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Megyn Kelly Devotes Half Her Show to Denied Allegations of Trump Affair With Porn Star

NewsBusters - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 19:08
<p>Despite repeatedly acknowledging that both parties “vehemently denied” accusations that Donald Trump had an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels over a decade ago, on Tuesday, NBC News Megyn Kelly still devoted half of her 9:00 a.m. ET hour show to the claims. She even suggested that the disputed rumors somehow proved allegations against Trump featured in the discredited DNC-funded Russian dossier.</p>

Is this Europe’s federalizing moment? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 18:46

Will the German coalition agreement mark a breakthrough in the EU’s transformation into a genuine federation? That is too early to say. The Social Democrats (SPD) still need to give the green light at their party congress this weekend. But even if they do, some of the deal’s proposals for EU policies are bound to be controversial and deepen the already-existing divides between EU members.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a bilateral meeting during a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool

But first, the good news. There is growing recognition that the EU’s democratic deficit has amplified the bloc’s recent crises, as politically charged, Europe-wide decisions were taken without proper democratic accountability. The draft German coalition agreement promises to strengthen the European Parliament, including its control of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the ad hoc bailout fund created to respond to fiscal crises at the Eurozone’s periphery. The ESM would be transformed into a “parliamentary-controlled European Monetary Fund, which should be enshrined in Union law.”

Yet, there is a more fundamental problem. European leaders have a limited understanding of federalism. The term is commonly used as a shorthand for transferring competencies to Brussels in an open-ended way. The coalition agreement thus calls for bigger contributions by Germany to European budgets, in order to fund “economic stabilization and social convergence and support for structural reforms in the euro area, which could be the starting point for a future Eurozone investment budget.”

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A federalization project worthy of its name would start by identifying those public goods that need to be provided at the EU’s, or the Eurozone’s, level: defense, foreign, and trade policies, pan-European infrastructure projects, and perhaps a minimal social safety net to facilitate free movement of labor. And it would have to go hand-in-hand with the identification of policy and spending areas that are to remain outside of Brussels’ reach. Alas, the coalition agreement — as well as most such conversations in Europe — turns the logic upside down by positing the transfer of competencies and spending power as a process, typically saying nothing about how the additional funds are to be used.

Here is the most worrying aspect of it all. Not even staunchly pro-European politicians are articulating a positive vision for the EU’s future — the why of the European project — that would differ markedly from Emmanuel Macron’s “Europe That Protects.” While  the German coalition agreement rejects protectionism and pays lip service to economic dynamism and innovation, its scant practical proposals — disproportionately focused on fighting “tax dumping, tax fraud, and tax avoidance” — are unlikely to make the EU a better place to do business.

The document goes on to single out the US tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon as examples of companies “playing EU member states off each other” in order to minimize their tax liability. The EU’s response should be the completion of a common corporate tax base — to which there is arguably some economic merit — and the imposition of minimum corporate rates, thus cracking down on supposedly harmful tax competition from countries such as Ireland, Slovakia, and Estonia.

Except that it is difficult to see such competition as unequivocally harmful. Base-broadening, rate-cutting tax reforms have had pro-growth effects in countries that adopted them — in some cases quite dramatic ones. Across the EU, meanwhile, there is little evidence of a race to the bottom: although statutory rates on corporate income decreased, tax revenues remained stable. But even if such processes were underway, a shift away from the taxation of capital toward other bases would be consistent with economic efficiency, which urges to tax more “elastic” (e.g. mobile) bases less heavily.

Whatever its substantive merits, a Franco-German push for corporate tax harmonization is going to strengthen centrifugal forces in smaller EU countries, some of them governed by authoritarian populist governments, already alienated from Brussels over questions concerning refugees and rule of law. Regardless of what one thinks of the emerging Franco-German consensus, to deepen such divides unnecessarily at this time would do the European project a major disservice.

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Moby, the CIA and the Uncomfortable Questions

The Stream - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 18:26

The musician Moby says CIA agents ask him to share the Trump-Russian collusion story on his social media. You’d think this would be a big deal. 

The Fusion GPS dossier was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017. The release ignited a public firestorm and the media’s Trump-Russia obsession. A few weeks later, Moby took to Facebook. He said that after hanging out with friends who “work in D.C.” he could “accurately” assure fans that the Fusion GPS dossier was “100% real. [Trump]’s being blackmailed by the Russian government.”

He laid out some other items he learned from his “friends.” 

Moby was asked about the cryptic post during an interview last week with WFPK.  He said “active and former CIA agents” told him they were “truly concerned” with Trump being a “Russian agent of Putin.” A “Manchurian Candidate.”

So they passed on some information to me and they said, like, 'Look, you have more of a social media following than any of us do, can you please post some of these things just in a way that ... sort of put it out there.'

He’s talking about the “Russian dossier on trump,” otherwise known as the Fusion GPS or Steele dossier. 

 

What is Moby Saying?

We should not be surprised Moby was glad to do the CIA’s bidding with the dossier. He’s been friends with Hillary Clinton for nearly 20 years. We shouldn’t even be surprised Moby accepted what he was told as gospel. If you tell him at breakfast Donald Trump was to blame for the Saint’s dramatic loss, he’d have a song out about it by lunchtime. He loathes the man (and Republicans in general.)

