Wednesday, November 30, 2016

FREE SPEECH ISN'T VERY POPULAR. Katherine Timpf doesn't believe Donald Trump is the champion for free speech his supporters want
First of all, let me say that I completely understand the desire to want to stop the influence of the so-called snowflakes from spreading. It’s gotten ridiculous, and there are new examples of just how ridiculous it is coming out every single day. For example, just recently, Tufts University’s student government rejected a free-speech measure that would have eliminated the college’s restrictions on speech, including “hurtful words,” “bias-fueled jokes,” and “comments on an individual’s body or appearance” on the grounds that allowing these things could be “unsafe.” Obviously, these are insane restrictions — taken literally, these rules would mean someone wouldn’t even have the right to come up to me and tell me that he likes my sweater without risking a violation.

What’s more, I can also understand why people might automatically see Donald Trump as the guy we can count on to fight against our culture becoming one that’s subject to the kind of restrictions that are in place at Tuft’s. After all, Trump is the guy who said, “I think the big problem that this country has is being politically correct,” and who talked about that “big problem” nearly every chance he got.

But ask yourself: When Donald Trump is also flippantly tweeting about taking people’s citizenship away for burning flags, can we really be so sure?

If, as his tweet suggests, Trump really does want to enact the equivalent of “speech codes” for the country — and really does want to send people to jail for violating them — then is he really on the side of free speech at all? Many people complain that liberals’ so-called safe spaces only claim to be “tolerant” and “accepting,” when really they are only ”tolerant” and “accepting” of views like their own. As soon as someone says something they disagree with, then it’s hate speech and must be punished. Isn’t Trump doing the same thing? Free speech for me and for those who support me — even when it’s offensive —  but speech that I deem hateful must be punished. 
A MAN WITH A PLAN. Trump picked Rep. Tom Price of Georgia as his Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price actually has a plan to replace Obamacare
Price, in contrast, has actually drilled down, a sign of his seriousness about tackling the challenges of U.S. health care policy. Many of the Republican replacement plans take the form of statements of principle or white papers. Price's plan, on the other hand, already exists in legislative form, as a 250-page bill known as the Empowering Patients First Act. The plan offers a level of detail that allows you to better imagine how it might work, and what sort of trade-offs it might entail.

The plan has a number of virtues, including its specificity, its emphasis on eliminating mandates, and its potential for massive reductions in federal spending. But it also comes with some risks and concerns, and, because Congress controls the legislative process, it may not prove the best guide as how Republicans end up treating health care in the Trump era.

Price's plan is focused on getting rid of a lot of the rules and regulations that make coverage under Obamacare expensive. It would eliminate the health law's essential health benefits rules—the list of mandates that require insurers to include a government-determined list of features, whether or not they're wanted. This would free up insurers to offer a wider array of types of coverage, and could help make coverage cheaper for many people, especially those who are in relatively good health and don't want or need comprehensive coverage. It would also allow for the purchase of health insurance across state lines to an even greater extent than already allowed under Obamacare.

Price's plan offers two mechanisms for sicker individuals who might be sicker and more expensive to cover: a provision that does not allow insurers to charge more for health conditions so long as someone maintains continuous coverage, and $3 billion in funding, over a three year period, for high risk pools. The continuous coverage provision is designed to encourage people to find insurance when they are young and then stick with it in hopes of creating a sustainable, long-term insurance pool—something that Obamacare, which has struggled to attract young people, has had trouble with so far. The $3 billion in funding for high risk pools—which comes to $1 billion a year—would help cover some of the hard cases, but may end up being too little for the job: Obamacare's high risk pools, which bridged the gap between when the law was signed and when its coverage provisions kicked in, ended up drawing a far more expensive patient pool than expected. And other Republican plans that rely on high risk pools estimate the cost at more like $2.5 billion a year.

Price's plan would result in a huge net savings to the federal government—about $2.3 trillion over a decade, according to a 2013 analysis by former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz Eakin. So even with a significant increase in high risk pool funding, the plan would still represent a significant trimming of the country's budget.
MORE BAD NEWS FOR GERMANY. If this type of thing keeps up, Merkle will wind up out of power: 
A German citizen employed by Germany's domestic intelligence agency has been arrested on accusations that he made Islamist declarations on the internet and revealed internal agency material, the agency said on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Bundesverfassungsschutz (BfV) declined to provide details on the man's position at the agency or say when he joined. He also declined to comment on a report in Die Welt newspaper that the 51-year-old had planned to explode a bomb at the agency's central office in Cologne.

"There is no evidence to date that there is a concrete danger to the security of the BfV or its employees."

"The man is accused of making Islamist statements on the Internet using a false name and of revealing internal agency material in Internet chatrooms," he said.

The suspected mole also offered to share sensitive data about the BfV which could have endangered the agency's work, the spokesman said, without elaborating.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TRUMP'S ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE WOULD APPROVE. Whatever happened to proving crimes in court?
Illinois law enforcement confiscated more than $319 million in property and cash from individuals over the past decade, using a system that does not require convictions — or even charges in some cases — to validate the forfeitures, according to a new study.

In a joint report issued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the Illinois Policy Institute, researchers detail the financial incentives for police departments and local prosecutors to seize personal property from the public. In Illinois, law enforcement agencies receive about $30 million in forfeited property each year, the study found.
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"Asset forfeiture in Illinois has become policing for profit," said Ben Ruddell, criminal justice policy attorney with the ACLU and the report's co-author. "Without meaningful reform that ensures transparency, this system will continue to take millions of dollars in property from people without true justice."

Under state and federal laws, law enforcement agencies can take cash, land, vehicles and other property they suspect are involved in illegal activity. The laws do not require that the owner be charged with a crime — let alone convicted — in order for their property to be permanently confiscated.
THE BRITS HAVE TO ONE-UP THE AMERICAN NSA. Reason's Scott Shackford covers the expanding scope of the British police state
The Investigatory Powers Act makes the surveillance authorized by America's PATRIOT Act look remarkably tame in comparison. The law requires Internet Service Providers to keep all metadata and web browsing history of users for 12 months. And it allows top officials of dozens of government agencies to demand access to this information, not to fight terrorism, but any sort of crime.

The list of agencies granted access included in Schedule 4 of the 300+-page law includes several government bodies whose job it is to fight various forms of fraud or general crimes. It contains rules on how to get warrants to access confidential information stored by journalists and to try to track down a journalist's sources. It, of course, creates special protections for members of Parliament to provide extra requirements before snooping on them.

This is not a law about fighting terrorism. This is a law that completely destroys citizens' online privacy for the benefit of any sort of governmental investigation to solve domestic crimes. Edward Snowden called it "the most extreme surveillance in the history of Western democracy."

This was a pet project of new Prime Minister Theresa May, and I've previously noted that she is absolutely awful on surveillance and privacy, going so far as to think that snooping on private communications is an acceptable way to fight "cyberbullying."
CAN'T WE WAIT FOR THE FACTS? Some people can't wait to use a tragedy to push an agenda. Case in point, former Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine on the occasion of an attack at Ohio State University using a car and a large knife.


Seriously, people should wait for the facts to come out, or they risk making fools of themselves.

Monday, November 28, 2016

DON'T VOLCANOS CAUSE GLOBAL COOLING? 
A volcano in Mexico erupted, sending ash three miles into the air and prompting warnings from government officials for tourists and residents to stay away.

