Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cruising the Web

Victor Davis Hanson notes the peculiarity of Senator Warren's claim that she is a Native American because some unknown ancestor was, according to her family's lore, was one.
Progressives such as Elizabeth Warren resurrect the race-based thinking of the antebellum South: ‘One drop’ and you’re a bona fide minority.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has doubled down on her insistence that she is Native American.

In her past incarnations, she probably used that yarn in hopes of helping her win a law professorship at Harvard, which touted her as the law school’s first indigenous-American professor (and others apparently referenced her as Harvard Law’s “first woman of color”). She has refused to back down (and also refused to take a DNA test), even after Native American genealogists disputed her claim.

But what if indeed the pink and blond Warren were found to have 1/32nd or even 1/16th Native American “blood”? Why would that artifact magically make her “Indian,” much less a victim of something or someone, or at least outfitted with a minority cachet?

Does she have an idea of the absurdity of current progressive race obsessions and their creepy pedigrees? In wartime Western Europe, one of the justifications for making Jews wear yellow stars was that it was otherwise impossible to determine whether they were Jews at all, which of course made the entire Nazi edifice of supposed overt racial inferiority a nightmarish joke.

The Fascist and anti-Semitic French novelist Lucien Rebatet explained why the stars were needed for hard-to-identify Jewish citizens: “The yellow star rectifies this strange situation in which one human group that is radically opposed to the people of white blood, and which for eternity is unassimilable to this blood, cannot be identified at first glance.”

What is the moral of this sad reversion to the failed racist systems of the past? Warren is harkening back to the old South’s “one drop rule” of “invisible blackness.” Supposedly any proof of sub-Saharan ancestry, even one drop of “black blood,” made one black and therefore subject to second-class citizenship.
Hanson is so correct. It's always struck me as so ironic that those on the left advocating affirmative action programs have adopted the same standards that were used to discriminate against other minorities. I think of Homer Plessy who was 1/8 black and could pass for white, had to make it known that, when he sat in a whites-only section on a Louisiana train that he was actually breaking the law so that, after being charged, he could challenge the state's separate-car law in the case that became the infamous decision Plessy v. Ferguson. That decision established the legality of segregation as long as there was a pretense that the provisions were "separate, but equal." What was once a one-drop rule to segregate out blacks, is now an excuse from someone like Elizabeth Warren to gain professional benefits.

Hanson then transitions to note how liberals are adopting other odious policies from the old South.
hey also echo the antebellum talk of secession and boast about state nullification of federal law — again, based on the premise that a superior coastal culture should not be dragged down by the rest of the morally inferior United States.

California has announced that it is no longer entirely subject to federal law enforcement, much as South Carolina proclaimed before the Civil War. As an attorney and advocate, California has hired former attorney general Eric Holder, who is no longer the steward of federal law. Holder is eager to defend the state’s various nullification efforts. California has become an entire “sanctuary state,” where the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents supposedly have no jurisdiction over illegal aliens currently held in state and local jails.

Governor Jerry Brown, in 1850s southern evangelical style, has justified defiance of the U.S. government by evoking God to impugn President Trump’s religiosity: “I don’t think — President Trump has a fear of the Lord, the fear of the wrath of God, which leads one to more humility.” Indeed, Brown has toured abroad as a quasi commander in chief, urging foreign leaders to deal with California as though it were essentially an autonomous, sovereign country. Who knows, maybe Brown can cut trade deals that circumvent U.S. laws in the way that the cotton-exporting South once believed that foreign nations would favor its eventual autonomy.
We can but hope that Hanson's prediction that these attitudes will eventually fade away.
A century from now, our successors are likely to be as bewildered by the classifications of affirmative action and designated safe spaces as we are by segregation and “separate but equal” schools. A century after the Civil War, in reaction to the legacy of the Confederacy, progressives fought for integration; a century and a half after the Civil War, progressives are channeling the one-drop rule and advocating race-based dorms, safe spaces, and race-themed houses.

Once a region, a state, or a group of people becomes racially obsessed..., they turn absurd. Soon they stop listening to reason and fall into predictable mythologies of cultural superiority, regional chauvinism, and ultimately secession as proof of their moral supremacy.

What follows next never ends well.

Sounds like Republican voters are about to, yet again, throw away the opportunity to win a Senate seat that should be totally winnable.
National Republicans — on the heels of the Roy Moore and Rick Saccone debacles — worry they’re staring down their latest potential midterm election fiasco: coal baron and recent federal prisoner Don Blankenship.

With Blankenship skyrocketing in the West Virginia Republican Senate primary and blanketing the airwaves with ads assailing his fractured field of rivals as career politicians, senior party officials are wrestling with how, or even whether, to intervene. Many of them are convinced that Blankenship, who served a one-year sentence after the deadly 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine, would be a surefire loser against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin — and potentially become a national stain for the party....

While some senior Republicans are anxious to block Blankenship, others believe that such a move could backfire and turn him into a martyr— much as it did when the national GOP dropped millions of dollars in an unsuccessful attempt to take down Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in a Republican primary.

Like Moore, Blankenship is an entrenched, anti-establishment figure running in a conservative state.
It sounds like a lot of his efforts are aiming to clear his name from his conviction and prison sentence. Just what we need, another millionaire using politics to advance his own personal agenda.

Is this really how the left wants to use their efforts: ridiculing and slamming a harmless children's book simply because its author is the daughter of Mike Pence and Pence's wife did the illustrations? That's what John Oliver spent his show's influence to accomplish.
The most recent viral clip focused on the following horror of horrors: Mike Pence's daughter has come out with a book about his rabbit, Marlon Bundo. Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President teaches children about the vice presidency. Proceeds go to a hospital art therapy program called Tracy's Kids and an abolitionist and anti-human trafficking organization, A21.

Watching his segment, you can actually tell that Oliver at first struggled to explain why the book was worth attacking in the first place. Eventually he found a reason, noting that the final stop on the Pences' book tour was at "Focus on the F—king Family" (which you can tell is funny, because he said "f—k").

"Congratulations, Pence, you even managed to ruin Marlon Bundo," Oliver says to a graphic of Mike Pence, who again, had nothing to do with the book. "Now none of us can enjoy a book about your rabbit," Oliver continued, forgetting the literal slaves this book is helping.

Focus on the Family has an entire division devoted to benign and apolitical children's entertainment with a Christian bent (like the popular Adventures in Odyssey program). But the group is also active in socially conservative causes. Charlotte Pence is politically moderate, but this thoughtcrime by association on one stop of the tour is reason enough for Oliver to spend a significant amount of time and resources riffing on a children's book about a bunny. Proceeds of which are directed to the needy.

