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Updated: 2017-01-22T07:54:03.884-05:00

 



Cruising the Web

2017-01-20T06:49:38.870-05:00

Well, Inauguration Day is finally here. What a surreal moment.I happened to be flipping around last night and caught the fireworks display at the Lincoln Memorial to "Battle Hymn of the Republic." That actually looked neat. I love the Lincoln Memorial and used to live a few blocks from there. Seeing it with all the fireworks and hearing that song was rather chilling. Then seeing the Trump family there in front of Lincoln...well, again, it's just surreal. But I don't know how anyone can be there and read the Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural chiseled onto the walls and not be moved.Seeing Lincoln's statue is a reminder that, for all the partisan division in Washington today, there was a time when the country was even more divided. Some Democratic congressmen boycotting the the Inauguration seems rather? mild compared to states that seceded because they objected to the guy who won the election. In the long run, will anyone care that a bunch of congressmen that most people haven't heard of, weren't there?For Democrats depressed about the Republicans taking the levers of both the Legislative and Executive Branches, and perhaps the Judicial Branch, Jay Cost has some heartening thoughts. Our political system doesn't tend remain static. Partisan control will swing back and forth. Remember how just eight years ago it seemed that the Democrats would control the federal government for the foreseeable future.Second, our system makes parties look like governing failures. The Constitution carefully distributes governing authority across multiple institutions—the presidency, two chambers of Congress, the courts, state governments. It is hard to induce these disparate entities to coordinate their efforts to deliver on the bold promises candidates make on the stump. This is a feature, not a bug, of our system, which typically requires a broad and durable consensus before big changes can be made. Candidates rarely endeavor to manage expectations when they're electioneering—and that leaves the victors on the hook when the government does not deliver what they promised on the stump. And, of course, the opposition is always eager to tell voters that only they can make the government work.Third, exogenous shocks to our polity are common. Wars, recessions, scandals, domestic crime waves, messy foreign entanglements—history is replete with instances when events such as these totally altered the political playing field. Sometimes, events strengthen a party's governing hand, as was the case with JFK's assassination and the 9/11 attacks. But more often than not, voters blame the party in charge for the new problem. The most frequent culprit is the business cycle. Ruling parties get the blame for recessions, which tend to recur every 5 to 10 years.Given that history would predict sinking support for the Republicans over the next few years, Cost recommends that Republicans try to take advantage of their control now because there is no guarantee it will last.So Republicans would do well to make hay while the sun shines, for sooner or later it is going to set. Ironically, nobody furnishes a better example of how to make use of a fleeting majority than Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. Blessed with a supermajority during 2009-2010, they implemented many sweeping policy changes with impressive alacrity—as if they knew that the moment would soon pass. Indeed, it did. This one will, too. Republicans should make the most of it while it lasts.Ramesh Ponnuru wonders Democrats really mean when they say that Trump's presidency isn't legitimate.Are the liberals who deny Trump’s legitimacy saying that they will not treat laws signed by him or regulations promulgated by his appointees as valid? Will they stop paying taxes to the federal government that they believe he illegitimately heads? Will they ignore Supreme Court decisions whenever his appointees were decisive to the outcome? Will Representative Lewis be filing a motion to impeach Trump?Anyone who truly believes that Trump holds his power illegitimately would at least ha[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-01-19T06:20:38.762-05:00

Best of wishes to former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush who are both in the hospital. President Bush is i the ICU based on problems stemming from pneumonia. Gosh, pneumonia in a 92 year-old is truly dangerous. In the world of contemporary politics, George H.W. Bush's courtly dignity and honorable character is such a contrast. I had just been listening to Bill Kristol's conversation with Andrew Ferguson (one of my favorite writers). They talked about Ferguson's time working as a speech writer for the senior Bush. That had gotten me to thinking about Bush's presidency and how his reputation has risen, perhaps as contrasted with his successors. I certainly hope that they both recover and are sent home in good health. President Bush's note to Trump about having to miss the inauguration was a sign of the man's true class.


If he's going to claim credit for any bit of good news, that means that he will accept blame if there is any downturn? And I wasn't aware that the world had gotten any less gloomy since the election. I don't want any president who thinks he deserves credit for anything good and that somehow the mood of the country should swing on his mere election. It was obnoxious when Obama and his supporters did it and it's equally off-putting when Trump does it. It's going to be a long four years. I expect that, at the end of it, Trump will be cock-a-doodling about how the sun came up every day while he was president.

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Thomas Sowell is retiring
from writing his syndicated column. I will truly miss him. He has always had an original and iconoclastic approach accompanied by a sense of history.




