Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cruising the Web

Donald Trump ran on how he was going to hire the best people and we just accept that he could meet the nation's challenges because he would put the best people in charge and they would solve everything. Yeah, right. As Michael Brendan Dougherty writes, he is such a nightmare of a boss that it is getting harder and harder to get quality people to agree to work for him.
Trump’s “leadership” as a boss has created a White House that is notorious for its leaks, and for the way it constantly emits the stink of demoralization. Almost every story about dysfunction in the White House in the New York Times or the Washington Post is verified by so many anonymous sources close to the president that reporters are counting them by “dozens” now. Perhaps soon we’ll move on to “scores” of White House stool pigeons.

But the really dangerous effect of Trump’s mismanagement is that it further degrades his administration’s already compromised efforts at hiring staff for senior and sub-cabinet positions. It is literally preventing his administration from taking full possession of the executive branch of government Trump is supposed to lead.

Why would you go to work for him unless you were hard-up for work or needing to take a high-risk gamble with your career? No one in his right mind would respond to a Help Wanted ad that advertised the boss’s propensity to be angered by the trivial and the everyday, leading him to tweet angrily at colleagues or to say damaging things about his employees to the newspaper of record. No one would respond to that ad if it also mentioned that the boss would redirect all the blame below and spread most of the credit to himself and his family members. But this is the Help Wanted ad the executive branch of the United States has now.

Trump was always going to have more trouble than usual in this regard because he was a newcomer to elective politics and because he was an ideological insurgent in his own party. He had neither the list of long-term political allies that needed to be rewarded nor the full loyalty and trust of the expert class that has attached itself to the Republican party.

And so the Trump White House lacks the “best people” and the best minds working on the problems of government. It lacks expertise while it undertakes a job that desperately needs expertise. That means more mistakes, from simple diplomatic goofs to major strategic and governing decisions.

But worse than that is that the inability to fully staff an administration adds to a sense of illegitimacy that is settling over his presidency, one compounded by his scandals and eagerly fed by a media that believes it can tweet almost anyone, even a president, out of a job.

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This is how the teachers' unions think about parents having more authority over where their children go to school.
Sounding like Hillary Clinton in full deplorable mode, Ms. Weingarten says the movement to give parents more say over where their kids go to school has its roots in “racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia and homophobia.” Adapting the theology of the climate-change censors who seek to shut down debate, she goes on to call Mrs. DeVos a “public-school denier.”

What really frosts the AFT president is that she recognizes that the public-school monopoly her union backs is now under siege, morally and politically, for its failure to educate children, especially minority children.

It’s not that there are no excellent public schools. It’s that citizens are beginning to see that the public money the unions increasingly demand is more likely to go into pensions than the classroom. And access to excellent schools increasingly depends on a good zip code.
Sure, go back over 60 years to the reaction some states had to Brown v. Board of Education. Just ignore the fact that a huge percentage of those parents who want the opportunity to get their children out of failing public schools and into schools of their choice are poor black and Latino children.
Before last year’s anniversary of Brown, for example, the Government Accountability Office released a study showing resegregation is on the rise, with more and more of America’s poor black and Latino children in schools where they are the majority. Many of these are failing schools. Yet as she made clear in her speech, Ms. Weingarten and her union will fight to their dying breath to keep these children there rather than give them the opportunity of a better education through a charter public school or a voucher for a private or parochial school.
For the unions, it's more important to keep those children in failing schools than allow them to go to a school where the administration doesn't have to hire union teachers.

And as Frederick M. Hess points out, the history of school-choice did not begin with Southern segregationists.
But the bigger problem is the odd suggestion that their use by racists amid the extraordinary dynamics of the post-Brown South constitutes the “origin” story of educational vouchers.

It’s more accurate to trace the “origin” of vouchers to Tom Paine, 18th-century pamphleteer and crusader for liberty. In his 1791 collection The Rights of Man, Paine called for giving every poor family “four pounds a year for every child under fourteen years of age” and then “enjoining the parents of such children to send them to school, to learn reading, writing, and common arithmetic; the ministers of every parish, of every denomination to certify jointly to an office, for that purpose, that this duty is performed.” Rather than promote universal education via publicly operated schools, Paine called for giving families the funds and then letting them make the arrangements they saw fit. In other words: a voucher. (He even suggested weighting the vouchers by including a supplementary amount for students in sparsely populated areas.)

If one isn’t inclined to credit Paine, one certainly should credit John Stuart Mill for spelling out the rationale and mechanics of vouchers a century before Brown....

Mill didn’t just sketch the architecture of the voucher, he even spelled out the risks of a public-school monopoly in the absence of vouchers:
A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; . . . in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind. . . . An education established and controlled by the State should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus.
Okay, so Paine and Mill spelled all this out more than a century before Milton Friedman penned his seminal piece on school vouchers in 1955. But they didn’t create an operational voucher program — so can the segregationists be credited as the first to put vouchers into practice?

Nope. In fact, the nation’s first educational-voucher program was launched a decade before massive resistance. Commonly known as the “GI Bill,” it provided a voucher to help returning World War II veterans pursue post-secondary education at the college of their choice. Indeed, as the speechwriter for former Obama secretary of education Arne Duncan has written, the GI Bill was “essentially a government educational voucher with no strings attached.” Indeed, the GI Bill’s vouchers became the model for the Pell Grant program (which today is a voucher endorsed by CAP) when it was created as part of the Higher Education Act in 1965....

Vouchers were seized upon by racists as one of the many tools they used to resist desegregation. That much is true. But that’s only a small piece of a much larger story. Vouchers have long been proposed as a tool to empower families, temper the reach of the state, democratize access to education, and offer better options to those failed by the state. It’s misguided, misleading, and historically inaccurate to suggest that this sorry experience is somehow the true genesis story of school vouchers.

Elliot Kaufman adds,
Moreover, the lie that vouchers are the “polite cousins of segregation” is particularly egregious because the overwhelming weight of the empirical evidence suggests that vouchers actually improve school integration and fight segregation. Seven of eight methodologically sound studies examining vouchers’ effect on school integration in America found positive impacts on integration. The eighth found no statistically significant impact.

As usual, the truth is the exact opposite of what the teachers’ unions say.

School choice helps low-income black and Hispanic children more than anyone else. In Florida’s private school-choice program, the largest in the nation, 68 percent of the 100,000 scholarship recipients are black or Hispanic. The average recipient’s household income is just $24,074. Ninety-seven percent of scholarship recipients in Washington, D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship Program are minority students. Their average household income is just $21,434. The Louisiana Scholarship program has 88 percent minority enrolment. Need I go on?

Across the country, voucher and tax-credit programs are allowing low-income parents, many of them minorities, to choose better schools for their children. Wealthier families already have a range of choices. Public schools in wealthy areas tend to perform well. If they don’t, parents can often afford to pay expensive private-school tuition on their own. Poorer families, on the other hand, are unable to afford private schools and thus are held hostage by the inferior schools in their low-income school districts.

