2017-01-21T19:21:00-05:00Newly inaugurated President Donald Trump continued his celebratory weekend by stopping by the Central Intelligence Agency on Saturday afternoon to give a stream-of-consciousness-style address praising the nation's spies, regurgitating campaign moments, (once again) arguing that America should have seized Iraqi oil after the 2003 invasion, and bemoaning how America supposedly "never wins anything anymore." The weirdest part of the whole thing, though, was the loud ovation given by CIA staffers after Trump blasted the media as being "among the most dishonest human beings on Earth." Listen to the moment, which happens just after the 10:30 mark: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GMBqDN7-QLg" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> Apparently feeding off the applause, Trump doubled down and claimed, without any evidence at all, that the media had covered up the size of the crowd at his inauguration. He claimed to have seen a report this morning claiming turnout of 250,000 for his speech, but the president said that could not have been true because he saw people lined up "all the way back to the Washington monument" when he spoke. "That's not bad, but it's a lie," he said. "We caught them. We caught them in a beauty and I'm sure they're going to pay a big price." Is this really where we are right now? Day One of the new administration and the president feels like the most pressing issue in the country is whether or not the media accurately reported on the number of people who showed up to hear him speak yesterday? Trump showed during the campaign that he's a man fascinated with the size of, well, many things. At his rallies, he never failed to note the size of the crowd and would frequently ask the cameras to pan around the room to capture it. This became a sort of self-fulfilling promise. Like his poll numbers, the size of his crowds were taken as an indication that he was doing well, and doing well was all that mattered. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Trump the president is no different from Trump the candidate, but come on. This is the behavior of a child upset because his classmates failed to attend his birthday party. It's certainly not the behavior of a president who, in Friday's address, promised "the time for empty talk is over; now arrives the hour of action." It's not just Trump. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, held a briefing on Saturday evening to similarly blast the media over the inaugural attendance figures. As Robby Soave notes, the whole incident is "deeply symptomatic of the president's commitment to self-aggrandizement" and his inability to accept even the most venial slights. Trump claiming, without any supporting evidence, that the media is lying about him is nothing new. Neither is his vague threats about making the media "pay a big price," as he put it on Saturday at the CIA. He cut off some outlets from covering his campaign when he didn't like what they said about him, but now that he's the president such threats have to be seen in a different light. Coming from a man who said he wanted "to open up" libel laws in order to allow public figures like himself to sue media outlets over negative press, these moments have to be seen for what they are: outright attacks on the First Amendment, coming just a day after Trump swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. The pivot is coming tomorrow, I'm sure. [...]
2017-01-21T19:03:00-05:00Well that was something. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a public statement this afternoon in which he eviscerated the press for reporting (correctly) that President Trump's inauguration drew smaller crowds than President Obama's. Spicer was also furious at TIME for claming that the White House removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. This story was indeed inaccurate—the bust was not removed. Trump also slammed the reporter, Zeke Miller, during his press conference at the CIA earlier today. Miller quickly corrected his reporting and apologized to the White House. Sean Spicer even tweeted "Apology accepted." Correction: The MLK bust is still in the Oval Office. It was obscured by an agent and door. — Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) January 21, 2017 But during Spicer's afternoon address to the media, the issue was again raised. More alarming was Spicer's attacks on the media for pointing out the true fact that there weren't as many people at the inauguration as anticipated. Spicer claimed that the decision to put white covers over the grass on the National Mall made gaps in the crowds more obvious than they had been for previous inaugurations. "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe," said Spicer. "Attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong." It isn't shameful to lessen public enthusiasm for the inauguration, given that Trump's inauguration speech was a dark moment for U.S. economic policy. But anyway, there's little reason to believe Trump's inauguration crowds were as large as Obama's. As New York Times correspondent Binyamin Applebaum tweeted, the images speak for themselves. Compare the crowds: 2009 inauguration at left, 2017 inauguration at right.#Inauguration pic.twitter.com/y7RhIR2nfC — Binyamin Appelbaum (@BCAppelbaum) January 20, 2017 Note that the Department of the Interior retweeted the above tweet, which apparently got the agency in trouble with its new boss. Spicer claimed that the number of people using the D.C. Metro this weekend supported his contention that the Trump crowds were massive, but according to The Washington Post, Metro usage was down significantly: 570,000 trips compared to 1.1 million in 2009 and 700,000 in 2013. It's true the media has made mistakes when writing about Trump. BuzzFeed made a major one, TIME a lesser one. But that does not change the fact that Trump lies through his teeth about everything. The argument about inauguration crowds may seem like an unimportant aspect of Trump's lies, but it's deeply symptomatic of the president's commitment to self-aggrandizement. He is a uniquely thin-skinned political figure who can't stand to have the pageantry of his reign mocked or criticized. If you say the emperor has no clothes, be prepared to be accused of peddling fake news. The denizens of a free society should be disturbed that their president demands everyone recognize the greatness and bigness of his crowds. Watch Spicer's presser here. [...]
