Friday, April 28, 2017

Cruising the Web

Well, give Trump points for being frank, but reallY? Now he's saying that he thought being president would be easier than his life as a businessman and reality star.
He misses driving, feels as if he is in a cocoon, and is surprised how hard his new job is.

President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.

"I loved my previous life. I had so many things going," Trump told Reuters in an interview. "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier."
Geez, really? Had he paid attention at all in his adult life to what a president has to deal with? Had he noticed how partisanship has made it almost impossible to ever pass anything in Congress? Did he think that Congressional Democrats would be easier to deal with than banks and NBC? Did he notice what was going on around the world in the Middle East, North Korea or Russia? And he thought his prior life as a billionaire making a living off of selling his name would have been more work? I can't even...

Allahpundit looks
at the continuing demolition of Mike Flynn's reputation. Apparently, even though he was warned by the DIA that he had to inform them of earning any money from a foreign country, yet he didn't tell them about getting money from Russia Times. And is the Trump team trying to hide documents on this from Congress? This seems like a likely theory.
It’s not that he’s trying to suppress something embarrassing about Flynn (e.g., that he also neglected to inform the White House of his lobbying work), in other words, but that he’s trying to set a precedent early in his term that Congress shouldn’t expect to get executive-branch records on demand in its investigations. Maybe, though, the reason they’re sitting on the records is less principled and more political — namely, the records might show that the transition team did have an inkling that Flynn hadn’t properly disclosed his payments and they … went ahead and made him national security advisor anyway.
Maybe they knew that this stuff would come out eventually and wanted to hide the embarrassment.
They may have realized that the dirt would come out eventually, though, and that it would cause them a major headache when it did — why was the national security advisor hiding foreign money from the Pentagon? — so they started looking around immediately for other reasons to force his resignation. When the Kislyak matter arose, they seized the opportunity.

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Charles Krauthammer writes about the populist moment that some had argued was sweeping the west from the Brexit vote to Trump's victory to the candidacies of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France. He argues that people have overestimated the populist panic and are downplaying its supposed collapse as Wilders fell short and Le Pen will certainly lose in the runoff election.
In retrospect, the populist panic may have been overblown. Regarding Brexit, for example, the shock exaggerated its meaning. Because it was so unexpected, it became a sensation. But in the longer view, Britain has always been deeply ambivalent about Europe, going back at least to Henry VIII and his break with Rome. In the intervening 500 years, Britain has generally seen itself as less a part of Europe than an offshore island.

The true historical anomaly was Britain's EU membership with all the attendant transfer of sovereignty from Westminster to Brussels. Brexit was a rather brutal return to the extra-European norm, but the norm it is.

The other notable populist victory, the triumph of Trump, has also turned out to be less than meets the eye. He certainly ran as a populist and won as a populist but, a mere 100 days in, he is governing as a traditionalist.

The Obamacare replacement proposals are traditional small-government fixes. His tax reform is a follow-on to Reagan's from 1986. His Supreme Court pick is a straight-laced, constitutional conservative out of central casting. And his more notable executive orders read as a wish list of traditional business-oriented conservatism from regulatory reform to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

I happen to support all of these moves, but they don't qualify as insurrectionist populism. The one exception may be trade policy. As of now, however, it remains ad hoc and idiosyncratic. Trump has made gestures and threats to those cunning Mexicans, Chinese and now Canadians. But it's not yet clear if he is serious about, say, withdrawing from NAFTA or just engaging in a series of opening negotiating gambits.
But, if Europe is wiping its collective brow in relief at the receding of the populist threat, they should still be cognizant that the motivations for the threat still remain.
The news from France, where Macron is openly, indeed ostentatiously, pro-European (his campaign headquarters flies the EU flag) is that France is not quite prepared to give up on the great experiment. But the Europeanist elites had better not imagine this to be an enduring verdict. The populist revolt was a reaction to their reckless and anti-democratic push for even greater integration. The task today is to address the sources of Europe's economic stagnation and social alienation rather than blindly pursue the very drive that led to this precarious moment.

If the populist threat turns out to have frightened the existing powers out of their arrogant complacency, it should be deemed a success. But make no mistake: The French election wasn't a victory for the status quo. It was a reprieve. For now, the populist wave is not in retreat. It's on pause.

This is infuriating.
An estimated 346 employees in the Department of Veterans Affairs do no actual work for taxpayers. Instead, they spend all of their time doing work on behalf of their union while drawing a federal salary, a practice known as "official time."

That's according to a report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. But exactly what those VA workers are doing and why so many are doing it is not clear. The VA doesn't track that, and the GAO report offers no clue.
Why are we paying for union workers when the VA has demonstrating that they can't do the job that they exist to do?

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Tyler Cowen writes in Bloomberg to argue that the country can afford Trump's tax cut proposals. He points out the parallels between Trump's plans and the usual recommendations from Keynesians.
This argument for a corporate tax cut -- “let’s borrow more now while rates are relatively low” -- is remarkably like the argument that Keynesians have been using for more government infrastructure spending for years. The main difference is that here the spending would be done by private corporations rather than the federal government. You may or may not believe the private expenditures will be more socially valuable than the government expenditures, but if you think we can afford one kind of stimulus we probably can afford the other. And as I said, the private rate of return on investment probably is higher than the government’s borrowing rate, even if you think that government spending would yield higher returns yet.

To put it bluntly, I am suspicious of ideological motives when anyone says we can afford a big dose of government stimulus but we cannot afford a corresponding private stimulus. The more consistent view is that we probably need more investment on both fronts, and thus cuts in the corporate tax rate are a welcome start, at least if we put aside the pessimistic scenario mentioned above. It’s still legitimate to consider whether a plan should include more government stimulus (Trump himself would probably agree, though Congress may not), but that’s a very different point from claiming the U.S. cannot afford a corporate tax cut. In addition, you also might think that some other taxes should go up, such as consumption taxes, but even if true it does not mean the corporate rate cut is unaffordable.

This is the the epitome
of the student culture of doing protests on the cheap.
A group of Yale University graduate students announced Tuesday evening that they would be undertaking a hunger strike to pressure the administration into granting them better union benefits. The strike is taking place in front of University President Peter Salovey’s home.

As it turns out, the hunger strike might not put anyone's health in peril. According to a pamphlet posted on Twitter by a former Yale student, the hunger strike is "symbolic" and protesters can leave and get food when they can no longer go on.
Yeah, a symbolic hunger strike is not a hunger strike. The responses on Twitter are quite funny. If those students want to know about real courage is when someone powerless uses a hunger strikes, I recommend Natan Sharansky's memoirs of his time in the Soviet gulag, Fear No Evil, and how he used hunger strikes to assert his human rights. I recently read his book and was awestruck at what he endured and the courage he showed in such hopeless circumstances. For those who have suffered true oppression, hunger strikes are not symbolic.


Matthew Continetti takes a pause
from all the analysis of Trump's first 100 days to looking at what the Democrats have accomplished in their first 100 days of the Trump era. As he points out, Trump's setbacks have either been his own fault or problems within the Republican coalition in Congress.
Chuck Schumer slow-walked Trump's nominations as best he could. In fact his obstruction was unprecedented. But the cabinet is filling up, the national security team in place. On the Supreme Court, Schumer miscalculated royally. He forced an end to the filibuster for judicial appointments, yet lost anyway. If another appointment opens this summer, and the Republicans hold together, the Democrats will have zero ability to prevent the Court from moving right. No matter what he says in public, Schumer can't possibly think that a success.

The prevalent anti-Trump sentiment obscures the party's institutional degradation. Democratic voters despise the president—he enjoys the approval of barely more than 10 percent of them—and this anger and vitriol manifests itself in our media and culture. So Rachel Maddow and Stephen Colbert enjoy a ratings boom, the women's march attracts a massive crowd, the New York Times sells more subscriptions, and Bill Nye leads a rainy-day "march for science." The desire to ostentatiously "resist" Trump leads to better-than-expected results for Democratic candidates in congressional special elections. But the candidates don't win—or at least they haven't yet.

Democrats feel betrayed. The Electoral College betrayed them by making Trump president. Hillary Clinton betrayed them by running an uninspiring campaign. James Comey betrayed them by reopening the investigation into Clinton's server 11 days before the election. Facebook betrayed them by circulating fake news. This sense of resentment isn't so different than the sort Democrats attribute to Trump supporters: irritation at a loss of status, vexation at changed circumstances. The despondence of a liberal is alleviated when he sees throngs of protesters, hears Samantha Bee, scrolls through Louise Mensch's tweets.

Makes him feel better. But his party is in tatters, reduced to 16 governors, 30 state legislative chambers, a historically low number of state legislative seats, 193 members of the House, 46 senators. The Democrats are leaderless, rudderless, held together only by opposition to Trump. The most popular figure on the left refuses to call himself a Democrat while sitting alongside the newly elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee. That chairman, dirty-talking Tom Perez, represents a professional, technocratic class that supports Wall Street and globalization as long as there is room for multiculturalism and social liberalism. That is a different strategy from both the 50-state approach of Howard Dean, Rahm Emanuel, and Schumer that brought Democrats control of Congress in 2006, and the anti-Wall Street, protectionist, single-payer left of Bernie Sanders. Perez fights with Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi over whether there is room for pro-lifers in the party—Perez thinks not. Pelosi enjoys the distinction of being an American political figure less popular than Donald Trump.