That is why these families love school choice: It empowers them to help their children receive a good education.
You can tell how desperate the unions are by the claims made by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten in a recent speech.
For families participating in school-choice programs, satisfaction is far higher. This is not even contested; school choice improves parent satisfaction, across the country, in study after study. Shouldn’t that matter to the teachers’ unions? Shouldn’t they care that parents typically like school choice, and typically think it helps their children?

It doesn’t, and they don’t. In her speech, Weingarten dodged the issue: “I’ve never heard a parent say, ‘That school doesn’t work for my kid. So I want to engage in an ideologically driven market-based experiment that commodifies education and has been proven to be ineffective,’” she said.

Well, when you put it that way, neither have I. But parents across the country have been telling anyone who will listen that they want options. They want to use charter schools and vouchers and scholarship tax credits to get their children out of failing schools and into better ones.

If Weingarten truly cared about school segregation and inequality, she would realize that the public-school system exacerbates both problems. It is a monopoly — with an opt-out for the rich, like most other monopolies — that strands low-income children in mediocre, heavily segregated school districts.

Instead, Weingarten and her ilk lie and smear and use any means necessary to stop poor parents from choosing better schools for their kids. They do so because preserving the public-school monopoly is in their own narrow interests.

But it’s not in anyone else’s.

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You might have missed it for all the attention paid to the Russia investigation and the OJ parole hearing, but last week was supposed to be "Made in America Week." While such a message probably plays very well with many Americans, it really is a concept that doesn't make much sense. As Kevin Williamson writes, not many things made in America are wholly made in America these days. He points out that one of the products featured by the White House was Gibson, maker of emblematic guitars. But Gibson Brands makes products all over the world. Most products that are fit the "Made in America" label are made of components that come from all over the world. And products made by brands from another country are now often made in the U.S.A.
In some ways, it hardly makes any sense to label almost anything “Made in the U.S.A.,” or “Made in” any other place. Real life in the 21st-century economy is a great deal more complicated than anything that can be captured on a label. The Michigan-based watchmaker Shinola was informed by the Federal Trade Commission last year that it could no longer describe its watches as American-made. Shinola watches are American-made, but they are made in America by inserting Swiss-made watch movements into cases made in any number of places. Isn’t that Made in the U.S.A.? In a sense, sure, and also in a sense not. About 80 percent of what goes into a Toyota Camry sold in the United States is made in the United States, which is a lot more than in some “American” cars. About 70 percent of a 2011 Honda Civic was American-made, while only about 2 percent of a Chevy Aveo from the same year was of North American origin. (Weird thing: The country-of-origin breakdown often is given in U.S. and Canadian content — is Canada a foreign country or isn’t it?) Toyota gets a fair amount of mileage out of advertising that the trucks it sells in Texas are made in Texas, to heck with the other 49 states.

One of the great enduring stupidities of modern economic life is the belief that buying American is somehow beneficial to the United States as a whole. A related daft notion, very popular among our progressive friends horrified at the chauvinism of “Buy American” campaigns, is that buying local helps your local community and economy. This stuff has been studied and studied and studied, and the short version is that buy-American/buy-local efforts amount to approximately squat. It makes sense if you think about it: You can buy a bag of green beans from your local farmers’ cooperative and feel good about yourself, but that farmer is going to use the money to pay his bills, probably to a faraway financial company that holds his mortgage, a carmaker overseas, or a tractor-financing company abroad. He might buy his diesel from a local retailer, but that diesel very likely comes from crude oil drilled in some faraway place (from Canada to the Middle East) and refined in another faraway place. The components that went into those green beans — seeds, fertilizer, farming equipment — probably weren’t locally made. Money likes to move around.

Does “Buy American” create or protect American jobs? Almost certainly not. That’s because we all buy lots of different things, and paying more than you have to for an inferior General Motors product doesn’t stick it to Honda so much as it sticks it to . . . everybody else you might have bought something from with that money you spent making yourself feel patriotic about buying a car assembled in Michigan out of components from all over God’s green Earth.
As Williamson explains, very few countries make everything that is used in their country. Think North Korea. That is not the model anyone considers. Those who urge that stores stock and Americans buy only products that are "Made in the U.S.A." are missing a lot of the story.
Americans make a great deal of the best stuff in the world. But how often do you hear the complaint: “When I go into Walmart, everything says ‘Made in China.’ Where’s the ‘Made in the U.S.A.’?” It is true that you will not find a great quantity of cheap T-shirts, flip-flops, or injection-molded plastic toys made in the United States. Those things are made overseas — often on industrial equipment made in the United States. Ordinary consumers see only consumer goods and have no appreciation for the size and scope of the American capital-goods industry. We import a lot of shoes and apparel, but we export a lot more industrial machinery — and twice as much transportation equipment. But those are big, general categories: We export a lot of industrial machinery, and we import a lot of it, too. Some of that imported machinery is used to make Gibson guitars, among other things. Part of the case for free trade is the fact that the gentlemen at Gibson know a great deal more about what kind of wood they need, and what kind of machinery they need, than the gentlemen in Washington do.

There's a very famous essay from 1958 by Leonard E. Read, "I, Pencil" that uses an autobiographical approach from a pencil to illustrate how complicated a simple pencil is to produce and how it depends on products that come from all over the world. And there is not one single person who can make a pencil because it involves so many different technologies to create everything that goes into a single pencil. It all comes together for a very free-market message that traces back to Adam Smith.
I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! ....Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.

The above is what I meant when writing, "If you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing." For, if one is aware that these know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand—that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive masterminding—then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith....

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cruising the Web

Donald Trump continues his practice of leadership by browbeating. Undermining Jeff Sessions continues to be his main focus as if there were nothing else going on for the president of the United States to be dealing with. And when he's not trashing Sessions for recusing himself and not going after Hillary Clinton, he's threatening HHS Secretary Tom Price if the GOP doesn't repeal Obamacare. Apparently, Trump can't exercise the "Art of the Deal" with Congress so he wants to blame Price as if it's Price's fault that different members of the GOP have varying views on health care. Trump seems surprised by all the difficulties he's facing as president. Does he have any idea of how his treatment of those who work with him will make it even more difficult to find competent people who are willing to come work for him? I was never all that thrilled with the choice of Sessions as Attorney General, but Trump shouldn't forget that it was Sessions' endorsement of him early in the campaign that helped to give Trump some heft with conservatives, especially on immigration.

Jonah Goldberg notices how silly Trump supporters have been about Sessions.
As I noted in last week’s G-File, there was a time when the case for Trump among many conservatives rested to a significant degree on Sessions’s support for him. Now, the case against Sessions rests entirely on Trump’s lack of support for the attorney general. Sessions, for good or ill, has not changed. The only thing that’s changed is Trump’s “interests.” I put interests in quotes because I think, objectively speaking, it is not in his interest to fire Sessions or force him to quit. But Trump sees it differently.

One of the things I find most remarkable about all this is how the case for Trump always seems to come back to Hillary Clinton, who — I can report — is not the president of the United States or even a candidate.