The Popocat├ępetl volcano, located in Pueblo state, erupted with a billowing cloud of dark ash billowing into the morning sky Friday. In the 24 hours since the eruption started, Mexican officials said there have been 129 exaltations of ash, three explosions and one measurable earthquake, a magnitude-1.8 tremor.
A PROBLEM FOR DEMOCRATS. Kevin Williamson points out how identity politics causes a problem for the Democratic Party: 
The longer-term problem for the Democrats is that they are finding out that they have to play by their own rules, which are the rules of identity politics. This is a larger problem for the Democratic party than is generally appreciated. The Democratic party is an odd apparatus in which most of the power is held by sanctimonious little old liberal white ladies with graduate degrees and very high incomes — Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Randi Weingarten — while the manpower, the vote-power, and the money-power (often in the form of union dues) comes from a disproportionately young and non-white base made up of people who, if they are doing well, might earn one-tenth of the half-million dollars a year Weingarten was paid as the boss of the teachers’ union. They are more likely to be cutting the grass in front of Elizabeth Warren’s multi-million-dollar mansion than moving into one of their own. They roll their eyes at Hillary Rodham Clinton’s risible “abuela” act, having actual abuelas of their own.

As in the Republican party, the Democrats have a restive base that is more radical than its leadership, more aggressive, and in search of signs of tribal affiliation. The Democratic base is not made up of little old liberal white ladies with seven-, eight-, and nine-figure bank balances, but the party’s leadership is. It is worth noting that in a year in which the Republican candidate painted Mexican immigrants with a rather broad and ugly brush, Mrs. Clinton got a smaller share of the Hispanic vote than Barack Obama did in 2012. She got a significantly smaller share of the black vote, too. Interestingly, Mrs. Clinton’s drop in the black vote came exclusively from black men. Many black Americans had very high hopes that an Obama administration would mean significant changes in their lives and in the state of their communities, but that has not come to pass. There is nothing about Mrs. Clinton that inspired similar hopes. “She’s not right, and we all know it,” the comedian Dave Chappelle said.
THE FLAG IS A POWERFUL SYMBOL. I don't think that college figured on a counter-protest
At least one thousand veterans gathered in Amherst this afternoon to protest the removal of the American flag at Hampshire College. 22news spoke to protesters about why they strongly disagreed with the college’s decision.

Freedom is not free. That’s the lesson that hundreds of veterans, their families and friends and other local residents hoped to teach students at Hampshire College Sunday afternoon.

Jerry Maguire, Veteran said, “They took down my flag, they have a right to that, I’m here to defend their right to do that but I want them to understand how bad that hurts me.”

Hundreds gathered to show their support of the American flag and what it stands for after the College removed the flag on campus earlier this week following the presidential election results. A decision by the college that outraged many.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

I'M SO GLAD I DON'T EAT FOOD LABELED AS ORGANIC. Baylen Linnekin wrote about the controversy over allowing hydroponic crops to be labeled "organic"
All that said, it seems we've a robust debate about the issue. The only downside to that debate is that it pertains to regulations, and that one side will win not because it prevailed within consumers in the marketplace of ideas but because it won over a majority of the handful of members of a USDA-appointed committee.

It was, in this spirit, that a truly wonderful Boston Globe editorial last week argued that organic food is not "about facts and dictionaries" and called on the USDA to get out of the organic-oversight business altogether.

"It would be better for the authorities to focus on ensuring the safety of food and the accuracy of label information about things like nutrition and allergens, while letting consumers figure out for themselves what organic means to them," write the Globe's editors. "Farmers who grow crops only in soil and want to market themselves to consumers that way have every right to try, and if enough customers care then they'll be successful. But asking the federal government to define and enforce the boundaries of personal beliefs is just too much to ask."
DAMN, THOSE RUSSIAN HACKERS ARE GOOD! Nate Silver took a look the Jill Stein challenge of election results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Interestingly enough, although the rationale for the recount is the difference in voting between paper and electronic ballots, Michigan only used paper:
Without a recount, all we can do for now is look for any meaningful difference in the three states named in the New York article between votes in counties that used paper ballots and votes in ones that used machines. That quickly crossed Michigan off the list: The entire state uses paper ballots, which are read by optical scanners.2 So we couldn’t compare results by type of voting in that state. Instead, we checked the six other states with a margin between Clinton and Trump of less than 10 percentage points that use a mix of paper and machine voting: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.

For each county in those states, we looked at Clinton’s vote share and whether it was associated with the type of voting system the county used, based on voting-system data compiled by a nonprofit electoral-reform group called Verified Voting and 2016 vote data from Dave Leip’s U.S. Election Atlas and ABC News.3 It doesn’t make much sense, though, to just look at raw vote counts and how they differed, because we know there are many factors that affect how a county voted, both in those states and everywhere else around the country. So we separated out two of the main factors that we know drove differences in voting results: the share of each county’s population age 25 and older with a college degree, and the share of the county that is non-white.4

We found no apparent correlation5 between voting method and outcome in six of the eight states, and a thin possible link between voting method and results in Wisconsin and Texas. However, the two states showed opposite results: The use of any machine voting in a county was associated with a 5.6-percentage-point reduction in Democratic two-party vote share in Wisconsin but a 2.7-point increase in Texas, both of which were statistically significant.6 Even if we focus only on Wisconsin, the effect disappears when we weight our results by population. More than 75 percent of Wisconsin’s population lives in the 23 most populous counties, which don’t appear to show any evidence for an effect driven by voting systems.7 To have effectively manipulated the statewide vote total, hackers probably would have needed to target some of these larger counties. When we included all counties but weighted the regression by the number of people living in each county, the statistical significance of the opposite effects in Wisconsin and Texas both evaporated.8

WHY YOU SHOULD AVOID ASPARTAME. I've always preferred Sweet-N-Low to NutraSweet: 
Why does aspartame not aid weight loss? "We found that aspartame blocks a gut enzyme called intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP)," explains Professor Hodin, who teaches at Harvard Medical School.

IAP is produced in the small intestine. "We previously showed [this enzyme] can prevent obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome [a disease characterized by a combination of obesity, high blood pressure, a metabolic disorder and insulin resistence]. So, we think that aspartame might not work because, even as it is substituting for sugar, it blocks the beneficial aspects of IAP."

However, aspartame does not block the enzyme directly. It does so through one of its intestinal breakdown products called phenylalanine.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

ENERGY POVERTY VS CLIMATE CHANGE. Is forcing poor people to forego economic development in order to prevent climate change morally dubious? Ronald Bailey examined the question for Reason Magazine:
But what about climate change? Current renewable sources of energy are not technologically capable of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of energy poverty. Consequently, the Breakthrough writers see "no practical path to universal access to modern levels of energy consumption" that keeps the projected increase in global average temperature below the Paris Agreement on climate change goal of 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. This implies that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide will exceed 450 parts per million. They correctly point out that forcing poor people to forego economic development in order to prevent climate change is a "morally dubious proposition." They additionally observe that the wealth and technology produced by economic growth increases resilience to climatic extremes and other natural disasters. When bad weather encounters poverty, disaster ensues.

It is worth noting that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's shared socioeconomic pathway narratives for the rest of the century include one, dubbed "SSP5," in which fossil fuels remain cheap, greenhouse gas concentrations more than triple, the average global temperature increases by nearly 4 degrees Celsius, and the rate of economic growth is high. Is that future a hell on earth? Not at all.