Oliver responded by announcing his own version of the book, in which Marlon Bundo is a gay bunny ("just like the real Marlon Bundo," he notes), stopped from marrying another boy bunny by an evil worm who looks like Mike Pence. Oliver assured viewers that buying the book would be a way of saying "f—k you" to Pence (which is funny, because he said "f—k").
He then urged his fans to go to Amazon and post negative reviews for a book they haven't read.

Why extend his vitriol against Pence to Pence's daughter and a perfectly harmless book the earnings of which are going to fight human trafficking? It's just an unending desire to attack Pence, the necessity of which, in Oliver's eyes outweighs any other consideration of decency.

Keith Ellison, a leading Democratic Congressman and Deputy DNC chair, has been claiming that he hasn't met with Louis Farrakhan since 2013. It turns out that that is a lie and the guy calling him on it is...Louis Farrakhan.
At the heart of Democratic Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison’s ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is a private hotel visit that Ellison is said to have paid Farrakhan, but which Ellison denies took place.

Farrakhan has said that Ellison and Democratic Indiana Rep. Andre Carson visited his Washington, D.C., hotel room in 2015 and they had a friendly meeting. “Both of them, when I was in Washington, visited my suite, and we sat down talking like you and I are talking,” Farrakhan said in a 2016 Facebook video.

Carson has confirmed that he was at the meeting. Ellison, however, is saying he was never there.

Ellison hasn’t been “in any meeting with [Farrakhan]” since he and Farrakhan both attended a dinner in 2013 that was hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, he said in a blog post Saturday....

Ellison, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), claimed in December 2016 that he had cut all ties with Farrakhan before he first ran for Congress in 2006. In reality, he attended two events with Farrakhan while in Congress, in addition to the 2015 meeting, new reporting has shown.

The first event took place sometime between 2010 and 2013. A video posted to YouTube shows Ellison standing and talking among a group of men at a Muslim community meeting, just feet away from Farrakhan. The second event was a dinner that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held for American Muslim leaders in 2013.

The Washington Post dinged Ellison in a fact-check earlier in March for claiming that he cut ties with Farrakhan before 2006, citing The Daily Caller’s reporting on the subject.,
So which repellent guy should we believe?

Germany, unbelievably, is acting to block Israel from finally obtaining a seat on the UN Security Council as was promised in a deal negotiated by UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke in the late 1990s. As Benny Avni explains in the New York Post, Israel wasn't able to obtain a seat because they're determined by regional groups, and Israel's region was never going to pick Israel. So Holbrooke's deal was for Israel to be the nominee for the Western Europeans and Other Group which includes democracies west of Berlin, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. And the deal had a long lead time - Israel wouldn't get a seat until the 2019-2020 term when both Israel and Belgium would get the seats. But Germany has decided that it wants a seat despite having had a seat in 2011-2012. So why is Germany abrogating the agreement? Its excuse doesn't hold water.
Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member — as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory.

But is building a porch in Maale Edumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong-un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless, clueless, cynical German power play against the Jewish state.
The UN is such a corrupt, useless institution. Every time I think they can't demonstrate their bigotry and worthlessness, they plumb new depths.

It is indeed striking how many times in recent years, the progressives seem to be on the wrong end of First Amendment issues. We've seen it in the shoutdowns on college campuses and the Obama administration position on compelling religious organizations to insure what they considered abortifacients. There is the liberal antipathy to political speech and their fury at the Citizens United decision. And now we have this case, NIFLA v. Becerra, that the Supreme Court heard yesterday. The case involves a California law targeted at pro-life pregnancy centers to post notices about where women can go to get free or low-cost abortions. These centers exist to provide prenatal care and counseling and often have a religious foundation. But the liberal state can't stand that such centers even exist and women aren't giving the abortion message. It also seems like a clear case of compelled speech, and judging from the questions asked in the hearing yesterday, there is a majority on the Supreme Court to strike down the law.
To any ordinary person, that’s an instance of the state requiring citizens to recite political speech whose content they abominate. But the Supreme Court has a long history of striking down laws that require objectionable speech: In Wooley v. Maynard (1977), for instance, the court held that New Hampshire could not require drivers to display the state motto, “Live free or die”; and in Riley v. National Federation of the Blind (1988) the court rejected a North Carolina law requiring fundraisers to relay specified factual information to potential donors.

Another part of the California law requires the pregnancy centers to declare to counselees that the center is not licensed by the state of California. That’s yet more required speech and almost certainly unconstitutional according to past high court decisions. It’s also just nasty: Is the point of state licensing laws to protect the public from a local crisis pregnancy center?

Several of the court’s liberal justices—Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor—seemed to take a skeptical view of the California position, which suggests that the law will almost certainly be declared unconstitutional. But that doesn’t mean the issue is decided. What about state laws that require abortion providers to specify the health risks of abortion or explain alternatives to it? The Supreme Court’s 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey famously upheld these “informed consent” laws, but aren’t they the same as California’s law requiring pregnancy centers to explain alternatives to adoption—namely abortion?

On Tuesday the justices seemed to indicate that the answer is “no,” but mainly because the California law is so manifestly written to target pro-life pregnancy centers. What if the law were more fairly written and applied? The pro-life side argues that the cases are completely different inasmuch as “informed consent” explanations take place before a serious medical procedure, and pregnancy centers don’t offer medical procedures. We agree, but the court won’t answer that question in NIFLA v. Becerra.

The most extraordinary thing about NIFLA v. Becerra is the existence of the FACT Act in the first place. California lawmakers don’t like pro-life pregnancy centers and sought a way to punish them. Why? Because frightened women sometimes wander into these welcoming places mistakenly believing them to be abortion clinics. Often they leave with a brighter outlook and a determination not to abort their unborn child. Liberal California lawmakers would rather that didn’t happen. Their remedy was to force pregnancy center workers to parrot state-sponsored talking points about “free or low-cost” abortions.

We’re sorely tempted to compel left-wing California lawmakers to recite their own follies. Thankfully the First Amendment doesn’t allow that.
For a more detailed analysis of the hearing, read Amy Howe's excellent summary at Scotusblog.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cruising the Web

Jay Cost makes a very astute argument
that we need to get Donald Trump out of our heads. He is such an oversize personality and he exults in dominating every day's news both with what he says and how others react that our attention on him detracts from more important topics.
But if we move outside his orbit for a moment, it’s easier to appreciate how we have become detached from reality. Elections are still scheduled for November 6, 2018 — McCabe’s dismissal notwithstanding. Maybe Trump interferes with Robert Mueller’s investigation; maybe he doesn’t. Maybe Mueller finds something big on Trump; maybe he doesn’t. Either way, the people will have multiple opportunities to register their views on Trump between now and January 20, 2021. And to judge from his job-approval rating at the moment, he is in deep trouble with the voters.

