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NBC Promises ‘Brutal Senate Confirmation Battle’ Over Trump’s CIA Pick

NewsBusters - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 16:20
<p>On Thursday, NBC’s <em>Today</em> show predicted a “tough fight” and “brutal Senate confirmation battle” over President Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, current Deputy Director Gina Haspel. Citing Haspel’s involvement in the enhanced interrogation of terrorist detainees during the Bush administration, “which many call torture,” correspondent Kristen Welker touted critics of the pick.</p>

Day Two: ABC, NBC Silent on McCabe and Clintons; CBS Allows 92 Seconds

NewsBusters - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 16:16
<p>On Thursday, NBC’s <em>Today</em> stayed silent on the potential firing of Andrew McCabe and the allegations that he misled investigators delving into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal. ABC’s <em>Good Morning America</em> also ignored the story. This is despite a combined six hours of air time. <br />  </p>

Tillerson: It Was Time for Him To Go

The Stream - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 16:14

Rex Tillerson's troubled tenure at the State Department came to painful end this week. The president sacked him as the then-Secretary of State was traveling in Africa. The firing was sudden and its manner discourteous.

It was also needed.

At Odds With the President

First, Tillerson is an accomplished corporate executive, but under his watch the State Department has become not only demoralized but immobilized. Call it the "Tale of the Two 100s": Since he was confirmed, better than 100 diplomats have resigned and another 100 ambassadors have yet to be appointed.

Second, and more importantly, Tillerson was at odds with the President he served. This goes beyond Mr. Trump's sometimes outlandish statements or late-night "tweets." 

He seemed out-of-sync with the President from early on. The temperament of the two men did not mesh. Trump's brashness and independence could never comfortably coincide with Tillerson's more moderate and collegial approach to leadership.

Trump would be a hard guy to work for. He is given to outbursts of temper and verbal excesses that embarrass the country, let alone his own key aides.

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Yet any president has a right to have people who, whatever their background and disposition, share his approach to the critical issues facing our country. Tillerson was not one of them.

Same Goals, Different Strategies

Third, Tillerson has a very different idea of diplomacy than the president. The president has a vision of an America that primarily pursues its own national security and vital interests. This is not to say that Tillerson does not share these goals. And in fairness to him, he sometimes ran afoul of his boss when stating the obvious -- that Russia is responsible for poisoning two people on an English park bench, for example.

Instead, like some of his predecessors, he seemed to believe that personal relationships and muffled pronouncements are essential to diplomacy. In other words, in this approach, diplomacy becomes an end in itself. Speaking softly but carrying a big stick is a good foreign policy, to be sure. But for the stick to be worth anything, both allies and adversaries need to know it will be used when the U.S. deems it justified.

Yes, the job of the diplomat is to diffuse tension. But not at the cost of mollifying dictators or covering America's needs with a veneer of niceness.

Barack Obama seemed never to grasp this. From erasing his own "red line" in Syria to telling then-Russian president Dmitri Medvedev he would have "more flexibility" on arms reduction after his 2012 re-election, Mr. Obama very much wanted America to be liked by all. This was, in part at least, due to his belief in diminished American power and a United States that was just part of the community of free nations -- not its leader.

Similarly, Tillerson did not take the hard-nosed approach of people like U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley or his successor-designate, CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Given that we live in volatile world, large segments of which (including China) are led by dangerous people, toughness is what's called for. We need more vinegar and less oil. Tillerson doesn't seem to have recognized this.

All Americans should wish Rex Tillerson well. But now we should turn our attention to Mike Pompeo and, even more, President Trump, asking God to give them the wisdom to know how to lead long-term and what decisions to make in the moment.

His lack of toughness was evident when, in 2013, he was one of a handful of corporate leaders who pushed the Boy Scouts into accepting young men who are open about their sexual attraction to other young men. As I predicted at the time, this led to full acceptance of homosexuality, including in the Scoutmaster ranks, in what historically has been an organization informed by Judeo-Christian moral teaching.

Put another way, the then-President of Exxon-Mobil caved in to the demands of the homosexual lobby. This speaks to a lack of moral courage that Trump should have seen as a warning sign.

During his confirmation hearing, Tillerson failed to impress. He fumbled in answering basic questions and seemed not only uninterested in but unaware of American policies concerning international religious persecution.

