President Trump trolls the world by issuing a sort of challenge on the new border wall.

President Trump said during a visit to San Diego on Tuesday that he needs his proposed border wall with Mexico to be a tough physical obstacle, as those seeking to enter the U.S. illegally are "incredible climbers."

"Getting over the top is easy. These are like professional mountain climbers, they're incredible climbers. They can't climb some of these walls," Trump told reporters during a tour of border wall prototypes.

This is the best wall ever, the greatest, you're going to love this wall, no one can climb it!

Eladio Sanchez is unimpressed by the eight border wall prototypes looming over his house in Tijuana, Mexico, almost within spitting distance of where US President Donald Trump will visit Tuesday.

At age 30, he has already snuck over the border several times, and doesn't expect Trump's wall will have much effect on undocumented migrants like him.

Pointing to the only prototype with an angular barrier at the top -- a concrete structure built by Texas Sterling Construction Company -- Sanchez says that one might slow him down a little more than the others.

But, he told AFP, "you can get over it anyway."

Video and audio technology is becoming so good that soon it will be weaponized -- seeing won't be believing.

"The idea that someone could put another person's face on an individual's body, that would be like a homerun for anyone who wants to interfere in a political process," said Virginia Senator Mark Warner. He believes manipulated video could be a game-changer in global politics.

"This is now going to be the new reality, surely by 2020, but potentially even as early as this year," he said.

"Derpfakes" is the anonymous YouTuber who has made fake videos of President Trump, Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, based off of performances by the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

Here's an example.

Humans are pretty adept at reading other humans through sight and sound, so I think we can win this arms race for the near future -- but for how long?

Expect to see major changes over the next decade as the center-of-gravity for tech innovation moves away from Silicon Valley.

"If it weren't for my kids, I'd totally move," said Cyan Banister, a partner at Founders Fund. "This could be a really powerful ecosystem."

These investors aren't alone. In recent months, a growing number of tech leaders have been flirting with the idea of leaving Silicon Valley. Some cite the exorbitant cost of living in San Francisco and its suburbs, where even a million-dollar salary can feel middle class. Others complain about local criticism of the tech industry and a left-wing echo chamber that stifles opposing views. And yet others feel that better innovation is happening elsewhere.

"I'm a little over San Francisco," said Patrick McKenna, the founder of High Ridge Venture Partners who was also on the bus tour. "It's so expensive, it's so congested, and frankly, you also see opportunities in other places."

Mr. McKenna, who owns a house in Miami in addition to his home in San Francisco, told me that his travels outside the Bay Area had opened his eyes to a world beyond the tech bubble.

"Every single person in San Francisco is talking about the same things, whether it's 'I hate Trump' or 'I'm going to do blockchain and Bitcoin,'" he said. "It's the worst part of the social network."

This shift will be a benefit to almost everyone: tech shareholders, tech workers, and tech users. The biggest loser will be the state of California.

I'm not a Trump booster and have no responsibility to promote or defend him, but Matt Latimer's article about how "Trump is winning" because of luck is pretty hilarious.

Donald Trump is on track to win reelection to the presidency of the United States.

Yes, despite Russiagate, despite shitholegate and despite whatever gate he blunders through next. Despite approval ratings that would make Nixon weep. Despite his mind-numbing political misjudgments--defending accused pedophiles, for example--and the endless, unnecessary daily drama. Trump is winning. It is actually happening, people. And if there are those who want to stop it--and there are, of course, millions--they need to know what they are up against. It's a lot more than they overconfidently think.

First, consider the fact that Trump is simply lucky.

Then Latimer lists off a bunch of Trump's accomplishments and "accomplishments", completely missing the fact that they're due in large part to Trump's bombast, not in spite of it. He concludes:

Yep. Trump is a helluva lucky guy. And that just might give us six more years.

At some point don't you have to concede that your victorious opponent is just better than you?

... writes Andrew C. McCarthy for the millionth time. He's my favorite legal commentator on the never-ending Russia imbroglio.