2017-01-21T15:29:00-05:00The Women's March in Washington, DC today was massively attended and sprawling in its range of speakers, performers, and attendees. As with many such events, the tent keeps getting bigger until it is so large that no real political agenda is put forward. You can read the organizers' principles here. Whether the march succeeds in "launching a movement" is anybody's guess, but the relative failure of the Tea Party and Occupy Movements to either stick to effective single-issue advocacy (pushing against spending, in the case of the Tea Party) or even persist (Occupy) suggest how hard it is to transform marches into movements. At the very least, though, the size of the march is a visible indicator that the country remains sharply divided politically. Curiously (and despite his "pussy-grabbing" comments that surfaced during the campaign), the focus of ire—Donald Trump—supports paid parental leave and equal pay for women, He also (scandalously for a Republican) has praised Planned Parenthood despite being anti-abortion. Comments by Ashley Judd, who has made controversial statements about everything from politics to hip-hop (which she once called part of "rape culture"), have been flowing freely on Twitter since she appeared earlier today. She recited a poem written by a 19-year-old Tennessee woman named Nina Donovan and that ended in a full-fury callout against Donald Trump. Along the way, she trafficked in some dodgy stats about pay inequality among women of different races and ethnicities and castigated states that levy sales tax on tampons but not Rogaine (a treatment for baldness). But it's also a pretty great riff about "nasty women" and feminism too. I suspect that how you react to Judd's comments—she starts out by cutting off filmmaker Michael Moore—will say a lot about how you respond more generally to the demonstration itself. Take a look now: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VNXMOxBbt6g" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> Between today's march and yesterday's inaugural address, one thing is clear: The two major parties and the ideological positions that they represent are pretty much locked in mutual strangleholds. Despite winning the White House and holding majorities in both houses of Congress, the Republican Party is at odds with broad and mostly growing majorities of Americans when it comes to issues such as immigration, marriage equality, pot legalization, and free trade. Despite claiming to favor smaller government, the last time the party held such control of the federal government, it massively increased spending in all areas, from entitlements to education to defense to welfare. If Republicans govern like that again while working overtime to placate social conservatives, their majority will be short-lived. Democrats have their own obvious problems. Their practical leadership, such as it is, is ancient not simply in chronological terms (Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren are all old) but in policy terms. The Democratic agenda as implemented by Barack Obama in his first two years in office (when the Democrats controlled Congress) was unpopular enough to elect a Republican Congress again. Obamacare is clearly not working as intended and remains genuinely unpopular with people. Decreasing numbers of us trust the government to be competent in controlling more aspects of our personal and work lives, which seems to be all the Democrats talk about. Their ideas are all rehashes from the last gasp of liberalism in the late 1970s, as if even the presidency of Bill Clinton never happened. In terms of politics, we seem stuck between two false choices that fewer and fewer of us want to make. To riff off a sign I saw during coverage of today's march, we have one tribe that wants the government to control women's uteruses and another one that want the government out of uteruses, except to pay for all health care. The general intellectual incoherence and financial unusustainability of tradition[...]
(image) The comedian Gallagher once joked that customers don't like to hear they're being charged more for using credit cards—they'd rather hear they're getting a "discount for cash." But in New York and some other states, it's not just what customers want to hear. Telling customers there's a surcharge to pay by credit card can actually land business owners in jail. Yet it's perfectly legal to tell them something costs less if they pay cash.
That, at least, is how New York officials enforced the law, which—read literally—actually only prohibits shopkeepers from charging customers different prices depending on how they pay. Passed in the 1980s, the law is supposedly intended to protect consumers from hidden fees. But business owners must pay processing fees that don't apply to cash transactions. Charging customers to pay that fee makes perfect sense. That's why New York officials didn't punish businesses that said they were giving cash customers a discount.
Yet that also means the state was violating the free speech rights of businesses who used the word "surcharge"—which, after all, is the truth. Business owners therefore sued on First Amendment grounds, and the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case last week. Timothy Sandefur explains why the Court needs to respect the First Amendment and rule against the state's unconstitutional regulation.
2017-01-21T09:15:00-05:00Donald Trump's rise from political outsider to President of the United States, carried by a populist uprising against the ruling class, has drawn comparisons to Andrew Jackson, America's first populist president. Commentators and historians alike have noted the similarities between Trump and Jackson, and Trump's inner circle seems to have embraced Jackson as something of a role model. Steve Bannon, Trump's senior counselor, told The Hollywood Reporter that he sees Jackson's presidency as guide for how to "build an entirely new political movement." Trump's inaugural address on Friday was an extension of his populist campaign, and, intentionally or not, reflected Jackson's first inaugural address from 188 years ago. Both promised to reform the federal government, expand national infrastructure, and provide for a more robust military. When he took the oath of office and delivered his first inaugural, Jackson claimed that his victory was a "demonstration of public sentiment" calling for reforms to "the patronage of the Federal Government," which Jackson said, "have placed or continued power in unfaithful or incompetent hands." Sound familiar? On Friday, Trump promised that his administration would transfer power back to the people. "A small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost," he said. "Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth." Times have changed since 1829, of course. Jackson stepped into White House as the leader of a nation that barely stretched west of the Mississippi River and still allowed human beings to be kept as property. Trump is the leader of a global superpower with a whole different set of problems. The major difference between the two, at least in terms of how they rose to the presidency, is that Jackson lost his first bid for the White House in 1824—in what's certainly the most controversial election in U.S. history; one that makes Bush V. Gore look tame by comparison—before winning four years later. Still, the similarities abound. Jackson, like Trump, was a political novice when he ran for president and was very much outside the political establishment of the day. Like Trump, he campaigned against that establishment and had the good fortune of doing so at a moment in history when existing political alliance and battle-lines were being redrawn. Against those fracturing political alliances, Jackson's name-recognition and fame (he had been a general during the War of 1812 and was hailed as a hero of that conflict's Battle of New Orleans) helped him stand out—in much the same way that Trump used his own name-recognition and fame to rise to the top of a deeply divided Republican Party. On Friday, Trump bemoaned the loss of "trillions of dollars" rebuilding infrastructure in foreign countries and called for building of "new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation." Jackson, too, promised the then-expanding United States a program of "internal improvement and the diffusion of knowledge, so far as they can be promoted by the constitutional acts of the federal government." Likewise, on foreign policy, Trump's promise to "seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first," echoes Jackson. "With foreign nations it will be my study to preserve peace and to cultivate friendship on fair and honorable terms," the seventh president, presiding over a pre-superpower America, said. Perhaps a bit of that 19th century humility would be a good thing for America's foreign policy two centuries later. Yet, if Trump sees himself as something of a modern day Jacksonian figure (and he has the hair for it, if nothing else), then there are other lessons for Trump to take from Jackson's first inaugural. For starters, Trump could embrace the long-l[...]
(image) In Virginia, where Founding Father George Washington famously distilled whiskey, momentum is growing to change a decades-old Virginia law that hurts restaurateurs who opt to sell liquor in the state.
Under the law, the state requires food and nonalcoholic beverage sales at restaurants to equal at least 45 percent of their gross sales of liquor and food. Today, the state touts this ratio as "paramount." Restaurateurs argue otherwise.
