Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cruising the Web

Ilya Somin writes about why he, as a libertarian law professor, is free to write what he believes without care whether he is criticizing a Republican president. Some intellectuals on the right have basically surrendered their principles to advocate for Trump.
Because I am far from the only libertarian opposed to Trump and libertarians generally have strong reason to be suspicious of Trumpist nationalism, I don’t think I have lost much support in that community. But I clearly have among more conventional conservative Republicans.

All this, despite the fact that my positions on the major issues I write about are the same as they were before 2016. The same views on immigration, free trade, civil liberties, federalism, religious freedom, and the evils of Vladimir Putin’s aggression, that led me to oppose much of Barack Obama’s agenda, are also the ones that lead me to oppose Trump.

For example, I oppose Trump’s cruel order banning refugees from seven Muslim nations for many the same reasons as I previously attacked Obama’s cruel policy reversal on Cuban refugees. Similarly, my commitment to constitutional federalism and strong judicial enforcement of limits on federal power led me to oppose both the Obamacare individual health insurance mandate and Trump’s executive order targeting sanctuary cities. The experience of the last year did lead me to change my views on a few issues. But these shifts are not what has stimulated either my new fans’ praise or my new critics’ ire.

People like Stephens stand out because they have put principles ahead of partisan bias. Even before the rise of Trump, growing partisan bias and hatred of the opposition led many people to excuse behavior by their own party’s leaders that they would never tolerate from the opposing party. Many conservative Republicans are falling prey to such bias under Trump. But numerous liberal Democrats did the same under Obama, as when they tolerated or even supported his starting two wars without congressional authorization.

It is to some extent understandable if politicians trim their sails to whichever direction their party’s wind blows. After all, they want to stay in power and are afraid of being ostracized within their party. But intellectuals, activists, and ordinary voters often behave in much the same way, even though most have far less to fear in the way of tangible personal costs. Being a loyal member of Team Red or Team Blue is such an important part of many people’s identity that it often takes precedence over other, supposedly more fundamental principles.
I basically feel that I'm in a similar position. My job isn't threatened whatever I say in my blog. I can write what I believe. If some of my long-time readers dislike what I write because they support Trump, then I'm sorry to lose them as readers of my blog, but I'm not going to change my views just because some of my readers endorse wholeheartedly whatever Trump does. And, if some liberal trolls feel that I should be criticizing Trump and Republicans more, I don't care. All these critics can get their own blogs - it's free and write their own opinions to their hearts' content. I'm with Glenn Reynolds on this when he told readers that his blog "is not a news service."
What you get here — as with any blog — is my idiosyncratic selection of things that interest me, as I have time to note them, with my own idiosyncratic comments. What’s more, to the (large) extent that it’s shaped by my effort to play up stories that Big Media are ignoring, it’s even more idiosyncratic. I hope you like it, but making it your sole source of news is probably not a good idea. It’s like living solely on appetizers and desserts: there’s no “four food groups” approach here. [Maybe InstaPundit is more like a dietary supplement — providing essential nutrients, not basic sustenance? — Ed. That’s it: “InstaPundit: The Cod Liver Oil of the Media World!” Actually, now that I think about it, I like the dessert analogy better. –Ed.]

I mention this because (1) Trump’s dominating the news like nobody’s business; and (2) InstaPundit is, to a huge degree, a media-criticism blog. So Trump stuff is taking up a bigger share of space than maybe it should. I’ll do my best to counterbalance that (and so will the cobloggers) but bear in mind, InstaPundit wasn’t a news service in 2003, and it’s still not one in 2017. That is all.
I started blogging because I enjoyed putting my ideas out there and linking to articles and posts that I think are interesting. Amazingly, people come every day to read the links I put up. I'm grateful for their support and the time they spend visiting here, but I'm not going to change what I write about just because some readers don't like it.

Apparently, Lt. General H.R. McMaster will need the Senate to approve him for National Security Adviser if he wants to retain his military rank.
An esoteric, but legally significant, point is being raised by the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster’s appointment as national security adviser.

