Monday, July 09, 2018

Cruising the Web

I had a lovely vacation with my daughters in Washington. Even though I was in the nation's capital, I basically took a break from political news. That was very relaxing. I highly recommend the practice. I was reminded that the great majority of people in this country don't live and breathe politics. But I return now to the fray.

But given that I was in Washington, D.C., I couldn't miss some stories. Only in D.C. does a restaurant celebrate the resignation of the head of the EPA.
"Pruitt blew it! #yourefired happy hour at The Bird tonight," The Bird tweeted on Thursday shortly after President Trump announced Pruitt's resignation.

"$4 happy hour drinks from 5-7pm, including our Pruitt Blew It cocktail special!"
That's reminiscent of how bars opened early so people could come drink and watch James Comey's testimony last year.

As far as Scott Pruitt, I don't understand how he could have been so obliviously dumb and, well, just swampy. He knew that he had the biggest of targets on his back. He had to know that the EPA is stocked with career bureaucrats ready and eager to report anything irregular that he did. And he had aides who supported what he wanted to do at the EPA, but wouldn't stay quiet about the way Pruitt seemed out to take advantage of his position. He should have been as pure as he could have possibly been and, instead, he seemed to take one questionable self-aggrandizing step after another. As Ramesh Ponnuru writes, "Pruitt Blew It."
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt had enemies who were out to get him because he is a Republican, a conservative, a high-ranking member of the Trump administration, and an environmental deregulator. But it wasn’t liberals, the media, or deep staters who made him get large raises for his top aides, deny that he knew about it, and then admit that he did. It wasn’t they who made him have an aide find him a discount mattress, or run sirens so he could get to a French restaurant on time.

The aides who told journalists, or congressional investigators, or both about Pruitt’s misbehavior weren’t all or even mostly liberals or deep staters. Several of them were conservative Trump supporters who were disturbed by Pruitt’s behavior and thought he was serving both the president and taxpayers poorly. Some of them had come with Pruitt from Oklahoma because they believed in him. The more they saw him in action in D.C., the less they did. Today it caught up with him.

Pruitt's exit might be a case of regretting getting what you wished for. HIs opponents might find Andrew Wheeler, the new acting head of the EPA even worse from their point of view, but much harder to fight.
This new, more formidable foe has a long history as a Washington insider and is well versed in doing things by the book. After more than 20 years in Washington, including time spent at the EPA under President George H.W. Bush and as a coal company lobbyist, Wheeler built a reputation for denying humans as the cause of climate change and as an ally of the fossil fuel industry — which even earned him the Onion headline: “EPA Promotes Pulsating Black Sludge to Deputy Director.” Wheeler appeared to take it all in stride, however, which will likely just infuriate the Left even more.

Like Pruitt, Wheeler will continue to pursue Trump’s deregulatory agenda and will be no friend to environmentalists. Indeed, he has built his experience challenging federal environmental regulations and was the former chief of staff to Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, a prominent Republican skeptic of mainstream scientific worries about man-made climate change.

Wheeler, with his vast experience and ability to stay out of the spotlight will likely be even more effective at pursuing Trump’s policies — which is sure to draw more scorn from the Left but generate far less attention.

Now that Barack Obama is out of the White House, the left is looking for a new lightworker. Some seem to think that they've found their new miracle worker in the nomination of democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The New Republic has an article entitled, "Can Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Save the Planet?" Emily Atkin of the New Republic seems to think that the agenda of Ocasio-Cortez is enough to give the Democrats a position on climate change that will lead to said planet saving. Her idea is a "Green New Deal" to invest trillions of dollars in green energy to create "millions of high-wage jobs." Haven't we been down that road before with Obama? Remember when Obama's nomination was the time that the oceans began to recede and our planet began to heal? Instead we got over-regulation imposed by fiat and wasted money on boondoggles. And championing socialist policies is in no way to save the world. And before you start trumpeting her world-saving abilities, how about letting her serve a day in office.

But, like many a politician, she's having to tweak her biography after having won an election by misleading people.

It's amazing to see what some law professors believe. Ken Levy of Louisiana State University writes in The Hill that the so-called "McConnell Rule" that held off a vote on Merrick Garland should have the force of a "binding precedent" and now be applied to the opening left by Justice Kennedy's retirement.
If and when McConnell carries through on this promise [to vote on Trump's nominee before the midterm elections], Senate Democrats should immediately file a federal lawsuit against him for violating the so-called “McConnell Rule.” (According to this rule, as McConnell himself stated on Feb. 13, 2016, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.”) The issue — whether the McConnell Rule is now binding precedent — would not be political (and therefore “nonjusticiable”) but rather fundamentally legal (and therefore “justiciable”).