Praying for Our Leaders

All Americans should wish Rex Tillerson well. But now we should turn our attention to Mike Pompeo and, even more, President Trump, asking God to give them the wisdom to know how to lead long-term and what decisions to make in the moment. And there are many critical moments.

As Paul wrote Timothy: "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (I Tim. 2:1-4). 

‘The gender gage rap is real!’ - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 16:09

When I arrived at Lewis & Clark Law School to give a talk, a security officer asked if I had a gun. She’d heard rumors on social media. I didn’t, but my friend Andy Ngo, a Portland State grad student, was armed with an iPhone.

Christina Hoff Sommers enable to continue lecture at Lewis and Clark Law School after protesters shout over her. Still image from YouTube video posted by Andy Ngo on March 6, 2018

A letter from several leftist student groups had demanded the Federalist Society disinvite me. It described me as a “known fascist” whose speech would constitute “violence” against victims of “gendered oppression.” I didn’t take the letter too seriously, nor did my hosts. Law-school students are usually older and more sensible than undergrads, and they’re supposedly learning how to argue for a living. Most Lewis & Clark students—progressives and conservatives—are easygoing and committed to free expression. But that didn’t stop the bullying minority from turning up the volume.

As we approached the lecture hall, we saw protesters blocking the entrance, so we walked in through an adjacent door. When I reached the podium, several sign-wielding students dashed to the front of the room. The ringleader, a blond woman in a “Stay Woke” jacket, read chants from her phone: “Microaggressions are real!” “Black lives matter!” “The gender gage rap is real!” I think she meant “wage gap.”

Full content is available to Wall Street Journal subscribers here

Brzezinski Attacks First and Second Amendments Simultaneously

NewsBusters - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 16:05
<p>On Thursday, MSNBC’s <em>Morning Joe</em> co-host Mika Brzezinski managed to dismiss both the First and Second Amendment in the same sentence when she opined that the NRA “should be sued, and forced to take down” what she described as “inflammatory ads.”</p>

From Friends to Family

NRA Blog - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 15:35
Friends of NRA and the shooting sports bring a Washington family even closer together with each other and their community...

West Virginia teachers strike explained | In 60 seconds - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 15:18


West Virginia’s nine-day teachers’ strike ended when the state raised teacher pay by 5%. But, as AEI’s Rick Hess explains, teacher take-home pay is only part of the story, and the strike did nothing to change the underlying dynamics that have contributed to a frustrating status quo.

CNN's Avlon: It Is a 'Disgrace' to Fire McCabe 'Days Before Retirement' and Take Away His Pension

NewsBusters - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 15:08
<p>During an appearance on CNN's <em>New Day</em> Thursday morning, panelist John Avlon did not seem to like the idea that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may fire Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe for his mishandling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, saying "that is a disgrace to fire somebody days before retirement, and take away their pension really for what is a petty and political reason."</p>

The Hypocrisy of Those Accusing White Evangelicals of Hypocrisy

The Stream - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 15:07

President Trump was elected in 2016 with the help of white evangelicals. So we have been told that in voting for him, we compromised our ethics and can no longer be taken seriously. The latest alleged evidence for this is found in reports that black evangelicals are leaving white evangelical churches because of the latter's support of Trump. What are we to make of this?

The charge of white evangelical hypocrisy has been leveled most recently by self-proclaimed Christian and columnist Michael Gerson, writing in The Atlantic's April edition. The title and subtitle of his major, nearly 7,000 word article read: "The Last Temptation: How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory."

Gerson speaks positively of his own experience growing up as an evangelical Christian. He claims to be jealous of our tradition. But he writes:

One of the most extraordinary things about our current politics -- really, one of the most extraordinary developments of recent political history -- is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump. The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians. This was a higher level of support than either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, an outspoken evangelical himself, ever received.

He notes that

Trump's background and beliefs could hardly be more incompatible with traditional Christian models of life and leadership … Trump's strength-worship and contempt for “losers” smack more of Nietzsche than of Christ. Blessed are the proud. Blessed are the ruthless. Blessed are the shameless. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after fame.

In spite of this, "According to Jerry Falwell Jr., evangelicals have 'found their dream president,' which says something about the current quality of evangelical dreams."

To be sure, I share some of Gerson's concerns. I have raised them frequently myself. See herehere, and here, for relevant examples.

