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An internet privacy balancing act: The cost of ‘free’ apps - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 10:00

When the internet began to be “a thing” in the 1990s, a friend of mine used to ruminate on how “this could all be free.” The economics just didn’t make sense to her: Why weren’t we paying for information the way we had in the past? Fifty cents for a newspaper with advertisements made sense to her, but the new, “free” internet model didn’t.


The economics weren’t made clear to consumers from the beginning, but we’re now getting a better idea of what “free” actually means. A recent Wall Street Journal piece reported that Google gives outside app developers access to the inboxes of Gmail users. The article is eye-opening because of the amount of data that is collected for marketers by developers that have access to users’ actual, unredacted emails. The rationale for this is that those emails help companies make better software tools for tasks such as doing price comparisons, making to-do lists, or scheduling. Access to real email content is supposed to help train computers to be smarter at finding deals and creating task lists. But at what cost?

According to the same report, nearly two-thirds of all active email users globally have a Gmail account. That means these companies have access to individuals’ actual financial information, shopping histories, travel plans, and personal communications. The ability to data mine Gmail provides a treasure trove of “free” information. Of course, other “free” apps and their services collect user data and share it with third-party vendors, data mining companies, marketers, and advertisers. (Some of the information mined from these apps and email programs does help create a safer internet ecosystem, contributing to things such as investigations into malware code and fixing software bugs that enable abuse of data and other bad online behaviors.)

But consumers are now grappling with questions of how much data they’re giving up and how to know what information they’ve agreed to share. It’s a delicate balance: Consumers want frictionless experiences with technology, but for this to occur, companies ranging from app developers to hardware manufacturers need to work together and share data. Terms of use agreements are extremely complex, and they don’t provide clear guidelines on what data can be used and when or how it can be used. That’s about to change. With the advent of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the recently passed privacy legislation in California, companies are going to have to create better, more transparent interfaces for consumers to understand how their data is being used.

There’s an irony in Google’s comment to The Wall Street Journal that it manually reviews the request of every developer who asks for access to Gmail by checking the domain name of the company to see if it has a history of abusing Google’s policies. Thanks to the GDPR, the information on who runs a domain name is now redacted until the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) creates a new privacy policy for commercial use of information. So that check on the developers via domain name address validation is no longer available due to the change in privacy law. This is true for many of the security tools used to filter out spam and malware in email systems, showing the complexity and challenges that lie ahead to keep consumer information and devices secure.

Apple has been vocal about its company policy that all device data is encrypted and that information is not stored by Apple or sold to third-party vendors. This shows that the market gives consumers some choices about controlling who has access to their data, but this is just one layer of the technology ecosystem. Cheaper devices are available because of their marketing programs with third-party vendors; Android devices are notorious for their sharing of data by design, which also keeps the cost of devices down.

Consumers and tech creators have many decisions to make to keep the best parts of the internet and devices working. Most people understand that the economics of “free” means an exchange of data occurs at some level. Transparent privacy policies that let consumers know about the exchange that is occurring are the best way to keep consumers informed and the free flow of information available. Transparency should be a priority for all parts of the technology ecosystem — hardware, software, networks, applications, end users, and marketers. Understanding the cost of “free” may change the market dynamics for internet users and creators, but it may also allow those who make data privacy a priority to have more control, even if it comes with a cost.

Learn more:

Discussing what Putin wants from Trump: Rubin on ‘The John Batchelor Show’ - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 01:00
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Episode 48: Slipshod edition - Episode 48: Slipshod edition - AEI

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 20:46

No one joins Jonah for the latest Remnant, which he compensates for by being extra discursive and dyspeptic about the news (Supreme Court, Democrat overreaction) and pop culture (“Ocean’s 8,” “Incredibles 2”) of the day.

You can subscribe to The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, and TuneIn. You can also download this episode here.

This podcast was originally published by National Review.

It takes two to tango - Episode 48: Slipshod edition - AEI

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 19:48

What factors do autocracies evaluate when responding to perceived threats and why might they fail to balance appropriately? I posit that autocratic leaders may choose greater exposure to an external threat if, by doing so, it preserves regime legitimacy. Specifically, the desire to promote a positive image to one’s domestic public creates incentives to publicly downplay a rival’s military progress, which then affects the state’s ability to mobilize resources to respond to the growing threat. I test this theory in the case of China’s response to India’s military rise. This research contributes to balancing theory and empirical work on East Asian security.

Read the full version of this article here.

Three truths about abortion and the Supreme Court - Episode 48: Slipshod edition - AEI

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 18:14

Abortion isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, but it is the main topic in the debate over replacing retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. We are certainly going to hear a lot of polarized rhetoric about abortion over the next few months. But we should keep in mind three middle-of-the-road truths.

Hundreds of thousands rally on the National Mall for the start of the annual March for Life rally in Washington, January 25, 2013. Reuters

First: The public is ambivalent about abortion. People who favor legal abortion can point to a lot of polls that appear to show them in the majority. Because it’s a Supreme Court nomination we are going to be debating, right now they are especially eager to note that polls have pretty consistently shown strong support for Roe v. Wade. In the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, two-thirds of Americans supported it.

But polls that ask other questions about abortion undercut that finding. Gallup has consistently found that a small majority of the public, currently 53 percent, believes that abortion should either be “illegal in all circumstances” or “legal only in a few circumstances.” Only 45 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in the first trimester “when the woman does not want the child for any reason,” and only 28 percent think it should be generally legal in the second trimester.

Roe and its successor cases require abortion to be legal for any reason in the first and second trimesters. (They allow bans after fetal viability, so long as they include an exception when a doctor believes abortion is necessary for the physical or emotional health of the woman.)

In short: Most Americans do not want a ban on abortion, and favor its availability especially early in pregnancy and in cases of rape and incest, threats to the mother’s life, and severe fetal abnormality. But they also favor restrictions that are incompatible with current Supreme Court jurisprudence.

