Friday, March 16, 2018

Cruising the Web

Megan McArdle explains why it doesn't really matter who is Trump's head of the National Economic Council.
So how much does it matter whether Kudlow has good or bad ideas on economic policy? Is the fate of financial reform proposals likely to hinge on whether Kudlow can give the president a PhD-level seminar on the Basel III Tier I Capital requirements? Or our trade policy on whether he can walk Trump through Paul Krugman’s Nobel-prizewinning work on trade theory?

Of course not. Over the course of both the campaign and the administration, the president has shown himself quite uninterested in either policy detail or abstruse technical debates. For good or for ill, Trump is a man who has always relied primarily on his own instincts. That is how we can expect matters to proceed for at least the next three years.

The skills that Kudlow showed in the past — putting on a compelling show for people who are under no obligation to listen and explaining his ideas clearly and quickly in a very short time frame — seem at least as useful in his new job, and probably more so. But given his contempt for elites, it seems unlikely that Trump would be more prone to listen to Kudlow if he had a PhD. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Trump would be more prone to listen to Kudlow if he had a direct message from God written on the walls of the Oval Office. That’s just not who Trump is....

So Democrats are right: Kudlow isn’t necessarily the traditional figure you’d see in this job, though neither is Trump. And Republicans are right too: At this moment, Kudlow was probably the best they had a right to expect. But both groups are wrong if they expect his appointment to matter much.
It's funny that, if McArdle is right that it doesn't really matter who holds this position, that we're spending so much time talking about who holds this position. Does anyone remember who held that position for any of our previous presidents?

The NYT notes
that a trend that some economists thought couldn't be reversed is actually going in reverse. This is very good news.
The rise in the number of Americans not working because of disability was so persistent for two decades that some economists began to hypothesize that the trend would never reverse.

But perhaps it has. Since a peak almost four years ago, that number has steadily fallen, showing its largest decline — both in terms of head count and percentage — in at least the last 25 years. It’s good news, but it also raises important questions about how much further the labor market has to heal.

The employed share of the population 25 to 54 years old — the age range economists generally consider a person’s prime working years — is still almost a full percentage point below where it was on the eve of the Great Recession, and more than two percentage points below where it was before the 2001 recession....

Economists were especially alarmed because the increase appeared tenacious. It was rising before the 2001 recession, rose faster in response to the 2001 and 2008 recessions, then kept rising during the subsequent recoveries.

But then it began to fall: slowly at first and then, beginning in 2016, faster. Over all, the number of prime-age people who cite disability as their reason for not working has shrunk by 7 percent since mid-2014.
Interestingly, the decline in the numbers of disabled nonparticipants is greater among those without a high school diploma than those with one. Another promising sign is that the rate of people newly entering the ranks of the disabled nonworking is also declining. OF course, there are still people who are not moving into the workforce, but it is very promising to see this reversal. It would be nice if analysts figured out why the disability rates had risen so high and stayed up there so long.

Hmmmm. Didn't the Obama administration care about children?
Acting FBI deputy director David Bowdich confirmed that it was a decision made under the direction of the Obama administration that led to more than half a million fugitives with outstanding arrest warrants to have their names removed from a national database.

The interpretation of a “fugitive from justice” to refer to wanted people who have crossed state lines was determined by former President Obama’s Justice Department which directed the FBI to drop more than 500,000 names from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Bowdich testified about the decision during Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the failed response of the FBI and law enforcement in preventing the Parkland, Florida mass shooting last month which claimed the lives of 17 people.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Bowdich about the Justice Department memo which forced the removal of the names by the FBI.

“That was a decision that was made under the previous administration,” Bowdich testified.

“It was the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that reviewed the law and believed that it needed to be interpreted so that if someone was a fugitive in a state, there had to be indications that they had crossed state lines,” he explained. “Otherwise they were not known to be a fugitive under the law in the way it was interpreted.”

While a person with an outstanding arrest warrant was considered to be a fugitive by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used the term for someone who had the warrant and had also crossed state lines, according to The Washington Post.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel accepted the definition by the ATF at the end of Obama’s term, denying gun purchases only to fugitives who cross state lines.
If the government isn't going to maintain decent records in the national database, what is the point?

Of course, this was the same administration that ran guns to Mexico. Remember, that's one of the scandals that the Obama administration supposedly had didn't have.

NBC is still repeating that phoney statistics about how Americans use 500 million straws per day. Becket Adams writes,
The truth behind this persistent lie is wild.

NBC News official Twitter account tweeted Wednesday morning, “The average American uses 584 straws a year — most of them ending up in our waterways. We can do better.”
NBC Twitter's writers seem happy to repeat this statistic and are totally unaware the origins of the stat.
As it turns out, that number comes from a child. I am not making this up.

“The actual number of straws being used is unclear,” Reason magazine reported in January.

“The 500 million figure is often attributed to the National Park Service; it in turn got it from the recycling company Eco-Cycle,” the report continues. “Eco-Cycle is unable to provide any data to back up this number, telling Reason that it was relying on the research of one Milo Cress. Cress—whose Be Straw Free Campaign is hosted on Eco-Cycle's website—tells Reason that he arrived at the 500 million straws a day figure from phone surveys he conducted of straw manufacturers in 2011, when he was just 9 years old.”

