Friday, November 17, 2017

Cruising the Web

The allegations against Al Sharpton Franken (Ugh! what a Freudian slip!) are quite gross and there is a high level of schadenfreude that the guy who was chastising Justice Don Willett for how unfunny his joke about A-Rod playing for a girl's softball team was is now having to abase himself after a California news anchor told the story about his forcing his tongue down her throat and then posing for a picture of his groping her while she was asleep while they were on a USO Tour. There is also a picture of him from 2000 groping Joy Behar's breast in a photo. She doesn't look upset about it, but perhaps it demonstrates that, back when he was just a comedian, he thought that was a fun thing to do. His apology today is that he realizes that his joke wasn't funny. Yeah, now that it has been made public, he's suddenly ashamed of his behavior.

Of course, what is alleged in this one story and one inappropriate picture doesn't measure up to allegations of sexual assault on minors as is alleged against Roy Moore.

But the really disturbing story is that the House has paid out $15 million in harassment settlements.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that the House has paid out $15 million in harassment settlements over more than a decade, though a spokesperson later clarified that figure does not only account for sexual harassment claims.

“One member of Congress has settled a claim and there has been a taxpayer settlement,” Speier told Chuck Todd on MSNBC's "MTP Daily."

“We do know that there’s about $15 million that has been paid out by the House on behalf of harassers in the last 10 to 15 years," she added.

A spokesperson for Speier later clarified to The Hill that the $15 million figure provided by the Office of Compliance (OOC) applied to all types of complaints handled by the office in the fiscal period between 1997 and 2016. These include not just complaints relating to sexual harassment, but also to complaints regarding racial and religious discrimination, as well as discrimination against people with disabilities, according to the spokesperson.

"The OOC does not currently provide any breakdown for the type of discrimination payments made, the amounts of individual payments, or even the offices that the complaints generate from," the spokesperson said in a statement.
Why is the House using taxpayer money to pay off claims of harassment and keeping secret the names of the members who are having to pay out settlements for any type of harassment? And now both Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi claim to not know about the settlements.
A source in House Speaker Paul Ryan's office told CNN that Ryan is not made aware of the details of harassment settlements. That source also said that the top Democrat and Republican on the House administration committee review proposed settlements and both must approve the payments.

Similarly, a source in Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office told CNN that Pelosi also is not made aware of those details, and that they are confined to the parties of the settlement and the leaders of the administration committee.
It's disturbing and shameful that they're shelling out money in settlements and keeping it all secret from voters whose tax money is being used to hide the allegations.

The timing of all this makes things difficult for Democrats. They want to have the high moral ground against Trump and Roy Moore over allegations of sexual misconduct, but they have to account for how they closed their eyes to serious allegations against Bill Clinton and now there are these stories about Al Franken. It's easy for them to call for an Ethics Committee investigation since that is where allegations go to die. As Allahpundit writes,
What is there for the Ethics Committee to investigate in Franken’s case, exactly? The photo is what it is. Tweeden’s allegation of aggressive kissing and groping is straightforward he said/she said. Unless the idea is to open a file on Franken in the expectation that other accusers will come forward, there’s really nothing to “investigate.” And even if other accusers do come forward, there’s a jurisdictional question at stake that’s relevant to both Franken and, potentially, Roy Moore. Namely, should the Ethics Committee be in the habit of investigating behavior that happened before the senator became a senator? Why not let voters deal with that?
The Atlantic reports on how toothless the Senate Ethics Committee is.
The Ethics Committee, made up of three Republicans and three Democrats, is responsible for investigating any violations of the body’s ethics rules, but it rarely issues sanctions. In 2016, it received 63 allegations of violations, none of which resulted in disciplinary action. According to its own annual reports, the panel has not issued disciplinary sanctions against anyone in nine years.
I'd always heard that the Ethics Committee was just about the least desirable committee for a senator to be on. There is nothing they can brag to their constituents about doing on the committee and they risk ticking off their colleagues if they do take any action against a colleague. So, it's just a dodge to call for an investigation by the Ethics Committee except for setting the precedent for the committee to have the responsibility for ruling on behavior that happened before a senator took office.

But if Moore were to actually win his election, it may come down to the Senate to hold hearings to expel him. There would certainly be questions about why Moore's behavior rates expulsion but Franken should suffer no penalty.

And, of course, Trump can't keep his tweeting thumbs out of this. He refuses to say anything against Roy Moore even though Trump is probably the one person who could help in Alabama either by persuading Moore to back away from the race or to endorse some write-in candidate in place of Moore. But Trump couldn't resist tweeting an unfunny remark about Franken. He never learned to stay out of things when your enemy is destroying himself. And doesn't Trump remember that there were credible accusations against him for misconduct with women? And is Franken's joking about groping a woman wearing a Kevlar vest really worse than being caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by their private parts? Of course not! But Trump doesn't seem to have any sense of his own vulnerabilities.

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If the standard is that we shouldn't allow a man to serve in the Senate because of allegations of what he did 40 years ago, then should we close our eyes to what Franken is accused of. And President Trump doesn't want to speak out against Moore because of all the sexual allegations against him. Liberals who have two decades later decided that they are disgusted about Bill Clinton's behavior are now caught in a trap. Jonathan S. Tobin writes that this Franken story gives them an opportunity demonstrate that they mean about what they say.
In the last week, some liberals have been having public second thoughts about their defenses of Bill Clinton. In the wake of the #metoo movement and the avalanche of accusations of sexual harassment and assault being made against prominent figures such as movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, and now Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, the memory of the way liberals disbelieved, dismissed, and often heaped abuse on the women who made the same sort of charges about the 42nd president grates on their consciences. Writers including the New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg and Vox’s Matthew Yglesias have admitted they and their allies on the left were wrong to back Clinton.

Though both sought to excuse and rationalize the way Democrats and especially liberal feminists dismissed the accounts of women who had been victimized, the upshot was that if they had to do it over again, they wouldn’t allow partisanship to influence their approach to such accusations. (In fairness, Yglesias himself was in high school at the time, though he seems to want to speak for a generation that was prepared to ignore Clinton’s failings.) Moreover, the way Breitbart and many Alabama conservatives tried to discredit Moore’s growing list of accusers should remind liberals of what not to do if the tables turn once again. That ought to mean that if a Democrat is convincingly accused of harassment, his fellow liberals will issue condemnations and demands for resignation just as they have been expecting Republicans to do regarding Moore.

Now, thanks to Al Franken, they’ve got their chance.

What must be scary to everyone on Capitol Hill is that they're all waiting to see what other accusations of sexual misconduct against members of Congress are going to come out. Does anyone think that Al Franken is the only guy with a record of gross behavior toward women? And there is also the concern of a witch hunt ensuing with accusations flying and no way for anyone to determine what the truth is. Liberals tell us to always believe the victim, but can we? The reason I believe the accusations against Moore is because there were so many women with very similar stories and some of them had told friends or relatives about their experiences before this year's campaign. And Moore's fumbling responses on Hannity were much less than credible. He said it wouldn't have been characteristic of him to behave that way or date teenagers when he was in his 30s - at least not without the mother's permission. What adult male asks the mother of his dates for permission to date?

Tobin also points out that there are Republicans who are guilty of their own hypocrisy.
But Franken’s example doesn’t merely show that sleaze can be a bipartisan failing. It provides those on the left with a chance to prove that their outrage over Moore isn’t mere partisanship.

This is a test that all too many on the right have failed. Many of those who waxed self-righteous about Clinton’s appalling conduct and expressed sympathy for his victims were not willing to apply the same standard to Moore and his victims. Nor were they interested in applying the same rhetoric about the importance of virtue we heard in the late ’90s when candidate Donald Trump was called to account for the Access Hollywood tape in which he boasted of treating women abusively.
Republicans are subject to allegations of hypocrisy for not living up to their religious beliefs and moral principles in these stories. But Democrats are also bound by their fervent proclamations of being so sensitive to women's rights if they continue to close their eyes to similar allegations against those on their own side.

And who knows which other politicians will be on the hot seat in the future?

And here is a very good point about Franken's hypocrisy.