I constantly hear that I can’t get over the election and the fact that Trump won. Having taken a vigorous personal inventory of my feelings, I can tell you that I don’t believe this to be the case. But it does seem like some people can’t let go of the election. Every night, Sean Hannity beats on the “real scandal” of Hillary Clinton, as if that story has anything to do with the facts of the Trump presidency. If there’s good reason to investigate or prosecute Hillary Clinton, I’m all for it. But even if Clinton had the book thrown at her, it would not affect the investigations into Trump. In reality, they are independent variables. But in the gaseous world of shout shows and Twitter, they are somehow linked. The binary, seesaw logic of the election still holds that if Hillary is down, Trump is up. It’s all so otherworldly.

All the more so because it was Donald Trump who said after he was elected that Hillary had “suffered enough”

....When Trump said this, there was some grumbling among hardcore Trump supporters. For instance, Peter Schweizer said that Trump shouldn’t even be commenting on a potential criminal investigation. But for the most part, the decision was spun as a sign that the president wanted to be a “president for all.” Now the president is insinuating that Sessions needs to go because he’s refused to prosecute Hillary Clinton, even though the president had made it clear he didn’t want her to be prosecuted.

In other words, whether appropriate or not, the attorney general loyally followed the president’s wishes and now Trump’s stated — as opposed to real — reason for why Sessions should go is that he didn’t contravene the president’s stated desire. It’s all obvious nonsense. But that hasn’t stopped some people from pretending that this a serious argument, because for them the election is never over, and the only enduring principle is that Trump must always “win.”
What a surprise - Donald Trump flip-flopping on something he said previously!

Victor Davis Hanson points out that, when Sessions first recused himself, there were many people in the administration who thought that this might serve to quiet down media outrage. Of course, nothing was going to tamp down media outrage, especially with Trump's own words and actions serving to ramp up such outrage. But, as Hanson writes, "Enough Already."
But all that said, Trump is said to value loyalty and competence. And Sessions is the epitome of both. He was a force for immigration enforcement and an advocate of the ignored muscular working classes long before Trump; it was his advocacy of these issues which drew him to Trump’s 2016 populist campaign, and prompted his early and almost solitary support for Trump. He is a good man with the legal and political experience to make the fundamental changes at the Justice Department that returns it to enforcement of existing laws rather than its past errant role under Holder and Lynch of a creator of progressive agendas masquerading as an enforcement agency.

Politically, Trump made his point. Again, any further public criticism of Sessions undermines two of Trump’s strengths, acknowledged even by his enemies: one, that he is loyal to those even under fire who were willing to take a risk and support him when few would; and, two, he has a proven ability to appoint superb professionals who know what they are doing and yet are not part of the deep state (McMaster, Mattis, Pompeo, etc.).

It’s past time to let Sessions do his job and move on.
But Trump can't move on. He has repeatedly demonstrated that, when something is bugging him, he just can't stop himself from tweeting and making little digs on the subject way past the time when he might be achieving anything at all by his tweets and comments.

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The following sermon wasn't given somewhere in the Middle East or even in Europe. It was given by Imam Ammar Shahin at the t Islamic Center of Davis.
Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews. Oh Allah, destroy those who closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Oh Allah, show us the black day that you inflict upon them, and the wonders of your ability. Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them.

Citing an anti-Semitic verse from the Hadith, Shahin added that “Allah does not change the situation of people until they change their own situation. The Prophet Muhammad said: ‘Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews.’”

Shain then made sure to note that “We don’t say if it is in Palestine or another place,” making clear that Jews will be fought and killed everywhere.
Think of that. This is what is being preached at a public American university. He is a teacher at the university's Islamic Center. They were the ones who posted the video. As Elliot Kaufman reports, there hasn't been much of a response from the university.
Gofman, the student senator, tells me that the response to this incident at UC-Davis has been “muted,” with many people claiming that the Imam was only expressing his “anti-Zionism,” not anti-Semitism. This, I am afraid, is the usual cowardice and the usual apologia one hears when a favored group has wronged a non-favored group.
We have universities tying themselves in knots to find some sort of implied racism or sexism in what professors say that might be taken badly by some students. Here we have an employee of the university preaching hatred and violence against Jews and the response is "muted."

The Hollywood Reporter has the story of ow two Hollywood movies have cut references to Vladimir Putin from their movie. One is Fox's Red Sparrow about a Russian spy played by Jennifer Lawrence who is recruited to be a double agent. It's based on a book by Jason Matthews which features Putin. The movie has been switched from modern-day Russia to 1970s Hungary thus obviating the need to have Putin in the story. Then it was switched back to present day, but they left Putin out of the story.

The other planned movie is about the Russian submarine Kursk, which sunk in the Barents Sea in 2000. The movie, Kursk, is also based on a book, A Time to Die by Robert Moore. The book featured Putin's role in the tragedy and in early versions of the screenplay. Tom Rogan comments on this story to explain why it makes no sense to make a movie about the Kursk without including Putin's role.
For a start, you can't tell the story of the Kursk without Putin. That's because Putin played a central role in the crisis, and not a positive one.

When he was first informed that a Russian submarine had sunk, Putin did nothing. He did not organize the Russian Navy into a coordinated response or demand immediate rescue efforts. Even worse, when foreign governments offered to assist Russia with their specific submarine rescue capabilities, Putin rejected their offers of help. It was not until five days after the sinking that Putin changed his mind. The families of the dead were ignored and rejected.

Amazingly, just a month after the Kursk had sunk, Putin was asked on CNN about the incident. In response, he offered a smirk.

For a leader who claims to be competent and in charge, the Kursk disaster was a stunning failure.

Of course, the ultimate story of the Kursk is about the lives that were lost and the suffering of their families. But to leave Putin out is to tell only two-thirds of the story. The executives who must have researched the tragedy know this. That they nonetheless decided to leave Putin out shows their fear.
The movie studios may well be afraid of depicting Putin in case he decides to retaliate such as North Korea hacked Sony after they released The Interview. On the other hand, think of how interest in a movie would increase these days if it included Putin, especially in an episode that displayed his role in the deaths of all the 118 Russian sailors aboard. Otherwise, I can't see why people would want to go watch a movie when they know how tragically it's going to end.

Here's another story of Putin's villainy that will also not be made into a Hollywood movie. A Russian researcher, Yuri Dmitriev, has spent his life researching Stalin's crimes against his own citizens, particularly an episode in which Stalin had more than 9,500 people executed. But Putin's Russia doesn't like people today remembering Stalin's crimes. That doesn't fit with Putin's efforts to increase Russian nationalism.
In December, police arrested Dmitriev in his home in Petrozavodsk, a city of about 250,000 in Russia’s northwestern republic of Karelia. They charged him with child pornography and endangering a minor, claiming that Dmitriev was taking pornographic photos of his 11-year-old adopted daughter. A third charge of possessing an illegal firearm was added later.

Prosecutors said the police were acting on an anonymous tip that accused the researcher of possessing naked photos of the child.

Dmitriev denies the charges, saying that the photos were innocent and that the firearm charge stemmed from his owning parts of a non-working hunting rifle. Colleagues and human rights organizations say he has been framed with a grotesque charge intended to smear his reputation and associate his work with an unspeakable crime.

“The government is trying to associate sexual crimes with his research in such a way that it would turn people away from looking into the history of Sandarmokh,” said Melissa Hooper of Human Rights First, an international human rights watchdog. “This is a cautionary tale to others, and the warning is: Don’t try to challenge the narrative of Russian strength, and don’t try to smear the Russian name by digging into the negative past.”