Voting Against Hillary

But what Gerson seems to have missed -- quite glaringly so -- is that many of us who voted for Trump did so because a vote for him was a vote against Hillary Clinton. In other words, we were not so much voting for Trump as against Hillary. Yet, in a 7,000 word article, the name Hillary Clinton does not occur once. How can this be?

I'm currently conducting polls on my Facebook and Twitter pages. I’m asking if those who voted for Trump did so primarily because they were voting for him or against Hillary. So far, about 2,000 votes have come in on Facebook and 500 on Twitter. The Facebook vote is 56 percent for Trump and 44 percent against Hillary. The Twitter vote is 40 percent for Trump and 60 percent against Hillary.

Perhaps the bigger issue is not evangelicals’ alleged hypocrisy but rather our counter-cultural convictions.

Now, go back to the last two elections and ask Christian Democrats who voted for Barack Obama: Were you primarily voting for him or against his opponent? I'm confident the numbers would be overwhelmingly in the for Obama column, in stark contrast with the Trump numbers. This makes Gerson's omission of Hillary Clinton all the more surprising.

It also underscores a major blind spot in his article. Namely, his failure to recognize how deeply many white evangelicals feel that our nation has lurched in a very dangerous direction, which calls for some extraordinary measures. We see a candidate (now, a president) who has the potential to change the makeup of the Supreme Court (and perhaps help overturn Roe v. Wade). One who is genuinely concerned about our religious liberties. One in the process of relocating our embassy to Jerusalem. When we see that, we say: That man will have our support, despite his many flaws and failings. What is so hypocritical about that?

Good Reason

As Roman Catholic columnist Monica Showalter noted, "Evangelicals (and most Catholics -- something [Gerson] forgets to notice) voted for Trump because not only does he not hate them, but he is willing to defend their values."

In the confused and troubled days in which we live, that goes a long way.

As David French, himself a Never Trumper, pointed out,

While Gerson ably explains that Evangelicals feel as if they're under siege, he doesn't give an adequate explanation as to why. He communicates the reality that Evangelicals feel embattled without providing sufficient explanation for that belief, belittling their concerns as hysterical and self-pitying. The effect is to make Evangelicals appear irrational when, in fact, Evangelicals made their political choice in response to actual, ominous cultural and legal developments that jeopardized their religious liberty and threatened some of their most precious religious and cultural institutions.

I ask again, against this backdrop, what makes our vote for Trump an act of hypocrisy? And isn't it the height of hypocrisy to accuse us of betraying our values when Gerson, according to Showalter, voted for Hillary? Is this not a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black?

The Sword Cuts Both Ways

This brings us back to the question of black Christians allegedly leaving white evangelical churches because of the latter's support of Trump. According to African-American pastor Van Moody,

The exodus of blacks from white evangelical churches is real and understandable. People tend to gravitate towards communities that they can identify with and that they believe identifies with them. Unfortunately, the political positions many white evangelical pastors and churches have taken have eroded that sense of identification for many black people.

Now, I'm not aware of any major studies that back up the anecdotal evidence supplied by the New York Times. To my knowledge, most white evangelical pastors do not get into politics that much from the pulpit.

But even if these reports are true, doesn't the sword cut both ways? Haven't black evangelicals consistently voted for pro-abortion, pro-LGBT candidates like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? Haven't some African-American mega-churches even prayed by name for the election of candidates like Obama and Al Gore? Why then weren't they called on the carpet for hypocrisy? Why aren't they guilty of tarnishing the evangelical tradition?

Blind Spots to Go Around

Personally, I believe we all have blind spots and there's more than enough hypocrisy to go around. And I think leaders like Van Moody and Franklin Graham would profit greatly by spending time with each other, if they haven't already. Let us hear one another out. Let us share our respective perspectives. And let us commit to being holistic in our ethics and concerns, with the help of God.

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But I'm a little suspicious whenever left-leaning Christians (and/or the leftist secular media) raise charges against white evangelicals, people who just happen to be strong social conservatives.

Perhaps the bigger issue is not evangelicals’ alleged hypocrisy but rather our counter-cultural convictions? Could this be where the conflict really lies?

Banter #307: Leon Aron on Russian threats to Europe and Central Asia - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 15:00

This week on Banter, AEI Resident Scholar and Director of Russian Studies Leon Aron discusses the threat Vladimir Putin’s Russia poses to six countries in Europe and Central Asia. Dr. Aron recently released a new collection of essays titled “To Have and to Hold: Putin’s Quest for Control in the Former Soviet Empire.” The essays assess the likelihood and form of potential Russian intervention in six neighboring countries: Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Dr. Aron hosted a release event for the essays at AEI featuring the compilation’s authors and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) for a discussion on the threat Russia poses to the West on the eve of his reelection.