Second: Roe has force as a precedent but can still be overruled. Almost all legal thinkers accept that some past holdings have to be left in place even if they were mistaken, in order for the law to have stability. On the current Supreme Court, only Justice Clarence Thomas denies this concern should apply, and he does so only in constitutional cases. But nearly everyone also agrees that precedents must sometimes be abandoned.

One factor that is generally conceded to affect the force of a precedent is how wrong it was in the first place. Roe had very little constitutional basis, and has been assailed on that basis even by many legal scholars who approve the result that abortion is legal.

Another factor is the age of a precedent. Roe came down in 1973. But the court has abandoned old precedents before. Last week, in a case involving the rights of public-sector workers to refrain from paying dues to unions, it overruled a decision nearly as old as Roe. In another case last week, it condemned the even older decision that allowed Franklin Roosevelt to intern Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

The stability of the precedent — and the related question of how much reliance can be placed on it — should also be part of the analysis. Roe was reaffirmed, but also substantially modified, in the Casey decision of 1992, which upheld some restrictions. During the next major abortion case, in 2000, the authors of the Casey decision split about how to apply it to partial-birth abortion. In 2007, the Supreme Court essentially reversed its 2000 decision.

In both 1992 and 2007, the court had suggested that protecting human life is a legitimate governmental interest even before fetal viability. In 2007, it said that the government has an interest in preventing the coarsening of society with respect to human life. In 2016, another decision cast doubt on both points.

A state legislator trying to decide how to vote on an abortion bill cannot confidently tell what provisions will be held constitutional. The court could decide in some future case that it has been unable to use the Constitution to come up with a workable legal code on abortion — and get out of the business altogether.

Third: The confirmation of a new conservative justice would raise the probability that Roe v. Wade will be overturned but not guarantee it. You may have noticed that politically savvy opponents of abortion, who dearly want Roe overruled, are nonetheless emphasizing the no-guarantee point. That’s because they know that there are a lot of ambivalent voters who fear sweeping and drastic change in abortion policy.

But what they’re saying is also correct. While Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito are conservatives who have voted to uphold abortion restrictions, we do not know that they are willing to overrule Roe. Roberts, in particular, has tended to prefer making narrow rulings — which in this case could mean continuing to uphold discrete restrictions on abortion while leaving Roe on the books. Of the sitting justices, only Clarence Thomas has said Roe should go.

The coming confirmation hearings are unlikely to give us a definitive answer about the nominee’s proclivities. President Trump has said that he wants a justice who will overrule Roe. But the president says a lot of things. While his legal advisers will be looking for someone who has demonstrated evidence of being a strong legal conservative — something that correlates with opposition to Roe — there is no reason to think that they, or Trump himself, would ask the nominee a direct question about it. They will avoid it in part because it would be hard for the nominee to dodge senators’ questions about any such exchange.

The senators aren’t going to get a definitive answer either. The nominee will say, appropriately, that it would be improper to commit to ruling one way or another on a case that might come before the court. He will probably also say, less defensibly but in keeping with a common convention of nominees from both parties, that it would be wrong to comment at all on the merits of disputed constitutional questions.

The nominee might allow that the Constitution protects a right to privacy, as when it restricts the government from quartering troops in your house, but refuse to say whether that right extends to abortion. He will almost certainly take a moderate line on the power of precedent: It exists, but it’s not absolute, and it would be wrong to make pre-commitments about how it would apply in specific cases.

We don’t know for sure how many justices now on the court would vote on Roe, and we won’t know for sure how the new justice will vote either. But we can expect that Roe will be on shakier ground if a new justice is confirmed.

People for whom that’s an unacceptable risk will, as they should, oppose confirmation of the president’s nominee. The problem for them is that all of that public ambivalence on abortion policy leaves them in the minority. The upshot is that legislatures are likely to get more power to restrict abortion — and maybe a lot more.

Trump should stick to his Supreme Court list - Episode 48: Slipshod edition - AEI

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 16:38

Presumably, as you read this, the White House is setting up its war room for the Supreme Court confirmation battle to come. The interns are stocking the mini fridges and hanging the musk-masking air fresheners that are de rigueur for any top-flight political bunker.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at an event sponsored by the Federalist Society at the New York Athletic Club in New York October 13, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz (UNITED STATES – Tags: CRIME LAW) – GM1EAAE0ATU01

But before the administration goes to the mattresses, it first must pick a nominee. And that is why I hope White House counsel Don McGahn, who’s leading the search, is hanging a sign for all to see: “It’s the list, stupid.”

Over the next week, the White House will come under incredible pressure from the news media, the Democrats, and some Republicans (pro-choice and abortion-squeamish) to abandon the list of potential Supreme Court nominees President Trump campaigned on (and later expanded slightly). On Sunday, Republican senator Susan Collins of Maine said on ABC’s “This Week” that the president “should not feel bound” by the list.

Yes, yes he should.

All presidents claim broad mandates for virtually all their campaign promises. But the president has no clearer decree than fidelity to this list.

In 2016, Trump issued a list of eleven names he would choose from to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. The lineup had been outsourced to, and approved by, the conservative legal organization the Federalist Society and the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation. In consultation with those groups, Trump later expanded the list, once during the general election and then again last November. Now, as Justice Anthony Kennedy plans to retire July 31, it stands at 25 names.

The list isn’t perfect. No offense to the Federalist Society or the Heritage Foundation, but it wasn’t handed down on stone tablets. Still, everyone on it is eminently qualified for the job, albeit some more than others.

And contrary to some of the chatter one hears on social media and cable TV, the list is emphatically non-Trumpist. Nearly everyone on it would have been considered by any other Republican president. There’s no Roy Moore or Jeanine Pirro here.

