Friday, January 19, 2018

Cruising the Web

The WSJ reminds us what always happens when there is a government shutdown.
Washington is going through one of its hoary melodramas with the threat of a partial government shutdown at 12:01 Saturday morning if Congress doesn’t pass a funding bill. These are usually worth ignoring, but in this election year we are likely to see more such showdowns. So it’s important to understand the rule of shutdown politics: Democrats want a shutdown but Republicans will get blamed for it.

This has been roughly true in every shutdown brawl we’ve watched going back to the 1980s. It doesn’t matter if a Republican is President with a Democratic Congress, or vice versa, or if Republicans run both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Sometimes Republicans deserve the blame, as they did with Ted Cruz’s kamikaze run for ObamaCare repeal in 2013. But even if they work in good faith to avoid a shutdown, the media blame Republicans, and many voters figure the GOP must be at fault because it’s the party that prefers smaller government.

Democrats understand this and they use it as political leverage. That’s what’s going on this week behind the scenes as Republicans struggle to put together a budget that can get past the Freedom Caucus in the House but also get at least nine Senate Democrats to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

Democrats don’t want to take yes for an answer. GOP leaders want to negotiate a two-year budget deal separate of negotiations over immigration. But Democrats are refusing, though the date when new work permits will no longer be issued to the so-called Dreamer immigrants is the first week of March.

Democrats are refusing even though the tentative budget deal being hashed out behind the scenes would also give them a big increase in new domestic non-entitlement spending over two years. Republicans would get more defense spending. Such a deal will give more Republicans heartburn on the policy merits, but Democrats still won’t accept.
Sadly, it's all about politics. And as long as Democrats think that they will benefit from a shutdown, we'll face a shutdown.
The reason is simple: Democrats think a shutdown will improve their chances of retaking the House and Senate in November. Everything they do, every decision they make, is a political calculation with that in mind. Thus supposedly grave moral choices like children’s health care and legal status for immigrants are more important as political battering rams than as policy accomplishments. Dysfunction is desirable because Republicans are nominally in charge and will get the blame.
As long as this is the perception of the Democrats, the government will be held hostage. And if the media continue to serve as the Democrats' handmaidens, it will probably be true that people won't pay attention to the details and they'll just see that a government where the GOP control the White House and both houses of Congress, they'll blame the Republicans. The fact that Democrats' votes are necessary to get anything through the Senate will be one of those obscure details that no one will pay attention to. I just wonder how it will play in red states where Democratic senators are running for reelection if ads start being run saying, "The Republicans wanted to pass a budget to fund the military and children's health insurance, but Claire McCaskill voted instead to shut down the government. Is that the sort of leadership that Missouri wants?"

The WSJ makes a good point
coming off the Democrats' recent victory in the Wisconsin state Senate where a Democrat defeated an incumbent in a seat that Republicans had held for 17 years. The WSJ connects that victory to the case before the Supreme Court about gerrymandering in Wisconsin.
Democrats say the victory could augur a wave election in November, and Republicans are right to be worried as voters sour on Mr. Trump’s tempestuous behavior. But we hope the Justices on the Supreme Court are paying attention because this Democratic rout contravenes the complaints Democrats made at the High Court last fall that Republicans have drawn legislative districts with such exactitude that Democrats can’t win.

In Gill v. Whitford, Wisconsin Democrats argued that partisan gerrymanders resulted in the GOP winning a disproportionate number of legislative seats relative to their statewide vote and thus prevented them from translating their votes into representation. They claim this violates equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and the First Amendment right to association.

But unlike gerrymandering by race, partisanship is neither a defined nor inhered identity. Politics can change on an individual and district-wide level from election to election. Democrats offered political-science mumbo-jumbo called the “efficiency gap” to supposedly prove discrimination. Under this model, any votes that don’t contribute to a candidate victory in a legislative race are deemed “wasted.” But Wisconsin’s results refute this since many of Ms. Schachtner’s 12,000 voters would have been considered wasted during prior Republican routs. A map’s efficiency gap will vary by election, so any standard would be arbitrary....

Democrats didn’t mind gerrymanders that helped them keep power in the House for 40 years before 1994, but now they want courts to help them overturn maps that help Republicans. The legal threat in Gill v. Whitford is that the Justices will make judges the arbiters of legislative redistricting that usurps the political branches and injects courts even deeper into partisan politics. This is anathema to the Constitution’s separation of powers.

The real solution is to win elections, as Democrats showed on Tuesday and may continue in November. Winning state legislative majorities would put them in a better position to redraw maps after 2020. You can bet they’d be as partisan as Republicans.

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Salena Zito ponders the resentment she perceives among so many of our liberal elites for middle America. She bases our observations on what several members of the liberal elite in the media, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood have expressed their contempt for people who live in small towns and rural areas. For example,
Two days earlier Melinda Byerley, founder of a Silicon Valley-based tech startup that does “free-range, artisanal, organic, customized marketing” with “Birkenstocks-on-the-ground expertise,” tweeted her expert opinion on Middle America’s jobs-`attraction problem.

It wasn’t very nice.

First she said Middle America needs to realize “no educated person wants to live in a s- -t-hole with stupid people,” which is why she said more big corporations don’t move to the Heartland: “Those towns have nothing going for them,” with “no infrastructure, just a few bars and a terrible school system.”

Educated people such as herself wouldn’t live in rural areas because they won’t sacrifice their superior tolerance and diversity to do so. Nor do her highly educated friends want to live in states where the majority of residents “don’t want brown people to thrive.”
Perhaps these sorts of attitudes are not representative of what most people think and they're the exception. It's hard to tell. I know when I was living in Los Angeles in graduate school at UCLA and my husband got a job in Raleigh, N.C. and I told my friends that we were moving here, the general response was pity. They just couldn't imagine living in a southern state. At the time Jesse Helms was the senator from North Carolina and that was the prism through which my California friends viewed the entire state. When I told them that the county we were moving to had more PhD's per capita than any other county in the country, they were dumbfounded. They just couldn't imagine so many educated people living in North Carolina. What I've often thought since then is that it was a shame that they had no idea what a wonderful place this is to live and bring up a family. That thought never entered my mind about Los Angeles.

As Zito writes, so many in that flyover country are just sick of being regarded as ignorant bigots.
Regular folks have had enough. Less ambition doesn’t make them lesser Americans, yet that’s exactly the way they’re treated. Arrogant liberal elites take this personally, because they interpret it as a critique of the sacrifices they’ve made to get to where they are.

The left-liberal pundit class loves to hear stories of rural Americans who moved to the big city and look in their rearview mirrors with shame and trepidation, like their small-town upbringing is a skeleton in their closet. What they can’t abide is average Americans’ pride.

In a similar vein, Jonah Goldberg wonders why we look to actors to be our moral guides. He points out that we've gone from how actors have traditionally been regarded as a contemptible profession peopled by people of low morality and honesty to regarding them as human beings somehow gifted with a higher moral sense than hoi polloi.

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An article from last year by CATO reminds us of what a terrible person Joe Arpaio is and why no Arizona Republicans should support him in the Senate primary.
Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for blatantly disregarding the orders of a federal judge. This was not a close case. In fact, Arpaio openly bragged that he would refuse to comply with the judge’s orders. The orders in question were designed to stop Arpaio from violating the Fourth Amendment rights of Arizona’s Latino residents with mass racially based roundups on the mere suspicion that those targeted might be undocumented immigrants. In fact, two different federal judges found against Arpaio’s office, citing constitutional violations that were “broad in scope, involve its highest ranking command staff, and flow into its management of internal affairs investigations” and saying that he had “willfully violated” court orders to correct those violations. That’s a far cry from “just doing his job,” as the president claimed.