Even though the president can install anyone he wants in the post without getting consent from the Senate, the law requires a confirmation vote for any three- or four-star general. All generals of this rank are appointed to their posts by the president and Senate-confirmed, so a change in post -- in this instance from Director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center to national security adviser -- requires that the Senate reconfirm McMaster’s rank as a three-star general.

An aide to the Armed Services Committee says that in order for McMaster to keep his current rank, he “would have to be reappointed by the president and reconfirmed by the Senate in that grade for his new position.”

Alternatively, McMaster could retire or step down a grade, to two-star.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer seemed perplexed when a reporter asked him about this today, pointing out that then-Lt. Gen. Colin Powell served as Reagan’s national security adviser while retaining his military rank.

But Spicer apparently didn’t know this same issue was raised for Powell in 1987. As UPI reported then, the Reagan White House agreed that Powell would serve in an “acting” capacity until the Senate could vote to reconfirm his rank.

The Senate re-confirmed Powell as a lieutenant general by a voice vote on Dec 18, 1987, a month after Reagan announced his new assignment.
Given the bipartisan praise for McMaster, such approval by the Senate should be no problem.

Even CNN's National Security Analyst Peter Bergen terms the choice of McMaster as "brilliant."
President Donald Trump's appointment of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to be his national security adviser is a brilliant decision.

McMaster, 54, is the smartest and most capable military officer of his generation, one who has not only led American victories on the battlefields of the 1991 Gulf War and of the Iraq War, but also holds a Ph.D. in history.
McMaster is, in short, both an accomplished doer and a deep thinker, a combination that should serve him well in the complex job of national security adviser.

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There were a lot of conservatives and others who were critical of the decision by Yale University to remove the name Calhoun from one of their colleges because of repugnance at John C. Calhoun's beliefs and actions on slavery. I disagreed. Perhaps because I have been having students read his speeches for years and his arguments about how slavery was a "positive good" for the country were truly despicable. He also threatened secession any time the country discussed limiting slavery in the territories thus helping to intensify the fire-eaters who were to choose secession after Lincoln's election. He also advocated the dangerous concept of state nullification of laws a state didn't like. I'm surprised that Calhoun College lasted that long. I didn't see anything wrong with changing the name. I wouldn't want to attend Calhoun College. I'm glad to see that Jay Cost has the same position.
Conservatives are right to worry about the progressive assault on the icons of American history, particularly when men of the past are condemned and denounced not according to the standards of their day but ours.

But Calhoun is unusual among progressive targets in that he falls short by the standards of his own day, although Yale failed to explain this coherently. Their failure, however, does not change the facts of the case. When push came to shove, Calhoun chose the parochial interests of South Carolina over the welfare of the Union, and in so doing laid the intellectual groundwork for the violence of the Civil War.
Read the rest of Cost's post to learn more about Calhoun's history.

Here is some good news for Republicans. Democratic activists want to primary Democratic senators who aren't voting in a sufficiently leftist manner.
‘Democratic politicians in red states who fail to fight strongly against Trump and seize the mantle of economic populism won’t inspire people to vote — and they will lose the general election in 2018,” warned Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in a recent press release.

If Green and his ilk have their way, Democrats who fail to heed the populism of the moment will be in for a rude surprise next year. A new progressive group has already sprung up with the intent of forcing Democrats to hold the line, threateningly named “We Will Replace You.” The group seems set on calling out every perceived Democratic capitulation to President Trump, including the bipartisan confirmation of Mike Pompeo as CIA director and statements from Dick Durbin, Claire McCaskill, and Jon Tester proclaiming that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch deserves “a fair shake.” It has promised “primary challenges to Democratic collaborators and enablers of Trump.”
It's tough to knock off an incumbent. Jim Geraghty reminds us of how such activists brought down Joe Lieberman. But more often such progressive challengers don't have much luck.
“We Will Exceed Expectations before Falling Short in Our Long-Shot Effort to Replace You” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

If a traditional liberal progressive challenger has a hard time knocking off a Democratic incumbent in Connecticut and New York, never mind Arkansas, it’s hard to imagine such efforts will have better luck in Montana, Missouri, West Virginia and Florida. Which means that, for the moment, “we will replace you” still sounds like a much more plausible threat to those incumbent Democrats when it comes out of the mouths of Republicans.
But it's always helpful for a party when an opponent has to spend money and energy in a primary.

