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Keep politics out of the boardroom - Hello soft Brexit: Goodbye US-UK trade agreement — and an American ally on digital trade rules?

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:41
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Even in democratic governments constrained by constitutional limits, the interests of the governed and the governors don’t align well. Government is inefficient by its very nature, spending other people’s money and subject to the leeching effects of special interests. Corporate governance, in contrast, historically has been conducted by people spending their own money, subject to the will of shareholders with a common ownership interest in the company. Calvin Coolidge famously noted that “the business of America is business,” because Americans are “profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.”

But today government is working to remake the dynamic business sector in its own feeble image. Reforms to enhance shareholder rights made it easier for small shareholders to initiate votes, but the new rules mostly have helped interest groups with nominal stock ownership promote their political objectives at the expense of shareholders.

The rise of index funds, which own an ever-greater portion of U.S. stocks, raises the specter of a vast number of shares being voted by fund managers and their proxy advisers who don’t own the shares and may have a conflict of interest with the people who do. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act increased the proportion of independent directors on the boards of public companies, diluting the share of the board with a vested stake in good performance.

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Today investors with a political agenda force major energy companies and banks to evaluate the impact of fossil-fuel bans, though no government has ever instituted such a ban. A Manhattan Institute study estimates that 56% of proxy resolutions in Fortune 250 companies last year dealt with social and environmental issues. Even when such proposals are repeatedly crushed by shareholder votes, the business operations of targeted companies suffer. And corporations sometimes bow to political pressure by granting concessions in return for dropping the resolutions.

State-run retirement plans are the wrong way to protect the poor - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 21:35

Five states are launching plans to automatically enroll employees, predominantly lower-income workers, in state-administered individual retirement accounts. More than 20 other states are considering “auto-IRA” programs like those of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon. Auto-IRAs seem like an obviously benign effort: Only about 20 percent of low-income workers participate in 401(k) plans, and many low earners depend heavily on Social Security when they retire.

But bureaucratic good intentions sometimes address problems that aren’t problems or end up doing more harm than good. In the case of auto-IRAs for low-income workers, states are likely doing both: These workers are in better shape for retirement than misleading news coverage suggests, and auto-IRAs could saddle them with higher debt while disqualifying them from means-tested government health and welfare programs — thus saving the states a fortune.

@kavimili via Twenty20

The perception that Americans are dangerously negligent in saving for retirement is fed by anecdote and well-meaning but flawed research. Government data show that retirement incomes and savings have never been higher. According to a 2017 Census Bureau analysis of Internal Revenue Service data, the median retiree’s total income rose by 32 percent above inflation from 1990 to 2012, far faster than the 11 percent growth of median salaries. Likewise, Federal Reserve data show that total retirement savings have risen sevenfold since the heyday of traditional pensions in the 1970s, and data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that Americans have saved far more for retirement on average than workers in other developed countries.

Nor is it clear that low-income Americans need to dramatically boost their savings. The Congressional Budget Office finds that Social Security provides low-income retirees with benefits equal to roughly 90 percent of their inflation-adjusted career-average earnings. The same 2017 Census Bureau research shows that from 1990 to 2012, incomes for low-income retirees rose 31 percent and poverty among retirees dropped from 9.7 percent to 6.7 percent. Economists at the Investment Company Institute and the IRS found that typical low-income retirees have a total income equal to 103 percent of their earnings just before retirement. None of this points to a dramatic need for low-income workers to save more.

Moreover, state auto-IRA plans could leave low-income households burdened with debt. Yes, automatically enrolling workers in retirement accounts would raise their retirement savings. But a 2017 study by prominent behavioral economists found that when the federal government auto-enrolled a group of Defense Department employees, less-educated employees amassed new debt more than three times larger than their new savings. With less money arriving in each paycheck, workers may have relied more on high-interest credit cards and made lower down payments toward auto and mortgage loans. Low-income workers, who have roughly $4,000 in potentially high-interest credit card, auto loan or other types of debt, would be better off retiring that debt before saving for retirement.

Even modest savings in auto-IRA plans could disqualify tens of thousands of households from means-tested benefit programs such as food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, housing subsidies and Medicaid, which have asset and income tests that can be triggered by as little as $1,000 in savings. Poor households would be forced to spend down their savings — perhaps paying a penalty for early withdrawals — before regaining eligibility for benefits.

The actuarial firm Segal Consulting projected that in the first five years alone, state auto-IRA plans would cause more than 47,000 households nationwide to lose access to Medicaid. Their loss would be the states’ gain: more than $680 million not spent on Medicaid benefits.

One defense of state auto-IRA plans is that they would allow workers to opt out. But the whole premise behind automatic enrollment is that most workers will follow the default.

Clearly, this idea hasn’t been fully thought through. What can be done?

First, state auto-IRAs should not apply to truly low-income workers, with whom there is the most potential for harm. A good model is Britain’s national saving plan policy of automatically enrolling only workers with salaries above £10,000 pounds (about $13,000).

Second, the best way to protect the poor in retirement would be through Social Security reform. Granted, the overhaul that Social Security urgently requires is still a distant dream, given the shortsighted, risk-averse lawmakers now in Congress. But one day the need to save Social Security from fiscal disaster will become an emergency that even Washington can’t ignore. That will present an opportunity to gradually reduce benefits for middle- and upper-income retirees and restore the program’s original goal of saving Americans from an impoverished old age.

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Andrew G. Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

The Femsplainers Podcast episode 11: Monsters, Pervs & Bad Boys - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 20:24

Sexual predators come in all types. But should they all be treated the same way? Christina & Danielle explore the dark world of sexual deviancy with The Atlantic’s Emily Yoffe.

The Kavanaugh confirmation Kabuki - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 19:52

Theater, much like Japan’s Kabuki. That’s all the Supreme Court confirmation process is. President Trump’s presentations of his two nominees, Judge Neil Gorsuch last year and Judge Brett Kavanaugh on Monday, were uncharacteristically graceful — a worthy theatrical innovation, in the view of even some Trump critics.

Now, we get to watch television clips of Kavanaugh’s visits to senators’ offices — where he’ll likely never return to after the play-acting is over — with cordial words from Republicans who are certain to vote for him, and maybe even from Democrats certain to vote against.

Then, there will be hearings before the Judiciary Committee, presided over by the folksy but canny Chairman Chuck Grassley. The ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, may be a bit restrained by her earlier imposition of what sounded like a constitutionally prohibited religious test for office on another judge on Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist.

This process is ostensibly to enable senators to make informed decisions. But Kavanaugh is certain to invoke the 1993 precedent set by his D.C. Circuit predecessor Ruth Bader Ginsburg in refusing to say how she’d vote in any case.

Sure, everybody knows judges shouldn’t make decisions off the tops of their heads. But everyone also knows that they have to deny ammunition to the other side. Judge Robert Bork in 1987 did the opposite, unfortunately for his nomination. Supreme Court nominees for years have been very smart people, able to deftly avoid this mistake.