Trump has intervened unhelpfully in a number of cases, as I've pointed out. Of course, we should disapprove of this. A president should not intercede in pending criminal investigations -- I'd prefer if he never did it, and he certainly shouldn't make a habit of it. It would be better if the president hewed to that norm and custom. It would have been better if Trump had not pled on Michael Flynn's behalf to FBI director James Comey -- just as it would have been better if Obama had not publicly announced in April 2016 that he did not believe Mrs. Clinton should be indicted. But the fact that it would be preferable for a president to refrain from signaling how he wants an investigation to turn out does not mean such signaling is tantamount to a criminal obstruction felony. The authority that FBI agents and prosecutors exercise when they weigh in on the merits of an investigation or prosecution is the president's power. There is no power that the president's subordinates may exercise but that he may not, regardless of what norms and customs counsel against it.

McCarthy points out (again) that President Trump can only be checked-and-balanced by Congress and the courts, not by any kind of legal action. The problem for Democrats is that impeaching the president requires political power that they don't have, so they strain for a law enforcement option that simply doesn't exist.

They prefer to imagine Special Counsel Robert Mueller cobbling together a magic-bullet obstruction charge that might knock their nemesis out of office. It is not going to happen.

I don't understand the ridicule aimed at President Trump's proposal for a military parade. America has a long history of honoring our military with parades. It seems like some people mock the president reflexively, without even giving his ideas serious thought.

Contrary to fake news reports, the United States has held massive, flashy military parades since at least 1865. Subsequent public displays of military might, including tanks, missiles, and hundreds of thousands of troops occurred in 1919, 1942, 1946, 1953, 1957, 1961, and 1991.

Also contrary to mainstream media headlines, it wasn't so long ago that military parades ranked among the few issues to draw bipartisan support. No less a Democrat than Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) vocally supported a military parade on American soil as recently as 2014. The camera-happy senator's call to arms stirred even New York's Bolshevik Mayor Bill De Blasio, who proclaimed, "The brave men and women who have selflessly served our nation with courage and skill in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve a recognition for their sacrifice. I stand with Sen. Schumer in his call for a parade to honor our veteran heroes, and New York City would be proud to host this important event."

Adam O'Fallon Price writes lovingly about the em dash, which I also love. (Although I like to put spaces on either side of them, which appears to be entirely wrong.) I'm sure I overuse them -- but why shouldn't I? They're awesome. I'm going to write a poem about em dashes -- stay tuned.

It might be useful to include an official definition of the em. From The Punctuation Guide: "The em dash is perhaps the most versatile punctuation mark. Depending on the context, the em dash can take the place of commas, parentheses, or colons--in each case to slightly different effect." The "slightly different" part is, to me, the em dash's appeal summarized. It is the doppelgänger of the punctuation world, a talented mimic impersonating other punctuation, but not exactly, leaving space to shade meaning. This space allows different authors to use the em dash in different ways, and so the em dash can be especially revealing of an author's style, even their character.

William A. Jacobson explains how recent revelations can help us understand what went on at the infamous Tarmac Meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton.

So what significance does the tarmac meeting take in this new context?

Remember, Lynch insisted that she and Clinton only talked about grandchildren and other non-investigation matters during that half hour conversation. That didn't make sense if the tarmac meeting was the start of a collusive effort, there must have been something more.

But the tarmac meeting being only small talk does make sense if it was the end point, not the starting point. By then, it was clear within the FBI that Hillary would be exonerated, the statement already was drafted and re-drafted and reviewed, and Lynch likely knew it. Hillary's interview, which was not under oath and not recorded, was a formality so the predetermined decision could assume the patina of legitimacy.

So the tarmac meeting very likely signaled to Hillary through Bill that all was good, that there was nothing to worry about regarding her upcoming FBI interview.

Next time you're under federal investigation, remember to have your spouse meet privately with the attorney general to get the inside scoop.