Moreover, this was hardly the only time that “Sheriff Joe” has shown his disregard for Americans’ constitutional rights. During his tenure as sheriff, at least 160 inmates died from brutality, neglect, suicide, disease, bad health, or old age in Arpaio’s jails. In many cases we have no way of knowing the cause of death, because the sheriff’s office never bothered to investigate.

While Arpaio’s tough methods have won him applause from law-and-order advocates, most of the attention has focused on things like requiring inmates to wear pink underwear or limiting meals to bologna sandwiches. Less publicized are tactics such as forcing women to give birth while chained to their cots. Lawsuits allege that the unsanitary conditions and brutality in Arpaio’s jails resulted in dozens of miscarriages.

And before Arpaio’s supporters respond that those locked up in Arpaio’s jails deserved what they got, we should note that most county-jail inmates are not dangerous felons but people arrested for minor drug offenses or infractions such as drunk driving or failure to pay child support.
Republicans are supposed to care about due process. Caring about law and order doesn't mean denying prisoners their rights and treating them in ways that we would condemn in any other country.

But the Arpaio's candidacy is not the only shameful one this year. Just as Republicans should be embarrassed by Arpaio's presence in Arizona's primary, Democrats should be shamed by Chelsea Manning's running in the Maryland Democratic Senate primary. Graham Hillard sees Manning's candidacy as the Democrats' Roy Moore.
For conservatives who have suffered through Moore, Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, and the current president of the United States, the senatorial campaign of convicted WikiLeaker and “trans” “woman” Manning is nothing less than a dream come true. It’s a chance for Democrats to experience their very own swamp-candidate disaster.

A dilettante as well as a radical, Manning brings to the race no achievements, yet his campaign, at least if one wishes to remain a Democrat in good standing, is distressingly difficult to oppose. Express your disgust with Manning’s unapologetic acts of treason, and you’re a neo-liberal war-monger. Complain that Manning’s only preparation for office is the thousand books he read in prison, and you’re anti-woman. Suggest that, as a human being suffering from acute mental illness, Manning deserves sympathy and (depoliticized) psychological treatment, and you are, quite frankly, a transphobic monster.

No wonder Democratic incumbent Ben Cardin’s response to Manning’s campaign has been utter, terrified silence. To so much as acknowledge Manning’s existence is too great a risk for a professional politician like Cardin to take.

Alas, the media seems determined to prevent the emergence of any narrative that could harm the sitting senator, blandly reporting the facts of Manning’s impending run while remaining conspicuously light on analysis. Imagine for a moment that the politics in question were reversed: that Manning was a felonious embodiment of Trumpism rather than the Left’s anti-Americanism in a miniskirt. MSNBC, I think it’s safe to say, would be setting up chairs at Manning’s rallies. CNN would be spinning off a whole new channel.


Remember this shame
when you hear people praise the peacekeeping mission of the United Nations.
The United Nations became embroiled in one of its worst scandals in 2014 when shocking allegations surfaced that U.N. peacekeepers were raping women and children in this impoverished, war-battered nation.

Today, blue-helmeted soldiers and U.N. staff still rape with impunity despite pledges by U.N. leaders to end the abuses, victims allege.

"I am ashamed of the so-called international community," a tearful Marie-Blanche Marboua said as she described how a U.N. soldier raped her 10-year-old son a year ago in Bouar, 300 miles from this capital city. "My son is still traumatized."

"I have realized that nothing must be expected from these white people," she added. "Now, I put everything in the hands of God.”

The U.N.'s international peacekeeping forces were sent to Central African Republic to stabilize the country after more than a decade of civil war. While there, soldiers sexually abused hundreds of boys, girls and women, according to child rights organizations and the U.N.'s own records....

Even so, the U.N.'s own watchdog said in a June report that while progress has been made, much improvement is needed, including recording complaints and following up on accusations.

Human rights groups dispute claims of fewer assaults, saying the U.N. still does not have an accurate account of abuse victims.

"The U.N. is claiming things are getting better, but it is in complete control over the assessments of people coming forward, said Paula Donovan, a former U.N. official who is co-director of AIDS-Free World, which tracks peacekeeper abuses. "They are police, judge and jury."

The number of victims is far higher than the U.N. reports, said Remy Djamouss, president of the Center for the Promotion and Defense of the Rights of Children in Bangui. His group takes the testimonies of children abused by peacekeepers.

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This is what Switzerland
has come to.
Switzerland has followed New Zealand and a few other localities to outlaw boiling live lobsters. It also requires them to be shipped in salt water. Supporters claim that lobsters can feel pain, a dubious prospect, given that they don’t have brains to process stimuli.

But never mind. The Swiss epitomize the world we are creating once we reject human exceptionalism and/or elevate eliminating – as opposed to mitigating — suffering to top societal priority. That can drive policy into surreal regions of misplaced priorities. Consider:

-Switzerland has amended its constitution to recognize the individual dignity of plants. Not ecosystems. Individual plant dignity. A big-brained bioethics committee, assigned to explain the reasons for so doing, stated in its report, “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” that since plants share biochemical traits with us at the cellular level, it is immoral to “decapitate” a wildflower. (I kid you not!)

One canton in Switzerland assigns a lawyer to represent animals. One such lawyer sued a fisherman on behalf of a client that became dinner, for taking to long to reel in the fish.

A GMO researcher, seeking to find a way to prevent fungus from spoiling wheat, could only obtain government financing when he asserted that the research would be beneficial for the wheat.
But don't worry. Switzerland allows "suicide tourism."
Switzerland allows “suicide tourism,” through which locals and foreigners attend suicide clinics that charge thousands of dollars to make their clients dead — including joint suicides of elderly couples and an Italian elderly woman despairing over lost looks. The Swiss Supreme Court has declared a constitutional right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill.






Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cruising the Web

The NYT has a story about how the GOP tax cut is becoming more popular, mostly because Republicans and independents are starting to like it more. What is striking is the partisan differences in those who are expecting to get a tax cut in 2018.



That makes perfect sense. Most of the media have portrayed the tax cut as something that won't affect the middle class. They've totally peddled the Democratic talking points. So Democrats who don't pay much attention to conservative media outlets have been totally snookered into believing that lie. However, if the Treasury Department and IRS estimates are correct that 90% of people will see a tax decrease in their February paycheck, at some point people are going to start noticing that they have more take-home pay.
Under those new tables, the Treasury estimates that 90% of people who get a paycheck are likely to see more in take-home pay, as soon as February. Employers will have until Feb. 15 to incorporate the changes in their payroll systems.
Eventually, people will have to start wondering if, perhaps, the Democrats and media have been misleading them about the "crumbs" from this tax cut.

I know that my daughters, who live in D.C. and don't pay close attention to political news because it's all so irritating and dismaying, were thinking, over Christmas vacation, that neither of them would be getting a tax cut. When they found out that they'd be getting $1,000 or $2,0000 in cuts, it was a very pleasant surprise to them. Do Democrats think that Americans are so oblivious that they don't look at their paychecks and notice when things are different, especially in a good way?