The "development first" SSP5 agenda results in the eradication of extreme poverty, greater gender equality, and universal access to education, safe drinking water, and modern energy before mid century, along with a strong build-up of developing countries' human and social capacity. "Lower socio-environmental challenges to adaptation result from attainment of human development goals, robust economic growth, highly engineered infrastructure with redundancy to minimize disruptions from extreme events, and highly managed ecosystems," notes the SSP report. In other words, people living in this economically robust scenario have greater incomes (up from the current average of around $10,000 to about $140,000 per capita in current dollars by 2100) and have access to much more advanced technologies with which to address whatever problems man-made climate change may throw at them.

MAYBE IDENTITY POLITICS ISN'T SUCH A GOOD IDEA. Charles Krauthammer wrote why Democrats should question the use of identity politics:
And why assume that identity politics creates permanent allegiances? Take the Hispanic vote. Both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump won less than 30 percent, but in 2004 George W. Bush won 44 percent. Why assume that the GOP cannot be competitive again?

As these groups evolve socioeconomically, their political allegiances can easily change. This is particularly true for the phenomenally successful Asian-American community. There is no reason the more entrepreneurial party, the GOP, should continue to lose this vote by more than two to one.

Moreover, the legitimation of identity politics by the Democrats has finally come back to bite them. Trump managed to read, then mobilize, the white working class and to endow it with political self-consciousness. What he voiced on their behalf was the unspoken complaint of decades: Why not us? All these other groups, up to and including the relatively tiny population of transgender people, receive benefits, special attention, and cultural approbation, yet we are left out in the cold, neglected and condescended to as both our social status and our economic conditions decline.
FIDEL CASTRO IS DEAD. Yale professor Carlos Eire had some thoughts published in The Washington Post: 
If this were a just world, 13 facts would be etched on Castro’s tombstone and highlighted in every obituary, as bullet points — a fitting metaphor for someone who used firing squads to murder thousands of his own people.

●He turned Cuba into a colony of the Soviet Union and nearly caused a nuclear holocaust.

●He sponsored terrorism wherever he could and allied himself with many of the worst dictators on earth.

●He was responsible for so many thousands of executions and disappearances in Cuba that a precise number is hard to reckon.

●He brooked no dissent and built concentration camps and prisons at an unprecedented rate, filling them to capacity, incarcerating a higher percentage of his own people than most other modern dictators, including Stalin.

●He condoned and encouraged torture and extrajudicial killings.

●He forced nearly 20 percent of his people into exile, and prompted thousands to meet their deaths at sea, unseen and uncounted, while fleeing from him in crude vessels.

●He claimed all property for himself and his henchmen, strangled food production and impoverished the vast majority of his people.

●He outlawed private enterprise and labor unions, wiped out Cuba’s large middle class and turned Cubans into slaves of the state.

●He persecuted gay people and tried to eradicate religion.

●He censored all means of expression and communication.

●He established a fraudulent school system that provided indoctrination rather than education, and created a two-tier health-care system, with inferior medical care for the majority of Cubans and superior care for himself and his oligarchy, and then claimed that all his repressive measures were absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of these two ostensibly “free” social welfare projects.

●He turned Cuba into a labyrinth of ruins and established an apartheid society in which millions of foreign visitors enjoyed rights and privileges forbidden to his people.

●He never apologized for any of his crimes and never stood trial for them.


Friday, November 25, 2016

AN IMMIGRATION MESS. Something I think was expected, but not acknowledged, is happening.

Central American countries warned on Thursday that large numbers of migrants have fled their poor, violent homes since Donald Trump's surprise election win, hoping to reach the United States before he takes office next year.

Trump won the Nov. 8 vote by taking a hard line on immigration, threatening to deport millions of people living illegally in the United States and to erect a wall along the Mexican border.

Trump's tough campaign rhetoric sent tremors through the slums of Central America and the close-knit migrant communities in U.S. cities, with many choosing to fast-forward their plans and migrate north before Trump takes office on Jan. 20.
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"We're worried because we're seeing a rise in the flow of migrants leaving the country, who have been urged to leave by coyotes telling them that they have to reach the United States before Trump takes office," Maria Andrea Matamoros, Honduras' deputy foreign minister, told Reuters, referring to people smugglers.

Carlos Raul Morales, Guatemala's foreign minister, told Reuters people were also leaving Guatemala en masse before Trump becomes president.

"The coyotes are leaving people in debt, and taking their property as payment for the journey," he said in an interview.

Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened a temporary holding facility for up to 500 people near the Texan border with Mexico, in what it said was a response to a marked uptick in illegal border crossings.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said earlier this month immigration detention facilities were holding about 10,000 more individuals than usual, after a spike in October of migrants including unaccompanied children, families and asylum seekers.


LET'S PARTY LIKE IT'S 2000. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is leading an effort to hold recounts in three key battleground states
Stein's campaign says it has raised enough money to pay for a recount of the presidential vote in Wisconsin, one of a number of states that surprisingly helped Republican Donald Trump win the election.

According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, a lawyer for Stein's campaign has already told the commission it will formally request a recount by Friday's deadline.

Moreover, the Stein campaign is continuing to raise money to pay for recounts in two other crucial states: Pennsylvania, where the deadline is Monday, and Michigan, where the deadline is Wednesday. Trump won all three states.

Stein can request the recounts by virtue of having been a candidate in the election, where she finished behind Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Libertarian Gary Johnson in the popular vote.

However, she must bear the costs which, in Wisconsin alone, could approach $1 million.

As of early Thursday evening, Stein's campaign said it had raised more than $4.4 million toward a goal of $4.5 million to fund the three recounts.
DON'T PROFIT FROM THE WALL. Illinois House Representative Will Guzzardi is sponsoring a bill to prevent state pension funds from investing in any companies with federal contracts involved in building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border: 
Under the legislation, the Illinois Investment Policy Board would conduct a review every four months to ensure the state is not investing in companies that receive federal contracts to work on the border wall. Last year, lawmakers approved legislation that required the state pension systems to stop investments in companies that boycott Israel.

Critics argue the focus should be on beefing up the state’s investment returns, noting the state’s $130 billion unfunded pension liability. Guzzardi counters there are plenty of companies to invest in that will help the state’s bottom line. He plans to call the bill for a vote in the House next week, but faces a tough deadline to get it through the Senate before a new crop of lawmakers is sworn in Jan. 11.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner declined to weigh in on the legislation, saying he needed to review it further. But he said it was time to move past the "appalling" rhetoric of the campaign, saying "the people of Illinois value inclusion and tolerance and diversity."
IF YOU DON'T RESPECT SOMEONE, WHY WOULD YOU LISTEN. A story by the Washington Post's Greg Miller and Adam Entous about Trump avoiding intelligence briefings makes a weird sort of sense: 
President-elect Donald Trump has received two classified intelligence briefings since his surprise election victory earlier this month, a frequency that is notably lower — at least so far — than that of his predecessors, current and former U.S. officials said.

A team of intelligence analysts has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats to Trump in the two weeks since he won. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, by contrast, has set aside time for intelligence briefings almost every day since the election, officials said.

Officials involved in the Trump transition team cautioned against assigning any significance to the briefing schedule that the president-elect has set so far, noting that he has been immersed in the work of forming his administration, and has made filling key national security posts his top priority.

But others have interpreted Trump’s limited engagement with his briefing team as an additional sign of indifference from a president-elect who has no meaningful experience on national security issues and was dismissive of U.S. intelligence agencies’ capabilities and findings during the campaign.

A senior U.S. official who receives the same briefing delivered to President Obama each day said that devoting time to such sessions would help Trump get up to speed on world events.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

DOES THIS MEAN MY SAVINGS ACCOUNT WILL COLLECT INTEREST AGAIN? Interest rates remained around 0% throughout the Obama years. The Fed is now making noises that we should expect at least two hikes in the next year.