Learn More:

To Have and to Hold: Putin’s Quest for Control in the Former Soviet Empire | Leon Aron, ed. | American Enterprise Institute | March 14, 2018

Present and future dangers on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s reelection | Leon Aron | AEI Public Event Video | March 14, 2018

From the archives: Russian politics and Russian elections explained | Karlyn Bowman and Joseph Kosten | AEIdeas

Subscribe to Banter

Dylann Roof’s Sister Accused of Bringing Weapons to School

The Stream - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 14:39

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- The sister of the man sentenced to die for killing nine people at a South Carolina church in 2015 has been arrested at her school and charged with bringing pepper spray, a knife and marijuana onto the campus.

Morgan Roof, 18, was arrested Wednesday at A.C. Flora High School after a school administrator contacted the school resource officer, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said in a news release.

She is charged with two counts of carrying a weapon on school grounds and one count of simple possession of marijuana.

No one was hurt.

A judge set her bond at $5,000 and said she could not return to the school. She was screened for a public defender. It was not known if she has an attorney yet.

Investigators say Roof also posted a Snapchat about the National School Walkout day protest against gun violence that alarmed fellow students, but no charges were filed for that message.

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School principal Susan Childs posted a letter to parents on the school’s Twitter page explaining what occurred while students walked out to remember the 17 killed in the Parkland, Florida, Valentine’s Day school shooting.

“A student used social media to post a hateful message. The posting was not a threat, but was extremely inappropriate. That student was dealt with in a swift and severe manner as the posting caused quite a disruption,” Childs wrote.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a statement Wednesday night praising school administrators and the sheriff’s department, saying a “potential tragedy” was avoided at the school.

Dylann Roof was convicted of fatally shooting nine African-American parishioners at a Charleston church in 2015. A week before his sentencing in January 2017, Roof met with his family and told his sister he would invite her to his execution.

A video recording of one of the visits showed Roof’s sister trying to make small talk. Roof asked his sister what she wanted to do as a career, scoffing at the unoriginality of her dream to be a nurse. He told her that he no longer had to worry about making a living because he was in prison.

#BREAKING: Sister of Charleston Church Shooter Dylann Roof, Morgan, given a $5,000 cash bond by a judge tonight. She's facing charges for possessing weapons at @acflorahigh. Judge said she can't return to school while on bond. Read more: #sctweets @wis10

— Chad K. Mills (@ChadKMills) March 15, 2018


Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

US, France, Germany Blame Russia for UK Nerve Agent Attack

The Stream - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 14:34

LONDON (AP) -- The leaders of the United States, France and Germany joined Britain on Thursday in blaming Russia for poisoning a former spy with a powerful nerve agent, calling the attack “the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.”

In a rare joint statement, U.S. President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May said “there is no plausible alternative explanation” to Russian responsibility.

They said Russia’s failure to respond to Britain’s “legitimate request” for an explanation “further underlines its responsibility.”

The leaders said the use of a chemical weapon is “an assault on U.K. sovereignty” and “a breach of international law.”

The statement is the fruit of British efforts to enlist international support as it tries to hold Russia accountable for the March 4 attack that left former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in critical condition and a British police officer seriously ill.

U.K.-Russia relations have plunged to Cold War-era levels of iciness since the poisoning. May on Wednesday expelled 23 Russian diplomats, severed high-level contacts with Moscow and vowed both open and covert actions following the attack.

Russia denies being the source of the nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Russia was “worried by this situation” and would work to express its position on the international stage.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Moscow would “certainly” expel some British diplomats in a tit-for-tat response.

Lavrov, in remarks carried by the RIA Novosti news agency, said the move would come “soon,” but added that Moscow would inform London through official channels before publicly announcing its countermeasures.

Lavrov said British accusations of Moscow’s involvement are intended to distract public attention from the U.K’s troubled exit from the European Union.

He argued that “boorish and unfounded” accusations against Russia “reflect the hopeless situation the British government has found itself in when it can’t meet the obligations given to the public in connection with exit from the EU.”