Of course, everyone knows the outcome of the play, as they do when they go see “Hamlet.” Praise from liberal legal scholars Akhil Reed Amar and Benjamin Wittes won’t make any difference in the outcome. Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed, with all Republican and perhaps a few Democratic votes.

Curiously, our constitutional republic managed to get along for 127 years without Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominees, and for the next 61, many justices were confirmed after perfunctory hearings or none at all. Today, ever since the hearings on Bork and Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, the confirmation process has been just theater.

Any suspense about the outcome has been eliminated by Senate Democrats’ decision to end the filibuster for lower court nominees and then threatening one against Gorsuch. This predictably led Republicans to apply their rule to Supreme Court nominees as well — not a hard choice, given that Democrats had promised they would do the same just before they unexpectedly lost the 2016 election. Sometimes, partisan rage leads politicians to do self-defeating things.

And journalists too. CNN’s legal expert Jeffrey Toobin quickly tweeted that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would mean “abortion illegal; doctors prosecuted; gay people barred from restaurants, hotels, stores; African-Americans out of elite schools; gun control banned in 50 states; the end of the regulatory state.”

That’s mostly silly. How many commercial establishments want to bar gay people (assuming they could even identify them)? How many elite schools want to reject all black applicants?

As for abortion, Democrats have predicted that every Republican nominee would overturn Roe v. Wade. But Roe isn’t even the operative precedent today. Planned Parenthood v. Casey later allowed some restrictions on abortion and recognized that medical progress might require allowing more. Assumptions that the “arc of history” would always move toward abortion are being undermined at every step by polls and practice.

Polls show stable views on abortion, with most Americans favoring additional restrictions, and younger voters, if anything, more anti-abortion than their elders. And in practice, abortions are increasingly rare despite the growing population. The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute reports that the peak year for abortions per woman aged 15-44 was 1982, and the peak year for total abortions was 1990.

Since then, the number has fallen from 1.6 million annually to less than 1 million. Fully 44 percent of abortion facilities are located in just two states, California and New York, according to one pro-life group, and 48 percent of abortions are performed in just five states — those two plus New Jersey, Florida, and Illinois. A reversal of Roe and Casey would allow states to criminalize abortion, but states in which about 80 percent of current abortions are performed certainly won’t.

Toobin’s tweet got one thing right. A Justice Kavanaugh, with Justice Gorsuch and others, might produce a consequential change is in eroding or overturning the Court’s 1984 Chevron decision, requiring courts to defer to regulatory agencies’ interpretation of statutes. Reversal would require Congress to make hard choices rather than punt to unaccountable and anonymous regulators.

That resembles moves by some members of Congress who want to reclaim the right to make trade policy rather than leaving it to the president. The result might be fewer and more transparent laws.

But that’s a subject for later columns, after the confirmation play-acting ends and Kavanaugh takes his seat with his eight new colleagues.

Ep. 106: To understand economics, think like a physicist - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 19:37

Intro to econ classes usually teach students to understand the economy as the combination of labor, capital, and land. But it might be more fruitful to think of the key players as atoms, energy, and information. So says Cesar Hidalgo, an MIT professor, statistical physicist by training, and author of “Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies.

In this episode, we discuss the book the Financial Times calls “the future of growth theory,” and discuss everything from economic development to America’s big tech firms to Friedrich Hayek.

You can also subscribe to my podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. Tell your friends, leave a review.

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Trump isn’t the first president to embarrass himself by cozying up to Putin - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 19:30

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting to get a different result, which is one of the many reasons President Trump’s news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed so insane. Trump is trying to do something that both of his immediate predecessors tried to do: turn over a new leaf with Russia. They both failed, and so will he.

Recall that George W. Bush entered the White House promising to end the “dead ideological rivalry” of the Cold War. At a 2001 summit with Putin in Slovenia, Bush declared, “I looked the man in the eye. I found him very straightforward and trustworthy — I was able to get a sense of his soul.” President Barack Obama tried to appease Putin by giving in to the Russian leader’s demands that we cancel our missile-defense plan with Poland and the Czech Republic — and did it on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland. And while serving as Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton humiliated herself when she gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a giant red button with the word “reset” on it (which, adding insult to injury, misspelled the Russian word for “reset” to read “overload”).

It is now Trump’s turn to learn the hard way that Russia is an adversary, not a competitor. His summit with Putin was a moment that called for presidential strength. It came on the heels of the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents for intervening in the 2016 election and of Russia’s brazen use of a banned chemical weapon on British soil, which resulted last week in the death of a British citizen. But instead of condemning these actions, Trump refused to acknowledge or denounce the fact of Russia’s election interference, and he publicly sided with Putin over his own intelligence community. It was a position he wisely retracted on Tuesday, declaring what he should have said standing next to Putin: “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.”

Trump does not seem to fathom that the problem with U.S.-Russia relations is not a lack of effort on the part of U.S. presidents. Russia is the only country on Earth other than North Korea that would dare use a toxic nerve agent to attempt to carry out assassinations on foreign soil. It is a regime that blatantly violates its nuclear and chemical weapons treaty obligations, has invaded two of its neighbors, and has threatened NATO countries (and even Mar-a-Lago) with nuclear annihilation.

Yet, as cringeworthy as Trump’s news conference was, unlike Obama, he didn’t throw U.S. allies under the bus to appease Putin or take any of the actions many feared — such as lifting sanctions or recognizing Putin’s annexation of Crimea. Unlike his rhetoric, Trump’s Russia policy has actually been a dramatic improvement over that of his predecessor. Trump expelled 60 Russian diplomats, approved a $47 million arms sale to Ukraine, continued the deployment of NATO forces to the Baltic states, posted troops to Poland’s border with Russia and levied new sanctions against Moscow for violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. During his first year in office, he got NATO allies to increase their defense spending by $12 billion and twice bombed Putin’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, for his regime’s use of chemical weapons. If Putin was looking for a more pro-Moscow policies from the United States, his election interference backfired in a big way.

Critics say, words matter — and they are right. But if words matter, then Trump’s critics should be careful what they say. In many cases, their responses to Trump’s news conference have matched the president in absurdity. John Brennan, the CIA director under Obama, tweeted that “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous.” And Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared, “A single, ominous question now hangs over the White House. What could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States?”

As always, Trump’s critics bail him out by overplaying their hands. A news conference, however humiliating, is not an impeachable offense. And conspiracy theories aside, there is a simple explanation for Trump’s performance in Helsinki: He is deeply wrong on Russia. He thinks he can charm Putin into behaving like a normal leader. He’ll learn that Putin is KGB to his core, just as those before him learned.

When should we be worried? When Trump’s actions match his rhetoric. Until then, Trump’s summit was simply an embarrassment, not a disaster.

Politics and control - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 14:13

Hurricane Katrina is remembered as the low point of George W. Bush’s presidency. Natural disasters can happen under any administration, but what turned that one into a political catastrophe was not so much its intensity as the failure of the state and federal government to even pretend to be in control of events.