Seven decades after the end of World War II, the Kremlin under President Vladimir Putin has gone to great lengths to continue the glorification of the Soviet Union’s victory in the war under Stalin’s leadership. In May, the Kremlin issued a protocol to Russian ministries and public organizations to find ways to spread “objective historical and current information about the Russian Federation, including its role in defeating Nazism.”

Putin, a former KGB officer, has described Stalin as an “effective leader.” In a recent lengthy interview with filmmaker Oliver Stone, Putin said the “excessive demonization” of Stalin in the West was “one means of attacking the Soviet Union and Russia.”
Always beware when someone talks about "demonization" of a man responsible from 15 to 30 million deaths of his own countryman. It's unbelievable to me that Stalin is enjoying a resurgence of popularity in Russia. Now the person being demonized is the historian who has devoted his life to finding out about the victims of Stalin's execution squads.

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James Kirchick explains why he just doesn't buy the Democrats' supposed suspicions on Russia. This is a recent position adopted by the Democrats solely for political reasons to attack Trump.
But as much as Democrats may be correct in their diagnosis of Republican debasement, they are wholly lacking in self-awareness as to their own record regarding Russia. This helps explain why conservatives have so much trouble taking liberal outrage about Russia seriously: Most of the people lecturing them for being “Putin’s pawns” spent the better part of the last 8 years blindly supporting a Democratic president, Barack Obama, whose default mode with Moscow was fecklessness. To Republicans, these latter-day Democratic Cold Warriors sound like partisan hysterics, a perception that’s not entirely wrong.
Kirchick points to their outrage over Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a rather suspect Russian lawyer in which they talked about Russian adoption which is related to the Magnitsky Act sanctioning Russian officials for human writes abuses.
Yet for all the newfound righteous indignation in defense of the Magnitsky Act being expressed by former Obama officials and supporters, it wasn’t long ago that they tried to prevent its passage, fearing the measure would hamper their precious “reset” with Moscow. In 2012, as part of this effort, the Obama administration lobbied for repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold War-era law tying enhanced trade relations with Russia to its human rights record. Some voices on Capitol Hill proposed replacing Jackson-Vanik with Magnitsky, a move the administration vociferously opposed. Shortly after his appointment as ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul (today one of the most widely-cited critics on the subject of Trump and Russia) publicly stated that the Magnitsky Act would be “redundant” and that the administration specifically disagreed with its naming and shaming Russian human rights abusers as well as its imposition of financial sanctions. McFaul even invoked the beleaguered Russian opposition, which he said agreed with the administration’s position.

This was a mischaracterization of Russian civil society, the most prominent leaders of which only supported repeal of Jackson-Vanik on the express condition it be superseded by the Magnitsky Act....

Nevertheless, the Obama administration not only persisted in opposing Magnitsky, but continued to claim that it had the support of the Russian opposition in this endeavor. “Leaders of Russia's political opposition,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, “have called on the U.S. to terminate Jackson-Vanik, despite their concerns about human rights and the Magnitsky case.” Despite administration protestations, Congress passed the Magnitsky Act and Obama reluctantly signed it into law. Reflecting on the legislative battle two years later, Bill Browder, the London-based investor for whom Magnitsky worked and the driving force behind the bill, told Foreign Policy, “The administration, starting with Hillary Clinton and then John Kerry, did everything they could do to stop the Magnitsky Act.”

Today’s liberal Russia hawks would have us believe that they’ve always been clear-sighted about Kremlin perfidy and mischief. They’re displaying amnesia not just over a single law but the entire foreign policy record of the Obama administration. From the reset, which it announced in early 2009 just months after Russia invaded Georgia, to its removal of missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland later that year, to its ignoring Russia’s violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (while simultaneously negotiating New START) and its ceding the ground in Syria to Russian military intervention, the Obama administration’s Russia policy was one, protracted, 8-year-long concession to Moscow. Throughout his two terms in office, Obama played down the threat Russia posed to America’s allies, interests and values, and ridiculed those who warned otherwise.
Obama was continually weak with regards to Russia. Working for the supposed "reset" with Russia as well as getting Russia's support for the Iran deal were the main focus of Obama's relations to Russia.
For now, the newfangled Democratic hawkishness on Russia seems motivated almost entirely, if not solely, by anger over the (erroneous) belief that Vladimir Putin cost Hillary Clinton the election – not over the Kremlin’s aggression toward its neighbors, its intervention on behalf of Assad in Syria, its cheating on the INF Treaty, or countless other malfeasances. Most Democrats were willing to let Russia get away with these things when President Obama was telling the world that “alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War” are obsolete, or that Russia was a mere “regional power” whose involvement in Syria would lead to another Afghanistan, or when he was trying to win Russian help for his signal foreign policy achievement, the Iran nuclear deal. If the Democrats’ newfound antagonism toward the Kremlin extended beyond mere partisanship, they would have protested most of Obama’s foreign policy, which acceded to Russian prerogatives at nearly every turn.

Ah, Bill de Blasio, man of the people.
Mayor Bill de Blasio ventured into the city’s decrepit subway system Sunday — but didn’t have to face the foul-smelling and often crazy vagrants whom ordinary New Yorkers are forced to contend with every day.

That’s because police were ordered to roust all the homeless people from two stations ahead of the mayor’s four-stop press event as he rode from his Park Slope gym to his new re-election headquarters in downtown Brooklyn, law enforcement sources told The Post.

The rank and file had until 11 a.m. to prepare the Fourth Avenue/Ninth Street and Jay Street/MetroTech F train stations for the mayor’s brief, underground publicity stunt, sources said.

One source characterized the directive — contained in an email from the NYPD’s Transit Bureau — as instructing cops to “make sure nobody’s hanging out” so that the stations “looked nice.”

Another source said the mayor’s office notified police brass of his schedule ahead of time “with the expectation that the subway stations would be free and clear of homeless people.”

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I'm heading out today for a workshop on Religious Freedom in America from the Founding to the present. I've really been looking forward to this as, despite not being a religious person myself, I've always been interested in this subject and sensitive to the various issues that have arisen in interpreting both the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cruising the Week

Glenn Reynolds write
s, and I agree, that Jeff Sessions shouldn't be fired for the reason that he's ticked Trump off - recusing himself from the Russia investigation - but for his efforts to expand civil forfeiture.
Under “civil forfeiture,” law enforcement can take property from people under the legal fiction that the property itself is guilty of a crime. (“Legal fiction” sounds better than “lie,” but in this case the two terms are near synonyms.) It was originally sold as a tool for going after the assets of drug kingpins, but nowadays it seems to be used against a lot of ordinary Americans who just have things that law enforcement wants. It’s also a way for law enforcement agencies to maintain off-budget slush funds, thus escaping scrutiny....

The problem is pretty widespread: In 2015, The Washington Post reported that law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did.