Cruising the Web

2016-12-26T07:09:01.258-05:00

I hope that everyone had a very merry Christmas with friends and family.For those of us who care about Israel, Obama's last act the reverse decades of American foreign policy toward our closest ally in the Middle East while a lame duck is extremely disturbing. Jonathan Tobin explains why this was such an egregious act.Today’s resolution brands the Jewish presence in any part of the West Bank or in parts of Jerusalem that were occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 as illegal. And it makes the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live in those parts of the ancient Jewish homeland international outlaws. The excuse given by the U.S. was that increased building in the territories and Jerusalem is endangering the chances of a two-state solution. But, as I noted yesterday when the vote on the resolution was postponed, this is a canard. The reason why a two-state solution has not been implemented to date is because the Palestinians have repeatedly refused offers of statehood even when such offers would put them in possession of almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem. The building of more homes in places even Obama admitted that Israel would keep in the event of a peace treaty is no obstacle to peace if the Palestinians wanted a state. Rather than encourage peace, this vote will merely encourage more Palestinian intransigence and their continued refusal to negotiate directly with Israel. It will also accelerate support for efforts to wage economic war on Israel via the BDS movement.For years, Obama's allies have been denying that Obama doesn't like Netanyahu or has a bias against Israel. This action reveals who Obama really is when it comes to Israel. Even the Washington Post sees through Obama's actions and realizes that this is a reversal of policy.The United States vetoed past resolutions on the grounds that they unreasonably singled out Jewish communities in occupied territories as an obstacle to Middle East peace, and that U.N. action was more likely to impede than advance negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.The measure, approved 14 to 0 by the Security Council Friday, is subject to the same criticism: It will encourage Palestinians to pursue more international sanctions against Israel rather than seriously consider the concessions necessary for statehood, and it will give a boost to the international boycott and divestment movement against the Jewish state, which has become a rallying cause for anti-Zionists. At the same time, it will almost certainly not stop Israeli construction in the West Bank, much less in East Jerusalem, where Jewish housing was also deemed by the resolution to be “a flagrant violation under international law.”And they don't buy the pretense that it is all Israel's fault that the Obama administration hasn't been able to negotiate a peace in the region.Nevertheless, settlements do not explain the administration’s repeated failures to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas proved unwilling to negotiate seriously even during the settlement freeze, and it refused to accept a framework for negotiations painstakingly drawn up by Secretary of State John F. Kerry in 2014. In past negotiations, both sides have acknowledged that any deal will involve the annexation by Israel of settlements near its borders, where most of the current construction takes place — something the U.N. resolution, which was pressed by the Palestinians, did not acknowledge or take into account.Lee Smith writes at The Tablet about how this action typifies Obama's approach to Israel.In a sense, the UN vote is a perfect bookend to Obama’s Presidency. A man who came to office promising to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel, has done exactly that by breaking with decades of American policy. It is also seeking—contrary to established tradition and practice, which strictly prohibit such lame-duck actions—to tie the hands of the next White House, which has already made its pro-Israel po[...]



Cruising the Web

2016-12-23T07:12:00.176-05:00

Surprisingly, Trump is already have an effect on current foreign policy. He took steps to block a UN Security Council vote targeting Israel.The Israeli government reached out to President-elect Trump before a United Nations Security Council vote Thursday condemning the construction of Israeli settlements, according to a report.The vote was later scrapped by Egyptian officials after Trump put out a statement calling on the council to veto the resolution.Israel made contact with Trump's team in order to get support in opposing the resolution, an Israeli official told CNN. The official said his country had "no choice" after overtures to the Obama White House failed to convince the U.S. to veto the planned vote. Israeli settlement construction drew condemnation from the State Department earlier this year."We did reach out to the president-elect and are deeply appreciative that he weighed in, which was not a simple thing to do," the official said.That's really rather amazing on several fronts. First, that the Obama administration was going to go along with the resolution by not vetoing it as has been U.S. policy. It's as if Obama wanted to stick his thumb in Israel's eye as he leaves the White House. The Obama officials seem to think that it is Israel who is blocking a two-state solution but that there was nothing that we need to ask of the Palestinians. Obama had had the U.S. veto a similar resolution in 2011. Then to have Israel reach out to Trump and have him, as president-elect, spoke out to put pressure on Egypt to get them to withdraw the resolution in contrast to the present administration's policy choices. It's not clear whether Egypt decided to postpone the resolution more in response to Trump’s words or to Israel’s pressure.Politicians running for the presidency like to call for cutting "waste, fraud, and abuse" as if there is enough of such spending to balance the budget. Of course, that's a pipe dream. The real problem comes from entitlement spending and few politicians want to campaign on trimming entitlements. But there is still wasteful spending that can be cut even if it is a relative drop in the federal spending bucket. Daily Caller has some egregious examples.1. $412,000 for a study on a feminine approach to glaciologyThe National Science Foundation (NSF) spent $412,000 for a paper encouraging a feminist approach to glaciology, the study of glaciers, according to a report earlier this year from Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford.“Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions,” the paper said....3. $87 billion on ignored inspector general recommendationsThe federal government wasted $87 billion by ignoring thousands of recommendations from agency inspectors general (IGs) during President Barack Obama’s tenure, according to an October U.S. Senate report.Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said there is “no excuse” for the refusal to carry out 15,222 IG recommendations that could have saved billions each year. The Department of Defense (DOD) alone could save more than $33 billion if Pentagon officials did what their respective IG suggested.Who knew that glaciers were different for women than for men?H&R Block Tax Software Deluxe + State 2016 Win + Refund Bonus OfferTurboTax Home & Business 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile PC downloadQuicken Deluxe 2017 Personal Finance & Budgeting Software [Download]Norton Security Deluxe- 5 Devices; Amazon Exclusive 15-month SubscriptionTwo writers at Vice News explore the possibilities that Democrats could use a law from 1887 that has never been used and no one had probably ever heard of before this to try to still deny Donald Trump the presidency.The law, 3 U.S. Code section 15 , allows for a cha[...]