Meanwhile, Armageddon continues to haunt the country.


And they're making this decision based on the GOP tax plan that encouraged companies to repatriate funds back to the U.S.
It said it expects to pay about $38 billion in taxes for the horde of cash it plans to bring back to the United States. This implies it will repatriate virtually all of its $250 billion in overseas cash.

Apple also said it will spend over $30 billion in capital expenditures over the next five years. About $10 billion in capital expenditures will be investments in U.S. data centers, the company said.

Apple added that it will spend $5 billion as part of an innovation fund, up from the $1 billion CEO Tim Cook announced last year on CNBC's "Mad Money."

The job creation will include direct employment and also suppliers and its app business, which it had already planned to grow substantially (app developers earned $26.5 billion in 2017.) The new campus will focus on customer support.

Wednesday's announcement indicates that Apple will still have hundreds of billions of dollars in cash. It could spend that money on buybacks, dividends or acquisitions or moonshot projects.

Such crumbs for our economy.

Just think - Apple's announcement to spend $350 billion over five years is a little under half of the Obama 2009 stimulus bill. That was for over $800 billion to spend over ten years. Isn't it nicer to have that money being spent by a private company than by the federal government picking and choosing where to spend money.

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The LA Times reports on the financial disaster that is the California bullet train project. What a disaster this has been.
The estimated cost of building 119 miles of bullet train track in the Central Valley has jumped to $10.6 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion from the current budget and up from about $6 billion originally.

The new calculation takes into account a number of intractable problems encountered by the state rail agency. It raises profoundly difficult questions about how the state will complete what is considered the nation’s largest infrastructure project with the existing funding sources.
Remember that this estimate is just to build 119 miles in the Central Valley. It doesn't involve the entire state.
It remains unclear how the Central Valley cost increases will affect the total program, which under the 2016 business plan is supposed to cost $64 billion. But the jump in the Central Valley — a 77% increase above the original estimate — suggests the authority and its consultants have vastly underestimated the difficulties of buying land, obtaining environmental approvals, navigating through complex litigation and much else.
Ya think? They haven't gotten to the more difficult parts of the route.
Moore said the surge in costs is likely to foreshadow even greater future increases. On the horizon are more difficult segments, such as the long underground passage through the Tehachapi and San Gabriel Mountains and the route into the urban San Francisco Bay Area.
Twitchy points out that a big reason for the cost overruns is because they were rushing to spend $2.5 billion in federal stimulus money.
Some of the fresh costs stem from trouble acquiring the rights of way for the track in the Central Valley. The authority entered into construction contracts before fully securing rights of way in all areas, a decision officials said they wouldn’t make again. The decision to enter into contracts quickly was partly due to the need to spend $2.5 billion in federal stimulus money by last fall.
So they rushed to spend $2.8 billion in order to spend $2.5 billion. What wonderful planning! Aren't Californians glad to be on the hook for this boondoggle? And aren't we happy that Obama had federal taxpayers chip in $2.5 billion to help out?

Republicans who have been whistling past the graveyard about their prospects in November saw some results on Tuesday that should really scare them.
Democrat Patty Schachtner beat Republican Adam Jarchow for a western Wisconsin state Senate seat that had been held by a Republican since 2000 and in a district that President Donald Trump won handily in 2016.

Schachtner's win marked the first Republican-to-Democrat switch at the state legislative level of 2018 but it is the 34th state legislative seat pickup for Democrats since the start of 2017. That trend is beginning to rightly alarm smart Republicans.

"Senate District 10 special election win by a Democrat is a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin," tweeted Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker soon after the race was called on Tuesday.

It's not just Wisconsin. In Virginia, Democrats flipped 15 Republican seats in the November 2017 election. A 16th seat ended tied but Republicans retained control after their candidate won a drawing of lots. In Oklahoma -- not exactly a Democratic-friendly state -- Democrats nonetheless picked up three GOP-held state legislative seats last year. In New Hampshire, two GOP seats flipped in September.
With the augurs looking so dismal for the GOP, expect to hear of more Republicans retiring. Do they really want to serve in the minority in Congress?

Timothy Carney reflects on how Barack Obama "gave us Trump." In the first instance, he chose Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State and supported her nomination. Just think if she'd still been in the Senate, the defeated 2008 contender. Would she still have been the overwhelming frontrunner?
First off, Obama gave the country Trump by first giving the country the least likable Democratic nominee in modern history. Picking her as secretary of state put her in line as his successor. His refusal to pre-endorse Vice President Joe Biden in 2016 basically cleared old Uncle Joe out of the field. Also, Obama left behind a party so impoverished and indebted that party powerbrokers had no choice but to tilt the nominating process toward the corporatist fundraising behemoth that is Hillary. The fact that her campaign was sustaining the party's finances speaks to that.

Biden would have won, and others like Martin O’Malley or Bernie Sanders might have done better than Hillary. But Obama helped give us Hillary, and thus Trump.
Perhaps. But if she hadn't been Secretary of State would she have had other scandals that helped to so tarnish her reputation such as the private server, channeling donations to the Clinton Foundation, and Benghazi? Perhaps she would have had a greater hold on her reputation as the wronged First Lady who had doggedly worked in the Senate with the Republicans who had made her time in the White House so miserable? She might not have been so closely tied to the failures of Obama foreign policy and better able to strike a more independent note. So call that reason a wash.
Secondly, Obama helped Trump win during the campaign by lumping Trump in with all other Republicans. The intention was to make all Republicans seem icky and abnormal; the unintended consequence was to make Trump seem much more normal. In October 2016, when Clinton started posting double-digit leads in Michigan and finally pulled ahead in Ohio, Obama shifted from his tack of saying Trump “sure wasn't conservative,” to the tack of lumping Trump in with all Republicans. In Ohio in mid-October, Obama tried to lump Trump with Rob Portman, a staid and sensible establishment Republican senator. The aftermath: Portman maintained his huge leads, and Trump pulled ahead in Ohio, which he won in a blowout.

Third, and most importantly, Obama’s administration helped Trump beat Hillary, because it scared conservatives into voting for Trump.

Two days after Election Day, as I walked down K Street, I ran into a priest friend. He said he saw Trump’s victory as providing “a reprieve” for the Church. After Obama went to court to force nuns to procure contraceptive insurance for employers, and argued in court for narrower readings of the free exercise clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, religious conservatives were worried about what would come next.

Democratic politicians on the state level were trying to drive Christian florists, photographers, and bakers out of business for following their consciences. The ACLU was suing Catholic hospitals for not aborting babies.

Obama, by weaponizing the federal government against religious institutions and individuals, escalated the culture war to the point that many conservatives realized no peace was possible. They were willing to vote for a man like Trump if that’s what it took to keep HHS and the DOJ from shutting down their schools and businesses. A judge on the Supreme Court who would overturn Hobby Lobby and rule against the Little Sisters of the Poor would leave freedom of conscience mortally vulnerable.

Obama’s culture warfare raised the stakes, and made Trump seem a necessary evil to many religious conservatives, probably enough to flip Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and thus the election.
Perhaps, but that still doesn't explain why many religious conservatives voted for Trump in the primaries when there were quite a few more dependable religious conservatives in the race.