It's hard to imagine how President Obama and his team could have done more damage to the world if they'd tried -- short of starting a nuclear war. In their effort to avoid conflict, Obama's foreign policy team left a trail of ruined countries, refugees, and corpses.

So The Final Year is about the Obama Doctrine, also known as hashtag diplomacy, also known as leading from behind, also known as voting "present" -- also known as hands-off. That a lot of people can get killed while you're wringing them is the movie's unintended lesson. Summing up, I give you none other than Samantha "Soft" Power herself, who near the end of the doc says in a moment of sudden clarity: "My world is a world where you have 65 million displaced. Yemen and Syria and Iraq, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, Central African Republic, Burundi, South Sudan, Darfur, you know, the list, Afghanistan, of course, Venezuela imploding . . . There are concerns about terrorism and there is a fear of the other and . . . all the trendlines -- on democracy, right now, at least -- are going in the wrong direction."

If only she or her friends had held positions of authority, maybe they could have done something about some of that.

Foreign policy is hard, and Obama's team never had any respect for the legacy that had been bequeathed to them.

Whatever you think about climate change, it's obvious that several states and municipalities are conspiring to extort oil companies by using lawsuits to allege damage due to climate change. The conspiracy is blatantly hypocritical, and ExxonMobil's lawyers are having a field day. The litigants suing ExxonMobil now have previously asserted in their bond offerings that the risk of climate change was unknown or unknowable. From ExxonMobil's response to the lawsuit:

Implementing a different page of the La Jolla playbook, a number of California municipal governments recently filed civil tort claims against ExxonMobil and 17 other Texas- based energy companies. In those lawsuits, each of the municipalities warned that imminent sea level rise presented a substantial threat to its jurisdiction and laid blame for this purported injury at the feet of energy companies.

Notwithstanding their claims of imminent, allegedly near-certain harm, none of the municipalities disclosed to investors such risks in their respective bond offerings, which collectively netted over $8 billion for these local governments over the last 27 years. To the contrary, some of the disclosures affirmatively denied any ability to measure those risks; the others virtually ignored them. At least two municipal governments [one of them San Mateo] reassured investors that they were "unable to predict whether sea-level rise or other impacts of climate change or flooding from a major storm will occur, when they may occur, and if any such events occur, whether they will have a material adverse effect on the business operations or financial condition of the County and the local economy."

So when they want to borrow money, climate change is no risk; when they want to sue for damages, climate change is a huge risk.

California is offering to split the federal tax savings with local corporations, but it's hard to see why that's a good deal unless your business needs to be in California.

Trump's plan reduced the federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, which Republican and business leaders hailed as an incentive for a surge of capital investment and job growth. But Democrats denounced the change as a giveaway to the wealthy that would grow the national debt and require future cuts to welfare programs such as Medicaid.

The proposal from McCarty and Ting creates a new tax for businesses in California, which already has a state corporate tax rate of 8.84 percent. Companies with annual net income of more than $1 million in California would pay an additional surcharge of 7 percent, or half their savings from the recent federal tax cut.

If approved by two-thirds of the Legislature, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22 would go before the voters for final consideration. Proponents estimate it would raise between $15 billion and $17 billion a year, which would be directed toward funding for education, college affordability initiatives, child care and preschool slots, taxpayer rebates and an expansion of California's Earned Income Tax Credit.

The $15 - $17 billion estimate is a static analysis that doesn't take into account the likelihood that some businesses will reduce their footprint in California, or just leave. Reducing the federal rate means that a company doesn't have to leave the country to benefit, it only has to leave California.

President Trump decried immigration from "shithole countries". (Funny, my fingers keep typing "shithold" and I have to backspace a lot.) Obviously, I condemn what President Trump said.

Other details of the plan had emerged in recent days. Senators plan to effectively nix the visa lottery and reallocating those visas to a separate program being terminated by the Trump administration aiding immigrants from countries facing natural disasters or civil strife. Countries affected so far by Trump's ending of Temporary Protected Status include El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan.