When we fret about how Trump has corrupted democracy, or the republic or whatever, we overlook how easily he has manipulated our civic discourse. That seems to me to be a much bigger problem. While we are all talking about Trump Trump Trump — whether you like him or hate him, want to #MAGA or #RESIST — we are shunting aside substantive issues that are more worthy of our attention.
We need to remember that there is a lot more to U.S. government than Donald Trump. It's just not healthy for our country to focus so much on one person, whether it's Trump or Obama or Clinton or whomever.
This, to me, is the real power of Donald Trump — and the real problem. He has reoriented politics around himself. To some degree, every president manages to do that; it’s in the nature of the bully pulpit. But opinions on the president are usually proxies for positions on larger issues that matter, such as taxes or social welfare spending. With Trump, it often comes down to what you think of the man himself. He is the center of gravity around which politics orbits in 2018.

This has a more subtly negative effect on democracy. Public opinion is supposed to be sovereign in a republic, but it can be a benevolent sovereign only after the people think, converse, and argue with one another on the issues that are important to the general welfare. If the people cannot deliberate on anything except Trump, they are not thinking about those issues. So public opinion on matters of substance remains inchoate or poorly formed, undermining the sovereignty that the Constitution grants the people.

In my view, this is a much bigger problem than McCabe, the Mueller probe, or whatever. With Trump living rent-free in everybody’s head, there is no room for us to think about anything else and for the people to influence the course of public policy in a beneficial way.
Policy discussions such as whether a steel tariff is a good idea or how we should orient ourselves toward Russia become about what Trump thinks about the ideas rather than whether they're good or bad proposals.

Eric Holder is claiming now that the administration he served liked the media. But, as Philip Wegmann writes, that's not the real story.
Holder was absolutely obsessed with a couple of journalists in particular, and a scandal related to his treatment of them will forever shape his legacy. Under Holder's leadership, the Department of Justice subpoenaed the work and home phone activity of Associated Press reporters. It also and labeled James Rosen of Fox News a “criminal co-conspirator” in a 2013 case in a bid to seize personal phone records and emails.

If the attorney general thought that the AP and Fox News would be flattered by all that attention, he was wrong. What Holder must have considered casual and friendly advances, everyone else saw as a serious assault on the First Amendment.

"Today we learned of the Justice Department’s unprecedented wholesale seizure of confidential telephone records from the Associated Press,” The Newspaper Association of America said, giving the final word in a statement. “These actions shock the American conscience and violate the critical freedom of the press protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
Holder is reportedly considering running for president in 2020. We'll see if the media will remember how Holder treated them when he was last in power.

Nima Sanandaji writes in honor of Imternational Women's Day and the efforts to advance women's careers. One surprising (for liberals) finding is the effect that reducing the welfare state might do a lot more than the more usual policy proposals. And the Nordic states are leading the way. These states have a long history of affording women more rights than the rest of Europe or the United States in the 19th century. However, women aren't reaching the top positions in management in Nordic countries as we might expect and the U.S. has a high percentage of women in management positions.
Comparing the Nordic countries with each other, a pattern emerges: Those with more extensive welfare-state policies have fewer women on top. Iceland, which has a moderately sized welfare state, has the most women managers. Second is Sweden, which has opened up welfare services such as education, health care, and elder care for private-sector competition. Denmark, which has the highest taxes and the biggest welfare state in the modern world, has the lowest share of women in managerial positions.

Essentially, the rise of the welfare state has been a double-edged sword for women’s advancement. On the one hand, it has created jobs in women-dominated fields such as health care and education, and aided the labor-market entry of women by offering day care and other family-related services. On the other, the attendant high taxes have reduced the economic incentive for both parents to work full-time, and have also made it difficult for families to purchase services that alleviate household work (such as cleaning). Parental-leave policies have given women an incentive to take long breaks from working. And state monopolies in female-dominated sectors such as health care and education have limited women’s career choices.

The result of all this? The United States, often viewed as being far behind the Nordic countries when it comes to gender equality, actually has a higher share of women in top business positions. The true lesson, that a large welfare state actually can impede women’s progress, is seldom if ever reported. Perhaps it is time to change that.
This sounds like the sort of result that politicians will ignore because it contradicts their preferred nostrums.

You might have heard of the idiot member of the District of Columbia City Council who posted a video on his Facebook page blaming Jewish bankers for the bad weather that has been afflicting the city.
Council member Trayon White Sr. apologized for the comments he made in a since-deleted video on his official Facebook page posted Friday morning as snow fell over the capital.

“Man it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation,” White can be heard saying in the video, the Washington Post reported.

“And D.C. keeps talking about, ‘We a resilient city,’” he continues. “And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”
After this story went viral, he decided to apologize.
On Sunday night, White posted a note on Twitter apologizing “to the Jewish community and anyone I have offended.”

“The Jewish community have been allies with me in my journey to help people. I did not intend to be Anti-Semitic, and I see I should not have said that after learning from my colleagues,” the note reads.

White — a Democrat who won the Ward 8 seat in November 2016 — also said he’d reached out to his “friends” at the organization Jews United for Justice.

“They are helping me to understand the history of comments made against Jews and I am committed to figuring out ways continue to be allies with them and others,” he wrote.

The organization acknowledged speaking with White, writing that they “look forward to working with him toward deeper understanding of anti-Semitism and toward our collective liberation.”

Fellow lawmaker Brianne Nadeau, who is Jewish, said she believes White’s apology is sincere.

“I believe he is being truthful when he says he didn’t realize what his statement implied,” she wrote in a statement on Facebook.
Oh, please. How does a guy not know that those comments are offensive and insulting to Jews. And how exactly does he think a banking family who has been out of the headlines for decades actually control the weather? This guy is obviously a foolish jerk. But what is rather remarkable is that he felt comfortable talking like this and didn't realize what a storm that his words would provoke. What swamps must he inhabit that this is just normal commentary?

So does it seem any coincidence that Al Sharpton, a guy with his own anti-Semitic history is working with Black Lives Matter and other African-American groups to organize a protest in support of Louis Farrakhan?
Several black activist groups are holding a protest on Monday in defense of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a notorious anti-Semite and racist revealed to have close ties to prominent Democratic politicians and activists.

Black Lives Matter, the New Black Panther Party and the National Action Network are among the groups spearheading the protest, the organizers said in a press release.

The groups are protesting a House resolution, introduced by Republican Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita, that formally condemns Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. The activists instead want lawmakers to pass a resolution condemning President Donald Trump....