Exactly ten years later, Europe experienced its own Katrina moment, not triggered by a natural disaster but rather by regional instability. During the summer of 2015, Europeans watched hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and migrants from North Africa and Middle East march across their continent.


Keep reading at The American Interest.

Three reasons why Imran Khan is bad for Pakistan’s democracy - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 13:38

As Pakistan lurches toward parliamentary elections on July 25, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan appears to be the front-runner to become the nuclear-armed Islamic republic’s next prime minister. In my latest Wall Street Journal column (read it here), I argue that this would set back Pakistan by reversing progress toward deepening civilian rule in a country long dominated by the army.

It’s easy to see why many Pakistanis admire Khan. Over the years, the 65-year-old has built a reputation for personal probity that is all too rare in South Asian politics. As captain of Pakistan’s cricket team in the 1980s and 1990s, Khan established himself as an inspirational leader of men. In 1992 he led his country to arguably its greatest sporting achievement: winning the quadrennial cricket World Cup.

Khan founded Pakistan’s first cancer hospital — in memory of his late mother — as well as a private university for underprivileged youth. His education at Oxford and life as a widely-traveled international sportsman have given him more exposure to the world — especially Britain and India — than the run-of-the-mill Pakistani politician.

Nonetheless, there’s reason to worry about what Khan’s ascendance means for Pakistan and South Asia more broadly.

For starters, Khan’s frontrunner status heading into the election is not entirely of his own making. He’s the beneficiary of the army’s determined bid to hobble arguably Pakistan’s most popular grassroots politician — former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Last year, the Supreme Court turfed Sharif out of office on the dubious grounds of not being “truthful and trustworthy” after prosecutors failed to prove corruption charges against him. Earlier this month, an anti-corruption court sentenced Sharif and his daughter and political heir, 44-year-old Maryam Nawaz Sharif, to prison terms for failing to produce a satisfactory money trail to explain their ownership of four luxury apartments in an upscale London neighborhood.

Nobody who follows Pakistan believes that the Sharifs are pure as the driven snow, though the idea of a wealthy business family owning high-end real estate is hardly shocking in itself. Their jailing is widely seen as payback by the military, Pakistan’s most powerful institution, for Nawaz Sharif’s attempt to prosecute former dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and for trying to assert civilian control over national security policy.

As the Pakistani commentator Zaigam Khan points out, “Imran Khan has succeeded in taking Pakistan’s politics back to 1990s.” This was a time when short-lived civilian governments rose and fell on the whims of the generals who actually ran the country from behind the scenes until formally taking charge in a coup in 1999.

Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, gestures as he addresses his supporters during a rally in Lahore, Pakistan April 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

If you believe that in the long run only democracy can ameliorate Pakistan’s many problems — in part by allowing elected leaders to channel more resources toward social spending rather than by supporting an over-sized military — then this is an unwelcome development.

According to the journalist Gul Bukhari, among others, Pakistan is already in the midst of an aggressive military crackdown against the media in an effort to ensure that the Sharifs are tarred and Khan gets favorable coverage. Hameed Haroon, the CEO of Dawn, Pakistan’s most respected media group, calls it “a new form of quasi-military censorship that is astonishingly aggressive in using both threats and coercion.”

Apart from his tendency to let the army fight his political battles for him, and lack of any visible attachment to democratic principles such as freedom of the press, Khan also shows a high degree of comfort with radical Islamists. He blames terrorism on America, rather than on the hateful ideology of jihadist groups such as the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, long backed by Pakistan’s army as proxies against Afghanistan and India.

His reluctance to condemn Islamist militants long ago earned Khan the moniker Taliban Khan. He is also an outspoken supporter of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, which are often used to terrorize defenseless religious minorities, including Christians, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and Hindus. This week Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, founder of the terrorist groups Harkatul Jihadul Islami and Harkatul Mujahideen, and a signatory of Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of jihad against “the Jews and Crusaders,” joined Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

Finally, there’s the question of economics. Pandering to the lowest common denominator among voters, Khan promises to turn Pakistan into an “Islamic welfare state.” In reality, the Pakistani rupee has cratered since last year, and foreign exchange reserves are down to $11.4 billion, barely enough to cover ten weeks of imports. What his country needs is fiscal discipline, law and order to attract investment, and a large dose of free enterprise. Promising the people of a poor and flailing country a welfare state is not just fantastical but also irresponsible.

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Straight up conversation: Leading Educators departing CEO Jonas Chartock - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 12:00

Jonas Chartock, Ed.D., recently announced that he’ll be stepping down as CEO of Leading Educators, a nonprofit working with over 700 teacher leaders to transform professional learning for over 2,400 teachers. Before serving as Leading Educators’ founding CEO, Jonas worked with Teach for America as an executive director, served as founding president and CEO of the Charter School Policy Institute, and was the Executive Director of the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. I recently had the chance to chat with Jonas about Leading Educators and their work in teacher development. Here’s what he had to say.

Rick Hess: So, Jonas, what exactly is Leading Educators?

Jonas Chartock: Leading Educators is a nonprofit that helps districts and schools maximize the effectiveness of their most valuable resource: teachers. We believe all students deserve great schools and exceptional teachers. So do districts. But the reality is that many schools struggle to support teachers in mastering and fully using their content, which doesn’t help the students we have marginalized to reach their fullest potential. Teachers want to be the best they can be for their students, so if we want to reach every student, we have to listen to teachers and put them in a position to lead the change they want to see within systems. So, what we do is take professional development out of gigantic auditoriums and put it where it belongs—in schools, as a regular part of a teacher’s week.

RH: How long have you been CEO? And what prompted you to move from charter schooling in New York to take the helm of a national teacher leadership outfit based in New Orleans?

JC: I became Leading Educators’ first CEO in late 2010. Before that, I was a charter school authorizer, and I started my career as a teacher and then a teacher trainer. When I was in authorizing, I saw that a key difference between the schools that were succeeding academically and those that were on our “watch list” or being closed was the focus on teacher development. The opportunity soon came for me to lead a small teacher leadership pilot program in New Orleans to a national scale, and I was inspired by the influence it could have on school systems everywhere.

RH: You’ve announced your plans to step down as CEO. What prompted that, and what’s ahead for the organization?

JC: I am proud of all this team has accomplished in the last seven years. We have a great group of leaders who are ready to take Leading Educators into an exciting new chapter, and I’m looking forward to staying close to our work on the board of directors. Our incoming CEO, Chong-Hao Fu, is a close personal and professional friend, and I know that his deep understanding of professional learning positions us to be even better partners to districts. We’re expecting significant growth in the coming years, and our team is eager to invest significant resources in sharing our learning for the benefit of all districts and students.

RH: As you look back over your tenure, what are a couple key accomplishments that you’d point to?

JC: We have worked with schools and systems to develop the teacher-leadership skills of 1,500 teacher leaders since we started. Last year alone, we worked with over 600 teacher leaders in 152 schools and 19 systems, impacting the work of over 2,400 teachers and 65,000 students.

RH: What’s a story that really captures what success looks like for you guys?