It was when Trump was being briefed on those provisions that he asked why the United States was admitting immigrants from "shithole countries," according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

Trump has denied using that language, but not the sentiment. Who knows. It seems that only the President and a few senators were present, but I'm sure their flunkies were around also.

My prediction is that within a week polling will show that a majority of Americans agree with Trump's sentiment.

"The Long-run Effects of Teacher Collective Bargaining" concludes that teachers unions hurt the education and later careers of students.

Our estimates suggest that teacher collective bargaining worsens the future labor market outcomes of students: living in a state that has a duty-to-bargain law for all 12 grade-school years reduces earnings by $800 (or 2%) per year and decreases hours worked by 0.50 hours per week. The earnings estimate indicates that teacher collective bargaining reduces earnings by $199.6 billion in the US annually. We also find evidence of lower employment rates, which is driven by lower labor force participation, as well as reductions in the skill levels of the occupations into which workers sort. The effects are driven by men and nonwhites, who experience larger relative declines in long-run outcomes. Using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we demonstrate that collective bargaining leads to sizable reductions in measured cognitive and non-cognitive skills among young adults. Taken together, our results suggest laws that support collective bargaining for teachers have adverse long-term labor market consequences for students.

But, of course, teachers unions are designed to advantage teachers, not students.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the memo that instructed federal prosecutors not to enforce federal marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal under state law. Republicans and Democrats are both upset.

Sessions' move infuriated Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who said he's placing a hold on Justice Department nominees and will try to push legislation to protect marijuana sales in states where they are legal.

Colorado's senior senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, also slammed Sessions' move.

"In rescinding the Cole memo, the Attorney General failed to listen to Colorado, and will create unnecessary chaos and confusion," he said on Twitter.

Maybe President Trump will take this opportunity to pass marijuana legalization through Congress. It seems like legalization would be an easy law to pass, and would be broadly popular.

Look, it's pretty obvious to everyone that Hillary Clinton broke the law and then received special treatment because she was expected to be the next president.

For the first time, investigators say they have secured written evidence that the FBI believed there was evidence that some laws were broken when the former secretary of State and her top aides transmitted classified information through her insecure private email server, lawmakers and investigators told The Hill. ...

"The sheer volume of information that was properly classified as Secret at the time it was discussed on email (that is, excluding the "up classified" emails) supports an inference that the participants were grossly negligent in their handling of that information," the FBI's original draft read, according to a source who has seen it.

Not only was there slam-dunk evidence of criminality, but the decision to exonerate Clinton was made before many key witnesses were even interviewed -- because the decision was driven by the political timeline.

Republican investigators say the most glaring irregularity they have found is the decision to begin drafting a statement exonerating Clinton before much of the investigative interviewing and evidence gathering was even done.

While the first draft of the statement was dated May 2, 2016, FBI records gathered by congressional investigators show agents were still receiving evidence responsive to grand jury subpoenas well after that, including documents and other evidentiary items logged on May 13, May 19 and May 26.

A House GOP lawmaker told The Hill his staff also has identified at least a dozen interviews that were conducted after the drafting effort began, including of some figures who would have key information about intent or possible destruction of evidence.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) staff has a higher number: 17 witnesses including Clinton were interviewed after the decision was already made.

The Democrats shouldn't have coronated Hillary. Hopefully America is rid of the Clintons for good this time, along with their cloud of corruption.

This story about a "SWATting" death is an important lesson, not just for the police but for everyone.

A 28-year-old Kansas man was shot and killed by police officers on the evening of Dec. 28 after someone fraudulently reported a hostage situation ongoing at his home. The false report was the latest in a dangerous hoax known as "swatting," wherein the perpetrator falsely reports a dangerous situation at an address with the goal of prompting authorities to respond to that address with deadly force. This particular swatting reportedly originated over a $1.50 wagered match in the online game Call of Duty. Compounding the tragedy is that the man killed was an innocent party who had no part in the dispute.