Remember in 2012 how Democrats were outraged that Mitt Romney had "binders full of women" with their resumes so he could appoint more women to his administration? Times do change, don't they?

If you're thinking that Capitol Hill is full of flawed politicians who have let power go to their heads, perhaps you might question why we have given Washington so much power in the first place?

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John Daniel Davidson argues that we could avoid the quandary afflicting Republicans as to what to do now about Roy Moore if we didn't have the 17th Amendment which changed how we elect senators. Before 1913, state legislatures chose senators. The Seventeenth Amendment changed all that to having a popular election.
The idea that state legislatures would elect senators might seem odd nowadays, but creating some distance between the popular vote and the election of senators was crucial to the Founders’ grand design for the republic. The original idea, spelled out in The Federalist Papers, was that the people would be represented in the House of Representatives and the states would be represented in the Senate. Seats in the House were therefore apportioned according to population while every state, no matter how large its populace, got two seats in the Senate.

The larger concept behind this difference was that Congress needed to be both national and federal in order to reflect not just the sovereignty of the people but also the sovereignty of the states against the federal government. In Federalist No. 62, James Madison explained that Congress shouldn’t pass laws “without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then of a majority of the states.”

Besides tempering the passions of the electorate, empowering state legislatures to elect senators was meant to protect the states from the encroachments of the federal government. The tension was (and still is) between the dual sovereignty of the national government and the states. Writing in Federalist No. 39, Madison explains that while the House of Representatives is national because it “will derive its powers from the people of America,” the Senate “will derive its powers from the States, as political and coequal societies.” We’ve lost much of this today, but the jurisdiction of the federal government, wrote Madison, “extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.”
He details the Gilded Age corruption that led to the calls to change the procedures for choosing senators to a popular vote. But we no longer have state legislatures under the control of huge corporations. But it would be hard to argue that the popular vote has resulted in a completely inspiring group of politicians.

This is all well and good, but it's never going to happen. Republicans might support such a move now given how, after 2016, they won total control of 32 states while the Democrats have total control of just 13. And Nebraska's unicameral legislature would probably lean conservative. That's why Democrats would never support a repeal of the 17th Amendment. And it would be hard to argue to constituents that they voted to deprive voters of a direct vote for senators. So it's all a nice pipe dream.

And this is why so many people rolled their eyes when they heard that Gloria Allred was representing a new accuser against Roy Moore. Red State points to the "bizarre" responses she's given to questions about her client's allegations.
Among the several allegations made by women against Roy Moore, one characteristic that seemed to give Beverly Nelson‘s extra credibility was the physical proof she offered: a high school yearbook signed by Moore himself while Nelson was a student, the same day he allegedly assaulted her. Comparisons to more recent Moore signatures show a striking similarity, yet the Moore camp is claiming that it’s a fake. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer addressed this issue with Nelson’s attorney, Gloria Allred, on Wednesday, but Allred didn’t appear to want to talk about it.

“Can you say flatly that was not a forgery?” Blitzer asked.

Allred did not directly address the question, only saying that questions about the signature would be welcome at a Senate hearing.

“That is not a flat denial,” Blitzer pressed.

“All I’m saying is, we’re not denying, we’re not admitting, we’re not addressing, we will not be distracted,” Allred countered.
With Moore's lawyer alleging that the yearbook is forged, it seems a bit suspect not to be willing to turn it over to a neutral judge. Why won't she speak up for her client and answer the question? Her answers are just as weasley as Moore's were with Hannity. She is saying that she's waiting for the Senate to hold hearings and she'll testify there. But if she really cares about keeping Moore out of the Senate then she shouldn't be waiting for him to get into the Senate for a hearing. And if he's defeated, the Senate would have no reason to hold a hearing.
It’s not within the Senate’s normal purview to look into this at the committee level. Especially since there’d be no legal outcome for the Senate to recommend because of the statute of limitations. It just doesn’t make sense.
So what Allred is really saying is “we aren’t going to answer any questions or have any evidence examined unless we have this thing that is not going to happen and has no reason to happen.” Well, that’s convenient.

Who here thinks it’s a coincidence that her demands center around a Senate hearing, which would be like catnip for a media hound such as Allred? Show of hands?

Nate Silver writes about how the "Democrats missed a chance to draw a line in the sand on sexual misconduct." He goes through all the reasons why the timing and context were right for the Democrats to abandon Franken. But instead they decided to circle the wagons around burying the whole thing in the Ethics Committee.
When we were thinking through the Franken story in FiveThrityEight’s internal Slack channel today, most of the men in our office thought that Franken was in deep trouble (“I think he’s toast,” I wrote at 11:07 this morning). Most of the women thought he’d hang in and survive. We’re less than a day into the story, but no surprise — it looks like the women will be right.


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All this has inspired some really great satire from The Onion. Much funnier than anything Al Franken has written.







Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cruising the Web

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Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt have a powerful essay at Reason
about "The Fragile Generation" about how young people today have been raised in such a sheltered environment compared to their previous generations. While my generation used to wander around our neighborhoods and run to the store for our parents, police are now being called in if a child is sighted on his or her own. Parents today are so overprotective that, as they argue, has made kids and young adults more fragile and less able to deal with conflict.
We've had the best of intentions, of course. But efforts to protect our children may be backfiring. When we raise kids unaccustomed to facing anything on their own, including risk, failure, and hurt feelings, our society and even our economy are threatened. Yet modern child-rearing practices and laws seem all but designed to cultivate this lack of preparedness. There's the fear that everything children see, do, eat, hear, and lick could hurt them. And there's a newer belief that has been spreading through higher education that words and ideas themselves can be traumatizing.

How did we come to think a generation of kids can't handle the basic challenges of growing up?

Beginning in the 1980s, American childhood changed. For a variety of reasons—including shifts in parenting norms, new academic expectations, increased regulation, technological advances, and especially a heightened fear of abduction (missing kids on milk cartons made it feel as if this exceedingly rare crime was rampant)—children largely lost the experience of having large swaths of unsupervised time to play, explore, and resolve conflicts on their own. This has left them more fragile, more easily offended, and more reliant on others. They have been taught to seek authority figures to solve their problems and shield them from discomfort, a condition sociologists call "moral dependency."

This poses a threat to the kind of open-mindedness and flexibility young people need to thrive at college and beyond. If they arrive at school or start careers unaccustomed to frustration and misunderstandings, we can expect them to be hypersensitive. And if they don't develop the resources to work through obstacles, molehills come to look like mountains.
Where the attitude used to be that we should let children fail so they can learn to cope when things don't go their way, now young people just can't deal with anything that conflicts with their view of the world. The result is the situations we're seeing on college campuses today.
This magnification of danger and hurt is prevalent on campus today. It no longer matters what a person intended to say, or how a reasonable listener would interpret a statement—what matters is whether any individual feels offended by it. If so, the speaker has committed a "microaggression," and the offended party's purely subjective reaction is a sufficient basis for emailing a dean or filing a complaint with the university's "bias response team." The net effect is that both professors and students today report that they are walking on eggshells. This interferes with the process of free inquiry and open debate—the active ingredients in a college education.

And if that's the case already, what of the kids still in grammar school, constantly reminded they might accidentally hurt each other with the wrong words? When today's 8-year-olds become the 18-year-olds starting college, will they still view free speech as worthy of protecting? As Daniel Shuchman, chairman of the free speech-promoting Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), puts it, "How likely are they to consider the First Amendment essential if they start learning in fifth grade that you're forbidden to say—or even think—certain things, especially at school?"

Parents, teachers, and professors are talking about the growing fragility they see. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the overprotection of children and the hypersensitivity of college students could be two sides of the same coin. By trying so hard to protect our kids, we're making them too safe to succeed.
As they go over how children are raised today, it really is quite shocking to me compared to both how I was raised and how my own kids were raised. I remember leaving the house in the morning and going to wander the neighborhood for hours. I'd wander far afield and play around in a nearby creek and my parents had no idea where I was. Now I'm amazed at that. This was decades before cell phones. While I wasn't that permissive with my daughters, they'd play by themselves outside without adult supervision. But today's kids are raised quite differently and are always under some sort of adult's protection their entire lives.
It's not just that kids aren't playing much on their own. These days, they're not doing much of anything on their own. In an article in The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin admits that "when my daughter was 10, my husband and I suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult."
Think about that. Is that the way you were raised? Is that the way you raised your children?
If you're over 40, chances are good that you had scads of free time as a child—after school, on weekends, over the summer. And chances are also good that, if you were asked about it now, you'd go on and on about playing in the woods and riding your bike until the streetlights came on.