“We cannot allow a politically hypocritical political situation to exist whereas an openly racist president, Donald Trump is given a free pass and to spew racist venom and racist policies by a confederate based GOP; and then they have the gall to issue an official legislative condemnation of a private citizen and Black leader who is dearly beloved by the masses,” said Black Lawyers for Justice president Malik Zulu Shabazz, one of the protest organizers.

Shabazz, a former leader of the New Black Panthers, has a long history of anti-Semitism and once shouted at a protest: “Kill every goddamn Zionist in Israel! Goddamn little babies, goddamn old ladies! Blow up Zionist supermarkets!” That’s according to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization which has tracked Shabazz’s anti-Semitism for years. The press release lists Shabazz as the point of contact for the protest. He did not return an email seeking comment.
Of course, these groups and leaders find nothing wrong with Farrakhan's anti-Semitism. Like that D.C. Council member, they must be marinating in such ugliness that they don't even see anything wrong with it.

Just flip the script. What if it were Republican politicians who hung out with David Duke or other white supremacists who regularly spouted racist remarks. Would it be acceptable to have those groups mobilizing in support of those members of Congress while attacking anyone who dared to criticize those members of Congress for their associations with such racists. Donald Trump was rightly criticized for his failure to condemn white supremacists who supported him. That was appalling. Now we're seeing similar behavior on the other side of the aisle and the condemnations should be just as vociferous.

Alan Dershowitz contrasts
the treatment of Jewish refugees from Arab countries to how Palestinians have been treated by Arab countries.
The Arab exodus from Israel in 1948 was the direct result of a genocidal war declared against the newly established Jewish state by all of its Arab neighbors, including the Arabs of Israel. If they had accepted the U.N. peace plan — two states for two people — there would be no Palestinian refugees. In the course of Israel's fierce battle for its survival — a battle in which it lost 1 percent of its population, including many Holocaust survivors and civilians — approximately 700,000 local Arabs were displaced. Many left voluntarily, having been promised a glorious return after the inevitable Arab victory. Others were forced out. Some of these Arabs could trace their homes in what became Israel hundreds of years back. Others were relatively recent arrivals from Arab countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Jordan.

Approximately the same number of Jews were displaced from their Arab homelands during this period. Nearly all of them could trace their heritage back thousands of years, well before the Muslims and Arabs became the dominant population. Like the Palestinian Arabs, some left voluntarily, but many had no realistic choice. The similarities are striking, but so are the differences.

The most significant difference is between how Israel dealt with the Jews who were displaced and how the Arab and Muslim world dealt with the Palestinians who had been displaced by a war they started.

Israel integrated its brothers and sisters from the Arab and Muslim world. The Arab world put its Palestinian brothers and sisters in refugee camps, treating them as political pawns and festering sores in its persistent war against the Jewish state.

It has now been 70 years since this exchange of populations occurred. It is time to end the deadly charade of calling the displaced Palestinians "refugees." Almost none of the nearly five million Arabs who now seek to claim the mantle of "Palestinian refugee" were ever actually in Israel. They are the descendants, some quite distant, of those who were actually displaced in 1948. The number of surviving Arabs who were personally forced out of Israel by the war started by their brethren is probably no more a few thousand, probably less. Perhaps they should be compensated, but not by Israel. The compensation should come from Arab countries that illegally seized the assets of their erstwhile Jewish residents whom they forced to leave. These few thousand Palestinians have no greater moral, historic or legal claim than the surviving Jewish individuals who were displaced during the same time period seven decades ago.

In life as in law there are statutes of limitations that recognize that history changes the status quo. The time has come, indeed it is long overdue, for the world to stop treating these Palestinians as refugees. That status ended decades ago. The Jews who came to Israel from Morocco many years ago are no longer refugees. Neither are the relatives of the Palestinians who have lived outside of Israel for nearly three-quarters of a century.
The surrounding Arab countries have refused to absorb Palestinians into their countries. They would prefer to keep them as a downtrodden excuse for hating Israel and distracting people's attention away from the conditions in their own countries. Remember this history whenever you see people talking about how terrible the Jews are for the supposedly terrible treatment of Palestinians. And remember also how Israeli Arabs have full rights and can elect members of the Knesset. They live better and with more liberties than many Arabs in Arab-run countries.

Tim Worstall ponders the question: "How Saudi Arabia came to have (way) too many royals."
Think of, in this manner at least, Saudi Arabia as being the personal creation of the first monarch, Ibn Saud. Similarly, many medieval European states were the creation of personal loyalty to the ruler, not to anything like a sense of nationality or country as we think of them today. That state will be monarchical, of course, but also feudal in many senses. The children of that monarch will have great economic power over the new country.
However, in Saudi Arabia, the numbers are geometrically increased because a ruler wasn't limited to a single wife.
Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, was born in 1875. He had some 100 children through a varied count of marriages and concubines, 45 of whom were sons. Almost all of the sons had Islam’s allowed multiple marriages, and by the time we get to today’s great grandchildren of Ibn Saud we’re talking of many thousands of princelings – 9,000 at one count. Each of whom has, so it is said, an allowance from the state and so on. As such, being a member of that family confers economic privilege, and not being in the family has a few disadvantages.

That’s a problem in two ways. Who actually rules is now a matter of argument within that rather large number of people. And who should gain economic privilege, well, that needs to be limited in order to alleviate the burden upon the economy in general.
Yet another benefit of monogamy.

Jim Geraghty has some good questions
for those who are so outraged at the firing of Andrew McCabe. He points out that McCabe, due to his wife's connections to Terry McAulliffe should have recused himself from the Hillary Clinton investigation.
McCabe defenders may argue that any other FBI official would have reached the same conclusions about the Clinton investigation that McCabe did. But if that really is the case, that just strengthens the argument that someone else should have handled it. Why invite speculation and second-guessing by having McCabe make those decisions?

McCabe states in interviews that President Trump taunted him repeatedly about his wife’s defeat in the state senate race. That, no doubt, is a jerky and obnoxious thing to do. But the rules for the FBI aren’t different when they’re dealing with an obnoxious jerk.

Similarly, according to many accounts, Carter Page is a bit of a weirdo with some strongly pro-Russia views. But that doesn’t mean the FBI gets to gloss over the partisan motivations of its sources in a footnote of an application to the FISA court.

If you allow the FBI to cut corners or tread into gray areas when investigating political figures you don’t like, at some point, they’re going to cut corners or tread into gray areas when investigating political figures you do like.

Separately, for those still irate over McCabe’s firing, and loss of some (but not most) of his retirement benefits . . . what should be the consequence for an FBI deputy director lying to federal investigators?
Should someone in a high position in the FBI who lies to investigators suffer no penalty when others accused of the same crime are threatened with prison?