As the Virginian-Pilot reported this week, the basis of the law, first established in the late 1960s and amended in 1980, is baldly prohibitionist. Lawmakers, the paper reports, "didn't want saloons propagating across the state." Baylen Linnekin explains the silliness of these regulations.
2017-01-21T07:30:00-05:00Two members of Young Americans for Liberty's (YAL) Kellogg Community College (KCC) chapter have filed suit against the Michigan school following their arrest on campus last September for passing out pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution without administrative permission. Michelle Gregoire (a student at KCC) and Brandon Withers, along with KCC's YAL chapter are suing the school, its Board of Trustees, and several high-ranking administrators for violating the students' "clearly established constitutional rights" when they were charged with trespassing and jailed for seven hours (the charges which were dismissed 10 days later, according to Watchdog.org). The plaintiffs claim the school violated their rights of freedom of speech, due process, and equal protection under the law, and as a public institution, KCC is bound by the First Amendment. Before having campus police place them under arrest, school administrators insisted Gregoire and Withers were in violation of the school's solicitation policy because they had not received prior approval to recruit for their organization, which the students claimed they had repeatedly attempted to obtain through official channels to no avail. Watch video of their arrest below, where Gregoire is warned to not return to campus without permission, even though she attends the school: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5OnIuRetVb4" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> The lawsuit alleges, "By policy and practice, Kellogg Community College claims the unchecked right to prohibit students from engaging in practically any constitutionally protected expression anywhere on campus unless they first obtain permission from KCC officials," adding: Thus, students may not speak spontaneously anywhere on campus. Furthermore, KCC maintains an unwritten speech zone policy limiting student expression to one location on campus. If students express themselves on campus without a permit or in any other location, KCC deems them to be violating the Code of Conduct for Students, which exposes them to a variety of sanctions, including expulsion. Through the permitting process, KCC retains unfettered discretion to determine both whether students may speak at all and where they may speak. In so doing, it fails to protect students against content and viewpoint discrimination. These policies and practices chill protected student speech and disable spontaneous student speech on campus. Also according to the lawsuit, the school confines free speech activities to an information tables at the school's student center, which you guessed it, can only be used with the official permission of the administration. KCC's Public Information Director shared this statement with Reason: Kellogg Community College learned this week that an organization, the Alliance Defending Freedom, has announced it is filing a federal complaint against the College regarding a trespassing incident which occurred in September 2016. The complaint itself has yet to be delivered to KCC; therefore, the details of the complaint have yet to be reviewed by legal counsel. The College, which supports the U.S. Constitution and takes seriously any allegation that one's freedom of expression has been violated, will address this matter thoroughly. On the advice of their attorneys, Gregoire and Withers declined to speak with Reason, but YAL President Cliff Maloney, Jr. said in a phone call his group has launched a national "Fight for Free Speech" campaign, which he describes as a "coordinated effort to tackle and defeat these so-called free speech zones and unconstitutional policies." Maloney adds that these students did not expect to be arrested and that wasn't the purpose of their activity, saying "If [students] are facing pushback from tyrants on campus, we ask them to film it, to capture it, so we can document it," but YAL never aims to ma[...]
(image) There were isolated examples of violence and property destruction at the Trump inauguration protests in Washington, D.C. on Friday—and one of the victims was alt-right leader Richard Spencer.
Spencer, who can accurately be described as a white nationalist, was being interviewed on camera when a protester walked up to him and punched him in the face.
Spencer holds truly reprehensible views, and he deserves less of the media's attention. But he doesn't deserve what he got today. Violence is never okay, no matter how despicable its target.
Striking Spencer isn't just morally wrong—it's tactically foolish. It allows him to play the victim. It directs the spotlight toward him. And, inevitably, it grants him sympathy.
Don't fight fascism by acting like a fascist.
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The only place in town Trump supporters and Trump protesters could be found doing something together on inauguration day is "waiting in line for marijuana," says Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DCMJ, the pro-cannabis advocacy group that was key in making pot legal in the nation's capital.
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For a guy that wants to make America great again, Donald Trump's first remarks as President were a far cry from America being that shining city on a hill. In fact, it might be a dystopia you wouldn't recognize.
Produced by Alexis Garcia. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2017-01-20T18:15:00-05:00Many Americans are very, very angry or distressed that Donald Trump became president of the United States today. In looking for someone to blame, I've seen many swing at what's closest: relatives, friends, or business associates who either voted for Trump, or did not contribute to his possible defeat by voting for the candidate most likely to beat him, Hillary Clinton. In the dock, then, for what might happen to America in the next four years are not just conscious Trump voters, but Jill Stein and Gary Johnson ones, as well as the usual huge percentage of Americans (45 percent this time around) who choose not to vote at all. (If your communities in social networking and real life have given no examples of angrily writing off or at least deeply straining relationships over Trump, you are fortunate, and can read up on aspects of this line of thinking at any one of these links.) Some relationships may in fact be entirely based on the joys (they can be real, and libertarians for whom true political value affinity is rare know it well) of amity on big questions of politics and policy, the ethical and prudential role of government, what candidates or parties are best for your vision of America. If you have a relationship entirely based on patting each other on the back for thinking properly about politics, and that is strained when someone you thought you understood failed to vote for Clinton, perhaps goodbyes in that case are for the best. For some, the sweet pleasures of soulful agreement can shift to the more piquant but still real joys of arguing about politics, but that's hard to do if you know in your bones that political opposition is or must necessarily be a sign of pure evil. Being mellow about political disagreement might come easier to a libertarian than to most anti-Trump Americans. Libertarians often believe many of the activities furthered by Republicans and Democrats alike constitute grave evils, from wars to big chunks of criminal justice to the way even seemingly minor or benign business regulations can crush dreams, halt wealth creation, and prevent good things from happening. Libertarians have mostly learned to get along with our fellow Americans regardless. The alternative is shoving ourselves to literal margins, unable to happily commune with anyone. No offense to bold embracers of the hermit rebel life out of a sense of righteousness—but that seems like an overly arid existence, lacking in the glories of human companionship. If you aren't a total policy nerd obsessive, those glories of human companionship shouldn't have much to do with agreeing on who should be president, much less agreeing on how much action on your part was necessary to stop Trump, or whoever, from becoming president. (Trump's success might be particularly unnerving to many who managed to build a personal life where core political agreement can be simply presumed—not that hard when your politics are within a certain narrow range many other Americans agree with. Most polite people seeking a calm, happy social life would rather shut up about politics than argue about it anyway, so such disagreement is often, for all the right reasons, hidden anyway. The widespread adoption of Facebook and other social networks alas makes that a lot harder.) Whatever pleasures or advantages you get from the vast majority of personal relationships, then, whether it be honoring the bonds of family, a shared past, or just the ability to pass time together in an atmosphere of pleasant mutual affection, amusement, or caring, had nothing to do with the disagreement-free sharing of opinions about the president. But I'm soft pedaling what's really at issue here, evading the vital point, a passionate anti-Trumper could say. The problem isn't something as bloodless as someone's "op[...]