I still think that the main way that Obama gave us Trump was by setting precedents for executive action unbound from what the Congress does. That gave Trump the power to reverse so many of Obama actions. And by allowing and encouraging Harry Reid to employ the nuclear option to get rid of the filibuster for presidential nominations short of the Supreme Court, Obama and the Democrats paved the way for Trump to install a cabinet of people determined to do what they can to reverse the Obama record. And they also prepared the ground for installing Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

Jay Cost argues
that bringing back would not make it easier to pass legislation. The idea is that members of Congress will be more willing to vote for a bill if they can slip in some item that will help them sell themselves to their constituents as the person who can bring home the pork.
There are still several, related problems with earmarks in practice.

The first is a matter of efficiency. Yes, it is true that earmarks are a tool to induce recalcitrant members to support a necessary measure. However, once members realize that their votes can be traded for earmarks, they will start to hold back their support — resulting in a dramatic increase in requests for earmarks. This is a major reason why earmark usage increased rapidly over the course of the 1990s and into the early 2000s: The word was out that votes could be sold. Relatedly, members expect that the subcommittee chairmen of the Appropriations Committee will deny at least some earmarks, so they compensate by making more requests than are actually needed.

Second, there is the problem of wasted time. The legislative calendar is already short, and legislative staff already spread way too thin. The annual deluge of earmarks distracts Congress even more from attending to its weightier duties.

Third, there is the problem of corruption. Earmarks are very difficult to keep track of, as there can be thousands of them that occur outside the typical legislative process. This makes it easy for members of Congress to insert spending that helps their donors or even themselves. Moreover, it is almost impossible to root out corruption like this through legal channels — as the recent cases against Bob McDonnell and Robert Menendez have illustrated. Members almost always can mask their pay-to-play endeavors behind claims that they are acting for the public good. It is therefore prudent to deny them the opportunity in the first place.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, earmarks worsen the tendency for congressional irresponsibility, which they are otherwise intended to ameliorate. The institutional challenge of Congress is that it is a body of members representing 535 local constituencies that is somehow supposed to legislate for the national interest. It is all too easy for members to put parochial concerns over the public good. Earmarks are, in theory, a way around this — but, by distributing spending according to members’ political interests, they actually enhance parochialism, and a very old form of it at that.

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Kay Hymowitz provides some nice historical context to how the fate of immigrants have changed since the heights of immigration in the Gilded Age. Back then many immigrants here were unskilled and uneducated. Most of them were peasants coming for a better life. And there were jobs for them because manufacturing had started to take off in the last quarter of the 19th century. They could come off the boat and find jobs in factories. They weren't great jobs, but for most of them, it was better than where they'd come from.

Two changes in the last part of the 20th century have changed what the U.S. could provide such immigrants. There has been a sharp decline in the number of jobs for unskilled workers. And there has been a steady growth in the amount of government-provided welfare for the poor.
In 1970, blue-collar jobs were 31.2 percent of total nonfarm employment. By 2016, their share had fallen to 13.6 percent of total employment. Today’s immigrants are more likely to be hotel workers, agricultural hands, bussers, janitors, and hospital orderlies. They may be earning more than they could have in their home countries, but their wages—assuming they work full-time—are enough only to keep them a notch or two above the poverty line in the United States. Adding to their troubles is frequently a lack of benefits, unreliable hours, and little chance for moving up the income ladder.

Which takes us to the other crucial shift in immigrant America. In the Ellis Island era, the country took in “the tired and poor,” but it did not—it could not, in those hard-knock times—offer them more than a chance to manage on their own. Private charitable organizations, mostly religious, sometimes kept greenhorns from starving or living on the streets, but there was no Department of Health and Human Services, no state and city welfare offices, no food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, no Department of Education with Title I funds to augment local school budgets, no ESL classes or special education for immigrant children. According to a 2016 National Academies report, immigrant-headed families with children are 15 percentage points more likely to rely on food assistance, and 12 points more likely to rely on Medicaid, than native-born families with children.
Put these two trends together and it should be more understandable why many people would like to incorporate some sort of merit system for immigrants today.
Immigration was part of the nation’s identity not because Americans loved living next to foreigners—few human beings do—or because immigration is a foundational principle of the nation, but because the rapidly growing American economy had a need for unskilled workers, and offered them an opportunity for advancement.

And there’s the rub. Postindustrial economies create a far more challenging path to upward mobility than the manufacturing economy. Unlike during the later industrial era, when even high school dropouts could get decent employment, education is now the most likely route to middle-class comfort and relative stability. Though as a group the number of foreign-born kids graduating college has grown faster than native-born, the children of low-skilled immigrants, particularly Latinos, are struggling. Instead of climbing the income ladder, they are slipping down. Between the second and third generation, Hispanic high school dropout rates go up and college attendance declines. Canada, Australia, and several other countries have introduced a points system giving preference to skilled immigrants precisely to avoid this scenario.

The U.S. may want to welcome low-skilled workers to do the jobs “Americans won’t do” and to help them in the early years of assimilation. But the prospect of a multi-generational proletariat class, hovering near the poverty line and dependent on government help, is probably not what most Americans had in mind.​
We also know from history that it never turns out well for a country to have a permanent underclass with little hope of improving their status over generations.

Think of this quote from a speech by Abraham Lincoln in Cincinnati,
‘Twenty-five years ago, I was a hired laborer. The hired laborer of yesterday labors on his own account today, and will hire others to labor for him tomorrow. Advancement–improvement in condition–is the order of things in a society of equals.’”
Can we really say that today? And what does this mean for our "society of equals"?

Is anyone surprised to learn that Donald Trump supposedly had an affair with a porn star right after Melania gave birth to this fifth child? It's all very distasteful to think about and one of the many, many reasons why I never supported him in the race for president. And some Republicans who were horrified at the Monica Lewinsky story just shrugged at all the stories of Trump's adultery and piggish behavior with women. Ben Shapiro puts forward his hypothesis that people have just factored Trump's character into their evaluation of who he is.
Here’s my theory: the strong efficient market hypothesis applies to President Trump’s political fortunes. No new information, barring actual changes in the underlying economy or a war, will dramatically change Americans’ views of Trump. Everything has already been baked into the cake.

That’s why the puzzlement of the Left over the right’s apparent disinterest in the latest scandalous reports about Trump having sex with porn stars while married misses the point: we already knew this was Trump. The man had an affair with his second wife while married to his first; he had an affair with his third wife while married to his second. He used to call up newspapers in New York, pretending to be his own press agent, and lie to them about his sexual peccadillos. He’s appeared in a Playboy soft-porn video.

What about charges of racism? Nothing will change opinions there, either. He made his political bones on birtherism; he was accused of racial discrimination in the 1970s. If Democrats think Trump will go down over his comments regarding “s***hole countries,” they’re crazy.

What about suggestions that Trump is nutty? Nope, already priced in. Look at his Twitter feed. Anyone who truly thinks that Trump supporters haven’t taken into account his volatility and eccentricity (in their view) ought to have their head examined.

You’re not going to beat the Trump market. You’re just not.
So the people who despise Trump will continue to despise him and the people who like him will continue to like him. And, as Shapiro writes and as I've long thought, none of this means that he has enough loyal support to win re-election.

