George Will — “The Conservative Sensibility”

George Will, the nation’s preeminent conservative columnist, has just published what is perhaps his finest book yet–and it’s not even about baseball. As the title suggests, it’s about Politics with a capital P.

The Conservative Sensibility provides a robust defense of American Conservatism, really classical liberalism, that is based on the work of the nation’s Founders. There will be more on this topic in the future. In the meantime here (below) is a You Tube video of a conversation between Matt Welch of Reason Magazine and George Will, occasioned by the publication of The Conservative Sensibility.

JFB

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Did John Brennan Commit Perjury?

Evidence is beginning to emerge that suggests former CIA Chief John Brennan lied to Congress about his actions with respect to the FISA application that authorized the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign.

See the interview with Judge Andrew Napolitano below.

JFB

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Did Trump Obstruct Justice? Judge Napolitano weighs in.

Robert Mueller did not find enough evidence to charge either Donald Trump or his campaign with conspiracy in the matter of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump promptly claimed he was “totally exonerated” despite the fact that prosecutors are not, and never have been, in the exoneration business. 

Since the Democrats have staked their future on finding Trump guilty of something, they quickly moved on to pursuing an obstruction of justice charge. In the meantime, Attorney General Barr announced that (1) Trump did not, in his view, obstruct justice, and that (2) the DOJ was going to investigate how the FBI and associated agencies came to investigate the Trump campaign. 

Republicans closed ranks and announced that there could be no obstruction without an underlying crime. Judge Andrew Napolitano, a strong libertarian, begs to differ.  Reason Magazine recently interviewed him on the subject. A 15 minute video of the interview appears below. 

Judge Napolitano Interview by Reason Magazine

JFB

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Thomas Sowell–Discrimination and Disparities

It has become accepted wisdom that the uneven distribution of outcomes across different groups is evidence of unjustifiable discrimination based on animus. In his latest book, Discrimination and Disparities, economist Thomas Sowell, now a scholar at the Hoover Institution, blasts that idea to smithereens.

Not too long ago Dr. Sowell sat down for an interview by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution to discuss the subject. That interview can be viewed below.

Dr. Thomas Sowell being interviewed by Peter Robinson

JFB

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Christopher Hitchens on Reparations

Christopher Hitches was a writer and polemicist with extraordinary talents who, in December of 2011, died much too early at age 62. An iconoclast throughout his adult life, Hitchens eventually drifted away from the left — early on he was a Trotskyist — to something vaguely resembling the sensibilities of classical Liberalism. But he would probably object to that characterization.

Christopher Hitchens

He was, like his hero George Orwell, a man of the left. He was a public intellectual who maintained an abiding distrust of the market; he was fearless in the pursuit of truth, and was a brilliant writer and speaker. He had over 30 books to his name as well as countless articles in journals like The Nation, The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, to name a few.

He is probably best known for what has become known as “Hitchens razor”, so named after his quip that “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.

In 2001, when he was writing for The Nation, he participated in a debate on reparations in which he represented the “pro” side in favor of paying them. He was, as always, a force to be reckoned with. Here below is a You Tube video of his presentation in that debate.

JFB

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The Constitutional Crisis That Wasn’t

“We are now in a Constitutional crisis” — Jerry Nadler (D, NY).

So said House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler after the committee proceeded to vote along strict party lines to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress. Nadler’s stated rationale was that Barr failed to turn over the entirety of Robert Mueller’s report to Congress without any redactions. This failure, according to Nadler, is emblematic of the lawlessness of the Trump Administration. 

Jerry Nadler (D, NY)

We should also note that while the Judiciary Committee has voted to hold Barr in contempt, the matter still has to be taken up by the entire Congress, which we can expect to happen in relatively short order. 

Interestingly enough, Congressman Nadler didn’t seem to think there was a constitutional crisis the last time the Congress held a sitting AG in contempt of Congress. Perhaps that is because the AG at the time was none other than President Obama’s wingman, Eric Holder. That vote, taken in 2012, was 255 – 67, with 17 Democrats voting in support of a criminal contempt resolution, which authorized Republican leaders to seek criminal charges against Holder. A second contempt citation, this one civil, authorized the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to sue the Justice Department to get documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal that was at issue. That resolution passed by 295 to 95, with 21 Democrats voting in favor of the measure. 