Today many kids are raised like veal. Only 13 percent of them even walk to school. Many who take the bus wait at the stop with parents beside them like bodyguards. For a while, Rhode Island was considering a bill that would prohibit children from getting off the bus in the afternoon if there wasn't an adult waiting to walk them home. This would have applied until seventh grade.

As for summer frolicking, campers don't just have to take a buddy with them wherever they go, including the bathroom. Some are now required to take two—one to stay with whoever gets hurt, the other to run and get a grown-up. Walking to the john is treated like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

After school, kids no longer come home with a latchkey and roam the neighborhood. Instead, they're locked into organized, supervised activities. Youth sports are a $15 billion business that has grown by 55 percent since just 2010. Children as young as third grade are joining traveling teams—which means their parents spend a lot of time in the car, too. Or they're at tutoring. Or they're at music lessons. And if all else fails, they are in their rooms, online.

Even if parents want to shoo their kids outside—and don't come home till dinner!—it's not as easy as it once was. Often, there are no other children around to play with. Even more dishearteningly, adults who believe it's good for young people to run some errands or play kickball down the street have to think twice about letting them, because busybodies, cops, and social workers are primed to equate "unsupervised" with "neglected and in danger."
Now the police will be called if you let your kids play outside by themselves.
You may remember the story of the Meitivs in Maryland, investigated twice for letting their kids, 10 and 6, walk home together from the park. Or the Debra Harrell case in South Carolina, where a mom was thrown in jail for allowing her 9-year-old to play at the sprinkler playground while she worked at McDonald's. Or the 8-year-old Ohio boy who was supposed to get on the bus to Sunday school, but snuck off to the Family Dollar store instead. His dad was arrested for child endangerment.

These examples represent a new outlook: the belief that anytime kids are doing anything on their own, they are automatically under threat. But that outlook is wrong. The crime rate in America is back down to what it was in 1963, which means that most of today's parents grew up playing outside when it was more dangerous than it is today. And it hasn't gotten safer because we're hovering over our kids. All violent crime is down, including against adults.
Skenazy and Haidt point out that, just as life has become safer, we've become paranoid. This story seems like a story from the Onion.
he Boulder Public Library in Colorado recently forbade anyone under 12 to enter without an adult, because "children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment, or other library patrons." Ah, yes, kids and library furniture. Always a lethal combo.

Happily, the library backed off that rule, perhaps thanks to merciless mocking in the media. But saner minds don't always prevail. At Mesa Elementary School, which also happens to be in Boulder, students got a list of the items they could not bring to the science fair. These included "chemicals," "plants in soil," and "organisms (living or dead)." And we wonder why American children score so low on international tests.

But perhaps the single best example of how fantastically fearful we've become occurred when the city of Richland, Washington, got rid of all the swings on its school playgrounds. The love of swinging is probably older than humanity itself, given our arboreal origins. But as a school district spokesman explained, "Swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground."

You may think your town has avoided such overkill, but is there a merry-go-round at your local park, or a see-saw? Most likely they, too, have gone the way of lawn darts. The Consumer Product Safety Commission even warns parks of "tripping hazards, like…tree stumps and rocks," a fact unearthed (so to speak) by Philip Howard, author of 2010's Life Without Lawyers.

The problem is that kids learn by doing. Trip over a tree stump and you learn to look down. There's an old saying: Prepare your child for the path, not the path for your child. We're doing the opposite.
The result of all this overprotection is that we're raising a generation who are unable to cope with ordinary problems like the story they tell of two college students who called the emergency counseling service because they had a mouse in their apartment. When that didn't help, they called the police.
Not letting your kid climb a tree because he might fall robs him of a classic childhood experience. But being emotionally overprotective takes away something else. "We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to…experience failure and realize they can survive it," Gray has said. When Lenore's son came in eighth out of nine teams in a summer camp bowling league, he got an eighth-place trophy. The moral was clear: We don't think you can cope with the negative emotions of finishing second-to-last.

Of course, it's natural to want to see kids happy. But the real secret to happiness isn't more high fives; it's developing emotional resilience. In our mania for physical safety, coupled with our recent tendency to talk about "emotional safety," we have systematically deprived our children of the thousands of challenging—and sometimes upsetting—experiences that they need in order to learn that resiliency. And in our quest to protect them, we have stolen from children the best resilience training known to man: free play.
Too rarely these days are kids just left alone to develop their own play. Instead they're participating in organized activities where the adults are in control. The kids don't get the opportunity to engage their imagination and resolve problems that arise. And they have lost experiences of navigating their ways around their neighborhoods on their own.
The responsibility expected of kids not so long ago has become almost inconceivable. Published in 1979, the book Your 6-Year-old: Loving and Defiant includes a simple checklist for what a child entering first grade should be able to do: Can he draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored? Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels? Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to a store, school, playground, or friend's home?

Hang on. Walk to the store at 6—alone?

It's tempting to blame "helicopter parents" for today's less resilient kids. But when all the first-graders are walking themselves to school, it's easy to add yours to the mix. When your child is the only one, it's harder. And that's where we are today. Norms have dramatically changed. The kind of freedom that seemed unremarkable a generation ago has become taboo, and in some cases even illegal.
They review what has happened to Halloween.
n Waynesboro, Georgia, "trick or treaters" must be 12 or younger; they must be in a costume; and they must be accompanied by an adult at least 21 years of age. So if you have kids who are 15, 10, and 8, you can't send them out together. The 15-year-old is not allowed to dress up, yet she won't be considered old enough to supervise her siblings for another six years. And this is on the one night of the entire year we traditionally let children pretend to be adults.

Other schools and community centers now send letters home asking parents not to let their children wear scary costumes. Some even organize "trunk or treats"—cars parked in a circle, trunks open and filled with candy, thus saving the kids from having to walk around the neighborhood or knock on doors. (That would be tiring and terrifying.) If this is childhood, is it any wonder college kids also expect to be micromanaged on Halloween?
This year, we didn't get one Trick or Treater to our house. They just weren't out there at all even when I looked out in the neighborhood. We went from having seven-eight groups of kids an hour to not having a single one. When I brought in my leftover candy to give my students, several of them told me that they didn't get any kids coming to their houses either. Maybe that is the way it's going to be from now on. Maybe they'll all "Trunk or treat." But it's a shame. I loved Halloween. When I was a kid, the idea that strangers would give me candy if I just asked them to seemed like the best thing ever!

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Ilya Somin commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. After reminding us of the many millions who have died through mass murder and man-made famines. These mass murders were accompanied by deprivations of the freedoms and property rights that we take for granted here. All this from regimes that promised a utopian regime with prosperity and rights for everyone. So why was communism such a failure?
How did an ideology of liberation lead to so much oppression, tyranny and death? Were its failures intrinsic to the communist project, or did they arise from avoidable flaws of particular rulers or nations? Like any great historical development, the failures of communism cannot be reduced to any one single cause. But, by and large, they were indeed inherent.

Two major factors were the most important causes of the atrocities inflicted by communist regimes: perverse incentives and inadequate knowledge. The establishment of the centrally planned economy and society required by socialist ideology necessitated an enormous concentration of power. While communists looked forward to a utopian society in which the state could eventually “wither away,” they believed they first had to establish a state-run economy in order to manage production in the interests of the people. In that respect, they had much in common with other socialists.

To make socialism work, government planners needed to have the authority to direct the production and distribution of virtually all the goods produced by the society. In addition, extensive coercion was necessary to force people to give up their private property, and do the work that the state required. Famine and mass murder was probably the only way the rulers of the USSR, China, and other communist states could compel peasants to give up their land and livestock and accept a new form of serfdom on collective farms – which most were then forbidden to leave without official permission, for fear that they might otherwise seek an easier life elsewhere.