2017-01-20T17:38:00-05:00The Senate voted this evening to confirm retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to the post of defense by a 98-1 margin. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who was nominated for attorney general, did not vote. The lone no vote came from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who said she was concerned about civilian control of the military. Mattis retired in 2013, last serving as commander of the United States Central Command, which covers Southwest Asia, the Middle East and Egypt. Among his first actions, President Trump signed a law passed by Congress earlier this month that provided a waiver to permit Mattis to lead the Defense Department despite having left the armed services less than seven years ago, as a 1947 law requires. Previously, only Truman nominee Gen. George Marshall needed a waiver, just a few years after the law was first passed. Mattis said at his his confirmation hearing last week that his goals were to "strengthen military readiness, strengthen our alliances in league with our diplomatic partners, and bring business reforms to the Department of Defense by instilling budget discipline and holding our leaders accountable." He also said he wanted to keep U.S. armed forces "the best equipped and most lethal force in the world." Mattis also identified Russia as among the "principle threats" in the world today, breaking away from comments made by Trump on the campaign trail and while he was president-elect, and expressed support for the Iran nuclear deal. Russian President Vladimir Putin was "trying to break the North Atlantic alliance," he said of Russia's relationship with and attitude toward NATO, an alliance Trump criticized on the campaign trail. He told the Senate he explained his thoughts on Russia to Trump. "I would consider the principal threats to start with Russia, and it would certainly include any nations that are looking to intimidate nations around their periphery, regional nations nearby them, whether it be with weapons of mass destruction or, I would call it, unusual, unorthodox means of intimidating them, that sort of thing," Mattis said, describing some the tactics Russia used in its invasion of eastern Ukraine and seizure of Crimea. "And at the same time, as the chairman has pointed out, we face now an era where we're going to be fighting the terrorist threat. I mean, that's simply a reality, we are going to have to address that one." Mattis insisted the U.S. abidie by the Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration could choose not to enforce. "I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement, it's not a friendship treaty," Mattis said. "But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies." Mattis also said he wouldn't have accepted the nomination if he thought President Trump "would not be open" to his advice, and said he'd be candid with the president and Congress. He said the U.S. "shouldn't be turning to the military to answer all of our problems in the world." Mattis said he wanted to accelerate the strategy against ISIS, while Republicans in Congress have not yet talked about any kind of new authorization for the use of military force or other reassertion of Congressional war powers. Mattis will be one of three retired generals in Trump's inner circle, along with John Kelly, expected to be confirmed later this evening, and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. [...]
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Missed Trump's first speech as president? No problem, here's the highlight!
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If you didn't think Donald Trump was communicating through your television set before, he definitely is now. Check out "They're Here! Trump Administration Meets Poltergeist."
Click below for full text, links, and downloadable versions.
Via ITV News comes this exquisite short video of a women screaming out as Donald Trump officially became the president of the United States. And because this is the internet, one of the first posts immediately after it was a gif of Darth Vader responding in similar fashion.
Thank you, internet. Irony, humor, dank and non-dank memes, and so much more. Truly this is an age of miracles.
An anti-Trump protester screams 'no' as Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th US President pic.twitter.com/qmsaFmMSkr— ITV News (@itvnews) January 20, 2017
2017-01-20T15:40:00-05:00While Donald Trump was delivering an inauguration speech filled with grim references to "American carnage" and out-of-control crime on Friday, his White House was already launching its rhetorical war against police critics. "The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong," the White House says in its new page on law enforcement, launched almost simultaneously with Trump's inauguration. "The Trump Administration will end it." Like so much of Trump's rhetoric, the page is long on bigly statements and short on details about how his administration will accomplish the fraught task of repairing relations between the men and women in blue and the communities they serve. Much of the plan has to do with Trump's preoccupation with ending illegal immigration. So, what Trump really means when he talks about ending the "anti-police" atmosphere is stopping the federal government from exposing civil rights violations that give credence to police reform groups and Black Lives Matter activists. Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department Civil Rights Division dramatically escalated the number of pattern and practice investigations into police departments for civil rights violations. The division's scathing reports on the Ferguson, Baltimore, and Chicago police departments, launched in the wake of controversial deaths at the hands of officers, revealed systemic civil rights violations and unconstitutional practices that fueled much of the national conversation on policing. Those days are over. One of the concrete plans the Trump administration does have for restoring "law and order" is slashing the budget of the Civil Rights Division by $58 million, roughly a third of its requested budget for the current year. Trump's pick for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions, has long been a staunch supporter of police and critic of the Justice Department's civil rights investigations. If the Trump administration thinks, though, that giving lip service to "blue lives matter" rhetoric and shielding police from scrutiny will end antipathy toward police, it's in for a rough discovery. It's hard to overstate the current trust gap between police and minority communities in large cities, the morale problems among those departments, and even the difference in perception between white and black police officers. As my colleague Ed Krayewski wrote, a recent wide-ranging Pew survey on police attitudes found that: More than 85 percent of all cops surveyed said high-profile incidents of police brutality have made their jobs harder—nearly 75 percent of respondents say highly publicized incidents of police brutality have increased tensions between police officers and black community, while 72 percent say cops in their department are "less willing to stop and question suspicious persons" (with the number as high as 86 percent of cops in departments with at least 2,600 police officers). Few cops (just 14 percent) said they thought the general public understood their risks at least somewhat well. By comparison, 83 percent of American adults insist they understood risks police faced. 87 percent of big city cops said interactions with black residents had become tenser, while 61 percent of cops in smaller departments agreed [...] Only 27 percent of white officers said they believed protesters were driven at least in part by a desire for police accountability, while nearly 70 percent of black police officers acknowledged as much. Older officers were also more likely to believe protesters were genuinely concerned than younger officers were. 63 percent of white cops said they would tell a colleague to break d[...]