The minority party needs to have some remedy, some legal recourse, when the majority leader is completely immune to considerations of fairness and consistency in his exercise of the Senate’s substantial constitutional powers.
First of all, the rules of the Senate aren't laws. The Constitution gives each the house the power to craft their own rules. And McConnell's actions weren't a formal rule - he just didn't schedule a vote. The Majority Leader does have the power to schedule votes. And even if this malarkey were true, does that mean that the Republicans would have had the power to challenge in federal courts when Senator Reid lifted the filibuster on lower court and executive branch nominees? Professor Levy is worried about how the 49% of the Senate aren't being represented in McConnell's scheduling of the vote. Well, that is how the Senate has always worked. Any vote limit whether using the filibuster or not is not a constitutional question, but a practice that the Constitution allows the Senate to decide for itself.

Alex Griswold responds to a NYT story (bit it really is an opinion piece) by Adam Liptak titled "How Consevatives weaponized the First Amendment." Liptak argued that it was liberals who originally wanted to protect the First Amendment, but now those darn conservatives are, as Justice Elena Kagan wrote, "Weaponizing" the First Amendment" to protect conservative speech. The NYT conducted an analysis to demonstrate that the Court under Chief Justice Roberts was more likely to protect conservative speech than liberal speech. Somehow the NYT was able to characterize whether the speech in a case was conservative or liberal. Griswold isn't buying it.
The Roberts Court . heard free speech cases about a pit bull enthusiast selling videos of dogfights, video game developers who make violent video games, and a father offering naked pictures of his daughter. Who's "liberal" and who's "conservative"? The study the Times analysis is based on dubiously decided that the Roberts Court ruled against "liberal speech" by siding against the pedophile and for "conservative speech" by protecting violent video games and the dogfight videos, even though no one could credibly claim the liberals and conservatives on the court empathized with their alleged ideological peers. When dealing with such a small subset of cases—the analysis claims Roberts Court only ruled on "liberal speech" 14 times in nearly as many years—even a handful of sketchy classifications drastically swings the percentage of free speech victories.
But does this really matter? As Griswold indicates, the Times seems to be worried that there are more conservative free-speech cases in the Roberts years than under Earl Warren or Warren Burger.
But that's only a sign of bias if you assume that the percentage of cert-worthy free speech cases that favor liberals/conservatives ought to remain static year-to-year, rather than fluctuating with our political culture.
What if action against speech changed after the Cold War when there were cases concerning the free-speech rights of communists, anti-war protesters, and civil rights activists. Ruling against such restrictions would be counted as cases about conservative speech which they lost. Times have changed now.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. In many parts of the country, it's now traditionally conservative beliefs that are afforded pariah status. To my knowledge, there are no laws in conservative states requiring businesses to produce anti-gay marriage speech, requiring abortion clinics to refer patients to pro-life centers, or requiring pro-choice protesters to remain thirty feet away from a pro-life organization. There were liberal equivalents to all three in blue states that were struck down by the Roberts Court. Gone are the days when the state tried to punish pro-gay-rights speech; welcome to the age where the state tries to punish calling trans people the wrong name.

Are there still conservative localities out there still trying to stifle speech they don't like? Almost certainly. The difference is the free speech violations above all had support and backing from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NAACP, Human Rights Council, Southern Poverty Law Center, and other major, powerful liberal organizations. The anti-free speech arguments were accepted by left-leaning judges on the First and Ninth Circuit Courts, the Colorado Court of Appeals, and yes, even the Supreme Court. The conservative legal institutional support for censorship is virtually nonexistent. Liberals, on the other hand, seem pretty cool with curtailing speech they don't like.

Indeed, the Times piece cites several liberal law professors who state openly that when free speech butts heads with progressive policy goals, free speech should give way. "I’ve gradually changed my mind about it. What I have come to see is that it’s a mistake to think of free speech as an effective means to accomplish a more just society," says Georgetown Law professor Louis Seidman. Seidman is the author of an upcoming Columbia Law Review article called "Can Free Speech Be Progressive?", a question he answers in the negative.