The vast power necessary to establish and maintain the communist system naturally attracted unscrupulous people, including many self-seekers who prioritized their own interests over those of the cause. But it is striking that the biggest communist atrocities were perpetrated not by corrupt party bosses, but by true believers like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Precisely because they were true believers, they were willing to do whatever it might take to make their utopian dreams a reality.

Even as the socialist system created opportunities for vast atrocities by the rulers, it also destroyed production incentives for ordinary people. In the absence of markets (at least legal ones), there was little incentive for workers to either be productive or to focus on making goods that might actually be useful to consumers. Many people tried to do as little work as possible at their official jobs, where possible reserving their real efforts for black market activity. As the old Soviet saying goes, workers had the attitude that “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay.”

Even when socialist planners genuinely sought to produce prosperity and meet consumer demands, they often lacked the information to do so. As Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek described in a famous article, a market economy conveys vital information to producers and consumers alike through the price system. Market prices enable producers to know the relative value of different goods and services, and determine how much consumers value their products. Under socialist central planning, by contrast, there is no substitute for this vital knowledge. As a result, socialist planners often had no way to know what to produce, by what methods, or in way quantities. This is one of the reasons why communists states routinely suffered from shortages of basic goods, while simultaneously producing large quantities of shoddy products for which there was little demand.
I would add in to their lack of knowledge, their inability to understand human behavior. THey seemed to think that it was possible to remake humans into their preferred images to work the way they envisioned society working. They ignored that people respond to both incentives and disincentives. If there is no benefit to working hard, why work hard? But those on the left who still see socialism as a desirable system try to explain away the century of bloody failures from communist regimes.
How did an ideology of liberation lead to so much oppression, tyranny and death? Were its failures intrinsic to the communist project, or did they arise from avoidable flaws of particular rulers or nations? Like any great historical development, the failures of communism cannot be reduced to any one single cause. But, by and large, they were indeed inherent.

Two major factors were the most important causes of the atrocities inflicted by communist regimes: perverse incentives and inadequate knowledge. The establishment of the centrally planned economy and society required by socialist ideology necessitated an enormous concentration of power. While communists looked forward to a utopian society in which the state could eventually “wither away,” they believed they first had to establish a state-run economy in order to manage production in the interests of the people. In that respect, they had much in common with other socialists.

To make socialism work, government planners needed to have the authority to direct the production and distribution of virtually all the goods produced by the society. In addition, extensive coercion was necessary to force people to give up their private property, and do the work that the state required. Famine and mass murder was probably the only way the rulers of the USSR, China, and other communist states could compel peasants to give up their land and livestock and accept a new form of serfdom on collective farms – which most were then forbidden to leave without official permission, for fear that they might otherwise seek an easier life elsewhere.

The vast power necessary to establish and maintain the communist system naturally attracted unscrupulous people, including many self-seekers who prioritized their own interests over those of the cause. But it is striking that the biggest communist atrocities were perpetrated not by corrupt party bosses, but by true believers like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Precisely because they were true believers, they were willing to do whatever it might take to make their utopian dreams a reality.

Even as the socialist system created opportunities for vast atrocities by the rulers, it also destroyed production incentives for ordinary people. In the absence of markets (at least legal ones), there was little incentive for workers to either be productive or to focus on making goods that might actually be useful to consumers. Many people tried to do as little work as possible at their official jobs, where possible reserving their real efforts for black market activity. As the old Soviet saying goes, workers had the attitude that “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay.”

Even when socialist planners genuinely sought to produce prosperity and meet consumer demands, they often lacked the information to do so. As Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek described in a famous article, a market economy conveys vital information to producers and consumers alike through the price system. Market prices enable producers to know the relative value of different goods and services, and determine how much consumers value their products. Under socialist central planning, by contrast, there is no substitute for this vital knowledge. As a result, socialist planners often had no way to know what to produce, by what methods, or in way quantities. This is one of the reasons why communists states routinely suffered from shortages of basic goods, while simultaneously producing large quantities of shoddy products for which there was little demand.
Read the rest of this essay. These lessons are so important, especially today when we see socialist politicians achieving a remarkable degree of popularity.
Even in some long-established democracies, recent economic and social troubles have increased the popularity of avowed old-style socialists such as Bernie Sanders in the United States and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. Both Sanders and Corbyn are longtime admirers of brutal communist regimes. Even if they wanted to do so, it is unlikely that Sanders or Corbyn will be able to establish full-blown socialism in their respective countries. But they can potentially do considerable harm nonetheless.

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Meanwhile, Jay Nordlinger marvels at how Donald Trump happily joked around with foreign leaders on his trip about their disdain for journalists. But there is a difference between Trump railing about #FakeNews and the way Russia's PUtin and the Philippine's Duterte treatment of journalists.
Reporters tried to ask President Duterte of the Philippines about human rights. He shut them down, calling them “spies.” President Trump, sitting next to him, laughed. Earlier this year, Trump sat next to Vladimir Putin. Reporters were trying to ask questions. Putin pointed at them and said to Trump, “Are these the ones who insulted you?” Then the two had a good laugh.

Obviously, democratic leaders have to engage in diplomacy, holding their noses, doing the necessary. If Mao asks you to play ping-pong with him, maybe you do. But democratic leaders, especially the American president, stand for something abroad.

Putin is not just anti–press freedom. He is a killer of journalists. Duterte is not just anti–press freedom. He is a killer of journalists. Recall his famous sentence: “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.”

To dictators, a “son of a bitch” is anyone who might inconvenience them.

I think we who spend so much of our day media-bashing have an obligation to remember: Press freedom is a key part of overall freedom. It is key to democracy. It is what we on the right, among others, take advantage of every day.

When the president of the United States is sitting next to the killers of journalists, he should not laugh along with them when it comes to the press. If he cannot defend a free press — the right of people to question and report on their leaders — he should at least refrain from laughing.
Indeed.

CBS Sports decided
to take the idea of Greg Popovich running for president and try to figure out how he'd do. While it may be a fun intellectually exercise, I don't think it would ever happen. Pop is smart enough not to want to throw himself into that political thicket. While he might have strong views, he also knows his limitations. Those people who do run, especially those who think they can start at the top without any experience in office at all are filled with an arrogance that Pop just has never demonstrated. But it sure is fun to contemplate.

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The Democrats are so lame when it comes to trying to block Trump's judicial nominees that they've descended to pretending to find deep meaning in the tweets from Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett. Judge Willett has a sweet and funny Twitter feed, but you know that leftist organizations have been poring over it to try to find some sort of disqualifying tweet. And the humorless Patrick Leahy was ready to interrogate Willet about two supposedly offensive tweets. One was a joke made after California allowed transgender male athletes to compete in female sports competitions.



Then the man whose qualifications for the Senate were his work for SNL, Al Franken, jumped in to question the humor in the joke.
"I don't get it," Franken, a former Saturday Night Live writer and performer, shot back. "But sometimes when you don't get a joke it's because it wasn't a joke."
Well, Franken would know about jokes that aren't jokes. And why did the Democrats put Franken on the Judiciary Committee. That always astounds me.

Another tweet that Leahy pretended not to understand was one that Willett posted after the oral argument in the Obergefell hearing on gay marriage before the Supreme Court. Willett had the effrontery to make a bacon joke.
So now a bacon joke is the basis for Leahy to argue that Willett isn't qualified to hear cases involving LGBT issues. Allahpundit comments,
What makes this stupid, though, isn’t just Leahy’s lame attempt to turn a genial joke into “divisiveness.” It’s that he doesn’t even have his facts straight. The tweet wasn’t sent the day after SCOTUS’s decision on gay marriage, it was sent months earlier, after oral argument in the case. The Supremes hadn’t ruled on the matter yet, in which case Willett’s tweet obviously couldn’t have been a commentary on their decision. Willett himself must have forgotten the timeline because he accepts Leahy’s false claim that he tweeted after the decision itself, not oral argument. But Leahy’s wrong, in addition to being a humorless tool.
Willett tried to explain why he made a bacon joke at that time, but Leahy was having none of it.
"I don't believe I had attacked Supreme Court precedent, but certainly, if I were fortunate enough to be confirmed as a federal circuit judge, I would be honor-bound, categorically, absolutely, to follow every controlling precedent," Willett said.