In the end, Justice Amy Berman Jackson declined to hold Mr. Holder in contempt, but ordered the Justice Department to turn over unprivileged documents to the House Committee. Something similar will probably wind up happening in this case. 

What is amazing about all this is that Congressman Nadler, despite all appearances to the contrary, is not a stupid man. He knows that this is not even close to a Constitutional crisis. Nor is the Trump Administration unique in its quest to expand the power of the Executive branch or in its disdain for Congress. There was, for instance, the Obama Administration’s routine rewriting of laws it didn’t like, only to be consistently rebuffed by the Courts. Not to mention the obvious lawlessness of Hillary Clinton and her e-mail caper, or the money laundering operation that was the Clinton Foundation. Or the Obama Administration setting Lois Lerner loose to use the IRS as a political tool to attack conservative advocacy organizations. Then there was the appalling behavior of Bill Clinton in the White House and the perjury that attended it. 

Of course we don’t want to leave out the criminal behavior of Richard Nixon and his Attorney General, John Mitchell. Nor do we want to ignore how Lyndon Johnson used the FBI to spy on his opponents, which, as seems increasingly obvious, is a habit that Obama was all too happy to resurrect.  And not to put too fine a point on it, the next time someone refers to Barr as Trump’s “handpicked” Attorney General, it might be worth tossing in a gentle reminder that all Attorneys General are “handpicked”. And that when Jack Kennedy picked his 35-year old younger brother to be Attorney General, he picked someone who was hardly disinterested in politics. Not to mention barely out of law school. 

If we take a look at the bigger picture without getting distracted by all the smoke on the battlefield, it seems fairly obvious that the last President who pointedly did not expand, nor seek to expand Executive power was Calvin Coolidge. Silent Cal, who famously said he would only speak if it improved the silence, was one of America’s better Presidents. Unlike most modern presidents he was not an egomaniac. Moreover he was perfectly content to do what he took an oath to do, namely to “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” 

Not a bad idea, that. 

JFB


Barr Held in Contempt by House Judiciary, POLITICO

Holder Held in Contempt, POLITICO

Judge Declines to Hold Holder in Contempt, POLITICO

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State of Play: Trump, Progressives and the U.S. Abortion Regime

The usual suspects are up in arms over President Trump’s assertion that some women and doctors are in the business of “executing” new born babies. Ilhan “It’s all about the Benjamins” Omar, in a Tweet, asked rhetorically if a deranged President Trump was  actually suggesting that parents and doctors were working together to commit infanticide. Not to be outdone, Bernie Sanders (Socialist, VT), chimed in with the usual sloganeering about the moral imperative of a woman controlling her own body. 

Perhaps it’s time for a dose of reality.  

To begin with, while referring to Trump as being deranged may be a tad hyperbolic, it may not be very far from the mark. Regardless there is very little reason to take anything he says all that seriously. Even on those rare occasions when he knows what he is talking about, he has little credibility since he just routinely makes things up. But Trump is not the issue here, as much as the abortion lobby would like it to be. The real issue is abortion up until the moment of birth—and after. 

Apparently abortion enthusiasts have taken exception to Trump’s reference to “executing” babies. So let’s take a look at what really happens in a late term abortion, a subject that the abortion lobby tries very hard to avoid. 

For the purpose of this discussion, late term abortions are defined as those that take place after 20 weeks gestation. For these pregnancies the most common method of abortion is known as dilation and evacuation (D&E). This procedure involves the crushing, dismemberment and removal of a fetal body from a woman’s uterus. In very late-term abortions intact dilation and evacuation may be used. In this procedure the fetus is removed from the uterus in breech position, the skull is then crushed and the dead fetus is delivered. (See this paper). In some cases the fetus is born alive in a “botched” abortion. In these cases, in some states, there is a move to allow the physician, in consultation with the mother, to refuse to treat the baby and allow it to die. 

It is important to realize that the abortion rights regime crafted under Roe (1973) and Casey (1992) essentially protects abortion rights up until the moment of birth. Some states are simply codifying Roe. Moreover it should be noted that, Omar notwithstanding, it has nothing to do with the parents of the child. The woman has legal rights, the man does not. He has no legal standing. 

But what about cases where the child is born alive? The Senate had the chance to vote on a bill introduced by Senator Ben Sass that would have required medical personnel to provide the same medical services to that child as they would have provided to any other baby born at the same gestational age. All the Republicans voted for it; all the Democrats except two (Jones, AL and Manchin, WV) voted against it. Here is the record of the vote.