Kremlin spokesman Peskov said the decision about how to retaliate would come from President Vladimir Putin, “and there is no doubt that he will choose the option that best reflects Russian interests.”

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U.K. Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson called relations between the two countries “exceptionally chilly” and said Russia should “go away and shut up.”

And British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Russia targeted Skripal -- a former Russian intelligence officer convicted of spying for Britain -- to make it clear that those who defy the Russian state deserve to “choke on their own 30 pieces of silver.”

“The reason they’ve chosen this nerve agent is to show that it’s Russia, and to show people in their agencies who might think of defecting or of supporting another way of life, of believing in an alternative set of values, that Russia will take revenge,” Johnson told the BBC.

May announced the sanctions against Russia in the House of Commons after Moscow ignored a deadline to explain its links to the attack on the Skripals.

As a result of the suspension of high-level contacts with Russia, Britain canceled an invitation for Lavrov to visit. British ministers and royals also won’t attend the World Cup soccer tournament this summer in Russia, May said.

May said that Britain would also clamp down on murky Russian money and strengthen the government’s ability to impose sanctions on those who abuse human rights, though she gave few details.

Britain is also trying to build a unified Western response, saying the attack in Salisbury is just the latest example of Russia’s disregard for international norms on the rule of law.

In their joint statement, Trump, Macron, Merkel and May cited “a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behavior” and called on Russia to disclose details of its Novichok program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

“We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council to uphold international peace and security,” they said.

The leaders did not say what, if any, actions they would take if Russia does not comply.

May on Thursday went to the British city of Salisbury, to view the site where the Skripals were found critically ill.


Angela Charlton in Moscow and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

New bill would incentivize defaulting on student debt - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 14:05

The Senate has taken up a bill to reform the landmark 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, and a group of Democratic Senators led by Dick Durbin (D-IL) want to include changes to student loan policy. One part of their proposed amendment appears particularly ill-conceived and is likely to create perverse incentives for borrowers with federal student loans.

@eddieespinal via Twenty20

The amendment would reduce the amount of money the government could garnish from a borrower’s wages if he is in default on his federal student loan. Providing relief to borrowers struggling to repay their student loans may sound like the sympathetic thing to do. But there are several reasons why it is a bad and counterproductive policy.

Under current law, a borrower who has gone more than a year without making an on-time payment on a federal student loan may have his wages garnished. While there are complicated rules about how much the government can instruct an employer to withhold from an employee’s paycheck, generally speaking wage garnishments for federal student loans cannot exceed 15 percent of a borrower’s take-home pay. The Durbin amendment would change the limit to 10 percent of income above 185 percent of poverty by household size, with a presumption that the borrower’s household includes three people. That equates to an $38,443 exemption.

The result would be a large reduction in how much borrowers have garnished currently, which is the intended outcome. But through this reduction, the amount of wages taken through garnishment would be below what a borrower would be required to pay even if he remained in good standing on his loan and repaid under the Income-Based Repayment program. That program limits payments to 10 percent of income over 150 percent of poverty by household size. Moreover, borrowers need to report their household size; there is no presumption that it includes three people.

Both situations require borrowers to pay 10 percent of income. However, under the Durbin amendment, a borrower exempts more from his income, reducing the payment. Therefore, a borrower in default who has wages that can be garnished is allowed to make lower payments on his federal student loan than a borrower with the same income but does not default. A single borrower with a $20,000 income would pay $21 a month in wage garnishment under the Durbin proposal, while he would pay $57 per month if in good standing and enrolled in Income-Based Repayment.

Not only is that unfair, it sends the wrong message to borrowers. In fact, it provides a disincentive for a borrower to cure his defaulted loan and move it from wage garnishment to good standing by enrolling in Income-Based Repayment. Why? Because if he did that, his payments would increase.

Despite the negative press about wage garnishment, the evidence shows that it is a highly effective policy. The Obama administration conducted a pilot program a few years back in which the Treasury Department went head-to-head with private collection agencies to see who could do a better job of collecting unpaid student loans. Under the pilot program, Treasury largely postponed using wage garnishment to collect defaulted loans, while private collection agencies continued to use it. The results showed that Treasury recovered just a fraction of what the collection agencies recouped and moved far fewer borrowers back into good standing on their loans. What explains the difference? Here is how Treasury put it in its report:

[Treasury] postponed using AWG [Administrative Wage Garnishment], which allows garnishment of a borrower’s wages without a court order, for a majority of borrowers for the first 11 months of the pilot. The delay not only drove the differential in wage garnishment recoveries … but likely also contributed to decreased activity generally. Since initiating AWG in January 2016, toward the tail end of the first year of the continuing pilot, there has been an increase in the number of borrowers contacting Fiscal to attempt to resolve their loans and end involuntary collections.