Leahy said again that Willett had equated same-sex marriage to marrying bacon, saying it indicated a lack of respect for the Supreme Court.

"Senator, as for the bacon tweet, that was the day after the Obergefell decision was issued and it was my attempt to inject a bit of levity," Willett said. "The country was filled with rancor and polarization. It was a divisive time in the nation."

"And you think that cut back the divisiveness with a comment like that?" Leahy asked.

"Senator, I believe every American is entitled to equal worth and dignity," Willett said. "I've never intended to disparage anyone and would never do so. That's not where my heart is."
Guy Benson adds,
To his credit, this is far more polite than I would have been. I'd have been tempted to blurt out something, like "are you kidding me? Does anyone have a legitimate question about something serious?" Unless you're a humorless left-wing scold, here's what obviously happened: With people on various sides of an emotional social issue raging at each other, Willett used the moment to make a unifying crack about America's shared love of bacon. I'm half surprised Leahy didn't follow up with accusation that the pork-joke was insensitive to devout Jews and Muslims. In any case, this criticism was absurdly weak sauce.

Make up your own minds. Go scroll through Willett's Twitter feed. I guarantee that you will have a gentle smile on your face as you do. His posts are a mix of love for this country and Texas along with his feelings for his family sprinkled in with some genial jokes that all but Patrick Leahy and Al Franken would understand.

Cruising the Web

It's rather amusing that liberals are finally acknowledging Bill Clinton's predatory behavior now that they no longer have to keep him in the Oval Office or make way for Hillary's rise to power. Suddenly, now they're admitting that, yes, the behavior he was accused of was just as bad as that of some of the men being accused today and that, for some of his accusers, the evidence was much stronger.

Michelle Goldberg, a liberal writer, writes in the New York Times that she believes Juanita Broaddrick.
In this #MeToo moment, when we’re reassessing decades of male misbehavior and turning open secrets into exposes, we should look clearly at the credible evidence that Juanita Broaddrick told the truth when she accused Clinton of raping her. But revisiting the Clinton scandals in light of today’s politics is complicated as well as painful. Democrats are guilty of apologizing for Clinton when they shouldn’t have. At the same time, looking back at the smear campaign against the Clintons shows we can’t treat the feminist injunction to “believe women” as absolute.
Of course, she's using her belief in Clinton's accuser as a cudgel to beat up conservatives for Roy Moore and for all the efforts to bring down Bill Clinton by some groups on the right. So she believes women except when they're connected to the vast right-wing conspiracy.
Of the Clinton accusers, the one who haunts me is Broaddrick. The story she tells about Clinton recalls those we’ve heard about Weinstein. She claimed they had plans to meet in a hotel coffee shop, but at the last minute he asked to come up to her hotel room instead, where he raped her. Five witnesses said she confided in them about the assault right after it happened. It’s true that she denied the rape in an affidavit to Paula Jones’s lawyers, before changing her story when talking to federal investigators. But her explanation, that she didn’t want to go public but couldn’t lie to the F.B.I., makes sense. Put simply, I believe her.

What to do with that belief? Contemplating this history is excruciating in part because of the way it has been weaponized against Hillary Clinton. Broaddrick sees her as complicit, interpreting something Hillary once said to her at a political event — “I want you to know that we appreciate everything you do for Bill” — as a veiled threat instead of a rote greeting. This seems wildly unlikely; Broaddrick was decades away from going public, and most reporting about the Clinton marriage shows Bill going to great lengths to hide his betrayals. Nevertheless, one of the sick ironies of the 2016 campaign was that it was Hillary who had to pay the political price for Bill’s misdeeds, as they were trotted out to deflect attention from Trump’s well-documented transgressions.
Megan McArdle rightly casts shade on Goldberg's reasoning about the accusations against Clinton.
Let's be consistent here. I believe that we should condemn both Roy Moore and Bill Clinton. Donald Trump's bragging about grabbing women by their private parts and committing adultery is also contemptible.

Meanwhile, Caitlin Flanagan writes in The Atlantic to give a reckoning to the feminists who shamefully backed Bill Clinton against the women who accused him because he was on their side on abortion. She details Broaddrick's credible account of being raped by Bill Clinton as well as the accusations by Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey. These accusations are at least as credible as those against Roy Moore. But the real shame was how supposed feminists rallied around Clinton to provide a female Praetorian Guard to protect him against all accusations of misbehavior.
It was a pattern of behavior; it included an alleged violent assault; the women involved had far more credible evidence than many of the most notorious accusations that have come to light in the past five weeks. But Clinton was not left to the swift and pitiless justice that today’s accused men have experienced. Rather, he was rescued by a surprising force: machine feminism. The movement had by then ossified into a partisan operation and it was willing—eager—to let this friend of the sisterhood enjoy a little droit de seigneur.

The notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed by Gloria Steinem must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life. It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover (never write an op-ed in a hurry; you’ll accidentally say what you really believe), it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.

Called “Feminists and the Clinton Question,” it was written in March of 1998, when Paula Jones’s harassment claim was working its way through court. It was printed seven days after Kathleen Willey’s blockbuster 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley. If all the various allegations were true, wrote Steinem, Bill Clinton was “a candidate for sex addiction therapy.” To her mind, the most “credible” accusations were those of Willey, whom she noted was “old enough to be Monica Lewinsky’s mother.” And then she wrote the fatal sentences that invalidated the new understanding of workplace sexual harassment as a moral and legal wrong: “Even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment. He is accused of having made a gross, dumb, and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life. She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took ‘no’ for an answer.”

Steinem said the same was true of Paula Jones. These were not crimes; they were “passes.” Broaddrick was left out by Steinem, who revealed herself as a combination John and Bobby Kennedy of the feminist movement: the fair-haired girl and the bareknuckle fixer. The widespread liberal response to the sex crime accusations against Bill Clinton found their natural consequence 20 years later in the behavior of Harvey Weinstein: Stay loudly and publicly and extravagantly on the side of signal leftist causes and you can do what you want in the privacy of your offices and hotel rooms. But the mood of the country has changed. We are in a time when old monuments are coming down and when men are losing their careers over things they did to women a long time ago.
All this was true just a year ago when Hillary was leading the charge for the Democrats. Notice that these acknowledgements of liberal guilt for shielding Bill didn't come out then. It's only now when the Clintons are of no use, and are even a detriment for the Democrats, that liberals can come out and reflect on how they were wrong to protect both all these years.

It is so tiresome that people are inclined to believe or disbelieve an accusation against a prominent person based on that person's political parties. I just wish that people could agree that abusing women or young people is a terrible act and that person should not be elected to political office or celebrated whether that person is a Kennedy or Moore or Clinton or Trump or O'Reilly or Weinstein. If this convulsion of accusations against prominent people here and elsewhere might diminish the eagerness of people to defend their guy just because they detest the people making the accusations.

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Katherine Timpf derides t
hose who are trying to defend Roy Moore by comparing the story to the discredited Rolling Stone rape story about a fraternity at the University of Virginia. Just because one story was bogus doesn't mean that all stories of sexual abuse are bogus.
These two situations are not the same; they’re not even close.

Don’t believe me? Let’s break it down, shall we? On the one hand, Sabrina Erdely’s story in Rolling Stone magazine was perhaps one of the most irresponsibly reported works of “journalism” that I have ever seen. It relied on only one single, anonymous source — “Jackie” — and that’s it. No witnesses, no corroborating research, no nothing.

The Washington Post’s account of the Roy Moore allegations, on the other hand, is a completely different ball game. Not one, not two, but four women went on the record with their real first and last names — risking their reputations to tell their stories — and these accounts are backed up by interviews with more than 30 sources. Oh, and then there’s this: Since the WaPo’s article, an additional woman, Beverly Young Nelson, has come out on the record to say that Moore also assaulted her when she was 16.