And the same media that went crazy over Trump's medical report and a gossipy book based on Steve Bannon's self-praise will be thrilled to have the porn star's story of her love affair with Trump. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

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Jamie Glazov looks at the claims of Trump-inspired hate crimes that have turned out to be hoaxes.
Central to the whole narrative is the supposed “Islamophobic” anti-Muslim crime-wave sweeping the nation. The rumors spread and the media regurgitates the lies without any evidence to back them up. And then, after the hoaxes are debunked one by one, the media is, by that time, bored and no longer interested.

The latest “Islamophobia” counterfeit involves a Muslim student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL). The Muslima alleged that her hijab and wallet were stolen by two white Trump supporters who were shouting racial slurs. The woman’s accusation incensed leftists and Muslims across the nation and the world, prompting the ACLU of Louisiana to issue a statement denouncing both the incident and, of course, Donald Trump. The investigation into the incident involved several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. The Washington Post, New York Times and CNN, meanwhile, ate the story up.

But what happened to this Muslima’s story under tough police questioning? Well, the ULL student eventually broke down and admitted to police that she had fabricated the entire thing. By that time, of course, the media wasn’t too interested in such an innocuous little detail.

Recently, The Huffington Post reported on an incident of “Islamophobia” under the headline “Islamophobia Just Drove This Boy And His Family Out Of America.” It was all so heartbreaking and unjust. The one little problem with the story, however, was that it never happened.

Trump supporters, meanwhile, are supposedly involved in a lot of other evil than just attacking Muslim women on campuses and driving little Muslim boys out of America:

A gay Canadian filmmaker, Chris Ball, was alleged to have been beaten up by Trump supporters on election night in Santa Monica. It was upsetting, but it turned out the incident never really happened at all.

An image also recently went viral online that purported to show KKK members in North Carolina celebrating Donald Trump’s victory. It was really awful. And it was also confirmed to be a hoax. The proof of the hoax, however, didn’t go viral. (links in original)
We've seen such claims for a long time; it's not just due to Trump - he just provides a convenient hook for the stories.
In February 2016, a Michigan Muslima, Said Chatti, was arraigned in Dearborn’s 18th District Court for making a false police report about an “Islamophobic” plot to bomb Dearborn Fordson High School, a majority-Muslim high school. She contacted the Dearborn Police Department and claimed that an “anonymous” friend of hers overheard a group of individuals plotting to blow up the school to retaliate against the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. When the police presented her with the evidence of the holes in her story, she admitted it was a false report.

In December 2015, a 37-year-old Muslim man, Gary Nathaniel Moore of Houston, was charged with first-degree arson for setting a Houston mosque on fire on Christmas day – a mosque where he himself was a regular, having attended it for five years, coming five times per day to pray seven days per week. Using surveillance video from multiple businesses nearby, investigators were able to identify Moore and a search warrant of his home recovered a backpack and clothing similar to that which was seen in surveillance footage, as well as half of a two-pack of charcoal lighter-fluid bottles that seemed to match another lighter fluid bottle found inside the mosque.

In March 2012, we beheld the murder of Muslima Shaima Alawadi. At first reported as a “hate-crime,” it then turned out to be an honor murder. The media and Unholy Alliance were extremely vocal and indignant while the murder was a hate-crime, even staging a campaign, “One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi.” But once the murder turned out to be an Islamic crime, Shaima turned out not to matter to even one of the activists who had, at one point, made so much noise and howled so many cries of indignation.

The list goes on and on: a Muslim woman in England was proven to have lied to police about claiming to have been punched in the face for wearing a hijab; a Muslim woman in Dearborn dropped a lawsuit against police after video proved she was lying when claiming they forced her to remove her hijab; a supposed “hit-and-run” on a Muslim woman in Brussels blamed on “far right” anti-Islam demonstrators turned out to be perpetrated by a Muslim named “Mohamed.”
It's all sort of an effort to claim moral legitimacy by portraying themselves as the victims and their opponents as villains. For example, there was this supposed photograph of a young Palestinian boy shot in the chest by Israelis that was supposedly from the First Intifada and is being used today. Except that it was really a still from a 2012 film.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cruising the Web

Kerry Jackson of the Pacific Research Institute has an essay in the L.A. Times about poverty in California. Here is something I bet most people wouldn't guess.
Guess which state has the highest poverty rate in the country? Not Mississippi, New Mexico, or West Virginia, but California, where nearly one out of five residents is poor. That’s according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which factors in the cost of housing, food, utilities and clothing, and which includes noncash government assistance as a form of income.
So what's the deal. As Jackson writes, California has been spending hundreds of billions of dollars in the past quarter century to fight poverty and give out benefits to the poor. In fact, here's another startling statistic.
California, with 12% of the American population, is home today to about one in three of the nation’s welfare recipients.
Perhaps all this Democratic policy-making is the real problem.
The generous spending, then, has not only failed to decrease poverty; it actually seems to have made it worse.
California resisted the trend since the early 1990s to reform welfare and institute work requirements for recipients. But not California.
The state and local bureaucracies that implement California’s antipoverty programs, however, resisted pro-work reforms. In fact, California recipients of state aid receive a disproportionately large share of it in no-strings-attached cash disbursements. It’s as though welfare reform passed California by, leaving a dependency trap in place. Immigrants are falling into it: 55% of immigrant families in the state get some kind of means-tested benefits, compared with just 30% of natives.

Self-interest in the social-services community may be at fault. As economist William A. Niskanen explained back in 1971, public agencies seek to maximize their budgets, through which they acquire increased power, status, comfort and security. To keep growing its budget, and hence its power, a welfare bureaucracy has an incentive to expand its “customer” base. With 883,000 full-time-equivalent state and local employees in 2014, California has an enormous bureaucracy. Many work in social services, and many would lose their jobs if the typical welfare client were to move off the welfare rolls.
In addition, California has instituted policies at the local level that have driven housing prices up. There are restrictive land-use regulations as well as rent-control laws. And that is not all that California's government has done to hurt the poor.
Extensive environmental regulations aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions make energy more expensive, also hurting the poor. By some estimates, California energy costs are as much as 50% higher than the national average. Jonathan A. Lesser of Continental Economics, author of a 2015 Manhattan Institute study, “Less Carbon, Higher Prices,” found that “in 2012, nearly 1 million California households faced … energy expenditures exceeding 10% of household income. In certain California counties, the rate of energy poverty was as high as 15% of all households.”
And then there are the laws raising the minimum wage.
Looking to help poor and low-income residents, California lawmakers recently passed a measure raising the minimum wage from $10 an hour to $15 an hour by 2022 — but a higher minimum wage will do nothing for the 60% of Californians who live in poverty and don’t have jobs. And research indicates that it could cause many who do have jobs to lose them. A Harvard University study found evidence that “higher minimum wages increase overall exit rates for restaurants” in the Bay Area, where more than a dozen cities and counties, including San Francisco, have changed their minimum-wage ordinances in the last five years. “Estimates suggest that a one-dollar increase in the minimum wage leads to a 14% increase in the likelihood of exit for a 3.5-star restaurant (which is the median rating),” the report says. These restaurants are a significant source of employment for low-skilled and entry-level workers.
So no wonder there are so many needing welfare in California. As Rick Moran writes,
It has become so expensive to live in California that the cost of living actually becomes a disincentive to work. Poor people are better off accepting the generous benefits offered by state and local governments rather than going to work. In effect, the reason California is the poverty capital of America is that the state subsidizes poverty. When you subsidize something, you get more of it.