Indeed, that’s why the would-be president had to put out the list in the first place. Many in the GOP were willing to throw the dice on Trump the Disruptor when it came to immigration or trade, but the Supreme Court was too important to take a flyer on. By design, the list isn’t radical. It’s reassuring, at least to the voters who elected Trump.

Nothing unifies the Right more than the idea that this president should appoint conservative judges. The border wall, the Muslim ban, trade wars, Putinphilia: All of these issues divide the coalition that got Trump elected to one extent or another. The list unites it.

Of course, if you’re a liberal, uniting the Right is hardly a priority. But the simple fact is that any potential nominee who could conceivably win even a handful of Democratic senators would be a betrayal of Trump’s most important campaign promise and would cost him far more in Republican support.

If Trump were to nominate an obviously solid conservative not on the list, conservatives would probably live with it, but it would be a needless breach of trust with Republicans that would earn nothing from Democrats. Meanwhile, if he were to name some “bipartisan” liberal judge, the conservative backlash against George W. Bush after his nomination of Harriet Miers would seem like a polite disagreement over a game of bridge at the old-age home by comparison.

So it’s fine for Democratic senator Kamala Harris to declare that the list’s 25 potential nominees are “complete nonstarters.” The fact is, anyone Trump might nominate would be a nonstarter for her and nearly all of the Democratic caucus. There’s simply no Solomonic bipartisan compromise that could please everybody.

That seems like a good standard to adhere to these days. Liberals who demand that the president untether himself from this commitment and go with his instincts may not have thought through how that might work out.

Related reading:

Ep. 104: What is driving America’s housing crisis? - Episode 48: Slipshod edition - AEI

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 14:30

The United States is in the grip of a housing affordability crisis, especially in its high-productivity cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. In addition to harming individuals, this is also having a deleterious effect on the country’s economic growth. But what is behind this problem, and what can be done to remedy it? Lynn Fisher joins the podcast to discuss.

Dr. Fisher recently joined AEI as a resident scholar and co-director of the Center on Housing Markets and Finance. Before this she served on the faculty at Washington State University and the University of North Carolina, and was director of the Housing Affordability Initiative at MIT.

You can also subscribe to my podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Learn more:

China tariffs: We can do better | In 60 Seconds - Episode 48: Slipshod edition - AEI

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 14:17

AEI’s Derek Scissors proposes an alternative to tariffs to push back on China’s infringements of intellectual property.

What happened to compassionate conservatism — and can it return? - Episode 48: Slipshod edition - AEI

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 10:42

This AEI Events Podcast features conservative scholars discussing the history and potential return of the welfare-reform-focused movement known as compassionate conservatism. Marvin Olasky of World Magazine began with remarks on the history of compassionate conservatism, particularly during the early 2000s, and offered insight into the movement’s missteps. He emphasized the importance of values and local decision-making in implementing welfare programs and discussed the political factors that undermined compassionate conservatism. Dr. Olasky then moderated a panel of experts, who discussed their views and experience with welfare and the compassionate conservatism movement.

AEI’s Ryan Streeter discussed compassionate conservatism in the context of a broader agenda focused on civil society and community empowerment, particularly at the state level. He emphasized the importance of understanding the conditions that allowed compassionate conservatism to succeed initially. Christopher Fay of Homestretch discussed his experience working in homeless assistance. He lamented the bureaucratic barriers attached to government grants that, he argued, held back welfare programs by preventing work requirements and housing cost-sharing. AEI’s Angela Rachidi discussed her experience working in government agencies and emphasized the importance of balancing government assistance with personal responsibility, arguing that this ethos was shared by many poverty programs but absent in other programs.

This event took place on March 29, 2018.

Watch the full event here.

Subscribe to the AEI Events Podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Targeting China’s high-tech protectionism: CFIUS is not enough - Episode 48: Slipshod edition - AEI

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 10:00

After an all too typical White House struggle and confusion over the proper response to Chinese mercantilist protection, last Wednesday President Trump signaled a retreat from bolder moves by announcing that the main tool in combating Chinese mercantilist protectionism would be the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) process, now being upgraded and reformed by Congress. He stated: “This legislation . . . will enhance our ability to protect the United States from new and evolving threats posed by foreign investment” and “will provide additional tools to combat predatory investment practices that threaten our critical technology leadership, national security, and future economic prosperity.”

President Donald Trump delivers his speech as he and China’s President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. Via REUTERS.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin followed by avowing that the United States’ objective is not to “single out China or treat them differently.” This public shift was a mistake, both from a point of accuracy and from a larger policy perspective. On the former, the $34 billion tariffs that are scheduled to go into effect Friday, as well as recent moves to block Chinese companies from entering the US market (i.e., China Mobile), render Mnuchin’s claim absurd.

But the Trump administration’s move to rely almost solely on CFIUS — and, counterproductively, on tariffs — is also misguided for larger strategic and practical reasons. We actually should be singling out China. And in that regard, neither the tariffs nor an updated CFIUS will allow the US to precisely target the main pillars of Beijing’s authoritarian state capitalism that both protect and subsidize emerging technologies, particularly in the information and telecommunications sectors. (There are rumors that at some point the administration may go beyond CFIUS, but the White House has downplayed them as only “early deliberative” discussions.)

There will be more time and space to analyze CFIUS as details emerge on the compromise between the House and Senate bills legislating updates and reform to the process. But at this point the major outlines are fairly clear. Both versions of the pending legislation would expand the authority of the existing body (the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States). It would be able to review minority holdings, as well as transactions near military bases or other sensitive geographic areas. The legislation would also expand the analysis beyond national security to oversight of the United States’ competitive edge in emerging technologies. In conjunction with a reformed export control program, the legislation provides for updating the list of “critical technologies” and creates special scrutiny for a group of nations of “special concern” (read: China and Russia).

