Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Cruising the Web

Jay Cost provides a worthwhile tutorial on why James Madison felt that freedom of speech is so necessary to a republican government.
In Madison’s view, a free republic depends ultimately upon public opinion. A Constitution could divide power this way and that, but in the end it is the people, and only the people, who rule. And for the people to rule wisely, they have to be able to communicate with one another — freely, without fear of reprisal. Thus, freedom of speech and press were not, for Madison, merely God-given rights. They were preconditions for self-government.

Conversely, Madison believed that those who sought to restrict speech revealed themselves to be opponents of republicanism. They wished to prevent public opinion from cohering, thus making it easier to counterfeit. This is why Madison and Thomas Jefferson — Jefferson himself was a staunch republican — reacted so strongly to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which restricted immigration and made it a crime to print “libelous” comments about government officers.
Cost reminds us that, contrary to the actions of Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR, Madison did not abridge civil liberties during the War of 1812. And there was a lot of criticism of his government during that war. Other countries don't have the same elevated protections to freedom of speech that the U.S. does. Yes, we have to tolerate odious speech such as we've been hearing from the alt-right and also from extremists on the left. But that's the price we pay.
Our First Amendment freedoms combined — freedom of religion, of assembly and petition, of press and speech — give us the right to think what we like and say what we please. And if we the people are to govern ourselves, we must have these rights, even if they are misused by a minority.

As we confront those who use their right to free speech to abuse the norms of decency and civility, we should calmly recall Jefferson’s admonition from his first inaugural address. “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
Cost's column explains why I am so disturbed by all the attempts to limit speech that distresses some people on college campuses. It's as if people have forgotten why we have the rights we do.

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Daniel Hannan, a British Conservative who is a member of the European Parliament, explains why there is absolutely a moral equivalence between Nazis and antifa.
Ah, replied the commentators, but maybe swinging clubs is OK if the targets are fascists. Set aside, for a moment, that in Berkeley, as elsewhere, the hoodlums are not attacking fascists, but supporters of a legitimately elected president. Let's just analyze, for a moment, why actual fascists might be placed in a different moral category. What is it we find so abhorrent about them?

We can all make our own lists, but my guess is that most of us would point to their intolerance of dissent, their readiness to use violence against opponents, their determination to categorize people by racial or other criteria, their preference for war over peace, their disdain for free speech and their contempt for democracy.

Take another look at the "antifa" hooligans who have been orchestrating these violent protests around the country. They tick every box, down to their black shirts. Sure, they call themselves anti-fascists, but that trick has been tried before: when the Communists established their dictatorships across Central Europe in the 1940s, they called them anti-fascist fronts. Perhaps one or two credulous souls fell for it back then. But most people, then as now, could see what was going on. When hatred drives a man use his "No Hatred" placard as an assault weapon, the words don't magically nullify his bellicosity.

Believe me, equivalence doesn't rehabilitate fascists: Their misanthropy and aggression has already damned them. Rather, it allows us to see the extreme Left for what it is: a movement which elevates violence, sneers at democracy and despises freedom.

Because Western democracies were thrown into a brief alliance with Stalin, we chose not to look too closely at how much he had in common with Hitler. Somehow, the revolutionary socialists were presumed to have nobler intentions than the Nazis. Being worked to death in a gulag was not the same as being worked to death in a concentration camp. Being shot for having been born bourgeois was not the same as being shot for having been born Jewish. You couldn't make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

Yet, when I look at the antifa thugs, casting around for any ideology to justify their sociopathic tendencies, I see people who, in an earlier age, would probably have become stormtroopers. Moral equivalence? Absolutely.

Sounds like a good plan.
The U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State said Monday a convoy of militants stranded in Syria has proved an unexpected boon, drawing other fighters from the extremist group seeking to reach the buses into the open and turning them into easy targets.

The buses, which were supposed to transport hundreds of Islamic State fighters and their families from the Lebanese border in southwestern Syria to a town in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border, have been stuck for nearly a week after U.S. airstrikes blocked them from reaching their destination. They were being evacuated under a controversial deal brokered by the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah that the U.S. opposed....

U.S. airstrikes cratered a road and destroyed a bridge to prevent the convoy from advancing and have repeatedly targeted Islamic State fighters trying to reach the buses. Col. Dillon said so far, some 85 militants and more than 40 vehicles have been hit by airstrikes. The strikes also targeted artillery systems, pickup trucks mounted with weapons and a tank.

Over the weekend, the convoy split up, with six of the 17 buses that originally left the Lebanese border turning back into Syrian-government controlled territory outside Deir Ezzour province. They stopped near the Syrian village of al-Sukhnah, said the coalition, which continues to monitor the 11 stranded buses. The coalition has refused to strike the buses directly because there are women and children on board.

The WSJ rightly excoriates
the stupidity of Trump's trade policy. Now he's threatening to pull out of the trade deal with South Korea right when we need South Korea's support in dealing with Kim Jong Un.
A big problem with Donald Trump’s protectionist trade agenda—and far from the only one—is that it contradicts his purported geopolitical goals. The latest example is Mr. Trump’s threat, widely reported on the weekend, to withdraw from the U.S.-South Korea trade pact.