This simple formula eludes the dolts who run the state. They believe they can continue to tax and tax and spend and spend with no consequences to the economy or citizens of the state.

Lawmakers in Sacramento should take a close look at Illinois. This is their future – a nearly failed state, deeply in debt, with taxes so high that tens of thousands of residents are leaving the state every year. With so many resources, as well as Hollywood and Silicon Valley to pay for the state's generosity toward the poor, California has been able to avoid judgment day.

But eventually, the state will run out of other people's money, and the piper will have to be paid.
At some point, Californians will start to ask what their political leaders have been doing for so long and why things are getting worse.

I just finished discussing with my AP Government students the apportionment maps from 2000 and 2010. What is really noticeable is the movement since 2000 away from the rust belt and the move to the South and Southwest.
This latest reapportionment was the first time, except for 1920, that California didn't gain a seat since they joined the union in 1850.

There are indications that the loss of seats for Rust Belt states are going to continue according to statistics from United Van Lines of where people are moving to.
Illinois, New Jersey, and New York were the top states in the nation for outbound moves in 2017, according to data from United Van Lines.

United Van Lines, which tracks state-to-state migration patterns, found that Illinois was the top state for outbound migration with 63 percent of moves going out of state.

"The Northeast continues to experience a moving deficit with New Jersey (63 percent outbound), New York (61 percent) and Connecticut (57 percent) making the list of top outbound states for the third consecutive year," the report states. "Massachusetts (56 percent) also joined the top outbound list this year."

The other states that led the nation for the highest outbound migration were Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky, Utah, and Wisconsin.

The 10 states with the highest inbound migration were Vermont, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, South Carolina, North Carolina, Colorado, and Alabama. The data find that more Americans are moving to the Mountain West and the South.

"As a region, the Mountain West continues to increase in popularity with 54 percent of moves being inbound," the report states. "The southern states also saw a high number of people moving in with 52 percent of total moves being inbound."
I'm surprised that Texas is not on that list given the big jump they took between 2000 and 2010. How demographic projections for 2020 based on what the Census Bureau has released does indicate that Texas will gain one or more seats. And the Rust Belt will continue to lose seats.

California might still be gaining population, but how much of that gain are people who are going to need welfare or middle-class workers who are going to be paying the taxes that the state needs to fund all its spending?

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Germany just instituted a "hate-speech" law and it's not going well. Social media companies will have to pay fines if they allow hate speech on their sites. So the companies are rushing to avoid fines by deleting messages, but their algorithms and policies are having trouble determining what qualifies as hate speech.
Within 72 hours of the law's debut, a satirical post mocking a German's politician's bigoted words was deleted by Twitter in an apparently proactive move. The 24-hour window for content removal is backed by €50m fines for each violation. Given the amount of money on the line, it's no surprise social media companies are trying to stay ahead of Germany's government when it comes to regulating speech. It's also no surprise Twitter, et al are relying heavily on users to help narrow down which questionable posts it should be looking at.
Even the government is realizing that they might have written a very bad law.
Germany signalled on Monday it was open to amending a controversial law combatting online hate speech as the justice minister fell victim to the rules he himself championed.

The move came after Twitter deleted a post by Heiko Maas dating back to 2010 before he was appointed justice minister, in which he called a fellow politician "an idiot".

The post was deleted after Twitter received several complaints, fuelling a simmering row over the new regulation which critics say stifle freedom of speech.
If calling someone an idiot qualifies as hate speech, just imagine how much that encompasses. And think of how many politicians could be caught up in that mess. Tim Cushing, writing about the importance of freedom of speech writes,
Proponents of laws targeting speech tend to believe the law will operate in a pristine vacuum where only the purest of intentions will be honored. Anyone operating outside of this mindset knows exactly how speech-targeting laws work in real life: exactly like this, where an internet dogpile resulted in the deletion of a tweet that didn't even meet the expansive definitions of hate speech handed down by the German government.

With the social media mob out there eager to jump all over perceived as being racist or sexist, we keep plumbing new depths of idiocy. The outrage over perfectly reasonable comments made by liberal Harvard professor, Steven Pinker, is a prime example.
This week, a video surfaced of a Harvard professor, Steven Pinker, which appeared to show him lauding members of a racist movement. The clip, which was pulled from a November event at Harvard put on by Spiked magazine, showed Mr. Pinker referring to “the often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right” and calling them “internet savvy” and “media savvy.”
The alt-right wing trumpeted Pinker's supposed words and those on the left are excoriating him.
The clip was deeply misleading. If you watch the whole eight-minute video from which it was culled, it’s clear that Mr. Pinker’s entire point is that the alt-right’s beliefs are false and illogical — but that the left needs to do a better job fighting against them.
What Pinker was really saying was that political correctness is exacerbating what the alt-right wants to believe about the country.
During that panel, Pinker explained that attempts to quash statements of fact led people to embrace radical interpretations of those facts, leading to political extremism — political correctness, in other words, fueled the fire of the alt-right. Here’s what Pinker had to say:

In relevant part, Pinker explains:
The other way in which I do agree with my fellow panelists that political correctness has done an enormous amount of harm in the sliver of the population that might be, I wouldn't want to say persuadable, but certainly whose affiliation might be up for grabs, comes from the often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right, internet savvy, media savvy, who often are radicalized in that way, who swallow the red pill, as the saying goes, the allusion from The Matrix. When they are exposed the first time to true statements that have never been voiced in college campuses or in The New York Times or in respectable media, that are almost like a bacillus to which they have no immunity, and they're immediately infected with both the feeling of outrage that these truths are unsayable, and no defense against taking them to what we might consider to be rather repellent conclusions.
Lest it be argued otherwise, Pinker is condemning the alt-right. He’s saying that if you refuse to allow people to speak facts, they will think that not only are the facts being censored, the truest explanations are being censored as well. He gives a few examples:
Here is a fact that's gonna sound ragingly controversial but is not, and that is that capitalist societies are better than communist ones. If you doubt it, then just ask yourself the question, would I rather live in South Korea or North Korea. Would I rather live in West Germany in the 1970s or East Germany or in the 1960s? I submit that this is actually not a controversial statement, but in university campuses, it would be considered flamingly radical.

Here's another one. Men and women are not identical in their life priorities, in their sexuality, in their tastes and interests. This is not controversial to anyone who has even glanced at the data. The kind of vocational interest tests of the kind that your high school guidance counselor gave you were given to millions of people, and men and women give different answers as to what they wanna do for a living and how much time they wanna allocate to family versus career and so on. But you can't say it. A very famous person on this campus did say it, and we all know what happened to him. He's no longer, well, he is on this campus, but no longer in the same office.

Here's a third fact that is just not controversial, although it sounds controversial, and that is that different ethnic groups commit violent crimes at different rates. You can go to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Look it up on their website. The homicide rate among African Americans is about seven or eight times higher than it is among European Americans. And terrorism, go to the Global Terrorist Database, and you find that worldwide the overwhelming majority of suicide terrorist acts are committed by Islamist extremist groups.

