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Updated: 2017-05-27T06:09:47.499-04:00

 



2 Comments

2017-05-26T06:42:20.979-04:00

I'm sorry but I won't have a chance to blog today. I'm heading out today with two quiz bowl teams to go to Atlanta for the National Quiz Bowl Championship. My school is also in the middle of final exams, so it's a busy few days over the next week for us. Keep your fingers crossed for my teams; they're really great kids and I've loved working with them this year. But there are a lot of amazing teams out there so we need all the luck we can get.



Cruising the Web

2017-05-25T06:40:12.714-04:00

As someone who teaches high school students, many of whom are Asian Americans, it's very dispiriting to see this report about how admissions officers at Princeton talk about the race of applicants.documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show Princeton’s admissions officers repeatedly wrote of Asian-American applicants as being difficult to differentiate, referring to them dismissively as having “very familiar profiles,” calling them “standard premeds,” or “difficult to pluck out.” The comments were noted by civil rights investigators at the Education Department as they probed allegations of racial bias in the school’s admissions system.Of a Hispanic applicant, an admissions officer wrote, “Tough to see putting her ahead of others. No cultural flavor in app.” Of a black student, another said, “Very few African Americans with verbal scores like this.”.... documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show Princeton’s admissions officers repeatedly wrote of Asian-American applicants as being difficult to differentiate, referring to them dismissively as having “very familiar profiles,” calling them “standard premeds,” or “difficult to pluck out.” The comments were noted by civil rights investigators at the Education Department as they probed allegations of racial bias in the school’s admissions system.Of a Hispanic applicant, an admissions officer wrote, “Tough to see putting her ahead of others. No cultural flavor in app.” Of a black student, another said, “Very few African Americans with verbal scores like this.”....An investigator questioned an admissions officer after an Asian-American student was described eagerly by a another officer as a “first-generation Chinese student whose own life has not been easy, trying to make the lives of others better through service. One of the best we’ll ever see from [high school].”The second officer was less enthusiastic. “Perfectly able and appealing,” the officer wrote. “Very familiar profile.”"Bright premed, but like many others," another admissions officer wrote of an Asian-American applicant.BuzzFeed News obtained a number of documents from the investigation through a Freedom of Information Act request. Princeton has sued the Education Department to prevent the release of many more, in a suit that involves an anti-affirmative action group, Students for Fair Admissions.The files released show that in brief summaries meant to present applicants to a committee, officers candidly discussed the race of black, Latino, and Native American applicants, often seemingly searching for those who highlighted their racial backgrounds rather than checking off boxes on their Common Applications."Nice essays, sweet personality," one admissions officer said of a multiracial applicant. "Bi-racial but not [National Hispanic Recognition Program] and no recognition of her [background] in app by anyone." The National Hispanic Recognition Program recognizes high-performing students who are "at least one-quarter Hispanic/Latino.”When one reader called an applicant's Native American heritage "appealing," the other noted that the only place the boy had mentioned the heritage was in a checkbox on his Common Application. He called himself "a white boy," the admissions officer noted.We already knew that admissions committees search for qualified racial minorities. Now we see that they especially want minorities who are themselves focused on their own race. They don't just want a Native American; they want someone who pumps up his race on the application. A mixed-race Hispanic student who is high-performing is not enough. The applicants also need to make sure to write an application about his or her race. And Asian Americans are just out of luck; it's not enough to be high-achieving and involved in community service. That's to be expected. There is something quite despicable about this attitude that students should be so focused on race that they insert racial comments into their applications. I would have thought that students[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-05-11T07:03:09.105-04:00

I'm still not at all convinced that the Comey firing is a terrible scandal of Nixonian proportions. The Democrats make a mistake of dialing every complaint about Trump to level 10. After a while, it just seems like they're rolling out their typical outrage. However, the whole thing was done so ineptly as if Trump thinks he's still hosting "The Apprentice" and he needs to fire someone at the end of the show. Since Trump doesn't seem to have good instincts about how his actions and utterances play politically, it would be nice if there were advisers who have better instincts than Trump and to whom he'll listen. Whether Comey should have been fired or not, this was the right time right after he had testified that the FBI is still investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. And why do it without telling Comey either to his face or some other way beyond having to see it on TV. A well-organized White House would have its talking points organized and set to go immediately instead of having press officials who had no idea that this was going to happen. And it would have been very helpful if Trump had a nomination set to go. Andrew Malcolm summarizes some of the ways that the incompetence of how this was handled is making Trump look worse than needed. The incident also underscores the desperate need for an influential adult aide by this headstrong president’s side who can say with effect, “No! Let’s think this through.” Forget his silly tweets. Some had hoped family members like son-in-law Jared Kushner or daughter Ivanka might play this role. Or chief of staff Reince Priebus.Apparently not.That someone could have whispered – or shouted if necessary – “Sir, with all due respect, you can’t fire the man you’ve consistently endorsed on tardy charges of poor job performance right as he seeks more money to investigate your presidential campaign for Russian influence.”“Very simply,” Trump said tersely Wednesday, “he was not doing a good job.”So, here come those bothersome follow-up questions: How exactly was Comey performing poorly? If you’re really firing Comey for poor performance on the Clinton email scandal last year, why didn’t you just let him go during the January transition? Perfect time. Everyone expects personnel changes then. No fuss.Or use Comey’s huge mistake in testimony last week, misleading Congress on the scale of Huma Abedin’s forwarding of national security emails. The Justice Department had to publish a correction.Take the director aside this week and say, “Thank you for your long service. But look, this is the last straw in my book. You can resign gracefully and we’ll both move on.”....Instead with Comey, a brand-new deputy attorney general suddenly produces a damning but thinly sourced memo justifying the director’s discharge 10 months after his alleged malfeasance that helped Trump get elected.Then, the White House announces Comey’s firing so he sees it on TV in Los Angeles while speaking to FBI employees. You realize, Mr. President, this will also thoroughly alienate someone and his colleagues who know an awful lot about you and who are real pros at the Washington game of assassination by leak?And you do this without a full explanation, without a convincing list of ethical or incompetent acts and without even the slimmest public list of possible successors? At an overheated time on Capitol Hill guaranteeing partisan confirmation hearings on any successor?The incompetence demonstrated in this instance is reminiscent of how poorly they rolled out his first executive order on his travel ban. Apparently, Trump is someone who doesn't learn from his previous mistakes about taking time to do something controversial with forethought and planning. It's a shame that someone who ran on the basis of his business experience as proof of what a great leader he would be can't manage simple competence in carrying out his wishes.This Washington Post story on what led up to the firing either demonstrates th[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-05-10T07:08:43.735-04:00