Wall Street is already expecting a Federal Reserve rate hike in December, and now the central bank is indicating it wants investors to turn their focus to next year, former Dallas Fed advisor Danielle DiMartino Booth told CNBC on Wednesday.

"They are shifting the goal post for, I think, the investing public to begin to concentrate on what kind of signals we are going to get ... at the press conference that follows the December meeting about the number of rate hikes we might see in 2017," she said in an interview with "Power Lunch."

"The focus has shifted well beyond December."
A HATE CRIME. At Edgewood College, administrators jumped into action when, in response to an invitation to express their feelings about the recent election on post-it notes, one student wrote "Suck it up, pussies! ;P"
College Vice President Tony Chambers sent a letter to campus condemning this "act of cowardly hatred" and "intimidation." He wrote:
"A group of cross-functional college staff representing campus security, student conduct, human resources, Title IX enforcement, and diversity and inclusion measures convened Tuesday morning to discuss how to address the hateful message. This group determined that the message constituted a Hate Crime…"
College officials informed the Madison police, and now the cops are investigating. They are investigating a post-it-note. With a non-threatening message and a smiley face on it. After inviting students to express their feelings via post-it-note.
APPEALING TO NO ONE. Trump's pick as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is drawing fire from all sides. But Jeb Bush likes her, and Trump is reaching out to rivals: 
Hours before the DeVos pick was announced, conservative policy leader Frank Cannon, president of American Principles Project, called her "an establishment, pro-Common Core secretary of education."

"This would not qualify as 'draining the swamp,'" Cannon said, referencing Trump's campaign trail slogan. "And it seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on education policy up to this point."

In a statement to Fox News, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said DeVos "has no meaningful experience in the classroom or in our schools."

“The president-elect, in his selection of Betsy DeVos, has chosen the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education," Weingarten said. “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America."

Former presidential contender and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called DeVos "an outstanding pick" for the position.

“She has a long and distinguished history championing the right of all parents to choose schools that best ensure their children’s success," he said in a statement.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

PICKING A DISSENTING VOICE. Trump is reaching out to all parts of the Republican Party, picking South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as his ambassador to the United Nations
Haley, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, has already carved out a legacy for herself, serving as her home state's first female and first minority governor.
Once considered a potential vice president pick, Trump's tapping of Haley, 44, further raises the profile of a rising star in a party whose leaders are increasingly attempting to attract more minorities and women.
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Rep. Sean Duffy said Wednesday that the fact that Trump is even considering Haley after her criticism of the President-elect speaks highly of him.

"I think it's quite remarkable that he's looking for talent and not trying to settle old scores," the Wisconsin Republican told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day."

Trump said in January that Haley's stance on immigration was "weak" after the South Carolina governor welcomed properly vetted legal immigrants into her state, regardless of race or religion. He also tweeted in March, "The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!"

Haley went as far to say that Trump represents "everything a governor doesn't want in a president."

"I want someone who is going to hold Republicans accountable, and I want someone who is going to make a difference, not just for our party but for every person they represent in the country," she told reporters in February.
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The governor has long been a rising star in the GOP and was endorsed by former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin during her gubernatorial run. But Haley came to national -- and international -- attention following the Charleston church shooting in 2015, where a self-proclaimed white supremacist opened fire on a Bible study group at a predominantly black church, killing nine people.

Haley became a highly visible presence in the days following the tragedy -- particularly in the highly contentious battle to remove the Confederate Flag from the state Capitol grounds.

"These grounds are a place that everybody should feel a part of," she said at the time. "What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain."
DON'T MESS WITH THE SQUIRRELS! Honestly, I had nothing to do with this
Don't mess with the squirrels!

That was the nasty but unambiguous message sent to Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, by Chicago's rodent community just weeks after he gave a fiery City Council speech decrying the menace of "aggressive squirrels."

Out cycling on the Cal-Sag Trail on Nov. 13, Brookins was jumped by a kamikaze squirrel that leapt into the front wheel of his bike and lodged himself in the spokes, sending the alderman flying over the handlebars.

The attack cost the squirrel its life and left Brookins needing surgery and other treatment for a broken nose, a fractured skull and five or six teeth that were knocked out in the accident.
THEY TOLD ME IF I DIDN'T VOTE FOR TRUMP, Hillary would get away with all her crimes with no jail time. And they were right! 
President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to back away from his campaign trail vow to pursue criminal charges against former rival Hillary Clinton over her email server and family foundation, with a senior Trump adviser saying his White House will not seek a criminal investigation.

Hours later, Trump himself said that he was no longer committed to prosecuting Clinton, telling editors and reporters at the New York Times that he doesn’t “want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t. She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.”

But Trump’s comments were less definitive about his intentions than those made by his former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, earlier in the day. Asked whether he had ruled out a prosecution of the former first lady, Trump said “it’s just not something that I feel very strongly about,” according to a tweet from Mike Grynbaum, a media writer for the Times.

Conway had sounded more certain that the incoming president would allow his Democratic rival to live in peace. “I think when the president-elect, who’s also the head of your party, tells you before he’s even inaugurated that he doesn’t wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone and content” to fellow Republicans, she said in interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe. “Look, I think he’s thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the president of the United States, and things that sound like the campaign are not among them,” she added.
GLENN GREENWALD ON THE TV JOURNALISTS WHO MET WITH TRUMP. I'm not sure how submissive the press will be, but they don't seem too interested in engaging Trump on substance
Second, I’m really sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but yes: Donald Trump hates the U.S. media, as do the overwhelming majority of Americans. Even though every pampered star in that room is paid many millions of dollars a year and is flattered on a daily basis by teams of underlings, they are not actually entitled to respect and admiration, especially not from the powerful politicians they cover. The media was quite critical of Trump, and he hates them back. If they don’t want to be disliked by powerful politicians — if confronting hostility of this type traumatizes them this way and sends them running to David Remnick for therapy and comfort — then they should go find other work. Who cares if Trump is nice to Wolf Blitzer and Phil Griffin?

Third, the above-quoted journalist pronounced themselves so profoundly “offended,” crying: “This was unprecedented. Outrageous.” But in the next breath the journalist said this about the brutality they suffered: “I know I will get over it in a couple of days after Thanksgiving.” I have no doubt that’s true. Rather than doing their jobs and being adversarial to Trump, rather than responding to this sort of bullying with some dignity and return aggression, it is a very good bet that they will respond with greater submission (the way they all stayed passively in their assigned press pens during Trump rallies). The supreme religion of the U.S. press corps is reverence for power; the more Trump exhibits, the more submissive they will get. “I know I will get over it in a couple of days after Thanksgiving.” We believe you.
FIRST TRUMP UNIVERSITY, NOW THE TRUMP FOUNDATION. I expect a lot more sleaze to emerge than what appeared yesterday:
President-elect Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has admitted to the Internal Revenue Service that it violated a legal prohibition against “self-dealing,” which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families.

The admission was contained in the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s IRS tax filings for 2015, which were recently posted online at the nonprofit-tracking site GuideStar. A GuideStar spokesman said the forms were uploaded by the Trump Foundation’s law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

The Washington Post could not immediately confirm if the same forms had actually been sent to the IRS.

In one section of the form, the IRS asked whether the Trump Foundation had transferred “income or assets to a disqualified person.” A disqualified person, in this context, might be Trump — the foundation’s president — or a member of his family or a Trump-owned business.