Mr. Trump has long opposed the deal with Seoul that was signed by George W. Bush in 2007, renegotiated at the margins by Barack Obama in 2010 and passed by a GOP Congress in 2011. The agreement, which reduced 95% of the tariffs on goods and opened the market for U.S. services, has been an economic boon to both countries. But Mr. Trump is fixated on the $27.7 billion bilateral U.S. trade deficit in goods in 2016, despite a $10.9 surplus in services. The trade deficit is relatively small and economically meaningless in any event.

But even if you ignore the economic harm from unilateral U.S. withdrawal, the political damage would be worse. You don’t have to be Henry Kissinger to see the folly of threatening a key ally economically at the same time you are asking that ally for support against North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear-missile arsenal (see nearby).

Mr. Trump fairly criticizes South Korea for “talk of appeasement with North Korea,” but why should the South trust the U.S. military commitment if an erratic U.S. President can’t be trusted to keep a mere trade pact? The winner would be the North’s Kim Jong Un.

And this is why it was a bad idea to run on renegotiating NAFTA. Every side will come up with their own demands. I hope that this one is a non-starter.
Canadian negotiators are demanding the United States roll back so-called "right to work" laws – accused of gutting unions in some U.S. states by starving them of money – as part of the renegotiation of the North American free-trade agreement. The request is part of a push by Ottawa to get the U.S. and Mexico to adopt higher labour standards under the deal....

One group of negotiators spent all day Sunday working on the labour file, according to a schedule of the talks obtained by The Globe and Mail. One source familiar with the discussions said Canada wants the United States to pass a federal law stopping state governments from enacting right-to-work legislation; the source said the United States has not agreed to such a request. Canada believes that lower labour standards in the United States and Mexico, including right to work, give those countries an unfair advantage in attracting jobs.

Jerry Dias, the leader of Canada's largest private-sector trade union, said Ottawa's negotiators are: pushing Mexico on its corporate-sanctioned unions, which are accused of negotiating collective agreements unfavourable to workers; agitating for both countries to offer a year of paid family leave, as Canada does; and targeting American right-to-work laws that allow workers in unionized shops to refuse to pay dues, draining money from unions.
Hmmm. Aren't unions always claiming to make jobs better for workers? So why would having right-to-work laws attract workers from Canada? Could it be that workers actually like keeping their salaries instead of having union dues taken out of their paycheck - especially when that money is mostly spent on political activism that workers may not support? Could it be that such laws help reduce unemployment? With facts like these, no wonder Canada doesn't like having to compete with right-to-work states in the U.S.
Myth: Right-to-work laws provide no economic benefits.

Fact: Companies consider right-to-work laws a major factor when deciding where to locate.

Organizing victories bring in a lot more money for a union in jurisdictions with compulsory dues. Consequently, unions organize more aggressively in places without right-to-work laws.[7] Companies in turn want to know they can avoid being targeted by union organizers if they treat their workers well. Right-to-work laws make that more likely. Economic development consultants report that roughly half of all major businesses refuse to consider locating in jurisdictions with compulsory dues.[8] Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that between 1990 and 2014 total employment grew more than twice as fast in right-to-work states as in states with compulsory dues.

Myth: Right-to-work laws lower wages.

Fact: Workers have the same or higher buying power in right-to-work states.
Opponents often deride voluntary dues as “right-to-work for less.” Average wages in right-to-work states are indeed slightly lower than in non-right-to-work states. This occurs because almost every Southern state has a right-to-work law and the South has a lower cost of living. Studies that control for differences in costs of living find workers in states with voluntary dues have no lower—and possibly slightly higher—real wages than workers in states with compulsory dues.
If Obama or Clinton were president, they'd be all over this, although I'm not sure where the federal government would get the power to tell states that they can't have these laws which have already been enacted.

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So did James Comey lie to Congress in his testimony about when he made up his mind to let Hillary Clinton off the hook?
The new revelation that James Comey circulated a draft of a statement he wrote as FBI director exonerating Hillary Clinton in last year’s email investigation appears to be at odds with what he told a House panel last September.

“If colleagues of ours believe I am lying about when I made this decision, please urge them to contact me privately so we can have a conversation about this,” Comey said during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 28, 2016.

“All I can do is tell you again, the decision was made after that because I didn’t know what was going to happen in that interview,” he added.

That statement, which Politico flagged on Thursday, appears to conflict with the revelation on Thursday that two of Comey’s top aides at the FBI said in transcribed interviews last year that Comey circulated drafts clearing Clinton as early as last April, months before he actually publicly cleared the former secretary of state, who had been under investigation for mishandling classified information on her private email server.

Clinton was interviewed by federal investigators on July 2, 2016. Three days later, Comey announced that he would not be recommending charges be filed against Clinton.