In other words, the threat of wage garnishment encourages borrowers to resolve their defaults far more than other approaches.

There is also evidence that reducing the amount of wages that can be garnished will weaken the effectiveness of the policy. A study released in late 2016 by New York University’s Constantine Yannelis looks at whether borrowers with the means to repay their loans would opt not to in the absence of wage garnishment policies. Using a large federal dataset, Yannelis focuses on changes in borrower repayment patterns after lawmakers instituted wage garnishment for federal student loans and raised the amount that could subject to garnishment from 10 percent to 15 percent of disposable income.

What did he find? Borrowers with the means to pay, who might have opted to ignore their debts, were dissuaded from doing so due to the threat of garnishment. And the increase in wage garnishment levels further reduced the share of borrowers who defaulted in their first three years of repayment by 2.13 percentage points. That might seem small at first glance, but relative to the current three-year cohort default rate of approximately 11 percent, it is a substantial change.

A better approach to reform the default collection policies for federal loans would align the incentives for borrowers in default to move their loan back to good standing — not increase the incentive to remain in default.

To give just one example, lawmakers could allow borrowers in wage garnishment to consolidate their debt, thus curing the default, without having to first negotiate with a collection agency to have the wage garnishment order lifted. Lawmakers could also require that collection agencies and the Department of Education request that credit bureaus wipe the default history from a borrower’s record once he consolidates the loans. (Current policy leaves the default history on a borrower’s credit record, even if a loan is moved back to good standing.)

Unlike the Durbin amendment, such reforms would simplify the processes for exiting default and increase the benefits of doing so. That’s the right approach to take with student loan reform. Help student loan borrowers get out of default, not simply make default more comfortable.

Related reading:

Low-cost natural gas, the environmentally friendly fuel - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 13:31

If you want to know the state of America’s environment today, a good place to start is with the dramatic decline in airborne emissions from power plants over the past decade.

As they generate electricity, hundreds of fossil-fuel power plants across the country emit sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide into the air. The first two substances cause acid rain and contribute to respiratory ailments and are the emissions of most concern to public health. The third is the principal greenhouse gas that accompanies the burning of oil, natural gas and coal because of their carbon content.

@1laura via Twenty20

According to the Energy Information Administration, there has been a sharp reduction in power-plant emissions over a 10-year period. Since the start of the shale revolution in 2006 and leading up to 2016, annual sulfur-dioxide emissions dropped 81 percent, from 9.5 million metric tons to 1.8 million tons, and nitrogen oxides fell from 3.8 million metric tons to 1.63 million tons, a reduction of 57 percent.

And over the same period, annual carbon-dioxide emissions dropped 22.5 percent, from 2.5 billion metric tons to 1.9 billion tons. Today carbon-dioxide emissions from power production are at late-1980s levels. Think about it: Even as electricity production has risen, carbon emissions fell.

These numbers should bring home a clear message: The fossil fuel revolution in the United States is profoundly changing not only the economics of oil and gas production but also the environment. When it comes to electricity, the economics increasingly favor low-cost abundant natural gas.

Moreover, natural gas is replacing coal, not only in the United States but also in China and India, two countries with fast-growing economies that are beginning to use imports of liquefied natural gas for electric power production. It’s a powerful demonstration that the significant benefits of the shale revolution are beginning to reach other countries and that the United States has the know-how and resources to play a major role globally in reducing carbon emissions.

Everyone seems to recognize this except U.S. environmental groups and those politicians who are eagerly courting their endorsement by supporting efforts to ban the production and use of fossil fuels. Environmentalists participating in the keep-it-in-the-ground movement want to replace natural gas with renewable energy sources like solar and wind. That misguided approach would unnecessarily send energy costs soaring, is technologically unfeasible, and far from the most efficient way to achieve environmental progress.

Greater use of clean natural gas has already helped us take a significant environmental leap forward. While solar and wind power will continue to become more market competitive, we ought to lean on the resources that are already winning in the marketplace today.