What is the Democratic agenda? What does the party have to offer besides disunity, obstruction, incoherence, obsession, and obliviousness? They haven't rallied behind a plan to fix Obamacare or an alternative to the president's tax proposal. They seem dead set against enforcement of immigration laws, they seem opposed to any restrictions on abortion, they seem as eager as ever to regulate firearms and carbon dioxide. It's hard to detect a consensus beyond that. Banks, trade, health care, taxes, free speech, foreign intervention—these issues are undecided, up for grabs.

For eight years President Obama supplied the Democratic message, provided the Democrats answers to public questions. Now Obama himself is under fire for agreeing to deliver a $400,000 speech to Cantor Fitzgerald. He is already a figure of the past: His hair gray, his legacy under siege, his time spent lounging on Richard Branson's yacht or listening desultorily to Chicago undergrads. The energy is with Bernie, with the identity-politics movements, with the paramilitary "antifa" bands, and each one of these overlapping sects are outside the party establishment Obama represents.
It may well be that opposing Trump will be enough to help the Democrats to recover dominance within states and Congress. But the indications are not at all clear that that will be enough.

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I'm not one of those conservatives gloating over ESPN's financial troubles. I spend most of my time watching TV watching sports so I have a vested interested in their continued success. I think some conservatives put too much emphasis on ESPN getting bitten in the behind for their shift to the left by inserting politics into too much of their sports programming. That may turn off quite a few viewers - after all the demographics of the Republican coalition has a big overlap with the demographics of people who watch sports a lot. Why alienate those viewers? Sean Davis has a good analysis of why ESPN is failing. And most of it revolves around mistakes ESPN made by overpaying for broadcast rights for NFL and NBA games.
In accounting terms, the network committed to high long-term fixed costs (broadcast rights) in exchange for declining variable revenues (cable subscription fees and advertising dollars). You don’t have to be a mathematician to see the problems with this formula for success. Even if ESPN is making decent money right now, the music is eventually going to stop, people are going to stop dancing, and somebody’s going to be stuck without a chair....

Rising fixed costs and risky, declining revenues are the root of all of ESPN’s problems. Overpriced broadcast rights are certainly the biggest piece in that financial puzzle, but they’re not the only one. Salaries are also a pretty heavy fixed cost, and one the network decided to slash. Will that decision improve the financial picture, at least on the costs side? Maybe. But ESPN could fire every single person on staff and still not make the numbers work. When your ship is sinking, tossing a few deck chairs over the side isn’t going to accomplish much.
Unfortunately for ESPN, they made those mistakes while viewers are moving away from TV in general and paying for cable in particular. Disney has bundled its cable channels and forced cable companies to carry those networks.
That’s because Disney, ESPN’s parent, uses the popularity of ESPN’s live sports programming to force cable companies into carrying and paying for a large swath of less popular Disney-owned networks. The message? If you want ESPN, then you’re not only going to pay Disney for it, you’re also going to pay for A&E and Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network and History and Freeform and Disney Junior and Disney XD and Vice. It doesn’t matter if you don’t plan to watch a second of any of those networks: if you want to watch college football for three months in the fall, you’re going to pay for the unrelated also-ran networks whether you like it or not.

ESPN knows people will pay for cable just to get ESPN, hence its near-extortion of cable companies into carrying myriad other Disney-owned channels. Given this fact, how can ESPN claim that cord-cutting has nothing to do with ESPN? If people are plugging the cord in just to get ESPN, then you can pretty much guarantee ESPN is very much a part of the cord-cutting conversation. ESPN can’t have it both ways.

Is a ton of cord-cutting happening regardless of what ESPN’s doing? Absolutely. Is the network a mere blameless bystander in the cord-cutting? Not at all. If ESPN wants to claim responsibility for bringing people into the cable fold, then it must also take responsibility when a diehard sports fan finally decides that ESPN’s just not worth the cost of cable anymore.
Then there is the decision to make more of ESPN's programming more like sports talk radio instead of showing actual sports. I think of it as the Stephen A. Smith problem. I can't even stand the 30 second ads featuring him. I don't want to tune in to watch him scream his opinions at someone. I don't mind the shows like PTI or The Jump when it's a much more civil conversation. By I can understand shy people don't want to tune in to watch waht they can listen to on the radio.
Passively listening to a radio show while you’re at work or in your car and unable to watch a live game is a very different thing than wanting to watch some game highlights during the whopping 30 minutes of free time you have to do nothing at home each night. The two aren’t perfect substitutes for each other, yet ESPN’s programming decisions suggest the network thinks talking heads are as big a draw as actual athletes competing on the field. And all this after spending $8 billion to get the rights to air those competitions?

It’s madness. ESPN went from the worldwide leader in sports to yet another expensive network of dumb people yelling dumb things at other dumb people, all the while forgetting that the most popular entertainment form of people yelling about sports stuff for several hours a day — sports talk radio — is free.
The cherry on top was the politicization of their programming.
The industry insider I spoke to said the focus on politics was a symptom, rather than a root cause, of all these current issues. According to this insider, ESPN executives saw the writing on the wall — higher costs, subscriber losses, lower ratings — and decided that it needed a bigger content pie to attract more content consumers. Sports is too small, so why not try for a real mass audience by broadening the network’s focus to include news and politics? If X number of people like sports, and Y number of people like politics, then surely combining sports and politics will lead to a much bigger audience, thereby solving the company’s financial dilemma.

This view, of course, ignores how people consume political news. The diehards who love political news don’t turn on the TV or open the laptop and navigate to sites with zero bias that just play it straight. Why? Because those kinds of political news and commentary providers don’t exist. Because that’s not what political junkies want. Liberals want news from liberals, and conservatives want news from conservatives. The Balkanization of political news and commentary didn’t happen by accident. People in this business know you have to pick a side. That works in political news. It doesn’t work if you have a bipartisan mass media audience.

Instead of expanding its pie by combining two types of mass media content, ESPN ended up communicating to half its audience that it didn’t respect them. How? By committing itself entirely not to political news, but to unceasing left-wing political commentary.
Yes, all that is true and it's annoying, but I suspect that the other three reasons are much bigger parts of ESPN's decline. And it's not clear that their firings this week are going to reverse those problems. As Davis points out, the people they fired were mostly sports reporters.
The most interesting aspect of the mass layoffs on Wednesday isn’t that they happened, it’s who the network targeted. Not the high-priced carnival barkers and the know-nothing loudmouths doing their best to make Rachel Maddow proud. Nope. ESPN targeted sports reporters. In an effort to cut some fat from its bottom line, ESPN exchanged a scalpel for a chainsaw, skipped the fat entirely, and went straight to cutting out muscle.

If ESPN wants to once again be the worldwide leader in sports, it should refocus on covering sports, which used to be a refuge from politics and the news. America is politicized enough already, and if its citizens want political news, several cable outlets do political news far better than ESPN ever could. Instead of doing sports and politics poorly, perhaps the network could return to the thing that it used to do better than everyone else in the world: cover live sports.
Sports fans and athletes should be cheering for ESPN to recover. If the sports network doesn't have the big bucks to pay for broadcast rights, the sports leagues won't have the money to pay their big stars. How will it affect your favorite team if more and more teams don't have the money to pay to keep their stars together? I feel for the people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. I hope they find new jobs, but the whole business of reporting is a tough one these days. And I hope that ESPN figures out its problems and can make a comeback.

Ah, at least one French voter had a better choice than facing the country this week.
According to French site Le Parisien, with their presidential election underway, the people of France took to the ballot box and sent in a vote for Kawhi over the other candidates in the field such as Francois Fillon or Emmanuel Macron.
Though I'm not sure why that voter didn't pick Tony Parker who is actually French and who was vintage last night for the Spurs.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cruising the Web

Jonathan Haidt has a great essay on how intimidation on college campuses is the new normal. He really nails it. He goes through the notable examples of college students denying speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Charles Murray, and Heather MacDonald from speaking simply because they don't like the message that they imagined that they were going to hear. Violence has become a common element of such protests. Regarding the mob that shut down MacDonald's talk, Haidt writes,
What are we to make of this? There were no reports of violence or property damage. Yet this event is pote ntially more ominous than the Berkeley and Middlebury violence, for we are witnessing the emergence of a dangerous new norm for responding to speakers who challenge campus orthodoxy. Anyone offended by the speaker can put out a call on Facebook to bring together students and locals, including "antifa" (antifascist) and black-bloc activists who explicitly endorse the use of violence against racists and fascists. Because of flagrant "concept creep," however, almost anyone who is politically right of center can be labeled a racist or a fascist, and the promiscuous use of such labels is now part of the standard operating procedure. The call to shut down Mac Donald’s talk asserted, without evidence, that her agenda is "racist, anti-Black, capitalist, imperialist, [and] fascist." As with accusations of witchcraft in earlier centuries, once such labels are attached to someone, few will dare to challenge their accuracy, lest they be accused of the same crimes.