Cruising the Web

2016-12-22T07:06:12.046-05:00

David Harsanyi discusses President Obama's latest executive action to eternally ban any offshore oil and gas drilling in a large part of the Atlantic and Arctic waters in conjunction with a similar ban by Canada. His presumed power is based on a 1953 law that allows the president to permanently ban offshore drilling in specified areas - not the whole region. Once again Obama is stretching the law and executive powers because he thinks he's in the right and has no concern about the true legalities. Harsanyi posits a similar order by President Trump so that liberals can get a clearer understanding of how pernicious effects of such bypassing of the legislative process. Obama's excuse that he can exercise executive overreach simply because Congress hasn't acted to pass laws that he wishes they would. That's not how anyone understood our system to work until Obama decided that he can exercise the fed-up-with-Congress executive power.On the bright side, though, now that a progressive president is leaving office, the media will almost certainly frame abuses of power as something out of the ordinary.Imagine the scene: For the good of the nation and the future of energy independence, a lame-duck Donald Trump dusts off an obscure law to open Arctic drilling indefinitely. And to further impede the agenda of the incoming government, Trump signs an agreement with Russia—without any debate in the Senate—to insure it’s even more difficult to reverse.Visualize, if you can, the scandalized media coverage and gale-force indignation from liberals over King Donald’s assault on democracy. Imagine the “This. Is. Not. Normal!” headlines and editorials conjuring up scenes of fascist takeovers....Whether it’s worth accessing this energy or not will be a worthwhile debate one day. More broadly, though, Obama’s move—and the hypocritical reaction to it—reaffirm that most Democrats aren’t concerned about norms or “democracy,” they’re concerned about furthering liberal agenda items.Your moral certitude on environmental issues (or immigration or gun laws) does not excuse abuse any more than Trump’s beliefs excuses his attacks on “norms.” Everyone has moral certitude about the issues that matter to them. And if the unifying governing principle of an entire party is achieving policy goals, then stop pretending you care about the erosion of democratic norms. To be taken seriously as a defender of constitutional governance, you might have stand up for the process when it’s inconvenient from time to time. That might mean defending Electoral College or pointing out that legalizing millions of illegal immigrants without Congress is an abuse of power.Democrats have failed on this front. So their overwrought grievances about Trump’s disposition smacks of hypocrisy. In fact, as one disastrous presidency ends, it’s more obvious than ever that Trump has every reason to be emboldened by Obama’s actions, and the rampant partisan hypocrisy that infects America.We'll see if conservatives live up to their principles if they're willing to criticize Trump if he acts similarly. Amazon’s Twelve Days of DealsDeals on Amazon DevicesAmazon’s Last Minute DealsAh, just what Washington needs - a Corey Lewandowski consulting firm.Jim Geraghty comments, I’m so old, I remember when Lewandowski was denouncing the “Washington consultant class” and declaring, “The problem with the professional political class is they make money regardless of who wins.”I even remember him denouncing “these consultants who talk about the glory old days of races they were involved with that weren’t successful.” Lewandowski will no doubt argue his campaign was successful . . . of course, Trump fired him in June.Lewandowski’s firm will grab its share of clients . . . probably by the arm.H&R Block Tax Software Deluxe + State 2016 Win + Refund Bonus OfferTurboTax Home & Business 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile PC dow[...]