(image) Kids these days! Remember the good old days when the worst trouble a mischievous child could get into was maybe joining a killer sex cult or blowing herself up in a Greenwich Village bomb factory? Well, television this week is full of evidence that Dennis the Menace has left the building, probably armed with a hatchet and a pocket full of strap-ons.
Actually, HBO's documentary Beware the Slenderman doesn't deserve such a flippant introduction. It's a serious—and seriously disturbing—piece of work about a pair of 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who, inspired by a creepy internet meme, lured a friend into the woods after a birthday party and stabbed her 19 times. That she survived was no fault of theirs.
The news of that 2014 attack on 12-year-old Payton Leutner by her supposed friends Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier was, for most American grown-ups, the first word they'd heard of Slenderman, a lanky, faceless character who for the past five years had been haunting Internet chatboards and campfire-story sites. Television critic Glenn Garvin explains more and also checks out CW's incarnation of Archie and his crew in Riverdale.
(image) In his inaugural address today, Donald Trump drew a connection between loyalty and patriotism, claiming that loyalty to country leads to individual virtue.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.
In his first inaugural in 2009, Barack Obama also tied the two concepts together:
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends—honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism—these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility—a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
When you set aside Obama's customary poetry and Trump's habitual bluntness, both men are circling around the same idea: that loyalty to the state will lead Americans on a path to personal goodness. That working together toward a common goal of national greatness is the way to self-betterment. They're far from alone in this view; hell, flirtation with the causal relationship between being a good man and a good citizen goes all the way back to Plato.
But for a refreshing contrast to this state-centered view of life in the-not-too-distant past, take a gander at the inaugural remarks of George H.W. Bush, who was unable to attend today due to illness:
We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood, and town better than he found it....No President, no government, can teach us to remember what is best in what we are.
2017-01-20T14:27:00-05:00Republicans got their wish today for a president that would utter the term "radical Islamic terrorism," when Donald Trump promised to "unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth." The use of the term became on issue on the campaign trail during the Republican primary season, one that stood in for the more complex question of how the war on terror ought to be conducted and what it meant. Trump's use of the phrase came along with an expansive definition of what the war on terror meant. The Obama administration laid the groundwork for this. The post-9/11 authorization for the use of military force has been used for counter-terrorism operations in North Africa and the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, and West and East Africa. The U.S. has targeted groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabab, as well as Al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliates in places like Libya and Afghanistan, whose fighters are often too young to remember the attacks of September 11, 2001, let alone to have anything to do with planning, authorizing, committing, or aiding the attack, or harboring organizations or people who did, as the AUMF stipulates. Trump's promise to "reinforce old alliances and form new ones" suggests Trump is interested in expanding the global war on terror in places like Syria. Of the 26,000 bombs the U.S. was estimated to have dropped in 2016, about 12,000 are estimated to have been dropped on Syria, the most of any target country. Syria, along with Iraq and Afghanistan, are considered "areas of hostility" for U.S. government reporting purposes. The Obama administration insisted U.S. national security interests in Syria included the removal of Russia-ally Bashar Assad from power. Different parts of the U.S. government armed different sides of the conflict, some of which opposed each other. Disengaging from Syria and not permitting the Russian intervention to influence U.S. foreign policy-making is an altogether different prospect than aligning with Russia to prosecute the war on terror together. "We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first," Trump said in his inaugural address—U.S. policy makers should ask whether America's best interests lie in more military operations around the world. "We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone," Trump continued, "but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow." That departed from Bush-era rhetoric. In his second inaugural address, President George W. Bush insisted that the "survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands," and so it would be U.S. policy "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Tyranny was Bush's go-to word for the war on terror—he didn't mention radical Islamic terrorism in his 2005 inaugural address. "There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant," Bush said in that address, "and that is the force of human freedom." Freedom, of course, was another go-to word in talking about the war on terror. Obama struck a similar tone, in 2009, describing the war on terror as a "war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred" insisting Americans woul[...]
2017-01-20T13:55:00-05:00The website for the White House has been updated and relaunched to fit the new President Donald Trump administration. It is obviously pretty bare bones for now (you can read his inauguration speech here), but the issues section puts his agenda on open display. For those less interested in speeches and more interested in actual upcoming policy hints, it's worth looking over to see where things are going. He has six sections—energy, foreign policy, jobs, military, law enforcement, and trade. Here's a few interesting things worth noting, both good and bad: The administration will embrace fracking. Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own. We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure. Less expensive energy will be a big boost to American agriculture, as well. Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, Trump is also "committed" to the white whale of "energy independence." Just as with trade, America benefits when we get energy cheaply no matter where it comes from. It's great that he recognizes that cheaper energy creates jobs (by reducing costs). It's a shame he doesn't realize it's another good that can free Americans up to do other things if we can get it more cheaply elsewhere. The administration will use military action to fight the Islamic State (and increase the size of the military) Defeating ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups will be our highest priority. To defeat and destroy these groups, we will pursue aggressive joint and coalition military operations when necessary. In addition, the Trump Administration will work with international partners to cut off funding for terrorist groups, to expand intelligence sharing, and to engage in cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable propaganda and recruiting. The Trump administration is also calling to "rebuild" the military even though America still overwhelms every other country's forces, saying "our military dominance must be unquestioned." But he does also call for embracing diplomacy and his saber-rattling here is focused entirely on terrorist groups and has no suggestion of interference in other countries' governance. The administration is calling for a moratorium on new federal regulations. As a lifelong job-creator and businessman, the President also knows how important it is to get Washington out of the way of America's small businesses, entrepreneurs, and workers. In 2015 alone, federal regulations cost the American economy more than $2 trillion. That is why the President has proposed a moratorium on new federal regulations and is ordering the heads of federal agencies and departments to identify job-killing regulations that should be repealed. Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner noticed last night that right as Barack Obama's administration was packing up, the Department of Energy released a new rule that will likely kill off cheap incandescent three-way light bulbs. Libertarians and conservatives who love trade should be doing the best they can to push Trump into focusing on these kinds of issues. This is what is hurting both manufacturers and consumers. Foreign trade mak[...]