It is crucial to note that at all three colleges — Berkeley, Middlebury, and Claremont McKenna — the crowd included a mix of students and locals, some wearing masks. It is therefore no longer possible to assume that a crowd on a college campus will be nonviolent, as crowds of protesting students were in the fall of 2015. What would have happened to Mac Donald had she tried to enter or exit through the main entrance, without a police escort? From now on, any campus speaker who arouses a protest is at risk of a beating. Can this really be the future of American higher education?
Haidt notes the reasoning that these protesters now employ to justify their violence.
A common feature of recent campus shout-downs is the argument that the speaker "dehumanizes" members of marginalized groups or "denies their right to exist." No quotations or citations are given for such strong assertions; these are rhetorical moves made to strengthen the case against the speaker. But if students come to believe that anyone who offends them has "dehumanized" them, they are setting themselves up for far greater vulnerability and isolation. Life, love, and work are full of small offenses and misunderstandings, many of which will now be experienced as monstrous and unforgivable.
Students have decided that they don't need to engage speakers on their ideas. Once they've decided that someone has views they dislike, engagement is unnecessary.
Second, students in the past few years have increasingly opted for collective action to shut down talks by speakers they dislike, rather than taking the two traditional options available to all individuals: Don’t go to the talk, or go and engage the speaker in the question-and-answer period. The decision to turn so many events into collective moral struggles has profound ramifications for the entire college. Everyone is pressured to take sides. Administrators are pressured to disinvite speakers, or at least to condemn their scholarship and morals while reluctantly noting their right to speak. Petitions are floated, and names of signers (and abstainers) are noted.
This is precisely the wrong attitude that should prevail on college campuses.
But the tribal mind is incompatible with scholarship, open-minded thinking, toleration of dissent, and the search for truth. When tribal sentiments are activated within an academic community, some members start to believe that their noble collective ends justify almost any means, including the demonization of inconvenient research and researchers, false accusations, character assassination, and sometimes even violence. Anyone not with the movement is against it, and its enemies — students, faculty members, administrators — are often intimidated into acquiescence. This is how professors and students are increasingly describing their campus climate, at least at elite four-year residential colleges.
Haidt has some good suggestions for what can be done to combat this dangerous trend. He recommends that professors speak up to engage their students in why it is so important to grant people of all persuasions the freedom to present unpopular ideas. Professors need to speak up for the value of a free marketplace of ideas.

College administrators must also enforce their own rules to protect speakers from mob rule and intimidation. Alumni and students must also demand administrators preserve a tolerant atmosphere on their campuses to protect speakers of all ideologies.
This year may become a turning point in the annals of higher education. It may be remembered as the year that political violence and police escorts became ordinary parts of campus life. Or it may be remembered as the year when professors, students, and administrators finally found the moral courage to stand up against intimidation, even when it is aimed at people whose ideas they dislike.

While conservatives face opposition when they come on college campuses to speak and rarely get invited to be graduation speakers, this is whom CUNY has invited to speak.
CUNY is set to host Linda Sarsour, a leading voice in the anti-Israel movement who has been condemned by human rights groups for her rhetoric and promotion of terrorism against the Jewish state.

Sarsour, a Palestinian American and executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, is scheduled to give the commencement speech for CUNY's Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.

Local lawmakers and pro-Israel activists have expressed outrage over the decision, calling on CUNY to cancel Sarsour's appearance. CUNY leaders have continued to praise Sarsour and maintain the speech will take place as scheduled.

Sarsour has earned a reputation as one of the country's most virulent anti-Israel activists. She has attacked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "bigot" and routinely condemns the Jewish state as racist. Sarsour attracted outrage in 2015 when she tweeted out a picture of a Palestinian child with a rock in his hand accompanied by the caption, "the definition of courage."

Sarsour became a darling of the activist left as a participant in the Women's March against President Donald Trump and other demonstrations. She also has embraced and partnered with Rasmea Odeh, an anti-Israel activist and convicted terrorist who was recently found guilty of immigration fraud in the United States for failing to disclose her ties to terrorism.
CUNY has the right to invite whomever they want to speak and I'm not thrilled to have legislators getting involved to try block her speech. She should be allowed to speak, just as conservatives be allowed to speak. But students should be made aware of whom they have invited and what her background is. What does appall me is that no one thought that is might be a bit problematic to invite such a speaker. I just hope that the administration will be as supportive of her right to speak, despite her support for terrorism against Israelis, as they should be if a conservative comes to speak not that I would expect CUNY to be inviting conservatives any time soon.

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Politico looks at how Trump's presidency has affected the Democratic Party. On one hand, the party is certainly energized by their opposition to Trump. Grass roots groups are engaged and active as can be seen by the better-than-expected results in special elections in Kansas and Georgia. On the other hand, the excitement surrounding anger at Trump doesn't mean that the party is problem-free.
But while the president has generated a vibrant culture of resistance on the left, it’s obscuring the depth of the hole in which the Democratic Party still finds itself. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows more Americans view the party negatively than positively.

“We have a new energy, but we don’t have a new brand,” said Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who gained national attention in November, when he unsuccessfully challenged House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for her leadership role. “I would think that if the Democratic Party had a halfway decent national brand or an exciting, affirmative agenda, that we would have been able to get at least a couple more percentage points in the Georgia [special election]" last week, in which Democrat Jon Ossoff fell just short of 50 percent. "We had a great candidate and great energy running under a very negative brand.”
Given that so many of the 23 Democratic senators up for reelection in 2018 are in red states where Trump did very well, the party needs to have a national message that allows those senators to run as moderates. Instead their opponents will be able to argue that a vote for Joe Donnelly in Indiana or Jon Tester in Montana is a vote for a Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren agenda.

Charles Kesler of the Claremont Institute makes the argument that Trump is acting in the pattern of Republican presidents from an earlier age.
Mr. Trump remains the kind of conservative president whom one expects to say, proudly and often, “the chief business of the American people is business.” Although Calvin Coolidge said it first, Mr. Trump shows increasing signs of thinking along broadly Coolidgean lines, and of redirecting Republican policies toward the pre-New Deal, pre-Cold War party of William McKinley and Coolidge, with its roots in the party of Abraham Lincoln.

Continue reading the main story
Mr. Trump is not and never was a movement conservative. Apart from a youthful flirtation (is there any other kind?) with Ayn Rand, he has displayed little to no patience for libertarianism, traditionalism, neoconservatism or the other endangered ideological species that the movement has sought to conserve for so many decades...

Mr. Trump’s policies suggest that what he calls his “common sense” conservatism harks back to the principles and agenda of the old Republican Party, which reached its peak before the New Deal.

In those days the party stood for protective tariffs, immigration tied to assimilation (or what Theodore Roosevelt called Americanization), judges prepared to strike down state and sometimes federal laws encroaching on constitutional limitations, tax cuts, internal improvements (infrastructure spending, in today’s parlance) and a firm but restrained foreign policy tailored to the defense of the national interest. Are these not the main elements of Trump administration policies?

It’s not that Mr. Trump set out consciously to return the Republican Party to its roots. By temperament and style he’s more attracted to President Andrew Jackson, whose portrait now hangs in the Oval Office.
His protectionist policies, while departing from modern conservatism, is in alignment with traditional Republican positions from Lincoln through the 19th century Republicans.
Mr. Trump could have as easily quoted McKinley’s 1896 platform (protection is “the bulwark of American industrial independence and the foundation of American development and prosperity”) or Coolidge’s in 1924. Mr. Trump praised Dwight Eisenhower not for ending the Korean War, say, but for building “the last truly great national infrastructure program,” the Interstate System of highways.
It's an interesting argument and I hadn't thought of Trump in comparison with such past Republican leaders. Kesler goes on to point out that the ideology of some of these past presidents would be considered on the left in today's politics.
The old Republican Party also had a sizable progressive or liberal wing. As his fondness for Jackson shows, Mr. Trump is more a populist than a progressive, but in any case he will be fighting mostly over the party’s definition of conservatism, trying to stretch an orthodoxy, or a clutch of orthodoxies, to accommodate a governing majority. Nonetheless, he will have some room to reach to his left, or to the center, and could invoke Theodore Roosevelt as a model, without necessarily following T.R. on his later Progressive Party bender.

America today is a very different country from what it was in the 1920s or the late 19th century, when Republicans reigned. So the Trump administration’s policies will have to be a mixture of old and new. It’s too early to tell whether this mixture will evolve into a doctrine of Trumpism. Few presidents’ policies, principles and persona are so distinctive that they congeal into an “ism.”

The movement that brought him to power is, by Mr. Trump’s own admission, almost spontaneous and still strangely nameless. It cannot fill the thousands of executive branch positions at his disposal; for that, he needs to rely mainly on the broad conservative movement and the Republican Party.

It’s likely, then, that his administration will have to maneuver between the older and the current strains of conservatism, and between the populist and establishment sensibilities. On foreign policy he has demonstrated a pugnacity easily exceeding the old Republican Party’s. Though he will move trade policy toward greater protection, he will fall far short of McKinley’s standards.

Donald Trump’s populism may be protean, but look for it to move both conservatism and the Republican Party closer to their former selves.