David French remarks
on how topsy-turvy politics are today. Both sides reverse themselves on a dime depending on whether the story redounds to the credit or discredit of their side. And Trump's endless tweets attacking McCabe and Mueller don't help anyone.
Ahh yes, there’s nothing like a Trump tweet to reassure America that the process of terminating one of America’s most senior law-enforcement officers was completely fair, nonpartisan, and professional.

Oh, and keep in mind that all this sanctimony — all this fury — was unleashed online without the public, politicians, or pundits having seen the testimony that allegedly caused McCabe’s termination. No one knew the actual evidence, yet their rage and certainty were undiminished.

But that’s pretty much par for the course. Remember, we’ve just exited a news cycle where the public, pundits, and politicians opined authoritatively about the legality and credibility of FISA applications they hadn’t read. Instead of waiting for comprehensive reports or reviewing source documents, they sallied forth into online battle relying mainly on two shoddily written, hopelessly partisan memos from a terribly compromised House committee.

At this point American political hypocrisy is boundless. The same people who would parse and condemn Barack Obama’s public statements about ongoing investigations now urge us to ignore Trump’s tweets. Meaningless venting, they say. Conversely, the same people who told us that Obama’s public pronouncements had no impact on the good professionals at the FBI and IRS now tell us that Trump’s tirades are proof positive of political influence on the DOJ.

And Friday-night news dumps? Well, they’re suspicious only if we don’t like the news.

By the way, it seems that McCabe hasn't actually lost his pension.
However, McCabe has not been stripped of his pension at all. In fact, that is impossible to do to a federal employee after five years of employment.

The 21-year career FBI official lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in early retirement benefits, including the privilege to retire at 50 rather than between 57 and age 62, a luxury virtually unheard of in the private sector. His yearly payments would reach around $60,000 if he qualified for the early retirement program.
Forbes reports on the details,
In fact, McCabe is all of 49 years old, likely 50 by the time readers see this, and what he lost out on was, as CNN much more calmly recounts, the ability to take his benefits at age 50, rather than somewhere between age 57 and age 62, and he lost his eligibility to a special top-up in benefit formula. These are, admittedly, tangible financial losses, but it is grossly misleading that various news outlets are giving the general public the impression that he has lost his pension entirely.

But the existence of these special perks, benefits that we in the private sector can barely comprehend in the year 2018, points to a fundamental disconnect between the private and public sector. Why shouldn't someone whose benefits consist of 401(k) account accruals believe that government pensions work so differently as to punish someone arbitrarily by removing their benefits? Add to this the fact that retirement at age 50 is well-nigh incomprehensible for the average working American, except perhaps in the case of high-risk, health-sapping occupations, which surely likewise added to the impression that actual pensions, rather than generous ancillary provisions, were being lost.

Yes, the rationale for these generous pension benefits is that these civil servants accept significantly lower salaries than they would be able to earn in the private sector. But this exchange of "low salaries now, rich retirement benefits later" is a matter of "robbing Peter to pay Paul" that isn't wise in the long term, either.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cruising the Web

This story epitomizes how stupid the times are that we're living in.
Here's a twist on the debate over public monuments to problematic figures like Confederate leaders: A Massachusetts state lawmaker wants to censor references to a man who scored Civil War era wins against the Confederacy. Her reasoning? That man's name is Joseph Hooker.
Now General Hooker had no connection to the slang meaning which people use "hooker" today. The word was being used for that meaning before the Civil War started and "Fighting Joe Hooker" would have been known enough to give his name to anything. But no matter; it seems that if someone is offended, it shouldn't matter if there is any foundation to her objection to a sign at the Massachusetts statehouse reading "General Hooker Entrance."
"There are all sorts of benign words in our language that sound like words unfit for polite company," writes Jon Keller at CBS Boston, offering Uranus and clap as further examples. "And they offer us an opportunity to teach snickering kids about Civil War history or outer space—and about showing respect for others while avoiding making fools of ourselves."

State Rep. Michelle DuBois (D-Plymouth) disagrees. She has been calling for the removal of a statehouse sign that reads "General Hooker Entrance" (so inscribed because it stands opposite a statue of General Hooker), which she described as an affront to "women's dignity."

"Female staffers don't use that entrance because the sign is offensive to them," DuBois told WBZ-TV this week.

If that isn't the ultimate in futile, fainting-couch feminism, I'm not sure what is.

DuBois also complained that she had heard teen boys joke with teen girls that they were "general hookers" while using the door.

Of course, DuBois is positioning herself as a crusader against sex-based harassment and patriarchy. But attitudes like hers—which treat women as excessively fragile beings, and which posit that female "dignity" is diminished by even so slight an association with sex work as walking under a door that says "hooker"—just props up old-fashioned and patriarchal ideas about sex and gender.
Now, if their objection was to his performance leading the Union army at the Battle of Chancellorsville, there might be some reason for their objections.

At least the governor isn't going to be pressured into meaningless political correctness.
“Gov. (Charlie) Baker believes that General Hooker deserves to be honored at the State House as he was a highly distinguished Union general who courageously fought to end slavery,” said Brendan Moss, a spokesman for Baker.
Other politicians agree.
“As the granddaughter of a Civil War veteran, I don’t believe in removing recognition of veterans from our building simply due to their surnames,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler.

The WSJ laughs at how Elizabeth Warren's design of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is coming back to haunt her.
Twitter is often the intellectual equivalent of a tavern at 2 a.m., but it has illuminating moments. An example came Friday when Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard populist, offered a hilarious commentary on her proudest political accomplishment—the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“I’m giving @MickMulvaneyOMB one last chance to answer my questions about his actions at the @CFPB. If he won’t, he should be called immediately to testify under oath before my colleagues and me on the Senate Banking Committee,” the Senator thundered to her 4.3 million Twitter followers. Mick Mulvaney is the acting head of the CFPB, and it seems he is not suitably attentive to Ms. Warren’s demands.

Like Donald Trump, Ms. Warren might want to let an editor see her tweets before she sends them. Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute quickly responded to Ms. Warren by tweeting, “If only the CFPB had any meaningful accountability to Congress . . .”

Someone get the smelling salts because Ms. Warren is down for the count.

As Mr. Murray and readers of these columns know, Ms. Warren designed the CFPB as an independent agency like no other precisely so it could ignore Congress. The bureau is funded not with an annual appropriation like the rest of the government, but by the Federal Reserve based on a request from the head of the CFPB. Congress thus can’t use its constitutional power of the purse to enforce public accountability.

Unlike other so-called independent agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the CFPB also isn’t composed of a bipartisan set of commissioners. It’s a one man show whose five-year term transcends elections and thus Administrations.