Come on, people. If you are really going to tell me that you think that five on-the-record women, and more than 30 corroborating sources is the same thing as a story based solely on the word of a single, unidentifiable source, then I’m going to tell you that you’re either disingenuously trying to create a false equivalency for political purposes or you’re just really, really, really bad at math.

The comparison is asinine, and the only thing more asinine than the comparison itself is how common it is. How could anyone even insinuate that these two situations are the same thing? There really are only two explanations: These people do realize how they’re different, but they just don’t care — they’ll say anything to carry water for Moore because even though he may be a pedophile, at least he’s not a Democrat! — or, they just didn’t bother to do their research — they’d rather thoughtlessly throw out some random talking point than take the two seconds it would take to Google it first, no matter whom it hurts. Both are disgusting, and there’s no excuse for either.

Rich Lowry points out how Moore has been less than persuasive in his denials of inappropriate conduct with these women making accusations against him.
Moore hasn’t done himself any favors. In the Hannity interview, he first said, referring to Leigh Corfman and the other women in the Post report, “I’ve never known this woman or anything with regard to the other girls.” Then, in almost the same breath, he conceded, “I do recognize however the names of two these young ladies.” Oh.

Of one of the girls, he said: “I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go on dates then we did.” How many men in their 30s are “friends” with teenage girls who they may or may not have dated? Then Moore said of these two girls, “neither of them have ever stated any inappropriate behavior” — even though both of them said he dated and kissed them.

Asked point-blank if he dated girls in their teens, he replied with the less than Shermanesque “Not generally, no.”

....At this point, there are two options: Either several different women who don’t know one another have decided to take the enormous personal risk of making up stories about Roy Moore in a vast political conspiracy, or a politician caught up in a scandal with every incentive to dissemble is doing it — and not very well.

And if you think that what Moore is accused of doing with teenagers is no big deal, remember that it's a crime in Alabama and that people have gone to jail for the same behavior.

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Jim Geraghty notes that there have been three violent attacks against Republican politicians in the recent past. Besides the firing on the Republicans practicing for a baseball game and the unprovoked attack on Rand Paul while he was mowing his lawn with earphones in, there was also the attempt by a woman to run Representative David Kustoff off the road because she didn't like his position on health care.
Three violent attacks on members of Congress in seven months is the sort of thing that would ordinarily generate long feature pieces in the media about the “culture of hate” and “out-of-control partisan appetite for violence” plaguing the country, with hard questions asked about whether the most incendiary voices are partially responsible for these sorts of attacks.
The media love to search out some trend and draw conclusions about society and politics, but this is the first writer I've seen tie together these three events.

Joe Biden is so determined to cater to the left wing of his party that he is now arguing that the man who stopped the Texas church shooter by shooting him should not have had a gun.
"Well, first of all, the kind of gun being carried he shouldn’t be carrying," Biden said. "Assault weapons are . . . I wrote the last serious gun control law that was written and was law for 10 years, and it outlawed assault weapons and it outlawed weapons with magazines that had a whole lot of bullets and so you can kill a whole lot of people a lot more quickly."

Biden continued by saying that it is rational that some people not own guns but that there is nothing that can be done if a crazy person obtains a gun legally.
John Porter comments,
If three years out from the election, you not only can’t admit it was a good thing Stephen Willeford had a gun, but you’re bragging your law would have prevented Willeford from saving the day? I can’t wait to see how everyone else races even further left.
Really? After an NRA-training instructor shot the murderer and kept him from fleeing and shooting up more people, Joe Biden still regrets that the good guy had a gun. Well, at least he follows the logic of his position.

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This thread is just hilarious - if Marx wrote like Trump. I imagine we could spark an entire website rewriting famous works in Trumpspeak.



Well, I'm not quite this much of a podfaster, but I do listen to 2 - 3 podcasts a day and will listen on nothing slower than 1.5 speed. And I still have dozens and dozens queued up. Maybe I'll have to take another car trip somewhere so I can knock off some more.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Cruising the Web

I'm just getting ready to teach the federalism unit and one of the main concepts for students to learn is how federalism allows for the states to become "laboratories of democracy," where we can see the results of different policy choices. I usually show students differences among the states on issues such as taxes, spending on education, and capital punishment. One of the maps I was looking at to show them is this one from the Tax Foundation on the different corporate tax rates in the 50 states.
The differences among the states will play a role in how businesses make decisions about where to locate.

Add in this map of the top income tax rates by state.
It turns out that people respond to the disincentives of living in certain high-tax states.

As the Wall Street Journal has this report on the results of such tax differences among the states.
The liberal tax model is to fleece the rich to finance spending on entitlements and government programs that invariably grow faster than the economy and revenues. IRS data on tax migration show this model is now breaking down in progressive states as the affluent run for cover and the middle class is left paying the bills.

Between 2012 and 2015 (the most recent data), a net $8.5 billion in adjusted gross income left New Jersey while $6.2 billion poured out of Connecticut—4% of the latter state’s total income. Illinois lost $13.6 billion. During that period, Florida with no income tax gained $39.3 billion in AGI. (See the nearby table.)

Not surprisingly, income flows down the tax gradient. In 2015 New York (where the combined state and local top rate is 12.7%) lost a net $850 million in AGI to New Jersey (8.97%) and Connecticut (6.99%). At the same time, the Garden State gave up $335 million to Pennsylvania (3.07%), and $60 million left Connecticut for the state formerly known as Taxachusetts (5.1%). Taxpayers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut escaped to Florida with $3.2 billion in income. Florida Gov. Rick Scott ought to pay these states a commission.

The affluent account for a disproportionate share of the income migration. For instance, individuals reporting more than $200,000 in AGI in 2015 made up 57% of the income outflow from Connecticut (compared to 48% of total state AGI) and 57% of the inflow to Florida.

Snowbird flight isn’t new, but migration has accelerated as taxes have increased. Income outflow from Connecticut averaged $500 million between 2003 and 2007. Then in 2009 GOP Gov. Jodi Rell raised the top tax rate to 6.5% from 5%, which her Democratic successor Dannel Malloy lifted a few years later to 6.7% and again two years ago to 6.99%. AGI outflow between 2012 and 2015 averaged $1.6 billion.

In 2004 Democrats raised New Jersey’s top rate on individuals earning more than $500,000 to 8.97% from 6.37%. Between 2012 and 2015, annual income outflow from New Jersey averaged $2.1 billion—twice as much as between 2000 and 2003 after adjusting for inflation.
The problem for these high tax states is that people, especially wealthy people, have choices and staying around to see more of their wealth or corporate income taxed is not going to fly with a lot of those people. And when they leave, the state loses those revenues that the states have been relying on to fund the promises they've made to public employees' unions.
This millionaires’ diaspora has harmed income and economic growth. Real GDP between 2011 and 2016 grew annually at a paltry 0.2% in Connecticut, 1% in Illinois and 1.2% in New Jersey, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. These states were the slowest growing in their respective geographic regions, though other high tax states in the Northeast didn’t fare much better.

As a result, revenues have repeatedly fallen short of projections in New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut while budget deficits have ballooned. Democratic lawmakers have cut public services and funds to local governments, which have responded by raising property taxes.

The Tax Foundation says New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, New York and Illinois have the highest property taxes in the country. Over the last two years, the average Chicago homeowner’s property taxes have risen by roughly $1,000. Higher property taxes hit middle-class earners especially hard and are another incentive to leave a state.

As these state laboratories of Democratic governance show, dunning the rich ultimately hurts people of all incomes by repressing the growth needed to create jobs, boost wages and raise government revenues that fund public services. If the Republican House and Senate tax-reform bills follow through with eliminating all or part of the state and local tax deduction, progressive states will have an even harder time hiding the damage. They should be the next candidates for reform.