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Aaron Blake writes in the Washington Post to chide Barack Obama for accepting the $400,000 pay out to speak at a conference put on by the investment frim Cantor Fitzgerald. As Blake points out, other former presidents and other political figures have also made the big bucks by giving highly paid speeches. However, Obama is helping to further a precedent of big pay days from Wall Street and other special interests. Liberals are already irritated with Obama for not doing enough to prosecute Wall Street figures for the recession.
Whether fair or not, it's not difficult to look at Wall Street paying $400,000 to Obama as a reward for that. In that way, it's tough on both precedent and Obama's presidency.
It makes it more difficult for the Democrats to portray themselves as the anti-Wall Street party. Well, that was always going to be difficult given how much firms like Goldman Sachs have donated to the Democrats.

There is also the issue of Obama's hypocrisy given what he wrote in his book "The Audacity of Hope."
I can’t assume that the money chase didn’t alter me in some ways. …

Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means — law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists. As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate. …

And although my own worldview and theirs corresponded in many ways — I had gone to the same schools, after all, had read the same books, and worried about my kids in many of the same ways — I found myself avoiding certain topics during conversations with them, papering over possible differences, anticipating their expectations. On core issues I was candid; I had no problem telling well-heeled supporters that the tax cuts they’d received from George Bush should be reversed. Whenever I could, I would try to share with them some of the perspectives I was hearing from other portions of the electorate: the legitimate role of faith in politics, say, or the deep cultural meaning of guns in rural parts of the state.

Still, I know that as a consequence of my fundraising I became more like the wealthy donors I met, in the very particular sense that I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of the other 99 percent of the population — that is, the people that I’d entered public life to serve. And in one fashion or another, I suspect this is true for every senator: The longer you are a senator, the narrower the scope of your interactions. You may fight it, with town hall meetings and listening tours and stops by the old neighborhood. But your schedule dictates that you move in a different orbit from most of the people you represent.

And perhaps as the next race approaches, a voice within tells you that you don’t want to have to go through all the misery of raising all that money in small increments all over again. You realize that you no longer have the cachet you did as the upstart, the fresh face; you haven’t changed Washington, and you’ve made a lot of people unhappy with difficult votes. The path of least resistance — of fundraisers organized by the special interests, the corporate PACs, and the top lobbying shops — starts to look awfully tempting, and if the opinions of these insiders don’t quite jibe with those you once held, you learn to rationalize the changes as a matter of realism, of compromise, of learning the ropes.
Ah, it's much easier to write about ethics before the big paychecks are offered.

It's about time that this gets done.
Lawmakers faced off in a Wednesday hearing on proposed legislation to approve a nuclear waste storage facility in Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

Many lawmakers at the hearing were concerned about the federal government defaulting on its legal obligations to dispose of used nuclear fuel. Even House Democrats acknowledged the sheer scale of this problem.

“Courts have determined that DOE has breached contractual obligations under this statute,” New York Democrat Paul Tonko, ranking member of the subcommittee, said in the hearing. “DOE estimated that if it could begin to accept waste in the next 10 years, liabilities would total $29 billion dollars.”

Nevada lawmakers strongly objected to the bill, since it would approve a project they’ve been fighting for decades.
Harry Reid is gone. It's about time that the government moves forward.
The Department of Energy submitted its proposal to build Yucca Mountain in June 2008, and the project met the NRC’s safety standards in October 2014. The NRC released a report in May determining the site would have no adverse environmental impact on the local groundwater, soil, ecology or public health for a period of one million years.

The positive technical findings didn’t help Yucca Mountain get approved due to the Barack Obama administration.

Failing to authorize Yucca again would cause the federal government to default on its legal obligations to dispose of used nuclear fuel and high-level waste. Such a default would undermine the nuclear industry.

While Democrats trot out their usual arguments about tax cuts for the rich in response to the outline of Trump's tax plan, they'll be ignoring the important goal of the program - to stir economic growth instead of the anemic growth we've seen in the past eight years. The WSJ explains why this is so important and how the plan would increase growth.
The plan also fits the economic moment, because a main source of U.S. malaise is poor business investment. Spending on the likes of new factories, equipment and software is soft, which in turn has undermined the productivity gains that produce more jobs, higher wages and higher living standards. Productivity growth in the 2000s and 2010s is only about half the average of the 1980s and 1990s.

One reason for this underinvestment—even though corporations have about $2.5 trillion parked overseas—is the uncompetitive and complex American tax system. The 35% statutory rate is the developed world’s highest, and an archipelago of credits, exclusions and deductions means the tax collects only about 11% of federal revenue, or roughly a meager 2% of GDP.

Slashing the headline rate to 15% would instantly lead to a surge in capital investment. Mr. Trump would make small businesses like S corporations and other pass-throughs that now pay through the individual tax code eligible for the 15% rate. Tax parity among all companies is a useful goal, not least because owner-operated companies are an engine of hiring and growth.

Increasing the capital stock will raise productivity. The economic literature conservatively suggests that about half of the corporate tax burden is carried by workers in the form of lower wages. In other words, moving to 15% is a national pay raise.
I also like the cutting down of deductions to just for mortgages and charitable donations. Cutting deductions not only simplifies the tax code, but also helps to offset some of the loss in revenue from the rest of the plan. That is what the 1986 bipartisan tax reforms that did from Reagan's presidency. And itemizing deductions is something the wealthier do so there is an answer for those who will pretend that all the plan does is cut taxes for the rich.

Here is one deduction that blue-state Democrats will fight tooth and nail:
This killing spree includes political favorites like the write-off for state and local tax payments. This is a federal subsidy for high-tax New York, New Jersey, Oregon and California, but about 90% of these tax expenditures flow to taxpayers with adjusted gross income over $100,000.
Why should the country's taxpayers subsidize blue-state high-tax policies? And given that this deduction helps the wealthiest, Republicans can turn the standard Democratic argument back on them.
The Trump principles show the President has made growth his highest priority, and they are a rebuke to the Washing. ton consensus that 1% or 2% growth is the best America can do. Now Mr. Trump has to show results. If anything close to his this reform can survive the political maelstrom, it will go a long way toward returning to the abundance of the 1980s and 1990s.
Martin Feldstein, Reagan's chairman of the CEA, has a suggestion of how to offset some of the decline in revenues from Trump's proposal while also enacting good policy.
The bipartisan Social Security legislation enacted during the Reagan administration provides a useful history lesson for how to offset deficit increases. The 1983 law raised the age of eligibility for full Social Security benefits from 65 to 67 while still allowing actuarially equivalent benefits at earlier ages. The increased age was phased in gradually and began only after a substantial delay.

In the intervening decades life expectancy at 67 has increased by three years. Repeating the Reagan reform by gradually raising the age for full benefits from 67 to 70 for those now under the age of 55 would reduce the annual cost of Social Security by about 15%, or 1% of GDP. Together with reforms of federal health-care spending, that should be enough to close the budget gap created by tax reform and increased defense outlays.

Raising the age for full Social Security benefits would also prevent the crisis in the program that is projected to occur in 2029. That’s when the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted, requiring either an immediate 30% cut in benefits or a sharp tax increase. A gradual rise in the age for full benefits would be the best way to prevent that crisis as well as to reduce the projected fiscal deficit.
Based on the reaction I get from my students when we cover Social Security and the impending crisis that will occur during their lifetimes, this could be a very popular proposal for younger voters.

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A survey of Dartmouth students demonstrates who is actually more tolerant.
In the campus-wide field survey, students of all political stripes were asked how comfortable they would be about living with a roommate who holds opposing political views. Of the 432 students surveyed, only 39 percent of students who identified as Democrats said they would feel comfortable living with a Republican, 16 percent said they felt neutral about the proposed arrangement, while 45 percent, a plurality, said they felt uncomfortable.

A majority of students who identified as Republicans (69 percent) said they were comfortable living with someone of opposing political views, 19 percent said they felt neutral about it, and only 12 percent said they felt uncomfortable. Among Independent students, 61 percent said they felt comfortable living with someone with opposite views, 22 percent were neutral about it, and 16 percent were uncomfortable.
These results aren't at all surprising. It is those on the left who are exulting in their power to shut down voices from the other side of the political spectrum. And, as Bre Payton points out, Republicans are used to being in the minority on college campuses so they've gotten used to associating with those who are liberal while many liberals just don't know many Republicans so they are more likely to buy into stereotypes of how despicable Republicans are.







Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cruising the Web

Robert Tracinski ponders something that has long bothered me as well as many conservatives - that so many people shrug off the evils of Communist countries. What provoked Tracinski's essay was the remarks from a British athlete, James Cracknell, who gave North Korea and Cuba as countries who knew how to "get a handle on obesity." Apparently, he didn't realized that those countries basically starve their populations. Yup, starvation will help people lose weight.
If you want to find another country that is really doing something about obesity, you can look to Venezuela, which is providing a wonderful model for involuntary weight loss.