It's funny how quickly the Democrats assembled their talking points about the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Immediately, they came out with the Nixon analogies. Of course, they've been calling for Comey's firing since the election. It isn't letting Comey go that is the problem, but the mysterious timing. Perhaps they were just waiting for Trump's nominee for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to be confirmed, but he's been on the job for two weeks. It just seems hard to believe that the administration suddenly decided that Comey's handling of the Clinton email server story was worth firing. Her server keeps detonating little bombs. Jonah Goldberg has some smart musings about this whole story.3) I keep reading that this is a “Nixonian” move. I get it. But that’s not clear. President Nixon fired people in the vain hope that he could stop the bleeding. There’s no evidence that Trump was trying to kill an investigation — yet.And then Trump couldn't resist sticking this self-aggrandizing line in his letter to thank Comey for informing him "on three separate occasions" that Trump was not under investigation. I wonder if it's standard procedure for an investigator to inform someone who is, in effect, his boss, about an investigation in which Trump is of interest.I get what President Trump thinks he’s doing by saying this, but politically it’s the equivalent of saying “It’s not about the money.”5) Also, for a guy who is clearly desperate to get people to move on from the Russia talk, Trump keeps doing things that make it easier to keep that storyline alive. The “wiretapping” tweets breathed new life into that story. But that’s nothing compared to what confirmation hearings for a new FBI director will do to that storyline.The letter for firing Comey didn't mention his puzzling and egregious error in his testimony this week.Perhaps Comey’s most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin — Weiner’s wife and a top Clinton deputy — had made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton messages to her husband, “some of which contain classified information.” Comey testified that Abedin had done this so that the disgraced former congressman could print them out for her boss....The problem: Much of what Comey said about this was inaccurate. Now the FBI is trying to figure out what to do about it.FBI officials have privately acknowledged that Comey misstated what Abedin did and what the FBI investigators found. On Monday, the FBI was said to be preparing to correct the record by sending a letter to Congress later this week. But that plan now appears on hold, with the bureau undecided about what to do.ProPublica is reporting a story on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton emails and raised questions with government officials last week about possible inaccuracies in Comey’s statements about Abedin.It could not be learned how the mistake occurred. The FBI and Abedin declined ProPublica’s requests for comment on the director’s misstatements.According to two sources familiar with the matter — including one in law enforcement — Abedin forwarded only a handful of Clinton emails to her husband for printing — not the “hundreds and thousands” cited by Comey. It does not appear Abedin made “a regular practice” of doing so. Other officials said it was likely that most of the emails got onto the computer as a result of backups of her Blackberry.How does Comey say that there were hundreds and thousands of such emails when there were only a handful? That's not a slip of the tongue. Did Comey really think that there were that many? How did he get that idea? Or did he just make that up? Aaron Blake writes at The Fix.To be clear, these weren't just small details that emerged from Comey's testimony on Wednesday; they were the headline for many new outlets that covered Comey's visit to the Senate Judiciary Committee, including The Post.They were also key to Comey's[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-05-09T07:23:44.377-04:00