JC: When we started working with DC Public Schools, there were few proof points that teacher development at a district scale could be particularly meaningful and successful. We partnered with DCPS to create the LEAP program, the first comprehensive teacher-led professional learning model in the country of its kind. After the first year, DCPS saw record growth in math and English language arts across all grades, and people started thinking, “Maybe this can actually work!” We’re incredibly proud of that partnership, and at the same time we don’t pretend that it was successful overnight. It took really thoughtful planning and adjustment alongside the district for the past six years. Very few programs last that long, and there’s often intense pressure to produce results quickly. DCPS gave us the opportunity to take the best parts of our previous work and build a core model that could meet a range of needs and challenges across hundreds of schools.

RH:  How frustrating can it be to work with districts on this stuff—especially given political pressures and leadership turnover?

JC: Death, taxes, and district leadership transitions—while these are difficult eventualities, we’ve learned a lot as an organization about how to see this work survive leadership changes. To do so, we’ve hired a team with deep experience working for innovative districts, which has helped bring credibility and trust to the partnership. More than anything else, because some of our programs were ending sooner than they should due to leadership change, we realized that we need to work with district leaders to bake the fundamental features of successful teacher learning into the system itself. To do this, we support our partners through their specific systemic challenges without compromising our commitments to equity and world-class teaching and learning.

One reason I believe this work with districts is harder than it needs to be is the sector-wide focus on specific interventions that might yield a certain outcome—say, drop-out prevention or improved teacher recruitment—but don’t really develop the people already in the system: teachers. As you know, the dominant narrative is that teachers aren’t up to the task. They are. We just have pervasive low expectations for what they will be able to accomplish.

RH: Just how big is Leading Educators today, anyway? How many cities are you in, how many educators are involved?

JC: We currently serve students in four education markets: Chicago, Greater Grand Rapids, New Orleans, and Tulsa. We are also concluding our partnerships with Aurora Public Schools and DC Public Schools this summer. We work directly with 769 leaders who lead development for approximately 2,450 peer teachers. Since our founding in 2008, we have supported leaders in 12 cities.

RH: Say a bit more about how the program works, for those who aren’t familiar with it?

JC: Our work is really about taking the pressure and isolation out of teaching. We’ve found it to be the case in many environments that schools have “islands of excellence” where great teaching and learning is happening, but due to a lack of time and structures to collaborate, teachers within a content area are missing powerful opportunities to share learning and develop one another. Our solution is preparing teams of teachers to lead weekly team learning, observation, and practice rooted in reliable data and rigorous standards. I can’t stress enough that a lack of this deep, regular dive into content is what has precluded instruction from being aligned to standards and curriculum. By the time we leave an engagement, schools should have iterative structures in place, a deep understanding of excellent instruction, and strong leadership from the central office to the classroom.

RH: For those who don’t follow such things too closely, how should they understand the distinction between Leading Educators and other teacher empowerment organizations like TeachPlus, Educators 4 Excellence, the federal Teach to Lead initiative, and the Hope Street Group?

JC: Our peer organizations are doing important work to elevate the teacher voice and expand opportunities for educators to lead change. Those are aims we share. That said, we have also realized that for empowered teachers to have consistent impact, we have to work directly with districts to build the support and conditions for them to be successful. We’ve focused on how to blur the lines of leadership from classroom to central office so that all who have the agency to produce better outcomes for our students are aligned.

RH: How have you tried to gauge the impact of Leading Educators? How do you know if what you’re doing is working?

JC: We look at Leading Educators’ impact from a few angles. The most obvious is via testing data. If teaching and learning has improved students’ conceptual understanding of math and English language arts, it should show up in these data. That has been the case in DCPS, New Orleans, and Kansas City. Over the past few years, we have also been working with RAND and the University of Virginia to develop ways to assess changes in teacher content knowledge and skills. Our coaches observe teacher leaders against normed rubrics that are research- and evidence-based. Our work has contributed to higher levels of teacher retention in previous partner schools—which is great—but we’re most interested in reaching consistently high teacher quality. Lastly, we have a number of tools to assess organizational changes at the school and district level, because, ultimately, we want to support districts in their aim to be developmental places for students and teachers to be successful over the long term.

RH: Looking ahead, what are a couple of the challenges that you think Leading Educators is going to face over the next few years? What do you hope to see the organization accomplish?

JC: The education sector has a crisper view of what exemplary principal leadership looks like than ever, but when you ask people what an exemplary teacher content team looks like, they point to the same professional learning communities that have existed for decades. Normally they are neither iterative nor rooted in amazing curriculum. Leading Educators seeks to focus here and change the way teachers develop their practice. In addition, as you know all too well, education remains a sector wherein the “next big thing” changes every few years. Currently, personalized learning and social emotional learning are at the forefront, and I think there is good reason for that. That said, we will still need teachers with deep understanding of content and standards to be successful in this work. My fear is that states and districts will not set aside the necessary funds to support quality instructional development.

RH: As you survey your time in this role, what are a couple of the things that most surprised you?

JC: First, I’m surprised by the lack of real conversations about race in our schools and professional development organizations. Leading Educators has a significant amount of curricular focus on anti-bias and social-justice teaching, and our work is too often the first time teachers are having conversations about these things. Teacher leaders are the most proximate and influential source of development for their colleagues, and when you consider the fact that roughly 80 percent of our country’s teachers are white, while nearly 50 percent of our students are of color, we are not doing right by either group when we neglect these conversations. Secondly, I’ve been disappointed by the number of districts that feel like they are already “doing” high-quality teacher professional learning, when they are actually just doing what has always been done. That said, I’m also pleasantly surprised to see so many district leaders now believing that their professional learning models are in need of realignment, and I’ve been surprised by their willingness to bring in a partner.

RH: How have the shifting tides of politics and of school reform affected your work? When you started in this role, teacher evaluation was riding high, Obama was president, and No Child Left Behind was the law of the land. Today, it’s a different landscape. How has that mattered?

JC: We’re encouraged that under the Every Student Succeeds Act, so much of the direction of education is now being set at the state level. In being charged to implement high standards, states have taken more innovative approaches to developing their teachers. We’re now able to partner with school systems because of these investments in innovation. There has also been substantial blowback from the heavy focus on testing and evaluation over the past decade. We have arguably lost sight of the craft of teaching and the importance of strong academic learning that supports better outcomes for kids. Given some of the messages coming from the federal level, we’ve felt that it is more important than ever to reaffirm our support for the most vulnerable populations.

RH: What are some of the issues in education that people aren’t paying much attention to, that you think they should be?

JC: We see a lot of great work happening around new-teacher preparation and principal development, but at the same time, there are four million teachers who are already in our classrooms. Often, education dollars are used to change the things around teachers without digging into how we support them. Additionally, I think more folks are paying attention to early childhood, but there have been too few comprehensive, effective, and financially viable solutions.

RH: The Leading Educators website notes that you all work exclusively with school systems serving majority low-income students of color. Why has that been the focus?