But a lot of people don’t seem to want to look at Venezuela, because that would be uncomfortable. A few years back, a lot of them were praising Venezuela as a model of socialism, the same way they praise Cuba. Here’s just a small sample: David Sirota in Salon proclaimed Venezuela’s “economic miracle” thanks to Hugo Chavez’s “full-throated advocacy of socialism” and “fundamental critique of neoliberal [i.e., free market] economics.” Left-leaning celebrities traipsed to Caracas to pay their respects. Bernie Sanders declared just a few years ago that “the American dream is more apt to be realized in…Venezuela” than here. He concluded by asking, “Who’s the banana republic now?”

We’re seeing the answer to that. Today, Venezuelans are starving and the remainders of the Chavez regime are sending gangs of armed thugs into the streets to attack anyone who protests. And all of the people who praised the Venezuelan regime as a paragon of socialism? They suddenly don’t want to talk about it.

This is just the tip of an iceberg of insensitivity, ignorance, and denial about socialism’s ongoing and historical track record. The bodies keep piling up, but the ideology that produced those bodies always gets a free pass. You know what this is? It’s the equivalent of Holocaust denial for the Left.
While those on the left would be horrified if anyone denied the Holocaust or downplayed its evils, they often do the same thing for the results of communism. And so young people today think that socialism is a good thing and cheer Bernie Sanders' panegyrics to socialism.
What have they missed that they can believe that? Here’s what they’ve missed: the artificial famine in Ukraine, the Soviet Gulags, the forced deportation of Lithuanians, the persecution of Christians, China’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, North Korea’s horrific prison camps and famines, the systematic impoverishment of Cuba, and now Venezuela’s collapse into starvation and mass-murder. All of this should be absolutely required background knowledge for any educated person....

Now when I cite all of this history, there’s always someone who insists that it isn’t fair to pin all of these crimes on “socialism” because those examples weren’t really socialism. The only “real” socialism is the warm, fuzzy welfare-statism of a handful of innucuous Western European countries. This is a pretty obvious version of the No True Scotsman fallacy, and a good way of disavowing responsibility for the disastrous results of a system you praised just a few years earlier.

But these crimes follow inevitably from the basic idea behind socialism: the idea that the good of “society” as a collective is more important the rights or even the life of the individual. That’s the “social” in “socialism,” and by throwing out the rights and liberty of the individual, it serves as a rationalization for an endless amount of carnage. Who cares if this particular person—or a few million people—suffer, so long as you can claim that mankind collectively benefits?

Consider the name of the roving thugs who are beating and killing dissidents in Venezuela right now: they call themselves collectivos. That says it all.

Socialism has been tested out more times and in more variations than probably any other social system, It has been implemented in every continent, every culture, every stage of economic development. It has always led to disaster, to the extent it has been implemented. If you’re lucky, your country gets off with a mere economic crisis, as in Greece. At the worst, your country is in for decades of living hell.

Along those same notes Veronique de Rugy is appalled that a fifth of France's voters would vote for Mélenchon, an avowed Communist.
But what blows my mind even more is the French people’s continued embrace of a Communist (Mélenchon) and their impermeability to the fact that the ideology has been used to kill millions around the world. I know French Communists were quite remarkable and even heroic during the Second World War in opposing and trying to derail the Nazi regime. But that was over 70 years ago, and since then Communist regimes have been synonymous with executions, famines, and repressions much more than the welfare of the working man.

Yet, Jean-Luc Mélenchon got close to 20 percent of the vote. That’s as many votes as Fillon got. As if this alone isn’t bad enough, I suspect that if he — and not Le Pen — had been the one running against Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 runoff, many fewer people would have crossed party lines to avoid externalism and the calls to cross these lines would have been limited to Fillion and a few others.

It’s crazy. Obviously, Mélenchon’s supporters like his crazy, backward, and oppressive positions (such as introducing a 100 percent tax on income above $425,000, a four-day work week, more vacation days for workers, no new free-trade agreements, etc.) and they are obviously as ignorant as he is about the already dramatic consequences of France’s punishing tax system, inflexible labor markets, and overly generous government policies even in the face of high unemployment numbers, slow growth, and large waves of millionaires moving out of the country (10,000 in 2015).

But what’s even crazier is Mélenchon’s unchallenged support for Hugo Chávez and other Communist dictators. And the worst is that in France he isn’t alone — as we saw when Fidel Castro finally died. What are people thinking? As long as I live, I will never understand how there is so little stigma attached to Communism in France (and elsewhere) and how in 2017 the ideology is on the rise. Poor France.

Nothing expresses my feelings better than this Reason video from 2008 called “Killer Chic” about the sick love affair of Hollywood with Che Guevara and the world with Communist leaders like Mao.

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Glenn Reynolds is another law professor who needed to explain to Howard Dean and other liberals that so-called "hate speech" still has First Amendment protections.
In First Amendment law, the term “hate speech” is meaningless. All speech is equally protected whether it’s hateful or cheerful. It doesn’t matter if it’s racist, sexist or in poor taste, unless speech falls into a few very narrow categories — like “true threats,” which have to address a specific individual, or “incitement,” which must constitute an immediate and intentional encouragement to imminent lawless action — it’s protected.

The term “hate speech” was invented by people who don’t like that freedom, and who want to give the — completely false — impression that there’s a kind of speech that the First Amendment doesn’t protect because it’s hateful. What they mean by “hateful,” it seems, is really just that it’s speech they don’t agree with. Some even try to argue that since hearing disagreeable ideas is unpleasant, expressing those ideas is somehow an act of “violence.”

There are two problems with that argument. The first is that it’s idiotic: That’s never been the law, nor could it be if we give any value to free expression, because there’s no idea that somebody doesn’t disagree with. The second is that the argument is usually made by people who spend a lot of time expressing disagreeable ideas themselves, without, apparently, the least thought that if their own rules about disagreeable speech held sway, they’d probably be locked up first. (As Twitter wag IowaHawk has offered: “I'll let you ban hate speech when you let me define it. Deal?”)
Just remember that a man who used to head the DNC feels that he has the qualifications to decide which should be allowed. Remember that one day, someone you don't approve of may have the power to decide what speech is going to be approved. It's much better to allow the First Amendment to mean what it really does mean instead of allowing certain groups to ban speech that they don't like. Do you really want to allow those who are violent to have a heckler's veto? Remember that, once we allow groups to use the threat of violence to shut down speakers on college campuses or elsewhere, we'll soon see other groups glom onto that same technique.
If, by reacting violently to views they didn’t like, people could get the government to censor those views as “hate speech” or “fighting words,” then people would have a strong incentive to react violently to views they don’t like. Giving the angry and violent the ability to shut down other people’s speech (the term we use for this in constitutional law, Gov. Dean, is “heckler’s veto”) is a bad thing, which would leave us with a society marked by a lot more violence, a lot more censorship, and a lot less speech.

Is that really what you want? Because that’s what we’d get, if we followed the advice of constitutional illiterates.
This is similar to the arguments that conservatives made during Obama's administration that his expansion of presidential powers that Obama would not always be the president and someday there will be a president in office less congenial to Obama's allies and they won't be thrilled to see that new president using the powers that Obama stretched to the limits. Well, that day is now. Wouldn't it be nice if people could support the Constitutional structure put in place no matter which party controls the White House?

David Harsanyi employs the technique of imagining the response if Trump had done what Obama did. The mind boggles.
What if Donald Trump had unilaterally shut down every investigation into Russian espionage, released over 20 suspected Russian spies, struck a deal to get rid of sanctions against Russia—in return for honoring deals that had been signed years before—and then lied to the American people about the entire episode?

That’s the Obama Administration’s Iran deal. It might have been the first time the United States has offered extensive concessions to a nation that has continued to destabilize its interests, for nothing in return. But Barack Obama didn’t just support Iran’s position over our allies like Israel (no surprise there, considering his antagonism) or Sunni nations—he supported it ahead of his own Justice Department’s 30-year counterproliferation efforts.

According to an over 8,000-word investigation by Politico, Obama’s efforts to placate Iran includes releasing genuine spies (not the type we see behind every bowl of borscht these days) to a terror-supporting theocracy that has American blood on its hands and threatens the stability of the entire Middle East. Obama released Iranians who were allegedly part of an “illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics” that would help create surface-to-air and cruise missiles. Information that will come in handy. In seven years, “all the sanctions, even arms embargoes and missile-related sanctions… would all be lifted,” Hassan Rouhani correctly noted during the post-deal Iranian celebration.
When will the Obama administration have to answer of what they gave away in this deal?

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On the other hand, Ilya Somin explains why the federal district court ruling yesterday blocking Trump's executive order to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities is the right decision because of how it limits presidential authority.
With respect to separation of powers, the court emphasizes that only Congress can impose conditions on federal funds. The the president cannot do so on his own:
Where Congress has failed to give the President discretion in allocating funds, the President has no constitutional authority to withhold such funds and violates his obligation to faithfully execute the laws duly enacted by Congress if he does so….

Section 9 purports to give the Attorney General and the Secretary the power to place a new condition on federal funds (compliance with Section 1373) not provided for by Congress. But the President does not have the power to place conditions on federal funds and so cannot delegate this power.