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A. Barton Hicke at Reason points out how the media are less concerned about money in politics when it is money that is helping the Democrats. He notes that the Democrats had a large money advantage in Virginia's elections. If the Republicans had won after having about a 2-1 spending advantage, do you think the media might have mentioned that fact?
Sure it would. Because the establishment media are practically obsessed with campaign financing—at least when the money comes from the conservative or libertarian direction, anyway. Entire library shelves groan under the weight of coverage devoted, for instance, to the Koch Brothers (David Koch is a trustee of the Reason Foundation, which publishes Reason.com). The National Rifle Association is another favorite, er, target. "Have your representatives in Congress received donations from the NRA?" The Washington Post asks—and answers the question with a handy infographic showing you just how much every representative has taken from the gun-rights group. No such district-by-district scrutiny applies to, say, Planned Parenthood—which, although it does not outspend the NRA, is still "among the nation's top political contributors," according to that far-right dishrag, The New York Times.

The difference in scrutiny is revealing, in the same way that frequent references to "the gun lobby"—but never "the abortion lobby"—are revealing. When conservative or libertarian groups support a Republican candidate, it's proof that the candidate is "in the pocket of" powerful and nefarious interests who have "bought and paid for" her support. When liberal or progressive groups contribute to a Democratic candidate, it's proof that the candidate's principled stand on important issues has earned the support of ordinary people who share her values.

That's why you will frequently read about the huge sums Dominion, Virginia's biggest utility, gives to political candidates. The company is often noted for being Virginia's "top corporate donor"—which, according to The American Prospect, "makes for a lopsided battle for its opponents." Except that those opponents actually outspend Dominion in the aggregate.

Over the past decade environmental groups have outspent Dominion by a ratio of 5:3. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) frequently gets blasted for supporting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and his critics rarely fail to note that Dominion, one of the pipeline's builders, gave him $75,000. He must have been bought, right? Well, no: Environmental groups gave him $3.8 million. That never seems to get mentioned. Maybe, in this case, he's actually doing what he thinks is right.

For liberals and progressives, Northam did the right thing on Tuesday: He won. Which means all the money he spent, and all the money spent by others to elect him, is nothing to get upset about. As Bradley Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission who now runs the Institute for Free Speech, wrote several years ago: "Nobody on the left really believes what they always say about campaign contributions and spending... The 'reformers' do not believe money is corrupting. Rather, they believe that their political opponents are corrupt."

And big money in politics poses no threat to democracy—so long as the right team wins.

William McGurn makes a credible argument that the Senate should no longer use the ABA to evaluate judicial nominees after the ABA just gave a former NEbraska chief deputy attorney general, Leonard Steven Grasz, a "not qualified" rating because they deemed him too biased and "too rude." They determined that he's biased on abortion. The ABA is going to be testifying about their ratings of nominees before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. McGurn has some suggestions on questions to ask them.
In just one indication of how politicized the ABA ratings have become, Democrats and Republicans long ago diverged on the ABA’s role in the nominations process. In 2001, George W. Bush halted the practice of giving the ABA first crack at vetting potential nominees; in 2009 Barack Obama revived it; and this year President Trump halted it again.

Yet even without an official role, the ABA ratings still exert undue influence on nominations. For the real signal sent by a “not qualified” rating is: This guy is a Neanderthal. That in turn allows the press to portray a nominee as out of the mainstream, and it can siphon off confirmation votes from Republican senators nervous about the rating.

That’s plainly what the ABA hopes for Mr. Grasz. The ABA’s statement makes clear his “not qualified” rating is based on two broad worries: his “passionately held social agenda” and complaints that he’s been “gratuitously rude.”

By “passionately held social agenda,” the ABA means abortion; in his prior life Mr. Grasz defended—as a state deputy attorney general is obliged to do—a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion. What it means by “rude” no one knows, because the ABA has thrown this out there while providing almost no specifics. For good measure, the ABA has twisted a two-decade-old law review article to suggest Mr. Grasz rejects a point he explicitly states, to wit, that judges are bound by clear legal precedent—even when “it may seem unwise or even morally repugnant.”

So Wednesday’s hearings offer Republicans an excellent opening to press ABA officials on how they came to their “not qualified” rating. Here’s a few suggestions:

• Why did the ABA ask where Mr. Grasz’s children went to school? Does the ABA believe their Lutheran education affects his fitness as a judge?

• Is it ever appropriate for an ABA interviewer to refer to “you people,” as Mr. Grasz’s did? When Mr. Grasz asked for clarification, the interviewer said he meant “Republicans and conservatives.” Has the ABA ever referred to “you people” when interviewing a Democratic nominee?

• The ABA has taken positions on many of the most contentious issues before the courts these days, from abortion to guns to same-sex marriage. How can a Republican judicial nominee have confidence these ABA positions will not adversely affect the ABA’s rating?
As McGurn recommends, let the ABA make their ratings just as other outside interest groups make their evaluations of judicial nominees. But those ratings shouldn't be treated as some sort of "gold standard" of neutrality.

The New Yorker has an article up
today by Charles Bethea on Roy Moore and his hometown. The report is full of anonymous reporting of rumors, but it explains why the Washington Post published their story to begin with. The Post had said that they kept hearing rumors about Roy Moore and underage girls when they were in Alabama and finally found four women to go on the record. One more made her accusation yesterday about Moore forcibly groping her when she was a teenager. She produced his signature in yer yearbook as evidence that she had known him back then. How many men in their 30s have signed a high school yearbook? The fact that Gloria Allred is her lawyer is not dispostive that she is lying.

According to Bethea's reporting, the small hometown was rife with rumors about Moore and young girls. He notes that two of the accusers say that they first met Moore at the mall in their town.
Two of the women say that they first met Moore at the Gadsden Mall, and the Post reports that several other women who used to work there remembered Moore’s frequent presence—“usually alone” and “well-dressed in slacks and a button-down shirt.”

This past weekend, I spoke or messaged with more than a dozen people—including a major political figure in the state—who told me that they had heard, over the years, that Moore had been banned from the mall because he repeatedly badgered teen-age girls. Some say that they heard this at the time, others in the years since. These people include five members of the local legal community, two cops who worked in the town, several people who hung out at the mall in the early eighties, and a number of former mall employees. (A request for comment from the Moore campaign was not answered.) Several of them asked that I leave their names out of this piece. The stories that they say they’ve heard for years have been swirling online in the days since the Post published its report. “Sources tell me Moore was actually banned from the Gadsden Mall and the YMCA for his inappropriate behavior of soliciting sex from young girls,” the independent Alabama journalist Glynn Wilson wrote on his Web site on Sunday. (Wilson declined to divulge his sources.) Teresa Jones, a deputy district attorney for Etowah County in the early eighties, told CNN last week that “it was common knowledge that Roy dated high-school girls.” Jones told me that she couldn’t confirm the alleged mall banning, but said, “It’s a rumor I’ve heard for years.”
It could just be a rumor that went around that he was banned. If it were true, there might be some evidence of that or the testimony of someone who worked in the mall back then or was a security guard there. There the evidence seems a bit amorphous - someone told someone who remembers the rumor.
This past weekend, I spoke or messaged with more than a dozen people—including a major political figure in the state—who told me that they had heard, over the years, that Moore had been banned from the mall because he repeatedly badgered teen-age girls. Some say that they heard this at the time, others in the years since. These people include five members of the local legal community, two cops who worked in the town, several people who hung out at the mall in the early eighties, and a number of former mall employees. (A request for comment from the Moore campaign was not answered.) Several of them asked that I leave their names out of this piece. The stories that they say they’ve heard for years have been swirling online in the days since the Post published its report. “Sources tell me Moore was actually banned from the Gadsden Mall and the YMCA for his inappropriate behavior of soliciting sex from young girls,” the independent Alabama journalist Glynn Wilson wrote on his Web site on Sunday. (Wilson declined to divulge his sources.) Teresa Jones, a deputy district attorney for Etowah County in the early eighties, told CNN last week that “it was common knowledge that Roy dated high-school girls.” Jones told me that she couldn’t confirm the alleged mall banning, but said, “It’s a rumor I’ve heard for years.”