Cress, who is now 16-years-old, told Reason that the National Restaurant Association has endorsed his estimate privately. That’s to his credit, but the problem remains: He appears to be the sole source for this number.

For all the concern over the murder of high-schoolers, Guy Benson notes the curious lack of national attention paid to the murder of young high schoolers by MS-13 gang members. Part of that silence is a deliberate decision not to give Trump and other Republicans a talking point about the dangers of admitting unaccompanied minors. Benson links to the Washington Post story of one of the girls whose death was mentioned in Trump's State of the Union speech. She had told her mother that the gangs were taking over her high school. And then they murdered her.
From New York to Virginia to Texas, schools in areas racked by MS-13 violence are now struggling with a sobering question. What to do when the gang isn’t just in your community, but in your classrooms?

For the past year, the Trump administration has waged a nationwide crackdown on MS-13. Nowhere has this effort been more intense than in Suffolk County, where police say the gang has committed 27 murders since a surge of unaccompanied minors began arriving in 2013.

Faced with an influx of scores of unaccompanied minors and an uptick in gang violence, Brentwood High has been criticized both for doing too little and too much to address the problem.

A $110 million federal lawsuit, filed in December by Kayla’s mother, claims administrators failed to protect her 16-year-old, allowing MS-13 to create an “environment filled with fear within the school.”

Meanwhile, a class-action suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Trump administration alleges the school went too far, hastily labeling kids as gang members and leading to their wrongful imprisonment.

School officials say they walk a fine line, reporting illegal activity while respecting students’ rights.

“We can see a gang member coming a mile away,” said Carlos Sanchez, safety director for the Brentwood Free Union School District. “The problem is that it’s not against the law to be a gang member, even if they identify themselves as MS.”

....Starting in 2013, thousands of unaccompanied minors — most from Central America — began entering the United States illegally from Mexico each month, many turning themselves in to authorities. More than 200,000 have been detained, screened and then placed with relatives by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Nearly 5,000 have been sent to Suffolk County.

Schools are required by law to enroll and educate these students. At Brentwood High, the student population soared to 4,500, making it one of the largest high schools in the state.
It's a horrific situation for the schools and students. This could be the story of anyone's child in any high school. Beyond the safety concerns, there was the problem of absorbing large numbers of students who didn't speak English and were years behind the other students. And the violence of the gang has now infiltrated the schools and students soon started disappearing or being murdered.
Kayla, a basketball player from a Puerto Rican family, had first clashed with MS-13 two years earlier at Brentwood’s Freshman Center, where gang members spat on her, stole or broke her things and taunted her, according to her mother’s lawsuit.

Things escalated in summer school, when an MS-13 member threatened her with a knife, then continued to attend Brentwood High, the lawsuit says.

“She used to tell me, ‘Ma, they are taking over the school. It’s like they’re everywhere,’ ” said Evelyn Rodriguez, who has become the face of MS-13 victims.

Rodriguez said she and her daughter reported the bullying to school administrators, who promised the knife-wielding student wouldn’t be allowed back. But when Kayla, 16, who had exchanged online taunts with MS-13, showed up for classes that fall, he was still there, the lawsuit alleges.

After a confrontation at Brentwood, federal prosecutors say, MS-13 put a “greenlight” — or kill order — on Kayla, and members made a “throat slicing gesture” toward her at school, the lawsuit says.

A week later, she was walking home one evening with Nisa, a basketball teammate one day shy of her 16th birthday, when MS-13 members spotted them and attacked with a machete and baseball bats, according to prosecutors. The girls were beaten to death.

“They failed my daughter,” Rodriguez said of school officials.
If Trump talks about MS-13, he's accused of racism. The Obama folks get very defensive because these people entered under his watch. As Benson points out, we should be able to separate discussions of immigration from discussions of safety and security.
None of this is an argument against immigration or immigrants broadly. It is an argument that amnesties attract more unlawful immigration, meaning that potential mass legalizations must be coupled with meaningful enforcement measures to protect a manifestly unsecure border. How can anyone seriously argue that the existing system isn't profoundly broken? Yes, some illegal immigrants who come to America as minors go on to become high school valedictorians. Others become MS-13 members who beat fellow students to death. We shouldn't let shining examples from the former group exclusively drive our policymaking, as we disdain the mere mention of the latter pool as bigotry.

Solving complex problems requires a clear-eyed view of the facts as they exist, not as any ideological group may wish them to be. Immigration restrictionists sometimes go too far in exploiting fear and shining a spotlight on extreme cases in order to make their points. But "pro-immigration" advocates -- now a crucial interest group yanking Democratic politics to the far Left -- sometimes allow their stance to evolve into de facto support for illegal immigration, under which inconvenient or uncomfortable information is indignantly denounced as the paranoia of xenophobes. Neither approach will make our laws better or smarter. Both have made our debate less productive, more polarized, and considerably dumber.