Cruising the Web

2016-12-21T07:16:01.258-05:00

David Rivkin and Elizabeth Price Foley propose five ways to restore the separation of powers that have gotten so out of balance in recent years. President Obama acted to usurp congressional powers, but the trend has been going on for longer. First, Congress can amend the 1996 Congressional Review Act to require affirmative approval of major executive-branch regulations. The law now allows regulations to go into effect automatically if Congress does not disapprove them. The act has been used only once to overturn a regulation because it requires passage of a joint resolution of disapproval—which must be signed by the president. This requirement should be inverted: If Congress does not affirmatively approve a regulation, it never goes into effect.Second, Congress could prohibit “ Chevron deference,” in which federal courts defer to executive branch interpretations of ambiguous statutes. Chevron deference is a judge-made doctrine that has aggrandized executive power, ostensibly to implement Congress’s intent. If Congress denounces such deference, it can simultaneously reduce executive power and encourage itself to legislate with greater specificity.Third, Congress can augment its institutional authority by expanding its contempt power. The criminal contempt statute should require the U.S. attorney to convene a grand jury upon referral by the House or Senate without exercising prosecutorial discretion. Congress should also extend the civil contempt statute to the House, not merely the Senate, and enact a new law specifying a process for using Congress’s longstanding (but rarely invoked) inherent contempt authority.Fourth, Congress can require that all major international commitments be ratified by treaty. A statute defining the proper dividing line between treaties and executive agreements would reassert the Senate’s constitutional role, provide clarification to the judiciary, and encourage communication and negotiation between Congress and the president.Fifth, Congress can enact a law further restricting its ability to coerce states into adopting federal policies or commanding state officials to carry them out. While the courts have ultimate say on the contours of these federalism doctrines, a law could force greater consensus and debate, provide guidelines on Congress’s use of its powers, and signal to the judiciary a reinvigorated commitment to federalism.It would be excellent if the GOP could take advantage of their power in Washington to enact some or all of these recommendations. Trump might not be eager to give up any power for the executive branch, but such actions would be one of the greatest contributions that they can make for the country.Amazon’s Twelve Days of DealsDeals on Amazon DevicesAmazon’s Last Minute DealsAh, the irony. President Obama told NPR that Trump should not rely too much on executive powers.Should President-elect Trump, once he's inaugurated, use his executive powers in the same way that you have?I think that he is entirely within his lawful power to do so. Keep in mind though that my strong preference has always been to legislate when I can get legislation done. In my first two years, I wasn't relying on executive powers, because I had big majorities in the Congress and we were able to get bills done, get bills passed. And even after we lost the majorities in Congress, I bent over backwards consistently to try to find compromise and a legislative solution to some of the big problems that we've got — a classic example being immigration reform, where I held off for years in taking some of the executive actions that I ultimately took in pursuit of a bipartisan solution — one that, by the way, did pass through the Senate on a bipartisan basis with our help.I was very proud of that. I went out of my way to make sure our help was behind the scenes so that Republicans didn't feel as if it was going to hurt them politically. At the end of the[...]