2017-01-20T13:40:00-05:00How misinformed—delusional, even—is Donald Trump's understanding of the economy? Totally. Here's a key passage from his inauguration speech (full transcript after the jump): We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. Let's be clear: Manufacturing jobs (factory jobs) peaked as a percentage of the workforce in 1943 at around 40 percent, during the mobilization efforts for World War II. Since then, they have declined at a perfectly steady rate (red line below). In terms of raw numbers, manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979. The United States produces more stuff with fewer workers. Not only are these jobs never coming back, they disappeared from our shores decades ago. Only people who are wilfully naive or mendacious about basic economic reality and history can continue to assert that declines in manufacturing employment are recent or a major part of contemporary economic dislocation. FFS, I lived in Buffalo from 1990 to 1993 and even then people were saying the factories and the mills had just shut down, even though the big declines were already 20 and more years in the past. Of course, Donald Trump is not alone in constantly talking about bring factory jobs back to America. Bernie Sanders never stops talking about and it was a regular line in Hillary Clinton's stump speech, too. In his early years in the White House, especially while selling the stimulus, Barack Obama also pushed that line, along with a very Trumpian "buy American" provision in the stimulus. To paraphrase Bob Dylan paraphrasing Samuel Johnson, economic patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings. In today's global economy—a system that has not only lifted billions of horribly poor people out of extreme poverty but has delivered increasingly improved living standards for Americans—there simply is no such thing as "made in America." Or perhaps a bit less categorically, nothing good will come of increasing the price of imports, whether we're talking about finished goods or raw materials (such as steel). If Donald Trump thinks the "strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon" due to, say, NAFTA, which increased the amount of U.S. good sold in Mexico, just wait until you have to buy a car built with steel only sourced from western Pennsylvania or made more expensive due to tariffs. One more point: The industrial Midwest (also known as the Rust Belt) was key to Donald Trump's victory. The region remains mired in a decades-long slump; states such as Ohio and Michigan have for years been at or near the top when it comes to job loss and population declines in percentage terms. They don't need less trade with foreign countries, they need more; they also need more in-migration from other states. Whether U.S.-born or foreign-born, an influx of people is a sign of a thriving economy. These states need to create better, cheaper business climates by reducing taxes and regulation if they want to have any chance of competing with parts of the country that have better weather and lower start-up costs. When Reason TV and Drew Carey looked at ways to save Cleveland and other once-great American cities, the comparisons [...]
(image) In a 2014 tweet Donald Trump notoriously asked, "Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?" In 2012, Trump tweeted that the concept of global warming had been created by the Chinese to make American manufacturing noncompetitive. During the presidential campaign, he vowed that he would "cancel" the Paris Agreement on climate change. Being his usual consistently inconsistent self, Trump claimed during a Fox News interview last year that the Chinese tweet was a "joke," and he told The New York Times after the election that he would keep an "open mind" about the Paris Agreement.
Yet none of Trump's cabinet picks seem to agree that man-made climate change is hoax.
In the hearings for various cabinet nominees, Democrats have sought mightily to unmask them as "climate change deniers." So far, not one has questioned the scientific reality of man-made global warming. On the other hand, they have tended not to be as alarmed as their interlocutors, and/or have failed to endorse the climate policies that Democrats prefer.
2017-01-20T13:15:00-05:00The Obama administration released its first, and last, annual report summarizing U.S. government strikes on "terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities," which the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) defines in the report as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The report was mandated by an executive order President Obama signed just last year. The Obama administration previously brought up the idea of more drone oversight prior to the 2012 election, but didn't really get anywhere. This year's report listed the number of strikes in 2016 at 53, with 431 to 441 combatants and one non-combatant. The report explains in a footnote that non-combatants are "individuals who may not be made the object of attack under applicable international law." The report does not offer any details on the method of the strikes, in which countries they occurred, nor the identities of any combatants or the lone non-combatant. "The assessment of non-combatant deaths provided to the DNI reflects consideration of credible reports of non-combatant deaths drawn from all-source information, including reports from the media and non-governmental organizations," the report notes, without offering any details or sourcing. "The assessment of non-combatant deaths can include deaths for which there is an insufficient basis for assessing that the deceased is a combatant." In the non-combatant footnote, the only footnote in the page and a half document, the DNI defines a "non-combatant" by what they were not. "The term 'non-combatant' does not include an individual who is part of a belligerent party to an armed conflict, an individual who is taking a direct part in hostilities, or an individual who is targetable in the exercise of U.S. national self-defense." The DNI also insisted that "it is not the case that all military-aged males in the vicinity of a target are deemed to be combatants." In 2012, The New York Times reported about the redefinition of the term "civilian" during the Obama administration which had, in effect, according to administration officials, meant all military-aged males in a strike zone. This week's report follows one last summer that offered similarly suspicious numbers. That one reported that from the beginning of the Obama administration through the end of 2015, U.S. strikes killed between 2,372 and 2,581 combatants and between 64 and 116 civilians, "a fraction of even the most conservative estimates on drone-related killings," The Intercept reported. For 2016, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which provides extensive coverage of the U.S. drone war, identified 49 strikes outside of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, which killed at least 4 to 6 civilians, and 362 to 507 other people killed in strikes The Bureau estimates that between the start of the Obama presidency and the end of 2016, between 384 and 807 civilian deaths in U.S. strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. The Obama administration's final estimate falls at between 65 and 117 civilians. USA Today was unable to get comment from the Obama White House, noting that "Most of the White House press office had left the administration by Thursday," and also reporting about concerns Donald Trump may revoke the executive order that requires even this meager report on U.S. strikes around the world. The final number for the Obama administration is likely to be larger—the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported covert U.S. activities i[...]