There’s a bigger problem at hand.

Assume Moby is telling the truth: Current and former CIA agents used him to spread the Fusion GPS dossier, telling him  it’s 100% true. 

Forget they were pitching a document that even its author said was unverified. Members of the Central Intelligence Agency were conducting an operation targeting the President of the United States. And a friend of Hillary Clinton is confirming this. 

This, you’d think, would be a bad thing. 

What Moby is Saying Sounds Familiar

Moby’s story has a familiar ring. 

Last March, Evelyn Farkas, a deputy assistant secretary of defense under Obama, bragged to MSNBC’s Morning Joe about efforts to spread Russian dirt on Trump. 

I was urging my former colleagues and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill, it was more actually aimed at telling the Hill people, get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration.

She said she wasn’t alone.

So I became very worried because not enough was coming out into the open and I knew that there was more. We have very good intelligence on Russia. So then I had talked to some of my former colleagues and I knew that they were trying to also help get information to the Hill.

Later that day, she’d call the efforts by the Obama White House to spread the Russian narrative a “frantic desire.”

When conservative outlets realized the implication of what she was saying -- that it seemed to confirm Obama officials had unmasked and leaked information on Trump and associates -- Farkas backpedaled. She denied spreading any intelligence. “I had no intelligence whatsoever,” she told the Daily Caller, “I wasn’t in government anymore and didn’t have access to any.”

So who was telling her there was “good intelligence”? Who was “we”?

Farkas made her original comments a day after The New York Times reported:

In the Obama administration's last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election -- and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians -- across the government.

Tablet published a lengthy breakdown in December of how the unverified dossier had been used by, among others, then-CIA director John Brennan to gin up the Trump-Russia connection. 

In fact, the Washington Times suggests it’s Brennan who got the whole Russia nonsense rolling to begin with. The same Brennan who lied to Congress about CIA hacking of Senate Intelligence Committee staff computers. The same “political hack” who has spent the past year trashing Trump at every turn.  

Questions

I have some questions:

Why isn’t it front page news that CIA agents conducted an intelligence operation against the sitting President of the United States? What other public figures did the CIA use in this operation? On whose orders did these agents act?  How far did former CIA director John Brennan go to sabotage the American President? Just how coordinated was the post-election effort to spread the still-unverified dossier information around? The pre-election effort? To what end? How many of these people knew the dossier was unverified? How many, like Moby, were told it was “100% true”?

Let’s leave Langley and head down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Farkas speaks of her colleagues, the New York Times speaks of “White House officials”? Which White House officials?  We know Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power were unmasking names at an unprecedented rate. We know Obama dramatically expanded the number of people who had access to raw intel days before leaving office. (Dramatically increasing the opportunity for leaking. And the nation saw a flood of leaks.) We also now know that starting in April 2016, Obama’s official campaign organization Obama for America started paying the law firm Perkins Coie nearly a million bucks. (For what? Obama wasn’t running for anything.) This was the same month that Hillary Clinton and the DNC began pouring millions into Perkins Coie to pay for the Fusion GPS anti-Trump Russia effort. It’s the month Fusion GPS began its work. It’s also the same month that Mary B. Jacoby, wife and writing partner of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson visited the White House. How many coincidences are we expected to take? Just how involved was Obama involved personally? 

And finally: At what point does Moby come to realize he was duped? Duped with a dossier paid for by his friend Hillary. 

Samantha Power Discusses Her Hillary 'Victory' Party HBO Documentary

NewsBusters - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 18:08
<p>Schadenfreude, schadenfreude, oh beautiful, beautiful schadenfreude! You will soon be able to enjoy some great Election Night 2016 schadenfreude again in the form of HBO's documentary, <em>The Final Year</em>, which will soon be broadcast on that network. As you can see from the trailer below it appears to be mostly a big borefest of Obama administration hype about how wonderful and wise they were. However, its saving grace is that the HBO film crew was at a Hillary "victory" party hosted by former UN Ambassador Samantha Power to celebrate Hillary Clinton winning the election.</p>

10 Thoughts on the President and the ‘****hole Countries’

The Stream - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 18:02

Here are ten thoughts on the president’s alleged use of the word “****hole” in describing Haiti, a Central American country, and African countries:

There are few filters between President Donald Trump’s mind and mouth. That is his appeal and his weakness. It is very common that a person’s strengths are also weaknesses. I wish Trump’s tweets and comments were as forthright -- as un-P.C. -- as they are now but stated in a sophisticated way. I also wish that cheesecake were not fattening. But just as cheesecake comes with sugar, Donald Trump comes with unsophisticated rhetoric. People are packages, not a la carte menus. As a rule, a president of the United States should not label countries, let alone continents, “****holes.” I don’t know what word the president actually used, but had he used the word “dysfunctional,” that actually might have been a service to the people of many of these countries. I have been to 20 African countries. Corruption is Africa’s greatest single problem. That’s why those who truly care about Africans, many of whom are terrific people, need to honestly describe the moral state of many or most African countries. What benefit is it to honest, hardworking Africans or Latin Americans or others to deny the endemic corruption of these societies?