And it’s not only a species of theft; it’s a species of corruption. Starting in 1984, law enforcement agencies were allowed to retain the assets they seized instead of paying them into the general treasury. Not surprisingly, this has led to abuses in which law enforcement targets individuals based on how much money it can get and how easily it can get it, not on their status as criminals. What’s more, by retaining these assets, law enforcement agencies have money to do things that the legislatures haven’t chosen to fund. That undermines democracy.

As deputy Ron Hain of Kane County, Ill., put it, according to The Post: “All of our hometowns are sitting on a tax-liberating gold mine.”

In one case, law enforcement seized a student’s luggage and money because the bags smelled like marijuana. In another, officers seized a man’s life savings because the series of deposits from his convenience store looked to them like he was laundering money.

Of course, it’s especially easy to be suspicious of people when those suspicions let you transfer their bank accounts into yours.
It is mind-blowing to me that it is considered constitutional to seize the property of someone who has not been convicted of a crime, sometimes not even charged with a crime.

Well, if Trump did fire Sessions, this would be a disaster.
President Trump is so unhappy with Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he has raised the possibility of bringing back Rudolph Giuliani to head the Justice Department, according to West Wing confidants.

In internal conversations, Trump has recently pondered the idea of nominating Giuliani, a stalwart of his campaign.
Giuliani would have trouble getting confirmed. Since leaving politics, he's built up a consulting business that would raise as many eyebrows as the Clinton Foundation. Those connections to foreign governments hurt him when his name was mentioned for the Secretary of State job.
He built a lucrative consulting and speechmaking career after leaving City Hall. His firm, Giuliani Partners, has had contracts with the government of Qatar and the Canadian company that is building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and Mr. Giuliani has given paid speeches to a shadowy Iranian opposition group that until 2012 was on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations....

His other clients have included a long list of prominent American corporations, including Bear Stearns, Uber and CB Richard Ellis, the real estate giant. Under contract with Purdue Pharma, the maker of the often-abused painkiller OxyContin, Mr. Giuliani used his clout with the Justice Department to press the federal authorities to offer a less onerous punishment to the company after allegations that security problems at its warehouses might have contributed to black market sales.

But it is the lesser-known names that may draw the most scrutiny.

TriGlobal Strategic Ventures, a company that aims to “assist Western clients in furthering their business interests in the emerging economies of the former Soviet Union,” according to its website, is among the more obscure clients.

Records show Mr. Giuliani has had ties dating to at least 2004 to TriGlobal, a company that has provided image consulting to Russian oligarchs and clients with deep Kremlin ties. They have included Transneft, Russia’s state-owned oil pipeline giant, which is the target of Western sanctions imposed after President Vladimir V. Putin annexed Crimea and began meddling in Ukraine.
Given that Sessions had to recuse himself after acknowledging that he'd had rather innocuous meetings while a senator with Russian officials, is there any chance that Giuliani would get approved without a promise to recuse himself from the Russian investigation? Trump is leaving in a dreamworld if he honestly thinks that Giuliani could replace Sessions. Trump might like having a friend in the Justice Department but wasn't that who Jeff Sessions was supposed to be?

Apparently, Giuliani is more realistic than Trump and is already trying to squelch these rumors.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Monday swatted away a report that he is a contender to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and said Sessions made the right decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Giuliani said there is no truth to a report by Axios that said Trump has recently raised the possibility of tapping Giuliani to replace Sessions, whom the President referred to as "beleaguered" on Monday, days after publicly rebuking Sessions for recusing himself from the federal investigation into Russian election meddling in the 2016 campaign.
Well, Trump certainly won't pick Rudy now given that Sessions' recusal is the whole reason why Trump is ticked at Sessions.

Given how difficult it would be to get anyone else approved to be Attorney General, Trump needs to just bite the bullet and make up with Sessions and stop attacking him in public. But when has Trump ever done what everyone else can see is just common sense?

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As Andrew McCarthy points out
, a whole lot of the challenges that Donald Trump is facing from Robert Mueller are his own darn fault, much of it stemming from Trump's own behavior involved in firing Comey.
Meantime, Trump quickly realized how weak he looked for making Rosenstein the fall guy. In a schizo-second, Macho Trump returned. The president promptly contradicted his original story about merely following the Justice Department’s recommendation, now claiming that the decision was his and his alone, and that the Justice Department’s memos had nothing to do with it.

Then, in a lapse of judgment that stands out even by Trump standards, the president decided to host Russian diplomats at the White House the day after firing Comey, and to berate the former director for the consumption of these agents of a hostile regime. In addition to describing the former director as “crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told Putin’s men that by getting rid of Comey, he had “taken off” the “great pressure” he faced “because of Russia.” Thus did the president, with both hands, feed the Democrats’ narrative that Comey had been removed in order to obstruct the FBI’s probe of Trump-campaign collusion in Putin’s election-meddling.

Trump’s breathtakingly erratic performance gave Democrats and the media goo-gobs of ammunition to portray Rosenstein as a co-conspirator in a corruptly motivated, dishonestly executed sacking of the FBI director. There was no way Rosenstein was going to sit passively in the eye of that storm. And there was no way he was going to look to Trump, the man who put him there, for help and guidance. Rosenstein took it on himself to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel.
Then Rosenstein gave Mueller "broad and wide-ranging authority to follow the facts wherever they go." Perhaps Rosenstein was putting it all on Mueller to do what he felt he needed to for the investigation because he resented Trump making him the fall guy for firing Comey or perhaps Rosenstein just felt that this is what needed to be done instead of following Justice Department regulations to limit the special counsel's job.
President Trump accomplished only one thing by railing at Attorney General Sessions: He added to the growing disinclination of quality people to work in his administration. No one with self-respect wants to work in a place where the boss not only won’t back you up when the going gets tough, but will turn on you with a vengeance — especially when there’s a need to divert attention from his own shortcomings.

Whether we’re talking about the shoddy behavior that intensified calls for a special counsel or about the selection of the officials who made the key decisions that have armed the special counsel with limitless jurisdiction, the president has only himself to blame.

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Donald Trump keeps tweeting to drum up outrage that the deputies that Robert Mueller is hiring should be suspect because of their donations to Democrats. Well, what does that say about the newest White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci? Just like Donald Trump, Scaramucci has a history of donating to Democrats.

And while Scaramucci has vowed to end leaks from the White House. Well, if "it takes one to know one" holds, he should be successful.
He threw his weight behind the Trump campaign only after his first two preferred candidates, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, dropped out. Between his stints raising money for those campaigns, he was in talks with a third, that of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Former senior aides on all three of those campaigns say Scaramucci gave the impression of a hanger-on trying to methodically get in the good graces of whichever candidate he saw as most likely to prevail. Only when Trump had the nomination all but secured did Scaramucci sign on with his campaign.
“He was trying to pick the winner,” according to a former senior Rubio aide, who said Scaramucci approached that campaign after Walker withdrew from the race in September 2015. Despite intense competition to pick up the support of key fundraisers, the former Rubio aide said, Scaramucci was seen as too self-serving and untrustworthy, and the Rubio campaign declined his support.

Talk of his shifting loyalties was already circulating among Republicans on various sides of the primary due to rumors emanating from the disbanded Walker campaign that Scaramucci had leaked information to the press and otherwise caused headaches for the campaign.
“He was suspected of leaking and stirring up drama with the donors,” a former senior Walker campaign aide recalled.