2017-01-20T13:05:00-05:00There is precedent for this president. There was another man who leapt directly from pop culture into politics, using showmanship and populist rhetoric to draw huge crowds to his rallies while the pundits pooh-poohed his chances of winning. He was a businessman and radio star named Wilbert Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel, and he was elected governor of Texas in that state's bizarre election of 1938. I wrote about O'Daniel in a Reason story about a year ago. With Donald Trump now assuming the presidency, it's a good moment to remember a man whose rise looks a lot like Trump's: When it became clear that something big was afoot, [newspaper writers] argued that no one could tell whether the crowds consisted of supporters or just gawkers. Did those mobs actually agree with O'Daniel's vague platform? the pundits asked. Or were they only there to enjoy, in the words of the syndicated columnists Drew Pearson and Robert Allen, "a mellifluous radio voice that women gush over and a hill-billy band that delights both young and old"? When the Star-Telegram finally acknowledged that Pappy was attracting "larger and more enthusiastic crowds than any other candidate," it added that many members of those audiences were nonvoters and wondered whether the movement was a "bubble." ...and whose reign may well turn out to look like Trump's as well: When re-election time rolled around in 1940...he hadn't gotten much done at all other than alienate a great deal of Austin. That and start a newspaper. Declaring that "no recent governor has been so unfairly dealt with as the press has dealt with me," he launched The W. Lee O'Daniel News. There and on his radio show, he blamed his failures on evil outside forces—and not just the big failures. When two musicians quit his band, Pappy informed his listeners that "the gang of professional politicians" had "struck another blow at your governor." The sunny side of Pappy's populism was starting to give way to something darker. There are some notable differences as well, starting with the contrast between O'Daniel's moralistic persona and Trump's hedonism. It's hard to imagine Pappy bragging that he grabbed anyone "by the pussy." (O'Daniel's original band, the Light Crust Doughboys, did record a double-entendre song called "Pussy, Pussy, Pussy." But that was after the group and the governor had parted ways.) Still, the parallels are pretty strong, and I've just scratched the surface of them here. To see more of them, you can read my article. In the meantime, since it's Inauguration Day, here is O'Daniel's radio broadcast from August 3, 1941. The governor had just won a special election to the U.S. Senate, and this show went out the day before he took his oath of office: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/inJQ7swZxuw" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> And here, along with a nice collection of photos from O'Daniel's career, is Pappy's band playing his theme song, "Please Pass the Biscuits, Pappy": src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/w2RlFA8tSq0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> One more tidbit for you, though this one isn't a parallel so much as it's a strange coincidence. When O'Daniel's band recorded "Please Pass the Biscuits," the singer on the record was named Leon Huff. Many years later, another musician named Leon Huff co-wrote a tune called "For the Love of Money"; and [...]
(image) In his first speech as President of the United States of America, Donald Trump promised to govern the country as a staunch protectionist with little interest in limited government or individual rights.
"For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry," said Trump. "We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own, and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made other countries rich while the wealth strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon."
There was nothing about shrinking the size of government in the speech; on the contrary, Trump essentially promised much more muscular government intervention into the economy. He betrayed no recognition that leaving private businesses alone—rather than managing them from Washington, D.C.—is the most effective proven method of enriching society.
"One by one the factories shuttered and left our shores, without even a thought for the millions of workers who were left behind," said Trump. "The wealth of the middle class has been ripped from their homes and redistributed across the world. But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future."
A future in which economic protectionism, a ruinous ideology that fails everywhere it's tried, is the governing philosophy of the leader of the free world.
"This American carnage stops right here," said Trump.
"America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries, making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.
"We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American."
Trump framed the speech as a celebratory moment for the people of America: today is the day the forgotten men and women take their country back, he said. But the American people will not be in charge of the government. They hired Trump for that job: a man who feels that it is his prerogative and duty to interfere in every economic decision he doesn't like.
It's terrifying to think that a man who believes "buy American and hire American" should be rules—actual rules—is now in a position to make that happen.
Read the speech here.
2017-01-20T12:19:00-05:00Donald Trump is officially the president of the United States of America. Libertarians have plenty of reasons to be worried. His inaugural speech today was an extended defense of populist protectionism, much like his campaign. From trade to defense spending to entitlements to immigration, Trump has repeatedly promised to take America in a direction that is less open, less free, and more burdened by an oppressive and expansive federal government. Here are nine reasons why libertarians should be very concerned about a Trump presidency: 1) He has repeatedly promised to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants upon taking office, relying on a "special deportation force" to carry out the task. And even in the occasional moments in which he has seemed to recognize that this task would be logistically impossible, he has continued to insist that he will deport several million people right away, and that other undocumented immigrants who are in the country will not have a path to citizenship unless they leave the country first. 2) More generally, Trump's attitude toward immigrants and outsiders ranges from disdain to outright hostility. He has called for a ban on Muslim immigration and the closure of mosques, and he opened his primary campaign by declaring that Mexican immigrants to the U.S. were rapists and criminals. 3) Trump has also promised to build a massive, expensive wall along the southern border, and has insisted that Mexico will pay for its construction, an absurd notion that is already crumbling, as the incoming administration has asked Congress, not Mexico, to pay for the wall. 4) Trump has made clear that his administration will take a much more aggressive stance on trade as well. During the campaign, he floated the idea of a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods, which would be deeply harmful to consumers and the U.S. economy. Since winning the election, his administration has raised the possibility of a 10 percent tariff on all imports, a policy that could spark a global recession. After winning in November, he said he would pull the nation out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on day one of his presidency. 5) Trump's authoritarian leanings extend to national security as well. He has said that he would institute a program of torture for suspected terrorists that goes beyond what went on in the Bush administration, and has also said that he would kill the families of terrorists. When informed that military commanders might resist such an order, Trump said that he would force them to commit war crimes. 6) The new president has a dim view of constitutional free speech protections too. The First Amendment, he said, provides "too much protection" for free speech. He complained that in the U.S. "our press is allowed to say whatever they want." On the campaign trail, he said he wanted to "open up" libel laws, and threatened to take action against the owner of The Washington Post after the paper published material he didn't like. He thinks flag burning should be illegal, and has repeatedly used the legal system to punish those who irritate him. 7) Trump has shown no interest in meaningful budget reforms: He has repeatedly said he will not cut Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security—all of which are facing trillions in unfunded liabilities and are among the biggest drivers of the nation's long-term de[...]