The foundation checked yes.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

THE MURDER CAPITAL OF THE U.S.? A violent year in Chicago is producing an embarrassing statistic
The city surpassed 700 homicides over the weekend, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of Cook County medical examiner’s records. That number includes 10 cases in which victims died this year but were injured in previous years.

The Chicago Police Department tallied 654 murders as of Nov. 13. The department’s total omits “non-criminal” deaths that the medical examiner classifies as homicides, as well as expressway murders handled by the Illinois State Police.

Even by the Chicago Police Department’s tally, Chicago has seen the most first-degree murders in a single year since 2002, records show. And the city is far outpacing L.A. and New York combined.

As of Nov. 13, New York City had seen 295 murders so far this year, according to the NYPD.

The LAPD had recorded 263 homicides through Nov. 12.

Combined, New York City and Los Angeles are home to more than 12.2 million people, compared to Chicago’s 2.7 million.
TRUMP IS STILL DOING OUTREACH. Not everyone is going batshit crazy over the election of Donald Trump: 
Democratic media mogul Bob Johnson told CNBC on Monday that fellow African-Americans should give Donald Trump "the benefit of the doubt," and hope common ground can be reached with the incoming Republican administration about issues facing the black community.

The BET founder — who met with Trump on Sunday at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey — described the sit-down as a "great chat" about "business solutions to social problems."

************************************

To make his case, Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Cos., quoted founding Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Bill Clay Sr., a Missouri Democrat who served more than three decades in the House.

Paraphrasing Clay, Johnson said, "Black Americans should have no permanent friends, and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests."

"That's where African-American voters should be," Johnson contended, saying he does not view Trump and the Republicans as enemies or friends. African-Americans have "permanent interests," he said.
I think it is attitudes like Johnson's that are making some on the left crazy.
SHOULD AN ATTORNEY GENERAL OPPOSE DUE PROCESS? While most of the mainstream media is engaged in character assassination, Reason's Jacob Sullum is giving policy reasons for why Senator Jeff Sessions is a very problematic selection as the next Attorney General of the United States: 
Sessions defends civil forfeiture as well as draconian drug sentences. As Robert Everett Johnson of the Institute for Justice pointed out last year, Sessions does not think it should be any harder than it is for the government to take property supposedly linked to drug offenses, which it can do through civil forfeiture without even charging the owner, let alone convicting him. At a hearing on "The Need to Reform Asset Forfeiture" in April 2015, Sessions said it's obvious that "criminal violators ought not to be able to keep their ill-gotten gains." He averred, without citing any evidence, that "95 percent" of people who lose money to forfeiture have "done nothing in their lives but sell dope."

Sessions, who at one point during the hearing accidentally told the truth by calling the targets of forfeiture "individuals whose money is stolen," rather alarmingly misstated the standard of proof in federal forfeiture cases, which is "preponderance of the evidence," meaning the government must show it's more likely than not that a seized asset is connected to a crime. He instead said the standard for completing a forfeiture (assuming the owner has the resources to challenge it) is "probable cause," which is what the government needs to seize the asset in the first place. Probable cause, which is also the standard for a search warrant, is substantially less demanding than preponderance of the evidence and much less demanding than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is required for a criminal conviction. Sessions nevertheless said probable cause is "appropriate for forfeiture cases" and "it's unthinkable that we would make it harder for the government to take money from a drug dealer."

Sessions added that there is nothing wrong with letting law enforcement agencies keep the proceeds of forfeitures they pursue, a policy that has been widely criticized for warping police priorities. He faulted the Obama administration for curtailing the use of federal forfeiture law by state and local agencies, who can use it to evade state restrictions. In short, Sessions thinks civil forfeiture is fine the way it is and sees no need for reform.
Civil forfeiture without a conviction has always struck me as un-American.
IS ANYONE SURPRISED TRUMP IS TRYING TO DO AN END RUN AROUND THE MEDIA? Trump published a video introducing his plans on the first day as President.


TRUMP REALLY DOES HATE THE MEDIA. Despite the meeting being off the record, the New York Post published some leaks:
“The meeting took place in a big board room and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” the other source said.

“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.

“Trump didn’t say [NBC reporter] Katy Tur by name, but talked about an NBC female correspondent who got it wrong, then he referred to a horrible network correspondent who cried when Hillary lost who hosted a debate – which was Martha Raddatz who was also in the room.”
I watched CNN throughout 2016, and as a Gary Johnson voter, I have to say their coverage was very biased.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A REBUTTAL TO THE LATEST MSM MEME. Scott Adams shared a post that explains why attacking Trump and his supporters as racist is not only counter-productive, but wrong. I urge everyone to read the post over at Slate Star Codex, "You Are Still Crying Wolf." The article is long, but well worth the read. Here is the conclusion:
Stop centering criticism of Donald Trump around this sort of stuff, and switch to literally anything else. Here is an incompetent thin-skinned ignorant boorish fraudulent omnihypocritical demagogue with no idea how to run a country, whose philosophy of governance basically boils down to “I’m going to win and not lose, details to be filled in later”, and all you can do is repeat, again and again, how he seems popular among weird Internet teenagers who post frog memes. In the middle of an emotionally incontinent reality TV show host getting his hand on the nuclear button, your chief complaint is that in the middle of a few dozen denunciations of the KKK, he once delayed denouncing the KKK for an entire 24 hours before going back to denouncing it again. When a guy who says outright that he won’t respect elections unless he wins them does, somehow, win an election, the headlines are how he once said he didn’t like globalists which means he must be anti-Semitic.

Stop making people suicidal. Stop telling people they’re going to be killed. Stop terrifying children. Stop giving racism free advertising. Stop trying to convince Americans that all the other Americans hate them. Stop. Stop. Stop.
PROFITING FROM THE PRESIDENCY. I always believed that no matter who won the presidency, Trump or Clinton, the winner would try to financially benefit from the victory. The Washington Post goes into how Trump, like Clinton, will benefit from foreign countries.

Back when many expected Trump to lose the election, speculation was rife that business would suffer at the hotels, condos and golf courses that bear his name. Now, those venues offer the prospect of something else: a chance to curry favor or access with the next president.

Perhaps nowhere is that possibility more obvious than Trump’s newly renovated hotel a few blocks from the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Rooms sold out quickly for the inauguration, many for five-night minimums priced at five times the normal rate, according to the hotel’s manager.

********************************

“Believe me, all the delegations will go there,” said one Middle Eastern diplomat who recently toured the hotel and booked an overseas visitor. The diplomat said many stayed away from the hotel before the election for fear of a “Clinton backlash,” but that now it’s the place to be seen.

In interviews with a dozen diplomats, many of whom declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak about anything related to the next U.S. president, some said spending money at Trump’s hotel is an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.

“Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’ ” said one Asian diplomat.
ROMNEY IN A TRUMP ADMINISTRATION? I personally don't see Trump offering Romney the Secretary of State position, but the MSM seems convinced the story is not a troll:
After the meeting, which lasted for more than an hour, Romney said the men had a “very thorough and in-depth discussion” regarding “the various theaters in the world where there are interests of the United States of real significance.” Romney said that he and Trump exchanged views and that he looks forward to the new administration. Trump said of the meeting: “It went great.”

Romney and Trump hold different views on U.S. relations with Russia. Romney has called the country America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” According to the Kremlin, Trump and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin spoke Monday, agreeing that U.S.-Russian relations are “unsatisfactory” and vowing to work together to improve them. Trump’s office said in a statement that the president-elect told Putin he was looking forward to “having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the People of Russia.”

The cordiality that Romney and Trump displayed publicly was a marked change from the way the men spoke about each other during the campaign.