The news about John McCain's brain cancer has been quite depressing and I certainly wish him all the best in his treatment for this dread disease. I noticed that, immediately after the news broke, all sorts of people from all sides of the political spectrum were posting messages on Twitter and often said something along the lines that McCain is such a fighter that the brain tumor is in for a battle. It's as if surviving torture in a North Vietnamese POW camp lessen the mortality of a terrible disease. I thought that was all very nice for people to write, but really was meaningless when it comes to cancer, particularly the especially aggressive and deadly sort that McCain has. It might be comforting to think that personal heroism gives someone a better chance in fighting cancer, but it really isn't so. And I wondered what this attitude says to those victims who succumb to cancer and their families. Is the implication that, if their loved one had been more courageous, cancer would not have won? Philip Klein, who had a family member who survived a Stalin-era gulag lose his life to the same sort of brain tumor that McCain has, explains why people should stop saying that "John McCain will beat cancer because he's a fighter."
Many cancer patients and patient advocates have written against the "warrior" rhetoric associated with the disease. Employing such rhetoric can make those dealing with cancer feel they are failing and letting people down during especially hard times. It can make terminally ill patients feel that they are weak, or giving up, by deciding to choose palliative care options without undergoing another series of painful treatments that could only marginally prolong their lives. And it also contains the unintended but pernicious implication that those who don't live as long simply didn't fight hard enough....

Jenn McRobbie, an author who had dealt with breast cancer, was quoted in Prevention as saying, "We're called 'fighters,' 'warriors,' and we're told to 'win the battle.' This imagery may help some people feel more in control of their experience, but it can also make you feel like you're doing it all wrong if you're having a bad day."

Due to people's natural discomfort with anything involving mortality, people who haven't experienced cancer up close tend to gloss over the details. Such details include the fact that, even in the best of cases, cancer remission is not a cure in the way most people conceive of it; cancer cells almost always remain in the body. Beyond this, not all cancers lend themselves to the best case scenario. Because people hear about those who receive treatment and go on living for many years, they may not be aware of the vast variety among different types of cancers and the similarly large variation in relative survival rates.

Glioblastoma, with which McCain has been diagnosed, is sadly among the most aggressive, vicious, and unrelenting forms of cancer. The median survival time from diagnosis is 15 months, according to the American Brain Tumor Association, and just 30 percent of patients survive more than two years. Available treatments are limited, compared to many other types of cancer.
I wish that all it took was courage and fortitude to defeat such a terrible and deadly disease. Unfortunately, it is not so. I hope that John McCain is the exception and I wish him and his family all the best.

The CBO estimate of the cost of the federal student loan forgiveness plan
has been adjust way upwards. What a surprise.
When Congress created a program in 2007 to forgive student loans of people who work in public service for 10 years, the expectation was that the program would be small. But after the Obama administration made the program more generous in 2012, I warned that the program’s ill-defined terms would forgive far more debt than originally anticipated. And last week the Congressional Budget Office confirmed those fears when it estimated that the program will cost $24 billion over the next 10 years, double what the CBO estimated just two years ago.
How surprising - lawmakers didn't think that the program would increase substantially.
Despite the broad eligibility terms, Washington policymakers did not foresee the program growing to its current size. After all, 10 years is a long time to work in a qualifying job, so many experts thought people wouldn’t sign up. They also thought borrowers were averse to making loan payments linked to their incomes, as hardly anyone enrolled in an earlier version of the government’s income-based repayment plan. Nor did policymakers explicitly connect PSLF with the program that lets graduate students borrow unlimited federal funds; that was a separate policy enacted the year before PSLF.

Early warnings that PSLF could grow out of control were easily dismissed as speculation.
Yes, because it is much preferable to base public policy on unicorns and rainbows projections. Politico enters in some figures into the "repayment estimator" that the Department of aEducalion provides and this is what they found.
Let that sink in for a moment. Payments are the same if the student borrows $50,000 or $100,000. Taxpayers foot the bill for the difference. One has to wonder whether PSLF would have been enacted if the department launched its repayment estimator before the lawmakers voted to create it.
What? Have members of Congress actually vote based on data demonstrating the perverse incentives of the proposed policy? That would never happen.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg expresses the exact same image that I have been thinking about contemporary politics.
Justice Ginsburg said she was optimistic about the nation “over the long haul” and she cited the pendulum swing of U.S. politics, which she said was as much a symbol of America as the bald eagle.

When the pendulum swings too far in one direction, “you can look forward to it moving back,” she said.
That thought gives me hope, but I fear that recent presidencies for the past quarter century have established unfortunate trends that will never swing back. We won't see a diminishment of executive powers. That movement just seems to ratchet in one direction. We will continue to see presidencies judged by image rather than substance. And the media will continue to color our views of politics to an unfortunate degree.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Cruising the Web

Avik Roy reports that nearly three-quarters of the losses in coverage under the Republicans' health care proposals comes from repealing the individual mandate. In other words, if people weren't required to buy health insurance, the CBO estimates that around 16 million people wouldn't be buying it. The CBO bases that number on an estimate of what would happen if the individual mandate were repealed and nothing else was done.
And there’s a more fundamental question: if Obamacare’s insurance is so wonderful, why do millions of Americans need to be forced to buy it? By definition, you haven’t been “kicked off” your insurance if the only reason you’re no longer buying it is that the government has stopped fining you.
Suspiciously, the CBO isn't making it public what is the basis of their estimates.
You’d think that, but CBO has refused to disclose that breakdown. The end result is a lot of misleading commentary about how Republican plans “take coverage away” from 22 million people.

This week, I obtained from a congressional staffer the CBO’s estimates of the coverage impact of repealing the individual mandate, separate from the Senate bill’s other provisions. The estimate was built out of earlier work CBO did to model how repealing the mandate would affect the federal deficit. CBO projected then that repealing the mandate alone would lead to 15 million fewer insured U.S. residents in 2018, and 16 million fewer by 2026, though they did not publish those estimates.

16 million represents nearly three-fourths of the CBO’s estimate of the coverage difference between the GOP bills and Obamacare in 2026. That’s despite the fact that, as I noted in March, even Jonathan Gruber—one of Obamacare’s most famous advocates—believes Obamacare’s individual mandate is having little effect. In a 2016 article for the New England Journal of Medicine, Gruber and two co-authors wrote, "When we assessed the mandate’s detailed provisions, which include income-based penalties for lacking coverage and various specific exemptions from those penalties, we did not find that overall coverage rates responded to these aspects of the law.”
It does seem interesting that the CBO doesn't want to make public the basis for their analysis. If the purpose of the CBO is to help lawmakers, wouldn't lawmakers be interested in knowing what needs to be changed in order to insure more people?

And, as Roy points out, the rest of the CBO's analysis is also built on a flawed analysis.
To be clear, even if one excludes the CBO’s exaggerated view of the impact of the individual mandate, CBO scores the Senate bill as covering 6 million fewer people than Obamacare in 2026: 2 percent of the U.S. population. But even that number can be partially explained by CBO’s outdated March 2016 baseline, which assumes that enrollment in Obamacare’s exchanges peaks out at 19 million, when it’s more likely to end up below 9 million, if Obamacare stays on the books and premiums continue to rise. (That's the difference between the red and green curves in the above chart.)