Trump partisans are happy to attack Sally Yates and her testimony yesterday. But attacking her doesn't hide the fact that Mike Flynn was an incredibly bad choice for National Security Adviser and now they're reaping the consequences of that poor choice. Whatever you think of Yates and Clapper and their testimony, it's difficult to deny that Flynn should not have been chosen and that the Trump campaign seemed to ignore the warning signs, perhaps because he had supported Trump in the election.Tom Rogan, no conservative mouthpiece for Trump, explains how to read between the lines of Yates' testimony.Yates described two meetings with Trump's White House counsel. In those meetings she and another DOJ official expressed their belief that Flynn "was compromised" by the Russian government, had engaged in concerning "underlying conduct" and "really concerned" the DOJ."Was compromised" is the first intelligence alarm bell. Its definitive simplicity: "was" rather than "may have been" or "was likely" compromised suggests that the DOJ assessed with high confidence (the highest possible credibility attachment for intelligence assessments) that Flynn was compromised.In turn, Yates' follow-on "underlying conduct" statement suggests that the DOJ had concerns on Flynn's conduct toward Russia reaching beyond the specific blackmail concern. Was Yates referencing Flynn's payments from Russia Today television? His dinner gala with Putin? Or something else? So far, we don't know. But it should raise eyebrows.But when we combine these two elements with Yates' "really concerned" affirmation, it strongly suggests Flynn's ongoing conduct was serious rather than peripherally concerning. At the very least, it suggests that what we do know – that Mike Flynn spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the topic of sanctions – was the tip of the iceberg.Still, there were other interesting intelligence hints from the testimony. For one, Clapper described "very sensitive" intelligence provided by Britain on meetings between Trump surrogates and Russian officials. Here, "very sensitive" suggests signal intelligence collection (bugged meetings, tapped calls, etc.) by Britain's NSA-equivalent, GCHQ, or human penetration of meetings by Britain's CIA-equivalent, SIS. "Very sensitive" suggests more than, for example, a U.K. intelligence service reporting that Trump folks and Russian folks had been seen together. Regardless, that Clapper confirmed U.K. intelligence sharing will greatly upset the British government (which is focused on winning Trump's trust).Ultimately, today proved three things. Flynn has a problem (and was always a poor choice for national security adviser), Democrats smell blood, and the intelligence community knows a lot more than has yet been made public.As the WSJ points out, Yates's testimony is also notable for what she, and Clapper, said in the rest of their testimony.Yet the salient political fact is that President Trump then fired Mr. Flynn for misleading Vice President Mike Pence and the public. Moreover, Mr. Flynn was fired despite the lack of evidence that he conveyed any truly compromising information to the Russian ambassador.All we know is that Mr. Flynn made a passing reference in his conversation with the ambassador to U.S. sanctions against Russia—a reference Mr. Flynn says he forgot. What was there to blackmail him over?The important question is whether there was collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign, and on that score the Yates appearance turned up nothing new. For that matter, we’re still waiting for any such evidence from the House, Senate and FBI investigations. Maybe it exists, but no one has produced it.So far the only crime we know about in this drama is the leak of Mr. Flynn’s name to the press as having been overheard when U.S. intelligence was eavesdropping on the Russian ambassador. Mr. Flynn’s name was leaked in violation of the law after he was “unmasked” by an Obama Admin[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-05-08T06:27:16.456-04:00

Well, it's a relief that Marine Le Pen fell quite short in her efforts to win leadership of France. In fact, the last time a candidate lost by that much was her father in 2002. Emmanuel Macron didn't win on the strength of his own personality or policy positions. He was just lucky enough that François Fillon's candidacy sunk under the burden of stories of his funneling jobs and government money to his family. And then he became the hope of all the anti-National Front voters who voted for him because they couldn't stand the idea of a Le Pen winning. We'll have to see if his luck wins out as he tackles France's problems. But he shouldn't forget that he only won about a quarter of the votes in the first round and that there is still a third of voters who chose Le Pen even though everyone knew she would lose. That is a significant block of voters who are very unhappy with the status quo in France. He has a strong mandate not to be Marine Le Pen, but it's unclear how much of a mandate he has for anything else.This means President Macron will have a fragile mandate and a narrow window to press his agenda. France needs radical reform of a government that in 2015 took 57% of national GDP and an economy with a jobless rate that is 10% eight years after the financial crisis.Yet political failure is the recent French norm. Successive Presidents have failed to undo the 1999 35-hour-workweek law amid militant union protests. Mr. Mélenchon and his “Unbowed France” movement are promising chaos if Mr. Macron dares to advance what the socialist calls “neoliberalism.” Mr. Macron’s best bet is to go big and abolish the 35-hour workweek as Mr. Fillon promised, rather than seek marginal fixes and pay the political price anyway. The same goes for cutting the corporate tax rate to 25% from 33.3%, especially as the U.S. heads toward a 20% rate.Mr. Macron’s ability to push reform will depend on the strength of the parliamentary coalition he can assemble. If En Marche! fails to win a majority in June’s parliamentary vote, he should hope the Republicans do. One way to set the tone for the June vote would be to invite Republican heavyweights to join the Macron cabinet.The new President will also need help on national security, which was his weakest pitch to voters. While he committed to increasing capacity at the security agencies, Ms. Le Pen’s vows to fight radical Islam and toughen border controls appealed to voters who witnessed massacres across the country....As for European Union elites, the temptation will be to view the Macron triumph as vindication of the status quo, given Ms. Le Pen’s vow to leave the EU and ditch the euro. It is at most a reprieve. Ms. Le Pen improved on her father’s performance 15 years ago, she and Mr. Mélenchon drew broad support among the young, and France’s mainstream parties were repudiated. The EU project is far from secure unless it can provide more economic opportunity and better security, and show more respect for voters who resent dictates from Brussels.The French center held, barely. If Mr. Macron fails to deliver faster growth, France may not be so lucky the next time.Tom Rogan explains why Macron's victory will be good for the U.S.Consider national security. Unlike Le Pen, Macron is avowedly pro-American. He supports NATO and cooperation on issues of shared concern. This includes countering Iranian influence in the Middle East and the rise of Islamist terrorist organizations in Africa. But Macron is also more questioning, let us say, towards Vladimir Putin. This is also a good thing. As I've explained, there is nothing wrong with President Trump wanting good relations with Russia. But there is a lot wrong with believing that Putin wants to have good relations with the U.S. Macron's arrival offers the prospect on renewed economic pressure — and western unity — in challenging Putin to abandon Syrian President Bashar Assad, for example. Unl[...]