Romney told CNN in June that a Trump presidency could bring “trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny” to the nation. In a speech, Romney called the real estate mogul a “con man” and a “fake.” Trump said Romney “blew it” and “choked like a dog” in his failed bid to unseat President Obama in 2012, and he called the former Massachusetts governor “one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics.”

Personally, I'd like to see Romney put in charge of the Veterans' Administration. Someone needs to fix that place, and Romney has a good record of turning organizations around.
IN AMERICA, THIS WAS DONE UNDER BILL CLINTON. Another rant by Jonathan Pie.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

WHO WILL TRUMP PICK TO REPLACE SCALIA? Tim Alberta on National Review indicates the choice is down to Diane Sykes or William “Bill” Pryor:
– Pryor isn’t just regarded as a brilliant legal mind; he is viewed as the most rock-ribbed conservative of any potential Supreme Court appointee. His ideological mooring makes him hugely appealing to elements of the conservative movement who have felt betrayed by Chief Justice John Roberts and are looking for the next Republican nominee to be an absolute slam-dunk. Pryor would certainly be that: He famously once ended a prayer by saying, “Please, God, no more Souters.” But there’s a downside to Pryor’s staunch conservatism: He could prove exceedingly difficult to confirm. There’s a reason Bush used a recess appointment to get Pryor on the appellate court back in 2004: Senate Democrats initially refused to confirm him, horrified that he had once equated same-sex relations with beastiality and had separately called the Roe v. Wade decision “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.” Pryor stood by those comments during his hearings and was eventually confirmed in 2005. That unflinching approach, while attractive to conservatives, could make for an unnecessarily messy confirmation.

– Sykes is considered to be every bit as conservative as Pryor, but is less controversial and would therefore offer a much smoother confirmation process. She also is — quite obviously – a woman, and Republicans have been eager for decades to appoint a female Supreme Court justice. (The Harriet Miers fiasco still haunts many GOP establishment types.) Allies of Sykes say it would prove especially difficult for Democrats to oppose her: She’s a 58-year-old single mother who hails from the heartland. (She attended Marquette Law School, which, for Republicans, would represent a refreshing break from the procession of Ivy League-educated nominees for the high court.) While Sykes is widely viewed as the safer bet for breezy Senate confirmation, there are slight concerns about her divorce from conservative radio personality Charlie Sykes. The two are said to be on very good terms, but any marital difficulty — and the accompanying public records – can invite unwanted gossip and rumor-mongering.

A LOOK AT TRUMP'S POSSIBLE FOOD POLICY. Reason's Baylen Linnekin took a look at some possible actions Trump may take in rolling back Obama's policies
Given Trump's putative status as the anti-Obama, how might a Trump administration differ from his predecessor when it comes to food and agricultural policy? We've gotten an early glimpse.

And so far, supporters of stricter regulations appear alarmed.

A set of Trump food and agriculture talking points obtained by Politico suggests "a shift back to conventional agriculture, to promises for the Trump White House to be an 'active participant' in writing the next Farm Bill, to fighting the so-called good food movement and undoing Obama-era agricultural and environmental policies."

As the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard noted this week, a recent report by the American Action Forum suggests the Trump administration could cut a recent slew of regulations that would cost more than $40 billion under a law known as the Congressional Review Act. According to the AAF list, many recent food and agricultural rules—several billion dollars' worth—could be repealed as early as January.

The Trump administration also appears likely to roll back Michelle Obama's school lunch reforms. That sounds promising. But, as I detail in my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us, any reversal of course that simply returns the failing program to the flailing program it was five or ten years ago is untenable.
IS THE AMERICAN FLAG A CANARY IN A COAL MINE? A lot of people don't think flying the American flag is important, but law professor Eugene Volokh points out the importance of the flag in the debate over immigration in this country: 
I think having more legal immigration to America is important to continued American greatness. (I say this as an immigrant myself, but I think non-immigrants have reason to take the same view.) But if immigration means reduction in our rights as Americans — the right to fly American flags, whether as a sign of patriotism or as an expression of sentiments critical of immigration, the right to own guns, or other rights — then those costs to freedom may well outweigh the benefits that immigration might provide.

If our leaders make clear that they will act boldly to defend our rights, whether against threats from recent immigrants (or the children of recent immigrants) or from the native-born, then we might feel that our rights will indeed remain secure. But if their reaction is to urge people to refrain from exercising their rights, “out of an abundance of caution” — on the theory that flying our country’s flags might yield “personal confrontation or property damage” because it “could be misinterpreted in light of the divisive election and anxiety like that expressed by Nebraska Latinos in a recent news story” — then we have legitimate cause to worry about the consequences of immigration for our freedoms.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

YOU KNEW TRUMP WOULD SETTLE IF HE WON. From CNN:
But since Trump was elected, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel urged the parties to settle the case to avoid the immense complications of a president-elect facing trial while preparing to take office.
Last week, one of Trump's attorneys indicated that he might change his position on settling.
Schneiderman said Friday that he was pleased with the terms of the settlement. He first filed the suit in 2013.

"The victims of Trump University have waited years for today's result and I am pleased that their patience -- and persistence -- will be rewarded by this $25 million settlement," he said in a statement.
I'm really trying hard not to rant at the media right now. The Trump University case showed Trump's lack of ethics and was a reason I went looking for an honest man like Gary Johnson to vote for.


WHAT DISARRAY? The media is portraying the Trump transition team as unorganized and flaying around. Ben Shapiro, not a fan of either Trump or Bannon, points out how fast Trump's picks were announced versus his predecessors: 
Barack Obama didn’t name his picks for Secretary of State, Defense, or Attorney General until December 1, nearly a month after the November 4, 2008 election. George W. Bush didn’t name his picks for State, Defense, or Attorney General until mid-December (December 16 for Colin Powell, December 28 for Donald Rumsfeld, December 22 for John Ashcroft). Bill Clinton didn’t name his picks for those positions until at least December 22. George H.W. Bush was the fastest off the mark – he named James Baker Secretary of State the day after the November 8 election. Ronald Reagan waited until December 11 to get started; Jimmy Carter waited until December 3.

We’re still waiting on Trump’s State and Defense picks, but he’s already out of the gate with Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. It’s November 17.

The media are so eager to bury Trump’s administration that they are falling all over themselves to do so. Instead of soberly covering potential problems with top level picks – Steve Bannon, for example, is a rotten pick, but not because he’s a racist or anti-Semite – the media keep proclaiming THE END IS NEAR. This sort of alarmism doesn’t convince Americans, who don’t really see why there’s any giant rush to appoint people who aren’t going to be formally considered by the Senate until January 20 anyway.
A LOOK AT STEVE BANNON. The media is going after Bannon with a passion. Michael Wolff interviews Donald Trump's new senior advisor.
What he seems to have carried from a boyhood in a blue-collar, union and Democratic family in Norfolk, Va., and through his tour of the American establishment, is an unreconstructed sense of class awareness, or bitterness — or betrayal. The Democratic Party betrayed its working-man roots, just as Hillary Clinton betrayed the longtime Clinton connection — Bill Clinton's connection — to the working man. "The Clinton strength," he says, "was to play to people without a college education. High school people. That's how you win elections." And, likewise, the Republican party would come to betray its working-man constituency forged under Reagan. In sum, the working man was betrayed by the establishment, or what he dismisses as the "donor class."