As Guatemalan columnist Claudia Nunez wrote on Trump in the Guatemalan newspaper Siglio 21: “The epithets he uses to describe certain groups are unfortunate and exemplify the decadence of the current political scene. But he has also said things that are true, for example, that it is we citizens of migration countries who have accommodated ourselves to the need to export people, as we have calmly allowed excessive levels of corruption to grow for decades.”

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Though many wonderful immigrants come from the world’s worst places, there is some connection between the moral state of an immigrant’s country and the immigrant’s contribution to America. According to data from the Center for Immigration Studies, 73 percent of households headed by Central American and Mexican immigrants use one or more welfare programs, as do 51 percent of Caribbean immigrants and 48 percent of African immigrants. Contrast that with 32 percent of East Asians and 26 percent of Europeans. The press’s constant description of Trump as a racist, a white supremacist, a fascist and an anti-Semite has been a Big Lie. It is meant to hurt the president, but it mostly damages the country and the media. To cite the most often provided “evidence” for the president’s racism, the president never said or implied that the neo-Nazis at the infamous Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrations were “fine people.” The “fine people” he referred to were the pro- and anti-statue removal demonstrators. Why are the left’s repeated descriptions of America as “systemically racist” not the moral equivalent of the word “****hole”? The left’s descriptions of America and its white majority are at least as offensive, less true, and not made in private or semi-private conversations but in the open (in most college classes, for example). The poor choice of language notwithstanding, can any countries be legitimately described as “****holes”? As Ben Shapiro, a never-Trumper, wrote, “The argument that Trump is wrong to call some countries ****holes comes down to nicety, not truth -- which is why Rich Lowry of National Review took Joan Walsh of CNN to the woodshed over whether she’d rather live in Haiti or Norway.” Walsh refused to respond, giving the specious response that she hasn’t been to either country. That the president allows himself to speak openly to Democrats -- whose overriding ambition is to undo his election -- is testament to his self-confidence, if not his hubris. And his naivete. What people say in private is neither my business nor my concern. That’s why I wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal in the 1990s defending Hillary Clinton against charges of anti-Semitism for allegedly directing expletive-filled anti-Jewish comments in private against a Jewish campaign official she felt was responsible for Bill Clinton’s lost congressional race. Former President Harry Truman’s private use of [a Jewish slur] was also mentioned. In the Age of Non-Wisdom in which we live, many well-educated people (and, therefore, often the least wise among us) think private speech reveals all you need to know about someone. But in truth, private speech may reveal nothing about people. If everything you or I said in private were revealed to the world, we could all be made to look awful. The Washington Post reports that the president also said he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries. That would seem to invalidate the racism charge. Had he just met with the prime minister of Singapore, as he had with the prime minister of Norway, he may well have said we need more immigrants from Singapore. As the never-Trump editors of National Review editorialized, “What he was almost certainly trying to get at, in his typically confused way, is that we’d be better off with immigrants with higher skills.” The left has lost all credibility in using the term “racist.” The University of California lists as an example of a “microaggression” the statement “There is only one race, the human race.” The left labels anyone who opposes race-based quotas, or all-black college dorms, or the Black Lives Matter movement “racist.” And it labeled President Trump’s Warsaw-speech call to preserve Western civilization a call to preserve white supremacy. On race the left has cried wolf so often that if real wolves ever show up, few will believe it.

 

Dennis Prager’s latest book, The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code, was published by Regnery. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.com.

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Cynical Scribes Continue to Downplay Tax Cut-Driven Good News

NewsBusters - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 17:56
<p>Reporters continue to concoct reasons to complain as more than 2 million American individuals and their families have suddenly become better off than they were three weeks ago. Even the news that the nation's largest retailer is raising its nationwide minimum wage while paying bonuses of up to $1,000 to every employee, and that an automaker is investing $1 billion in U.S. production, haven't moved cynics who refuse to concede the unconditional positivity in all of this.</p>

CBS’s Garrett Preemptively Blames Trump and GOP ‘Hardliners’ for Shutdown

NewsBusters - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 17:15
<p><em>CBS This Morning</em> journalist Major Garrett on Tuesday jumped to blame Donald Trump and Republican “hardliners” for a potential government shutdown. Garrett made little effort to find culpability for the liberal Democrats in the Senate who are demanding a clean DACA bill in return for keeping the government open.</p>

Sexual harassment: What do the polls say? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:39

How many women have been sexually harassed at work? Twenty-two percent of employed women in a late summer 2017 Pew Research Center poll said they had personally experienced sexual harassment at work. Thirty percent of women told Economist/YouGov online pollsters in October that they had been a victim of sexual harassment at work. And in a November NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey of registered voters, 35 percent of women said they had personally experienced sexual harassment or abuse from someone in their workplace. In an October ABC News/Washington Post poll, 30 percent of women said they had experienced unwanted sexual advances from a man who worked at the same company as they did, and 23 percent said they had experienced this from a man who had influence over their work situation.