Regrettably, the proposition that reducing the U.S. carbon footprint can be done without natural gas has been gaining ground in political circles. Democrats in both the U.S. Senate and the California Assembly have proposed legislation calling for a full transition to solar and wind.

But relying entirely on renewables is both foolish and unrealistic. Solar and wind are growing as energy sources and a case can be made for investing in renewables. But sacrificing natural gas is ill-advised. Given that solar and wind energy are intermittent, it would require a fundamental change in our energy system and impose enormous costs on the nation’s economy.

Those who cling to the belief that natural gas can be replaced forget that the reason you hear so little about acid rain these days is that sulfur-dioxide emissions have declined significantly over the years. Climate change is still a concern to some.

However, the significant reduction in power-plant emissions to the lowest level in almost 30 years proves that we can grow the economy and have a healthy environment, too. And it’s a demonstration that the technology revolution — and a dose of reason and resolve — can address climate challenges without changing the way we live.

Related reading:

American Rifleman: Why We Carry

NRA Blog - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 13:27
Seminar focuses on concealed carry for newbies...

Shooting Sports USA: 2018’s Newest Gear For Competitors

NRA Blog - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 11:13
Fix It, color it, turn it to dust...

British Netflix Drama Calls Immigration Policy 'Crass Xenophobia'

NewsBusters - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 11:00
<p>I love a British mystery as much as, if not more than, the next guy, but I could barely make it through <em>Collateral </em>on Netflix. It was like they had a social justice checklist and created a storyline around it, then added in some extra characters to check the boxes they'd missed.</p>

Energy industry shows how information technology can boost productivity - Energy industry shows how information technology can boost productivity

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 10:00

America’s oil and gas boom has been one of the biggest economic stories of the past decade. The doubling of daily US oil output and the 50 percent increase in natural gas production have transformed energy markets and are altering the geostrategic landscape. Russia, for example, is desperately lashing out, while Saudi Arabia is showing signs of an ambitious political, economic, and cultural modernization.

The US energy boom is interesting for another reason. It’s a demonstration of how the physical industries, which too often underperform their innovative potential, can boost productivity through creative use of information.

The energy industry had known about petroleum soaked shale formations for 100 years. What it lacked was a cost-effective way to pinpoint the formations and unleash and extract the oil and gas from the rock. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing were of course the key to unlocking the shale resources.

These mechanical innovations were themselves made possible and perfected by infotech, such as 3D seismic modeling, cloud computing, and big data. Pinpointing the formations and the very best places to crack them took massive computer power. Guiding the drills many miles under — and then horizontally across — the earth’s surface took precision guidance systems. The data generated from the models and experiences were then refined to constantly improve the process. In so doing, oil and gas drilling today looks more like an advanced manufacturing process than the hit-and-hope, drill-and-pump process of the past.

The data show how US oil and gas went from a laggard in infotech usage to a leader (at least among the physical industries). The physical industries spend just 3.7 percent of their total spending, excluding capital investments, on information technologies. In contrast, the digital industries spend 17 percent on technology. But in the space of a decade, oil and gas firms boosted technology spending from just around 1 percent to 5.6 percent.

In so doing, the US energy industry massively improved its productivity — by more than 50 percent over a decade. In addition to the ways in which information technologies enabled the exploration and precision drilling processes, the industry learned to use information to radically improve its operations. Energy markets are famously volatile, with price swings far larger than many other industries. But a better understanding of a process that looks more like just-in-time manufacturing allowed energy firms to better manage the price cycle and to turn many fixed costs into variable ones.

The energy example is one reason to believe that more aggressively applying information tools to many other industries can help improve productivity growth across the economy.

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Friends of NRA Announces its 2017 Volunteers of the Year

NRA Blog - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 09:00
The blockbuster fundraising program recognizes the outstanding volunteers contributing to its success...

Nets Fearmonger Over Teachers With Guns in Schools

NewsBusters - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 07:58
<p>On Wednesday evening, the <em>CBS Evening News</em> and the <em>NBC Nightly News</em> both seized on a few instances of school teachers -- a tiny number out of more than three million teachers nationally -- who accidentally fired guns in schools as the networks tried to undermine the push for training some teachers to carry guns. CNN's <em>Early Start</em> earlier in the day also hyped one of the California story as anchors Dave Briggs and Christine Romans also marveled over a gun control group placing 7,000 shoes on the Capitol Lawn to commemorate gun-related child deaths.</p> <p> </p>


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