"Once a defense of the powerless, the First Amendment over the last hundred years has mainly become a weapon of the powerful. Legally, what was, toward the beginning of the 20th century, a shield for radicals, artists and activists, socialists and pacifists, the excluded and the dispossessed, has become a sword for authoritarians, racists and misogynists, Nazis and Klansmen, pornographers and corporations buying elections," laments University of Michigan law professor Catharine A. MacKinnon.

The Times article portrays the liberals who voice such anti-free speech sentiments as a "result" of the Roberts Court's numerous protections of conservative free speech. It never stops to contemplate they might be the cause.
Exactly. How about noticing that the four liberal justices were willing to rule against freedom of speech in liberal causes? Justice Kennedy was an stalwart supporter of freedom of speech. I hope that whomever Trump nominates will be equally strong in protecting free speech rights regardless of whether Kagan and the NYT thinks that doing so is "weaponizing" the First Amendment.

IBD points to this story earlier this week in the New York Times about the impact of the Supreme Court's decision in Janus v. AFSCME which ruled that public-sector unions couldn't force students to pay part of union dues even if they didn't join the union. The Court ruled that that constituted compelled speech which violated the First Amendment. All during the case, the unions argued that they just used those dues for collective bargaining costs and so non-dues-paying workers were free riders on the union's efforts to help all workers. But the NYT story tells us that there is a whole "vast network of groups dedicated to advancing liberal policies and candidates" which will be missing out on tens of millions of dollars a year from public-sector unions because of the cut in revenue that those unions are anticipating. Whoa! That doesn't sound like a collective-bargaining expense. The NYT gives examples from all sorts of progressive groups that depended on the donations that they were getting from public sector unions that are worried about what this ruling will do to affect them. These groups are all advocates of certain liberal policy positions or with get-out-the-vote groups for Democrats. Noam Scheiber, the reporter on the story, doesn't even seem to realize the contradiction between what he's reporting and the claims of the unions during argument before the Court.

IBD comments,
So how is it that — if none of the forced dues went to pay for anything other than collective bargaining — all these liberal activist groups are worried about having their gravy train cut off?

Surely the loss of those "fair share" fees would only come out of the unions' collective bargaining budget, not the massive amounts of money they spend supporting liberal groups and causes. Right?

Money Is Fungible

Unions might say that losing all that "fair share" money means they'll have to shift money from other activities to cover reduced collective bargaining dollars.

But that just underscores the fact that money is fungible. By forcing nonunion members to pay "fair share" fees, unions could free up substantial amounts of funds — that otherwise would have been spent on collective bargaining — to pay for political activism.

What's more, unions had fairly wide discretion over what counted as "collective bargaining," for which they could directly charge nonunion members.

A couple of years ago, the National Legal and Policy Center noted that unions, with the consent of the federal government's National Labor Relations Board, were "defining 'collective bargaining' so broadly as to include just about any activity as applicable."

Either way, there's no question that at least some of the forced dues that public sector workers had to pay ended up funding political groups, activities and policies that nonunion workers didn't agree with.

The fact that liberal groups are screaming about the loss of union money because of the Janus decision is simply more evidence that the court's ruling was exactly right.

President Trump made an unnecessary swipe at George H. W. Bush's evocation of "a thousand points of light." Jay Nordlinger responds to Trump's comment, “What the hell was that, by the way, ‘thousand points of light’? What did that mean? Does anyone know? I know one thing: ‘Make America Great Again,’ we understand. Putting America first, we understand. ‘Thousand points of light,’ I never quite got that one.” I'm not sure why the concept is so difficult for Trump, but Nordlinger comments about how much he loved the idea when Bush first enunciated it at the 1988 Republican convention. He celebrates that passage as a "profound statement of conservatism — not conservatism as people see it today, necessarily, but an old and deep conservatism." He's right. I had forgotten how I'd like that passage when I heard the speech back in 1988. It really is a message that echoes de Tocqueville's observations on ante-bellum America.
An election that’s about ideas and values is also about philosophy, and I have one.

At the bright center is the individual. And radiating out from him or her is the family, the essential unit of closeness and of love. . . .

From the individual to the family to the community, and then on out to the town, the church, and the school, and then further on out to the county, the state, and the nation — each doing only what it does well and no more. And I believe that power must always be kept close to the individual, close to the hands that raise the family and run the home....