This worked fine for Ms. Warren when the bureau was run by her hand-picked successor, Richard Cordray. But when he left to run for Governor of Ohio, the path was open for President Trump to put Mr. Mulvaney in charge. And he is systematically reorienting the CFPB toward genuine consumer protection instead of business harassment and trial-lawyer enrichment. Now, if Ms. Warren wants to put the CFPB on a proper constitutional footing, we’ll be happy to offer suggestions.
Funny how that works, isn't it. That is why legislators should design policies with Golden Rule of politics - design policies over which they wouldn't mind the opposing party having control.

Christian Britschgi writes
at Reason how the pedestrian bridge that collapsed at FIU's campus last week was funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. As he reports, these projects have been under criticism by the GAO.
In 2013, the FIU was awarded $11.4 million in TIGER money for its University City Prosperity Project, which included the pedestrian bridge. Some 52 projects were awarded $458 million in that round of TIGER grants—known as TIGER V—using methodology that was later criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for violating DOT's own standards.

DOT staff are tasked with evaluating all applications to the TIGER program for how closely they adhere to several "desired long-term transportation outcomes," including economic competitiveness, state of good repair, livability, environmental sustainability, and safety. Each project is assigned a rating that ranges from acceptable to highly recommended.

In 2014, the GAO released a report that was highly critical of how DOT handled the TIGER V grants, which included money for the FIU pedestrian bridge project. The report said DOT advanced projects with lower technical ratings in lieu of those with higher technical ratings and upgraded the technical rating of 19 projects from acceptable or recommended to highly recommended without documenting a justification. It is unclear from the GAO report whether the FIU bridge project was advanced over more qualified projects or if its technical rating was subsequently upgraded, since the report does not give project-by-project detail.

TIGER, which Reason has covered here, here and here, was created as an economic stimulus measure under President Barack Obama and morphed into a permanent program. It has awarded $5.6 billion in nine rounds of grants since 2009.

A 2012 report from the Reason Foundation, which publishes this website, found that 40 percent of the grants in the first two TIGER rounds went to districts represented by Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The four highest-ranking Democrats on the same committee each received at least one TIGER grant. (See original for links)
This is what happens when politicians get control of money and the power to shell it out to their own communities.

Even enivornmentalists support ending the corn ethanol mandate.
Green groups were among the loudest champions for the federal government’s sweeping ethanol mandate a decade ago, touting it as a near-magic fuel that could help ease a climate crisis.

But the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that boosted ethanol use has fallen out of favor so badly that environmentalists now see themselves on the same side of the debate as Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz, arguing that the entire program is deeply flawed and must be completely overhauled.

The intense opposition to the RFS from environmental and conservation groups comes as the White House and congressional leaders work to craft the most serious reforms the program has seen since it was established more than 10 years ago. As Republicans and oil-industry groups bemoan the RFS as a job killer in the oil refining sector, environmentalists say their once-high hopes that ethanol could reduce carbon emissions, preserve land and help fight climate change have been proven wrong.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” said Collin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, a group that was once a vocal supporter of the RFS but now has become one of its chief opponents.
Ah, if only activists would get those words engraved over all their headquarters and remember every time they want to advocate for some intrusive government policy: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Amen.

David Marcus reports at The Federalist
about how progressives are upset that there are so many Asians in New York City's elite public high schools. He notes that a New York Times story about the demographic make-up at the schools focused on the lack of diversity without noting that the majority of students in these schools being Asian Americans.
Any Lefty worth his salt is happy to jump on board an effort to redistribute resources to minority groups, but in this case, in order to do so, that redistribution must come at the expense another minority group, one largely made up of immigrant families. That’s a tough spot, so the Gray Lady just ignored it.
The legal standards for admission to these elite schools are based only on test scores thus removing the possibility of some sort of affirmative action to nudge up the numbers of Black and Hispanic students admitted. Mayor de Blasio campaigned on increasing the numbers of the desired minority groups at the schools, but hasn't done enough to appease progressive activists.
De Blasio’s reticence to make these changes likely has to do with the fact that doing so would be a direct effort to limit the number of Asian students in the schools. That may sound hyperbolic, but the numbers bear it out. Take Stuyvesant High School, considered the best of the eight, according to Business Insider. In 2016 the student body had 23 Black and Hispanic students, 178 white students and a whopping 680 Asian students.

While it is well established that affirmative action programs always disproportionately harm Asian students, the numbers in New York are so stark, that there is no way to move the needle on diversity without the vast majority of those negatively impacted being Asian. This would require the mayor to tell thousands of Asian students and their families that even though they worked hard and got the best score, they are being passed over.
As Marcus writes, it gets a bit iffy to say that the city needs to institute affirmative action to redress past discrimination given that there hasn't been in our history any effort to "enshrine Asian privilege." And we've seen this sort of thing before.
More likely, we are dealing with something cultural. We see books and articles about dragon moms, and are familiar with stereotypes about overbearing Asian families that insist on academic excellence.

This cultural explanation has some precedent in New York, also one tied to the immigrant experience. In the 1930s and 1940s the public City College of New York was regarded as the “Jewish Ivy.” It was a disproportionately Jewish school, attended by poor and middle class immigrant Jews that produced a number of important thinkers. It was an experience close to what we see in New York’s elite high schools today, and it came with similar stereotypes of bookish Jews with academically demanding families.
The response back then was to discriminate against Jews. Are we going to see some sort of similar practice of discrimination, this time all in the name of helping a different group of minorities?

One of the answers is one that would really annoy de Blasio - support for charter schools for younger students.
n New York City, charter schools may be providing the answer. Though controversial, the city’s charters have a success rate that is undeniable. According to a Stanford University study, translating standard deviation in achievement growth between traditional public schools and charters, “This advantage for charter students is equivalent to 23 more days of learning in a 180-day school year in reading and 63 days in math.”

This is a stunning result, and one that should obviously lead de Blasio and other city leaders to increase these opportunities for better elementary and middle school education. Would that lead to significant change in the numbers at the eight elite high schools? Maybe, maybe not, but whether it does or not, it puts students in a much better position to learn and succeed.
But de Blasio is a tool of the teachers' unions so he's an enemy of charters.

One young woman describes her impressions after moving to San Francisco from New York City. It is not a description to make anyone yearn to live there.
Within a few days of moving to San Francisco, I immediately noticed something I had not been accustomed to seeing in New York — a preponderance of glittering sidewalks. Every few blocks, it would not be uncommon to see shards of glass strewn across the pavement, and I quickly learned that my new city was notorious for car break-ins. One of the first pieces of advice I received from a friend upon moving to San Francisco was that I should empty my car each night and never leave anything in my vehicle—not even a tissue box. After staring incredulously at my friend for a moment, she quickly responded by explaining that theft from vehicles was a common occurrence in the city and that to leave items in my car was simply “asking for it.”