There are also differences in women’s responses in recent polls about whether they have ever been harassed, though the share of women who report harassment is generally higher than in questions that focus on the workplace. In Gallup’s late October poll, 42 percent of women said they had been a victim of sexual harassment. Sixty percent of women in a November Quinnipiac poll of registered voters said they had experienced it, while 46 percent in a December Economist/YouGov online survey also responded in the affirmative. Question wording, the timing of the surveys (the story got more attention late in the year and may have affected responses), and question order or placement probably explain some of the variation in responses. So, too, is the possibility that some women don’t feel comfortable talking to strangers or answering online questions about these experiences.

It is difficult to measure individual experiences with sexual harassment, but there is more consistency in responses on broader questions about the significance of the problem and what recent high-profile allegations represent. Two-thirds nationally in a Pew poll from late November–early December said recent allegations of sexual harassment and assault against prominent men mainly reflect widespread problems in society, compared to 28 percent who said they are mainly isolated incidents of individual misconduct. Sixty-four percent in the October ABC News/Washington Post survey said sexual harassment of women in the workplace is a serious problem in this country. In the new Gallup poll, 69 percent said sexual harassment in the workplace was a major problem these days.

Given public views of the severity of the problem, it is comforting to know that most people think their own workplaces take sexual harassment seriously. Eighty-seven percent in the NPR/NewsHour/PBS survey, for example feel their current workplace provides enough protection against harassment and abuse, and almost seven in ten in another question said their workplace takes it very seriously. Ten percent of employed people said it was a big problem in their workplaces in the Pew poll this summer while a quarter said it was a small problem and 64 percent not a problem.

In most of the new polls, men and women agree about what constitutes harassment, but, in almost all cases, men were less likely to see the action or behavior as such. Here are a few items from the Barna Group’s late October poll: In their late poll, 96 percent of women and 86 percent of men said “touching or groping” counted as harassment. Eighty-six percent of women said “making sexual comments about looks or body” constituted harassment; 70 percent of men gave that response. Eighty-three percent of women, but 69 percent of men said sexually explicit emails or texts constituted harassment. Fifty-eight percent of women compared to 47 percent of men said persistence in asking someone out on a date after being told no was harassment. In this poll, fewer than a third of men or women felt whistling, staring, or winking was harassment.

In a November Economist/YouGov poll that asked whether various behaviors would be sexual harassment if a man, who was not a romantic or sexual partner or friend, did them to a woman, 60 percent of women but 50 percent of men thought “wolf whistling at a woman” was always or usually harassment. Large majorities of men (95 percent) and women (96 percent) said a man exposing himself or flashing constituted harassment. There was a big gap on one question: 55 percent of women, but only 38 percent of men thought looking a woman’s breasts was harassment. In this poll, winking didn’t constitute harassment for most men or women, nor did a man asking a woman out on a date. Twenty-nine percent of women and a quarter of men said a man commenting on a woman’s attractiveness directly to her was harassment.

Lewd, aggressive, or threatening behavior is clearly seen as harassment, flirtatious actions less so. It’s important to take care in interpreting early poll data when an issue catches fire, but the data collected thus far present a fairly consistent picture of attitudes about harassment.

Federalism and federal criminal justice reform policies - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:38

In the latest AEI Economic Perspectives paper, Fordham Law School professor John Pfaff lays out some of the challenges associated with criminal justice reform, in particular the relative small direct role the federal government (or any individual government entity) plays. He suggests a number of federal policy changes that could make a meaningful dent in the number of incarcerated persons in the United States, without unnecessarily jeopardizing public safety. Most but not all of them target the incentives facing state and local governments, or areas where limited funding changes can have relatively large effects.

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One example of the latter type of policy is to provide federal grants for indigent defense spending. While about 80% of all defendants who face prison or jail time are entitled to a state-provided defense lawyer, only about 2% of state and local criminal justice spending goes toward such spending. This is an area where federal grants could make a more significant difference to policy outcomes than similar amounts of federal funds directed at law enforcement capabilities or prison construction, where they would likely end up being of inframarginal importance. This is just one example of promising federal criminal reform policy; click here to read about many more.

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New state-level estimates of the economic burden of the opioid epidemic - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:32

No one disputes that opioid abuse has caused an epidemic in our country, one that costs tens of billions, if not hundreds of billions, of dollars per year. Less well known, but of vital importance to policymakers, is how these costs are distributed. Opioid abuse rates and deaths vary considerably from state to state, as do the costs associated with this epidemic. But researchers have generally focused on the economic impact of the crisis in the aggregate, at the US level. In a new analysis, I estimate the cost at the state level and find substantial variation across the country. Here, I offer a preview of my findings, which will be released in full next month.

As policymakers consider how to address the opioid epidemic, it is important that they begin with an understanding of how this burden is distributed.

My analysis begins with two recent estimates of the societal cost of the opioid crisis. The first is from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Florence et al. 2016), and the second from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA 2017). The study by Florence and coauthors aggregates nonfatal costs — that is, spending on health care and substance abuse treatment, criminal justice costs, and lost productivity — associated with abuse and misuse of opioids. CEA builds from that estimate and adds the societal burden of fatalities from opioid overdoses, estimating the nonfatal costs of the opioid epidemic in 2015 to be $72.3 billion and the fatal costs to be $431.7 billion for a total cost of $504 billion.

To distribute these estimates across the fifty states and the District of Columbia, I consider the state-by-state variation in opioid overdose deaths, opioid abuse disorders, health care costs, criminal justice costs, and worker productivity. To control for variations in the size of each state, I present results on a per-capita basis.

