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.