A more focused agenda

One can debate whether the CFIUS reforms will constrain Chinese high-tech investment both in the US and around the world. But even if successful, CFIUS is only a partial answer to the maze of anticompetitive regulatory barriers and prohibitions already hampering US and foreign high-tech firms.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration is determined to start a tariff war with China as an opening move. But as my AEI colleague Derek Scissors has predicted, it is likely that the tit for tats will lead to further negotiations down the road.

At that point, the Trump administration should stick to the reforms it outlined in its March report on Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. As I noted at the time, for once, the administration had done its homework and had laid out a set of potential negotiating goals that represented a valid negotiating agenda — even if Beijing refused to budge on some issues.

One of my earlier blogs set out such an agenda in more detail, but the following are highlights:

  • On intellectual property (IP), the US should demand that China strengthen rights of IP holders against bogus patent challenges. Negotiators should also warn Beijing that future documented IP theft will result in any Chinese firm that benefited from the theft being banned from the US market.
  • While the US should not demand that “Made in China 2025” be dismantled, it should require that the Chinese document and publicize all subsidies and discriminatory rules for companies in priority sectors.
  • The Chinese have recently trumpeted the fact that they are opening more sectors to foreign investment (automobile, construction, and financial sectors). Beijing should be required to publicize the terms and timetables of these openings (and not just be allowed to announce the terms at some point in the future).
  • The Chinese Cybersecurity Law adopts sweeping definitions of national security, encompassing many sectors with little or no security implications. China should be pressed to narrow the list. The US should also push hard for limitations on so-called security reviews that could result in software source code exploitation.
  • China has set tight restrictions on cloud computing activities by foreign firms, including mandating that they partner with Chinese firms. The US should challenge these anticompetitive regulations and push for independent corporate registrations for foreign firms.
  • Finally, though the US has agreed to help save the Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corporation, the Trump administration should tie this ongoing salvage operation to Beijing’s approval of the long-pending merger between Qualcomm and NXP Semiconductors.

These negotiating points are not merely a wish list: They are vital for US and foreign high-tech firms to compete on more even terms with Chinese state-owned or -directed enterprises.

4th of July | In 60 Seconds - Episode 48: Slipshod edition - AEI

Wed, 07/04/2018 - 13:00

What do Americans celebrate on Independence Day? AEI’s Gary Schmitt explains that fireworks and barbecues commemorate much more than secession from Great Britain.

The people versus democracy - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 07/04/2018 - 09:37

On this Independence Day edition of the AEI Events Podcast, listen to Yascha Mounk discuss his book “The People Versus Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It” (Harvard University Press, 2018).

In his lecture, Dr. Mounk examined the growing success of populist movements worldwide. He outlined three conditions that have kept democracy stable in the post–World War II era: steady increases in living standards, largely mono-ethnic and monocultural societies, and strong public opinion gatekeepers that tempered political debate. He argued that stagnant real wages, cultural change, and social media have all contributed to populism’s rise in Europe and the United States.

Following the lecture, AEI’s Norman J. Ornstein, Jonah Goldberg, and Stan Veuger joined Dr. Mounk for a panel discussion. Dr. Ornstein focused on the broad political problems facing the US, including Congress’ unwillingness to check the other branches, political tribalization, and the declining norms of politics. Mr. Goldberg pushed back against Dr. Mounk’s materialist explanation for the rise in populism, arguing that increased movement in the US has broken down civil society, exacerbated status-class anxiety, and weakened people’s sense of social belonging. Dr. Mounk responded that economic development has been uneven, and many talented individuals leave their communities for better opportunities elsewhere. Dr. Veuger pushed back on the rise of populism in Eastern Europe despite increasing living standards.

This event took place on April 5, 2018.

Watch the full event here.

Subscribe to the AEI Events Podcast on Apple Podcasts.

The good news about black men in America - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 20:16

In recent years, much of the racial news in America has been sobering, if not depressing. Trayvon Martin. Tamir Rice. Walter Scott. Ferguson. Baltimore. And Charlottesville. While many public commentators, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, have underlined the enduring character of racism in America, and the ways in which America’s racial divide has exacted a particular kind of toll on black men and boys, there is today, unheralded, good news about African-American men.

Twenty20 License

Despite a portrait of race relations that often highlights the negative, especially regarding black men (many Americans, according to a 2006 study by the Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University, believed that crime, unemployment, and poverty are endemic among African-American men), the truth is that most black men will not be incarcerated, are not unemployed, and are not poor — even if black men are more likely than other men to experience these outcomes.

In fact, millions of black men are flourishing in America today.

Our new report, “Black Men Making It In America,” spotlights two pieces of particular good news about the economic well-being of black men.

First, the share of black men in poverty has fallen from 41% in 1960 to 18% today. Second, and more importantly, the share of black men in the middle or upper class — as measured by their family income — has risen from 38% in 1960 to 57% today. In other words, about one-in-two black men in America have reached the middle class or higher.

This good news is important and should be widely disseminated because it might help reduce prejudicial views of black men in the society at large, and negative portrayals of black men in the media. It should also engender hope among all African-Americans — particularly young black males.

Correcting overly negative depictions and attitudes regarding black men is important because they shape how black men are treated, and how black men view their potential. Alan Jenkins, executive director of Opportunity Agenda, a social justice organization, noted that “Research and experience show that expectations and biases on the part of potential employers, teachers, health care providers, police officers, and other stakeholders influence the life outcomes of millions of black males.”

So, what routes are black men taking to make it in America?

Tracking black men from young adulthood through their 50s using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, we identified three factors that are associated with their success: education, work, and marriage.

Black men who worked full-time, had some college education, or were married were much more likely to be members of the middle or upper class by the time they got to their 50s. We found, for instance, that the odds that black men make it to the middle or upper class are at least three times higher for those men who marry, compared to their peers who never married. Their financial well-being is higher partly because married black women contribute a higher share of income to the household than other married women.