2017-01-20T12:00:00-05:00Donald Trump is nobody's idea of a libertarian but his presidency provides a tremendous opportunity to advance libertarian policies, outcomes, and aspirations in our politics and broader culture. Those of us who believe in reducing the size, scope, and spending of the federal government and expanding the autonomy, opportunities, and ability of people to live however they choose should welcome the Trump era. That's not because of the new president's agenda but because he enters office as the man who will inevitably close out a failing 20th-century model of governance. Liberal, conservative, libertarian: We all understand that whatever the merits of the great political, economic, and cultural institutions of the last 70 years—the welfare state built on unsustainable entitlement spending; a military that spends more and more and succeeds less and less; the giant corporations (ATT, IBM, General Motors) that were "beyond" market forces until they weren't; rigid social conventions that sorted people into stultifying binaries (black and white, male and female, straight and mentally ill)—these are everywhere in ruins or retreat. The taxi cab—a paradigmatic blending of private enterprise and state power in a system that increasingly serves no one well—is replaced by ride-sharing services that are endlessly innovative, safer, and self-regulating. Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson's campaign slogan—Uber everything—was the one self-evident truth uttered throughout the 2016 campaign. All aspects of our lives are being remade according to a new, inherently libertarian operating system that empowers individuals and groups to pursue whatever experiments in living they want. As one of us (Nick Gillespie) wrote with Matt Welch in The Declaration of Independents, the loosening of controls in our commercial, cultural, and personal lives has consistently enriched our world. The sharing economy, 3D printing and instantaneous global communication means businesses grow, flourish, adapt, and die in ways that perfectly fulfill Schumpeterian creative destruction. We live in a world where consuming art, music, video, text, and other forms of creative expression is its own form of production and allows us to connect in lateral rather than hierarchical ways. Pernicious racial and ethnic categories persist but they have been mostly supplanted by a tolerance and a level of lived pluralism that was unimaginable even 20 years ago, when less than half of Americans approved of interracial marriages. Politics, Welch and Gillespie wrote, is a lagging indicator of where America is already heading and in many cases has already arrived. Thus the White House Donald Trump enters and the government he heads is being dragged into the 21st century by forces against which he will ultimately be proven impotent. He famously wants to "make America great again," by which he means to return to the imagined world of his younger years, when the United States could dominate (or pretend to, anyway) the global economy, keep jobs from leaving, and successfully direct foreign affairs from the barrel of a tank or via international accords. That for his entire baby-boomer life the country was rarely "winning" on any of those scores is beside the point to Trump, even as it's important for the rest of us to realize [...]
2017-01-20T11:20:00-05:00Lots of activists are gnashing teeth and rending garments over the passage in the House of Representatives of the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act which would require both houses of Congress to vote on any new regulations issued by federal agencies that have an economic impact exceeding $100 million. The Union of Concerned Scientists asserts the REINS Act exists "to 'rein in' public health, safety, and environmental protections, and nothing more. They have been written and drafted by corporate lobbyists not to improve the federal regulatory process, but to stymy it, and add yet another roadblock for implementing sensible safeguards." Over at The New Scientist, physical sciences editor Lisa Grossman dismisses the REINS Act supporters' claim that its purpose is "increase accountability for and transparency in the Federal regulatory process." Instead she sees a darker motive: "In practice, [passage of the REINS Act] could mean that years of painstaking research that go into writing regulations can simply be ditched, replaced with simple political whims....the fact that Congress seems eager to strip science out of the rule-making process is part of a larger trend: replacing scientific expertise with the vagaries of politics." As necessary and valuable as scientific expertise is, scientists and federal bureaucrats are not experts at evaluating and making benefit-risk tradeoffs. If members of Congress get those tradeoffs wrong, voters can fire those whom they believe are not acting in ways that adequately protect their health, safety, and livelihoods. As my colleague Eric Boehm has reported the federal regulatory state is out of control with new rules proliferating under President Obama at near light speed. As Case Western University law professor Jonathan Adler points out the Constitution vests the power to make laws in Congress, not in federal executive agencies. Adler concludes: Federal regulation reaches nearly all aspects of modern life and is pervasive in the modern economy. Much of this regulation may be necessary or advisable, and nothing in the REINS Act would hinder a sympathetic Congress from approving new federal regulations. In all likelihood, however, the REINS Act's congressional approval process would prevent the implementation of particularly unpopular or controversial regulatory initiatives. The primary effect of the legislation would be to make Congress more responsible for federal regulatory activity by forcing legislators to voice their opinion on the desirability of significant regulatory changes. It is past time for Congress to take responsibility to reassert its authority to make the rules that affect the health and livelihoods of millions of Americans. [...]
(image) Even the simplest portions of the California high-speed rail project are costing a lot more than expected.
Steven Greenhut writes:
California's ongoing "high-speed rail" project connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco continues to run up against the same, recurring problem since voters gave the plan initial bond funding in a 2008 statewide initiative. There's a growing chasm between the promises supporters made to the state's taxpayers—and reality.
In the latest bombshell, a confidential federal report points to cost overruns of at least 50 percent on the easiest, mountain-less leg of this complex infrastructure undertaking. The Federal Railroad Administration analysis, obtained by the Los Angeles Times last week, detailed a variety of other problems within the state's rail administration, as well.
For instance, the project already is at least seven years behind schedule in building the first segment, which connects Merced in the northern part of the San Joaquin Valley to Shafter, a small town just north of Bakersfield in the southern part of the valley. That section was supposed to be completed this year, but isn't slated for completion until 2024.