Stoll on the Scrum

September 30, 2016 at 8:51 am

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The presidential debate and the state of the campaign, including Donald Trump, were the topic of a WGBH podcast, "The Scrum," on which I was a guest. A link is here, if you have been wondering what I thought of the debate or whether I am planning to vote for Trump, or if you are curious how I sound on a podcast.

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A Good Paragraph From George Will

September 29, 2016 at 10:33 am

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From George Will's latest column:

The American project was to construct a constitutional regime whose institutional architecture would guarantee the limited government implied by the Founders' philosophy: Government is instituted to "secure" (the Declaration of Independence) preexisting natural rights. Today, however, neither the executive nor legislative branches takes this seriously, the judiciary has forsworn enforcing it, and neither political party represents it because no substantial constituency supports it.

Mr. Will's column goes on to call America "a country that currently is indifferent to its founding." That's hard to square with the popularity of "Hamilton" on Broadway. Perhaps the whole column is too pessimistic, or perhaps Mr. Will is right that conservatives "need a talent for pessimism." He certainly displays such talent in this particular column.

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Tom Friedman Makes a Good Point

September 28, 2016 at 9:37 pm

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Amid a whole column full of hysterical and highly skippable Trump-bashing, Thomas Friedman actually buries a pretty good point that is worth passing along:

if you want to be an optimist about America, stand on your head — the country looks so much better from the bottom up. What you see are towns and regions not waiting for Washington, D.C., but coming together themselves to fix infrastructure, education and governance. I see it everywhere I go.

And, relatedly, this: "I am not enamored of Clinton's stale, liberal, centralized view of politics."

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Kerry's Finest Hour

September 28, 2016 at 9:29 pm

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Secretary of State Kerry does what neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton is willing to do: deliver a robust defense of free trade in general and of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in particular, framed in terms of American leadership in Asia. Check out the speech.

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Apply to College As a Group

September 28, 2016 at 9:26 am

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Students can now apply to college as members of a small group rather than as individuals, Bloomberg News reports, noting that the program is supported by Senator Elizabeth Warren and by former FDIC chairman Sheila Bair, who is now a college president: "What if the school allowed certain students to apply as part of a group?...In some cases, Bair said, the school slightly eased its traditional admissions standards for certain students' friends, to allow them both to enroll...Donors, including San Francisco-based Bank of the West, a unit of BNP Paribas SA, are covering slightly less than half the cost."

The Bloomberg story doesn't explore the question of how a bank wound up as a donor to this Warren-Bair program.

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Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Presidential Election

September 27, 2016 at 9:07 pm

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Before blaming Clinton or Trump, look in the mirror. That's the message of my column this week, which is about the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and their message in this political season. Please check out the column at the New Boston Post (here), the New York Sun (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Netanyahu for President

September 27, 2016 at 9:34 am

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From a Hudson Institute event in New York City last week at which Benjamin Netanyahu was honored with the Hudson Institute's Herman Kahn award:

[Interviewer]: Isn't it possible to do more and grow faster? And what are those things that the Netanyahu government has to do to get it done?

NETANYAHU: Well, the first thing is deregulation.

...regulation is required, but over-regulation is not, we definitely have over-regulation. I chair a few government committees, I mean I actually chair them, and every few weeks I bring in with my director general all of the relevant ministries and we cut. We take a machete and we cut. I'm looking for the silver machete; there are a few, you'll be hearing about them.

But that's goal number one because the greatest impediment right now to entrepreneurship, which is the key to economic growth, is holding back the power of bureaucrats and regulators, holding them back and yet keeping what you need. And that's a delicate balancing act. But it's not very delicate because we just over-regulate. So everything that you see about the Israeli economy is with this over-regulation, which tells you what the potential is.

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Debate Preview

September 25, 2016 at 4:44 pm

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The first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is the topic of my column this week for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Please check the column out by clicking here.

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The Cooperman Geography

September 21, 2016 at 11:33 pm

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The civil insider trading complaint that the Securities and Exchange Commission filed against Leon Cooperman and Omega Advisors, Inc. is interesting for several reasons. Matt Levine has a characteristically shrewd take on it over at Bloomberg (ignore the headline and read down into the column, if you are interested). Mr. Levine writes:

Here's what the SEC says happened:

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Trump-Thiel Lawsuit Against NY Times

September 20, 2016 at 11:07 am

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The prospect that Donald Trump could launch a lawsuit against the New York Times, forcing the newspaper's management to disclose its communications with the Mexican billionaire who is the newspaper's largest financial backer, is the topic of my column this week. Please check it out at the New York Sun (here) and Newsmax (here).

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Eleven Reasons To Be Proud Of America

September 18, 2016 at 6:57 am

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"When Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton and New York Times columnist David Brooks both speak out about an issue, it's worth paying attention." So begins my latest column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Please check the full column out here.

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Hillary's Tax Plan

September 16, 2016 at 11:18 am

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Hillary Clinton's tax proposals are the topic of a not perfect, but nevertheless surprisingly excellent article by James B. Stewart in the New York Times. Highlights:

It's hard to imagine a tax code more complicated than the one we already have.

Hillary Clinton has come up with one....

all agreed that Mrs. Clinton's proposal would increase taxes on the rich and big business but that it would add so many new layers of complexity that it would, above all, be a huge boon for tax lawyers. "There's a lot of new complexity," said Mr. Burman ["director of the centrist Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and a professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.]...

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Trump, Carlos Slim, and the New York Times

September 15, 2016 at 4:12 pm

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Nicholas Kristof has a New York Times column about the responsibility of the press in this presidential campaign, writing, "I wonder if journalistic efforts at fairness don't risk normalizing Trump, without fully acknowledging what an abnormal candidate he is."

It's tentatively phrased, but it also dodges what in my mind are some key questions. If the press is going to stop trying to be fair, at what point in the campaign should that happen? Is an initial fairness phase required to determine objectively whether a candidate is worthy of fairness, after which, if the candidate is not deemed deserving of fair treatment, fairness (or "efforts at fairness") is then officially suspended? At what point in the game are readers let in on the news that a publication has suspended its efforts at fairness? Is a candidate able to petition to resume receiving fair treatment from journalists at any point? Or is it, once the press judges you "abnormal," no fairness, ever?

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Regulating Bacon Packaging

September 14, 2016 at 9:11 am

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The federal government has a rule about how supermarket bacon can be packaged, Bloomberg News reports:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates bacon and other meat products, spells it out like so: "Packages for sliced bacon that have a transparent opening shall be designed to expose, for viewing, the cut surface of a representative slice...for shingle-packed sliced bacon, the transparent window shall be designed to reveal at least 70 percent of the length (longest dimension) of the representative slice, and this window shall be at least 1-1/2 inches wide."

That regulation went into effect in 1973.

It's a fine little example of how deep is the federal government's reach into obscure and mundane aspects of the daily lives of Americans and the economy, and of how (as is often the case) the Nixon administration is to blame.

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Biden Takes Taxpayers For a Ride With Amtrak Subsidy

September 13, 2016 at 8:44 pm

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The recently announced $2.45 billion federal loan to Amtrak to pay for new Acela trains is the subject of my column this week. Please check the column out at the New York Sun (here), New Boston Post (here), Newsmax (here), and Reason (here).

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