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My analysis shows that the nonfatal per-capita economic burden of the opioid crisis is highest in the District of Columbia ($352 per resident) and lowest in South Dakota ($162 per resident). Adding fatalities, as CEA did, gives West Virginia the highest per-capita burden ($4,793 per resident) and Nebraska the lowest ($465 per resident). A table that provides a state-by-state breakdown of total costs, per-capita costs, and costs as a share of state GDP is available here.

The two maps below illustrate the share of the total estimated cost borne by each state. The first map illustrates the per-capita cost of the epidemic based only on health care, criminal justice, and productivity effects. The second map includes the additional costs associated with the loss of life, estimated at over 33,000 in 2015 alone.

The misuse and abuse of opioids in the United States imposes incredible hardship on those who are addicted, their families, communities, and the economy more broadly. As overdose deaths and costs associated with opioid abuse rise, policymakers are increasingly looking for ways to stem the epidemic. Hearings have been held in the Senate HELP and Finance Committees as well as the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Tomorrow, the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine the response to the opioid crisis by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. As policymakers consider how to address the opioid epidemic, it is important that they begin with an understanding of how this burden is distributed.

Unfortunately, measuring the problem is far easier than crafting solutions. The next steps will be more challenging.

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A Smarter Approach to Federal Assistance with State-Level Criminal Justice Reform - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:28


Abstract

This brief explains how Congress and the president can best help reduce our country’s outsized reliance on imprisonment, a goal with rare, widespread bipartisan support. Successful interventions will need to target issues that previous efforts have overlooked or ignored, and they will need to take better account of the haphazard ways that costs, benefits, and responsibilities are fractured across city, county, state, and federal governments. If designed properly, however, federal efforts could play an important role in pushing our criminal justice system to adopt more efficient, as well as more humane, approaches to managing and reducing crime.

A Smarter Approach to Federal Assistance with State-Level Criminal Justice Reform

Look beneath the surface of World Bank’s rosy economic report - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:21

The World Bank’s report that the global economy is now operating at close to full capacity would seem to be a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, there is certainly reason to celebrate that we are now at last enjoying a synchronized global economic recovery and that the world economy is operating at near its potential.

On the other hand, there is reason to fear that approaching global full employment could very well be a precursor to aggressive monetary policy tightening by the world’s major central banks as they become forced to make efforts to avoid inflationary pressures.

That in turn could lead to the painful correction of financial market excesses and to the bursting of asset price bubbles around the globe that could very well derail the world economic recovery.

Almost a decade after the world’s worst economic recession in more than 70 years, the World Bank is now reporting that the world economy finally appears to be firing on all cylinders. At long last, the European and Japanese economies appear to be catching up with the long-standing U.S. economic recovery.

Meanwhile, it appears that emerging market economies like Brazil, China, India and Russia, are now regaining their earlier economic momentum. As a result, world employment is increasing and slack in the global economy has been all but used up.

Surprisingly, in its analysis of the current world economic recovery and of the present global economic outlook, the World Bank glosses over the artificial way in which the global economic recovery has been achieved. In particular, it pays no attention to the unduly heavy burden that has been placed on monetary policy to get the global economy moving.

By the same token, it makes no mention of the serious and dangerous distortions in global asset market prices that ultra-unorthodox monetary policy has created, which could very well have set up the global economy for a hard landing.

One measure of the undue burden that has been placed on monetary policy is the fact that the world’s major central banks have been forced to maintain their policy interest rates at close to zero for several years. Another is that these central banks have had to resort to government bond buying on a massive scale to generate an economic recovery.

As a result of that bond buying, it is estimated that since 2008, there has been a staggering $10 trillion increase in the combined balance sheets of the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan.

While very unorthodox monetary policy has succeeded in producing the synchronized global economic recovery to which the World Bank refers, it has done so at the cost of creating serious financial market risks.

Global equity valuations now are at lofty levels that have only been experienced three times in the last 100 years. Meanwhile, government bond yields have declined to record-low levels, risk premiums on high-yield and emerging market bonds have been substantially compressed, and bubbles now characterize the Australian, Canadian, Chinese and United Kingdom housing markets.

Past experience would suggest that asset price bubbles burst and financial market excesses get corrected when monetary policy starts to go into a serious interest rate increasing cycle.

For which reason, one would think that if the World Bank is right that the world economy is now at its potential and that inflationary pressures are on the horizon, we should be bracing ourselves for disruptive financial market corrections.

It is well to recall that the World Bank, along with the other multilateral lending institutions singularly failed to anticipate the 2008-2009 Great Recession. Judging by its latest Panglossian assessment of the global economy, it would seem that the World Bank will once again be flat-footed by the next major global economic downturn.

Desmond Lachman is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was formerly a deputy director in the International Monetary Fund’s Policy Development and Review Department and the chief emerging market economic strategist at Salomon Smith Barney.

Helicopter money could reduce instability - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:16

Sir,

Jason Cummins does us a service by noting that various financial market indicators are flashing red about financial stability risk (“Flashing red metrics should alert the Fed to take action”, January 10). However, if the asset market price bubble train has already left the station, one has to ask whether it is not too late for the Fed to do anything now by issuing warnings or by raising interest rates to avoid excessive market risk taking from having taken place.