It is often asserted that late term abortions are rare and that women obtain them because they are faced with serious medical problems. These are difficult hypotheses to test because there is a relative paucity of data. However, we can turn to a paper in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health published in conjunction with the (pro-abortion rights) Guttmacher Institute. In the article “Who Seeks Abortions at or After 20 Weeks?” Authors Diane Greene and Katrina Kimport addressed both questions.

First, they estimate that “a substantial number of abortions” take place after 20 weeks. They estimated a little over 1% of the 1.21 million abortions performed annually in the U.S. or about 15,000 take place after 20 weeks.  Second, is the crux of the article. They compared a sample of women who received abortions in the first trimester with a sample of women who received abortions after 20 weeks. Their data contradicted the popular narrative about women seeking late term abortions because of extreme circumstances. In their study they found that the women who got abortions in the first trimester were “remarkably similar” to the ones who got abortions after 20 weeks. I quote the study directly below:

“In contemporary discussions of later abortion, few empirical data exist about the women who seek these procedures, but speculation abounds, including the presumption that these women are intrinsically different from those seeking early abortions. Despite this common narrative, women in our study who obtained first‐trimester abortions and women who obtained abortions at or after 20 weeks’ gestation were remarkably similar. Demographically, the only significant differences between the two groups were in age (women aged 20–24 were more likely than women aged 25–34 to seek later abortion) and in employment status (employed women were less likely than unemployed women to have later abortions).”

To sum up: Late term abortions are probably not all that rare—somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 a year. In addition, the evidence seems to suggest that women getting late term abortions are not significantly different in their motivations from women obtaining abortions in the first trimester. Further, the abortion regime in the U.S., constructed by the Supreme Court, is defined as a woman’s liberty right under the 14th amendment. The right is effective until very late in the term, and sometimes up until birth. Moreover, the father has no say in the matter; he has no legal standing. 

Finally, let’s not forget that while Trump stated the anti-abortion case in a most inflammatory and not exactly accurate manner, he was a supporter of late term abortions until the moment he decided to seek the Republican nomination for President. Having said that let us also not forget that the U.S. abortion rights regime has created a legal right to take innocent human life for any reason or no reason at all, very late into the term when the child is without doubt viable outside the womb. 

Don’t be fooled by the Progressive attempt to change the subject to Trump’s overblown rhetoric and away from the brutality of the U.S. abortion regime. Perhaps instead it’s worth thinking about why it is that Sanders, Omar and the rest of the Progressives are so intent on protecting the abortion license at the expense of all those innocent lives crushed out by abortionists plying their trade. 

JFB

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health:Who Seeks Abortion After 20 Weeks?

The Guttmacher Institute

The Lozier Institute: The Reality of Late Term Abortion

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Biden Jumps in. Again.

In announcing his third run for the Presidency, former Vice President Joe Biden had this to say. “In that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in our lifetime”. The moment to which Biden referred was when President Trump said that “there were some very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters. Biden wound up with “That’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for president of the United States”. 

This type of nonsense is fairly typical of Biden, whose use of language is shall we say…imprecise at best. When he opined that Trump’s comments were “unlike” any he had seen before, he presumably meant that Trump presented a unique, existential threat to American democracy, and one that dwarfed any he had seen before. Which in turn means that Biden thinks (to the extent he thinks at all) that Trump’s (typically asinine) comments represented a greater threat to America than the attacks of 9/11. 

That is a bit hard to swallow. 

Then again, nuance, subtlety and context have never been strong suits of the former Vice President. But self regard is. Exaggerated self regard combined with a near complete lack of circumspection is a trait that Mr. Biden shares with Mr. Trump. As is the tendency to prevaricate, although Mr. Trump is the clear champion here. But Biden does not deserve a pass. While nearly everyone knows about the largely overwrought charges of plagiarism brought by Biden’s primary opponents over the years, few know about the real story behind the car crash that killed his wife and daughter in 1972. 

Throughout his career Biden has told the story of a drunk driver who was responsible for the crash that resulted in the deaths of his wife and daughter.  There is only one problem with the story. It isn’t true. The driver wasn’t drunk; hadn’t been drinking and was never charged. Biden’s charge that the other driver was drunk was simply a fabrication. Details of the case can be seen here in Delaware’s online Newark Post. Or here, in National Review online. A CBS report on the controversy via You Tube can be seen below. 