Cruising the Web

2016-12-20T07:07:06.854-05:00

One thing that all these protests over the Electoral College accomplished was to help my students understand what the Electoral College is and how it works. When we cover the unit on the presidency, I usually have them debate maintaining the Electoral College or endorsing the idea of the National Popular Vote for which a state's electors would be instructed to vote for the winner of the national popular vote. It should be an interesting class session this year.Michael Barone ponders how the standard political rules were upset in 2016. The only question is whether these anomalies are unique to Trump and Clinton or we'll revert to standard politics in the future.1. Money doesn't seem to matter so much any more. "Money is the mother's milk of politics," the legendary California Assembly Speaker Jess Unruh said half a century ago. But some winning campaigns this year operated on what Unruh might have regarded as low-lactose diets, notably President-elect Trump's.The Trump campaign spent somewhat more than half as much as the Hillary Clinton campaign, but won nearly half again as many electoral votes. And that's not counting the spending of super PACs supporting the Democrat.Sure, after 13 years of "The Apprentice" Trump had the advantage of celebrity, which helped him get the lion's share of cable coverage during the primary season. But he used the spotlight to make arguments and advance policies that won votes. Clinton spent most of August fundraising in rich people's homes. But what she did with her one-month record haul of $143 million didn't swing many votes.TV advertising no longer seems so influential. We saw so many attack ads this year and they didn't seem to make much of a difference this year. This year Twitter seemed to be a more potent political tool than an expensive TV ad. And Barone makes a point that is rarely understood by those fearing corporate money.A corollary is that the Democrats' obsession with the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision allowing corporate political communications is utterly beside the point. Visible corporations don't want to take partisan sides — or if they do their PR departments opt for political correctness.Another rule broken was the influence of celebrities. Just as a celebrity video targeting Trump electors didn't do anything, all the celebrity endorsements for Clinton didn't add up to much for Hillary Clinton. And the role of outrageous gaffes weren't as determinative as they have been in past. There were countless statements that Trump made in the past year and a half that I thought would be enough to destroy his candidacy. The press would play such statements over and over and Hillary ran quite a few ads that I found quite powerful, but it didn't seem to make a difference except to convince anti-Trump voters to dislike him even more.Political analysts have spent the past 12 years talking about how using data to microtarget voters has become so important in modern elections. This year - not so much. Barone has a recommendation for Democrats going forward. Instead of looking for excuses for Clinton's loss such as racism, James Comey, or Russian hacking, they would do well to examine how the political rules changed this past election and how to adapt. The Republicans should also be paying attention. For myself, I'm wondering how to adjust my curriculum for covering elections next year. Everything that Barone points out didn't work for 2016 has been a standard part of my curriculum. I am thinking that what I will do for next year is to cover what has usually worked in elections and then cover how it didn't hold true this year. Who knows how the template will work in 2020?Amazon’s Twelve Days of DealsDeals on Amazon DevicesAmazon’s Last Minute DealsWell, these statistics aren't a surprise. It seems that the media didn't get worried about the supposed plague of "fake news" until Trump won the [...]



Cruising the Web

2016-12-19T07:13:01.718-05:00

As the Electoral College meets in state capitals today to vote on who will be our next president, it's worthwhile to contemplate what the Democrats have been trying to do as they sought to overturn the results of November's election and why they're doing so. Rich Lowry writes, Surely there were alarmists who thought 2016 might end in an undemocratic coup. But who predicted Democratic opinion leaders would be the ones agitating for it?For fear that Donald Trump will violate democratic norms, liberals want to have the Electoral College throw out the results of a presidential election and impose their choice on the nation for the first time in our history.The hypocrisy is rather astonishing. A major theme of the Democrats and the press during the election was (reasonably enough) the absolute imperative of accepting the results. This lasted as a bedrock principle of democratic governance all the way until roughly 4 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, when it became clear that Trump had won and angry protests in the streets, pointless, harassing recounts and calls for an Electoral College coup became the order of the day.In theory, 37 electors could flip against Trump on Dec. 19, deny him the 270 electoral votes needed to win and precipitate one of the gravest constitutional crises in the history of the republic. If you spin out the scenarios, it’s hard to see how Trump would actually be denied the presidency (if no one gets 270 electoral votes, the contest is thrown into the Republican House). So the point of the whole exercise would simply be to disrupt as much as possible the heretofore sacrosanct peaceful transfer of power.And it’s Trump who’s the threat to our system? More than anything else, the calls for an Electoral College coup expose a standardless will to power of a left that professes to value democratic procedure.What else to make of opponents of the Electoral College urging the Electoral College to overthrow an election? The University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson has called the Electoral College a “menace to the American polity.” Yet he is now a signer of a public letter urging members of this menace to re-engineer the November election to his liking.The electors do have the power in theory to act as a last check on a presidential tyrant. But the norm of electors rubber-stamping the election’s winner is so ingrained in our system that any deviation from it would constitute a revolutionary act. The rationales advanced for a radical departure from the practice as established over a couple of centuries of American history are tinny and unconvincing at best.Lowry points out that Peter Beinart argued in The Atlantic that the electors should vote against Trump because of his position on climate change. That's a policy issue, not a character question. And, as Lowry points out, under that logic, Beinart would be arguing for any Republican to be blocked from assuming the presidency. The other arguments are similarly lame.Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig wants the electors to award Hillary Clinton the presidency on the basis of her victory on the after-the-fact metric of the popular vote that no one — not the Hillary campaign, the Trump campaign, the press or the voters — focused on during the election. This is inherently arbitrary; rules have meaning only if they are established and agree upon beforehand.Robert Reich argues that the electors should vote against Trump so long as he doesn’t release his tax returns. Trump should indeed release his returns, but this issue was litigated extensively in the fall. What Reich is demanding is that, since voters didn’t put appropriate weight on this question in his view or arrive at his preferred conclusion, electors should substitute their own judgment. No one in 200 years would have thought this is a legitimate role of the Electoral College.Then, there’s Russia. Jo[...]