It would also appear that Mr. Cummins is too pessimistic about the scope for monetary and fiscal policy to address the fallout from the bursting of financial asset market bubbles.

To be sure, the recent US tax cut has reduced the country’s fiscal space and there is no political appetite for yet another round of quantitative easing. However, there would seem to be nothing to stop the US from resorting to some form of Milton Friedman-style “helicopter money” that would involve the US Treasury sending each citizen a check that would be financed by the Federal Reserve on the easiest of terms.

One would think that helicopter money would be effective in providing the economy with needed stimulus in the event of a large asset price correction. It would also be politically very popular in that, unlike quantitative easing, it would not be seen as a policy that favored Wall Street over Main Street.

 

Colbert Invites Chuck Schumer to Bash 'Far Right' Trump as Against 'America's Values'

NewsBusters - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 15:21
<p>“Resistance” leader of late-night television, CBS’s Stephen Colbert, doesn’t even pretend that his show is only catered to the country’s most die-hard liberals at this point. On his January 15 show, he invited Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on as his guest, to basically parrot what he does every night on his show: mock Trump and slam the right as racists who only care about the wealthy.</p>

Saving Civil Society From Itself - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 14:51

For Alexis de Tocqueville, bottom-up cooperation in pursuit of political and non-political ends was necessary to sustain the life of a free, democratic society. “[If men living in democratic countries] never acquired the habit of forming associations in ordinary life,” he wrote, “civilization itself would be endangered.”

Yet, could it be that an important part of our problem today is that people tend to cooperate too much? Namely, that it has become easier than ever to form communities that filter communication, suppress internal dissent, and consider their own standards above any outside criticism? According to the economic historian Timur Kuran, such “intolerant communities lay the foundations for tyranny by creating constituencies prepared to suspend the rule of law for some higher purpose.”

If it is indeed underway, such a balkanization of the public space into intolerant communities vying for power might count among the most important threat facing free societies at this time. Its consequences go far beyond the question of who the White House’s current occupant is, or what immigration and trade policies Western democracies ought to pursue. What is at stake is our ability to live in self-governing societies and to sort out political and social problems through civil association and democratic competition.

Keep reading at The American Interest.

 

Kids Chained in Calif. House of Horrors; Parents Arrested

The Stream - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 14:51

PERRIS, Calif. (AP) -- A 17-year-old girl called police after escaping from her family’s home where she and her 12 brothers and sisters were locked up in filthy conditions, some so malnourished officers at first believed all were children even though seven are adults.

The girl, who was so small officers initially believed she was only 10, called 911 and was met by police who interviewed her and then went to the family home in Perris, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. They found several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark, foul-smelling surroundings, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

The children, ages 2 to 29, “appeared to be malnourished and very dirty,” according to a press release announcing Sunday’s arrest of the parents. “The victims were provided with food and beverages after they claimed to be starving.”

David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, each were held on $9 million bail and could face charges including torture and child endangerment.

It wasn’t immediately known if they had attorneys.

State Department of Education records show the family home has the same address as Sandcastle Day School, where David Turpin is listed as principal. In the 2016-17 school year it had an enrollment of six with one student in each of the fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, 10th and 12th grades.

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Neighbors said they were stunned by the arrests. Andrew Santillan, who lives around the corner, heard about the case from a friend.

“I had no idea this was going on,” he told the Press-Enterprise of Riverside. “I didn’t know there were kids in the house.”

Other neighbors described the family as intensely private.

A few years ago, Robert Perkins said he and his mother saw a few family members constructing a Nativity scene in the Turpins’ front yard. Perkins said he complimented them on it.

“They didn’t say a word,” he said.

The Turpins filed for bankruptcy in 2011, stating in court documents they owed between $100,000 and $500,000, The New York Times reported. At that time, Turpin worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman and earned $140,000 annually and his wife was a homemaker, records showed.

Their bankruptcy lawyer, Ivan Trahan, told the Times he never met the children but the couple “spoke about them highly.”

“We remember them as a very nice couple,” Trahan said, adding that Louise Turpin told him the family loved Disneyland and visited often.

 

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North Korea and South Korea talks: What do they mean? | In 60 seconds - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 14:41

While the image of North and South Korea meeting to talk implies that perhaps there could be peace between the two nations, AEI’s Oriana Skylar Mastro advises that there could be more nefarious intentions behind Kim Jong Un’s sudden diplomacy.

Fire and Fury: It’s False, That’s How We Know It’s True

The Stream - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 14:40

There’s concern in the City of Others Riches (Washington D.C.) that Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury book about the Trump White House contains as much truth as an advertisement for herbal male supplements.

Matt Labash at Weekly Standard read the book and told us of the author’s note

where Wolff states that many of the accounts in Fire and Fury are in conflict with one another and many, “in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue … and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself” is “an elemental thread of this book.” Or put another way: Despite him weighing the evidence and settling “on a version of events I believe to be true,” everything that follows might be a lie.