Cruising the Webu

2017-05-05T06:46:31.010-04:00

It isn't perfect and the process was typically ugly, but at least we got the first step in repealing Obamacare. I'm with the WSJ in their analysis.The bill that passed is remarkably similar to the one that GOP leaders first introduced. The changes demanded first by the Freedom Caucus and then some moderates are tweaks that don’t alter the reform’s core architecture.The bill includes deregulatory steps to pave the way for a variety of insurance coverage that more people can afford; the largest entitlement reform in decades by devolving control over Medicaid to the states; a $1 trillion spending cut over a decade; tax credits for individual insurance that begin to equalize the tax treatment of health care for individuals and businesses; and the repeal of ObamaCare taxes totaling $900 billion over 10 years.The bill doesn’t repeal all of ObamaCare because it can’t without Democratic help under the Senate’s budget rules. But the bill marks a giant step away from the Democratic march to government-run health care, which is why the political and cultural left have been so vitriolic in their denunciations.The Senate will now put its stamp on the policy, and no doubt there will be many perils of Rand Paul-ine moments with only a 52-seat GOP majority. The House bill will change, but reporters who think it is doomed should get off Twitter and make some calls. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been counting votes and calculating necessary compromises for some time.House Republicans should be prepared that some of their planks may not survive Senate budget rules. They’ll have to be flexible enough to accept the compromises that are inevitable in a bicameral legislature. The trump card, so to speak, is that this process will yield a binary political choice: Either Members vote for what emerges from the House and Senate, or live with the status quo of ObamaCare.That status quo is deteriorating as this week’s decision by Aetna to withdraw from Virginia’s health exchanges shows. Republicans need to act within weeks to clarify the rules of the individual insurance market for 2018. The lobby for the insurance industry issued a generally supportive statement on House passage, which offers some hope that congressional action can forestall a market collapse. Republicans will be blamed for that collapse whether or not they pass repeal and replace.A word about the legislative process and political hypocrisy. Democrats and the media are howling that Republicans passed their bill before the Congressional Budget Office issued its final score of the budget and insurance impact. They have a point, but anyone voting Thursday had ample time to understand the policy choices.As for CBO’s score, really? We don’t recall the same media concern for budget exactitude when Democrats rammed through ObamaCare on a partisan vote with more gimmicks than a traveling carnival. Remember the Class Act on long-term care that gilded the deficit numbers until it was quickly repealed? And don’t forget the government takeover of the student-loan market that was packaged with ObamaCare because CBO said it would save taxpayers money. Now loan defaults are bleeding red ink.Now they have to sell their bill and make the case that the way it's being characterized by the Democrats is totally false. The law isn't ideal, but trying to repeal an entitlement has never gotten this far before. Of course, if the Republicans were crafting a health care reform bill from the beginning without having to do it by building on the mess that Obamacare has been, they would have done it differently. But that is not the reality and this is about the best they could given the situation they are in. Let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There are changes that the Senate could make in the law to improve it. Ramesh Ponnuru has suggestions for some improvements.Now that the House has passed the A[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-05-04T07:18:09.029-04:00

As so many presidents before him, Trump is now talking about playing a role to bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Yesterday Mahmoud Abbas came to the WHite House and lied to Trump and the media.Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday during a joint press conference with President Donald Trump that his government is raising its youth in a "culture of peace.""Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace," Abbas said. "And we are endeavoring to bringing about security, freedom, and peace for our children to live like the other children in the world along with the Israeli children in peace, freedom, and security."Abbas' comments are contrary to reports about Palestinian children being recruited to carry out terrorist acts. One report detailed at least 36 incidents when Palestinian children have attempted to carry out terrorist attacks."The preferred method of murder and attempted murder by Palestinian child terrorists are stabbings or knifings, the modus operandi in 34 of the 36 attacks," according to the report authored by a United Nations watchdog group.Another report showed Palestinian Authority teoks advocating violence against Jews in Israel, and a Palestinian child television show depicted Jews as "evil," "filth," and "barbaric monkeys."Abbas reportedly said in September 2015 that "every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure" amid clashes between police and Arab protesters at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.Remember that the Palestinian Authority gives rewards to the families of suicide terrorists who kill Israelis. So spare us these lies about how Abbas' government is raising Palestinian children in a "culture of peace." Given the reality of what the Palestinian government does to encourage violence against Israeli civilians, how can they be a reliable partner for peace with Israel?Douglas J. Feith and Sander Gerber recommend that Congress pas the proposed Taylor Force Act.Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is considering the Taylor Force Act, which would require Abbas to either dismantle his government’s system of rewards for terrorists or forfeit American financial aid. The proposed law is controversial largely because the PA presents a confusing picture of itself....Though it helps Israel fight those terrorists who oppose both Israel and the PA, it actively foments anti-Israel terrorism in its own domain through its formal legislative and bureaucratic system of professional and cash benefits for Palestinians who commit knifings, axe-murders, shootings, and car-rammings.Abbas was elected to a four-year presidential term in 2005. Popular dissatisfaction with the PA’s pervasive corruption put his reelection in doubt, so no new elections were scheduled. He simply remains in power.Abbas says that he supports peace, but the Israeli government offered him a generous deal in 2008. The Israelis had just handed all of Gaza over to the PA. They offered him virtually all the West Bank, with unprecedented concessions on Jerusalem. He nevertheless scorned the deal.Abbas and his PA colleagues are bound and determined to perpetuate the conflict with Israel. Their personal interests require it. If the conflict ended, they would lose foreign aid, which makes their lucrative corruption possible. They would stop receiving invitations to the White House and other gratifying diplomatic attention. They would cease to be the leaders of a long-standing and proudly uncompromising national struggle, forfeiting their self-respect and prestige, especially in the Arab and Muslim worlds. For them, peace would be hell.But peace could enormously benefit the Palestinian people. It could open a path to greater freedom and prosperity for them and save their children from the fatal lure of “martyrdom.” Those interests, alas, don’t infl[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-05-03T06:31:01.513-04:00