Even if we assume that half the difference between the March 2016 exchange enrollment projections and the real world is accounted for by the exaggerated mandate effect, the net result is that the CBO’s projection of the difference in health coverage under Obamacare and the GOP bill—the pink bars in the below chart—amounts to statistical noise. (See the article for his graph.)
These are not inconsequential points. The Democrats have been able to fling about the accusation that the GOP plans would throw 22-23 million of people out of health care. Nowhere do they acknowledge that 16 million of those people are those who voluntarily choose not to buy insurance and almost all the result is built on a false baseline number. But those accusations are powerful, because few people know the reality. And the accusations have been strong enough to frighten GOP moderates.
The CBO’s love affair with the individual mandate is the reason why there’s really nothing Republican senators can do to improve the CBO’s coverage score of their bill. It doesn’t matter how much money Republicans throw at the problem; if you don’t have an individual mandate, CBO assumes 16 million fewer people will have coverage right off the bat. It doesn't matter if you keep nearly all of Obamacare's spending and most of its taxes, as Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) propose: CBO assumes 16 million fewer people will have coverage right off the bat.

So, the choice for Republicans is this. Do you support repealing Obamacare's individual mandate, or preserving it? If you support repealing it—whatever other policy details you prefer—the CBO is going to generate misleading headlines about 16 million people being “kicked off” their insurance.

If you support repealing the mandate, you're going to need to surpass those headlines and do what you were elected to do: replace Obamacare with market-based policies that show that patient-centered health reform is better than government-centered health reform.
Yeah, that's not happening. But just inhabit an alternate universe where the President, instead of using up all the political oxygen out there by tweeting at everyone he's ticked at and, instead, was making substantive speeches publicizing these points and defending the GOP efforts instead of throwing around vague statements about how they have a great plan or threatening GOP congressmen publicly for opposing it. Imagine what a Ronald Reagan or even Barack Obama would have done if there were a policy proposal they supported and one of the arguments against it was a skewed CBO analysis. Can't you just picture Reagan making jokes about how the CBO is counting people's voluntary decisions as actual losses. Reagan would be bringing up people to the podium to talk about why they wouldn't buy insurance without the mandate. Obama would go around making speeches every few days in support of the bill and talking about those people who would have more choice and freedom under the bill. Not that Obama was ever worried about choice and freedom under the health care bill. But the point is that they would have been in the arena. All throughout the campaign, Trump supporters would be touting his candidacy because "He fights." But it turns out that all he fights for is himself, not any particular policy or goal.

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Matt Lewis reminds us how American politics has often been ugly. The insults, however, have been more erudite.
We might lament negative campaigning and the lack of civility in politics, but during the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson’s supporters referred to President John Adams as a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." Meanwhile, backers of Adams called Vice President Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father."

This makes “Low Energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted” sound tame.

Teddy Roosevelt publicly excoriated his successor William Howard Taft as a “puzzlewit” and a “fathead.” Taft blasted his former mentor and friend as a “honeyfugler,” “demagogue,” and “hypocrite.” Warren Harding compared Roosevelt to Aaron Burr (“the same overbearing disposition and ungovernable temper [as Burr], the same ruthlessness… the same tendency to bully and browbeat”). He condemned Roosevelt as “utterly without conscience and regard for truth, the greatest fakir of all times… selfish, intolerant, unstable, violently headstrong, vain and unstably ambitious of power.” Taft, Roosevelt, and Harding were all Republicans. Imagine what they thought about the Democrats....

According to First Amendment scholar Geoffrey Stone's book Perilous Times, free speech has been suppressed “in six historical periods from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the Vietnam War.” Consider JFK famously cancelling the White House’s subscription to the New York Herald-Tribune. Consider the Nixon administration’s criticism of the press, including Vice President Spiro Agnew’s famous line about the “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

....Worried about the rise of crazy bloggers? Consider James Calendar, the infamous scribbler for hire who threw away Hamilton’s shot at the presidency and then flipped on Thomas Jefferson and revealed the Sally Hemings affair. Think the problem is the uptick in anonymous internet trolls? Consider Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, who employed pseudonyms for The Federalist Papers.

Don’t like the optics of Trump family members Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner in the White House? Recall the nepotism charges against John Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton (just to name a few). Woodrow Wilson’s son-in-law was his Secretary of the Treasury. JFK’s Attorney General was his brother Bobby; his director of the Peace Corps was his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver.
Concerned about allegations that Trump’s team colluded with the Russians? Again, this is nothing new. For liberals, there’s reason to believe that Richard Nixon might have colluded with South Vietnam’s president to stymie LBJ’s peace plan. For conservatives, there’s reason to believe that then-Senator Ted Kennedy tried to work with the Soviets against Ronald Reagan.

Didn’t like the “Lock her up” chants aimed at Hillary Clinton? Woodrow Wilson had Eugene Debs, his presidential competitor, locked up for opposing U.S. entry into World War I. Debs ran again in 1920 from his cell in an Atlanta prison.
Of course, people are so ignorant of history these days so they don't realize that everything old is new again. We survived all these moments; we'll survive Trump.
This is all to say that America has been through a lot in our history—and we have managed to endure.
Granted, it seems that for every oddity in American history that there seems to be a modern Trumpian parallel. Still, we should take solace in America’s colorful history—and I’m just scratching the surface (Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, FDR tried to pack the courts, JFK’s FBI spied on Martin Luther King).

Now this sort of story is enough to make one wonder what sort of education someone needs to be a news host on TV. Joy Reid of MSNBC tweeted this out the other day.

Well, Ivana, the mother of Trump's three older children and his first wife was born in the Czech Republic which is not Slovakia and is not part of Yugoslavia. Hence, the name of the former country as Czechoslovakia. Slovenia, the home of Melania Trump was indeed part of Yugoslavia, but Yugoslavia was never part of the Soviet bloc. If Joy Reid knew anything about the Cold War or Soviet history or Eastern Europe, she should have known that Tito kept Yugoslavia out of the Soviet bloc, much to Stalin's anger.

And then to demonstrate how ignorant she is, Joy Reid doubled down on her ignorance. When someone corrected her that Ivan was from Czechoslovakia, not Slovakia, Reid responded "Melania is from Slovenia (which plus Slovakia used to be Yugoslavia). Er, no. Still wrong. Hasn't this woman heard of Wikipedia? Irony alert - Reid highlights her Twitter page with this quote from James Baldwin: “Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

I'm not sure why she decided to point out that Trump has had two foreign-born wives. I thought Democrats liked people from other countries. But if you're setting yourself to criticize Trump, the birthplaces of his wives should be so far down on the list that it doesn't even burble up on the Twitterverse.

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David Harsanyi bemoans the diminishing of the freedom of speech as social justice warners are upset that Britain is banning ads that "perpetuate gender stereotypes," but we don't have any such policy here in the U.S.
Why would a feminist — or anyone, for that matter — celebrate the idea of empowering bureaucrats to decide how we talk about gender stereotypes? Because these days, foundational values mean less and less to those who believe hearing something disagreeable is the worst thing that could happen to them.