To say that he sees this donor class — which in his telling is also "ascendant America," e.g. the elites, as well as "the metrosexual bubble" that encompasses cosmopolitan sensibilities to be found as far and wide as Shanghai, London's Chelsea, Hollywood and the Upper West Side — as a world apart, is an understatement. In his view, there's hardly a connection between this world and its opposite — fly-over America, left-behind America, downwardly mobile America — hardly a common language. This is partly why he regards the liberal characterization of himself as socially vile, as the politically incorrect devil incarnate, as laughable — and why he is stoutly unapologetic. They — liberals and media — don't understand what he is saying, or why, or to whom. Breitbart, with its casual provocations — lists of its varied incitements (among them: the conservative writer David Horowitz referred to conservative pundit Brill Kristol as a "renegade Jew," and the site delighting in headlines the likes of "Trannies 49Xs Higher HIV Rate" and "Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy") were in hot exchange after the election among appalled Democrats — is as opaque to the liberal-donor-globalist class as Lena Dunham might be to the out-of-work workingman class. And this, in the Bannon view, is all part of the profound misunderstanding that led liberals to believe that Donald Trump's mouth would doom him, instead of elect him.

Bannon, arguably, is one of the people most at the battle line of the great American divide — and one of the people to have most clearly seen it.

He absolutely — mockingly — rejects the idea that this is a racial line. "I'm not a white nationalist, I'm a nationalist. I'm an economic nationalist," he tells me. "The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over. If we deliver" — by "we" he means the Trump White House — "we'll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we'll govern for 50 years. That's what the Democrats missed. They were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It's not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about."
Read the whole thing.


Friday, November 18, 2016

EARMARKS ARE STILL DEAD ... FOR NOW. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is using Trump's words to keep spending down:
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday persuaded Republicans to postpone votes on bringing back legislative earmarks until 2017 after reminding members of President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington.

House Republicans were set to hold a secret ballot on changes to their internal conference rules that would have allowed lawmakers to direct spending to projects in their districts under certain circumstances.

Based on what lawmakers were saying in the meeting, “it was likely that an earmark amendment would have passed,” according to a source in the room.

“Ultimately, the Speaker stepped in and urged that we not make this decision today,” the source said.
FIRST WELLS FARGO, NOW JPMORGAN. Regulators just slapped $264 million in fines on the bank for its business practices in China.
"The so-called Sons and Daughters program was nothing more than bribery by another name," said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell. She called it "corruption, plain and simple."

Over the course of seven years, JPMorgan hired about 100 interns and full-time employees at the request of foreign government officials, according to authorities. These jobs scored JPMorgan more than $100 million in business.

JPMorgan admitted to authorities that individuals hired during the scheme were given the same titles and paid the same amount as entry-level investment bankers. That's despite the fact that, according to the DOJ, they mostly focused on routine work such as "proofreading" and generated little actual business.

JPMorgan's $264 million in fines is being divided up among multiple government agencies. The bank has agreed to pay more than $130 million to the SEC, $72 million to the Justice Department and $62 million to the Federal Reserve.

Despite the "blatant" conduct alleged by authorities, the U.S. did not announce any criminal charges against JPMorgan itself nor any individual employees of the bank.
NOT THE WAY TO WIN CHRISTIAN HEARTS AND MINDS. David French wrote a piece in National Review explaining why people who would ordinarily shun Trump voted for him.
In short, orthodox Christians feel as if they’re under cultural and legal siege because they are. Sixteen years ago, when I first starting defending religious liberty and free speech on college campuses, I would speak at churches and describe a mindset in which campus administrators and activists actively compared faithful-Christian student groups to the Ku Klux Klan. Audiences shook their heads in disbelief. They couldn’t imagine such a hysterical onslaught, and it felt distant, removed from their daily lives.

No one shakes their head now. And with all the social pressures on the left driving Democratic politicians to ever-more-vicious acts of religious persecution, the election of 2016 presented conservative Christians with nothing but terrible options: Vote for an immoral man who might help, vote for an immoral woman who will try to hurt, or vote for someone decent who can’t win.

Make no mistake, Donald Trump is president-elect in part because Evangelicals gave him their votes by a record margin. In an election this close, you can’t pin victory or defeat on any one group, but there is little doubt that had wavering Evangelicals not gone for Trump, his path to victory would have grown much narrower. The lesson here is clear: When the Left comprehensively and enthusiastically attacks millions of Americans, it forfeits any and all ability to reach those Americans for any purpose, much less to earn their votes.

Ironically enough, however, the short-term result of the election is likely to be an increase in religious persecution. While the Obama administration was hostile to religious liberty, the overwhelming majority of lawless acts occur in the deep-blue urban and cultural centers that are most enraged by the Trump win and are responding with sheer panic and fury. While some thoughtful leftists are opening their hearts to the need for greater tolerance and understanding, others are busy comparing Trump voters to lynch mobs, doing their best to poison a new generation of Americans against the church.
********************************************
So, yes, leftist radicals are right when they say that “hate” helped turn the 2016 election. But it was their own malice and intolerance that proved decisive. They chant that “love trumps hate,” but in reality their hate sunk Hillary. They say a bigot is in the White House, but their own bigotry helped put him there.

Read the whole thing.
I THOUGHT VOTE FRAUD WAS A MYTH. No winner has been announced in the North Carolina governor's race, and now allegations of vote fraud are appearing in a race in Bladen County
A protest has been filed in Bladen County alleging that a handful of people may have improperly submitted hundreds of absentee ballots, while also getting paid for get-out-the-vote efforts by a community group funded by the N.C. Democratic Party.

According to the protest filed by McCrae Dowless, who won election as soil and water district supervisor, the handwriting on a number of ballots and the signatures of some mail-in absentee witnesses were similar. He said the questioned ballots seem to have been cast in favor of a straight ticket of candidates and also to vote for a man named Franklin Graham, who ran a write-in campaign for soil and water district supervisor.

A letter the Bladen County elections board wrote to the State Board of Elections, and attached to the complaint, raises the same concerns. While some ballots listed witnesses, few include the documentation that would be required if someone had also assisted the voters, according to the letter.

“These are not simply helpful individuals who have attempted to assist a large swath of Bladen County’s voters to cast their ballots,” Dowless wrote. “This is the shocking evidence resulting from a blatant scheme to try to impact the voting results of an entire county and perhaps even sway statewide and federal elections.”
IS THE PRESS OVERBLOWING THE PROGRESS OF THE TRUMP TRANSITION. As much as I would love to bash on Trump, the media is a much easier target:


Thursday, November 17, 2016

CAN TRUMP WIN OVER BLACKS? The Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley believes he can win some over.
On Monday I took a stroll around New York City’s Harlem neighborhood and asked a couple of dozen black residents to respond to the election and subsequent protests. I didn’t come across any Trump voters—or at least any who admitted it—but many told me they had expected Hillary Clinton’s defeat. No one thought it was the end of the world.

“Hillary wasn’t strong enough. She didn’t fight enough,” said a gentleman leaving a drugstore, who introduced himself as Pace. “People saw her as weak and thought she’d be weak in the White House.” He also faulted Mrs. Clinton’s message. “She was talking about what she did in other countries as secretary of state. I can understand the situation around the world, but we live here.” Mr. Trump, in contrast, “was talking about the people who live here—the poor, the veterans.”

When I asked Pace, who retired from a job in dress manufacturing several years ago, if he thought Mr. Trump would ever win him over, he responded: “He said he’d protect Medicare. I can go along with that. He said he’d get rid of the Bloods and the Crips and the gangs—get them out of here. I like that. If he does those two things, he’s my man.”
THE STAKES GOT HIGHER. Chicago city government is hurting financially. Could the political establishment really resist Trump's immigration policies?
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley worries President-elect Donald Trump could use Chicago's status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants to cut off funding to the city.