JC: We know that opportunity has not been distributed equitably to students of color and students from low-income communities, especially when it comes to resources or expectations. Students in the school systems with which we partner are more likely to have teachers who are newer to the profession, and they experience higher levels of turnover—so there’s a real need for supports that can create systemic consistency. We know these schools also have pockets of great teaching and learning, so we’re trying to create new opportunities for those teachers who have been successful to lead school- and system-wide improvements in instructional quality. We’ve also been incredibly intentional about diversifying our team from top to bottom to ensure that we’re addressing the student and teacher experience from many angles and perspectives.

RH: Finally, what’s next for you, my friend? Do you know what you’ll be doing next and whether you’ll be doing it from New Orleans?

JC: One thing is for sure, while my professional and family life may ultimately take me elsewhere, I am in no way excited to learn “what it means to miss New Orleans.” I have a few exciting projects on the horizon, and most immediately am going to be taking a step away from large organizational leadership to contribute to high-potential social-impact organizations inside and outside of education. I am also eager to continue to learn, as a both an educator and a dad, about areas I see as of dire importance in the coming decades, including comprehensive early childhood and workforce development solutions and anti-racism education—all in a community- and equity-informed way. I promise to bring you all along for the ride at @jonaschartock.

This post originally appeared on Rick Hess Straight Up.

The likeliest explanation for Trump’s Helsinki fiasco - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 10:30

Last week, I wrote that the best way to think about a Trump Doctrine is as nothing more than Trumpism on the international stage. By Trumpism, I do not mean a coherent ideological program, but a psychological phenomenon, or simply the manifestation of his character.

On Monday, we literally saw President Trump on an international stage, in Helsinki, and he seemed hell-bent on proving me right.

During a joint news appearance with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Trump demonstrated that, when put to the test, he cannot see any issue through a prism other than his grievances and ego.

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin react at the end of the joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. Reuters

In a performance that should elicit some resignations from his administration, the president sided with Russia over America’s national-security community, including Dan Coats, the Trump-appointed director of national intelligence.

Days ago, Coats issued a blistering warning that not only had Russia meddled in our election — undisputed by almost everyone save the president himself — but it is preparing to do so again. But when asked about Russian interference in Helsinki, Trump replied, “All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia]. . . . I have confidence in both parties.”

Separately, when asked about the frosty relations between the two countries, Trump said, “I hold both countries responsible. . . . I think we’re all to blame. . . . I do feel that we have both made some mistakes.”

Amid these and other appalling statements, Trump made it clear that he can only understand the investigation into Russian interference as an attempt to rob him of credit for his electoral victory, and thus to delegitimize his presidency.

For most people with a grasp of the facts — supporters and critics alike — the question of Russian interference and the question of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign are separate. Russia did interfere in the election, full stop. Whether there was collusion is still an open question, even if many Trump supporters have made up their minds about it. Whether Russian interference, or collusion, got Trump over the finish line is ultimately unknowable, though I think it’s very unlikely.

But for Trump these distinctions are meaningless. Even when his own Department of Justice indicts twelve Russian intelligence agents, the salient issue for Trump in Helsinki is that “they admit these are not people involved in the campaign.” All you need to know is: We ran a brilliant campaign, and that’s why I’m president.

The great parlor game in Washington (and beyond) is to theorize why Trump is so incapable of speaking ill of Putin and so determined to make apologies for Russia.

Among the self-styled “resistance,” the answer takes several sometimes overlapping, sometimes contradictory forms. One theory is that the Russians have “kompromat” — that is, embarrassing or incriminating intelligence on Trump. Another is that he is a willing asset of the Russians — “Agent Orange” — with whom he colluded to win the presidency.

These theories can’t be wholly dismissed, even if some overheated versions get way ahead of the available facts. But their real shortcoming is that they are less plausible than the Aesopian explanation: This is who Trump is. Even if Russia hadn’t meddled in the election at all, Trump would still admire Putin because Trump admires men like Putin — which is why he’s praised numerous other dictators and strongmen.

The president’s steadfast commitment to a number of policies — animosity toward NATO, infatuation with protectionism, an Obama-esque obsession with eliminating nuclear weapons, and his determination that a “good relationship” with Russia should be a policy goal rather than a means to one — may have some ideological underpinning. (These policies all seem to be rooted in intellectual fads of the 1980s.)

But Trump’s stubborn refusal to listen to his own advisers in the matter of the Russia investigation likely stems from his inability to admit that his instincts are ever wrong. As always, Trump’s character trumps all.

Workers need not worry: Two skeptical views of artificial intelligence - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 10:00

I have been compiling evidence and argumentation that artificial intelligence (AI) will not (any time soon or probably ever) match or exceed our most important human abilities. Many current AI projects have much to offer — in medical research, autonomous vehicles, and across science and the economy. Deep learning and other AI techniques can process and parse previously unimaginable volumes of data, make sense of complex systems, and even mimic some human senses, such as vision and hearing. As for the fashionable economic worry that AI is a widespread threat to employment, however, I’m skeptical.


Among many new entries in the growing literature of AI reality, let’s highlight two. In the first of a new four-part broadside against AI alarmism, Massachusetts Institute of Technology robotics professor Rodney Brooks categorizes what he views as the four historical approaches to AI and grades their strengths and weaknesses. But first, he reminds us that these things usually take much longer than we’d like.

Einstein predicted gravitational waves in 1916. It took ninety nine years of people looking before we first saw them in 2015. . . .

Controlled nuclear fusion has been forty years away for well over sixty years now.

Chemistry took millennia, despite the economic incentive of turning lead into gold (and it turns out we still can’t do that in any meaningful way). . . .

Some things just take a long time, and require lots of new technology, lots of time for ideas to ferment, and lots of Einstein and Weiss level contributors along the way.

I suspect that human level AI falls into this class. But that it is much more complex than detecting gravity waves, controlled fusion, or even chemistry, and that it will take hundreds of years.

Being filled with hubris about how tech (and the Valley) can do whatever they put their mind to may just not be nearly enough.

As for the differing approaches to cracking the AI code, he notes that the symbolic approach — attempting to reengineer the logical processes of a brain — began at the famous Dartmouth Artificial Intelligence Conference in 1956. Neural networks, which rely on massive amounts of data, go back even further and are the subject of most current research and popular AI references. Traditional and behavior-based robotics are often seen as distinct from AI but are nevertheless important interfaces with the physical world and would be essential components of any truly general intelligence. As Brooks sees it:

The four main approaches have been, along with approximate start dates:

1. Symbolic (1956)

2. Neural networks (1954, 1960, 1969, 1986, 2006, …)

3. Traditional robotics (1968)

4. Behavior-based robotics (1985)

Brooks summarizes his discussion of the approaches in a chart, showing their strengths and weaknesses. On a scale from one to three, with three being the best, he estimates that each has made some progress, but none do well across the multiple capabilities we might want in a general purpose AI.

Not bad, you might say. But then Brooks compares the four approaches to the capabilities of a child.

Brooks explains:

Note that under this evaluation a human child scores six hundred points whereas the four AI approaches score a total of eight or nine points each. As usual, I think I may have grossly overestimated the current capabilities of AI systems.