Adding to the chances of black men achieving middle class and higher status is the US military. We found that serving in the military was associated with a 72% increase in the odds that black men made it into the middle class or higher as 50-something men.

By providing stable work, good health care, housing, and opportunities for advancement, by championing virtues such as duty, responsibility, loyalty, and perseverance, and by pushing racial integration, the US military has served as an important route into the middle class.

Moreover, the US military is also known for its marriage-oriented culture, and we found that black men who served in the military as young men were much more likely to be married later, at ages 29-37, compared to their peers who did not serve. This marriage advantage played a role in boosting their later odds of success.

Of course, the story our report tells is not all rose-colored. Black men are significantly less likely to make it into the middle and upper class than their white and Asian-American peers. The odds of black men in their 50s making it to the middle class were about 60 percent lower for those who were charged with a crime as a young adult.

Given that racial segregation, poverty, and bias affect the odds that young black males get caught up in the criminal justice system, systemic racism limits the economic fortunes of black men. What’s more: right now, only a small minority of black men graduate from college: 17 percent. Schools and colleges need to do more to identify, recruit, and support young black men so they are accepted, attend, and graduate from four-year colleges and universities in the US.

Amidst all that’s wrong about race in America today, we cannot lose sight of two sets of social facts: today, about one-in-two black men have made it in America, and these men have traveled routes into the middle class that can be replicated.

The evidence suggests that if more Americans knew how many black men were succeeding, and more about the routes they are taking, it would reduce racial prejudice and engender hope among today’s young black males that they too have a shot at making it in America.

Related reading:

The Femsplainers Podcast Ep. 9: Has Porn Ruined Sex? - The Femsplainers Podcast Ep. 9: Has Porn Ruined Sex? - AEI

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 18:04

Adult film star Chanel Preston reveals all to Christina & Danielle in this fascinating conversation about the effects of porn on us, our lovers, our culture, and our children.

The First Amendment was Justice Kennedy’s first priority - The Femsplainers Podcast Ep. 9: Has Porn Ruined Sex? - AEI

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 17:59

It became official just after lunchtime on Wednesday, just after the Supreme Court announced its final decisions of the term and went into recess. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the 104th person to serve on the Court, is retiring, effective just after his 82nd birthday next month, after 30 years of service.

U.S. Supreme Court Justices John Roberts (L) and Anthony Kennedy attend the presidential inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Justice Kennedy’s decision, announced in a two-paragraph letter to President Trump, has been predicted — and both eagerly anticipated and dreaded — for years now. He has been the swing vote in several noteworthy — for some, notorious — cases going back to the early 1990s, and in many has been the author of the opinion of the court.

Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, after two earlier nominees failed to be confirmed, Kennedy has long been feted by many liberals for these stands. Since the early 1990s, he has stood against repealing the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Starting with his decision overturning a sodomy conviction in 2003, he has opposed discrimination against homosexuals, and was the author of Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

Kennedy joined mostly Democratic-appointed colleagues in taking what were considered liberal stands on other issues as well, including the death penalty for young offenders, judicial review for Guantanamo detainees, and state laws attempting to strengthen or supplement federal enforcement of immigration laws.

On these conservative legal scholars looked askance. Some ridiculed Kennedy’s flowery language in decisions like Obergefell. Some classed him with other Republican-appointed justices who sided regularly with liberals.

But that’s an overstatement. Justice Kennedy came out on the same side as Republican-appointed colleagues on the Second Amendment, on partial-birth abortion bans, on the unconstitutionality of bans on political speech, on subjecting states to special voting rights scrutiny based on evidence from 1964 and 1972. In legislative redistricting cases, he professed to see no neutral principle distinguishing plans that were unconstitutionally partisan from those who weren’t. Any verbal formula, he apparently believed, would just leave judges free to rule for their partisan friends.

And in every one of the past year’s 19 cases decided in 5-4 votes, he came out against the four Democratic-appointed justices.

In my view it makes sense to see Justice Kennedy not so much as a liberal warrior in our culture wars but as a judge who placed an especially high value on the First Amendment freedom of speech. He believed that people should be free to engage in gay sex and that organizations should be free to engage in political speech.

His concern about freedoms of expression characterized his most recent decisions. He scrutinized government efforts to force public employees to pay for political speech they opposed (Janus v. AFSCME) and to force a Christian baker to custom-design a cake for a same-sex marriage (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission).

This led to legal scholar Rick Hasen’s speculation about retirement to call his recent decisions “final abdications” indicating “a depressing kind of defeatism” and to predict, accurately, his decision to retire. He evidently sees Justice Kennedy as a committed culture warrior for the Left.

But language in some of his most controversial opinions shows not a desire for one side’s total victory as for both side’s friendly accommodation of one another.

In Obergefell, Justice Kennedy took care to recognize that “religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Justice Kennedy followed through on this, writing, “To describe a man’s faith as ‘one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use’ is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere.”

This sounds not so much like legal argumentation as like a plea that combatants in the culture war should show respect — even friendship — for each other.

The Senate probably will “confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., quickly promised, despite hysterical predictions that abortion will be criminalized and same-sex marriage abolished.

But Justice Kennedy’s central legacy is his firm defense of the First Amendment. Against California’s claim that its law requiring pro-life pregnancy counselors to promote abortions is “forward-looking,” Kennedy wrote, “It is forward thinking to begin by reading the First Amendment as ratified in 1791; to understand the history of authoritarian government as the Founders then knew it.”

First things first.