Her reasoning, while dystopian, was depressingly pragmatic. In 2017, San Francisco experienced 31,322 thefts from vehicles alone — that is, 85 thefts from vehicles per day — while an arrest was made in only 2 percent of reported break-ins. Most of the break-ins are attributed to organized gangs and often committed by those with prior felony convictions....

Amongst the trash that lines the many sidewalks of San Francisco, there are often used needles and more than occasionally, human feces.

In November of 2017 alone, 6,211 needles were collected while via the 311 App (the “concerned citizen” reporting app set up by recently deceased San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee), 1,498 requests were made to clean up human feces. The public defecation problem has become so intolerable in San Francisco that private citizens have built an online map to track the concentrations of poop in the city, so that pedestrians may know to avoid certain areas.

And it’s not just poop. The overwhelming smell of urine on parts of Mission Street and Market Street would make your nose bleed. I recall the first time I rode BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, San Francisco’s subway system) and was nearly knocked over by the sheer stench of the station. I was surprised to learn that exiting the station supplied little to no relief — the urine smell hangs heavy in the more populated areas of the city and is nearly inescapable. In a dark twist of humor, the city has had to replace numerous different street poles due to urine eroding the foundation.

What drives a large part of the human waste issue is San Francisco’s homeless population. The homeless epidemic in San Francisco is tragic and frightening — in a 47-square mile city, we have around 7,500 homeless people, meaning there are approximately 160 homeless people per square mile. Unsurprisingly, it’s not uncommon to see frequented streets downtown blocked by what people dismally have coined “tent cities,” large enclaves of tents that homeless people have set up with little to no pushback from local authorities. What makes the homeless problem particularly alarming is that a variety of tents are often juxtaposed next to $4,000-per-month apartments. In a region where the median income is just under $100,000 and where the economic growth — fueled by brilliantly innovative minds — has been nothing short of astounding, there is some of the country’s most abject and abysmal poverty....

I would love to believe my experiences in San Francisco are unique in their dreadfulness, but after speaking with others, I have learned I am not alone. I live in a reasonably decent section of San Francisco, and from what I gathered in speaking to many others, everyone has had his or her version of San Franciscan traumas. San Francisco, one of the richest cities in the country and home to a booming center of intellectual capital, has suffered from the excesses of its own liberalism. Bloated and inefficient spending, combined with a gross shortage of housing only worsened by rent-control antics and a fat city bureaucracy, has left a city in utter disrepair.

Jonah Goldberg makes a depressing, but convincing, argument that conservatives should look back at last year as the high tide of the Trump presidency.
Most of Trump’s policy successes, however, have been accomplished thanks to party and movement regulars in the administration and in Congress. Judicial appointments have been outsourced to the Federalist Society and Mitch McConnell, thank God. Tax reform was Paul Ryan’s baby. To be sure, Trump gets the usual credit we afford to any president when good things happen on his watch. But I am generally baffled when people say, “He’s gotten so much accomplished.” From where I sit, so much has been accomplished despite him. Meanwhile, he also gets “credit” for nearly all of the scandals, gaffes, controversies, and set-backs on the right in the last year. He also gets “credit” for the fire sale of conservative credibility on countless conservative positions and arguments, which have apparently proved to be too much of a burden in the age of Trump.

Wherever you come down on this question, the fact remains that the GOP won’t get much more done between now and the midterms. Or to be more fair, it won’t get much done that will markedly improve the GOP brand. The significance of Pennsylvania’s 18th-district special election has been exaggerated on both sides, but some facts seem truly significant. The GOP’s tax-cut message did not have the salience Republicans hoped. Democratic enthusiasm is real. GOP hacks can call PA-18 a “Democratic” district all they like. But it doesn’t change the fact that Trump carried the district by nearly 20 points or that Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey carried it by nearly as much as well. Trump is increasingly toxic in normally Republican-friendly suburbs. His rallies may energize the GOP base — but they energize Democrats more. Many of his preferred policies and most of his antics divide Republicans, while they unite Democrats. This does not bode well for Republicans’ holding onto the House.

So let’s assume for the sake of argument that the Democrats take back Congress. Let’s also assume Mueller doesn’t find evidence of “collusion” that directly implicates Trump but that he does find enough to land Jared, Don Jr., and Michael Cohen in the dock. Paul Manafort is already looking at spending more than two centuries in jail. What happens when Democrats get subpoena power? What happens when they start drafting articles of impeachment? What happens if Mueller reveals that Trump isn’t really as rich as he claims and that his business is mostly a Potemkin village of money-laundering condo sales? What happens if Stormy Daniels — or the retinue of super-classy ladies reportedly looking to follow her lead — releases embarrassing pictures of the president?

How do you think unconstrained Hulk Trump reacts? Heck, how do you think the beleaguered skeleton crew at the White House behaves? Everyone is gonna lawyer up like Tony Montana in the money-counting room. Normal administrations are crippled by zealous investigatory committees; is it so crazy to think that Donald Trump might not show restraint? Might he be tempted to give the Democrats the store to hold off investigations, impeachment, whatever? Everyone defends the Jerry Falwell Jr. caucus on the grounds that they have a “transactional” relationship with Trump. Well, what if other transactional opportunities take precedence?

....I don’t know the answer to these questions, and I am not saying that I think all of these things will inevitably happen. If God laughs at the man who plans, in the age of Trump, He buys a pallet of popcorn and giggles at the man who makes predictions.

Well, one prediction I made two years ago, over and over again, was that “character is destiny.” And I’ve never been more confident that that destiny is coming, and it won’t be pretty.

Stunned by the backlash she has received for her absurdly offensive explanation of why she lost the election, Hillary Clinton is now giving the standard sorry/not-sorry pseudo apology that politicians give when they have said something offensive, but don't really regret what they said - just that they are being criticized for it.
"[T]here is anecdotal evidence and some research to suggest that women are unfortunately more swayed by men than the other way around," Clinton insisted on Facebook. "As much as I hate the possibility, and hate saying it, it’s not that crazy when you think about our ongoing struggle to reach gender balance – even within the same household.

"I did not realize how hard it would hit many who heard it," Clinton added. "So to those upset or offended by what I said last week, I hope this explanation helps to explain the point I was trying to make."
Please. Just stop. As Dick Durbin said yesterday,
"Thirty percent of the people who voted for Donald Trump had voted for President Obama," Durbin pointed out. "Why? The same people who looked for change with President Obama thought there wasn’t enough as far as their personal lives were concerned and they supported Donald Trump.