"Responsibility" just doesn't mean what it used to. A prime example is Hillary Clinton's statement that she takes "absolute personal responsibility" for her election loss.In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Clinton seemed to wobble between taking personal responsibility and blaming exterior forces. "Of course I take absolute personal responsibility. I was the candidate. I was the person on the ballot"Well, that is all very nice but then she immediately added in whom she blames for her loss."I was on the way to winning before a combination of [James] Comey's letter on Oct. 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people inclined to vote for me but got scared off."Clinton concluded: "Did we make mistakes? Of course we did. Did I make mistakes? Oh my gosh, yes, you'll read my confession and my request for absolution. But the reason why I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last 10 days."I guess it was James Comey that led her to put a private server in her basement and break the law about keeping documents secure and then mislead the American people about it. And I guess it was WIkiLeaks that led her and the rest of her family to leverage her position as Secretary of State to funnel donations into their own pockets and their Foundation. And both of them probably forced her to call Trump's supporters "deplorables." Greg Sargent writes in the Washington Post about polling done by Democratic pollsters looking into voters who had voted for Barack Obama and then switched to vote for Donald Trump. Their results should concern Democrats.One finding from the polling stands out: A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. I was also permitted to view video of some focus group activity, which showed Obama-Trump voters offering sharp criticism of Democrats on the economy.Many of these Obama-Trump voters said that their own incomes are shrinking and not keeping up with the cost of inflation. And then there is this statistic.42 percent of Obama-Trump voters said congressional Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy, vs. only 21 percent of them who said the same about Trump. (Forty percent say that about congressional Republicans.) A total of 77 percent of Obama-Trump voters said Trump’s policies will favor some mix of all other classes (middle class, poor, all equally), while a total of 58 percent said that about congressional Democrats.Of course, those results aren't any better for congressional Republicans, but Democrats are so used to portraying Republicans as the friends of the wealthy that this result must shock them. Skepticism about the Democratic Party was echoed rather forcefully in the focus groups that I watched. In one, Obama-Trump voters were asked what Democrats stand for today and gave answers such as these:“The one percent.”“The status quo.”“They’re for the party. Themselves and the party.”One woman, asked whether the Democratic Party is for people like her, flatly declared: “Nope.”However, if Trump doesn't have any success on economic policy and such voters don't see things improving in their own lives by 2020, he can kiss any hope of reelection good-bye.Mother's Day Gift Shop25% Off in Office and School SuppliesDeals in Office ProductsDeals in Home and KitchenThe WSJ provides some clarity on the modest gains for Republicans in the budget deal. It's not quite as bad as some are depicting it and it's not as great as Trump would like us to believe. It's a compromise and, as in most compromises, everyone is somewhat unhappy. Mostly, what it does is preserve the status quo - not something either Trump or the GOP campaigned on. As the WSJ says, it was a victory for government as usual. And that's not really [...]



Cruising the Web

2017-05-02T07:04:00.143-04:00

Ilya Somin has an excellent idea - that we should use May Day to commemorate as Victims of Communism Day. He wrote back in 2007, May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their regimes. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes' millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century's other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so.This time to is the appropriate moment to go forward with this.Our comparative neglect of communist crimes has serious costs. Victims of Communism Day can serve the dual purpose of appropriately commemorating the millions of victims, and diminishing the likelihood that such atrocities will recur. Just as Holocaust Memorial Day and other similar events help sensitize us to the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism, and radical nationalism, so Victims of Communism Day can increase awareness of the dangers of left-wing forms of totalitarianism, and government control of the economy and civil society.This year is a particularly important time to remember the victims of Communism because of the approaching one hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution – Bolshevik takeover of Russia. The Soviet Union was not the most oppressive communist regime. It probably did not match the even more thoroughgoing totalitarianism of the Khmer Rouge and North Korea. Nor did it kill the most people – a record held by Mao Zedong the Chinese communists. But the Soviet experiment was the principal model for all the later communist states, and it is hard to imagine communists seizing control of so much of the world without it. In addition to the significant material aid that the Soviets provided to communists in other nations, the communist seizure of power in Russia also greatly boosted the ideology’s prospects elsewhere.To this day, some claim that Soviet communism was originally a positive development and only went bad later, after Joseph Stalin came to power. But Stalin’s crimes were largely extensions of the earlier practices of Lenin. And it is unlikely that things would have gone better if Stalin had lost out to Leon Trotsky, his principal rival in the struggle for power. In some ways, Trotsky’s agenda was even worse than Stalin’s. (more links in original)It is well past time that we recognize the victims of communism instead of basically ignoring them. With such ignorance propagated throughout our schools, it is no wonder that students today think so highly of communism. Colin Grabow writes to remind liberals that communism was exceptionally bad for the environment. Many on the left regard climate change as the potential cause of millions of mass deaths. They might not think too much about the tens of millions who died because they had the misfortune to live in communist countries, but they might be appalled when they learn about the environmental devastation of communist countries.When the Berlin Wall came down and the Iron Curtain was finally lifted to expose the inner workings of communism to Western eyes, one of the more shocking discoveries was the nightmarish scale of environmental destruction. The statistics for East Germany alone tell a horrific tale: at the time of its reunification with West Germany an estimated 42 percent of moving water and 24 percent of still waters were so polluted that they could not be used to process drinking water, almost half of the co[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-05-01T06:44:53.240-04:00