Michael Mukasey, a former attorney general and U.S. district judge, explains why we should be worried about the intelligence leaks which the media seem to be proudly beating their journalistic breasts for revealing.
Yet when secrets are released to the public under some claim of principle, outrage is muted to say the least. Sometimes, as with the Pentagon Papers leaked by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971, the potential damage might have been overstated and the secrecy unwarranted. But in other cases the damage was comparable to the injury inflicted by outright espionage.

Take the New York Times’s disclosure in 2006 that after 9/11 the U.S. government had been monitoring international funds transfers through the Swift system, used by banks world-wide. By tracking cash flows to terrorists, the program had helped frustrate numerous plots and catch their organizers. Its disclosure by the Times was a serious blow to counterterrorism efforts. Although this monitoring program was entirely lawful, the newspaper and its reporters justified the exposure with two assertions: that the public had a right to know about it, and the account was “above all else an interesting yarn,” as one of the reporters put it.

“The right to know” is a trope so often repeated, it may come as a surprise that the Constitution mentions no such right. That omission is hardly surprising given the circumstances in which the Constitution was drafted in 1787—with doors and windows closed even in the stifling summer heat to prevent deliberations from being overheard, and with the delegates sworn to secrecy. Although the Constitution directs the chambers of Congress to keep and publish a journal of their proceedings, it excepts from the publication requirement “such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy.”

The choice to disclose matters that public officials have determined should remain secret is often a singularly antidemocratic act. Public officials are elected—or appointed by those elected—to pursue policies for which they answer to the voters at large. Those who disclose national secrets assert a right to override these democratic outcomes....

Some violations of the law are hard to deter, given the asserted motive. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and Edward Snowden claim their systematic disclosures served a higher interest by promoting a necessary debate about the propriety of government conduct and secrecy.

The most recent leaks of confidential information, however, seem to come from decidedly different motives. Consider Mr. Flynn’s situation. It has been disclosed that U.S. intelligence agencies taped conversations last year between Mr. Flynn and the Russian ambassador. After Mr. Flynn falsely denied to the vice president and the FBI that he had discussed sanctions with the ambassador, Sally Yates, then acting attorney general, warned the White House that Mr. Flynn was opening himself up to Russian blackmail. Making all of this public seems designed principally to damage Mr. Flynn.
When leaks are made for political purposes, we should truly be concerned. These leaks are illegal and Mukasey recommends a complete investigation using a grand jury.
Leaks like the ones about Mr. Flynn—not to mention of conversations between President Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Australia—have an obvious source: a small group within the bureaucracy who have no higher cause to which they can appeal. They ought to be identifiable easily enough. Using a grand jury to investigate and prosecute one or two such people could have a salutary effect. That might bring us closer to a time when “loose lips sink ships” had some purchase.

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Mollie Hemingway gives some recent examples
of why we should not check media "fact checks." Here is one example.
The New York Times ran what it claimed was an Associated Press “fact check” on David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s pick to be U.S. ambassador to Israel. Here’s how it began, with a characterization of a Friedman statement and then “THE FACTS”:

FRIEDMAN:He said Palestinians had failed to ‘end incitement’ of violence, and terrorism had increased since the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, intended to be a stepping stone toward Palestinian statehood.

THE FACTS: Not all Palestinians are the same.
That’s really what it says. You don’t say, Associated Press. Thanks for that brilliant piece of information about which we were all unaware. If you are a reader looking for facts to gauge whether terrorism had increased since Oslo, you are completely out of luck.