"That is a reality that Democrats acknowledge."
Daniel J. Flynn sees Hillary as our modern-day Miss Havisham.
Consciously, publicly, outwardly she appears incapable of accepting blame. Instead, she conjures up villains straight out of central casting — did a single person vote for Trump because he or she resented the fact that an Indian-American enjoyed more success? — that make her look like a heroic martyr. Just as she failed to grasp why referring to a massive swath of her fellow countrymen as “deplorables” made for bad politics during the campaign, she does not see why bashing half the country as racists or Stepford wives or backwards hayseeds after the election reaffirms their decision to not vote for her.

In desperation to prove a position we often discredit it. Clinton did this last weekend in India.
Like Miss Havisham, Hillary just can't let it go. She once chided Donald Trump for his refusal to say that he'd accept the election results. That was one more side of what a megalomaniac Trump is. But has Hillary been any better about accepting the election results than she criticized Trump for.
She behaves not just ungraciously in defeat. She fans the flames of a conspiracy theory that conjures up collusion between her opponent and foreigners to deny her rightful position as leader of the free world. She does this as a congressional investigation has conclusively proven that her campaign, and the Democratic National Committee, colluded with a foreigner — former British agent Christopher Steele — to derail Trump’s candidacy. Here, as in India, Clinton seems oblivious to her hypocrisy — and the condescension and condemnation that turned so many of the voters she rails against against her.

Clinton cares about people like her — urban, wealthy, progressive elites, people who do not compete with immigrants for their livelihoods, who call 911 instead of Smith & Wesson when matters go sideways, who do not know any active-duty enlisted men, families with five or more kids, or the names of anyone on the WWE roster, and those repelled by the name of Washington’s football team but not players kneeling for the national anthem. It’s as though the candidate imagines politics as a top-down exercise in which the office-seeker votes for a particular electorate rather than the electorate voting for a particular candidate. Politics, despite its obvious appeal to narcissists, remains a humbling profession — but only for those strong enough to endure a humbling.

Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and Al Gore all lost close elections. They all won plaudits for how they lost (Gore’s concession speech, belated though it was, may be the best in American history). No such praise comes Hillary Clinton’s way.

Not becoming president need not mean becoming pathetic.

While opponents of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions are furious over the firing of Andrew McCabe before he could collect his full pension, two writers at Lawfare, no friend to the Trump administration, give the good advice that we should hold off on our outrage.
The FBI takes telling the truth extremely seriously: “lack of candor” from employees is a fireable offense—and people are fired for it. Moreover, it doesn’t take an outright lie to be dismissed. In one case, the bureau fired an agent after he initially gave an ambiguous statement to investigators as to how many times he had picked up his daughter from daycare in an FBI vehicle. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against the agent when he appealed, finding that “lack of candor is established by showing that the FBI agent did not ‘respond fully and truthfully’ to the questions he was asked.”

Consider also that although Sessions made the ultimate call to fire McCabe, the public record shows that the process resulting in the FBI deputy director’s dismissal involved career Justice Department and FBI officials—rather than political appointees selected by President Trump—at crucial points along the way. To begin with, the charges against McCabe arose out of the broader Justice Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. While the inspector general is appointed by the president, the current head of that office, Michael Horowitz, was appointed by President Barack Obama and is himself a former career Justice Department lawyer. As Jack Goldsmith has written, the inspector general has a great deal of statutory independence, which Horowitz has not hesitated to use: Most notably, he produced a highly critical 2012 report into the Justice Department’s “Fast and Furious” program. So a process that begins with Horowitz and his office carries a presumption of fairness and independence.

After investigating McCabe, Horowitz’s office provided a report on McCabe’s conduct to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which investigates allegations of misconduct against bureau employees. This office is headed by career Justice Department official Candace Will, whom then-FBI Director Robert Mueller appointed to lead the OPR in 2004. According to Sessions, the Office of Professional Responsibility agreed with Horowitz’s assessment that McCabe “lacked candor” in speaking to internal investigators.

Finally, Sessions’s statement references “the recommendation of the Department’s senior career official” in advocating McCabe’s firing on the basis of the OIG and OPR determinations. (The official in question appears to be Associate Deputy Attorney General Scott Schools.)

So while Sessions made the decision to dismiss McCabe, career officials or otherwise independent actors were involved in conducting the investigation into the deputy director and recommending his dismissal on multiple levels.
So let's wait until we get the IG report on the FBI before we assume that McCabe is innocent of what he's been accused of. Ask yourselves how those defending McCabe would feel if it were a Trump appointee or operative who had lied to the FBI. Isn't that basically what Flynn is being charged with? And shouldn't our standards be higher for the deputy director of the FBI?

Speaking of a top official at the FBI telling lies, Jonathan Turley observes that McCabe's statement on his firing has implicated James Comey in lying to Congress.
McCabe asserts in his post-firing statement that he not only had authority to “share” that information to the media but did so with the knowledge of “the director.” The FBI director at the time was Comey.

“I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor,” McCabe stated. “As deputy director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter.”
If the “interaction” means leaking the information, then McCabe’s statement would seem to directly contradict statements Comey made in a May 2017 congressional hearing. Asked if he had “ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation” or whether he had “ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation,” Comey replied “never” and “no.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general clearly saw this “interaction” as problematic in seeking answers from McCabe. If the inspector general considered this to be a leak to the media, any approval by Comey would be highly significant. Comey already faces serious questions over his use of a Columbia University Law School professor to leak information to the media following his own termination as director.

In leaving the FBI last year, Comey improperly removed memos about the Russian investigation that he wrote concerning meetings with Trump. Since these memos discussed an ongoing FBI investigation and were written on an FBI computer, the bureau reportedly confirmed they were viewed as official documents subject to review and approval prior to any removal or disclosure.

Comey could have given the memos to the congressional oversight committees. Instead, he removed at least seven memos and gave at least four to his professor-friend to leak to the media. Four of the seven memos that Comey removed are now believed to be classified. Since he reportedly gave four memos to his friend to leak to the media, at least one of the leaked memos was likely classified.

Now, McCabe appears to be suggesting that Comey was consulted before the alleged leak to the media on the Clinton investigation. Many of us had speculated that it seemed unlikely McCabe would take such a step without consulting with Comey. Yet, Comey repeatedly stated that he had never leaked nor caused anyone to leak information to the media.

The timing for Comey could not be worse. He already has started selling tickets, for roughly $100 each, to attend the tour for his forthcoming book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.” If he gave McCabe the green light for his “interaction,” the title could prove embarrassingly ironic.

If this was determined to be a leak with his approval, Comey likely would be labeled not just a leaker but a liar. Worse, his second-in-command just lost his pension after more than 20 years with the bureau, while Comey is about to cash in on a book and publicity tour potentially worth millions.
Yet somehow, Comey has become a saint to the left because of his position of opposition to Trump.

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.