Aww, perhaps to get ready to celebrate May Day or to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the New York Times runs a column celebrating how the Communist Party in the U.S. helped unite workers of all backgrounds to help and inspire each other.They were voyagers on that river, these plumbers, pressers and sewing machine operators; and they took with them on their journey not only their own narrow, impoverished experience but also a set of abstractions with transformative powers. When these people sat down to talk, Politics sat down with them, Ideas sat down with them; above all, History sat down with them. They spoke and thought within a context that lifted them out of the nameless, faceless obscurity into which they had been born, and gave them the conviction that they had rights as well as obligations. They were not simply the disinherited of the earth, they were proletarians with a founding myth of their own (the Russian Revolution) and a civilizing worldview (Marxism).While it is true that thousands of people joined the Communist Party in those years because they were members of the hardscrabble working class (garment district Jews, West Virginia miners, California fruit pickers), it was even truer that many more thousands in the educated middle class (teachers, scientists, writers) joined because for them, too, the party was possessed of a moral authority that lent shape and substance, through its passion for structure and the eloquence of its rhetoric, to an urgent sense of social injustice.So sweet. Vivian Gornick, the author of the piece, celebrates the communist camaraderie of her youth uniting so many disparate people in common cause until the news came out from the 1956 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party when Khrushchev's secret speech "revealed to the world the incalculable horror of Stalin's rule." I was 20 years old in April 1956 when Nikita Khrushchev addressed the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party and revealed to the world the incalculable horror of Stalin’s rule. Night after night the people at my father’s kitchen table raged or wept or sat staring into space. I was beside myself with youthful rage. “Lies!” I screamed at them. “Lies and treachery and murder. And all in the name of socialism! In the name of socialism!” Confused and heartbroken, they pleaded with me to wait and see, this couldn’t be the whole truth, it simply couldn’t be. But it was.Well, maybe they would have known more about the horrors of Stalin's rule if the New York Times' own Walter Duranty hadn't spent the 1930s lying about the government-induced famine in Ukraine.I would like to add another Duranty quote, not in his dispatches, which is reported in a memoir by Zara Witkin, a Los Angeles architect, who lived in the Soviet Union during the 1930s. ("An American Engineer in Stalin's Russia: The Memoirs of Zara Witkin, 1932-1934," University of California Press ). The memoirist describes an evening during which the Moscow correspondents were discussing how to get out the story about the Stalin-made Russian famine. To get around the censorship, the UP's Eugene Lyons was telephoning the dire news of the famine to his New York office but the was ordered to stop because it was antagonizing the Kremlin. Ralph Barnes, the New York Herald Tribune reporter, turned to Duranty and asked him what he was going to write. Duranty replied:Nothing. What are a few million dead Russians in a situation like this? Quite unimportant. This is just an incident in the sweeping historical changes here. I think the entire matter is exaggerated.And this was at a time when peasants in Ukraine were dying of starvation at the rate of 25,000 a day.In his masterwork about Stalin's imposed famine on Ukraine, "Harvest of Sorrow," Robert Con[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-04-28T07:08:49.519-04:00

Well, give Trump points for being frank, but reallY? Now he's saying that he thought being president would be easier than his life as a businessman and reality star.He misses driving, feels as if he is in a cocoon, and is surprised how hard his new job is.President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House."I loved my previous life. I had so many things going," Trump told Reuters in an interview. "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier."Geez, really? Had he paid attention at all in his adult life to what a president has to deal with? Had he noticed how partisanship has made it almost impossible to ever pass anything in Congress? Did he think that Congressional Democrats would be easier to deal with than banks and NBC? Did he notice what was going on around the world in the Middle East, North Korea or Russia? And he thought his prior life as a billionaire making a living off of selling his name would have been more work? I can't even...Allahpundit looks at the continuing demolition of Mike Flynn's reputation. Apparently, even though he was warned by the DIA that he had to inform them of earning any money from a foreign country, yet he didn't tell them about getting money from Russia Times. And is the Trump team trying to hide documents on this from Congress? This seems like a likely theory.It’s not that he’s trying to suppress something embarrassing about Flynn (e.g., that he also neglected to inform the White House of his lobbying work), in other words, but that he’s trying to set a precedent early in his term that Congress shouldn’t expect to get executive-branch records on demand in its investigations. Maybe, though, the reason they’re sitting on the records is less principled and more political — namely, the records might show that the transition team did have an inkling that Flynn hadn’t properly disclosed his payments and they … went ahead and made him national security advisor anyway.Maybe they knew that this stuff would come out eventually and wanted to hide the embarrassment.They may have realized that the dirt would come out eventually, though, and that it would cause them a major headache when it did — why was the national security advisor hiding foreign money from the Pentagon? — so they started looking around immediately for other reasons to force his resignation. When the Kislyak matter arose, they seized the opportunity. Tools and Home ImprovementToday’s DealsFashion Sales and DealsCharles Krauthammer writes about the populist moment that some had argued was sweeping the west from the Brexit vote to Trump's victory to the candidacies of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France. He argues that people have overestimated the populist panic and are downplaying its supposed collapse as Wilders fell short and Le Pen will certainly lose in the runoff election. In retrospect, the populist panic may have been overblown. Regarding Brexit, for example, the shock exaggerated its meaning. Because it was so unexpected, it became a sensation. But in the longer view, Britain has always been deeply ambivalent about Europe, going back at least to Henry VIII and his break with Rome. In the intervening 500 years, Britain has generally seen itself as less a part of Europe than an offshore island.The true historical anomaly was Britain's EU membership with all the attendant transfer of sovereignty from Westminster to Brussels. Brexit was a rather brutal return to the extra-European norm, but the norm it is.The other notable populist victory, the triumph of Trump, has also turned out to be less than meets the eye. He certainly ran as a populist and won as a populist but[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-04-27T06:04:38.029-04:00