The second skeptical look at AI comes from George Gilder’s new book, “Life After Google” (Gateway Editions, 2018), which argues that decentralized blockchains and crypto-assets will yield more innovation and entrepreneurial momentum than AI. Informing his view of AI are the intellectual history and information theory of Isaac Newton, Kurt Gödel, John von Neumann, Alan Turing, Claude Shannon, and Gregory Chaitin.

Newton proposed a few relatively simple laws by which any new datum could be interpreted and the store of knowledge augmented and adjusted. In principle anyone can do physics and calculus or any of the studies and crafts it spawned, aided by tools that are readily affordable and available in any university, many high schools, and thousands of companies around the world. Hundreds of thousands of engineers at this moment are adding to the store of human knowledge, interpreting one datum at a time.

“Big data” takes just the opposite approach. The idea of big data is that the previous slow, clumsy, step-by-step search for knowledge by human brains can be replaced if two conditions are met: All the data in the world can be compiled in a single “place,” and algorithms sufficiently comprehensive to analyze them can be written.

Upholding this theory of knowledge is a theory of mind derived from the pursuit of artificial intelligence. In this view, the brain is also fundamentally algorithmic, iteratively processing data to reach conclusions. Belying this notion of the brain is the study of actual brains, which turn out be much more like sensory processors than logic machines. Yet the direction of AI research is essentially unchanged. Like method actors, the AI industry has accepted that its job is to act “as if” the brain were a logic machine. Therefore, most efforts to duplicate human intelligence remain exercises in faster and faster processing of the sort computers handle well. Ultimately, the AI priesthood maintains that the human mind will be surpassed — not just in this or that specialized procedure but in all ways—by extremely fast logic machines processing unlimited data.

Gilder thinks that this approach can be powerful in some important ways but cannot mimic or replace consciousness and creativity.

That is only the tip of the iceberg in a book teeming with explosive ideas and contrarian insights. For now, the argument that AI is powerful enough to be an employment menace continues to weaken.

Learn more:

State attorneys general and the climate litigation game - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 22:00

The central broad objective of the U.S. constitution is the protection of unpopular individuals and political groups from the whims and passions of the political majority of the moment.

It is curious therefore that the election of prosecutors, in particular that of state Attorneys General, seemingly is accepted as a norm by many despite the perverse incentives created by that path to prosecutorial power.

That voters elect them creates an obvious self-selection process: It is the politically ambitious who are much more likely to seek those offices. (Is there an elected state AG who does not see a governor when looking in the mirror?)

And it is the politically ambitious who have incentives to enhance their political positions through actions strengthening the political coalition in support of their future pursuit of elective office.

In other words, elected AGs seek to satisfy the demands of a majority coalition, creating important and obvious dangers for unpopular political groups. The latest example is the climate lawsuit against the major fossil-fuel producers filed recently by Rhode Island AG Peter F. Kilmartin.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin announces a lawsuit the state is filing against fossil-fuel companies during a press conference in Narragansett, RI. David DelPoio | The Providence Journal

Like any professional politician aspiring to higher office, Kilmartin transformed this legal action into a major photo opportunity by announcing the litigation at the Narragansett seawall, a famous stretch of the state coastline. His main “scientific” argument is:

“Rhode Island is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate changes that is (sic) now on our doorstep with sea level rise and an increase in severe weather patterns, as seen by the extensive damage caused by storms in the past several years, including Super Storm Sandy and the floods of 2010.”

Where to begin? Global mean sea levels have been rising about 3.3 mm per year as measured by the satellite data beginning in 1979. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 5th Assessment Report estimates that global sea levels as measured by tidal gauges increased about 2 mm per year during the 20th century. (Note that this is not an “acceleration” of sea level rise, as the tidal gauge and satellite data are not comparable.)

So what do the data show for Narragansett? The tidal gauge readings at Newport and Providence for 1930-2015 show an average annual sea level increase of about 2.5 mm, higher than the global average. For 1985-2014, the annual average increase at Newport was 4.2 mm.

If we assume that all of the difference (1.7 mm per year) is due to greenhouse gas emissions — a premise far from obviously correct — then the GHG/sea level “crisis” confronting Rhode Island would be 17 centimeters — 6.7 inches — over the course of a century.

The ice beneath Kilmartin’s feet is no thicker on storms and flooding. The satellite data on cyclones show no trend since satellite observations began in the early 1970s, and accumulated cyclone energy (essentially, an annual index of wind speeds or “destructiveness”) is near its lowest level over these four-plus decades.

Falsities About Flooding

The peer-reviewed literature shows no correlation between flooding and increasing greenhouse gas concentrations for the U.S. Simply mentioning, repeatedly, “Super Storm Sandy” and flooding in a particular year provides no useful information.

Do Kilmartin and his fellow attorneys have systematic evidence that storms, flooding, and other climate phenomena are worsening?

This lawsuit is a blatant attempt to replicate the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, which yielded hundreds of billions of dollars of payments to various levels of government and therefore for favored interest groups. Whether the use of tobacco provides individual or social benefits is not of interest here; the use of fossil fuels obviously does, as illustrated by the substantial consumption of fossil fuels by the Rhode Island state government itself.

That reality is one central pillar of Judge William Alsup’s recent decision to dismiss the Oakland and San Francisco climate lawsuits: The appropriate tradeoffs between the benefits and purported adverse effects of energy use are an obvious legislative function, inappropriate for litigation to resolve, particularly given the international nature of the production, consumption, and GHG emissions from fossil fuels.

Trump’s Russia fixation has a simple explanation - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 21:45

President Donald Trump’s behavior in Helsinki was both appalling and perfectly in character. He was, as he has been before, gullible or worse about Vladimir Putin’s lies. He treated the U.S. and Russia, again, as morally equivalent.

He was unwilling or unable, once more, to respond to a foreign adversary’s interference in our politics in the manner one would expect from the leader of a self-respecting nation. He refused, yet another time, to credit the unanimous conclusion of our intelligence services.

A lot of Republicans, even ones who have typically been in Trump’s corner, are criticizing his performance. Others are trotting out the usual excuses — Barack Obama did something similar, Trump’s voters won’t care about it, all the rest of the ones you know by heart by now — but these responses sound a little tinnier than usual.

People who have long been convinced that Trump is a Russian agent decided that Trump’s abject posture toward Putin in Helsinki proves their theory. Two prominent Democrats hinted at that possibility. I think a less extravagant explanation is available.

The president has a long track record of admiring foreign dictators. He has long believed that treating America as a moral exemplar is an obstacle to diplomacy. And — probably most important — he thinks that any attention to Russian meddling in the 2016 election detracts from the glory of his victory.

That’s not the subtext of Trump’s remarks about Russia. It’s the text. At the press conference, a reporter asked Putin why Americans including Trump should believe his denials of interference in 2016. Trump answered it himself, by saying that “The concept of that came up perhaps a little before, but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election, which frankly, they should have been able to win. … We ran a brilliant campaign. And that’s why I’m president.”