In deciding to jump into the race, Biden is taking a last shot at a lifelong dream. He is clearly trying to stake out a position as the Party’s moderate candidate who can reach across the aisle to get things done. His attempts to do this however have caused consternation among the Party’s social justice warriors. When he committed the sin of calling Mike Pence “a decent guy” the Party’s left wing went on the attack. Cynthia Nixon, the actress who ran for governor against Andrew Cuomo in New York, tweeted “.@JoeBiden you’ve just called America’s most anti-LGBT elected leader a decent guy.’ Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community.”

Soon afterwards Biden responded by tweeting “…There is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President”. 

Given that profile in courage, we can expect that Biden will soon enter the bidding war for left wing votes. There will be an endless list of “free” stuff that Biden will be happy to provide; we will hear about how Republicans are racists who want to bring back the chains of slavery, and there will be deafening silence about the virulent anti-semitism that is infecting parts of the Democratic Party. 

Will the third time bring luck for Joe Biden? Well, he is 76, white, male, heterosexual and trying to run as a “moderate” progressive. That combination may appeal to party regulars who backed Hillary Clinton, but it is an anathema to the activists. They are left wing fanatics  who are intent on seizing control of the party like the McGovernites of 1972. And they may just succeed. Just like the McGovernites of 1972. They did a swell job of securing Nixon’s second term.

It is worth remembering that the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate in 2000 was Joe Lieberman. By 2006 he had lost the Party’s nomination to retain his Senate seat, which he ultimately won as a third party candidate. By 2008 he skipped the Democratic Party convention, went to the Republican convention and supported John McCain for President. 

JFB

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The Problem with Capitalism

Ray Dalio

It is often said that the problem with socialism is socialism, while the problem with capitalism is capitalists. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates the world’s largest hedge fund, is only the latest to prove the case. Lately he has jumped on the income inequality bandwagon and has taken to suggesting public policies designed to make capitalism “work” for all.  The problem as he defines it in a recent paper posted online is that “capitalists typically don’t know how to divide the pie well and socialists typically don’t know how to grow it well”. 

Among his solutions are  (1) a bipartisan commission to design policies to grow the economic pie and divide it better; (2) clear metrics to measure progress and hold people accountable–whatever that means–and (3) redistribution of resources from the top of the income distribution to the middle and lower rungs. This last would be accomplished in part by taxing the top tier that “would be engineered to not have disruptive effects on productivity”  and that would be earmarked to help the middle and lower income tiers that would also improve the overall productivity of the economy. 

When pigs fly. 

It would appear that Mr. Dalio is blissfully unaware that politicians in general, and progressives in particular, have been selling this fantasy for the better part of 50 years. What they have to show for it is a polarized society that is teeming with class resentment, and a poverty rate that has barely budged since the “War in Poverty” began in the 1960s. Perhaps Mr. Dalio ought to mark his policy prescriptions to market and think about why they have been such an abject failure for so many years.

The answer is relatively straightforward. Policies that rely on command and control rather than human ingenuity inevitably produce suboptimal results—at best. And command and control is precisely what Mr. Dalio is suggesting. Consider the language he uses to describe the “problem”. “Capitalists typically don’t know how to divide the pie well”. 

Of course they don’t. Nobody does. That’s why we have markets to guide resource allocation through the price mechanism rather than self-interested politicians and bureaucrats. Calling for fictional disinterested experts to allocate resources wisely is simply a pipe dream, and a naive one at that. If it weren’t we would be looking at the Post Office as a model of efficiency. 

Which brings up the main point. The government of the United States was not designed to be efficient. Just the opposite. It was designed to make it difficult for the government to do things because government is dangerous. At the American Founding the raison d’être of the government was to secure liberty. Free people are more than able to take care of themselves, their families and communities once the rule of law, property rights and a culture political Liberalism — with a capital L — takes hold. With certain notable (and rare) exceptions like defense, when Government steps in to solve problems, the problems get worse. 

Mr. Dalio rightly decries that disastrous state of our public school system, especially in comparison to private schools. He mistakenly ascribes the outperformance of private schools to the fact that they spend more per pupil than public schools. If spending was the key determinant of outcomes, public schools would be improving over time, although perhaps at a lower rate of improvement compared to private schools. In fact, public school performance has been deteriorating for at least 5o years. 