Jonathan Haidt has a great essay on how intimidation on college campuses is the new normal. He really nails it. He goes through the notable examples of college students denying speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Charles Murray, and Heather MacDonald from speaking simply because they don't like the message that they imagined that they were going to hear. Violence has become a common element of such protests. Regarding the mob that shut down MacDonald's talk, Haidt writes, What are we to make of this? There were no reports of violence or property damage. Yet this event is pote ntially more ominous than the Berkeley and Middlebury violence, for we are witnessing the emergence of a dangerous new norm for responding to speakers who challenge campus orthodoxy. Anyone offended by the speaker can put out a call on Facebook to bring together students and locals, including "antifa" (antifascist) and black-bloc activists who explicitly endorse the use of violence against racists and fascists. Because of flagrant "concept creep," however, almost anyone who is politically right of center can be labeled a racist or a fascist, and the promiscuous use of such labels is now part of the standard operating procedure. The call to shut down Mac Donald’s talk asserted, without evidence, that her agenda is "racist, anti-Black, capitalist, imperialist, [and] fascist." As with accusations of witchcraft in earlier centuries, once such labels are attached to someone, few will dare to challenge their accuracy, lest they be accused of the same crimes.It is crucial to note that at all three colleges — Berkeley, Middlebury, and Claremont McKenna — the crowd included a mix of students and locals, some wearing masks. It is therefore no longer possible to assume that a crowd on a college campus will be nonviolent, as crowds of protesting students were in the fall of 2015. What would have happened to Mac Donald had she tried to enter or exit through the main entrance, without a police escort? From now on, any campus speaker who arouses a protest is at risk of a beating. Can this really be the future of American higher education?Haidt notes the reasoning that these protesters now employ to justify their violence.A common feature of recent campus shout-downs is the argument that the speaker "dehumanizes" members of marginalized groups or "denies their right to exist." No quotations or citations are given for such strong assertions; these are rhetorical moves made to strengthen the case against the speaker. But if students come to believe that anyone who offends them has "dehumanized" them, they are setting themselves up for far greater vulnerability and isolation. Life, love, and work are full of small offenses and misunderstandings, many of which will now be experienced as monstrous and unforgivable.Students have decided that they don't need to engage speakers on their ideas. Once they've decided that someone has views they dislike, engagement is unnecessary.Second, students in the past few years have increasingly opted for collective action to shut down talks by speakers they dislike, rather than taking the two traditional options available to all individuals: Don’t go to the talk, or go and engage the speaker in the question-and-answer period. The decision to turn so many events into collective moral struggles has profound ramifications for the entire college. Everyone is pressured to take sides. Administrators are pressured to disinvite speakers, or at least to condemn their scholarship and morals while reluctantly noting their right to speak. Petitions are floated, and names of signers (and abstainers) are noted.This is precisely the wrong attitude that should prevail on college campuses.But the tribal mind is incomp[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-04-26T06:38:55.569-04:00

Robert Tracinski ponders something that has long bothered me as well as many conservatives - that so many people shrug off the evils of Communist countries. What provoked Tracinski's essay was the remarks from a British athlete, James Cracknell, who gave North Korea and Cuba as countries who knew how to "get a handle on obesity." Apparently, he didn't realized that those countries basically starve their populations. Yup, starvation will help people lose weight.If you want to find another country that is really doing something about obesity, you can look to Venezuela, which is providing a wonderful model for involuntary weight loss.But a lot of people don’t seem to want to look at Venezuela, because that would be uncomfortable. A few years back, a lot of them were praising Venezuela as a model of socialism, the same way they praise Cuba. Here’s just a small sample: David Sirota in Salon proclaimed Venezuela’s “economic miracle” thanks to Hugo Chavez’s “full-throated advocacy of socialism” and “fundamental critique of neoliberal [i.e., free market] economics.” Left-leaning celebrities traipsed to Caracas to pay their respects. Bernie Sanders declared just a few years ago that “the American dream is more apt to be realized in…Venezuela” than here. He concluded by asking, “Who’s the banana republic now?”We’re seeing the answer to that. Today, Venezuelans are starving and the remainders of the Chavez regime are sending gangs of armed thugs into the streets to attack anyone who protests. And all of the people who praised the Venezuelan regime as a paragon of socialism? They suddenly don’t want to talk about it.This is just the tip of an iceberg of insensitivity, ignorance, and denial about socialism’s ongoing and historical track record. The bodies keep piling up, but the ideology that produced those bodies always gets a free pass. You know what this is? It’s the equivalent of Holocaust denial for the Left.While those on the left would be horrified if anyone denied the Holocaust or downplayed its evils, they often do the same thing for the results of communism. And so young people today think that socialism is a good thing and cheer Bernie Sanders' panegyrics to socialism. What have they missed that they can believe that? Here’s what they’ve missed: the artificial famine in Ukraine, the Soviet Gulags, the forced deportation of Lithuanians, the persecution of Christians, China’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, North Korea’s horrific prison camps and famines, the systematic impoverishment of Cuba, and now Venezuela’s collapse into starvation and mass-murder. All of this should be absolutely required background knowledge for any educated person....Now when I cite all of this history, there’s always someone who insists that it isn’t fair to pin all of these crimes on “socialism” because those examples weren’t really socialism. The only “real” socialism is the warm, fuzzy welfare-statism of a handful of innucuous Western European countries. This is a pretty obvious version of the No True Scotsman fallacy, and a good way of disavowing responsibility for the disastrous results of a system you praised just a few years earlier.But these crimes follow inevitably from the basic idea behind socialism: the idea that the good of “society” as a collective is more important the rights or even the life of the individual. That’s the “social” in “socialism,” and by throwing out the rights and liberty of the individual, it serves as a rationalization for an endless amount of carnage. Who cares if this particular person—or a few million people—suffer, so long as you can [...]