John Daniel Davidson writes
about how the left is enjoying its freakouts over Trump's election. There are those who don't want to be friends or date anyone who voted for Trump. Businesses are advertising their disdain for Trump. Family gatherings are becoming acrimonious moments.
The hyper-politicization of every facet of life—and the intolerance it always demands—are a feature, almost exclusively, of the political Left. There’s a certain logic to this, of course. When politics becomes a kind of religion that defines one’s moral principles, then politics must dictate everything from your grocery store to the men you meet on Tinder.

But of course politics isn’t everything. In a healthy democracy, among citizens whose political views proceed from their moral principles, it should be a secondary concern, and certainly inferior to friendship and love for one’s family.

The goal of democratic politics is to ensure a just government, and the purpose of a just government is to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. On November 8, millions of Americans ensured a just government—yet again—through a legitimate election and the peaceful transfer of power.

Not everyone is happy with the results, of course, but that doesn’t mean we live under a tyranny. Until there’s some credible sign of impending tyranny beyond a Republican being in power, Americans of all political persuasions—especially progressives—need to get on with the more important business of pursuing happiness.
I hate the idea that there is no aspect of life that is not open to politicization. We saw this during Bush's presidency and then heard it from liberals pledging their fealty to Obama. Now it's gotten worse under Trump. Isn't anything safe from becoming a weapon in partisan disagreements? Don't people find all this simply exhausting?
There’s a danger in all of this. When politics becomes the most important thing in life, it’s easy to lose respect for everyone outside your political faction. This is what’s happening in America right now. The election did not make it so, but it has shined a light on the trend. Before the election, Pew found that nearly 60 percent of voters who backed Hillary Clinton had a “hard time” respecting Trump supporters, compared to just 40 percent of Trump supporters who said the same of Clinton voters.

That’s not normal or healthy. When you lose respect for your fellow citizens over an election, when you break ties with family and friends over it, you’re not just saying you won’t share a meal or a conversation with them; you’re saying you won’t share a country with them.

Maybe those on the left
who can't let loose of their passion over Trump might be interested in this website.
Liberals seeking refuge from reality now have a fake news website where they can pretend to live in a world where Hillary Clinton is president.

“Approval ratings for President Clinton hit 89 percent,” “Confused by fake news, Redditers think Trump is president” and “DOJ considers charging Trump with treason” are just a few headlines featured on, a satirical news site devoted to covering stories from an alternate universe where Hillary won last November’s election.

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Yet another sign of more open anti-Semitism by some groups across the country.
ensions remain high in Jewish communities across the United States as police in Missouri are investigating vandalism over the past week at a historic Jewish cemetery.

Police confirmed Monday that vandals toppled and damaged about 100 headstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in St. Louis. Officers responded to a report of vandalism around 8:30 a.m., the University City Police Department said in a statement.
This is really starting to get disturbing. But there is a nice ending to the story.
A crowdfunding page that was organized by the Muslim community wants to pay for 100 headstones that were destroyed at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. In the first few hours of the operation the page has received 1,500 donations and doubled its funding goal as of late Tuesday.

Launch Good's site states that the original goal of the "Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery" was met just three hours into the project's commencement. More than $42,000 has been donated so far.

And then there are the Columbia students who were so upset that the Israeli ambassador to the U.N.
Protesters “shouted down” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations seven times when he spoke at Columbia University last week, according to the Maccabee Task Force, which fights campus anti-Semitism.
To hammer home their humiliation, the 14-to-18-year-olds will attend an all-day seminar on Feb. 28 called "Understanding Today's Struggle for Racial Civil Rights." Not a bad idea for Black History Month. Except that the seminar is chock-a-block with left wing, white-guilt proselytizers.

Here a few of the 36 "invited presenters" who, we're told, were carefully screened:

-Kevin Coval, a white rapper and poet who grew up attending another nearby elite high school called Glenbrook North. Seeing the sins of his advantaged upbringing, he has become a leading guilt apostle. He has made something of a reputation for himself as a Jew who hates Zionists, referring to the one Middle East democracy as "fascist." How curious to bring on Coval in a school district that is significantly Jewish. Apparently Jewish children need to repent their blessed circumstances.