This sobering and cautionary warning means that the book might better resemble one of Bill Clinton’s “explanations” than the truth. Still, as Labash concludes, “what comes through loud and clear in Wolff’s telling is that no matter how bad you thought it was in Trump’s White House, it was actually much worse.”

The reception of Wolff’s book is thus a prime example of the False-But-True Fallacy.

Many are saying things like this. Sure, Wolff might have included stories like the one he heard from a guy, who himself got it “from a woman on the beach in Florida, who heard it in a carpool line.” But since these stories show Trump to be the moronic oaf we know him to be, they must be true. Even if they’re false.

Seeing What Isn’t There

The reception of Wolff’s book is thus a prime example of the False-But-True Fallacy.

The False-But-True Fallacy, which I sometimes call the Meta Fallacy because it is the mother of all fallacious arguments, is hard to explain. So stick with me.

It works like this. A certain proposition is first conjectured to be true, like “President Trump is an idiot or incompetent.” Evidence for this belief is put forward, as in the case of Wolff’s book. This evidence, if accepted, confirms the belief.

But we later discover that the evidence is false, or likely false. Indeed, we learn that the evidence might have been juiced, or even in part manufactured.

Since the evidence upon which people have been relying has been proved or judged faulty, it would seem that the strength of the belief in the proposition must diminish. But it doesn’t. If anything, it increases.

Logically Illogical

How could this happen when the rules of logic say it’s impossible?

Because people argue like this. “The evidence would never have been juiced if the proposition wasn’t really true, because nobody would have bothered to make up stories unless there existed other stories like the made-up ones, but about which we never heard.”

If we accept that excuse, then it does follow that the proposition is true. Trump really is incompetent if we accept that there are stories we don’t know about, which prove Trump is an incompetent.

In this way, the person who wants to believe, can. His argument is complete, as long as his false-but-true premise is accepted. The only problem is, there is no real basis other than desire to believe the false-but-true premise.

Come Flay Away

Where else have we seen the False-But-True Fallacy? It sounds uncommon, but it isn’t. I call it the Meta Fallacy because it’s the driver of lesser fallacies. We might even call it the I-Want-To-Believe Fallacy, or for fans of science fiction, the X-Files Fallacy, named for its protagonist, who had a poster with those words.

The False-But-True Fallacy is beloved of UFO buffs. (Here’s the Stream again talking about UFOs!) Every time NASA or the Air Force says, “It wasn’t an extraterrestrial; what people saw was a natural phenomenon,” the saucerologist says, “Aha! He’s denies it! So it must be true.”

The hidden premise used by the believer is, “The government doesn’t want us to know, therefore when it observes UFOs, it lies to us.” That the government sometimes lies is unfortunately not always a bad premise, but it is here.

I’ll Drink to That

Atheists are fond of the False-But-True Fallacy. Eyewitness reports that Jesus turned water into wine is used in a false-but-true proof that God (probably) doesn’t exist by claiming eyewitnesses of miracles are always confused or lying. Thus the presence of an eye-witeness account proves the miracle couldn’t have happened.

Talking the True Believer out of his False-But-True belief is never easy. For instance, Labash got from Wolff’s book that Trump’s “eyes rolled” while being lectured, which he takes as proof of Trump’s limited mental capacity. But the eye-rolling could equally well be the standard reaction of a bright student who grasps the material faster than this less-gifted teachers can dish it out.

The evidence supports both views. Yet in this case, commonsense strongly suggests that only an intelligent man could rise in the manner he did to the post of presidency.

NY Times 'News' Story Goes All Out on Trump ‘Racism’: ‘America Prefers White People’

NewsBusters - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 14:35
<p>The front of the National section in the <em>New York Times</em> took full advantage of President Trump’s vulgar comment about life in Haiti to accuse him of racism, felicitously timed to appear on Martin Luther King Day. Reporter Sabrina Tavernise’s full-page article was headlined “In Trump’s Remarks, Black Churches See a Nation Backsliding.” </p>

Newt’s Test: One Year In, How Transformative has Trump Been?

The Stream - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 13:37

Newt said we would know in a year. As 2016 turned to 2017, former Speaker Newt Gingrich gave a series of lectures for the Heritage Foundation on Trumpism. He observed that President Trump could be more transformational than Ronald Reagan or the Contract with America. Gingrich said we would not have to wait long to make a judgment.

"We'll know in a year," said Gingrich, "if this was a real watershed or just a temporary aberration." He then outlined a lengthy checklist of outcomes for which to look. Gingrich even suggested that Heritage convene a conference to double-check them in early 2018. Perhaps that will yet happen. But seeing no such event on the calendar, here’s an initial assessment.

Trump on Jobs, Regulations and Healthcare

Q: "Are there jobs, jobs, jobs?"

A: Yes. Here, the news is pretty good. The unemployment rate stands at 4.1 percent, down 0.6 percent from a year ago. There are 354,000 fewer long term unemployed persons. A broadly downward trend for unemployment was already in place when President Trump set foot in office, but it has continued and any administration would see that as a win.

Q: "Have tough pro-America trade negotiations begun?"

A: Maybe. The United States left the Trans-Pacific Partnership and is threatening to do the same with NAFTA if current talks do not lead to changes. Regarding China -- not a participant in the TPP, by the way -- the administration is threatening tariffs but has yet to make any major moves.