Sometimes you need a censor, this Jezebel writer points out, because nefarious conglomerates like “Big Yogurt” have been “targeting women for decades.” She — and the British, apparently — don’t believe that women have the capacity to make consumer choices or the inner strength to ignore ads peddling probiotic yogurts.

This is why the U.K. Committee of Advertising Practice (and, boy, it takes a lot of willpower not to use the cliché “Orwellian” to describe a group that hits it on the nose with this kind of ferocity) is such a smart idea. It will ban, among others, commercials in which family members “create a mess, while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up,” ones that suggest that “an activity is inappropriate for a girl because it is stereotypically associated with boys, or vice versa,” and ones in which “a man tries and fails to perform simple parental or household tasks.”

If you believe this kind of thing is the bailiwick of the state, it’s unlikely you have much use for the Constitution. I’m not trying to pick on this one writer. Acceptance of speech restrictions is a growing problem among millennials and Democrats. For them, opaque notions of “fairness” and “tolerance” have risen to overpower freedom of expression in importance.

You can see it with TV personalities like Chris Cuomo, former Democratic-party presidential hopeful Howard Dean, mayors of big cities, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is Senator Dianne Feinstein arguing for hecklers’ vetoes in public-university systems. It’s major political candidates arguing that open discourse gives “aid and comfort” to our enemies....

When I was young, liberals would often offer some iteration of the quote misattributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This was typically in defense of artwork that was offensive to Christians or bourgeoisie types — a soiled painting of Mary, a bad heavy-metal album, whatnot.

You don’t hear much of that today. You’re more likely to hear “I disapprove of what you say, so shut up.” Idealism isn’t found in the notions of enlightenment but in identity and indignation. And if you don’t believe this demand to mollycoddle every notion on the Left portends danger to freedom of expression, you haven’t been paying attention.
Why are people so fragile these days? If an ad is offensive, just don't buy that product. If women think a yogurt ad is demeaning and don't buy it, the company will get the message pretty quickly and change the ad. Why do we need government to step in and protect people from being offended? Why does censorship always seem to be people's go-to solution?

Ah, just what I've always suspected. - those expiration dates on drugs aren't all that definitive.
The box of prescription drugs had been forgotten in a back closet of a retail pharmacy for so long that some of the pills predated the 1969 moon landing. Most were 30 to 40 years past their expiration dates — possibly toxic, probably worthless.

But to Lee Cantrell, who helps run the California Poison Control System, the cache was an opportunity to answer an enduring question about the actual shelf life of drugs: Could these drugs from the bell-bottom era still be potent?

Cantrell called Roy Gerona, a University of California, San Francisco, researcher who specializes in analyzing chemicals. Gerona had grown up in the Philippines and had seen people recover from sickness by taking expired drugs with no apparent ill effects.

“This was very cool,” Gerona says. “Who gets the chance of analyzing drugs that have been in storage for more than 30 years?”

The age of the drugs might have been bizarre, but the question the researchers wanted to answer wasn’t. Pharmacies across the country — in major medical centers and in neighborhood strip malls — routinely toss out tons of scarce and potentially valuable prescription drugs when they hit their expiration dates.

Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term “expiration date” was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.
Having finally gotten around to cleaning out the cupboard with drugs in it and thrown out all sorts of aspirin and cold medicine products because they were way past their expiration dates and my kids were making fun of me. The findings from this story could help prevent millions of dollars in waste at health care facilities around the country.
Cantrell and Gerona knew their findings had big implications. Perhaps no area of health care has provoked as much anger in recent years as prescription drugs. The news media is rife with stories of medications priced out of reach or of shortages of crucial drugs, sometimes because producing them is no longer profitable.

Tossing such drugs when they expire is doubly hard. One pharmacist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston says the 240-bed facility is able to return some expired drugs for credit, but had to destroy about $200,000 worth last year. A commentary in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings cited similar losses at the nearby Tufts Medical Center. Play that out at hospitals across the country and the tab is significant: about $800 million per year. And that doesn’t include the costs of expired drugs at long-term care pharmacies, retail pharmacies and in consumer medicine cabinets.

After Cantrell and Gerona published their findings in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012, some readers accused them of being irresponsible and advising patients that it was OK to take expired drugs. Cantrell says they weren’t recommending the use of expired medication, just reviewing the arbitrary way the dates are set.

“Refining our prescription drug dating process could save billions,” he says.

But after a brief burst of attention, the response to their study faded. That raises an even bigger question: If some drugs remain effective well beyond the date on their labels, why hasn’t there been a push to extend their expiration dates?

It turns out that the FDA, the agency that helps set the dates, has long known the shelf life of some drugs can be extended, sometimes by years.

In fact, the federal government has saved a fortune by doing this.
It turns out that the government has been stockpiling huge quantities of drugs and vaccines as a defense in case of some sort of attack or emergency. There is little incentive for drug companies to expand the expiration dates since they benefit from increased sales when people have to buy new stocks of drugs that have supposedly expired. How about the government doing something useful and moving back these expiration dates so people, hospitals, and nursing homes would stop throwing away perfectly good drugs.

This story from Aspen, Colorado is why people hate elected officials
and bureaucrats.
Here in Aspen, our City Council has announced that the taxpayers who decided to elect them are too stupid and lazy to decide properly how to spend their own tax money. Here's the story.

City bureaucrats for years have wanted to spend tens of millions of dollars on lavish new offices. The most recent price tag is over $23 million. This is for a city with a population of only 6,500 people.

Do the math: These nice new offices for the government bureaucracy would cost over $3,000 per resident — or over $12,000 per family of four residents. That's on top of a city budget that exceeds $100 million a year, or about $15,000 per resident and $60,000 per family of four.

Part of the reason the building is so expensive is that they want to put it right in the middle of town, naturally, because that's where the action is. Most of the rest of us can't afford the middle of town because real estate there costs thousands of dollars per square foot. But it's easier if someone else is paying for it.

Just to make sure this monument to themselves is sufficiently monumental, it will rise to 46 feet in an area where other development is capped at 28 feet in order to preserve the mountain views. Obscuring the view is evidently OK if the rule-makers do the obscuring.
The Aspen City Council didn't want to put the plan to a vote because they knew that people might vote down because they just don't like taxing and spending and the Council knows better. Gosh, don't you hate it when hoi polloi want to block the plans of their betters?

John Hinderaker points to a revealing example of a headline from the Associated Press. This was the headline: “3 Palestinians, 3 Israelis killed in violence over holy site.” Actually, a Palestinian snuck into an Israeli house on the Westbank and stabbed two men and a woman having dinner. THen several thousand Palestinians rioted in Jerusalem and the Westbank throwing Molotov cocktails and other missiles at the security forces. Three people died in those riots. But for the AP headline writer, these six deaths are equivalent.

And this was the response of the leader of Hamas to the murder of the three Israelis.

And people wonder why Israel won't go to the peace table with Hamas.

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Ah, ESPN telling readers what they really needed to know: "Where do athletes go when they need to go?"