- Monica Trinidad will calmly lecture: "We Charge Genocide: An Emergence of a Continued Movement."

- John The Author, a rapper, will explore "systemic racism" in Blackenomics 101." In it, his rants include: "Cause all these other ni…s selling out, individualism is all these motherf…ers yelling about divide and conquer, white supremacy the silent monster…" which sounds, well, somewhat offensive.

Check out some seminars, which we are to believe contain not one iota of partisanship or far-left ideology: "21st Century Voter Suppression," exploring, I'm guessing, the racist GOP and voter ID cards, and "Advancing Civil Rights or Reverse Discrimination" that will—seriously—"address common myths which often unnecessarily incite racial tensions and anxiety." Throw in some sessions on "systematic racism," "systemic racism in housing," "microaggressions," "mass incarcerations" and "Transpeople of color navigating the U.S." One session asks, "Can the Voting Rights Act be saved?" whose answer probably is: Only if mean conservatives evaporate from the face of the Earth.

Among the day's activities, students will be invited to take a "White Privilege Survey," comprising 26 loaded questions to measure their guilt, Among the questions is whether bandages are available in a flesh-color that "more or less match the color of my skin."

Several left-wing campus groups had pledged to crash the event featuring Danny Danon, calling him a “cheerleader for [President Donald] Trump and the Republican right.”

One of those groups, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, described the heckler’s veto they exercised over the ambassador and the crowd as “standing up to racist” Danon.
This is what the students might have heard if they hadn't drowned out his speech.
When he wasn’t being shouted down, Danon told the crowd that Israel was under literal fire by rockets sent from Sinai and that he was skeptical about the prospects for peace, given that “everything is focused only on Israel” and its alleged sins within the United Nations.

The ambassador “engaged with protesters” and asked them to stay for Q&A, to no avail, the newspaper reported.
Remember that Columbia is the university which invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to speak without any such strong disruption of his speech. There were protests outside the speech, but he was allowed to speak as you can tell from the video.So a Holocaust denier who headed up the denial of civil liberties to his own people as well as denying rights to gays and women and who sponsored terrorism throughout the region was allowed to speak without the heckler's veto screaming down the ambassador from the only democracy in the region simply because he appeared in a photograph with the President of the United States.

Ugh, this is what is going on at a high school that I attended - New Trier High School, one of the most prestigious in the country. The administration there has decided that classes should be canceled for a day so they can engage in telling white students how ashamed they should be. Parents suggested some balance to hear from conservative blacks, but the administration rejected those suggestions with some rather "transparently bogus" excuses. The school isn't interested in balance; they want the students, most of whom come from affluent backgrounds to be brainwashed as to what to think. They deny that their list of speakers would present a biased point of view and isn't about politics.
Nice sentiment, but the seminar's reality defies the school's own rules of neutrality, to wit: "Public institutions, paid for with taxpayer money, have the duty to present a balanced view with respect to controversial issues."

The seminar will be held on a regular school day (parents aren't allowed to attend), meaning that students who don't show up will be truant. But the school will make an exception for anyone made to feel uncomfortable; he will be free to leave the session and have a "study" day. In other words, any student can announce his dissent by getting up and leaving in front of the entire classroom, and then suffer any ridicule that befalls him. In effect, there's no "safe place" for dissenting students.
So students have to open themselves open to criticisms from peers if they publicly get up and leave. Why would a school set students up for such racial conflicts that would resonate after the day of shaming? If my child went to New Trier, I'd have her stay home and just write a note that she was sick if there was going to be repercussions for attending this thing. Schools should not be so blatantly dedicated to indoctrinating their students.