Police in Los Angeles reportedly have arrested 25-year-old Tyler Raj Barriss in connection with the swatting attack.

Not only was the 911 call itself a hoax, but the address given by the intended victim was a lie as well -- both the perpetrator and the intended victim contributed to the death of a completely un-involved third party.

If your house is surrounded by police officers, what's the safest way to respond? Probably not by opening the door and moving your arms around. Maybe it would be safer to have your family all lie down on the floor and then call 911 yourself to see what's going on.

One of President Trump's least-heralded accomplishments has been the significant number of American prisoners held abroad that he has brought home.

"Immediately after President Trump took office, he told Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson to prioritize bringing home Americans who've been wrongfully detained or held hostage in foreign countries," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told Fox News in an email. "We are proud that we've been able to secure the release of several Americans as a result of U.S. diplomatic efforts."

While the administration has been successful in securing the release of numerous Americans held abroad, officials noted there are at least 10 other U.S. citizens - like Joshua Holt in Venezuela - who are being wrongly detained.

Good work for the President and the State Department.

"Eat, drink, and be merry" -- tomorrow is the other party's problem.

It's hard to remember that just a couple of decades ago, our government did do something about the deficit, other than make it worse. First under George H.W. Bush, and then under Bill Clinton, Congress and the president worked together to pass major deficit-reduction bills that actually tried to put the finances of the country on a reasonably stable long-term footing. These bills were not very popular; the first may have cost Bush re-election. But they were what responsible government looks like.

Nowadays, with our entitlements crisis much closer, both parties seem to have chosen the slogan "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!" Entitlements costing more than we take in in tax revenue? Obviously, we need to make them even bigger! Taxes too low to cover all our spending commitments? Cut taxes! The idea seems to be that if you can push through your pet programs now, by the time the reckoning comes, they'll be too popular to touch, and the other guys will have to find some way to pay for all your goodies.

How's the new meritocracy working out? We have the worst governing class in American history. Maybe we're stuck in a local maxima that we can't escape without a significant jolt to the system.

Rich Lowry writes that Trump has a string of successes in his first year as president.

Republicans have tried, on and off, to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling since the 1980s. The effort has always engendered intense opposition and always been abandoned. A provision for drilling in ANWR is included in the Republican tax bill almost as an afterthought.

Republicans took a constitutional fight against ObamaCare's individual mandate to the Supreme Court in 2012, and lost. They targeted it in their ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill earlier this year, and lost. They tried again with a last-ditch "skinny repeal" bill, and lost yet again. Repeal of the individual mandate is also included in the Republican tax bill.

As the year ends, President Trump is compiling a solid record of accomplishment. Much of it is unilateral, dependent on extensive executive actions rolling back President Barack Obama's regulations, impressive judicial appointments and the successful fight against ISIS overseas. The tax bill is the significant legislative achievement that heretofore has been missing.

Say what you will about his personal flaws, but Trump has delivered the most success for conservatives of any president in a long, long time.

Planned Parenthood partners have settled a lawsuit alleging that they sold baby parts. The settlement will put them out of business in California.

According to the settlement signed Monday, DV Biologics LLC and sister company DaVinci Biosciences LLC, both based in Yorba Linda, must cease all operations in California within 60 to 120 days. The agreement also requires the companies to admit liability for violations of state and federal laws prohibiting the sale or purchase of fetal tissue for research purposes, prosecutors said.

Also named as defendants in the settlement were company principals Estefano Isaias Sr., Estefano Isaias Jr. and Andres Isaias.

"This settlement seized all profits from DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences, which they acquired by viewing body parts as a commodity and illegally selling fetal tissues for valuable consideration. These companies will never be able to operate again in Orange County or the state of California," Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said in a statement.

So yes, Planned Parenthood and its affiliates do kill babies and sell their parts.


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