If you've never heard these facts before and you stumble across them or someone mentions them, it is possible to come to some extreme conclusions, such as that women are inferior, that African Americans are naturally violent, that we all ought to be Anarcho-capitalists and do away with all regulation and social safety nets, that most terrorism in this country is the fault of Muslims. These are unwarranted conclusions because for each one of these facts there are very powerful counterarguments for why they don't license racism and sexism and Anarcho-capitalism and so on. …

Now let's say that you have never even heard anyone mention these facts. The first time you hear them, you're apt to say, number one, the truth has been withheld from me by universities, by mainstream media, and, moreover, you will be vindicated when people who voice these truths are suppressed, shouted down, assaulted, all the more reason to believe that the Left, that the mainstream media, that universities can't handle the truth. So, you get vindicated over and over again, but, worst of all, you're never exposed to the ways of putting these facts into context so that they don't lead to racism and sexism and extreme forms of Anarcho-Libertarianism. So, the politically correct Left is doing itself an enormous disservice when it renders certain topics undiscussable, especially when the facts are clearly behind them because they leave people defenseless the first time they hear them against the most extreme and indefensible conclusions possible. If they were exposed, then the rationale for putting them into proper political and moral context could also be articulated, and I don't think you would have quite the extreme backlash.
Many on the left have jumped all over Pinker and distorted his words to portray him as saying that "blacks cause crime...jews control the world," as Jamelle Bouie of Slate did. Rather than listening to what he really said, they prefer to jump to egregious accusations to trash someone who is actually on their side ideologically. Jesse Singal comments in the New York Times about this incident.
Steven Pinker will be O.K. A fleeting Twitter blowup isn’t going to bruise his long and successful career as a public intellectual. But this is happening more and more — and in many cases to people who don’t have the standing and reputation he does.

It’s getting harder and harder to talk about anything controversial online without every single utterance of an opinion immediately being caricatured by opportunistic outrage-mongers, at which point everyone, afraid to be caught exposed in the skirmish that’s about to break out, rushes for the safety of their ideological battlements, where they can safely scream out their righteousness in unison. In this case: “Steven Pinker said the alt-right is good! But the alt-right is bad! We must defend this principle!”

This is making us dumber.




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Mike Allen thinks that it is practically inevitable that Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker if the Democrats retake the House. You'd think that the Republicans could use the prospect of Pelosi running the House again as a prod to get Republican voters out this Fall. However, according to his anonymous Republican source, the Republicans have basically given up hope of keeping the House. And the result would be a "nightmare" for Trump.
With a Democratic House, Trump faces not only a high risk of impeachment proceedings, but hostile chairs with subpoena power who can tie up the administration with hearings and document requests.
If Mueller's investigation is driving him crazy now, just imagine how bananas he'll get if there are impeachment hearings and multiple committee investigations of him, his family, his campaign, and his administration.

It would be nice if such a prospect could focus his mind so that he could stop tweeting and saying things that hurt the Republicans and force them to come out renouncing whatever he's tweeted most recently. And if he can't stop himself from tweeting, how about limiting himself to tweets that help him and Republicans instead of stirring up new controversies. For example, he could tweet out links for all these companies that have announced that they're giving their workers bonuses and/or wage increases because of the GOP tax cuts. Fiat Chrysler has announced that they're moving their Ram Truck production from Mexico to Michigan with 2,500 new jobs in Michigan and $2,000 bonuses to their workers in the U.S. That's catnip for Trump - just what he should be crowing about and and helping to focus attention on instead of all the other garbage that he does that distracts from any message that would help him and Republicans.

David French has some thoughtful comments about Trump's s***hole comment. He reminds conservatives how they were so angry about Obama calling them "bitter clingers" and Hillary calling them "deplorables." If we don't like that sort of stereotyping, we should also object to the implication from Trump's words that people who come from poor countries with awful conditions are themselves unworthy of immigrating here. There is a difference between the conditions someone is emigrating from and the character of the people emigrating.

Yes, there are attempts to cast doubt on whether Trump said it or not. But does he really get the benefit of the doubt?
Second, these comments must be understood in the context of Trump’s relatively short history as the country’s most visible political figure. From the opening moments of his presidential campaign, Trump has made sweeping, negative remarks about immigrants from third-world nations. Even when he qualifies those remarks (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”) the qualification is weak. Isn’t it reasonable for a Mexican American to assume that when Trump says Mexico is “forcing their most unwanted people into the United States,” he is expressing a negative personal perception of Mexican immigrants?

Moreover, time and again, Trump has engaged in actions and rhetoric that inflame broader racial tensions and betray possible racial bias. As my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out this morning, the president’s businesses have been credibly accused of racial discrimination, he claimed that an American judge couldn’t do his job fairly because of the judge’s Mexican heritage, he delayed condemning David Duke as long as he possibly could, and after the dreadful alt-right rally and terrorist attack in Charlottesville, he went out of his way to declare that there were “very fine people” on both sides. One doesn’t even have to delve too deeply into Trump’s alleged comparison of Norway with the “sh**holes” of Africa to understand why a reasonable observer would believe that he has problems with entire classes of Americans, immigrants, and citizens of other nations.

The fact that modern debate has become extraordinarily stupid does not excuse us from understanding and recognizing the core problem with Trump’s comments. Yes, it’s ridiculous to see a parade of progressives take to Twitter to argue that desperately poor and often terribly corrupt third-world nations are really just lovely and amazing places. Yes, it’s even more ridiculous to see a different group of progressives argue that, wait, America is the true “sh**hole.” But it’s just as ridiculous for conservatives to pretend that the outrage over Trump’s comments truly centers around his assessment of Haiti and Africa when it clearly centers around his assessment of Haitians and Africans. His remarks came amid a discussion of immigration policy, after all.

At this point I simply can’t see how a conservative could look a concerned third-world immigrant (or descendent of a third-world immigrant) in the eye and assert that this president judges them fairly and without bias. The intellectual and rhetorical gymnastics necessary to justify not just Trump’s alleged comments yesterday but his entire history and record of transparent hostility to certain immigrants are getting embarrassing to watch. Some of his comments may “work” politically — divisive comments often do — but that doesn’t make them any less damaging to American political culture as a whole.

Twitchy has some fun comparing the outrage in the media when Senator Richard Burr politely asked Kamala Harris to stop badgering a witness with the reaction to Senator Cory Booker screaming yesterday at DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. For Burr and Kamala Harris it was all about a male senator trying to hush up a female senator. With Booker, the sexist angle doesn't even arise.



Consider all this the C-Span effect. Does anyone think that these potential contestants for the 2020 nomination would be grandstanding like that in a committee hearing if they weren't trying to get clips to send around to drum up support?