A Woman on the Supreme Court? What the polling says - The Femsplainers Podcast Ep. 9: Has Porn Ruined Sex? - AEI

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 17:46

Perhaps surprisingly, the first question asked about a woman on the Supreme Court was asked 80 years ago in 1938. Franklin Roosevelt had appointed Florence E. Allen, then 50 years old, to serve on the Sixth Appeals Circuit Court, the first woman to hold that high office. Prior to that, she was a member of the Supreme Court of Ohio. In a 1937 article, the Wall Street Journal reported that the equal suffrage advocate was being mentioned for the high court. The Baltimore Sun noted that women’s organizations were pushing for her consideration for a vacancy. But at that point, the public wasn’t enthusiastic. Thirty-seven percent favored the appointment of a woman lawyer to the Court, while 59 percent were opposed. By 1945, 47 percent approved of having a capable woman on the Court, while 40 percent disagreed.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan listen during U.S. President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2018. REUTERS Win McNamee

In a June 1981 CBS/New York Times poll, 15 percent said Ronald Reagan should appoint a woman, 11 percent a man, while 73 percent said it didn’t make any difference what sex the person was. In July, Reagan announced his intention to nominate Sandra Day O’Connor. In a July NBC News/Associated Press poll, 65 percent approved of his choice. Eighty-six percent in a Gallup poll from the time approved of a woman serving.

When Justice O’Connor announced her intention to retire in 2005, 37 percent had a favorable opinion of her while 3 percent had an unfavorable one in a CBS News/New York Times poll. Fifty-eight percent were undecided or hadn’t heard enough to have an opinion about her. Twenty-eight percent of registered voters told Fox News interviewers that President Bush had an obligation to appoint a woman to replace her; 65 percent said he did not. In three Gallup questions, fewer than 15 percent said it was essential; more than half said it didn’t matter. Around three in ten said it was a good idea, but not essential.

In a Gallup poll from 2005, after Bush initially appointed John Roberts to replace her, 21 percent were bothered that President Bush did not nominate a woman; 77 percent were not. A third described themselves as disappointed in another question from the ABC/Post poll. Justice Samuel Alito eventually replaced her.

Two of the last three new Supreme Court Justices have been women. Americans would welcome another woman on the Court, but they don’t see it as necessary or revolutionary any more.

John Crawford, an AEI research intern, contributed to this article.

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Trump’s Supreme Court pick and what it means for 2020 - The Femsplainers Podcast Ep. 9: Has Porn Ruined Sex? - AEI

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 17:41

Rational politicians seek to maximize their chances of re-election. Donald Trump is no exception to the rule. His approach to choosing a successor to Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy will reveal much about how he intends to win in 2020.

President Donald Trump talks with Supreme Court Justices (L-R) Neil Gorsuch, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer as he departs after delivering his State of the Union address to a joint session of the Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 30, 2018. Rueters

Choosing a Justice combines a mix of electoral math, ideology, and political compromise. Although improving electoral chances will seldom be the only factor in a politician’s decision-making, it will usually be a highly significant, perhaps the dominant, one. And when it comes to selecting the next nominee, President Trump will surely consider the effects of his choice on the electoral prospects of himself and his party. If he wants to prove his 2016 victory was no fluke, he will pick a woman serving as a judge in one of the populous Midwestern states.

Trump’s strategic choices are basically these three.

Going with region or diversity

The first strategy is the most traditional one: pick a nominee who will have special appeal to a particular constituency, region or interest. Using judicial appointments to build a geographic political coalitions has a long and distinguished history, from George Washington to Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln. More recent presidents have appointed judges to broaden their appeal to critical ethnic, religious, or gender groups. Dwight Eisenhower followed this approach in his 1956 re-election campaign, when he picked a little-known state court judge, William Brennan, to bolster support from Catholics on the East Coast. Similar considerations underlay Richard Nixon’s nomination of a Southerner, Lewis Powell, and perhaps Ronald Reagan’s choice of the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, and first Italian-American, Antonin Scalia, to the Court.

President Trump will pay even more attention to geography than recent Republican presidents because of the nature of his 2016 victory. Trump lost the popular vote by about 3 million, but won a healthy Electoral College majority of 304-227 because the college assigns votes to states based on the total of their members of the House and Senate (giving smaller states an advantage) and the states’ winner-take-all elections (which favors winning states by small majorities). In particular, Trump prevailed because he barely flipped several Midwestern states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – that had not voted for a Republican for seven straight elections, and decisively won other battlefield states – Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, and Ohio – that had been in play in the past. Trump won’t win re-election unless he can repeat his Midwestern success.

If geography alone drove Trump’s calculus, he would choose a woman from one of the Midwestern states. Choosing a woman might help win Senate confirmation support from critical Republican senators, such as Susan Collins of Maine, but also help respond to broader political attacks on Trump for his poor treatment of women in private life. Two candidates on Trump’s Supreme Court list stand out here. Joan Larsen from Michigan has the virtue not just of being a recent Trump appointee to the federal appellate court, but also having won a seat on the state Supreme Court, which means that a majority of Michigan voters has already voted for her to serve as the highest judge in their state. Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana just won confirmation to a lower federal appeals court after Democratic attacks on her deeply-held Catholic beliefs – Trump might relish a replay when it comes time to appealing to Midwestern voters.

Going with judicial ideology

The second strategy is less orthodox, but perhaps more suited to the specific political circumstances of the Trump presidency: make an ideological choice. Trump may simply be uninterested in a nominee’s race, gender or region. Instead, he may want a nominee in the mold of his successful (with conservatives) choice of Justice Neil Gorsuch. A nominee who could be presented as similar to Gorsuch – an originalist and textualist judge who is critical of the expanding administrative state – would intensify the loyalty of all sorts of conservatives to Trump.