There are many reasons for the failure of the public school system, especially in the cities, despite all the tax money that has been thrown at them over the years. But one feature of the public schools stands out that is germane to this discussion. They have adopted Mr. Dalio’s top-down command and control bureaucratic structure of governance.  Not surprisingly, they are run by the teachers unions for the benefit of the teachers. They are also protected public monopolies, largely immune from competition.

The monopoly power of public schools is most pronounced in poor neighborhoods. In affluent areas where the parents can afford to send their kids to private schools, the public schools do face some competition, and not surprisingly they achieve better results. Which is to say that the failure of the public schools is attributable in part to the rent-seeking behavior of self-interested politicians and bureaucrats, especially when parents lack the resources to exit to greener pastures. So much for disinterested experts.

The problem the United States faces is not too much capitalism. The problem is too much government and its attendant rent-seeking and bureaucracy.  The problem will not be solved until government is smaller, not larger, and local communities are able run their own affairs without having to answer to their political masters in Washington, DC.  

If Mr. Dalio would like a metric of success, how about this one: a decently functioning public high school. When Detroit or Newark or Bridgeport or St. Louis or Kansas City or New York or Milwaukee or any large city finally manages to establish a decently functioning public high school system that will be a sign that we are on the road to recovery. And that will not happen until the schools have to compete to attract and retain students by offering a quality service at a reasonable price. That requires a greater dependence on markets and consumer choice.

There are different paths to increasing consumer choice and establishing competitive markets in public education. These include school vouchers and charter schools. It does not include doubling down on command and control, rent seeking and reliance on the bureaucratic “experts” who have already made such hash of it.

JFB

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Joe Biden Meets the Social Justice Warriors

Just the other day, Joe Biden, who lives in a fact free zone, urged Americans to tackle a “white man’s culture” that he claimed allowed violence against women to perpetuate. He went on to say that “We all have an obligation to do nothing less than change the culture in this country.” But his new-found disdain for “white man’s culture” whatever that is supposed to mean, isn’t going to help him very much when it comes to winning the Democratic Presidential nomination. 

That is because the former Vice President is undergoing a rapid transformation from “beloved” Joe Biden to Joe-the-Ogre. A woman has emerged with an accusation that Biden is guilty of “inappropriate touching”. That charge was leveled by Lucy Flores, a Democratic member of the Nevada State Assembly and a Bernie Sanders supporter. Biden promptly denied the charge. It is unlikely to do him any good. In Progressive circles a claim of victimhood is a prized possession. Things like evidence and due process don’t count for much. 

It turns out that Flores’s complaint is not that Biden sexually harassed her; it is that he invaded her personal space. And for that, she concludes that Biden should not run for the Democratic nomination. Right on cue the social justice mob went to work looking for evidence of additional suspect  behavior. They came up with a photo of Biden with his hands on the shoulders of Jane Carter during the swearing in ceremony of her husband Ash Carter, who had become Secretary of Defense under President Obama.  

Biden & Carter at Swearing In Ceremony

The photo went viral, and as a result, Jane Carter came to Biden’s defense.  She said that Biden—an old friend—was merely trying to steady her because she was nervous since she had  slipped on ice on the way to the Pentagon. (See the story at Politico.)

If she had let it go at that, some of the insanity could have possibly been avoided. Then again this is 2019, and we are talking about the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. In any event, Carter decided to weigh in further. She said that while she does not know Flores, she [Carter] supports “her right to speak her truth” and added that Flores and “all women” should be believed. 

That sentiment—the my truth construction— has become the Party’s mantra. For instance, Senator Cory Booker (D, NJ) invoked the same idea during the Bret Kavanaugh hearings. 

So when women speak “their truth” we are supposed to believe them.  

Why?

The only reason to believe something is because it is presumptively true, or failing that, there is evidence that it is true. To refer to “her truth” is to deny the very idea of truth and simply relegate everything to opinion and perception. And that is being charitable. Because the idea of truth doesn’t mesh very well with the victimhood sweepstakes now consuming reason in the Democratic Party. And so Party leaders (who are more like followers) choose whom to believe depending on demographic considerations. Which is why prosecutors dropped the charges against an obvious liar like Jussie Smollet, after Obama fixer Tina Tchen intervened. 

There was a time not too long ago when women were believed without question. They were white women in the Jim Crow South who accused black men of raping them. Progressives ought to think about how well that worked out. 

JFB

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