His aides, speaking off the record and unhappily to reporters, are offering the same basic explanation: Trump cannot separate the question of Russian interference from the question of his own legitimacy. It is an inability he has in common with some of his critics.

But it ought to be possible to acknowledge all of the following truths at the same time: Hillary Clinton was a lousy candidate. Trump was a better one than a lot of people thought he would be. Americans cast their votes with free will, their votes were counted accurately, and the result under our electoral system was that Trump was duly elected. And Russia manipulated the flow of information, to the extent it could, to help Trump get elected.

Trump may well believe that he is innocent of any wrongdoing, and that neither he nor his top aides cooperated with Russia’s illegal activity. (We already know that Donald Trump Jr., based on his own emails in advance of his meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, was willing to collude.) But the president cannot even bring himself to admit, in any sustained way, that Russia interfered at all.

Like so many of the worst features of this presidency, what happened in Helsinki has at its root the president’s deep character flaws — flaws that on this occasion have made him incapable of defending either the country’s interests or its honor.

Booming housing market today presents serious risk for future - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 20:00
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We are currently in the midst of a six-year boom in home prices. Aided by a growing economy, favorable demographic trends, monetary accommodation, lax government housing agency underwriting policies, and consumer expectations of continuing home price appreciation, the demand for housing is booming.  If the past is prologue, prices will correct when demand flattens as the economy cools or credit conditions tighten.

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Large swings in asset prices are nearly always driven by changes in investor demand. Investor demand is volatile, while asset supplies change slowly over time.

The anti-Trump hysteria isn’t helping - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 16:06

President Donald Trump’s press conference with Russia’s Vladimir Putin was a debacle. The president went from an anodyne prepared statement to a question-and-answer session that ping-ponged between stunning and appalling (with a bit of emetic thrown in for good measure). Suffice it to say, it was a new low from a chief executive who is redefining the term.

Activists shout anti-Trump slogans during a demonstration ahead of the arrival of President Donald Trump in Manhattan, New York, August 14, 2017. Reuters

But the reaction on Twitter from the foreign-policy establishment was almost as untethered as Trump himself. John Brennan, who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Obama, tweeted:

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

The former presidential candidate Evan McMullin piled on:

Trump’s behavior this week has made his betrayal of American interests clear. It has also made clear the betrayal of House Republicans who have relentlessly undermined the FBI and the Special Counsel as they’ve heroically worked to protect the nation. Time for a change.

There’s plenty to say about Trump’s Helsinki performance, none of it good. The man was made a catspaw by Putin, and that’s the least of it. Working together in Syria? Moral equivalence between Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Putin? It was dreadful, even disgraceful—but it wasn’t treason. And the immediate reaction from many establishment figures was too much. But why?

In 2016, Republicans, who had been writhing in Ben Rhodes-induced agonies of irritation over the latter Obama years, were desperate to win back the White House. But for many GOPers waiting in the wings in D.C., Donald Trump was their last choice. After all, what was there to like in a brand-manager-cum-talk-show-host-cum-skirt-chaser? Trump was anathema. And of the many who felt Trump unqualified, those who seemed to feel it most keenly were in the national-security world.

It made sense: The Constitution makes clear that the president’s most important role is commander in chief. The defense of the nation is the government’s paramount responsibility. And Trump was a guy who had literally said that Senator John McCain, an American hero, was a loser. That and 99 other reasons were why so many in the world of conservative national-security affixed their names to letters opposing Donald Trump.

So now much of the foreign-policy establishment—I count myself a proud member, though not a letter signer—is a little angry. They didn’t vote for the man. They don’t like the man. He is terrible. But he did get the necessary majority in the Electoral College and, being Trump, his attitude towards all those letter signers has been—I win, you lose. So, to paraphrase Bill Clinton: That’s President Terrible to you.

But it’s Trump’s words that are terrible. His policies are, in the main, not. The United States has crushed Russia beneath escalating sanctions, pulled out of the dreadful Iran deal, armed the Ukrainian opposition to Putin, stood up to China’s theft of American intellectual property, actually bombed Syrian chemical-weapons sites, and increased defense spending. Sure, there’s plenty to dislike in Trump’s foreign policy, including his trade wars, his dismissal of allies, his toying with nato, and his Obama-esque desire to skip out of Syria. But his stupid rhetoric masks a mostly normal, if not always sensible or desirable, foreign policy. And Trump’s National Security Strategy is at least coherent when compared with the incoherent global retreat embraced by the last administration.

But that’s substance, not feelings. Many in the national-security establishment are mad at Trump. Mad he’s still mad at them, mad he sounds like a fool, mad he brought in Rex Tillerson to screw up the State Department, mad he’s rude to America’s friends—and mad that he’s not interested in sage advice. But mostly, they are mad Trump just can’t bloody well be bothered to be an adult and do his homework and stop obsessing about Mueller.

For a good part of the Trump-hating right, and those who have publicly parted ways with the right over Trump, among Trump’s greater sins is in his own unhinged, egomaniacal rejection of anyone who ever tweeted a bad word about him. And for too many, their response is to mirror the man, crackpot move by crackpot move. My Twitter feed, including people I regard, has included allegations that Trump is a Russian agent, being blackmailed by Russia, or a traitor bent on destroying America. That’s just crackers.

Yes, Trump is a shallow, vain, not terribly bright, lazy president of the United States. He might even have been interested in dirt Moscow scraped up on Hillary Clinton. And he will do some damage—which is to be expected, as our last few presidents have also done some damage. Maybe he will do more. But he can also do some good. He is not the anti-Christ, any more than Barack Obama was a Muslim, or Hillary Clinton was trafficking in children. Frothing conspiracy theories about Trump only drag everyone into that world. Non-stop outrage is exhausting and counterproductive.

Danielle Pletka is the senior vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Trump bites the hand that feeds a lot of Americans - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 13:54
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It’s hard to convey the full breadth of the shock felt from witnessing the president of the United States attack NATO allies, refer to the E.U. as a “foe,” criticize and insult the U.K. prime minister while on British soil, and call into question a post-Brexit U.S.-U.K. trade deal. This is particularly true when contrasted with President Donald Trump’s shameful and disgraceful press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s foreign travels this week and last call into direct question whether he understands and is committed to the foundational relationships, dispositions and institutions that have kept the West safe and free for decades.

Safe and free — and prosperous. Much of the discussion following the president’s misadventures abroad has focused on their diplomatic and security ramifications. But there are serious economic implications as well.

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American commercial relationships with the U.K. and the European Union are vital. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that Britain is the largest investor in the United States, and that the U.S. is the largest investor in the U.K. More than one million Americans work for British companies in the U.S. in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, technology and finance. The office of the U.S. Trade Representative reports that the U.K. is the fifth-largest market for exported U.S. goods. According to the Commerce Department, 665,000 jobs are supported by American exports to the U.K.

Imran Khan is bad for Pakistan’s democracy | In 60 Seconds - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 13:01

The 2017 ousting of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and his subsequent imprisonment for corruption, have made Imran Khan frontrunner to be Pakistan’s next prime minister. AEI’s Sadanand Dhume argues that Khan’s ascent to power backed by the army would weaken Pakistan’s nascent democracy.