Cruising the Web

2017-04-25T06:25:49.265-04:00

Politico has published an investigation into what Obama did in order to get the Iranian deal. The details are horrifying. As part of the deal President Obama announced a one-time release of seven Iranian-Americans that Obama described as "civilians" in exchange for Tehran's pledge to free five Americans. But Obama was lying to us about who these men were.In his Sunday morning address to the American people, Obama portrayed the seven men he freed as “civilians.” The senior official described them as businessmen convicted of or awaiting trial for mere “sanctions-related offenses, violations of the trade embargo.”In reality, some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran.And in a series of unpublicized court filings, the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men, all of them fugitives. The administration didn’t disclose their names or what they were accused of doing, noting only in an unattributed, 152-word statement about the swap that the U.S. “also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.”Politico goes on to detail the actions taken by these men that clearly indicate their support of terrorism such as conspiring to buy thousands of assault rifles or smuggling components for IEDs, the types that have been used to kill Americans in Iraq. And there was this guy:The biggest fish, though, was Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, who had been charged with being part of a conspiracy that from 2005 to 2012 procured thousands of parts with nuclear applications for Iran via China. That included hundreds of U.S.-made sensors for the uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran whose progress had prompted the nuclear deal talks in the first place.The reaction from within the government was not at all happy.When federal prosecutors and agents learned the true extent of the releases, many were shocked and angry. Some had spent years, if not decades, working to penetrate the global proliferation networks that allowed Iranian arms traders both to obtain crucial materials for Tehran’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs and, in some cases, to provide dangerous materials to other countries.“They didn’t just dismiss a bunch of innocent business guys,” said one former federal law enforcement supervisor centrally involved in the hunt for Iranian arms traffickers and nuclear smugglers. “And then they didn’t give a full story of it.”Obama's administration took action after action to smother progress that American officials had been making in the efforts to investigating Iran's efforts to procure and develop nuclear weapons. In its determination to win support for the nuclear deal and prisoner swap from Tehran — and from Congress and the American people — the Obama administration did a lot more than just downplay the threats posed by the men it let off the hook, according to POLITICO’s findings.Through action in some cases and inaction in others, the White House derailed its own[...]



Cruising the Web

2017-04-24T06:35:00.539-04:00

Heather MacDonald argues that the students who are bent on shutting down any opinion with which they disagree are exercising a form of ideological aggression. And those of us who are so appalled by their behavior should not anticipate that their attitudes will change once they're out of college and making their way in the real world. They'll take their fascistic desires to deny opposing viewpoints from being heard.Many observers dismiss such ignorant tantrums as a phase that will end once the “snowflakes” encounter the real world. But the graduates of the academic victimology complex are remaking the world in their image. The assumption of inevitable discrimination against women and minorities plagues every nonacademic institution today, resulting in hiring and promotion based on sex and race at the expense of merit.Seemingly effete academic concepts enter the mainstream at an ever-quickening pace. A December 2016 report on policing from the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services includes a section on “intersectionality”—the campus-spawned notion that individuals who can check off multiple victim boxes experience exponentially higher and more complex levels of life-threatening oppression than lower-status single-category victims.Faculty and campus administrators must start defending the Enlightenment legacy of reason and civil debate. But even if dissenting thought were welcome on college, the ideology of victimhood would still wreak havoc on American society and civil harmony. The silencing of speech is a massive problem, but it is a symptom of an even more profound distortion of reality.I fear that a decade or so from now when these snowflakes who trumpet their victimhood have gotten jobs throughout the country and are then in a position to impose their attitudes throughout HR offices across the country.What all these people bleating about "hate speech," there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding about the First Amendment protections of freedom of speech. As John Daniel Davidson explains, the Supreme Court has rejected the idea that there is a "hate speech" exception to freedom of speech.There are, of course, certain kinds of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment. But those have nothing to do with hate speech, which has no legal definition. For example, there’s an exception for “fighting words,” which the courts have defined as a face-to-face insult directed at a specific person for the purpose of provoking a fight.But fighting words can’t be expanded to mean hate speech—or even bigoted speech. In the early 1990s, the city of St. Paul tried to do just that, by punishing what it considered bigoted fighting words under its Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance. The case, which involved a white teenager burning a cross made from taped-together broken chair legs in the front yard of a black family that lived across the street, went to the U.S. Supreme Court.The court ruled the city’s ordinance was facially unconstitutional (which means a statute is always unconstitutional and hence void) and that it constituted viewpoint-based discrimination. Writing for the majority in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992), Justice Antonin Scalia explained that, as written,the ordinance applies only to ‘fighting words’ that insult, or provoke violence, ‘on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender.’ Displays containing abusive invective, no matter how vicious or severe, are permissible unless they are addressed to one of the specified disfavored topics. Those who wish to use ‘fighting words’ in connection with other ideas—to express hostility, for example, on th[...]