In this case, none of the federal grants given to sanctuary cities were conditioned by Congress on compliance with Section 1373 or any other form of cooperation with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. The president cannot impose such conditions on his own.
Conservatives who criticized President Obama for executive actions that were not grounded in Congressional action or spending money that had not been appropriated by Congress, should also not support Trump imposing conditions after the fact that have not been enacted by Congress.
In addition, the order undermines constitutional federalism because it violates longstanding constitutional constraints that limit conditions imposed on federal grants to state governments even when those conditions are authorized by Congress:

While Congress has significant authority to encourage [state] policy through its spending power, the Supreme Court has articulated a number of limitations to the conditions Congress can place on federal funds. The Executive Order likely violates at least three of these restrictions: (1) conditions must be unambiguous and cannot be imposed after funds have already been accepted; (2) there must be a nexus between the federal funds at issue and the federal program’s purpose; and (3) the financial inducement cannot be coercive….

The Executive Order purports to retroactively condition all “federal grants” on compliance with Section 1373. As this condition was not an unambiguous condition that the states and local jurisdictions voluntarily and knowingly accepted at the time Congress appropriated these funds, it cannot be imposed now by the Order.

Later in the opinion, Judge Orrick explains why many of the grants that might be withheld by the order lack a sufficient “nexus” with immigration enforcement (for example, a variety of grants with no connection to law enforcement or immigration). He also explains that if the administration withholds the full range of grants potentially covered by the order and referenced in statements by administration officials, such withholding would be “coercive” under NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), the ruling striking down the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.
Conservatives were quite happy with that part of the Obamacare ruling that struck down the coercive elements of Obamacare denying all Medicaid funding to states if they didn't accept the law's expansion of Medicaid. If we don't want the federal government coercing the states for Obamacare, we must be consistent in opposing Trump's executive order. Read the rest of Somin's explanation and his explanatory links. On the face of it, I can see why the logic of the order appeals to conservatives, but we should also be concerned with how federal and executive authority is expanded and whether Trump was going beyond his authority in how he issued the order. Other lawyers might disagree and I'll await their arguments, but, as a layman, I found Somin's explanation pretty convincing.

Allahpundit points out
that some of the order is grounded in what Jeff Sessions has said about the order and that there is a danger in basing a court decision on anything other than the wording of the executive order.
This marks the second time a Trump executive order has been blocked based partly on comments made by Trump or his aides outside the record, whether on the campaign trail, to the media, or so on. The original travel ban order was blocked on grounds of religious discrimination citing Trump’s early support as a candidate for a temporary global ban on Muslim visitors to the U.S.; when the White House rewrote the order to make it more lenient and to remove a preference for non-Muslim refugees, another court cited things Trump has said in the past to support a finding of religious bias anyway. That’s a highly dubious means of inferring the purpose of a legal instrument, one which, as Alan Dershowitz noted, would lead to a situation in which the same executive order could be constitutional if signed by Barack Obama but unconstitutional if signed by Donald Trump. You’re seeing similar logic here in blocking enforcement of the sanctuary-city order against plaintiffs who haven’t actually been targeted for enforcement yet.
I think Dershowitz and Allahpundit are correct that judges should look only at what an executive order says and not what the President or anyone in his administration has said otherwise. Here is Alan Dershowitz writing about why he believes the Supreme Court would uphold the travel ban if the case got there.
If the case reaches the Supreme Court, a major issue will be whether campaign rhetoric delivered by Donald Trump, when he was a private citizen running for president, may be considered by the courts in deciding on the constitutionality of an executive order. The lower courts gave considerable, indeed dispositive, weight to these anti-Muslim statements in deciding that the travel ban was, in reality, a Muslim ban that would violate the constitutional prohibition against discrimination on the basis of religion.

Under that reasoning, had the identical executive order been issued by President Obama, it would have been constitutional. But because it was issued by President Trump, it is unconstitutional. Indeed any executive order issued by President Trump dealing with travel from Muslim countries would be constitutionally suspect because of what candidate Trump said. In my view, that is a bridge too far. It turns constitutional analysis into psychoanalysis, requiring that the motives of the president be probed.

Most political leaders have mixed motives underlying their actions: they want to protect the security of the nation; they want to appeal to their political base; they want to keep campaign promises; they want to win.

David French points out that the executive order was mostly showmanship and so barring it won't have much of an effect.
The executive order was not changing the law. It did not strip federal funds from sanctuary cities. It directed federal officials to enforce existing law and then larded up that directive with meaningless legalese that made the order look far more dramatic to the untrained eye.

Second, Trump did Trump things, and by that I mean he and his administration hyped the order beyond its plain meaning. Here’s Trump’s comment to Bill O’Reilly: “I don’t want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state. If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.” To be clear, Trump can’t do that by himself. He’s bound by the language of statutes, and he can’t change the language of statutes through executive order.

Third, Santa Clara and San Francisco sued, using the brand-new standing rule applicable to the age of Trump. The new standing rule is this: courts shall torch, stretch, and contort ordinary standing jurisprudence and hear lawsuits they wouldn’t ordinarily hear because Donald Trump is super-scary and super-mean. So the court allowed the case to go forward.

Fourth, DOJ lawyers tried to introduce sanity to the proceedings by noting that neither Santa Clara nor San Francisco face enforcement action under the order and explaining that the Trump administration had no intention to go beyond existing law to implement the order. Instead, it mainly represented a use of the “bully pulpit” to “highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement.”

Fifth, the court responded with a ruling that was, much like the executive order itself, 90 percent hype and 10 percent substance. Here’s the key section of the judge’s ruling:
That said, this injunction does nothing more than implement the effect of the Government’s flawed interpretation of the Order. It does not affect the ability of the Attorney General or the Secretary to enforce existing conditions of federal grants or 8 U.S.C. 1373, nor does it impact the Secretary’s ability to develop regulations or other guidance defining what a sanctuary jurisdiction is or designating a jurisdiction as such. It does prohibit the Government from exercising 9(a) in a way that violates the Constitution.

Allow me to translate. The Court is telling the Trump administration that it can still enforce existing law, it just can’t do what its lawyers promised not to do anyway — strip funding without appropriate Constitutional authority. The rest of the opinion is basically nothing more than interesting fluff, outlining a basic civics lesson in federal spending power. In other words, the court larded up its ruling with legalese that made the opinion look far more dramatic to the untrained eye.

The bottom line? Trump isn’t blocked from enforcing existing law. He’s only blocked from engaging in illegal acts that the DOJ promised the court that it wasn’t considering. In other words, move along. There’s not much to see here.
This is one of the marvelous things about the internet - when something like this judge striking down the EO happens that nonlawyers have trouble understanding, within hours there will be actual lawyers putting up posts explaining what it all means and going beyond the heated rhetoric on both sides.

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Ah, this is the way to earn public support.
Washington Metro system workers are planning to take sick days Friday, Saturday and Sunday to grab the attention of General Manager Paul Wiedefeld as negotiations between union members and management continue with no end in sight.

Contracts for ATU Local 689 prohibit Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority rail employees from striking, prompting them to "sick out" for three days.

Rail workers have informed their supervisors they plan to be sick later this week. WMATA responded to the news by telling the supervisors they should expect to work 12-hour shifts these three days to make up for the lack of personnel.

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Southerners are hoping
that the Trump administration will change the guidelines from the Obama administration which served to prevent schools from offering grits or biscuits for lunch because they are not made with 100% whole grain.
It was the War of Culinary Aggression.

“We could originally serve half whole grains but that changed in 2012 when we had to start serving 100 percent whole grains,” said Stephanie Dillard, the child nutrition director for Geneva County Schools in Alabama.

That meant no more grits.

“And grits are a staple in the South,” Ms. Dillard told me. “Students really want to eat their grits.”

I’m fairly certain that, had Southerners known President Obama had taken away their biscuits and grits, Mitt Romney would’ve won the South in a landslide.
I've lived in the South now for over 30 years and I've never warmed up to grits. I guess I'm still a Northerner at heart.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cruising the Web

Politico has published an investigation into what Obama did in order to get the Iranian deal. The details are horrifying. As part of the deal President Obama announced a one-time release of seven Iranian-Americans that Obama described as "civilians" in exchange for Tehran's pledge to free five Americans. But Obama was lying to us about who these men were.
In his Sunday morning address to the American people, Obama portrayed the seven men he freed as “civilians.” The senior official described them as businessmen convicted of or awaiting trial for mere “sanctions-related offenses, violations of the trade embargo.”

In reality, some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran.

And in a series of unpublicized court filings, the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men, all of them fugitives. The administration didn’t disclose their names or what they were accused of doing, noting only in an unattributed, 152-word statement about the swap that the U.S. “also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.”
Politico goes on to detail the actions taken by these men that clearly indicate their support of terrorism such as conspiring to buy thousands of assault rifles or smuggling components for IEDs, the types that have been used to kill Americans in Iraq. And there was this guy:
The biggest fish, though, was Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, who had been charged with being part of a conspiracy that from 2005 to 2012 procured thousands of parts with nuclear applications for Iran via China. That included hundreds of U.S.-made sensors for the uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran whose progress had prompted the nuclear deal talks in the first place.
The reaction from within the government was not at all happy.
When federal prosecutors and agents learned the true extent of the releases, many were shocked and angry. Some had spent years, if not decades, working to penetrate the global proliferation networks that allowed Iranian arms traders both to obtain crucial materials for Tehran’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs and, in some cases, to provide dangerous materials to other countries.