Q: "Has the new private-public approach to space dramatically accelerated our emergence as the leader in space manufacturing, tourism, travel, and science?"

A: Probably not. Private space ventures have made some headlines, but NASA is still run by an Obama holdover. (Newt has always had a quirky space fetish, but for most of us, this may not be one of the most important markers for measuring an administration.)

Q: "Are there dramatically fewer federal regulations in January 2018?"

A: No. While the growth of federal regulations has slowed a lot, only a few regulations that were on the books in January 2017 are now gone.

In an age ruled by emotions and tribalism, the mere discipline of asking and honestly answering measurable questions is important.

Q: "Has Medicaid been largely transferred to the states to manage and experiment?"

A: No. No major changes have been made to Medicaid, though states now have the option of linking certain benefits to work requirements.

Q: "Has the replacement of Obamacare with a decentralized, transparent, doctor-patient centered system of health and healthcare begun?"

A: Somewhat. This answer depends on how generously one reads the word "begun" in the question. Obamacare has clearly not been repealed and replaced as long promised, but the individual mandate to buy insurance has been eliminated. Prospects for a major overhaul on healthcare during the next year seem slim, though.

Q: "Has the public and private investment in health research begun to lower future costs through dramatic breakthroughs in knowledge and cures?"

A: Probably not. Healthcare costs (at least as measured through insurance premiums) have continued to rise and there has been no fundamental change to how the country invests in healthcare research.

Trump on School Choice, The Military and Infrastructure

Q: "Do dramatically more children have school choice so they can be liberated from bad schools?"

A: No. The Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos has returned the idea of "school choice" to the public discussion. But,so far, there have been no major legislative advancements on this front beyond a tax provision that allows 529 education savings plans to be used to fund private K-12 education. Only about 3 percent of U.S. families currently use a 529 plan, however.

Q: "Are political correctness and anti-American intellectualism being confronted at every turn with honest reality and American values and traditions?"

A: Somewhat. Political correctness has certainly been confronted by Trump, but too often his confrontations do not elevate either honest reality or American values. Here, President Trump's comments about the Charlottesville protests and the birthplaces of legal immigrants come quickly to mind.

Q: "Is the military being rebuilt?"

A: Not yet. While significantly more money has been authorized for defense, those dollars are not real until they are actually appropriated. That process remains bogged down, so far producing only short-term spending bills that move from one potential government shut-down to the next.

Q: “Do we have a coherent strategy for defeating Islamic supremacists?"

A: Somewhat. At least as to liberating ISIS-held territory, a strategy emerged and has been largely successful. Regarding Iran, the nuclear deal that Obama cut and Trump criticized is still in effect, and the administration's future approach is less than clear.

"Trumpism," noted Gingrich, "measures results, not efforts." Based on these metrics, it would be difficult to declare that the President's first year signals a true watershed moment for the nation.

Q: "Is the wasteful defense bureaucracy and procurement system being overhauled?"

A: Not yet. There are hopes for addressing these structural issues in 2018, but major reform did not occur last year.

Q: "Are we actually creating a better infrastructure rapidly and cost effectively with minimum red tape?"

A: No. Infrastructure is merely on the "maybe" list for 2018.

Q: "Has the wall been completed and the southern border secured?"

A: No. The big, beautiful wall has not progressed beyond the model stage.

Trump on Poverty, Veterans and America’s Budget

Q: "Have the poorest parts of our cities and our rural and small town areas begun to grow and have hope?"

A: Probably not. President Trump declared an opioid emergency but little of substance has followed. His poll numbers have declined among all segments of the population, including his base of blue collar voters.

Q: "Has the overhaul of the Veteran's Administration begun?"

A: Yes. A VA reform bill was passed and signed, making it easier to fire underperforming employees.

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Q: "Is there a new deal for African Americans as candidate Trump promised in Charlotte in October [2016]?"

A: Probably not. If there is one, the African American community has yet to hear of it. Bedbugs and junk mail still make a more favorable impression in this community than President Trump.

Q: "Are we on a path to combine rapid economic growth, economic use of federal assets, and dramatic reforms in spending to get back to a balanced budget?"

A: Probably not. While Trump's one major legislative achievement, the GOP tax cut statute, may improve economic growth, no spending cuts have been made nor do such appear on the horizon. A balanced budget seems very unlikely during Trump's first term.

At Best, an “Incomplete”

As Newt notes, one could add other questions to the list. Christian conservative voters might have asked whether the judiciary is more amenable to religious liberty (it is) and whether Planned Parenthood has been defunded (it has not). Fundamentally, has the cause of Christ been elevated or degraded? (Talk amongst yourselves.) The content of the questions matter. But in an age ruled by emotions and tribalism, the mere discipline of asking and honestly answering measurable questions is important.

"Trumpism," noted Gingrich, "measures results, not efforts." Based on these metrics, it would be hard to declare that the President's first year signals a true watershed moment for the nation. The swamp is draining slowly, if at all. Instead, Trump showed a potential that was too often squandered by distraction. At best, one can only give Trump an "incomplete." Year two of the Trump presidency ends with elections that will be provide an even more important test.

 

John Murdock is a professor at the Handong International Law School.

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