They [the Democrats] see community as a limited cluster of interest groups, locked in odd conformity. And, in this view, the country waits passive while Washington sets the rules. But that’s not what community means, not to me.

For we’re a nation of community, of thousands and tens of thousands of ethnic, religious, social, business, labor-union, neighborhood, regional, and other organizations, all of them varied, voluntary, and unique.

This is America: the Knights of Columbus, the Grange, Hadassah, the Disabled American Veterans, the Order of Ahepa, the Business and Professional Women of America, the union hall, the Bible-study group, LULAC, Holy Name — a brilliant diversity spreading like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.

Does government have a place? Yes. Government is part of the nation of communities, not the whole, just a part.

And I don’t hate government. A government that remembers that the people are its master is a good and needed thing.

And I respect old-fashioned common sense and have no great love for the imaginings of the social planners. You see, I like what’s been tested and found to be true.
So Trump had time in his speech to knock an elderly ex-president who is much beloved these days. But he also had time to assure his audience about Vladimir Putin. “You know what? Putin’s fine. He’s fine. We’re all fine.”

Talk about a statement that I don't know what the hell it means. "A thousand points of light" mystifies Trump, but Putin's essential fineness is quite clear to him.

While the unemployment numbers last week were good, there is already evidence that Trump's tariffs are beginning to affect jobs.
During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump warned that immigrants were costing jobs and protectionist trade policies would lead to more jobs in America. Eighteen months into his presidency, the evidence shows the opposite – new tariffs are costing jobs and economic research continues to demonstrate immigrants do not harm the job prospects of U.S. workers.

Economists at the Trade Partnership have found harmful employment impacts from the Trump administration’s decision to impose tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on aluminum. The administration justified the tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended, claiming the imports from mostly U.S. allies “threaten to impair the national security” of the United States. The negative impact of the tariffs may surprise anyone who thinks a protectionist trade policy should mean more jobs for Americans.

The Trade Partnership analysis concluded:

“The tariffs, quotas and retaliation would increase the annual level of U.S. steel employment and non-ferrous metals (primarily aluminum) employment by 26,280 jobs over the first one-three years, but reduce net employment by 432,747 jobs throughout the rest of the economy, for a total net loss of 400,445 jobs;

“Sixteen jobs would be lost for every steel/aluminum job gained;

“More than two thirds of the lost jobs would affect workers in production and low-skill jobs.
“Every state will experience a net loss of jobs.”

One reason for this result is that nearly 40 times more people in America work in jobs that use steel and aluminum than in jobs connected to producing steel and aluminum.
Once again, it would be lovely if Trump and his advisers understood some basic economics.

So will liberals who are always telling us how much they admire science care about the findings of this study that the Marine Corps conducted to study how men and women do in a combat environment?
It found that all-male squads, teams and crews demonstrated better performance on 93 of 134 tasks evaluated (69 percent) than units with women in them. Units comprising all men also were faster than units with women while completing tactical movements in combat situations, especially in units with large “crew-served” weapons like heavy machine guns and mortars, the study found.

Infantry squads comprising men only also had better accuracy than squads with women in them, with “a notable difference between genders for every individual weapons system” used by infantry rifleman units. They include the M4 carbine, the M27 infantry automatic rifle (IAR) and the M203, a single-shot grenade launcher mounted to rifles, the study found.

The research also found that male Marines who have not received infantry training were still more accurate using firearms than women who have. And in removing wounded troops from the battlefield, there “were notable differences in execution times between all-male and gender-integrated groups,” with the exception being when a single person—”most often a male Marine” — carried someone away, the study found....

Researchers hooked men and women alike up to a variety of monitors, and found that the top 25th percentile of women overlapped with the bottom 25th percentile of men when it came to anaerobic power, a measure of strength, Marine officials said. Those numbers were expected to a degree given the general size difference between the average man and woman.

The gender-integrated unit’s assessment also found that 40.5 percent of women participating suffered some form of musculoskeletal injury, while 18.8 percent of men did. Twenty-one women lost time in the unit due to injuries, 19 of whom suffered injuries to their lower extremities. Of those, 16 women were injured while while carrying heavy loads in an organized movement, like a march, the study found.
So will activists who insist that women should serve in combat care about the results? The Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has stated that he doesn't want to keep women out of the infantry. The response now is that the study is just about average men and women and how they perform and so we should judge based on individual capabilities.