In all, 17 witnesses would be interviewed after Comey drafted memos which pointed to Clinton being exonerated, say Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Andrew McCarthy has a persuasive column
arguing that the exoneration of Hillary Clinton actually came from Obama rather than Comey. He puts together the timeline of statements that Obama was making at the time with what the FBI was or wasn't doing. As McCarthy has pointed out previously, Obama was publicly stating that Hillary's mistakes with her server were due to carelessness but not with any intent to endanger national security. And lo and behold, Comey used that same reasoning in absolving Clinton.
Obama’s April statements are the significant ones. They told us how this was going to go. The rest is just details.

In his April 10 comments, Obama made the obvious explicit: He did not want the certain Democratic nominee, the candidate he was backing to succeed him, to be indicted. Conveniently, his remarks (inevitably echoed by Comey) did not mention that an intent to endanger national security was not an element of the criminal offenses Clinton was suspected of committing – in classic Obama fashion, he was urging her innocence of a strawman crime while dodging any discussion of the crimes she had actually committed.

As we also now know – but as Obama knew at the time – the president himself had communicated with Clinton over her non-secure, private communications system, using an alias. The Obama administration refused to disclose these several e-mail exchanges because they undoubtedly involve classified conversations between the president and his secretary of state. It would not have been possible to prosecute Mrs. Clinton for mishandling classified information without its being clear that President Obama had engaged in the same conduct. The administration was never, ever going to allow that to happen.

What else was going on in May 2016, while Comey was drafting his findings (even though several of the things he would purportedly “base” them on hadn’t actually happened yet)? Well, as I explained in real time (in a column entitled “Clinton E-mails: Is the Fix In?”), the Obama Justice Department was leaking to the Washington Post that Clinton probably would not be charged – and that her top aide, Cheryl Mills, was considered a cooperating witness rather than a coconspirator.

Why? Well, I know you’ll be shocked to hear this, but it turns out the Obama Justice Department had fully adopted the theory of the case announced by President Obama in April.
All this ignored the fact that the laws that Clinton broke did not require any evidence of "Malicious intent."
As I recounted in the same May 2016 column, the Obama Justice Department was simultaneously barring the FBI from asking Mills questions that went to the heart of the e-mails investigation – questions about the process by which Clinton and her underlings decided which of her 60,000 e-mails to surrender to the State Department, and which would be withheld (it ended up being about 33,000) as purportedly “private” (a goodly percentage were not).

This was the start of a series of Justice Department shenanigans we would come to learn about: Cutting off key areas of inquiry; cutting inexplicable immunity deals; declining to use the grand jury to compel evidence; agreeing to limit searches of computers (in order to miss key time-frames when obstruction occurred); agreeing to destroy physical evidence (laptop computers); failing to charge and squeeze witnesses who made patently false statements; allowing subjects of the investigation to act as lawyers for other subjects of the investigation (in order to promote the charade that some evidence was off-limits due to the attorney-client privilege); and so on. There is a way – a notoriously aggressive way – that the Justice Department and FBI go about their business when they are trying to make a case. Here, they were trying to unmake a case.
McCarthy's conclusion is that the decision was made by Obama and his Justice Department to let Clinton off the hook and they proceeded to conduct an investigation that would accomplish that goal. And Comey went along with it all.
Bottom line: In April, President Obama and his Justice Department adopted a Hillary Clinton defense strategy of concocting a crime no one was claiming Clinton had committed: to wit, transmitting classified information with an intent to harm the United States. With media-Democrat complex help, they peddled the narrative that she could not be convicted absent this “malicious intent,” in a desperate effort to make the publicly known evidence seem weak. Meanwhile, they quietly hamstrung FBI case investigators in order to frustrate the evidence-gathering process. When damning proof nevertheless mounted, the Obama administration dismissed the whole debacle by rewriting the statute (to impose an imaginary intent standard) and by offering absurd rationalizations for not applying the statute as written.

That plan was in place and already being implemented when Director Comey began drafting the “findings” he would announce months later. But it was not Comey’s plan. It was Obama’s plan.

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Ah, not a good sign for the NYC Department Education.
The New York City Department of Education doesn’t know what happened to the $84 million it spent on students with disabilities programs, an audit report released Monday shows.

Controller of the audit, Scott Stringer, pointed to the fact that the city didn’t track where money for physical and speech therapy treatment as well as psychological counseling landed. Instead, NYC ended up spending the money on poorly crafted and even completely empty programs designed to scam the government into wasting taxpayer dollars on pointless education initiatives.

“During the audit, DOE represented that it did not have any project plans, implementation schedules, and progress reports to document the steps taken, rate of progress, and total cost” the report reads. The “DOE failed to appropriately plan, monitor, document, and manage,” its initiatives, the report went on....

The report alleges there were over 3,000 duplicative and faulty payments to providers who said they had treated the same group of students during the same time period in 2016, totally over $131,000 in wasted payments. The audit also reported another $1 million in duplicate payments it found in an alternate database. NYC public schools also reportedly lost $356 million in federal Medicaid payments for special education services between 2012 and 2014, because the state didn’t apply for reimbursement payments correctly.
If a charter school had this sort of record, it would probably be closed down. But probably nothing will happen to the people at fault for the NYC schools.