At Michigan State University, some people have written bullying messages on whiteboards that students post on their dorm doors. So the solution from the university is to ban whiteboards.
As a result, the university will ban the whiteboards from students’ doors this fall, in an effort to cut down on the number of negative, anonymous messages left outside dorm rooms.

“In any given month, there are several incidents like this. There was no one incident that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Kat Cooper, director of University Residential Services Communications. “Sometimes these things are racial, sometimes they’re sexual in nature. There are all sorts of things that happen.”

There has been no uptick in incidents, Cooper said. The ban is limited to hanging whiteboards on dorm doors; students will still be permitted to use the items inside their rooms.
Sure, that's a solution - end the method of delivery of insults and insults will end. Katherine Timpf writes.
t’s harsh, but it’s true: If you’re the kind of garbage person who is running around writing racial slurs on whiteboards, you’re probably the kind of garbage person who will continue to run around doing racist-garbage-person type stuff regardless of what your dorm-mates have and have not been allowed to bring home from Office Max. And although it’s not clear whether this ban will extend to chalkboards — or if it’s only, specifically melamine-surface boards that are problematic — it’s clear that the garbage people still will have plenty of options. For example: Post-It notes! Paper! What if students start hanging paper on their doors?

The answer: Ban paper! You may think that that sounds a bit far-fetched, but the truth is, the exact line of “reasoning” that Cooper used to justify banning the whiteboards could also be used to ban sheets of paper. Just like she did with the whiteboards, Cooper could argue that when she “was in school” sheets of paper “were an essential form of communication” that people don’t really need as much in the days of text messaging and e-mail, and that therefore although “it used to be that their [appropriate] usage outweighed their abuse . . . that’s just not the case anymore.”

Make no mistake: Racism and sexism are disgusting, and it is important to take steps to eradicate them. But at the same time, it’s also important to know when you’re doing something completely useless based on an idiotic line of logic — and it seems like MSU could use some help in that area.

A high school student writes in the WSJ about how even the SAT has become political. He took the SAT in December and found a partisan article the basis for the essay question.
The test was going well until I reached the essay question, which asks students to assess how an author of an article supports his claims.

The basic concept was easy enough, but I was surprised by the source our essay was supposed to be based on. We were asked to analyze a February 2014 Huffington Post article supporting the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. The author: New York’s junior senator, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who had recently introduced the legislation.

It wouldn’t be appropriate to have an SAT essay question using an article from a conservative blog about reasons to ban late-term abortion. And it is equally inappropriate to force students to focus their attention on a one-sided argument from one of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate.

The exam made clear that the “essay should not explain whether you agree with” the article. It should only “explain how the author builds an argument to persuade.” Still, why would a controversial political topic be selected for this evaluation? Why a divisive, partisan issue? We would have had the same educational benefit if the SAT provided an article about banning laptops in school. Maybe the SAT essay should follow the rule of topics that are appropriate for dinner conversation: no religion, politics or sex.

The SAT is an assessment tool and not a mechanism to promote a political agenda to millions of impressionable students. This article might be the only point of view some students ever hear about paid leave, and they are required not only to read it but to restate its central arguments. Educators know that writing down facts is an effective way to retain information. Students should be memorizing algebraic equations, not arguments for progressive labor policy.

Data from the Federal Election Commission show that College Board executives have an overwhelming preference for Democratic candidates. The College Board also spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that a prominent Democratic senator’s piece was chosen, but I’m not convinced.

What a surprise! Good discipline in schools does more to improve student performance than increased funding.
Discipline in schools has a greater impact and is more important to educational performance when compared to monetary investment, a new study from Macquarie University has found.
The study found that school performance was overwhelmingly determined by how schools are run, while in comparison the amount of money spent on schools as a percentage of GDP had a minor influence on educational performance.
"Monetary investment in education is not sufficient to boost educational performance. Discussion on education policy often centres on funding, but this study now establishes that a much more effective 'tool' to improve education performance and ultimately the competitiveness of a nation, is to focus on school discipline," said co-author Associate Professor Chris Baumann of the study, published in the International Journal of Educational Management.

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