“They didn’t just dismiss a bunch of innocent business guys,” said one former federal law enforcement supervisor centrally involved in the hunt for Iranian arms traffickers and nuclear smugglers. “And then they didn’t give a full story of it.”
Obama's administration took action after action to smother progress that American officials had been making in the efforts to investigating Iran's efforts to procure and develop nuclear weapons.
In its determination to win support for the nuclear deal and prisoner swap from Tehran — and from Congress and the American people — the Obama administration did a lot more than just downplay the threats posed by the men it let off the hook, according to POLITICO’s findings.

Through action in some cases and inaction in others, the White House derailed its own much-touted National Counterproliferation Initiative at a time when it was making unprecedented headway in thwarting Iran’s proliferation networks. In addition, the POLITICO investigation found that Justice and State Department officials denied or delayed requests from prosecutors and agents to lure some key Iranian fugitives to friendly countries so they could be arrested. Similarly, Justice and State, at times in consultation with the White House, slowed down efforts to extradite some suspects already in custody overseas, according to current and former officials and others involved in the counterproliferation effort.

And as far back as the fall of 2014, Obama administration officials began slow-walking some significant investigations and prosecutions of Iranian procurement networks operating in the U.S.
Obama made sure to free people whom investigators knew were involved in getting weapons that killed Americans.
“Of course it pissed people off, but it’s more significant that these guys were freed, and that people were killed because of the actions of one of them,” the supervisor added, in reference to Ravan and the IED network.

The supervisor noted that in agreeing to lift crippling sanctions against Tehran, the Obama administration had insisted on retaining the right to go after Iran for its efforts to develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads and cruise missiles that could penetrate U.S. defenses, and to illegally procure components for its nuclear, military and weapons systems.

“Then why would you be dismissing the people that you know about who are involved in that?” the former official asked.
Politico points out that reviews by Trump and Congress of the deal may mean that more of such details will come out. Expect angry federal prosecutors to testify about these men who were released and the damage done to national security because of Obama's idée fixe that anything and everything could be sacrificed in order to get the deal.
Even some initial supporters of negotiating with Iran said the disclosures are troubling.

“There was always a broader conceptual problem with the administration not wanting to upset the balance of the deal or the perceived rapprochement with the Iranian regime,” said former Bush administration deputy national security adviser Juan Zarate, who later turned against the accord. “The deal was sacrosanct, and the Iranians knew it from the start and took full advantage when we had — and continue to maintain — enormous leverage.”

Most, if not all, of the Justice Department lawyers and prosecutors involved in the Counterproliferation Initiative were kept in the dark about how their cases were being used as bargaining chips, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former officials.

So were the federal agents from the FBI and departments of Homeland Security and Commerce who for years had been operating internationally, often undercover, on the front lines of the hunt for Iranian arms and weapons smugglers.

It wasn’t just that prosecutors and agents with years of detailed knowledge about the cases were left out of the consultations about the significance of the 21 men let go in the swap. The lack of input also meant that negotiators were making decisions without fully understanding how the releases would impact the broader and interconnected matrix of U.S. investigations.

At the time, those investigations were providing U.S. officials with a roadmap of how, exactly, Tehran was clandestinely building its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and maintaining its military with the unwitting assistance of so many U.S. weapons parts and technology companies. The cases were also providing key operational details of how the Iranian procurement networks operate, and who in Tehran was calling the shots.

“So when they downplayed it, it really infuriated people,” said Kenneth MacDonald, a former senior Homeland Security official who helped establish the multi-agency coordination center at the heart of the National Counterproliferation Initiative.

“They’d spent months or years on these cases and the decisions were made with no review of what the implications were,” said MacDonald, who retired in 2013 but keeps in contact with agents as co-principal investigator at the DHS-affiliated Institute for Security Policy at Northeastern University. “There was absolutely no consultation.”

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Caitlin Flanagan has a long essay in the Atlantic Magazine about the impact that late-night comedy hosts had in electing Trump. Their arrogant contempt for Americans whose views they disdain repels so many people, but then they turn around and bemoan how divided the country is. Flanagan is a liberal who has no problem deriding Trump and his aides, but argues that these comics have gone too far in their desire to ridicule anyone who is a conservative.
But somewhere along the way, the hosts of the late-night shows decided that they had carte blanche to insult not just the people within this administration, but also the ordinary citizens who support Trump, and even those who merely identify as conservatives. In March, Samantha Bee’s show issued a formal apology to a young man who had attended the Conservative Political Action Conference and whom the show had blasted for having “Nazi hair.” As it turned out, the young man was suffering from Stage 4 brain cancer—which a moment’s research on the producers’ part would have revealed: He had tweeted about his frightening diagnosis days before the conference. As part of its apology, the show contributed $1,000 to the GoFundMe campaign that is raising money for his medical expenses, so now we know the price of a cancer joke.

It was hardly the first time Full Frontal had gone, guns blazing, after the sick or the meek. During the campaign, Bee dispatched a correspondent to go shoot fish in a barrel at something called the Western Conservative Summit, which the reporter described as “an annual Denver gathering popular with hard-right Christian conservatives.” He interviewed an earnest young boy who talked about going to church on Sundays and Bible study on Wednesdays, and about his hope to start a group called Children for Trump. For this, the boy—who spoke with the unguarded openness of a child who has assumed goodwill on the part of an adult—was described as “Jerry Falwell in blond, larval form.” Trump and Bee are on different sides politically, but culturally they are drinking from the same cup, one filled with the poisonous nectar of reality TV and its baseless values, which have now moved to the very center of our national discourse. Trump and Bee share a penchant for verbal cruelty and a willingness to mock the defenseless. Both consider self-restraint, once the hallmark of the admirable, to be for chumps.

Yes, yes, I know: She is a comedian, he is the president of the United States; there is no scale by which their words and actions can be reasonably compared. Yet while for Bee, as for so many in her field, Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” may have been a ravishing meme, Trump’s mockery of a war hero, grieving parents, and a disabled man showed how you get the job done. When John Oliver told viewers that if they opposed abortion they had to change the channel until the last minute of the program, when they would be shown “an adorable bucket of sloths,” he perfectly encapsulated the tone of these shows: one imbued with the conviction that they and their fans are intellectually and morally superior to those who espouse any of the beliefs of the political right. Two days before the election, every talking head on television was assuring us that Trump didn’t have a chance, because he lacked a “ground game.” After his victory, one had to wonder whether some part of his ground game had been conducted night after night after night on television, under flattering studio lights and with excellent production values and comedy writing.
What can conservatives assume but that these comedians and, by extension, the networks that air their shows, have contempt for their views?
It is hardly a reach for them to further imagine that the legitimate news shows on these channels are run by similarly partisan players—nor is it at all illogical. No wonder so many of Trump’s followers are inclined to believe only the things that he or his spokespeople tell them directly—everyone else on the tube thinks they’re a bunch of trailer-park, Oxy-snorting half-wits who divide their time between retweeting Alex Jones fantasies and ironing their Klan hoods.
This is a similar argument that Ross Douthat made in his September essay, "Clinton's Samantha Bee Problem."Douthat pointed out that the late-night comics are just one aspect of the echo chamber hectoring us on the virtuous verities of liberalism.
It isn’t just late-night TV. Cultural arenas and institutions that were always liberal are being prodded or dragged further to the left. Awards shows are being pushed to shed their genteel limousine liberalism and embrace the race-gender-sexual identity agenda in full. Colleges and universities are increasingly acting as indoctrinators for that same agenda, shifting their already-lefty consensus under activist pressure.

Meanwhile, institutions that were seen as outside or sideways to political debate have been enlisted in the culture war. The tabloid industry gave us the apotheosis of Caitlyn Jenner, and ESPN gave her its Arthur Ashe Award. The N.B.A., N.C.A.A. and the A.C.C. — nobody’s idea of progressive forces, usually — are acting as enforcers on behalf of gay and transgender rights. Jock culture remains relatively reactionary, but even the N.F.L. is having its Black Lives Matters moment, thanks to Colin Kaepernick.

For the left, these are clear signs of cultural gains, cultural victory. But the scale and swiftness of those victories have created two distinctive political problems for the Democratic Party.
One problem is that those on the left are so used to dominating the culture that they have determined that any other views are not only wrong, but so dangerous that they must be banned from the public sphere. And Hillary Clinton had to move left to accommodate these views. Now that she has lost, the Democratic Party is in the same boat.

The Democrats bring in celebrities to try to win elections such as in the Georgia special election. Well, it's not at all obvious that voters, particularly in red districts, care when celebrities tell them how to vote. Didn't we see celebrities line up by the dozens to support Hillary against Trump and it didn't seem to make all that much difference. You can't keep telling people how odious and ignorant they are and then expect them to listen to your opinions on how to vote. They know that such celebrities don't care about them except when it comes time to cast ballots. The prototypical moment came when actress Alyssa Milano, who had spent a lot of time and money trying to get Jon Ossoff over 50% in the Georgia election and then tweeted out that she wanted to puke when the results were clear.