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Robby Soave makes the same point
that I made yesterday - if Aziz Ansari were in college and a female student told the same story that "Grace" told Babe.net, Ansari might well have been expelled from school. Soave points out that, no matter which reaction people are having to the story, everyone agrees that the whole episode was not sexual assault.
And yet, boorish behavior similar to Ansari's—behavior that most pundits say they consider gross but not criminal, at least in Ansari's case—is routinely investigated as sexual misconduct on university campuses. Ansari is lucky he's not a college student; otherwise he could have been accused months or a year after the incident, investigated by a lone administrator with sole power to decide which witnesses to interview, called before a hearing to answer charges he does not fully understand, forbidden from consulting a lawyer or cross-examining his accuser, found responsible for sexual misconduct under a preponderance of the evidence standard, and expelled from campus as required by Title IX, the federal statute that mandates gender equality in schools.
This is just the sort of episode that many colleges regard as sexual assault and the reason to prosecute the male student.
Frequently, the details of the incidents sound a whole lot like the Ansari mess: intoxicated participants, a mutual desire to engage in some level of sexual activity but different expectations as to how far and how fast things should go, "non-verbal cues" that were ignored or perhaps just misunderstood by one party, agreement that a phase of the encounter was consensual but disagreement as to when and whether consent was withdrawn, and gradual re-thinking of the experience as full-on assault. "It took a really long time for me to validate this as sexual assault," Ansari's date, known as "Grace," told babe.net. "I was debating if this was an awkward sexual experience or sexual assault." Student-victims often take a long time to make up their minds about this, too. As Emily Yoffe has noted, about 40 percent of student-victims don't report their alleged rape right away—these complainants wait an average of 11 months.
Soave goes on to give examples of such cases at colleges that are quite similar to the Ansari story or even "less obviously bad." For example,
Two Michigan State University students, "Nathan" and "Melanie" agreed to meet up for sex in the summer of 2014. According to Bridge, Melanie was interested in an emotional, romantic relationship, while Nathan just wanted casual sex with a friend. They were interrupted during their sexual encounter—they were doing it in a car—which made Melanie extremely upset, and called to mind a traumatic experience from her past. Nathan, according to Melanie, did a bad job of comforting her, and then tried to resume the encounter by reaching under Melanie's shirt and touching her bra. She said no, and he stopped—and that was the end of their relationship. A year later, Melanie underwent surgery to transition to a man. Afraid of running into Nathan in the men's restroom at MSU, she filed a Title IX complaint alleging that he had violated the university's sexual misconduct policy during the rendezvous in the car. Nathan was found responsible.
Let's treat accused students the same way we treat Ansari instead of instituting kangaroo courts that basically assume the guy's guilt and deny him standard due process rights.
I could cite dozens more cases of drunken hookups gone wrong, misinterpreted signals, and unmet expectations that culminated in powerful institutions punishing young men for sexual assault. If it would be wrong to call Aziz Ansari a rapist, it was wrong to call these young men rapists. And it would be wrong to export the campus policies under which these young men were found responsible—low evidence standards, affirmative consent, automatic belief in the honesty of accusers—to the rest of the country (something many activists want). Let's hold real sexual abusers accountable without discarding important protections for the accused in the process.
Something else struck me about this whole story. Note that the woman's name is withheld in the story. She's anonymous while Ansari's name is all over the internet and his reputation has been tarnished. However, it is not as if she is totally unknown. Ansari knows who she is and he communicated with her to set up their date. Notice that he hasn't released her name which he is capable of doing. Perhaps he is just lying low or reluctant to expose her identity to the public. We can imagine the public opprobrium that he would earn if he exposed who she is. A lot of people are critical of her story and might attack her by name on social media or even in person if they know her. But why should she be shielded from the consequences of her article? Why should someone be able to do her utmost to destroy Ansari's reputation for what is really just a bad date and do it without facing the consequences? She should be grateful to Ansari for his silence which allows her to maintain her anonymity. If he were really the selfish boor she wants to depict him as, he could have leaked her name. But he'd destroyed even more than he is now if he did. Talk about a double standard.

As Jonah Goldberg points out, Republicans who are pointing to Biden's "big f***ing deal" comment about Obamacare to indicate that the media are being unfair about profanities from top officials are missing the fact that Republicans were the ones criticizing Biden's language.
But Biden’s F-bomb got enormous press coverage. It was also decried by legions of conservatives, many of whom have suddenly changed their views of profanity. Is the argument really that Joe frickn’ Biden gets to define acceptable language now? Lastly, Biden wasn’t disparaging anyone. Saying something is a “big f***ing deal” and insulting millions of people are different things, even if both involve profanity.
Goldberg also derides the idea that this is just Trump talking to his base.
I think this is largely true. It’s also a pathetic defense. Donald Trump isn’t the president of “forgotten” white men in bars. He’s the president of the United States of America. Which means he’s the president of Haitian Americans and Nigerian Americans and, well, African Americans. Saying we should deport a blanket category of Americans because they came from the wrong countries is grotesquely simplistic. (He’s also in charge of conducting foreign policy, and there is no way to spin this as anything but a colossal act of unforced dick-stepping.)

This argument sets a profoundly pernicious precedent. The idea that anything the president says can be justified by simply asserting that he’s speaking in the authentic voice of his base is an argument no conservative would dream of making under an Elizabeth Warren presidency. Lending credence to it is not only politically myopic, but it lends support to the centrifugal forces tearing this country apart. It is the type of thinking I associate with “sh**hole” countries — to borrow a phrase. In many third-world countries, tribes and other factions vie to gain power and then reward only their team. That is contrary to virtually everything good and noble about our constitutional system....

The White House’s initial statement — which didn’t deny the sh**hole report — says in part, “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.” Put aside the blasé and unsubstantiated insinuation of unpatriotic motives to critics and the political class generally. The upshot of this claim is that calling scores of nations — many of which are our allies — “sh**holes” is really a form of fighting for the American people. If that were true, virtually any crude insult would be just another example of “presidential” heroism. Count me out of that idiotic argument.

Whatever you might think of Trump's language, Jeff Flake goes way too far in comparing Trump to Stalin. Just as everyone should avoid Hitler comparisons, Stalin comparisons should be off the table.

This is the Israeli version of the Terminator.
An Israeli man who was stabbed multiple times Tuesday afternoon in a terror attack in Petah Tikva managed to remove the knife from his neck and use it to stab and neutralize his attacker, aided by the store owner, police said....

The victim, later named as Yonatan Azarihab, an ultra-Orthodox man of about 40 who suffered multiple stab wounds to his upper body, was hospitalized in moderate condition.

The store owner was not injured.

The Palestinian assailant had followed Azarihab, who was collecting money for charity, into a wine shop on the central city’s Baron Hirsch Street and began stabbing him “multiple times” in the upper body in a “frenzied attack,” police said.

At one point, Azarihab managed to break away and fled the store, while the owner of the store hit the attacker and tried to subdue him, police said. The victim then returned to the store, pulled the knife out of his own neck, and stabbed his attacker.


An top girls school in Britain has decided
to ban staff from using the word "girl" in referring to students because that might hurt or offend transgender students.
For more than a century it has educated generations of girls.

But one of the country's top-performing state schools has baffled parents by informing them its staff will in future use 'gender-neutral language' when talking to or about children.

Altrincham Grammar School for Girls in Manchester fears that using the 'g-word' could result in pupils who are changing sex being 'misgendered'.

Pupils are likely to be addressed as 'students' instead.

However despite the ban, the 1,350-pupil school has no plans to drop the term from its name.

In a letter to parents, principal Stephanie Gill said the rethink came in response to 'the challenges facing our students who are questioning their gender identity or who do not identify as girls'.

Despite the fact the school does not admit boys, she added that parents 'may have noticed that we have moved to using gender neutral language in all our communications with students and parents'.

She added: 'We are working to break ingrained habits in the way we speak to and about students, particularly referring to them collectively as 'girls'.'

The letter goes on to say that 'for many transgender students being misgendered can be very hurtful' and undermines efforts to demonstrate that 'everyone is welcome' at the school.

'Staff have embraced these changes and are doing their best to implement this new policy,' she concluded.
Wait! If the students identify as girls, wouldn't we be offending them if we don't call them by their preferred gender? It's all so confusing.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cruising the Web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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