Quigley addressed the issue on WLS-AM 890's "Connected to Chicago" show after host Bill Cameron asked whether he’s concerned about Trump trying to cut off the federal funding spigot to Chicago.

“The president-elect said he would cut off all federal funding to sanctuary cities — an extraordinary thing to say, particularly for someone who says the federal government should stay out of the local governing of states and cities,” Quigley said.

“Am I concerned about it from that point of view? Absolutely,” Quigley added. “In the final analysis, though, I think if the president wants to do what he talks about, for example with a big infrastructure package, he’s going to need support across the aisle. And if he says none for Chicago, he’s not going to get any support from anybody in Chicago, frankly in the Chicagoland area.”
SENDING CHRISTIE BACK TO THE SWAMP. I don't think that Chris Christie believed Trump's rhetoric about draining the swamp. The New Jersey governor saw his position as head of the Trump transition team handed over to someone else:
Vice President-elect Mike Pence formally signed documents that put him in charge of the transition team, and officials insisted the 10-week effort to build an administration is on schedule. In one of his first moves, Mr. Pence ordered the removal of all lobbyists from the transition team, said one transition team member with knowledge of the decisions.

Earlier Tuesday, former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, once considered a candidate to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, was ousted from the Trump transition team’s national security unit. Matthew Freedman, who was leading the group’s planning for the White House National Security Council, also departed. Mr. Freedman didn’t return messages seeking comment.

Mr. Rogers was told he was being replaced because everyone who was brought in by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the transition team’s original chairman, was being ousted, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Frank Gaffney, a Reagan administration veteran, was brought in to assist on national security issues, as has GOP U.S. Reps. Pete Hoekstra and Devin Nunes.
WILL TRUMP REDUCE THE POWER OF THE IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY? If by reducing the power you mean reducing the amount of power the American people grant, then Reason.com's Jacob Sullum argues the answer is yes:
If there is an advantage to electing a preening, petty, thin-skinned, whiny, vindictive, vacuous, mendacious, boorish bully to that office, it may be that he prompts a reconsideration of the absurd hopes and cultish veneration that surround the presidency. Perhaps a ridiculous president will encourage Americans to take the presidency less seriously.

Then again, the deference that is reflexively given the office could rub off on Trump, who is no less buffoonish today than he was on the morning of November 8. Already we see signs of strange new respect, as harsh critics of the authoritarian huckster swallow their revulsion and wish him well.

Chicago Now blogger Brian C. Thomas confesses that "there is a large part of me that wants to drop my pants and flip the double bird to much of the national Republican Party and the people who voted for Donald Trump." But he argues that "being an American demands we respect the office of the President."

How so? "I don't want this country to fail," Thomas explains. "Rooting against Donald Trump—now that he's president—would be like rooting against the country."

But Trump is not the country, and depending on the policies he pursues he can do more damage by succeeding than by failing. When it comes to disrupting trade and immigration, for instance, I will unabashedly root against him. That does not make me less American.
WHAT WERE THEY SAYING ABOUT PEAK OIL? Apparently, we have more oil than we thought
The US Geological Survey said Tuesday that it found what could be the largest deposit of untapped oil ever discovered in America.

An estimated average of 20 billion barrels of oil and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids are available for the taking in the Wolfcamp shale, which is in the Midland Basin portion of Texas' Permian Basin.

Based on a West Texas Intermediate crude oil price of $45 per barrel, those deposits are worth about $900 billion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

CARSON NOT IN THE CABINET. Dr. Ben Carson was a brilliant neurosurgeon, but never impressed me outside his field of expertise. The Washington Post covered the news:
“The way I’m leaning is to work from the outside and not from the inside,” Carson said in an interview Tuesday with The Washington Post. “I want to have the freedom to work on many issues and not be pigeonholed into one particular area.”

Carson, who is Trump’s most high-profile African American supporter, has been under consideration for several positions in Trump’s Cabinet, including secretary of health and human services.

Carson said he has made his decision clear to Trump in several private conversations in recent days.

“I’ve said that if it came to a point where he absolutely needs me, I’d reconsider. But I don’t think that’s the situation with these positions,” he said. “My view is that if some people and the media are going to hate him, then he’s going to need allies on the outside to be there, to be there to move the country forward. I don’t care about a position.’

He added with a chuckle, “Having me as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water, quite frankly.”
A PARODY OF A PARODY. Reason.com's Remy does a parody of a Saturday Night Live tune.


I GUESS PEACEFULLY EXERCISING YOUR RIGHTS IS TOO HARD. From KGW in Portland, Oregon
More than 70 percent of the 112 protesters arrested in Portland last week didn’t vote in Oregon, according to state election records. The other approximately 30 percent did cast a ballot in Oregon or in another state.

At least seventy-nine demonstrators either didn’t turn in a ballot or weren’t registered to vote in the state.

Following Tuesday's presidential election of Donald Trump, thousands of people took to the streets in downtown Portland for five straight notes. The activity included at least one night that the police declared to be a riot, with more than $1 million in property damage. The bulk of the arrests happened on Friday and Saturday evenings as protesters faced off against police.

KGW compiled a list of the 112 people arrested by the Portland Police Bureau during recent protests. Those names and ages, provided by police, were then compared to state voter logs by Multnomah County Elections officials.

Records show 39 of the protesters arrested were registered in the state but didn’t return a ballot for the November 8 election. Thirty-six of the demonstrators taken into custody weren’t registered to vote in Oregon. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

AN EXPLANATION FOR LIBERAL ANGST OVER THE ELECTION. From Steven Hayward of Powerline:
I think I’ve figured out why liberals are losing their minds over Trump’s stunning upset: It’s starting to sink in that the Clintons have torpedoed a second presidential election. But for Bill’s peccadillos, Al Gore would very likely have won the electoral college contest in 2000. And but for Hillary’s baggage, they might well have won this one.
OBAMACARE WAS HILLARY'S DOWNFALL. Not only did Obamacare premiums rising so much, not Comey's letter to Congress, begin Hillary's late swoon, but also played into the elites know better how to run your life theme that so many Trump voters hated. Reason's Ira Stoll wrote about this yesterday:
Well, if anyone is "stupid" in this story, it's not the voters, but the academics that in their hubris designed an Affordable Care Act that became so unpopular that it became a decisive factor in Hillary Clinton's defeat. These economists and health care experts—Jonathan Gruber and people like him—have fancy graduate degrees, but they designed a law whose results aren't exactly making them or the politicians they advised look like geniuses.

Asra Q. Nomani, a Muslim woman immigrant who voted in Virginia for Donald Trump, explained in a Washington Post column that she did so in part because, "I am a single mother who can't afford health insurance under Obamacare."

A friend of mine reported that while volunteering for the Clinton campaign in Pennsylvania, she encountered one voter who had just gotten off the phone with her health insurance company, "battling an astronomical increase in premiums. A cancer survivor, she had lost her favorite doctor when she went onto Obamacare two years earlier. Now her rates were going up." That voter wound up supporting Trump, too.

A Politico postmortem of the Clinton campaign reported, "The soaring Obamacare premiums announced last month hurt Clinton, some said."

Even Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, conceded in a post-election article: "Americans want reform to Obamacare— Democrats included. We must bring down the costs of health insurance and the cost of health care."

What was Obamacare, in the end, but an arrogant overreach by an elite out of touch with the rest of America?