Trump has already made a nod in this direction by publicly stating that he would pick from a list of candidates assembled during his presidential campaign. It is no secret that the Federalist Society, a conservative network of lawyers led by Leonard Leo, and the Heritage Foundation, one of the leading conservative think tanks in Washington, D.C., vetted most of the names on the list. In fact, Trump astutely announced the candidates during the 2016 primaries, and has so far lived up to promises to appoint a conservative judiciary, to win the support of religious conservatives. Even if Trump has no deeply-held constitutional philosophy of his own, he will seek to keep his commitment to his most loyal core of supporters, who believe that the Supreme Court is the only route to achieve their agenda on abortion, gay marriage, and religion.

If Trump pursues this approach, he might choose a nominee with a long record of conservative achievement, with little regard to electoral advantage. Utah Senator Mike Lee would fit the bill here – he has impressed many conservatives with his deep knowledge of the Constitution, and he has clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. It is fair to say, however, that Utah won’t make much of a difference in 2020. Another nominee in this vein might be Brett Kavanaugh, who sits on the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. (often referred to as the second most important court in the land), and is probably the favorite among conservative Court-watchers and inside-the-Beltway conservatives for his vigorous challenges to the administrative state.

It is also essential to remember that Trump will be making his choice under the lingering (if shortening) shadow of an impeachment threat. Many Trump voters in 2016 supported him mainly because they believed that he would “save” the Scalia seat, and then go on to change the direction of the Supreme Court as future vacancies arose. Trump’s choice of Gorsuch gratified those voters, and the nomination of someone with a similar judicial philosophy would bind them to Trump even more tightly. As long as Trump retains this bedrock support, the chances that he will be impeached are virtually nil. But if Trump disappoints them in the selection of a successor to Justice Kennedy, who was long the swing vote on a divided Court, they will begin to waver.

Going for the middle ground

The third strategy would be to pick a nominee who could be branded as a “centrist.” President Obama tried (and failed) with this approach in nominating Judge Merrick Garland. After the failure of his first two nominees (Robert Bork and Douglas Ginsberg), President Reagan fell back on this strategy in nominating Anthony Kennedy.

Trump has just met with a group of GOP and Democrat senators who pressed this course on him. Given how slender the Republican majority in the Senate is, Trump or his advisers may lean toward this approach. Best of all (from this angle) would be the choice of a “stealth” nominee, who could be packaged as non-committal on issues like abortion, but who would deliver for conservatives once on the Court.

But that is a high-risk approach, as President George H.W. Bush’s choice of Justice David Souter demonstrated. If Trump’s choice turns out to be another Souter, conservatives will be unforgiving. Moreover, Democrats are sure to attack almost any Trump nominee, however “centrist,” as a foe of Roe v. Wade. Worst of all, Trump will have blown his once-in-a-generation opportunity to refashion the Supreme Court.

John C. Yoo is Heller professor law at UC Berkeley School of Law and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of the new book “Striking Power: How Cyber, Robots and Space Weapons Change the Rules of War.” Robert J. Delahunty is a law professor at St. Thomas University.

Do cry for Argentina - The Femsplainers Podcast Ep. 9: Has Porn Ruined Sex? - AEI

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 17:00

All is not well for the Argentine economy. Despite the recent approval of a $50 billion IMF support package and the maintenance of sky-high domestic interest rates, the Argentine peso is again in free fall as illustrated by a 7-percent drop in the currency last week.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

This makes it all too likely that the Argentine economy will succumb once again to economic recession and that inflation will accelerate anew. It also heightens the chances that the Argentine government will soon fall out of compliance with its recently inked International Monetary Fund (IMF) program as its budget deficit widens.

It would seem that two critical mistakes are coming back to bite Mauricio Macri’s government, which took office in early 2015. The first was the premature lifting of all exchange controls at the start of his administration. Surprisingly, the government did so before first stabilizing the economy and reducing inflation.

This was very much a case of putting the cart before the horse, thereby leaving the economy acutely vulnerable to any reversal in international capital flows.

The second was the pursuit of an economic policy of gradualism to correct the major economic imbalances that Macri inherited from years of gross economic mismanagement under the Kirchners. This was especially the case with respect to restoring budget balance and reducing the country’s external current account deficit.

This gradualist approach reduced the chances of successfully slaying Argentina’s inflation dragon and left the country highly dependent on foreign capital flows.

Such a gradualist policy approach might have been sustainable had global liquidity conditions remained as extraordinarily favorable as they were over the past few years.

With very low U.S. interest rates, foreign investors might have continued to stretch abroad for yield as they evidently did last year when they eagerly snapped up an Argentine 100-year bond despite the country’s checkered debt default record.

This whole picture changed early this year as the Federal Reserve proceeded with its program of monetary policy normalization and as U.S. 10-year Treasury yields approached the psychologically important 3-percent level.

With more favorable U.S. risk-free rates now on offer, investors are no longer willing to turn a blind eye to Argentina’s serious economic weaknesses.

Instead, they now began to focus on the country’s large twin-deficit problem — federal budget and current account. This made Argentina, along with Turkey, one of the two most externally vulnerable emerging market economies to a sudden stop in international capital flows.

The more challenging global liquidity conditions that now prevail would seem to put Argentina’s stabilization efforts at serious risk. It has to be of concern that since the start of the year, the Argentine peso has lost a full one-third of its value.

It also has to be of concern that since the announcement of the IMF support program in May, the Argentine peso has depreciated by almost 15 percent. The peso has plummeted despite the maintenance of domestic interest rates at 40 percent and despite a $15 billion IMF loan disbursement.

All of this does not bode well for the successful implementation of the IMF stabilization program. With the currency in free fall and with every prospect that global liquidity conditions will continue to tighten, barring the re-imposition of exchange controls, Argentina will be forced to keep interest rates sky high to defend the currency and to prevent inflation from accelerating.

However, no economy can sustain 40-percent interest rates for long without succumbing to a recession. This would seem to be especially the case with the Argentine economy, which is already being battered by a prolonged drought and by rising international oil prices.

