The Nussbaum Oral History

March 15, 2022 at 8:58 am

Bernie Nussbaum, the former White House Counsel to President Clinton, died earlier this week. The phrase that always comes to my mind in connection with him is from his mother: "He should have listened to my Bernie." (As quoted by Jonathan Mahler in a column that appeared in the Forward of January 30, 1998. "Imagine a strong Yiddish accent here," Mahler wrote.) She was referring to Nussbaum's advice to Clinton not to appoint an independent counsel for Whitewater. Had Clinton taken the advice rather than disregarded it, a successful presidency might have even been more so, and subsequent presidents might have been emboldened rather than constrained. (See Trump and Mueller.)

For those interested in Nussbaum, the Clintons, New York, and politics in general I highly commend Nussbaum's oral history interview available at the University of Virginia's Miller Center. Among other things it reports that Mario Cuomo was offered the Supreme Court seat that ultimately went to Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

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Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Capitalism

March 12, 2022 at 10:15 pm

The New Yorker has a David Remnick interview with Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor, New Yorker contributor, and eminent scholar of Afro-American studies:

because my dad worked two jobs—in the daytime, at the paper mill, and then as a janitor at the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company—he had the highest income of any Black person in Piedmont. We had the nicest house. Wealth and poverty are always relative. In that context, we were in the Black upper-middle class.

Why was Yale such a paradise for you?

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Legacy Olympians

March 8, 2022 at 6:13 am

Olympic athletes whose parents were also Olympic athletes were the topic of a recent column of mine. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun: "Will Congress Take Aim at Legacy Olympians?"

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Seize Their Yachts?

March 8, 2022 at 6:10 am

President Biden's threat to seize the superyachts and luxury apartments of Russian "oligarchs" was the topic of a recent column of mine. Please check out the full column at Newsmax ("Fifth Amendment May Be Casualty in Ukraine War") and at the New York Sun ("Seizing Russians' Property Would Make Fifth Amendment a War Casualty").

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Let Ukrainian Men Leave

March 8, 2022 at 6:03 am

Ukraine's order barring men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country is the topic of my column this week. Please check the full column out at Reason ("Ukraine Can't Defend Its Freedom With an Army of Conscripts") and at Newsmax ("Biden's Border Policy Undercuts 'Freedom' Claim: Let Ukrainian Men Leave").

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Elliott Abrams on the New Cold War

March 4, 2022 at 8:55 am

Elliott Abrams has a new piece out, worth a look, offering thoughts on how America should respond to the Russia-China axis. His main recommendation is a big increase in defense spending, but I was also struck by this thought:

We must resist the temptation to conclude that in such a dangerous world, promotion of freedom is a luxury we cannot afford. On the contrary, freedom is one of the most powerful weapons in our hands; it is what separates us morally from the Russian and Chinese regimes, and this is understood around the globe even if we sometimes ignore it. ...Reagan always understood that the Cold War was more than a conflict among states; it was even more fundamentally an ideological conflict between the forces of liberty and the powers that would snuff it out nation by nation until our own was in jeopardy.

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Warren Buffett 2021 Berkshire Shareholder Letter

February 26, 2022 at 9:30 pm

Warren Buffett's letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders about the company's 2021 performance was released this weekend. To me the most newsworthy aspect of it is that while philanthropies such as the Ford Foundation are ostentatiously divesting from fossil fuels, Buffett is buying. The table in the letter listing Berkshire's 15 largest equity holdings as of December 31, 2021 includes a stake in Chevron worth about $4.5 billion and an investment in Occidental Petroleum valued at about $10.7 billion. Berkshire also owns a 38.6 percent stake in Pilot Corp., and the letter says that "early in 2023, Berkshire will purchase an additional interest in Pilot that will raise our ownership to 80 percent." The Buffett letter describes Pilot as "a leader in travel centers," but that is a euphemism. The Pilot Flying J website says "Pilot Company has grown its network to more than 800 retail and fueling locations and as the third largest tanker fleet in North America, supplies more than 12 billion gallons of fuel per year."