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This is how ridiculous the United Nations is - they've now put Saudi Arabia on the Commission on the Status of Women. Saudi Arabia? In case you don't know,Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch reminds us of the terrible way in which Saudi Arabia treats women.
“Saudi discrimination against women is gross and systematic in law and in practice. Every Saudi woman,” said Neuer, “must have a male guardian who makes all critical decisions on her behalf, controlling a woman’s life from her birth until death. Saudi Arabia bans women from driving cars. Why did the U.N. choose the world’s leading promoter of gender inequality to sit on its gender equality commission?”

Saudi women feel betrayed by the UN. “I wish I could find the words to express how I feel right know. I’m ‘saudi’ and this feels like betrayal,”tweeted a self-described Saudi woman pursuing a doctorate in international human rights law in Australia.”

“Today the UN sent a message that women’s rights can be sold out for petro-dollars and politics,” said Neuer, “and it let down millions of female victims worldwide who look to the world body for protection.”
Neuer links to a story from 2015 of how Saudi Arabia got a seat on the UN Human RIghts Council. It's simple - they buy the votes.
Leaked Saudi cables, however, document what we knew all along: that despite the UNHRC’s official membership criteria — “the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto” — dictatorships strike backroom deals to elect each other onto the 47-nation body, in Kofi Annan’s words, “not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others.”

Amid the trove of Saudi diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks are at least a dozen that explain how the Saudis bought their seat with money, and by bartering their UN votes.

In this cable, Riyadh approves “one hundred thousand dollars” for their UNHRC “election campaign.” As there were no TV ads to win over the other UN ambassadors, what did the money go for?

In this cable, the Saudis approach the Russians for a deal:
The Government of Saudi Arabia has the honor to propose an arrangment of reciprocal suport wherein the Government of Saudi Arabia would gladly support the candidature of the Government of Russia to the Human Rights Council, on the understanding that the Government of Russia would also extend its valuable support to the candidature of Saudi Arabia for membership in the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the period 2013-2016 at the election to be held in May 2013.
The same unethical vote trading pacts are struck with Mexico, Nigeria, and countless others named in the various cables.

Over the next two weeks, the UNHRC will be preoccupied with the report of its Commission of Inquiry into Israel’s alleged crimes in Gaza, expected to be released tomorrow.

While no EU states supported the one-sided inquiry when it was adopted last July, Russia and Saudi Arabia did.

And over the next two weeks, both Russia, which is waging a brutal war in Ukraine that has killed some 7,000 civilians, prompting no UN inquiry, and Saudi Arabia, whose indiscriminate bombing of Yemen is largely responsible for the 2200 killed, 10,000 wounded, 20 million in desperate need of aid, with no UN inquiry, will show solemn outrage over the report against Israel, and enthusiastically join the chorus of condemnation.
Why anyone would care what the UN says about anything is beyond me.

Howard Dean has doubled down on his argument that Ann Coulter's speech at Berkeley can be banned under the First Amendment. Jim Geraghty exposes how deeply ignorant Dean is.
Actually, it’s not a close call; Dean is making the wrong call under the Constitution. Dean’s entire answer piles wrong argument atop wrong argument until he completes a Dagwood sandwich of wrong.

Dean cites three court cases, and he mischaracterizes the decisions in all of them. The first case he references, Snyder v. Phelps, was an 8 to 1 decision in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church’s freedom to chant the horrible slogans and hold up the horrible banners it favors at a military funeral. If the church is free to protest at a military funeral, it makes no sense to argue that Ann Coulter is not free to give a speech at Berkeley. Dean is perhaps unknowingly citing a case that argues the reverse of his position.

The second case Dean cites, Virginia v. Black, struck down a state law that deemed cross-burning a prima facie attempt at intimidation. The decision was complicated, with multiple justices concurring in part and dissenting in part, but its upshot was that if prosecutors wanted to charge someone with a crime for burning a cross, they had to prove that the cross-burner intended his action as a threat.

“Criminal threats”, “intimidation” and criminal harassment are already crimes on the books in many states. If Ann Coulter explicitly threatens an individual in her speech, she can be charged with a crime for that. But whatever her flaws, Coulter is unlikely to make an explicit incitement to violence in a speech at Berkeley.
Geraghty then goes on to discuss why Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire doesn't allow censorship of hate speech as Eugene Volokh has explained. Geraghty concludes,
Without knowing what Coulter would say in her speech, Dean suggests that it would contain “fighting words,” given her history of using “words you can’t say on television” to describe minorities. Given the “words you can’t say on television” have no bearing on the constitutionality of an (as-yet-undelivered) speech at Berkeley, the one-time front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination seems to be insisting that just by being offensive, Coulter’s words incite violence and must be restricted and banned. It is fair to ask Dean and his ilk why they are so focused on restricting and punishing speech that supposedly “incites” violence and much less focused on punishing those who actually commit violent acts.

If Dean’s real desire is to ban speech that he doesn’t like, he should just say so.

David French has an idea of how to uphold freedom of speech on college campuses given that pusillanimous administrators cave to protesting students.
If we can’t count on courts or colleges to protect free speech, then it’s time for Congress to step up. There’s a remarkably simple solution to the problem of free speech, at least on public university campuses: Adjust the incentives. Make it costlier to censor than to protect the Constitution.
At public universities, campus censors have the freedom to speak, but they do not have the freedom to oppress.
All it would take is a law holding that if a court of final jurisdiction finds that a public university has violated the constitutional rights of a student or faculty member, then the university will pay liquidated damages to the plaintiff in the amount of no less than $5 million. It will also forfeit 25 percent of its federal funding in that current fiscal year. If a university is a repeat offender at any point in the five years following, it will forfeit 100 percent of its federal funding in that fiscal year.

Here’s what will happen: Universities will respond with all the energy and fury of a person experiencing an electric shock. The rule of law will be restored, and our essential liberties will be protected anew.

Does all this sound draconian? It’s not. The primary task of any public official in the United States is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. It doesn’t matter how well you perform your secondary role, whether it’s governing a state, distributing drivers’ licenses, or even teaching biology — if you fail in the primary task of preserving our constitutional republic, you have no business calling yourself a public servant.

Furthermore, such a strong political statement in favor of free speech will have a potent cultural effect. Private universities that choose to maintain totalitarian enclaves will face powerful market pressures from more-free and less-expensive public universities, and the contrast between liberty and oppression will be made clear for all to see. (It’s worth noting, too, that private universities are not immune from civil law. Mob violence is just as unlawful on private property as it is on a public campus, and law enforcement cannot and must not stand aside when radicals riot.)

At public universities, campus censors have the freedom to speak, but they do not have the freedom to oppress. Constitutional protections are meaningless if the law can’t provide an adequate remedy for their infringement. It’s time to change the calculus. It’s time to crush campus censorship.

Here's the newest example of how university authorities redefine racism, this time from Oxford.
Students who avoid making eye contact with their peers could be guilty of racism, according to Oxford University’s latest guidance.

The university’s Equality and Diversity Unit has advised students that “not speaking directly to people” could be deemed a “racial microaggression” which can lead to “mental ill-health”.
So if not making eye contact makes you a racist, what about cultures what about cultures which have different attitudes toward eye contact?
While the many cultures of the Middle Eastern countries can hardly be grouped together, they do have a few common trends – one of which is their use of eye contact.

Eye contact is less common, and considered less appropriate than in Western cultures. There are strict gender rules, whereby women should not make too much eye contact with men as it could be misconstrued as a romantic interest....

In countries such as China and Japan, eye contact is not considered an essential to social interaction, instead it is often considered inappropriate. In such an authoritarian culture, it is believed that subordinates shouldn’t make steady eye contact with their superiors.

For example, students are discouraged from making eye contact with their professors, as it can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect. Similarly a daughter will point her eyes downwards when her father is speaking to her, as a sign of politeness and respect.

Many African and Latin American cultures, while unique in many ways, remain strong hierarchical societies. In many circumstances intense eye contact is seen as aggressive, confrontational and extremely disrespectful.

Eye contact is so subtly ingrained into every culture that it is something which is rarely even considered before travelling abroad.

Westerner’s use of eye contact could be deemed inappropriate, and even disrespectful, in many other cultures – so make sure you learn the use of eye contact and body language before you jet off!
Perhaps Oxford officials can take some lessons on how their assertions on how not making eye contact is a racist micro-aggression is...rather, you know, racist.

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Well, now they tell us.
A former member of the Obama administration claims Washington D.C. often uses “misleading” news releases about climate data to influence public opinion.

Former Energy Department Undersecretary Steven Koonin told The Wall Street Journal Monday that bureaucrats within former President Barack Obama’s administration spun scientific data to manipulate public opinion.

“What you saw coming out of the press releases about climate data, climate analysis, was, I’d say, misleading, sometimes just wrong,” Koonin said, referring to elements within the Obama administration he said were responsible for manipulating climate data.

He pointed to a National Climate Assessment in 2014 showing hurricane activity has increased from 1980 as an illustration of how federal agencies fudged climate data. Koonin said the NCA’s assessment was technically incorrect.

“What they forgot to tell you, and you don’t know until you read all the way into the fine print is that it actually decreased in the decades before that,” he said. The U.N. published reports in 2014 essentially mirroring Koonin’s argument.