RBG to the Defense of Flynn

December 14, 2018 at 8:03 am

As the plea agreement of President Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, attracts renewed attention this week because of Judge Emmet G. Sullivan's skepticism (Emmet means "truth" in Hebrew), it's worth mentioning that the federal crime to which Flynn pleaded guilty, 18 USC 1001, is one that has been on our radar screen since the February 24, 2004, New York Sun editorial Martha Stewart and the Law.

That editorial said:

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For Trump's Troubles, Blame McCain, Nixon, and George W. Bush

December 12, 2018 at 2:34 pm

"The campaign-finance mindset encapsulates the way Republicans all too often adopt themselves many of the most misguided beliefs of the left," I write in my column this week. Please check out the full column at the New Boston Post (here), Newsmax (here), the New York Sun (here), and Reason (here).

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Amazon Eminent Domain

December 12, 2018 at 10:03 am

New York State officials offered to use the power of eminent domain to seize private property for Amazon's "HQ2" project, according to documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

It's not clear whether, in the end, that power will be needed to amass the office space needed. But Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is literally the richest person in the world, at least by Bloomberg's reckoning, so it seems odd that, rather than paying a market-clearing price for some property in Queens, he'd need to enlist the power of the state to take it for him, even under the Fifth Amendment's provision that private property shall not be taken for public use "without just compensation." Whether a private company's project counted as a "public use" was one of the issues in the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Kelo v. New London.

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Amazon Scoops Up Hill Democrats

December 6, 2018 at 1:22 pm

In the past month, Amazon has hired three aides to congressional Democrats, the Washington Examiner reports. Among them: "House chiefs of staff LaDavia Drane and Tony Clair to handle the company's ties to the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus." Who even knew this was a job in corporate America? Imagine how much less your Prime membership might cost if this wasn't a necessary cost of doing business in 2018 Washington. These caucuses all have allied nonprofit organizations that are happy to accept corporate contributions in what some critics have characterized as a kind of shakedown.

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Is The Gym Replacing Church?

December 5, 2018 at 3:34 pm

"Organized exercise is challenging the humanities and traditional religion as a place where people seek community, meaning, and discipline," I write in my column this week. Please check out the full column at Reason (here) or Newsmax (here). Thank you to community member-watchdog-participant-content co-creator Noam Neusner for calling my attention to the article that provided the inspiration on this one.

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George H.W. Bush

December 5, 2018 at 11:06 am

George H.W. Bush raised taxes in violation of his campaign promise, clashed publicly with Israel, and then lost a presidential election to a Democrat. The mainstream press coverage of him in connection with his death has been remarkably adulatory. As Michael Goodwin puts it in the New York Post, observing that a similar phenomenon applied to Senator McCain: "It all just goes to prove that Democrats and their media handmaidens really do love Republicans — when they're dead."

I do give George H.W. Bush and Barbara credit for raising, in George W. Bush, a president who, while certainly imperfect, arguably exceeded his father's accomplishments. And for raising, in Jeb Bush, a pretty good governor of Florida. If all George H.W. Bush had done in his life had been to be the father of a two-term president and of the governor of Florida, it would have been an impressive achievement.

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Exit, Voice, and Loyalty

December 2, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Albert Hirschman's framework of "Exit, Voice, and Loyalty" has been a topic of discussion here for years (see, for example, "Buzzfeed's Tax Credits" (2015), "AllianceBernstein Moves To Nashville" (2018), "Thoughts On The Brexit" (2016), "Amazon Tests Drones In Canada" (2015), and "De Blasio Shakes Down Collegiate" (2015)).

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Back To Work

November 27, 2018 at 6:18 am

A new book by Oren Cass, The Once And Future Worker, and a new report by an Opportunity America-American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Institution study group on the working class are the subjects of my column this week. Please check out the full column at Reason (here) and Newsmax (here). I didn't get to mention it in the column, but the Opportunity America-American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Institution effort was convened by Tamar Jacoby, who is worth a mention in part because she has such good taste in problems, as Larry Bacow might put it.

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Term Limits in China

November 27, 2018 at 5:37 am

One amusing aspect of the long New York Times newspaper project about the rise of China is the way it credits term limits. From the introductory essay by the Times Asia editor, Phil Pan, a former Crimson colleague of mine:

Analysts sometimes say that China embraced economic reform while resisting political reform. But in reality, the party made changes after Mao's death that fell short of free elections or independent courts yet were nevertheless significant.

The party introduced term limits and mandatory retirement ages, for example, making it easier to flush out incompetent officials. And it revamped the internal report cards it used to evaluate local leaders for promotions and bonuses, focusing them almost exclusively on concrete economic targets.

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Germans and Wealth

November 21, 2018 at 6:06 am

From a New York Times news article about the competition to replace Angela Merkel as the leader of the Christian Democratic Union political party comes this passage about one of the contenders, Friedrich Merz:

in the same interview, he refused to answer a question about the size of the personal fortune he had amassed since leaving politics nine years ago, going on to lead the Germany office of BlackRock, considered the world's largest private fund manager, and to become senior counsel at an international law firm.

Pressed on whether he was a millionaire — many Germans are skeptical of extreme wealth, believing that social equality helps to ensure public peace — he said only that his net worth was "not below that."

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What If?

November 20, 2018 at 3:38 pm

"What if every site...concurrently deployed a paywall? Users couldn't simply go to the competition because everyone would be rolling out the change at the same time," wonders/declares a (non-paywalled) article at Harvard's Nieman Lab.

Two possible answers: there'd be an antitrust investigation. And some new site would pop up with no paywall to reach all the customers who don't want to be forced to pay.

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Jill Lepore on Higher Education

November 20, 2018 at 10:12 am

Harvard historian and New Yorker writer (and Central Massachusetts native) Jill Lepore has an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education that's interesting about, among other topics, how big government hurt higher education:

The academy is largely itself responsible for its own peril. The retreat of humanists from public life has had enormous consequences for the prestige of humanistic ways of knowing and understanding the world.

Universities have also been complicit in letting sources of federal government funding set the intellectual agenda. The size and growth of majors follows the size of budgets, and unsurprisingly so. After World War II, the demands of the national security state greatly influenced the exciting fields of study. Federal-government funding is still crucial, but now there's a lot of corporate money. Whole realms of knowing are being brought to the university through commerce.

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Why Fox News, CNN, and Facebook Were Wrong To Censor the Caravan Ad

November 19, 2018 at 5:24 pm

A kind of bias lurks behind the calls to suppress President Trump's "racism," I write in my column this week. Please check out the full column at Reason (here), Newsmax (here), and the New York Sun (here).

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Ben Brantley's Mind

November 15, 2018 at 3:40 pm

New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley writes, "Donald J. Trump is always on my mind these days."

What a remarkable confession. "Always." I am happy to say that even though I write about politics for a living, President Trump is not "always" on my mind. It would be interesting to poll the question of whether people agree or disagree with the statement "Donald Trump is always on my mind," and then test how it tracks or doesn't track with other measures of happiness and mental health.

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Party of the Rich, Again

November 15, 2018 at 3:20 pm

CNBC's John Harwood has a column based on Brookings Institution analysis:

the two parties now speak for dramatically different segments of the American economy....districts won by Democrats account for 61 percent of America's gross domestic product, districts won by Republicans 38 percent.

Says Brookings researcher Mark Muro: "The Democratic Party and Republican Party, at this point, really do occupy different economic worlds and represent different economic worlds."

Analysis by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program documents the gap between them. Residents of districts won by Democrats generate 22% more output per worker, and have a 15% higher median household income.

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