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The Homeless Industrial Complex

February 25, 2022 at 8:38 am

A development to house the homeless in Los Angeles will cost $837,000 for a housing unit, Nellie Bowles notices in her Friday newsletter for the Bari Weiss "Common Sense" Substack. She writes:

How could they possibly spend that much on a single unit and think it's good? Easy. California uses its homeless budget as a cash firehose, lining the pockets of untold numbers of contractors and employing every drama major who thinks nonprofits seem cool. It's the Homeless Industrial Complex. The actual people sleeping on the streets—some 41,000 souls in Los Angeles—are beside the point.

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Biden and America's Friends

February 17, 2022 at 8:02 am

A statement from President Biden's national security advisor that "America will have the backs of our friends in the region" is the topic of my latest column. Please check it out at Newsmax ("With Biden, America's Friends Need to Watch Their Backs") and at the New York Sun ("With Friends Like President Biden...").

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Ezra Klein and Janet Yellen on the Downside of Regulation

February 13, 2022 at 2:44 pm

Left-leaning New York Times columnist Ezra Klein concedes government is sometimes the problem, and calls for a "louder and more insistent" effort against counterproductive regulations. He has an interview with Treasury Secretary Yellen in which he describes her as agreeing. Klein writes:

But if Democrats don't always admit how much government can do to help, they also don't always admit how much it can do to hurt. The market would build more housing if local zoning czars would let them. Companies were clamoring to sell more rapid tests earlier, but the F.D.A. wouldn't let them. All across the country, nuclear and solar and wind projects are being tied up in red tape.

You can go too far with this, and Republicans often do. The frustrating truth of regulation is there's no one position you can have on it. Good regulations are good, bad regulations are bad. But bad regulations are hard to unwind, and they're often unseen.

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Durham's Latest

February 13, 2022 at 2:30 pm

John Durham, the special counsel investigating aspects of the 2016 election, made a court filing on Friday with the ho-hum title of "Government's motion to inquire into potential conflicts of interest." The Washington Examiner has some coverage, headlined "Durham says Democrat-allied tech executive spied on Trump's White House office," that gets at the key point in the case. The Examiner article also has embedded the pdf of the Durham filing.

The case is a prosecution against the general counsel to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, Michael A. Sussman. The Examiner article explains:

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Prosecutors in Need of Reform

February 11, 2022 at 8:48 am

Criminal justice reform—particularly around prosecutors—is the topic of my most recent column. Please check out the full column at Newsmax ("Will Issue of Prosecutorial Reform Mean Resurgence for Trump?") and at the New York Sun ("While Decrying Misconduct, Let's Not Forget the Prosecutors").

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Preet Bharara's New Book Does America an Injustice

February 8, 2022 at 8:59 am

"Preet Bharara's New Children's Book Does America an Injustice" is the headline over an article I have up over at Education Next. Please check the article out over there.

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Juxtaposition of the Day

February 6, 2022 at 10:12 am

New York Times op-ed page column by Ross Douthat, today: "The powerful belief that only CNN — indeed, only Jeff Zucker — stood between democracy and authoritarianism encouraged the abandonment of normal journalistic standards, the sacrifice of sobriety and neutrality to what Armin Rosen, writing for UnHerd, dubs the 'centrist-branded panic industry.'"

Lead article on, same day: "'Taking the Voters Out of the Equation': How the Parties Are Killing Competition. The number of competitive House districts is dropping, as both Republicans and Democrats use redistricting to draw themselves into safe congressional seats. The decline is the latest sign of dysfunction in the American political system, already grappling with misinformation and rising distrust in elections."

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Price Controls

January 30, 2022 at 10:58 am

"What time is it?" as James Taranto used to mockingly ask in his Best of the Web newsletter for the Wall Street Journal editorial page. "The time is now to begin destigmatizing greater democratic control over price levels," the director of governance studies at the Roosevelt Institute, Todd Tucker, writes in the Washington Post.

Tucker helpfully notes:

at the peak of price control efforts in World War II, the government employed 160,000 price regulators. While widespread use of digital payments could make enforcement easier, the economy has grown substantially, and it is likely many more officials would need to be hired. That capacity won't be developed overnight, so if we think future crises might merit price controls, expanding governments' abilities now to track prices throughout supply chains is a must.

It's not clear if Tucker means "many more" than there are now, or "many more" than the 160,000 supposedly employed during World War II.

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