An economic recession is the last thing that the Macri government needs as it tries to meet its IMF program goals. By negatively impacting tax revenue collections, an economic recession would cause the budget deficit to widen, which would necessitate yet more budget belt tightening.

Yet, a recession would also undermine political support for the Macri government ahead of next year’s elections. That would make it all the more difficult for him to introduce yet more budget measures.

It would be an understatement to say that the policies choices now facing the Macri government are not enviable. With the currency still falling like a stone even after having played the IMF card, Macri might have little option but to reinstitute the capital controls that he too hastily dismantled at the start of his administration.

Unenviable as this choice might be, it would seem better to do so early rather than burn through yet more international reserves and prolong the need for punitively high interest rates in a futile effort to defend the currency.

US v UK uptake of non-combustible tobacco products - The Femsplainers Podcast Ep. 9: Has Porn Ruined Sex? - AEI

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 14:59

The nations leading the charge for the uptake are US, Japan and UK. But while the UK has been aided by clear (and accurate) statements about the relative safety of such products, the US authorities have fumbled the ball. Worried that the products are not “safe” US authorities have issued ambiguous statements, clearly stating that use exposes one to fewer and lower concentrations of dangerous chemicals, but then refusing to say this is safer than smoking. See here for my discussion of this muddled thinking https://www.aei.org/publication/philip-morris-stock-tanks-how-much-is-due-to-public-health-reticence-on-new-products/

Gabor Kovacs of ‘smoke no smoke’ smokes an e-cigarette that his shop sells at Camden in London June 9, 2013. Picture taken June 9, 2013

My ongoing research into the illicit tobacco market and NCTPs involved asking smokers their buying of illicit products and use of NCTPs. The summary results of the survey are below. More detailed analysis will be published in coming months.

36 percent of smokers in UK had tried NCTPs, whereas in US (Philadelphia and DC) only 21% had done so. A key reason is the issue of safety. Of those who answered, 5% of UK smokers thought NCTPs were no safer, whereas 11% of Americans thought they were no safer (more than twice as many Americans view NCTPs as no safer than cigarettes).

UK USA Sample Size (n) 297 190 NCTP no safer 15 (5%) 21 (11%) Tried NCTP 106 (36%) 41 (21%) Outcome of NCTP users Smoke less 57 (54%) 19 (48%) Smoke same 34 (32%) 15 (38%) Smoke less 3 (3%) 1 (3%)

The impact on smoking is also interesting. Of those who had tried NCTPs, roughly half smoked less, with very few people smoking more. The difference between UK and US is insignificant in this result. Half of those who try NCTPs smoke less. US should encourage all smokers who won’t quit to try NCTPs. The health results should be significant.

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From the archives: The Fourth of July and America’s continuing revolution - The Femsplainers Podcast Ep. 9: Has Porn Ruined Sex? - AEI

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 14:15

In anticipation of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, AEI commissioned a series of distinguished lectures on the nature of the American political system. The lectures were given in 1973 and 1974 at prominent locations around the country including Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Old North Church, The Wren building at William & Mary, the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, the Little Red Schoolhouse in Minnesota, West Point, The Henry Ford Museum, the Ben Franklin Room at the Department of State, and Ford’s Theater. At the time, they were broadcast by PBS affiliates across the nation.

In introducing the series, AEI President William Baroody noted that the scholars represented did not have a common political viewpoint nor a common approach “except that all of them see our present situation through the lens of America’s revolutionary experience.” Thus, the late sociologist Peter Berger lectured about religion in revolutionary society and today, while Daniel Boorstin lectured about political revolutions and revolutions in science and technology, and Robert Nisbet lectured on the social impact of revolution, while Edward Banfield lectured on cities and the revolutionary tradition.

As the country celebrates Independence Day this coming July 4th, it is vital to recall the rich history of revolution in this nation and the scholarship supporting its just implementation. Here is a rundown of all the bicentennial lectures commissioned by AEI 45 years ago. Access the complete series here. To check out what AEI is doing for Independence Day, click here.

Irving Kristol: The American Revolution as a Successful Revolution (St. John’s Church, Washington, DC)
Martin Diamond: The Revolution of Sober Expectations (Independence Square, Philadelphia, PA)
Paul G. Kauper: The Higher Law and the Rights of Man in a Revolutionary Society (Old North Church, Boston, MA)
Robert A. Nisbet: The Social Impact of the Revolution (Gaston Hall at Georgetown University, Washington, DC)
Gordon S. Wood: Revolution and the Political Integration of the Enslaved and Disenfranchised (House of Representatives’ chamber, Kentucky State Capitol)
Caroline Robbins: The Pursuit of Happiness (Gallier Hall, New Orleans, LA)
Peter Berger: Religion in a Revolutionary Society (Christ Church, Alexandria, VA)
G. Warren Nutter: Freedom in a Revolutionary Economy (Wren Building at the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA)
Vermont Royster: The American Press and the Revolutionary Tradition (Dinkelspiel Auditorium at Stanford University, Stanford, CA)
Edward C. Banfield: The City and the Revolutionary Tradition (Franklin Hall at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA)
Leo Marx: The American Revolution and the American Landscape (Cabell Hall at the University if Virginia, Charlottesville, VA)
Ronald S. Berman: Intellect and Education in a Revolutionary Society (Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY)
Kenneth B. Clark: The American Revolution: Democratic Politics and Popular Education (Little Red Schoolhouse, St. Charles, MN)
Forrest Carlisle Pogue: The Revolutionary Transformation and the Art of War (United States Military Academy, West Point, NY)
Seymour Martin Lipset: Opportunity and Welfare in the First New Nation (Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI)
Charles Burton Marshall: American Foreign Policy as a Dimension of the American Revolution (Benjamin Franklin Room at the Department of State, Washington, DC)
Dean Rusk: The American Revolution and the Future (Ford’s Theatre, Washington, DC)