after waking up can result in improved instances of alertness and mental performance.

The study, which was published on Japan's Excite News website Tuesday, compared participant’s brain activity in people who had been given ice cream immediately after waking up with those who had not eaten ice cream. Koga found that people who had consumed ice cream for breakfast showed better reaction time and were able to process information better than those who did not have the ice cream. Further tests of brain activity also showed that the people who had ice cream first thing in the morning had an increase in high-frequency alpha waves, which are associated with higher levels of alertness and can reduce mental irritation, the report said.

Subjects were tested a second time, during which they were given cold water instead of ice cream immediately after waking up. Although the results from that particular test did show higher levels of alertness and mental capacity, people who had ice cream for breakfast showed significantly higher mental stimulation.
I can get behind that.