....Gadsden’s current law-enforcement community could not confirm the existence of a mall ban on Moore. But two officers I spoke to this weekend, both of whom asked to remain unnamed, told me that they have long heard stories about Moore and the mall. “The general knowledge at the time when I moved here was that this guy is a lawyer cruising the mall for high-school dates,” one of the officers said. The legal age of consent in Alabama is sixteen, so it would not be illegal there for a man in his early thirties to date a girl who was, say, a senior in high school. But these officers, along with the other people I spoke to, said that Moore’s presence at the mall was regarded as a problem. “I was told by a girl who worked at the mall that he’d been run off from there, from a number of stores. Maybe not legally banned, but run off,” one officer told me. He also said, “I heard from one girl who had to tell the manager of a store at the mall to get Moore to leave her alone.”

The second officer went further. “A friend of mine told me he was banned from there,” he said. He added, “I actually voted for Moore. I liked him at one time. But I’m basically disgusted now, to be honest with you. Some of the things he’s said recently, I’ve changed my tune completely about this guy.” He went on, explaining why Moore no longer appeals to him. “When I heard what he said on ‘Hannity’ the other night,” he said, referring to an appearance Moore made on Sean Hannity’s radio show last Friday, “I almost stood straight up. The thing about how he’s never dated anybody without their mother’s permission, that appalled me. That made me want to throw up. Why would you need someone’s permission to date somebody? I’m probably gonna write in Luther Strange.”
Moore says that he never met the woman who accused him yesterday, never ate in the restaurant where she was a waitress and says she met him, and never signed her yearbook. That seems pretty definitive and if anyone can come forth and talk about seeing him in that restaurant or if handwriting experts can testify that that is his signature in the yearbook, it would seem to be game over.

I just keep thinking that, if it's true that the town was rife with rumors about Moore and high school girls, the Republicans opposing him in the primary really were awful at opposition research. If Mitch McConnell were this evil genius that he's sometimes portrayed as, wouldn't his people have hired their own version of Fusion GPS to get that story out there before the primary? Maybe no one would go on the record before and now they're willing to. But there are enough establishment Republicans in Alabama who were horrified at the thought of his being in the Senate before all these stories came out. And none of them got this story? What about the Alabama media? It casts doubt either on the story or on the political competence of the establishment GOP. Maybe they feared that there would have been a rally around the accused effect that would have helped him in the primary. But there seemed to have been a real hole in their opposition research and ability to get the story out there.

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Samantha Harris at Fire writes about two universities that recently canceled planned theater productions because students protested the content. Brandeis canceled a production of a play based on the comedy of Lenny Bruce. This is the brilliance from a recent Brandeis alumna leading a protest against the play.
The decision to cancel the play comes after weeks of criticism which included emails to President Ron Liebowitz, Facebook posts to raise awareness and a phone and email campaign led by Brandeis alumna Ayelet Schrek ’17.

The event page had hundreds of invites and was scheduled for Oct. 2 to 6, according to Schrek. It is unclear how many calls and emails were sent as part of this campaign. The page provided phone numbers of three Theater Department professors as well as two of their emails, the email for another theater department professor and emails for Dean of Students Jamele Adams and President Ron Liebowitz so that those invited to the page knew who to contact.

“[“Buyer Beware”] positions a white man as the brave protagonist and a black man (and BLM) as the over-reacting, violent antagonist,” Schrek wrote in a Facebook event page which called on anyone opposed to the play to join in a “CONGRESS STYLE PHONE CAMPAIGN.”

Schrek, who lives in San Francisco, California, told The Brandeis Hoot that she’s never read the script. “I trust the people who told me about it. I don’t need to read the actual language to know what it is about,” she said in a phone interview with The Hoot. Schrek argued that the department wanted to put it on for “political gain” and in a Facebook post wrote, “It is an overtly racist play and will be harmful to the student population if staged.”
So she hasn't read the play, but she knows it is bad because some told her about it. She probably knows nothing about Lenny Bruce and his efforts for freedom of speech. He faced censorship for his use of obscenities and he also used racial and other slurs. The play is about a young man today who is inspired by Bruce to write a comedy routine somewhat in the style of Bruce but faces problems from the Brandeis administration. And now the fictional plot has come true. The other college where a planned theater production was shut down was Knox College where students were upset that an English professor who wrote a letter to the school newspaper protesting the cancellation of a planned production of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Good Person of Szechwan.” For both schools, one of the main objections was that white men were going to have major roles in the productions. This is what one Brandeis student had about the planned production about Lenny Bruce.
“The issue we all have with it is that [Weller] is an older, straight [sic] gendered, able-bodied and white man. It isn’t his place to be stirring the pot,” said Andrew Childs ’18 in a phone interview for a Hoot article published on Sept. 29. Andrew Childs is an Undergraduate Department Representative for the Theater Arts Department and a member of the season’s “play selection committee.”
So whites aren't allowed to write or produce or star in something controversial. And Knox students are also upset by the race of the professor as we can see in this editorial in the student newspaper.
The theatre department is a very white department—like many departments at Knox—and it needs to acknowledge that they are coming from a place of privilege and prejudice. They need to listen to their students when they voice their concerns about not only the plays the department produces, but interactions with insensitive faculty and problematic syllabi.

[…]

To prevent future problems such as this play, and to be proactive in upholding values of true diversity, the theatre department—and other departments at Knox—need to engage in planned periods and workshops of interactive dialogues with their students. Students should not feel as if they are being silenced or do not have a space to speak within their own department. They should be encouraged to share their opinions and feel that they are being treated as if they are valid. To try to convince students of color that a play they feel is racist is in fact not racist is silencing their opinions.
These students simply want to shut down anything with which they fear they might disagree or dislike if the people involved are white. And the university let them do it. Soon, as English professor Emily Anderson wrote in the school newspaper, it's a quick jump from shutting down a play because its playwright is white to saying that white professors can't talk about certain subjects because of their race.


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And here is another sign of how ludicrous things have gotten on university campuses.
A Cambridge University physical sciences professor came under fire this week from mental health campaigners and students after he suggested undergraduates will have to work hard and abstain from drinking to pass the course.

Eugene Terentjev draw the fury of students and mental health activists after sending out an email last week to first-year natural sciences undergraduates at the UK’s world-famous Cambridge, telling them the course will be difficult and thus they should refrain from drinking and other social activities if they wish to succeed, according to an email leaked to student-run publication Varsity.

“Physical sciences is a VERY hard subject, which will require ALL of your attention and your FULL brain capacity (and for a large fraction of you, even that will not be quite enough),” Terentjev wrote to the students.

“You can ONLY do well (ie achieve your potential, which rightly or wrongly several people here assumed you have) if you are completely focused, and learn to enjoy the course. People who just TAKE the course, but enjoy their social life, can easily survive in many subjects — but not in this one.”

He added: “Remember that you are NOT at any other uni, where students do drink a lot and do have what they regard as a ‘good time’ — and you are NOT on a course, as some Cambridge courses sadly are, where such a behaviour pattern is possible or acceptable.”

The professor’s comments caused an uproar among activists and students, who called his email “extremely damaging” and neither “appropriate nor acceptable,” with one other university vice-chancellor accusing Terentjev of “frightening impressionable undergraduates,” the London Times reported.

A mental health campaign at the university, Student Minds Cambridge, said the message sent by the professor “could be extremely damaging to the mental well-being of the students concerned, and potentially others as well,” the Times reported.

Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, said the professor’s message scaremongers the students rather than helping them to learn to live a balanced lifestyle. “Frightening impressionable undergraduates into believing that work alone is all-important is irresponsible, unkind and wrong-headed,” he told the newspaper.
Oh, geez! If students are going to be harmed by being told to work hard and not get drunk, then they are just too fragile to be on their own. They shouldn't even be allowed to go to a university.

I've decided to close down the comments section for the blog. I liked the idea of people sharing their reactions, but it's become so vitriolic over the past year and I'm just tired of it all. It was no particular comment, just months and months of ugly accusations and attacks on me for not writing what individuals thought I should be writing that I just don't see that it's worth it. For those who enjoyed the comments, I apologize. I've heard there are these things called Twitter and Facebook. You can post your thoughts there.