Kid Vid: Regulating children’s programming in an internet-based world - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 10:00

On Capitol Hill, politicians are still discussing former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler’s 2016 bid to assert jurisdiction over broadband providers. But across the National Mall, current FCC chairman Ajit Pai continues to shift the agency away from his predecessor’s empire-building ways and back to the blocking and tackling of everyday telecommunications regulation. Last week, the agency proposed changes to its rules governing children’s programming. While the proposal is not as sexy as internet regulation, it is an important and overdue step toward updating the law to reflect the realities of the modern video marketplace.

Via Twenty20

Overview of the Kid Vid rules

The children’s programming requirements, known as the “Kid Vid” rules, flow from the 1990 Children’s Television Act. The act requires the FCC, as part of its review of a broadcast licensee’s renewal application, to “consider the extent to which the licensee . . . has served the educational and informational needs of children through the licensee’s overall programming, including programming specifically designed to serve such needs.” But the statute speaks only in general terms, delegating to the commission the authority to determine how a broadcaster could meet this amorphous obligation.

The current rules, enacted over two decades ago, effectively require broadcasters to air three hours each week of “core programming,” defined as shows that serve the educational and informational needs of children under age 16. To count toward this requirement, the programming must be at least a half-hour long, air between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and be scheduled on a weekly basis. As broadcasters began multicasting as part of the digital transition, the agency required broadcasters to meet the three-hour requirement on each video stream.

Kid Vid in the era of on-demand internet-based video

When the commission enacted the Kid Vid rules, broadcast was by far the leading source of video entertainment for most American households. The rules reflect three assumptions about the broadcast business model:

  • Commercial broadcasters lack sufficient market incentives to create educational and informational children’s programming.
  • Given the limited number of broadcasters, most markets lack sufficient content to enrich the minds of America’s youth.
  • Educational programming must mimic other broadcast programming’s length and scheduling to be incorporated into the regular viewing rhythms of the viewing public.

However accurate those assumptions were two decades ago, they did not age well as broadcast was displaced by alternative forms of video entertainment. Cable television dramatically increased the number of programming hours available to consumers each week. Cable operators learned to cater profitably to niche audiences, creating an explosion of educational programming targeting both general audiences (such as National Geographic) and children in particular (such as Nickelodeon). At the same time, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), long known for its educational content, developed into a powerhouse of quality children’s programming, airing core programming far in excess of Kid Vid requirements — including PBS Kids, a multicast stream that streams such programming 24 hours a day.

The rise of internet-based on-demand video has further increased the supply of quality programming and fundamentally changed the way such content is consumed. Netflix, Hulu, and other over-the-top video providers make significant libraries of children’s content available to subscribers at any time. Nielsen data shows that amid this plethora of choices, children in particular watch significantly less traditional scheduled television programming than they did even four years ago. Traditional television viewing is down 22 percent among children ages 2–11 and a whopping 38 percent among children ages 12–17.

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The FCC’s proposed revision of the Kid Vid rules is an appropriate reaction to this changed media landscape. Among other suggestions, the commission has proposed eliminating the requirement that core programming be at least 30 minutes long and regularly scheduled. Doing so makes sense. The YouTube generation is increasingly conditioned to enjoy content in bite-sized chunks on demand. The rules should credit educational content that meets this demand, rather than requiring broadcasters to mimic an increasingly obsolete 1990s-era appointment-TV model.

Most controversially, the agency is considering relaxing the three-hour requirement. Given the plethora of similar content available from cable channels, over-the-top video providers, and internet apps, the need for a three-hour weekly broadcast set-aside is not as strong as it was when the rules were enacted. Of course, not all households can afford the cable and broadband subscriptions that make this new content available. But because of multicasting, even households that rely solely on broadcast television have far more options than were available when Congress passed the act — including PBS Kids, which reaches 95 percent of American households, and Qubo, a similar 24/7 children’s multicast station by Ion Media that reaches over 90 million households.

If the agency finds that these alternatives are insufficient to meet the needs of most families, the proposed rule also suggests allowing broadcasters to meet their requirements by airing core programming on any of their multicast streams, rather than the primary stream. This would provide valuable flexibility to broadcasters while assuring a sufficient amount of programming remains available over the air in each market.

The Kid Vid proposal is part of the commission’s larger project to clear regulatory underbrush and update the rules for the digital era. While the commission has little authority to regulate broadband, it must recognize how broadband and other innovations have altered the competitive landscape for entities within its authority and adjust the rules appropriately. The proposed Kid Vid rule is a big step in the right direction.

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Protectionism as errant economic quackery that deserves contempt, scorn, ridicule and moral indignation - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 22:39

According to Wikipedia, William Graham Sumner (1840-1910, pictured above) was a classical liberal American social scientist who taught social sciences at Yale, where he held the nation’s first professorship in sociology. Sumner wrote numerous books and essays on American history, economic history, political theory, sociology, and anthropology. He supported laissez-faire economics, free markets, and the gold standard and was a spokesman in favor of the “forgotten man” of the middle class, a term he coined. In the late 1800s, the Republican Party was strongly committed to trade protectionism and high tariff duties on imported goods. Sumner strongly opposed protectionism as part of his general rejection of political manipulation of the economy and fear of how the government could be used to enrich favored special interest groups at the expense of the general welfare.

In 1888, Sumner released a book titled Protectionism: The -Ism Which Teaches That Waste Makes Wealth in which the free trader made a clear, convincing and strong case against trade protectionism. Here’s an excerpt below from the introduction, and below that is the book’s concluding paragraph:

Protectionism seems to me to deserve only contempt and scorn, satire and ridicule. It is such an errant piece of economic quackery, and it masquerades under such an affectation of learning and philosophy, that it ought to be treated as other quackeries are treated. Still, out of deference to its strength in the traditions and lack of information of many people, I have here undertaken a patient and serious exposition of it.

Protectionism arouses my moral indignation. It is a subtle, cruel, and unjust invasion of one man’s rights by another. It is done by force of law. It is at the same time a social abuse, an economic blunder, and a political evil. The moral indignation which it causes is the motive which draws me away from the scientific pursuits which form my real occupation, and forces me to take part in a popular agitation.


Under protectionism the government gives a license to certain interests to go out and encroach on others. It is an iniquity as to the victims of it, a delusion as to its supposed beneficiaries, and a waste of the public wealth. There is only one reasonable question now to be raised about it, and that is: How can we most easily get rid of it?

MP: The title of Sumner’s book pretty well sums up the intellectual bankruptcy of protectionism, which promotes the false and immoral notion that economic waste in the form of reduced trading opportunities, economic inefficiencies in production, higher prices for consumers with fewer choices, and net job losses is somehow a prescription to generate wealth and “make American great again.” As Sumner correctly points out, protectionism is pure economic quackery that deserves only our contempt, scorn, ridicule and moral indignation.

Amen, Brother Sumner.